Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Longest Yard

Rating: C+

This is a remake of a movie that was released back in 1974. I have never liked remakes. I just want someone to come up with an original idea for a change. It seems that Hollywood would rather look back and have bad history repeat itself than look forward and be innovative.

Having said that, this movie is ok, not horrible but not great. Or even very good. We are introduced to Paul Crewe, played by a bored Adam Sadler, an ex-Pittsburgh Steeler player who has been banned by the NFL for allegations of point shaving and betting(Pete Rose anyone?). He was never convicted but the game has apparently left him behind. He has now become a alcoholic boy-toy for Courtney Cox in her first post-Friends role. She is very rich and popular, but we never find out exactly why. Paul decides he doesn't need her and steals her beloved Bentley for a joy ride. After a hilarious cameo from ESPN's Dan Patrick, Crewe wrecks numerous police cars and ends up violating his parole and it's off to jail. He is sent to a Texas prison where abuse of the prisoners is apparently required. He is brought there by the football fanatic warden(James Cromwell) to assist the prison guard football team, which has fallen on hard times. Eventually the idea comes up of a guard vs. prisoner game comes up, and we're off and rolling with numerous musical montages, potty humor, and super slo-mo action sequences. Burt Reynolds appears as an old convict/coach. Cameos abound from all sorts of folks. From ex-wrestlers looking for a paycheck(Bill Goldberg, Stone Cold, Kevin Nash; easily stealing the show from the others when his steroids are switched with estrogen) to ex-football players looking for a paycheck(Brian Bozworth, Michael Irvin, Bill Romanowski). Nelly also throws his gold grill into the rapper-turned-actor ring.

The moral of the story comes out during the big game when Crewe is told to throw the game. In his moment of redemption, will he throw the game like he has done in the past, or will he actually play to win no matter of the consequences? We're expected to cheer for the cons because as we all know, comedy movie prisoners are really not that bad after all, so let's get behind them. Chris Rock is there doing what he has done in every movie, stand-up, commercial, or whatever he's been in. He notes that blacks and whites are different and then proceeds to beat that into the ground. Give us a break.

One funny moment at least for me, was the appearance of David Patrick Kelly as the prison snitch. For those of you old enough, he was Sully in the 1985 classic, Commando. "Remember when I promised to kill you last?' 'Yeah Matrix, you did!' 'I lied!". ahhhh.

We're expected to cheer for the convicts and it's not hard to do, but in the end, a few laughs and some bone crunching sounding football will have you heading for the nearest Blockbuster to rent the 1974 classic. Will it make money? Yeah sure. Will it knock off Star Wars? Don't think so.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith

Rating: A-

Ok, I finally got around to seeing the third installment of the prequels after it had made $158,000,000. First off, I would strongly recommend watching the Cartoon Network's Clone Wars series before seeing Episode III. It bridges the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith perfectly, and it explains a lot of what is happening in the third movie. It leads right up to the events at the beginning of the movie. The droid army leader, General Grevious, has kidnapped Senator Palpatine. Obi-Wan and Anakin go to rescue him, and Anakin eventually is twisted by Palpatine/Darth Sidious into what we know as Darth Vader. The overall tone of the movie was very sad, which is a good thing. It's just what this movie needed. Even though we know what fate awaits Anakin, we do hold out some glimmer of hope that he will see the error of his ways and go back to the light side of the force. I do wish that Lucas had rolled most of what was in Episode I and II into one movie and had this one be episode II and had one more. Taking all that into consideration, this was one of the best movies I have seen in a while. Very dark and ominious, it sucked me in and I was sitting forward throughout the last half of the movie, wanting more. Hayden Christensen really comes into his own as a more brooding Jedi. His fits of anger and his eventual slaughter of the Jedi was pulled off with an erie calm combined with a smoldering passion. I wish he had struggled more and suffered more before joining the dark side. It seemed he went from preaching the Jedi code on minute to bowing before Darth Sidious the next. Ewan McGregor *is* a young Obi Wan. He has always captured that role with much zeal, and in this episode, playing the tortured mentor of the one who will take down the Jedi, he truly shines. Ian McDiarmid really steals the action as the evil, plotting Darth Sidious. He is very enjoyable to hate when you watch him manipulate Anakin with promises of enternal life for his wife Padme, whom Anakin has dreams of her dying in childbirth. Natalie Portman spends most of her time crying and that's ok. She needs to cry with everything that happening to her husband. The movie culimates with a fantastic lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. It's one of the best fight scenes in the whole Star Wars saga. It's intercut with a battle between Yoda and Darth Sidious in the Senate Chamber. The special effects are flawless, and story is compelling, and Jar Jar appears onscreen for only about 7 seconds. Lucas surley has found the force with this one. We can only wish that he had had it for the first two prequels. I will be seeing this one again if not two more times. A very good conclusion to the Star Wars saga. Episode III is worthy of being called one of the best Star Wars movies ever. See you at the theater!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Kingdom Of Heaven

Rating: C

Review: Kingdom of Heaven is a long movie, and it feels even longer. We meet Legolas, I mean Balian (Orlando Bloom, very brooding this time around) after his wife commits suicide. He seems to be suffering greatly. He does a great thoughtful stare into the distance. His long-lost father appears from the crusades to try to recruit Balian. At first he refuses, but eventually, he finds himself on the road to Jerusalem to find forgiveness. He arrives there rather rapidly (minus a father also), and that's when the movie slows to a crawl. Balian takes over his father's land, grows some crops, falls for a princess, and then gets involved with the crusades after all. You almost forget the crusades are going on at one point. Through backhanded dealings with the leader of the Knights Templar, some Muslims are slaughtered, bringing the conflict to a boiling point at the city walls of Jerusalem. Balian is the leader of the people inside the walls due to the fact that everyone else of somewhat importance is incapacitated. In a large battle very reminciant of Lord of the Rings, Balian leads the troops in the fight with the overwhelming forces of Saladin.

Orlando Bloom does a decent job in the movie of staring off into space, but it seems at times the he is longing for his fellowship buddies to come to the rescue. Liam Neeson is decent as Balian's father, even if his part is short. The only really shining part in the movie is Tiberious the scarred right-hand man of the king, played very well by Jeremy Irons.

All in all, I would say while the battle scenes are great on the big screen, this one is a renter. It's very long and the big screen excitements are few and far between. Save your money and see something you know you'll enjoy.