Jack Halcombe is an Alaskan State Trooper who determinedly sets out to find a serial killer after several bodies of young girls show up apparently murdered. When he discovers a frightened young girl hiding away bound with handcuffs, he realises that she is their key to finding the killer being the only one to have managed to escape from his clutches. However, her information is in doubt given the fact that she is a prostitute and refused a polygraph. When he does find the suspect, it is Robert Hansen; an experience hunter and a bakery worker whose respected status leads many investigators to cross him off their list. Halcombe is unwavering in his suspicions, however, and sets out to gather solid evidence that Hansen is their man.
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Even though this crime thriller is based on a true story, it never feels remotely believable. The problem is that writer-director Walker tries far too hard to force the real events into a standard movie structure, which leaves gaping plot holes everywhere we look. Still, it's a solidly made film, with a snappy pace, strong performances and beefy direction that holds our attention.
It's set in 1983 Anchorage, Alaska, where the cops struggle to believe the story told to them by 17-year-old prostitute Cindy (Hudgens): she claims to have been kidnapped, tortured and raped, barely escaping with her life, and she identifies upstanding citizen Robert (Cusack) as her would-be killer. With the police refusing to follow up on her statement, State Trooper Jack (Cage) looks into it and discovers similarities in the cases of several other missing girls. And even though his out-of-hours investigation strains his marriage to Allie (Mitchell), he is doggedly determined to find the proof that will put Robert behind bars.
Right at the beginning we have a nagging question that's never answered: why do the police discount the victim's account, especially as it's accompanied by physical evidence? And the screenplay brushes past other big issues along the way, making us think that this might be the most inept police squad in the world. Although we never doubt for a second that Jack will crack the case, even though the script continually throws in random movie cliches from the characters' pasts in an attempt to ramp up the emotional stakes. It also randomly places Cindy in the middle of an under-developed war between two pimps (Jackson and Henke).
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Whatever It Takes is actually a solid pinning of the high school romantic comedy. There's nothing especially original about its plot or characters, but most of its target audience won't notice. Basically, what we have here is the standard boy-wants-girl-but-she's-out-of-his-league-so-his-friend-coaches-him-and-she's-gullible-enough-to-fall-for-it picture. The twist is that this is a two-way exchange. Ryan Woodman (Shane West) is a supposedly geeky high school senior lusting after popular girl Ashley Grant (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe -- She's All That). Chris Campbell (James Franco of Freaks and Geeks) is a dumb but popular jock looking to bed Maggie Carter (Marla Sokoloff), the smart-but-undervalued hottie who lives next door to Ryan. So the two begin a completely unsurprising story arc in which the two most prominent teenage girl stereotypes fall for every line in the book without ever suspecting a thing.
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Another lowest-common-denominator high school romance made from the cannibalized parts of equally unambitious teen fare, "Whatever It Takes" stakes its bottom-feeder comedy ground almost immediately with a student assembly scene in which the school nurse (Julia Sweeney in a career low) demonstrates condom application on a five-foot phallus.
And it's all downhill from there.
Ryan (Shane West from TV's "Once and Again") and Maggie (Marla Sokoloff, the secretary on "The Practice") are next door neighbors, best friends and lonely hearts. She's sweet and dead sexy but can't find a beau, apparently because her IQ is larger than her bra size. He's one of those handsome movie "geeks" (illustrated mostly by the fact that he plays the accordion), hopelessly stuck on arrogant, air-headed Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), the Prettiest Vixen in School.
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Any delusions Miramax may have been harboring that it was still an arthouse studio have been permanently put to rest with the release of "She'sAll That," a completely common and utterly excruciating high schoolugly duckling romance so grossly out of touch with the times that eventhe title is passe.
Part "Sixteen Candles," part "Pygmalion,""She's All That" tries to hitch a low-rent ride on the coattailsof the "Scream""Dawson'sCreek" teen profit phenomenon by casting a bunch of C-list teenageactors (who, if they had any integrity, would have passed on this movieand kept their fingers crossed for a douche commercial) in roles that NeveCampbell and even James VanDerBeek (late of "Varsity Blues")wouldn't touch with asbestos gloves.
The personality-less Freddie Prinze, Jr. ("Scream,""I Know What You Did Last Summer") stars as Zach, Harrison HighSchool's king of the popular, dreamy jocks. Unceremoniously thrown overby the snobby head cheerleader from central casting (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe),Zach accepts a bet from his cold-blooded posse of in-crowd cronies thathe can turn any girl in school into the prom queen in six weeks.
Being that Harrison High is a Hollywood school, where thefat chicks are a size 10 and a stray eye brow hair signals radical feminism,the worst they can do is Laney (Rachel Leigh Cook), a brainy (she can quoteCNN!), mousy, anti-social art chick who is one removed bobby pin and apair of contact lenses away from ultra-babedom.
The movie takes place in one of those fictional worldswhere although jocks are all bastards, geeks secretly aspire to be jocksand everyone, regardless of clique, goes to the same parties.
Following an inevitable course with no twists or surprises,Zach falls for Laney (despite her queer interest in performance art andcurrent events) and becomes a nice guy in the process, and Laney learnsthat the key to happiness is wearing lip gloss and dating guys with two-digitIQs.
Written by somebody named Lee Fleming, who 1) saw too manyJohn Hughes movies as a teenager and 2) is clearly at least five yearsbehind the times, "She's All That" features badly out-dated slang,clean-cut token minorities who perform spontaneous rap ditties in the schoolquad, and gratuitous references to long-forgotten characters from MTV's"The Real World." In an desperate attempt to look hip, he madeZach the school's star soccer player (football is so 1998!).
Directed by TV veteran Robert Iscove, the pic sleepwalksthrough Laney's requisite confrontations with 1) the cheerleader ("Toanyone here that matters, you're vapor!"), and 2) Zach ("Am Ia bet?!?," turn heel, stomp off dramatically). Iscove failsto avoid a couple dozen other obligatory scenes before wrapping up witha prom climax that includes an ill-advised synchronized dance number.
Forgettable in almost every other regard, "She's AllThat" will be remembered, by those who keep track of such things,only as the movie that knocked Miramax off its pedestal once and for allby demonstrating that several years under Disney's wing has turned chairmenBob and Harvey Weinstein into clones of Larry Levy, the cynical producerfrom "The Player" who reasoned that a good story is immaterialto making a movie for the unwashed masses.
Jack Halcombe is an Alaskan State Trooper who determinedly sets out to find a serial...
Even though this crime thriller is based on a true story, it never feels remotely...
I sat down to write this review with a gleeful sparkle in my eye, anticipating...
Another lowest-common-denominator high school romance made from the cannibalized parts of equally unambitious teen fare,...