Laura Ziskin

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The Butler Review


OK

This is an strangely slushy movie from Lee Daniels, whose last two films (Precious and The Paperboy) bristled with unexpected life. By contrast, this star-packed drama uses a true story to trace the Civil Rights struggle from the 1950s to the present day. But it's been so fictionalised that it feels kind of like a variation on Forrest Gump.

Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) grew up on a Georgia cotton plantation, where the cruel master's kindly mother (Redgrave) taught him to be a house servant. Years later, he marries Gloria (Winfrey) and moves to Washington DC, where he gets a job in the White House as a butler to presidents from Eisenhower (Williams) to Reagan (Rickman). His job description is simple: "You hear nothing, you see nothing, you only serve." And yet as the nation grapples with its racist culture, he has a quiet influence on each leader who moves through the house.

Whitaker narrates the film in drawling flashbacks, while the story flickers between Cecil and his eldest son Louis (Oyelowo), an activist who is involved in every key moment in the Civil Rights movement. And their younger son (Kelley) is sent to Vietnam. So it's like a condensed version of late 20th century American history, made notable by the lively cast of cameo players including Marsden (as JFK), Schreiber (LBJ), Ellis (MLK) and Cusack (Nixon), plus Fonda as a lively Nancy Reagan.

Continue reading: The Butler Review

The Amazing Spider Man Review


Good
Just 10 years after Sam Raimi's now-iconic Spider-man, Marvel has decided to tell the character's origin story again, using a slightly different mythology. The main difference is the presence of appropriately named director Marc Webb, whose last film was the imaginative romantic-comedy (500) Days of Summer. Sure enough, the interpersonal drama is the best thing about this reboot. Much less successful is the action storyline, which feels awkwardly forced into the film to justify its blockbuster status.

A huge asset here is gifted lead actor Andrew Garfield, who takes on the role of Peter Parker with real passion. Peter is a 17-year-old science nerd in high school who has real depth due to his personal history. Growing up in New York with his aunt and uncle (Field and Sheen) after his parents disappeared, he's more than a little unsettled when the object of his secret crush, sexy-brainy Gwen (Stone), notices him. Meanwhile, he's bitten by a mutant spider and develops some strange powers, which he exercises by chasing down bad guys all over the city.

Continue reading: The Amazing Spider Man Review

Picture - Dana Delany, Laura Ziskin Los Angeles, California, Thursday 30th April 2009

Dana Delany and Laura Ziskin - Dana Delany, Laura Ziskin Los Angeles, California - ATAS Presents 'The Second Annual Television Academy Honors' held at the Beverly Hills Hotel Thursday 30th April 2009

Picture - Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sherry... Los Angeles, California, Thursday 30th April 2009

Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sherry Lansing, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Roberston, Sue Schwartz, Ellen Ziffren and Pam Williams - Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sherry Lansing, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Roberston, Sue Schwartz, Ellen Ziffren, Pam Williams Los Angeles, California - ATAS Presents 'The Second Annual Television Academy Honors' held at the Beverly Hills Hotel Thursday 30th April 2009

Picture - Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sherry... Los Angeles, California, Thursday 30th April 2009

Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sherry Lansing, Lisa Paulsen Sue Schwartz, Ellen Ziffren and Pam Williams - Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sherry Lansing, Lisa Paulsen Sue Schwartz, Ellen Ziffren, Pam Williams Los Angeles, California - ATAS Presents 'The Second Annual Television Academy Honors' held at the Beverly Hills Hotel Thursday 30th April 2009

Picture - Laura Ziskin Hollywood, California, Thursday 6th November 2008

Laura Ziskin Thursday 6th November 2008 'Song of Hope V' event held at the Esquire House Hollywood Hills Hollywood, California

Laura Ziskin

Spider-Man 2 Review


OK
What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than by spending a good two hours with America's favorite super hero, Spider-Man?

Tobey Maguire returns to the massively popular Spider-Man franchise after a two-year hiatus. And in case you forgot what happened in the summer of 2002, director Sam Raimi is happy to synopsize it for us in the first 40 minutes of this sequel. Poor Peter Parker can't win: He didn't get the girl (Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane), his beloved uncle is dead, Aunt May is about to lose her house, and he's failing out of college because he doesn't have time to study - he's too busy chasing down street thugs in his spidey suit.

Continue reading: Spider-Man 2 Review

Everybody's All-American Review


Weak
The most striking thing in Everybody's All-American, aside from the atrocious hair and make-up work in the movie's last 20 minutes, is in how little of the material is noteworthy. The drama covers four decades, the demise of the Old South, marital infidelity, and the perils of hero worship and bankruptcy. However, director Taylor Hackford and screenwriter Tom Rickman make the mistake of profiling problems, and not the people dealing with them.

Everybody's All-American stars Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange, who first meet at Louisiana State University. He's Gavin Grey, an earnest football star who can do no wrong; she's Babs, the beauty queen who sees them as a couple and nothing else. They marry. He gets drafted to play in the National Football League and they build a life together. They have lots of kids, start a business and try to maintain the glowing example they set for an adoring campus.

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Stealth Review


Terrible
Sometime in the near future, the Navy will develop extremely cool new fighter jets called Talons, and they will be piloted by moody ignorami in dangerous anti-terrorism missions all around the planet; that is, until an even cooler jet comes along and threatens to replace them in the whole blowing-up-baddies department, leaving said ignorami even moodier and more disgruntled. That, at least, is the thesis of Stealth, the newest slab of computer-generated tedium to be visited upon us by maestro Rob Cohen - who has slid so far downhill that his previous work, like the turbo-charged exploitation flick The Fast and the Furious, looks like classics compared to what he's shoveling out now.

Because studio execs are still strangely demanding that directors include human beings in their films, Stealth provides us three Navy test pilots who were chosen to fly the top-secret, experimental Talon planes. Played by Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Josh Lucas, they're sort of a holy trinity of hotness, flying their sleek craft in perfect formation, and eager for whatever life-threatening emergency gets tossed their way. Unfortunately, they've just been saddled with a fourth wingman: an unmanned plane named EDI, for Extreme Deep Invader, which sounds like something purchased by seedy men in certain disreputable shops on the dark fringes of the San Fernando Valley. The three are none too happy with having EDI along on the secret mission they're given early in the film: Take out a Rangoon high-rise that's empty save for a number of high-level terrorists. And they're resentful not just because EDI talks like HAL's drugged younger brother, but because they're worried about getting replaced by machines, which is just what their commander officer (Sam Shepard) wants to happen - with a little help from a shadowy buddy of his in D.C.

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Spider-Man Review


Excellent
If you aren't already sick to death of unyielding Spider-Man promotions for burgers, cellular phone plans, and the movie itself, you might just find the film a good time. Really good, in fact.

After a dozen or so years of fantastically bitter legal wrangling, Spider-Man has finally crawled to the big screen. For the uninitiated (and even for those of us who grew up with the comics but can't remember all the details), Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is the whipping boy of his New York high school. He's got a crush on the girl next door, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), and his best friend Harry (James Franco) is the son of the local millionaire/scientist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe).

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To Die For Review


OK
Gus Van Sant's new, much-hyped farce/thriller is finally here, and with it arrives the director's best feature and Nicole Kidman's strongest performance. To Die For, the tale of Suzanne Stone (Kidman), a sexy newswoman wannabe who'll do anything to get on television, is entertaining and funny, but pulls its punches by never taking the farce of its story far enough.

Told in half-flashback, half-mockumentary style, the film traces the events leading up to the murder of the Suzanne's husband, Larry (Matt Dillon). We see Suzanne trying to get ahead in the media world, carving out a career for herself at a low budget cable station. We also see large stretches of Suzanne creating a meaningless documentary about modern teenagers, wherein three kids (including drugged-out zombie Jimmy, played by an unwatchable Joaquin Phoenix) are interviewed ad nauseam. All the while, key relatives try to get to the bottom of the mystery: who killed Larry, and why?

Continue reading: To Die For Review

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