February 28th, 2005

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

2004 Best Screenplay winner "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind"

Charlie Kaufman writes movies that appeal to academics. "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation" were Oscar nominated mind bending movies about a man and his relationships. "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind" continues Kaufman's mindbending themes that allows him to be the poster boy for psychology majors. Kaufman takes simple people and places them in a science fiction "What if" situation. This time Kaufman uses a memory-forgetting drug to bend the minds of his romantic leading couple.

The movie opens with Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslett) on a nice romantic date in the cold country. Joel drives Clementine back to her house and waits for her return. While waiting for her, Joel dozes off the driver's seat and is awaken by Patrick (Elijah Wood). Later, Joel visits Clementine at her work environment and she has no memory of him.
Joel learns that Clementine had attended Lacuna, Inc, a clinic that helps people forget their past. Upon meeting Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), Joel decides to undergo the same treatment. With Lacuna Inc. two lab assistants Patrick and Stan (Mark Ruffalo) monitors Joel's therapy. While in an unconscious state, Joel learns that he wants to retain his memories of Clementine. Joel fights to retain his memories, which disrupts his memory erasing treatment.

You really have to put yourself in a focused state of mind to follow the narrative of "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind." Both my niece Leigh and I started to doze off during a Friday evening show. This film is so packed with details that if you miss a beat, you are likely consumed by the eternal darkness of a cluttered mind. This film crosses the lines between a surrealistic dreamscape and stark reality, but fortunately Freddy Krueger is not roaming this cinematic landscape.

Kristen Dunst portrays the perky Mary, the girlfriend of one of the assistants, Stan. Along with Ruffaro, this couple represent a patient's worst nightmare about caregivers. The two Lacuna employees make love and get stoned while Joel is in an unconscious state. Patrick pursues the patient's ex girlfriend, Clementine. British ensemble stalwarts Tom Wilkinson and Kate Winslett add credible low key American performances.

Jim Carrey is making some interesting career choices. Now in his forties, Carrey balances his comedic box office performances with smaller ensemble performances in experimental movies like "The Truman Show*"and "Man on the Moon." "Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind" falls into Carrey's serious portfolio and the actor provides a passive, but empathetic performance.

However for the healing power of laughter, one would best review Jim Carrey movies like "Liar, Liar" and "Bruce Almighty." These two movies present big themes with fond memories in an entertaining way. With these movies, Carrey is able to balance his comedic creativity with his handsome Saturday Matinee idol good looks in two movies that are more appropriate for April Fool's Day.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Razzie Winner for Best(Worst) Picture - "CATWOMAN"

Last Summer "Lara Croft Tomb Raider The Cradle of Life" was released to cruel criticism and a weak box office. While not as bad of what mainstream critics maintained, this Lara Croft sequel has enjoyed a second life on the DVD shelf. Angelique Jolie gave a charming performance between moments of Saturday Matinee heroics worthy of Nyoka the Jungle Woman. Halle Berry does strike a similar chord with this summer's critical target, **Cat woman.** Like Jolie, Berry gives a likable performance as an action heroine. Berry makes the transition from a frumpy, but friendly loser who grows into a confident individual with a dual identity.

Patience Phillips (Berry) is the best commercial artist for the Hedare Cosmetic Corporation. Phillips is often taken advantage of by her mean Boss, George Hedare (Lambert Wilson).. Hedare has created a wrinkle free cream that is addictive. If customers quit using the anti-aging cream, their faces rot away. Phillips bumbles unto this corporate conspiracy and is flushed away into a chemical sewage drain.

Phillips is given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by an Egyptian Mau cat. Phillips awakes from her cat nap and plots revenge on her tormentors. Upon returning to her apartment , Phillips changes from a meek personality to that of a feline minx. She begins robbing jewelry stores and dates Officer Lone (Benjamin Bratt), a tough cop who partakes in charity events for children. The plot further thickens when George Hedare begins to bicker with his cosmetic trophy wife, Laurel (Sharon Stone).

Warner Brothers had been planning a "Catwoman" movie for 12 years. Originally Michelle Phillips was supposed to reprise her role as the kitten with a whip as a spin off from "Batman Returns." Three years ago Ashley Judd's name was attached to this project. Halle Berry eventually got the role with multiple character revisions and no mention of Batman or Robin, Berry's best moments are based on humor. After being revived, Berry's first reaction is to cough up a hair ball.

The major flaw with "Catwoman" is Director Pitof's reliance on computer animation. The film moves as if it is a video game as Catwoman jumps from building to building on some nocturnal quest. With such a reliance on special effects, one wonders why producers cast expensive actors in these comic books roles.

Compared to "Spider-Man 2," there is a definite lack of audience empathy for the leading characters of "Catwoman." Sharon Stone and Lambert Wilson's villainy lacks the dimension of Alfred Molina's conflicted Doctor Octopus in the arachnid sequel. As Catwoman's boy toy, Benjamin Bratt looks like he wants to return to some version of "Law & Order."

Still **Catwoman** is not a bad movie if you do not pay for it. At least there are some nice bits of business in Berry's performance that cat lovers will appreciate. I am just glad I am a dog person!
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Best Visual effects 2004 "SPIDER-MAN 2"

"Spider-Man 2" takes up were the original "Spider-Man" movie left off two years ago. Spider-Man, alias Peter Parker (Tobey McGuire), is still foiling the criminals and thugs of New York City. His unrequited love, Mary Jane Watson (Kristen Dunst) and best friend, Harry (James Franco), have progressed with their lives. Harry sits on the board of directors for his father's company, Oscorp, while Mary Jane has become an actress on Broadway performing Oscar Wilde.

While celebrating another birthday with his friends and Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), Peter becomes depressed. Despite all of his heroics as the Spider-Man, Peter Parker has nothing to show for his success. Peter is a failure on the job as a pizza delivery boy, he is failing in college and his superiors think he is lazy. Things go from bad to worse for Peter when his arachnid powers fail him.

Thanks to the influence of Dr. Connors (Dylan Baker), Peter is able to met Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a scientific genius in the field of fusion. Peter and Octavius develop a mentor/prodigy relationship, which is destroyed when a scientific experiment goes out of control. Octavius loses his wife and becomes a freak of mechanical nature when 6 metallic arms are fused into his spine. Losing his identity to his mechanical claws, the kindly Professor Octavius becomes the monstrous Doctor Octopus.

"Spider-Man 2" is a case study of abnormal psychology. This new film is motivated by human nature, not by a villain seeking world domination in a unique way. While most of the action sequences are worthy of the visualization of a comic book, it is Peter's confessionals to Aunt May and Mary Jane that forms the most emotional moments in the movie. Spidey's impotent actions are more of a psychological block than any physical ailment.

The heart of this motion picture comes form a labor of love from the cast, crew and Marvel Comics. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee saves another child from falling debris in an effective cameo. Sam Raimi regular, Bruce Campbell portrays a snobby theatre usher that may be the same character from the first movie. Willem Dafoe and Cliff Robertson return from the dead in two effective cameo appearances that represent the Tao of parenthood. Tobey McGuire, Kristen Dunst and James Franco create an empathic love triangle based on friendship and envy.

Both "Spider-Man" movies have three battles between Spidey and his antagonists. The best fight in the new movie features Doc Ock on a tower with Aunt May in his clutches. The most disappointing battle is the climatic nighttime show down that deals more with character meltdown than any war of the wills between the protagonists.

From the Spider-Manaholics to the comic book layman on the street,
"Spider-Man 2" succeeds as first rate entertainment. Director Sam Raimi adds just enough details to keep the comic book scholars guessing as to the fate of "Spider-Man 3," due in 2007. A.D. While this film is not as good as the predecessor, "Spider-Man 2" is one of the best movies for the summer of 2004.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

A 3 time RAZZIE Winner (Loser) "Farhenheit 911"

Leni Riefenstahl directed one of the most important documentaries in the 20th century, "Truimph de Willens" ("Triumph of the Will"). This documentary features the growth of the Third Reich starring Adolph Hitler as the heroic leader. Politics aside, "Triumph de Villens" is classic cinema that celebrates cinematic style over content. Rediscovered after the terrors of the holocaust, Riefenstahl's cinematic career was destroyed. This cinematic artist is now seen as the symbol of another artist duped by the societal conventions of the moment.

Since the 2000 Presidential Election, there has been a raw anger towards President Bush. Despite evidence towards the contrary, George Bush did win the state of Florida. Yet some many people refuse to accept this truth. Seizing this capitalistic opportunity, Michael Moore saw this opportunistic niche and exploited this anger. The marketing promotion for "Farhenheit 911" began during the Michael Moore’s Academy Awards tirade in March, 2003. As of Sunday, July 25 "Farhenheit 911" has earned a $103 million box office gross, despite receiving three times as much financial free publicity generated on all the major news networks, newspapers and this 4 night infomercial called the Democratic National Convention.

"Farhenheit 911" opens with Michael Moore’s perception of the 2000 election. After the credits, Moore narrates that President Bush was away on vacation during most of his 8 months in office. The truth is the President did perform work at his ranch in Crawford Texas. In August 2001, the President was formulating his first policies about embryonic stem cell research. The terrorists attacked on September 11th and killed nearly 3000 people. Michael Moore finds more fault with the Bush Administration than the terrorists.

Emotionally, this film is hard to watch; we see real grief - from the mothers, fathers and widows of our volunteer military service people. One has to be an emotional callus not to be moved by these people’s plight. We see the war wounded in Walter Reed Hospital, whose lives have been forever changed with fresh amputation of arms and legs.

Moore does understand the language of cinema. After the opening credits - the audience sits watching a black screen with the sounds of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Moore contrasts this with corporate seminars featuring Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer. Moore seems incensed that American corporations can gain to profit with the rebuilding of Iraq, yet Moore's Captain Ahab approach to President Bush blinds him from his own hypocrisy. Moore is profiting from the interviews he performed with the war victims. Moore feigns sympathy for the little man, the down trodden. Much in the way Al Capone created soup kitchens in Chicago to both feed the poor and help build loyalty with the homeless community.

Where was Michael Moore's investigating anger when the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993? Or when the Clinton Administration bombed Osama Bin Laden chemical plant during Monica Lewinsky's testimony or when Iraq was bombed during William Jefferson Clinton's impeachment vote in December 1998? If one is able to look beyond Michael Moore’s visual arresting propaganda, one would see another Hollywood elitist hypocrite.

Despite Michael Moore's misguided paranoia about the Patriot Act, the release of "Farhenheit 911" proves that our first amendment freedoms are still safe. The fact that a movie as angry and inflammatory as "Fahrenheit 911" is being released during an election year shows how far this nation has grown emotionally since that tragic day. Thank you President Bush for creating an environment of politics as usual.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

2004 Best Animated Feature: "The Incredibles"

As the 70 million dollar opening weekend has shown,
"The Incredibles" is a critic proof movie. From the
team that bought you "Toy Story," "Monsters Inc"
and "Finding Nemo," Walt Disney Pixar Studios have
produced their sixth winner with "The Incredibles."
The Disney-Pixar animation productions date better
than their arch rival, Dreamworks Animations. With
the exception of the original "Shreck," Dreamworks
Animation produces feature movies that embedded by pop
culture references that may not seem funny ten years
from now.

Yet the marriage between Disney and Pixar is not a
happy one. Like an old bosch belt comedy team from
the Catskills, these two corporate entities has been
feuding in the courts. Despite this conflict, both
executive teams seem to realize that it is better to
stay married than live apart.

"The Incredibles" is the most adult animation
feature because the subtext deals with sophisticated
anxieties. Mr. Incredible is a typical superhero from
the 1950's breed. Chisel chinned, muscular and faster
than a speeding bullet, Mr. Incredible feels weary.
Everytime he saves the world, someone always comes
along and puts the world back in danger. When lawyers
begin winning lawsuits against Mr. Incredible and his
colleagues, the Superheroes are forced to enter a
Federal Witness Relocation Program.

While trying to live the life domestic, Mr. Incredible
must deal with the everyday pressures of paying the
mortgage and raising two teenagers. Formerly known as
Elastic Girl, Mrs. Incredible uses her talent to keep
the house and to settle the constant bickering between
Dash and Violet. Dash is a speedster and Violet has
the ability to become invisible and develop force

Stricken with a shallow life, Mr. Incredible longs for
the good old days. Sitting with his old chum Frozone,
Mr. Incredible cheats on his wife by listening to the
police scanner and preventing crime. One day, Mr.
Incredible is given a message that he is needed to
save the world. Despite being out of shape and
against Elastic Girl's wishes, Mr. Incredible
undertakes the perilous assignment.

The film does drag at points,
but it is saved by clever satire and funny set pieces.
One well executed gag involves Elastic Girl
sneaking into the villain's headquarters. After
stretching through 3 hallways and getting stuck in 3
doors, the anticipation of a snapping payoff is
fulfilled with the comedic timing of Jim Carrey.

Unlike the dramatic death in "Finding Nemo" or the
tears induced by the end of "Monster's Inc," "The
Incredibles" maintains a comedic tone. Clocking in
at nearly two hours, "The Incredibles" is longest
computer generated films ever. While kids might get a
bit restless toward the end, adults seem to
enjoy this cartoon.