Wolfgang Petersen

Wolfgang Petersen

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Poseidon Review


34 years ago, The Poseidon Adventure rode the trendy disaster meme of its day to stellar box office and numerous Oscar nominations. Today, Poseidon sits poised to ride the current effects meme to similar financial reward and perhaps some technical nods to boot. What it probably won't see is acclaim for its dialogue, story, or characters, but those laurels largely eluded its predecessor as well.

As with its forerunner, Poseidon opens with an introduction to its namesake, a massive luxury liner, and its passengers, which in this installment include an ex-mayor/firefighter (Kurt Russell), his daughter (Emmy Rossum), her beloved (Mike Vogel), a gambler (Josh Lucas), a jilted lover (Richard Dreyfuss), a stowaway (Mía Maestro), an inevitably hot single mom (Jacinda Barrett), her inevitably adorable tyke (Jimmy Bennett), and a waiter (a completely wasted Freddy Rodríguez). If you think reading a list of these stereotypes is tiresome, watching them establish their personas is more so.

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Outbreak Review

You know this story by now: Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo are medical researchers, sent to save a town infected with a virus brought in from an African monkey. Donald Sutherland is the bad guy: he wants to use the virus as a weapon. Morgan Freeman mediates, and Wolfgang Petersen directs.

The painfully obvious plotline makes this an overly long medical thriller with no thrill. All that's left is some spewed-out medical terms, a sappy love story, and a few million bucks worth of military surplus jeeps and tanks. Luckily, Dustin and Co. are able to put this stuff to fairly good work, with strong performances by Hoffman and Russo saving the day, and the eerie feeling that all this military goofiness is just a bit too real.

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Troy Review

"War is young men dying and old men talking," bellows one Greek leader following a mighty clash in Troy. He might as well be talking about the movie itself. Director Wolfgang Petersen heaps handfuls of clashing titans together with dry speeches on historic nobility. He ends up with a handsome yet long-winded restaging of the war waged between Greece and the warriors of Troy over the hand of lovely Helen (Diane Kruger, a nondescript mixture of Leelee Sobieski and Natalie Portman).

Troy leaves the talking to its triumvirate of Hollywood royalty - Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, and Peter O'Toole. The dying is left up to the chiseled and marketable studs - Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, and Brad Pitt. Whenever a member of the veteran trio interacts with a member of the other on screen, it creates a mismatch of talent not even a Trojan Horse could overcome.

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Air Force One Review

When one sees Glenn Close portraying the vice-president, one begins to realize just how much she looks (and can act) like Gerald Ford.

Frankly, I was shocked to discover how much I liked Air Force One. Yes, it has villainous Russians who can never see our good guy President (Harrison Ford) when he's hiding right in front of them (much less shoot him). Yes, it has Secret Service guys who die at the hand of the enemy like flies in a bug zapper. Yes, it has the cheesiest special effects this side of of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Yes, it features a rambling Gary Oldman in one of his clearly improvised looney-tune terrorist/psychopath roles. I could go on and on...

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The Dirty Girls Review

Radley Metzger's second feature is a real oddity, as we follow the lives of two prostitutes in various cities in Europe. Garance (the lovely Denyse Roland) plies Paris. Monique (Reine Rohan) works in Berlin.

In the first vignette, Garance hops through about three guys in one night. One's shy. One tries to beat her with his belt (before neighbors burst in and turn the tables). A third likes costumes. Garance lives to screw another day.

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Bicentennial Man Review

Robin Williams wants -- and needs -- nothing more than to have his own The Truman Show -- a Hail Mary to ward off permanent stereotyping. Typecast as a goofy loudmouth in throwaway films ranging from Mrs. Doubtfire to Fathers' Day to Flubber, you have to look back all the way to The Fisher King in 1991 for his last great starring role.

Bicentennial Man aims to turn that all around by making Williams something we can relate to once again. Ironically, that's not as a human: It's as a robot.

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The Perfect Storm Review

I do not like boats. I get seasick. I hate being on the water.

As it turns out, I'm starting to dislike movies about boats, too. They also make me seasick.

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Das Boot Review

It's always weird to see the enemy as the good guy, and Das Boot leaps out as probably the greatest example of this up until Schindler's List. This time the Nazis are at sea, faced with the claustrophobia and filth of a German U-Boat, trying to figure out what the hell Hitler is doing back home while they sink English ships in the Atlantic. Its story fraught with peril and its characters full of doubt, this is a far cry from the unbridled patriotism of aw-shucks flicks like U-571. Every sub movie owes a debt to Das Boot (at nearly 3 1/2 hours long, it was originally intended as a TV miniseries) for mastering the genre and setting the bar for its contemporaries.
Wolfgang Petersen

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