It’s Halloween Eve in suburbia and while most of the neighborhood kids are gearing up for a candy extravaganza two young‘uns--DJ (voiced by Mitchell Musso) and Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner)--are fretting and dreading. They’re convinced that the decrepit house across the street is in fact a monster house inhabited by an old hermit named Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) that will lure kids in on Halloween night. But just as DJ’s parents who naturally don’t believe him to begin with leave for a vacation DJ inadvertently sends Nebbercracker to his death--or so he fears. Now DJ believes Nebbercracker’s monster house will seek revenge on him specifically and to make matters worse his negligent babysitter (voiced by Maggie Gyllenhaal) won’t hear of his yapping. After DJ and Chowder are forced to take action they along with a girl peddling candy (voiced by Spencer Locke) discover how the monster came to be and just how unforgiving she is. When it comes to animation acting the main goal is to make audiences forget that the actors are giving their performances in a studio possibly dressed in their PJs and sans makeup. That goal’s usually achieved but Monster House takes a gamble in supposing that child actors comprising the lead characters will be able to wrap their still-expanding brains around the concept. Somehow Lerner and Musso grasp this despite sounding like they haven’t even been in this world very long! The two are surrounded by a fail-proof supporting cast: it takes a while to recognize Buscemi’s voice as Nebbercracker but once it hits it fits and Gyllenhaal as the babysitter is great if unpredictable casting. Quasi-cameos from Jason Lee as Gyllenhaal’s punk boyfriend Jon Heder as a video-game god and Kevin James and Nick Cannon as slow-moving and -thinking cops garner the most laughs. Not only does it help a film’s box office performance to have Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis onboard as executive producers it helps a film’s director--in this case a rookie director named Gil Kenan. (Zemeckis directed ‘04’s somewhat similar-looking The Polar Express.) While the animation doesn’t quite stand up to say Pixar’s earth-shattering visuals Kenan makes up for it with a fun-filled story (from scripters Dan Harmon Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler) and an overall lively involved effort--and it’s not like the movie doesn’t still look gorgeous. Besides sometimes it’s refreshing to not be so entranced by the CGI that you lose sight of the actual movie at hand. Kenan’s film is one of the scarier animated movies in a while but that still doesn’t exclude many age groups. What the first-time director thrives on is stopping just shy of true horror moments at which point he reverts to feel-good mode without ever being sappy.
Jiminy Glick is a local TV news personality in Butte Montana. You know the type--an entertainment reporter who mostly interviews homegrown talent but occasionally jets to Hollywood to hobnob with the big wigs. Glick doesn't quite make it that far. His assignment is the Toronto Film Festival and he makes the trip with his wife Dixie (played with ferocious white trash bravery by an unrecognizable Jan Hooks) and his oddly silent twin boys Matthew and Modine (named after their father's favorite actor). Although Glick is a no-name a fact he's completely oblivious to his fortunes change when after falling asleep during a screening he unwittingly gives the atrocious movie a glowing review. Through a chain of events he becomes the hottest thing as stars line up to grant him interviews. Through an even more bizarre chain of events Glick gets caught up in a murder mystery as well after waking up in bed with an interview subject who has been stabbed. Before he knows it he is embroiled with the starlet Miranda Coolidge (Elizabeth Perkins) her daughter Natalie (Linda Cardellini) and her boorish Eurotrash husband Andre (John Michael Higgins).
Glick despite being a glutton is an acquired taste. He almost defies description--one part clueless star struck Hollywood wanna-be one part jaded interviewer. Short introduced Glick on his short-lived daily talk show before he was spun off in into his own series on Comedy Central. But the movie deftly shifts Glick's origins to the Midwest to make him more of a fish out of water. Stuck in the insular dated Hollywood of Rona Barrett and Tom Snyder Glick will often interrupt his guests if not correcting them on the details of their own lives if they don't gibe with his notes. Case in point he confidently asserts that Steve Martin is Jewish as a lead-in to a line of questions. And thankfully Short has called upon his friends in the improv and sketch comedy world to fill out Jiminy Glick's cast of characters who serve him well. John Michael Higgins most notable for his contributions to Christopher Guests' improv epics Best in Show and A Mighty Wind is a standout. Perkins and Cardellini (Velma of Scooby-Doo fame) are an appropriately brittle Hollywood mother and daughter. And not enough can be said of Hooks' turn as the repulsive Dixie a spot-on embodiment of confused Midwest entitlement. Rounding out the cast is DeRay Davis as Mario "Fa Real" Green a rapper turned movie actor and Corey Pearson as a stuck-up rising star who grants Jiminy that first interview.
Short and his writers must have feared that Glick would run out of things to do if he wasn't embroiled in a good old-fashioned murder mystery. It's the kind of noir that seems to lend itself to Hollywood perhaps loosely inspired by the likes of Sunset Boulevard but here the creaky storyline only grinds things to a halt. Maybe it just doesn't feel right since the story takes place in Canada and besides Glick is no sleuth. The plot seems like all boring business and you can't wait to get back to Glick doing what he does best. As far at the direction goes it can either be part of the fun with quick cuts hilarious non-sequitors and great timing--or it can get out of the way to let the comedian work his magic. For the most part the director Vadim Jean uses the latter technique. He keeps it all low-key and lets Short do his thing. That said--and maybe it's the drab overcast Toronto setting--the movie looks made for television.
Dogtown centers on three teenagers in the 1970s--Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) and Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk)--who just want to ride. At first it's waves. Living in "Dogtown " a tough and gritty area in Venice Calif. these guys do everything they can to get in with the Zephyr surfers lead by the charismatic owner of the Zephyr surf shop Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger). But the boys are soon transferring their aggressive wave-riding moves to the concrete turning empty pools into arenas of wild beautiful athleticism and revolutionizing a new style of skateboarding. Skip recognizes great money-making potential when he sees it and takes these freestyle wizards on urethane wheels out on the road to show off their skills dubbing them the Z-Boys. The skating world goes nuts. Conventional competitors don't know what to make of their "extreme" ways. Girls are wild for them. And promoters see dollar signs wanting to grab a piece of the action. But what started out as fun way to blow off steam soon turns into big business. Can the friendship between this tightly knit trio survive inflating out of control egos and fast-paced famous lifestyles? Dude that's a tough one to call.
What better way to make a movie about three hot California skateboarders then by casting three hot young male leads to play them. As Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta--the two talented skateboarders on the opposite ends of the spectrum--newcomers Rasuk (Raising Victor Vargas) and Robinson (Elephant) aptly bring sincerity to their portrayals. As the fiery Alva the wild-haired Rasuk is full of bravado taking to the jet-setting life with ease and ultimately becoming the more well-known name. The soft-spoken Robinson plays the easy-going Peralta with quiet determination proving he doesn't have to showboat in order to show how good he is. But it's the more seasoned Hirsch (The Girl Next Door) playing the gifted but ultimately screwed-up Jay Adams who has the harder acting job. As the Z-Boy with probably the rawest talent but nevertheless gives up his chance for fame Hirsch handles Adams' conflicted emotions well. Ledger too does a nice job as Skip Engblom the boys' "mentor" who introduces them to a whole new world rides a great meal ticket for awhile--and then loses it all when the boys move on to bigger and better things. Sorry Skip.
Coming off the heels of his award-winning 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys writer Stacy Peralta decided he wasn't quite done telling his Z-Boy story trying his hand at dramatizing the whole experience. This time around he elicits the help of director Catherine Hardwicke whose disturbing indie Thirteen proved she can get underneath a teenager's skin. Smart move. Her documentary style of filmmaking with that grainy handheld feel fits the Lords of Dogtown milieu perfectly. The camera chases after the boys as they skate sneak onto private property to surf empty pools and rock like rock stars. Peralta also calls upon his old buddies to help out including the now world-renowned skating champion Tony Alva who choreographs many of the stunts and apparently teaches the actors not only to skate but skate in true Z-Boy fashion. Maybe hardcore skateboarders will notice the errors but for a novice like me it is a fun ride. The only real problem with Dogtown is Peralta's greenhorn attempts at fleshing out a drama. As a documentary the Z-Boys experience is exhilarating as it follows these real-life mavericks' efforts to take skateboarding to a whole new extreme. But as a full-blown feature film it's a little harder to perpetuate the momentum.
Steve and Terri Irwin are crocodile relocators in Far North Queensland Australia. They spend a lot of time well relocating crocs--saving a baby kangaroo and charming a few snakes along the way. But all that's about to change. A U.S. satellite has exploded in space and its black box has re-entered the atmosphere and ended up in the gut of a nasty 12-foot croc the Irwins are about to relocate. The FBI CIA and goodness knows what other agencies are out to find the box at any cost because it contains data that could change the world's power structure. When the agents cross paths with the Irwins they become convinced that the two croc hunters are actually spies mainly because as one agent says toward the end of the film "You don't make that kind of money in cable television." That's for sure and that's probably the reason the producers turned The Crocodile Hunter cable show into a movie. It definitely wasn't because the script was irresistible: The plot is as transparent as shed snakeskin and the acting (if it can be called that) is as stiff as the spikes on a croc's back. I'm sure this is the kind of movie that a critic shouldn't take seriously but from its lizard-pooh opening to its crocodile-pooh finish The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course really stinks.
Director/story writer/producer John Stainton was working with Irwin long before The Crocodile Hunter TV show became an international hit. In fact he wrote a movie script for Irwin in the mid-1990s that was scrapped because he didn't think Irwin should be acting. It's a shame he didn't take that thought process one step further; we'd all have been spared an agonizing guided tour of a good idea gone very very bad. The film's stars while appealing enough in the one-hour documentary format simply can't sustain a full-length motion picture and Mr. Irwin would have done well to heed his own advice--"Don't muck with it." Granted at least Stainton was smart enough to present the Irwins doing what they do best--enthusiastically working with wild animals while talking straight into the camera. The task of plot development is left to the other cast members--mainly Australian actors doing caricatures of Americans--who overdramatically play out the goofy spy plot in scenes that are completely separate from the Irwins' animal antics until the last 10 minutes of the film. The Irwin family dog Sui is probably the best actor of the bunch--and the smartest too. Most of the time she looks like she'd rather be just about anywhere else which is the most intelligent thing anybody in this film does.
As if anybody needed it The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course is proof that what works on TV doesn't necessarily make a good movie; the Crocodile Hunter documentary routine quickly grows frustrating in the film because the Irwin scenes do nothing to further what little plot the movie actually has. Plus the reason why the Irwins continually talk into the camera goes unexplained until the very end of the film--and when someone finally mentions the fact that the Irwins have been "filming" their show throughout the movie it's so offhand that it's easily missed. At the same time the spy storyline that drives the plot is trite and because of the movie's bizarre structure it's played out by actors the audience couldn't care less about rather than by the ones they came to see. The spy scenes separate the Irwin segments like commercials--and like commercials when they come on you just want to get up and go to the bathroom grab a snack or feed the dog. The best thing that can be said for Stainton's direction is that at least he's not afraid of the film's ridiculousness. Bad though the movie is in every way Stainton puts it all out there as enthusiastically as Steve Irwin wrestles crocs and that's saying something. The film also gets across the Irwins' admittedly important message about conservation loud and clear but that probably won't be enough to keep its audience from becoming extinct.
Harrison Ford (What Lies Beneath) has signed on to play Fred Cuny, an American aid worker who disappeared in Chechnya in 1995, The Associated Press reports. The as-yet-untitled film is based on David Fanning's 1997 documentary The Lost American and will be penned by Gladiator scribe William Nicholson. Filming is scheduled to begin next year, though it'll likely not be shot on location--then the film would end up being about an American Hollywood star who disappeared in Chechnya.
Barbie's been naughty, and parent Mattel Corp. is none too happy about it. An Argentinean movie, Barbie Gets Sad Too, shows the well-endowed doll having lesbian sex with her Latina maid. Mattel was outraged by Barbie's "performance" and has asked for and received a court order to ban the movie, which was set to debut at Mexico City's Urban-Fest film festival, PageSix.com reports. The movie is a "work of art," according to the festival's director, who allegedly managed to recite that line while keeping a straight face. We're still laughing.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has agreed to pay the state of Connecticut $325,000 for promoting films using phony reviews credited to a Connecticut newspaper. A Sony spokesman reportedly promised that Sony would "never, ever do it again, cross our hearts, hope to die," though eyewitnesses did see him cross his fingers while making that statement.
Despite having aired the openly-gay-themed episode of Ellen when Ellen DeGeneres' character came out of the closet, an ABC affiliate in Lynchburg, Va., refused to broadcast the latest episode of Once and Again because it showed two teenage girls kissing. A spokesman for GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) called it "simple homophobia." We're not quite sure why WSET affiliate management pulled the episode; nobody watches ABC, anyway.
Jerry Seinfeld, titular star of TV's legendary Seinfeld, is making a comeback of sorts to the small screen. Seinfeld has signed a new three-year deal with American Express to make more commercials for the financial institution. It's no wonder why: Seinfeld's previous commercials pulled better ratings than the shows of former colleagues Michael Richards and Jason Alexander combined and ran for longer periods--but that's not saying much.
Hollywood stars (or at least some B listers) appeared at the Michael Awards, the self-proclaimed Fashion Oscars, Monday night. The charitable event, named after Michael Landon, raises money for the National Children's Leukemia Foundation and drew Sigourney Weaver, Cheryl Tiegs, Hallie Eisenberg and Roberta Flack. (Apparently Cheryl Ladd and Debbie Harry were no-shows.)
CSI is looking to break ER's seven-year stranglehold as TV's top-rated drama. For the second week in a row, CSI drew more viewers than ER and leads in average viewers per episode for the season. But in the wacky world of the Nielsen ratings, ER actually has the better rating. Recent rumors purport that the Nielsens were actually started by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris--counting and numbers are clearly her strong suit.
More big names have signed on to new TV shows. John Larroquette (Night Court), Patrick Dempsey and Balthazar Getty signed on to an untitled ABC pilot; Randy Quaid will headline Fox's The Grubbs; NBC's Miss Miami will feature Jonathan Silverman (The Single Guy); and Judge Reinhold is forging a Brave New World on the WB. In related news, ABC has allegedly canceled its fall slate now, avoiding the Christmas rush.
The scheduled Monday night "Face to Face" concert in St. Petersburg, Fla., was canceled when one of the "faces," Billy Joel, called in sick. (Elton John is the other "face" on the billing.) Joel's tour manager said the piano man is afflicted by an "acute upper respiratory infection and laryngitis." The manager said Joel did hand in a note asking that he be excused from the appearance, signed "Joel's mother."
January 31, 2002 5:51am EST
A group of high school seniors put a boy who is eager to become part of their clique through a cruel initiation prank that involves jumping off some sort of high scaffolding into a cloudy pool at a local cement factory. When one of them Landon (Shane West) gets caught the principal decides Landon needs to hang with a different crowd and assigns him to tutor kids on the weekend and take part in the drama club's spring play. Surprise-the plan works! In over his head with the play Landon seeks help from Jamie (Mandy Moore) a dowdy bible-thumper who apparently only owns one ratty cardigan. Jamie however is not your run-of-the-mill unpopular girl. Rather than being introverted and weird she is smart witty and confident-in fact that grubby sweater of hers seems to be the only thing branding her as an outcast. The two grow closer and Landon eventually sees her inner beauty forgoing his own A-list status to be with her. But Landon learns that Jamie has been keeping a secret from him that inevitably blocks their path to happiness.
Moore the underdog of the teen pop stars dyes her hair brown and dulls herself down for the role of Jamie a simple girl that loves to gaze at the stars in her spare time. She did a great job transforming herself into her character but in the process extinguished most of what makes her sparkle on screen. Mind you the script might be to blame for creating a character so unbelievably mundane and one-dimensional. Under all of Jamie's goodness and perfection is well nothing. West does a great job portraying his character transformation. Even while Landon runs with the bad crowd West conveys a sense of humility in the character. Peter Coyote plays Reverend Sullivan Jamie's over-protective father without being too overbearing which is refreshing. An almost unrecognizable and weathered Daryl Hannah has a small but convincing enough role as Landon's mother. Maybe it was her now-brunette hair but I didn't realize it was Hannah until I saw the credits.
In A Walk to Remember director Adam Shankman steered away from being overly sentimental. The relationship that develops between the teens is actually very sweet and interestingly enough the film ends up being more about Landon's transformation than about Jamie's faith. While the film is not as flaky as the rash of recent teen movies it still manages to fall into the same clichés. Though the story is very-dare I say-poignant characters like Jamie's in trying to be different have become a stereotype: The plain Jane whose personality and convictions win over the popular guy. Remember Andie (Molly Ringwald) in Pretty in Pink? Or more recently Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) in She's All That? And though Moore has a beautiful melodic voice her singing scenes are too drawn out. We are not just treated to her crooning a chorus or two of a song during a church scene but the songs in their entirety. Even Mariah Carey spared us that much in Glitter.