Thursday, July 08, 2004

Thanks, Mike, for the kind words about my reviews. I hope that they are at the least entertaining and informative. Here's more.

KING ARTHUR: When producer Jerry Bruckheimer is behind a movie, it's really his movie, and almost no fault or credit can be given to the director (in most cases; the jury has offered more than a few damning verdicts on Michael Bay). Here, we have Antoine Fuqua taking the reigns of the latest Bruckheimer production. Fuqua's resume has one bright spot, TRAINING DAY, which was almost certainly buoyed by the performances of Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke (it's one of those movies where you wonder, "If these guys weren't in it..."). He also did the forgettable REPLACEMENT KILLERS and TEARS OF THE SUN. Bruckheimer's last huge hit, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, luckily had Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush. And any enjoyable Bruckheimer collaboration has those kinds of performances (think Cruise in TOP GUN or the Hackman/Washington team-up in CRIMSON TIDE, to the only Bay film worth watching, the Connery/Cage flick THE ROCK). Generally, it's clear the Bruckheimer movie in of itself will not be the measure of its success, so KING ARTHUR comes with the highly-touted Brit, Clive Owen, and the gorgeous Keira Knightley (fresh off of POTC) and they can't possibly breathe life into this, a series of seen-before battles with no blood or gore (it's a tad bit unrealistic), and a lot of subplotting that goes absolutely nowhere (I thought, maybe I'm wrong, that the ideas supplanted within the main text should later figure into the outcome). Stellan Skarsgard, a fine actor, operates with no humanity at all as the villain Saxon, Cerdic. It really had nothing much going for it. They advertise the fact that this is the story behind the legend, so it already reduces our heroes into mortals, and I don't think that's what we like to see. Add to that the movie's uninspired telling, which had it been inflated a little, might have made this worthwhile. Bruckheimer has done better with making females less passive in his films, but this adds to the list of nearly 20 features that can be grouped into his male-dominated oeuvre.

WITHOUT A PADDLE: This film, according to the IMDB, doesn't open until August 18 but Paramount has been offering, for the past year, multiple weeks-in-advance screenings for everything from THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS to AGAINST THE ROPES. I have no idea whether this strategy has helped them, really. Crap is crap. Here, we have a fair comedy-adventure directed by LITTLE NICKY helmer Steven Brill. It's THE BIG CHILL meets STAND BY ME (and maybe even THE GOONIES). Three childhood friends meet at a funeral for a fourth buddy, whose on-the-edge adventures led him to retrace skyjacking legend D.B. Cooper's footsteps in search of the money Cooper successfully ransomed from the government before parachuting (and disappearing) into the Northwest wilderness around Portland, Oregon. The three, bound by a childhood promise, decide to do the same while putting their real lives on hold in search of the bounty. What follows are the usual comedy-adventure trappings and DELIVERANCE jokes (complete with mountain man Burt Reynolds, who starred in that film). There is one piece in here that made me laugh, but it's also in the trailer. Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, and "Punk'd" conspirator Dax Shepard are the friends, with Shepard stealing and completely running away with the movie versus usual film stealers Green and Lillard. Without Shepard, man, this movie might suck incredibly. Green and Lillard play remarkably subdued characters, and without Green's trademark downplayed humor accompanying his character, that spells some trouble. Overall, a decent timewaster.


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