Marc Klein

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Suburban Girl Review


Grim
I'll be honest. The only reason I am bothering to write this review is to complain: Why would you take a pretty cool title like The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing and sub in a generic, borderline-lame one like Suburban Girl? I mean, there's not even anything remotely cool about the suburbs. Why would I want to watch a movie about a girl from them?

Well, you wouldn't, which is why Suburban Girl went straight to video, despite starring megawatt powers Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin. Gellar is Brett Eisenberg, the Suburban Girl of the title, though she lives and works in Manhattan as that age-old vocation of many a rom-com: book editor. Her exploits include a new boss (she's mean!) and a new lover (he's old!), played by Baldwin. Writer/director Marc Klein relies on two stories from Girls' Guide to intertwine her dealings with both: Old man Archie gives Brett career advice, then gets drunk and cheats on her. Almost as an aside, Brett's dad gets sick and dies. That's pretty much the

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A Good Year Review


Terrible
Proper casting can make or break a film. A savvy producer knows not to hire Sylvester Stallone for a Shakespearean tragedy. Successful studio heads understand that the charismatic Will Smith is the wrong choice to play a nebbish wallflower incapable of getting the girl. So someone should have objected to the casting of the versatile but intense Russell Crowe in the lively country lark A Good Year.Nothing against Crowe. The talented actor routinely throws himself at challenging roles and rarely plays the same type twice. He has proven he can do a lot on screen, but Year demonstrates with certainty that devilish wit and boyish charm are not the sharpest weapons in his acting arsenal. Crowe is rugged but hardly warm. George Clooney could have owned this project but he'd probably demand the Coen brothers write and direct it.Instead we get Crowe and his frequent collaborator, Ridley Scott (Gladiator), as they attempt to spin Peter Mayle's beloved novel into a dreamy, male-oriented bit of escapism (a colleague called this Under the Tuscan Sun for men, and he's not far off with that assessment).London stock trader Max Skinner (Crowe) sees things in monetary values and hardly finds time to mourn when his uncle Henry (Albert Finney), a father figure, passes away. Being Henry's only known relative, Max inherits the eccentric entrepreneur's fatigued vineyard in the south of France. The prodigal Max returns with the intention to sell, but Marc Klein's adaptation of Mayle's work conspires to keep the number-cruncher on the estate for a week.Unless Year happens to be your first film experience, you're likely to find the outcome of Max's journey astonishingly predictable, so we're meant to enjoy the picturesque ride through France's heavenly countryside. The exquisite setting dresses up the flat, overdone fable of the workaholic reprogrammed to appreciate the good life. The lazy script takes every generic and dreadfully corny step possible, though I'm unfamiliar with the book and thereby unsure whether to blame Klein or Mayle.Scott, for his part, paces Year with the buoyancy of a comedy but neglects to include any funny lines of dialogue. The movie has a tendency to repeat what it considers jokes. Max sings Lance Armstrong's praises every time he passes a pack of French cyclists. At least three characters overreact when they find scorpions in their bedrooms - how hilarious. And I stopped counting spit takes after I reached five.The highlights in this exaggerated travelogue are few and far between. Feisty and sultry Marion Cotillard holds her own as village hottie Fanny Chenal, Max's main motivation for staying near his chateau. Finney appears in flashbacks and speaks only in bite-sized pearls of wisdom. But Year lulls us to sleep as it wallows in the cultural divide (hey, Ridley, get in line behind Borat and Babel), and it systematically insults the French, the English, and Americans... and all audiences in between.In the end, the scenery's about the only thing worth appreciating in this mediocre Year.And my suit... you like?

Serendipity Review


Good
I must admit I'm going to be a bit biased in my review of the new romantic comedy Serendipity, because that also defines how I met my current girlfriend. The magic and mystery of our fated encounter is also embodied in the quirkiness and freshness of the very funny and very romantic Serendipity. I am not a big fan of the romantic comedy genre, but something drew me to this film. Maybe it was the casting of the underrated Jeremy Piven in a supporting role, and the hilarious Eugene Levy. Maybe it was my hope that John Cusack would get the redemption he justly deserves after such crap as High Fidelity, Con Air, and Pushing Tin. But maybe it was because I feel as giddy as a school kid right now with this whole romantic thing currently in my life.

The story of Serendipity is simple. Two people, John Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale, looking ever so hot), have a chance encounter over a pair of gloves -- with Buck Henry smack dab in the middle. Charmed beyond repair, these two knuckleheads grab a sundae together at a café called Serendipity, talk about that irresponsible thing called fate and the avenues it leads people down, and spend a few hours at the local ice skating rink. But with each of them already involved with other parties, Sara has John write his name and number on a $5 bill and she writes her name and number on a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. Sara declares that if this "thing" -- let's just call it love -- is destined to happen, fate will bring them together in the future.

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Marc Klein

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