Rocky Balboa? Seriously? The world of boxing needed a warrior with great heart and determination, and this is all they could come up with? Or maybe someone in Hollywood needed a story for a film and they just couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t conjure up anything original. Either way, the Italian Stallion is back for one more round in Rocky Balboa, the sixth film in a series that started with glory and has since been knocked around a bit.
There is a strong likelihood that critics, and some fans, wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give Balboa a fighting chance this Christmas, seeing as there will be plenty of other films out there to see. Plus, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen the trailer to this flick, then you can pretty much guess how it goes down. Rocky mopes around Philadelphia, mourning the death of Adrian while the current heavyweight champion of the world, Mason Dixon, is loathed by fans due to a lack of competition. Leave it to ESPN to stir the pot a bit by showing a virtual fight between has-been Balboa and current champ Dixon in which Rocky wins. Throw in some sports agents keen on making that almighty dollar and all of the sudden a bout is born, and Rocky must once again find a way to get back up after being hit so hard for so long.
Now there are plenty of reasons not to see this film; the hokey story about a fight coming out of a video game simulation, the fact that Rocky would be well into his fifties by now and even the fact that Sylvester Stallone has chosen to write and direct. The last time Stallone wrote and directed a Rocky flick Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Rocky IV. He won a Razzie for worst director that year. Needless to say, this film is instantly going to take jabs from every angle.
But if you do happen to take a chance on Rocky this holiday season, and you can bear the first two thirds of the film, you will be aptly rewarded. The film starts out extremely slow, showing the bum that used to be Rocky Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a man that sits at his dead wifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grave daily, takes a depressing tour each year of all of the historical places of his life and never gets to see the son that is trying to get out from underneath his shadow. It is just plain depressing to watch at first, but it is ultimately palatable. The reason why is because, in classic form, Sly Stallone still has that Rocky charm. He goes from being a slouch one moment to an uplifting monologue about being a champion the next. He is still a bit slow, still very socially awkward and yet he is still very lovable.
That lovable old Rocky is what carries the first two thirds of this film, keeping the audience interested until the moment weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve all been waiting for Ã¢â‚¬â€œ until it is time to rumble! All at once, the music blares and the training montage, a classic element of Rocky glory, begins and leads us all the way up to the big finale Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the big fight between the champion of the past and the champion of the present.
The fight scene is uplifting, showing that the Rocky movies still have the ability to give me butterflies in my stomach and make me cheer. It is a finish that makes up for what the rest of the film lacks. So if you need help deciding whether or not to take a chance on this version of Rocky, allow me to help Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I say take the chance. Stallone still has what it takes to make Rocky the peoples champ, and while the film is by no means a knockout, it will certainly be right there Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtil the final round.
By: Neil Miller
In Premonition, Sandra Bullock plays an apathetic housewife whose world is turned upside down when she finds out that her husband has been killed in a terrible car accident. To make matters worse, she wakes up the next day to find out that the accident has not yet happened, that it was only a premonition. After seeing this film I believe that I too have had a premonition. What did I see in the future? I saw that this film will draw in a decent audience this weekend at the box office, then proceed to disappoint it.
Why is such a good turnout expected? Simply because there are plenty of ladies out there who are either tired of seeing nothing but family comedies (a la Wild Hogs) and blatant guy movies (300) filling their local Cineplex. And when they see that Sandra Bullock is starring, they immediately associate that with a sappy romantic storyline. Sadly they are in for a rude awakening when they discover that the closest this film gets to romance is the near rekindling of flames lost through years of stale married life between BullockÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Linda and her soon to be dead husband Jim (played by Nip/TuckÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Julian McMahon).
Now the lack of romanticism in this flick is not quite enough to steer audiences away, as it is being marketed as a psychological thriller about being able to see into the future and make moral decisions based on those future events. The only problem there is the fact that in order to successful execute a decent thriller, you must be able to lead your audience down a path, surprise them and then at least explain what the heck is going on by the time the credits roll. This is where Premonition fails miserably, with an ending that is not even worth spoiling because it is so bad. It is one of those movies that, when the credits do finally arrive, you are forced to look at the screen and say Ã¢â‚¬Å“Huh?Ã¢â‚¬Â
And it is not bad enough that the ending had to make absolutely no sense, the entire rest of the movie has to follow suit. The story takes place over the course of a week (Sunday to Saturday), but the days are lived out of order by Linda. One day she wakes up and it is Thursday, the next day she wakes up and it is Monday. This is not altogether an uncommon way to tell a story Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in fact it is quite a unique premise with the potential to be very interesting if done well. The only thing that can go wrong is that if you are not consistent then your story falls apart. In the case of Premonition, if you take all of the days and separate them, then put them in the right order they would make absolutely no sense. Certain plot points never quite connect from one scene to the next, causing us to become detached from the story and annoyed with its inconsistencies Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and that just doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make for a fulfilling night at the movies.
In the end there really isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a way for me to stop people from seeing this flick no matter how certain I am that they will be disappointed. It is a simple suspense flick absolutely devoid of a payoff Ã¢â‚¬â€œ unless you consider utter confusion and a stale taste in your mouth to be a good payoff for a Sandra Bullock movie.
By: Neil Miller
Chris Rock thinks he loves his wife. To top that, he also has the delusion that he has what it takes to make his fans love him for more than just being a comedian. He is under the impression that he is also a good writer and director Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a thought that has him headed for disaster.
That potential disaster is a little film called I Think I Love My Wife, which coincidentally was written, directed and stars the iconic comedian as a bored married man who is no longer intimately acquainted with his wife and it is starting to get to him. Rock plays Richard Cooper, a successful financial broker with a wife (Gina Torres), two lovely children and all the problems that every married man is faced with Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a monotonous routine and worst of all, no sex. The no sex part is something that Richard was learning to deal with, that is until the day that Nikki (Kerry Washington) popped into his life.
The old flame of a close friend, Nikki comes to Richard with the need for a job reference and the penchant for being a home wrecker. She is outgoing, uninhibited and sexy from head to toe. And on top of that she begins to show some interest in Richard, something that is the ultimate fantasy of any bored married man. NikkiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only problem is that she is a bit over-the-top with her desire for Richard, to the point where you begin to remember that she is a fictional character Ã¢â‚¬â€œ because we all know that in real life, hot young women are just not that into stale husband-types.
This over-the-top characterization, in conjunction with Chris RockÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exceedingly energetic brand of comedy creates a movie that plays out more like campy sitcom than a silver screen comedy. That makes sense seeing as the two guys who wrote it, Chris Rock and Louis C.K. are both knee deep in their own popular television sitcoms. And as if that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bad enough, the film goes through a bit of an identity crisis. It is easy to see that the minds behind this film wanted to make a more serious satire about the woes of marriage and the temptations of fate. But instead they get scared that maybe their audience wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t buy that, causing them to reach for laughs instead of writing an intelligent flick.
The film does get some laughs however, thanks to its leading man Chris RockÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s natural ability to be funny no matter what the situation. Steve Buscemi also lends a hand in the comedy department as RichardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s philandering business partner. Sadly though, a few laughs here and there arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t enough to make this a good choice on any level. Chris Rock is funny, yes. And I will buy every comedy CD he ever puts out. But thanks to I Think I Love My Wife, the next time I see his name next to the words Ã¢â‚¬Å“Written and Directed byÃ¢â‚¬Â, I may just look for something else.
Borat came to the U.S. and A to make a movie-film. He wanted to learn about the Ã¢â‚¬Å“greatest country in the worldÃ¢â‚¬Â and make a documentary to benefit his homeland of Kazakhstan. The result? To say the least Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a film that shows off how not so great America is; and a man, Sacha Baron Cohen, who has quite possibly exposed himself as the funniest man on the planet.
As the sex-crazed, Jew hating, tactless Borat, British comedian Baron Cohen lights up the silver screen with hijynx, and stuns his audience with painful amounts of laughter. The film is an outward gesture of gratuitous irreverence, following Borat as he travels through America, meeting with some of the most unbelievable characters that our country has to offer. From the edgy New Yorkers who threaten to kick his ass on the subway to the anti-homosexual, gun toting Bush-ite Rodeo manager who advises him to shave his mustache to make him look less like a terrorist to the Right wing Evangelists that try and save his soul and introduce him to Jesus Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it is America that seemingly becomes the butt end of each joke. The film, on some higher level of genius on the part of Cohen, exposes some of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“lowsÃ¢â‚¬Â of American culture Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a tragic but hilarious sight to be seen.
Another hilarious sight comes at the expense of the lead man himself, and his antics that keep the audience laughing from bell to bell. To be honest, I have not laughed this hard at a film in a long, long time. From his mannerisms to the audacity that he has for showing some skin, Cohen makes every single minute of this film funny. And just like any other comedy, there are moments where the humor must take a back seat to plot development, but not for long in this case. It seems as if every 2 minutes Borat is finding some way to get himself into some predicament that leaves the audience laughing so hard that they are on the verge of having an accident.
But what makes Borat so special is not just CohenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s uninhibited way, but how well the film works on a whole. Just as Cohen has paraded around from interview to interview never breaking character for a moment, the film does the same. From minute one it looks like a Kazakhstani documentary, and it never breaks its stride even for a moment. The production values can sometimes be inconsistent, making it easy to tell which scenes were stages and which were Ã¢â‚¬Å“on the flyÃ¢â‚¬Â, but that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take away from the filmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to be absolutely hilarious.
And it is that factor, in the end, that is the overriding truth of BoratÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s movie-film: it is 110%, indisputably hilarious. You have to be able to handle some gratuitous male nudity, some anti-Semetic jokes and of course Ã¢â‚¬â€œ lots of painfully true forms of Americana, but in the end you will laugh your ass off. While Borat himself may be a bit ignorant to the ways of America, his creator and the man behind the mustache is a genius when it comes to making America laugh.
By: Neil Miller
Director David Fincher has delivered some of the more intensely dramatic movies of the last 10 years. Se7en, The Game, Fight Club and Panic Room all come to mind. This fact alone would be enough to lead us to believe that his latest serial flick, like Se7en before it, would be a rollercoaster of twists and turns leading up to a shocker of an ending. It turns out that Zodiac, based on the real life killer that plagued San Francisco in the 1970s, is anything but a shocker. In fact, we already know how it is going to end, but that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean that we wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to watch it anyway.
Zodiac stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) as Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who would eventually go on to write a few best selling books about the infamous Zodiac killer. The story follows GraysmithÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s journey from looking over the shoulder of crime beat reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) to working with Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) years later as he worked to uncover the true identity of elusive Zodiac. The elusiveness of the Zodiac was only heightened by the fact that he would taunt the public of the Bay area by writing letters to the papers or calling into television talk shows to profess his love for murder. The spectacle was enough to put the entire city of San Francisco into a state of terror for over a decade, its denizens cautiously awaiting the next sign of the Zodiac, or worse yet, the dead body.
It seems odd to make a film about a real life serial killer whose case is still open and to this day remains unsolved, but David Fincher pulls it off as only he can. The tension of the film continues to build from one letter to the next, one murder to the next, and while we know it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t lead to anything we are intrigued nonetheless. FincherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s style is also unmistakable in the film. Visually he uses long, slow pans over the city and some cool camera angles (birds-eye view in some spots) to give the film a constantly fresh feel, helping to dilute the fact that the flick is almost 3 hours long. Also complimentary is the score, which has a funky, light beat that gives the film a much needed rhythm. These things are signs of FincherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s immaculate attention to detail, a trait that sets him apart from your average director.
Another sign of his attention to detail and ultimately another reason why the film succeeds is some superb casting. Robert Downey Jr. steals much of the film despite the fact that his character fades away toward the end. He is as erratic as ever, displaying a sharp wit that gives the audience something more than just Jake GyllenhaalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boyish good looks. Gyllenhaal, an actor of whom I am not normally a fan, plays the naÃƒÂ¯ve Robert Graysmith quite well. Graysmith was the boy scout to AveryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spastic attention whore, and Gyllenhaal nails it with a sense of innocence that seems natural even though it is at times a bit of an annoyance. The rest of the cast falls into place very well, including Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards, who have great on screen chemistry as the pair of inspectors tasked out to find the Zodiac.
Ultimately my only problem with a film like this is a two-fold affair. On one side, the film is painfully long at 2 hours and 40 minutes. If you have an self diagnosed case of ADD like myself you will find your eyes burning and your mind wandering as the film wears on. But despite the length of his film, Fincher pieces together a story that does not loiter, it just has a lot to say. Sadly based on much of the story, this film could have been longer. Heaven forbid they ever come out with a DirectorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cut a la Oliver StoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Alexander.
The other inherent problem I found with Zodiac is that it is hard to get behind a film which you know has no real ending. We know that they are not going to catch the killer, we know that the case is still a mystery today and yet we are somehow interested in it anyway. Could it be that we are so enamored with real life serial killers, or is it that we just want to freak ourselves out that the real Zodiac may still be out there? No matter what your reason, I would recommend giving this one a look. Just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t plan on being home early.
By: Neil Miller
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s play a game called Ã¢â‚¬Å“Which one of these doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t belong?Ã¢â‚¬Â I will give you the names of 4 Hollywood actors and you tell me which one doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit with the others. John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy. If you said Martin Lawrence, then you may be a racist. If you said William H. Macy, then you are still wrong. The answer is all of them. They all donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t belong, especially when it come to making a movie about middle aged men dealing with their mid-life crisisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ by heading off on a cross country motorcycle trip. In fact, prior to making this middle-aged man on bike-a-thon, these four actors had never even met. What they found in their newly acquired kinship may be a movie so laugh out loud funny that it will surprise you; at least, I know it surprised me.
Up to their handle bars in their unfulfilled and clichÃƒÂ©d lives, these Wild Hogs decide that it is time to take to the open road where only freedom (and plenty of trouble) lie ahead of them. Doug (Tim Allen) is a dentist whose son has no respect for him because he is Ã¢â‚¬Å“lameÃ¢â‚¬Â; Bobby (Martin Lawrence) is the classic house husband, bossed around by his wife and ignored by his deviant children; Woody (John Travolta) is a washed up talent agent whose supermodel wife left him to be bankrupt and alone with his Harley; and Dudley (William H. Macy) is a computer programmer whose dating skill set is on par with that of a brick wall.
The four take on the open road, mostly seen riding through the open spaces of the American Midwest, which is aptly filmed by Director Walt Becker (Van Wilder) and Cinematographer Robbie Greenberg (The Santa Clause 3) and supported by a soundtrack mixed with riding music from the 70s (FoghatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Slow RideÃ¢â‚¬Â) and the 80s (AC/DCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Highway to HellÃ¢â‚¬Â). It is much of what you would expect from a movie where 50% of the 99 minute run time is watching four guys ride their hogs on a lonely highway.
What you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect is the infectious brand of comedy that this foursome delivers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ with the help of some interesting characters of the open road, of course. Among those interesting characters is a brief encounter with a nefariously gay highway patrolman, played by the constantly scene stealing John C. McGinley (Office Space). Also among those interesting characters is Jack (Ray Liotta), a hardcore biker and the leader of a gang called the Del Fuegos. After a quick run-in with the Del Fuegos that results in the blowing up of their biker bar, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“HogsÃ¢â‚¬Â find themselves no longer on their way to the free, open roads and more or less on the run.
Of course they seek to find a way out of their mess, bond together and break free of their mundane existences to prove that they are still young at heart. But you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care about that, nor will you care about it when you see this movie (and hint, hint: you should see this movie). What you will care about is the fact that this predictably sappy plot yields some surprisingly ruckus comedic moments, all at the hands of its four bikesmen. Travolta is a bit zany, Allen is oblivious, Lawrence is full of attitude and William H. Macy is just unnecessarily geeky. Yet when you combine them all, you pretty much end up laughing your ass off. And you will, in fact, laugh your ass off. And youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be glad that the folks who made this one didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play that old game of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Which one doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t belong?Ã¢â‚¬Â
By: Neil Miller
The Last time Jim Carrey and Joel Shumacher teamed up to make a movie, we got Batman Forever Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the film that began the downward spiral of an entire franchise. That is, until the franchise was later reinvented by Christopher Nolan. The last time Jim Carrey ventured away from his trademarked brand of comedy, we saw brilliance in Michel GondryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So what would happen when Shumacher and Carrey team up again, this time to make a drama about a manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plunge into obsession and paranoia. Well, you get a film that is more on the Eternal Sunshine side of the spectrum, at least momentarily.
The film starts out as the harmless tale of Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey), an arid middle aged family man whose greatest source of adventure is tracking down animals as a member of the local pest control office. Happily married with a wife (Virginia Madsen) and a son (Logan Lerman), Walter has as little reason for stress as he does adventure. That is, until one night when he comes across a book titled The Number 23. The book tells the story of Fingerling (also played by Carrey), a rogue detective whose world is turned upside down by the coincidental nature of the number 23, a nature that has brought murder and suicide to anyone it plagues. As Walter reads the book, he realizes that he and Fingerling are not unlike each other, but are eerily similar in many ways. He begins to draw parallels between what should seem like a fictional world and his own reality, sliding him deep into a state of paranoia.
That state of paranoia is what drives the film to a level of creepy that will make your skin crawl. A well cast Jim Carrey takes his character from homely to homicidal in mere moments as WalterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s world begins to corrode at the hands of a number. CarreyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s usual brand of theatrics are missing as he honkers down and aptly shows us a character whose thoughts are twisted and who is losing his grip on reality. Virginia Madsen plays his wife, who goes almost blindly along with the paranoia as Walter begins to think that the murders happening in the book may have happened in real life.
As it turns out, the murders did happen in real life, just not quite as Walter would initially figure. The whole thing is just one big twist and turn away from being an utter shock-fest. The only problem is that the film never takes that last step and The Number 23 falls victim to the fact that it must explain its own twisted logic. Joel Shumacher, showing us what he does best and then showing us why we hate half of his movies, shows no restraint in the story telling, allowing the film to drone on about how the number 23 is a mark of evil and that its coincidental nature will drive someone to murder.
In the end, we get a film that draws us in for the first 80 minutes only to let us down in the last 15. We are sucked into a terrifying and intense story then we are given an ending that just doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit. Think about the most suspenseful flick you have ever seen, and then picture it with a docile, chipper ending. That is what you get if you see The Number 23. Had the director pushed the razor sharp edge of the film all the way to the end, we would be interested. Unfortunately for us, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. My recommendation Ã¢â‚¬â€œ go see this one in theaters, just leave with 15 minutes to go.
By: Neil Miller