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The Friends Of Eddie Coyle Review


Excellent
Throughout Peter Yates' masterful The Friends of Eddie Coyle, crooks, thieves and the occasional police officer use terms of complacent endearment -- friend, nice guy, good man -- but the words never seem to carry any meaning. All of them tend to agree that Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum), a career criminal at 51, is a nice guy, but that doesn't mean they aren't willing to put him in the dirt if it makes their lives easier. Coyle can't really blame them for it; he knows the way of the world.

As its title points out, Friends has a very marginal interest in Eddie himself. In his first scene, Coyle goes about telling a gun dealer (Steven Keats) about how some associates of other associates slammed his fingers after a deal went sour. A low-level hood since God-knows-when, Eddie speaks about the situation congenially before telling the dealer that he needs 30 guns. Coyle has been supplying guns to a pack of bank robbers, the head of which is played by Alex Rocco. The money he's making is to support his wife and kids before he reports for a two-year stint in a New Hampshire prison; he doesn't feel his family should be scraping by on welfare.

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Walker Review


Excellent
Following his one-two punch of cultic cinema, Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, director Alex Cox went on to make two more films that consecrated his reputation as, well, a malcontent. It was 1987 and Cox's latest film, Straight to Hell, was universally panned, not completely unfairly. But just five months later, Cox returned with Walker, an equally-batty spectacle built on the last years of the late-19th-century soldier-of-fortune William Walker and his conquest of Nicaragua. Given only a paltry release in December '87, Cox's film maudit was banished to the realm of VHS for two decades before Criterion took an interest and decked it out with all the trimmings.

Far too crazy to be fatalist, Walker strangely begins on a moment of near-defeat for the titular batshit commando (the phenomenal Ed Harris) and his madcap battalion. Saved by a sandstorm and his lawyer, Walker finds himself back in the arms of his love Ellen Martin (Marlee Matlin). The fact that Ephraim Squier (Richard Masur) holds the keys to Walker's future in politics doesn't stop Ellen from asking Squier to fornicate with swine. Soon enough, Walker is trading away his future with Ellen for a mission to Nicaragua at the behest of Squier and Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle).

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Young Frankenstein Review


Essential
Mel Brooks was just about at the top of his game back in 1974, when he directed both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein tells the tale of an heir (Gene Wilder) of the original Frank, who inherits his creepy castle (shot in the original castle from the first Frankenstein movie) and starts work anew on his ancestor's experiments. Of course, this is courtesy of Mel Brooks, and it's perfectly parodied -- probably the best horror spoof ever made and a far cry ahead of Brooks' later Dracula: Dead and Loving It gag. Wilder and Peter Boyle (as the monster) are hysterical, but it's Teri Garr who steals the show as Frankenstein's buxom and considerably vapid assistant. The special edition DVD is especially recommended -- with a handful of outtakes and deleted scenes (though none are nearly as funny as what made the final cut).

Yellowbeard Review


OK
Long missing on DVD, Yellowbeard is that strangest of combinations: A Cheech and Chong movie melded with a Monty Python movie.

And not in a very good way.

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Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Review


Bad
Clearly, the Scooby-Doo franchise is geared toward kids; after all, it is a cartoon. Yet, as I sat through a Saturday morning screening of Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the youngsters at my screening were astonishingly quiet. The abundance of laughter I anticipated was absent; this surprised me considering the same team behind the amusing first film was responsible for this one. A farting CGI Scooby-Doo does generate laughs in a few strategic spots, but mostly, the filmmaker's failure to hit the target audience cripples this film's ability to be lighthearted and fun.

The initial setup is a simple. Scooby and the Mystery Inc. gang find themselves fighting a series of monsters they have previously conquered that are miraculously brought back to life. The monsters were part of a new exhibit at Coolville's Coolsonian Museum until an anonymous masked villain releases them to wreak havoc on the city. Mystery Inc. to the rescue? Nope: Their investigation is hampered by a public relations nightmare created by an overzealous reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone) who criticizes the gang on local television. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) spend most their time trying to protect their image.

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Monster's Ball Review


Terrible
Strangeways, here we come: Marc Forster represents jungle fever in some mighty odd ways throughout Monster's Ball. Racist Georgia slammer prison guard Billy Bob Thornton frequents his favorite late-night diner after days spent monitoring death row. He orders coffee -- black! And a side order of chocolate ice cream. By the time he sizes up ghetto waitress Halle Berry, you can tell by his hungry eyes (and hungry heart) that he'd love to sink his teeth into a big ol' slice of chocolate cheesecake.

His choco-licious cravings would make for comic gold if Forster were aiming for dark comedy. It really ain't much different from the classic line in Airplane! when that precocious little girl quips, "I like my coffee black, like my men!" But Forster chooses to play it straight and solemn, a hopelessly limiting choice. Without benefit of slapstick satire, Forster's glib presentation of interracial skin's allure feels ignorant and borderline offensive. The only thing missing is Halle Berry biting down on a vanilla wafer -- though she does beat her fat son for scarfing down chocolate bars ("I'll slap the black off of you!").

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The Cat Returns Review


Good
This rather simplistic entry into the feel-good anime genre comes from Kiroyuki Morita (last seen animating the raunchy Perfect Blue but also responsible for working on the kind-hearted Kiki's Delivery Service). The Cat Returns is Morita's first outing as director, and it's a fair, if ultimately unrealized experience.

The story involves young Haru (voiced for the States by Anne Hathaway), who rescues a helpless cat from an oncoming truck, only to find herself in the debt of a feline kingdom she formerly didn't know existed. Haru is awakened one night by a bizarre procession on her street: It's the king of the cats (Tim Curry), bearing gifts. Before she knows it, she's whisked into the world of the cats, where she is transformed into a half-cat/half-person, and is told she will be marrying the cat she saved, who turns out to be the cat prince.

Continue reading: The Cat Returns Review

Young Frankenstein Review


Essential
Mel Brooks was just about at the top of his game back in 1974, when he directed both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein tells the tale of an heir (Gene Wilder) of the original Frank, who inherits his creepy castle (shot in the original castle from the first Frankenstein movie) and starts work anew on his ancestor's experiments. Of course, this is courtesy of Mel Brooks, and it's perfectly parodied -- probably the best horror spoof ever made and a far cry ahead of Brooks' later Dracula: Dead and Loving It gag. Wilder and Peter Boyle (as the monster) are hysterical, but it's Teri Garr who steals the show as Frankenstein's buxom and considerably vapid assistant. The special edition DVD is especially recommended -- with a handful of outtakes and deleted scenes (though none are nearly as funny as what made the final cut).

Death And The Compass Review


Good
The director of Repo Man takes an Argentinian short story by Jorge Luis Borges and brings it to the screen with his curious style. Surrealistic and considerably detailed considering its low budget, the cryptic tale may give you a headache if the jarring editing and fish-eye lenses don't. Peter Boyle is always fun, here as a detective in a city filled with nothing but cops and robbers and few people in between, but Cox's tale isn't nearly the goofy thrill that Repo Man was.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Review


OK

Scooby and Shaggy save the day in "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" -- or to be more precise, they save the movie. The scaredy-cat dog and his whimpering stoner sidekick get all the laughs (and all the "eeewww!" gags), with such disparity that it's as if a different screenwriter (with half the wit) wrote the balance of the movie.

Alas, James Gunn (who wrote the first "Scooby" movie and last week's clever but dumbed-down "Dawn of the Dead" remake) penned the whole thing -- even the paid product placements for Burger King and the 15-minutes-of-fame sing-along cameo by "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard.

Sigh.

Continue reading: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Review

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Peter Boyle Movies

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Movie Review

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Movie Review

Clearly, the Scooby-Doo franchise is geared toward kids; after all, it is a cartoon. Yet,...

Monster's Ball Movie Review

Monster's Ball Movie Review

Strangeways, here we come: Marc Forster represents jungle fever in some mighty odd ways throughout...

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