Cena, to his credit, shows slightly more dimension in his second starring vehicle. As Detective Danny Fisher, he expresses a surprising (for an action hero) amount of guilt over a bust of master criminal/terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen), the aforementioned Irishman, which resulted in the accidental death of Jackson's equally psychotic lady love. Exactly one year later, as both the subtitles and expositional dialogue tell us, Jackson resurfaces to exact his revenge: He takes Fisher's beloved Molly (Ashley Scott), and puts the cop through a series of death-defying stunts.
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Viewed through the lens of her accompanying cameraman Scott (Steve Harris), reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) prepares for a night following the exploits of an LA fire company. Quickly introduced to Jake (Jay Hernandez) and George (Johnathon Schaech), she learns that the hook and ladder life isn't always emergencies and heroism. When a call comes from the tenants of a rundown apartment building, the guys treat it as routine. But Angela and Scott soon uncover something horrifying -- people in the complex appear infected with a kind of super rabies. And the city, state, and national governments are closing off the building, locking everyone -- the sick and the healthy -- within. While trying to get out, our news crew discovers an even more shocking truth. The ill have gone insane and are attacking and killing the living.
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The premise is a mind-bending puzzle on the scale of Memento, courtesy of sci-fi legend Steven Spielberg and his first collaboration with a stellar Tom Cruise. It's also Spielberg's best work since 1993's Schindler's List and flirts with threatening Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange as the best paradoxical utopic/dystopic view of the future.
Continue reading: Minority Report Review
"Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is an obscenely hypocritical comedy-drama that climbs high on a rickety soap box to loudly preach Christian values, then turns around to cheer on its wronged-wife heroine as she takes cruel revenge against her once-abusive husband -- after he becomes crippled and helpless.
But the movie is mired in one-dimensional characters, stereotype humor, cheap sentiment and simplistic life lessons long before it trips over its insultingly disingenuous double standards.
Thirty-three-year-old Kimberly Elise (who looks 26 at most) plays Helen, a gorgeous, gutless doormat whose cartoonishly evil, ultra-wealthy defense-attorney husband of 18 years (was she married at age 15?) throws her out of their mansion so his gold-digging mistress can move in.
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That fact that "The Mod Squad" opens with a dictionary definitionof "mod" appearing on the screen -- altered to include GenerationY hipsters -- did not bode well for the intelligence level to which thismovie was aiming.
The fact that this definition was followed by another forthe word "squad" left me with little hope that the pic wouldhave anything going for it besides 90 minutes of Claire Danes in tummytops.
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Toothlessly trite and inundated with a relentlessly chirpy elevator-music score, "Bringing Down the House" is a ghetto-woman-in-the-ritzy-white-suburbs culture-clash comedy sanitized to oblige the same middle-aged white folks that are the butts of most of its jokes.
It's about an uptight, overworked, miserably divorced tax attorney (a hammy yet vanilla Steve Martin) whose life is turned upside down when a woman he'd flirted with in a legal-forum online chatroom turns up on his doorstep for a date not looking anything like the sophisticated, young white lawyer she'd pretended to be. She is, in fact, a feisty, girthy, street-smart spitfire straight outta Compton (and played with relish by Queen Latifah) who has just escaped from prison and wants Martin's help proving her innocence on an erroneous armed robbery charge.
The movie would have little plot if these two didn't spend the next five reels trying to hoodwink Martin's neighbors and law partners into thinking the loud-and-proud Latifah is a nanny or a maid -- telling lie on top of outrageous lie when a simple variation on the truth ("She's an acquaintance that I'm helping with a case") would have sufficed.
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Laced with horribly clichéd secret society mumbo jumbo and unintentionally funny homoerotic undertones, "The Skulls" is a laughable thriller about a pre-law Yale student (Joshua Jackson) so shallow and ambitious that he's willing to throw over his best friend and the girl he loves just to be accepted in an underground campus club of power-hungry blue bloods.
The Skulls, you see, are an indomitable, clandestine handful of the country's social and political elite -- all Yale men -- who the movie tells us founded the CIA among other ominous undertakings. Members are members for life. They get branded and paired up with other members as "soul mates." They live by a musty, leather-bound, 200-year-old book of rules. They cover up each other's scandals.
When this brotherhood accept new members, money is deposited money in their bank accounts, they're given expensive cars, tuxedos (which are worn to frequent Skulls dinner parties), nice wrist-watches, nights with call-girls in a Christian Dior gowns, and -- most importantly as far as young Luke McNamara (Jackson) is concerned -- they pay their conscripts' tuitions and see to it they get into the law school of their choice.
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Before I launch into what could read like an unabashedly positive review of the Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise sci-fi collaboration "Minority Report," let me get off my chest the two things that ultimately torpedo the movie's excitement and stylistic brilliance. Both problems come toward the end of the film, but I'll be vague so as not to spoil anything.
1) The whole plot resolution hinges on that tired and idiotic cliché of an antagonist giving himself/herself away through a verbal slip-up. ("Wait a minute!" replies a protagonist, "I never said...")
There is just no excuse for this kind of screenwriting shortcut in this day and age. It's an insult to intelligent moviegoers, especially in a film that is so enthralling until such bogus Hollywood gimmickry leaves it with a bad aftertaste.
Continue reading: Minority Report Review