Movie Reviews

2002

Murder by Numbers (2/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

I violated one of my prime rules tonight and saw a movie with Sandra Bullock.  Iíve never understood how this woman became a movie star.  Anyway, I went to see Murder by Numbers.

This movie is worth seeing just to watch how truly bad an actress can be.  Bullock, as executive producer, did one smart thing.  She made sure she found a supporting actor who wouldnít out perform her.  She accomplished this task with aplomb by getting Ben Chaplin to sleepwalk his way through the part as her partner.  

She was fortunate, also, in getting Tony Gayton to direct his own poorly written screenplay.  He apparently went to a Hitchcock class once, or saw Vertigo and Foreign Correspondent in a double feature, and tried to make them both at the same time, all the while telling an updated version of Loeb & Leopold.  

Alas, all is not lost.  The teenagers, two men and one woman, are superb.  The Loeb and Leopold roles are played by Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt and their teenage lover is played by Agnes Bruckner who is drop dead gorgeous, but who looks far too old for a high school girl.  Sheís so beautiful itís almost worth the price of admission just to watch her.  Almost.  

Unfortunately, Bullock is on screen so much that thereís not much to enjoy.  Given yet another politically correct heroine who initiates all the sex and just about everything else, her girly ineptitude in the final confrontation is as ludicrous as the rest of the movie.  

The sex between Bullock and Chaplin is uninvolving; the relationships between Bullock and everyone else, her partner, her boss, and the suspects are convoluted, inconsistent and inexplicable.  

If you want to see terminally horrible acting by Bullock and Chaplin, and a poorly written script poorly directed, this movie is for you.  However, I do believe that Gosling, Pitt, and Bruckner are so good that they are worth suffering through Bullock, Chaplin and Gaytonís writing and directing.

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The Bourne Identity (3/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

I was looking forward to this movie because I read Robert Ludlumís book several decades ago.  While it wasnít Ludlumís best (that would be The Eiger Sanction, written under the pseudonym Trevanian, which became a wonderful Clint Eastwood Movie and contained a tour de force by Jack Cassidy in a role that allegedly contributed to his untimely death), The Bourne Identity was an enjoyable read. 

Unfortunately, this review is not about Eastwood or Cassidy or Ludlum, itís about Matt Damon and Director Doug Liman. Damonís a good-looking guy whose best roll was his cameo as Private Ryan.  Maybe heís best when heís off screen and people are looking for him.  Here, however, heís on screen while people are looking for him. 

For some unknown reason, Liman apparently wanted to show a totally emotionless protagonist.  So he made a good pick in Damon whose display of emotions, in Dorothy Parkerís words, runs the gamut from A to B.  One thing you could say about Ludlumís novels, both good and bad, is that his protagonists were emotional.  Lots of italicized thoughts run throughout his novels emphasizing the fact that his hero has feelings.  Damon, on the other hand, seems totally unphased by the fact that his life has apparently only started when he awakens on a fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea and that the entire world seems out to kill him. 

This picture has been in the can seemingly forever.  Universal kept postponing its release date.  Too bad they didnít use that time to fix things, like reshoot it entirely with a different director and a different star. 

One of the many problems, other than Damonís lack of emotion, is the fact that thereís no suspense.  This guy is so in control that you never doubt heís ever going to come to harm.  He knows everything thatís going to happen before it happens. For example, he deduces that thereís a hit man outside just because a dog is missing.   Then he finds the guy, whoís hiding in a huge weed-filled field surrounding a farmhouse in the country, with no clues.   Before a shot is fired, he knows exactly where to go to look for him.

You want more?  The fight scenes are poorly staged and unrealistic, one Hollywood Punch after another.  Damon kills his last guy in a derivative scene copied from Guilty as Sin (a pretty good Don Johnson-Rebecca deMornay thriller that virtually nobody saw).  It was ludicrous in Guilty as Sin and itís still ludicrous. 

More?  Take the car chase.  Please.  Why do directors continue to try to liven up movies with ever more implausible car chases?  Nobodyís ever going to achieve the standard set by Peter Yates in Bullitt (although William Friedkin came close in The French Connection).  The fact the chasee in The Bourne Identity is a Mini Cooper and is mostly going the wrong way on one-way streets (a cheap trick to which Yates didnít have to resort in Bullitt) should be a telling tip itís as uninvolving and unsuspenseful as the rest of the movie. 

The film makers must have been as confused as they make their audience because they explain virtually nothing.  The word sailing through your mind as you leave the theater is, huh?  And, speaking of mysteries, if you do happen to go see this, please explain how Damon discovered what he discovers at the end.  Huh? 

On the plus side, I didnít go to sleep

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Windtalkers (1/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

I felt I had to see Windtalkers because Iíve always liked World War II movies, from the best, From Here to Eternity and The Caine Mutiny, to John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima and Flying Leathernecks, to Battleground and A Walk in the Sun.  I even liked Battle Cry despite Tab Hunter and Aldo Ray. 

So I went to see Windtalkers.  I didnít expect a comedy.  Nicolas Cage plays the John Wayne role.  Boy, this guy was a marine corps all by himself.  He must have killed half of the Japs who died in the Pacific in this one movie!  What a guy!  

The director, John Woo, never could figure out what kind of gun Cage should be using.  So in one scene heís using a carbine.  In the next scene heís got a sub machine gun.  Then heís using a .45 handgun.  And what a shot!  Anyone whoís ever shot a .45 knows that you canít hit the broad side of a barn with it unless youíre within five feet. The kick alone is enough to break your arm. But Cage never misses!  It seems as if every time he fires his .45, three Japs die, none of whom are within 50 feet of him.  Man, he pulls that trigger and Japs fly all over everywhere! 

He and his windtalker Navajo buddy, played by Adam Beach, walk into the Jap front lines and the two of them kill half a division even though the only weapon Cage has is his trusty .45.  Tojo must have sent only the stupidest Japs to Saipan.  

And the noise!  This is one of the loudest movies youíll ever see; nothing but guns shooting and bullets flying.  But whenever Cage wants to have a talk with his buddy, Beach, all the sounds of the war cease.  There it is, World War II being fought all around them, and theyíre having their little heart to heart in the middle of the battle field and the only thing you can hear is the wind whistling as they speak to each other. 

Director Woo never comes to grips with what function these ďwindtalkers,Ē Navajos whose language was used as a code, performed and why they were so important.  The only thing Woo used them for in this movie is to radio coordinates of locations of Japs to big guns behind the lines to blast the Japs to smithereens.  Why did they need some indecipherable code to transmit this information, which is hardly top-secret?  If the Japs intercepted the transmission, what were they going to do?  Go to their Colonel and say, ďColonel, theyíve found our coordinates!  Weíve got to move these three ton guns that it took us four months to erect somewhere else in the next five minutes or weíll be blown to smithereens!Ē  Give me a break. Apparently windtalkers were just the McGuffin (which is what Hitchcock called the thing that was generally some inanimate object that was going to make someone a fortune or change the world as we know it, that provided the raison díetre for the plot of the movie, like the statue of the maltese falcon in the movie of the same name).  Windtalkers had to perform some function more useful than what Woo concocted if they were that important.  Woo couldnít have cared less that their presence in the movie made sense. 

Pushing the implausible button, the Windtalker (Beach) got to a radio during a fierce firefight and radioed to the Navy that the Navy was bombarding US Marines, not Japs.  Luckily, a guy as handy with big guns as Cage is with the .45 must have been running the Navy because without bracketing or information from forward observers or anything else that would have been needed in a real war, they immediately started blasting the location of the Japs. Precisely!  From maybe 30 miles away.  Sight unseen! In fact, whenever any marine shot at a Jap, he hit him.  Cageís marines even destroyed a Jap tank by throwing two grenades at it!  No marine ever missed a Jap if he pulled the trigger. 

I donít know what Director Woo did for a living before he found directing movies to be so easy, but it sure didnít expose him to the way wars are fought.  This movie is sheer fantasy.  So-called sophisticates take glee in putting down WWII movies that were made before our enlightened times of hand-held cameras and limbs blown off in front of your very eyes.  But Sands of Iwo Jima and Battleground werenít nearly as unrealistic as Windtalkers. 

If youíre among the legions of people who have successfully avoided this movie, count your blessings.  Itís an interminable two hours and fifteen minutes that would be better spent investing in Worldcom without help from Martha Stewart. 

Tony Medley 

PS.  For those of you who are politically correct, I use the term ďJapĒ to describe the people who started and fought WWII, who attacked Pearl Harbor with no warning, who conducted the Bataan Death March, who abused hundreds of thousands of ďcomfort womenĒ, who raped Nanking, who killed 2/3 of the POWs in the Pacific (vs. only 4% who died in Europe).  The people who presently occupy Japan are Japanese.

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Pumpkin (0/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

Tony Medley

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Men in Black II (1/10) 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley 

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South Pacific (10/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Road to Perdition (6/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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K19  - The Widowmaker (7/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Read My Lips (8/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Possession (5/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Blue Crush (2/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Signs (1/10)

 

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Blood Work (6/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Lovely and Amazing (6/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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City By the Sea (6/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Igby Goes Down (7/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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The Last Kiss (7/10)

 

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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The Banger Sisters (1/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Sweet Home Alabama (1/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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The Man From Elysian Fields (10/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Real Women Have Curves (7/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Roger Dodger (8/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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Auto Focus

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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The Truth About Charlie (2/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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The Weight of Water

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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Frida (8/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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I Spy (1/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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The Way Home (9/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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The Santa Clause 2 (8/10)

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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Femme Fatale (5/10)

Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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Decemberís Quick Reviews

   Copyright 2002 by Tony Medley

 The Man From Elysian Fields (10/10): Married destitute writer Andy Garcia is fixed up by escort service owner Mick Jagger (in an Oscar-deserving performance) with gorgeous Olivia Williams, who is married to famous writer James Coburn, and this film, with striking parallels to Sunset Boulevard, weaves its Faustian tale; best drama Iíve seen this year.

 Frida (8/10): The sanitized, curiously unemotional biopic of Artist Frida Kahlo, wife of Mexican Communist muralist Diego Rivera; interesting and beautifully photographed, but the truth would have made a better story.

 The Santa Clause 2 (8/10): Santa (Tim Allen) has to find a wife so he leaves the North Pole in the care of a clone who turns out to be a dictator, jeopardizing Christmas; a delightful, funny, happy fantasy with clever dialogue. 

 Punch Drunk Love (6/10): Adam Sandler as a mentally dysfunctional man who falls in love; a surprisingly touching film, poignant rather than funny.

 Femme Fatale (5/10): Film Noir that is marred by a non-noir, blatantly soap opera-derivative, Hollywood  cop-out ending and a dismal performance by leading lady Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.

 The Truth About Charlie (2/10): Tepid remake of Charade without Cary Grant, Audrie Hepburn, Walter Matthau, Stanley Donen and Henry Mancini, so why see it?

 Personal Velocity (1/10): A deplorable trilogy presenting a starkly negative, unsympathetic, invidious view of women.

 I Spy (1/10): Poorly written version of Ď60s Robert Culp-Bill Cosby hit, overloaded with special effects, without the charm and humor of Culp and Cosby.

 Auto Focus (1/10): Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) was a second-rate disk jockey who luckily got a role in an imbecilic sitcom (Hoganís Heroes) that became a hit; this tiresome biopic shows him as a sexual sociopath who came to a violent end; the only question is, who cares?

 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (NR): I looked at my watch after 40 minutes and realized I couldnít take another 2 hours of this nonsense full of flying special effects and bugs coming out of a young boyís mouth; maybe children would like this; I canít imagine an adult being entertained.

The End 

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Far From Heaven (0/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Personal Velocity (1/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Die Another Day (7/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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The Quiet American (4/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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My Kingdom (8/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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The Pianist (10/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

 

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Analyze That (6/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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Max (1/10)

 Copyright © 2002 by Tony Medley

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