As the opening credits roll, we meet Stacy (Brittany Murphy), a young college grad heading out into the exciting world of low-budget television production. She dreams of one day working with her childhood idol, Diane Sawyer. And her mother loves Carly Simon. I don't know why the part about Carly Simon is important, but it's a recurring theme throughout the film. If her mother ever actually got any screen time, perhaps the Carly Simon thing would become at least marginally relevant to the story. But no dice. Even so, we're treated to several inexplicable Carly Simon moments that have nothing to do with anything, really, and don't add anything of substance to the film.
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Eschewing every pitfall of the biopic genre and delving deeply into the essence of both Howard Hughes' genius and his slow burn into madness, Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" is a film of grand scope and masterfully intimate nuance, portraying a wild young mustang of a man who lived a fast life on an epic scale.
Presenting Hughes' view of the world as one in which nothing is impossible and the most momentous, groundbreaking decisions come instantly and instinctively ("What would controlling interest in TWA cost me?"), the film's crux is not the psychosis the man is best known for today, but his gift for sparing no expense to pursue novel visions no one else could see.
"We gotta reshoot 'Hell's Angels' for sound," Hughes decides on a whim in an early scene, after having already spent four years and millions of his own dollars perfecting his first foray into filmmaking -- a World War I epic featuring dozens of biplanes in an ambitious, jaw-dropping dogfight scene, parts of which Hughes shoots from a plane he flies into the fray himself.
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The epitome of everything that's wrong with $150 million B-movies, "Van Helsing" is an inane, soulless, 19th century vampire-hunting action flick of computer-F/X overkill and ham-fisted actors chewing on stale catch-phrase dialogue (when dialogue is even allowed) as if it's a mouthful of bubblegum with the flavor long gone.
Despite being inspired (if you can even call it that) by a character in "Dracula" and lifting a slew of monsters from other classic horror tales too, the picture has little story to speak of -- just a few minutes about Bram Stoker's bloodsucking Count using the electrifying re-animation technique of Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein to zap life into thousands of his gestating offspring that hang in slimy pods all over his castle lair.
So since writer-director Stephen Sommers (who clearly blew all his talent on "The Mummy" -- as anyone who's seen "The Mummy Returns" can attest) couldn't be bothered with anything more than Cliffs-Notes plot and character development, I'm going to respond in kind -- not bothering with a structured review and instead simply listing examples of the twaddle and tripe that pass for script and storytelling in this laughable example of Hollywood's numbing, style-without-substance approach to summer movies.
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On its surface, "Little Black Book" looks like an tritely pedestrian, gimmick-driven chick flick about an emotionally mixed-up career gal who gets more than she bargained for when she rifles through her boyfriend's Palm Pilot looking up old girlfriends.
So imagine my surprise at being thoroughly entertained by this weightless but canny comedy blessed with characters whose personalities aren't dependant upon plot devices, with snappy, spontaneous dialogue (even witty internal-monologue narration), with a story that flows organically, and with a very human heroine who (gasp!) isn't always likable.
Brittany Murphy plays a sweetly self-conscious aspiring TV journalist -- trapped in an associate producer job at a trashy TV talk show -- who is goaded into nagging doubts about her adoring boyfriend by tittle-tattling coworkers (especially the charismatically tart Holly Hunter) who have been warped into habitual scandal-mongers by years of wrangling prostitute grandmothers and midget Ku Klux Klansmen for a living. (Kathy Bates has a ball as the show's shameless, tyrannical host.)
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