Robert Downey Jr plays Harry Lockhart, a two-bit thief mistaken for an actor and flown out to Hollywood to star in a big-budget film. He's assigned a private eye named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) to teach him how to act tough. His first night in town he meets Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), a childhood friend who's come to Tinseltown to make it as an actress. Soon all three find themselves involved in murder cases reminiscent of the detective novels with which Harry and Harmony grew up.
Continue reading: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Review
Scott resumes his techno tricks for Déjà Vu, a police procedural with science-fiction tools that improves longstanding stakeout methods as an investigator works to solve a volatile crime.
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On July 1 of that year, four people were savagely beaten to death in a Laurel Canyon apartment that had long been a party hangout and drug-dealing haven; a fifth person was put into intensive care. Holmes (Val Kilmer) was at the center of the tangle of paranoia, greed, and confusion that led to the massacre. Always hanging out at the apartment scamming drugs for his vacuum-like habit, Holmes incurs the enmity of the hard cases living there (played by Tim Blake Nelson, Dylan McDermott in a frighteningly unconvincing biker beard, and Josh Lucas). To make it up to them, Holmes acts as their inside man for a robbery of the palatial home of his buddy Eddie Nash (Eric Bogosian), who just happens to be one of the biggest club-owners in Southern California and a bona-fide gangster, to boot. Things go poorly after the robbery, to say the least.
Continue reading: Wonderland (2003) Review
Don't get too far ahead of me now. The Prince of Egypt is a solid and consistent movie. The animation is first rate, the storyline is strong, and at first glance it is missing nothing from the formula of winning animation. Nonetheless, it rises more to the level of recent mid-range Disney successes like Hercules and Hunchback, than the pantheon of Belle and Simba. And its fundamental shortcoming is really no different than that of these two recent Disney releases, which is a basic disregard for the animation formula. In short, these movies seem to ignore the fact that they are first and foremost musicals. And the most important element of a musical is, or course, the music.
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Heat is the instantly gripping tale of a large-scale heist leader and die-hard loner named Neil McCauley (De Niro). As the film opens, he and his team of brutal, precision thieves (including Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore) knock over (literally) an armored car for a stash of bearer bonds. On the case is Detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a troubled, angst-ridden veteran of the LAPD. Over the course of the film, McCauley and Hanna develop a strange sort of kinship, even as McCauley's crimes increasingly raise the stakes and Hanna's efforts to stop him become more and more desperate.
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This sounds ridiculous, and sometimes it is -- when this mash-up isn't telling an engagingly off-kilter story with clever and/or strange details. For example, when Mark keeps a '40s-style pin-up in his Marine locker, there's a weird joke in the fact that the poster actually is the girl waiting for him back home. And that it's actually the '80s (you can tell because, like seemingly all quasi-hip characters in a sensitive youth-driven indie movie, everyone is constantly going to see The Evil Dead in theaters).
Continue reading: Stateside Review
And yet here it is.
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The story of The Salton Sea is constructed as an updated version of a 1940s noir film. Expertly written by Tony Gayton, the film opens up with a brief history of speed, a crash course complete with 1950s housewives and Japanese kamikaze pilots. Then, the camera quickly navigates through a crazed house party and lands next to a heavily tattooed Kilmer, sitting amongst speed freaks on a four-day binge. Or maybe it's been three days. With a strong voiceover delivered by Kilmer, we learn about the double life he leads. One life is an addict and police informant known as Danny Parker, complete with numerous tats, leather pants, and skull rings on every finger. And another one, locked in his closet, is a trumpeter named Tom Van Allen, whose wife ended up dead years ago at the hands of masked men during a rest stop robbery while vacationing at the Salton Sea.
Continue reading: The Salton Sea Review
Indeed, Red Planet makes for a far better film than Mission to Mars. While that's not saying a whole lot (since Mission currently ranks as the worst movie I've seen all year) Red Planet is at least competently constructed and mildly engaging, so long as you put aside the sappy melodramatics. Of course, this isn't that easy to do.
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In the '80s, however, there are no shortage of movies that are just plain fun. From the Ghostbusters films to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, to the off-kilter dark comedy/horror April Fools Day, the 80s had no shortage of movies that made you laugh. It was the only time that comedies had scripts instead of actors that make up their own scripts, and, as a consequence, the movies of the '80s were actually funny.
Continue reading: Real Genius Review
That's The Ghost And the Darkness in a nutshell. And while it may be, as the press materials say, "one of the most thrilling true stories ever told," it has somehow turned into one of the most boring movies of the year, owing to a downright dull directorial job by Stephen Hopkins and a surprisingly flat script by double Oscar-winner William Goldman.
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On the new DVD's commentary track -- the trio behind Airplane!, Hot Shots, and a few other classic (and less classic) parodies -- the ZAZ crew are candid about being less than happy with their work in retrospect, and while the film is certainly dated, I still think it's a real winner.
Continue reading: Top Secret! Review
A lot can be said for the idea that the setting of a picture thoroughly controls its tone. What we Batman Forever is an attempt to make Gotham more like Los Angeles, full of neon, black lights, and people sporting primary-color wigs. Unfortunately, something has been lost in translation.
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The definitive populist telling of the Wyatt Earp story, Tombstone has more fun with the story than traditionalist versions like Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp, with a younger, more crowd-pleasing cast -- Thomas Haden Church plays a bad guy; Jason Priestley is a deputy. And it's got more factual holes than the Clanton gang ended up with -- all in the name of serving up Good Clean Fun.
Continue reading: Tombstone Review
Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, a two-bit thief mistaken for an actor and flown out to Hollywood to star in a big-budget film. He's assigned a private eye named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) to teach him how to act tough. His first night in town he meets Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), a childhood friend who's come to Tinseltown to make it as an actress. Soon all three find themselves involved in murder cases reminiscent of the detective novels with which Harry and Harmony grew up.
Continue reading: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Review
Part "Rashomon"-like roundelay of dubious recollections, part "Boogie Nights" flashback, "Wonderland" recounts, with drug-addled stylishness, events leading to a brutal 1981 mass-murder in the Los Angeles hills made famous by its link to washed-up, strung-out ex-porn legend John Holmes.
Starring the charismatically glazy-eyed and understated Val Kilmer as Holmes and "Blue Crush" cutie Kate Bosworth as Dawn, his newly legal, foolishly co-dependent girlfriend, this film has a big comparison hurdle to overcome -- the riveting "Boogie" was loosely based on Holmes and some of these events. But for the most part it succeeds because sophomore director James Cox (his unreleased "Highway" premiered on video last year) bypasses the self-destructive smack-head's severed sex-trade ties except as they relate to his celebrity among lowlifes who supply him with drugs.
In fact, Holmes is just one of four characters around whom Cox constructs his story from several points of view in single-perspective segments.
Continue reading: Wonderland Review
"Red Planet" takes itself pretty seriously for a movie that asks the viewer, in the laborious voice-over prologue, to stow all notions of science and logic.
In the year 2057, we're told, mankind has overpopulated and pretty much trashed the Earth, so the government(s) want to move everybody to Mars (nevermind that Mars is only half the size of our home planet). So for the past decade or so, unmanned probes containing oxygen-producing algae have been rocketed to the red planet to help create a breathable atmosphere.
But satellite observations show the algae has somehow disappeared along with the terraformed environment, so the first manned mission to Mars is on its way to figure out what went wrong. (If you find it hard to believe we wouldn't have sent astronauts to visit at least once before deciding to settle down there, you're not alone.)
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A handsomely stylish, semi-punk, drug-culture updating of the wronged-man's-revenge film noir plot, "The Salton Sea" has one of the most enticingly, quintessentially film noir opening scenes I've ever seen.
Picture this: Val Kilmer, dressed as a hep cat who just finished a gig at a downtown jazz club, sits on the floor of his burning apartment. Leaning on a wall, silhouetted against the orange flames, he's playing his trumpet and bleeding -- possibly to death -- from a gunshot wound. A bag full of money lies beside him with wads of bills spilling out onto the floor beside him.
"My name is Tom Van Allen. Or Danny Parker. I honestly don't know any more," he breathes in a honeyed, genre-perfect voice-over. "You can decide -- yeah, maybe you can help me, friend. You can help me decide who I am. Avenging Angel? Judas Iscariot? Loving husband? Trumpet player? Speed freak?"
Continue reading: The Salton Sea Review
David Mamet's "Spartan" is Tom Clancy without the pop-literature pretense. It's "24" for those who like more of a cerebral challenge -- a tense, tightly paced political action-thriller with provocatively elusive twists that don't feel contrived for shock value.
It's a movie in which intellect trumps exposition to the point that most of the characters aren't clearly identified, making all of them seem more shadowy and dangerous. The story counts on your ability to think for yourself and draw your own conclusions about evidence trails, incidents, alibis, motives and intentions -- then pulls those conclusions out from under you more than once with substantial surprises that make you think even harder. And it has a palpable atmosphere of pressure-cooker urgency, kept doggedly in check by government agents for whom eye-on-the-prize callousness is compulsory.
Val Kilmer stars as a terse military espionage operative called in by the Secret Service to work with a clandestine team searching for a missing -- likely abducted -- First Daughter before the headline-hungry press gets wind of the notoriously rebellious girl's disappearance.
Continue reading: Spartan Review
A notably realistic portrait of borderline poverty and familial dysfunction, "Joe the King" has such commendable performances and such an amazingly assimilating sense of time, place and circumstance that I hate not being able to recommend it.
The writing-directing debut of under-appreciated actor Frank Whaley -- you probably know him as the guy Samuel L. Jackson shot after quoting Ezekiel 25:17 in "Pulp Fiction" -- his "Joe" script won a screenwriting award at Sundance this year for its story of a foul-mouthed 14-year-old boy (Noah Fleiss) trapped in a sullen, angry, desperate life he'll probably never escape.
His abusive, hard-drinking father (a paunchy, intimidating Val Kilmer) is a constant threat and an embarrassment who owes money all over town. A troublemaker at school (to add to his shame, his dad is the janitor), Joe takes ceaseless, cruel criticism from his teachers and more of the same from his boss (he washes dishes at a local greasy spoon). The poor kid has spent his life learning the hard way to fend for himself.
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As a good ol' damsels-in-distress Western with picturesque frontier vistas, a handful of Winchester rifle shootouts and enough character conflict to keep the long horse rides interesting, Ron Howard's "The Missing" is reliable, if over-earnest, matinee fodder.
Unfortunately, the director has his eye on the Oscar, and the strain he puts on a perfectly serviceable story in an attempt to ratchet up the prestige factor makes the movie seem awfully pretentious for a kidnap-and-rescue sagebrush saga.
The always riveting Cate Blanchett perfectly embodies the stamina, bravery and grit of an 1885 frontier woman as Maggie Gilkeson, a widowed mom who has suffered a hard life both with and without husbands and lovers. She has passed on that strength and tenacity to her two daughters -- teenaged beauty Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood), snatched by a gang of Indian guides who have rebelled against the deceitful Army, and stubborn, tough young Dot (Jenna Boyd) who steadfastly refuses to be left behind when a pursuit is mounted. ("I won't stay behind," she wails with powerful determination in the picture's most memorable moment. "Wherever you put me, I'll follow you. You know I will!")
Continue reading: The Missing Review
It's anybody's guess what Oliver Stone was thinking by making a film about Alexander the Great that skips over nearly every historical event that earned him that moniker. Whatever his intent, in "Alexander" the director has concocted little more than a surface-skimming soap opera bloated with professorial exposition.
Star Colin Farrell, his hair dyed blonde and given a poufty 1970s "dry look," doesn't have much to work with in terms of character development because every event that shaped Alexander as a man, a leader and a warrior happens off-screen.
The film skips over his first battle commanding at his father's side, and skips over his pivotal creativity in that victory, which established his natural instincts on the battlefield. It skips over his father's murder (although two hours later Stone returns to it in a flashback), skips his ascent to the throne, pays only lip service to his mother's orders to execute his half-brother, and gets the facts wrong about the death of that boy's mother -- his father's more favored wife.
Continue reading: Alexander Review
IN THE MEANTIME...
Here's the plot (from the studio):
Hiding inside a group of eight young FBI profilers learning to hunt serial killers is a killer attempting to hunt them. As one by one the agents begin to disappear, none can be trusted. Each one is under suspicion. And they are all in mortal danger until, in the ultimate test of their crime-solving skills, they uncover the mysterious predator lurking in their midst. MINDHUNTERS turns the serial killer thriller inside out by concealing the ultimate evil deep within the ranks of the good guys. The film stars Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, LL Cool J, Jonny Lee Miller, Kathryn Morris, Clifton Collins Jr., Will Kemp, Patricia Velasquez and Eion Bailey as the agents both under suspicion and imminent threat.
Continue reading: Mindhunters Review
Date of birth
31st December, 1959
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