Sunday, February 26, 2006

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Freedomland, an overwrought crime thriller, is worth seeing primarily because of a strong performance by Samuel L. Jackson as a detective trying to keep racial tensions from exploding in the aftermath of the alleged kidnapping of a young boy. Portraying detective Lorenzo Council, Jackson holds this wayward movie in check despite an over-the-top turn by Julianne Moore as an hysterical mother who claims her car has been car-jacked by an unknown black man and that her son was in the car.

In movies where a mother claims her son is missing, we usually sympathize with her and not with the detective in charge of the case. But in Freedomland, it is detective Council we care about instead. Why? Partly because the mother comes across as so unlikable. But mostly it stems from the almost impossible job this dedicated detective has before him. Suffering from asthma, he seems to be the only voice of reason as he stands between the residents of a black housing project and the police called in to cordon off that area until the culprit is found and arrested. Although suspecting that the woman is lying, detective Council takes her under his wing, hoping to find out the truth.

Jackson is magnificent here. Showing a full range of intense emotions, he creates a character we want to see more of on the big screen. I think detective Lorenzo Council deserves a sequel.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Force Still with Harrison Ford

In Firewall, Harrison Ford plays a computer security specialist for a multinational bank whose family is held hostage by a group of bad guys. These evil men demand that our hero steal money from the bank he has been hired to protect. They want him to use his technological skills and transfer money to an account for the head bad guy, portrayed brilliantly by Paul Bettany, who makes an elegant and sadistic villain. If Ford refuses, his wife and two children will be killed.

Despite being over 60 years old, Ford still excels at portraying a man who can outwit and outfight anyone to save his family. Although it is somewhat difficult to accept him typing away at the computer, that happens only a few times in Firewall, and when Ford goes into action mode, the movie really comes alive.

My only complaint? The opening credits, with their grainy and jerky appearance, almost gave me a migraine before the film started. Thankfully, the rest of the movie was generally free of such annoying camera work.

As Ford explains in his TV interviews, Firewall is a great popcorn flick!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Inspector Clouseau Returns

Steve Martin as the naïve, bumbling Inspector Clouseau? Not a great idea, I thought when first hearing about Martin being cast in the new Pink Panther movie. No actor today can do justice to that classic Peter Sellers character from days of yore, I told myself. Still, my favorite wild and crazy guy is full of surprises, so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Good call. No matter what he does, making people laugh comes easy for Martin, and his performance in this hilarious comedy is no exception. Despite bending it a little, he manages to capture the essence of Inspector Clouseau by relying on funny facial expressions, an amusing French accent and comical pratfalls. Read my full review at

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oscar Nominations

Although Brokeback Mountain leads the pack with eight Oscar nominations for 2005, I am delighted that my favorite movie of last year, Crash, ended up with six of its own and in such important categories as Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, and Editing plus Original Song. Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix earning nods for their brilliant portrayals of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line also makes me very happy. But no Russell Crowe in the Best Actor category? Maybe Academy voters had a hard time forgetting about his real-life anger management problems and failed to judge his terrific Cinderella Man performance objectively. Also, Pride & Prejudice and Walk the Line being ignored for Best Picture consideration bothers me considerably I think both are much better films than four of the five nominated. Still, like most movie fans, I will be watching the ABC televised Academy Awards Ceremony on Sunday night, March 5, to see who takes home those coveted golden statuettes.