WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
In the latest action drama from the World Wrestling Entertainment WWE wrestler John Cena (The Marine) is back this time as New Orleans police detective Danny Fisher who captures a brilliant criminal mastermind and foils an attempted heist in which the crook's girlfriend is accidentally killed by a passing van. One year later the guy breaks out of prison intent on getting revenge by kidnapping Fisher's fiancée and leading him on a lethal game of cat and mouse in which he must complete 12 rounds of near impossible tasks or risk the life of his bride-to-be.
WHO'S IN IT?
Cena is clearly out to become the next Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and physically he certainly fills the bill of an action hero. As a film star though he's capable but just not terribly compelling. Fortunately 12 Rounds isn't exactly the kind of movie that requires a lot of acting ability. Cena manages to deliver groaner lines like "I'm gonna find you hunt you down and kill you " with ease and he looks good racing through the streets in cop cars and hijacked fire engines. If he doesn't make it in movies he'd be a great contestant on The Amazing Race. As the key villain Irish actor Aidan Gillen is appropriately slimy and evil but mainly one-dimensional. Steve Harris is tough and determined as the FBI agent with a personal stake in the case while Ashley Scott as the fiancée and Brian White as Cena's partner are fine in their limited screen time.
Director Renny Harlin who cut his teeth on movies like Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger knows his way around the action genre and has crafted one heart-racing sequence after another. Technically this is a terrific looking genre film that ought to please hardcore action fans who are willing to check their brain at the box office (and we know who you are!).
Apparently one of the many guns in the film was used to shoot the script full of holes. Because the key action scenes — while exciting to watch — look like they were written by a committee and have no anchor in reality. A key plot point involving the prison break of the main villain also defies credibility and fails to pass the smell test.
Lots of great action throughout but the sheer audacity of the grand helicopter finale is not to be believed — or missed.
Years ago Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) watched helplessly as his family was massacred by a monster. Now eking out a living as a plumber and saddled with a harridan girlfriend (Rachel Skarsten) Jack is trying to deal with anger-management issues spawned by his tragic past--unaware that circumstances will soon force him to confront those issues. Those circumstances occur in the form of his night-school professor Gordon Crowley (Robert Englund) who has the serious misfortune of being possessed by an infernal evil--one that turns him into a voracious vicious monstrous fiend. (Gee has Englund been here before …?) What follows is a fast-paced fiendish battle to the death--and beyond--as Jack squares off against his former teacher in a giddy grisly fight to the finish. Matthews gives a very likable performance as the embittered hero who finds his niche (like the title says) as a slayer of monsters and Skarsten (in what amounts to an extended cameo) is appropriately amusingly bitchy as his self-absorbed girlfriend. There’s also a fun turn by David Fox as the cranky creaky proprietor of the hardware store that Jack frequents. But in the end this is Englund’s show all the way. Relying less on his status as a horror icon than his comedic abilities the actor gives a fabulously funny performance as the possessed professor. Not only is this Englund’s biggest and best role in a long time it’s a genuine testament to his versatility as an actor--without straying too far from his horror fan base. The actors are completely in tune with the farcical tone of the proceedings yet they play it wonderfully straight. This is director Jon Knautz’s feature debut and he makes the most of it. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer straddles the fine line between fear and farce with refreshing confidence. The film pays homage to the ‘80s horror classics but possesses (no pun intended) an identity and a personality of its own. The film is also enhanced by the fine work of cinematographer Joshua Allen and composer Ryan Shore (nephew of Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore) and it’s nice to see a fantasy film that eschews CGI for good old-fashioned practical special effects. Some of them are intentionally cheesy but that’s all part of the film’s winning formula. That said and despite the film’s many laughs this is not a film for the squeamish. But for the intended audience of this film that’s even more inducement.
Our fair maiden Sydney (Amanda Bynes) doesn’t have coal-black hair or sing with a sweet voice or have woodland creatures following her around. Instead the tomboy grew up on construction sites with her widower dad (John Schneider) a plumber who guided Syd as best he could. But now the time has come for the gorgeous freshman to head to Southern Atlantic University to pledge her late mom’s once-dignified sorority where she meets this story’s version of the Wicked Queen: the vain and evil Rachel (Sara Paxton) president of the sorority. Let’s just say Sydney does not fit in and Rachel sends the soon-to-be fairest of them all to the curb. Luckily there’s a condemned frat house right next door with seven very socially challenged guys--each with a familiar "Dwarf"-like quality. They take Sydney in and soon with the help of one love-struck frat boy named Tyler Prince (Matthew Long) she and the seven doofuses campaign to take over the student government—and push out the Greek system that has ruled for too long. Tween sensation Amanda Bynes knows exactly where her bread is buttered. With star vehicles such as What a Girl Wants She's the Man and now Sydney White the comic actress keeps playing slightly different versions of the same character: a pretty if goofy and klutzy young woman whose vivaciousness usually changes everything for the better. And whether her fluff movies grate or not you can’t fault Bynes who clearly knows what works for her. Paxton (Aquamarine) is perfectly predictable as the mean girl as is Long as the Prince. But the seven guys playing the nerds do a nice job of reinventing their dwarfishness be it sneeziness sleepiness bashfulness dopeyness—you know the rest. The only dork who didn’t quite mesh with his inner-“Dwarf” was the one called Spanky (Samm Levine) who is more horny than “Happy.” I guess in the fairytale there really isn’t a Lusty dwarf even though you’d think at some point at least one of them must have had a few untoward thoughts about Snow White. They were little but still men. We’ve seen countless Cinderella redos but for a modern retelling of the classic fairy Snow White Sydney White isn’t half-bad--there it’s been said. It's got all the trappings of a college comedy but some of it works. Don’t however give credit to director Joe Nussbaum whose only other movies include the dud Sleepover and the direct-to-DVD American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile. He pretty much directs by the numbers. No it’s first-time screenwriter Chad Creasey who is the clever one. For example the poisoned apple is translated into a virus sent to Sydney’s Mac laptop. And when the dorky seven march in a line past Rachel and her crew holding picket signs one of the guys says “Hi ho!” For a film as pedestrian as Sydney White laughing out loud even once means something. It’s certainly not going to wow anyone besides girls ages 8-14 but Sydney White will make the perfect third in the Amanda Bynes comedy DVD set.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Mariska Hargitay's bodybuilder father Mickey Hargitay has died after a lengthy illness. He was 80.
The Hungarian strongman, who was married to Jayne Mansfield, died last Thursday.
Hargitay was in the hospital being treated for a mystery illness when his daughter gave birth to her first child in June.
The actress had to dash from a scheduled appearance on The Tonight Show earlier this summer to be by her father's bedside, and she broke down in tears as she paid tribute to him when she won her first Emmy Award in August.
She told reporters the best thing about winning an Emmy was "that my dad was gonna be really happy."
Born Miklos Hargitay in 1926, the bodybuilder fled his native Hungary in 1947 to escape the compulsory Soviet military draft.
Hargitay won the Mr. Universe bodybuilding title in 1955 and made his mark as a movie star in The Loves of Hercules after appearing in Mae West's New York revue.
Before gaining fame, he worked as a carpenter and plumber, and famously remodeled the Pink Palace--the Hollywood home he shared with Mariska's mother, Mansfield.
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Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector opens with a man scratching his plumber’s-crack re-using a cotton swab to clean his ear and wearing the sleeveless shirt he uses as a towel. Naturally this is Larry (the Cable Guy) a health inspector. Halfheartedly inspecting the local food joints he’s leading the life that suits him well. But when his boss (Thomas F. Wilson) assigns him a serious-minded female partner (Iris Bahr) his world is turned upside down--or at least made less comfy. Larry’s called in to investigate “some fartin’ Jewish folks” at a swankier restaurant and learns that it’s not an isolated incident. While Larry’s unorthodox methods manage to arouse the interest of a waitress (Megyn Price) with bowel habits that he adores his tactics arouse the ire of the restaurateurs he investigates and it costs him his job. Now he’s forced to do whatever it takes to prove his innocence. Even the D-listers here must’ve gone straight to confession upon accepting these roles to help cushion their bank accounts. Let’s start with Larry the Cable Guy (of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour “Git-R-Done” fame) who is one of the most successful stand-up comics today. He’s right in his element seemingly with fart blanche on toilet humor but to the unconverted he’s a little more than grating. Speaking of grating the (hopefully) affected voice of Bahr makes the movie mostly unlistenable in addition to being unwatchable. But take pity on her for this is no way to jumpstart a movie career. Tony Hale clearly still reeling from the potential cancellation of TV’s Arrested Development (on which he plays Buster) also lowers his star and integrity with an ambiguous character here. And Joe Pantoliano shows his face. The once great character actor reaches a new low with this one even if his performance isn’t all bad. Health Inspector masters the art of the fart. But more disgusting than the settings with which the farts are juxtaposed is the ad nauseam (pun intended) level of over-usage. So congratulations go to along with fart Yoda Larry the Cable Guy director Trent Cooper who makes his feature directorial debut. And might we add what a fart-tastic debut it is! But it’s not all farts ladies and gentleman--all forms of gross-out humor are exploited unlike ever before. On the er serious side the collection of running jokes adds to a few legit laughs. Cooper helms a story that naturally doesn’t work deferring instead to Larry’s natural um charisma. The script offers no segue into Larry’s stand-up persona but anyone who sees this here flick ain’t lookin’ for no dang Oscar winner. Clearly Health Inspector will appeal to Larry’s following but is not meant for those of sound mind.
Jack and Terry (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern) are an unhappy couple stifled by years of sullen barely concealed rage Jack's inertia and Terry's drinking. Their friends Hank and Edith (Peter Krause and Naomi Watts) are similarly miserable with each other which they act out through barely concealed affairs. As Jack and Edith begin their illicit tryst they instinctively seek to pair up Hank and Terry partly to make it easier for them to sneak around but mostly to alleviate their own guilt. So the two couples basically substitute one rut for another wheels spinning in the muddy morass of their own confused attempts at adulthood. Through it all their children become a sort of juvenile Greek chorus for their parents making the kinds of precocious pronouncements that are only uttered from the mouths of screenwriters.
As joyless as the movie is to sit through the acting is brilliant. Krause (Six Feet Under) tosses his nonchalance around as an impenetrable shield caring so little that he's impossible to wound. Ruffalo (Collateral) who is the most (and probably the only) human of the quartet provides the only thing approaching a moral center. And even in this company Dern manages to act circles around them. Her Terry is a definitive portrait of the party girl who finally wakes up hung over one morning only to discover she's got two kids to feed a house to clean and a husband who'd rather talk than make love. To her love means always having to admit you're desperate. So it's sad and chilling to watch her begin her affair with Hank only because in her own twisted way she thinks her husband wants her to.
Watts is still the most compulsively watchable actress working today summoning reserves of inner turmoil on cue and yet always making it look effortless. It is interesting to contrast her role here with her work in the far superior and brilliantly written 21 Grams. Both characters are deeply unhappy people trying to make sense of the cruel world. And yet 21 Grams which is much unhappier and more despondent achieves a sublime grace as each character discovers their humanity in their desperation. In this movie you just hope that at some point the four main characters will jump in an SUV that has faulty brakes.
The two men are college professors and the movie makes the most of that milieu with flirtatious students college bars and long leafy runs providing the backdrop. But most of the movie's plotting feels like its been done on graph paper. Jack and Terry make love. Cut to Hank and Edith making love. Jack talks to his daughter. Cut to Edith talking to her daughter. The rhythm of this duet becomes numbing. The movie is directed by John Curran an Australian making his first American feature. But the impetus for the story comes from screenwriter Larry Gross adapting two short stories by Andre Dubus who wrote In the Bedroom. Dubus' movie characters are all variations on the same emotionally stifled yuppie theme although In the Bedroom saved itself by turning into an old-fashioned revenge melodrama. We Don't Live Here Anymore is one of those movies and there have been oodles where the characters are so inert that the suspense if one can call it suspense is who will act first to break the circle of despair. And so the children of course are trotted out as pawns on the chessboard forcing the kings and queens to choose. I don't know which is more depressing: that this movie cliché has been used so often or that there are undoubtedly thousands of couples in the world who act exactly like this.
Top Story: CBS Says They Didn't Pay Jackson for Interview
Both CBS and Michael Jackson have denied reports that the network paid the pop singer for his exclusive interview on 60 Minutes. According to Reuters, a New York Times report on Wednesday, based on an anonymous source described as a disgruntled former business associate of Jackson's, said that the network landed the Ed Bradley interview by agreeing to pay $1 million extra to license their previously shelved music special celebrating Jackson's career, which airs Jan. 2. CBS and two of Jackson's closest representatives, however, told Reuters the terms of Jackson's entertainment special and his 60 Minutes interview were negotiated separately. "This was not a package deal," CBS spokesman Chris Ender told Reuters. "These were two parallel projects. They were being developed and worked on independently." Enders did admit, however, that the two projects became "linked" in the aftermath of the allegations against Jackson "when we told Mr. Jackson's representatives that we couldn't broadcast the entertainment special if he wasn't addressing the situation on a CBS News program." Jackson's defense lawyer, Mark Geragos, conceded the prospect of reviving Jackson's music special likely weighed in his decision to go on 60 Minutes, Reuters reports. "I think that's a fair statement," he said when asked if Jackson did the interview to get the special back on CBS.
Rush Guitarist Arrested New Year's Eve
Alex Zivojinovich, the lead guitarist for the rock band Rush and better known by his stage name Alex Lifeson, was arrested Wednesday night for drunken and violent behavior after attacking sheriff's deputies at the Naples, Fla., Ritz-Carlton hotel, AP reports. Deputies said they used a stun gun on Zivojinovich, 50, who faces six charges that include aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, and disorderly intoxication after a scuffle broke out when Zivojinovich's son Justin refused to leave the stage. Justin, 33, and his wife Michelle Zivojinovich, 30, were also arrested.
Imbruglia Gets Hitched
Actress-turned-pop singer Natalie Imbruglia, 28, and Daniel Johns, 24, frontman of the Australian band Silverchair, exchanged vows Wednesday in a private ceremony at an exclusive resort on Australia's northeastern coast, The Associated Press reports. It's the first marriage for both.
Screenwriter Dunne Dies
Author-screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, best known for his screen collaborations with wife Joan Didion, including The Panic in Needle Park and the 1976 remake A Star is Born, died Tuesday in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack, Reuters reports. He was 71.
French Author Says Disney Copied Nemo
Franck Le Calvez, a French children's book author, claims Finding Nemo closely resembles his book Pierrot the Clown Fish, in which his hero, a wide-eyed, orange-striped fish, gets separated from his family, AP reports. In February, a court will hear his case against Disney and Pixar Animation, the French newspaper Le Monde reports. The case is for breach of copyright and trademark, and Le Calvez also wants Nemo merchandise taken off the shelves of French shops.
Norway's Idol Wins World Title
Norway's Pop Idol Kurt Nilsen picked up the World Idol title Thursday, beating 10 other Idol competitors from across the globe including American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, AP reports. Nilson, a 25-year-old plumber, won the Norwegian version of Pop Idol in May. His single, "She's So High," went straight to No. 1 in the Norwegian singles chart and is the country's biggest-selling single to date.
Irwin Introduces Baby to First Croc Feeding
Animal Planet's wacky Crocodile Hunter host and animal activist Steve Irwin took his infant son to his first crocodile feeding Friday, AP reports, offering a chicken to the snapping croc while holding the baby, Bob, in his other hand. "He's one month old, so it's about time Bob got out there and did his first croc demo," the Australian celebrity told the crowd at the Australian Zoo. Irwin's wife Terri, who gave birth to her second child Dec. 1, also attended the show, billed as the baby's "croc feeding debut."
Willie Nelson To Debut Antiwar Ballad
Country singer Willie Nelson plans to debut his new song, the antiwar ballad "What Ever Happened to Peace on Earth," at a fund-raising concert Saturday for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in Austin, Texas. "Now, I haven't played it for Toby (Keith) yet," a laughing Nelson told the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday. Although the two are close friends, the sentiments of Nelson's song are the polar opposite of Keith's angry-American anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," with its call to arms. "Toby wrote that song in reaction to 9/11, which was a totally different thing than watching U.S. soldiers die in Iraq," Nelson said. "Toby's said he's not a Republican or a Democrat; he's a Christian. So we're coming from the same place."
Role Call: Mostow Counts Seconds; Woody Allen Robs Pierre
Terminator 3 director Jonathan Mostow has signed to write and direct a remake of John Frankenheimer's film Seconds for Paramount Pictures. According to Variety, the original 1966 film starred John Randolph as an older man who gets a new lease on life with a new face and identity. Even though he's reconstituted in the handsome visage of Rock Hudson, the change brings its own problems. No one has been cast at yet. Seconds becomes the second film by the late Frankenheimer that is being remade by Paramount…Jonathan Demme will direct Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber in The Manchurian Candidate…Director W
This documentary follows superstar Jerry Seinfeld as he returns to stand-up trying out all-new jokes on tour. Along the way he meets newbie and fiercely driven young comic Orny Adams who aces his gig at Montreal's classic comedy festival and lands a dream manager (Seinfeld's own George Shapiro). From the Gotham Comedy Club Standup New York Carolines and the Comic Strip to gigs on the Tonight Show and Letterman Comedian tracks the progress of many a talented stand-up comic famous and not so who follow their dreams and obsessions to bravely try to make it solo. A trove of master comics like Bill Cosby Ray Romano Jay Leno Garry Shandling and Chris Rock share their wisdom jokes and war stories throughout. Seinfeld's behind-the-scenes preparation to go before a large theater audience suggests that the comic is ultimately motivated by love--the immediate instant gratification love from a big live receptive adoring loud audience.
A film with such appealing and charismatic personalities as Jerry Seinfeld Chris Rock Garry Shandling Jay Leno Bill Cosby and lesser-knowns can't miss having immense appeal. Seinfeld at his peak conveys immense charm and humor. His humbling yen to return to his stand-up roots further endears. Some comics captured like funny guy Colin Quinn suggest that life in the funny lane is irresistible though not without speed bumps and soft shoulders. But Leno proclaims that if you don't do the stand-up you don't have it. A final segment that has Seinfeld making a big return to stand-up in an awesomely gorgeous venue suggests why the thrill of going it alone is never gone.
Director Christian Charles (who directed Seinfeld in his award-winnning Amex commercials) mans one of the two DV cameras that captured the action and delivers the goods. Direction is straightforward and focused allowing the stand-up comics megastars or otherwise to always hold center stage. Charles understands that camera tricks are redundant since his compelling subjects will do the trick. Film clocks in at a peppy 81 minutes and is propelled by a jazzy score.