ABOUT A BOY (****)- Hugh Grant stars in this film about a single, self-absorbed, loveless man who relishes his solitary life as a carefree bachelor. He discredits the idea that "no man is an island", believing instead that not only can man be an island, but that that's the best way to live. That is, of course, until one day when, through a series of events, he meets a young boy named Marcus, and his life is changed. He finds himself being forced to "let people in" both literally (as when Marcus barges into his house) and emotionally (as when he finds himself... gasp!... actually caring for the little tyke). This film is based on a book by Nick Hornberry, who you may remember as the author of High Fidelity, which was of course turned into an excellent John Cusack movie. As such, the driving force in the story is the relationships between the characters, most of which are portrayed in a refreshingly realistic manner (except, of course, for the relationships Marcus has with everyone else his own age... these are reduced to the stereotypical "good kids/bullies" relationships constantly presented in movies. I guess most film makers were picked on in school). Though the film had the potential to become a truly sickeningly-sweet, cornball of a romantic comedy, it never went there, making it much more credible (and making me much more happy). Hugh Grant is perfectly cast, as is the woman who plays Marcus' mother. You might also recognize the woman who plays Rachel from the World War II sniper-flick Enemy at the Gates. Overall, About a Boy isn't going to be the most memorable or thought-provoking film you ever see, but it's enjoyable enough to be worth the price of admission. I give it a thumbs up.
ABOUT ADAM (****)-if Quentin Tarantino had been a romantic Irish writer, rather than a hardboiled American one, About Adam is the kind of movie he might have made. It's a romantic comedy set in Dublin, told with Pulp Fiction style chronology; time leaps around, giving us multiple views of a single situation, often with comic results. The story revolves around an entire family which becomes infatuated with a charming, yet mysterious, young man named Adam. Most of the movie is spent setting up the enigma of Adam's character; everyone loves him, yet he seems to act in entirley different ways depending on who he is with. We see him a shy, common man when he's around one girl, as an intellectual romantic around another, as a macho man around someone else, and so forth. The changes in his character are so extreme that it builds up the audience's interest until the end, where, of course, it is reveled why Adam acts the way he does. For me, this was the low point of the movie. With so much emphasis beign put on Adam's strange behavior, we naturally want an amazing explanation. The movie wusses out, however, giving us a reason (of course I won't tell you what it is) that seems hardly satisfying. Other than that, however, About Adam is an enjoyable romantic comedy, giving us a little more to think about than most others (You've Got Mail, anyone?). Check it out.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (****)- am I so wrong for enjoying this movie? I got the impression that no one else liked it at all, but I thought it was pretty good. The best part is all the cameos, including ones by John Goodman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal. It's a good movie for people of all ages, if you know what I mean. The only part I didn't really like was at the end where it gets all sappy, but it's certainly forgivable. The woman who plays the secret agent is named Piper Peralbo (or something like that)and she's also in Cyote Ugly, a movie I am planning to avoid. Just so you know.
A.I. (****)- well, it's kind of like an extended version of the late eighties TV show "Small Wonder". You know... that show that had the girl who was actually a robot, and she lived with this upper-middle class family, and she would always be getting people out of trouble, but her father had to keep her a secret... yeah, "A.I." is just like that. Only a lot, lot different. The robot kid thing is the same, though. Only in "A.I." it's a boy robot, played to creepy perfection by Haley Joel Osman (or however it's spelled. The "Sixth Sense" kid). he does an amazing job, and actually, his performance is one of the highlights of this movie, especially in the beginning, before he's been "programmed". See, the deal is, there's this husband and wife who have a child, but the child has some kind of disease, so he's been cryogenically frozen (the movie takes place in the far future, if you hadn't already guessed) until the doctors can figure out a way to cure him. The mother is really sad about this, so, as to compensate for her loss of a child, her husband brings home "David"... a robot child who can be programmed to love the mother as if it were her real kid. Once he's programmed, though, he can't be un-programmed; he will love the mother forever, or until he is destroyed. But then, suddenly, the REAL child is cured, and brought home to the joy of his family, and the confusion of David. Some stuff happens (if you can tell, I'm getting bored of summarizing the plot) and eventually David is left on his own, without his mother. He then meets up with "Giggalo Joe", another robot, and they have to set out on a quest to find David's "mother". Well, actually, they're looking for "The Blue Fairy", who David knows about because his mom once read him the story of Pinnochio. Yeah. Anyway, this was origionally going to be a Stanley Kubrick movie, but then he brought in Steven Speilberg because he wanted HIM to direct it. Kubrick was just going to produce it, and probably help direct. But then, you know, Stanley Kubrick died, so the movie was left to Spielberg. However, it still has many Kubrick-ian aspects to it, which I am not going to go and explain, but which you might notice if you watch the film. It's pretty interesting. Also interesting, but in a less good kind of way, is the incredible length of the movie. It seems like it could end in many different places, but no, it just keeps going. And it actually, if you ask me, goes on too long. I don't want to give away the ending, but let me just say that it COULD have ended in another, much more obvious place, and, in fact, the ending it now has is worse. If you ask me. The ending the movie has kind of discredits the entire thing. It's not a bad film, certainly, but it could have been a lot better with a different ending. Yeah. So, in any case, I would still reccomend this movie. The special effects (which I haven't even mentioned until now) are good, the "Waterworld" New York City is neat to look at, the acting isn't half bad (especially that Haley Joel kid), and, best of all, the film makes you think about some stuff. It raises some interesting, if not completley hypothetical, questions. "What if a robot could love someone? Would we even want it to?" Maybe. Maybe not. So, yeah. Go see this movie. Just watch out for the ending.
AIR FORCE ONE (***1/2)- if Harrison Ford was running for president, I know I would vote for him! This movie was ok, if not a little on the hokey side. It's pretty much a no-brains action/adventure about terrorists who hijack the President's special airplane. It has that one guy who was in Magnolia and Pleasntvill, but I forget what his name is. All in all, this wasn't a bad movie.
ALMOST FAMOUS (****1/2)-this movie is already being called "The Best Film of the Year". It's about a fifteen year old boy living in the early 70's who gets hired to write for Rolling Stone magazine. He tours with the group "Stillwater" and has many wild adventures and life changing experiences, including a near death experience on an airplane. The acting in this film is great. The cast includes, among other people, the lady who played the pregnant police woman in "Fargo", and one of the guys from "Mallrats". Apparently, the script was based on the life of the film's director, Cameron Crowe. Wow.
AMELIE (****1/2)- a romantically whimsical tale of a young Parisian woman who decides to better the lives in others in small, secret ways. The film is shot in a style just as mischevious as the young woman, zooming along with motorcycles and showing us the insides of people’s pockets. In fact, the quirky visual effects are one of the greatest appeals of this movie, giving the entire piece a feeling of being almost dream-like. This is not to discredit the plot, which is enchanting in it’s simplicity, but yet has enough strange little aspects to keep us laughing and wanting more. If you liked the movie ‘Chocolat’ (starring Johnny Depp), you’ll probably dig this one also. Finally, I just want to mention that the main character is played by Audrey Tatau, a woman so cute she makes me want to move to France just to meet her. If for nothing else, she is the reason you should see this movie.
AMERICAN BEAUTY (****)- a good movie. I'm not sure it really deserved Best Picture, though. I thought Fight Club was better. You should se this movie anyway, if you haven't already. Very artsy, but very simple at the same time. The acting is quite satisfactory.
APOCALYPSE NOW (****1/2)- a classic war movie (or anti-war movie, if you prefer to think of it that way) starring Martin Sheen. It's about a guy who is sent deep into enemy territory during the Vietnam War so that he may find a renegade American commander and assasinate him. It is based on a book called "Heart of Darkness" which I have not read, but would like to. The special effects and "realisim" of the whole thing remind me a lot of "Saving Private Ryan", and I would not be surprised if old Mr. Spielberg got a lot of ideas from wathcing it. The difference, however, is that this movie is much darker, and much more cerebral. But if it's so great, then why did it only get four and a half stars? Well, I can't really say. It just didn't "capture" me, I guess. I wasn't that into it. It's like the difference between Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction. But by all means, you should still rent this movie. It has a rockin' sound track.
THE ART OF WAR (**)-man, what a dissappointment. I thought this movie was going to be really cool, but it turned out to be really bad. Don't you hate it when that happens? This movie starts out interestingly enough, but quickly gets bogged down with a far too complicated plot. Perhaps if anything else about the movie had been exceptional (acting, special effects, etc.)it could have made up for it, but I doubt it. Avoid this film.
STAR WARS, ESPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (***1/2): right away, let me say this: Yes, it’s better than Episode I. But let me also say this: that’s not saying much. “Attack of the Clones” is, of course, the second installment of the Star Wars “prequels” which were begun two years ago with “The Phantom Menace”. It takes place ten years after that first episode, and continues the story of Obi Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan “I Was in Trainspotting” McGregor) and his young “Padiwan” Apprentice, Anikan Skywalker (played by Hayden “One Day I Turn Into Darth Vader” Christenson). Anikan is now “all grown up,” but still cannot stop thinking about the beautiful Senator Amidala (played by Natalie “I was in The Professional, and Some Other Movie Where I Got Pregnant Or Something” Portman) whom he met as a child in “Phantom Menace”. He and Obi Wan are assigned by the Jedi Council (which is made up of a bunch of creepy-looking aliens and Samuel L. Jackson) to protect Amidala from a mysterious assassin. Needless to say, they soon find the assassin and a rockin’ car-chase (or “space ship chase”) ensues. This is one of the best parts of the movie, even though it clearly rips off “The Fifth Element”. The chase is epic, whisking the characters through an enormous city of flying cars and neon-skyscrapers, occasionally even throwing them out of their cars to plummet like skydivers toward the bustling streets a hundred miles below. Unfortunately, the excitement of this first sequence is quickly forgotten as the movie sinks into a muddled plot involving (let me see if I can get this right) a separatist movement among the galaxies which threatens to tear the Galactic Senate apart, and a sneaky, mysterious Count who is (I think?) building a “clone army” on a stormy planet inhabited by creatures with long necks. Then, of course, there’s the subplot of the love-affair between Anikin and Amidala, which I’m sure you already knew about by watching the trailers. None of this would be all that bad if not for the truly insipid dialogue. Half of the lines seem like they were churned out by a committee of people who were afraid to write anything that wasn’t a cliché, and the other half of the lines simply state the obvious (Yoda is the worst about this: “In grave danger, we are.” “Begun, this Clone War has”). Then there’s those few lines which just seem so ridiculous that they unintentionally provoke laughter from the audience. At one point, for example, Anikin tells Obi Wan to shoot at a group of fuel cells, and, upon seeing how well the idea worked, Obi Wan responds, “Good call, my Padiwan Learner!”. The actors, most of whom are very talented, do the best they can with these lines, but it must have been difficult trying to keep a straight face. Despite the lame writing, however, the rest of the movie gives us exactly what we want out of “Star Wars”: sweeping landscapes, cool visual effects, big battle sequences, and, of course, plenty of light-saber-swingin’ fun. Also, much to the joy of many people, I’m sure, is the fact that Jar-Jar Binks plays a relativley minor role in “Attack of the Clones” (although, still, every time he’s onscreen it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard). If only the dialogue and plot had been a bit smoother, this could have been a truly great summer movie. As it is, “Attack of the Clones” is still worth the price of admission, but it leaves you feeling a bit sour. Perhaps Episode III will finally pull it all together. One can only hope.
AUSTIN POWERS 3: GOLDMEMBER (**1/2)-if all of Goldmember had been as good as the opening credits sequence, you would be reading a five star review right now. Like the pervious two installments in the Austin Powers saga, the first ten minutes of this film are so wacky and high energy that you can't help but smile. The opening of Goldmember, amazingly, outdoes the other two movies by throwing in numerous surprise cameos, wild stunts, and hilarious dance routines. For a moment there, you almost believe that Austin Powers 3 could be a truly great film.

And then the actual movie starts. All the energy of the opening few minutes vanishes, and the film spirals into a series of increasingly disgusting sight gags and lame jokes. Dr. Evil and his sidekick, Mini-Me are back (apparently, they were able to survive being thrown into outer space at the end of The Spy Who Shagged Me, although this is never really explained) with another devious plan: by using a huge tractor beam (code named "Preperation H".. haha) they will pull a giant meteor toward the earth and destroy civilization as we know it unless they are given a million kagillion bazillion dollars. The only man in his path, needless to say, is Austin Powers, the hipster doufus of international mystery. Dr. Evil's plan to get rid of him involves kidnapping his father and sending him back to 1975, where he will be guarded by a man named Goldmember. Goldmember is perhaps the most disgusting character I have seen in the movies since… well, since Fat Bastard was introduced in Austin Powers 2. He is balding, pudgy, covered in freckles, and, worst of all, has a fetish for eating pieces of his own skin. His voice is maddeningly annoying, and he has the bizarre, unnecessary, inexplicable talent of being able to kick his legs straight over his head. Why?!? Why is this character in the movie? It he supposed to make us laugh? Maybe I’m out of touch with today’s humor, but all he made me want to do is puke. His antics, along with the return of the hairy, globulous Fat Bastard made this movie seem less like a comedy than a test of endurance. How gross can it get before you’ll leave the theater?

Needless to say, both Goldmember and Fat Bastard are played by Mike Myers, who, if you didn’t already know (and I’m sure you did) also plays Dr. Evil and Austin Powers. I am not sure exactly what to say about this. Clearly, Myers is extremely talented and funny. He’s the creator of the Powers series, and seems to be having a great time playing with his creation. But why the nasty characters? It’s amusing to see him made up in such elaborate makeup, but if it’s just for some jokes about fat people and Dutch people, is it really worth it? I don’t know. As I’ve said before, I might just be out of touch with today’s sense of humor.

If you saw Austin Powers 2 and enjoyed it, then you’ll almost certainly enjoy Austin Powers 3. It’s practically the same movie, just tweaked a bit to avoid all-out plagiarism. Not that it doesn’t know this. In fact, one of the best scenes in Austin Powers 3 involves the characters on screen (and a few special guests…) acknowledging that these jokes have all been told once before. I liked that. And I liked that, in general, the movie didn’t seem to be taking itself seriously enough to really even care that it was just the same thing over again.

Will there be another Austin Powers you ask yourself? Probably. Although, I must say, the ending of Goldmember will make it pretty difficult for that to happen in a logical manner. Not that that will slow anything down.

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