The film celebrates the D-list world of third-rate celebrities, celebrities whose popularity has waned, whose 15 minutes of fame were over a long time ago, with one-night stands not in Vegas or L.A., but Bakersfield and Akron.
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Let me quickly establish some caveats. Redbelt is one of the most unapologetically macho movies made in the last several years, and the story ultimately buckles under the weight of its earnestness. The plot is constructed on the theme of warrior culture, personified by the lead character Mike Terry, played soulfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Dirty Pretty Things), who seems incapable of anything short of brilliance. Terry is a mixed martial arts instructor who lives his life by a code. His ethos is never really explained, but it clearly involves things like honor, integrity, and a bunch of other quiet, old-fashioned virtues most people don't think too much about. But Terry has a problem: Despite a loyal stable of disciples, his gym doesn't make any money and he has to do something to dig his way out of debt.
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Mystery Men is one of the funniest films I've seen all year. It combines the hilarious randomness of films like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, with a satirical twist that today's audiences are sure to appreciate. Now don't get me wrong, Mystery Men is no masterpiece, but it made me laugh (a lot) and that's what the film is about. Mystery Men scores high in all areas. It has an entirely kooky and original plot fueled by crack up dialogue, mesmerizing scenery, (which is reminiscent of the Batman movies) and an awesome cast.
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Despite the massive amounts of boob time in Heartbreakers, the film delivers all the goods of a solid comedic vehicle. Max (Weaver) and Page (Hewitt) are a mother/daughter team who swindle rich guys out of their dollars in a con involving matrimony vows, extramarital trysts, and divorce settlements. Sort of like a cross between Anywhere but Here and The Grifters. With the IRS hot on their proverbial tails, the duo team up for one last job, bilking cigarette tycoon William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman) out of his cash. Alas, during the con job, Page ends up falling in love with a local bar owner (Jason Lee), a dead body ends up in their trunk, Princess Leia shows up as a divorce attorney, and a jilted ex-husband (Ray Liotta) shows up waving a gun and advising group therapy for everyone.
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"Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I'm bored and old," sang Cobain on Nirvana's Serve the Servants, and one can feel that infectious malaise throughout Van Sant's portrait of Blake (Michael Pitt), a grungy icon living out what a friend (Kim Gordon) dubs "a rock and roll cliché." Donning Cobain accoutrements such as a hunter's cap and a green-and-red sweater and sporting shoulder-length blond hair, Blake spends the film sleepwalking around his backwoods home and property with a mixture of drug-addled bewilderment and spiritual melancholy, and Pitt embodies this wayward soul - whose rambling exploits involve wearing a black spaghetti-strap dress and toting a rifle - with a hunched, drooping-to-the-floor sagginess (as if under tremendous strain) that's at odds with the actor's slender physique. His constantly incomprehensible muttering, such as during an amusing, chance encounter with a telephone book salesman (where the only audible Blake line is telling: "Success is subjective"), echoes Cobain's frequently indecipherable lyrics while also conveying a torturous emotional detachment. Trapped in Van Sant's constrictive full frame (employed to heighten the oppressive claustrophobia gripping the character), Pitt's Blake is a zombie who, as revealed by the film's opening scene - finding him symbolically baptizing himself in a tree-shrouded lake, and later whispering and then roaring "Home on the Range" to the empty nighttime forest - desperately seeks communion with the world around him.
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But movies like The Spanish Prisoner, Things Change, and The Winslow Boy display a roundness to Mamet's innate abilities. And it's almost a crime to witness how all of that goes awry in his latest film, Heist.
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Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) only waited until his third film to make his, an over-three-hour epic with at least 10 major characters in almost as many separate story lines. And thanks to those characters, every one a rich mystery burning with secrets, Magnolia is a smashing success.
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