U.S.A. has dominated the medal race of the Sydney 2000
Olympics and there is this sense of embarrassment. We
have witnessed our Sports Representatives behave with
arrogance that our nation is being called "those Ugly
Americans" on the International Scene. What has
happened to the quiet leadership of a Jessie Owens
showing up Adolph Hitler at the 1936 Munich Olympics
with neither a boast or a brag? Truly our nation's
character is at a crossroads. "The Life & Times of
Hank Greenberg" is the best cure for Post Olympic
depression. This documentary contains more goodwill
in less than two hours than NBC has provided in the
last two weeks.
A first generation born American, Hank Greenberg was a
tall skinny kid with acne whose mother did not want
him to play baseball. Greenberg joined the Detroit
Tigers in the early 1930's as a first baseman. This
film utilizes newsreel footage of Greenberg's World
Series adventures and misadventures. While the
grainy newsreel footage lacks the in-your-face
technology of today, the visual drama and commentary
creates some compelling moments, especially for those
not familiar with baseball history. In many of the
shots, the six foot-three inch Greenberg is too tall
to fit within the frame of the camera lens.
When World War II broke out, Mr. Greenberg accepted a
49 thousand dollar pay cut and became the first
American league ball player to serve in the war
effort. Greenberg also participated in an exhibition
1943 War Bond rally to promote the manufacture of the
B-29 airplane, which he later flew over Asia.
In the Post War Years, Greenberg returned for one more
World Series victory before being traded to the
Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947. In what turned out to be
his last season, Greenberg advised Jackie Robinson on
the importance of being a role model.
The responsibility of being a role model was important
to Greenberg, who wanted to present life beyond the
Garment Center to his fellow Jews. This film takes an
unblinking look at racism and this is where
Greenberg's character rises to the occasion. He does
not wallow in the self pity of victimization, instead
it spurned Greenberg to be the best that he could be.
"The Life & Times of Hank Greenberg" is a celebration
of good things. From Mandy Pantamkin's yiddish
version of "Take me out to the Ballgame" to Bing
Crosby-Groucho Marx's version of the same tune,
Writer-Director Avina Kempner utilizes an anti
depressing musical soundtrack featuring Arty Shaw and
Benny Goodman. The interviews which propel the
narrative are both informative and entertaining. This
film is also Walter Matthau's big screen swan song.
Matthau was a boyhood friend of the "Moses of
A motion picture like "The Life & Times of Hank
Greenberg" presents the strength of the American
nation, where our destinations matter far more than
our origins. As long as we have a good time along the
"Cast Away" is the second Robert Zemeckis movie to be
released by Dreamworks SKG. Sadly the Dreamworks
Marketing wizards have sabotaged viewer's enjoyment
again by revealing the entire narrative in their movie
trailer. If only these marketing experts could have
heeded one of the film's themes that "less is more,"
Dreamworks would have doubled their box office growth.
The story is a simple parable. Chuck Noland (Tom
Hanks,) a successful Federal Express Systems Engineer,
survives a plane crash and spends the rest of the
movie trying to return to civilization. Good parables
offer deeper meaning behind their simple narratives
and screenwriter William Broyles Jr. delivers.
After sustaining the primal need for food, clothing
and shelter, the question is raised; what else does
one need to be truly alive?
Zemeckis has a gift for directing the simple and make
it original. Cliches are avoided, there are no scenes
with Hanks crawling around on the sand rasping for
water while spotting a mirage. Zemeckis' favorite film
composer, Alan Silvestri, mutes his musical score for
the island scenes. "Castaway" is visually arresting
with it's nothingness.
It helps that Hanks is such an enthusiastic physical
actor. His performance invites the audience to share
the spiritual roller coaster ride his character
endures. "Cast Away" would not be as successful
without such a generous performance. Beer bellied and
uncoordinated upon his arrival on the island, Hanks
develops animal-like reflexes. While the much has
been written about Hanks' 40 pound weight loss, fad
dieters beware, the pot bellied remained.
While Hanks performance is a subtle tour de force, his
co stars add strong support. This is Helen Hunt's 4th
and final movie for year 2000. She has less screen
time, but her role is more affecting as a potential
unrequited love. If Hanks is Robinson Crusoe, Wilson
is his Man Friday. Wilson provides Hanks a foil on the
island. Wilson's performance had audience members in
tears and provides a strange audience attachment,
considering that Wilson is a volleyball. Wilson the
Volleyball recently sold on the Yahoo Auction block
for over $18,000.
"Cast Away" has been criticized for it's unconventional
ending. Yet if one looks at Zemeckis previous body of
successful work ("Contact," "Forrest Gump," The "Back
to the Future" trilogy,) one can see his consistent
themes on the responsibility of being an outsider, the
persistence of time and the importance of making a
decision in the crossroads of life. He makes use of
symbolism (a Fed Ex box with angels wings on it) and
creates riddles that respectfully allow the audience
to resolve within themselves.
While this motion picture has flaws, mostly attributed
to the Dreamworks marketing campaign, "Cast Away" is a
good movie that lets you appreciate the value of
simple things in life. Even visiting the dentist's
office takes on more significance after seeing "Cast
During the Depression and World War II, Universal
Pictures stayed solvent thanks to their adaptation of
classic monsters of literature and folklore. Even
today the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man are
still well known to a generation of children weened on
Pokemon and Dragonball Z. "The Mummy Returns"
captures the Saturday Matinee spirit of those old "B"
monster movies with superior special effects generated
by George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic.
Ten years after dealing with "The Mummy," adventurer
Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) has married his
leading lady from the first feature, Evie (Rachel
Weisz) and has raised a son, Alex (Freddie Boath.)
The family spends their time looking for buried
In the meantime, Betty Page-look-alike Anck-Su-Namun
(Patricia Velazquez) has organized an archaeological
dig for her long lost undead sweetheart Im-Ho-Tep,
alias the Mummy (Arnold Vosloo.) 1933 is the Year of
the Scorpion and if resurrected in time, Im-Ho-Tep can
claim world domination with the aid of the Scorpion
King (Dwayne Johnson, alias The Rock.) Of course, the
only things standing the way of the Mummy's diabolical
plans are the O'Connell Family.
"The Mummy Returns" features non stop action from
beginning to end. There are many fast paced rescues
and escapes that provide creative chases on a double
decker bus and on a dirigible. Besides the Mummy and
the Scorpion King, this film features armies of Anubis
Jackals and Zombie Pygmies. Unfortunately with all of
this emphasis continuous action, "The Mummy Returns"
lacks any sense of danger.
Mainstream critics have complained about this film's
lack of plot. Actually this new Mummy movie contains
multiple plotlines for each of the 9 main characters.
While Writer/Director Stephen Sommers painstakingly
fulfills each character arc, he should be commended for
creating a monster movie that promotes pro family
values in a subtle way.
Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold
Vosloo, Patricia Velazquez and Oded Fehr have reunited
from the original movie and seem to enjoy each other's
company, even when they are trying to kill each other.
New comer Freddie Boath is quite likeable as the mini
version of Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser. However,
the jury is still out on the acting career of
University of Miami Graduate, Dwayne "The Rock"
Johnson. However the Rock will get an acting rematch
next summer when he returns in the Mummy spinoff, "The
As a Director, Sommers excels paying homage to the
monster movies of the past with loving detail.
With the box office success of "Hannibal" and the
future release of "Jurassic Park III," Universal
Pictures can reclaim of the Creature Feature Crown
this summer with "The Mummy Returns."
For many years, the Summer movie season used to start on Memorial Day Weekend. In more recent years, the cinema season has been starting earlier and earlier. With "The Scorpion King"s 36 million dollar box office record this weekend, the 2002 Summer movie season has begun in April.
"The Scorpion King" is a spinoff from the successful "Mummy" franchise from Universal pictures. This new film captures the spirit of those old Saturday matinee serials with modern day special effects. Best known for directing Jim Carrey in "The Mask'" Chuck Russell seems right at home directing professional wrestling's leading man known as The Rock.
The Rock portrays Mathayus, a successful assassin assigned to kill the sorceress of the evil warlord Memnon (Steven Brand). Memnon is seeking Middle Eastern domination by expelling the nomadic tribes of the fertile crescent that is now known as Iraq. After witnessing the sorceress (Kelly Hu) in the bathtub (shades of David and Bathsheba), Mathayus falls in love and seeks to overthrow the evil Memnon. Along the way, Mathayus is poisoned by Scorpion Blood and makes an uneasy alliance with Big Bad Bathazar (Michael Clarke Duncan).
"The Scorpion King" is a typical mythical hero with modern day revisions. Whereas Roy Rogers had Trigger, The Rock has a smart camel. Trade George "Gabby" Hayes for Grant Heslov and "The Scorpian King" has the feel of an old B Western. The film suffers from swordplay overkill. The final showdown occurs at night and it is hard to discriminate the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. The action happens so fast and furious, that it looks fake after a while.
Nonetheless, "The Scorpion King" is a hard film to dislike and seems well intentioned. The Rock (a.k.a Dwayne Johnson) seems ready to accept the action baton from Arnold Schwarzengger. The Rock is surprisingly good in quiet scenes. Kelly Hu has Maid Marion chemistry and Michael Clarke Duncan assumes the Little John role to The Rock's Robin Hood. "The Scorpion King" has the potential to be an interesting new franchise for Universal Pictures.
On the bargain rack of most Border’s Bookstore can be
found the genesis for today’s multimillion-dollar
extravaganzas. "Undersea Kingdom," "The Phantom
Creeps" and "S.O.S. Coastguard" are 1930 serials
that inspired filmmakers George Lucas, Steven
Spielberg and James Cameron. Retaining the motifs of
the 1930’s serials, creator Kerry Conran has fashioned
a unique vision for the twenty first century called
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow."
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" features
three academy award-winning actors (Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie
and the late Sir Laurence Oliver). The actor's stage
is a blue screen set with computerized graphics that
represent New York City, the lost horizon of Shambala
and the laboratory of a mad scientist. "Sky Captain
and the World of Tomorrow" is a visual treat for the
eyes for movie lovers.
Intrepid newspaper reporter Polly Perkins (Paltrow)
learns that world famous scientists are disappearing.
When gargantuan robots arrive to trample Gotham City,
Sky Captain, alias Captain H. Joseph Sullivan (Jude
Law), is called to the rescue. Sky Captain is a
daredevil aviator who is Polly Perkins’s former lover.
Assisted by technical genius Dex (Giovanni Ribisi),
Sky Captain and Polly learn that the mechanical
monsters were the creation of Professor Totenkopf
(Olivier), an evil mastermind behind a plot to enslave
The investigation leads the Sky Captain team across
the world thru Nepal to an undersea kingdom. Assisting
Sky Captain is another former flame,
Frankie Cook (Angelina Jolie) who is an inventive
aviator in her own right. Sky Captain also enlists the
aid of Kaji (Omid Djalili), a mercenary with contacts
in this exotic Asian world. Despite the talent of the
team, Sky Captain's allies run afoul of the martial
arts specialist, Mysterious Woman (Bai Ling), and her
personal army of deadly robots.
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" works
because the talented cast and crew capture the spirit
of Smilin’ Jack, The Phantom and Indiana Jones. Jude
Law captures the correct balance between Sky King’s
swagger and his need for milk of magnesium. Paltrow
channels the spirit of Lois Lane with 21th Century
feminism. Jolie is a delight in her cameo role and it
is a relief to see Giovanni Ribisi forego his
trademark intensity to portray a heroic sidekick.
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a film of
detail. With first viewed, one is overwhelmed with
the imagery. Yet on closer look there are many
details that demand a second viewing. One tease –
what is the fuzzy figure climbing the Empire State
Building during the robots attack? The fact that
Radio City Music Hall prominently placed in the
sequence provides an important clue.
When "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" was released to Box
Office glory in 1982, Harrison Ford starred in "Blade
Runner" which was directed by Ridley Scott. While a
box office disappointment, "Blade Runner" has been
recently honored as one of the best science fiction
films of all time. The plot was derivative of a
"Dirty Harry" movie with film noir convention, the
visuals overwhelmed the ensemble of actors. "Sky
Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is the "Blade
Runner" of 2004. This new film will be recognized by
future generations as a unique cinematic achievement.
Don’t miss this one on the big screen for a Saturday
Besides being Katherine Hepburn and Florence Nightingale's birthday,
May 12 is Cinema Dave's mother birthday.
According to Internet Movie Database,
she is 4 months older
than Lauren Bacall
and my Mom is still better looking!!!