Richard Barton Lewis

Richard Barton Lewis

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August Rush Review


Good
Going in to August Rush, you've got to be more than willing to accept fairy tale magic; you've got to be looking to embrace it, with all of its whimsy and overzealous sense of wonder. That way, the movie can be sweet (if a bit ponderously so) as opposed to so precious you feel the need to punt it through a window. It's a fine line, and August Rush is balancing it the whole way through.

Freddie Highmore plays the title character, a little boy in a Dickensian version of the real world: He has grown up in a group home for boys in upstate New York (do they even have those anymore?), where he hears music in the world, from the corn fields to the moonlight. He sets out one day, believing that if he follows the music, it will lead to his parents; where it actually leads is New York City, where the noise of the city turns into the rhythmic beginnings of a Stomp number. There, he hooks up with a band of street urchins/musicians straight out of Oliver Twist, run by the unstable and off-putting Wizard (Robin Williams as a creepy redhead). When August discovers things like guitars and sheet music that allow him to produce the music he hears, he becomes a prodigy, and a sensation.

Continue reading: August Rush Review

Brooklyn Rules Review


Grim
Oh, brother. Or, as they say it in Brooklyn, oh, brudda. You've seen Brooklyn Rules before. Many times before. A cliché-clogged and utterly unsurprising mash-up of A Bronx Tale, Goodfellas, and even Saturday Night Fever (the Verrazano Bridge looms ominously in the background of many exterior shots), this coming-of-age tale tracks three best friends from Bay Ridge as they try to make a go of life in a Mob-run neighborhood. This town is so steeped in Mafia madness that even the most casual walk in the woods will ultimately lead to a cosa nostra killing field.

As teenagers in 1985 (cue the best-of-the-'80s soundtrack), Michael (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Carmine (Scott Caan), and Bobby (Jerry Ferrara) are veering onto different paths. Bobby is the chubby and lovable lunkhead, so stupid he fears failing the Post Office application test. Carmine is the baby goodfella, a hyper stud who takes note of the money and respect that the local bosses have and can't imagine why he shouldn't join up with their crew. And Michael is the one who wants "to get out of this hellhole." An ambitious orphan, he's stumbling through Columbia on a pre-law track and has the hots for Connecticut preppie ice queen Ellen (Mena Suvari), who finds Michael's Brooklyn background attractively "edgy."

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Backdraft Review


OK
I got in enough trouble as a kid to learn firsthand that fire is cool.

That said, even the wicked fire shots of Backdraft -- which feature rising towers of flame, backwards-flowing fire, and blankets of flame that slowly ripple across the floor -- are barely able to distract you from the ultimately tiresome family drama that makes up the bulk of Ron Howard's firehouse epic.

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House of D Review


OK
How much Robin Williams can we take? A week before his new film, House of D, previewed in Boston, Williams appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday, at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday (where he tactfully walked offstage because he could not shut the hell up), and at the Oscars on Sunday. Add in his shtick from the unavoidable onslaught of Robots TV commercials, and this guy gets more airtime than a Martha Stewart prison release.

It's a testament then to Williams's fine acting, and debut writer-director David Duchovny, that the motor-mouth's co-starring turn in House of D isn't a turn-off. Far from it. Williams and 15-year-old Anton Yelchin (Hearts in Atlantis) make up the unlikely duo in this coming-of-age drama about the friendship between Pappass, a mentally retarded janitor (Williams), and Tommy, a single-parent teen (Yelchin) in 1973 Greenwich Village. Williams displays, as he does in most of his dramatic films, a welcome appropriateness, a delivery of action and reaction that helps give House of D a good heart and some laugh-out-loud nuggets of wisdom.

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