August 2006

Tube Watch

by Ian T. McFarland on August 31, 2006

in Television Reviews , Uncategorized

As far as this 18 year-old pop culture geek can tell, there’s never been a show like Nip/Tuck before.  The show takes off-beat characters and melds it around a visual flair so prominent that you’ll have a hard time which aspect of the show the creators take precedence with, the script or the photography.

Nip/Tuck
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Nip/Tuck: – The show is based around two plastic successful Miami plastic surgeons who like to think that if all isn’t well, all they have to do is perform a face-lift on life and everything will be like it was in the movies.  Of course, nothing is ever that simple, especially when you’re a sex-addict, your son stalks a trans-sexual woman or your raped with razorblades.

The show often ventures into a territory that makes it difficult to believe, but somehow the Orgies and severed hands that take place don’t alienate the audience.  “Nip/Tuck” is a soap opera of the impossible – beautiful people in beautiful surroundings dealing with the strangest of problems.  It’s as difficult to believe as the believable can be.

The fourth season, beginning next Tuesday night, looks to be a fresh start.  After a whodunit story line that often occupied entire episodes of the last couple of seasons ended last year, it will be interesting to see how Doctors McNamera and Troy will spend their free time, friendship and millions of dollars in the new season.

Nip/Tuck airs Tuesdays at 10/9 p.m. Eastern/Central Time.

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Comic Book Shelf

by Alan Rapp on August 30, 2006

in Comics

Hey there true believers!  Today the third issue of our Comic Book Shelf edition hits our newsstand.  Want to know what’s getting released today at the old comic shop but too busy, or lazy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), to bother?  Well no sweat Bat-fans as we’ve got the scoop of what comics and graphic novels are hitting the shelves today.

This week’s releases include Green Lantern, Snakes on a Plane, Jack Kirby’s Galactic Bounty Hunters, The Trials of Shazam!, X-Men, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Action Comics, She-Hulk, and more!

If your looking for graphic novels you don’t want to miss the the Absolute Dark Knight (the latest in DC’s oversized slip case hardcover series), or the new hardcover editions of Daredevil Volume 1 and Tom Strong.  If trade paperbacks are your thing there’s also Book of Lost Souls, The Essential Punisher Volume 1, and Showcase Presents: Batman Volume 1..

For the full list check inside…

[click to continue…]

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New on DVD

by December Lambeth on August 29, 2006

in DVD Reviews 

We’re here to keep you informed on hot choices for renting or buying new DVD releases. Take the Lead, Akeelah and the Bee, The Sentinel, Friends with Money, Her Majesty, Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Limited Edition (Theatrical & Extended versions), Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season – The Extra Juicy Edition, Arrested Development – Season Three & Nip/Tuck – The Complete Third Season

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Here’s what is getting released today on DVD:

Film:

Akeelah and the Bee -  Okay you’ve probably seen this film before.  A child prodigy learns of his/her gift, finds a teacher, and in training learns about him/her self and valuable life lessons.  Akeelah and the Bee isn’t the most original film, and it is more than a little contrived, yet it somehow overcomes these limitations and presents a truly enjoyable film for the whole family with some of the best ensemble child acting I’ve seen in some time.

How cool are spelling bees?  The film asks that question multiple times and the answer shifts from person to person over the course of the film including our title character.  Akeelah and the Bee actually makes the National Spelling Bee look pretty darn cool.  Now c’mon folks, that should pique your interest. Get the rest of Alan’s opinion on Akeelah and the Bee.

The Sentinel -  Nearly everything under director Clark Johnson’s (S.W.A.T.) belt is either a procedural cop show or t.v. action drama, and it shows with his latest film, The Sentinel.  This by the book thriller starts with a clever premise and then very quickly breaks what Alan & I call the ‘One Dumb Move Rule’, which trips whenever the simplest decision is overlooked for the sake of convoluting the plot.  Michael Douglas stars as an aging Secret Service man whose watched those he’s trained surpass him in the ranks, with Keifer Sutherland as his once-friend-now-pursurer who thinks Douglas is behind an assasination attempt on the president.  It’s difficult to get into the specifics of this one without giving away all the ‘twists’, but needless to say this film, while passable, runs more like an extended pilot than a cinematic experience. Get the rest of Aaron’s opinion on The Sentinel.

Friends with Money – Friends with money is…well it just is.  It’s got a wide range of good performances from talented actresses like Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, John Cusack, and Jennifer Aniston.  Problem is there’s not really any story to tie these character together.  It’s just life.

I wish Jennifer Aniston would get a new agent.  She stars in some really horrendous films and yet finds nice supporting roles in films like She’s the One and Office Space.  Then last year she finally hit paydirt in starring in one of the better films of the year in Rumor Has It, but it seems things are back to normal with the regretable The Break-Up and Friends with Money as well providing yet more disappointment for fans of the girl we fell for as Rachel Green. Get the rest of Alan’s opinion on Friends With Money.

Her Majesty – “Her Majesty” is a quaint film that warms the heart and makes the audience think about humanity. Set in New Zealand in the year 1953; it’s amazing to see the similarities between life at that place and time and what it’s like here and now. Elizabeth Wakefield (Sally Andrews), lead character, is faced with becoming a young lady, all that comes with it and more. She is dealing with her brat brother, racism against the Maori people, small town thinking, puppy love and idealizing the queen. Elizabeth thought of the queen as teens today would think of Paris Hilton, she hung posters up on her walls and put on play coronations. She had a huge crush on her drill team instructor, even though he was too old for her, and had an older brother that taunted her everyday, he could have used a good swatting or two. Elizabeth, against her father’s wishes, became close friends with a Maori woman, Hira (Vicky Haughton). She got the opportunity to learn so much from Hira; about the true history of the town and how the Maoris people had owned the land. Town folk had chastised Hira and the kids would torment her by throwing stones at her windows and calling her a witch. Elizabeth didn’t care if she would get the same treatment, she believed in truth and equality for all. She was quite a mature little girl with a clear way of thinking.

The characters are so rich and full of life and conviction in “Her Majesty”, one can’t help but to laugh and cry along with them. A fictional story that has taken it’s knocks and still found a path to the big screen and now your homes. Mark J. Gordon, writer and director, worked very hard to get the Hollywood studio system interested, but finally found himself going to outside funding. “Her Majesty” was funded completely by private individuals, this reason alone gives the film great integrity. If someone believed enough to give up their hard earned dollar, then it’s got to be worth seeing.

Special Edition:

Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Limited Edition (Theatrical & Extended versions) – Just in case you wanted to stay completely immobile for an entire like 36 hours, the perfect gift for you would be Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Limited Edition with both Theatrical & Extended versions. You know what I always say, you can never get enough hobbit in your life.

Television:

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season – The Extra Juicy Edition -  Here you have it more Desperate Housewives and now it’s even juicier. The return of the over pampered and over sexed women who portrays the most unrealistic image of a housewife. A popular hit with everyone who has ever watched it and – been there done that. Wisteria Lane, never to go with out and always on your toes. All 24 episodes on six discs and specials like meeting TV’s most iconic housewives like Shirley Jones (The Patridge Family) and Marion Ross (Happy Days), interview with creator and director and plenty of juicy parts with the housewives themselves and the men who sweat on the show.

Arrested Development – Season Three -  Jason Bateman, anybody remember him from way back when? He’s back and funnier than ever in season three of Arrested Development. Jason, with a family now, must over come and conquer everyday trials and tribulations with son, mother, father and older brother. Many actors like Ben Stiller, Justine Bateman (sis), Scott Baio and Charlize Theron accompanied the set and crew and added to the laughs. DVD set includes 13 episode on 2 discs with 19 deleted scenes and a few extended, plus a bit of commentary.

Nip/Tuck – The Complete Third Season – A weird little show, with plenty of twists and turns, of the scalpel. Sexy plastic surgeons do there thing and odd little crimes seem to appear here and there that must be solved. This season is no different than others, except it maybe a little more extreme than usual. Most of the storyline revolves around “The Carver” which is a serial rapist who mutilates his victims. Who is it and will he or she be stopped?

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This Week

by Alan Rapp on August 28, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week?  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released on Friday.  They include hip-hop street basketballers stylin’ and profilin’ in Crossover, Jason Stratham going all Rambo on everybody’s ass in Crank, and Nicholas Cage in the remake of the 1973 horror flick The Wicker Man.

We’ll also give you the scoop of films out this week in limited release like the new documentary examining the MPAA – This Film is Not Yet Rated, Lassie runs cross country again, Edward Burns’ latest Looking for Kitty, as well as the latest from Yimou Zhang titled Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

All that plus a few films in limited release hitting the big time like The Illusionist, Once in a Lifetime, The Quiet, and Trust the Man.

All that and more; c’mon in and let us get you ready for the week!

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more?  Just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look?  Just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

Opening Friday:

Crossover

Think ESPN promoting street basketball.  Um, yeah.  Silly tale of “secret” underground basketball league with their own uniforms, bling’d out court, stars, cheerleaders, and gambling.  The film stars Wesley Jordan and Anthony Mackie who get drawn into the games, money, ladies, and lifestyle furnished by promoter Vaughn (Wayne Brady).  Forgettable movie that contains a no name cast, poor acting (the “actresses” were obviously chosen for their “talents” considering their lack of talent), a ridiculous premise, but does carry a nice message about the importance of education over basketball, money, and fame.  Check back Friday for our review.

Crank

Jason Statham (The Transporter) plays a hitman on a rampage after he’s been poisoned and only has 24 hours to retrieve a doomsday device from the penal colony of Los Angeles to get the cure, and he must keep his heart rate above 55 mph or the bus will explode.  Amy Smart, Juan Pablo Cantillo, Efren Ramirez, Reno Wilson, and Dwight Yokum (?) also star.  Written and directed by the first time team of Mark Neveldine, a former stunt coordinator (The Siege), and Brain Taylor, a former cinematographer (The Mothman Prophecies).  What could possibly go wrong?  That sound you hear is two trains on a collision course.

The Wicker Man

Directed by Robin Hardy, the film stars Christopher Lee and Brit Ekland …whoops!  That was the the original!  Writer/director Neil LaBute (Your Friends and Neighbors, In the Company of Men) takes a new look at the Anthony Shaffer novel and tries to add his own spin on the mysterious disappearance of a young girl.  Nicholas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Behan, and Leelee Sobieski star.  Another horror remake?  Didn’t anybody learn their lesson from The Omen?  Though the film’s early comparisons to The Exorcism of Emily Rose do leave me a little curious just what LeBute has in mind for these characters.

Currently in Limited Release, Opening Wide on Friday:

The Illusionist

Edward Norton as a magician?  Hmmm…  A magician (Norton) uses his abilities to win the love of a noble woman (Jessica Beil) from the Crown Prince of Vienna (Rufus Sewell), who is determined to prove the magician a fraud with the help of his chief inspector (Paul Giamatti).  The big question here is can the film overcome the curse of Jessica Beil – who somehow always chooses the worst films to star in (Blade Trinity, Summer Catch, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Stealth, Elizabethtown).  There’s not enough magic in the world to kill this curse!  Opens wide on Friday (check out our review).

Once in a Lifetime (limited)

ESPN Films tells the story of the rise and fall of the first great American soccer team in the 1970’s that brought Pele to America – The NY Cosmos.  Filled with footage and music of the time, the documentary also includes new interviews as it looks back at the short period when soccer took America by storm and captured the hearts and minds of millions.  Narrated by Matt Dillon the film has appearances from Marv Albert, Mia Hamm, Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer, and more.  Soccer fans should eat this up, but will wider audiences give it a chance?  Currently in limited release (read our review here), it opens wide on Friday.

The Quiet

After the death of her father, an unpopular deaf high school student (Camilla Belle) moves in with a cheerleader (Elisha Cuthbert) and her parents (Edie Falco, Martin Donovan).  Her arrival leads to a series of discoveries as secrets and lies are exposed.  The latest from Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader) also stars Shawn Ashmore, Katy Mixon, and Shannon Woodward.  The film opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles.  An interesting but flawed film much in the same vein as the recently released The Night Listener (seriously, what’s up with Hollywood and incest films lately?).  It opens in wide release Friday (check out our review).

Trust the Man

Writer/director Bart Freundlich’s (World Traveler, The Myth of Fingerprints) latest is about a couple of friends (David Duchovny, Billy Crudup) and their screwed-up relationships with the women they love (Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal).  The supporting cast includes Justin Bartha, James LeGros, Eva Mendes, Ellen Barkin, Dagmara Dominczyk, and Garry Shandling.  Despite a near year long run at various film festivals the film has brought neither high praise, nor marketable anger.  Looks like what you see is what you get.  Currently in limited release, the film opens wide on Friday; check back for our review.

Opening Friday in Limited Release:

Lassie

What’s that Timmy?  Lassie’s stuck in yet another remake?  Oh, no!  What will we do now?  Writer/director Charles Sturridge (Where Angels Fear to Tread) goes where many have gone before in telling the story of a boy and his dog.  In a remake of Lassie Come Home, the story involves Lassie traveling hundreds of miles across the country to find her family after she’s sold to an evil and abusive Scottish bloke.  Samantha Morton, John Lynch, Peter O’Toole, and Peter Dinklage star.  It’s been years since the last attempt, will kids today even know who Lassie is?  Or care?  It opens Friday in select cities.

This Film is Not Yet Rated

Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick (

, Showgirls: Glitz & Angst) examines the MPAA, the Motion Picture Association of America, also known as those crazy people who decide what rating (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17) to give to films.  Filled with interviews from stars, directors, studio execs and more, the film tries to pen down how the MPAA decides to rate a film and why gratuitous violence is more acceptable than nudity.  Of course the documentary is unrated, which sadly means several of the big movie chains won’t screen it.  It opens exclusively in New York and Los Angeles on Friday; look for it in a fine arts theater near you this winter.

Mutual Appreciation

The second film from writer/director Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha) finds a musician (Justin Rice) trying to form a band after his arrival in New York City.  With the help of a radio DJ (Seung-Min Lee), who has her sights on him, and his old friend Lawrence (Andrew Bujalski) he just might succeed – if he can keep his obvious attraction for Lawrence’s girlfriend (Rachel Clift) a secret.  Pamela Corkey, Kevin Micka, Ralph Tyler, Bill Morrison, Tamara Luzeckyi, Kate Dolenmayer, and Peter Pentz also star.  The film opens exclusively in New York on Friday; look for a slowly widening release over the next few months.

Looking for Kitty

Writer/director/actor Edward Burns (She’s the One, The Brothers McMullen) gives us the story of a New York high school basketball coach (David Krumholtz) who searches for his missing wife with the help of a private eye (Burns) dealing with the loss of his own wife.  The only clue is a newspaper photograph of a rock star and his groupies, one which just might be Kitty.  Connie Britton, Rachel Dratch, Max Baker, Elizabeth Regen, Max Baker, and Craig Carlisle also star.  Expect Burns trademark traits including loving shots of the Big Apple and snappy dialogue.  The film opens today in limited release. 

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Qian li zou dan qi)

Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) puts away the swords and special effects for a more personal tale.  A father (Ken Takakura) attempts to make amends with his dying estranged son (Kiichi Nakai) who refuses to see him by traveling from Japan to China to video tape an opera star’s legendary performance and complete his son’s documentary.  Presented in both Mandarin and Japanese, with English subtitles and was filmed on the Yunnan peninsula in China and in Tokyo, Japan.  The film opens today in limited release; look for it in the coming weeks at an art house near you.

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Invincible

by Alan Rapp on August 25, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Invincible is a nice little film.  More about relationships and dreams than football, the film tells the true story of a part-time bartender who earned a chance to play professional football, and how achieving his dream changed the world of everyone around him.  A little sappy?  Maybe, but it’s and engaging, passionate, and well made film that will pull you in and entertain you.  It’s the perfect family film for the summer.

Invincible
4 Stars

The film starts out with the credit sequence to an old Jim Croce song, so I’m set.  Invincible makes all the right small decisions in tone, scope, story, and character.  What easily could have been a cheap movie of the week sports story (see Peaceful Warrior) becomes an engaging film about friendship, love, and chasing you dreams.

Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) is an out of work substitute teacher scraping by with part time shifts at a friend’s (Michael Rispoli) bar during the depression of the mid-1970’s in Philadelphia.  He comes home to find his wife (Lola Glaudini) gone and has to ask for the help of his father (Kevin Conway) to pay the rent.

Philadelphia is in a crisis of its own.  The Eagles have become the laughingstock of the NFL.  Fresh from his experience in college, new head coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) is brought in shake things up.  One of his first orders of business is to have open tryouts to motivate his team and the community into caring about football. 

Papale’s friends, who play a regular pick-up football game, get him to try out and a funny thing happens…he gets a chance to make the team.

In film about football there’s actually not much football.  The focus is in on Papale and his friends, the hard times they are forced to go through, and how his one chance ends up turning all their lives around. 

Of course there’s your obligatory love story as Papale falls for his friend’s cousin (Elizabeth Banks), a die-hard New York Giants fan – which provides two of the best jokes of the movie.

The other, lesser, focus is on Vermiel.  Sometimes Hollywood casts a part perfectly, and I can’t think of another actor better suited to play the tough, heart-on-his-sleeve coach than Greg Kinnear, who does a great job.  Paige Turco also gives a nice performance in the small role as his wife.

Based on the true story of Papale and Dick Vermeil, it’s a touching, if a little bit schmaltzy, tale.  If you enjoyed films like Miracle and The Rookie then put your sights on this one and drive to the hole ‘cause this one’s right up your alley (that mix-up enough sports metaphors for you?).

There aren’t too many football scenes, but those included in the film are shot and cut together well; you can actually see the action rather than the current quick-cut Hollywood trend.  The Eagles/Cowboys gave was actually filmed in Cowboy Stadium, which is pretty cool, though nitpickers like myself will notice the current type of Astroturf wasn’t invented yet.

A final note to families, the film is rated PG, and with scenes that take place in locker rooms and bars, there’s a surprisingly lack of any “bad” language in the film.  It’s a film that parents can feel good taking their entire family to and get to see a good movie at the same time.

A perfect family film for the summer.  I’d recommend it to any and all, even those who don’t understand or care for football.  It’s a story about being given a chance to do something great and actually achieving it.  If you ask me we need all the dreamers, and luck, we can get these days.

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Festival of Beer

by Alan Rapp on August 25, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Broken Lizard’s track record since Super Troopers has been pretty damn abysmal.  Club Dread (ugh!) and The Dukes of Hazzard (ugh!!) both stuck up the screen almost wishing you were watching a superior picture with Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan (almost).  Well the dry spell’s over folks, and it comes with the appropriate title too.  Beerfest certainly isn’t the smartest comedy of the year, but it’s pretty darn funny, and easily the best beer film since Strange Brew.

Beerfest
3 & 1/2 Stars

The same dumb funny humor that made Super Troopers a hit is back.  Too be fair, both Club Dread and The Dukes of Hazzard had half of that equation, they just forgot the funny.  But that’s all in the past.  Get ready for Beerfest!

Taste’s Great!

After the death of their grandfather (Donald Sutherland), two brothers (Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske) travel to Germany with his ashes.  There they discover the secret underground competition known as Beerfest.  Teams of five from countries around the world compete in different events to crowned champions every year.

After being humiliated and thrown out of the competition, the pair decide to put together their own American team and return a year later to kick some ass.  They round-up three old friends (Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Jay Chandrasekhar), each with a specific beer related skill, and spend the next twelve months training (and getting really drunk).

The film isn’t exactly, or in any way, highbrow.  But lowbrow humor can be just as effective if done well.  It has the feel of a Mel Brooks’ comedy in its tone (and casting Cloris Leachman in one of the supporting roles).  The film that it can be most compared to is Strange Brew.  If you liked that type of humor then crack open a bottle, ‘cause this one’s for you.

The film also contains subplots about the grandmother (Leachman) and the true ownership of the Von Woflhouse Beer Factory.  Really the plot is just there to allow the crew to insert as much beer humor as possible (which turns out to be a few dozen kegs worth).  There’s nothing subtle here; the comedy is straightforward and in your face.  There are some clever references to other films including Rocky III and Fight Club as well.

Chandrasekhar still finds ways to draw out relatively unfunny jokes too long, but there are nowhere near as many of those as in his last two films.  Though not as funny as Super Troopers, it’s a huge improvement that will help wash the bad aftertaste of the group’s last two films out of your mouth.

Is it a great film?  No, but it’s damn funny.  Broken Lizard needed to show me something with this film to prove they weren’t just a one-hit wonder, and they did.  Raise you mugs, lads and lasses, and take a long swig of Beerfest.  Mmmm…foamy.

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All Style and No Substance

by Alan Rapp on August 25, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

A musical about Prohibition?  That stars hip-hop stars?  Oh, dear.  Idlewild is never quite what you expect it to be, but then it’s never quite what you want it to be either.  Too long, overly ambitious, and with some very poor MTV-like music video moments, the film keeps falling down, and eventually you stop caring if it gets back on its feet.  And for a musical it’s severely lacking in good, or even appropriate, music.  Still, there’s some nice performances and camera work for those not interested in silly stuff, like a coherent plot.

Idlewild
2 Stars

Take one part Harlem Nights and mix it with two parts Moulin Rouge! and you end up with something like Idlewild.  And if I have to see one more film where the most beautiful and talent woman, not only falls for, but, chases after the talented, introverted, shy character, who lives with his parents, I think I might riot.  There’s fantasy, and then there’s fantasy.

Percival (Andre Benjamin) works with his father (Ben Vereen), a drunken, broken, and bitter man, at the funeral home.  At night he works as a piano player at a local speakeasy run by his childhood friend Rooster (Big Boi).  Rooster runs things at the club for Spats (Ving Rhames) until he meets a bitter end by a younger, and more brutal, gangster looking to take control of the action (Terrence Howard).

There’s also a young lounge singer named Angel (Paula Patton) who, almost from the very second of her arrival, begins a relationship with Percival, Percival’s relationship with his father and his dreams to be a performer, Rooster’s relationship with his wife (Malinda Williams) and daughters, and his mistress (Paula Jai Parker), and the club run by the corrupt Ace (Faizon Love) supplied with liquor by Spats, and the politics inside the club between the local diva (Macy Gray) and Angel.  Oh, and there’s Angel’s secretive past, too. 

Get all that?  You might want to take a scorecard with you.

In terms of plot and storytelling the film is just a mess.  There’s so much going on that you keep jumping from story, to story, to story.  While this may keep you on your seat, unable to guess what will happen next, it also has the unintended effect of only barely skimming the surface of any of these plot threads, let alone the characters that inhabit them.

As a musical the film borrows heavily from Moulin Rouge! by using modern music, here hip-hop and some rap, in the period of the 1920’s.  The effect is bizarre and different, but not necessarily entertaining.  Nor is the filming of musical scenes, those that don’t take place on the club’s stage, in a music video style that is glaring different from the rest of the film.  That combined with the director’s odd foot fetish, he just loves focusing the camera on feet, may help give the film style, but what it really needs is substance.

For fans of filmmaking there are few interesting pieces.  The cinematography and intriguing special effects, used to give the film its syle and help tell the story, are two of the better aspects of the film – including some wonderfully creative visuals.

I give all the credit in the world to writer/director Bryan Barber for attempting to do something different.  I do think he watched Moulin Rouge! a bit too much, however.  His main failure here is trying to jam an entire mini-series of separate plots and stories into a single two hour film.  It just doesn’t work.  That, along with the music video scenes, and the lack of any specific tone throughout the film, make it impossible for me to recommend it.  I am interested to see if he learns and grows as a filmmaker, and just what his next project, or two, will be.

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Fortune Cookie Warrior

by Alan Rapp on August 25, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

If you want to see a better film about gymnastics wait about a month and rent Stick It.  A much more interesting, funny, dramatic, and real, look at the subject than the poor man’s self-help guru wannabe – Peaceful Warrior.  This film on the other hand is a real dud, but if you like characters who talk like Yoda’s dimwitted cousin, dispensing simplistic self-help advice in short catchphrases, then maybe this one’s for you.  The film has been playing in limited release and finally opens wide today.

Peaceful Warrior
2 Stars

The film has a nice message that may resonate with those of a religious persuasion (though there is no actual religion in the film) or those that love to buy self-help books.  The message, however, is so poorly presented that it’s impossible to take seriously when all were given is a series of simplistic sentences, which would be more at home inside a fortune cookie, attempting to sound more meaningful than they are.

Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz) is a god among men.  The collegiate gymnast rules his world coasting through classes, being treated like a rock star, and bedding a different willing lady every night.  But he’s not happy.  One late night Dan stops at a local gas station and meets a strange old man (Nick Nolte) who begins to open his mind to the philosophy of the peaceful warrior. 

After Dan is injured in a motorcycle accident this odd man he’s named Socrates, we never discover his real identity, helps heal his spirit and put him back on the path to go after what he wants.

I have to stop for a moment and share some questions with you.  Do you know a college where gymnasts are the biggest studs on campus (and the only athletes)?  Why does no one go to class, open (or even carry) a textbook over the course of the film?  If all that is injured is Dan’s leg, and his sport only uses his upper body muscles, why is everyone so willing to give up on him?  Just who, or what, is Socrates anyway?  The film has no answers for these questions.

We get the obligatory mentor/student disagreements as well as montages (at least five of them) of Dan training, both as warrior and gymnast.  The obligatory love interest (Amy Smart) who cares for Dan as a person, not just because he’s big man on campus is, of course, present as well.

There are a few “borrowed” scenes you’ll probably recognize.  Dan faces the evil half of himself in what I assume was a dream (see Superman III).  In truth I’m not sure even the filmmakers themselves knew which scenes were real and what were illusions, and with so many of them you can be sure you won’t either.  In another scene Socrates teaches Dan by having him clean toilets and scrub floors – leading to a lesson (see The Karate Kid).  Thanks Mr. Miyagi.

Now let me get to my major complaint with the film.  The “philosophy” of Socrates is cobbled together from Obi-One Kenobi and Yoda, the aforementioned Mr. Miyagi, self-help books, and fortune cookie wisdom.  In many places you’ll find yourself either groaning or struggling not to laugh at such unintentionally funny moments.  Here’s the wisdom of the film boiled down for you:

“The journey is its own reward”
“Be mindful of your surroundings” (my young padawan)
“You must unlearn what you have learned”
“You will understand when you are passive, at peace”
“Wax on, wax off”
“Everything is connected” (trough the Force perhaps?)
“Do or do not, there is no try”
“Clear your mind”

I’m not saying those are bad slogans, or that the messages in them might not hold some truth.  We’ve actually seen this work in much better films (like the ones they were stolen from).  But the way they are presented – by a wise Nick Nolte, who is all dolled up to look like Santa Claus on the Atkins diet – just doesn’t work on film.  It’s hard to take anything seriously when you are busy trying not to snicker and groan.  You might also notice the none-too-subtle crucified Jesus pose Dan keeps finding himself in while practicing on the rings.

One last technical note.  The film seemed cheaply made, was often dark and hard to make out details, and appeared stretched too far on the screen losing some of its clarity.  It’s possible these were problems with the projection I saw and that cleaner and brighter prints are available.  Those technical faults, added to my other issues with the film, didn’t help my opinion of the experience.  However, even a flawless print or digital projection would do little to improve my opinion of the film.

The film was made from Dan Millman‘s book about his, I’m assuming widely exaggerated, real life experiences.  Maybe Millman did meet a ghostly angel who taught him wondrous things and could fill his mind with visions.  Maybe the simplistic self-help slogans work better in print than on film.  I’m sure fans of Millman’s will be angry and attack me for not understanding his philosophy, but they would be wrong.  It’s not that I don’t understand it (hell, it’s so simple a four year-old could understand it, much less a college athlete who should already know how to clear his mind during his routines), it’s that I prefer real philosophy rather than cookie cutter self-help versions like this.

The film just doesn’t work.  There’s too many laugh out loud moments that should be inspiring or at least dramatic – like the “awe” shown on Millman’s coaches and friends when he performs in the moment (rather than hiring a good gymast to do the routine).  There was a much better film about gymnastics that came out earlier this year called Stick It (available on DVD September 19th) that I’d advise you to watch instead.  Let me leave you with a short fortune.  “Happiness will come from seeing a different film.”

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The Weird News

by Alan Rapp on August 24, 2006

in Uncategorized

Weird Item #1: Well folks your political correctness has officially gone too far.  Tom & Jerry are under attack.  The cartoon mouse and cat who have entertained people of all ages for decades are being censored due to a single complaint about the pair smoking a cigarette (in Oscar winning episode, by the way!).  Thank you media watchdog Ofcom for overreacting with such speed and force.  Other cartoons like Scooby Doo, The Jetsons, and The Flinstones will also have to cut out any objectionable content that might encourage smoking (though cartoon violence isn’t an issue?).  Thanks for not letting a free America do something crazy – like think for themselves.

Weird Item #2: Snakes in a theater?  A few fans decided to release rattlesnakes in a theater in Phoenix, Arizona.  The movie that was playing?  Yep, you got it, Snakes on a Plane.  Reports vary on the incident, but one thing is certain – this stunt was even dumber than the movie, though not quite as dumb as our Weird News Item above.

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Weird Item #1: Well folks your political correctness has officially gone too far.  Tom & Jerry are under attack.  The cartoon mouse and cat who have entertained people of all ages for decades are being censored due to a single complaint about the pair smoking a cigarette (in Oscar winning episode, by the way!).  Thank you media watchdog Ofcom for overreacting with such speed and force.  Other cartoons like Scooby Doo, The Jetsons, and The Flinstones will also have to cut out any objectionable content that might encourage smoking (though cartoon violence isn’t an issue?).  Thanks for not letting a free America do something crazy – like think for themselves.

Weird Item #2: Snakes in a theater?  A few fans decided to release rattlesnakes in a theater in Phoenix, Arizona.  The movie that was playing?  Yep, you got it, Snakes on a Plane.  Reports vary on the incident, but one thing is certain – this stunt was even dumber than the movie, though not quite as dumb as our Weird News Item above.

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Tube Watch

by Alan Rapp on August 24, 2006

in Television Reviews , Uncategorized

So you want to know what’s happening on your box of wires and lights, huh?  Well don’t fret, we’ll keep you up to date.  Last weekend comedians gathered to toast, and roast, William Shatner.  Here’s what happened…

Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner
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Jason Alexander was chosen to host Comedy Central’s roast of the man who was Captain James T. Kirk.  Along with bringing the original captain’s chair from the Smithsonian, Alexander and his fellow comedians brought plenty of funny.

“All your friends are either dead or want nothing to do with you.  To be fair I’m a little of column A, and a little of column B.”

—Betty White

Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner – There may not be in actor more beloved than William Shatner who at the same time is so ripe for an event like this.  In a no holds barred event, friends (George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Farrah Fawcett, and Leonard Nimoy) and countless comedians (Jeffrey Ross, Kevin Pollack, Fred Willard, Greg Giraldo, Lisa Lampanelli, Patton Oswald, and more) came up to rip Shatner a new one for his stilted dialogue, music career, Priceline.com ads, and anything else they could think of.  In what would be Comedy Central’s highest rated original program so far this year, the dirty, racist, sexist jokes flew; nothing was off-limits. 

Much went as expected, Shatner took some shots on stage, Andy Dick went crazy, and everyone had a fun time.  The highlights of the night included Ben Stiller’s video “tribute” to Shatner and Takei explaining how he was scarred as child due to the duo, Kimmel and Silverman’s short shot at Priceline.com, Jason Alexander’s opening speech as Roastmaster, and Shatner’s own rebuttal trading back barbs with his roasters and thanking everyone for a good time.  Live long and prosper Mr. Shatner, and continue going where no man has gone before.

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