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James Berardinelli review - ** out of **** James Berardinelli review - ***1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - **1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** James Berardinelli review - ** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** View all posts >


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[quote]The acting, as is usually the case with a Spielberg film, is top-notch. Osment, who is still best known for seeing dead people in The Sixth Sense, is compelling as the Pinocchio-like David. He imbues the robotic character with genuine humanity but, by slightly exaggerating his mannerisms and some vocal inflections, constantly reminds us that David is not human. All of this is subtle; there are no herky-jerky movements and he does not speak in a monotone. Frances O'Connor is credible as the conflicted Monica. And, in the part of Gigolo Joe, an android made to give women pleasure, Jude Law is spry and sprightly. The always-dour William Hurt plays David's creator (he also serves as the mouthpiece for much of the film's exposition – he gives several long, wordy speeches). There are also numerous vocal cameos, including the likes of Robin Williams and Ben Kingsley. So is A.I. a Kubrick movie or a Spielberg production? Since the film, which suffers from a case of split personality, can't seem to make up its mind, how are we supposed to? Perhaps the more relevant question is whether it's worth seeing. The answer is that, for all of its underdeveloped potential and truncated subplots, there's still enough of value in A.I. to make it a captivating experience.[/quote] [quote]While most of Street Gang is lighthearted and there are numerous opportunities to laugh (some of the outtakes feature language that would never make it to the screen in a children’s show, although it is tame enough to allow the film to retain a PG rating), a few tears may also be shed. Although the majority of the film follows the show during its first handful of years, there are two jumps ahead to important events in the early history of “Sesame Street.” The first includes an edited excerpt from the Thanksgiving 1983 episode in which Mr. Hooper’s death is revealed and discussed. The second skips forward seven years to Jim Henson’s untimely passing. Street Gang works most effectively as a bridge to the past. For those who spent the occasional hour during some part of their life with Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, Elmo, and Mr. Snuffleupagus, the film provides an alternative perspective of "Sesame Street" from that of the contemporaneous viewer. By employing nostalgia but not relying exclusively on its effects, the filmmakers are able to tell the story of how the program started with details that may surprise all but the most knowledgeable of fans.[/quote] [quote]The most significant flaw in Girl, Interrupted is the basement scene climax, which is a little too pat and causes the film to wrap on a note that feels more manufactured than genuine. Other than that, however, this is a fine film about relationships and self-discovery. And, while the movie may not entirely capture the tone and spirit of the book, it stands solidly on its own, separate yet never entirely divorced from its source material.[/quote] [quote]While Deterrence showcased Lurie's potential as a filmmaker, The Contender became the vehicle in which he began to cultivate that promise. Taken as a whole, this movie represented a major step forward for the director at the start of a career that continues today.[/quote] [quote]Lurie garners strong performances from his three leads. Jeff Bridges brings an edge to the President. He's the consummate professional politician - cultured and charismatic in public, yet stubborn and short-tempered in private. He is motivated by pragmatism, not idealism (an uncommon characteristic for a motion picture Commander-in-Chief). Meanwhile, Joan Allen gets the opportunity to take center stage after a career comprised primarily of high-profile supporting performances. Her interpretation of Hanson is perfectly modulated, easily drawing us into her corner. Finally, there's Gary Oldman, who is almost unrecognizable behind his oversized spectacles. Emulating Senator Arlen Spector, Oldman's Runyon represents a flawless portrait of the hard-line, old-time politician who believes in winning at all costs. Yet, because Oldman captures the core of Runyon's humanity, the character never comes across as a stock villain. Key supporting work comes from the always-reliable Sam Elliot as Evans' right-hand man, William Petersen as the Clinton-like second choice for VP, and Christian Slater as a Delaware congressman who becomes Runyon's attack dog. The Contender is not without hiccups. A subplot featuring a female FBI agent is clumsily grafted onto the main story. Although it serves a purpose – to soften the deus ex machina aspect of a key twist – Lurie never integrates it seamlessly into The Contender's fabric. As a result, it remains an appendage. Additionally, the way everything is wrapped up into a nice, neat package seems a little too convenient. As in Deterrence, a surprise development allows the President to neatly sidestep making a difficult decision. Finally, while I'm not a big fan of using grandstanding speeches to offer a catharsis, at least in this case the speech fits the circumstances and is delivered in a suitably convincing manner.[/quote] [quote]The ending, while not a complete cheat (it is, at least to some degree, led up to), is nevertheless disappointing because it cuts out the teeth of Emerson's critical dilemma. There are also a couple of other jarring bumps along the way, both of which involve people outside of the Presidential circle. On one occasion, a bigot gives a badly scripted speech about how he and all of his redneck friends are behind the President. Then there's the instance when the diner's cook believes a little violence can influence foreign policy. As the President of the United States, Kevin Pollak is credible. Outwardly, Emerson is stern, decisive, and the kind of man who inspires confidence, but there is a hint of uncertainty, as if he really doesn't believe in what he is doing. Timothy Hutton plays Emerson's Chief of Staff and Sheryl Lee Ralph is his National Security Advisor. Together, they represent the Voice of Conscience. As a feature debut, this is a credible effort, and Lurie certainly hasn't started out with something undemanding or insignificant. Despite the lack of special effects or intricately choreographed action sequences, Deterrence contains moments when it is engrossing and suspenseful. It's just unfortunate there aren't more of them, and that the script has a distressing tendency to turn dumb at the most inconvenient times.[/quote] [quote]One of the unfortunate offshoots of the current comic book movie craze is that it has given birth to productions like this that should have been aborted early in their gestation. The movie was made for Netflix, which lowers the quality bar considerably but this is shockingly bad even for a throw-away, let alone a high-profile addition to the streaming giant’s “A-list” catalog. As a team, McCarthy and Falcone have a proven track record. You know what you’re going to get from them. At its best, it might be borderline watchable. Thunder Force is far, far below that.[/quote] [quote]Thirteen Days' biggest challenge may be finding an audience. For those with an interest in JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it's a worthwhile addition to an already full motion picture cannon. After all, the events depicted here represent one of America's most tense periods and, ultimately, JFK's finest hour. The perspective offered by Thirteen Days is different enough from other movies about the Crisis that it merits viewing.[/quote] [quote]Although Costner is fine as O'Donnell, the movie might have been more successful with a lesser-known actor in this part. At this point in his career, Costner arguably brought too much off-screen baggage to his roles, and there are times when his ego appears to have influenced O'Donnell's importance. Plus, the Boston accent doesn't sound right coming out of the actor's mouth - it seems slightly exaggerated, and, as a result, almost comical. The two actors playing opposite Costner are much better. Bruce Greenwood gives a strong interpretation of JFK. Visually, there's only a passing resemblance, but Greenwood has perfected the mannerisms and, more importantly, the style. Meanwhile, Steven Culp is equally as good as JFK's brother and right-hand man, Bobby. Other notable performances include Dylan Baker as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Michael Fairman as U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, Kevin Conway as General Curtis LeMay, and Christopher Lawford as Commander William Ecker. Although the movie runs a little on the long side (a seeming characteristic of all Kevin Costner vehicles), director Donaldson (No Way Out, Dante’s Peak) never lets the momentum flag. The final half-hour features some weak spots, including a little too much non-historical melodrama and several over-the-top speeches. Some historians may be annoyed at the liberties taken by Self's screenplay with the established facts, but the writer claims he spent countless hours poring over documents and listening to tapes in order to get most of the background correct. Certain aspects were dramatized to make them more accessible to viewers. This is not, after all, a documentary. (Several excellent ones exist about the Cuban Missile Crisis.)[/quote] [quote]Thirteen Days includes a lot of fascinating elements, the most obvious of which is the struggle between Kennedy's advisors as the hawks and doves seek to sway the President to their point-of-view. Each side has valid objections to the other's position, and it becomes clear that both paths could lead to disaster. Some of the more zealous members of the military, disgusted by a perceived weakness in JFK's approach, seek to trap the President into a warlike position by manipulating the rules of engagement. At one time, JFK's advisors become worried that certain actions may give the impression that the President is fighting down a coup attempt. Meanwhile, the top minds in the United States must attempt to puzzle out Moscow's seemingly contradictory responses to American actions. Are they willing to capitulate and deal beneath the table, or are they setting a trap to give them time to prepare the missiles for use? Tense moments include a confrontation between a U.S. warship and a Soviet sub, attempts by a U-2 plane to avoid missiles, and the final, frenzied negotiations as the deadline looms. If the film doesn't completely transport the viewer back to the early '60s, there are enough cues to at least suggest the time period. The White House of the era has been meticulously re-created using the many photographs available from JFK's three-year term there. In addition, all of the fashions, hair styles, and speech patterns are vintage '60s. And, to graft on a further layer of realism and credibility, bits and pieces of Walter Cronkite's actual newscasts are presented. To many Americans, things weren't real until Cronkite spoke them. ("And that's the way it is...")[/quote] View all replies >