An archive of film reviews, also known as the "Rental Bin"
50 First Dates - February 2004

"What more could a lothario want than a ravishing blonde who forgets the previous day's events when she falls asleep? Just think of the possibilities... Adam Sandler has, and in his new feel-good flick, 50 First Dates, rejects them all when that ravishing, eternal one-night stand turns out to be the girl of his dreams."

"For decades, Little League baseball has been much more than a youth's introduction to America's favorite pastime. Filled with caring, altruistic coaches, leagues nurture young minds and bodies, providing lessons in teamwork and fair play. Little League ball is the stuff of fuzzy, warm memories, where every game -- won or lost -- ended with a "Good game" from the coach, an "Attaboy" from dad, and a slice of mom's apple pie."

"The Battle of Shaker Heights is not a good film "for a low-budget movie," it's not a good film "for a film-school type of movie." The Battle of Shaker Heights is a good film, period -- pairing a gifted, unknown screenwriter with excellent performances by "name" actors. "

"One of this summer's most anticipated comedies -- a remake of that classic 60s TV staple, Bewitched -- has all the ingredients of a very potent spell. This homage to the late Elizabeth Montgomery has star power, courtesy of Will Ferrell, Nicole Kidman, Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine; the wonderfully gifted Nora Ephron is at the director's helm; and the film has a pretty novel concept for a plot: a studio attempting to recreate Bewitched for 21st century television, while dealing with an incredibly egotistic actor and a very unexpected wild card."

"Beyond the Sea is not your typical rock-star tragedy biopic, not a La Bamba or Buddy Holly Story. Rather, it's a portrait of a man who managed to live three lifetimes in 37 years, a somewhat non-linear encapsulation of a career that spanned from teen idol ("Splish Splash") to nightclub icon ("Mack the Knife," "Beyond the Sea") to disillusioned folk singer ("Simple Song of Freedom")."

"I winced as I was driving down the road the other day, listening to one of Don Rickles' old Vegas stand-up routines. I can't imagine the comedian still roasts the same subjects -- Jews, blacks, Mexicans, women -- as pointedly as he did 40 years ago. Politically incorrect humor is a much tougher sell to a mainstream audience nowadays. One must have a fresh approach, a different context, a means of disarming the audience before lowering the boom."

Bruce Almighty - May 2003

"In Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey has the first Christian-friendly comedic role of his good-taste-challenging career. Actually, the film has a non-denominational appeal -- if one could overlook some minor sexual content and a Capuchin monkey crawling out of a man's ass. However, it may offend those belonging to sects that solely embrace a Caucasian Creator."

Bulletproof Monk - April 2003

"If I could make a big-budget, Hollywood kung fu movie based on a popular comic book and with Chow Yun-Fat as its star, it wouldn't resemble Bulletproof Monk (MGM) -- opening in theaters nationwide April 16 -- in any way. Then again, my credentials and experience hardly match that of director Paul Hunter, a prolific music-video and commercial creator whose biggest claim to fame is the direction of Moulin Rouge's "Divas" video.

Casino Royale - November 2006

"When it came time for creating and casting a new 007 flick, producers must have had quite a dilemma on their hands. With Pierce Brosnan gone and Connery untouchable, who to reasonably emulate? The debonair, tongue-in-cheek Bond, Roger Moore? The dry-witted, intellectual Bond, Timothy Dalton? The sleek, sophisticated Bond, Mr. Brosnan? Or the ruggedly dashing, forgotten Bond, George Lazenby?"

Catwoman - July 2004

"Julie Newmar. Eartha Kitt. Lee Meriwether. Michelle Pfeiffer. These four ladies have all garnered notoriety by playing the ultimate jewel thief, Catwoman, on the small or large screen. Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will attain a certain level of notoriety, as well, for starring as the Caped Crusader's feline foe. But not notoriety in a good sense."

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - July 2005

"To remake a classic film is one thing, but to re-create a movie's magic...well, that's like trying to formulate an acceptable substitute for sugar."

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle - July 2005

"Move over, Pierce Brosnan; bow down, Jackie Chan; step aside, Mike Myers. Your high-tech action, karate buddy-comedy, retro-clever franchises are about to be upstaged -- again -- by three girls. Of course, these aren't just any three girls... these are Charlie's Angels. Captivating Cameron Diaz, luscious Lucy Liu, and delightful Drew Barrymore are back, recapturing summer-blockbuster big screens with Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle -- a sequel that's bigger, faster and funnier than its audacious predecessor."

"Though 2004's Best Picture winner wasn't really a boxing flick, this year's Oscar frontrunner definitely is. Ron Howard's superbly-acted, beautifully filmed, surprisingly low-key summer release, Cinderella Man, just may be Opie's best effort yet. And that's saying something."

"I didn't need to read The Da Vinci Code this week to determine that the summer's first "blockbuster," one of the most eagerly anticipated films in recent memory, isn't as good as Dan Brown's mega-selling novel."

"After battling the baddies in inked pages and in cartoons for 44 years, the fiery-bodied Human Torch, rocky behemoth the Thing, elastic Mr. Fantastic, and the force field-wielding Invisible Girl have finally made their way to the big screen. CGI technology has finally caught up with the quartet's rather unusual superpowers, allowing this summer's Fantastic Four film to properly present a solid plot -- the team's origin -- along with satisfying special effects."

"Clint Eastwood's latest compelling film, Flags Of Our Fathers, is a true story about three other men, two Marines and a sailor, who were not afforded the opportunity to quietly reconcile their overseas experiences with stateside life. Instead, they were thrust into the spotlight as the 'Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima.'"

Grindhouse - April 2007

"A smokin' hot go-go dancer with a machine gun for a prosthetic leg. That's all it took to plant me in a screener's seat. The fact that Grindhouse is a double-feature homage to 1970s B-movies directed by homage-kings Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez was an afterthought. The teaser that the double header's second flick features Kurt Russell and a Dodge duel — "Challenger vs. Charger" — was a bonus, as was the fantastic soundtrack."

The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy - April 2005

"Watching the end of the world was never so much fun. Attending the advance screening of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was akin to buzzing on Percodan while watching Soylent Green's government-sponsored suicide scene. Pure bliss, with a lot ironic head-shaking along the way."

The Hulk - June 2003

"Daredevil exacts revenge in cunning, ruthless fashion; Batman outwits and out-boxes his foes; Spider-man wisecracks his way through danger. The Hulk? Bruce Banner gets angry, his skin turns green, he grows a couple of feet and adds a few pounds... and then Hulk smashes. Various convoluted, soap-opera sub-plots have been utilized to keep the Hulk franchise alive since the misunderstood behemoth's 1960s Marvel Comics debut, but the success formula -- its universal appeal -- boils down to one word: rage."

Iron Man - May 2008

"In a comic book universe that includes a human fireball and a cigar-smoking duck, the concept of a flying "iron man" is hardly far-fetched. Nonetheless, Tony Stark stands out as a relatively unconventional superhero. There's nothing unusual about his being a billionaire playboy, but Stark's profession of right-wing arms manufacturer raised eyebrows even in the early Vietnam-era in which he debuted."

Kingdom of Heaven - May 2005

"A battlefield epic. A lovers' triangle. A saga of political intrigue, and a clash of two religions. The story of a father mentoring his long-lost son. A tale of a lost soul seeking salvation. A gifted director could craft a compelling film using one or perhaps two of these themes; with Kingdom of Heaven, master filmmaker Ridley Scott attempts to intertwine all of these sub-plots in less than 150 minutes, with mixed results."

The Last Samurai - December 2003

"If one had to make a Kurosawa-reverential samurai film with a white man as its star, and that white man had to be Tom Cruise, The Last Samurai is as good an end result as one could hope for."

Miami Vice - July 2006

"This is not your daddy's Miami Vice. Gone are the flamingos, the bikinis, the baggy cotton suits and deck shoes. Yes, there is an unshaven white cop named Crockett, and a badass black cop named Tubbs, but little else remains from director Michael Mann's '80s boob-tube classic."

Million Dollar Baby - January 2005

"Much of Million Dollar Baby's story takes place in a boxing gym, but to call it a boxing movie would be like referring to Bang the Drum Slowly as a baseball flick, or calling A River Runs Through It a film about fly fishing."

Open Range - August 2003

"Borrowing elements from such masterpieces as Unforgiven and The Cowboys, actor/director/producer Kevin Costner has crafted a Western that, while not an instant classic, is nevertheless a damn fine tale of revenge and romance."

The Passion of the Christ - February 2004

"Mel Gibson's blood-soaked The Passion of the Christ will be a true test of faith for its Christian audience. Within 45 minutes, nonbelievers and those of weaker resolve will begin contemplating fleeing the popcorn-strewn pews, leaving only the most devout — or the most steely of stomach — to be absorbed in rapture."

"Every 10 years or so, we've been treated to a swashbuckling tale or two -- the unfortunate Cutthroat Island and the hilarious Cheech and Chong's Corsican Brothers come to mind, as does the more recent Buena Vista film, The Count of Monte Cristo. This summer, with another nod to their swashbuckling history -- dusted off and super-charged by action producer non-pareil Jerry Bruckheimer -- Disney has created one of the most entertaining buccaneer epics of the last 50 years."

Last month, I saw a brief trailer for a new summer film, Red Eye. All the clip revealed was Cillian Murphy (last seen in Batman Begins as the Scarecrow) giving The Wedding Crashers' Rachel McAdams the evil eye while sitting next to her on an airliner... Had I seen the commercial that's been airing for the past week, I would have never had gone -- and I would have missed a pleasant surprise."

"It's difficult to decide which is a creepier concept for one's demise: having a plastic bag shoved over your head and being thrown into a well, or having a strangely disjointed, deathly pale young girl crawl through your television and kill you."

School of Rock - October 2003

"If you're a fan of Jack Black, writer/actor Mike White (Orange County) and/or director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), you simply have to see School of Rock. If you're a rock musician, ever dreamed of being one, or just a lover of rock music, this film is a 'must-see.'"

Seabiscuit - July 2003

"Seabiscuit isn't a love story, a tearjerker, or a story of heroes and villains -- but it is a true story, and sometimes fact can be more marvelous than the best fiction. It's a simple, Depression-era tale of three men and a horse, all yearning for a chance to reclaim their sense of self-worth."

Space Station 3-D - May 2002

"The concept of space travel -- to float in zero gravity while looking down upon Earth — is so unnatural that earthbound humans simply cannot grasp just how fantastic it is. Space Station, IMAX's 65mm entry into the summer blockbuster arena, doesn't just capture an audience's attention — it commands it, for the Lockheed Martin-sponsored project was filmed in 3-D."

Star Trek - May 2009

"The surviving original Enterprise crew are collecting Federation Social Security. Voyager and Deep Space Nine have apparently been deemed unfit for the big screen; Star Trek: Enterprise has been abandoned. How will the franchise continue, and more importantly, how can it continue to be relevant?"

"Secrets. Everyone has at least one or two sordid tidbits to protect, but few people's secrets lead to a murder charge. The Staircase, a remarkable "true crime" mini-series presented by the Sundance Channel in April, explores how one's publicized private life -- combined with mysterious physical circumstances -- can turn an alleged accident into an alleged homicide."

"If you've seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day (T2), you probably have also watched the original Terminator (T1), and you'll undoubtedly see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (T3), even if the ghost of Gene Siskel whispers in your ear that T3 is the worst third installment of a film franchise since Robocop 3."

Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life - July 2003

"The idea of a "female Indiana Jones" movie -- based on a phenomenally popular video game and starring one of the world's most desirable women -- was a pretty good one the first time around. Kids liked the action, it had grrl-power appeal, and anyone with a pulse was mesmerized by Angelina Jolie's hypnotic lips. However, amongst the mostly-mundane stunts, recoil-less gunplay, and Jolie's mesmerist act, the makers of the follow-up to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider forgot to include a compelling or even remotely original plot."

"Writer-producer Luc Besson again treads on familiar ground with his new film, Unleashed, by mixing bloody mayhem, unlikely heroes and poignant drama. However, with strong performances by veteran actors -- including one of the most accomplished martial arts masters in the world, Jet Li -- he has created a fresh, compelling film that will entertain a wide spectrum of viewers."

"The usual free-movie-scounging riff-raff pouring into an advance screening is peppered with second-generation Goths wearing Fields of the Nephilim leather dusters, boots and black lace. They're hoping to see the souped-up Bram Stoker's Dracula that the trailers have hinted at. They're in for a surprise."

"Thankfully, Steven Spielberg knows a thing or two about passable scripts, and about terror. While his version of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds isn't terrifying in a novel sense -- there's been a lot of copycats since Orson Welles' infamous 1938 radio broadcast and the chilling 1953 film adaptation -- Spielberg's vision remains true to the spirit of the long-classic story..."

"The most remarkable aspect of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is that it doesn't play like an Oliver Stone movie."

"With X2: X-Men United, the first theatre-rattling salvo in this summer's sequel-filled blockbuster battle has been fired. And, once again, director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) is right on target in bringing Marvel Comics' most intriguing and thought-provoking series to life."