Volume 94, Issue 59

Tuesday, January 9, 2001


Tinseltown's holiday season wrap-up

Xzibit A: Restless

Tinseltown's holiday season wrap-up

Cast Away
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

Capitalizing on the popularity of last summer's TV series, Survivor, Cast Away takes audiences back to that tropical island paradise.

Tom Hanks finds himself in isolation after a Federal Express plane goes down one night in the Atlantic ocean. Left with only a few supplies – including a Wilson volleyball, figure skates and rope – Hanks must find a way to sustain himself while he desperately waits to be discovered on the rock.

With incredible visuals, the film is a breath of fresh tropical air for those of us who could not afford white sands this holiday break. There are also some intense action scenes involving the initial plane going down, as well as Hanks battling the tide and elements in his homemade raft.

The movie does present some difficulties for the audience, especially when it comes to getting used to the island's deafening silence. Hanks, however, soon begins to go a little insane and a dialogue begins between himself and his new found volleyball friend, Wilson.

In the end, Cast Away is very entertaining, but it's not up to any of the Oscar talk rumoured around Hollywood. The ending leaves the story wide open and gives a powerful message to all those surviving their own struggles: keep going because who knows what the tide is going to wash in tomorrow.

–Wes Brown

Vertical Limit
Starring: Chris O'Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton
Directed By: Martin Campbell

Is there any villain better than nature? No one really beats nature, except with the help of God.

In Vertical Limit, Chris O'Donnell stars as Peter Garrett, a National Geographic photographer whose sister Annie ends up buried in an avalanche after joining millionaire Elliot Vaughn and Tom McLaren in an attempt to climb K2, the world's second largest mountain, to promote Vaughn's next great entrepreneurial endeavour.

Peter assembles a motley crew of misfits, which includes recluse Montgomery Wick, the greatest K2 climber ever. Together, they square off against the mountain. Then there's the nitroglycerine, a volatile substance that explodes at a moment's notice and has the potential to free the doomed climbers.

And explode it does, blowing up and killing most of Peter's rescue team in all sorts of ways.

Vertical Limit is as simple as it sounds; it's a generic action movie set on a mountain. The story is predictable, the special effects are top notch and the stunts are realistically impossible. This movie is a no-brainer and thinking only makes it worse – if it was so hard to get up the mountain, how much easier could it be to get down?

Of course there's always the old "intervention of God" card, which is the only way this movie's ending makes any sense.

– Sean Maraj

Gazette File Photos

What Women Want
Starring: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt
Directed By: Nancy Myers

At some point in everyone's life, there comes a time when you would trade anything to know what members of the opposite sex are really thinking. For Mel Gibson, his time comes in the new comedy What Women Want.

The movie is a fairly conventional romantic comedy that works nicely, but is by no means extraordinary. Gibson plays Nick Marshall, a charming but chauvinistic executive who finds himself one-upped by his new boss, played by Helen Hunt.

The story's twist comes when Gibson electrocutes himself in the bathroom, giving him the ability to hear women's thoughts. What he discovers is that women don't think highly of him in the least, despite his good looks and come-ons.

Still, Gibson uses his ability to his advantage by verbalizing all of Hunt's ideas before she has the chance, therefore making himself look better in front of the boss. From there, the movie twists and turns until the pivotal final scene where Gibson comes clean to Hunt and declares his undying love for her.

As a romantic comedy, What Women Want works quite well. Gibson and Hunt have considerable energy and Gibson is especially entertaining during the first few scenes when he hears women's thoughts. The supporting cast, including Alan Alda and Marisa Tomei, is strong, but Alda's pretentious glasses have to go.

– Matt Pearson

Proof Of Life
Starring: Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe
Directed By: Taylor Hackford

Although it is undoubtedly steps above the rubbish that Jerry Bruckheimer churns out year after year, Proof Of Life is yet another example of the general lack of good action movies these days.

It tells the familiar story of a woman's (Meg Ryan) attempt to retrieve her husband after he is abducted by guerrillas, with Russell Crowe as the man Ryan hires to do the job. Predictably, while negotiating her husband's release, Crowe falls for Ryan and she for him.

Crowe does a decent job in the picture, playing the same stone faced guy he does in all of his movies. With Ryan, there's nothing in her performance that distinguishes it from her turns in her last few movies. That said, she remains so incredibly kinetic and adorable that it is a pleasure to watch her.

Interestingly, it was on the set of Proof Of Life that the real-life romance between Crowe and Ryan began, but onscreen, the pair projects nothing in the way of chemistry. In the end, that lack of chemistry seems to be the problem with the picture on the whole.

While it does possess some solid performances and fine action sequences, the lack of real surprises fails to spark the imagination and leaves Proof Of Life as nothing more than a nice effort on the part of everyone involved.

–Aaron St. John

Gazette File Photos

Miss Congeniality
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine
Directed By: Donald Petrie

It seems Miss America has finally met her match in a beer-guzzling, tomboy FBI agent, ironically named Gracie.

Hollywood favourite Sandra Bullock plays tough-minded agent Gracie Hart, a woman who prefers boxing to beauticians. Gracie is convinced by her fellow agents to go undercover at a beauty pageant in order to catch certain members of the criminal fringe.

Enter Michael Caine, a fabulous hair and fashion consultant who views Gracie as the Mount Olympus of makeovers. After endless primping and plucking and waxing and tucking, Gracie is finally ready to fill the shoes of Miss New Jersey. Incidentally, she also trips all over the place in those damn shoes.

Despite her inhibitions and preconceived notions of beauty pageant contestants, Gracie actually finds herself developing friendships with the other girls, while simultaneously impressing the panel of pageant judges. As her friendships become stronger and romance develops between her and her FBI partner, played by Benjamin Bratt, Gracie gets closer to solving the case.

Clearly, Bullock reaches her vast comedic potential in this role, even going so far as nabbing herself a Golden Globe nomination. The rest of the cast is also entertaining, especially Caine who plays the fashion maven with such flair that one might think he knows a thing or two about all things vain.

The bottom line with Miss Congeniality : If you go in expecting Oscar material, you may be disappointed, but if you go in expecting to laugh, you won't be sorry.

–Matt Pearson

The Family Man
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle
Directed By: Brett Ratner

Director Brett Ratner is something of the "it" boy in Hollywood these days, having produced two big successes with his first two films, Money Talks and Rush Hour. With the financial success of The Family Man, it seems as though he will continue to be feted by the big studios, but one has to ask the question: Why?

Hardly the "new Christmas classic" it is being heralded as, The Family Man is simply a twist on the It's A Wonderful Life story of a man being shown what life would be like if he had just made a few different choices.

In this case, Nicolas Cage plays a successful broker on Wall Street who is given the opportunity to catch a glimpse of how things would have turned out had he stayed with his college sweetheart (Tea Leoni). He is instantly transformed into a middle class family man and, although he hates his new life at first, he gradually begins to appreciate it.

Once a great actor, Nicolas Cage has become the hammiest over-actor in the business. He demonstrates his initial disbelief and disgust with his new life by gulping down scotch and squinting at everything. Later, when he begins to enjoy himself, he walks around with a dopey grin that presumably is supposed to say "I'm so happy," but just looks...well, dopey.

Cage aside, The Family Man does have its plusses, particularly the performances from Leoni and Don Cheadle as the mystical yet cocky figure who sets the whole thing in motion.

–Aaron St. John

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