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Apartment Zero Review


Excellent
The psycho-roommate thriller done the right way, with Firth's Felix Unger playing off Bochner's mysterious American... who may or may not be slaughtering the residents of Buenos Aires, where the film takes place. Creepy and original, Apartment Zero got a crummy update later with Single White Female and a good one with Shallow Grave. Donovan's direction recalls Polanski and his and Koepp's script exudes Hitchcock. A better combo I couldn't give you.

The Quiet Review


Bad
A film that does its best to make the horrendous palatable, and the unthinkable titillating, The Quiet can be either (depending on your taste) a wrenching experience, or merely worth a giggle. It is, after all, a film about a deaf-mute teenaged girl named Dot (Camilla Belle), sent to live with her weird godparents and their popular cheerleader Nina (Elisha Cuthbert) after her father dies -- so really one can only take it so seriously. Clichés are the order of the day, with bitchy cheerleaders ruling the high school cafeteria and deep, nasty secrets discovered by people who just happen to be walking down darkened hallways in the depths of night. And if one has to ask whether this seemingly placid suburban environment is about to be torn asunder by scandal, one really hasn't watched enough television.Director Jamie Babbit hardly showed much promise with her debut film, the stiff, one-note 1999 comedy But I'm a Cheerleader, but one would have thought that the intervening years spent directing episodes of such sharp TV comedies as Malcolm in the Middle and Gilmore Girls would have honed her talent somewhat. No such luck. The Quiet is so tone-deaf that when it should be eliciting sympathy or empathy, it comes off as simply amateur comedy -- Pretty Persuasion without the guts. She's put together a good enough cast here, with Edie Falco and Martin Donovan playing Nina's parents (the former a prescription-medication-zonked stereotype and the latter a creepy and controlling menace), though they're mostly marooned amidst the cartoonish plot of adolescent brooding and familial dysfunction. As Dot, Belle is stuck with providing her dialogue via maudlin voiceover ("I am invisible") while Cuthbert has to do what she can with a script that sends her character ping-ponging between damaged, vulnerable victim and Heathers-esque school-dominating bitch.And what to make of this script by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft? Undoubtedly they believed they were crafting a dark little drama about suburbia's seamy underbelly, with a symbolism-laden deaf-mute protagonist to act as a bid for arthouse cred. Instead they've put together a crude mash-up of teenage cruelty -- Nina tries so hard to make life hell for her new sister that you can almost see the sweat beads on her brow -- and stock representations of parental hypocrisy, with a persistent undertone of sexual perversity that veers more than once into leering exploitation. Nina's best friend, the ultra-slutty Michelle (Katy Mixon), has a porn fixation, while the object of her X-rated lunchtime conversation, the star basketball player, Connor (Shawn Ashmore), appears sexually attracted to Dot simply because of her passivity.Although the balance of The Quiet pivots around the revelation of two shock twists, they're both so predictable that even Desperate Housewives wouldn't stoop to using them. Director Babbit's handling of the fallout from these twists, which should have been heavily emotional material, careens instead quite quickly into high camp of a sort that's quite impossible to enjoy without a stiff drink -- or three.

The Sentinel Review


Weak

The Sentinel is one of those movies made for commercials and trailers full of shots of well-dressed Secret Service agents running and impassioned scenes where actors bark out lines like, "He's looking for an ally and the First Lady is a fine one to have." Rarely do these movies translate well into a longer format, and The Sentinel is far from the exception.

Directed by Clark Johnson (he of the awful S.W.A.T.), The Sentinel stars Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland as former friends forced to become allies after a plot reveals an unknown mole inside the Secret Service. Pete Garrison (Douglas) is a veteran agent drawn deeper into the plot after his affair with the President's wife (Kim Basinger, playing the curviest First Lady ever) is revealed, leading investigator David Breckinridge (Sutherland) to turn his attentions to Garrison. Meanwhile, TV's babe of the moment Eva Longoria co-stars as Breckinridge's sexy new partner and Garrison's protégé.

Continue reading: The Sentinel Review

Insomnia (2002) Review


OK
Director Christopher Nolan, the auteur behind the masterful Memento, has made an odd choice for a follow-up, choosing to remake the Norwegian film Insomnia, which starred Stellan Skarsgård as a troubled cop investigating a murder north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun never sets. Nolan has kept the story intact, moving it 'round the Circle from Norway to Alaska, putting monster stars Al Pacino and Robin Williams in the lead roles... and telling the whole story backwards!

Okay, I'm joking about the backwards part, but to tell you the truth, this retread could have used it. It certainly needs a lot more than Pacino's overacting and cinematographer Wally Pfister's mood lighting to be watchable.

Continue reading: Insomnia (2002) Review

Apartment Zero Review


Excellent
The psycho-roommate thriller done the right way, with Firth's Felix Unger playing off Bochner's mysterious American... who may or may not be slaughtering the residents of Buenos Aires, where the film takes place. Creepy and original, Apartment Zero got a crummy update later with Single White Female and a good one with Shallow Grave. Donovan's direction recalls Polanski and his and Koepp's script exudes Hitchcock. A better combo I couldn't give you.

Spanish Fly Review


Bad
If I wasn't deathly afraid that Daphna Kastner's husband, Harvey Keitel, would hunt me down and kill me, I'd say right up front that if Kastner wanted to write, direct, and star in her own movie, she at least ought to be talented in one of the three areas.

But I wouldn't say anything like that.

Continue reading: Spanish Fly Review

Saved! Review


Good
Saved! is just the cutest little Christian comedy, simply the sweetest wee satire you'll ever see - but this is a sugar cookie leaking arsenic. Seemingly just another teen movie, Saved! goes into cinematically uncharted territory right off the bat as the teenage narrator, Mary (Jena Malone), says "I've been born again my whole life." We then get her story of how she, as a born-again Christian, couldn't accept that her boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), was gay as he claimed. Deciding that it was God's will, Mary seduces Dean, whose parents send him to a gay deprogramming clinic, while Mary is left pregnant.

This is all just prelude to a by-the-numbers story wherein Mary, a member of the coolest clique at American Eagle Christian High - the Christian Jewels, who have a band and their own pendants - gets booted from paradise by the clique's leader, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), as tan as she is vicious, after Mary starts questioning their judgmental attitudes. Fortunately, there's a pair of rebels to cushion Mary's fall: Hilary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother and a secret non-Christian, Roland (Macauley Culkin), and his girlfriend, the school's "only Jewish," Cassandra (Eva Amurri). While Culkin's sly, sleepy asides provide some of Saved!'s better moments, Amurri is just as much a shambling, bug-eyed, and hyperactive mess as she was in The Banger Sisters (if it's not overacting, it ain't acting, apparently). Mary has to hide her pregnancy from the school's eagle-eyed Biblethumpers, enduring Hilary Faye's hypocritical assaults, and hoping that the cute missionary skater and pastor's kid Patrick (Patrick Fugit) will ask her to prom. Will Mary keep the baby? Will Hilary Faye be allowed to be such a bitch? What would Jesus do? And will there be a shopping montage?

Continue reading: Saved! Review

Living Out Loud Review


OK
Okay, I can sorta see what they were thinking. Holly Hunter stars as a free spirit who finds herself in the throes of divorce and in search of herself. En route to self, she encounters a plucky yet somewhat dense elevator attendant (DeVito) and a no-hit jazz club diva (Latifah) -- each of whom shares a thing or two about living. You know: out loud. Long-time screenwriter LaGravenese tries his hand at directing with fair aplomb, but ultimately, it's the story that stinks, as Hunter's journey toward self-realization never seemes to get very far.

Pipe Dream Review


Very Good
Somewhere between Living in Oblivion and Cyrano de Bergerac lies Pipe Dream, John Walsh's quirky and endearing little comedy about love, the movies, and plumbing.

Martin Donovan stars as David, an everyday plumber who longs for the torrid love affairs that come with being a movie director. With the help of friend RJ (Kevin Carroll) and a script stolen from client/neighbor Toni (Mary-Louise Parker), David reinvents himself as "David Coppelberg," using Toni's script to stage a casting call and meet endless eligible ladies. But the movie, of course, takes on a life of its own, and soon enough David finds himself in the director's chair, with Toni (who's forgiven him for the theft) coaching him from the back seat.

Continue reading: Pipe Dream Review

Amateur Review


Good
Hal Hartley's latest film, Amateur, is quite a departure from his earlier work. Still gone is his once-traditional lead, the crimson-haired ingenue Adrienne Shelly (who hasn't been seen since Trust), and in her stead are two foreign actresses, Isabelle Huppert (as a lapsed nun trying to make it as a porn story writer and who believes she is a nymphomaniac) and Elena Lowensohn (returning to Hartley's films as Sofia, a somewhat psycho porn star). Hartley's favorite male lead, Martin Donovan, remains as Thomas, the slimeball husband of Sofia.

The plot is this: Sofia is fed up with Thomas, so she tries to kill him. He doesn't die--he just cracks his head and develops amnesia. Isabelle finds him and takes him under her already fragile wing. Throw in an extortion plot wherein the old Thomas was trying to blackmail a nameless entity, and add the thugs trying to kill him. Eventually, everyone gets sucked into this scheme, and nothing works out for any of them.

Continue reading: Amateur Review

Onegin Review


Bad
Barry Lyndon meets Doctor Zhivago. And not in a good way.

Russkie aristocat Eugene Onegin (Fiennes) finds himself the unwilling target of Tatiana's (Tyler) love. He rejects her, misunderstandings ensue, duels are fought, tears are wept, everyone is bummed, end of film. Much of Onegin is shot in mute silence, probably an overwrought symbol of some kind I was too lazy to pick up on. The filmmakers are blatant Merchant-Ivory wannabes, and the story of Onegin is so not worth telling that one struggles to stay awake for even a fraction of the running time. Thank God for the lush photography, even if the sound is turned off.

Continue reading: Onegin Review

Onegin Review


OK

Ralph Fiennes is dangerously close to being pigeon-holed as cinema's go-to guy for doomed, stoic, period lover roles. Save his ill-advised turn as Jonathan Steed in that unfortunate "Avengers" movie, the guy hasn't done anything but romantic tragedies since "Strange Days."

But since Fiennes doesn't look ridiculous wearing his hair in forward-combed curls while sporting waist jackets and paisley vests, here he comes again in the title role of "Onegin," a handsome, fire-and-ice adaptation of Alexander Pushkin's 1820s lit-soap of unrequited love, "Eugene Onegin."

Fiennes plays a restless, arrogant, idly rich, St. Petersburg gentleman dandy beset by high society ennui who spends a season at a newly inherited country estate. Unable to escape his cynicism, he's equally bored here and begins to toy with the affections of those he considers simple bucolic aristocrats from a nearby estate.

Continue reading: Onegin Review

Insomnia Review


Good

After a hit as inventive and novel as last year's narrative-bending "Memento," following up with a remake of something as commonplace as a cop vs. killer cat-and-mouser might seem a step down for director Christopher Nolan. But "Insomnia" was an unusual story before he even got his hands on it.

The 1997 original from Norway starred Stellan Skarsgaard ("The Glass House," "Good Will Hunting") as a detective whose ongoing sleep disorder became a psychological burden while investigating the cryptic murder of a teenage girl above the Arctic Circle, during summer when the sun is up 24 hours a day.

In Nolan's remake, Al Pacino plays the cop as a graying, threadbare detective with still-sharp instincts who has been given an extra bag of metaphorical bricks to carry around: He's in Alaska helping with this murder case until the heat of an ugly Internal Affairs inquiry dies down in his native Los Angeles.

Continue reading: Insomnia Review

Saved! Review


Good

Convinced she was doing God's work by sleeping with her fey ice-skater boyfriend to keep him from "turning gay," blissfully naive and blindly devotional Mary (Jena Malone) is now a knocked-up senior at American Eagle Christian Academy -- and suddenly having dark-comedy doubts about everything she's been taught to believe.

This is the foundation of "Saved!," an incisively wry, low-key indie that almost -- almost -- manages to deliver its sardonically tart message of tolerance without making one-dimensional cartoons out of its judgmental, Bible-beating antagonists.

Co-written and directed by first-time filmmaker Brian Dannelly (who attended a Catholic elementary school, a Jewish summer camp and a Baptist high school while growing up), "Saved!" is narrated from Mary's point of view as she navigates a snake pit of high school gossip dangerously coupled with religious self-righteousness.

Continue reading: Saved! Review

Agent Cody Banks Review


OK

Yes, "Agent Cody Banks" is a "Spy Kids" clone. As such, I went into it expecting an uncreative, cash-in-on-a-trend children's movie -- the kind parents are loathe to suffer through, yet for some reason take their kids to see anyway.

But while its plot doesn't stand up to even a modest amount of logical scrutiny, the flick has a comical, junior-James Bond spirit that's hard to resist. Of course, there are a couple differences between James Bond and highly-trained CIA spook Cody Banks (played by "Malcolm In the Middle's" Frankie Muniz): 1) Cody is 15 and lives with his parents who don't know he's a spy, and 2) Cody is hopelessly inept at talking to girls.

His tendency to get tongue-tied around cute classmates becomes a major problem when his hubba-hubba CIA handler (Angie Harmon from "Law & Order") assigns him to get close to the adorable Natalie Conners (Hilary Duff, better known as the Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire"). It seems the girl's scientist father is unknowingly developing nanobot technology for a villain (the ominously tan Ian McShane) who wants the microscopic 'bots to eat away US missile guidance systems. It's part of his evil plan to render the country defenseless for no adequately explored reason.

Continue reading: Agent Cody Banks Review

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Martin Donovan Movies

Ant-Man Trailer

Ant-Man Trailer

When you need someone to break into a place and steal something, a career cat...

Ant-Man Trailer

Ant-Man Trailer

An awful lot has happened in the world - A Second World War super soldier...

Sabotage Movie Review

Sabotage Movie Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger gets one of his most complex roles yet in this messy, violent thriller,...

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Movie Review

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Movie Review

A terrific story is compromised by the demands of commercial filmmaking, adding action-thriller scenes to...

The Sentinel (2006) Movie Review

The Sentinel (2006) Movie Review

The Sentinel is one of those movies made for commercials and trailers full of shots...

The Sentinel Movie Review

The Sentinel Movie Review

The Sentinel is one of those movies made for commercials and trailers full of shots...

Insomnia (2002) Movie Review

Insomnia (2002) Movie Review

Director Christopher Nolan, the auteur behind the masterful Memento, has made an odd choice for...

Saved! Movie Review

Saved! Movie Review

Saved! is just the cutest little Christian comedy, simply the sweetest wee satire you'll ever...

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