Stavros Merjos

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The Last Time Review


Terrible
For the most part, the bad movies of today are bad for a common, if somewhat broad, reason. They exist merely as products. They neither entertain nor enlighten. They simply fuel the engine of commerce. (Imagine any recent Nicolas Cage or talking animal movie.) Their hackery and awfulness is conspicuous, often involving meaningless action, puerile humor, blaring pop songs, and an unconvincing story. The Last Time is a different sort of bad. It's bad on a much smaller scale. Its hackery and awfulness masquerade as intelligence and crafty storytelling. It doesn't exist to fuel the engine of commerce. It exists to pad the resume of everyone whose name appears in the credits.

Writer-director Michael Caleo clearly fancies himself a David Mamet acolyte. Like Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, The Last Time's plot centers on the vicious and primal world of high-pressure sales, and the dialogue comes out fast and caustic. Michael Keaton plays Ted, the top seller at a high-tech company whose product is frequently referred to but never actually defined. Ted is lonely, angry, and mean and he runs roughshod over everyone in his office, including his toothless boss, John (Daniel Stern). Ted is openly pissed off when he's directed to help orient the new guy, Jamie (Brendan Fraser). Everything changes, however, when Jamie introduces Ted to his gorgeous fiancée, Belisa (Amber Valletta). Ted takes an immediate interest in Belisa -- and his feelings only strengthen when he discovers that Belisa and Jamie aren't entirely happy together.

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Down In The Valley Review


OK

Harlan Carruthers is a blissful cowboy, all scuffed boots, aw-shucks mannerisms, and a negligent sort of sensuality. He's lightening-quick with his twin single-shot Colts and loves nothing more than riding his horse to the highest hill around and surveying the beauty of the landscape.

He's also a walking anachronism, because Down in the Valley is a modern-day tale, and the title refers to the overbuilt suburbia that is the San Fernando Valley, the land of crowded freeways and chain stores that marks the northern reaches of Los Angeles. But Harlan, played by Edward Norton, swaggers through, contentedly out of place, until he catches sight of Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood), a teenage nymph who pulls into the service station where Harlan works as she is on the way to the beach with her giggling friends. It's unclear why the group dismisses Harlan as out-of-place instead of in fashion, but Tobe is as instantly taken with him as he is with her, and he quits his job to catch his first sight of the ocean with her.

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Waiting Review


Grim
Those who have worked in food service know the challenges and difficulties the trade involves. They also know, as patrons, how to conduct themselves at a restaurant. More likely than not, they have observed a few incidences in which an employee at a restaurant -- quite possibly themselves -- has sought revenge on an especially difficult customer by tampering with the food in nasty, nauseating, stomach-churning ways, and they don't want something similar to happen to them.

I've never worked in food service myself. After watching Waiting, I thank my lucky stars for that. It does not appear to be an overly gratifying profession. Strenuous hours. Difficult bosses. Whining customers. Demanding environment. I have, however, been a difficult customer in the past. Waiting has woken me up to the reality of my nature, and the possible consequences I could receive. It goes without saying that my days as an obstinate customer are over.

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The Third Wheel Review


Weak
After Good Will Hunting and a round of Project Greenlight, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon got their hooks into this odd choice, a screwball romantic comedy called The Third Wheel, which plays out exactly like you might expect.

After a half hour of setting up the leads (Luke Wilson and Denise Richards, co-workers in a finance film which is featured endlessly in the first act to the point of mind numbness), Wilson finally asks Richards out on a date -- after a year of pining for her. Things immediately take a turn for the worse when Wilson runs his car into a crazy homeless man (Jay Lacopo), who ends up joining them for the rest of the evening. Get it? He's a third wheel! And he's kooky. How do we know he's kooky? He sings on the bus and makes hand shadows on the wall.

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Confessions Of An American Girl Review


Weak
When a movie opens on a teenager's repeated attempts to kill herself, well, you know we're in for some wild comedy!

A darkly black comedy of the trailer trash variety, Waking Up in Reno director Jordan Brady mostly misses with this study of working class malaise, the prison system, teen pregnancy, and closeted homosexuality. Well, Brady gets an A for effort in trying to get across such a broad collection of social messages, but his execution is merely a solid C.

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