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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:


28 Days

Last Week: 28 Days

I am already braced for some heavy email traffic in response to my review this week simply because I am predicting that a significant percentage of the readers of this page are going to like this movie an awful lot more than I did. In truth, it wouldn't be difficult to like this movie even a little more than I did, but in spite of my certainty that my opinion will not be a popular one, I'm locked and loaded, ready to kick the tires and light some fires.

I didn't pay to see this movie, and that is about the most positive thing I can think of to say about it. It also explains a general perception I had in viewing the 50 or so other people I waded through this compost heap with. It was difficult for me not to imagine the entire tortured group with long white sticks rammed up their ass and their collective heads wrapped in cellophane. If you pay 8 bucks to attend an evening showing of this movie you are a sucker. If you shell out $4.50 for a matinee you are a sucker. If you wait a couple of weeks and blow $2.00 to see it at the second run theaters you are a sucker. Even if you hold out until next fall and kiss off two hours of your life to catch it on the Fox Shitty Thursday Night Movie, you are a sucker.

Given that the most underworked human being on the entire planet is Rush Limbaugh's fact checker, the second most underworked human being on this planet is the guy who put together the coming attraction trailer for this film. All he had to do was edit out everything that sucked, and the two minutes that were left was the trailer. How difficult could that have been?

Sandra Bullock takes on the role of an out-of-control party girl with an equally bohemian boyfriend who spend their spare time drinking heavily and having sex. Bullock's character is a screen writer, one whose talents were obviously inferior to those even of the real life writer of this film, thus she can apparently drink herself into regular stupors without professional consequences.

But her life takes a nasty turn for the worse when she oversleeps after a stupor and shows up late and newly drunk for her sister's wedding. After she totally disrupts the proceedings, I already hated Bullock and her boozy boyfriend so much I was hoping her sister's groom would snatch the nearest heavy object and bash them both into the alcholic afterlife. Unfortunately, he might as well have been portrayed by one of those inflatible dolls, since we never got to see him. Bullock caps off the wedding by stealing a limosine after she destroys her sister's cake, and sets out to buy a new one. Naturally, she wrecks it and is sentenced to 28 days of rehab in lue of prison. At this point, I was hoping the judge would get lynched, although we never saw the courtroom sequence either.

Bullock immediately rebels against the rehab center routine, and sneaks off with her boyfriend to go on a bender. He also provides her with drugs, causing her therapist to threaten her with prison. Reaching a moment of crisis, Bullock tosses the drugs out the window, but reconsiders and attempts to sneak out the window to reclaim them. At this point, she falls 3 stories and escapes with a sprained ankle.

However, her first look into the mirror shocks her into a new appreciation of the degradation of her life. She is faced with the stark vision of small bags under her eyes and split ends. We can only imagine the horrifying psychological consequences she might have suffered if her finger nail polish had been chipped.

With a new determination to clean up her act, Bullock begins to open up to her fellow inmates. Most of them seem more in need of 28 years of moron rehab than addiction therapy, turning the movie into a painfully tedious blabfest. The concept of a rehab program in which the toughest test is coaxing a horse to raise his hoof didn't strike me as one that was going to promote an overwhelming record of non-recidivism, and if fact we got the impression that most of the patients were making repeat appearances in the rodeo.

Every once in awhile, a film comes tumbling out of the outlet tube of the septic tank called the Hollywood movie industry that misses the wide target called reality so completely that it is impossible not to stare at it with the same horrifed, incredulous fascination that must have dropped on Chucky Heston when he watched the pony-mounted gorillas parade by in Planet of the Apes. 28 Days might elevated itself to that level of badness, if Director Betty Thomas had the first clue about plot advancement. Unfortunately, inane dialog spewed out by characters half-heartedly shoveling horse shit doesn't exactly qualify as spirited pacing. For that matter, it didn't exactly move the plot along at a rapid pace when Bullock's character gave her teenage roommate a detailed lesson in creating a braided chain out of gum wrappers.

Then again, it is probably far too much to expect a director whose previous resume highlights are The Brady Bunch Movie and Private Parts to provide us with an insightful examination of the world of addiction rehabilitation. Hell, after this effort, I'd be surprised if Thomas could provide us with an adequately insightful examination into the contents of her refrigerator.

Last Week: Jurassic Park III:

Spinasaurus Egypticus? Pissedoffasaurus Kexticus!

Okay, about a decade ago, Michael Crichton wrote a wonderful sci-fi page turner called Jurassic Park. I loved it. It helped pass a long plane flight, as I delightedly zipped through it hanging in the sky on a return trip from somewhere. I think it was Dallas. Anyway, the book naturally inspired a Hollywood adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg. It wasn't up to the standards of the book of course, but was sufficiently fun and entertaining in its own right, even dripping with Spielberg P.C.

The successes of book and movie naturally prompted sequels. Crichten didn't really leave a lot of space for a sequel in the original book, but doors never completely close in sci-fi, and the means was invented; sort of. I'm not entirely sure whether Crichten actually wrote Lost World or just put his name on it, but it wasn't up to his normal standards. Apparently Hollywood didn't think so either, because by the time Jurassic Park II: The Lost World hit the silver screen, about all book and movie had in common were a few characters and the title. Nonetheless, the second movie was a blockbuster too, and a third sequel became inevitable.

Apparently Crichten felt he had already prostituted himself sufficiently over the license, and didn't have much of anything to do with Jurrassic Park III. The novelization was not his, and I didn't see him credited in the work other than to note that the characters were based on his creations. That isn't to say that the third movie in the installment is devoid of his influence.

In fact, significant portions of this movie are really nothing more than scenes borrowed from the original book that couldn't fit into the first movie. So those watching this film, if they have read the book as well, might walk out with the eerie feeling that they are sitting through an outtakes reel. I guess if you can't get Crichten to do something original, the next best thing is to use whatever is left over. Or so must be the feeling in Hollywood.

The most significant problem with this movie is that it lacks any particular sense of suspense. Not only do we identify the expendible characters within the first 5 minutes of the movie, but the film affords us the favor (?) of promptly dispatching all of them within the first 15. That doesn't leave us with much curiousity for what is going to happen the rest of the way. Sure, we seriously believe that Dr. Grant (Sam Neil in reprise) and the obligatory little kid are going to end up as Purina Dino Chow. That could happen.

Worse still, the movie actually has to invent a dinosaur this time to wring a little more terror out of the presumably T-Rex and Raptor jaded audience. A giant carnivor named Spinasaurus Egypticus or something like that is dreamed up to kick T-Rex's ass and make life miserable for Grant and company on the island. Actually, the dino in question did exist, but only tiny fossil fragments have been found to date, and no one really knows what it was, or what it was like yet.

The movie also ascribes almost human or above intelligence to the raptors now, as a major plot point involves Grant's assistant stealing a raptor egg, and the nasty beasts hunting down the humans to get it back. In what goes down as one of the silliest scenes in sci-fi history, Grant utilizes a raptor call fashioned by his assistant to call off the beasts who have the humans surrounded while recovering the egg. How Grant knew he was telling the raptors to back off instead of ---- off is the principle question that comes to mind as we endure the silly scene.

At one point in the movie, the humans find themselves inside of what appears to be a gigantic bird cage, housing a family of pteranodons. This scene was lifted directly out of the original book, but didn't fit into the plans for the first movie. The pteranodons were about the only really rewarding additions to the story, and their flight away from the island at the movie's end reasonably sets up the inevitable Jurassic Park IV: Flying Reptiles Kick Human Booty.

I'm going to be inclined to pass on that one, because personally, I think this series probably outlived its usefulness after the original movie. We know now that Hollywood can create cool looking dinosaurs and have them interact on screen with humans. Maybe its time to put the capability alongside a story that would have some bite and merit. I think we have beaten to death just about all the reasonable ways that we can dump anyone from the original cast back onto the island. And the guess here is that none of them are that hungry anymore anyway.

Last Week: Men In Black 2:

The principle question that arises after viewing Men In Black 2 involves the mental state of director Jerry Sonnenfeld. Its pretty obvious that the man is either the world's most painfully frustrated contortionist, or its most hopelessly pathetic, ego driven mound of human flesh. This all becomes entirely obvious as we watch the man expend an enormous amount of energy toward the very clear objective of kissing his own ass.

If we miss the above point as we watch him remind us no less than three times in the opening credits that he is the director of the picture, it starts to become a little more difficult to avoid when he makes a cameo appearance in the film. All that was missing was a flashing neon sign above him that said something like "ALL HAIL THE DIRECTOR OF THE MEN IN BLACK MOVIES." I didn't stick around to see how many times he promoted his own existance in the closing credits, but then again, I really don't want to know.

I'll probably get a lot of email blasting me for bringing this up, but if this movie had an intelligible plot, I somehow missed it. As close as I could determine, Agent J (Will Smith) has to stop an alien who has assumed the form of a Victoria's Secret model from acquiring some artifact of importance. But just why it was important or why she wanted it was somewhat unclear to me. The alien's name was Serleena, protrayed by Lara Flynn Boyle, and she didn't make for a very appealing underwear model...even in sexy undies.

Agent J needs the help of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who has had his memory wiped out and is now a postal worker in a small town in Massachussets. So J has to help K regain his memory. The duo must recover the artifact before midnight or it will cause the earth to blow up. Just why is another minor point the film didn't bother to elaborate upon. Then again, its a little difficult to pack a whole lot into a film which runs a little less than 90 minutes.

Stop and think about this for a minute: Suppose you went to see a movie like Titanic. It had a running time of around 3 hours. Men in Black 2 has a running time less than the obligatory 90 minutes for a feature film. Yet we pay the same price to see both. Its not that I'd be in favor of spending more to see a long and disgustingly boring film like Titanic. Quite the contrary. But why should any of us spend as much to see a movie like MIB 2 which isn't even long enough to develop a credible story line.

Basically, the soul purpose of this film was pretty much the same in spirit as the carnival side shows of days of yore. You look at assorted weird puppets and digitally created freaks, and somehow you are supposed to emerge feeling entertained. I felt like I needed a shower. Ostensibly this movie was a comedy, but I didn't laugh very much. I didn't even think that the talking pug was all that amusing. Then again, as dog species go, pugs are not generally known for their gifted comedic timing. Maybe they should have tried a Boston Terrier.

I think its time I should confess something. I'm one of the few people in the country, and perhaps the only person who has seen MIB 2 so far, that didn't see the original. I suppose that might make a difference somehow, but I don't think it did. I read an interview this week with Will Smith in which he said that they didn't want to make a MIB 2 until they had a really good story to tell that would be worthy of the original. I guess they got tired of waiting.

Now folks, lets bring in the K.A.W. chorus:

CHORUS: Hey Kex, what are you pissed off about this week?

This week I'm upset about people who go to baseball games. Not all baseball fans, mind you. Just the lukewarm fans that go to one game a year, which happens to be a fireworks game. Joy and I went to one of those games Friday night, and experienced a lot of the fireworks game fans first hand.

I'm a big baseball fan and so is Joy. So while we were looking forward to a good fireworks show, our principal motive for being at the game was to cheer the Rockies on to victory. But the group of 8 people around us, four in front and four to the left of us, who were all together, were just there for the after game festivites. Those people lacked the first clue about game etiquette.

They were up and down constantly. Every fricking inning two of them were getting up and going for beer or food or potty break or something. And they didn't have the common courtesy to go between innings. NOOO, they got up any damned time they so pleased. It was starting to get VERY annoying.

Finally, around the eighth inning, the last pair made yet another concession pilgramage, much to my dismay. I tolerated it, until they came back. We stood up in anticipation of their passing by yet again, but instead of proceeding to their seats, they stopped in front of us and proceeded to initiate a conversation with the portion of the group in front of us.

That was the last straw. In my iciest command voice, I blurted out, "SIT....DOWN....N O W!!! They were all a little stunned, but results were produced. There were no further migrations. I'm pleased to report that the Rockies were victorious, although I didn't see anywhere near as much as the game as I would have liked. The fireworks were great also. But the moral of the story is this: If you go to a baseball game, watch the game, okay? If you have to get up and go somewhere, go between innings. Some of us actually like the game believe it or not, and anyone who attends a sporting event should be conscious of that concept.

Last Week: Johnny English:

Every time I see Rowan Atkinson in one of his half hour sit coms (Black Adder, Mr. Bean, Thin Blue Line), I generally am left with a feeling of wanting more. Every time I see him in a full length motion picture, I leave feeling as if I'd like to rub my eye balls with sandpaper until there is nothing left but bare bone sockets. I guess its fair to say that there is a happy medium between 30 minutes and 90, and less is more.

This is pretty disappointing, because it actually looked like we were on something of a roll, especially considering that it is the summer season, when trash is pretty much the standard fair at the neighborhood cinema. But leave it to the British to serve up something overdone and unappealing. They've been doing a lot of that lately.

Atkinson stars as Johnny English, apparently an over-the-hill agent in Her Majesty's Secret Service. When all of the competent agents are killed in a single shot, English is the only remaining secret agent left to crack some mysterious case which Britians top agent was trying to solve.

How many times have we seen this plot set-up before? An incompetent secret agent has to overcome some magnificently diabolical purveyor of evil. Frankly, I'd live a perfectly happy life for whatever time I have left on this planet if I never have to see that plot outline again. But I guess the Brits figured we needed one more dose.

Its really bad enough that we had to be subjected to this theme again, but the entire plot setup was so retarded that Hollywood probably would have rejected it. The plot English has to crack involves some idiot French guy who is somehow inline to the British throne. So he is plotting to steal the crown jewels, create a double for the Archbishop of Cantebury, and crown himself king of England. Then he plans to turn the entire British Isle into a prison.

In the first place, the guy really didn't have to steal the jewels. He was head of a company that was appointed to do a restoration of them, so he already had them in his possession for some period of time before the film took up. It would have been easy enough for him to launch some other half assed plan, but then we wouldn't have had a movie. Damn.

English manages to foul up the first plot, so the French guy goes to plan B. He forces the queen to abdicate by threatening her dog, which permits him to legitimately claim the throne by inheritance right. So English has to spoil the coronation. I take it from this film that pretty much any band of ruffians can just waltz into Buckingham Palace, get to the queen, and threaten her in any fashion they please. Its a wonder somebody hasn't already sold the whole damned island to the gypsies.

English ultimately manages to foil that plot too. Surprise! Like all films in this genre, the hero manages to stumble his way into victory. The decibel level of snoring in the theater could have been hazardous to human ears by the time the final credits rolled. And who'd have believed that the imcompetent secret agent could come through and save the day?

While we are on the subject of incompetent people doing jobs well above their human capabilities, lets spend a moment discussing George W. Bush. Readers of this page have been well aware for months that the U.S. government out and out lied to the American people about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Only now is the American press beginning to sniff blood in the water and go after the story. So how has our fearless leader reacted to this growing mess?

He started off by blaming the CIA, noting that their intelligence was somewhat errant. That went over like a lead balloon, even inside the White House. We can't very well be telling the American people that our intelligence services suck, especially at a time when we are supposed to be placing such reliance in them. I'll bet even Pappy Bush was threatening young Shrub with a good turning over the knee on that strategy. After all, old Pappy still has a lot of friends in the Big C.

So now, Shrub has turned over some of the intelligence to the press, and he is stating that he didn't read all of it. OH GREAT! The President of the United States made the most important decision a man charged with that duty can make without bothering to inform himself completely. I'll state upfront that I still think the Bush Administration just out and out lied to us to further their own financial interests, as well as those of the supporters of the Republican Party. But I'm half inclined to believe Shrub on this one.

Afterall, what he is essentially saying is that he is incompetent. We know that. Hell, the man has loused up everything he has ever done. He was a dry hole driller in all those oil companies daddy gave him. He turned the Texas Rangers into the laughing stock of all professional sports franchises. He nearly ran the state of Texas into bankruptcy. The only thing the man has ever done well is to bend the elbow.

Yeah, somebody has to say it. And the Democrats are too damned gutless. By the way, Georgie is now so far in violation of the War Powers Act that he could be impeached and convicted for that abuse of power alone if anyone in D.C. had any balls, and they don't.

Last Week: A Kex rental review:Big Fish:

The tentatively scheduled review this week was The Manchurian Candidate, but I just couldn't stomach it. In the first place, I really can't deal with any more politics for a few weeks. The current political season is starting to seem like the longest running festival of tedium in history, and I need a break from anything that even suggests politics.

Just yesterday, I clicked on the TV, and there was Tom Ridge delivering a speech austensibly designed to raise the terror level at specific locations in the United States. In my estimation, this whole rating system does little more than raise the terror level of the American people to the advantage of the status quo, but that isn't really what pissed me off.

Before he was done, his warning speech turned into a political endorsement of the current President, and how his "leadership" helped uncover information that led to the warning Ridge was issuing. Ignoring for a moment that our current president's "leadership" couldn't help a swarm of grasshoppers find a cornfield in Iowa, how utterly grotesque is it for one of Bush's flunkies to use the platform of a terror warning to issue a campaign speech?

I'm not going to let the other candidate off the hook either. I got a letter from his campaign staff last week. The letter discussed how "just hours ago" Senator Kerry had accepted the nomination from the Democratic Party, and the Republicans were already taking their potshots to derail his momentum. The problem was that I received that letter on Wednesday, more than 24 hours before Kerry accepted the nomination.

The bottomline was that the Kerry campaign wants and needs money. It costs a lot to elect a President. Several hundred million dollars will be spent by each side so that one guy can get elected to a job that pays a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. Most of that will be spent openly or covertly by multi-national corporations and organizations with agendas, and when its all done, who do you think is going to have the President's ear? The National Rifle organization, which will spend a couple of million bucks, or Martha Jones from Cedar Rapids who eats Campbell's soup for a week so that she make make a $25 contribution? Don't think too hard on that one.

My other objection to Manchurian Candidate is an evolving new trend in Hollywood to remake classic movies that don't remotely need to be remade. This movie is out, Alfie is due in a few weeks, as is Flight of the Phoenix. The Pink Panther is in productiion as are several notable films from the past.

Its one thing to remake an old film that flopped. Chances are it will flop again, but if you feel the need to take that chance, more power to you. But to remake a classic film takes such enormous ego that you know the new effort can only be worse. I guess with most of the 60's TV series already put on the silver screen and not an ounce of originality left in Hollywood, all that is left is to rehash what has already been done well, badly.

So this week, it was off to the video store to pick up a movie that came very close to making the cut a few months ago. I selected Tim Burton's most recent release, Big Fish. I've been rough of Burton a few times before for his refusal to make any appreciable effort to use lighting in his movies. Most of the time you can't see what is going on. Either Burton actually listened, or maybe he saw the light (pardon the pun) after rewatching some of his own work. This film actually provides the viewer with an opportunity to see most of what is going on.

William Bloom's (Billy Crudup) father Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) is dying. Throughout his life, young Will has heard wild tales from his father about the life he led. But now Will comes in search of the truth before his father dies. We don't really get that in this movie. Through a series of flashbacks, we are treated to a summary of the adventures young Edward (Ewan McGregor) experienced. We aren't sure whether or not to believe him either.

But somewhere along the line in this amusing and often poignent film, the hook gets set. I'm not sure when it happened, but I do know the result. For only the third time in two decades, a movie managed to bring tears to my eyes at the end. Prior to this film, the only movies in recent memory that have managed to accomplish that were Field of Dreams and The Green Mile. If you want to go back somewhat further, I guess Where the Red Fern Grows could be added the the short list as well. I remember being depressed for about a week after I saw that movie.

I liked Big Fish because it was outlandish and kind of quarky. Whatever faults Burton's work may have, its always original. Well, almost. Burton more or less kicked off the current remake craze a couple of summers ago with the inferior rehash of Planet of the Apes. At least we can be greatful that to date, no sequels have reared their ugly head.

Last Week: A Kex Rental Review: Beyond the Sea:

Its bad enough shooting two hours of our lives watching Kevin Spacey deal with his personal man-crush. But the fact that he has a potent man-crush on a dead guy goes well beyond moderately uncomfortable to the interior of full blown weird.

Kevin Spacey directed, co-wrote and starred in this mess of a biography about a man who is at best, a faint footnote in the history of pop culture. Spacey quickly found out that none of the major studious were interested in creating a movie about Bobby Darin, and there is a pretty good reason.

Darin came on the entertainment scene at a time where his entertainment style was already on the way out. He became a has been almost before he had a chance to become a "been," then proceeded to die young before he could completely implode. There might be an interesting story there somewhere, but Spacey certainly didn't find it.

He was more interested in chumming out some Oscar bait by marketing his own portrayal of Darrin. That was the film's very first problem. Not even the best make-up artist in the world could create a passable illusion that Spacey looks anything like Bobby Darin. The best plastic surgeon in the world probably couldn't have pulled that off.

Admittedly Spacey adds some zip in his singing of Darrin's classics, but we never get beyond the failure to accept Spacey in the role. The biggest issue is his age. Spacey was simply too old to play the part, especially in the days when he was wooing Sandra Dee. We keep asking ourselves, why would beautiful young Dee fall for this aging meglonamiac.

In reality, Dee was wooed by the handsome and energetic young Bobby Darrin. If the movie can't at least offer us that illusion, its no real wonder that it falls so flat. Spacey isn't just too old to play the young Darrin. Truth is, he is way to old to even portray Darrin in his later years.

I'm guessing that Spacey's insistance on playing the lead himself wasn't the only reason all the major studios opted to pass on this project. Its apparent that somebody, for a change, actually took the trouble of reading the script. Suppose for a moment that you were watching a scene in Lawerence of Arabia showing the hardships of crossing the desert. Suddenly, a chorus of singing, dancing hippos crosses path of the caravan doing showtunes from Fiddler on the Roof. This visual gives you an immediate sense of how disjointed and out of context some of the scenes in this movie are. Especially the choreographed street dancing scenes that are intended to reveal Darrin's childhood.

The rest of the film isn't much better. If there were no more depth or motivation to Bobby Darrin the man than is evident in this film, he must have been the simplest and shallowest human being that ever walked the planet. I doubt that. Apparently, so did the heads of every major studio in Hollywood. Thus, when Spacey brought them this project, every single one of them said, "Pass."

So Spacey went out on his own and made this film independently. The finished project didn't impress the major studios any more than Spacey's script, so when it came time to make a distribution deal, he got exactly the same message. Thus, he went out and got the independent Canadian distributor Lion's Gate signed on, and this movie spent a couple of months touring a dozen or so art houses all across the country. That is why most of you probably never heard of it in the first place.

Of course, Spacey isn't the only actor in the film. Even he couldn't chew up the sets without occasionally bouncing off another character or two. Kate Bosworth is along to play Sandra Dee, a character we learn even less about than Bobby Darrin, if that is possible. John Goodman, and a few other recognizable character actors were also signed on to play various roles, although I'm guessing they all owed somebody a favor.

Next time Kevin Spacey gets some wild hair up his ass and decides to make a movie about someone he evidently admires, we all need to hope for a couple of things. I guess the first one would be that he is not financially capable of pulling it off. Above that, lets hope he can find a writer actually capable of delivering some insight into the character, and that its somebody old enough for Spacey to portray credibly.

Last Week: The Guardian:

The first problem with this film is its length. At a butt numbing 135 minutes, its about as much fun as doing a 60 minute survival float. Look, we've all seen basic training films ad nauseum, and this one has nothing new to offer. There is Top Gun, An Officer And A Gentleman,Annapolis and all the others. This film was so directly lifted from An Officer And A Gentleman that a copyright infringement suit might not be out of line.

Some reasonable editing probably could have chopped this marathon down to a more managable and considerably more entertaining 90 minutes. Then perhaps the audience could have focused more on the question of how it would end, rather than when. Let's face it: A little of Kevin Costner's droning monotone can go a long way. A lot of Kevin Costner's droning monotone can make us long to dive into the brutal waves of the Bering Straight, resenting any hope of rescue.

The second problem with this film has already been touched upon. We've seen it. About the only difference between Ashton Kutcher's character in this film and Richard Gere's character in An Officer And A Gentleman is Gere's motorcycle. This film even makes a big deal about Kutcher's tattoos, and ends with Kutcher strolling into his girlfriend's work place to declare his undying love. Sound a little familar?

Add to that the fact that Jake Fischer's (Kutcher) instructor, Ben Randall (Kostner) even has a cutesy smart-ass nickname for him and this film creates a dizzying sense of deja-vu. Randall takes to calling Fischer "Goldfish" much reminiscent of the "Mayonaise" nickname we all remember from this movie's direct ancestor.

Every time I watch a Kostner movie, I can't help but wonder if the man learned to speak English at the Lieutenent Commander Data school of grammatical construction. The man has never used a contraction in any film he has ever been in, which gets annoying. Geez, Kevin, "would not" can be contracted to "wouldn't"; "could not" can be contracted to "couldn't. If you would try to use a contraction once in a while, it might not sound like you are always reading from cue cards...for the first time.

We have already mentioned editing, but the important point here is that not enough was done. Worse still, what editing was done frequently bordered on head-scratching/hilarious. There were a few scenes that stopped in mid-run, only for the movie to resume in a whole different place.

Most notably, during a scene highlighting an important training exercise, the entire remaining class is dropped off in the Bering Straight, and left presumably to swim back on their own. We see them dropped off, and they begin swimming back together. Then suddenly, with absolutely no further comment or explanation, we see the class back in their swimming pool taking on a new exercise. Understand that its not that I was disappointed that we weren't subjected to whatever events might have occured during the long swim back, but there was no transition between the two scenes whatsoever.

Then there is another scene late in the movie in which Fischer is drinking a beer at Randall's house. First Fischer is drinking his beer, then a toothpick mysteriously appears in his mouth out of nowhere, then he is drinking beer again and the toothpick has vanished just as mysteriously.

I suppose I could add here the fact that Fischer spent his first night with his girlfriend after supposedly meeting her in a bar on a Friday night. The next morning they wake up late, and Fischer has to hurry back to the base. She also mentions something about having to get to work, which is curious, because she is a school teacher. I guess they have elementary school classes on Saturday in Alaska. Perhaps that is picking nit.

So, this is an overlong, over cliched film with nothing new to offer, apart from the fact that the Coast Guard is about the only branch of the armed services that Hollywood hasn't previously payed hommage to. If you happen to miss the film, worry not. A TV series is almost certain.

Last Week: 21:

There isn't much in the whole world more annoying than a movie that tries to dazzle us with a wild surprise ending. Almost invariably it is telegraphed so blatantly that they might was well begin the film with a narration broadcasting the finale. If that had been the least of 21's sins, we might have been able to conjure up some forgiveness.

But this movie failed in so many spectacular ways it's almost difficult to think of a way in which it actually worked. There was a scene in early in the film that was so unintentionally hilarious that it pretty much actually shot everything that came after. Ellen Campbell (Helen Carey), some sort of waitress, is walking her brilliant M.I.T. student son Ben (Jim Sturgess) to their car. She actually has a parking space on the streets of Cambridge.

Those of you out there that live in, or have ever visited the Boston/Cambridge area know how incredibly unlikely that is. Unless that car is permanetly parked in that spot and never driven, that parking space simply isn't available for casual use.

It doesn't help a whole lot that none of the actors appearing in this movie who are supposed to be gifted M.I.T. students actually look the part. On the whole, they look like they couldn't even navigate the journey between M.I.T. and Harvard, a mission that essentially involves walking across the street. Notice here that I said "walking" and not "driving" because based on personal experience, I don't think it's physically possible to drive between the two campuses without inadventently taking a tour of southern New Hampshire. Even if you can find some driveable route, you won't find a parking space anyway.

This story revolves around Ben Campbell, who is pursuing his dream to go to Harvard medical school. There are two obstacles in his way. The first essentially sets up the plot for the movie. It costs about a kijillion dollars to go to Harvard med, and Ben and his mom don't have two nickels to rub together.

Ben is trying to win a high powered scholarship that will pay his entire way, but brilliant straight-A students are a dime a dozen around M.I.T., so Ben has to figure out some way to get a leg up on the competition. Even his extra-curriculars are evidently pretty ordinary, and he has never really done anything wildly impressive in his life he can brag about, like managing to find the Curious George in Cambridge without driving around lost for three hours.

The second problem Ben has, but the movie doesn't really dwell upon, is that as close as I can tell, he has no evident aptitude whatsoever toward being successful in medical school. He is a whiz at math, but that doesn't exactly qualify anyone to cut out an appendix. He also supposedly has some gifts involving engineering and computer technology, although they aren't all that obvious. He is helping two of his friends build some sort of robotic car in order to win a science competition, but the thing didn't look to me like it could win a junior high science fair.

Ben's extraordinary math skills catch the attention of a professor (Kevin Spacey) who has developed a card counting system to win at blackjack. He flies to Vegas every weekend with a small group of students who work as a team and make a small fortune. The scam becomes attractive to Ben not only because it will permit him to win enough money to attend Harvard med, but also because he is hot for Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth) who is one of the students involved in the team.

Without giving away too much of the ending, it is an astonishing minor plot point in this film that a mathematical heavyweight like Ben has never warmed up to the concept of a bank. Even more remarkable is that the people close to him on the team are able to figure out this particular shortcoming and take advantage of it.

I'll say at this point that this wasn't really a terrible movie. It wasn't even particularly painful. What it is, however, is chuck full of shallow, dislikeable characters, a predictable and implausible plotline and it almost leaves you wishing that in this case, what happened in Vegas had stayed in Vegas. Count me among the declining number of people who still don't think watching people play cards is a rivoting spectator sport.

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