According to Anger Management's resident anger expert Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson) there are two kinds of temperamental personalities: explosive and implosive. An explosive personality is the guy who yells at the cashier when his coupons aren't accepted. An implosive personality is the cashier who takes the abuse day in and day out then snaps suddenly and shoots everyone in the store. Apparently this second type aptly describes our hero Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) a nice enough fellow with a cute girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) who believes in him--and he needs that since he has a problem standing up for himself especially when his boss abuses him or the airline stewardess won't give him his headset. When he's sentenced to join Rydell's anger management program over some wildly concocted misunderstanding the abrasive and confrontational doctor quickly decides that the problem is obvious: Dave is a walking time bomb. He diagnoses him with TAS (Toxic Anger Syndrome) and vows to help him come to terms with his demons. At first Dave plays along but when Buddy moves in with him for some intensive therapy--and systematically turns his life upside down--Dave reaches his breaking point. It's time to make a stand and be the man he knows he can be--without killing the good doctor in the process.
Sandler and Nicholson fans have to be wondering: Can two stars known for their highly volatile characterizations blend their unique personalities to create a lasting chemistry? Happily yes. Sandler and Nicholson most assuredly click and more importantly look like they had a ball making the film. Nicholson plays the wacko Rydell at full tilt almost going over the top but reining it in when it's required while Sandler handles his straight-man character as carefully as he can. You let out a little sigh of relief however when the comedian finally does let loose because a Sandler movie without one or two great meltdowns just isn't a Sandler movie. Management is also full of actors who've played angry people once or twice in their careers including John Turturro (Do the Right Thing) and Luis Guzman (Traffic) who along with sports fanatic Nate (Jonathan Loughran) and two adult film stars Gina (January Jones) and Stacy (Krista Allen) are members of Rydell's therapy group the "Fury Fighters." Of course no movie about anger would be complete without bringing in some of the real world's most famous bad tempers so Anger Management features cameos by college basketball coach Bobby Knight tennis pro John McEnroe and New York Yankee Roger Clemens. In fact the film is just riddled with cameos--see how many you can spot.
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when screenwriter David Dorfman pitched the idea to Sony Pictures: "OK it's about two guys who have problems with anger. One who doesn't know he has a problem ends up being treated by the other who dealt with his anger issues by becoming a therapist. But here's the kicker! We'll get Sandler to play the hapless patient and Nicholson to be his doctor!" The studio exec's eyes light up money is exchanged and boom! You've got Anger Management. Yes this combination seems like it should flow like honey from a hive but the story relies too much on its two stars and too little on the overall concept. Like the studio exec we expect a side-splitting comedy; what director Peter Segal (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) delivers are some hysterical moments for Sandler and Nicholson--the duo sing West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" while holding up traffic and kick the bejeezus out of a monk who used to be Dave's childhood tormentor (played by John C. Reilly)--coupled with a barely credible premise and stereotypical characters.
Loosely based on the (rather lame) 1960 Rat Pack film dashing understated-but-cool thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) orchestrates the most sophisticated elaborate casino heist in history less than 24 hours after being released from jail. In one night Danny's handpicked 11-man crew of specialists--including an ace card sharp (Brad Pitt) a young-but-masterful pickpocket (Matt Damon) and a demolition genius (Don Cheadle)--will attempt to steal over $150 million from three Las Vegas casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) the elegant ruthless entrepreneur who just happens to be dating Danny's ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). To score the cash Danny will have to risk his life and risk his chance of ever reconciling with Tess. But if all goes according to his intricate nearly impossible plan Danny won't have to choose between his stake in the heist and his high-stakes reunion with Tess. Or will he?
The star wattage in this movie could solve all of California's electricity problems in one fell swoop. George Clooney easily passes himself off as suave mastermind Danny Ocean playing the role with understated class and elegance. Brad Pitt takes a similar arc as Rusty though he's slightly more dispassionate and professional than Clooney's visionary Ocean. Matt Damon is convincing as the inexperienced-but-talented pickpocket who's essential to getting in the vault. And Julia is simply Julia--glamorous and charming a smart cookie who is being wooed by the evil ruthless (and anal-retentive) casino mogul so elegantly portrayed by Andy Garcia. Affecting a Cockney accent and attitude Don Cheadle's portrayal of the demolition expert is a tour de force. Carl Reiner is absolutely hilarious as Saul Bloom an aging old-timer who comes out of retirement to infiltrate the casino as a debonair arms dealer. Elliott Gould Bernie Mac Scott Caan and Casey Affleck round out the cast nicely with inspired performances especially Gould's and Mac's.
Soderbergh cemented his reputation last year as a director of serious weight when both Traffic and Erin Brockovich were nominated for the Best Film Academy Award and garnered him two Best Director nominations---an unprecedented feat. Ocean's Eleven marks Soderbergh's departure from the serious to the seriously fun. This is one of the most stylish most elegantly filmed movies I have ever seen. Not only are all the actors beautiful but so are the locations clothes and shot selections. The speed and pacing of the flick belie the movie's length; Soderbergh clearly had fun making this movie. He shot this film very intimately often allowing the camera to stay close on the actors a tad longer than expected which lets their personas shine through--thus their personalities draw you into the movie as much as the caper itself. It's not often you see a movie where the direction has as much wit and cleverness as the plot itself. Ocean's Eleven makes no pretense to be something other than a jaunty cheeky exhilarating heist movie. So while the plot's not too deep all is forgiven considering the level of acting and direction.
Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has one day and one day only to prove himself to his new partner Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) a 13-year vet of the LAPD narcotics division. Harris' years of hardcore experience on Los Angeles' meanest streets though have turned him into the same sort of criminal he's supposed to be putting away. At first it seems Harris intends to teach Hoyt his own brand of justice: that in order to catch the big fish sometimes officers must throw the smaller ones back. But as the hours slip away Hoyt learns just how bad his badass partner really is--Harris starts out as a taunting joker who just wants to give Hoyt a hard time but by nightfall he's turned into a full-blown monster bent on saving his own skin no matter what.
This two-man show is really a one-man show. It's Washington's game all the way as he bursts the almost priestly bubble of do-goodness that has surrounded him like a halo for most of his career with a sudden murderous burst of gunfire. In Day he is larger than life; clad in black leather and huge jewelry he towers both physically and psychologically over a scrawny goateed Hawke (looking like he just walked off the Reality Bites set) who tries valiantly to keep up with his Oscar-winning co-star. It's not that a perfectly wet-behind-the-ears Hawke doesn't adequately carry off the acting required for the situation he's in but really we're supposed to believe he hold his own in a fistfight-turned-deathmatch against guys more than twice his size? For his part Washington chews the scenery like it was his last meal as Alonzo goes from bad to worse but he sure makes it look fun.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Bait) used to direct music videos for artists like Coolio and it shows. Love the cool camera angles the warped POV shots the primary colors and raw soundtrack. And Fuqua's not afraid to show the L.A. streets at their worst. The first two-thirds are masterful work in character study as the line between good and evil becomes increasingly blurred. But by the final third the plot disintegrates getting hacky and waaayy contrived especially the "Hey! It just so happens..." coinky-dinks and a laughable ending that falls flat as a pancake and panders to an urban audience almost to the point of patronization. Most of this movie is so over-the-top it would be unwatchable were it not for its charismatic lead.