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TV and Movie Reviews

"Panic Room"
Directed by David Fincher


2 1/2 Stars out of 4
Written by Jeff M. Barr

The number one film this week is Jodie Fosters Panic Room. The first film in three years for the secluded actress. She only chose to do this film because most of the filming took place indoors. Foster plays a recently divorced mom named Meg, whos husband left her for a much younger woman. Which is voiced by Nicole Kidman whom was first slated to star but an ankle injury during filming of Moulin Rouge ruined her chances. Fosters character experiences many physical battles and the character is a very middle age woman.

This is Jodie Fosters film from the start and the varying degrees of entertainment largely depend on her characters actions. They range from intense to stupidity and her character loses believability somewhere towards the end of the story. This is consequently when the films loose and dull story bogs down a bit.

The story begins when Meg and her daughter move into a enormous west side home in New York city. This home incorporates a panic room from the previous owner that houses a large array of surveillance cameras, medical equipment and something special, many millions of dollars. Meg doesnt know this of course and that very first night, the thieves are already in the house. This all takes about twenty minutes to happen and the pacing is very slow, but some stylish camera work saves the audience from boredom. All of this is courtesy of the experienced and talented director David Fincher.

Fincher is skilled and could handle a much more complex and emotionally deeper film like his 1995 and 1997 movies Seven and Fight Club, respectively. Panic Room does come with some gorgeous and very lengthy camera movements and shots, that incorporate seamless special effects in them. These are his patented Fincher film techniques that really make the movie thrilling and dark to look at in every corner. But once the audience gets past the beautiful cinematography, film techniques, and acting all that is left is a lame story. At least Panic Room doesnt really last long, running time is about 100 minutes.

The movie just feels a lot longer and one reason is because of casting of the thieves in the film. They range from stupid like Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto to the inspirational and weird looking Forest Whitaker as a desperate and lonely heist man. Leto and Yoakam are a joke on screen and their presence almost rips the heart out of the great Whitaker performance. Fincher has a knack for getting good actors, so why did he pick these to inexperienced and ill equipped actors.

Panic Room will no doubtedly please American audiences that crave anything from Fincher or especially Foster. Still, this movie doesnt live up to the expectations of the creators and expect a huge drop off in box-office after word of mouth gets out. A stylish visual treat that only goes skin deep, wait to watch it at the cheap theatres.

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"Blade II"
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro


Blade Returns with Heart
3 stars out of 4
Written by Jeff M. Barr

Wesley Snipes is the daywalker in this impressive follow up to the 1998 blockbuster, Blade. Snipes and director Guillermo del Toro make the sequel just as, or more exciting, than the first incredible film. The film incorporates a comic book and video game visual feel that looks original and extraordinary. The movie moves briskly and incorporates many plot twists and character changes. Blade II lives up to the original and more, and it all begins with the director Del Toro.

Del Toro is a master of vampire pictures. His original movie was the Mexican cult favorite Cronos (1994). That film gave back the ruthlessness and unadulterated evil that vampire films had been lacking for years. He brings his take on vampires into Blade II and it gives the film something original that it would not have had with any other director. Del Toro is also developing Blade 3 and many other American films in the next few years. He is a young and prolific director, with an unprecedented eye for the visual.

Wesley Snipes is Blade once again and brings some more emotions to this dark but moral hero. As Blade, Snipes barely removes his sunglasses, but he can still show the audience his relentless brutality and heart towards the vampires and the new enemy. Blade even gets a love interest, Nyssa, played by the lovely Leonor Varela, but the relationship is not full blown because she is part of the ruling vampire nation. Snipes is by no means a good actor, but this role was made for him and he does an admirable job.

The new film has an intriguing story twist that probably made the project easier to greenlight for New Line studios. It begins a few years after the last film left off with Blade and the vampire nation teaming up to defeat a new evil, the reapers. Reapers are creatures that feed nightly and have few weaknesses, unlike vampires and humans. It takes the collective efforts of all three enemies to make this screenplay click, and all characters are fleshed out beautifully and have absorbing depth.

Still, even with these awesome characters, Blade is a dark action film at its heart, and Del Toro and company produce exciting and lighting fast action. The camera moves insanely quick and fighting scenes are inter cut with cool special effects. The only problem is that the viewer can tell when it is CGI Snipes fighting and the real thing, but it just gives the film a more fantasy look to it. Del Toro took advice from action veteran James Cameron (Terminator, True Lies) to help him film his first action picture. Del Toro took this and made his own action film that is very distinctive in todays mainstream action market.

The only problem with this film is it may be too bloody and disturbing for a huge audience. The movie is much more graphic than the original and the story is a bit more mysterious. This film is something different and unique that will not appeal to all comic book or action fans, but something that should still be seen. Only the real fans of Blade might like this movie, but it still remains quite a personal and big budget achievement for Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

"The Sweetest Thing"
Directed by Roger Kumble


Diaz is the Sweetest Thing

Written by Jeff M. Barr

The Sweetest Thing (2002) is a complete departure from contemporary chic flicks or romantic comedies, this movie is actually funny. For the entire 90-minute running time this innovative and sometimes gross out comedy is hilarious and entertaining. The best thing is this comedy is geared towards students and the adult crowd and it will should definitely appeal to those crowds with its twenty-something cast.

Cameron Diaz plays Christina Walters a happy-go-lucky, must be in control, hot single woman in beautiful San Francisco. Her consultant and more outrageous friend Courtney is played wonderfully by seldom seen but cult star Christina Apllegate (Just Visiting, 2001). Their other girlfriend is the always strange but still cute Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions, 1999), playing a horny and just dumped Jane.

The guys in this movie are even cool and kind of nostalgic. Jason Bateman from numerous cancelled television shows has a considerable and amusing supporting role. Bateman plays the best-friend to the main love interest Thomas Jane from such big budget B-movies like Deep Blue Sea (1999) and also from deep and controversial films like Billy Crystals baseball picture 61 (2001). This is Janes first big role in a comedy and he shows he could be the next romantic big wig like John Cusack. Jane is a very likeable and skilled actor that looks like the everyman kind of guy without being to boring like Mathew Broderick.

The three women headed up by Christina, get through the hardships of life by dancing their way home from work or going out everynight to the hottest dance clubs, to get jiggy with it. All three women live in an almost surreal world that carries throughout the entire story. In no way is this movie realistic, every scenario and scene is perfectly executed comical fiction and should be taken that way. If any reality is expected in The Sweetest Thing, the viewer will be disappointed. This is the only real compromise of the movie; the unbelievable circumstances of the characters take the audience out of the story and make them realize this is just a film. This hurts the entire cinema experience but something that is easily forgotten after laughing for an hour and a half straight.

The Screenplay written by first timer Nancy Pimental is smart, funny and amusing. From the early trailers and previews anyone would think they had this story penned but its totally the opposite of a traditional romantic comedy. Its just a delight to be surprised once in awhile at a movie theatre and The Sweetest Thing does just that thanks to good writing from Pimental and directing from Cruel Intensions maker Roger Kumble.

Kumble is no wizard or even that creative he just picks some very good scripts like Cruel Intensions and this movie, that makes him look better than reality. Kumble has only directed three films so maybe he will find his own filmmaking style in the future but for now its just the same old Hollywood look. Not to say that it doesnt fit the film well, its just not very interesting to watch. Kumble has also written a few big flops and straight to video films like Gossip (2000) and Cruel Intensions 2 (2001). He has his work cut out for him but this movie is an awesome and smart move.

The Sweetest Thing will be one of those films that makes a little money and then word of mouth spreads and it becomes a comedy classic. Go see this movie, it is the best and most original comedy to come out in years, yes this is serious! Cameron Diaz and friends make a laugh-out-loud, super fun and carefree riot of a film.

3 1/2 stars out of 4