ARCHIVED REVIEWS (Tj-Tz)
Tomcats
Topsy-Turvy
Tortilla Soup
Touch of Evil
Town & Country
Toy Story 2
Traffic
Training Day
Transporter, the
Trapped
Treasure Planet
Truth About Charlie, the
Tuck Everlasting
Tumbleweeds
Tuxedo, the
28 Days

25th Hour
Twin Falls Idaho
Two Can Play That Game
Two Family House

Two Weeks Notice

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Archived Video Reviews (Tj-Tz)
 

TOMCATS
- D+
Starring:
Jerry O'Connell, Jake Busey, Shannon Elizabeth, Jaime Pressly, Horatio Sanz, Tracy Kay Wolfe, Julia Schultz, Bill Maher
Directed by:
Gregory Poirier
Comedy, 95
min (18A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)

In the two short years since American Pie introduced pastry into the world of gross-out comedies, toilet humour has only gotten increasingly obnoxious and, with Tomcats, Hollywood may have finally reached the bottom of the outhouse. Ineptly written and directed by Greg Poirier, a former writer of porn films (who knew they had writers?), Tomcats relishes in such uproarious subjects as S&M, vomit, erectile dysfunction and testicular cancer with virtually none of the likeability or enthusiasm of Pie. Jerry O'Connell tops the cast as Michael Delaney, a confirmed bachelor who placed a bet seven years ago with all of his buddies over whom would be the last single guy out of the bunch. Now that Michael has run into a serious gambling debt, he enlists an old acquaintance (Pie's Shannon Elizabeth) to seduce and marry his only competition (Jake Busey), never realizing that he may just fall in love with her himself. Tedious sex and relationship high jinks soon follow, but Poirier structures the film as a series of skits that all go on far too long, many of which suggest that he thinks grossness devoid of wit is funny. Even worse, his characters are such insanely selfish stereotypes that they fail to result in any genuine amusement. Put this Tomcat to sleep. (top) (back)

TOPSY-TURVY - B+
Starring:
Jim Broadbent, Allan Cordoner, Lesley Manville, Eleanor David, Ron Cook, Timothy Spall, Kevin McKidd, Alison Steadman
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Drama, 161
min (PG) (USA Films, 1999)

Theatrical life gets a thrilling cinematic treatment with this 17th century drama from director Mike Leigh, best known for contemporary working-class British pictures like Secrets & Lies and Naked. Well-constructed right down to the smallest detail, the film tells the story of how composer Arthur Sullivan (Allan Cordoner) and librettist W.S. Gilbert (Jim Broadbent), the duo behind The Pirates of Penzance, wrote their 1885 Japanese fantasy The Mikado. Topsy-Turvy is finely attuned to all of the nuance, structure and character conflict that goes into creating a play, yet Leigh's homage to theatre folk never seems constructed so much as alive and breathing. The craftsmanship that has gone into creating the backgrounds and costumes of a long-gone time are astounding and the acting is top notch. One could quibble that Topsy-Turvy is overlong (163 minutes), but the film still stands as a wonderful reminder that there is, and always has been, no business like show business. (top) (back)

TORTILLA SOUP
- B+
Starring:
Hector Elizondo, Jacqueline Obradors, Elizabeth Pena, Tamara Mello, Raquel Welch, Nikolai Kinski, Paul Rodriguez, Constance Marie
Directed by: Maria Ripoll
Drama, 102 min (PG) (Samuel Goldwyn, 2001)


There are far more dishes in Mexican cuisine than tacos and nachos and a whole mess of them are on display in Tortilla Soup, a refried version of Ang Lee's delicious Taiwanese film Eat Drink Man Woman (1994). Considering all of the mouth-watering treats on display - not to mention the amazing preparation that goes into making them - the film should definitely not be seen on an empty stomach. Hector Elizondo, best known for his frequent collaborations with director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries) is finally given a much-deserved lead role here as Martin Naranjo, a widowed L.A. chef who specializes in exotic Mexican meals but has begun to lose his sense of taste. At the same time, Martin is slowly losing control of his three grown daughters: a repressed chemistry teacher played by Elizabeth Pena (Lone Star), a successful businesswoman (Jacqueline Obradors), and a young free spirit (Tamara Mello). Throughout Tortilla Soup, the food keeps threatening to overwhelm the drama, but the story quickly clicks into place after a few early snags and director Maria Ripoll tempers the family drama with the exquisite comic timing of Elizondo and Raquel Welch as a tasty dish who has set her sights on Martin. (top) (back)

TOUCH OF EVIL - A
Starring:
Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Marlene Dietrich, Dennis Weaver, Valentin de Vargas
Directed by:
Orson Welles
Suspense, 111
min (Universal, 1958/1998)

It may have taken over forty years, but Orson Welles' classic film noir has finally been released on video according to the director's exact specifications. Re-edited in 1998 following the discovery of a 58-page memo that Welles wrote upon seeing how Universal Studios butchered his work, Touch of Evil is now even more of a masterpiece of style and mood than ever before. Is that to say the new Touch of Evil is an entirely different picture? Hardly. It is, however, a superior picture, marked by slight but important changes (love that touched up opening sequence) that have a strong influence on Welles' transfixing story of greed and corruption in a Mexican border town. Welles himself leads the pitch-perfect cast, giving a wonderfully grotesque and bloated performance as a racist police chief, with the rest of the players including Charlton Heston as a Mexican narc and Janet Leigh as his lover. Touch of Evil was Welles' last studio film and, even today, it remains one heck of a great swan song. (top) (back)

TOWN & COUNTRY - D+
Starring:
Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, Andie MacDowell, Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski, Josh Harnett
Directed by:
Peter Chelsom
Comedy, 105
min (14A) (New Line, 2001)

It took three years of rewrites and reedits to finally get Town & Country released and, judging from the sour looks on all of the actors' faces, it likely felt that long to film this unfunny "comedy." Warren Beatty, robotic and unconvincing, plays Porter Stoddard, a wealthy architect with a designer wife (Diane Keaton) whose recent extramarital flings begin to get the better of him when his best friend (Garry Shandling) is caught cheating on his wife (Goldie Hawn). Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find empathy for any of the four leads, all of whom are such selfish idiots that one feels they are only getting what they deserve. The supporting cast includes Nastassja Kinski as a cellist with the hots for Beatty, Jenna Elfman as a quirky tackle shop clerk and Andie MacDowell as a nympho with a weird obsession for childhood toys, but their characters are all underwritten and overcooked, adding to the frantic action of the film, but never bringing some much needed charm or humour to the table. Directed by Peter Chelsom but no doubt pieced together after he left, Town & Country is a stultifying film that could easily have been described as comatose if everyone in it wasn't running around like chickens with their heads cut off. (top) (back)

TOY STORY 2 - A-
Starring the voices of: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer
Directed by:
John Lasseter
Animated, 94
min (G) (Walt Disney, 1999)

Movies don’t come more joyful than this computer animated gem, in which Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return as the voices of Woody the cowboy and spaceman Buzz Lightyear, best friends and the favourite toys of their boy owner, Andy. When an obsessive toy collector kidnaps Woody, it’s up to Buzz and the rest of the toy-chest gang to save him. Problem is, Woody has befriended some of the other collector items – namely Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer) – and he may not want saving. Though it lacks the novelty and sense of awe that came with the original Toy Story (1995), this sequel is still a runaway success, marked by a first-rate set of characters, several scenes of sheer wonder, a stellar screenplay and an action-packed storyline. While the first film was an all-out comedy, Toy Story 2 transposes the original’s sophistication and comic flair into an action-adventure setting, resulting in that rarest of rare – a sequel just as entertaining as its predecessor. (top) (back)

TRAFFIC - A-
Starring:
Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzman, Miguel Ferrer
Directed by:
Steven Soderbergh
Drama, 147
min (14A) (USA Films, 2000)

Considering how his resume includes Erin Brockovich, The Limey, and sex, lies and videotape, it's astonishing to realize that the work of director Steven Soderbergh just keeps getting better. That said, it is going to be difficult for him to beat the ambitiousness and engrossing complexity of Traffic, an expertly executed ensemble drama that took home Oscars for Best Director and Screenplay, among others. Telling an important story without compromise or preachiness, Soderbergh weaves together a series of subplots revolving around the war on drugs. Among the key players here are Michael Douglas, forceful as a US drug czar who learns his teenage daughter is an addict; Benicio Del Toro, who deservedly took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his haunted work as a conflicted Mexican cop; and Catherine Zeta-Jones, chilling as wealthy matron who learns her husband is a dealer. When all these elements are brought together, it results in a truly superior picture about violence, power and addiction. (top) (back)

TRAINING DAY
- B
Starring:
Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin, Raymond J. Barry, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Macy Gray
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Action, 122
min (18A) (Warner Bros., 2001)

Most actors will tell you that it is far more fun to play the bad guy and, as a street justice-favouring cop in Training Day, Denzel Washington is clearly enjoying his chance to dance with the dark side. Directed by music video vet Antoine Fuqua with a tension and maturity lacking in his previous pictures (Bait, The Replacement Killers), Training Day spans a 24-hour period in which Washington's corrupt-but-effective rogue detective introduces a trainee (Ethan Hawke) to the ways of the street, at one point even going so far as to force the newcomer, at gunpoint, to smoke a pipeful of PCP-laced pot. Needless to say, this is not the sort of Remember the Titans saint we've come to expect from Washington and his Oscar-winning performance is chilling, commanding and wonderfully soaked with ego. At the same time, supporting Oscar-nominee Hawke does a surprisingly good job of holding his own in what could have easily been the bland moral center of the picture. Throughout, the two actors are sensational when it comes sustaining the audiences attention, even when the film makes a few mistakes in its second half, relying too much on a major coincidence and rote action clichés that this character-driven thriller would have been better to do without. (top) (back)

THE TRANSPORTER - C
Starring:
Jason Statham, Shu Qi, Tcheky Karyo, Francois Berleand, Matt Schulze, Jedd Tan, Richard Young, Doug Rand
Directed by: Corey Yuen
Action, 92 min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


What do you get when you combine a Hong Kong director, a British hero with an American attitude, a French screenwriter and a plot that would fit Brussels' own Jean-Claude Van Damme? Well, you get a muddle like The Transporter, a jambalaya of an action movie that isn't afraid to shameless swipe from everything ranging from Jackie Chan actioners to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Jason Statham (Snatch), smirking and grimacing like a less expressive Bruce Willis, plays the title character, a former Special Forces agent who fell upon bad times and now makes a living transporting anything anywhere. But when he makes a mistake by actually opening a package - and finding a bound-and-gagged woman (Shu Qi) inside - the driver-for-hire finds himself on the run from an assortment of baddies that all want him dead. Director Corey Yuen cut his teeth as a fight choreographer in films like X-Men, but he has difficulties breathing much energy to the action sequences here, mostly falling back on formula and all the usual wire tricks, exploding cars and bullet-ridden hide-outs. That the plot and dialogue make almost no sense (it doesn't help that Qi is almost unintelligible) doesn't seem to matter to Yeun in the least. (top) (back)

TRAPPED -
C
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Charlize Theron, Courtney Love, Stuart Townsend, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Dakota Fanning
Directed by: Luis Mandoki
Suspense, 106 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2002)


Given even the trashiest, most cliché-ridden pictures and the trashiest, most cliché-ridden characters, Kevin Bacon can always be counted on to give a full-bodied, interesting performance and his work in Trapped, an exploitive, sleek and forgettable kidnapping thriller, is no exception. Bacon plays Joe, a villainous kidnapper who plots a seemingly can't-lose scheme with his battered wife (Courtney Love) and dim cousin (Pruitt Taylor Vince) to nab a healthy ransom from a wealthy couple (Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend) by grabbing their asthmatic daughter (I Am Sam's cute Dakota Fanning) for a limited, 24-hour period. For a while, director Luis Mandoki (Angel Eyes) succeeds in maintaining one's interest thanks to considerable and gritty friction between the talented Theron and Bacon, but there is too little doubt that the attractive heroes will triumph and the story veers wildly off course when Joe's improbable real motives come to light, culminating in an unwarranted, out-of-nowhere action climax complete with massive fireball explosions and multiple vehicle pileups. As a result, what could have been a slick parents'-worst-nightmare thriller devolves into little more than a manipulative and rote action extravaganza. (top) (back)

TREASURE PLANET - B-
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Michael Wincott, Laurie Metcalf
Directed by: John Musker, Ron Clements
Animated, 95 min (G) (Walt Disney, 2002)


Disney may have botched their last animated attempt at an adventure for boys - 2001's flat and hollow Atlantis: The Lost Empire - but the studio is on surer ground with Treasure Planet, a capable if unexceptional effort. An adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's 18th century tale Treasure Island (last transformed into 1996's Muppet Treasure Island) with a booster shot of Star Wars, Treasure Planet tries its best to revive the long-dormant pirate movie, chronicling the interplanetary adventures of Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a fatherless boy who comes in possession of a treasure map. Hawkins soon hits the skies in a galaxy-sailing galleon with a feline captain (Emma Thompson), a frantic astrophysicist (David Hyde Pierce) and a cyborg with mixed intentions (Brian Murray). Directors John Musker and Ron Clements also worked on Aladdin (1992) and Hercules (1997) and Treasure Planet benefits from a zippy pace and some stunning visual moments combining traditional and computer animation. Though the film loses marks for pandering to the extreme sports crowd - this Hawkins would fit well in a Mountain Dew ad - and it comes up shy on the memorable moments scale, it is still an enjoyable bit of fantasy. (top) (back)

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE -
C+
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton, Tim Robbins, Christine Boisson, Stephen Dillane, Jim Brooks, Ted Levine, Joong-Hoon Park
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Suspense, 104 min (PG) (Universal, 2002)


Director Jonathan Demme really seems eager to give the luminous Thandie Newton her big break. Much like Newton and Demme's 1998 collaboration Beloved, however, The Truth About Charlie made almost no impact at the box office. The difference is that though Beloved was critically under-appreciated, Charlie is a passable but decidedly minor affair that doesn't live up to its lead actress or Demme's previously proven skills (Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs). A fizz-deficient remake of 1963's Charade, Charlie stars Newton as Regina Lambert, a recent widow who learns that her murdered husband wasn't the man she thought he was and is now being followed and tracked by a variety of hoods and mystery figures throughout the streets of Paris, most notably an American embassy representative (Tim Robbins) and a sympathetic stranger (Mark Wahlberg) who may have a few secrets up his sleeve. The original Charade did little more than coast on the star wattage of stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but Charlie disappoints in this area, most notably due to a vague performance from Wahlberg. Demme tries to liven up the flat proceedings with needlessly flashy visuals, but it mostly just results in motion sickness. (top) (back)

TUCK EVERLASTING -
B-
Starring: Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Jackson, Ben Kingsley, William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, Scott Bairstow, Victor Garber, Amy Irving
Directed by: Jay Russell
Family, 90 min (PG) (Walt Disney, 2002)


Preteens looking for a photogenic young romance will be well-served by Tuck Everlasting, a slightly damp but generally well-constructed drama from My Dog Skip director Jay Russell that puts a more pandering effort like A Walk to Remember to shame. Based on a 1975 children's novel by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting stars Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel as Winnie Foster, a sheltered rich girl who, while fleeing her overbearing parents (Victor Garber and Amy Irving) discovers the Tucks, a family living in seclusion that years ago stumbled across a fountain of youth that effectively stopped them from aging. A romance develops between eternally 17-year-old Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson) and Winnie and, though Jackson seems to be playing little more than an idealized pin-up, their young relationship is sweet, with Winnie forced to decide if she wants to live forever with Jesse or live a lifetime like everyone else. William Hurt and Sissy Spacek play the elder Tucks, with Scott Bairstow making the strongest impression as Jesse's bitter brother, and, for the most part, these reliable actors make up for the story's more treacly tendencies (as the film's money-grubbing villain, though, Ben Kingsley gets upstaged by his Big Bird-coloured suit and garish wig). (top) (back)

TUMBLEWEEDS - B+
Starring: Janet McTeer, Kimberly J. Brown, Jay O. Sanders, Gavin O'Connor, Michael J. Pollard, Lois Smith, Noah Emmerich
Directed by:
Gavin O'Connor
Drama, 100
min (PG) (New Line, 1999)

Released about the same time as the similarly themed Susan Sarandon/Natalie Portman melodrama Anywhere But Here, Tumbleweeds didn't receive nearly the theatrical visibility of its Hollywood counterpart, but there is no denying that this is the superior film. In Tumbleweeds, British actress Janet McTeer gives a stunning performance as Mary Jo, a middle-aged free spirit who often makes the mistake of falling for the wrong guy, leaving her and her preteen daughter (Kimberly J. Brown) to roam America looking for somewhere to call home. Directed and co-written by Gavin O'Connor (who also stars as Mary Jo's latest boyfriend), Tumbleweeds wisely places more of an emphasis on character complexities than big emotions and, as a result, doesn't fall victim to the same clichés as Anywhere But Here. Most importantly, it features flawless performances from McTeer and Brown, both of whom capture all of the disappointments, love, friendship and frustrations that exist between a mother and daughter. (top) (back)

THE TUXEDO -
C
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Ritchie Coster, Debi Mazar, Peter Stormare, James Brown, Colin Mochrie
Directed by: Kevin Donovan
Action, 99 min (PG) (Dreamworks, 2002)


Apparently learning nothing from the Jet Li dud The One, Jackie Chan gets overshadowed by gimmicky special effects in this threadbare, Inspector Gadget-inspired action comedy. Chan stars as Jimmy Tong, a chauffeur for a world-class spy (Jason Isaacs) who, after his employer is injured, ends up assuming his identity with the aid of a fantastic suit that allows him to exhibit dazzling martial arts moves, fling himself up walls and dance like James Brown. The Tuxedo's plot is pure Silly Putty - something to do with using bugs to poison the world's water supply - and so is costar Jennifer Love Hewitt, a far cry from Shanghai Noon's Owen Wilson and Rush Hour's Chris Tucker as Chan's comic partner. Playing a supposedly brilliant government scientist, Hewitt seems to randomly switch between giggly schoolgirl and cold brainiac (guess which role fits her better?). Meanwhile, Chan flips, flings and swings his way around, all with the assistance of sew-sew special effects and wire work and none of the low budget effort seen in more entertaining efforts like Rumble in the Bronx. Next time, it is worth remembering that Jackie Chan, even an aging Jackie Chan, is all the special effects that a film of his needs. (top) (back)

28 DAYS - B-
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Steve Buscemi, Azua Skye, Elizabeth Perkins, Diane Ladd, Mike O'Malley
Directed by: Betty Thomas
Comedy, 104
min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2000)

The thought of a Sandra Bullock-starring comedy about alcohol addiction seems almost blasphemous and yet, despite any initial trepidation one might have, director Betty Thomas nearly pulls it off with 28 Days. Much of the credit for this must go to Bullock herself, who gives one of her most assured performances to date as Gwen, a New York party girl whose uncontrolled binge at her sister’s wedding lands her in a detox-and-rehabilitation compound. Without ever leaving the confines of her typical cutie-pie persona, Bullock offers a surprisingly intelligent depiction of an addict. The film stumbles, however, with regards to its supporting players. Aside from wasting Steve Buscemi's weirdo charm in a small role as Gwen's guidance counselor, 28 Days offers very few characters of any substance. Those characters joining Gwen for recovery never come across as more than wacky oddballs and the romantic subplot involving a major league pitcher (Viggo Mortensen) heads absolutely nowhere. (top)

25TH HOUR - B
Starring: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin.
Directed by: Spike Lee
Drama, 134 min (14A) (Touchstone, 2002)


Spike Lee's 25th Hour was the first major release to directly respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the film, a contemplative and somber tale of loss set in New York City, couldn't have been a better fit for such a distinction. With the scenes of destruction as a backdrop (including shots of the clean-up at Ground Zero), The 25th Hour stars Edward Norton as Monty Brogan, a convicted felon from Brooklyn who has one day left before a seven-year prison stretch for drug dealing, a day he wants to spend with his retired fireman father (Brian Cox), two best friends (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper) and the girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) who may or may not have ratted him out. As he does all too often, Lee has a tendency to preach and the moralizing speeches here expand the film's running time beyond reason, but The 25th Hour - based on a novel by David Benioff - is a well-grounded study in character and circumstance, featuring a stunning performance by Norton as a man whose life is wounding down, realized his mistakes only too late, and is frightened of what the next morning will bring. Even in his failures (Girl 6, He Got Game), Lee has ambition to spare and with The 25th Hour, his ambition sparks to life. (top) (back)

TWIN FALLS IDAHO - B
Starring:
Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Michele Hicks, Jon Gries, Garrett Morris, Lesley Ann Warren, Patrick Bauchau
Directed by:
Michael Polish
Drama, 110 min
(14A) (Columbia Tristar, 1999)

There's something strangely mesmerizing about Twin Falls Idaho, a one-of-a-kind story about the sad and touching life of physically connected twins that could have easily slipped into bad taste or uncomfortable comedy, but instead projects sympathy and warmth. Written by and starring identical (non-conjoined) twin brothers Mark and Michael Polish and directed by Michael, Twin Falls Idaho focuses on the delicate mental state of literally attached-at-the-hip brothers Francis and Blake Falls, one weak and one physically strong, when the healthier of the two falls for a sad prostitute (model Michele Hicks). The Polish brothers stage Twin Falls Idaho with an appropriately offbeat and dreamlike tone that may be slightly on the remote side, but their portrait of the brothers and their awkward situation - complete with mordant humour, moments of light pleasures, and a longing encounter with fake Siamese twins at a Halloween party - ultimately presents an aching and completely unconventional portrait of loneliness. (top)

TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME - C
Starring:
Vivica A. Fox, Morris Chestnut, Anthony Andrews, Tamala Jones, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robison, Mo'Nique, Bobby Brown
Directed by:
Mark Brown
Comedy, 91
min (14A) (Screen Gems, 2001)

Seemingly freeze-dried in 1985 and defrosted only to showcase the sass of Vivica A. Fox, Two Can Play That Game wants to be a comedy about the battle of the sexes, but it all too often sticks to dated stereotypes (both leads have the obligatory overweight sidekick) and relationship observations about as fresh as an impression of Mr. T. Fox, still best known as Will Smith's girlfriend in Independence Day (1996), plays Shante, a successful advertising executive and self-described "relationship expert" who, after catching her boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) in a compromising situation with another woman, decides upon a 10-day plan to "punish him." It's all meant to be trivial fluff, but writer-director Mark Brown's decision to regularly have Fox directly address the audience lends the picture a prepackaged and overly commercial air, only highlighting the fact that almost everything here has been seen before. Instead of this, you would be better to hang out with The Brothers. Not only did that film feature much of the same cast as Two Can Play (Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Tamala Jones), but its screenplay was strong enough to let the actors establish characters with depth rather than just have them go through the motions like they do here. (top)

TWO FAMILY HOUSE - B+
Starring:
Michael Rispoli, Kelly Macdonald, Katherine Narducci, Kevin Conway, Matt Servitto, Vincent Pastore, Michelle Santopietro
Directed by:
Raymond DeFelitta
Drama, 109
min (14A) (Lions Gate, 2000)

Sometimes the quietest, most unassuming movie romances can also be the most genuine and heartwarming. That is certainly the case with Two Family House, a personal and poignant picture with more truthful emotion than a random handful of Hollywood romances combined. Set in 1956 Staten Island and based on writer-director Raymond DeFellita's uncle, the film tells the story of Buddy (Michael Rispoli), an Italian-American factory worker with big dreams and a pessimistic wife (Katherine Narducci). Buddy's latest idea is to buy a two-family house and turn the ground floor into a bar where he will provide entertainment as a singer, but complications ensue when the current tenants refuse to move and Buddy finds a sympathetic soul in the pregnant Irish lass (Kelly Macdonald) that lives upstairs. The performances in Two Family House are all natural and honest, but the real key player here is DeFelitta, who tells this story about following one's dreams as though it emerged straight from his heart. (top) (back)

TWO WEEKS NOTICE - C+
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Alicia Witt, Mark Feuerstein, Robert Klein, Dana Ivey, Heather Burns, David Haig
Directed by: Marc Lawrence
Comedy, 110 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2002)


It's only fitting that the title of Two Weeks Notice contains a number. After all, this is a romantic comedy with a lot of potential - Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant make a wonderful comic team - that squanders most of it on a script as formulaic as a math equation. After about only two minutes into the movie, you'll notice you have seen most of this before. Sandra Bullock, who specializes in clumsy women who thinly hide their beauty behind a stiff dedication to their jobs (most recently in 2000's Miss Congeniality), repeats herself here as Lucy, an optimistic lawyer who chooses to fight for the little guy. Hugh Grant, who has never met a selfish British commitment-phobe he couldn't turn into Hugh Grant, here drops the depth of About a Boy and runs through the usual tics as George, a ruthless real estate developer who hires Lucy as his chief counsel. Watching these two together, it is clear they are enjoying themselves (few mainstream comediennes can take a fall quite like Bullock), but the screenplay and direction by Marc Lawrence - who wrote Bullock's Congeniality and Forces of Nature (1999) - only breaks free of the romantic comedy mold in one unfortunate instance: a bout of diarrhea on a crowded freeway that belongs in a different film. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.
 

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