Movie Review – Swordfish

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– Summary –

Director : Dominic Sena
Year Of Release : 2001
Principal Cast :  John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Sam Shepard, Vinnie Jones, Drea de Matteo, Rudolf Martin, Zach Grenier.
Approx Running Time :   99 Minutes
Synopsis:   A secretive renegade counter-terrorist co-opts the world’s greatest hacker (who is trying to stay clean) to steal billions in US Government dirty money.
What we think : Boasting Halle Berry’s first topless scene (a move she’d improve upon with Oscar winning turn in Monster’s Ball), Swordfish is techno-crap of the highest order, a slick, empty, pulsating action flick running on bits and bytes without establishing any kind of emotional connection with the audience. Also boasting a terrific Matrix-inspired opening sequence, Swordfish’s deficiencies are many, and given the passing of time, now appear less wallpapered over than they did back in 2001.

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When Ctrl+Alt+Delete isn’t extreme enough.

If there’s a personification of soulless, event cinema, then Swordfish captures the millennial generation in a nutshell. Filled with cybertech gibberish, a nutball performance by John Travolta (admittedly, it’s one of his braver career turns following his Pulp Fiction resurrection), a topless Halle Berry, and an up-n-coming Hugh Jackman (coming off Bryan Singer’s X-Men a few years earlier), Swordfish swaggers into view with the rip-cord adrenaline-junkie frisson of high concept narrative and competent-yet-unremarkable direction, even managing to skewer so many genre tropes it becomes a gag in and of itself. Swordfish might seem to many like an underrated classic, and indeed, I felt it was a bona fide work of genius when I saw it back in 2001, but a decade and a half on, time hasn’t been kind to this techno-thriller.

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Movie Review – Liar Liar

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– Summary –

Director :  Tom Shadyak
Year Of Release :   1998
Principal Cast :  Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Justin Cooper, Jennifer Tilly, Amanda Donohoe, Jason Bernard, Cary Elwes, Swoosie Kurtz, Anne Haney, Eric Pierpoint, Chip Mayer.
Approx Running Time :   86 Minutes
Synopsis:   A hot-shot lawyer wakes to discover he cannot lie, throwing his life – romantic and professional – into turmoil.
What we think :  Classic Jim Carrey feature finds the comic at the very height of his powers, as he mugs and spastics his way through a (for him) relatively restrained performance as a hotshot lawyer struggling to deal with an inability to fudge the truth. With a terrific supporting cast, and a manic script allowing Carrey to overact at almost every opportunity, Liar Liar remains one of his best all-round films to date.

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The pen is blue. It’s blue! It’s a blue pen! The goddam pen is blue!!!

Most people find Jim Carrey an actor they only need a little of to wear out his welcome. He’s a “take it or leave it” kinda guy, a more spasmodic version of Robin Williams, only without the intellectual dexterity; a little of Carrey’s manic screen persona, established in films such as Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber, and enriched by blockbuster films like Batman Forever, goes a long way. Most critics derided the comic as a one-note performer, and in hindsight I guess that much is true of the rubber-faced Carrey, who, against the grain, sheds a lot of his outrageous hysteria to give Liar Liar’s more relaxed effort an edge without sacrificing core character truths. Considering the actor’s work to this point, Liar Liar comes as a breath of fresh air, a charming, hilarious, crowd-pleasing comedy film that works because Carrey isn’t over the top, as usual.

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Movie Review – Can’t Hardly Wait

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– Summary –

Director :   Deborah Kaplan + Harry Elfont
Year Of Release :   1998
Principal Cast :  Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Peter Facinelli, Lauren Ambrose, Seth Green, Robert Jayne, Chris Owen, Clea Duvall, Jamie Pressly, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donald Faison.
Approx Running Time :   101 Minutes
Synopsis:   Multi-character teenage comedy about high school graduates with different agenda of life on graduation night.
What we think :  Nowdays more famous for its staggering “before they were famous” cast than any plot or notable moments, Can’t Hardly Wait runs primarily as a vehicle for Jennifer Love Hewitt to look amazeballs in a blue tanktop while drunk “teen” party-goers revel around her. Although its disparate character narratives intertwine with pleasant, rom/com style, and the performances are generally pleasing, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of its time in that it relies too heavily on outdated conventions and, in retrospect, its hunky cast.

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American “high school party” films have become a dying breed in most respects, although that might seem false considering the success of the American Pie movies over the last decade or so, but the late 90’s certainly did their best to reestablish the genre as a legitimate comedy format. Both Can’t Hardly Wait, and American Pie (which came out the following year), revel in their depictions of American high-school archetypes – the jock, the bitch, the nerds, the sexually immature, the shy one, the gangsta and the shrew, to name a few – but it’s Can’t Hardly Wait that massaged the romantic/comedy aspect of the genre to great effect here. Not all of the film works well, and there are moments of clunky “comedy” and stretched character wranglings that feel forced, but as a genteel example (with only minor “gross out humor” themes) of this teen comedy model, Can’t Hardly Wait is pleasant enough.

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Where Are They Now?: Mira Sorvino

Mira-Sorvino

If there was an actress that epitomized the mid-90’s, it was possibly Mira Sorvino. Famously snagging an Oscar for her work in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite, and following that up with a boy’s-own action thriller alongside Chinese import Chow yun Fat, in Antoine Fuqua’s The Replacement Killers, the proverbial world was Sorvino’s oyster as everyone geared up for Y2K. Yet, following Killers, Mira’s career virtually dried up overnight, and looking down her filmography in the years since, she’s done loads of work on the screen, although not much of it has kept her on the Hollywood A-list.

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Movie Review – Cinderella (2015)

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– Summary –

Director :  Kenneth Branagh
Year Of Release :   2015
Principal Cast :  Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Nonso Anozie, Derek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgard, Haley Atwell, Ben Chaplin, Eloise Webb.
Approx Running Time :   100 Minutes
Synopsis:   The age old story is reinvigorated once more.
What we think :   We all know the story, and Cinderella’s 2015 revamp by Disney ticks all the boxes it needs to to bring its classic moments “to life”. Much like Maleficent before it, Disney’s live-action Cinderella captures the charm, the wit, the fantasy and the beauty of this age-old story about a young girl who falls for the handsome prince, before footwear issues come between them.

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 Your prince will come.

I wasn’t prepared to like this movie – I’m a stickler for the classics, and Disney’s animated gem remains the high-water mark for me – but those goddam mice… yeah, Disney’s magnificent live-action remake of the classic fairy tale works on just about every conceivable level, what with Kenneth Branagh’s saturated visual choices and eloquent narrative language hitting the mark perfectly. Cinderella isn’t a story I’m particularly kind to these days; numerous film and television versions of the tale have diluted its overall punch, but even though it touches the necessary plot points, it retains a charming, near-childlike elemental potency, much like previous modern classics such as The Neverending Story. Yeah, I compared it to The Neverending Story. Those mice, you see.

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Movie Review – What Women Want

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– Summary –

Director :  Nancy Meyers
Year Of Release :  2000
Principal Cast :  Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Alan Alda, Marisa Tomei, Lauren Holly, Ashley Johnson, Mark Feuerstein, Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine, Judy Greer, Sarah Paulson, Anna Gasteyer, Diana-Maria Riva, Lisa Edelstein, Loretta Devine, Eric Balfour, Logan Lerman, Bette Midler.
Approx Running Time :   127 Minutes
Synopsis:   After an accident, a chauvinistic executive gains the ability to hear what women are really thinking.
What we think :  Before he actually became a misogynistic, hate-filled bigot, Mel Gibson played a cocksure, misogynistic, self-loathing dickhead in What Women Want; so, not much of a stretch, then. Even taking into account Gibson’s spectacular career suicide last decade, What Women Want is a mildly charming, effortlessly mediocre, star-studded romantic comedy that’s light on drama and heavy on drawing as many feminist laughs as is possible out of a single movie.

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What do they want? Hell if I know.

Ever since homo erectus clambered out of his cave with a club and went off to hunt meat, the male has often wondered what the hell is going on with women. Aside from the obvious physical differences, the vast gulf of emotional and intellectual disparity between men and women has often led to a long-held belief that men, being from Mars, and women, being from Venus, are almost incapable of actually knowing what each other really want. I mean, really. Anyone who’s ever been married will know what I’m talking about – that eye roll of “why do I put up with you” from the lady-love invariably means you’re either a) done the wrong thing, or b) thought the wrong thing. What Women Want presents man’s often circulated belief that women are strange and mysterious creatures; albeit, lensed through the hideous misogyny of Mel Gibson’s Nick Marshall, an advertising exec with a penchant for treating women as objects to be conquered or sexualized.

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