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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin
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Cast: Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman

Lucky Number Slevin
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If Pulp Fiction impregnated The Usual Suspects, the spawn would look a lot like Lucky Number Slevin. Great genes, but you keep wondering when the kid is going to grow up and find an identity of his own.

Fractured story lines fight for prominence as Slevin (Josh Hartnett) hits New York and winds up being mistaken for a friend that two crime kingpins, the Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and the Boss (Morgan Freeman), want to see dead. Ironically, they both hire the same hit man, Goodkat (Bruce Willis persuasively doing Bruce Willis), to off him. Hartnett plays half the film clad only in a towel, a distraction for Lindsey (Lucy Liu), the girl next door, not to mention critics -- straight and gay -- who might otherwise find fault with his acting.

Actually, the performances are juicy, with Freeman and Kingsley hamming it up royally during a double-torture scene. But that's getting too deep into the plot, which is the film's downfall. Director Paul McGuigan (Wicker Park) keeps the blood splashing. But the convoluted ain't-I-clever script by Jason Smilovic has a cheat ending that makes you want to do a little torturing yourself.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

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*Review by Rolling Stone


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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Cast: Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, Charlotte Rampling, David Thewlis


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They say a band that returns to the stage fifteen-years after their so-called ‘farewell’ concert is never as good as they were first time around. Their line-up has usually changed, their style is different, they’re not as hot on their feet and their instruments aren’t quite up-to-scratch. Well, seems Catherine Tramell’s instrument has been well oiled and looked after, because it gets quite the beating in the belated sequel to “Basic Instinct” (1992). As for the tune it plays? Well, she’s still hitting the high-notes, but much of the passion has clearly gone.

At 48, Sharon Stone looks terrific. And though you don’t get quite see as much of her here, as you did in the Paul Verhoeven directed original (especially considering ‘that’ scene), it’s still evident, just from the bits we do see, that she has a body to die for. No wonder she didn’t mind ditching the duds again.

Like someone that’s stripped off for a bath only to discover they’ve run out of hot water, Stone’s got naked for no reason though. Why? Seems her character isn’t the only thing that’s been stripped here – the plot is bare, the sensuality has walked, and the thrills were left back in Nick Curran’s apartment. Ladies and Gents, here’s a weak-ass “Taggart” episode, but with that remarkable music theme from “Basic Instinct” played over it, so you don’t notice. Yet, you will.

Directed by Michael Caton Jones (“Doc Hollywood”, “Scandal”), the sequel sees our American sex-mad author (Stone) relocated to London where she’s under investigation for the death of a football player (as we see in the first few minutes of the film, she and the sportsman were getting ‘each other off’ in a speeding car that ultimately ended up in the bottom of a river) and the Crown assigning a psychiatrist (David Morrissey) to suss her out.

Naturally, because she sees him for an easy target, Tramell returns to Dr.Glass, even after she’s escaped any criminal conviction. Seems she wants treatment for her ‘Risk Addiction’ – pretty much what the designation sounds like it is, someone that gets a woody by living on the edge - and thinks he’s the one that might be able to help her. Hmm.

Throw in a shady copper, an older biddable woman, Glass’s dissatisfied ex-wife, her new lover, and a nutty old shrink with a preposterous hairdo, and you’ve got quite a full bemire. Unfortunately, not one of them could keep this warm.

It took them 15 years to hobble this frightful mess together? In its current form, it’ll be professed as no more than a desperate endeavour at reliving some much-needed B.O glory for Stone – who could never quite top her “Basic Instinct” success - and I’m afraid to say, that’s being kind.

Seems Stone has even forgot how to play the manipulative Tramell, simply relying on cheesy quips and over-acting to get her through this time. Whenever she opens her mouth – and anyone else in the film, for that matter – it results in a laugh.

Then, it could be worse. She could be her luckless co-star. As Trammel’s new cradle chum, British actor David ‘Who?’ Morrissey is so inexcusably bad and so transparently bland – his face encompasses the one fatigued expression for the film’s duration, looking like a guy that’s taken one too many Talohexane- that it’ll have everyone wondering why the heck he was chosen, especially considering the producers apparently passed on some much bigger, more talented actors – like Kurt Russell, Bruce Greenwood and Robert Downey Jr – over the film’s protracted development-phase. Morrissey may have well been a pillow; he would’ve produced about as much heat in the bedroom scenes.

The Joe Eszterhas-written original wasn’t a fantastic film, but it was an enjoyable one – it had a gorgeous look to it, some really well choreographed sex scenes, and for the most part, quite an engaging storyline. This, on the other hand, couldn’t even get the sex bit right, and admittedly, that’s what quite a few will be coming to see. The few bits of rumpy-pumpy that the movie has are about as hot as walking on cement bare feet on a winter’s morning - yep, not at all. As for the storyline? What storyline? It’s a complete mess, not to mention about as electrifying as watching a second coat-dry on the exterior of a rusty dingy. Seems nobody even checked to make sure it made any sense either before greenlighting the beast. In fact, everything here is a shambles, so much so that “Basic Instinct 2” is going to go down in history as not only one of the worst sequels of all time, but also one of the worst films of all time. Come video, it may just have an ‘Alan Smithee’ credit festooned to its title sequence.

Rubbing two HB pencils against each other will get you hotter.

*Review by Clint Morris,


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Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Nora Zehetner, Emilie De Ravin, Noah Fleiss

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"Brick" is like "The Big Sleep" for high school kids, a brilliant teenage film noir with suspense around every turn. The Bogart role here is played by Joseph Gordon Leavitt (of 3rd Rock from the Sun), a performance that hasn't been this surprising since Thomas Haden Church (i.e. Lowell from "Wings,” he wowed us in "Sideways"). Leavitt plays Brendan, a teenager who’s a bit of a loner. He receives a call from his panic-stricken ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) who says that someone is after her. With this, Brendan is brought back into the world of the person he cared about the most, and the person who hurt him the most.

He re-traces her steps through old acquaintances, a manipulative actress (Meagan Goode), a football player (Brian J. White), a punk (Noah Segan), and a poet (Nora Zehtner) who seems to be hiding something. When Emily winds up dead, Brendan goes on the offensive, trying to figure out who is responsible and why it happened. His efforts bring him to The Pin (Lukas Haas), a coke-dealer who may have something to do with Emily's disappearance.

Mystery, deception, intrigue – everything about this movie is engaging and intense. Everyone Brendan comes in contact with has a sinister quality about them, whether they’re murderous or just untrustworthy is part of the fun of this story. We never know until the time is right; and when those revelations finally do come to the surface, the movie is never better. Director/ Screenwriter Rian Johnson proves to be a pro at this genre, especially with the dialogue, which captures the sharp comebacks of old movies and a new batch of cool, coded words like "blow,” "duck soup," and “Yeg.” The dialogue alone is enough to excite us. And while there is action, it is there to progress the story and remains very simple – a foot chase between Brendan and a knife wielding thug, a couple of fist fights in which characters are repeatedly pounded in the face, and a few bloody ends are met by some characters. But it all works because Johnson has managed to make us care.

The film is anchored by Leavitt, who is tough and clever but remains identifiable because he has pain over letting the best thing he ever had slip away. Johnson writes this character as something of a private detective, but also as a young kid going through the turmoil of young love. The rest of the cast isn’t given as much screen-time, but they shine when allowed. Haas’ quirky spin on the Kingpin and Noah Fleiss’ over-amped performance as The Pin’s hired muscle are two of the most notable, and Zehtner is beautiful, sweet, and gets the job done.

“Brick” is a fantastic breakthrough film. Johnson has done his homework and delivered something that's cool, fun, clever, and that never lets up in excitement. When a movie is going to be a huge hit you can just sense it and this one really deserves it. This is the kind of flick Hollywood just doesn't make anymore, that rare film that manages to excite us through intellect, plotting, and talent and not over-produced chases and special effects. After such duds as "V for Vendetta,” "Firewall" and "16 Blocks,” it's nice to finally see a thriller that actually knows how to thrill.

*Review by LEE, Lee's Movie Info


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