Michael Tollin

Michael Tollin

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Norbit Review


Weak
Inside Eddie Murphy hides an overweight soul that's longing to swell to its full potential. Which is hilarious because on the surface, the physically fit funnyman hasn't gained a pound (or aged a day) since we first saw him on screen nearly 25 years ago in 48 Hours.

When Murphy feels compelled to toss his proverbial weight around, he doesn't embellish his gluttony with radical feeding frenzies. Instead, he spends hours in a reclined chair and lets Academy Award-winning makeup artist Rick Baker do all the heavy lifting. Murphy and Baker's frequent collaborations over the years have yielded a parade of eclectic (and unusually obese) characters, from Nutty Professor Sherman Klump -- and his rotund family members -- to the acerbic barbershop patrons of Coming to America. When these two join forces, the industry generally acknowledges their accomplishments. Three of Baker's 10 Oscar nominations are for Murphy-led comedies, which includes a win for Nutty, hands-down their most celebrated effort.

Continue reading: Norbit Review

Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story Review


OK
Take Seabiscuit, remove the cussing, the drunkenness, the Depression, and all the death, and add in one prococious little blonde girl. You pretty much have Dreamer, a perfectly acceptable family film that, nonetheless, adds nothing to the genre.

Heck, if you throw in a zebra as well you have Racing Stripes, which came out a year earlier and told the same story: Girl adopts horse that no one believes in (in Dreamer it's a horse with a broken leg, not a zebra), who goes on to fame at the races. The film is based on a true story -- as the title probably clued you in -- about a horse named Mariah's Storm, a female who broke her leg and, after being completely written off, eventually returned to the track and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's pretty much the same story here, though the horse is named Sonador (Spanish for "dreamer," if you add in a tilde), and genre-appropriate villains are written in to the tale.

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Radio Review


Grim
HBO's cultish sketch-fest Mr. Show, in one of its more brilliant skewers of the entertainment business, did a hysterical mock movie awards show where all categories were for playing mentally challenged adults. The heart of the joke was the way the actors engaged in sickening self-congratulation for their "courageous" role choices.

Cuba Gooding Jr. deserves similar congratulations for his courage, not just for "playing retarded" in the titular role in Radio, but for most of what he's done since he won his own Oscar as jawboning jock Rod Tidwell in 1996's Jerry Maguire, a role in which his only devastating handicap was playing for the Arizona Cardinals. If not true fearlessness, it's hard to imagine what else can explain some of Gooding's recent script-picking decisions - Chill Factor, Instinct, Rat Race, Snow Dogs, and the execrable Boat Trip come to mind. Maybe he can't read.

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Summer Catch Review


Grim
Kids today, they don't just want to see heartthrob and master thespian Freddie Prinze Jr. loving on the ladies. No, they want to see him doing something that takes a little more in the acting department: namely, playing baseball.

Through a series of drippy voiceovers, we are informed that there's no better proving ground for Major League Baseball than the Cape Cod summer baseball leagues, where college also-rans and hopeful dropouts go to play in the hopes of attracting big league attention. Our man Freddie has landed a spot as a pitcher on the prestigious Chatham A's, where he is hoping for his big break.

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Varsity Blues Review


Grim
What makes a good football movie? God knows it's been done before. I don't think there's anything left to be done. Necessary Roughness, North Dallas Forty, even last year's Waterboy are all basically the same. The only thing left to do is to make them as good as the others. I'm tired of seeing the final tackle in slow motion while the team looks on in anguish. I'm tired of hearing the dramatic music that's a dead giveaway that someone's about to get injured. I'm tired of the fact that writers think that it's suspenseful to watch a field goal being kicked with 2 seconds to go. I'm tired of the same old stuff!

In Varsity Blues, James Van Der Beek stars as Jonathan Moxon, a second string quarterback who never gets any playing time because of the star quarterback of a small town in Texas. This town is obsessed with football and treats like a second religion. For two hours we are treated to the adventures of Moxon who has to deal with his football hating girlfriend, an evil legendary coach (Jon Voight) and other teenage challenges. And to be honest, it's a little boring.

Continue reading: Varsity Blues Review

Coach Carter Review


OK
Even those unfamiliar with real-life high school basketball coach Ken Carter might find familiar elements in the inspirational drama based on his achievements. After all, how many different ways can you tell the story of a coach who inherits a team torn apart and transforms them from chaotic underachievers to state title contenders?

Except in this case, the events actually happened. Coach Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) benched his undefeated Richmond Oilers in 1999 because the team failed to meet academic requirements he established at the start of the season. Amid protests from both school faculty and area parents, Carter locked his players out of the gymnasium and drove them into the library until their grades were up to snuff.

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Michael Tollin

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