Pacino Stars As Shrink On Run From Sadistic Serial Killer
About ten years ago, Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) was the key
prosecution expert witness whose testimony helped send rapist/serial killer Jon
Forster (Neal McDonough) to Death Row. As the notorious “Seattle Slayer” was
being led out of the courtroom, he looked the FBI forensic psychiatrist
responsible for his conviction straight in the eye and whispered, “Tick-tock,
Doc,” a veiled threat that it was just a matter of time before he would exact
Fast forward to the present and we find Forster behind bars
and all out of appeals. His impending execution is likely to provide a measure
of closure to Janie Cates (Tammy Hui), the twin sister of one of his victims
(Vicky Huang), plus some comfort to Gramm, now teaching med school, boozing it
up and chasing anything in a skirt.
But then, on the eve of Forster’s scheduled execution by
lethal injection, the tweedy, tipsy professor finds himself suddenly shaken
after receiving a chilling call on his cell phone repeating the familiar
“Tick-tock, Doc” refrain. In addition, the electronically-altered voice informs
Gramm that he only has 88 minutes to live.
Thereupon, the sinister stalker immediately embarks on a
frenetic crime spree, slicing and dicing folks close to the womanizing Dr. Jack
in order to implicate him in a series of copycat murders. The enterprising
sicko proceeds to wreak additional havoc across the city, eluding a
conspicuously-absent police force while blowing up cars, setting fires and
running over pedestrians with a motorcycle. Oh, and he also keeps Gramm on
speed dial to be able to gloat periodically.
Patently preposterous at every turn, 88 Minutes is more
action-packed than the average Bugs Bunny-Road Runner hour, and features
cartoon physics which is about as credible. Al Pacino, with the help of a
bouncy, blowing, world-class bouffant hairdo, still has the charisma to turn a
turkey into a flick that’s almost watchable, if only for the laughs.
Regrettably, a splendid supporting cast topped by Leelee
Sobieski, Amy Brenneman. William Forsythe and Alicia Witt finds itself
frequently abandoned by a silly script laced with implausible dialogue, lots of
illogical plot developments and more smelly red herrings than the Fulton Fish
market. I mean, really, how can virtually every character be a prime suspect,
including the potential victim himself?
A comical crime thriller where you’re likely to find
yourself more amused by the unintentionally funny goings-on than trying to solve
the underlying whodunit.
Rated: R for profanity, disturbing violence and brief
Running time: 108 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Ex-Jesuit Priest Takes Critical Look At Violence Committed In
The Name Of Christianity
There was a precedent to Vice President Cheney’s remark made
to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” five days after September 11 that he would
happily accept the head of Osama bin Laden on a platter. For over the course of
several centuries, starting in about 1095, legions of Catholics had ventured
from Europe to the Middle East with the intention of conquering the Holy Land
in the name of Christianity, and all with the blessing of the reigning pope.
It was not unusual for soldiers participating in the
Crusades to consider themselves virtuous for returning home with the head of a
Muslim or a Jew on the end of a stick. Given that fanatical religious legacy,
one can understand why someone might be inclined to examine America’s
involvement in the region in a new light.
And just such an inquiry is the focus of Constantine's Sword,
an informative look at the violent side of Christianity. The picture is
narrated by James Carroll, a former Catholic cleric who abandoned the
priesthood when he found himself plagued by nagging doubts about the historical
links of his Church to papal-sanctioned ethnic cleansing.
He asks, “How did the Cross become a rallying symbol for
persecution?” “How does one man who loves the Church confront its history of
crusade and conquest?” “Why are intolerance, violence and war so deeply
ingrained in religion?” It seems that he didn’t feel comfortable continuing to
serve as a recruiter for a faith with so much blood on its hands.
Carroll, now married with two children, tackles these thorny
issues by honestly reviewing the behavior of evangelical Christians from the
time of Constantine all the way up to the present. He finds that proselytizing
was popular not only in the Middle Ages but is still flourishing today in the
U.S. Air Force Academy where pressure is being routinely applied to cadets to
swear allegiance to both the United States and to Jesus.
With God as your co-pilot, especially “The right God,” it’s
probably a lot easier to
rationalize bombing godless heathen civilians back to the Stone Age without a
second thought. A powerful documentary which makes the case that the
faith-based fanaticism that has destabilize the planet has been fueled as much
by the West as by radical Islam.
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: First Run Features
3 ½ stars
Michael Caine And Demi Moore Team For Multi-Layered Whodunit
Laura Quinn (Demi Moore) is the first female executive at
the London Diamond Corporation, England’s leading importer of precious gems.
Despite being one of the firm’s most deserving employees, the ambitious, 38
year-old American has repeatedly been passed over for a promotion to managing
director in favor of lesser-qualified male colleagues.
This slight has not been lost on Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine),
the close to retiring janitor at the company’s headquarters. Because she
reminds him of his dearly-departed wife, the elderly widower approaches Laura
with felonious intentions, hoping she’s disgruntled enough about hitting the
glass ceiling to help him hatch a heist of the vault in the business’ basement.
Although she initially threatens to report the old codger,
she cools down sufficiently to entertain the idea. The seemingly foolproof plan
sounds simple enough. All she has to do is first find the out the combination,
and Hobbs will crack the safe during his overnight shift. And he promises to
purloin only a tiny pouchful of priceless stones, so no one will even notice
But the best laid plans often go awry, especially in as
complex a crime caper as Flawless. Directed by Oscar-nominee Michael Radford (Il
Postino), this multi-layered whodunit is masterfully-constructed to keep you
confounded and guessing about the next bizarre twist from start to finish.
Set in 1960, the film pairs the gracefully-aging Demi Moore
in her best role in recent memory opposite the ever-reliable Michael Caine in
an intriguing a cat-and-mouse thriller reminiscent of Sleuth, the 1972
battle-of-wits for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. Here, Quinn
hands over the combination to the lock, only to have second thoughts because of
a recently installed surveillance system. However, Hobbs says he has already
figured out how to defeat it, and ignores her pleas to back out of the
conspiracy, determined to proceed regardless.
The plot thickens the morning after the robbery, when it is
discovered that the vault has been cleaned out, and the company announces
losses in the hundreds of millions. Why did Hobbs change his mind and steal
more than agreed upon amount of stones? Did greed get the better of him or did
he have a massive robbery in mind all along?
And with the case having all the earmarks of an inside job,
how long will he and Laura keep from arousing the suspicion of the
investigating detectives? These are just a few of the questions raised en route
to the surprising resolution of as intriguing a psychological mindbender as you
could hope to wrap your head around.
Rated: PG-13 for brief profanity.
Running time: 110 minutes
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Run, Fatboy, Run
3 ½ stars
Groom with Cold Feet Seeks Second Chance in British Sitcom
On what was supposed to have been their wedding day, Dennis
(Simon Pegg) bolted from the church at the last minute, leaving his pregnant
fiancée, Libby (Thandie Newton), standing at the altar. It seems that the
reluctant groom had developed cold feet because he didn’t think he deserved a
girl that gorgeous, given that he’s an overweight, chain-smoking slacker.
But now, five years later, he wants a second chance because
he’s still in love with Libby and realizes the error of his ways. However, that
will be easier said than done, since she’s presently involved with Whit (Hank
Azaria), a filthy rich hedge fund manager who wants to marry her, too.
What’s worse, the debonair American has plans to whisk his
ex away from London to Chicago which means Dennis won’t get to see much of
their four year-old son, Jake (Matthew Fenton). Furthermore, there are signs
that the boy has already begun to bond with his father’s competitor who has a
more easygoing nature.
So, in his
mind, Dennis feels that he has to prove himself Whit’s equal both to win
Libby’s heart and the admiration of his child. Trouble is, he can’t begin
compete in terms of money and career, since he’s a lowly-paid security guard at
a lowly clothing store and is behind on paying the rent on his modest basement
Then, when he learns at Libby’s birthday party that Whit
will be running in the upcoming London Marathon, Dennis impulsively announces
that he’ll be entering the race as well. Woefully out of shape, he knows he’ll
have to adopt a rigorous training regimen just to finish, let alone prevail.
Will Dennis beat Whit in the Nike River Run along the Thames
River? And if so, will that feat be enough to impress Libby and little Jake?
Those are the questions posed by the premise of Run, Fatboy, Run, a romantic
comedy which marks the impressive directorial debut of David Schwimmer, best
known as Ross from the long-running NBC series “Friends.”
His hard to pigeonhole picture pairs the delightful Thandie
Newton with cult favorite Simon Pegg, star of such offbeat adventures as Shaun
of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Most of the jokes come at the expense of Pegg’s
character via a combination of the comedian’s trademark slapstick, sight gags
and self-effacing humor. But like the best of British sitcoms, ala Notting Hill
and Four Weddings and a Funeral, the film also features inspired performances
by members of the ensemble’s talented supporting cast, most notably, Dylan
Moran as Dennis’ loyal buddy, Gordon, and Harish Patel as his meddlesome
landlord, Mr. Ghoshdashtidar.
Dividing its attention equally between the love triangle and
overcoming-the-odds theme, Run, Fatboy, Run is well enough crafted to keep you
in stitches while on the edge of your seat for the duration, even if this
laff-a-minute escape is more mindless than cerebral. Does Dennis get Libby and
his son in the end? That would be unfair to divulge, given the completely
unpredictable resolutions of some of Mr. Pegg’s prior productions.
Rated: PG-13 for crude humor, profanity, sexuality, nudity
Running time: 97 minutes
The Souls Of Black Girls
Provocative Documentary Examines Image of Black Females
Propagated by the Media
Why have African-American women become so maligned by
popular culture that we have a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Karen Hunter,
writing a best seller seriously posing the question, “Are black women
necessary?” And how has this shocking state of affairs affected the psyches of
the sisters of the Hip-Hop Generation shaped during the dominance of gangsta’
rap, an age marked by misogyny and an embracing of a European standard of
These are the questions posed by The Souls of Black Girls, a
provocative documentary which suggests that African-American females are
suffering from a form of self-image disorder. Produced and directed by Daphne
Valerius, this provocative examination of a timely subject features sage
contributions from such icons as actresses Regina King, Jada Pinkett-Smith,
Juanita Jennings and Amelia Marshall, PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, Public
Enemy’s Chuck D, BET producer Darlise Blount, Essence Magazine fashion editor
Pamela Edwards, historian Dr. Lez Edmond and cultural critic Michaela Angela
These famous faces share screen time with several
representatives of the demographic being discussed, articulate teens who
weigh-in with their heartfelt feelings on hot-button issues ranging from their
dating desirability to skin color preferences to hair straightening to absentee
fathers to promiscuity to their weights and shapes. The overall point being
driven home is that they are generally frustrated by their inability to measure
up to an unachievable ideal which places thin white females with hour-glass
figures up on a pedestal.
Apparently, out of a sense of desperation to be seen as
attractive, some girls compromise their values by engaging in binge dieting and
unprotected sex in an attempt to mimic the lewd behavior of the scantily-clad
dancers they see cavorting seductively in rap videos. Unfortunately, in those
exploitative, masturbatory male fantasies, as Dr. Edmond points out, “Black
women are very rarely presented as something to be respected.”
The film also asks, “Have black men abandoned black women?”
with one expert suggesting that slavery might be responsible for that
fragmented relationship. Others, however, see the phenomenon as a
relatively-recent development, an outgrowth of a BET-led trend toward a
sexualizing and debasing of the African-American female.
Ms. King bemoans that we have “a whole generation of lost
women who don’t that it’s okay to be you.” Meanwhile, Jada reflects upon having
herself gone “through a period of shame.” Fortunately, the participants are
ultimately optimistic and offer positive solutions, such as Ms. Ifill who
proudly asserts “My beauty has value” and finds satisfaction when greeted by
young aspiring journalists who see her as a role model.
An overdue debate about who gets to define what is
Running time: 52 minutes
Distributor: Femme Noire Productions
Crooked Cops Terrorize L.A. In High-Impact Splatter Flick
It’s never a good sign when a movie makes you laugh out loud
at dialogue intended to be taken seriously. But this is exactly the reaction
periodically elicited by the unintentionally funny Street Kings, a grisly shoot
‘em up loosely based on a crime yarn by James Ellroy.
The story is set in Los Angeles, and revolves around the
goings-on inside a trigger-happy police department so crooked that cops don’t
think twice before shooting a perp or even a fellow officer about to break the
blue wall of silence. For, they can always count on Captain Biggs (Hugh
Laurie), the head of Internal Affairs, to look the other way.
Such is the case with Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves),
an alcoholic widower working on the vice squad who considers himself above the
law. Drinking since his wife’s murder, he has no qualms about unleashing a
torrent of expletives and racial epithets in the direction of suspects before
blowing them away and planting weapons on their bodies with the help of his
boss, Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker).
And why is Wander so eager to cover-up rather than
discipline his reckless cowboy? Well, while he freely admits to having designs
on a promotion to police chief, he might have another hidden agenda.
Everything comes to a head the day that Ludlow bumps into
his estranged former partner, Terrence Washington (Terry Crews), at a
convenience store just as a couple of machine gun-toting thugs (Common and Cle
Shaheed Sloan) are about to rob the place. When the smoke clears, the gangstas
have escaped and Washington and the cashier lay dead.
Although the surveillance camera seems to implicate Ludlow
in the killings, Biggs and Wander, curiously, are still willing to clean up the
crime scene. So, they reassign the shaken detective to a desk job in the
Civilian Complaint Department till the controversy blows over. However, the
fidgety cop can’t sit still and so he secretly sets out on his own to find the
creeps who committed the crime. And that quest for the truth uncovers a pattern
of police corruption all the way to the top calling for a pile of corpses to
rid the department of the foul stench.
Street Kings is a disaster for several simple reasons: a
preposterous premise, less credible plot twists, too much gratuitous violence,
too many ethnic slurs, an absence of likable characters plus another wooden
performance from Keanu Reeves, an actor ill-suited for roles calling for him to
exhibit a range of emotions. Forest Whitaker proves to be the most noteworthy
of a supporting cast which includes Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, Naomie
Harris and hip-hop stars Common and The Game.
But when you have trouble reading a hero’s motivations at
every turn, the result is a comical headscratcher like this unmitigated mess.
Rated: R for graphic violence, ethnic slurs and pervasive
Running time: 109 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
The Meet Ihe Browns Interview
with Kam Williams
Angela Gets Her Groove Back
Born in New York City, but raised by her single-mom, Betty,
along with her sister, D’nette, in St. Petersburg, Florida, Angela Evelyn
Bassett studied acting at Yale University, where she received a Bachelor’s
degree in African-American Studies and a Master’s in Theater. She began her
professional career on stage, performing both on and off-Broadway in
productions of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Colored People’s Time, Henry IV, Part
I, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Antigone, Pericles and Black Girl.
Angela later landed what might be described as her breakout
role as Reva Devereaux in John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood, and she received
additional critical acclaim for her moving performance as matriarch Katherine
Jackson in the ABC mini-series “The Jacksons: An American Family.” Nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for her
unforgettable portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It, Angela
is also a thirteen -time NAACP Image Award-nominee, winning for that picture
along with The Rosa Parks Story, Sunshine State, The Score, How Stella Got Her
Groove Back, Music Of The Heart, Waiting To Exhale, Ruby’s Bucket Of Blood And
The embodiment of dignity, pride and grace, she invariably
electrifies audiences via her emotionally-charged characterizations. Away from
the set, with her husband, actor Courtney B. Vance, she co-wrote Friends: A
Love Story, a best-seller published on Valentine’s Day last year. The
inspirational autobiography chronicles the real-life love story of Bassett and
Vance, who were friends for many years before marrying.
In 2006, the couple became parents, celebrated the arrival
of twins, daughter Bronwyn Golden and son Slater Josiah. Here, Angela talks
about life, career and her new movie, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, where she
stars opposite former NBA star Rick Fox.
KW: Hi Angela, this is an honor. Thanks for the time.
KW: How was it being directed by Tyler Perry?
AB: It was great, even though there were some long, hot days
in Atlanta. [Chuckles] But, they weren’t long enough.
KW: How about working with Rick Fox?
AB: It was absolutely delightful. He was a joy to work with.
KW: Even though you’re such an accomplished actress, and he
didn’t have nearly the same amount of experience?
AB: That’s true enough, but he has life experience, and he
certainly brought all of himself to the moment. He wasn’t afraid of hard work,
and he was open and emotionally available. So, he won me over as a
KW: Where did you channel your character from? Have you ever
known a single-mom at the end of her rope like Brenda?
AB: Oh, absolutely! My mom raised my sister and me
single-handedly in Florida. So, day-to-day, I saw the struggles of doing it on
your own without help, and how tired that makes you, and the dreams and
aspirations you have for your children.
I know that she pushed us in regard to getting our
education, finding advocates in our principals and teachers at school.
KW: And she was quite successful, given your graduating from
AB: Yeah, it was a wonderful victory and accomplishment for
her, especially since she wasn’t able to go to college herself. Education was
something stressed almost to my chagrin growing up, at times. Since we were
toddlers, she stressed, “You’re going to college! You’re going to college!
You’re going to college!” So, it was a happy moment for her.
KW: I can remember how my mother always made me finish my
homework before I was allowed to go out to play.
AB: Yeah, all that extra-curricular stuff came to a screeching
halt, if your grades weren’t up to par. And par was at least Bs or better. If
you wanted to keep your good thing going, then you took care of your job, and
that was getting those grades together.
KW: What sort of message do you want people to get from Meet
AB: To persevere and keep on moving forward. Just put one
foot in front of the other, whatever the obstacles may be. Hold out for hope,
because you will turn a corner and find a situation that’s a whole lot better.
KW: Is there any question that no one has ever asked that
you wished someone would ask you?
AB: Oh no, no question’s been off-limits. [Laughs] I can’t
say I’ve ever thought to myself, “Oh, I wished they’d ask me this or that.”
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
KW: “Are you ever afraid?” I got that question from Tasha
AB: Oh really? Am I ever afraid? Oh, yeah, absolutely. I’m
KW: Who are you supporting for president?
AB: Barack Obama.
KW: Jimmy Bayan, “Realtor to the Stars,” wants to know where
in L.A. you live.
AB: Hancock Park.
KW: Congrats on your many NAACP Image Awards. You might not
know that I’m on the nominating committee.
AB: Oh, are you? I wondered who voted. Where are you based?
KW: I’m in Princeton, New Jersey. You have quite an
impressive body of work. Which of your roles has been the most satisfying?
AB: I love all my “children” but I would have to say What’s
Love, because it was the most challenging and the most fulfilling, because it
resonated with so many people, and because it has stood the test of viewing
again and again. It was the role that pushed me and pulled me more than any
KW: You’ve been everyone from Tina to Katherine Jackson to
Betty Shabazz to Rosa Parks in bio-pics. Do you enjoy playing real-life icons?
AB: Yeah, I absolutely do, and I’m always humbled and I’m
grateful for each opportunity.
KW: Have you ever gotten any feedback from a person you’ve
AB: Yes, Tina was very, very pleased. I got very positive
feedback from her.
KW: How about Rosa Parks?
AB: I was able to meet her, but she was elderly at the time,
and had other priorities in her life. I also got positive feedback from
Katherine and her children, and from Betty Shabazz and her family.
KW: Do you have any plans to work with your husband soon?
AB: We did a play a couple of years ago, His Girl Friday.
And we’re always holding that out as a possibility.
KW: I hope to be able to catch you and Courtney again up on
the screen. Well, thanks for the time, Angela, and good luck with Meet the
AB: Thank you so very much.