Rarely does a film I'm watching stir my emotions. But, as I was watching Monster on DVD, I found myself cringing and eventually had to shut the film off. Of the thousands of films I've
seen, this is the first time that I ever had to shut a film off and take a break as it was too real. I now know how people feel when they tell me they have to close the book from time to
time because of the scenes I've written.
Patty Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, which is a powerful depiction of a woman who had been brutalized for years, and ended up becoming a murderess. Charlize Theron won the Oscar for
her surreal protrayl of Aileen, who only needed to be loved. This seems to be a recurring theme in our society. The monsters of the world create more monsters as the brutalized mind
twists and then turns the tables on their captors.
The problem, however, is that not only does the victim kill her captor, but, she goes on to kill people who hadn't done anything to her. Nevertheless, Monster is a gripping film.
October 23, 2004
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, staring Diahann Carroll and Ruby Dee, was the portrayal of two American women who never married and lived rich full lives. Both women
overcame Jim Crow, misogyny, and prejudice and went on to become professional women long before the new Millennium. Carroll and Dee gave wonderful performances, which reminded me of the
stellar performance that Cicely Tyson gave in The Autobiography of Ms. Jane Pittman. This film features Mykelti Williamson as Papa Delany, who was a slave and went on to educate himself
and raised his girls to be confident, ambitious, and staunchly self-reliant. If you need to be inspired, this film fits the bill. Check it out!
November 06, 2004
Jamie Foxx. Taylor Hackford. Ray Charles. Three powerhouse performances in one movie. This film was flawless. Rarely have I seen a film where nearly every actor gave a memorable
performance. There are no wasted scenes in this film! What I found particularly interesting is that it shows what people can overcome when they make up their minds to do so. My
favorite lines: You're blind not stupid! You're not a cripple! So many Americans could learn from this inspirational film. I loved it!
Jamie Foxx, who also gave an astonishing performance in Collateral opposite Tom Cruise earlier this year, was nothing short of brilliant in this career making film. Foxx has come a
long way since his years on the comedy show, In Living Color. Of this, there is no doubt. While I knew it was Jamie Foxx on the screen, I saw Ray Charles. I don't know if Foxx will get
another opportunity to shine the way he did in Ray. I think it's safe to say, GIVE THE OSCAR TO MR. FOXX RIGHT NOW. No need to wait!
I was first acquainted with Taylor Hackford in the summer of 1980 in a small California town called Victorville. I was there TDY (temporary duty) at George Air Force Base for 45 days.
The hotel I was staying at was showing a film called, The Idol Maker, starring Ray Sharkey, known for his television role in the series Wise Guy opposite Ken Wahl. That film was
directed by none other than Taylor Hackford who just two years later went on to direct one of my favorite military films, An Officer and a Gentlemen. Hackford also directed Against All
Odds, Delores Claiborne, The Devil's Advocate, White Nights, and Proof of Life. Ray easily blows away all of these career building films. This is his best film to date! GIVE HIM THE
BEST DIRECTOR OSCAR!
Ray Charles never sounded better in this biopic. The soundtrack is worth the price of admission. Georgia on my mind, What'd I Say, Hit The Road Jack, I Can't Stop Loving You, and many
more are featured in this film.
Other notable performances were given by Kerry Washington, who played Della Bea Robinson and new comer, Sharon Warren, who played Aretha Robinson, mother of the late great Ray Charles.
Hopefully, these two women will be nominated for best supporting Oscars along with Foxx and Hackford.
The problem, however is that Hollywood is known for not rewarding people when they've earned it. They tend to give Oscars when they want you to have it, which, I find extremely
irritating. Having said that, I'll take mine whenever they give it to me! LOL!
Ray is a 5 star film.
Take your family to see this!
November 20, 2004
Thermo Nuclear War. Unthinkable, huh? Well, as a former Air Force Command and Control Specialist with Top Secret security clearance, I can tell you that America is always in a state of
war, whether it be overt i.e. Iraq, or covert i.e. the cold war we are in with
American men and women working for agencies like the National Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security, and the infamous Central Intelligence
Agency, are in a constant battle against espionage, theft of Top Secret information, the theft of weapons and weapon systems, and the threat of germ warfare. Most Americans didn't know
numerous Russian submarines were just off our shores, awaiting orders to launch their missiles.
The Missiles of October is a dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis and delivers a gripping peek into the inner workings of Whitehouse policy when world events, which are shaky at
best, take us to the brink of colossal destruction. While the thought of nuclear war can be terrifying, just remember, America avoided World War III. Hopefully the situation in Iraq will
not escalate and put our current Commander in Chief in the same situation as John F. Kennedy.
December 04, 2004
I was introduced to actor Tom Cruise when he costarred as David Shawn, a gung-ho red beret in the film TAPS. The film also featured up and coming actors Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn
with film veteran George C. Scott as the Commandant of Bunker Hill Military Academy. I've been a huge fan of Cruise ever since I saw that 1981 film.
About a month or so prior to the release of Interview with a Vampire, a coworker told me the film was a best-selling Anne Rice Novel. After learning this, I borrowed the dramatized
audio version from my local library to get the extra details I knew the film would leave out. If I could only use two words to describe my experience they would be BLOWN AWAY!
In fact, I was so taken in by the dramatized audio version of the book that I knew there was no way the Warner Brothers film could capture the essence of what I had already experienced.
But, since I'm such a big fan of Cruise, I plunked down my hard earned greenbacks like everyone else, expecting a mediocre visual experience at best.
Could Cruise become the Vampire Lestat I had experienced? Could new comer Brad Pitt actually become Louis? And what of Claudia? How in the world could a young Kirsten Dunst
ever hope to pull off such a well defined character?
Well, not only did Cruise bring to life the Vampire Lestat, but Pitt and Dunst were equally enthralling in their roles as well. The casting was flawless. This is one to see as director
Neil Jordan did an excellent job of bringing the pages of the best-seller to the big screen.
The 1994 film was shot on location in New Orleans, San Francisco, England, Paris, and also offers excellent performances from Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater, and new
comer, Thandie Newton, who later starred opposite cruise in
This film has everything: love, hate, life, death, ecstasy, terror, and murder. Check this one out, y'all! If you've already seen it, see again, or get the audio version and get a
different experience. You won't be disappointed.
December 18, 2004
After reading the following review, I knew Mr. Emerson's description of the plot was was much better than anything I could have written. Take a look.
A sumptuously mounted and photographed celebration of artful wickedness, betrayal, and sexual intrigue among depraved 18th-century French aristocrats, Dangerous Liaisons (based on
Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses) is seductively decadent fun. The villainous heroes are the Marquise De Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte De Valmont (John
Malkovich), who have cultivated their mutual cynicism into a highly developed and exquisitely mannered form of (in-)human _expression. Former lovers, they now fancy themselves rather
like demigods whose mutual desires have evolved beyond the crudeness of sex or emotion. They ritualistically act out their twisted affections by engaging in elaborate conspiracies to
destroy the lives of their less calculating acquaintances, daring each other to ever-more-dastardly acts of manipulation and betrayal. Why? Just because they can; it's their perverted
way of getting get their kicks in a dead-end, pre-Revolutionary culture. Among their voluptuous and virtuous prey are fair-haired angels played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman,
who have never looked more ripe for ravishing. When the Vicomte finds himself beset by bewilderingly genuine emotions for one of his victims, the Marquise considers it the ultimate
betrayal and plots her heartless revenge. Dangerous Liaisons is a high-mannered revel for the actors, who also include Swoosie Kurtz, Mildred Natwick, and Keanu Reeves.
Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson, bring to life Edna Ferber's epic bestselling novel: Giant. Two time Oscar winner, George Stevens, directs Ferber's classic vision. This
family drama is full of action and romance. This is a long film (3hrs. 20 min.) so make sure you have plenty of popcorn and soft drinks availble.
Elizabeth Taylor plays a fiesty southern belle, who marries Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson), a ranch baron. At first, life is tough for the city girl. Add to that, her husband's sister
still wants to be the woman of the house and believes Taylor is too soft and vulnerable for rough Texas Terrain and a power stuggle ensues.
James Dean plays Jett Rink, a poor cattle hand who inherits a few acres from the Benedicts. When Jett finds black gold underneath his property and becomes an overnight millionaire, and
can have everything he wants, he goes after Taylor, which is the only thing he ever wanted.
The last film in Hollywood of director Douglas Sirk
the 1959 Imitation of Life--an adaptation of
-- is an endlessly fascinating film that speaks volumes about the American journey toward materialism and the racial tensions that are inseparable from it. Lana Turner plays a white
single mother and aspiring actress who takes in a black housekeeper (Juanita Moore) and her daughter (played by an adolescent Susan Kohner), the latter so light-skinned she passes for
white. As the years pass and success mounts for Turner, Moore also becomes more comfortable but her status as a domestic never changes. Meanwhile, Kohner's character, chafing against
social constraints, rebels at every opportunity and throws a wrench into the perfect order Sirk chillingly captures through the precise, architectural design of his images. On one hand
a '50s weepie and on the other a daring allegory, Imitation of Life is an unusual masterpiece.
You will never find a more chillingly suspenseful, perversely funny, or viciously satirical political thriller than The Manchurian Candidate, based on the novel by Richard Condon (author of
The film, withheld from distribution by star Frank Sinatra for almost a quarter century after President Kennedy's assassination, has lost none of its potency over time. Former
infantryman Bennet Marco (Sinatra) is haunted by nightmares about his platoon having been captured and brainwashed in Korea. The indecipherable dreams seem to center on Sergeant
Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), a decorated war hero but a cold fish of a man whose own mother (Angela Lansbury, in one of the all-time great dragon-lady roles) describes him as
looking like his head is "always about to come to a point." Mrs. Bates has nothing on Lansbury's character, the manipulative queen behind her second husband, Senator John Iselin (James
Gregory), a notoriously McCarthyesque demagogue.
The Manchurian Candidate, a classic of paranoid cinema from the 1960s, gets a cunning update, rife with hot-topic references to corporate war profiteering and electronic voting
machines. Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington,
has been haunted by nightmares ever since a firefight during the first Gulf War--a battle in which he believes he was saved by the heroism of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber,
But Marco's nightmares suggest otherwise and drive him to investigate what happened, which may threaten Shaw's candidacy for vice-president. Meryl Streep plays Shaw's mother, a senior
senator who manipulates everyone around her with an iron will and a sharp tongue. Director Jonathan Demme keeps the movie rolling fluidly, crafting some creepy paranoia of his own
while Streep tears into everything in her path.
Description: Serving together in the Persian Gulf War, Captain Bennett Marco and Sgt. Raymond Shaw were part of a platoon of soldiers kidnapped and brainwashed. Ten years later, Shaw
gears up for his vice presidential campaign while Marco eventually remembers being kidnapped and discovers Shaw's powerful mother played a big part in that scheme. Determined to reveal
the truth behind everything, Marco must first convince Shaw that the brainwashing really happened.
After one episode of The Wire you'll be hooked. After three, you'll be astonished by the precision of its storytelling. After viewing all 13 episodes of the HBO series' remarkable
first season, you'll be cheering a bona-fide American masterpiece. Series creator David Simon was a veteran crime reporter from The Baltimore Sun who cowrote the book that inspired
and cowriter Ed Burns was a Baltimore cop, lending impeccable street-cred to an inner-city Baltimore saga (and companion piece to
that Simon aptly describes as "a visual novel" and "a treatise on institutions and individuals" as opposed to a conventional good-vs.-evil police procedural. Owing a creative debt to
the novels of Richard Price (especially
the series opens as maverick Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West, in a star-making role) is tapping into a vast network of drugs and death around southwest Baltimore's
deteriorating housing projects. With a mandate to get results ASAP, a haphazard team is assembled to join McNulty's increasingly complex investigation, built upon countless hours of
The show's split-perspective plotting is so richly layered, so breathtakingly authentic and based on finely drawn characters brought to life by a perfect ensemble cast, that it defies
concise description. Simon, Burns, and their cowriters control every intricate aspect of the unfolding epic; directors are top-drawer (including Clark Johnson, helmer of
finest episodes), but they are servants to the story, resulting in a TV series like no other: unpredictable, complicated, and demanding the viewer's rapt attention, The Wire is "an
angry show" (in Simon's words) that refuses to comfort with easy answers to deep-rooted societal problems. Moral gray zones proliferate in a universe where ruthless killers have a
logical code, and where the cops are just as ambiguous as their targets. That ambiguity extends to the ending as well; season 1 leaves several issues unresolved, leaving you begging
for the even more impressive developments that await in season 2.
Solidly built around a subtle yet commanding performance by Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
emerged as one of the most highly-praised dramas of 2004. In a role that demands his quietly
riveting presence in nearly every scene, Cheadle plays real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, a
hotel manager in the Rwandan capital of Kigali who in 1994 saved 1,200 Rwandan "guests" from
certain death during the genocidal clash between tribal Hutus, who slaughtered a million
victims, and the horrified Tutsis, who found safe haven or died. Giving his best performance
since his breakthrough role in
Cheadle plays Rusesabagina as he
really was during the ensuing chaos: "an expert in situational ethics" (as described by
critic Roger Ebert), doing what he morally had to do, at great risk and potential sacrifice,
with an understanding that wartime negotiations are largely a game of subterfuge,
cooperation, and clever bribery. Aided by a United Nations official (Nick Nolte), he worked
a saintly miracle, and director Terry George (Some Mother's Son) brings formidable social
conscience to bear on a true story you won't soon forget.
With the release of Wiseguy on DVD, one of the best TV series of the 1980s gets a new lease on life. Long before Donnie Brasco brought similar drama to the big screen, Ken Wahl brought
charisma, credibility, and chutzpah to his small-screen role as Vincent Terranova, a handsome 30-year-old agent with the FBI's Organized Crime Bureau. As conceived by cocreators
Stephen Cannell (of The Rockford Files and The A-Team fame) and Ken Lupo, Wiseguy followed an innovative "story-arc" structure, allowing Vinnie's deep-cover missions to last only as
long as necessary to bring each case to a sensible conclusion. Since copied by countless TV shows, this unique approach to storytelling attracted a devoted following of viewers
addicted to the self-contained plots that forced Vinnie, his sourpuss OCB handler Frank McPike (Jonathan Banks), and disabled covert liaison Dan "Lifeguard" Burroughs (played by
double-amputee Jim Byrnes) to achieve their objectives within 6 to 10 hourlong episodes.
Season 1, Part 1--the first of six Wiseguy DVD sets--includes the entire nine-episode arc (plus pilot) in which Vinnie infiltrates the New Jersey mob family of Sonny Steelgrave, a
silk-suited kingpin played by Ray Sharkey in his finest TV role. Their brotherly relationship poses a moral dilemma for Vinnie (giving the arc its dramatic core and primary source of
suspense), and Wiseguy earned its reputation as a well-written series that favored character-driven tension while providing the requisite pulp fiction (i.e. occasional murder and
mayhem) that kept viewers and advertisers happy. While the DVD packaging gives bogus equal billing to Annette Bening (who appears here in one pivotal episode), her pre-stardom
appearance is indicative of the show's consistently high standards in writing, casting, and stylish direction. The styles may be dated (including poodle-puff hairdos for women,
including Bening), but there's not a weak episode in the bunch, including the stand-alone shows (involving domestic crises for McPike and Burroughs) that allowed character growth
beyond the story-arc structure.
After the intense "Sonny Steelgrave" arc of first-season episodes, the producers of Wiseguy faced the challenge of topping themselves, and they did it by casting a relatively unknown
New York stage actor named Kevin Spacey, who proceeded to chew up the scenery as only a future Oscar®-winner could. But Spacey's not the only reason for the giddy success of the "Mel
Profitt" arc, which finds OCB agent Vinnie Terranova (Ken Wahl) teaming up with sociopathic assassin Roger Lococco (William Russ) in an effort to infiltrate the global drugs-and-guns
empire of the Proffitt siblings Mel (Spacey), a "manic-depressive genius with acute paranoia," and his codependent sister Susan (Joan Severance), who keeps her incestuously devoted
brother happy by injecting home-brewed narcotics between his toes (hence giving Spacey his trademark line, "Only the toes knows!").
TV audiences in 1988 had never seen such a twisted sibling relationship, and there's plenty of eccentric chemistry between Spacey and then-newcomer Severance, who later developed a
loyal male following as a B-movie sexpot. Completing their triangle of terror is Russ, playing Lococco as a tormented Vietnam vet with a massive chip on his shoulder, luring Vinnie
into a life of luxury and lethal behavior, thus complicating matters considerably for Vinnie's covert handlers McPike (Jonathan Banks) and Lifeguard (Jim Byrnes), who grow increasingly
worried as Vinnie gains Mel Profitt's hard-won trust. The quality of these 12 episodes remains consistently high as the Profitts reach "psychotic critical mass," leading to Mafia
connections and a new direction for Vinnie's loving mother (well-played by Elsa Raven). Through it all, Wahl (who proves himself a man of few words in a sparse one-episode commentary)
maintains his strong presence as a leading man, generously allowing Spacey's rising star to shine. Wiseguy still had some highlights in its future, but the "Mel Profitt" arc represents
the series at its best.
Clint Eastwood's 25th film as a director, Million Dollar Baby stands proudly with
as the masterwork of a great American filmmaker. In an age of bloated spectacle and computer-generated effects extravaganzas, Eastwood turns an elegant screenplay by Paul Haggis
(adapted from the book
by F.X. Toole, a pseudonym for veteran boxing manager Jerry Boyd) into a simple, humanitarian example of classical filmmaking, as deeply felt in its heart-wrenching emotions as it is
streamlined in its character-driven storytelling. In the course of developing powerful bonds between "white-trash" Missouri waitress and aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary
her grizzled, reluctant trainer Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), and Frankie's best friend and training-gym partner Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman), 74-year-old Eastwood mines gold
from each and every character, resulting in stellar work from his well-chosen cast. Containing deep reserves of love, loss, and the universal desire for something better in
hard-scrabble lives, Million Dollar Baby emerged, quietly and gracefully, as one of the most acclaimed films of 2004, released just in time to earn an abundance of year-end accolades,
all of them well-deserved.
The U.S. nuclear sub Tigerfish churns toward the North Pole. Its mission: rescue the imperiled members of weather outpost Ice Station Zebra. On board are Cmdr. Ferraday and his crew,
several unexpected arrivals with secret orders and enough suspicions, suspense and twists to make Ice Station Zebra an engrossing espionage thriller. The Cold War heats up as John
directs Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown and more in this epic adventure nominated for two Academy Awards?* and featuring taut action set pieces above and
below the ice. All hands to stations for excitement!
Movie studios, by and large, avoid controversial subjects like race the way you might avoid a hive of angry bees. So it's remarkable that Crash even got made; that it's a rich,
intelligent, and moving exploration of the interlocking lives of a dozen Los Angeles residents--black, white, latino, Asian, and Persian--is downright amazing. A politically nervous
district attorney (Brendan Fraser,
and his high-strung wife (Sandra Bullock, biting into a welcome change of pace from
get car-jacked by an oddly sociological pair of young black men (Larenz Tate,
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges,
a rich black T.V. director
and his wife
get pulled over by a white racist cop (Matt Dillon
and his reluctant partner (Ryan Phillipe
and his Latina partner and lover
white cop who shot a black cop--these are only three of the interlocking stories that reach up and down class lines. Writer/director Paul Haggis (who wrote the screenplay for
spins every character in unpredictable directions, refusing to let anyone sink into a stereotype. The cast--ranging from the famous names above to lesser-known but just as capable
actors like Michael Pena
and Loretta Devine
the strong script head-on, delivering galvanizing performances in short vignettes, brief glimpses that build with gut-wrenching force. This sort of multi-character mosaic is hard to pull
off; Crash rivals such classics as
Ending the most popular film epic in history,
Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith
is an exciting, uneven, but ultimately satisfying journey. Picking up the action from
Episode II, Attack of the Clones
as well as the animated Clone Wars series, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), pursue General Grievous into space
after the droid kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
It's just the latest maneuver in the ongoing Clone Wars between the Republic and the Separatist forces led by former Jedi turned Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). On another
front, Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) leads the Republic's clone troops against a droid attack on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. All this is in the first half of Episode III,
which feels a lot like Episodes I and II. That means spectacular scenery, dazzling dogfights in space, a new fearsome villain, lightsaber duels, romantic dialogue, goofy humor, and
hordes of faceless clone troopers fighting hordes of faceless battle droids.
But then it all changes.
After setting up characters and situations for the first two and a half movies, Episode III finally comes to life. The Sith Lord in hiding unleashes his long-simmering plot to take
over the Republic, and an integral part of that plan is to turn Anakin away from the Jedi and toward the Dark Side of the Force. Unless you've been living under a rock the last 10
years, you know that Anakin will transform into the dreaded Darth Vader and face an ultimate showdown with his mentor, but that doesn't matter. In fact, a great part of the fun is
knowing where things will wind up but finding out how they'll get there. The end of this prequel trilogy also should inspire fans to want to see the original movies again. Because
Episode III is a beginning as well as an end, it will trigger fond memories as it ties up threads to the originals.
Episode III is easily the best of the new trilogy. It's also the first one to be rated PG-13 for the intense battles and darker plot. It was probably impossible to live up to the
decades' worth of pent-up hype George Lucas faced for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but Episode III makes us once again glad to be "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
Out of Sight
scored critical raves, but its title sums up the theatrical fate of Steven Soderbergh's coolly comic crime caper and misfit romance based on Elmore Leonard's novel. But this is the sort
of buried treasure home video was created to rescue.
George Clooney comes into his own as a leading man in the role of inveterate bank robber Jack Foley. Incarcerated, he uses another inmate's prison break as a cover for his own escape.
Waiting for him, according to plan, is his partner, Buddy (Ving Rhames). Also waiting for him, not according to plan, is federal agent Karen Sisco (the ravishing Jennifer Lopez). She
finds herself disarmed in more ways than one when she is deposited in the getaway car's trunk with Jack. But that doesn't stop her from joining the task force created to capture him,
while he plans "One last heist."
Out of Sight is a rich, entertaining film, stylish without being showy, faithful to the integrity of Leonard's potent dialogue and quirky characters, and seamlessly acted by a dream
ensemble. Standouts include Albert Brooks as convicted insider trader Richard Ripley, who while in prison brags to the wrong people that he has $5 million in uncut diamonds hidden in his
house; Don Cheadle as Maurice (don't call him "Snoopy") Miller, with whom Jack warily teams up to steal said diamonds; Dennis Farina as Karen's protective father (his idea of a birthday
gift is a Sig-Hauer .38); and, in unbilled cameos, Michael Keaton, reprising his Jackie Brown role as FBI agent Ray Nicolet, and Samuel L. Jackson.