ToonTownReviews

 See what movies are good and not so good... Reviews are from the perspective of a ToonTown guy and select reviewers. There are hundreds of collectible posters available thru ToonTownReviews! Click on any of the images to order safely and securely! (This is the sister site of 'OZ - The 'Other' Side of the Rainbow) ***If there is a copyright issue, please email me by clicking on 'Email ToonTownReviews!' in the Links section and I will provide credit, change it to a link, or remove the post.***

    

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stay Alive


Cast: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz, Sophia Bush, Adam Goldberg


Stay Alive
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After the mysterious, brutal death of an old friend, a group of teenagers find themselves in possession of "Stay Alive," an ultra-realistic 3-D videogame based on the spine-chilling true story of a 17th century noblewoman, known as "The Blood Countess." The gamers don't know anything about the game other than they're not supposed to have it... and they're dying to play it. Not able to resist temptation, the kids begin to play the grisly game but soon make a chilling connection -- they are each being murdered one-by-one in the same way as the characters they played in the game. As the line between the game world and the real world disappears, the teens must find a way to defeat the vicious and merciless Blood Countess, all the while trying to... stay alive.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Glory Road


Review: Sure, it's cookie-cutter heartfelt stuff, but the real story is great enough to keep it entertaining.


Glory Road
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It's no secret by now that Disney has developed a pretty successful formula for feel good sports movies. From Remember the Titans to Miracle and last year's The Greatest Game Ever Played, the big mouse house loves to retread that story of underdog triumph, be it on the field, ice, green or now the court. Their latest is entitled Glory Road. Like all the others, it's based on a true story, but this may be the best actual story of the bunch. It's so good in fact that it makes you wonder why it took 40 years to bring this story to the silver screen.

Josh Lucas stars as Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins. Back in 1966, Haskins was a respected but little-known coach. When he was first contacted by little known Texas Western, Haskins had most recently coached girls basketball. Jumping at the chance to coach Division 1 basketball, Haskins moved to Texas and took over the struggling team. In a town ruled by the pigskin, Haskins was given next to nothing to recruit, setting the hopes of a building a good team far away, much less a great one. Haskins took an unexpected route, scouring the country for African American players. At this point, each team had a few African Americans on the team, but any more than that was considered in poor taste. Beyond that, they were believed to be inferior athletes. Haskins brought in the best of the best, ignoring the talk that what he was doing was "wrong" and that these players simply could not beat talented white players. Haskins' assemblage was beyond good. They drove to a nearly undefeated season and shocked previously unbeatable Kentucky to take the 1966 National Championship. Haskins took things a step further for that final game, playing only his seven African American players during the game, benching his white players to make his point all the more loud and clear.


Glory Road - Caps
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Glory Road is directed by first-timer James Gartner. The supporting cast includes Jon Voight as Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, Derek Luke as Bobby Joe Hill, Austin Nichols as Jerry Armstrong, Mechad Brooks as Harry Flourney, Jr., Alphonso McAuley as Orsten Artis, Damaine Radcliffe as Willie Cager, Al Shearer as Nevil Shed, Sam Jones III as Willie Worsely, Schin A.S. Kerr as David Latin, Kip Weeks as Togo Railey, Mitch Eakins as Dick Meyers, Alejandro Hernandez as David Palacio, James Olivard as Louie Boudoin, Evan Jones as Moe Iba, Red West as Ross More, Emily Deschanel as Mary Haskins and Tatyana Ali as Tina.

Lucas as Haskins

Glory Road is the kind of movie that audiences love and critics sneer at. The movie is well-made, well-acted and even well-directed. It's the originality factor that critics most crave and which subsequently takes a backseat in a movie like this. The story is from history, so it's hard to mess that up. The fact that this is such an amazing story, that simply competent execution is going to produce a result that will be suitable to most. There are lines of dialogue that feel as if they were pulled directly from previous films of similar variety. "I can't do it, coach!" "Yes you can son, just put your mind to it." Not an exact quote, but not far off. Still, the games are exceptionally well-shot and, even as you know exactly how it is going to play out, there is a tension that builds to a nice thrill as the expected result plays out before our eyes.


Glory Road
Glory Road
Glory Road
Glory Road
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Josh Lucas has teetered on the brink of stardom for a number of years now. Hulk wasn't the success most expect. Sweet Home Alabama did well but was panned critically. Stealth took a stab at turning Lucas into an action hero, but no one turned out to see it. Glory Road gives Lucas a chance to play up the drama, the excitement and a few laughs smattered within. Even when delivering dialogue so stale it feels to have come out of an automated inspiring dialogue machine, Lucas exhibits enough emotion and passion to cover it up. Lucas is really good here, and his performance is the backbone that keeps Glory Road from becoming utter trite.

The large supporting cast is well-chosen. You never get the idea that these guys are actors pretending to play ball. Many were chosen for their basketball abilities first and their acting abilities second. It shows and the on-court scenes are thrilling and believable. The standout is another near-breakout star, Derek Luke. The actor has admitted to hesitations to taking the role coming off another sports film, Friday Night Lights, but the more he learned of Texas Western's truly triumphant and important story, he realized he had to take the part. Luke is one of the best young actors out there and I continue to hope that he will soon land some meatier and more original parts. He was terrific in a little film called Pieces of April a few years back, but it was little seen.

The high-flying, slam-dunking Texas Western

Jon Voight, who is nearly always good, even in the cheesier variety of Bruckheimer action flicks, digs deep to nail the part of legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. Voight adapts a prosthetic nose to better resemble Rupp and gives a spirited performance as the unique coach. Rupp is the "villain," of the film, but his portrayal is one of the standout aspects that made me respect Glory Road. It would be easy enough to make Rupp into a hated villain. I figured at any moment Voight's Rupp would utter the dreaded "N" word, exciting the spewed venom of disgusted audience members. Heck, they made Max Baer into a villain in Cinderella Man even though the real man was nothing like this. That's what these kinds of movies do. They make the bad guy utterly unredeemable so that audiences never even consider his or her side of the story. Instead, Glory Road takes the high road, if you will. They don't necessarily paint Rupp as the nicest guy on the planet, but Gartner and the writers didn't feel the need to over-villainify him, a refreshing change over the normal tendency to re-write history whenever it's more convenient to the dramatic necessities of the film.

Glory Road is a good sports film. It plays out as you would expect, but it keeps you entertained along the way. The acting and direction is solid. The chemistry of the teammates feels real and their interactions are always entertaining and compelling. The film is by no means a classic, it's simply too mundane for that. Gartner plays it safe for the most part, but for a first feature with the mouse breathing down your neck, he doesn't fall into the trappings such a situation often yields. Audiences are going to like Glory Road and they are going to forget the specifics of the film very quickly. The standout is the true story of Texas Western, which Glory Road faithfully tells. It's an important part of the Civil Rights movement in America and a story few know. If the one thing audiences take away is the knowledge of what Texas Western did in 1966, then it has done its job.


*by by Jeff Otto, IGN.com

 

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Can't think of a gift?


The U-L-T-I-M-I-T-E gift for your movie loving friends!


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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"V" for Vendetta


Cast:
Evey Hammond: Natalie Portman
V: Hugo Weaving
Finch: Stephen Rea
Sutler: John Hurt
Prothero: Roger Allam
Gordon Deitrich: Stephen Fry
Creedy: Tim Pigott-Smith


'V' For Vendetta

'V' For Vendetta
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In a political environment that can brew controversy out of allegorical children's fables or a documentary about penguins, it is hard to imagine the intensity of feeling that will greet "V for Vendetta," a movie whose heroes are terrorists. One foresees news talk shows in which red-faced pundits denounce the filmmakers and call for boycotts. Given a film as entertaining and solidly crafted as this one, such attention could turn into strong boxoffice.

Of course, plenty of films -- particularly those set in dystopian futures like this one -- identify with revolutionaries. But most put heavy sci-fi clothing on their brave new worlds, while "V" takes pains to tie its reality to our own. Although based on a comic book, it isn't as heavily stylized as a superhero movie. Its score and production design, both rich and inviting, are heightened without suggesting that this near-future London is an outright fantasy, though the new government, a restrictive state led by John Hurt's Sutler, is draped in some awfully Nazi-ish iconography.


'V' For Vendetta
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If the film's look and feel refuse to flee from the real world, its dialogue takes every chance to connect to it. We are told about the recent past, that "America's war grew worse and worse, and eventually came to London." Hot-button terms like "rendition" are sprinkled about; dissidents are handled as in a third-world dictatorship; and our hero (who calls himself V) lectures citizens who have surrendered their liberties to a government that promised to protect them from terrorism.

As V, Hugo Weaving has the unenviable task of playing the entire film behind an immobile mask. He rises to the challenge, bringing the character to life with body language and his sonorously nimble voice.

V has a flair for the theatrical. He introduces himself to London on Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks and a symbolic bombing, then hijacks a television broadcast to announce that he will return a year later to destroy the Houses of Parliament. He suggests that citizens who feel oppressed by their rulers should join him there. And then he's gone, leaving some very anxious politicians in his wake.

The viewer's proxy here is Evey (Natalie Portman), who accidentally becomes a part of V's plans. With her, we work through many of the expected reactions to V's approach -- and if she eventually comes around to his way of thinking, the film certainly doesn't present the choice as an uncomplicated one. The filmmakers (Andy and Larry Wachowski adapting the screenplay, James McTeigue at the helm) are clearly on the vigilante's side, but they give viewers room to question his motives and methods: Has he psychologically programd Evey? Is the city of London about to become a war zone simply because V has a personal grudge? The serious tone "Vendetta" takes encourages such moral nitpicking.

Although some marketing materials aim to position this as an action film, viewers expecting a thrill ride might be disappointed. V engages in a couple of satisfying crime-fighting set pieces, but the story is more occupied with mystery and intrigue. Happily, it almost is entirely free of the hollow pomposity that marred the Wachowskis' last two "Matrix" films. Here, Alan Moore's graphic novel and the history of real-world oppressive governments is more than enough, leaving no need for the screenwriters to invent hokey mythologies and plenty of room to fantasize about revolution.


*Review by John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

 

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

She's the Man


Cast: Viola: Amanda Bynes, Duke: Channing Tatum, Olivia: Laura Ramsey, Dinklage: Vinnie Jones, Gold: David Cross, Daphne: Julie Hagerty, Justin: Robert Hoffman, Monique: Alex Breckenridge

Forget about that "inspired by William Shakespeare's play 'Twelfth Night.' " Other than using several characters' names, "She's the Man" borrows little more than the common Elizabethan device of a gender-crossing disguise. Nevertheless, there is something innately funny about a man trying to act like a woman (recall "Some Like It Hot" and "Tootsie") or women masquerading as men (many instances, of course, in Shakespeare and more recently in the films "Victor/Victoria" and "Connie and Carla"). Yet "She's the Man" fails to exploit the myriad comedic possibilities, settling instead for broad, unconvincing slapstick aimed at 12-year-olds and gags Shakespeare would have rejected as ancient.


She's the ManShe's the ManShe's the ManShe's the Man
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The DreamWorks Pictures release will appeal to young girls, which should give "She's the Man" a couple of good weeks in theaters. But she's going to have much more success in home video. A major plus is a good-looking and eager cast; the drawback is they suffer under the misdirection of one Andy Fickman.

Evidently, Fickman, a Los Angeles stage director with one cable feature ("Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical"), believes no scene has been truly directed unless activity is so strenuous that actors hyperventilate. Naturally, subtlety flies out the window and characters turn into buffoons.

Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes of TV's "What I Like About You") lives to play soccer, but her high school has cut the girls' program. What's more, her supposed boyfriend, fellow soccer player Justin (Robert Hoffman), displays his chauvinism when he refuses to support her goals. Then several characters drop hints the size of anvils that Viola looks "just like" her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk, who really doesn't look that much like her). He conveniently has taken a powder to London unbeknownst to their divorced parents to play in a musical festival.

So Viola pretends to be Sebastian and enrolls at his new prep school so she can try out for their soccer team. There are a couple of minor problems here: None of actors at this high school looks younger than 24. And why do they live in dorms?

All this, of course, is a setup for Viola to learn how to walk, talk, dress and live like a man in a male dorm -- which still might have made for good comedy if the filmmakers had given it a chance. But they, or possibly Bynes' agent, refused to let the actress' long hair be cut, so she wears a ridiculous wig that would fool no one. Nor has makeup or the costume department come up with anything to make her into a credible male. And Fickman never lets her drop her femininity, so the whole cross-gender disguise gets lost.

Intriguing complications in Ewan Leslie and Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith'sCQ the latter are a team/ep screenplay can only hint at the movie that might have been. Duke (Channing Tatum of "Coach Carter") grows to enjoy heart-to-heart chats with his surprisingly sensitive roomie and teammate Sebastian, causing his roommate to soften toward him in ways he could not imagine. He confesses to him his infatuation with school hottie Olivia (Laura Ramsey), who in turn yearns for -- yes -- Sebastian.

Meanwhile, Sebastian's ex-girlfriend Monique (Alex Breckenridge) continues to make untimely appearances even as the school's ugly duckling Eunice (Emily Perkins) pines for every male, and that includes Sebastian.

Bynes, Tatum and Ramsey appear to have what it takes to do inspired work in these roles. Yet because their director favors shtick over character, you only catch glimpses of their talent.

Many of the peripheral characters are stuck with embarrassing caricatures. This includes Julie Hagerty in a virtual reprise of her recent "Just Friends" ditzy mother, David Cross' over-the-top principal and Robert Torti's cartoon coach.

Production values on this Vancouver shoot fail to rise above the telefilm level.


*Review by Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter

 

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ask the Dust


Starring: Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Charlie Hunnam, Donald Sutherland


Ask the Dust
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Synopsis: An ambitious young man, full of shame for having been castigated in Colorado for his Italian heritage, comes to Los Angeles to become a novelist and meet a blonde beauty. As his writing flourishes, he meets and becomes obsessed with a Mexican barmaid.

Robert Towne is seventy-one and a legend, notably for his classic 1974 screenplay for the Los Angeles-based Chinatown. As writer and director, Towne returns to that turf in his arid adaptation of John Fante's autobiographical 1939 novel about Arturo Bandini (a miscast Colin Farrell), an Italian writer struggling to make it in Depression-era L.A. Arturo is attracted to Camilla (Salma Hayek), a Mexican waitress he alienates with racial epithets and sexual rejection. The virginal Arturo does bed Vera (a vivid Idina Menzel), a married Jew whose lower body is badly scarred. Though these three have all experienced prejudice, they fail to heal one another's wounds. The film, which is literary to a fault, includes an earthquake, but if the earth moves at all, thank Hayek, who gives the tale a smoldering life that finally lifts it from the page.


*Review by PETER TRAVERS, Rolling Stone

 

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