REVIEW: BODY SHOTS

 

CAST

Sean Patrick Flanery (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles)
Jerry O’Connell (Scream Queens)
Amanda Peet (Evil Woman)
Tara Reid (American Pie)
Ron Livingston (The 5th Wave)
Emily Procter (CSI: Miami)
Brad Rowe (Wasteland)
Sybil Temtchine (Miracles)

“There are movies that define every decade,” declares the official poster for Michael Cristofer’s youthful look at sex and love in the ’90s, “Body Shots.” The marketing team at its studio, New Line Cinemas, sure got that right, because “Body Shots” is one of those “serious”-minded films about a group of self-absorbed twentysomethings–call it yet another entry in this decade’s self-made genre of “Gen-X Whiners.”The movie opens with Rick (Sean Patrick Flanery) waking up in the bed of Jane (Amanda Peet). After a club night full of alcohol, they can’t quite remember what went on, and then Rick asks if she has any Tylenol. They abruptly are disturbed by a knock on the door at 4:35 a.m., which is coming from Jane’s friend, Sara (Tara Reid). Bleeding from the forehead and with a busted lip, she claims that Michael (Jerry O’Connell), a hotshot football player, raped her. Turning back the clock by about twenty hours, we meet all eight major characters, which also include stripper-by-night Whitney (Emily Proctor), lonely Emma (Sybil Temchen), straight-arrow Shawn (Brad Rowe), and dorky, kinky Trent (Ron Livingston), as they talk into the camera, pseudo-documentary style, about whatever is on their minds. As night falls on their shallow lives in L.A., all eight arrive at a night club for some dancing, drinks, and fun, and each one ends up coming into sexual contact with another before the night is over. Midway through, the morning after comes around, and the picture quickly takes a sharp turn for the worst, as it turns into a sort of made-for-TV “message” movie on date rape, but with a hint of explicit sex for good measure.For its opening half-hour, “Body Shots” was an enthralling, sexually frank film that got much of its interest from its inventive style, in which the characters talk to the camera in whatever setting they tend to be in, as if it is what is going on in their heads. The discussions on such topics as oral sex, love, and the importance of a meaningful relationship, seemed to be setting itself up for a meaningful motion picture that captured the realism of a certain spectrum of twentysomethings. That’s when things began to severely irritate me. The confessions to the camera suddenly became outrageously inane, the plotting grew repetitive and too stylish for its own good, and the characters began to unveil themselves to be alarmingly shallow individuals who turn out not to hold any insight whatsoever into people of the so-called X and Y generations.That’s when the matter of the rape arises, at around the 50-minute mark. Sara goes to the hospital to be treated, and presses charges on Michael. Through an annoying, pointless plot device that is akin to Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” Michael tells his side of what happened between Sara and himself the night before, and flashbacks ensue. Then it’s Sara’s turn to tell the “truth,” and we visually see what happened from her point-of-view. Before the trial even begins, Sara, Michael, and their six friends around them question if maybe their memories were foggy from being drunk. After all, Michael can’t quite recall what happened, now that he thinks about it, and there was that one isolated incident from the past where Sara had a blackout from alcohol poisoning. This “He-Said/She Said” turn-of-events doesn’t work for a second, since we as an audience know that alcohol was definitely part of the equation.In the performance department, first-time feature film director Michael Cristofer (HBO’s “Gia”) has acquired a slew of promising and talented young Hollywood players who have got to be more intelligent than the vapid characters they inhabit. Faring most effectively are Tara Reid, who handles a few difficult scenes with impressive aplomb; Brad Rowe, as the somewhat introverted one who nonetheless has a rough sexual encounter with Emma; and Sybil Temchen, as Emma, who plays the only one written with any sort of believability or care.Body Shots would like to stand as an important film for the ’90s generation, but it makes so many fatal missteps along the way that, by the last twenty minutes, it was literally a struggle to watch the remainder of the film. Clumsy and self-important, Body Shots forces you to spend 99 minutes with a group of people you wouldn’t be able to stand in real-life, much less on a movie screen in a theater..

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REVIEW: EVIL WOMAN (AKA SAVING SILVERMAN)

CAST

Jason Biggs (American Pie)
Steve Zahn (Roadkill)
Jack Black (Goosebumps)
Amanda Peet (2012)
Amanda Detmer (Final Destinaton)
R. Lee Ermey (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
Kyle Gass (Elf)

Darren Silverman, Wayne LeFessier, and J.D. McNugent, best friends since fifth grade and Neil Diamond fans throughout, form a Neil Diamond tribute band called “Diamonds in the Rough”. Darren meets a beautiful but domineering psychologist who is showing signs of being emotionally abusive, Judith Fessbeggler, through a chance encounter in a local bar after a band gig. Unfortunately, six weeks into their relationship, Judith is still making Darren watch her change clothes, and though sleeping together is satisfying for her, Darren gets nothing but a sore jaw.Judith isolates Darren from his friends, demands that Darren quit the band, receive humiliating medical procedures, and attend relationship counseling under her care. Wayne and J.D. decide to save Darren from her by attempting to bribe her, arm wrestle her, and shock her with faked photographs of Darren cheating, all to no avail.The friends, undaunted, try to reunite Darren with his “one and only”, Sandy Perkus, when she returns to Seattle to take her final vows as a nun. When Darren and Judith announce their engagement, Wayne and J.D. kidnap Judith. However, Judith eventually discovers the identity of her captors, and the duo are convinced they cannot let her go. When they visit Coach Norton in jail (who accidentally killed a referee in a fit of rage) his advice is that they should just kill her. The duo attempt to shoot Judith, but end up deciding against it. Sandy’s feelings for Darren are reawakened, but the pair’s attempted date is ruined by Darren’s preoccupation with Judith. Sandy, disheartened, returns to the convent, but Darren snaps out of it and runs the 30 miles there to win her back.Chained to an engine block in Wayne’s garage, Judith convinces J.D. he is gay. She knocks him unconscious to steal his keys and escape, only to be tranquilized with a dart gun by Wayne. Returned to the garage, Judith seduces Wayne into releasing one of her hands, so she escapes again. She runs to Darren’s house in time to see him kiss Sandy, but shames him into confessing his engagement to Judith. Sandy, disheartened, returns to the convent again.Darren has Wayne and J.D. arrested. After escaping from jail with the help of Coach Norton, J.D. and Wayne rush to the convent on the brink of Sandy’s final vows as a nun. They convince her that Darren still loves her. They then kidnap Neil Diamond to help Darren and Sandy reunite. At the wedding, Neil stalls the proceedings with the song “Hello Again” while Darren and Sandy reunite, Wayne and Judith (the latter being furious that her wedding is ruined) beat each other up (as love play) and J.D. arrives holding Coach in his arms, who coincidentally reveals to J.D. that he too is gay. The couples then wed on stage at Neil Diamond’s concert; Darren to Sandy, Wayne to Judith, and J.D. to Coach. As the film closes, the entire cast sings “Holly Holy”.The first time I saw this movie I felt it was at best an average comedy. However it was on again and again on dvd and it really grew on me I started laughing more and more with each viewing. I really love this movie now and can’t believe that I didn’t like it the first time around.

 

REVIEW: CHANGING LANES

CAST

Ben Affleck (Batman V Superman)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan)
Kim Staunton (Heat)
Toni Collette (Krampus)
Sydney Pollack (The Firm)
Tia Sloan (Black Swan)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Ileen Getz (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Amanda Peet (Identity Thief)
William Hurt (A.I.)
Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2)

In New York City, a middle-aged African-American insurance salesman named Doyle Gipson is a recovering alcoholic who is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to stay sober. On the same morning that Gipson drives to a hearing to try to regain custody of his children, a successful, white, young Wall Street attorney, Gavin Banek, is distracted while driving and collides with Gipson’s car. Banek was in a rush to get to court to file a power of appointment document, which will prove a dead man signed his foundation over to Banek’s law firm.

Gipson was also in a rush to get to a hearing to prevent his estranged wife from taking his two boys to Oregon. Banek tries to brush Gipson off with a blank check, rather than exchanging insurance information, thereby disobeying the law. After Gipson refuses to accept the check and voices his desire to “do the right thing”, that is, filing a police report and insurance claim, Banek strands Gipson on a median, telling him, “better luck next time”. After arriving to the court late, Gipson learns that it proceeded without him and that it did not go in his favor. Gipson did not get the chance to tell the judge about a house he is buying for his wife and children.

When Banek, gets to court, he realizes that he dropped the crucial power of appointment file at the scene of the accident, and the judge gives him until the end of the day to re-obtain the papers and present them. Gipson, who took the papers, is in dilemma on whether to return the file, especially after the events of the day. On the other hand, Banek, who is desperate to get his papers back, goes to a “fixer”, a shady computer hacker, and gets him to switch off Gipson’s credit. Gipson needed credit for a loan so he could buy the house for his family. Gipson becomes very upset when he finds out his credit has been cut off, and he comes close to starting to drink again. Determined to get back at Banek, Gipson loosens the bolts on the front tire of Banek’s luxury car, and the wheel comes off later while Banek is driving, causing his car to crash on the highway, leading to minor injuries. Enraged, Banek goes to the elementary school of Gipson’s children and falsely claims to school officials that Gipson plans to kidnap the boys, which leads to Gipson being arrested and jailed.

Both men continue to do morally reprehensible things in an attempt to one-up each other, and eventually they begin to question their actions. Though it is made clear that Banek and Gipson are radically different, they both have an angry, vengeful streak, each capable of abandoning his morals just to punish the other. The film ends with both men having a new outlook on life, concentrating on ethics and the moral implications of their actions. Ultimately the two men apologize to each other and Gipson returns the file, but it looks to be too late for both of what they were trying to do. Banek ends up using the file to force his law firm boss to conduct business honestly and plans to represent Gipson pro bono so he can get the house he wants. Banek also visits Gipson’s wife to explain everything to her, knowing he owes Gipson that much. The film ends with Gipson’s wife and children smiling at him from across the street.

This is a superb film with great performances from Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. Watch it and enjoy it fully

REVIEW: IGBY GOES DOWN

CAST

Kieran Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Amanda Peet (Identity)
Ryan Phillippe (Crash)
Bill Pullman (Lost Highway)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
Rory Culkin (Signs)
Jim Gaffin (That 70s Show)
Cynthia Nixon (Hannibal)

Jason “Igby” Slocumb, Jr. (Kieran Culkin) is a misanthropic 17-year-old boy, rebelling against the oppressive world of his strict East Coast “old money” family. His schizophrenic father, Jason (Bill Pullman), has been committed to an institution. Igby fears he will eventually suffer a mental breakdown like his father. His mother, Mimi (Susan Sarandon), is self-absorbed and distant. Igby mockingly describes his ambitious older brother Ollie (Ryan Phillippe) as a fascist or, alternatively, a Young Republican, and that he studies “neo-fascism” (economics) at Columbia University.Igby figures there must be a better life out there, and he sets out to find it, rebelling against his family at every opportunity. After happily flunking out of several prep schools, he ends up in a brutal military academy where he gets beaten by his classmates. After escaping and spending time in a Chicago hotel courtesy of his mother’s credit card, Igby is sent to New York for the summer to his godfather D.H. Banes (Jeff Goldblum).While working construction for D.H., Igby first encounters Rachel (Amanda Peet), his godfather’s heroin-addicted trophy mistress. Rather than return to school, he escapes into the bohemian underworld of Manhattan, hiding out with Rachel and her performance artist friend Russel (Jared Harris). Eventually, he and Rachel have sex. After being suspected and scolded by D.H., he then hooks up with terminally bored, part-time lover, Sookie (Claire Danes), only for her to later leave him for Ollie.Despite seeming cold and distant, Mimi is not unaffected by her rebellious son. She describes Igby’s conception as an act of animosity and it shouldn’t be a surprise that his life follows the same course. His name is explained as a family in-joke. As a child, he would blame his toy bear, Digby, for things he had done, mispronouncing it as “Igby”. In order to get him to take responsibility for his actions, his family would call him Igby whenever he lied. Igby is informed by Russell that his mother Mimi is dying from breast cancer and so he returns to see her. She has arranged to commit suicide with help from Ollie, who feeds her poisoned strawberry yogurt.Before she dies, Mimi makes a final revelation, casually inquiring of Igby, “I take it you know that D.H. is your father?” Igby leaves for Los Angeles in an attempt to finally make a clean break by getting 3,000 miles away from his family.Culkin is especially brilliant , but everyone shines here – Sarandon, Pullman, Danes, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillippe, Jeff  Goldblum, and of course Jared Harris, who positively reeks eccentricity without even having to open his mouth. A fine first film from a director/writer who definitely bears watching.

 

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: HIGH CRIMES

 

 

CAST

Ashley Judd (Divergent)
Morgan Freeman (Along Came A Spider)
Jim Caviezel (The Passion of Teh Christ)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Amanda Peet (Identity Thief)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Tom Bower (Crazy Heart)
Emilio Rivera (Bruce Almighty)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise)

Attorney Claire Kubik (Ashley Judd) and her woodworker husband Tom (James Caviezel) find their idyllic life in Marin County, California shattered when, during a Christmas shopping excursion in San Francisco’s Union Square he is captured by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged with the murders of nine peasants in a remote village in El Salvador in 1988. Claire is shocked to discover Tom, whose real name is Ronald Chapman, was a covert military operative serving in the United States Marine Corps and has been on the run for the past twelve years.

Tom admits he was present at the scene of the mass murders but staunchly denies any involvement in the killings. He insists he has been scapegoated in order to conceal the identity of the real culprit, Major James Hernandez (Juan Carlos Hernández), now the aide of Brigadier General Bill Marks (Bruce Davison).

First Lieutenant Terence Embry (Adam Scott) is assigned to defend Tom, but his youth and lack of experience prompt Claire to decide to defend her husband, as well. When she realizes she needs help from someone familiar with the workings of a military court, she hires Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman), an embittered former military attorney who has a grudge against the military brass, to assist her. Three of the five key witnesses, who previously testified Tom was guilty, have died under seemingly mysterious circumstances, raising Claire and Charlie’s suspicions. As the trial proceeds, they uncover a massive cover-up perpetrated by one of the military’s highest-ranking officials. Also creating problems are the sudden appearance of a resident (Emilio Rivera) of the village where the mass murder took place, who insists Tom was responsible; Embry’s romantic involvement with Claire’s irresponsible sister Jackie (Amanda Peet), which leads Claire to assume that he leaked details about secrets she has uncovered to the prosecution; and Charlie’s falling off the wagon after more than a year of sobriety.

The Salvadorian witness identifies an injured Hernandez as the culprit responsible for a bombing incident prior to the massacre. With aid from Embry, whom Claire realizes is innocent, Claire recovers classified medical files from the FBI as evidence of the cover-up. Claire blackmails Marks by threatening to reveal what she knows about the cover-up and asks him to make the case go away; the next day, the U.S. Defense Department has the case thrown out of court due to “security reasons”.

Just as Claire is about to celebrate her victory in court, Charlie discovers the truth, while in Mexico, that Tom had murdered one of the witnesses in front of his family. The widow who witnessed the act described Tom’s having tossed his gun from one hand to the other (a habit Tom displayed with keys and other objects throughout the film) and his shooting his gun first using one hand, then the other (revealing his ambidexterity); the match between these descriptions also indicated that Tom committed the massacre and also murdered two of the other key witnesses years prior to his arrest. After Tom overhears Claire talking to Charlie on the phone, a short scuffle between Claire and Tom ensues, during which Claire fears for her life. The Salvadoran witness shoots Tom through the window, and the film ends with Charlie and Claire’s starting a new partnership-based law firm.

This film was excellent. The plot was perfectly timed and new twists and turns were added at the right time. The timing in the film keeps the watcher genuinely interested from start to finish. Throughout the film, you are supplied with just the right information to keep you guessing but not so little that you have no clues as to what is happening! The performances put in by Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman were, as always, superb!

 

REVIEW: IDENTITY

CAST
John Cusack (2012)
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
Amanda Peet (The Ex)
John Hawkes (Winters Bone)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Broden Chronicles)
John C. McGinley (Highlander 2)
Jake Busey (Fast Sofa)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Rebecca De Mornay (Jessica Jones)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate SG.1)
A convict introduced as “Malcolm Rivers”—who was abandoned as a child at a motel by his prostitute mother—awaits execution for several vicious murders that took place at an apartment building. Malcolm’s psychiatrist, Dr. Mallick, has discovered his journal that may explain why he committed the murders. With this late evidence brought forth, a new hearing takes place.
Meanwhile, ten strangers find themselves stranded in the middle of a torrential rainstorm at a remote Nevada motel, run by Larry Washington. The group consists of an ex-cop, now limousine driver, Ed Dakota; Caroline Suzanne, an actress popular in the 1980s; Officer Rhodes, who is transporting serial killer Robert Maine; Paris Nevada, a prostitute; newlyweds Lou and Ginny Isiana; and the York family, George and Alice, and mute 9-year-old son Timmy. The Yorks are in crisis because Alice has been struck by Ed’s car. With both ends of the road completely flooded, the group prepares to spend the night. However, they quickly find there is an unknown murderer present, killing off each of the guests. Caroline is the first to be killed. Ed, finding her severed head in a clothes dryer, thinks Maine killed her. When they check the convict, they discover he has escaped.
All the others become worried, and Ginny flees in terror to her room. Her husband Lou chases after her but is also murdered. Maine runs through the hills, only to be dumbfounded when he finds himself back at the motel. He enters the diner, where Ed and Rhodes jump and beat him into unconsciousness, putting Larry on guard duty. However, Maine is later found dead. Paris discovers a dead body in Larry’s freezer, which is revealed to be the real hotel manager. Larry attempts to escape in his truck, claiming he did not kill anybody; he accidentally runs over George, killing him.
Each body is accompanied by a numbered room key, the order of which suggests a countdown. The survivors tie Larry up, and as he tells them his story the others start to believe he really did not kill anyone. Subsequently, Alice is discovered to have died from her injuries. Ginny and Timmy die when their car blows up, but their bodies are nowhere to be found. The remaining four discover that all the bodies have disappeared and that all ten share the same birthday; Ed realizes that all ten names are linked to US states (Caroline being the Carolinas, Lou Isiana being Louisiana, etc.). Paris discovers that Rhodes is actually a convict as well; he killed the corrections officer transporting him and Maine cross state and assumed the cop’s identity. Rhodes attempts to kill Paris, but she is saved by Larry, who hits Rhodes with a fire extinguisher, only to be shot and killed by him.
Back at the hearing, the contents of Malcolm’s journal are revealed, indicating Malcolm suffers from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder, harboring ten distinct personalities. Mallick is able to bring forth one of Malcolm’s personalities: Ed – all of the events happening at the motel are concurrently occurring inside Malcolm’s mind, and each one of Malcolm’s personalities is represented by one person at the motel. Mallick explains to “Ed” that the events at the motel are a result of treatment Malcolm is receiving: the killings at the motel are Malcolm’s mental attempts to eliminate his nine excess personalities. Mallick further gives “Ed” the mission of making sure that the hostile personality (i.e., the one responsible for Malcolm’s committing the crimes for which he is being tried) is eliminated to prevent Malcolm from being executed.
Back in the motel setting, Ed believes Rhodes is the murderer, and the two shoot each other to death, leaving only Paris alive. When Mallick demonstrates that the homicidal personality is dead, the Judge decides to place Malcolm in a mental institution under Mallick’s care. In the final scene, Malcolm is driven in a van, along with Mallick to the institution. In Malcolm’s mind, Paris has driven away from the motel to her hometown in Frostproof, Florida. As she tends an orange grove, she discovers the room 1 motel key, and finds Timmy behind her. Timmy, the true homicidal personality, had orchestrated all the deaths at the motel, and made it appear that he had been killed as well; he finishes his task by killing Paris. Now driven only by Timmy, Malcolm strangles Mallick and then attacks the orderlies and the van driver, forcing the van off the side of the road.
The plot is designed to keep you guessing, as each plot twist throws up another series of questions and seemingly inexplicable situations. What is the relevance of the court case? How come keys are found by each body as the death toll mounts? Who is innocent and who is guilty? Here is a thriller that not only buckles the formula, but almost completely demolishes it. Each actor does a superb job of maintaining the suspense.

REVIEW: THE EX

CAST
Zach Braff (Garden State)
Amanda Peet (Igby Goes Down)
Charles Grodin (Beethoven)
Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s baby)
Lucien Maisel (Everybody’s Fine)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Amy Poehler (Mean Girls)
Fred Armisen (Anchorman)
Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Robert John Burke (Robocop 3)
Romany Malco (No Ordinary Family)
Amy Adams (Man of Steel)
Living in Manhattan, Tom (Zach Braff) is a cook who has a hard time keeping his job. His wife, Sofia (Amanda Peet), is an attorney. When their first child is born, they agree that she will be a full-time mom and he will work hard to get a promotion. When Tom gets fired after defending his friend Paco (Yul Vazquez), he takes a job in Ohio working at the ad agency where his father-in-law is the assistant director. Tom is assigned to report to Chip (Jason Bateman). Chip is a strict and hard-working wheelchair-using man who is coincidentally Sofia’s ex-boyfriend from high school. Chip still carries an obsession with her, so he conspires to make Tom’s work life miserable. As Tom’s frustrations mount, Chip begins to sway Sofia to his side.
Tom begins to suspect that Chip isn’t handicapped at all and goes through his desk. He finds a photo of Chip playing tennis and rushes to his in-laws’ house to see his wife and show her the picture. He finds Chip having dinner with Sofia and her parents and holding Tom’s child. Tom mercilessly tries to prove that Chip isn’t actually paralyzed by dragging him up a flight of stairs and then throws him, expecting him to stand up to prevent falling. Chip doesn’t stand up and Tom is humiliated in front of his family. Later, he confronts Chip outside his house and attacks him, where Chip reveals that he really can walk, but can’t fight outside of his chair. After sitting back down, Chip beats him severely and reveals that he plans to sleep with Sofia, much to Tom’s already-increased rage.
It’s revealed that Paco had called Chip under the guise of being an ad agency boss in Barcelona, telling Chip that he got a job and convincing him to fly to Spain. Excited by the news, Chip goes to Sofia and asks her to come with him. However, Tom accosts them both and convinces her not to go with Chip. Chip, angry that Sofia chose Tom over him, heartlessly mocks Tom and reveals he “faked his orgasm” to Sofia before getting out of his chair and walking out. While chastising them from outside, Chip is hit by a bus and ends up breaking both of his legs, crippling him for real. Tom and Sofia have moved out of Ohio and Sofia’s dad is helping Tom start his own ad business. Tom and Sofia are shown to have switched positions, Tom becoming a stay-at-home dad while Sofia becomes a full-time worker. During the credits Chip is shown being tossed out of the ad company in Spain, and later on Tom’s friend sees Chip in the middle of the running of the bulls on TV.
This is a very good film, admittedly it feels more like a TV movie, yet is well written, funny in places and well acted. I appreciate Zach Braff’s acting skills and his comedic abilities,  Don’t expect a life altering experience, it is just a movie, but a worth while one.