Archive for September, 2005

Review: Reunion 101

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

Fox already has another break-out hit with another highly serialised series (Prison Break) even before their first high-risk project has finished (24). And usually, these shows make the most interesting series, with complicated storylines unfolding while there’s enough time for character development (as in, Lost, Alias, Battlestar Galactica, The 4400), so I had to try this one.
The concept of this season’s 20 episode it to highlight one year every episode. How serialised can you get ? Some kind of mystery happens (probably murder of a cast member), and it will unfold and finish also (with possible next seasons featuring a whole new cast and storyline). This one starts out during the summer of ’86, and follows 6 close friends, just graduated from high school. And leave it to bad writing to have no less than 2 love triangles, and from here on cliches play tag every minute or so (with slight deja-vu feelings of Fox’s last bomb, Point Pleasant from earlier this year). Most of the detail (and possibly the budget) is on the hit music and videos of that particular year, but the premium price paid for the royalties would’ve been better spent on better writers. Overall feel is a bit plastic, with acting not too convincing, so this one is a dropper.

US Box Office

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Maybe the US public were possessed this week, because the top movie was The Exorcism of Emily Rose, having no real A list stars (Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson) and being based on a real story. It scared up $30.2 million, convincingly beating the next five total earnings together.
Second was The 40-Year-Old Virgin, still not running out of steam, with $7.9 million. The Transporter 2 slows down considerably at number 3, with $7.2 million (a 65% drop). Dropping one place is The Constant Gardener, keeping it green with $4.9 million. Rounding out the top five is Red Eye with $4.6 million.
At six is a disappointing opening for Samuel L. Jackson, a rare pairing with Eugene Levy (the father in the American Pie movies). Action-comedy The Man stands only for $4 million.

Review: Night Watch

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Russia’s biggest movie, and hence now also the biggest export product to date (with Fox Searchlight picking up distrib rights of this one, and probably financing the next two sequels), so I had to take a look what the fuss was all about.
Granted, with a paltry $4.2 million budget, it sometimes look very slick, including Hollywood style visual and tricks, but in the end, it’s the story that counts. And in this case, it’s a bowl of spaghetti. A simple story continues in countless meaningless threads, while only the 2 minute setup and 2 minutes end would have sufficed. Acting is reasonable, and so is the directing.
Touted by many fans as The Matrix with vampires, it couldn’t be more true. Too bad it’s literally so, meaning the structure and grand outline is the same (Good vs Evil, the One etc etc), so in the end, it doesn’t add anything new, except for the spaghetti I told you about (witches curses, vampires, prophecies, etc etc).6-.

Words of Wisdom

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Even though I don’t have my White Hair of Wisdom anymore (I used to shave it off, but that last time I pulled it out. I have faith it’ll be back within a year though), here are a few more lines of wise advice:

If you think I stole pencils and pens in my younger years (from the art classes I still have found no use for in the real world) just for sports or other petty purposes, think again. I saved them all, and now, for instance, the Steadler pencils (softness catagory 2B) are used by my lil’ niece to do her homework (writing exercises, currently at “vr” (as in vrij, vraag)). So, IF you ever think of stealing something, be responsible, save it for later, even if it’s 15 years later.

It’s about time some old sayings get updated. So I’ll throw in another wise one, as the “don’t take candy from strange men” is a bit outdated. What you should use more to warn the little ones is “Don’t start chatting with strange people unless a live webcam feed that can verify the appearance of the other side, with real-time checks (for instance, “wave now”, “stick out your tongue”) not exceeding a 10 seconds lag”.

Review: The Crow: Wicked Prayer

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

I’ve had my share of direct-to-dvd’s for this year, but this one, technically, is not one of them. It had a one week screening, but nevertheless, overall reviews are still the same. Bad news.
This time, I kinda dared myself to watch it anyways, maybe just for the laugh of the bad quality (and the download pipe was somewhat idle), but sadly, no such thing. It’s the usual boredom that sets in at the very start of the movie. Waiting for the stars to line-up is a tough job (for instance, Dennis Hopper, Tara Reid, Macy Gray with lotsa second rates also, like Edward Furlong and David Boreanaz) and doesn’t provide me the laughs I hoped for. The direction is heavily flashback-based, and the action is below par.
This is really it for me this year. No more of this shit (Sorry Wesley Snipes, I definitely will not review your just released DVD of The Marksman).4.

Review: The Dukes of Hazzard

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

With everyone rushing their old tv series remakes to the movie theatres, some people really forget to put the whole thing through the quality assurance engine. One of those that springs to mind was last year’s Starsky & Hutch, but that one had 2 comedians to save the day (just a bit). This one does not have such a thing, worse still, everyone talks with a contorted Southern accent (if you could improve one thing over the series, this would be it). Then there’s the story, which is absent. Also absent is the acting.
That leaves just the beautiful Jessica Simpson, right ? Or wait, maybe the blooper reel is really funny. No, not even that.
This flick actually has a PG-13 rating, but that’s outrageous. It should be limited to “Only 12 year old boys” to protect other people’s money, because that’s the only hazzard I’ve seen happening.4-.

Review: The Upside of Anger

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

Really small movie, but with a pretty big cast. Basically following a family (4 daughters) headed by mom (Joan Allen) after the father left the family. What follows is mostly safe storytelling, with nothing really out of the ordinary (usually the family bickering about the things we all bicker about). Several guy characters (Kevin Costner) put a romantic spin to this (really) soft drama (or even softer comedy), but it’s still Joan Allen’s character that always hovers around, captivating your attention. In the end, you’ll have smiled and frowned a few times, and while it’s not groundbreaking, it’s slightly enjoyable.7-.

US Box Office

Monday, September 5th, 2005

The Transporter 2 drives a better leg than its predecessor, totalling some $20.3 million (about double the original opening). The actioner, this time directed by Louis Leterrier, with only one previous movie under his belt (Unleashed), but again, starring the same street fighting Brit, Jason Statham.
Second this week was The 40 Year-Old Virgin, not impotent by any means with $16.6 million and totalling $71.9 million. Third was The Constant Gardener starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. A healthy crop of $10.8 million is the result (showing in about half as many screens as The Transporter 2). Leftovers rounded out the top five with Red Eye taking $9.3 million and The Brothers Grimm telling a $7.93 million fairy tale.

Review: The 4400 206 – 213

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

Rounding out the summer schedule of USA Network, is this series born out of the terrific original mini-series. Continuingly developing the stories on multiple levels, it works towards an explosive season finale. While the mini-series ended nicely, and no announcement of further development, it was easy to let go. However, coming back with a full season (or half a season by network standard), and then ending it like this, is a whole other thing.
If something needs pushing envelope, it’s non-basic cable TV that will do it. The only drawback however, it will take another year to churn out another 13 episodes.

Review: Straight into Darkness

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

A low budget war movie, trying to be a artie kinda movie, currently doing its round at selected film festivals and somewhere being released direct to DVD. Taking place towards the end of WWII, we follow two American deserter soldiers somewhere in Western Europe. From the start, you’ll get a gray-ish canvas to elevate the gritty atmosphere. Mixed in, too often, are oversaturated flashback scenes adding absolutely nothing to the slow moving story. Boredom sets in the first quarter to half an hour. As the adventure continues, we also hear voice-over flashback loops, again, WAY too often.
Another constant irritating factor is the musical score, and as the characters in the movie turn into a bit of psychos, so do you.
Written and directed by Jeff Burr, he’s better off writing and directing the usual low budget horror flicks that nobody will ever see (with self-explanatory titles like The Demons 5 and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings).5-.

Review: Prison Break 101 – 102

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

One of the first new series to premiere on the network this season, it’s the Fox spearheading what looks like a success. Airing in the timeslot where 24 leads in the ratings (also on Fox, but in the usual Jan-May run), is now a similar series. Basically, it’s a prison break (probably takes 30 days) series, with a long story arc.
Like many movie execs before (Imagine (Ron Howard and Brian Grazer), Bryan Singer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Scott Free (Ridley and Tony)), Brett Ratner fits in his own series before taking a crack at the next X-men movie. And he makes quite an impression, not really by just directing the pilot, but more by having the ability to show off this series with the same zest that made 24 a success. Right from the start you’re into it, and the intense gritty atmosphere never drops in pressure. It’s also clear the meticulously planned prison break reveals itself more and more over the season, with the intricacies and unexpected story twists functioning as the glue to your seat. In between, there is still time to get to know a whole bunch of characters better, bit by bit, while the story also keeps unfolding outside the prison walls.
All in all, with only 2 episodes aired, it’s definitely a worthy seat warmer until 24 returns in 2006, if not equally exciting.

Review: Smile

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

Another one from the indie/first time writer director batch, but this time it’s done for the cause of a real charity (Operation Smile), which probably means it’s going to be his only film. Based on his own experiences (parallel to the story’s father), we see one family in the States, and another one in Shanghai. We basically get to know what to charity is, and how it effects the life of the two families (mostly the daughters). While this ultra drama tries hard to be a tear-jerker, maybe a little bit too hard, it’s still a nice sweet story. Even if you don’t read into the charity part (which doesn’t really obstruct the story telling), it’s still an enjoyable uplifting movie.7+.

Review: The Final Cut

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

One of those independent movie that floats around for a long time, opening late in foreign countries, or ending up directly on DVD. A bit like A Sound of Thunder, except this one has a pretty nice concept (and a low budget, with a first time writer/director), where rich people can implant their children with a device which will record literally everything until they die. This raises many issues, changing lives of those who carry it, while others have moral objections. While only bits and pieces pass by pretty quickly, the writing is still pretty good. Good acting comes from Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino and James Caviezel. If you want to see an indie without the heightened risk of boredom, this would be it.7½.

Review: A Sound of Thunder

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Well, this sound of thunder is just pretty tiny burp, without any lightning for the extra effect. A mix of Jurassic Park and The Time Machine, it had potential. With $80 million in the pocket, the means is there to realise it. However, without a big studio backing it, somehow, all the money drained through a black hole somehow. The special effects are too obvious, and not even worthy of a high quality TV series. The story is not shocking, nor surprising. The acting floats around the mediocre mark.
Hence, it’s no wonder the movie was hidden in the closet for so long (originally to be released in 2002/2003). It might have been better to burn down the closet.5-.