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Action without passion
When studio heads heard rich chick who became a bounty hunter I'm sure they jumped at the chance to own the rights. When Keira Knightley signed on the play the lead and cut her hair, people were shocked and intrigued. After Mickey Rourke and names like Christopher Walken and Delroy Lindo rounded out the cast, the movie screamed big hit. Unfortunately great story and big hit don't always go together.

Keira Knightley, as Domino, Mickey Rourke, perfect as tough boss Ed and newcomer, at least in Hollywood, Edgar Ramirez as the very sexy Choco are the main characters on this trip into the life of bounty hunters. The plot is in the style of many of the English gangster movies of late. People from all over tied in together and the storyline a little out of order. The style of shooting might bother some people. With quick turns and shaky work some might get queasy but it helps get the feel of what things are like in the midst of the action. One of the film's strong points were the colors. The grainy look of the film combined with very dark and very dirty colors put you in this frame of mind and attitude that fit everything together.

Although the acting was perfect and it was fun to watch the action, I wasn't so sure I go to know any of the characters. In the complicated web of a story we didn't have time to really get to the other characters besides Domino. Choco and Alf, played by Rizwan Abbasi, were the characters that provoked the most interest. I wish we had gotten to know more about them. But perhaps Domino herself didn't know them or character development took a backseat to another shot of something twisted. Whatever the reason, I found myself just waiting for an ending, not caring either way.

In the trailer, Domino says "We all fall down" in her matter of fact way. Sadly this film manages to do just that. Even though so much of it is right, enough of Domino is wrong to throw things off balance and let it fall. Domino Harvey passed away just a few months ago. She never got a chance to see her story, interpreted by Tony Scott, reach the big screen. The film of her life relates the action, but not the passion.

The Fog

Watch the news-it's scarier
John Carpenter's name is synonymous with horror films. A few films were not well received, but he's gone on to develop a cult status. His movie The Fog was not considered a huge hit, but has become near and dear to many horror film lovers bloody hearts. So when it was announced that it was part of the rampage of remakes and sequels, half of those who heard rejoiced. They expected that better effects could make the film scarier. The other half of horror-files just shook their heads, expecting another disaster in film. What could a bigger budget and new hot young actors do to freshen it up? Would a bad episode of the Weather Channel really scare a new generation? I was one of the ones shaking my head, skeptical, but I gave it a shot.

Two of television's young actors, Tom Wellington from Smallville, and Maggie Grace from Lost, star in this unnecessary update. The film tries to fill seats with promised SSA( Scares, Screams and Sex Appeal)- obvious from the quick cut trailer which shows typical horror shots AND a low shot of Maggie Grace in her underwear. The promises are never fulfilled. The remake keeps the same plot of the first movie. Apparently somewhere in Antonio Bay's history people have been wronged. Unhappy and looking for revenge, these people come back in the Fog around the town's anniversary. For some reason the film forgets to add the part which makes the audience care about the characters. You don't care if the living out run the Fog or not. With scary and prophetic statements like "It came back from the sea….things always do" this movie provokes eye rolling and incredulous looks every five minutes.

Nothing in this movie made it redeemable. Trying to add comedy, DeRay Davis, as Spooner, is just confusing. At the same time makes one wonder why he's the only person who isn't white in the entire town. The only way that anyone should sit through this movie is if it's being used as a form of torture. I recommend you tell them what they want to know and forgo the pain. I wish I had. Leaving a horror film shocked or scared out of your wits is a desired effect. What The Fog leaves you with is scary- you've just wasted over an hour of your life watching a needless remake.


Action with wit, classic Whedon
In the hallways of high schools, dorm rooms of colleges and the hearts of sci-fi fans around the world, Joss Whedon is a god. The man who created TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel" and "Firefly" finally took one to the big screen. Although little seen when on TV, "Firefly" was a critic darling and developed a cult following. When Whedon announced to fans he would bring his canceled show to the big screen, murmurs of excitement-and doubt were heard around the world. Amazingly enough, studio heads and the powers that be allowed it to happen, with Serenity.

For anyone who is a stranger to Whedon's other shows and their attitudes- pop culture and sarcasm mixed together to form a powerhouse of witty banter - Serenity may open some doors to new things. With the original cast from the show, the plot entails a mysterious Fifth Element like girl on the run and a crew of lovable misfits who pirate from the evil government, The Alliance. Mal, the ship's captain, played by Nathan Fillion and the mystery girl, River, played by relative newcomer Summer Glau help lead the cast in it's drive to truth- even if some of them have to go kicking and screaming the whole way.

The movie had it's stars that stand out. But like every other Whedon production, the rest is cast so perfectly you can't help but love every character- even the guy in the background in Scene 23. Future classic lines come from every direction and make the viewer certain to take some of them home. The world created in the television show isn't explained very well in the movie. If you've got questions about the Chinese influence and why the Alliance is so bad, you'll have to do some reading or watch back episodes of the show. Without it, the story makes sense, but there's not as much depth to the plight of the crew of the Serenity against their enemies.

Though the back story is lacking, this movie is one fun ride the whole time. The characters don't seem scripted and two dimensional. Their words are what you might to say if you were there. I can't help but think Whedon went into this movie hoping to bring back a TV show. All I can say is if Serenity can't revive Firefly, I don't know what can.

Cry Wolf

Same old with a different taste
There were no advanced screenings of Cry_Wolf. Of course, like most people, my idea was that it was a horrid movie that the studio didn't want to open to bad reviews. Well, now I've changed my mind. Instead, think of this as a Sixth Sense kind of thing- twist ending.

The movie centers around Westlake Prep school and a bunch of rich kids. Dodger( Lindy Booth) is the head of this little group, and obviously needing to prove something by being extra devious. The rest of the kids are the stereotyped teens that always appear in moves, the jock, the sarcastic girl, the goth/punk kid- who has way too many piercings to be allowed in prep school, and the token black guy,. The school is shocked by a murder of a local girl just about the time our main character Owen shows up. He's invited into Dodger's world and their game, where they try to lie to each other and accuse to win money. Soon they decide to bring the game school wide and invent a serial killer- The Wolf. But then what they invent becomes real.

I really liked the pace and the colors of this movie. The school was surrounded by trees and forests in fall, which at night added to the feel of the film. Everything hides in the shadows. Something I had trouble believing, and not because it wasn't well done, was Gary Cole, who is Owen's absent father, is British. It's hard to see someone like him trying to use an accent and it just doesn't fit. The director hints at what's to come in the rest of the movie during a scene in the library. A book hanging off the shelf, Sartre's No Exit, is thrust between the two characters- of course the obviousness of the placement makes me wonder if the director has heard of subtlety.

This movie was not a horror movie, nor a thriller. It should be classified as suspense. The blood and gore is very limited so the faint of heart would be safe with this. Scream and other 90s horror movies set up the sarcastic, poking fun at themselves story lines with snappy one liners. It was the "new" spin on horror. Cry_Wolf doesn't do this. Perhaps because they're trying to fit in with movies of the 2000s, with the twist endings. It's almost impossible to see a movie these days without a twist ending. Even without all of that, I still enjoyed the idea. The end was odd but so well explained someone who had missed the rest of the movie would understand. With not much in the thriller/horror genre out right now in theaters, Cry_Wolf is good for satisfying your craving. But if something a little more straightforward and gory, I'd recommend a trip to the video store instead.

The Aristocrats

Home rather than theater
It's a legend among comedians. No one will ever do it on stage, it's an insiders thing. That's what people say about it. The joke, The Aristocrats, is one of the dirtiest jokes ever told- and it's different every time. The movie of the same title, The Aristocrats, talks to many well known comedians and gets their thoughts on it as well as some of their own interpretations. Not for the faint of heart, this movie deserves the R rating.

Like any movie with comedy there are hits and misses with each telling but the ones that are good are very good. However, it does get a bit repetitive. Like when you're hanging out with your friends and there's that one who keeps telling the same joke over and over even though everyone's heard it- that's the feeling one gets about the middle of this movie. I think Paul Provenza realized this as the editing is done so the jokes are intermixed with more people just talking about the joke and how they heard about it, what they think of it and so on.

To me, the ones to look out for are Billy the Mime and Bob Saget. I loved the way Bob Saget just goes for it full tilt and in the middle of his telling says- "Can you make a copy of this? I want to send it to the kids from Full House". Priceless. This movie was funny and was an interesting subject matter as I've never heard of the joke. But I really don't think going to the theater with this movie makes a difference. You could just as easily rent it and spend the night at home and go through what you don't find funny. So relax, don't worry about the end and enjoy the journey.

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Done before but worth watching.
Lately there has been a series of indie movies contemplating how people go through life detached from their feelings and everything around them. Me, You and Everyone We Know is another one of those movies. Director, writer and star Miranda July, plays Christine Jesperson. Christine is a lonely woman with a One Hour Photo-esquire art project she works on when she's not chauffeuring around the elderly. Meanwhile, Richard Swersey, played by John Hawkes, is getting divorced from his wife and trying to be a father to his two sons. Richard is out of touch with life. To let us know how far from his feelings he is, one of the first things we see him do is light his own hand on fire and watch it burn. Our two main characters are alienated and at odds with the world around them. But we like it that way.

The children play a large part in this movie as well. Peter and Robby, Richard's sons, along with some girls from the neighborhood, Heather, Rebecca and Sylvie, share the screen with the adults. They at first appear naive and innocent. We find they're not so innocent, and you sense they don't know exactly what they are doing and it seems there's no one to help them figure it out. Still, it helps give the movie some much needed humor. Young Robby's involved in an internet "relationship" and Sylvie has an obsession with appliances.

One problem with some smaller pictures is that the writer tries to make the characters too unique. Then it becomes hard to relate to them. Luckily that didn't happen here.Sure everyone is a little off beat, but you can find a little of yourself in all of them. The dialogue, such as that comparison between a walk down a street and a relationship, is wonderfully put . However, this film isn't too wordy, and the words never get in the way of the actions people do. These scenes don't need words to explain them.

This movie has a plot idea that you've seen before, but the characters make it worth the trip. You leave the theater hoping that Christine and Richard make it together and that their screwed up lives get just a little bit easier. In the last scene a man is taping a coin on a pole. When Robby asks the man why, he says it's just to pass the time. It made me think about life and how so much of it is just "passing the time". Watching this movie though isn't just a way to pass the time.

Must Love Dogs

Typical storyline but very enjoyable none the less
Sure the two main characters in Must Love Dogs, a new romantic comedy, are both good looking and smart. The skeptics wonder why they'd even have trouble finding a date- but my approach was this, they may look good but they were emotional wrecks, they weren't ready to go out and look. Diane Lane plays Sarah, a somewhat depressed freshly divorced woman who doesn't want to believe love is out there. This kind of role isn't new to her though, as she played the same role beautifully in Under the Tuscan Sun. Meanwhile, John Cusack as Jake revisits his 80s icon roles has the dorky guy in love with the pretty girl. Even though both of these roles-and hell, even the story is somewhat the same as what we've all heard before, it works.

I think a lot of the reasons why this movie plays out better than others with the same storyline is the writing. With John Cusack's delivery and the quick one liners, I was laughing for most of the movie. Also it wasn't too sappy to be tolerable- which is VERY hard to find these days. The supporting characters, such as Dermot Mulroney playing Bob, the sexy father of one of Sarah's students were amazing as well.

Internet dating is the new thing lately and with ABC having a show following those who find dates on-line a movie seemed inevitable. Instead of some disastrous Freddie Prinze Jr./ Jennifer Love Hewitt movie, Must Love Dogs, had a perfect cast, with a still adorable John Cusack and a script that doesn't take itself too seriously with the "Love conquers all" etc. ideals With it's funny sharp approach to the same old story, Must Love Dogs is worth the trip.

Sky High

Great idea carried out well
Kurt Russell went back to his Disney roots with Sky High, a fresh take on the superhero craze. The story revolves around Will Stronghold( Michael Angarano) who is the kid of two superhero parents, The Commander( Kurt Russell) and Jetstream( Kelly Preston). Will is off to be a freshman at his dad's alma mater- Sky High, a school for superheroes where they can find their powers and learn how to use them. High school angst is then thrown into the mix as Will and his new group of friends, headed up by the typical girl best friend Layla( Danielle Panabaker), are told they don't fit the superhero mold and become sidekicks, otherwise known as the losers of the school.

I loved the idea of this movie and the people in it seemed to be having a great time. The roles were cast perfectly and it was easy to believe everyone. A few favorites were Warren Peace( Steven Strait), Layla and Zach( Nicholas Braun). Sure the plot was a tad predictable, both in the superhero plot and in the teen drama area but because of the setting and the mix it made it still worth seeing. Also, anything that has Bruce Campbell, who plays Coach Boomer, is automatically quirky enough to be given a chance. Of course the world ends up in danger and the underdogs must fight to save it, but for once I wasn't upset that I knew it all.

Disney needed a hit as the past few movies it's put out that were live action failed to do much. I think Sky High is it. Action for the boys, cute boys and drama for the girls and Kurt Russell for the moms- great family movie. All I can end with is I can't wait for it to come out on video.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Depp and Burton give depth and excitement to Wonka
Goth kids and women everywhere united in one voice when it was announced that Johnny Depp was going to be playing the well known Willy Wonka in a movie directed by Tim Burton. Calendars were marked and people were ready to see the successful team of Depp and Burton redefine movies again. As the date of release grew near some people I talked to were getting nervous. Would Depp go too far? Is such a thing even possible? Still, I went out the first day of release ready to see what the verdict would be and if the expectations were set too high.

As the beginning credits roll we follow chocolate being made by sophisticated machines with Danny Elfman's music setting the pace. We meet Charlie first, a normal kid who's day ends with cabbage soup every night with no complaint, is played by Freddie Highmore, who stared with Depp in Finding Neverland in 2004. He does a wonderful job playing the sweet boy who makes the best of his family's low social status. The sets have Burton's hand on them, with the slight cartoonish feel to everything we see. This continues when we meet the other children who will follow Wonka on his factory tour- Augustus Gloop( Philip Wiegratz) with his rosy complexion and chocolate smeared face; Veruca Salt( Julia Winter) her blue eyes glittering like her mother's large ring under the attention of the cameras with her prize; Violet Beauregarde( Annasophia Robb) has the cool blond hair matching her white skin giving her this cool, unemotional attitude and Mike Teavee( Jordan Fry) with his eyes taking over most of his face as though he's watching everything but with a very unhealthy dose of skepticism. The children all did an amazing job personifying their bad traits and I was very happy to have more about Violet than in the 1971 version. Burton gave the children their moments to shine just as much as Charlie, which I thought was missing in the earlier version.

Depp as Wonka was perfect. He gave the character a little more depth, a man who made candy but didn't even like children. The flashbacks to Wonka's childhood made more of Wonka than a crazed candy maker giving him layers and ideals behind his love of candy. The children and Wonka seem to be at odds the moment they enter the factory but being as Wonka hasn't had human interaction in years, it isn't out of place. His sayings and quick wit responses to the children may not make as much sense to the younger viewers but parents will appreciate them. Wonka's sidekicks, the Oompa Loompas ( played wonderfully by Deep Roy) were the perfect compliment to Depp. The songs and dances, different from the 1971 version, all had a different theme and attitude which added to the difference between the children and their faults. These dances were without a doubt some of my favorite scenes in the whole movie.

In the end, you have to forget what you know about Willy Wonka and Charlie and the factory. Forget the happy-go-lucky Wilder character and indulge in a new and more faithful version of the story. The acting was all amazing, the sets were colorful and made you unsure of where to look next, as a trip to a real Wonka factory would have been like. Depp has created another memorable character along the lines of Jack Sparrow and with such a supporting cast, this movie makes a great treat for anyone.


No real surprise
Movies set in small towns in the south tend to have one of two storyline- racial tensions between white and black or a glimpse into the life of the poor town dwellers. "Dunsmore" centered around the murder of a town bully, played wonderfully by W. Earl Brown of Deadwood fame so I gave it a chance. The character he plays, Ronny Roy Pritcher, intimidates his way out of courtrooms and into getting anything he desires, including an underage girl. Within the first few scenes of the movie the audience can see every man, woman and child is afraid of him. However not much is said by the soon to be dead Pritcher so most of the movie relies on flashbacks. After Pritcher dies from multiple gunshot wounds, the press and the Attorney General's office are wondering who to blame.

Walter Taylor( Kadeem Hardison) , an Attorney General office member, is sent to look into the killing and make sure the sheriff is doing his job. His belief he's doing what's best for Pritcher, a man he didn't know, forces him to continue questioning the town to motive. It's evident in his words and actions he doesn't understand the world he's walked into but lets his ideas of justice lead him blindly. All the parts were played to perfection as when we first meet most characters their expressions and attitudes form our opinion of them. With most of the tales of people's relationships with Pritcher told in flashback it got to be a little momentous. Not to mention, after hearing the kind of man Pritcher was, what person would continue to help find him justice? I couldn't fathom it.

Even though I continued watching, I felt no real drive to find out who killed Ronny Pritcher. The stories of his brutality add up until even the viewer is hoping the Attorney General's man returns to the city and leaves things alone. From the beginning it's obvious who shoots Pritcher which left me wondering what the point of the movie was. Did the director intend for it to be a character study of the small town?

To me, this movie was well done but without twists or a shocking end, comes up short. If one wants to watch a bad criminal and bully meet their end then perhaps it is enjoyable. I on the other hand take my murder mystery movies with a little more mystery.

Dark Water

Pointless remake- why not call it Ring 3?
When I first saw the cast list for "Dark Water", I thought that it was a little odd but promising. I mean really, how many Oscar nominated let alone winners, would do a re-make? The original version, released in 2002 was called, Honogurai mizu no soko kara. Although I suppose as soon as one saw that Koji Suzuki wrote the novel this movie was based on, as well as the novel that was made into "Ringu" and it's US counterparts, they could assume they knew the story. "Dark Water" is yet another movie in the current trend of casting children as our link to the dead. All it takes is an "imaginary friend" and some creepy toys or drawings and you've got yourself a horror movie people will go see. Well now I can say I won't be one of them.

Jennifer Connelly, in her role as Dahlia, does yet another great job as a downtrodden and weary woman, much like the way she spent half of "House of Sand and Fog". Perhaps that explains her reason for choosing such an apartment complex for her and her daughter and her ability to accept leaks and loud noises coming from the empty apartment above. John C. Riley does a wonderful job portraying the sleazy cheap landlord/ building manager and Pete Postlethwaite as Veeck gave the audience yet another colorful player that further went to questioning Dahlia's mental state in choosing her home. In all honesty, no person would put up with the people and the building as much as the writer and director would have us believe. To me, the most enjoyable thing to watch was young Ariel Gade as Connelly's daughter Ceci. The two of them interacting made up the only believable part of the storyline.

In my view, if you've seen "The Ring", you've seen "Dark Water". Mother and child meets abandonment. Perhaps Mr. Koji Suzuki should go see a therapist to deal with his mother issues instead of plaguing us with another tale that so formulaic.

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