"Intolerable Cruelty" and "Out of Time" are two
entertaining motion pictures that feature actors who
have recently won academy awards, Catherine Zeta-Jones
and Denzel Washington. Even though both pictures
feature dark themes, both movies are told in a style
that is very entertaining.
Matt (Denzel Washington) is the police chief for
Banyan Key. It is a cushy position of authority and
he has time to role play with his girlfriend, Anne
(Sanaa Lathan). Anne is the abused wife of his
brooding colleague Chris (Dean Cain). Despite his
adultery, Matt can not legally pursue Anne because he
is awaiting the divorce papers from his future ex
wife, Alex (Eva Mendes).
Anne then learns that she has a unique cancer that may
be cured with special expensive treatment. Matt
knows where to borrow some money, albeit illegally.
The plot thickens when Chris and Anne's house suddenly
"Out of Time" works as a crime drama because it does
keep you guessing. From the bucolic Keys to a fist
fight on the balcony of a Miami Beach highrise, the
film scores with the simplicity of character's hidden
motivations. The film takes everyday activities and
manages to create cliff hanging suspense. One notable
sequence involves a cell phone and a fax machine that
blankets the audience with tension.
"Out of Time" is an entertaining movie and should be
a hit on DVD. Besides Denzel Washington's reliable
performance, the movie features Graeme Revel's
seabreazzy jazz score that reminds us what South
Florida culture is all about. After giving strong
supporting roles in "Training Days" and "Once Upon
a Time in Mexico" Eva Mendes is memorable in her
first major leading role. The cinematography will sell
local tourism, despite the crime drama setting.
"Intolerable Cruelty" reunites George Clooney and
the Coen Brothers since "O Brother Where Art Thou?"
Attorney Miles Massey (Clooney) is the most successful
divorce lawyer in the history of mankind. He is so
successful that he is bored with his job. Enter
Marilyn (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a gold digger who
happens to catch her husband (Edward Herrman) in the
act of cheating.
The first divorce proceedings creates a game of one
upmanship between Marilyn and Miles. While there are
moments when "Intolerable Cruelty" veers towards
darkness, it does not get nearly as dark as Michael
Douglas/ Danny DeVito's "The War of the Roses."
The darkest point of this film sets
up a well executed sight gag that brought down the
theatre with a loud laugh. "Intolerable Cruelty"
succeeds as a screwball comedy that was so successful
in the late 1930's and 1940's.
There is an old adage in show business education that says, "If you want to be a friend and a good teacher, tell your protege NOT to pursue a career in show business." Yet, as my old mentor Mary Helen Rassi used to say, "Know your own success." Writer Director Dan Kay has melded both philosophies in his independent low budget movie, "Way Off Broadway."
"Way Off Broadway" deals with the lives of six college graduates of the performing arts.. Barely surviving two years in reality-land, these yuppies are at that point in their lives in which they must confront their shattered romantic dreams. Unlike the martyred artists of the opera "La Boheme" or the Broadway Musical "Rent," these artisans can call their Mommy for financial assistance. There are times you want to say to some of these characters, "Quit whining and get a real job." This point is punctuated by the film's opening shot featuring the World Trade Center. There are none of the attention seeking rejects from Fox Television's "American Idol" auditions, these lead characters are college educated and therefore should know better.
However Writer/Director Dan Kay has crafted a realistic perspective on the modern starving-artist syndrome, while presenting a romantic comedy with empathetic characters. Working in a bookstore at night, Rebecca (Morena Baccarin) pounds the pavement and waits in line for an audition. Darrin (Brad Beyer) is a struggling playwright who is suffering from writer's block. Jay (Forbes March) is a a blues guitarist who claims to have corporal tunnel syndrome. Jay actually fakes this ailment because he actually fears his future. Ethan (Jordan Gelber) is a graduate assistant at New York University who is neurotic about his carbohydrate intake.
Being old friends, these four people are used to talking bluntly to each other at the local watering hole. Rebecca whines that she is not getting roles because her butt is too big. These leads to a discussion about show business being a non talent based industry. Ethan interrupts this train of thought and creates heated arguments about the artistic merits of Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich. Dan Kay's screenplay shines during these exchanges because of the random change of subjects, yet revealing important details about each character's psyche.
"Way Off Broadway" presents characters in growth. A fool from college becomes a generous benefactor in producing Darrin's play in Greenwich Village. Rebecca learns a lesson about confusing her passions for art and relationships. Jay realizes that his freeloading charm actually hinders his maturity as an artist. Ethan uses his knowledge of Orson Welles to woo the red headed girl. Given the glut of big budgeted Hollywood Holiday extravaganzas in the multiplexes these holiday weeks, "Way Off Broadway" provides an alternative behind-the-scenes drama.
Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) is a workaholic real estate agent who is partnered with his wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason ). The Evers have two children, Megan, a tom boy (Aree Davis) and Michael (Marc John Jefferies), who suffers from arachnophobia. When Mrs. Evers is contacted by Ramsey the butler (Terrence Stamp) about selling the Gracie Mansion, the family delays a family vacation. The cliches mount when the Evers visit the mansion. A storm breaks, the road is washed out and cell phones do not work. Things go from bad to worst when the family becomes separated and a ghost decides to get jiggy with Mrs. Evers.
"The Haunted Mansion" is a fun movie from beginning to end. Eddie Murphy is in top form, mixing his street smart comedic profile with that of old style comedy of Skelton Knaggs and Mantan Moreland. Murphy reacts well to the special effects of ghosts, goblins and the barbershop quartet of marble busts. Terrance Stamp steals sinister scenes with a subtle nuance.
While "The Haunted Mansion" is rated a mere P.G., the film has a sequence that is well done, but may be too intense for young children. This sequence in a crypt involves zombies, ghosts and spiders. This sequence is well done because there is a psychological component about confronting one's fears.
"Timeline" is based on the best selling novel by Michael Crichton, the author of "Jurassic Park" "" "Congo" and "The Andromeda Strain." While the scientific hypothesis is different with each story, the plot remains the same. A group of scientists make a scientific discovery and must race against time to prevent this scientific discovery from getting out of control.
This time, the scientist are archeology students who are excavating the ruins of a 14th century castle in the Dordogne Valley in France. The team leader of the excavation site, Professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly) disappears into the past. Johnston Junior (Paul Walker) and his love interest Kate (Frances O'Connor) discover a worm hole that acts like a time traveling fax machine.
The archeology students visit the 14th Century to rescue Professor Johnston. Old fashioned romance and cold corporate intrigue begin to divide the time traveling team. Professor Andre Marek (Gerard Butler) develops a crush on a legendary French icon, Lady Clare (Anna Friel). The sinister Robert Doniger (David Thewis) attempts to follow the unwritten corporate policy of the International Technology Corporation.
Parents and children were screaming, laughing and cheering the heroes of **The Haunted Mansion** while the audience for "Timeline" sat in respective silence. "Timeline" may be best appreciated on DVD. The difference between "The Haunted Mansion" and "Timeline" is that the former is written for the heart, while the latter is written for the head.
After thawing out diplomatic relations between the United States and France, my buddy Bene returned from her homeland with a home movie. Bene's video revealed the openness of Parisian public nudity within an urban environment. In contrast, it is refreshing to see the flirty modesty of "Calendar Girls." From this perspective, it is easy to appreciate the loud laugh when one of the naked Calendar Girls mentions that, "...we are not from France!"
The story begins across the channel in the English Village of Yorkshire. John (John Alderton) is suffering from cancer, while his wife, Annie (Julie Walters) attends a women's social club. Annie and her best friend Chris, (Helen Mirren) sit in the back room and mock the agenda of boring speakers. The terminal John is invited to address the women's club, but dies of his malady.
After the memorial service, Annie reads a letter John had written. John describes the women of Yorkshire as a flower that is most glorious in their final stage. After discovering her son's Playboy magazines, Chris hits upon an idea. To raise money for their charitable organization Annie & Chris propose posing semi-naked for their annual calendar.
The results are monstrous as the calendar nets over half a million British pounds and international attention. After the photo shoot and the local reaction, "Calendar Girls" suffers from the morning-after syndrome. The plot becomes formulaic and suffers from the conflict that all Disney movie protagonists suffer from; family values vs. materialistic fame.
"Calendar Girls" is based on a true story, but the regular disclaimer at the end does acknowledge dramatic license. Given the attention given to Dame Helen Mirren's brief nude scenes, Mirren has made a niche for herself as a character actress in Masterpiece Theater's "Prime Suspect" and "Gosford Park." How quickly the critics circle forgot her siren-like roles in "Excalibur" and "Caligula" in the early 1980's.
Julie Walters's provides a fine foil to Mirren. They are old time friends that have the comfort of saying some mean things to each other in the climax. The other ten Calendar Girls have some funny one liners and are involved in many funny sight gags, but their roles are less developed.
"Calendar Girls" will create thoughts of deja vu. "The Full Monty" was released seven years ago and went on to garner a best picture Oscar nomination (it lost to "Titanic."). At least "The Full Monty" created fictional characters that were funny and memorable. The three minute promotional trailer for "Calendar Girls" was energetic and generated belly laughs. It is a shame that screenwriters Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth could not sustain the laugh momentum for additional 105 minutes.
The Second Next Gen International Film Festival
presents award-winning foreign films from around the world,
from April 14 thru 18.
Sponsored by Miami Dade Public Schools,
over 4,000 Miami-Dade County Public students and the community are invited
to enjoy a series of free and reduced-cost screenings
of international feature length films
at the AMC Cocowalk Theaters in Coconut Grove
and various locations on Miami Beach.
Next Gen offers a window on the world through images and stories from around the globe, with English sub-titles.
are complemented with in-theater discussions, study guides, and school-based programs.
Films to be screened this year are:
"The Young Jonsson Gang at Summer Camp" (Sweden/2004) A group of young boys discover and prevent an evil plot to destroy the world.
"Kamchatka" (Argentina/2004) A young boy fascinated with Harry Houdini,
finds his own world disappearing in the changes
caused by the 1975 Argentina political dictatorship.
"The Winning Pass" (Japan,2003) A game of basketball helps a young man find his way back
after an accident that changes his life forever.
Presented by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Division of Life Skills
in association with the internationally acclaimed
Giffoni Film Festival in Italy
Educational Office of the Italian Consulate.
Study guides, school-based programs, in-theater discussions and weekend community screenings accompany the films. In addition to the annual festival, the Next Gen Film Clubs present
year-round theater-based film screenings,
workshops with filmmakers,
and other film related programs.
The Next Gen Film Club program has co-presented six feature film screenings with cultural partners like
the Miami International Film Festival,
the Global Film Initiative
and the Ewish Film Festival