ARCHIVED REVIEWS (O)

O
O Brother, Where Art Thou
Ocean's Eleven
Old School
On the Line
One, the
One Hour Photo
102 Dalmatians
One Night at McCool's
Orange County
Original Sin
Osmosis Jones
Others, the
Outside Providence

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Archived Video Reviews (O)
 

O - B
Starring:
Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Martin Sheen, Rain Phoenix, Andrew Keegan, Elden Henson, John Heard, A.J. Johnson
Directed by:
Tim Blake Nelson
Drama, 94 min
(18A) (Lions Gate, 2001)

If you are looking for yet another reason to admire the work of William Shakespeare, consider the timelessness of his plays. Not only are the original pieces still relevant today but, with a lot of skill and inventiveness, they can also be repeatedly adapted - often thrillingly so - for modern audiences. Released following 2000's media-soaked adaptation of Hamlet but filmed beforehand (it was postponed following the school shootings in Columbine), O is director Tim Blake Nelson's contemporary spin on Othello, set in a South Carolina prep school, and it is a thoughtful and compelling look at race, sex and desire. The film's stand-in for Othello is Odin (Mekhi Phifer), the basketball star and only African-American student at his school. Sick of the attention being showered on Odin, however, his friend Hugo (Josh Hartnett) fashions a plan to drive his teammate up the wall with jealousy, spinning tales about Odin's girl (Julia Stiles) and another classmate. Nelson (who played the dimmest Soggy Bottom Boy in O Brother, Where Art Thou?) directs O with a growing sense of tension and, though the motivation for the bloody climax comes up a bit short, he draws powerful and corrosive performances from Phifer and, especially, Hartnett. (top)

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? - C+
Starring:
George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Charles Durning, Stephen Root
Directed by:
Joel Coen
Comedy, 103 min
(PG) (Touchstone, 2000)

After the many pleasures of Fargo, Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, it's a bit of a disappointment when one realizes that the most obvious message of this Coen brothers road movie is that southern Americans sure are dumb yokels. That's not to say that O Brother is the cinematic equivalent of an episode of Hee Haw - the performances are too good and the visuals too dreamy for that - it's just that we've come to expect more from Joel and Ethan Coen than a rambling, broad-as-a-barn-door comedy with virtually no substance. Aside from the gorgeous cinematography, the best thing about O Brother is George Clooney, who does a witty Clark Gable impression as Ulysses McGill, an escapee from a Depression-era chain gang who, with the companionship of his two idiot chain-mates (John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) heads out to grab a hidden treasure and reunite with his wife (Holly Hunter). Inspired by Homer's Odyssey, O Brother has its pleasures but, for the most part, this is a dusty and weightless journey. (top) (back)

OCEAN'S ELEVEN - B+
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Julie Roberts, Carl Reiner, Scott Caan, Elliot Gould
Directed by:
Steven Soderbergh
Comedy, 118 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)


He may have been the vision behind two major recent Oscar winners (Erin Brockovich and Traffic), but Steven Soderbergh thankfully avoids the artistic pretentiousness that could have followed such success and instead goes for the throwaway entertainment of Ocean's Eleven. Clearly in love with the joy that can be associated with popcorn flicks, Soderbergh has taken 1960's lame Rat Pack caper of the same name, stuffed it with an all-star cast, brightened every scene with wit, and delivered a hip, winking and highly amusing piece of pure fun. George Clooney oozes easy-going charisma as Danny Ocean, a scam artist who, upon his release from prison, assembles a top-notch team of experts with the intent of robbing $150 million from three Las Vegas casinos in one night. Along for the ride - and clearly enjoying themselves - are the likes of Brad Pitt (displaying crackerjack comic timing as Ocean's right-hand man), Don Cheadle (obviously relishing his British accent), the hilarious Elliot Gould, a slippery Andy Garcia and, as Ocean's ex-wife, Julia Roberts. Throughout Ocean's Eleven, there's an infectious tongue-in-cheek rhythm to the performances and writing and, though it may not mean a thing, it's sure got that swing. (top) (back)

OLD SCHOOL - C+
Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Ellen Pompeo, Artie Lange, Elisha Cuthbert, Jeremy Piven, Leah Remini
Directed by:
Todd Phillips
Comedy, 92 min (14A) (Dreamworks, 2003)


After a failed attempt at recapturing that old Animal House spirit with National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002), a similar goal was targeted with Old School, a familiar retread of House and a variety of 80s comedies such as Stripes and Back to School. Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn rely on their usual personas here (Wilson as na´ve embodiment of a weak spine, Ferrell as well-meaning prankster, Vaughn as smug and nattering egotist), playing a group of grown men who - fed up with the restrictions of adult life and failed relationships - decide to start their own fraternity. As usual, there's a stuck-up dean (Jeremy Piven) eager to ruin the heroes' fun, along with a plethora of drinking, partying and flirting, and there are a few moments of nutty hijinks, most of which involve Ferrell throwing caution to the wind, streaking down the streets or getting shot with a tranquilizer dart. Unfortunately, though director Todd Phillips previously hit the college circuit with the controversial documentary Frat House and 2000's Road Trip, Old School is just as hit-and-miss as Trip, devoting more time to a bland romance between Wilson and Moonlight Mile's Ellen Pompeo than on promoting clever spins on old-school scenarios. (top) (back)

ON THE LINE - D+
Starring:
Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Emmanuelle Chriqui, James Bullard, Dave Foley, Jerry Stiller, Tamala Jones, Al Green, Richie Sambora
Directed by:
Eric Bross
Comedy, 85 min
(PG) (Miramax, 2001)

Hopefully, this is the end of the line for the aspiring movie career of Lance Bass, easily the least charismatic and most cookie-cutter bland member of pop group 'N Sync. Here Bass walks around with a deer-in-the-headlights glaze as Kevin, a Chicago ad man who clams up whenever he talks to a women he is interested in. When Kevin meets his dream girl (Snow Day's Emmanuelle Chriqui) on a subway train and then lets her slip through his fingers without a name or phone number, he decides to take action, plastering the city with signs and billboards to track her down. As in Seredipity, much of On the Line consists of little more than waiting patiently for the finale, but at least Serendipity - as cloying as it was - had established comedic actors like John Cusack, Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon. The established talent featured in On the Line - namely costars Jerry Stiller and NewsRadio's Dave Foley - is wasted here to an astonishing degree, with Bass (a poor man's Freddie Prinze Jr.) acting as a black hole in the center of the dismally predictable screenplay and fellow 'N Sync-er Joey Fatone (a poor man's Adam Sandler) coming across only slightly better as Kevin's hot dog-loving, overly flatulent friend. Put simply, On the Line 'N Stinks. (top)

THE ONE - C-
Starring: Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, Carla Gugino, Jason Stratham, Mark Borchardt, Tucker Smallwood, James Morrison
Directed by: James Wong
Action, 87 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)


As he has shown in the otherwise underwhelming Romeo Must Die and Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li has martial arts skills to spare, often punching, flinging and high-kicking his way above everything around him. The One, however, makes two crucial mistakes: One, it never really gives Li the chance to strut his stuff, with much of the action involving simple gun-play or special effects, and two, it requires Li to actually act, something he obviously still needs some work on. Following in the not-so-grand dual-role footsteps of Jackie Chan (Twin Dragons) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Impact), The One casts Li as a rogue multi-universe policeman who has learned that, by killing his alter egos in other universes, he can gradually increase his agility and power. After killing 122 of his identities, he is now off to assassinate the remaining clone, a virtuous L.A. cop (also Li), and in the process become something of a god. Watching Li awkwardly try to give two performances here - one as a loving husband, the other as a power-crazy madman - is painful at times and director James Wong (Final Destination) unfortunately keeps humour, variety and inventiveness to a minimum. As a result, The One adds up to one heck of a bore. (top) (back)

ONE HOUR PHOTO - B
Starring:
Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith, Gary Cole, Eriq La Salle, Andrew A Rolfes, Carmen Mormino
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Suspense, 96 min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


Since he has spent much of his career playing colourful comics, it is a bit of a shock to see Robin Williams in One Hour Photo as Seymour "Sy" Parrish, a manager at a one-hour photo lab whose surroundings, personality and outlook on life seem to have been completely drained of pigment. Quickly, however, the surprise turns to uncomfortable creepiness, as a note-perfect Williams and writer-director Mark Romanek expose Sy to be an increasingly unstable man whose loneliness and unhealthy interest in his customers - particularly the Yorkins, an attractive young family led by Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan - begins to poke outside the frame of accepted behaviour in disturbing ways. Romanek, a former music video director, has shot One Hour Photo with a striking passion for colour and, even when the images become a little too arty for their own good, the film's uneasy relationship between Sy and his surroundings is tangible. One could argue that the final 25 minutes of the picture don't live up to their development and that, despite some good performances, the lives of the Yorkins remain too vague, but One Hour Photo remains a fascinating look at the mental consequences of sheer emotional and physical isolation. (top) (back)

102 DALMATIANS - C
Starring: Glenn Close, Gerard Depardieu, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Robert Guediguian, Jim Carter, Ron Cook, voice of Eric Idle
Directed by:
Kevin Lima
Family, 100 min
(G) (Walt Disney, 2000)

Glenn Close is likely the closest we'll ever get to a real-life Cruella DeVil, but she's about the only thing worth mentioning about 102 Dalmatians, a crude sequel to 1996's 101 Dalmatians (which was itself a live-action remake of Disney's 1961 animated classic). At the beginning of 102, Cruella DeVil is a changed woman, having been subjected to an experimental treatment that has left her loving dogs and hating fur. Of course, its only a matter of time before Cruella's true spots show their colour and she's off trying to round up 102 dalmatians for her cherished dream outfit (the extra puppy is needed because now she wants a hood) with the help of a fur-crazy French designer (Gerard Depardieu). 102 Dalmatians marks the non-animated directorial debut of Kevin Lima (who worked with Close on Tarzan) and the film has an appropriately cartoonish look but, even more so than 1996's 101, it misplaces the 1961 film's spirit and replaces it with boorish henchmen, dull romance and loud Home Alone hi-jinks. (top) (back)

ONE NIGHT AT McCOOL'S - C
Starring:
Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, Paul Reiser, John Goodman, Michael Douglas, Reba McEntire, Richard Jenkins, Andrew Dice Clay
Directed by:
Harald Zwart
Comedy, 93 min (14A) (USA Films, 2001)


Dark comedy, film noir and Playboy fantasies collide in One Night at McCool's and, predictably, the result is rather uneven, with some elements (such as Michael Douglas' greaser hitman) hitting their marks, but most of them only bumping into one another and falling to the floor. Liv Tyler, doing her best Melanie Griffith impression, plays Jewel, a manipulative vamp with the ability to be whatever a man wants her to be, leaving her at the center of several romantic entanglements involving a dim bartender (Matt Dillon), his lawyer cousin (Paul Reiser), a lonely cop (John Goodman) and Douglas' towering pompadour. Director Harald Zwart structures the film like it was Roshomon or something, with each man's account of the action being tilted in his favour, but really this is just another film that stands alongside the growing number of misfired she-devil comedies (the Amanda Peet bombs Saving Silverman and Whipped come to mind). Unfortunately, Tyler never really cues us into what makes Jewel tick and Dillon just recycles his innocent Wild Things routine, but at least they fare better than Reiser, who gets his share of weak punchlines (there are a lot of them) and spends too much of the picture in a leather dominatrix getup. (top) (back)

ORANGE COUNTY - B-
Starring:
Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Leslie Mann, Lily Tomlin, Harold Ramis, Kevin Kline
Directed by: Jake Kasden
Comedy, 82 min (PG) (Paramount, 2002)


It has been a pretty drab time recently for teen comedies (just the thought of another Slackers, On the Line or Not Another Teen Movie has me pleading for mercy), so it is with great relief that Orange County actually receives a passing grade. Make no mistake, this is still a thin, post-American Pie flick (that glass of urine scene should be enough of a reminder), but you take what you can get and, in this case, it is enough. Led by a trio of Hollywood star offspring - daughter of Sissy Spacek (Schuyler Fisk) and sons of Tom Hanks (Colin) and director Lawrence Kasden (Jake) - the film casts Hanks as Shaun, an aspiring writer from Southern California whose hopes of attending Stanford are fouled when his guidance teacher (Lily Tomlin) submits the wrong marks. Accompanied by his pothead brother (Jack Black) and supportive girlfriend (Fisk), Shaun sets out to somehow correct the mistake and, as the story briskly moves forward, director Kasden establishes some moments of genuine warmth, many due to the good-natured appeal of Hanks and Fisk. Black's yellow-underwear homage to John Belushi is wearisome, but the surprisingly strong supporting cast - including Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Harold Ramis and Kevin Kline - is a peach. (top) (back)

ORIGINAL SIN - C-
Starring:
Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Jane, Jack Thompson, Gregory Itzin, Allison Mackie, Joan Pringle
Directed by: Michael Cristofer
Drama, 116 min (18A) (MGM, 2001)


You can fancy it up with glossy camera work, beautiful locations and steamy actors but, as Original Sin unfortunately points out, a movie star Harlequin romance is still a Harlequin romance, complete with silly soft-core sex scenes, ridiculous plot twists and a lot of fake steam. Antonio Banderas, smoldering to the point that you could fry an egg on his forehead, plays Luis, a wealthy Cuban plantation magnate who orders away for a plain mail order bride and instead gets Angelina Jolie, dripping sexuality as a mysterious seductress. It isn't too long before the two of them are tossing off their clothes in fits of lust, but writer-director Michael Cristofer (working from the Cornell Woolrich novel Waltz Into Darkness) never roots either character in reality, with Jolie's Julia amounting to little more than a pair of bee-stinged lips and Luis coming across as both incredibly simplistic and annoyingly spineless. As Julia's true character is revealed, the film takes one ludicrous plot turn after the next - culminating in a nonsensical whopper - but none of them are novel or thrilling enough to sustain one's attention. Original Sin falls victim to many cinematic sins but its most scandalous aspect is that - for all the flesh on display - it ultimately bores. (top) (back)

OSMOSIS JONES - B
Starring:
Bill Murray, Molly Shannon, Chris Elliot, the voices of Chris Rock, David Hyde Pierce, Laurence Fishburne, Brandy Norwood
Directed by:
Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Piet Koon, Tom Sito
Comedy, 95 min (G) (Warner Bros., 2001)


You would think that, after the likes of Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Me, Myself & Irene, the Farrelly brothers would have exhausted all creativity that can be found with bodily fluids. As Osmosis Jones gleefully points out, however, you would be wrong. A mesh of crude live-action and spirited animation, Osmosis Jones takes viewers inside the body of a sickly slob (Bill Murray) that has recently come in contact with a deadly disease. Inside the man's system, it is up to a reckless white blood cell (voiced by Chris Rock) and a 12-hour cold pill (Frasier's David Hyde Pierce, an inspired choice) to stop the virus (Laurence Fishburne) from killing their host. Aside from Murray's wonderfully grotesque performance, the live-action section of Osmosis Jones leaves something to be desired in terms of story, but the invention comes fast in the film's animated core, focusing on all of the citizens of the City of Frank, from the mobsters that live in the armpit to the soldiers that fight intruders in the nostril and the cleaners stuck with bowel and mouth duty. Osmosis Jones isn't always pretty, but it is loaded with enough inside innard jokes, terrific voice work, and wonderfully bio-accurate details to be an infectious comedy. (top) (back)

THE OTHERS - B
Starring:
Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Alakina Mann, James Bentley, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy
Directed by:
Alejandro Amenabar
Horror, 114 min (PG) (Dimension, 2001)


Any ghost story worth telling needs a good jittery hook and in The Others that latch is Nicole Kidman, who gives a pale, raw nerve of a performance as Grace, a fiercely protective mother wound so tightly that anything that makes its way under her skin only bursts out in blasts of emotion. Coolly written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, with a wise emphasis on darkness and suggestion rather than bloody scare tactics, The Others is set in an old manor on the Isle of Jersey in 1945. Grace's husband has not returned from the war, her servants mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night, and her children (James Bentley and Alakina Mann) suffer from a deadly disease that makes them sensitive to bright light, meaning that the curtains must always be drawn and doors must always be locked, even after some unexplained supernatural visits. Unraveling like an elegant campfire tale, The Others moves slowly - often too slowly - and, though it has a neat twist that rivals the one in The Sixth Sense, it doesn't demand a second viewing to see how the pieces fit together. That said, there is no denying that The Others, thanks primarily to Kidman's frosty perfection (she's better here than in Moulin Rouge), is fully capable of rattling your senses. (top) (back)

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE - C+
Starring:
Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin, Amy Smart, George Wendt, Jonathan Brandis, Gabriel Mann, Jon Abrahams
Directed by:
Michael Corrente
Comedy, 96 min
(14A) (Miramax, 1999)

It may be co-written by Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There's Something About Mary), but Outside Providence isn't so much a gross-out comedy as it is a sentimental coming-of-age story. Granted, it's a coming of age story with a three-legged dog and a lot of rude sex talk, but it's a coming of age story all the same. Based on Peter Farrelly's first novel, a semi-autobiographical account of his teenage years, the film casts Shawn Hatosy as a high school slacker in 1974 who, after a night of too much dope, is shipped off to prep school in order to avoid jail time. Because of its origins, Outside Providence is more personal than Mary ever was, but this actually turns out to be the film's greatest problem since its American Pie-style humour never really meshes with its Dead Poets Society-style melodrama. A grizzled Alec Baldwin gives a hilarious performance as Hatosy's working-class father, but he's woefully underused and Hatosy has little success trying to bring life to a by-the-numbers romance with Varsity Blues' Amy Smart. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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