Julie Hagerty

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Airplane! Review


Essential
If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

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She's The Man Review


OK

What is it about fancy prep schools that makes them the de facto setting for contemporary re-imaginings of Shakespeare? Something about the parent-free environs of the pretty and privileged makes it a completely believable breeding ground for Shakespearean turmoil of assorted varieties. This time, we get Twelfth Night, only it's (poorly) renamed She's the Man and involves fewer tropical islands and shipwrecks and more soccer and slapstick.

Viola (the preternaturally spunky Amanda Bynes) is a soccer star and wacky tomboy who's royally ticked when her school cuts the girls' team. The smug coach - and Vi's equally buffoonish boyfriend - refuse to let the ousted players try out for the boys' squad because girls are fragile and slow, or some other early-1980s-grade cutting-edge sexism. So Vi assumes the identity of her twin brother, Sebastian, who snuck off to London for a couple of weeks, to make the team at a rival boarding school and prove her point.

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Just Friends Review


Weak
I like Ryan Reynolds. I like Anna Faris. I'm befuddled why Amy Smart hasn't become the 21st century version of Meg Ryan. All three star in Just Friends, and they are all likable, with Reynolds and Faris showing deft comic timing. It's too bad the script doesn't just let them down, it leaves them for dead.

The movie starts in 1995. Chris (Reynolds) and Jamie (Smart) are childhood friends, who have just graduated high school. Chris chooses the night of her graduation party to confess his love for her. Long story short, Chris's love for Jamie gets broadcast for everyone to hear, and she responds by telling Jamie that she loves him. Like a brother.

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Freddy Got Fingered Review


Unbearable
(sung to the tune of Tom Green's "The Bum-Bum Song")

My bum is in the chairMy bum is in the chairLook at meI'm watching Tom Green's hair!

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Storytelling Review


Excellent
Writer-director Todd Solondz has a knack for making us feel downright uncomfortable. He did it in his twisted debut, Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), with a young Brendan Sexton III announcing his intentions to rape an even younger Heather Matarazzo. He did it in Happiness (1998), in nearly every scene. And he's providing more squirm-inducing moments in Storytelling, a film with less intensity than Happiness, but with a continuing streak of intellectually challenging dialogue and unforgiving subject matter.

Aside from Solondz's decidedly risky topics, his format in Storytelling takes chances. It presents two separate shorts, entitled "Fiction" and "Non-fiction," with no obvious connection between the two. The only true thread is that both comment on the telling of tales, the shifting of points of view, and the way most people in Solondz's suburban landscapes constantly paddle their painful lives upstream.

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Noises Off! Review


Good
Loads of fun, and not just because Nicollette Sheridan is in her underwear for the entire movie. Noises Off! is an uneven but very entertaining adaptation of the play, which in turn is about a play being staged with various degrees of failure, thanks to inappropriate relationships, drunkeness, and various mishaps on set. They don't make balls-out slapstick movies like this any more -- not for adults, anyway -- and you really don't think of them being directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

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A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy Review


Grim
The sole misfire in Woody Allen's third DVD box set (an otherwise impressive collection), A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy fails because it is almost completely removed from reality in every way. Sure, his usual themes of wanting, betrayal, loneliness, and sexual dysfunction are all explored at length, but putting

The acting is atrocious -- Mia Farrow sounds like she's reading from a cue card the entire film, and Mary Steenburgen and Julie Hagerty are woefully miscast as a troubled wife and a wanton nurse, respectively. Poor Tony Roberts spends the entire film with a rag wrapped around his head. Worst off, however, is José Ferrer, an aging star uncrated, dusted off, and carted in for the occasion. The poor guy does not belong in a Woody Allen vehicle, mangling what comedy there is.

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A Guy Thing Review


Grim
It's a week before you get married, and your bachelor party isn't treating you right. Someone called strippers, and that makes you a bit uncomfortable. But one of the strippers is so awkward and cute that you can't help but take her home and sleep with her. You're comfortable with that.

So goes the curious event that A Guy Thing -- a well-meaning but almost completely worthless trip through a minefield of infidelity, masculinity and self discovery -- is based upon.

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Lost In America Review


Extraordinary
Albert Brooks at his sarcastic best, Lost in America presents the case of a married L.A. yuppie couple who opt to "drop out" of life -- parroting Easy Rider -- and travel the country in an RV. When the wife loses their "nest egg" a day later in Vegas, things don't quite turn out the way they'd planned. Masterfully funny, Lost in America is one of those movies you can't help but watch when you come across it on TV. Excellent.

The Story Of Us Review


Terrible
Okay, let's get thing straight, right up front. If you have been led to believe from the trailers that The Story of Us is a romantic comedy, you are in for a huge shock. This is a mean, bad, melodramatic horror story about two bickering people. There is little comedy to be had in the entire thing.

Which is a surprise. This is the man who brought us the masterful comedy When Harry Met Sally.... And here we are, with people on couches, talking to the camera about their relationship. Same premise, right? Ohhhhhhh noooooo. The Story of Us can be summed up quite simply: Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer hate each other. They spend two hours yelling, cursing, crying, and pouting. Then maybe they get back together. The end.

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Airplane! Review


Essential
If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

Continue reading: Airplane! Review

The Badge Review


Weak
Billy Bob channels Billy Bob, his Monster's Ball persona, that is, in this southern cop/tranny/stripper/murder/politico drama that's barely watchable for much more than half an hour at a time. Robby Henson is earnest, earnest, in his attempt to make the movie edgy (Patricia Arquette married a transsexual!!!), but he kills any chance at real intrigue with his slow-as-molasses pace and his laughable plot points, bad dialogue, and worse acting. My only question is what Starz! saw in the movie, aside from the names of its lead actors.

Storytelling Review


Weak

Todd Solondz's "Storytelling" is designed to foster a sensation of absorbing discomfort, not unlike his earlier examinations of esoteric, emotionally disquieting Americana "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness." But this film's two shrewd but pointless short stories are suppressed by the underlying feeling that the film got worked over something fierce in post-production, and that half its guts are lying on a cutting room floor somewhere.

The conspicuously abrupt first segment, entitled "Fiction," runs about 20 minutes and stars Selma Blair ("Legally Blonde") and Leo Fitzpatrick ("Bully") in painfully authentic performances as an emotionally insecure coed and her cerebral palsy-stricken dorm neighbor and lover. Unable to connect emotionally, they each vent their frustrations in pallid short stories about their thinly veiled real lives for a creative writing class. These yarns are not well received by their ruthlessly candid classmates, who pass judgment on Blair's and Fitzpatrick's meager authoring talents and, by extension, their messed-up lives.

Desperately seeking some kind of acceptance, the frail, troubled Blair surrenders herself sexually to her even more cruel professor (Robert Wisdom). Once at his apartment, he forces her to spout racial epithets (she's white, he's black and about three times her size) while having his way with her rather violently and so graphically that Solondz covered the scene with a superimposed red box to avoid an NC-17.

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Held Up Review


Terrible

Stranded at a desert convenience store by his angry girlfriend (Nia Long) who has just discovered he spent their nest egg on a vintage Studebaker, Jamie Foxx is in the wrong place at the wrong time in "Held Up," becoming the most loud-mouthed of a handful of comically diverse hostages when a clumsy virgin hold-up man bungles a robbery at the store.

In its first 10 minutes -- when the movie still looks like it might be about Foxx trying to get his girlfriend back -- the movie shows a pinch of promise. Foxx and Long are both entertaining actors that could carry off a capricious black Bickersons comedy in their sleep.

But any semblance of structure or potential for good laughs exits the movie with Long in the first reel and the balance is spent on shopworn random sketch comedy episodes that the players seem to be making up on the spot while giving each other "just play along!" sideways glances.

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Freddy Got Fingered Review


Zero

Hey, you know what's funny? False accusations of child molestation. That's just the most hilarious way to get back at your father for being mean to you because you're a hopeless screw-up. At least, that's what Tom Green seems to think.

Green is that MTV personality who takes a video camera out into the world to record himself accosting embarrassed strangers and performing gross-out stunts for the amusement of easily entertained viewers. He wrote, directed and stars in "Freddy Got Fingered," a lose collection of sub-par Green gags orbiting around a 28-year-old unemployed nitwit whose dad (Rip Torn) hates him because, well, he's a worthless human being who goes out of his way to make Dad ashamed of him.

Aww, poor Tom. He's so misunderstood.

Continue reading: Freddy Got Fingered Review

Julie Hagerty

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