Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels
You have not lived until you’ve watched people get peed on in 3D. I certainly never thought I’d live see it, least of all in a PG movie, but thanks to Rob Letterman’s execrable Gulliver’s Travels, the latest installment in Hollywood’s ongoing “Gang-Raping the Classics” series, I can now cross it off my bucket list. Merry Christmas to me.

The scene in question occurs in the film when Jack Black's title character is confronted with a raging fire in the tiny town of Lilliput which threatens to consume its castle and much of its miniature citizenry. Being Jack Black, he improvises the only solution we can expect from a character played by Jack Black: He drops trou and unleashes the contents of his own firehose, thus extinguishing the fire and becoming a hero to the Lilliputians, who appear far too pleased to be doused in urine. They're downright giddy, in fact. It’s by far the film’s most memorable scene (indeed, I fear it is permanently etched on my brain), and it’s cause to wonder: Since when are golden showers considered PG-appropriate? Has the MPAA been suddenly overrun by creepy sex fetishists and water sports fanatics? If so, perhaps the producers of Caligula might with to have their film re-evaluated.

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The Stepfather

The Stepfather
The Stepfather is a remake of the 1987 cult classic that starred future Lost cast member Terry O'Quinn as a serial killer who ingratiates himself into one doomed family after another. Dylan Walsh plays the title role this time, opposite Sela Ward as his unsuspecting mark-turned-fiancee.

We know from the first scene (a less dramatic homage to the original's infamous opening) that "David Harris" (Walsh) is not who or what he claims to be and that the police are looking for this cross-country killer. A year after fleeing the scene of his last family massacre, David meets Susan Harding (Ward) and her two young kids at a supermarket in Oregon. He seems nice and reliable, two things that Susan's ex-husband Jay (Jon Tenney) wasn't. Within six months, David is living with Susan with an eye toward marriage. Even better, her kids like him ... the ones he's met anyway.

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Let Me In

Let Me In
A chilling atmosphere is present in the movie Let Me In, which is a combination of a horror flick and a love tale. The heart of the story is involved with vampires, but this aspect of the film is very well done and far from cheesy. The girl in the movie, Abby, needs to feast on humans to stay healthy, much like a normal vampire. There are no castles, bats or any of the things often associated with vampire content, however, and everything maintains a modernized outlook. There is a bond that forms between Abby and a boy named Owen. The atmosphere is what steals the show here much in the same manner as any great suspense or horror book.

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Max Payne

Max Payne
For a movie based on a video game, there's a curious dearth of action in Max Payne. I know we've often complained that these movies were ALL action and NO substance, but this one has gone in the opposite direction. Well, except there's not really any substance, either. So it went in the opposite direction, but only part of the way. It stopped in the middle and is now a one-dimensional detective noir rather than an exciting shoot-em-up.

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Wolke Neun (Cloud 9)

Wolke Neun (Cloud 9)
67 year-old Inge (Ursula Werner) has been married for several decades to Werner (Horst Rehberg), a man who has proven to be a loyal and dependable provider as the family patriarch over that time span. However, now that he's retired, he gets most of his kicks riding passenger trains around Germany, while his wife operates a small sewing business part-time out of their Berlin flat mending clothes as a seamstress.

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The Back-up Plan

The Back-up Plan
Remembering back to 1998, I distinctly recall being a fan of Jennifer Lopez after OUT OF SIGHT. Despite the lame pop songs and the blah romantic comedies, I felt J-Lo had a great screen presence and I always enjoyed her performances, even if I wasn’t terribly impressed with her films. But somewhere post-Bennifer, Lopez lost whatever it was that made her enjoyable in movies and THE BACK-UP PLAN continues her streak of horrible films and second rate performances.

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Fever Pitch

Fever Pitch
I will be surprised if this film does well in New York City. Yankees fans, accustomed to success, are still smarting from last year's humiliating debacle, and a romantic comedy that capitalizes on the Red Sox's triumph is unlikely to pack theaters in the Five Boroughs.

Fever Pitch is a curious mix of smarts and schmaltz. The unusual combination derives from the group of creative collaborators involved in the film's development. The Farrelly Brothers, operating outside of There's Something About Mary territory, prove that they are as capable of bringing a generic, formulaic romantic comedy to the screen as they are of producing something more edgy. (Only one scene – involving vomit and a dog – can be called a "Farrelly moment.") The screenwriters are the team of Lowell Ganz & Babloo Mandel, who have elevated fake sentimentality to a high art. Their tendency towards artificiality is mitigated somewhat by the fact that they're adapting from a book by Nick Hornby (who retains an Executive Producer credit).

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Flags of Our Fathers

Flags of Our Fathers
Flags of Our Fathers is Clint Eastwood's homage to the honored dead of World War II as well as a meditation upon how an icon is formed. Based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, the movie centers around the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the key late war conflicts in the Pacific Theatre. However, unlike other films that have trodden similar ground (in particular, the John Wayne vehicle The Sands of Iwo Jima), Eastwood's movie does two things differently. First, it uses the Saving Private Ryan approach to battle (not surprising, since Steven Spielberg is a producer) by showing all the blood and viscera older war movies kept hidden. Secondly, it intercuts the Iwo Jima sequences with those happening Stateside several months later, where key events are transpiring.

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
It doesn't seem all that long ago when musicals were one of Hollywood's most popular genres. Each year, studios would commit millions of dollars into lavish productions featuring some of the era's song-and-dance icons: Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and many others. Much has been written over the years about the musical's fall from favor - how it went from being a cash cow to a white elephant. But, regardless of what the studio heads claim, the musical is not a dead art form; it has just changed from. Over the past two years, I have seen four musicals, all of which were made outside of the Hollywood system. None of these have been close to the "traditional" musical in content or approach, but all have shared a common characteristic - like the musicals of the Golden Age, they have used song and dance to tell their stories.

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Layer Cake

Layer Cake
Layer Cake is the latest in the recent cluster of British gangster/caper films begun by Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Matthew Vaughn, the director and co-producer of Layer Cake, held the producing credit for Lock and Ritchie's follow-up, Snatch. As such, it's no surprise that Layer Cake borrows aspects of the "feel" of those films. There's the same morbid sense of black humor, although Layer Cake is more character driven and less gruesome than the earlier productions. And, for pure shock value, it contains a "didn't see that one coming" moment unlike anything in either of Ritchie's ventures into this genre.

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Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat Island
Renny Harlin, whose previous directorial efforts include Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, seems fond of big, explosive action pictures. Unfortunately, excepting his debut (the middle film in the Die Hard trilogy), plot coherency hasn't been a particularly important attribute of his movies. Cliffhanger was little more than a series of spectacular stunts linked together by a paper-thin story. If anything, the strands of logic in Cutthroat Island are even thinner. Fortunately, as a spectacle for the eye

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Secrets of the Clown

Secrets of the Clown
After the brutal murder of his best friend Jim, Bobbie is haunted by a presence. His girlfriend Val is distant and appears to have secrets of her own. Then the nightmares begin. Through the nightmares Bobbie uncovers clues regarding the murderers identity. With the killer still on the loose, bodies piling up, and time running out, Bobbie hires a psychic to contact his deceased friend Jim. But some secrets were never meant to be revealed. The dreams will guide him, the secrets will blind him, the murders haunt him. Only together will they unlock the Secrets of the Clown.

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Treasure of Tayopa

Treasure of Tayopa
Modern day western about an expedition led by Winters to find a lost treasure in the Mexican badlands. Psycho Trapani turns the search into a bloodbath.

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I'm a Fool aka The American Short Story: I'm a Fool

I'm a Fool aka The American Short Story: I'm a Fool
A young horse trainer woos a woman with his lies of importance and wealth.

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The Change-Up

The Change-Up
Growing up together, Mitch Planko and Dave Lockwood (Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman) were two inseparable best friends, but as the years have passed, they have slowly drifted apart. Dave is an overworked lawyer, husband and father of three children and Mitch is a single, quasi-employed man-child who has never met a responsibility he liked. To Mitch, Dave has it all: his beautiful wife Jamie (Leslie Mann), three children who adore him and a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm. To Dave, living Mitch's stress-free life without obligation or consequence would be a dream come true.

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Frequency

Frequency
A rare atmospheric phenomenon allows a New York City firefighter to communicate with his son 30 years in the future via short-wave radio. The son uses this opportunity to warn the father of his impending death in a warehouse fire, and manages to save his life. However, what he does not realize is that changing history has triggered a new set of tragic events, including the murder of his mother. The two men must now work together, 30 years apart, to find the murderer before he strikes so that they can change history--again.

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