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Volume 1, Number 8

This Week's Reviews:  Pushing Tin, The Last Days, Foolish.



Pushing Tin

(Dir: Mike Newell, Starring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Jake Webster, Kurt Fuller, Vicki Lewis, Matt Ross, Jerry Grayson, Michael Willis, Philip Akin, Mike O'Malley, Neil Crone, Matt Gordon, and Joe Pingue)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Some could say that I do not fare to well with Mike Newell. When his sloppy Four Weddings & a Funeral was out and adored by many, I was trying to get attention to Pulp Fiction, Ed Wood, and Quiz Show. His An Awfully Big Adventure came dreadfully close to being on my bottom ten list for 1995. In fact the only Newell film I've really liked was Donnie Brasco, whose success was thanks much more to its acting than the literal direction that Newell took.

That same problem with actors overpowering the show is present in Pushing Tin. An unbelievable cast, including Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton, BAFTA winner Cate Blanchett, Golden Globe winner Angelina Jolie, and yet-to-win-an-award-but-always-great John Cusack, takes this otherwise only script happy film to a recommendation. Jolie puts forth her best performance yet and Blanchett (whom I've watched closely ever since Oscar & Lucinda) proves that she can act even further than playing stuffy British royals. My only problem in the acting department would be Thornton, who seems rather sub-par though that could be blamed on the writer (read further).

The film attempts to be a M*A*S*H for air traffic controllers. It follows a hot shot controller (Cusack) at the hardest of all places for air space: New York City. Everything seems okay until a flashy new controller comes along (Thornton) and the two go into a big feud that seeps down to their wives (Blanchett and Jolie, respectively).

The script is really good with funny areas and great site gags. There are only two bad parts of the script. First of all they attempt to make the Thornton character have a few too many layers as his more congenial side made me hate him even more than Cusack. The other problem is in the ending. I shall not give away the ending but it is just as sappy as the poor ending of Newell's Four Weddings & a Funeral. Not perfect, but enjoyable.


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The Last Days

(Dir: James Moll, Appearances by Bill Basch, Alice Lok Cahana, Renee Firestone, Dario Gabbai, Tom Lantos, and Irene Zisblatt)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Of all the categories at the Academy Awards, the Best Documentary Feature award is the one I always feel bad about missing. Every year I always seem to have seen one of the nominees on TV just before the ceremony (4 Little Girls, Farm: Angola, USA), but I do not finish off all the nominees until years later (I just saw 1997 nominee Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern last week). The reason for this is that documentaries tend to have awful releasing as they do not hit many theatres and video is even more limited (with the exception of things like The War Room and Roger & Me). It should be as no suprise then that the viewing of The Last Days was my first time to get to see a Oscar nominated Documentary in the theatre, and what a place to begin.

The Last Days is the product of Steven Speilberg's Survivors of Shoah Visual History Foundation and it seems a little too proud of its producer at the beginning (opening with a title card that simply says "Steven Speilberg" is a little much). The film follows the stories of five Holocaust survivors brought to concentration camps after the Nazi occupation of Hungary during the final years of the Second World War. The five range from homemaker to artist to US Congressman. They remember parts of the war while making their way back home after living in America since the war.

This would be the best documentary I've seen since Steven Soderbergh's Gray's Anatomy two years ago. While it did not make me cry, I found it to be gut wrenching and utterly emotional. It only falters in the second half-hour in which the film spends too much time on parts of the experience already trekked through in many previous documentaries. Still it is much better than the undeserving The Long Way Home (winner of the Oscar last year).

  

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Foolish

(Dir: Dave Meyers, Starring Eddie Griffin, Master P, Amy Petersen, Frank Sivero, Daphne Duplaix, Jonathan Banks, Andrew Dice Clay, Marla Gibbs, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Bill Nunn, and Bill Duke)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Just before seeing this film, I was asked why I even waste my time on "blaxploitation films." The fact of the matter is that I never know when I might fall upon great directors like Spike Lee, Carl Franklin, or Quentin Tarantino (Jackie Brown was easy to see as a homage to 1970s "blaxploitation," hence the anger of Spike Lee towards it). Unfortunately, in this case Dave Meyers is no Lee, Franklin, or Tarantino.

I found Foolish to be utterly unfunny as it tells the story of a stand-up comedian who could care less about the money, he just loves to be funny. What do you expect from a film written by rapper Master P? As for Mr. P, he really needs to work on his acting skills, arguably the worst performance I've seen this year. None of the material in the film caused me to crack a smile, nevertheless I will admit that it is the best film to get a F rating from me so far this year.


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Reviews by:
David Perry
1999, Cinema-Scene.com

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