Zak Gibbs (Jesse Bradford) finds what looks like a wristwatch while scavenging through a box of his father's junk. What he doesn't know is that the watch is actually a device that makes its wearer move so quickly that the rest of the world appears to be moving in slow motion. The device was sent to his father (Robin Thomas) a science professor and dilettante inventor by a former student (French Stewart) who is being held captive by an evil corporation. Now the evildoers want their watch back and kidnap the professor while Zak unaware that his father is in grave danger runs around town with a cutie pie exchange student (Paula Garces) freezing time. Of course the two teens eventually join forces and save the day. Not only is the film's plot is so unbelievably implausible the characters are ridiculously typecast. The most insulting is Zak's black friend Meeker (Garikayi Mutambirwa) who dreams of winning a DJ competition. Eager to help him win Zak and his gal pal go into hypertime and make like puppeteers moving Meeker's arms and legs so that in real time it appears as though he's a good dancer.
Jesse Bradford (Bring It On) is the most redeemable thing in this film. His character Zak is a conventional teen who is smart but not brilliant and clever without being a hero. But unfortunately Bradford is stuck in this mess of a movie acting alongside the pretty but frothy Paula Garces. Like most girls in the movies nowadays her character Francesca de la Cruz is a vixen that cleverly puts guys in their places and can single-handedly beat up a villain. French Stewart is Dr. Earl Dopler the watch's creator. Although his brainy character is the opposite of his airheaded Harry on Third Rock From the Sun Stewart seems like he is the same persona simply reading a different script. Robin Thomas (The Contender) and Julia Sweeney (Whatever It Takes) play Zak's parents. Both are pretty standard fare: Thomas the parent married to his work at the expense of his relationship with Zak while Sweeney is a regular June Cleaver type.
Why Jonathan Frakes better known as Commander Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation or anyone for that matter would put their names on this project is unfathomable. From the hideously flashy and noisy opening credits to the predictable denouement Clockstoppers is about as entertaining as nails scraping against a chalkboard. The ridiculous story accompanied by flimsy special effects was penned by too many writers to mention. This may explain the massive plot inconsistencies--are they not supposed to count because this film is aimed at younger viewers? At one point Zak comes to the realization that for others to come in and out of hypertime they must be touching him. But there are several instances throughout the film that clearly contradict this. The watch also makes its users age rapidly but seems to spare Zak his friends and the evildoers of this fate. And is there no gravity in hypertime? Zak and Francesca were able to toss Meeker around the stage like he was weightless. And is Meeker a typical cheery Jamaican caricature with thick dreadlocks in the film for no other reason than to offend? His character disappears halfway through the film after being redeemed by his white rescuers.
February 08, 2002 2:07pm EST
Jonathan Cross (Chris Klein) is down and out in California when he runs into his old friend Marcus Ridley (LL Cool J) driving a pricey sports car and dripping in gold jewelry. As it turns out Ridley is making it big in an international Rollerball league and convinces Cross to do the same. Fast-forward four months into the future and Jonathan has become one of the biggest and most sought-after Rollerball stars. He's rich drives a nice car and is having a steamy relationship with his teammate Aurora (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). From the looks of it Rollerball is a serious moneymaking operation: We are constantly shown million of dollars worth of currency going through money counters at record speed. And by the instant ratings numbers that appear on the organizer's monitors it's obvious that Rollerball fever has taken over the world. When conniving Rollerball creator Petrovich (Jean Reno) discovers that the ratings go through the roof when blood gets spilled things start to go very wrong. Cross and his teammates suddenly find themselves playing for their lives.
Chris Klein (American Pie 2) is Jonathan Cross the all-American Rollerball player but he underplays the role. You would expect a character in his position to have a certain amount of charisma and charm but Klein's delivery is a bit deadpan and lacking in attitude. His best pal Marcus Ridley is played by LL Cool J (Kingdom Come) who manages to add a bit of dimension to his otherwise underdeveloped character. In fact he may have been better suited for the lead. The only good part about model-turned-actress Rebecca Romijn-Stamos' (X-Men) role is that it didn't incorporate too many lines. Sounding like Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle you have to wonder what she was thinking with that accent which (contrary to the actress' recent statement on MTV that a bad accent is not necessarily bad acting) certainly is part of the acting and certainly is bad. Jean Reno (Just Visiting) was probably the most interesting character. He was all bad without a single redeeming quality which he at least pulled off with flair whether it was in his delivery or his elaborate fur coats.
Rollerball is director John McTiernan's (The Thomas Crown Affair) take on the 1975 classic directed by Norman Jewison. There is definitely enough action in Rollerball to keep viewers interested but the major problems lies within the characters' development-there isn't any. So while the action may keep your eyeballs glued to the screen momentarily you will find yourself indifferent to the characters their plight and what happens to them. Cross and Aurora's relationship for example is implied through one hastily done sex scene in the gym. Consequently when the evil Petrovich threatens to hurt her if Cross tries to leave the game we could care less because we don't really know her or how important she is to Cross. Being such an internationally renowned sport the accents which play a big part in the film are done too shoddily. The French accents go from Canadian to European within a sentence and that's only from the ones I could pick up. Who knows what other languages were massacred in the process?
February 01, 2002 12:46pm EST
Tonight's Late Night With David Letterman show will mark the 20th year--to the day--the program has been on air, reports The Associated Press. Although it's not likely Letterman will make a big deal about it, ratings prove that he's still got what it takes to continue his presence on the air. Regis Philbin is scheduled to be one of tonight's guests.
Pamela Anderson has taken it all off before, but this time the former Playboy Playmate wants to perform as a stripper on tour with her boyfriend Kid Rock, Reuters reports. Anderson told TV news magazine Extra she already has a "stripper pole" in her bedroom, so she was thinking she'd "just take pole dancing lessons and go on the road."
Even celebrities aren't exempt from purse snatchers. PageSix.com reports model Gisele Bundchen was shakin' a leg on the Bellagio's dance floor in Las Vegas recently when someone purloined $1,000 and her ID from her purse. Police were called out to search the vicinity, but neither cash nor ID was recovered.
Steve Kroft of the CBS news show 60 Minutes is being hailed as a lifesaver. The AP reports Kroft pulled a 76-year-old New Jersey woman out of her car Saturday just before the engine caught fire and blew up. The incident occurred just outside Kroft's Long Island, N.Y., beach home.
You won't be seeing Austin Powers in Goldmember this summer, at least not with that title. On Thursday the Motion Picture Assn. of America denied New Line Cinema's appeal of an earlier decision which blocked the use of that title, Variety reports. Apparently, Goldmember is a little too close to the James Bond title Goldfinger.
Variety reports the Shrine Auditorium will premiere the re-release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial March 16. The film, which releases wide on March 22, includes new footage, CGI enhancements and a remixed soundtrack.
Gwyneth Paltrow's newest project is on stage, according to Reuters. Her play Proof will debut in London's Donmar Warehouse in June, with John Madden directing.
Harold Russell, a double Oscar winner for his role as a wounded veteran in the 1946 film The Best Years of our Lives, died of a heart attack Tuesday in Needham, Mass., the AP reports. He was 88. Russell, who had lost both hands in a dynamite explosion in World War II, established the veteran advocacy group AMVETS.
Meg Ryan has ordered a restraining order against John Michael Hughes, the same man imprisoned last year for trying to "deliver a letter" to then-President-elect Bush, Reuters reports. Hughes supposedly broke into another Ryan residence (not Meg's) in Malibu last month telling police the actress had forgotten to leave him a key. Hughes was arrested on suspicion of burglary and later charged with a misdemeanor count of unauthorized entry of a dwelling.
Michael Jackson is being sued by his concert promoter Marcel Avram, Variety reports. Avram claims Jackson has been looking for other promoters despite the pair's written agreement that Avram would continue promotions. Avram reportedly wants $20 million in damages.
Headin' for the Altar
Singer Mary J. Blige is getting hitched. While there's no word on where or when the ceremonies will take place, People.com reports Martin (Kendu) Isaacs is the lucky guy. Blige, who will perform Sunday at the Super Bowl, was adamant about one wedding detail: "The press is not going to know about it," she said.
Model Elle MacPherson is planning her second marriage to her partner of six years and the father of her four-year-old son, French-Swiss banker Arpad Busson, according to Reuters. No further details have been announced.
Hollywood's never gotten over its fascination with Jack the Ripper the infamous murderer of 19th-century London and with good reason. Though not the most prolific serial killer he was certainly one of the most depraved--and got away scot-free. Instead of telling Jack's tale from his point of view this Ripper flick tells it from a Scotland Yard detective's perspective. Depp plays Inspector Fred Abberline a forward-thinking cop who likes hangin' in the local opium den a little too much. Which turns out not to be such a bad thing as the illegal substances he indulges in trigger a head-spinning ESP that has helped him solve a few crimes and thus move quickly up in the ranks. After a few particularly disturbing visions mysteriously correspond with the horrific murders of several prostitutes Abberline finds himself hot on the Ripper's trail--and hoping he can stop the killer before he gets to the one cute "unfortunate" he has a crush on Mary Kelly (Heather Graham).
Why hasn't Depp gotten the credit he so deserves? The somber serious intense actor proves himself yet again a strong and gifted leading man carrying off the macabre subject matter as easily as he carries off a British accent. On the other hand Graham's Irish accent is as phony as the red dye in her hair. The fresh-scrubbed actress sticks out like a sore thumb when she first appears; thankfully her character takes a back seat to the gory story (save for a few not-too-overdone love scenes). Ever-capable Ian Holm steps in with a nice turn as the gentle old surgeon who helps Abberline. Robbie Coltrane shows a bit of that dry Brit humor providing what little lightheartedness there is to be found in this otherwise dark film as Abberline's trusty sergeant who frequently must make his way to the opium den to wake his boss up.
Albert and Allen Hughes whose past credits include the ultraviolent socially conscious Dead Presidents (1995) and Menace II Society (1993) seem to seek out unsavory characters rather than shy away from them. Here they bring their gritty sensibilities to a costume drama that incorporates the worst of Victorian London--prostitution alcohol and drug abuse street crime and corruption of the highest order highlighted by the acts of one of history's evilest real-life villains. Trouble is Jack the Ripper is fascinating because he got away with murder so concocting a theory about who he was and telling that story is infinitely less interesting than perhaps focusing on the killer himself and the facts of the case. While the camera makes good use of some cool imagery it also doesn't turn away from the Ripper's grisly crimes either and you'll probably find yourself cringing in disgust.
October 12, 2001 8:19am EST
The story takes place in Zhejiang a province ruled by a greedy governor who spends his days guarding his precious jewels and cavorting with his harem. But not even his legion of soldiers and mercenary Shaolin monks can stop the Iron Monkey a masked vigilante who steals from the rich to give to the poor from infiltrating the palace to stealing the governor's booty. Tired of continued defeat at the Iron Monkey's hands the governor orders his chief constable Master Fox to find and unmask the avenger. What no one realizes is that the Iron Monkey is also the benevolent town medic Dr. Yang. Caught up in the melee are Wong Kei-ying a respected physician and martial artist from Guangdong and his 10-year-old son Wong Fei-hong. In the ultimate kung fu showdown the Iron Monkey comes to the aid of those falsely accused of his crimes.
Yu Rong-guang as Dr. Yang a.k.a. Iron Monkey gives a seamless performance transitioning gracefully from the warm and delicate doctor to the deadly martial artist. Donnie Yen as the elder Wong a victim of the government's "monkey sweep " is saddled with the difficult task of portraying a tough militant fighter and a sweet and loving father yet he does so convincingly. The extremely talented young female martial arts champion Tsang Sze-man plays his son Wong Fei-hong the martial artist and patriot character featured in the Once Upon a Time in China movies and Drunken Master. Jean Wang also puts on a great show of skills as Miss Orchid Dr. Yang's assistant. The martial arts skills of the stars combined with their warm and realistic portrayals of their characters add depth to the otherwise comedic and clumsy minions who appear alongside them.
The fact that Iron Monkey was made in 1993 makes this film even more impressive than it already is. Originally released direct-to-video in the U.S. Miramax Films bought the theatrical rights in 2000 and re-released the newly restored subtitled print. While the subtitles help retain the sense of the original dialogue they also highlight its silliness. Characters for example announce their moves before doing them like "Shaolin Golden Palm!" or "Flying Sleeves!" The corny dialogue is at times reminiscent of old B-movies but the mind-blowing action sequences make up for that and the unoriginal story line. Why is the action so much better than the story? The director's skills lend a clue: -you might remember Iron Monkey director Yuen Wo Ping's action choreography from the recent hits Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and The Matrix.
The year is 1914. Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is a lowly museum cartographer and linguistics expert who knows the whereabouts of Atlantis. He isn't taken seriously however until an eccentric billionaire (voiced by Fraiser's John Mahoney) funds an expedition based on Milo's late grandfather's journal about the lost city. Milo joins a motley group of mercenaries led by Commander Rourke (voiced by James Garner) on a dangerous trip through the ocean where they discover a thriving civilization ruled by the King (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) and his beautiful warrior daughter Princess Kida (voiced by Cree Summer). It's Atlantis and it's been kept alive by a crystal energy hidden deep within the city which thrills Commander Rourke--his evil plan is to steal the crystals. Now it's up to Milo and the others to save the city from certain doom.
Once again Disney has gathered a talented cast to lend their voices to the characters. Fox easily handles the hapless hero Milo and the animators capture Fox's essence especially in Milo's oh-so-familiar hand gestures. Garner's fairly menacing vocal quality in the evil Commander Rourke is equaled only by the majesty of Nimoy's Atlantean King. However it's the team of explorers each with their own special abilities that really make Atlantis fun. There's demolition expert Vinny voiced in a monotone by the hilarious Don Novello; creepy geologist Mole voiced by Corey Burton in a combination of French and Peter Lorre-ish speak; and Cookie the expedition's lard-lovin' cook voiced by the late Jim Varney. Together they represent the collective "sidekick character" Disney films love but this time it's done with a surprising and delightful twist.
The creators of Atlantis decided try a different approach to the Disney animated formula. Instead of the usual hero-must-find-his/her-way-in-the-world-and-get-the-girl/boy directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale went for the pure adrenaline of an action-adventure story paying tribute to the great Disney adventure movies of the '50s. Also conspicuously absent are the songs so common in recent Disney films. Some die-hard Disney fans may not like that but it's actually a refreshing change of pace. The one thing however that detracts from the film slightly is its look. The animators were going for a particular style--merging computer-generated imagery with traditional animation and giving the film a flat dark comic-book look. This works well for some scenes but when the audience gets to Atlantis that lush Disney look we've seen in films like Tarzan and The Lion King needed to be there.
Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."