ARCHIVED REVIEWS (G)
Galaxy Quest
Gangs of New York
General's Daughter, the
Get Carter
Get Over It
Ghost Dog
Ghost Ship
Ghost World
Gift, the
Ginger Snaps
Girl, Interrupted
Girlfight
Gladiator
Glass House, the
Glitter
Gone in 60 Seconds
Good Girl, the
Good Thief, the
Gosford Park
Gossip
Green Mile, the
Greenfingers
Grey Owl
Guinevere
Guru, the
Guy Thing, a

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Archived Video Reviews (G)
 

GALAXY QUEST - B
Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell, Enrico Calantoni, Sam Rockwell, Robin Sachs 
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Comedy, 102 min (PG) (Dreamworks, 1999)

It's hardly novel to parody a cult film or TV show like Star Trek. It is, however, rare to find a film like Galaxy Quest that pays tribute to its subject as much as it mocks it. In Quest, Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman play former cast members of a long-running, now-cancelled TV series with more than a passing resemblance to that show about the Klingons, Spock and the Enterprise. Aliens have somehow misinterpreted the gang's TV adventures as historical documents and, when their planet is attacked, they kidnap the actors believing them to be real-life space heroes. Not all of Galaxy Quest works - Allen is a little soft as the Shatner-esque captain and the climax is earthbound - but director Dean Parisot (Home Fries) obviously has a lot of affection for his subject, resulting in many satisfying laughs. As well, both Weaver and Rickman act at a perfect pitch, with Weaver finding pathos as the TV show's sex symbol and Rickman doing an amusing riff on Leonard Nimoy. (top) (back)

GANGS OF NEW YORK - B
Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Drama, 165 min (18A) (Miramax, 2002)


In 1977, Martin Scorsese took out a two-page ad in Variety announcing his next film would be Gangs of New York. Twenty-five years later, Gangs has finally been released, but it really hasn't been worth the wait. Sure, the cinematography cackles, Daniel Day-Lewis pops off the screen and there are scenes here that rank right up there with Scorsese's finest - particularly the opening battle of carnage and snow - but the film shows the strain of trying too hard to fit too much history and too many ideas into the sprawling narrative and excessive running time (165 minutes), sacrificing some of its characters along the way. Set during the 1840s birth of New York City, Gangs of New York casts Leonardo DiCaprio as a young man bent on seeking revenge for the murder of his father (Liam Neeson) at the hands of William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting (Day-Lewis), leader of an anti-immigration, anti-Catholic gang. DiCaprio is adequate, hampered by a needless romance with a pickpocket (Cameron Diaz), but Oscar-nominee Day-Lewis is mesmerizing in his willingness to bring everything to levels of comic brutality. Scorsese, meanwhile, builds off his Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976) history to delivery a messy, violent and striking epic. (top) (back)

THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER - C-
Starring: John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, Timothy Hutton, Clarence Williams III, James Woods, Leslie Stefanson 
Directed by: Simon West
Suspense, 118 min (18A) (Paramount, 1999)

The good news is that the unbearably fake Southern accent that John Travolta sports in the first section of The General's Daughter doesn't stick around for the entire film. The bad news is that the unbearably preposterous screenplay does. Travolta plays Paul Brenner, an Army Criminal Divisions officer who, along with a former flame (Madeleine Stowe) is assigned to investigate the brutal rape and murder of an army base commander (James Cromwell). The scenes in The General's Daughter between Travolta and James Woods (as the victim's commanding officer) crackle with tension, but the rest of the picture is overheated muck that exploits the central crime, has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese and, thanks to an abundance of idiot characters, features virtually no intrigue. (top) (back)

GET CARTER
- C
Starring:
Sylvester Stallone, Miranda Richardson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Michael Caine, Mickey Rourke, Alan Cumming, Gretchen Mol
Directed by:
Stephen Kay
Action, 119
min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2000)

Poor Sylvester Stallone. In 1997, he tried to reinvent himself with a vulnerable, touching performance in Cop Land and it got him as far as Get Carter, exactly the type of limited and humourless action picture he understandably wanted to move beyond. Based on a 1971 Michael Caine film of the same name (and featuring Caine in a small role as a sleazy nightclub owner), Get Carter casts Stallone as a Las Vegas mob enforcer who returns to Seattle to avenge what he believes to be his brother's murder. It's admirable what director Stephen Kay is trying to do here, piling on arty camera flourishes and subdued action for something of a minimalist action picture, but his intentions backfire on him, leaving his picture - and its threadbare story - to seem choppy, disorganized and stagnant. Many bad action movies make the mistake of going over the top, but Get Carter underplays everything and, as a result, is a bore. (top) (back)

GET OVER IT -
C-
Starring:
Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster, Melissa Sagemiller, Martin Short, Sisqo, Colin Hanks, Shane West, Mila Kunis, Kylie Bax, Carmen Electra
Directed by:
Tommy O'Haver
Comedy, 86 min (PG) (Miramax, 2001)

After her immensely likeable work in Bring It On and The Virgin Suicides, Kirsten Dunst takes two large steps backward with this amateurish and painfully formulaic teen comedy. A dull homage to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Get Over It follows the sub-John Hughes romantic shenanigans of a recently dumped high school student (Ben Foster) who attempts to win back his ex (Melissa Sagemiller) by landing a role in the school play all the while trying to resist his growing attraction to his best friend's little sister (Dunst). Throughout it all, none of the leads bring any more depth to their characters than one would find in the typical elementary school production, with the film's only entertaining performer being Martin Short, predictably fey but miles more amusing than everyone else as a melodramatic drama teacher. Directed by Tommy O'Haver (Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss), Get Over It opens and closes with some winning bubblegum musical numbers (courtesy of Vitamin C and costar Sisqo) but, all things considered, this is teen pap at its most innocuous and crushingly familiar. If you really want to see a fresh high-school take on classic literature, stick to Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You and O. (top) (back)

GHOST DOG: WAY OF THE SAMURAI - B
Starring: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Frank Minucci, Richard Portnow, Tricia Vessey, Henry Silva, Gene Ruffini  
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Drama, 116 min (14A) (Artisan, 2000)

It may seem as though indie visionary Jim Jarmusch is stepping away from his usual idiosyncratic ways with this thriller that matches equal parts Analyze This, Akira Kurosawa, poetry and hip-hop culture, but looks can be deceiving. As it turns out, Ghost Dog is a thoroughly inspired hybrid that is just as thoughtful a picture as some of Jarmusch's early work (Down By Law, Stranger Than Paradise). Effectively capitalizing on the unique combination of sensitivity and imposing physical presence that is Forest Whitaker, Jarmusch adeptly and amusingly tells the story of a samurai hitman (Whitaker) who communicates with carrier pigeons and runs afoul of the New York mob. Occasionally, Jarmusch's genre-sampling and overly stylized dramatic touches get the best of him, but there are enough original touches here – the best friends that can't understand a word the other is saying, the touches of animation, the goofy mobsters – to keep things entertaining. (top) (back)

GHOST SHIP -
C
Starring: Juliana Marguiles, Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Karl Urban, Alex Dimitriades
Directed by: Steve Beck
Horror, 91 min (18A) (Warner Bros., 2002)


Since it was produced by the same team that made the horrible House on Haunted Hill (1999) and Thirteen Ghosts (2001), it is understandable if one's expectations for Ghost Ship were low and excusable if, through comparison, one can't help but be happy that this empty vessel of a horror movie isn't as awful as you were afraid it would be. That's not to say, however, that Ghost Ship doesn't have far too many leaks to stay afloat. The film stars Juliana Marguiles (ER), Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, Isaiah Washington and others as a team of marine scavengers who locate and board the Antonia Graza, a long disappeared Italian luxury liner, with the intent of cleaning it up, dragging it back to shore and taking advantages of its riches. Directed by Thirteen Ghosts' Steve Beck, Ghost Ship opens with a glamorous and ghoulish look at the disaster that struck the ship back in the 1960s, but it isn't long after that initial shock that things fall back into the routine, with slamming doors, oozing blood, falling corpses, ghostly girls and insects crawling out of orifices. Even with Marguiles doing her best impression of Sigourney Weaver, virtually all of Ghost Ship seems lifted directly out of almost every lame haunted house movie since the dawn of time. (top) (back)

GHOST WORLD -
B+
Starring:
Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban, Teri Garr, Dave Sheridan, David Cross
Directed by:
Terry Zwigoff
Comedy, 111 min (14A) (United Artists, 2001)

The world hardly needs another film about cynical and disdainful teenagers but, if that movie is as pitch-perfect and comically buoyant as Ghost World, it is easy to make an exception. Based on a 1998 graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World casts Thora Birch (American Beauty) as Enid, a recent high school graduate whom, like her best friend Rebecca (The Horse Whisperer's Scarlett Johansson), is a social misfit with a genuine contempt for the world around her. Enter Seymour (Steve Buscemi), an eccentric, nice-guy loser who spends his time collecting old blues 78s and with whom Enid embarks on a bittersweet relationship. Director Terry Zwigoff (1995's Crumb), who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay with Clowes, frames the story in a nameless suburb littered with faux-'50s diners and genuine weirdos (Dave Sheridan is a riot as a convenience store customer who defines "trailer trash"), thereby allowing viewers to sympathize with the film's complex characters and leaving room for a variety of welcome surprises. Sure, the narrative gets a little aimless before the film comes to an end, but Ghost World is worth watching simply for the dead-on comic outsider performances from Birch, Johansson and, especially, Buscemi. (top) (back)


THE GIFT - B
Starring:
Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Michael Jeter, Gary Cole, Kim Dickens
Directed by:
Sam Raimi
Suspense, 111 min (14A) (Paramount Classics, 2000)

Considering how The Gift was directed by Sam Raimi (still fresh off the success of A Simple Plan), cowritten by Billy Bob Thornton (who also penned Sling Blade) and stuffed to the brim with proven actors, one could almost recommend this Southern gothic thriller based on the sheer weight of its talent alone. Indeed, there is a lot here worth catching, as Raimi brings a thick sense of menace and dread to a small Georgia town where the local psychic (Cate Blanchett) has become involved in the search for a missing belle (Katie Holmes). Like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, Blanchett gives an expertly understated performance as someone who unwillingly sees ghosts, and she is well-matched by the likes of Greg Kinnear (as the local principal), Giovanni Ribisi (as a disturbed mechanic) and, especially, Keanu Reeves, who makes one very scary redneck. In fact, the performances and direction here are so good one almost forgets that the story (and its suspense-less conclusion) doesn't really add up to anything special. (top) (back)

GINGER SNAPS - B
Starring:
Katharine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, Kristopher Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Danielle Hampton, John Bourgeois, Peter Keleghan
Directed by:
John Fawcett
Horror, 90 min (18A) (Artisan, 2001)

Seeing as how it is a genre consisting of such cinematic travesties as I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and Teen Wolf (1985), it really isn't saying much to note that Ginger Snaps is the best teen lycanthrope movie out there. In the case of this cult-worthy Canadian thriller, however, this is far from an overstatement. Simply put, director John Fawcett breathes new life into the werewolf legend thanks to a clever screenplay by Karen Walton that wittily links werewolf behaviour to the onset of menstruation. Set in an Ontario suburb, Ginger Snaps tells the tale of two Goth-style sisters (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) whose relationship is put to the test when one of them (Isabelle) is bitten by a werewolf on the night of a full moon and, as luck would have it, immediately after she gets her first period. Unfortunately, Ginger Snaps eventually gives way to conventional horror - the final 20 or so minutes are a shadow of what comes before them - but before that time, the film is stuffed with droll Buffy-style satire and Fawcett exploits horror traditions (jerky cameras, dim lighting, blood-soaked rooms) for full frightening effect. As an extra bonus, look for Mimi Rogers in a hysterical and delightfully clueless turn as the girls' out-to-lunch mom. (top) (back)

GIRL, INTERRUPTED - B
Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea Duvall, Brittany Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave, Jared Leto, Jeffrey Tambor 
Directed by: James Mangold
Drama, 127 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 1999)

When Angelina Jolie puts her combustible combination of sexuality and attitude into full-gear, she is like a mesmerizing explosive that could go off at any moment. In this junior version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for which Jolie took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, the puffy-lipped firecracker plays a loud sociopath living in a mental institution for young women, and it is almost impossible to take your eyes off of her. That said, it's worth the effort to look away, if only to appreciate the film's other performances. Most noteworthy is Winona Ryder, who takes full advantage of her wide, expressive eyes to give an achingly honest performance as the film's protagonist, a confused 1960s teenager whose suicide attempt lands her in a nuthouse. Given all the fine performances, it's a shame director James Mangold (Cop Land) takes the story - based on a memoir by Susanna Kaysen - off the deep end in the final act. (top) (back)

GIRLFIGHT - B+
Starring: Michelle Rodriguez, Jamie Tirelli, Paul Calderon, Santiago Douglas, Elisa Bocanegra, Ray Santiago

Directed by:
Karyn Kusama
Drama, 111
min (14A) (Screen Gems, 2000)

It may be the story of an underdog boxer who falls for someone named Adrian but, as its title indicates, this is far from the typical boy-beats-up-boy Rocky clone. A film festival knockout, Girlfight casts Michelle Rodriguez, in an astonishing performance, as Diana, an angry Brooklyn teenager who decides to transfer her aggression into powerful moves in the boxing ring. While one could imagine Hollywood taking such a story and pumping it up with inspiring sentimentality, first-time director Karyn Kusama opts for a gritty and wonderfully straightforward approach that leaves Girlfight so realistic it occasionally doesn't even come across as a work of fiction. Much of the credit for this must go to Rodriguez, who was picked from an open casting call and had no previous acting experience before this film. Her performance combines anger, frustration, athleticism, sensuality, gracefulness, and internal conflict for a staggering knockout punch. If Girlfight is any indication, she has the potential to be a female Marlon Brando. (top) (back)

GLADIATOR - B+
Starring:
Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Ralph Moeller
Directed by:
Ridley Scott
Action, 154
min (14A) (DreamWorks, 2000)

Spectacle is the name of the game in Ridley Scott's big and bloody gladiator epic - a star-making vehicle for Russell Crowe that, at times, comes across as a WWF match directed by Cecil B. DeMille (yes, that's a good thing). Crowe plays Maximus, a triumphant Roman general who, upon the death of the emperor, is given a death sentence by the deceased's jealous son (Joaquin Phoenix). Narrowly escaping, Maximus winds up being sold as a slave and working as a gladiator in the hopes of one day extracting his revenge. Showing no signs of the whistle-blower he played in The Insider, Best Actor Oscar-winner Crowe plays the part with the exact amount of intelligence and brawn that befits a warrior. Scott, too, is working at the top of his game, borrowing heavily from the likes of Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and all the classic sword-and-sandal epics, but employing enough conviction and sheer brute force to ensure that - despite some colourless supporting players - this Best Picture Oscar winner stands as tall and proud as the Coliseum in its glory days. (top) (back)

THE GLASS HOUSE - C
Starring: Leelee Sobieski, Stellan Skarsgaard, Diane Lane, Trevor Morgan, Bruce Dern, Kathy Baker, Chris Noth, Rita Wilson
Directed by:
Daniel Sackheim
Suspense, 111
min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and, as this too-easy-to-see through thriller points out, they also shouldn't be trusted. The Glass House stars Leelee Sobieski (Here on Earth) as Ruby, a semi-rebellious high school student who, following the car crash death of her parents, moves with her younger brother (Jurassic Park III's Trevor Morgan) to the home of two long-time family friends (Stellen Skarsgaard and Diane Lane). But Ruby doesn't trust her foster parents and, given the heavy-handed direction of Daniel Sackheim, why should she? Rather than letting the tension build slowly and possibly giving the impression that maybe Ruby just needs to lighten up, all of the pieces of the puzzle are revealed early and the thriller clichés (it seems like every night is a dark and stormy night) are piled up too quickly to provide for a suspenseful payoff. On the plus side, Sobieski's performance is suitably suspicious and thoughtful, but Morgan is little more than a plot device, Lane (The Perfect Storm) stumbles once her character's drug addict tendencies are revealed and Skarsgaard (Dancer in the Dark) seems to think menacing means blatantly over-the-top, with all of his character's credibility ruined by a dumb climax straight out of Halloween. (top) (back)

GLITTER - D
Starring:
Mariah Carey, Max Beesley, Eric Benet, Da Brat, Terrence Howard, Dorian Harewood, Tia Texada, Ann Magnuson
Directed by:
Vondie Curtis-Hall
Drama, 103 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2001)

All throughout Litter - sorry, Glitter - pop singer Mariah Carey has a sort of dazed look on her face that almost suggests she is still in shock that someone offered her the lead in a movie. Considering her less-than-stellar work in The Bachelor, one can't really blame her, but that is still no excuse for the complete lack of depth and human emotion that Carey displays in this semi-autobiographical tale about an emotionally wounded chanteuse striving for success. Sure, Carey has a voice that can climb up and down the octaves like an excited cat on stairs, but her screen presence is almost non-existent and her face seems to alternate between exactly two modes - the smiling Mariah from music videos and a blank Mariah that is apparently supposed to project pain, hurt, deep thought, ambivalence, anger and everything else this hopeless drama demands. Even with more than a mannequin in the lead role, however, it is doubtful this Star Is Born-meets-Purple Rain drama would actually be any good, marked as it is by glaring story mistakes, an oversimplified vision of success, characters that seem to make less sense as the movie goes on and a conclusion so strained and sappy even Celine Dion would no doubt find it overwrought. (top) (back)


GONE IN 60 SECONDS - D+
Starring:
Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Delroy Lindo, Giovanni Ribisi, Will Patton, Christopher Eccleston, Chi McBride
Directed by:
Dominic Sena
Action, 118
min (14A) (Touchstone, 2000)

One doesn't watch a Jerry Bruckheimer film expecting subtlety, fully rounded characters or a smart screenplay. No, what one expects - and, in films such as The Rock, Armageddon and Con Air, gets - is a lot of noise, a lot of action, a lot of wisecracks and a lot of visual style. Because of this, one would expect Gone in 60 Seconds - a tale of fast thieves and fast cars - to simply follow suit. No such luck. Gone in 60 Seconds is a big, loud and - in stark contrast to the other films - downright boring thriller that likely won't even appeal to Bruckheimer fanatics. Based on a 1974 drive-in hit of the same name, the film casts Nicholas Cage as a legendary car "booster" who has to steal 50 cars in a single night to save his brother's life, but the actors are all on autopilot, Angelina Jolie is completely wasted as the obligatory love interest and director Dominic Sena (Kalifornia) fails to bring excitement to even one of the many car chases. I can't believe I'm saying this, but you'd be better to rent Armageddon. (top) (back)

THE GOOD GIRL - B
Starring:
Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson, Zooey Deschanel, Mike White, Deborah Rush
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Drama, 94 min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


Jennifer Aniston proved that her TV-honed talents were well suited to romantic comedies with 1997's Picture Perfect, but The Good Girl marks the first time since Friends debuted in 1994 that Aniston has been able to effectively shed her sitcom image and reveal a wider range of talent. With sad eyes and a morose outlook, Aniston plays Justine Last, a bored wife and bored Retail Rodeo employee who, faced with only one drab day after the next, embarks on an ill-fated affair with a young, Catcher in the Rye-idolizing coworker nicknamed Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal). Directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White, the same team behind the creepy stalker comedy Chuck & Buck (2000), The Good Girl alternates between understated humour and faintly concealed poignancy, making the most of memorable supporting turns from John C. Reilly as Justine's hubby, Tim Blake Nelson as Reilly's best friend and Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous) as Justine's sarcastic coworker. Though Gyllenhaal's woeful performance is too reminiscent of his work in Donnie Darko and White's script is occasionally too articulate for its own good, most of the performances in this unassuming effort are just compelling enough to pull it off. (top) (back)

THE GOOD THIEF - B
Starring:
Nick Nolte, Tcheky Karyo, Ralph Fiennes, Nutsa Kukhianidze, Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Emir Kusturica, Said Taghmaoui
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Suspense, 109 min (14A) (Fox, 2003)


As Nick Nolte has aged from People's Sexiest Man Alive to rumpled movie veteran, the creases in his face have only deepened and, it's nice to report, so have his performances. No longer basing his career on botched Hollywood bonanzas like 1994's I Love Trouble, Nolte is spending more of his time on worthy arthouse characters like the wounded sheriff in Affliction (1997) and the title role in The Good Thief, a man with as many demons and additions (gambling, drinking, drugs) as skills plotting elaborate heists. A remake of 1955's Bob le Flambeur, The Good Thief casts Nolte as Bob, a career criminal down on his luck who essentially adopts a 17-year-old runaway (Nutsa Kukhianidze) around the same time that an opportunity for a grand scheme involving the safes at Monte Carlo falls into his lap. The Good Thief isn't worth watching for its plot machinations - in terms of excitement and elaborate plots, this is no Ocean's Eleven (2001) or The Score (2001) and questions about the plot are substantial. But director Neil Jordan (1999's The End of the Affair) isn't so concerned about building tension as he is about a study of Nolte's worn-out character and, in this regard, The Good Thief turns out to be a thrilling success. (top) (back)


GOSFORD PARK - A-
Starring:
Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kelly MacDonald, Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Ryan Phillippe
Directed by:
Robert Altman
Comedy, 137 min (14A) (USA Films, 2001)

One look at the ensemble cast of Robert Altman's Oscar-nominated film - packed with names like Alan Bates, Stephen Fry, Eileen Atkins, Maggie Smith, Emily Watson and Charles Dance - should be enough of a reason to visit Gosford Park but, thankfully, it isn't the only reason: this exceedingly rich character drama is note-perfect in performance, with an exciting and immensely pleasurable screenplay by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes. Directed by Altman with his usual focus on character over plot, Gosford Park is set during a 1932 shooting party at the country estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), his two-timing wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and their servants (led by Helen Mirren). The guests include a Hollywood producer (Bob Balaban), members of McCordle's extended family, and all of their respective servants, resulting in an abnormally large number of featured characters (35) that, at times, leaves the viewer confused as to who is doing what with whom and why. Don't, however, let that deter you from seeing Gosford Park, an eventual Agatha Christie-style murder mystery that at once skewers and outshines Masterpiece Theatre and Merchant/Ivory efforts with its wry and thorough inspection of upstairs/downstairs dynamics. (top) (back)

GOSSIP - C
Starring:  James Marsden, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus, Kate Hudson, Marisa Caughlan, Joshua Jackson, Eric Bogosian, Sharon Lawrence
Directed by: David Guggenheim
Thriller, 90
min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2000)

Psst… did you hear the one about the high-gloss physiological thriller so illogical and ludicrous it gives Cruel Intentions a run for its money? You know what I'm talking about - plot holes the size of college campuses, strong ideas wasted on a tepid plot, attractive performers slumming in lackluster material, and so forth. The film is Gossip and it tells the story of a trio of college students (James Marsden, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus) who, as part of a class project, decide to plant a little rumour about the college prude (Kate Hudson) and her boyfriend (Joshua Jackson) to see how the gossip changes over time. An interesting idea, to be sure, but Gossip quickly loses its footing by dropping the juicy secrets in exchange for a laughable revenge plot. The film twists and turns with such recklessness that entire scenes appear to have no basis in reality (Want an out-of-nowhere sex scene? How about a back-story that makes absolutely no sense?). Don't bother passing it on. (top) (back)


THE GREEN MILE - B
Starring:  Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, Doug Hutchinson
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Drama, 189
min (14A) (Warner Bros., 1999)

Frank Darabont, the director of 1994's The Shawshank Redemption, returns to prison and the work of Stephen King once more for this moving, Oscar-nominated drama set during the Great Depression. Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a Louisiana death-row guard who's latest inmate, a black giant found guilty of killing two white girls (Michael Clarke Duncan), seems to possess mysterious healing qualities. Based on a six-volume book series by King, The Green Mile has an awfully simple take on spirituality, never offering much beyond the obvious lines between good and evil, and Darabont all too often takes the long road (the film runs 189 minutes) when many scenes, such as those featuring the jail's pet mouse, could have easily been shortened. Despite all this, however, The Green Mile still works on its own terms, offering a finely restrained performance from Hanks and wisely balancing out the gooey mysticism with some highly effective moments of pure terror. (top) (back)


GREENFINGERS - C
Starring:
Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, Natasha Little, Danny Dyer, Adam Fogerty, Paterson Joseph, Warren Clarke
Directed by: Joel Hershman
Comedy, 91 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)


A failed attempt at another Full Monty, Waking Ned Devine or Saving Grace, Greenfingers is a feeble comedy that doesn't so much look to the earlier films for inspiration as toss them all together and make mulch. Greenfingers, written and directed by Joel Hershman and inspired by a 1993 New York Times article, tells the story of a group of real-life prisoners who turned to gardening instead of crime, letting their softer sides bloom up like a bed of roses and eventually winning some medals at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. It sounds awfully mawkish for a twee British flick and it plays this way too, with Hershman failing to find much humour outside of the general story outline (seeing large men work the flower garden isn't nearly as hilarious as he seems to think) and depicting the inmates as a bunch of loveable lugs and their prison as a country club. Clive Owen, who recently turned up all aces in Croupier, has every reason to be embarrassed by a film that has his once-distant murderer talking to plants and the usually reliable Helen Mirren (Owen's Gosford Park costar) hams it up as a celebrity gardening expert with a passion for big hats. All in all, it's about as subtle as an expensive bouquet of flowers after a lovers' quarrel. (top) (back)

GREY OWL - C+
Starring:  Pierce Brosnan, Annie Galipeau, Graham Greene
Directed by: Richard Attenborough
Drama, 118
min (PG) (Columbia Tristar, 1999)

There's an important piece of Canadian history somewhere in Grey Owl but, unfortunately, it never comes to life in this blandly earnest and slow-moving biopic. 007 himself, Pierce Brosnan, sticks a feather in his hair and moccasins on his feet to play Archibald Belaney, a British man who came to Canada early in the 20th century and took on a native persona by living the life of a rugged trapper. Considering Brosnan's British accent, five o'-clock shadow and blue eyes, it all sounds highly improbable, but it's a true story and Archie Grey Owl (as he became known) lived to be one of North America's first conservationists. Grey Owl is directed by Richard Attenborough, who has sat in the director's seat for more than enough biopics (Chaplin, In Love and War, Ghandi), but there simply isn't much to the film besides its gorgeous shots of the Quebec wilderness. Much of this is because the film never gets a grasp on its lead character, thus leaving one with countless questions about who Grey Owl was and why he did what he did. (top) (back)

GUINEVERE - B+
Starring:  Sarah Polley, Stephen Rea, Gina Gershon, Jean Smart, Carrie Preston, Sandra Oh, Tracy Letts, Jasmine Guy
Directed by: Audrey Wells
Drama, 105
min (14A) (Miramax, 1999)

The Sean Connerys, Harrison Fords and Jack Nicholsons of the world get put in their places with this perceptive and observant drama that dares to look at the emotional rollercoaster that is a May-December romance. Sarah Polley, who at 20 is already shaping up to be one of Canada's best actors, plays the title character, an insecure 20-year-old who slowly stumbles into a relationship with an artistic Irishman older than her father (Stephen Rea). Writer-director Audrey Wells also wrote the screenplay for The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Guinevere could easily be described as the truth about older men and young women, offering an even-handed approach to both characters that allows them to emerge as complex and believable individuals. Polley's performance is one of exquisite honesty and complexity, ensuring she never comes across as a naïve girl stuck in a romantic trap, and the hangdog Rea is a surprisingly good choice for her love match since he bores straight to his character's haunted heart. (top) (back)

THE GURU - B-
Starring:
Jimi Mistry, Heather Graham, Marisa Tomei, Michael McKean, Christine Baranski, Dwight Ewell, Malachy McCourt, Dash Mihok
Directed by: Daisy Von Scherler Mayer
Comedy, 95 min (14A) (Universal, 2003)


The porn industry, East Indian stereotypes and media-saturated, flash-in-the-pan psychological "experts" are all far too ripe for satire on their own but, when tossed into the mix that is The Guru, the result is an entertaining goof that may follow a standard storyline, but still leaves you smiling. Jimi Minstry (2000's East is East) gives a likeable performance in The Guru as Ramu, an aspiring actor who grew up in India shunning traditional Bollywood musicals in favour of Hollywood pictures like Grease. Upon arriving in New York City, however, the only job he is able to get is as a bit player in a XXX film. The experience is a disaster, but he is able to learn some sex wisdom from an adult-film starlet (Boogie Nights' Heather "Rollergirl" Graham) and use this information, with the support of a spoiled rich girl (Marisa Tomei), to be transformed into a sexual swami. Marked by lively Bollywood-style musical numbers and a refusal to take itself too seriously, The Guru draws significant laughs out of its sharp cast (also including Christine Baranski and Michael McKean) and director Daisy Van Scherler Mayer (1998's Madeline) keeps the spirit light and peppy even when the film resorts to easy endings and predictable responses. (top) (back)

A GUY THING - C-
Starring:
Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Lochlyn Munro, Thomas Lennon, James Brolin, Shawn Hatosy, Julie Hagerty, David Koechner
Directed by: Chris Koch
Comedy, 101 min (14A) (MGM, 2003)


Won't somebody please save Jason Lee? The skateboarder-turned-actor earned a large number of fans for his charming and non-conformist vibe in Almost Famous and a variety of Kevin Smith films (Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), but he has proven to be a dud in leading roles, first in the turkey Stealing Harvard and now the witless A Guy Thing (though at least here he doesn't have to deal with Tom Green). Here Lee flounders as Paul, a dork who is priming for his marriage to Karen (Selma Blair) who, in a striking similarity to Harvard, is also the daughter of his boss (James Brolin). Problem is, he wakes up from his bachelor party with a tiki dancer (Julia Stiles) in his bed and, to make matters worse, it turns out that this exciting blonde is actually Karen's cousin. As Lee and Stiles head for the inevitable, director Chris Koch (2000's Snow Day) seems all to eager to toss his leads into a variety of imbecilic slapstick situations and throughout, Lee has all the charisma of a wet noodle, generating less sparks with Stiles and Blair than you'd expect from three heads of lettuce. Stiles and Blair also costarred in 2000's tepid Down to You. Perhaps it is best if they simply stay away from each other. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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