Martin Lawrence continues to attract extreme reactions from critics with
his Black Knight. Clearly, his detractors sat through the film
Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail figures
that "the writers must have handed in a rough draft of the script, with
lots of blank places between the dialogue where they wrote "Insert
really funny bit here." And then they went for a long lunch."
Vognar in the Dallas Morning News calls the movie, "a high
concept knocked down to its lowest possible intelligence level."
Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post calls it a "cheesy,
cheap-looking update of A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court.
Calling Lawrence "the Stepin Fetchit of our age," Foreman writes
that his character is "a shiftless, mugging, leering, inarticulate L.A.
black man who rolls his eyes and ambles around like one of the chimps in
Planet of the Apes." Had the film been co-produced by the Ku Klux
Klan, Foreman comments, "it could hardly be more repellently
On the other hand, Stephen Hunter of the Washington
Post calls the film "slight but highly enjoyable."
And you have to
wonder if Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times even saw the same
movie as some of his more censorious colleagues. Black Knight, he
writes, "is a rip-roaring time-travel comedy tailored beautifully to
Martin Lawrence's protean talent. It has more hilarious throwaway lines
than most comedies offer up as their best jokes, and it is consistently
inspired, energetic and, most important, light on its feet."
The team of David Mamet (writer/director) and Gene Hackman (actor) is
receiving much praise for their current enterprise, the "caper" movie
Jay Carr in the Boston Globe writes: "It's a rare
pleasure to encounter, as one always does with Mamet, a film that's
language-driven. Mamet is not yet Billy Wilder or John Huston, but his
love of pulp-fiction lingo is catching, and it sounds good delivered by
Hackman and the others."
Similarly, Roger Ebert writes in the Chicago
Sun-Times that Heist is the kind of film "that was made
before special effects replaced wit, construction and intelligence. This
movie is made out of fresh ingredients, not cake mix."
Kevin Thomas in
the Los Angeles Times comments: "Full of action and suspense,
Heist is above all a gratifyingly adult entertainment."
Hunter in the Washington Post begins his review talking in Mamet
lingo: "You know that thing he does? You know. The thing. He does a
thing where, what I'm saying is, it's a thing, a thing. Everybody talks
in such a rhythm it's so real but then it's also not real, it sort of
sings and dances and you're thinking, what the hell. ...That's what he
does. And what I'm saying is: He's done that thing again. That thing."
He concludes his review: "That thing he does? Damn, he does it good, you
But Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution found the film disappointing. "Heist may
hook you for a while and it's never uninteresting," she writes, "but
there's no getting around it. It just isn't the movie it should have
Check out the Hollywood.com review of Heist by clicking here!
Although most critics generally love to pounce on fright films, several are
giving high marks to Joy Ride, starring Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and
Leelee Sobieski. Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe & Mail writes:
"Joy Ride is just that -- it's nothing more or less than scary
noirish fun, low on thematic ambition but giddily high on the fright front."
To Jay Carr in the Boston Globe, it's "a nice, nasty little B-movie
that keeps things simple and keeps things scary." Joe Morgenstern in the
Wall Street Journal agrees, saying that "there's plenty of scary
pleasure to be had from this clever, compact thriller." But several critics
remark that they were taken aback by the ending. "Nobody acts in the
character that they have established; instead, they become generic ciphers
like the crowds of fleeing extras when the beast in the '50s monster movies
hits town," writes Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post.
Don't Say a Word,
starring Michael Douglas, is also opening to mixed reviews. The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter, who remarks that the first hour of the film is "pretty scary," says that it eventually "transmogrifies ... totally into Hollywood hooey."
But Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer pronounces it "one of those well-wrought, emotionally overwrought affairs that could easily overwhelm a fragile nervous system." Here, too, critics are suggesting that the movie ought not to be taken too seriously.
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "[It] is a classic race-against-time movie that, once set in motion, ticks along like clockwork. What keeps you hooked are good performances and just enough plot twists. That's not to say the picture is bursting with originality; it's not, right down to the arbitrary timeline. But as it dutifully goes through the expected tropes and inevitable implausibilities of the genre, the movie stays steady on its feet and steadily involving."
But several critics question whether audiences are really ready for thrillers of any kind following the Sept. 11 events. A. O. Scott in the New York Times notes that in Don't Say a Word, "a climactic scene in which a bad guy is buried alive in an avalanche of dirt, dust and falling beams inadvertently conjures up some horrific associations."
Critics, who rarely have anything nice to say about horror films, have bestowed a few pleasant words on Jeepers Creepers. Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post, for example, writes: "If the reptile brain in you, that ugly little cluster of cerebral cells where all the destructive urges lie, needs a good jolt, Jeepers Creepers offers you just such a treat without having to do hard time as a consequence." Mike Clark in USA Today comments: "Jeepers Creepers is no big-screen keeper, but it does survive its 40-minute test drive before turning into a lemon." Similarly Jonathan Foreman writes in the New York Post: "The first half-hour of Jeepers Creepers is so frightening that it's almost a relief when the movie subsequently collapses into silliness." And Gary Dowell in the Dallas Morning News concludes, "Although he slips occasionally, [director Victor] Salva has still crafted a fairly original and scarifying piece of work."
Not only is the Immune Deficiency Foundation upset over Disney's Bubble Boy, so are many film critics. Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News recalls that at a recent press screening "of this utterly offensive black comedy, there were rumbles of dissatisfaction, culminating in one critic's anguished cry, 'Is this movie the Devil?'" Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post calls it "the meanest-spirited film ever associated with the Disney hallmark." Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds this bit of vitriol: "It's a travesty -- a sad, badly made, badly written little flick full of outrageously gross gags, insipid jokes and tasteless visual puns." And Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post comments that the movie "leaves you feeling like you've swallowed something rancid." The movie was particularly hard to swallow for Good Morning America critic Joel Siegel. The ending, he says, is "a kick in the stomach to anyone who's battling a life-threatening illness." (Siegel is.)
Woody Allen is again getting his usual share of raves and pans from critics for his latest movie, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Jay Carr in the Boston Globe calls it "lightweight fun, a spoonful of meringue from Woody Allen's dessert cart. ... lively and funny, with enough juicy one-liners for a couple of movies." A. O. Scott in the New York Times describes the film as "a ready-made high-end collectible, a charming trifle that flatters the good taste of everyone involved." On the other hand, Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News says that with this movie, "Allen has gotten so tuneless you have to wonder why he bothers making a movie each year, when he has so little to say and no energy with which to say it." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post takes the middle ground, writing: "If I call Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion the best big American movie of the summer, I'm not exactly complimenting it. Take the competition -- please, take the competition. So this mid-level, pretty-but-not-hugely-funny Allen film slips into the top spot by regretful default. I enjoyed every single second of it, a little bit."
Critics, for the most part, are saying "no thanks" to a second helping of American Pie. "Forced and predictable," huffs Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News. "Calculated, cynical and, worse, not funny," grouches Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Disingenuous and manipulative," chimes in Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. "A limp biscuit of a movie," scowls Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post. Several critics acknowledge that they found some scenes in the movie funny but go on to remark that those scenes generally brought to mind similar ones in the original. Elizabeth Barchas in the Boston Globe, for example, writes, "The sequel is so ridiculously raunchy it's hard not to laugh at times, but the inherent problem in American Pie 2 is that there's nothing especially new about it." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times likewise remarks that he "had a good time" watching the movie but then observes that "it's about the same characters [as appeared in the original] and the elements of surprise and discovery are gone." [One thing that also remains the same as the original is the R rating, and while most critics are predicting that the film is certain to be a big draw at the box office this weekend (it will "perform brilliantly," Joe Morgenstern predicts in The Wall Street Journal), Bob Strauss of the Los Angeles Daily News isn't buying their forecasts. The R rating, he notes, "is now being strictly enforced at theaters throughout the land. Studios have more or less agreed to stop promoting such fare directly to kids and younger teenagers."]
Will the sequel to 1998's surprise hit, Rush Hour starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, produce another surprise by knocking out the apes and dinosaurs now dominating the top of the box-office? Many critics think it has a good chance. Not that they are giving the film a lot of raves. Joe Morgenstern observes in the Wall Street Journal that "summer moviegoers no longer expect excellence, let alone demand it, so Rush Hour 2 is sure to pass, and to hit up the American economy for a killing." Kevin Courrier in the Toronto Globe and Mail remarks that "Rush Hour 2 -- which demands absolutely nothing of the viewer -- is a competent, reasonably enjoyable piece of formula entertainment." Stephen Hunter also gives the film about a B-minus grade. "It's about half as much fun as the original, and for August, that's probably good enough," he remarks. A.O. Scott in the New York Times has a similar reaction. "The movie looks and feels like one of the assembly-line Hong Kong martial- arts pictures of old," he writes. "It's not particularly valuable, but it's not counterfeit either." Several critics comment that the the outtakes at the end of the film are funnier than anything in the movie itself -- particularly one scene in which costar Chris Tucker gets a call on his cell phone while in the middle of a take.
Among the major U.S. newspapers, only the Los Angeles Times gives Pearl Harbor a snappy salute. Curiously, the Times' review is not written by lead critic Kenneth Turan but by the newspaper's veteran movie writer, Kevin Thomas, whose taste in films generally runs to independent and foreign-produced fare, not big blockbusters. Thomas calls the film "a superb reenactment" of the events of Dec. 7, 1941 that also provides "an engaging love story" and reels off at "a brisk pace that makes this three-hour war epic seem like half that time." The filmmakers, he concludes, "have given us a Pearl Harbor to remember." Compare those words with these of Glenn Whipp, film critic for the cross-town Los Angeles Daily News: Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have created a movie, he writes, "that is so clichéd and boring that even the WB television network would reject it out of hand for being too insipid." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post argues that the movie seems to work when it attempts to evoke old World War II war flicks, but by the end, he concludes, "it becomes the wrong kind of same old story: Hollywood stupidity and callowness, writ large across the sky." In the very first sentence of his review, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal describes the film as "a blockheaded, hollow-hearted industrial enterprise," and in his last sentence calls it "a movie without a soul." Several critics praise the scenes of the attack on the U.S. fleet, but Jami Bernard in the New York Times is among the many who conclude, in her words: "An intense half-hour of cool, wall-to-wall combat sequences is sandwiched between hours of a predictable, sappy romantic triangle that is hardly worthy of the epic treatment it receives." Or as Lou Lumenick puts it in the New York Post: "The 40-minute attack sequence in Pearl Harbor is as spectacular as you could imagine -- but come prepared to suffer through hours of soggy, corny, predictable and interminable romantic drama." But even the spectacle of the recreated raid troubles Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, who asks: "What is the point, really, of more than half an hour of planes bombing ships, of explosions and fireballs, of roars on the soundtrack and bodies flying through the air and people running away from fighters that are strafing them? How can it be entertaining or moving when it's simply about the most appalling slaughter? Why do the filmmakers think we want to see this, unrelieved by intelligence, viewpoint or insight?"