Saturday, April 10, 2004

A smattering of movie reviews:

JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION: THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY did wonders for performers Steve Harvey, DL Hughley, and especially Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac, but the script choices for these actors still must be very slim pickings indeed. This stars Cedric as a man separated from his wife (Vanessa Williams) and kids (notably "Bow Wow" and Solange Knowles, with some random little girl as the baby sister) who is going to his family reunion with the guise that he is still part of a happy family. The goal is to see his mother, participate in some family competition with gloating older brother Steve Harvey, and win a "Family of the Year" trophy. The trip, of course, is the bulk of the movie, which robs NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION enough to constantly remind you of that comedy. There are, like any comedies, a couple of moments that are funny. It's just a real dismal ride for the most part.

13 GOING ON 30: Jennifer Garner, yet another hot actress I'm in love with, especially from the TV show "Alias," plays in what is going to be referred to as the female BIG. At 13, young Jenna Rink wishes to be 30, and like all movies, the wish comes true. Unlike BIG, however, the entire world has advanced 17 years, and Jenna has to sort of play catch-up with the times, plus continually being an awkward 13-year-old in a 30-year-old's body. The film works mostly due to Garner's performance, which is downright note-perfect from the way she talks (not insulting dialogue peppered with "like" this and "like" that) down to the way she walks, which is a body unused to moving in heels and unrefined. Also, Mark Ruffalo, who I can always count on (and believe it or not, that began as an unintended pun), plays the estranged best friend with the usual amount of control and undertstanding of character that he has delivered for the past several years. Yes, the story is a bit tired, and you know how it's going to end, and once again I bring up my BUTTERFLY EFFECT argument about changing the past to affect the future--it's a lot simpler than it actually would be, but what do you expect from the Hollywood machine. Well worth watching.

KILL BILL, VOL.II: Ah, the perks of working at a theatre with so many sneaks and press screenings and so forth. Here, the completion of the film I gave the number 2 spot on my Best of 2003 list. First off, let me say, I love this as much as I love KB, V1. However, what some fans of the first may find a bit off-putting is the attention to dialogue over action, the first volume of which was the total opposite. The first volume was extremely visceral, with the great Japanimation sequence and the fight at the tea house as centerpieces to a thoroughly engaging action tale. There is more than enough action here, and the dialogue, of course, is all Tarantino. David Carradine is especially fine knocking heads with badass chick Uma Thurman. Michael Madsen always gives a criminal his best work, and there's no exception here. It's when you are in the world of Tarantino you know you're watching something different from the norm, and that sort of aspect brings everything to wonderful life--the characters, the situations, the dialogue all crackle with anticipation. Combine this 2 1/2 hour completion to the 1 1/2 hour beginning, and you have 4 hours of a powerhouse film, a superior film to almost all others you'll see in your lifetime.


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