October 2005

The Weather Man

by Alan Rapp on October 28, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Who doesn’t want to see Nicholas Cage get pelted with food?  The Weather Man is an enjoyable, if somewhat uneven character study of a man who rules the world on green screen, but who’s life is falling apart off camera.

The Weather Man
3 & 1/2 Stars

The Weather Man is an intriguing little piece of cinema.  It has wondrous, hysterical, moving, and thought provoking moments and yet the film is somehow less than all the great pieces put together.  It’s a hard movie for me to review, because so much of it I enjoyed, and yet not all of it fits together as well as I’d like.  It’s definatly worth taking a look at, and it’s one of those movies that will become highly quotable, yet I left feeling like it was just slightly unfinished.

“People throw stuff at me sometimes”

David Spritz (Nicholas Cage) is on the fast track to success.  He works as the weather man for a local Chicago affiliate and has a good chance to snag the national job on hugely popular morning program with Bryant Gumbel (playing himself).

Yet with all this success David is unhappy.  He is separated from his wife Noreen (Hope Davis), who is dating a dildo named Russ (Michael Rispoli), and alienated from his two kids, Mike (Nicholas Hoult) and Shelly (Gemmenne de la Pena), who are both sliding into unhappy lives of their own.  David is also dealing with the poor health of his father Robert (Michael Cane) who is the paragon of success that David has never been able to measure up to his entire life.

Also for some reason David is not well liked by a portion of the viewing audience.  In fact many of them enjoy throwing food at him as he sits in his car or is walking down the street.  Why you ask?  David wonders to, and has many theories on why people would throw an apple pie or Big Gulp at him.

One of the strengths of the film is the inner monologue of David; the movie has the feel of a novel in that way.  It gives us insight to how the character sees himself and his relationships, understanding why he does some of the, well kinda’ insane, things he does.  We also get to hear the wild thoughts and tangents that David’s mind goes through which give us some of the best lines of the film.

The performances are very good all the way around.  David is the most normal character Cage has played in some time, and because it is Cage who we’ve seen do odd things on film before it makes it easy to buy some of David’s odd behavior.  I was also happily surprised to see Gil Bellows in a surprising turn for the guy I still think of as Billy from Ally McBeal.  Caine is great as usual, and the kids, especially de la Pena, hold their own against this great cast.

I obviously enjoyed the film, so why do I have reservations?  Well there is really too much happening; too many different little stories are all being told at the same time.  We’ve got Mike and the counselor, Shelly and her fashion driven nickname (though the scene with Cane telling Cage about the situation is superb), David and Noreen trying to get back together, Noreen and her boyfriend Russ, trips to the archery range, the new job opportunity, the ailing health of David’s father, the food scenes, David’s dialogues with the meteorologist and his “fans.”  It would make a really interesting novel, but there’s just too much here to fit into less than two hours of time.  Many of the stories get short changed because there just isn’t enough time to explore them all.

Moments of perfection, yet stretched out and jammed together into such a short space, give the result of a good movie that you just know with the proper editing could have been great.  It’s worth seeing, and my biggest complaint is so much of what is good is wasted and never fully realized.  What we get is somewhat uneven, but enjoyable and a rather interesting look at the life of The Weather Man.

Zorro Part Deux

by Alan Rapp on October 28, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Well, if you liked 1998’s The Mask of Zorro you will probably enjoy this long awaited sequel.  Not great by any means, but a pretty good dumb summer fun movie to see this fall.

The Legend of Zorro
3 Stars

Way back in 1998 Zorro, the sword wielding, bullwhip snappin’, hero to the downtrodden of California, returned to the big screen in The Mask of Zorro.  Now 7 years later a sequel has finally been made.  So how is it?  Well if you liked the first one you’ll probably enjoy this one as well.

Zorro (Antonio Banderas) has been swashbuckling his way through California as the champion of the people.  California is in the final stages of joining the United States of America, and as promised Zorro is looking to retire.  But wait, there is still evil afoot; despite the insistence of his wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) our hero cannot bring himself to hang up the mask.

The villains looking to stop California’s induction into the Union include a duke who is also a knight of a forgotten order and former flame of Elena’s Armand (Rufus Sewell), and dirty rotten good fer nuthin’ killer McGivens (Nick Chinlund) and his seemingly never ending posse of nameless thugs with guns and swords.  There’s also a Confederate officer and a plot to help the South win the Civil War, the Pinkertons, Elena as a spy….(yawn) um, never mind.

I enjoyed the first movie but not enough to pick it up on DVD.  This movie has the same qualities of the original and sadly the same faults as well.  This world is completely black and white, good and evil.  The moment a character first appears on the screen even the slowest member of the audience knows whether they are a good guy or a bad guy.  Also the film is about thirty minutes too long (the run time is a whopping two hours and fifteen minutes) which could easily have been paired down in the editing room.

The action scenes are huge and explosive, but I had the same reaction I had to in the first movie, Zorro isn’t about boom.  It’s a slight miscalculation that takes away from the swashbuckling of the tale.  There are many small mis-steps like this.  Also disturbing to me was the amount of time Adrian Alonso gets as Zorro’s rambunctious son that has all his father’s moves and athleticism, is the smartest member of the household, gets into everything, and yet somehow hasn’t figured out where his father goes when Zorro appears.  And if the kid they cast to play him was any cuter I would have gone into insulin shock.

There are themes that have carried over from the Zorro history.  Zorro’s secret is shared with a confidant in the church, the soldiers are all bumbling fools, bad guys somehow misplace their rifles or pistols when Zorro is in close proximity (even if they had them in the frame before, now they are holding swords).  Jokes from the last movie are revived, the relationship between Zorro and his horse Tornado, and the bickering and fighting of Elena and Zorro.

There are quite a few funny moments but most, like the first movie, are cheap laughs that won’t hold up for multiple viewings.  The plot about a knight of Europe wanting to destroy America with soap (no you didn’t misread that) is never really thought out and provides as much head scratching as explosive action scenes.  The rift between Elena and Zorro is really poorly thought through, and never really believable.  I understand they wanted to recapture some of the fighting between the two from the first movie, but there are many other ways this could have been accomplished.

The film is fine, slightly better than your average big dumb action movie.  It’s nice to see Banderas and Zeta-Jones reprise their roles, though for a sequel that took 7 years to make, I was expecting a better film.  Just ask yourself how much you enjoyed the first movie, since this is essentially the exact same thing, and you’ll know what to expect going in.

The Legend of Zorro

by December Lambeth on October 28, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

If you were fond of the first Zorro, but wish it was longer then this is the film for you. The Legend of Zorro is almost identical to its predecessor minus Anthony Hopkins. Entertaining at times and longer than the stunts and fun should have went on, Zorro delivers good clean family fun. There is excitement around every corner and full on chemistry between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas. It was nice to see a family twist added to the characters, the accompaniment of their son was a fresh look to the series; he was cute and always up to mischief.

The Legend of Zorro
3 Stars

If you were fond of the first Zorro, but wish it was longer then this is the film for you. The Legend of Zorro is almost identical to its predecessor minus Anthony Hopkins. Entertaining at times and longer than the stunts and fun should have went on, Zorro delivers good clean family fun. There is excitement around every corner and full on chemistry between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas. It was nice to see a family twist added to the characters, the accompaniment of their son was a fresh look to the series; he was cute and always up to mischief.

Zorro follows suite to his identity unable to give up the fame and glory of saving the people, but has promised his wife that he will move on and become the family man she has been waiting for the past 10 years. In the belief that his identity has not been discovered he felt his family would always be safe with the secret, but finds if his identity falls into to the wrong hands his secret will crush his family. Of course, the wrong type discovers his identity and his wife is forced to divorce him and go undercover to protect everything she holds dear. Discovering what she was up to took Zorro a bit of time, but as soon as the truth comes out and his son discovers his true identity it’s the family to the rescue, they ultimately save the world from the evil European duke and his band of unmerry men.

Zorro should be viewed for what it is, just good clean fun, not an Oscar contender. It’s great to see a lighthearted attempt at entertainment in such a mess of serious and odd films trying to go for the gold.

Capote

by Alan Rapp on October 28, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

An interesting and well made character study with terrifc performances by the entire cast, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role…yet Capote fails in the same way many biographical films of recent years as, in the end, we are left appreciative but unfulfilled.

Capote
4 Stars

Capote is the latest biographical film that provides a wonderful juicy role for an actor, this time for Philip Seymour Hoffman.  The film is well shot and pieced together, and cleverly cast with great performances.  Yet….there is something missing.  Although this is a very good film, almost completely overshadowed by Hoffman’s performance, it never becomes the great film it aspires to be.

One Cold Blooded Bastard

The film looks at Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) during his period of researching and writing his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood.  Traveling to Kansas with him is his friend and confidant Harper Lee (Catherine Keener).  Capote interviews the town sheriff Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) and his family about the murder of a local family.

Two men are arrested and charged for the crime, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino).  They are tried and sentenced to hang for the murders.  Capote befriends Perry and gets them a new lawyer to file an appeal in order to keep the two alive long enough for him to get the full story of the murders for his book.

Capote uses everyone until he gets what he needs and then tosses them away like used tissue.  After he has what he needs from Perry and Dick he abandons them to the legal system hoping that their execution won’t be put off too long because it would interfere with his ending for the book.

As with many recent bio-films, such as The Aviator and Man on the Moon, we get an interesting but hollow movie.  The subjects are somewhat interesting, but we are left with the nagging question “Why was this film made?” 

Capote shows the events of his life, but gives us no reason to make any emotional investment in the outcome.  He is such a self-centered user that it is hard to care for him, yet the film doesn’t go far enough for us to hate him either.  The most likable characters of the piece turn out to be the killers, which I doubt was the original premise for the film.

The film points out that Capote was never able to finish another book after the events described in the movie, but we are never really shown the effect of the events on him over time.  What we are shown throughout the film is a person that is totally self involved and can detach himself from any situation or responsibility.

There are many positives here as well.  Hoffman dominates the screen as Truman Capote, although it did take me a little time to get used to his cartoonish dialect.  Keener is an inspired casting for Harper Lee and I wish she had a bigger role in the film.  Bruce Greenwood has a nice supporting role as Capote’s better half.

The film is shot and edited with a certain flair.  We get long sweeping shots of the desolate Kansas “wilderness” compared to the busy 24/7 party of New York City.  The scene of the execution is in particular is very well, pardon the pun, executed—truly jarring.

There are many reasons to see Capote.  Although the film never quite clicks on all cylinders for me, it works on many levels and is quite a good movie.  Hoffman will no doubt get strong Oscar consideration for his work, but although the acting is one of the best aspects of the film I noticed that none of the actors give the best performances of their careers; odd but true and not unlike the life of Truman Capote.

Absolute Brilliance

by Aaron on October 24, 2005

in Comics

In 1986, Alan Moore shook the comic book world with his 12 part series “Watchmen”.  Not content to merely re-examine the idea of costumed heroes, Moore destroyed the established ideas and built up a clearer, more human interpretation of what it means to be a hero, and what effect those heroes would have on the world.  This sprawling tale of love, conspiracy, idealism, and fanaticism hit readers like an atom bomb, with much of the force provided by Dave Gibbons stupendous illustration work.

20 years later, DC has given Watchmen the Absolute treatment, re-packaging it in an oversized hardback that gives readers a clearer view of Moore’s brave new world.  Included are Moore’s original notes for the series, as well as his biographies of the characters along with Dave Gibbons original sketches.  This is a must have for fans of graphic novels and well-written sci-fi alike.  There’s a reason this is listed among the greatest books of the last century.

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