Maury Chaykin

Maury Chaykin

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Blindness Review


Terrible
Fernando Meirelles' Blindness was adapted from the novel written by Portuguese Nobel-laureate Jose Saramago. The novel follows a singular woman who somehow goes uninfected when a sudden, freakish plague of "white blindness" strikes the planet, leaving her the sole witness to moral and sanitary decay and atrocities unmentionable in a prison for the infected. What was a poetic, exhaustively-brilliant piece of fiction has now become a clunky, clattering, ever-collapsing film of bludgeoning rhetoric.

The woman (Julianne Moore) tags along with her ophthalmologist husband (Mark Ruffalo) when he is struck by the blindness and sent to the initial holding facility for the infected. Visually plagued by random flashes of pure white, the film hams up Saramago's eloquent metaphor as the wards of the facility become factions. One splinter supports a dictator (Gael García Bernal) and an accountant (Maury Chaykin) who garner the entirety of the rations supplied by the army. Possessions and eventually women are traded for meager portions as the nameless woman begins to consider her tolerance in the face of a shadowy, violent orgy that even Argentine provocateur Gaspar Noé might find a little too much.

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It's a Boy Girl Thing Review


Weak
It's comforting to know that, deep into the 2000s, there is still someone trying to dig a final nugget of gold from the old swapping-bodies plot device. Freaky Friday will simply never die. Never!

In this installment, it's, well, a boy girl thing. The swappers are high school seniors: Dim jock Woody (Kevin Zegers) and Yale-destined brainiac Nell (Samaire Armstrong), who've lived next door to each other all their lives and, as this type of movie dictates, now hate each other. A class field trip and an Aztec idol get the switcheroo done (the mechanics of the switch are, of course, inconsequential), but with Woody's brain in Nell's body and vice versa, how will she dazzle the regents during her final Yale interview, and how will Woody impress the talent scouts at the Homecoming football game?

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Unstrung Heroes Review


Excellent
Diane Keaton's directorial feature film debut is a very impressive one. Unstrung Heroes is a smart, bittersweet drama about a boy growing up in postwar suburbia. 12-year old Steven Lidz (Nathan Watt) is surrounded by his inventor father (John Turturro) and nearly-insane uncles Danny and Arthur (Seinfeld's Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin). When his mother Selma (Andie McDowell) develops cancer from her chain smoking, Steven's life begins to slowly unravel.

The pressures of Selma's illness take their toll on everyone, and Steven becomes lost in the cyclone of anger and sorrow that accompanies any tragedy like this. To find peace, Steven runs away to stay with his uncles, where he finds a new world of self-realization, living on his own terms instead of the indifferent rules set down by his father and by society.

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The Sweet Hereafter Review


Excellent
It's been over two years since Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan first came to my attention with his breakthrough film Exotica. Since then, I've become something of an aficionado of his works through home video, and it was with breathless anticipation that I awaited what was sure to be the movie that pushed him into the mainstream: The Sweet Hereafter.

Maybe I over-hyped it in my mind, becoming too hopeful in the face of overwhelming praise for the film. Or maybe I know Egoyan's tricks too well by now. Either way, I left the film extremely pleased but depressed: partly because the movie is such a downer, and partly because I know Egoyan can do even better.

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The Art of War Review


Unbearable
Wesley Snipes is a master of selecting bad action roles. Murder at 1600, U.S. Marshals, Money Train, Drop Zone, Boiling Point, and the ultimate camp film - Passenger 57. The Art of War is another entry in this very ugly and unique category. Ultimately, it is little more than a ridiculous action film with a plot as believable as the Warren Report, ugly violence that would have made Peckinpah cringe, and terrible acting by B-list actors like Michael Biehn and Anne Archer. Oddly, it feels like the undiscovered sequel to another Snipes "masterpiece," Rising Sun.

The movie revolves around the convenient story of a special UN operative caught up in a secret murder conspiracy involving a Chinese ambassador, the Chinese Triad Brotherhood, a rich Chinese businessman (played by...that bad guy from Rising Sun, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) a Chinese UN interpreter, and, inexplicably, Donald Sutherland. The film ends with more confusion than a boatload of Chinese immigrants trying to register at Ellis Island. Or should I say the film ends with the most blatant ripoff of both The Matrix and all of John Woo's Hong Kong films combined.

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Entrapment Review


Weak
It's tough to say what Entrapment will be remembered better for: Sean Connery's hairpiece, or Catherine Zeta-Jones's ass. I pick the ass, and the way it's featured in the trailers for Entrapment, I'd say the producers do too.

If only the rest of the movie was so interesting. While the idea is pretty cool: a cop and an art thief tangle in a cat and mouse game, constantly switching sides, all on the eve of the millennium... it's the execution that gets 'em every time.

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The Adjuster Review


Excellent
He's an insurance adjuster willing to do anything to make his clients feel better -- even if that means sleeping with them.

She's an adult movie censor that surreptitiously videotapes the screenings so she can get off to them after hours.

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Cutthroat Island Review


Terrible
Before there was Waterworld, there was Cutthroat Island, an overwrought period pirate movie that cost $92 million to make and earned about $12 million in the theaters. Put simply, this is The Goonies with grown-ups. Only the grown-ups should be embarrassed.

Let the Devil Wear Black Review


OK
Something's rotten yet again in this moody update to Hamlet, this time set in modern-day Los Angeles.

Stacy Title (The Last Supper) throws enough originality into the film to make it mildly worthwhile, and Jonathan Penner's dark prince (here the son of a nightclub owner) channels both Ethan Hawke and that mean guy from Dawson's Creek. Most priceless is Mary-Louise Parker's Ophelia, seen sampling dog food to let us know she's really nuts.

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Love and Death on Long Island Review


Excellent
Blink and you missed this little gem, the story of an aging, British Luddite writer named De'Ath (as in the title of the film, John Hurt) who goes to America to seek his newfound muse -- a B-movie actor named Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley) who stars in films like Hotpants College II. Bizarre and touching, funny and poignant, this is one horribly titled film that really ought to be seen.

Hurt, as usual, pulls out all the stops on his vaguely pathetic, vaguely lovable role -- a stuffy gent who becomes inexplicably obsessed. The beginning of the film traces De'Ath's introduction into modern life, necessities generated so he can expose himself to Ronnie's work via VHS. He freeze-frames a locker room scene, listens intently for cheeseball lines like, "You're nothing but a skid mark on the underpants of life!" Finally he opts to move to Long Island in the hopes of encountering Ronnie face to face (along the way he rather humorously learns the difficulties of trying to get around suburban America by foot).

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Bartleby Review


Weak
Destined to inspire new lows in workplace slackerdom, Jonathan Parker's Bartleby is a cryptic take on workplace politics and motivation, courtesy of Herman Melville's short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener."

Given a weirdly futuristic spin, Jonathan Parker's interpretation of Bartleby takes him out of a law office and into a public records commission, subtly morphing from typist to file clerk. More notably than all that is Parker's balls-out casting, with the certifiably unhinged Crispin Glover taking the role of the lowest-of-low-key peons.

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Owning Mahowny Review


OK
If there's any actor today who's blessed with being born at the right time, it's Philip Seymour Hoffman. Roly-poly, anxious, and pathetic-looking, in the '30s he'd play a bit role in noirs as a heavy. In a '50s western, he'd be the fellow in the corner of a saloon who got shot first. In an '80s teen exploitation flick, he'd be the fat fraternity pledge forced to perform some sort of humiliating rush antic. But in the Miramax era, where clinging to one last shred of dignity is a heroic character trait, Hoffman gets to be our new Brando. His role as a desperate gambling addict in Owning Mahowny is custom-made for him. It's a shame he's thrust into a film that seems more than a little desperate itself.

Based on a true story set in the early 1980s, Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a middle manager at a Toronto bank who finds himself swamped by gambling debts. To square matters with Frank (Maury Chakin), a bookie with a snow globe fetish, he uses his job's authority to set up fake loans and cash transfers. Hoffman doesn't play Mahowny as outwardly desperate; sitting at his desk with a loan approval form he's about to fake, he sweats and stares, but he's committed to feeding his addiction. There's a gleam of opportunity in his eyes, and you can feel him thinking: X amount of dollars means Y hours at the blackjack table in Atlantic City. Little else matters, including moral qualms.

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Jerry & Tom Review


OK
Two hitmen look back on their lives while holding down day jobs as used car salesmen. Hooked yet? Indeed, this is one of the stranger films to come along lately, and it's obvious it didn't click with audiences. Cue Showtime to pick it up without a theatrical release. Bizarre structure and a we-mighta-killed-celebrity-[fill in the blank] makes for an interesting couple of hours, but that's about it.

Entrapment Review


Grim

The first sign of trouble in "Entrapment" comes in the very first scene, which is labeled "16 days before the Millennium," betraying that the climax will be -- you guessed it -- dependent on the Y2K bug.

As it turns out, the climax depends on something even more ridiculous -- that the biggest bank in the world would still be Y2K testing on December 31.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

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The Art Of War Review


Grim

Cool as dry ice, Wesley Snipes comes off a two-year action movie hiatus like a bad-ass, black-belt James Bond with some ghetto in his blood in the opening scene of "The Art of War."

Dressed to the nines for a well-heeled Y2K New Year's Eve party in Hong Kong, he's doing a little workaday blackmailing of Chinese government officials when he is spotted by security and has to kung-fu his way out of there before parachuting off a skyscraper to escape.

Somebody shoots holes in his chute, but while Wes lands safely, the movie crashes face first into the pavement.

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Maury Chaykin

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