Archive for April, 2005

“Crash”

April 29, 2005

“Crash” is a serious, ensemble film with a variety of humor. Takes place is modern-day Los Angeles and shows the interplay among various ethnic and racial groups. This is a strong movie that does not hold back any punches. All of the characters are flawed human beings. An intense, original, and unpredictable moviegoing experience. “Prejudice” is a better title.

GRADE = “A-“

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XXX: State of The Union is A Generic Action Flick!!

April 29, 2005

I always thought that XXX had the potential to be a fantastic film, or if not fantastic, at least a good mindless action popcorn flick if not for one major factor – Vin Diesel. Well XXX2 proves that my original theory was wrong. While “”XXX: State of The Union”” is better than its predecessor, but it still lacks something. It’s too clean, sanitized and artificial looking, a film like this needs to get down, dirty and grimy.


At no point during this flick do you not know that you are watching an assembly line, by the numbers Hollywood production. Now this isn’t all bad, if you are willing to shut your brain off – which I’ve been saying an awful LOT this year, you’ll get some enjoyment from this. This time out of the box, we find out that the last XXX (Vin Diesel) died while on a mission. His death was handled off screen, but how cool would have been if they actually started the film off with his death? Instead the film starts with a beautiful shot of a country horse farm, that I’m assuming is supposed to be in Virginia, it turns out that the farm is actually the secret headquarters of the XXX organization, which gets invaded by a bunch of mercenaries in a fabulous 10-minute opening sequence. It seems the mercenaries are after the XXX Organization’s leader Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role from the original). After escaping the assassination attempt, he and his assistant Agent Meadows (Ramon De Ocampo) have to go “”off the grid”” to get them some help. This time out Gibbons doesn’t want another skateboarder he wants someone hard core so he springs his former navy buddy Darius Stone (Ice Cube) who is in Jail serving a 20 year sentence for disobeying and order and attacking his former commander General George Deckert (Willem Dafoe) who is now the Secretary of Defense. After the attack on the XXX Organization, the President of the United States, decides to get tough by spouting such inane platitudes like, “”From this point on, we’re going to get tough. We have to make our enemy’s LOVE us!”” Deckert’s reaction to it is so hysterical, DaFoe looks like he’s channeling Harry Osborne, and is ready to lob a couple of pumpkin bombs at the poor sap. After all the players are in place the plot revolves around Deckert’s plans for to take over the country, and Stone’s efforts to stop him. There really isn’t much more to it than that. The film’s action set pieces are all competently directed, and blessedly, director Lee Tamahori (who last did “”Die Another Day””) keeps his camera set ups simple. We get no shaky cams, or quick cuts, sweeping moves, etc. it’s basic by the numbers long shots. The film supposedly took place in the DC Area, but nothing looked like DC, and many of the locations were so generic it was hard to tell where they were supposed to be. A film like this, it’s not worth talking about the acting, it was mostly serviceable. It’s hard to take Cube as bad ass seriously, after watching him in stuff like “”Are We There Yet.”” He’s ok but he doesn’t “”pop”” off the screen. He sought to remake his image, and the success of his campaign is now hurting him.””XXX: State of The Union”” will be a good film to watch on Cable TV or DVD, but not one that you have to run out and see. It’s a fine film for fans of mindless action flicks, but it plays it safe and doesn’t strive to push the envelope.Final Grade CEM Review by Michelle AlexandriaOriginally Posted 04/29/05

Michelle Looks at “”The Hitchhiker Guide To The Galaxy””

April 29, 2005

If you are a fan of dry British humor then you will like Disney’s latest flick, the first big film of the summer, “”The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.”” The film opens strong, but quickly gets tiring and redundant, before picking itself back up. It’s a perfect case of filmmakers having a great concept and an idea of how to open and close a film, but no clue what to do in the middle.


Douglas Adams’ “”The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,”” is one of the most famous science fiction books ever written, but to be honest: I’ve never read it, or had any clue what it’s about. So when I heard that this was being made into a film I was completely ambivalent. The trailers for this film give away nothing, so I walked into this screening cold. The film opens with a cute and funny musical number that both symbolizes what’s great and wrong with the film. The opening number is a tongue and cheek look at Dolphins. It seems that dolphins are actually from out of space, and for years the dolphins have tried to warn the Earth about its pending destruction. Instead of understanding their warnings, humans treated dolphins like pets. All of this is done in an extended musical montage, with a narrator giving you the setups for the jokes. The first five minutes of this opening is laugh out loud funny, the next five to ten minutes is mildly amusing.For those that don’t know, “”The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,”” is exactly what it says, it’s a guide that teaches people how to hitchhike, and explains the ways of the galaxy. It’s guide that is desperately needed by earthling Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) who wakes up to find that his house is going to be demolished to make way for a highway through pass, as if that’s not enough his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) comes along and spins a crazy story about the earth being destroyed, and they only have time enough for a couple of quick pints of brew at the local pub before they have to get off the rock known as “”Earth.”” Ironically enough the “”Earth”” gets destroyed by a bunch of Bureaucratic aliens called “”Vogons”” who wanted to create a hyperspace bypass.That is the movie in a nutshell, after that the film becomes just a series of events, that make very little sense, on their Ford and Arthur’s journey they encounter The President of The Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and his crew earthling, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and the manic depressed (and my favorite character), Marvin The Robot Marvin (Warwick Davis). The film sort of falls apart when Sam Rockwell and his crew come into play, there is some ridiculous subplot involving Zaphod’s quest to become rich and famous by discovering and asking the “”Universal Question.”” As much as I love Sam Rockwell, his performance in this film is so over the top that it seems completely out of place. Everyone else in this film seems to get the understated British humor of the piece, but poor Sam seems to be going for sight gags. An example is the fact that he has two heads, everytime he runs, or speaks one of his heads flips up. It’s not funny the first time you see the gag, by the tenth time you just want to scream enough already. “”We get that he has two heads and half a brain, can we move on?””Other than Rockwell, the rest of the actors are fairly decent, if not understated, and at times underwhelming, but then that’s what dry wit is all about and why it works about 80 percent of the time in this film. The main villains, the Vogons really aren’t that interesting, but they were created old school style and use live puppets, so you have to give the film props for that. The special effects like everything else in this film, aren’t meant to make you go, “”Wow!”” so they were ok. “”The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy”” starts the summer blockbuster season off in a lukewarm fashion, it’s an instantly forgettable film, but for the two hours you are watching it, you’ll most likely enjoy at least 80 percent of it. This movie did make me want to finally go and pick up the books.Final Grade B- EM Review byMichelle AlexandriaOriginally Posted 04/29/05

Kelly Clarkson breaks out with Breakaway

April 29, 2005

I recently sat down to listen to the new Kelly Clarkson CD Breakaway. Now you have to understand, I think she

Indy 500: The Legacy Collection ā€“ The Worldā€™s Fastest Flying Start!

April 26, 2005

Since the 1950s, the Indianapolis 500 has been, as its most famous announcer put it,

Hulk Hogan Returns to WWE Pay-Per-View

April 26, 2005

Hey Brother!!!! Whatcha gonna do when the largest arms in the world run all over you?? Brother!!! The folks at WWE sent over an announcement regarding Hulk Hogan’s return to the ring. Brother! In case you didn’t know, he will be teaming up with the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels at this Sunday night’s Backlash Pay-Per-View. Can you say SM Heel Turn???? Brother!!! Ok, Brother, I’ll admit it, I watch wrestling and love wrestling video games, which is why I’m giving you the press release below. Read it Brother!!! Watcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you???!!! Brother!!!

—————————————————————————————————————On Sunday, May 1, live on pay-per-view, RAW presents one of the most anticipated rematches in recent WWE memory when Triple H and Batista meet again for the World Heavyweight Championship. Just four weeks after their WrestleMania showdown, Triple H vs. Batista II promises to be just as exciting as the first. This time, however, it will be Triple H looking to dethrone the World Heavyweight Champion Batista. Will the Animal once again prove superiority over Triple H and the Pedigree? Or will The Game begin his eleventh reign on top? Watch Backlash to find out.Also on Backlash, Shawn Michaels will finally get his hands on Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. The only catch – HBK must find a tag team partner. Immediately after being awarded his Backlash match, Michaels turned his attention to Hulk Hogan, requesting his aid in the pay-per-view encounter. Will the legendary Hulk Hogan accept Michaels’ invite? Tired of shrewd sneak attacks at the hands of Muhammad Hassan and Daivari, Shawn Michaels pleaded for a Handicap Match against both men. That way, HBK would know where the offensive was coming from. RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff, however, refused Michaels

Lemony Snicket: A Series of Semi-Unfortunate Incidents

April 26, 2005

Although it probably required a big name to make the proposition of an adaptation of the first three books in the

“”Beautiful City””, Quality Film

April 25, 2005

“Beautiful City”, or “Shah-re Ziba”, an Iranian film from director Asghar Farhadi is many things–it’s got politics, family issues, romance (as much as is possible given the censors), a documentary-style look at life in Iran–but most of all it is a story of the lengths people will go to save those they care about, and conversely the extent individuals will seek retribution against wrongdoers. On both sides, there is feeling of doing the right thing for family, but there are unforeseen consequences that prove otherwise.

The focus of the film early is the 18th birthday of Akbar, who is in a juvenile detention facility in the titular location. He was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Maliheh when he was 16(part of a suicide pact that didn’t quite turn out as such), but couldn’t be executed as he was too young. At turning 18, this changes, and so he faces the noose for his actions.His friend A’la (Babak Ansari)–really the main character in this tale–seeks to change this scenario. In order for this to happen, he must seek out the victim’s father, the plaintiff, and obtain his forgiveness, his ‘consent’ in order for Akbar to survive. Upon visiting the home belonging to the family of the incarcerated, he meets a weathered looking peddler, and a much younger woman who is presumably this vendor’s wife, and their child. The woman turns out to be Akbar’s sister Firouzeh (Taraneh Aladoosti), and since her brother is apparently the only member of her family (in terms of support), she assists A’la in his task.Their endeavor to commute Akbar’s death sentence leads them to Abolghassem (Faramarz Gharibian), the deceased girl’s father, who lives with his wife (not the victim’s mother–Abolghassem had gotten remarried sometime after she was born) and her crippled daughter. This last bit is significant as the family is looking for money for this daughter’s operation. The father also seeks “blood money” so as to pay to speed up the execution for Akbar.In Iran, as this movie sets out to explain, people pay off to either get the guilty party executed, or conversely to prevent said party from death. Abolghassem wants justice meted out against Akbar–he is willing to go to great lengths to obtain the tomans (local currency) and speed up the execution. A’la, meanwhile, is also persistent, continually ‘bumping’ into the grieving father, and even having the imam (Muslim cleric) at the local mosque use his influence, and sermon, to argue for the opposing side.[pagebreak]As these activities transpire, A’la winds up spending much time with Firouzeh–after all, she does have a vested interest in the outcome of this situation–and her son. They begin to open up to one another, with A’la speaking of his own brushes with the law (he was detained for bag snatching earlier) and Firouzeh revealing things about herself. Their relationship, which starts out as a simple matter of two individuals working towards the same goal, deepens and thus makes the situation more complex.This film, if nothing else, shows an Iran on a more personal level, beyond the headlines, news soundbites and such. It may just be the camera work, but one feels as if this is a documentary, covering the lives of ordinary folk in their daily lives. This includes moments like the scenes in the juvenile detention facility where Akbar and A’la spend time, or the hospital where Firouzeh works, or the scenes outside her home. As a result, the viewer gets drawn into the scenario, and the unfolding events have more of an effect (including–not to spoil too much–the final scenes).Adding to this mood is the lack of music, which might otherwise make scenes too dramatic. This, then, keeps the film simple in focusing on what happens to the characters, even while a whole range of topics is covered. The flick covers corruption, whereby people can (and need to) buy the innocence and guilt of others, the judicial distinction made between male and female victims, and family situations where there are not only arranged marriages, but marriages of convenience (for people to get support and also to get out of a bad situation.The leads give convincing performances as well. These include the final moments featuring Aladoosti and Ansari, and Gharibian’s role as the father mourning the loss of his beloved Maliheh (he turns to her photo often in the movie, even cradling it at one point) who now persists in denying and consent and seeing Akbar’s hanging through. As a glance into another society, and set of individuals’ lives as each does what he/she feels to be the right thing, “Beautiful City” delivers an impact. It’s true that the film’s resolution might leave one pondering, but that is the intent. For many people, these are the choices that life forces them to make.Grade: A-EM Reviewby Andrew Haas4/25/05

American Idol Contest for Cingular Customers

April 25, 2005

Hey Everyone,

The folks at Cingular sent over this little news item that I thought you might be interested in.

Cingular just announced the “Ultimate Idol Insider” sweepstakes, which is exclusive to Cingular SMYC members. They’re calling all American Idol fans for the chance to win an all-expense paid trip for two to the Season Finale and be declared the “Ultimate Idol Insider”!

Entering the contest is easy. First, Cingular customers ages 13-24 join SMYC (Show Me Your Cingular), which is Cingular’s youth loyalty program that provides members exclusive offers, promotions, and instant access to popular contests and events. Then, they grab their Cingular Wireless camera phone and capture their best shot. The subject should be super creative and relevant to the American Idol program. Once they have captured their best stuff, they shoot their photo to idol@rucingular.com using the Multimedia Messaging option on their phone. Cingular will respond back with a confirmation message. Upon receipt of the message, participant will receive one entry into the promotion. The more they enter the more chances of winning!

For more information, please visit http://209.237.248.115/imredirect.cfm?Ref=aiFHP&VID=22544&CID=66&TID=4003&UID=46

Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story ā€“ Misleading Title, Heartrending Movie

April 20, 2005

The former champ takes a bit more time to string together words, and his smile can