At the turn of the twentieth century, James Barrie (Depp) is a boring playwright, authoring boring plays, and is bogged down in a boring marriage.
His benefactor, Charles Frohman (Hoffman), is losing money right and left with Barrie's lousy plays, and doesn't know what to do, except pour more cash into his works. (How did Barrie get Knighthood with such mediocre plays? Can any of us name some of his other works?)
James meets a widow, Silvia Davies (Winslet), whose sons Peter, Jack, George, and Michael, are quite a handful.
Silvia's family inspires Barrie to write a new play, Peter Pan, which, of course, is a smash hit, and that makes everyone happy . . .
. . . everyone except for Silvia's mother, Emma du Maurier (Christie), who does not like a married man occupying so much of her daughter's time. She is constantly trying to keep Silvia from seeing Barrie, in spite of the fact that the children seem to adore him. And Silvia too . . . .
The first half hour of this movie is just about the most banal I have ever seen. I wondered, how in the world did this thing get so many accolades? Whoops, I guess that is where the word 'politics' comes in. Anyway, after that first half hour, the viewer makes a bond with the story, since we all have such fond memories of Disney's Peter Pan movie of decades past. The women in our party really enjoyed it (the four star entertainment rating is based on their input and successful argument), but I was longing for more exit wounds and the detonation of C-4 plastic explosives. After all, I have 200 watts x 7 and four 18" subs. I want to use all that stuff, and Victorian melodrama just doesn't do it for me.
These include Deleted Scenes, Commentary, Outtakes, The Magic of Finding Neverland, Creating Neverland, and On the Red Carpet.
- John E. Johnson, Jr. -
A company called EYE Tech makes ZOE, a chip that is implanted in the brains of human fetuses, and which records what they see and hear from the moment of birth. When the person dies, the chip is removed, and a 'Cutter' extracts the video and sound memories, and puts them together for a 'Rememory' service, where the deceased person's life memories are shown.
Alan Hakman (Williams) is a Cutter, and takes on the Rememory project of a dead physician, Dr. Charles Bannister, who had a dark secret involving his daughter Isabel (Genevieve Buechner). Bannister's wife Jennifer (Stephanie Romanov) seems to know what the secret was, and is tentative about Alan being able to discover it when he views the memories stored on the chip.
Alan has a problem of his own, a memory of having not helped a childhood friend who fell to his death in an old abandoned warehouse.
A previous assistant, Fletcher (Caviezel), who opposes ZOE technology, approaches Alan and offers him half a million dollars if he will turn over the Rememory project for Dr. Bannister. Fletcher wants access to Bannister's chip, because he knows about the dark secret too and wants to expose it since Bannister was a financial backer of the technology.
Williams seems to favor roles in which the character is on the border of psychological breakdown or a full blown psychopath. He portrays the former in this movie, but in spite of his genius, the film suffers from mediocrity in too many other areas.
I wondered about the title, thinking that Final Cut sounded better than The Final Cut. Then I found that there was already a movie called Final Cut (1998), and I thought, well OK, that is the reason. But, then, I found several more films named The Final Cut, dating back to the 1980's. Apparently, a book or movie title cannot be copyrighted.
These include the Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, the Making Of, and other things.
- John E. Johnson,
Larry (Owen), Anna (Roberts), Dan (Law), and Alice (Portman) live in London, but they don't all know each other . . . yet.
Dan, a frustrated novelist, meets Alice, a stripper from New York, when he helps her after she is hit by a car because she was looking the wrong way while crossing a street (she is American, where cars drive on the opposite sides of the street from the way they do in the U.K.)
Dan likes to browse the Internet, and meets Larry, a dermatologist, in a sex chat room. He pretends to be a female named Anna, and entices Larry to meet "her" at the aquarium. He sets up the real Anna, a local photographer, to be in the aquarium when Larry gets there, as a joke on them both.
Advance 6 months. Larry and Anna are lovers. Dan and Alice are lovers. The complication is that Dan really loves Anna, and she loves him.
And so, around and around we go, and then things really get complicated as the story spans a period of several years of lost, and then revitalized, relationships.
Combine four fine actors, a great script, and a brilliant director, and you get a terrific movie. No digital special effects. Just people talking to one another about the most basic instinct humans have: survival of the species.
After so many films with gigantic budgets that pay for all the firepower, blue screens, and digital effects, it is a tough assignment to keep our attention with a dialogue-driven motion picture. This one does it beautifully.
There is only a music video as the extra feature.
- John E. Johnson,
In a small Columbian town, near Bogota, teenage Maria Alvarez (Moreno) works in a flower plantation removing thorns from roses. She dislikes her boss intensely and decides to quit.
She discovers that she is pregnant by her boyfriend, but neither loves the other, so they decide not to marry.
Now, where can she get another job? A local friend, Franklin (Toro) says he knows how she can make a lot of money, say $5,000, as a "mule", which is a person who transports illegal drugs inside her body to other countries. This is several times the average annual income in her town, so she says yes.
Franklin introduces her to Javier (Gomez), a local drug lord, who tells her that the job entails swallowing pellets of heroin that have been wrapped in thin latex. She must swallow several dozen of them, and then enter the U.S. for delivery of the drugs to local dealers there. They give her an airline ticket and reservations at a hotel in New York City.
When she boards the plane for New York, Maria finds that one of her friends, Blanca (Vega), who worked with her at the flower plantation, is also a mule, and several other girls are on the plane too, including Lucy (Lopez), someone she met at the bar where Javier conducts business. Lucy gives Maria her sister's address (Carla, played by Patricia Rae) in New York, as a friend whom Maria can contact if she needs to.
At the New York airport, Maria is taken aside and questioned, but since she is pregnant, they cannot X-ray her, and they let her pass into the city.
Things rapidly head south, and Maria turns to Carla for help, as she and Blanca hide from the New York drug dealers.
Moreno was nominated as Best Actress for her role, and I can see why. She is completely natural in her portrayal, and as the film is shot in a documentary style, it would be easy to believe that it really is a documentary about factual people and events.
These consist of a Director's Commentary and movie trailer.
- John E. Johnson,
In the town of Odessa, Texas, football is all they think about, and the Permian High School Panthers are their ticket to the state championship.
Coach Gary Gaines (Thornton) is happy to oblige, drilling his team on the importance of what they do, for the sake of the town as well as their own future.
Mike Winchell (Black) is the star quarterback, and Boobie Miles (Luke) is the star receiver.
The team is well on its way to the playoffs, when injury slows things down.
Now, the team realizes that it is teamwork that really wins games, not individual players.
And so, the Panthers think about what they will have to do if they face the Carter High School team from Dallas, whose front line averages about 240 pounds, while they are typical skinny kids from a small town.
The Panthers are also known as Mojo, and seeing how the townspeople focus on football and their team reminds one of why teams in the South and East always seem to be national champions. Unlike in the West, other areas of the country eat and sleep sports. Shops and restaurants close down for the games. Try and get a store in California to close on Sunday, let alone for a football game.
This is the best football movie I have ever seen, but it is explosively violent on the field, which is the way things really are in this sport. As a football player once said, "Football is not a contact sport. It is a hitting sport."
These include Behind the Scenes, A Look at the Real Players, Deleted Scenes, and Commentary by the Author.
- John E. Johnson,
After the Ocean's Eleven caper at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, where the group stole $160,000,000 from Terry Benedict (Garcia), Benedict goes after them to recover his money. Actually, twice the money since insurance has already replaced the 160 mil.
So, Danny Ocean (Clooney) and the rest of the original Eleven try to figure out how they can repay that much jack. The decide to do it one caper at a time, starting with a document held in a vault in Amsterdam at the home of a recluse.
Unfortunately, French master thief Francois Toulour (Cassel) has beaten them to it, so now the group must factor in the competition in getting the loot.
They decide to go for The 1896 Coronation Egg, a Faberge creation, being shown in a Rome art gallery, which will easily generate enough cash to pay Benedict back.
Problem is, Toulour wants it too.
To top it off, Police Detective Isabel Lahiri (Jones) is on to them and watching for any opportunity to arrest them all.
This is a terrible movie. When the Rat Pack did the original Ocean's 11, way back in 1960, just seeing so many superstars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Peter Lawford, all on the screen at the same time was cool.
Well, George Clooney is no Frank Sinatra. Not even close. And, the other actors in Ocean's Twelve are no match for Martin, Davis, and Lawford, so this thing needed a lot more than just being cool, and it did not have it.
The image is underexposed in the foreground while being overexposed in the background for many scenes. Surely, they did this on purpose, but the human eye has much more dynamic range than film, so the only effect this has is one of seeming photographic incompetence. Speaking of photography, I could have done without the camera being hand-held so much. I understand this is the Soderbergh style, but I just don't like it. When the style interferes with being able to see what is going on, it is time to change the style.
The sound track seems almost mono, and is one of the worst I have ever heard.
There are no extras, perhaps because what would there be to say about such a poor quality production?
- John E. Johnson,
A slimy con man meets his
younger equal in this twisted tale of crime. John C. Riley plays the
cold-hearted Richard Gaddis, who happens to befriend the wrong man,
Rodrigo, played by Luna. These two decide to become partners for the
day while Richard ‘teaches' him the tricks of the trade. But who is
really teaching whom?
When a director decides to
remake a movie, it can go either way. Criminal is based on the
Argentinean film, Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens) by Fabian Bielinsky.
Luckily, this remake favors director/producer Gregory Jacobs.
There is a trailer, but not much more.
- Cynthia B.
In 1930's London, stage actress Julia Lambert (Bening) has the world at her feet. She receives standing ovations at every performance. She is coached by the ghost of Jimmie Langton (Gambon), who appears by her side now and then, even though no one else can see him.
Her husband Michael Gosselyn (Irons) manages her career, but does not pay much attention to her romantic needs.
So, when a handsome star struck young man, Tom Fennel (Evans), comes along and invites her to his apartment for tea, and then tries to become intimate, she responds. An affair begins, and her career soars due to her complete fulfillment emotionally.
Julia becomes obsessed with Tom, and unfortunately, he begins to lose interest, becoming infatuated with a local actress, Avice Crichton (Punch), who is much more his age, and very attractive.
Julia's acting suffers, and she goes on a long needed vacation, meeting an old friend while there.
She returns, feeling much better, and deals with Tom, as well as Michael, who is having a romp of his own.
Much of the film was shot in Budapest, Hungary, where theater settings look a lot like they must have in early 20th century London.
The movie has wonderful orchestral surround sound as well as environmental sounds in the theaters.
Bening was nominated as Best Actress for this performance, but lost to Hilary Swank who starred in Million Dollar Baby.
Bening is a very fine actress nonetheless, and will surely get an Oscar someday.
There is an Audio Commentary by Szabo, Irons, and Bening, The Making Of, Deleted Scenes, and Behind the Scenes.
- John E.
Johnson, Jr. -
A sword belonging to Napoleon contained three large diamonds which were removed and sold to various parties throughout the decades. Recently, master thief Max Burdett (Brosnan) and his accomplice Lola Cirillo (Hayek) managed to steal one of them.
Now, FBI Agent Stan Lloyd (Harrelson) is accompanying the second one to an exhibit, knowing that Max may try to steal that one too. He does.
Max and Lola retire to the beaches of Nassau in the Bahamas. Stan shows up, claiming that he knows Max must be there because of the cruise ship that has dropped anchor just off-shore, with an exhibit of diamonds, including - you guessed it - the third diamond from Napoleon's sword.
Max had no intentions of stealing it, but a local Bahamian, Henri Moore (Cheadle), tries to talk Max into stealing it for him, so he can pay for community projects that benefit the island natives.
Meanwhile, Stan meets a local police detective, Sophie (Harris), who says she has to lead the investigation since Stan has no authority in Nassau.
And so, Max must decide: does he steal this thing or not?
This movie had a lot of opportunity to be really fun, but it wallows in a bit too much partying at the various bars of Nassau. I got the feeling the production company focused on having a nice vacation first, and making a movie second, all tax deductible.
These include Deleted Scenes, Blooper Reel, Commentary, Before, During, and After the Sunset, and other things.
- John E.
Johnson, Jr. -
Jordon Robert's debut as a
writer/director manifests itself in the film Around the Bend. His own
experience with his estranged father inspired a script that deals with
admittance and forgiveness.
nanny Katrina, played by Glenne Headly, is obsessed with horror films and
provides some comic relief. The movie quickly changes when Jason's
father Turner unexpectedly shows up after many years.
Henry is ecstatic to rejoin his son, while Jason is skeptical.
Christopher Walken is
absolutely wonderful in the role of Turner Lair, who hides many secrets
and regrets. Through his father's death, he finds the strength to let his
own son penetrate his unremarkable life. The movie balances the odd life
Turner has lead with the conservative life Jason has chosen. The fact
that they all call each other by their first names indicates a lack of
mutual respect and creates an ambiguity of hierarchy.
These include The Making Of, Deleted Scenes, and Director's Commentary.
- Piero Gabucci -
In a 19th century Pennsylvania town, that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, the people are plagued by creatures with animal faces, wearing strange robes, who hide in the forest.
A watch tower and torches are placed at the periphery to protect the people, but occasionally, the creatures invade the town, scaring everyone into their cellars, but they do not harm anyone.
Ivy Walker (Howard) is blind, but she is brave in spite of her handicap. She is also very forward about her feelings for Lucius Hunt (Phoenix), to whom she proposes marriage after he rejects marriage to her sister.
In the meantime, Edward Walker (Hurt) tries to keep everyone safe from the creatures, while the children play games as to how long they can stay at the edge of the forest when they hear the strange noises in the dark.
When an accident occurs, Ivy is sent to a distant town to get medicine for the injured boy, and she must guard herself against attack from any creature she meets there.
You might wonder why a blind girl is sent to retrieve the medicine . . . .
Although Shyamalan is touted as some sort of genius, I just don't see evidence of that here. The entire movie has an amateurish look and feel about it, and really does not offer anything different from his previous films.
These include Deleted Scenes, M. Night Shyamalan's Home Movies, Deconstructing the Village, Bryce's Diary, and Photo Gallery.
- John E.
Johnson, Jr. -
Telly Paretta (Moore) is understandably distraught about having lost her son Sam (Christopher Kovaleski) who died in a plane crash.
The problem is that she is the only one who believes she ever had a son, and Dr. Jack Munce (Sinise) is trying to help her through this crisis without hospitalizing her.
She wants to prove Sam's existence, but when she discovers that family photos of Sam have disappeared from her home, she blames her former husband Jim (Edwards), who can't understand her mental disturbance.
She sees a neighbor, Ash Correll (West), and says how sorry she is about his daughter Lauren who died in the crash along with Sam.
Ash says he does not know what she is talking about, but when she shows him proof that his daughter existed, Ash now starts to wonder if she is telling the truth, and what that truth might mean for the both of them.
This is not a great movie, but it is better than most of the "spooky" films I have seen recently, and it all boils down to the storytelling, which is very good here.
The suspense of why she is all alone in holding onto her belief in the existence of Sam is kept until the proper time in the story, without leaving the viewer confused.
The DVD lets you choose the extended version with an alternate ending, but technically speaking, the alternate ending changes to stereo sound instead of 5.1, and the compression rate is very high, so the picture quality is much lower. To me, this is an unacceptable production decision. If they are going to have an alternate ending, it should be the same quality as the rest of the movie.
These include Remember the Forgotten, On the Set, Deleted Scenes, and an Alternate Ending.
- John E.
Johnson, Jr. -