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The Polar Express Review


Grim
The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

Continue reading: The Polar Express Review

The Polar Express Review


Grim
The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

Continue reading: The Polar Express Review

Crash Review


OK
A meditation on the often unacknowledged undercurrentsof racism in everyday American city life, "Crash" has the kindof broad appeal that can draw large audiences and the kind of lingeringemotional potency that can lead to serious soul-searching.

An impressive ensemble cast lends strong character to acultural cross-section of Los Angeles denizens who are connected to eachother through crime, corruption, obligation, indignation and chance overa two-day period. The most powerful storyline features Matt Dillon andRyan Phillippe as beat cops -- one jaded and abusive, the other fresh andidealistic -- who pull over and harass (much to Phillippe's dismay) a blackyuppie couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) because the SUV they'redriving vaguely fits the description of a carjacked vehicle.

Within 24 hours, these characters all cross paths againin separate incidents of incredibly high tension that challenge both theprejudices that have formed between them and the conclusions we've beenled to as an audience.

Although they do not meet again, similarly potent table-turningand judgment-testing events occur in the lives of the actual carjackers(Larenz Tate and rapper Ludacris, whose character is ironically obsessedwith being stereotyped) and their victims, an ambitious district attorneyand his uptight wife (played with depth and conviction by Brendan Fraserand Sandra Bullock).

Continue reading: Crash Review

XXX: State Of The Union Review


Unbearable
If it weren't for IceCube's charismatic bad attitude, "XXX:State of the Union" would be downright unwatchable.

A paper-doll sequel with paper-thin performances and avideo-game plot -- a ridiculously implausible presidential coup plannedby an arch-conservative Secretary of Defense (teeth-gritting Willem Dafoe)-- this is nothing but a sorry attempt to ride the explosion-shredded coattailsof 2002's "XXX"without bringing back its star. Vin Diesel apparently got a big head fromhaving the first picture custom-tailored for him, and was booted afterasking for $25 million to reprise his role as an extreme-sports-jock spy.

So instead, Cube plays a Navy SEAL imprisoned for insubordinationwho is busted out by loose-cannon National Security Agency honcho SamuelL. Jackson (tough-guying his way to an easy paycheck) and deputized asthe new Agent Triple-X after Jackson's underground headquarters is raidedby gadget-laden baddies in black body armor. Who these thugs are and whatthey were doing there is barely explained, and no reason is offered forwhy, with all its agents, intelligence and firepower, the NSA must relyon a lone prison escapee to investigate and thwart a takeover of the U.S.government.

But director Lee Tamahori (who helped dumb down the lastJames Bond movie) doesn't really care as long as the next 5,000-round shoot-out,five-story fireball or $500,000 sports-car chase is just around the corner.This is the kind of brain-dead action movie in which window-rattling, wind-generatinghelicopters inexplicably sneak up on people, characters "lie low"by squealing around street corners in Washington D.C. while driving tricked-out,iridescent pimp-mobiles, and federal agents have to be certifiable moronsin order for the plot to advance.

Continue reading: XXX: State Of The Union Review

The Matrix Reloaded Review


Grim

Here's your review of "The Matrix Reloaded" in a nutshell: One incredibly cool, gravity-defying, CGI-aided, swirling-camera kung-fu melee; one jaw-dropping, 100-mph, against-traffic freeway chase; and way, way too much long-winded, expository, circular, self-important, pseudo-philosophical yappity-yappity-yap.

Writing-directing brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski saddle their cast with endless equivocal prattle while toiling to buttress the complex plot and metaphysical undertone of this picture's uber-stylish 1999 predecessor, which saw what we think is the real world exposed as an elaborate virtual reality prison for the minds of all humanity. Mankind's suspended bodies provide a power source for a race of machines, which a small band of escapees are hoping to destroy in the post-apocalyptic world outside the Matrix.

"We can never see past the choices we don't understand," sage but elusive cyber-prophet The Oracle (Gloria Foster) preaches cryptically to Neo (Keanu Reeves), the cyber-Messianic hero whose realization that physical laws don't apply in the Matrix led to the first film's groundbreaking wire-work martial arts fights and bullet-dodging slow-mo stunts.

Continue reading: The Matrix Reloaded Review

Ali Review


OK

The opening shot of Michael Mann's masterfully crafted boxer biography "Ali" is an image from behind a punching bag being pounded by the champ in rapid musical rhythm. As the bag flashes by with a strobe-like effect, that intensely focused gaze Muhammad Ali is famous for -- that laser beam look that means he's tuned out the world, that stare as steely as a freight train bearing down on you -- beams out of Will Smith's eyes.

It is the one and only time in the film you'll even remember the star's name, because for the next two and a half hours Smith inhabits Ali -- his power, grace, ego, humor and body language, inside and outside the ring -- as well as any actor could.

Choosing to focus on ten momentous years in Ali's life, Mann's round by round, bobbing and weaving narrative style assumes at least a passing knowledge of the fighter's life, merely dropping in on pivotal events without spending much time catching the audience up on the particulars of who, when and where.

Continue reading: Ali Review

The Matrix Revolutions Review


Weak

The eye-popping, heart-stopping last hour and a half of "The Matrix Revolutions" more than makes up for everything plodding and ponderous that has taken place since the mind-blowing first hour of the 1999 original.

Astonishing in scale and momentous in scope, it encompasses a spectacular battle between the scrappy, out-numbered but heavily armed defenders of Zion (humanity's last refugee city hidden deep beneath the Earth's scorched surface) and a million-strong swarm of enemy sentinels (those frightening, giant squid-shaped robots) invading from the machine-ruled surface world.

But the monstrous melee may be for naught if uber-human messiah Neo (Keanu Reeves) cannot defeat the invincibly evil, incalculably self-replicating rogue computer program known as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in a simultaneous, nuclear-strength airborne-kung-fu showdown inside what's left of the crumbling Matrix (that virtual world pulled over the eyes of the comatose majority of mankind kept in stasis by the machines who feed off our life-force).

Continue reading: The Matrix Revolutions Review

The Polar Express Review


Weak

One thing is clear from Hollywood's latest attempt at generating photo-realistic human characters through computer animation: The technology has not reached a level at which it can capture the awe of a child. This is a fundamental problem for "The Polar Express," which tries very hard to be an instant-classic Christmas movie.

The glitch is in the eyes -- there's just no life behind them. In this picture, they're pixel-driven doll orbs without personality or presence. And CGI animators still can't seem to create a blink that doesn't look animatronic. It's enough of a distraction that anyone over the age of 10 or 12 will likely wonder why director Robert Zemeckis (who dabbled in animation with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit") didn't shoot the film live-action -- unless he just wanted to show off, as he clearly did when CGI-ing President Clinton into several scenes in 1997's "Contact" for no good reason.

But in spirit, "The Polar Express" comes very close to embodying the magic of the holiday it's supposed to celebrate -- if you can get past several more Zemeckis-isms.

Continue reading: The Polar Express Review

Marvin Gaye's Daughter Will Never Forgive Prince


Prince Nona Gaye Marvin Gaye Mayte Garcia

Singer turned actress, Nona Gaye - known for her appearance in the 'Matrix' sequels - has stated that she was left heartbroken by the musician Prince. The singer/songwriter was 16 years older than Gaye when he suggested that the couple would be married. He then turned around and proposed to his later wife, Mayte Garcia, breaking the heart of Gaye.

Related: Prince Signs Major New Record Deal With Warner Bros

The actress discussed the relationship, by saying "I never really knew him, and I never let him really know me. I tried to be this woman I thought he wanted - very passive, letting him lead. He told a friend of mine he was going to marry me and take care of me. I knew I wouldn't get anything better than that from him, so I believed it."

Continue reading: Marvin Gaye's Daughter Will Never Forgive Prince

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