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In this column we will feature thumbnail reviews by Wayne Case, a veteran of Hollywood's Big Machine who currently works for an independent film company in Los Angeles. Wayne ranks the films on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (good). The following are Wayne’s rankings of films for 2006.


AKEELAH AND THE BEE Rated: 9
O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G and highly recommended.

Twelve year old Keke Palmer who stars as Akeelah deserves serious consideration for year end acting honors including a possible Oscar nomination as best actress. Her work here reminded me of another major preteen talent named Dakota Fanning (MAN ON FIRE—‘04 & WAR OF THE WORLDS—‘05).

THE BENCHWARMERS Rated: 3
There’s an old Hollywood “saw” (or saying) that states: “Nobody sets out to make a bad movie.” This one is evidence to the contrary. It’s bad, really bad, and not by accident.

Director (and sometimes actor) Dennis Dugan is a competent technician and this one is not quite as revolting as his earlier Adam Sandler effort, BIG DADDY (‘99). It’s the writing by Allen Covert & Nick Swanson that I hate. That said, these three men and the people that hired them know their young audience and have obviously reached them since it’s GROSSed over $35 million in its first ten April 2006 days of North American theatre release. The cast does what is required/expected and includes Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, & Jon Lovitz. Both literally and figuratively, Jon Lovits gets the last word where/when he states on camera at the end of the credits: “This was a complete waste of time.”
YES.

THE BLACK DAHLIA Rated: 8
“Even bad sex is good.” Even bad Brian De Palma films are good.

I had the highest expectations for THE BLACK DAHLIA and I’m disappointed. Nevertheless, it’s still much more entertaining than the majority of films I see. Based on subject matter and setting, I was hoping for another CHINATOWN (‘74) or L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (‘96). Adding to my expectations was the fact that De Palma directed three of my all-time top favorites: CARRIE (‘76), DRESSED TO KILL (‘80), and THE UNTOUCHABLES (‘87) plus these three others I’m especially fond of: THE FURY (‘78), BLOW OUT (‘81) and SCARFACE (‘83). I’m not adding THE BLACK DAHLIA to either of those lists, but I find it fascinating & entertaining. Further, it looks and sounds great.

The problem is the script. I always have trouble with films based on true events about which I have some basic knowledge and/or strong opinion. What I already know and/or think confuses the issue for me if what I’m seeing on screen significantly differs with my impression. What Josh Friedman’s script, based on the fictional novel by James Ellroy, presents as an “explanation” for Ms. Short’s death in the film is preposterous, convoluted and confusing. Although nobody knows (or is telling) who actually killed actress Elizabeth Short, press dubbed “The Black Dahlia”, Friedman’s take is far from credible and unsatisfactory.

I liked the cast and thought all the principals were interesting, at very least. Of special note, not since Faye Dunaway chewed up the scenery as Joan Crawford in MOMMY DEAREST (‘81) or Joan Crawford herself vamped & postured as JOHNNY GUITAR (‘54) has an actress emoted at the level Fionna Shaw delivers here. Ms. Shaw might have taken her inspiration from Gloria Swanson in SUNSET BLVD. (‘50) and I couldn’t take my eyes off her! At the other end of the acting style spectrum, Josh Hartnett (PEARL HARBOR—2001) has been accused of being too mild/bland as Detective “Bucky” Bleichert. I disagree and though he looked great in his 1940s costumes and rather dorky hairstyle. As usual, Scarlett Johansson (MATCH POINT—‘05) doesn’t even attempt subtext but looks terrific in 1940s styles and is well cast opposite Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING—‘05). Eckhart is his usual attractive/effective self but his character, Officer “Lee” Blanchard is never properly integrated into the flow of the plot. Although I knew what the script had in mind for him, his character seems to be in a different film at times. Two time Oscar winner Hilary Swank (MILLION DOLLAR BABY—‘04) has never looked better and delivers perfectly in a part that calls for her take-no-prisoners approach. Although she only has limited screen time, Toronto born Mia Kirshner (television series THE L WORD—2004, and more) shines as the title character shown in flashbacks. Casting agents should take note.

Although many will disagree, I found THE BLACK DAHLIA a lurid, guilty pleasure.

THE BREAK-UP Rated: 6 1/2
Based on the trailer, I had high expectations for THE BREAK-UP. The first half of the film lived up to those expectations and delivered a quick, smart comedy about a mismatched couple. Unfortunately, the second half degenerated into a mean-spirited would-be drama where the two principals start behaving in ways that their established characters simply wouldn’t. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. With the possible exception of THE GOOD GIRL (2002), this is Ms. Aniston’s best film work so far. Her character here is not far removed from her signature role as Rachel on the television series mega hit FRIENDS (1994—2004) and that turns out to be a good thing. While not as effective as he was in WEDDING CRASHERS (‘05), Mr. Vaughn still impresses in a considerably inferior part. The supporting cast is exceptional and includes a remarkable turn by Australian born Judy Davis (A PASSAGE TO INDIA—‘86, LIFE WITH JUDY GARLAND—an original movie for television 2001). Also deserving special mentions are two of my personal favorites, Ivan Sergei (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX—‘98) & Cole Hauser (PAPARAZZI—‘04). I’d have enjoyed seeing more of Ann-Margret (BYE BYE BIRDIE -‘63, TOMMY—‘75) but it’s good to see her back even if it’s only briefly.

CHILDREN OF MEN Rated: 4
Dark, dull, predictable. Not to my taste but some love it.

CLICK Rated: 3
CLICK is crap.

Not just bad, it’s rotten to its tedious/ familiar/derivative/overwrought/sappy core. Perhaps you’ve guessed by now, I hated it. As an example of the alleged humor, it includes about five scenes of pet dogs humping stuffed toy animals. The “story” takes its “inspiration” from the far superior A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938 & many, many others), IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) and the seventh season of television mega-hit, DALLAS (1978-91), among others. Adam Sandler continues to play the same basic bipolar character he did in a series of atrocities including BIG DADDY (‘91), LITTLE NICKY (2000) and MR. DEEDS (‘02). If you loved him/them, you’ll love this. If not, consider this fair warning.

THE DA VINCI CODE Rated: 7 1/2
I saw this highly anticipated film at the state-of-the-art Arclight Theatre in Hollywood, CA opening day, Friday, May 19, 2006, without having read the mega best-selling& highly controversial novel but understand that the film is a faithful adaptation of its source. The large audience was completely attentive throughout but there was little obvious reaction at the end. Reviews I’d heard about or scanned before seeing the film were brutal, and in my opinion, unfair. This is a good though not great movie. My guess is that most regular filmgoers are going to be satisfied. According to RottenTomatoes.com, only 18% of collected critics had favorable reactions while 75% of the sites’ users/ticket buyers liked the film. (It’s unusual for there to be such a large number gap between the two groups.)

The pace is deliberate and a little slow and the two lead actors were good though not exceptional. Evidently, both Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou were encouraged to restrain themselves which makes them less appealing or interesting than usual. The supporting cast, especially Paul Bettany and Ian McKellen were much more animated and entertaining.

My guess is that director Ron Howard delivered exactly the film that he intended to present. Frankly, I’d have preferred a little more snap and edge, but, again, I was interested throughout and enjoyed seeing the well told story unfold. My biggest complaint is the musical scoring by Hans Zimmer. I’ve loved most of this Oscar winner’s work going all the way back to a couple of my personal favorites, DRIVING MISS DAISY—‘89 and A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN -‘92, but not this time.

However, it’s probably not all his fault. Since there is musical underscoring for an estimated 120 of the 150-minute running time, clearly somebody decided that a lot of music was necessary. I disagree. It is insistent, intrusive and impossible to ignore.

The first weekend (May 19, 2006) gross for the US & Canada’s was estimated at a strong $75 million or more and the first several days in the international market is expected to have taken in $147 million. This figure makes it one of the top 3 or 4 highest international openings ever.

THE DEPARTED Rated: 9
THE DEPARTED is easily one of the five best films of 2006 and deserves a best picture Oscar nomination along with many other nominations, a likely prospect at this writing. Not only that, without any further thought or conversation, if it were up to me, I’d simply give Martin Scorsese the best directing Oscar that has eluded him up until now. Keep in mind that, unlike most serious critics, I’m not a fan of RAGING BULL (1980) and didn’t think of him as one of my favorite directors at least until now. Of his previous work, my three favorites are the often underrated NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1977) which I rate a 9 1/2, TAXI DRIVER (‘76) which I rate a 9 & THE AVIATOR (‘04) which is also a 9.

I’m fond of MEAN STREETS (‘73), ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (‘74), CAPE FEAR (‘91), and CASINO (‘95). At the other end of my scale, I hated his BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (‘99).

The casting and the acting in THE DEPARTED are both superb. Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Vera Farmiga, Mark Wahlberg, & Jack Nicholson all deserve award consideration.

Each is at the top of their game. Also deserving praise are Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and James Badge Dale in support. Editing, cinematography & musical scoring are outstanding and William Monahan’s adapted script is very special.

I’ll admit that I did find parts hard to follow but, ultimately, that didn’t matter. Violence is abundant but appropriate.

Put me in the highly enthusiastic column about this one.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Rated: 9
First things first. At this point, two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep is my choice

to take home her third as best actress of 2006 for her superb performance here as the boss from Hell. This is one of my alltime favorite female performances and she makes it look so easy. She is hilarious and doesn’t raise her voice once in a part that most actresses would have screamed their way through. Next, Anne Hathaway moves up to the top of my list of favorite young actresses. As a new assistant to Meryl’s fashion magazine director, this is a smart follow-up to her outstanding work last year in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) and is a total change of pace. Next, Emily Blunt is inspired as the current assistant and deserves a supporting actress nomination. Further, I thoroughly enjoyed both Stanley Tucci (THE ROAD TO PREDITION—2002) and Simon Baker (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL- 1997) in support. Director

David Frankel understands the material and sets just the right tone.

Perhaps you’ve guessed by now, I loved THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and have already seen it twice. It opened in North America June 30, 2006 and first twelve day receipts total almost $70 million. Budget was approximately $35 million.

Rotten Tomatoes reports that 75% of major critics gave it positive reviews and 85% of their site users were favorably impressed.

I recommend it highly.

FAILURE TO LAUNCH Rated: 8
FAILURE TO LAUNCH may not be very original and it’s no classic. However, it made me laugh and I was never bored. Further, the cast could hardly be more attractive and everybody performs well in parts that suit them perfectly. In fact, my best guess is that the writers and/or director tailored these characters around the persona of each of the seven lead actors. For a light romantic comedy like this, that can’t be a bad thing. The seven are:

(1) Matthew McConaughey as Tripp His personal bests: DAZED AND
CONFUSED (‘93) and A TIME TO KILL (‘96). His personal worsts:
CONTACT (‘97) and AMISTAD (‘97).

(2) Sarah Jessica Parker as Paula Her personal bests: Television Series “Sex and the City” (1998- 2004), HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (‘92), and THE FAMILY STONE (‘05). Her personal worsts: STRIKING DISTANCE (‘93) and HOCUS POCUS (‘93).

(3) Zooey Deschanel as Kit Zooey Deschanel is anything but conventional and this is the first time she’s had a chance to really dominate the big screen in her scenes. I look for her to break through in a couple of upcoming projects such as THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES (‘06) which stars Brad Pitt and/or BARRY MUNDAY (‘07) whose announced cast includes Luke Wilson and Emily Mortimer among other notables. Ms. Deschanel is the daughter of five time Oscar nominated cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel and reminds me of Amanda Peet (SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE—‘03), Isla Fisher (WEDDING CRASHERS—‘05), and/or Amy Adams (JUNEBUG—‘05). I’m convinced that her future is quite bright.

(4)Justin Bartha as Ace Justin Bartha made his impressive debut in the much/overly maligned GIGLI (‘03). Following that, he was effective and likable in a good supporting part in the Nicolas Cage adventure hit, NATIONAL TREASURE (‘04). Next up, he co-stars with Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup & Maggie Gyllenhaal in writer/director Bart Freundlich’s TRUST THE MAN (‘06) which was well received at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival.

(5) Bradley Cooper as Demo If I were casting a remake of KISS OF DEATH (1947), my first choice for the Richard Widmark debut and star-making part of a young/handsome/lethal psycho would be Bradley Cooper! Currently best known as Rachel McAdams’ sadistic fiance in WEDDING CRASHERS (‘05) and as the lead in a short lived Fox Network television series, KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL (‘05), I expect/hope to see lots more of Mr. Cooper in the immediate future.

(6) Kathy Bates as Sue Fortunately for her and for us, Oscar winning actress Kathy Bates continues to find frequent work which is quite an accomplishment for an older actress these days. This is her best part and best work since ABOUT SCHMIDT (‘02). My favorites from her are: MISERY (‘90), FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (‘91), DOLORES CLAIBORNE (‘95), & PRIMARY COLORS (‘98). All these are well worth seeking out for first time
or repeat viewing. On the other hand, although clearly not her fault, AT PLAY IN THE FIELDS OF THE LORD (‘91) is outrageously awful. Expect future award recognition for Ms. Bates.

(7) Terry Bradshaw as Al Louisiana born and currently working as a television football analyst, former Pittsburgh Steeler superstar quarterback Terry Bradshaw shouldn’t give up his day job to become a fulltime actor. Nevertheless, he is surprisingly effective in a supporting comedic turn here as Matthew McConaughey’s father here.

As is usually the case when an entire cast does really good work, the director deserves credit & praise. This is Tom Dey’s third feature film and he’s 2 for 3. His debut, SHANGHAI NOON (2000) was well reviewed and a hit. His second, SHOWTIME (‘02) was neither and I don’t even remember hearing about it. I sincerely hope he’ll get assignments that might go to the considerably less deserving that I’ll resist naming here.

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT
Rated: 6
Given the derivative/cliched nature of the material and my total lack of interest in street racing on any continent, I was pleasantly surprised that I found myself entertained here. Mostly, that’s because I’m a career long fan of Lucas Black (SLING BLADE -‘96, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES -2000, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS -‘04) and he’s on screen for almost all the 104 minute running time. I do urge him to back off from his insistence to only take roles that allow him to use his natural Alabama accent. While I find his accent/speaking voice pleasant and charming, it’d be a shame for him to limit his possibilities this way.

FIREWALL Rated: 5 1/2
FIREWALL is a conventional and somewhat confusing thriller about a family being held hostage so the dad/husband/security executive (Ford) will help thugs rob a bank. While not awful, I can’t recommend it. Bluntly put, at sixty-something years old, Harrison Ford (STAR WARS—‘77, ‘80, ‘83 and INDIANA JONES -‘81, ‘84, ‘89) is just too old to be believable doing the stunts his character is required to do. The well chosen supporting cast is as good as the material allows, especially Virginia Madsen (SIDEWAYS ‘04), Paul Bettany (A KNIGHT’S TALE—‘01 and A BEAUTIFUL MIND—‘01) & Danish Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (WIMBLEDON ‘04). Director Richard Loncraine also directed Paul Bettany & Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in WIMBLEDON recently, and it is a better film. In my opinion, he deserves future assignments.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS Rated: 9 1/2
As of October 30, 2006, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is the best film new film I’ve seen this year. If I were in charge of the process, this amazing achievement from director Clint Eastwood would probably be nominated for at least 9 Oscars including Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Script (William Broyles Jr. and Paul Hagis), Best Supporting Actor (Adam Beach), Best Musical Score (Clint Eastwood), Best Cinematography (Tom Stern), Best Editing (Joel Cox), Best Production Design (Henry Bunstead) & at least one from the sound categories. It is likely to be my choice to win several and don’t be surprised if it does.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS tells the story of the servicemen shown in the famous photo of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima during a battle which proved to be a major turning point of World War II. There were 6 soldiers in the photo and the three survivors featured here are played by Ryan Phillippe (CRUEL INTENTIONS—‘99, CRASH—‘05), Jesse Bradford (HAPPY ENDINGS—‘05), and Adam Beach (WINDWALKERS—‘02). Each is exceptionally well cast and their performances are restrained and completely believable. Particularly effective in smaller parts are Barry Pepper (THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA—‘05), Jamie Bell (BILLY ELLIOT—2000), & Judith Ivey. As usual in a film directed by Eastwood, down to the last extra, the entire cast excels.

Steven Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (‘98) & Clint Eastwood’s FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS represent bookends as two of my favorite films about World War II and I highly recommend both.

GLORY ROAD— Rated: 6 1/2
My favorite film with a strong sports backdrop is Hoosiers (1986). Among my other favorites in this genre are: Bang The Drum Slowly (1973), Chariots Of Fire (1981), Bull Durham (1988), Field Of Dreams (1989), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), The Rookie (2002), & Million Dollar Baby (2004). Glory Road is not nearly as good as these, but it recalls pleasant memories of its ancestors, and if you like basketball, you’ll probably like it.

Josh Lucas (The Deep End—2001, A Beautiful Mind—2001 and Sweet Home Alabama—2002) continues to impress, this time as Coach Don Haskins. He’s well on his way to becoming a top leading man. First time director, James Gartner shows promise although I consider the film somewhat choppy and/or uneven and question several editing decisions in the narrative portions.

Glory Road is based on the true story of the 1966-67 Texas Western Miners boys basketball team and their amazing season. For the first time in the history of NCAA finals, all five starting players on that team were Black. Actual footage from the real game against Kentucky is expertly combined with new footage featuring the actors. The new basketball game footage is excellent and I completely forgot that the actors playing
basketball players weren’t actually basketball players. Current University of Southern California head basketball coach, Tim Floyd was technical advisor and did a splendid job.

Over the closing credits, present day footage featuring the real life versions of several individuals featured in the film, from both schools, is shown as they comment on their experiences in that championship game. (Los Angeles Lakers superstar, Jerry West, from Kentucky is among them.) I highly recommend that you watch the credits to the very end.

THE GUARDIAN Rated: 7
This one is familiar but entertaining enough. It’s very pale when compared to the somewhat similar and far superior AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (‘82), however. Kevin Costner (DANCES WITH WOLVES—‘90) is well cast and credible. Ashton Kutcher (Television’s THAT 70S SHOW—1998—2006) gives his best big screen performance so far and deserves future strong casting.

THE HOLIDAY Rated: 7 1/2

At 144 minutes (!), I figure it is at least 24 minutes too long for my taste! Unfortunately, based on the pace at which director Nancy Meyers chose to film/direct, I seriously doubt that it could be edited down much without making it far too choppy. The problem isn’t the number of scenes, but the pace within each scene, a director’s choice, and a bad one here.

At the theatre where I saw it, The Arclight in Hollywood, CA, a great theatre, the employee who introduced the film warned us about the length. (Many in the audience groaned!) At least that advance information prepared me and made it easier to resist looking at my watch too often.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot more than I feared I might thanks mainly to Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet who are so likable and charming this time. I am not a fan of Jude Law but thought he was effective/believable/likable enough although I can’t quite erase his off screen image while watching him perform. I continue to find Jack Black very hard to watch. He was less obnoxious than usual here but, in my opinion, a poor choice for a romantic lead in this type film. Kate Winslet’s character finding him interesting/appealing is a real stretch as far as I’m concerned. I did like the entire Eli Wallach section which features him as an old time Hollywood screenwriter. Since I’m a big Edward Burns fan, I enjoyed him in a cameo where he got to look great. I loved the musical score/scoring by Hans Zimmer and though the entire film looked great thanks to sparking cinematography, beautiful location selection and smart production design.

While a bit disappointing overall, you could find a lot worse ways to spend holiday time in a movie theatre.

HOLLYWOODLAND Rated: 8 1/2
This one is especially notable for award worthy supporting work from Ben Affleck (GOOD WILL HUNTING—’ 97, PEARL HARBOR—‘01) and its exceptional period production design and cinematography by Jonathan Freeman. As always, Diane Lane (UNFAITHFUL—‘02) is terrific. It’s an impressive theatrical directorial debut for Allen Coulter who has a strong television directorial background on series including THE X-FILES (1993—2002), SEX AND THE CITY (1998—2004) & THE SOPRANOS (1999—2007). Top billed Oscar winner Adrien Brody (THE PIANIST (‘02) is fine as low-rent private eye Louis Simo and I actually liked him better here than in any of his other roles. Bob Hoskins (MONA LISA—’ 86), Lois Smith ( MINORITY REPORT—‘02, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES—‘91), & Robin Tunney (Television’s PRISON BREAK—2005-06) also shine brightly.

IMAGINE YOU & ME—Rated: 7 1/2
This one is a light romantic comedy about an attractive young woman, Rachel (Piper Perabo), who discovers her soul-mate on the very day she marries Heck (Matthew Goode), her longtime friend/lover/fiancé. To her surprise, the soul mate is the female florist, Luce (Lena Headey). Of previous films with strong lesbian content, my favorites are: THE CHILDREN’S HOUR (61), PERSONAL BEST (82), SILKWOOD (83), BOYS ON THE SIDE (95), and BOUND (96). This is not as good as those, but I was
pleasantly surprised and entertained nonetheless. Further, I was reminded of one of my top favorites, LOVE ACTUALLY (2003).

Ms. Perabo was memorable in COYOTE UGLY (2000) but her career has been in neutral since then. Although American, her British accent here is the equal of Gwyneth Paltrow’s. Hopefully, this puts Ms. Perabo back on the right career track and her next two upcoming projects show much promise. (They are: BECAUSE I SAID SO which co-stars Diane Keaton & Christopher Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE whose cast includes Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.) Co-star Matthew Goode is British and can be seen currently in Woody Allen’s MATCH POINT (‘05), also. Previously, he was effective and attractive in CHASING LIBERTY (2004). As is common in better British films, the supporting cast is notable, worthy and effective. Here, I especially enjoyed Lena Headley & Darren Boyd plus talented first time theatrical writer/director, Ol Parker’s wife, Thandie Newton, contributes a nice, uncredited cameo near the end.

THE KING Rated: 6
The only good reason to see THE KING is if you are a serious fan of Gael Garcia Bernal. I am…based mostly on his work in AMORES PERROS (2000), Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2002), and BAD EDUCATION (2004).

As far as I can recall/determine, this is the first time he plays an American and speaks English throughout without any foreign accent. I won’t pretend to understand the motivation of his quietly sociopathic character here but found him completely believable as the recent honorably discharged US sailor who returns to his hometown, Corpus Christi, Texas to establish contact with his biological father. Based on information given him by his now deceased mother, he soon finds this father he had never met before and learns that he is now a successful Baptist Pastor happily married with a teenage son and a teenage daughter. The family doesn’t realize that this newcomer is their father’s illegitimate child. Without wasting any more time here, in summary, Gael as Elvis completely destroys the entire family after smoothly winning them over. If the film has a point, I missed it. The story the film tells is perverse, mean, creepy, lurid, grim, and unnecessary. On top of that, it has one of those endings that leaves audiences scratching their heads. I always hate this type cop-out since it’s as if the director couldn’t make up his mind how to end his film or how to resolve the issues raised so he leaves it up to the audience to figure it out for themselves. Aggravating. Unacceptable. I hated the story but really admire the way quality of the telling.

In good/strong/supporting parts, Oscar winner William Hurt (BODY HEAT—‘81) as the father, Laura Harring (MULHOLLAND DRIVE—‘01) as his wife, Pell James (ZODIAC—2007) as his daughter, and Paul Dano (L.I.E—‘01) as his other son all excel.

Indisputably, British born co-writer & director James March is talented. He has a varied background in several aspects of film-making and I think he possesses the potential to write/direct a really good film. I hope he gets the opportunity.

LADY IN THE WATER Rated: 4 1/2
Director/writer M. Night Shyamalan burst upon the major movie scene with his classic mega hit THE SIXTH SENSE in 1999. I love it. However, I’m anything but a fan of his next three: (1) UNBREAKABLE (2000) is unbearable but a big boxoffice hit. (2) SIGNS (‘02) is an underwhelming alien invasion genre effort that was a financial success. (3) THE VILLAGE (‘04) is an unengaging thriller want-to-be with a “surprise” twist that I suspect far too early. Chalk up another financial success for Shyamalan.

LADY IN THE WATER is unsuccessful both as a film and at the boxoffice. Since I think he is a talented director, I’d now like to see Mr. M. Night Shyamalan direct a good dramatic thriller script from another writer such as Paul Hagis.

Paul Giamatti is ok here although not particularly interesting and probably miscast. Bryce Dallas Howard looks stunned/soggy throughout and has wisely accepted a major change-of-pace role in the upcoming SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007).

LITTLE CHILDREN Rated: 9
LITTLE CHILDREN is one of the very best films of 2006. While I can understand some not liking it since parts of it are guaranteed to make most people uncomfortable, I found it fascinating. While boxoffice results have been disappointing, I hope deserved/expected award mentions/considerations will give it new life. I fully expect Oscar nominations for Kate Winslet as best actress & Jackie Earle Haley as best supporting actor and, additionally, I would strongly consider nominating the following if I had a vote: Best Picture, Best Director (Todd Field), Best Writing (Todd Field & Tom Perrotta), Best Actor (Patrick Wilson), Best Supporting Actress (Phyllis Sommerville), & Best Musical Scoring (Thomas Newman). As usual with well directed films, the entire cast sparkles and, in particular, the following also deserve special recognition: Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, & Jane Adams.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, 88% of all complied critics responded favorably (79 to 16) and 91 % of major critics gave it positive reviews. Of responding Rotten Tomatoes site users, 88% were in the plus column.

As for me, I found it: poignant, stunning, unsettling, original, emotional, extraordinary, provocative, bold, empathetic and unforgettable.

LITTLE MAN Rated: 1 1/2
LITTLE MAN is the worst film of the year. Since I saw the trailer in advance, I fully expected to be tortured…and I was. I’m not easily offended but this thing is in the worst possible taste and is simply not funny.

(This is the last year I intend to see films that I suspect I’ll hate.)

LITTLE MAN is putrid, vile, vulgar and stupid. It joins FREDDY GOT FINGERED (2001), ROLLERBALL (2002) and DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (2004) as the very worst of this decade.

Blame The Wayans Family. They star, wrote and co-produced.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE Rated: 8
While I’m not quite as enthusiastic about this one as many are, I do recommend it as solid entertainment for all reasonably mature audiences. An Oscar nomination as Best Film could well be in its future. The entire cast is excellent and I especially enjoyed my personal favorites from this talented group, Greg Kinnear & Toni Collette, both of whom charm with appropriately restrained work here. For me, this joins THE MATADOR (‘05) & NURSE BETTY (2000) as Kinnear’s best films so far. [My favorites from Ms. Collette are still MURIAL’S WEDDING (‘94) & THE SIXTH SENSE (‘99).] Even though I’m one of the few who didn’t respond well to Steve Carell’s 2005 breakout performance in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, mainly because I hated the film, he does win me over here and feel he deserves Supporting Actor hardware consideration. As Olive, Abigail Breslin sparkles as a ten (or so) year old beauty pageant contestant and is likely to compete with Dakota Fanning for future parts fitting their age group. As beauty pageant official Jennings, Beth Grant (SORDID LIVES—‘01) is delightfully bigger than life and left me wanting more.

SPOILER ALERT (Skip the following if you haven’t seen the film.) My main problem with the film concerns the plot point that allows the sweet/charming/lovely Olive to make it to the finals since she is clearly not the traditional beauty contestant type. Further, I hated the routine she performed and can’t buy that she’d have gotten that far without the officials eliminating her on that basis alone.

LONDON Rated: 2 1/2
It’s early in the year but I have a spot on my worst films of 2006 list reserved for this really awful waste of time and talent. I usually resist urging people to avoid a film. Consider this an exception. Pass. I wish I had. Actually, considering how bad initial theatrical engagements and reviews have been, it’s doubtful it’ll be playing at a theatre near you or not, anyway. According to Rotten Tomatoes, only 3 out of 26 monitored reviews were positive. I still like Chris Evans (FANTASTIC FOUR ‘05, FANTASTIC FOUR 2 ‘07 & CELLUAR ‘O4) and Jason Statham (THE TRANSPORTER ‘02, TRANSPORTER 2 ‘05, and THE ITALIAN JOB ‘03). Further, I continue to to give beautiful lead actress Jennifer Beil (television’s 7th HEAVEN ‘02 & ‘03) the benefit of the doubt. As the title character, named London, she is better than her material although one of her lines of dialogue earned unintentional audience howls at the showing I attended. (Note: Mr. Evans, Mr. Statham & Ms. Beil all appear in 2004’s CELLULAR, a much more successful film and one of my personal favorites.) LONDON is the first film for writer/director Hunter Richards.

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN Rated: 8
Generally, I dislike films that deliberately mislead and/or lie to audiences. Some examples: INSIDE MAN (‘06), AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000), THE GAME (‘97) & THE SPANISH PRISONER (‘97). This time some rather mild/temporary deception works for me and, most importantly, every thing that I was confused by and/or wanted to know is explained, eventually. I almost walked out during the first half hour but I’m glad I didn’t.

This is the fourth feature film from Scottish born director Paul McGuigan and, based on evidence here, he has excellent future potential. I missed his two first films although both feature one of my favorite actors, Paul Bettany. I did see McGuigan’s third, WICKER PARK (‘04) and thought it was awful. Blame the absurd premise/plot/script that time. Josh Hartnett, who starred for McGuigan in WICKER PARK also, returns here with much better results for both actor and director. A feature film update of the eighties hit television series, THE EQUALIZER, has been announced as McGuigan’s next. He does great work with his SLEVIN cast showing all to excellent advantage.

Top billed Josh Hartnett rebounds nicely from his last two missteps, namely the above mentioned WICKER PARK (‘04) & a inert cop caper called HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE (‘03) that some uncharitable critics labeled potential career suicide for both Hartnett and co-star Harrison Ford! It’s biggest problem was an lackluster and miscast Harrison Ford and slack direction by Ron Shelton of BULL DURHAM (‘88) fame. I really liked Hartnett in both THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (‘99) & PEARL HARBOR (‘01) and can hardly wait for his next, Brian De Palma’s THE BLACK DAHLIA (‘06). Bruce Willis is well cast and effective. So are Oscar winning actors Morgan Freeman (MILLION DOLLAR BABY—‘04) and Ben Kingsley (GANDHI—‘82) although both have been better in larger past parts. I liked Lucy Liu here better than I ever have before with the exception of her witty work on television’s ALLY McBEAL in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I also enjoyed supporting performances by two supporting actors, Scott Gibson & Sam Jaeger.

This is the first time I’ve been aware of Scott Gibson who plays Max here, and I look forward to seeing him in BREACH (‘07) from director Billy Ray (SHATTERED GLASS—‘03). As the real Nick Fisher, Sam Jaeger, who I first noticed in the 2004 television movie about “the Green River killer” called THE RIVERMAN, has completed his part in an upcoming feature staring Jennifer Gardner called CATCH AND RELEASE (‘07). While it’s not going to be to everybody’s taste, I’m a big fan of LUCKY NUMBER SLEVEN and suggest you consider checking it out.

MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION Rated: 3

MIAMI VICE Rated: 6
This one is adequate but irrelevant, unnecessary and completely forgettable. It’s unlikely to show up on future resumes of top writer/director Michael Mann (MANHUNTER—‘86, THE INSIDER—‘99, COLLATERAL—‘O4) or stars Colin Farrell (TIGERLAND—2000, ASK THE DUST—‘06) & Jamie Foxx (RAY—‘04, COLLATERAL ’ 04).

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE—III Rated: 8
While breaking no new ground, the third in this series does exactly what it intended to do and that was enough for me. I was entertained, it held my attention, and, generally, I think I knew what was going on throughout. This is the first theatrical film for director J.J. Abrams and his television training & experience pays off. He created several successful television series including FELICITY (1998 -2002), ALIAS (2001-06) and LOST (2004-06 & beyond). He is a welcome addition to the ranks of talented theatrical directors.

Tom Cruise makes me nervous. He seems just a little too eager although the script certainly calls for his character to be edgy, hyper and anxious. And, yes, I found it difficult to forget about his off screen behavior while watching him on screen. Recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent as the villain but his character is not very well developed. Keri Russell is good in a supporting part that was once to be played by Scarlett Johansson. (Whew!) Michelle Monaghan is attractive and effective as the female lead and she reminded of Katie Holmes, Mr. Cruise’s off screen fiance, etcetera. It is nice to see Billy Crudup (INVENTING THE ABBOTS—‘97, ALMOST FAMOUS—2000) in a contemporary part where he is well groomed. Also, I enjoyed Dublin born Jonathan Rhys Meyers (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM—‘02, MATCH POINT—‘05) and think it’s a good career move for him to appear in a mainstream film like this for a change of pace. Technical credits and special effects are state-of-the-art and seamless.

MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND Rated: 7 1/2
I was diverted, engaged, entertained and amused by this summer comedy. Consider this a minority report since it has not been well received by most critics and has been weak at the boxoffice. Nevertheless, it made me smile and I left the theatre satisfied. I found it light and sweet…qualities sorely lacking in another recent comedy, YOU, ME, AND DUPREE. Further, while I’m equally fond of brothers Luke Wilson & Owen Wilson, I prefer Luke’s SUPER-EX to Owen’s DUPREE here in the summer of 2006. I also enjoyed both Uma Thurman as the female superhero and Rainn Wilson as Luke’s sidekick.

NANNY McPHEE Rated: 8 1/2
NANNY McPHEE is an unexpected delight. Emma Thompson has already won Oscars for writing (SENSE & SENSIBILITY ‘95) & acting (HOWARDS END ‘92). She does both again with great charm here. Additionally, I loved her in ANGELS IN AMERICA (HBO mini ‘03) & PRIMARY COLORS (‘98). Co- star Colin Firth (ANOTHER COUNTRY ‘84) bounces back beautifully from 2005’s wretched WHERE THE TRUTH LIES and is engaging as the father. All other components are solid but earning special accolades are the crisp and colorful cinematography from Henry Braham & the robust original musical score by Patrick Doyle. Further, the “look” of the film is exceptional and deserves award consideration for production design (Michael Howells), art direction (Lynne Huitson, Ray Chan), costume design (Nic Ede) and Make Up.

I hope a sequel is forthcoming, and soon!

THE NIGHT LISTENER Rated: 8
Intriguing and unusual, this contemporary drama/mystery/thriller worked quite well for me. Based on a true story, I’m still pondering whether or not I think a hoax was perpetrated. Oscar winner Robin Williams is restrained and excellent as a late night radio talk-show host. This is his best work since GOOD WILL HUNTING (‘97). Previously Oscar nominated Toni Collette deserves another nomination for her sensational supporting part here as the adopted mother of a teen-aged boy suffering with AIDS. I’ve loved her since seeing the wonderful Australian film MURIEL’S WEDDING (‘94) and consider her talent and versatility to approach that of Meryl Streep’s.

Whether or not the boy, Pete, actually exist is the core of the story. Rory Culkin appears as Pete and continues to impressive. Also lending strong support are the prolific and always reliable Bobby Cannavale (THE STATION AGENT -‘03) & the equally prolific and charming Sandra Oh of GREY’S ANATOMY (television 2005, O6 and beyond) & SIDEWAYS (‘04). Writer-director Patrick Stettner has a real feel for this type material and can count me as a fan. I look forward to whatever he does next.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL Rated: 8 1/2
Great acting by Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy.

THE PINK PANTHER Rated: 6

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION Rated 8 1/2
While not up there with my three personal favorites of director Robert Altman’s classic films, MASH, (1970) NASHVILLE (1975) & SHORTCUTS (1993), A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION joins the ranks of his better films including BREWSTER McCLOUD (1970), THE LONG GOODBYE (1973), THE PLAYER (1992), THE GINGERBREAD MAN (1998) & GOSFORD PARK (2001). On the other hand, I consider his 1976 effort, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS or SITTING BULL’S HISTORY LESSON (1976) to be one of the worst twenty films I’ve seen and HEALTH(1980) is an aggressively boring curiosity.

APHC takes us behind the scenes for a look at the backstage activities of the very popular radio show during a fictional last broadcast. Most of the film is presented in real time while real life host of the program, Garrison Keillor, shares the writing credit and plays himself in a prominent supporting role.

As usual for a Altman directed film, the entire cast is effective with standout work this time from Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly & Virginia Madsen. I was less impressed than usual with both Kevin Kline & Tommy Lee Jones but it well might be that I just didn’t like their characters at least as presented. Lindsay Lohan didn’t bump into any furniture but I seriously doubt that I’ll ever be a fan of this popular teen actress. Deserving of Oscar consideration is the seamless editing, multi-layered sound and an original song named “Goodbye to My Mama.”

THE QUEEN Rated: 7 1/2
Expect Helen Mirren to receive a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination for her amazing performance as Queen Elizabeth II. Until now, I was unaware of fellow Brit Michael Sheen who is terrific as Prime Minister Tony Blair. I caught myself forgetting that actors were playing these two characters. The film depicts events in the wake of the death of Princess Diana and highlights the differences between the Queen’s & the Prime Minister’s reactions and response to that tragedy.

RUNNING SCARED Rated: 8 1/2
RUNNING SCARED opened wide across North America on 2/24/2006. When I attempted to see it a second time on 3/10/2006, exactly 2 weeks later, I couldn’t find it playing in a single Los Angeles County theatre. After seeing it, I’m very surprised that it did so little business since I thought, at very least, those action fans that love Quentin Tarantino (PULP FICTION—‘94) cinematic violence would definitely want to see it. Further, I thought Paul Walker’s fans would buy tickets. Neither group showed up. For whatever reason, the marketing just didn’t work. In my opinion, RUNNING SCARED excels at what Tarantino attempts. It’s completely over-the-top but this time that approach works, at least for me.

South African born writer-director Wayne Kramer (THE COOLER—‘03)exhibits obvious talent and should be on many short lists for future projects. I’m definitely a fan. Although I liked Paul Walker in VARSITY BLUES (‘99), THE SKULLS (2000), and JOY RIDE (‘01), until I saw him

EIGHT BELOW (‘06) and RUNNING SCARED a couple of weeks apart in February 2006, I seriously underestimated his ability and likely range. I’m not sure he’s got great acting ability, but he sure has likeability, presence & physical appeal. Evidentally Clint Eastwood agrees since he cast Mr. Walker in his upcoming & highly anticipated FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (‘06). Two other future big stars deliver excellent performance in RUNNING SCARED also. Vera Farmiga is very impressive as Paul Walker’s wife and has since completed Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming THE DEPARTED (‘06).

Canadian born young teen Cameron Bright delivers solid support as Walker’s son’s abused neighbor/friend. He is equally effective in the current hit, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (‘06) and follows in the third of the hit X-MEN series in Summer 2006.

Clearly, I really liked RUNNING SCARED, its cast & its creators. Be warned, however, that a lot of people are not going to disagree. The MPAA got it right this time when they warn “Rated R for pervasive strong brutal violence and language, sexuality and drug content.” Believe it!

I’m looking forward to the DVD release so I can see it again, soon, however.

SCARY MOVIE 4 Rated: 3
It’s infantile and awful, which is hardly a surprise to anybody that’s seen any beyond the first in this series. BTW, predictably, it’s a big boxoffice success. I guess I missed it when crude, vulgar, and obnoxious replaced clever, insightful and funny.

SCOOP Rated: 4—1/2
Writer/director/actor Woody Allen is all pooped out, especially as an on-screen personility. What he does on screen these days is well short of acting and has become just plain annoying.

If you like Scarlett Johansson, you’ll probably enjoy her here. (I don’t; I didn’t.)

For a welcome change, she isn’t straining to be blatantly sexy, but, as usual, she is all surface and no subtext. One of my personal favorites, Hugh Jackman looks great but isn’t very interesting as an uninteresting/badly written character.

Although I liked Woody’s previous release, MATCH POINT (2006) a lot better than this one, I’m wondering if anybody but me noticed that both of these films reference the classic George Stevens film, A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951). Enough!

STEP UP Rated|: 8—1/2
OK, I’ll admit it. I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet little guilty pleasure!

Reflective and reminiscent of DIRTY DANCING (‘87), FLASHDANCE (‘83) FAME (‘80) among many others, this general plot almost always works for me, and judging from boxoffice history, millions of others agree.

Poor boy (or girl) meets rich girl (or boy) and the attraction is immediate and overwhelming. Problems develop, their friends and/or parents object yet true love wins in the end. When done right, it gets me every time! Add music and dancing and I’m happy to be there.

This time the girl is wealthy and a serious dance student while the boy is from the “wrong side of the tracks” and generally unmotivated. He gets in some minor trouble with the law and is assigned community service janitorial duties at the art school she attends. Her workout partner suffers an injury and he turns out to be a great untrained natural dance talent and…

This is the breakout/standout role for star-to-be Channing Tatum. Alabama born and Mississippi raised, Tatum was untrained as a dancer when cast, but his skills in martial arts, experience in team sports plus modeling stints for Abercrombie & Fitch all contribute to his dazzling display here. This convergence of charisma, confidence and physical appearance will take him far. I was reminded of the young Robert Mitchum, plus James Dean, Richard Gere and Edward Norton among others.

While not as incandescent or immediately striking as her co-star, Jenna Dewan is somebody to watch, also. She reminded me of a healthy Lindsay Lohan and has to be a lot less troubled and troubling. (Casting directors, take note!) And she can dance. It is quite obvious that no doubles or “dance-ins” subbed for either of the leads and what a pleasure to be able to see their entire bodies in full frame for much of each dance sequence. I especially enjoyed the number set in a nightclub and was surprised that I liked all the music in the film as performed here.

After many previous credits as a choreographer Anne Fletcher makes an impressive debut as director.

THE SENTINEL Rated: 6
People that don’t watch 24, the current & outstanding Monday night Fox Television series, are going to like this one much more than I did. That figured strongly in my giving THE SENTINEL a rather generous rating. It’s mildly entertaining and diverting but very superficial and doesn’t come close to achieving it’s potential given the subject matter. Don’t blame the cast or the director, Clark Johnson. The problem is the script. Oscar winning actor and producer, 61 year old Michael Douglas (WALL STREET -‘87) is passable as a Secret Service agent, but it’s time for him to avoid any future action thriller hero roles. Kiefer Sutherland, star of the above-mentioned 24, gets much better opportunity to show his skill as a similar character every week in that series. Douglas and Sutherland really shine in the one scene where they loudly confront each other. I’m a big fan of Oscar winner Kim Basinger (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL -‘97) and enjoyed/believed her as the First Lady here even though her character’s situation seriously strains credibility. I seriously doubt that any First Lady could have a secret affair with the Secret Service Agent assigned to guard her these days! I love Eva Longoria on current television mega hit, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, but she is miscast here as a rookie Secret Service agent. I was happy to see Blair Brown as the National Security Adviser but her part just disappears midway in the film. She was at her best in CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (‘81) and the 1987—91 television series called THE DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD and deserves better than this. As always, Martin Donovan provides excellent support. All technical aspects are first rate.

SOMETHING NEW Rated: 7

SUPERMAN RETURNS Rated: 8 1/2
Of the superhero films I’ve seen, SUPERMAN RETURNS is one of my three favorites. I slightly prefer SPIDER-MAN 2 (‘04) and BATMAN BEGINS (‘05) in some rather minor ways but director Bryan Singer really makes this material soar. The 154-minute running time flew by and left me wanting more. Getting my only reservation out of the way quickly: Kate Bosworth. She is too young and wispy to be credible as the seasoned and spunky reporter that I’ve always pictured Lois Lane to be. Ms. Bosworth is attractive and performs well enough but she is a questionable casting choice. (I’d have preferred the other current popular Kate, Kate Beckinsale.) Kevin Spacey is ideal as Lex Luthor. He got the balance between menace and buffoonery just right. As Lex’s assistant Kitty Kowalski, Parker Posey invigorates every scene she’s in. Flying above them all as “the man of steel” is Brandon Routh (rhymes with “mouth”). Not only does he completely embody the character while looking great, he gets the opportunity to show that he can act since the script gives the character a nice arc. He looks a lot like Christopher Reeve did in 1978 when he starred in Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE which is no coincidence since both closely approximate a three dimension vision of the original Superman drawings. All technical components including the amazing special effects are serious contenders for year end award recognition and are going to be hard to beat. The excellent original score is by John Ottman who also co-edited the film. (Note: The multi-talented Mr. Ottman is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinema. Fight On!) The score from 1978’s SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE from multi-Oscared John Williams is reprised here and it is thrilling to hear it again with such memorable arrangements.

TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY Rated; 8 1/2
Based on the trailer, I had decided to pass on seeing this one. However, early positive reviews got my attention and I changed my mind. I’m glad I did. It’s hilarious and quietly sophisticated as it manages to walk a thin line between ridiculing the life style of the NASCAR fans and depicting them in a non-judgmental or favorable light. While Will Ferrell isn’t a particular favorite of mine, I have enjoyed him is supporting or smaller parts. This time I found him entertaining as the star.

The rest of the cast was stellar, especially Gary Cole, Amy Adams, Leslie Bibb, & John C. Reilly. Further, Sasha Baron Cohen (BORAT…OF KAZAKHSTAN—‘06) as Ricky Bobby’s (Ferrell) major driving competitor who happens to be way over-the-top French and gay, deserves serious consideration for supporting actor hardware.

Writer/director Adam McKay excels as he exhibits skills hewed doing SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE between 1995 & 2001 (or more).

TIME TO LEAVE (LE TEMPS QUI RESTE) Rated: 8 1/2
TIME TO LEAVE is an excellent French film being shown with English subtitles in limited North American release starting July 2006. While the large percentage of reviews are favorable-to-excellent, crowds are small probably due to the downbeat nature of the subject matter. The well told story depicts the last few months of the life of a very attractive/vain/self-centered thirty-something gay male photographer in contemporary France. At the start of the film, he learns that he has inoperable/untreatable brain cancer. Since I knew going in that he was going to die, I didn’t find it particularly depressing. Another positive factor is that writer-director Francois Ozon is an amazing film-maker and makes this, along with all his other films, fascinating and rewarding to watch. Ozon is probably best know for SWIMMING POOL ( ‘03) which I believe is his only film in English so far & my favorite from him is still CRIMINAL MINDS—‘99 (Amants criminels, Les).

As the photographer, Melvil Poupard is outstanding and this performance is likely to get him cast in future major films. I was reminded of the young Alain Delon in PURPLE NOON—1960 (Plein soleil ). He has already completed work in BROKEN ENGLISH (2007) from newish director Zoe R. Cassavetes who is the sister of Nick Cassavetes (THE NOTEBOOK—‘04) & daughter of actress Gena Rowlands and the late director John Cassavetes. French superstar Jeanne Moreau is vivid in her scenes as his grandmother.

Be aware that there is nudity and a couple of rather explicit but tasteful sex scenes.

TIME TO LEAVE is intended for serious adults and is worth looking for on DVD if nothing else.

UNITED 93 Rated: 9
As of May 1, 2006, UNITED 93 is the best film of 2006.

Direction by Brit Paul Greenglass (THE BOURNE SUPREMACY—‘04) couldn’t be better. The subject of this film is what occurred on the only 9/11/2001 high-jacked flight that failed to achieve the full evil/bloody objective of its hijackers. Due to the heroic actions of the American passengers and crew on that flight, even more bloody tragedy was averted.

UNKNOWN WHITE MALE Rated: 8

WORLD TRADE CENTER Rated: 8 1/2
Because of the real life tragic events depicted, I was uncomfortable at the start of this excellent film. Focus was kept on the fate of two primary characters and that turns out to be the appropriate approach for telling the story.

This time out, Oscar winning flamboyant director Oliver Stone is much more restrained and straight forward than he has been on many of his recent projects. It’s the right choice for this material which centers on the tragedy that New York City endured starting September 11, 2001.

X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND Rated: 8
I’m not a serious student of this series or its source material. I did see and enjoy the first two episodes although I was never quite sure I really knew exactly what was going on. Since I was able to follow the story and manage to keep the characters straight this time, this is my favorite of the three by far. Purists and fanatics might not agree with me but they’re not going to care what I think anyway!

The entire cast is well selected and delivers perfectly. I liked everybody in it. The following stood out for me: Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, and Ben Foster. I’d have liked to see more of Cameron Bright, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Ellen Page in their parts, but, on the other hand, I’m pleased that the running time was kept to a brisk 104 or so minutes. Maybe in the next chapter…

Director Brett Ratner was an excellent choice as a last minute replacement for Bryan Singer who chose to do SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) instead. I suspect that everybody benefited from his decision.

Production values, technical work and special effects are as good as it gets.

YOU, ME AND DUPREE Rated: 5
YOU, ME AND DUPREE is mediocre. I usually like Owen Wilson but found him tiresome and annoying here. Speaking of annoying, I’m not much of a Kate Hudson fan and usually find her grating. She is less so here since she doesn’t push the “cute” button as often as she usually does. Matt Dillon is ok but looked somewhat stunned throughout.

Fourth billed Michael Douglas manages to avoid embarrassing himself in support and was carefully hidden in the marketing campaign for the film. If you decide to see a comedy starring one of the Wilson brothers this summer, I suggest MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND (‘06) which stars Owen’s brother, Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman instead. I found it sly & thoroughly enjoyable. I do not recommend YOU, ME AND DUPREE.

…more to come.

...more to come!



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