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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995-2009 by, Chuck Schwartz. All Rights Reserved. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of and ©, ®, ™ their respective studios. Used by permission. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Seen and Not Reviewed: these are usually limited releases, documentaries or foreign films that we normally may not cover. We've been getting enough eMail inquiries that we'll be keeping the paragraph summaries in one place, here, linked from the Archives pages

buffalo soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers is a despicable piece of movie making starring Joaquin Phoenix as a black marketeering Army grunt who moves up from dealing smack to his fellow soldiers to the fun world of illegal arms sales. Scott Glenn is the new commanding officer who won't stomach any Sgt. Bilko-like antics and Anna Paquin is that officer's daughter, who gets in the middle. Add cynical to the despicable adjective above and stay the hell away.

chelsea wallls

Chelsea Walls, an absolute waste of time, is actor Ethan Hawke's first excuse at making a film. It features every self-indulgent action that is supposed to be beaten out of film school undergraduates. Allegedly one day in the lives of occupants of NYCs Hotel Chelsea, it stars a brand name ensemble cast (Kris Kristofferson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Robert Sean Leonard, Natasha Richardson, Little Jimmy Scott, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Tuesday Weld, Steve Zahn) who don't do anything much in the way of ensemble inter-acting. The "film," which was shot on video (underexposed and out of focus most of the time), bumped up to film and then color corrected out of its mind has no story; you could walk out for fifteen minutes and not miss a damned thing. Word.

Dirty Pretty Things comes your way via director Stephen Frears. An average arthouse mystery stars Chjwetel Ejiofor as a Nigerian hotel porter (a surgeon in his homeland) and Audrey Tatou a chambermaid who goes day to day while strange events in the hotel leave body parts in the toilet for them to clean up.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium crosses a post WWIII civilization not unlike George Orwell's 1984 with special effects reminiscent of those seen in The Matrix. Heavy duty grade A recommended popcorn flick.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a documentary by Brits Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey puts forth the notion that Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker were just naive country folk, taken advantage of again and again by the Christian Right. The better documentaries always manage to put one side against each other to let you come to your own decision, regardless of the viewpoint of the filmmakers. The running joke in this flick is that almost no one on the opposite side, from Jerry Falwell on down, would agree to talk for the cameras. That lack of balance doesn't make for a compelling sit. This documentary will quickly move from a limited theatrical release to the small screen Cinemax cable channel, where it's better suited.

 

 

faithless

Faithless: Liv Ullman directs an Ingmar Bergman screenplay. A story of a woman who cheats on her husband. The Gimmick is that said woman is a fictional creation, meant to be the muse of a writer called Bergman. As she talks out the story we see that it is Bergman is one of the trio of characters. We couldn't sit through it, not because we didn't try but because our legs wouldn't let us. That's a medical problem, not a judgment on the film. Even with Ullman in the chair, it's still a Bergman film. Whether you like his films or not is the best guide to your decision-making process.

garage days

Garage Days chronicles the destiny of an Australian rock band and disposes of things like character relationships and identification in less time than it takes to get through the incredibly thick Australian accents. That means by the time you can understand what's going on, anything about the characters that may have made you care about the characters has come and gone. Not recommended, either. . .

Jungle Book 2

If you've got single digit kidlets then Jungle Book 2 is a perfect place to park 'em. Picking up where the first one left off, be prepared to answer questions if your kids haven't memorized the video. Disney must feel this sequel is a better fit for the big screen than other direct to videos (like Cinderella 2). Same characters. New voices (John Goodman as Baloo. Haley Joel Osment as Mowgli). Two new songs and a zillion different renditions of The Bear Necessities. Without kids, even a 'toonhead like Cranky would have passed.

Life or Something Like It

Life or Something Like It stars Angelina Jolie in an awful blonde dyejob as a TV reporter whose death is foreseen by a street psychic and who has one week to change and/or settle her life. Or something. Tony Shalhoub is the psychic. Ed Burns is the romantic interest and we were laid up screaming for someone to come and break down our door 'cuz we couldn't walk to the screening. No one helped. Ya gotta love NYC. This movie is so bad that there's no way a crap script like this one could've gotten made without a name-brand player (Jolie) attached. Oh, if we had the strength ... we cut our eyeteeth on shredding nonsense like this. Avoid it.

Manna From Heaven

Manna From Heaven which reunites a group of people who found twenty grand on their doorstops thirty years earlier. They decided to do the wrong thing and keep it. Now, one of their number -- a nun -- invokes Catholic guilt on a teevee name brand cast including: Shirley Jones, Cloris Leachman, Jill Eikenberry, Faye Grant, Wendy Malick , and Frank Gorshin (plus big screen names Louise Fletcher and Seymour Cassel). Since all the money's been spent, they've got to go to great and secretive lengths to raise the cash. . . and you'll probably see the flick for free on Lifetime Cable if you blink a couple of times. It's not a bad sit, but it's definitely better for rental.

Martin Lawrence Live: RunTelDat

On the off chance that you go to see Martin Lawrence Live: RunTelDat expecting the same kind of humor found on his network sitcom, Martin, fuhgeddaboutit. An hour and forty five minutes of gratuitous obscenity split our audience right down the color line. African-Americans were doubled over in laughter. The white folk started walking out after about forty five minutes. Only two of us were left at the end, both critics (which means brownie points to us, 'cuz all the other white critics in our reserved rows bailed out fast). The best comedy concerts may have a number of seemingly unrelated routines that all come together in a final bit that makes the entire process worthwhile. Martin Lawrence isn't one of those comics who that can do that. His decision to fill just about every sentence with at least one of George Carlin's famous seven words did not offend, but it did bore the utter crap out of us. Once the expectation of laughter has been quashed by whatever obscenity is at hand, even the funniest idea isn't funny."

Once Upon A Time in Midlands

Once Upon A Time in Midlands, starring Rhys Ifans and Robert Carlyle, both names that should be familiar to fans of BritFlicks, as we are. Unfortunately, this release is packed with accents so thick, we couldn't understand 70% of it. Critics were walking out of the screening room. We stuck it out. Pay cold cash and you may be stuck, too. Your choice.

Pandaemonium

Director Julien Temple's Pandaemonium, is a period piece that got the short shrift. Based on the nineteenth century collaboration of "superstar" poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, this slow paced drama (125 minutes) features deep characters and great performances from its cast (Linus Roache, John Hannah, Samantha Morton and Emily Woof). Way too serious for summer release, it surfaced for a week and odds are you'll never hear of it again.

Personal Velocity

Personal Velocity, an adaptation of three short stories from a collection by Rebecca Miller is about as close to inept film making as you can get. The unrelated stories star Kyra Sedgwick Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk, all as women who discover something important on their Path of Life. Miller, who wrote and directed the adaptation, is so in love with her words that the actors have nothing whatsoever to emote. Everything is told to the audience by a male voiceover that occupies what feels like 95% of screen time. Add to that a cinematographer who can't keep her shot in focus and a director who didn't reshoot (even though the film shot with much more economical digital video equipment) and you'll be demanding 90 minutes of your life back.

shadow hours

Shadow Hours: a poor, ex-junkie night clerk at an LA gas station (Balthazar Getty) is led through late night back alley dens of depravity as a "research assistant" to a very successful freelance writer (Peter Weller). He's got a lovely wife (Rebecca Gayheart) who's kept him clean, a baby on the way and he needs the money -- problem is he's got a hankering for all the goodies laid out before him, especially the stuff that comes from the point of a needle. Trekkers will want to note the appearance of Michael Dorn in the supporting cast. For a first flick, from writer/director Isaac Eaton, it's beautifully put together. It's way too obvious that you're seeing a modern day Story of Job ('cuz the script puts it right in your face) and fairly obvious what Weller's character is supposed to be. As for the depravity, it's the usual S&M/bondage/ strip joint/gay stuff you can see on late night cable... until the close ups of freaks shoving fishhooks through their faces make you want to curl up in your chair and die. It isn't depraved. It's completely unwatchable (unless you're into that kind of self abuse). Avoid.

Safety of Objects

For those who detest everything in the commercial cineplex, The Safety of Objects (Glenn Close, Robert Klein, Mary Kay Place and a cast of dozens) staples four short stories by A. M. Holmes together, all about suburban family life. By the time we get to the final scene, yes, all four have a common thread. No, we can't tell you what it is because the film is so arthouse awful that we could remember nothing of it a mere SIX hours after screening it.

The Simian Line

What do you get when you take a whole bunch of names (Lynn Redgrave, Cindy Crawford, William Hurt, Eric Stoltz, Harry Connick Jr. and Tyne Daly, to start), an OK script with too much improvisation, and then shoot enough of it with an out of focus camera that even we have to mention it? You get The Simian Line, about three New Jersey couples and the psychic astrologer they piss off. This is a dead in the water release and is not reviewed, though Cindy does do a pair of bubble bath scenes that'll make most boys very happy.

swimming pool

Swimming Pool stars Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. The former is an old maid writer. The younger is her publisher's daughter who nails everything male in the French town where the elder has come to relax and write. Average arthouse fare with a twist ending that negates all that has come before and, simply, renders the story nonsensical to us. If we can't understand, we can't explain. Non-arthouse-philes pass it by. In English and French.

texas rangers

Texas Rangers stars James Van Der Beek, Rachael Leigh Cook, Oded Fehr and Tom Skerritt. We summarize it this way: MTV films presents a special edition of VH1: Behind the History of the Texas Rangers. From their obscure beginnings under a leader suffering from tuberculosis through defeat after defeat, always managing to fight the good fight and, eventually, come out winners. A completely ridiculous movie in which a bunch of pretty boys chase a cattle rustler up and down an old map of Texas. A a waste of non-stoner time.