There are distinct echoes of Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons and Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill here as the film focuses on four couples who have been friends since their college days. Periodically they get together and ask themselves the title question as they re-examine their relationships. There’s Janet Jackson as Patricia the college lecturer whose best-selling book is based on her friends’ relationships. Patricia and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba) are trying to hold their marriage together after the loss of their young son in a tragic car accident. The cocky Mike (Richard T. Jones) flaunts an adulterous relationship in front of his insecure overweight wife Shelia (Jill Scott) who is completely oblivious to the deception. Terry (Perry himself) is a successful pediatrician trying to convince his wife Diane (Sharon Leal)--a successful attorney in her own right--to have more kids. Marcus (Michael Jai White) a former pro football player merely tries to get through the day without a tongue-lashing from his acerbic wife Angela (Tasha Smith) a woman not known for keeping her opinions to herself regardless of how appropriate the circumstances. All of them find themselves confronting career demands family demands infidelity incompatibility and mistrust--all while drinking far too much wine. Needless to say before their get-together is over a number of secrets will be divulged and each couple will find their relationships shaken to their respective cores. Forgoing the housedress of his cinematic alter-ego “Madea ” Perry proves an affable screen personality quite relaxed within the ensemble. Jones doesn’t go out of his way to make Mike in any way likable which makes his one of the more memorable and clearly defined characters in the entire cast. Although Smith gets all the sassy lines White easily steals their scenes together with a surprisingly appealing comic turn. Hunky Lamman Rucker plays a dreamboat sheriff who finds himself drawn into this ever-shifting circle of friends. The women have a tougher go of it with Jackson giving a tremulous performance that makes her character almost disappear into the background. Yoba is also low-key although more affectingly so as her onscreen spouse. Leal does what she can with the stock role of a career woman who takes her home life for granted but she fares better than Scott whose crying scenes--and there are more than one--ground the story to a halt. All told however the ensemble cast has an easy and relaxed chemistry together which keeps the film--as soapy as uneven as it often is--afloat throughout. Tyler Perry doesn’t open up his stage play to any major degree preferring to leave the emphasis on characters and dialogue--both of which incidentally he has created. Perry tends to approach these intricate topics with broad (but not irrelevant) strokes but he’s not about to tamper with a successful formula. Like most of Perry’s previous films (Diary of a Mad Black Woman Madea*s Family Reunion et. al.) Why Did I Get Married? runs on a bit and overstates its case but its heart’s in the right place.
Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.
The catastrophic battles of the Clone Wars are in their final stages as the crumbling Republic--supported by the ever-vigilant Jedi Knights--fight against the Separatist Alliance lead by a particularly nasty half-droid half-alien named General Grievous. Jedi überheroes Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are sent to kill General Grievous and end the war but it isn't easy. Meanwhile Yoda Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and the other Jedi Council members fear for the state of the Republic under the guidance of the nebulously sinister Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). I know what you're thinking "Yeah yeah just tell us how Anakin goes bad." Poor Annie. He still has some serious anger issues which now revolve around his adoring young wife Padme (Natalie Portman) and their unborn child (or children in this case). He thinks he foresees Padme's death and will do anything to keep her safe including listening to Palpatine malevolently whisper promises of immortality and the power of the Dark Side into his ear. Not the best thing for this volatile fellow. Yes Darth Vader will soon emerge and the inevitable duel between the good and the Dark Side is at hand. Get your lightsabers ready.
Happily all the main actors--save for perhaps Natalie Portman as the ineffectual Padme--get a lot more to chew on in this final installment. Christensen is thankfully done being the whining teenager from Attack of the Clones and turns into a brooding conflicted pre-Vader who can't control his anger. Of course he overdoes it a bit with the scowling and evil cold stares but that's OK. It's what the part requires. The love story between Christensen and Portman however is still kind of painful to watch. The two actors look more than a little embarrassed professing their love for one another ("I'm so much in love with you" "No I'm so much in love with YOU!"). And besides bringing back the infamous Leia "cinnamon bun" look Portman isn't given a darn thing to do but fret and pace and rub her pregnant belly praying Anakin will be all right. You'd think after wielding a gun in The Phantom Menace she'd get to do more fighting. Oh well. On the flip side McGregor Jackson and even McDiarmid all get to kick some serious butt in Revenge of the Sith each with their own action-packed fight sequences. Jackson just seems happy to be swinging a lightsaber around. McGregor with the full beard and biting commentary does a nice job setting the stage for the elderly Ben Kenobi to come. And McDiarmid a veteran British stage thesp finally gets his chance to shine as the malicious Palpatine as we see his own transformation into the ultimate evil being he becomes.
Oh George what are you going to do now that it's all over? Of course Lucas has said he is going to redo all the six Star Wars episodes in 3-D as well as produce a TV series which follows the events after Return of the Jedi. Then there's the fourth Indiana Jones movie to look forward to. But Lucas will probably hole back up at his Skywalker Ranch in northern California and dream up even better ways to generate special effects for the big screen. That's what he does best. He truly is an amazing genius at creating visuals and Revenge of the Sith is no exception. From the battle between General Grievous and Obi-Wan to Yoda's clash with Darth Sidious to Obi-Wan's climactic duel with Anakin Sith is simply riveting. The only difficulty Lucas has ever had is with the human element. I'll admit I'm one of those die-hard fans of the original trilogy who had a problem with the lack of an emotional core in the prequels. After writing and directing the first Star Wars (or Episode IV for those counting) Lucas understood then that maybe he wasn't the best choice to write the next two handing the chores off to screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. It worked. Big time. Yet with all three prequels (that's Episodes I-III) Lucas did it all himself and his obvious shortcomings are evident. But hey does it really matter how connected you feel to the characters when you've got the Force Jedi Knights evil Darths an ass-kicking little green guy clone armies droid armies Wookiee armies (yeah that's a lot of fur) and an ultimate turn towards the Dark Side? No. But it helps.
The sequel to Charlie's Angels is looking to start shooting as early as spring 2002, producer Leonard Goldberg confirmed to Variety. "Depending on whether a strike happens, we should have the script in four to six weeks," Goldberg said. "We'll take it to the Angels for their perusal, and if they like it, Sony can sit down with them and make a deal." The film will reunite the girls--Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz-along with the director McG. Barrymore will co-produce with Goldberg.
"Halloween" take 8
Seems we just can't get enough of Michael Myers. Dimension Films is getting ready to start production May 9 on Halloween 8 and has enlisted the talents of Busta Rhymes (Finding Forrester), Tyra Banks (Coyote Ugly) and Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance). In the eighth installment of the ever-popular Halloween series, a group of teens return to the home of legendary serial killer Myers to launch a live Internet chat-and Michael is waiting for them to continue his killing spree. Dimension produced the last film, Halloween: H2O, which starred Jamie Lee Curtis, in 1998.
Trio gets "Scorched"
Woody Harrelson, Alicia Silverstone and Rachael Leigh Cook are in negotiations to star in the comedy, Scorched for director Gavin Grazer. The story revolves around two bank employees (Harrelson and Silverstone) in a small desert town, each of whom makes plans to rob the bank on the same weekend, as does a third employee. The catch? None of them know the other's intentions. Cook plays a disgruntled clothing store worker who plans to seek her own revenge on a millionaire. Production is slated to start at the end of May.
Ledger creates a "Monster"
Australian actor Heath Ledger, fresh off the upcoming A Knight's Tale, will most likely be replacing Wes Bentley (American Beauty) in Lions Gate Films' Monster Ball. Bentley dropped out of the project for undisclosed reasons. Ledger will join costars Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry in a story about Hank (Thornton) and his son (Ledger). Both work for the local prison, which gives Hank the opportunity to fall in love with the widow of an inmate who has been executed. She is unaware that Hank knew her husband; complications ensue. Production is slated to start May 24.
J.Lo hears the "Tick Tock"
Hot Jennifer Lopez is in talks to star in Tick Tock for Columbia Pictures. The script focuses on an amnesiac who awakens in the custody of the FBI as a prime suspect in an L.A. bombing. Not sure if he is being set up to take the fall or the actual bomber, he must help guide a young FBI agent (Lopez) through L.A. as they race to disarm other remaining explosives. If an actors' strike does not happen, the project will start production early fall. Lopez will be seen in the upcoming Angel Eyes.
Rappers "Wash" up
Rap masters Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg will star in an urban comedy, The Wash, as incompatible roommates who work together at a busy car wash. The two will also serve as executive producers and provide the soundtrack. Dr. Dre's bad boy protégé, Eminem, is set to make an appearance. Production starts May 7.
A family affair
Both the Douglas and Jones clans have set their sights on making Smoke and Mirrors. Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones will star, with Michael's older brother, Joel, co-producing with partner Kevin Brodie and Zeta-Jones' brother, David, under the Pro Star Filmmakers moniker. Even dad Kirk Douglas may play a sultan in the story of French illusionist Robert Houdin set in the 1850s. Film locations are being scouted in Morocco, Tunisia and Israel.
A martial arts "Monk"
Jean-Claude Van Damme will star in the independent martial arts actioner The Monk, where he plays a Shaolin monk who comes to America in search of his father and must battle an evil crime lord. But of course he does. Shooting is slated for a Nov. 1 start date.
Irons chooses his "Ladies" carefully
Jeremy Irons will star in And Now Ladies and Gentlemen, an English/French romantic thriller. Irons will play a criminally minded yachtsman/thief who falls for a French singer. Director Claude Lelouch originally wanted an American-he had Dustin Hoffman in mind at first, then later reworked the part for John Malkovich, who became interested in the project. But when Malkovich had to drop out because his next film, Ripley's Game, was pushed up due to the possible strikes, the part was rewritten once again to fit Englishman Irons.