|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Picks and pans from the Hollywood holiday season
Skyfish a homegrown hybrid
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Picks and pans from the Hollywood holiday season
Any Given Sunday
The testosterone oozes from the screen in Oliver Stone's latest epic, Any Given Sunday.
Chronicling a fictional football team, the Miami Sharks, Stone's movie deals with the corruption and greed that mars professional football. At the same time, this film also champions the honour and glory which manages to thrive in this insidious environment.
An Oliver Stone film is as hard to spot as an elephant cowering behind a tree and Sunday is no exception. The scenes of the football games can be likened to a shot in the gut never has the action on a football field been documented so precisely. Complemented by a soundtrack which features top rock and rap stars, the game action is breathtaking.
The film also features some fine acting from Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, James Woods and LL Cool J, some overacting from Cameron Diaz and many appearances by ex-football stars. However, the film's real revelation is Jamie Foxx in a role which should kick his career in the ass.
Bicentennial Man has a really, really cool poster and a really, really good actor. Unfortunately neither the ad campaign nor Robin Williams can save the movie from being thoroughly unexceptional. The narrative is interesting, however, in that it follows the timeline of Andrew (Robin Williams) and not his mortal creators reaching well into the future by its conclusion.
From the beginning, it's obvious that Andrew is not your average android. Irregular positronic wiring gives him the ability to think logically and grow intellectually. He begins to ask philosophical questions and journeys to find his place in a world where he is sentiently alone.
The biggest problem with this tale of Tin Man triumph is that it locks Williams into a pretty boring character. A master of electric scatter-brained wit, Williams is never allowed to leave the movie's scripted boundaries.
The movie is marginally successful as a love story and as a tale of triumph of the spirit, but it does not tread on any virgin soil in doing so.
The Green Mile
While it's been said everything Tom Hanks touches turns to gold, in this case, it's a heartwarming, spiritual story which glimmered before he did.
Hanks and an incredible ensemble cast may polish this tale to a brilliant shine, but it's the story and the hope within it which leaves an indelible impression on the audience.
Hanks plays a prison guard in the 1950s who polices inmates sitting on death row. An exceptionally large and somewhat slow African-American by the name of John Coffey (note the initials) is brought to Hanks' block, convicted of murdering and raping two little girls. After a series of miraculous occurrences, Hanks recognizes Coffey as a messenger and challenges his guilt.
Although the movie runs at a fairly monotonous pace for over three hours, the result is a wonderful story in its purest form. There are no bells and whistles which accompany the acts of miracles only spiritual overtones created so carefully, they'll touch the soul of the world's largest disbeliever. This is an incredibly uplifting, intelligent movie, deserving of every minute it illuminates the screen.
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo showcases the comedic talent of Rob Schneider, who starred in and co-wrote the film. The title character is a simple fish tank cleaner who dreams of making enough money to move out of his bad neighbourhood to a beachfront home.
After losing his job at the Los Angeles Aquarium, he is hired to clean the fish pond at a luxury Malibu apartment where he meets Antoine Laconte (Oded Fehr), a successful gigolo. Needless to say, hijinks ensue and Deuce ends up getting sucked into the gigolo business which leads to many hilarious encounters. The film is non-stop laughs with one comedic moment after another.
Adam Sandler acts as executive producer, which fits because the film's comedic style is similar to Sandler's trademark stupidity. The end result is a film not likely to make you think, but guaranteed to make you laugh.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The one thing this movie proves is that a brilliant director, talented actors and gorgeous scenery cannot save a flawed story.
Set in Italy, Matt Damon stars as Tom Ripley, a man who is supposed to be capable of impersonating anyone he meets. He befriends Jude Law, a spoiled rich kid cavorting around Europe with girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow. As the relationship between the three develops, Ripley's deep-seeded psychosis is revealed and he uses his talents to escape the consequences of his manic actions.
The direction in the movie is fabulous. Anthony Minghella's cinematic style is subtle, but powerful and worthy of many awards. Although the performances are strong as well, there is one major flaw in the character of Mr. Ripley which ruins a large portion of the movie he's not talented.
Most of his victories are won from sheer luck, not because he's some master of disguise. This is supposed to be the most intriguing part of his character and it's constantly underplayed. This large oversight unfortunately detracts from an otherwise formidable movie.
Galaxy Quest is a joke and a pretty funny one at that.
In a send-up of all that is Star Trek, the film follows the cast of a long-cancelled space travel show. Unable to shake their characters or their adoring fans, the actors are forced to headline fan conventions to earn a living. As the cast teeters on the brink of despair, they are suddenly whisked into outerspace to help battle space aliens, in a misunderstanding which is preposterous and humorous.
The cast of the film, which features Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tony Shaloub, is obviously having fun with their roles. Allen hams it up ‡ la Shatner, Weaver is a frustrated bimbo and Rickman adds some Picard-like pompousness. The film's other bright spot are the alien creations which are nothing short of hysterical.
While the film spoofs shows and films like Star Trek, it never does so maliciously. Galaxy Quest tackles its subjects lovingly and realizes that, ultimately, everyone has a little bit of the "Trek" in them.
Man on the Moon
This long-awaited biopic was a surprisingly heartfelt and touching account of the dubious and oft-misunderstood life of Andy Kaufman.
Carrey delivers an Oscar-worthy performance that apes Kaufman's mannerisms right down to his trademark eyeball flares. In other turns, DeVito is likable as Kaufman's frenzied yet loyal manager and Love does her typical "wife of a dead famous guy"
routine to passable results.
While some have claimed the movie fails to give real insight into Kaufman's mindset, the underlying theme of the film is expressing the exact opposite sentiment. "People don't know the real me," Carrey moans in one scene. "There is no real you," corrects Love. It's meant to be the fundamental message of the movie and it rings true.
However, that's not to suggest you don't come to love Kaufman for what he was an enigmatic, curious and strangely revolutionary comedian. A succinct and potent little film.
One of the biggest films of the Christmas season also featured the smallest hero.
The movie opens with an only-child family, appropriately named the Littles, considering adoption to complete their household. When they go to the adoption house, none of the children really stand out. It only takes one encounter with Stuart, a well dressed talking mouse for them to choose him to become the newest family member.
As a metaphor for accepting physical differences, the story works because of its lovable little heroes Stuart (equipped with the voice of Michael J. Fox), George Little (Jonathan Lipnicki) and a fleet of cool cats (including the voices of Chazz Palminteri and David Alan Grier). The film also works because of the screenwriting adaptation skills of M. Night Shyamalan.
At heart, Stuart Little is a quest tale for the kids, with Stuart trying to get home from adventures in Central Park. Interesting animatronics, but otherwise typical.
The Cider House Rules
With recognizable but by no means top-selling names, a simple story and relatively subtle marketing, there is a chance that The Cider House Rules will be swept under the theatre rug only to be trampled by the other big holiday contenders. This oversight would be unfortunate, however, as this Lasse Hallstrom film is definitely worth seeing.
The story follows the life of orphan Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), who grows up under the fatherly care of the orphanage doctor, Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine). Eventually Homer grows up, discovers women, war, conflict and all other stuff that is the real world.
At the heart of the movie is a coming-of-age message, yet it manages to keep its integrity by avoiding any formulaic snares. It really can't be described as anything more than a really nice story which is wonderfully acted and sure to make you both smile and sniffle.