Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Billion-dollar baby

Scorcese makes a film you’ll enjoy, if not admire

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Martin Scorsese gives cinephiles everywhere a holiday present with The Aviator, his lavishly gift-wrapped biography of the young Howard Hughes. While not without its flaws, Scorsese’s film is a three-hour epic that literally flies by, boasting technique to spare and a stellar turn from Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Beyond the Sea

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Perhaps they should have titled this film: Kevin Spacey’s Beyond the Sea. The late ’50s and ’60s crooner Bobby Darin gets the shaft in his own biopic, as Spacey insists on being the star of the show. That said, the film does offer a lovely stroll down memory lane, with some truly glorious song-and-dance numbers. If you can forgive Spacey’s raging egoism, the swingin’ big band renditions alone make the price of admission worthwhile.

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Too clever by half, this latest outing by Wes Anderson — the deadpan wit behind Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums — fails to tell a coherent or powerful story. Bill Murray struggles valiantly to breathe life into his underwritten character, but fails against a tidal wave of droll sight gags, eccentric supporting characters and distracting stop-action animation. The film proves that all the whimsy in the world can’t cover for an undercooked narrative.

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Fat Albert

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Beyond a few trips down memory lane, there’s not much here for purists who remember waking up with the Cosby kids every weekend. Bad script calls include the remaking of characters: Dumb Donald hits the library and Mush Mouth is taught to speak proper English. Cosby’s on an increase-the-dignity mission! For folks younger than 20, however, the gang’s new look won’t seem troubling.

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Darkness

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Featuring a tangled, poorly written plot about a haunted home in the Spanish countryside, Darkness is a prime example of the disaster that ensues when a director attempts to integrate all of his favorite scary movies into one poorly conceived mess. Director Juame Balagueró’s heart was in the right spot in his attempt to emulate films such as The Sixth Sense and The Others, but he’s completely failed to find a voice of his own.

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Chastity

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

“Meet Chastity … She’s a bummer, a loser, a cop-out and a dropout!” Hmm, guess they left out a scamp, a camp and a bit of a tramp. Just in time for the fourth year of Cher’s farewell tour, MGM has released on home video, for the first time...

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Double take

Pondering the question of individuality

Posted By on Wed, Dec 29, 2004 at 12:00 AM

José Saramago, Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese novelist, has many astounding gifts — none more disarming than his uncanny ability to sharply widen our field of paranoia. Like Kafka, Saramago can take an absurd premise and imagine it so thoroughly, in a world so indistinguishable from our own, that it becomes...

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The not-so-dirty show

Somewhat off-color and mildly inappropriate, *Sick & Twisted* doesn’t live up to its name

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2004 at 12:00 AM

There’s something going on with this year’s annual roundup of supposedly “sick and twisted” animation that may portend the demise of this once-satisfying and unique presentation of dirty shorts, über-violent critters and turn-your-head-away shockers. When hippie-in-a-blender jokes and a fly that does a shitty re-creation of Tony Montana’s last moments against the “cockroaches” in Scarface is your idea of sick and twisted, the words lose their meaning. Oh well, maybe next year.

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Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2004 at 12:00 AM

This adaptation of the first three Lemony Snicket books is a triumph of production design. Director Brad Silberling has imagined a beautiful and fantastical world where things constantly go wrong for the Baudelaire brood. Jim Carrey stars as Count Olaf, the kids’ fiendish and inheritance-hungry uncle. Depending on your level of tolerance for Carrey’s mugging, you will either relish every buffoonish moment or be thankful that the film relegates his showboating to the sidelines, opting instead to focus on the never-ending plight of the unfortunate orphans. Fast-paced, funny, but not nearly morbid enough, there are worse ways to spend two hours.

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Flight of the Phoenix

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2004 at 12:00 AM

A remarkably buff and toned Dennis Quaid stars in this dopey-but-enjoyable remake of the 1965 stranded-in-the-desert adventure. Despite some annoyingly trendy techniques and an even more annoying sound track, director John Moore generates some admirably old-fashioned suspense. But it’s Giovanni Ribisi’s left-field supporting performance that truly rescues the film from anonymity.

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