Jeff Maguire

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In The Line Of Fire Review


OK
Clint Eastwood was a legend a long time before Wolfgang Petersen decided to cast him as an aging Secret Service agent trying to derail a psychopath who's trying to assassinate the President. But Petersen's movie, titled In the Line of Fire, benefits immensely from his history and his presence, his ironclad persona as last man standing. Sporting a well-cut suit jacket rather than a poncho and a pair of holsters, Eastwood's steely resolve still has the power to rejuvenate otherwise rote plot conventions with every sliver of his gravelly voice, as if questioning his opponents' manhood with every flick of an adverb.

Eastwood plays Frank Horrigan, the kind of man who comes home after a long day of booby-trapping money counterfeiters and wants nothing else than to get out of his suit, drink a good glass of bourbon, and listen to Kind of Blue. Just as he's settling into one of these comfortable slumps, he receives a phone call from a man who calls himself Booth (John Malkovich). Sober and staid, Booth tells Frank that he's going to kill the president. The fact that Booth's deserted apartment is found with a singular photo of Frank when he was an agent under JFK underlines Horrigan's conviction.

Continue reading: In The Line Of Fire Review

Gridiron Gang Review


OK

Wanna know why sports movies are criticized for being too cliché? Because sports, as a whole, are too cliché. We've been trained to root for the underdog, though it's conventional when that come-from-behind victory is shown on screen. Teams are expected to win games on last-play drives. How is a filmmaker supposed to wring suspense from such a scenario when it happens every night on SportsCenter?

For a sports film to succeed on its own terms, audiences must be able to look beyond the requisite storytelling crutches that bolster this limited genre and find something else worth discussing. In Gridiron Gang, that extra something else is heart, which this flick has in spades.

Gang follows the biographical story of Sean Porter to the letter - footage of the real coach played alongside the end credits shows him barking actual lines we heard minutes before in the film. Charismatically intimidating Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson personifies Porter, a juvenile correctional facilities counselor who uses football as a means to unite his divided charges.

Gang plays as a junior varsity Longest Yard, with hardened teenage criminals learning to shelve their street-bred differences and play together as a team. It shows these kids at rock bottom so we can best appreciate how Porter and his program brings them back up.

Instead of one game against the guards, these kids shoulder a full season against polished private squads. Rock wears many hats both on the field and off - counselor, coach, bouncer, mentor, friend - and each one fits him like a glove. The wrestler continues to find projects that utilize his physical assets, as well as his rugged charm.

The underdog formula gets the better of director Phil Joanou (State of Grace), who pushes our buttons hard but manages to motivate without fully manipulating. He could stand to trust his audience more than he does. Most can figure when to stand and cheer without obvious cues from Trevor Rabin's desperate score. Also, Joanou adores slow-motion photography for his in-game shots. Not one or two shots, but every single frame of football action. If these sequences were played at full speed, Gang would be 30 minutes shorter, and the reduction in running time would help.

As it stands, the gritty Gang delivers last-second heroics, surprising amounts of humor, and the beating heart of an unexpected champion. Let's put it into football terms. This motivational cheerer isn't a flashy wide receiver or a star quarterback. It's the stocky, reliable running back who drops his shoulder, breaks a few tackles, and picks up tough yards on the way to a moral victory.

The DVD includes deleted scenes, commentary track, making-of featurettes, and a multi-angle feature.

He will rock you.

Gridiron Gang Review


OK

Wanna know why sports movies are criticized for being too cliché? Because sports, as a whole, are too cliché. We've been trained to root for the underdog, though it's conventional when that come-from-behind victory is shown on screen. Teams are expected to win games on last-play drives. How is a filmmaker supposed to wring suspense from such a scenario when it happens every night on SportsCenter?

For a sports film to succeed on its own terms, audiences must be able to look beyond the requisite storytelling crutches that bolster this limited genre and find something else worth discussing. In Gridiron Gang, that extra something else is heart, which this flick has in spades.

Gang follows the biographical story of Sean Porter to the letter - footage of the real coach played alongside the end credits shows him barking actual lines we heard minutes before in the film. Charismatically intimidating Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson personifies Porter, a juvenile correctional facilities counselor who uses football as a means to unite his divided charges.

Continue reading: Gridiron Gang Review

Timeline Review


Terrible
At least one can be thankful for a movie like Timeline that hires Billy Connolly to play Paul Walker's father, but stops itself short of then asking Walker to do a Scottish accent; it's all the poor guy can do to emote anything besides a grinning, sun-blanched California geniality. In many other ways, the filmmakers have littered the screen with ideas that go from bad to worse, quite often taking lengthy detours into sheer laughability along the way. This was likely supposed to be a big summer-style actioner, with all the time travel and battling knights that the post-Dungeons and Dragons multiplex crowd could ever want, but it came out like a plus-size episode of Sliders.

The story is typical Michael Critchon hooey, only shorn of all the techno-speak which his books use to cloud the sheer implausibility of their central conceits. An archaeological group on a dig in France finds a couple of interesting artifacts: one is a modern-day bifocal lens, the other a note from the dig's leader, Prof. Ed Johnston (Connolly), which is in his handwriting but dates from the 14th century. Just as this is discovered, the gang (mostly young attractive archaeologists and Walker, who was just there visiting his dad) is all summoned back to the desert headquarters of ITC, the big firm that's funding their dig. There, ITC's boss (David Thewlis, long MIA from Hollywood films) says that they've discovered how to send people back in time through a freakily-discovered wormhole to a spot in France circa 1357, and oh yeah, that they sent Johnston back there a couple days ago, he hasn't returned and they're starting to get worried about him. You see, that particular part of the world was at that time embroiled in a battle between the French and the English, meaning that there were lots of angry men on horses riding about looking for people to practice one-sided swordplay on.

Continue reading: Timeline Review

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