Monday, October 25, 2004

The TV Season That Was - Part 2 - More Returning Shows

The Practice - After the majority of the cast was fired before the beginning of the new season, I figured that this show was just going to be an embarrassing shell of its former self. Considering how far the show had already fallen, I wondered why they were even going to bother trying to mount another season. Happily, the addition of James Spader led to one of the most entertaining seasons that The Practice has ever had. Gone was the constant whining of Bobby Donnell and his equally whiny wife, replaced with the conniving character played by Spader and the amazing guest starring turns of Sharon Stone and William Shatner. The end of the season, between tying up the loose ends of the Practice, was spent giving us an extended look at the new spin-off starring Spader and Shatner. Although the small glimpse The Practice gave us of the new show wasn't all that impressive.

The West Wing - While many have said that they found the characters in last season's West Wing to be more preachy and self important than they were in the past, I'd have to disagree. However, I would say that the show lost some of its creativity. Gone was much of the snappy dialogue, replaced with storylines that were far more predictable than those of past seasons.

Law & Order - Even after all these years, it remains one of the most entertaining shows on television. The only down side of last season's Law & Order is that it marked Jerry Orbach's last on the show.

JAG - This show just keeps rolling along, and despite some questionable storylines in past season, continues to be pretty good. Although, I was disappointed to see John M. Jackson leave the cast at the end of the last season.

Star Trek: Enterprise - Yep, they added Star Trek to the title. As if Star Trek fans didn't already know what the show was about or that it was on. This is the sort of bone-headed thinking that seems all to commonplace among those now responsible for maintaining the once-great Star Trek franchise. The show started off in its first season with a great deal of promise - it's been all downhill ever since.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The TV Season That Was - Part 1 - Returning Shows

Before getting into the new TV season, I thought I would throw a few thoughts out there about the old one. Let's start out with some of the shows from last year that weren't in their first seasons.

CSI - It continues to be one of the best shows on the air, although I have to confess that I did skip it a few times in favor of The Apprentice.

CSI: Miami - Continues to be a weaker show than the original, but I found last season was an improvement over its first one.

Third Watch - This show just continues to get better despite what seemed like an endless stream of cast changes throughout the season. The season ended with one of the better cliffhangers that I've seen in a long time.

ER - This is a show whose time is past to the point that I think it may just be time to stop watching. In the past, you could count on ER for week after week of amazing writing and intense drama. It's gotten to the point where I wonder why certain episodes ever even made it to air. Don't even get me started on the completely idiotic way they killed off Dr. Romano.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent - How the hell can anybody watch a show starring a detective so smart that he pretty well has crimes solved before they ever happen? That's the extent of my thoughts on that show since I can't stomach more than a couple of minutes of it at a time.

Law & Order: SVU - It remains the far less entertaining spin-off that it has been since day one. I watched the first couple of years; I've since pretty well given up. Of the couple of episodes that I did catch last year, I found them to be pretty bland.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Jeopardy And The Emmys

Here are just a couple of thoughts about events from recent weeks. First, I'd like to thank all of the "real" news outlets for spreading the details of how Jeopardy contestant Ken Jennings' run will finally come to an end. At least the internet news sites have the courtesy and good sense to note that spoilers are contained in their stories.

I'm surprised not to have seen more discussion of Tom Selleck's appearance at the Emmys a couple of weeks ago. He was greeted with wolf whistles from female fans to the extent that he wasn't even able to begin to read his text off the teleprompter. This normally wouldn't be a big deal, I'm sure Selleck is used to it by now. Except in this case, the cheers delayed his reading of the names of all those folks in the TV industry that had died in the last year. It was easily the highlight of the night for me. Mind you, I didn't watch the whole show, so I guess there could have been a more embarrassing moment…

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Scotty Says Good-bye

This weekend marks a sad farewell. Actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek will make his last appearance at a Star Trek Convention, aptly titled "Beam Me Up, Scotty...One Last Time". He was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and has decided that it is time to retire from public life. On the up side, Doohan is going to be joined at this weekend's convention by all of the living cast members of the original Star Trek series, so he is going out with a bang. Doohan will also be honored on Tuesday when he receives a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Thanks for 40 great years of Star Trek James.

The Birth Of PG-13

While this isn't exactly news, CNN has an interesting article on the 20th anniversary of the PG-13 rating. It's worth checking out, even if just for a trip down memory lane.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Will The Fun Ever End?

Here are even more old reviews to begin the week.

The Hunt For Red October

This is the first of the movies based on Tom Clancy’s bestsellers featuring the character of Jack Ryan. Alec Baldwin is the first in a series of actors to try his hand at the character. In this movie, CIA analyst Ryan is called upon to assist in the search for a missing, and apparently very advanced, Russian submarine, the Red October. It seems Red October’s captain, Marko Ramius, played by Sean Connery, has decided to deviate from his scheduled course during the sub’s maiden run. The Russians are out to sink the sub because they fear the captain and crew will defect with the sub to the United States. The Americans, on the other hand, are worried that the sub is a rogue and may be bent on attacking the US. It’s up to Ryan to figure out what Ramius’ intentions are and to make contact with him.

Unlike the novel that this movie is based on, the movie doesn’t get bogged down with the endless amounts of techno-jargon that seem to plague Tom Clancy’s work. The movie also benefits from a strong cast and what might be one of Alec Baldwin’s better performances. The Hunt For Red October ranks as one of the best submarine movies of all time.

The Peacemaker

This is George Clooney’s first big screen starring role. As a first outing it isn’t a bad one, although the story tends to drag a little too much for my liking. Clooney teams up with Nicole Kidman in the search for a missing Soviet nuclear bomb that they fear may be in the hands of terrorists who could be planning on using it against the US. Not a bad movie overall, but as action films go, there are a great many better choices out there. The fact that Clooney and Kidman don’t really have the best on-screen chemistry doesn’t exactly help the film either.

Alien Resurrection

This is the fourth, and very hopefully final, outing of the Alien movies. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is back again, although she is a clone of her former self. The original Ripley bit the dust in the third movie. This time Ripley has been resurrected so her evil employers can try to breed an Alien of their very own. They succeed, but obviously they haven’t seen the first three movies and don’t realize just how nasty they are. The aliens inevitably overpower their creators and run amok on the company spaceship. Guess who has to clean up the mess? Even the writing of Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon isn’t strong enough to breathe new life into this series that should have ended after the second installment.

The Transporter

This is one of those movies that was well below my radar until just a couple of weeks before it came out. We have an ex-military man (Jason Stratham) who now is an expert in transportation - specifically transporting people or things that are a little less than legal. By way of example, the movie opens with the transporter acting as a hired wheel man for a group of bank robbers. But this is no average driver. Think of this transporter as a cross between James Bond and the UPS guy - he will move anything you want in his souped-up BMW just as long as you pay his price. But when one of his parcels ends up being a kidnapped young woman, his life takes a dramatic turn. Good acting and plenty of very good action sequences make this a movie worth checking out during your next trip to the video store.

Knockaround Guys

This is one of those movies that sat on a shelf for a long time. I suspect that if it weren’t for the recent successes of Vin Diesel, this movie would have never seen the light of day. Honestly, it isn’t a bad movie, but considering the cast involved, it could have been much better. Diesel and Seth Green, among others, play wanna-be mobsters. But when given the chance to prove their worth to the higher-ups in the organization by doing a simple delivery, they manage to lose their parcel - a bag full of cash. So they have to travel to a small town and do battle with the corrupt local sheriff in order to retrieve the cash and avoid getting whacked by the real wise guys. Clichés abound in this movie, but it still isn’t the worst mob movie that you are likely to come across, although I’m still not sure it’s worth the price of a rental.

Stealing Harvard

One thing that this movie proves to me is that Tom Green is a hell of a lot funnier in a smaller supporting role than he ever could be as a lead. Jason Lee plays John Plummer, a man on the verge of buying his first house with his wife to be (Leslie Mann), when his plans get a slight alteration. An old promise comes back to haunt him. Years ago he promised his niece that he would pay for her tuition if she ever got into Harvard. As luck would have it, she did get in, and now she is expecting him to shell out the dough for her Ivy League education. John has the cash, but it just happens to be the down payment for his girlfriend’s dream home. So now he is faced with disappointing one of the women in his life, unless he can find a way to come up with a lot of money real fast. He turns to his old friend Duff (Tom Green) for help. Duff, who isn’t the brightest lad, promptly suggests that crime is going to be the only way that he is going to be able to get the cash he needs. So the two friends then set out on a crime spree that involves one bungled operation after the next in what appears to be a vain attempt to raise the needed tuition cash. It’s not likely this is going to be the funniest movie that you’ve ever seen, but there is enough material to provide for some light entertainment.


Madison Bell (Erika Christensen) is the new girl in school. She has everything going for her, she’s rich, she’s gorgeous, and she can get any guy she wants. She’s also psychotic. She fixates on the star of the swim team (Jesse Bradford) and decides that he is to be hers. After a one night fling, she is hurt that he would rather forget their indiscretion and stay with his girlfriend (Shiri Appleby). So Madison decides that if she can’t have him, then she is going to have to ruin his life.

Erika Christensen steals every scene she is in, and for such a young actress she does a hell of a job. In terms of psychotic former lovers, her performance here rivals that of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. If for no other reason, Swimfan is worth checking out for the performance of Ms. Christensen.

John Grisham’s The Rainmaker

Am I the only one who gets a little nervous when the author or director’s name appears in the title of a movie? It’s almost as if somebody at the studio releasing the movie realized that is wasn’t going to be good enough to stand on its own two feet. They figured that the movie in question needed a little something extra if it was ever going to make any of the money back that had been spent on making it. Generally speaking when you get the name of the author or director included in the title, the movie sucks.

That having been said, John Grisham’s The Rainmaker is the exception to the rule. While it isn’t as splashy as some of John Grisham’s other novels that have made it to the big screen, it is a solid film. Matt Damon plays a young lawyer just out of law school who takes a job working for a shady attorney named Bruiser (Mickey Rourke) whose primary business seems to come from ambulance chasing and his contacts with various elements of the criminal underworld. His less than glamorous practice leads Damon’s character into several interesting cases, the primary focus of this movie being a family whose son is dying of cancer and whose insurance company won’t pay for a procedure that may well save his life.

There are a lot of great performances in this movie, not the least of which is Mickey Rourke. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Rourke, but his supporting role here is one of the highlights of the movie. Danny DeVito, Claire Danes, Roy Scheider and Jon Voight are among the other big names to pop up in this movie in supporting roles.

Oh, and as for my observations about the author’s name in the title - quite honestly, I think the studio just didn’t know how to market this movie. It’s one of those films that doesn’t easily fit into any sort of category. It’s a courtroom drama, but the emphasis is firmly on the drama rather than the courtroom.

Hard Rain

The most striking thing about this movie is the set. This movie occurs during a flood in a small town, so as a result the movie almost entirely takes place in the water. They have to navigate the town streets with boats, and even the buildings are submerged. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is an impressive feat. Christian Slater plays an armored car driver whose cargo of cash gets robbed by a group of crooks led by Morgan Freeman. Freeman and his compatriots intend to use the flood to help elude the cops in their escape. But Slater takes his job seriously and isn’t about to let Freeman and friends escape with the cash that he is supposed to be guarding. He doesn’t care if he is hip deep in water; he is going to get his money back. It’s a fun movie, not too deep, if you’ll pardon the pun, but entertaining.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

More Movies To Get Off My Chest

Janet Jackson had to get clothes off her chest. I’ll just stick with some more dated movie reviews that are long overdue to be posted.

Red Dragon

Red Dragon is actually a remake of the movie Manhunter, with a few changes to give the character of Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a bigger role. Having watched Manhunter just before Red Dragon, I can say that this is the far superior version. I don’t think that there is a single aspect to this film that doesn’t outshine the original - which is pretty tough considering both movies were based on the same novel. This is a prequel to The Silence Of The Lambs, meaning Hopkins is supposed to be more than a decade younger than he really is. Even though his age is evident in the movie, it didn’t hurt his performance. It’s worth checking out even if the second movie in the series, Hannibal, left you a little squeamish. A cast that includes Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, and Ralph Fiennes also make up for the fact that Hopkins’ part isn’t nearly as large as you might expect it to be.

Cop Land

Sylvester Stallone plays far against type in this movie. He is an overweight cop in a small New Jersey town that is home for many New York City police officers, many of them with mob connections. Even though he is the top cop in this small town, his daily duties make him little more than a glorified security guard. He gets the opportunity to do some real police work when it become obvious that the cops living in his town aren’t exactly squeaky clean. If you ever thought that Stallone couldn’t carry a movie in which he wasn’t toting either boxing gloves or a machine gun, Cop Land might just be the movie that changes your mind. Stallone more than holds his own with co-stars Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Still Cleaning Off That Desk

Here are a few more old reviews that have been delayed due to chronic procrastination.

City By The Sea

This is one of those movies that you watch and then forget about right after. It’s not a bad movie; there just really isn’t anything here that we haven’t all seen 1000 times before. Robert De Niro plays a cop whose drug-addicted, estranged son is accused of murdering De Niro’s partner. So De Niro must try to track down his son before the rest of the force does, since it is a well known fact that cop killers have a very low survival rate. This movie never really seemed to be sure if it wanted to tell a story about a dysfunctional family, or if it wanted to be just another cop drama. That indecision is what killed it.

The Ten Commandments

This is a movie that I’ve watched every year for as long as I can remember. I might not make it to the end every year, but more often than not I manage to see most of it. It’s hard to believe that NRA poster boy Charlton Heston was once known for this role as opposed to his love of guns. No real reason to go deeply into the plot since it is unlikely that anyone reading this review has never seen the film. In a thumbnail, Heston plays Moses and he is intent on freeing the Hebrew slaves and leading them out of Egypt from their masters. It was a production on a grand scale, which I doubt would ever be done today. And if it was, it would likely be with computer animation rather than actually staged with real human extras as this film was. Whether you like Heston’s politics or not, The Ten Commandments is still one of the all-time great movie epics, despite the fact that I sometimes expect him to pull out a machine gun from under his robes and blow away Yul Brynner rather than part the Red Sea.

Night Falls On Manhattan

This is one of those movies that drags on more than it really should. Andy Garcia plays a young district attorney who is thrust into the spotlight when he is called upon to prosecute the case of a drug dealer who went on a shooting spree, killing and wounding police officers, one of the wounded being his own father. The movie follows him as he moves up the ladder in the D.A.’s office, finally becoming the district attorney. There is a great cast at work here, including James Gandolfini and Dominic Chianese in their pre-Sopranos days. I was just never sure if this movie was a courtroom drama, or a bad soap opera.

The Exorcist

This is a movie that is considered by many to be the scariest ever made. I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but it is a very good film. Personally, I’ve always considered it more creepy and shocking than scary.


Al Pacino plays a down on his luck director who makes movies that nobody wants to see. That all changes when he meets a man who has come up with the ultimate computer program; one that allows the creation of computer generated actress who is so real, that nobody can tell she isn’t a real person. With the help of his new cyber actress, Pacino makes a string of blockbusters. But he now has bigger problems - making sure that the world never finds out that the leading lady in all of his films isn’t a real person. It’s an interesting premise that unfortunately never really pans out on screen.

Brokedown Palace

Two American teens traveling in Thailand are accused, convicted, and imprisoned for smuggling drugs. While both maintain their innocence, the Thai court system isn’t exactly a fair one. The film follows their struggle to win their freedom from their jailers. There are great performances here by Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale. This is a lesser known movie that is worth checking out the next time you notice it in your TV listings playing in the middle of the night on a weekend.

One Hour Photo

Robin Williams was in creepy character role mode. Earlier the same year this movie came out he did a turn as a serial killer in Insomnia. In this film he plays a photo processing clerk obsessed with a family who brings their pictures to him for processing. I have to admit to being a little disappointed in the movie. It’s not that it’s a bad film, but it wasn’t what I expected. I expected Williams to play more of a sinister stalker character; instead he is almost a pathetic little creature. While it’s a bit underwhelming, it’s still worth giving a look.

A Walk To Remember

Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, A Walk To Remember pairs the town bad boy with the preacher’s daughter (pop singer Mandy Moore). But instead of being the same cliché that we’ve all seen in 90% of other teen movies, the premise actually works here.

A Walk To Remember is one of those movies that I skipped when it first arrived in theaters. I’m not normally a big fan of movies that have singers as their stars, it always seems like a vanity project to me. (Can you say Madonna?) But in this instance I was dead wrong; Mandy Moore does an amazing job in the lead role. In fact she is radiant and perfectly cast. Moore is likely going to be one of the few singers who successfully makes the transition to actress. If she doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of talent.


This is the first appearance of Hannibal Lecktor. Unlike the recent remake, Red Dragon, Lecktor’s participation in this film is limited. This movie focuses more on the FBI agent who captured him, rather than the cannibalistic serial killer. This is a movie directed by Michael Mann, best know for Miami Vice. And this movie reminds me a great deal of that TV show. It is substantially more style over substance. It is plainly obvious that Mann put a great deal more emphasis into the look of this movie than anything else. Brian Cox fills the role of Dr. Lecktor in this movie, so there isn’t even an Anthony Hopkins performance to look forward to. Although fans of TV’s C.S.I. should note that William Petersen plays the lead role in this movie, and does a pretty good job. By the way, no, I’m not spelling “Lecktor” wrong. The spelling of the good doctor’s name was changed to “Lecter” when Anthony Hopkins assumed the role in The Silence Of The Lambs.

The Tuxedo

The Tuxedo is one of Jackie Chan’s latest movies. This time Chan comes into possession of a Tuxedo that gives its wearer all of the powers that your typical secret agent would ever need. Chan is as charming as ever, and he plays well off co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt (who, incidentally, looks as good as ever), but there is something missing here. In typical Jackie Chan fashion, Chan shows off his martial arts skills. But unfortunately many of the stunts that Chan is involved in are clearly computer enhanced. The stunts that this super Tuxedo is capable of performing are even beyond the skills of Chan. And while many of the stunts are entertaining, Jackie Chan fans don’t go to his movies to see computer generated special effects; they go to see Jackie do all of his own stunt work. Sadly, with all of the computer generated wizardry, this is a movie in which any actor in Hollywood could have filled the lead role. It’s a waste of Chan’s skills, and one of his more disappointing movies.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back

I had enjoyed earlier Kevin Smith films like Chasing Amy, but this is the film that made me a fan of the director. It is easily one of the funniest movies that I’ve seen in a long time. Losers Jay and Silent Bob find out that a comic book based on them is being turned into a Hollywood movie, and they aren’t happy about it, mostly because they want a piece of the action. So they take a very eventful road trip to Hollywood to try to get their piece of the pie. And speaking of Pie, among the many quirky characters that they end up encountering on their cross country trek, is American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth. She and her equally lovely friends convince Jay and Silent Bob to join them in their animal rights crusade which doesn’t go exactly as planned. Additionally, the film is filled with cameo appearances by a number of Hollywood stars, and we get return appearances from other regulars in Kevin Smith’s films, including Ben Affleck. Quite honestly, the fact that characters, and actors, from his past films kept popping up throughout this movie was one of the things that really made it for me.

Fear Dot Com

Ah, where to begin? I suppose it should be pointed out first that this will easily be the worst horror movie that I’ve seen during the past year. It is also in the running for the worst overall movie. The dopey premise is pretty simple. Go to a website, watch a horrific killing on that website, die a horrific death yourself. As dumb as dumb gets. Instead of real scares, this movie relies on gore to shock the audience. It never succeeds.