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Movie Review Archieve 2002

Here are reviews from 2002!

Disney's The Rookie

Walt Disney Pictures' The Rookie
Released March 29th, 2002
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Brian Cox, Beth Grant, Jay Hernandez, Russell Richardson, Mario Sanchez
Director: John Lee Hancock
Premise: Jim Morris, a Texas high school baseball coach makes a deal with his team: if they make the playoffs, he'll try out for a pitcher position with a professional team. The big surprise is that he makes the team, fulfilling his lifelong dream.
From the creators of Remember the Titans comes another sports film meant to mix comedy with pure emotions found commonly in Disney films.
Starting with the storyline, the film does pretty well to stick to the true story of Jim Morris unlike other films like A Beautiful Mind which go off track from the actual story.  Jim Morris, as a kid, travels from city to city with his father who works in the Navy.  Years later we find Jimmy working in the same old Texas town as a Biology teacher and coach of the Big Lake Owls.  He makes a bet with the team that if they win District then he'll try out for the major leagues.  They win District and now he must fullfill his end of the bet.  When he tries out, the old pitching arm is better then ever throwing 98 mph fastballs.  His dream of going back to the major leagues comes true when he pitches for the Tampa Bay Devilrays.  The story mixes well comedy and serious moments in the film.
Like Remember the Titans, The Rookie is filled with sports action that takes you into the game.  Most of the action in the film is shown with the Big Lake Owls and not too much with the major or minor leagues but that doesn't matter too much considering how good it is.  The action isn't as good as it is in major baseball movies but since this is for kids and young adults, the film satisfies most.
Dennis Quaid is great as Jimmy Morris.  Quaid has that old jock look down pat with films like Any Given Sunday.  The performances by the other cast of characters present a pleasant mix of the rich mixture of faces within the town of Big Lake as well as outside the town.
Overall the film does a pretty good job as a sports film for people of all ages but still not as good as Remember the Titans but now I'm just being picky.
My Rating: **** out of 5

Universal's The Scorpion King

Universal's The Scorpion King
Released April 19th, 2002
Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Facinelli, Kelly Hu, Grant Heslov, Rolf Moeller, Bernard Smith
Director: Chuck Russell
Premise: Inspired by the legendary Egyptian warrior, "The Scorpion King" is set 5,000 years ago in the notorious city of Gomorrah, where an evil ruler is determined to lay waste to all the nomadic peoples of the desert. The few remaining tribes, never natural allies, have to unite or perish. Knowing their enemy relies on the visions of a sorcerer, they hire a skilled assassin, Mathayus, to eliminate the visionary. After infiltrating the enemy camp, Mathayus discovers that the sorcerer is in fact a beautiful woman. Rather than eliminate her, he takes her deep into the desert badlands, knowing that the ruler's henchmen will stop at nothing to rescue her and bring her back. Seriously wounded in the ensuing battle, Mathayus must find the strength to lead his scrappy band of allies back to Gomorrah for a final confrontation.

The Scorpion King is the prequel to the sequel to The Mummy.  Confused yet?  I hope not.  The Scorpion King comes from the beginning to The Mummy Returns which was released in May 2001.  The star that protrade him was none other then WWF star, The Rock.  Universal jumped on the oppurtunity to make a film starring The Rock and released it into theaters.

The story tells of a man belonging to a group of assasins who is hired to kill the sorcerer that is predicting victories for a cruel and evil tyrant. But when he discovers that the sorcerer is a woman and is being held against her will by the tyrant, he trys to save her and the people.

Stephen Sommers directed  The Mummy and The Mummy Returns but not this film and you can tell if you have seen the two films.  Though critics hammered The Mummy films for being cheesy and hookie, they didn't say that the story for the films held together well.  This not the same for The Scorpion King.  The film is filled with action sequence after action sequence but when it comes to a point of silliness or romance, it seems forced to appeal to people other then those looking for action.  The story doesn't hold together well as the previous Mummy films.

This is the first major starring role for The Rock and it is sure to not be his last.  It seems like he was made to play The Scorpion King because when he enters the role, he fits extremly well into it.  Kelly Hu who plays Cassandra seems too much confined into the woman role but does get involved in some action sequences which is a welcomed change in Hollywood today.  The other characters seemed good but not great.

Overall The Scorpion King is a neat film to start off the summer season but not a fabulous film to see again and again.  Wait for it to come to DVD if you want to see it again.  The film will no doubt attract fans of action films as well as fans of The Rock but women and those who care more about the story will find it bland.  If you want a real story then wait for Spider-Man.

My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Columbia's Spider-Man

Columbia's Spider-Man
Released May 3rd, 2002
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, Randy Poffo, Michael Papajohn, Joe Manganiello, Ted Raimi, Bill Nunn, Bruce Campbell, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Sam Raimi
Premise: Spider-Man started off as shy high school student Peter Parker, until he was bitten by a genetically- altered spider, giving him amazing abilities. Over time, he learns that with great power, comes great responsibility. First, there is his foray into entertainment, taking on wrestler Bone Saw McGraw. A horrible incident involving his Uncle Ben soon changes his perception of his powers, and he becomes a superhero. His abilities are soon challenged, when scientist Norman Osborn is altered himself in an experiment gone wrong, becoming the... Green Goblin, pumpkin bombs, glider, and all.

The incredible Spiderman finally swings onto the big screen after much hype and anticipation.  Well all that hype has been well deserved for this incredible film that brings the famous comic hero and his world to life.

The story tells of a boy named Peter Parker who is raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  He is head over heels for Mary Jane Watson but when he is bitten by a genetically altered spider, his whole world is turned upside-down.  Now with his new powers he must take on the Green Goblin, who is actually his best friend's father who goes insane from an experiment gone wrong.

The comic book world of Spiderman comes to life in this full-fledge adventure.  Sam Raimi, who directs the film, does an exceptional job with such a difficult task.  Most people who are true to the comic book character would grumble if the film changed too much but he stuck to his guns and the film proved its worth. 

There were some hesitation on whether Toby Maguire was right to play Spiderman with so little real acting experience but those complains are set aside with Toby doing an extraordinary job as the famous web slinger.  Kirsten Dunst offers that perfect girl next door charm in the film that gives the story real heart.  Willaim Dafoe is great as the Green Goblin especially when he argues with his alter self in the mirror and in his mind.

Overall, Spiderman is nothing short of exceptional.  Though it is great, there are some things to pick at.  Some of the scenes with Spiderman seemed too fake compared to other computer effects in the film but the others quiet those complaints.  Another thing wrong is the musical score by Danny Elfman, who also did the soundtrack for Batman.  The score is unmemorable and doesn't have much to a kick to it but these are small complaints to the rest of the film.  Spiderman has been declared the movie of the summer.  Whether this is true or not, the film is extremly good and should be seen more then once.

My Rating: **** 1/2 out of 5

20th Century Fox's Star Wars Episode II

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Released May 16th, 2002
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Nathalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Andrew Secombe, Silas Carson, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Jimmy Smits
Director: George Lucas
Premise: Ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace, not only has the galaxy undergone significant change, but so have our familiar heroes Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala, and Anakin Skywalker as they are thrown together again for the first time since the Trade Federation invasion of Naboo. Anakin has grown into the accomplished Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan, who himself has transitioned from student to teacher. The two Jedi are assigned to protect Padmé whose life is threatened by a faction of political separatists. As relationships form and powerful forces collide, these heroes face choices that will impact not only their own fates, but the destiny of the Republic.

The saga known as Star Wars continues with Attack of the Clones which describes the beginning of the Clone Wars and the falling of the Republic.  It also brings into effect the man (or machine) Anakin Skywalker will be.
The story goes that Anakin Skywalker falls in love with Senator Padme which is against the Jedi code.  This starts when a bounty hunter named Jango Fett tries to kill Padme before a decision on an army for the Republic is made.  The storyline falls flat in the area of the romantic scenes but nobody expected it to do well in this area. The flow of the film was better then expected and the plot does fill in many of pieces that will definitely come into play in Episode III and later on in the original Star Wars triology.  The story does much better then Episode I which seemed cut up and forceful on action sequences.
The acting is better then most critics would let on.  Christen does an exceptional job with such a crucial role as Anakin Skywalker.  This character helps start a chain reaction that leads to the Empire and the whole Star Wars saga.  Natalie Portman seems much more mature in Episode II then in Episode I when she was the Queen of Naboo.  McGragor does a much better job as Obi-Wan then Episode I which made his character seem flat and lines seem too much scripted.  The acting is much better then Episode I but not the best in the Star Wars series.
Overall, Episode II continues the greatest saga in Hollywood.  There are flaws though outside the flat romantic story.  The role of Jango Fett seems pointless considering how easily he dies at the end.  Not that this is a great complaint but Episode II seems to have a lot of CGI effects rather then live-action elements which makes it seem more live a Computer-animated film then a Live-action feature film.  And as good as the Yoda sequence with Count Dooku was, it comes off early as comic relief rather then great action.  A side note: If you didn't hate him enough in Episode I, you'll really want to tear Jar-Jar Binks apart in this installment.  Beside small mishaps, the film enlivens the Star Wars series with full-blown action sequences and tons of computer-graphic special effects.  Not the best film of the summer but a definite #2.
Star Wars Films of All-Time:
1) The Empire Strikes Back
2) Attack of the Clones
3) A New Hope
4) The Phantom Menance
5) Return of the Jedi
My Rating: **** out of 5

Paramount's The Sum of All Fears

Paramount's The Sum of All Fears
Released May 31st, 2002
Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Bates, James Cromwell, Jason Antoon, Michael Byrne, Colm Feore, Philip Baker Hall, Ciaran Hinds, Ken Jenkins, Bruce McGill, Marie Matiko, Ron Rifkin, Liev Schreiber
Director:  Phil Alden Robinson
Premise: European neo-Nazi terrorists get their hands on a lost nuclear device, and set about on their plans to use it at the Super Bowl. The plan is to disguise the attack as being caused by Russia, in the hopes of rekindling the Cold War. Luckily, young CIA analyst Jack Ryan is on the case...

The next installment of the famous films about CIA agent Jack Ryan created by Tom Clancy is brought to the big screen with a new face playing the famed CIA agent.  Ben Affleck takes over for Harrison Ford who took over for Alec Baldwin.  How does the younger Jack Ryan fare out?  Read this review and find out.

The story goes that the character of Jack Ryan is much younger and just starting off at the CIA.  He is recruited by Bill Cabot after the president of Russia dies and is replaced by a man the United States knows nothing about except from a report Ryan did a while back on him.  After a bomb goes off during the Superbowl in Baltimore, Ryna must get the right information to the president before the United States starts World War III with Russia.  Before this, I had seen some of the Jack Ryan films but have never sat down and read a Tom Clancy novel.  So little was expected of me.  The story holds together very well and much better then most films, probably because it was based on a best selling book and little was changed from it. It does afer better the story of Star War Episode II or The Scorpion King.

Ben Affleck, who has had series of unmemorable films, takes over for Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan.  Affleck plays this role extremly well and proves those critics wrong about his range of acting.  The emotions he expresses are better then any other film he has done including Pearl Harbor.  James Cromwell also does a great job as the President of the United States who is faced with the decision of whether or not to press the button.  The emotions are tense and fully expressed in this great thriller.  Other actors are played very well but aren't expressed more in the film like Morgan Freeman's character or Jack Ryan's girlfriend.  Other then that, the acting was pretty good but not great.

Overall,. The Sum of All Fears does a great job of explaining the problems of the world to the American public, who generally don't care at all.  The film does seem a bit controversal with India and Pakistan near nuclear war and the U.S. fighting terrorism but people forget the film was imagined years before the WTC Attack.  This film may have gotten a lower rating if these events weren't taking place but not because the film does not achieve anything. The Sum of All Fears awakens people to the real problems in the world and may influence people to join the CIA.  Not better then the two blockbusters out this summer so far but a good popcorn film.

My Rating: **** out of 5

Disney's Bad Company

Disney's Bad Company
Released June 7th, 2002
Starring: Chris Rock, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Garcelle Beauvais, Gabriel Macht, Brooke Smith, Kerry Washington, Adoni Maropis, Sheah Whigham
Director:  Joel Schumacher
Premise: This is the story of a "street-wise" African-American bookie who is enlisted by the CIA to take the place of his late, Harvard-educated twin, so he can finish an important project his brother was working on. Expect fish-out-of-water hilarity.

The yearly Jerry Bruckheimer action thriller hits theaters matching Antony Hopkins with funny-man Chris Rock.  The film originally planned for Christmas 2001 was moved because of the events of September 11th along with the fact that it didn't seem like a perfect Christmas movie.
The story goes that a street smart guy's twin brother was killed while helping out the CIA in getting a nuclear device off the black-market before some terrorists get to it first.  Now they need him to fill in for him but if the cover is blown, the U.S. is in jeopardy.  The story of Bad Company doesn't seem to work as well as the story of The Sum of All Fears, another CIA based film, but most Bruckheimer films center more on action and laughes then story content, so that can be forgiven.
The acting in Bad Company is mixed throughout the film.  Antony Hopkins does an exceptional job as an agent of the CIA.  He still has that Hannibal Leckter feeling to him but when you get use to a person as a certain character, it sticks with you.  Chris Rock is extremly funny in the film but when it comes to dramatic moments, he gets mixed reviews.  Another bad thing is that the chemistry between Hopkins and Rock never really clicks like it did with Will Smith and Gene Hackmen in Enemy of the State.
Overall, Bad Company is another moderate summer popcorn film.  Not exceptionally great but not a total bomb either.  There were many problems I found with the film.  The most prominent example was the tone of the film.  It went from being extremly funny to very weird to being very serious in a short period of time.  Another problem was the so-called relationship between Hopkin's character and the female CIA agent which you never get to see any closeness what-so-ever.  Jerry Bruckheimer is a great producer but Bad Company is definitely not his finest moment.  Bad Company is good to see on those lazy summer days but not a huge event movie like Spider-Man or The Sum of All Fears.
My Rating: *** out of 5

Disney's Lilo & Stitch

Disney's Lilo & Stitch

Released June 21st, 2002
Starring: Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Jason Scott Lee, Tia Carrere, Kevin McDonald, David Ogden Stiers, Ving Rhames
Director:  Chris Sanders, Dean Deblois
Premise: Lilo (Chase) is a little girl in Hawaii who adopts a dog who is actually... an alien, a quite evil alien to be precise. You see, Stitch (Sanders) is a criminal who was being transported to an intergalactic prison whose ship crashed on Earth, and he is posing as a dog  to escape detection from the alien police who are now looking for him...

One of the most highly anticipated Disney animated films in years and possibly the one that can save traditional animation at Disney, Lilo & Stitch enters theaters after a lot of buzz.  But will that buzz help bring in the kids and beat out Tom Cruise's Minority Report?

The story tells of the escape of Experiment 626 from the Galactic Federation and how he lands on the Hawaiian islands.  Mistaken for a dog, a misunderstood girl named Lilo adopts him and dubs him Stitch.  But the Galactic Federation is out to get Experiment 626 before he destroys everything in site, which is what he is programmed to do.  The story is very well done though it starts off slow at the beginning.  Lilo & Stitch is different from most Disney animated films and that is what makes it unique.  The story holds up much better then Disney's last animated attempt Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Stitch may look ugly but he isn't.  He's "just cute and fluffy!" At least that is what he says.  Stitch is certainly more different then any Disney character before him and that is why he is so loveable. Fare warning that Stitch antics at the beginning of the film may frighten some smaller children. Lilo is one of the most down to Earth animated characters ever.  She is a typical six year old who is cute and weird but also has a sort of dark side. For example, Lilo feeds a fish named Puge peanut butter every Thursday believing he controls the weather then when a girl calls her crazy, she jumps on her and starts punching her.  The aliens are the main character problem since they are a variety of them but not a lot are unique to the audience members but with films like Men In Black and Evolution, it is becoming harder to come up with unique aliens.

Overall, Lilo & Stitch is a pure Disney gem and should be up there with the classics. Certainly not a Lion King but above that of Aladdin.  It has tons of humor that mixes well with heart-warming storytelling and delightful characters.  This has to be one of the most different Disney animated films but Disney needs change to keep up with its ever changing  audience. There were some problems with the story starting off slow and some moments probably being too intense for some smaller children. But parents should be aware that the film is rated PG and shold be trusted to take precautions. This is not a typical Mickey Mouse film but that is the intention and it pulls it off with great flare. This is definitely one of the best comedy's of the year and should definitely be considered for next year's Oscar for Best Animated Film of the Year.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

20th Century Fox's Minority Report

20th Century Fox's Minority Report
Released June 21st, 2002
Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Peter Stormare, Max Von Sydow, Ramona Badescu, Joel Gretsch, Caroline Lagerfelt, Daniel London, Neal McDonough, Kathryn Morris, Victor Raider-Wexler, Lois Smith, Yorick van Wageningen
Director:  Steven Spielberg
Premise: In the future city of Washington D.C., circa 2080 A.D., when technology has advanced to the point where crimes can be detected before they're committed, a police officer (Cruise) in the Pre-Crimes division finds himself hunted (by Farrell) for a murder he hasn't even committed yet...

Minority Report marks the first time that superstar actor Tom Cruise and famed director Steven Spielberg have worked on a project together. Both had trouble with their last picture. Tom Cruise's Vanilla Sky didn't meet expectations and Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence had a good opening weekend but tanked after that. Will Minority Report reddem them both?

The story centers around Tom Cruise's character who is captain working for the division of precrime. The division of precrime have three pre-Cogs that predict murders before they happen and it is up to the precrime division to stop the murders before they take place. It is so perfect that there have been no murders in Washington D.C. in six years. But when a hot shot federal agent comes to take control of the precrime division, Cruise's character begins to notice flaws in the system. Now he has been set up to commit a murder of a man he has never heard of before in less then 36 hours and he must find some way to change his future. Minority Report contains one of the best story lines in Hollywood today and I wouldn't expect less from Steven Spielberg. The movie flows surprisingly well considering that it was all developed from a short story.

The characters in Minority Report are exceeding good. I have never really been a fan of Tom Cruise's acting or his films in general but he gives possibly his best performance in Minority Report. The emotions he expresses are very well done and he was the perfect fit for this role.

Overall, Minority Report is definitely the best suspense thriller of 2002 if not the best film of the year. Spielberg really makes up for the mistakes he made in A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Tom Cruise proves to disbelievers that he can take on such a difficult project with one of the best directors of all time. There were some things that prevented me from giving a perfect rating to Minority Report. The film is still 2 hours and 25 minutes long which I have never really liked. A film around 2 hours long is perfect for me but anything close to 3 hours seems too long. The story does slow down at times before picking right back up. And finally the whole involvement with Tom Cruise's eyes was very disgusting for me and just bugged me throughout the film. It didn't ruin the movie for me but I have never really been good with such gore. Minority Report achieves everything it was meant to and more. This definitely goes a step above Spider-Man and Lilo & Stitch for the year and possibly any other thriller before it.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Columbia's Men In Black II

Columbia's Men In Black II
Released July 3rd, 2002
Starring:  Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosario Dawson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Rip Torn, Patrick Warburton, Kevin Cotteleer, David Cross, Michael Jackson, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Bailey Smith, James Toney
Director:  Barry Sonnenfeld
Premise: In "Men In Black 2," Kay and Jay reunite to provide our best, last and only line of defense against a sinister seductress who levels the toughest challenge yet to the MIBs untarnished mission statement: protecting the earth from the scum of the universe. While investigating a seemingly routine crime, Jay uncovers a diabolical plot masterminded by Serleena, an evil Kylothian monster who disguises herself as a sexy lingerie model. When Serleena takes the entire MIB building hostage, there is only one person left Jay can turn to-his former MIB partner who is now a drone in another large government office, the U.S. postal service, and prefers simple pleasures like his wife's cookies over standoffs with mammoth alien insects. It's a race against the clock as Jay must convince Kay-who not only has absolutely no memory of his time spent with the Men In Black, but is also the only living person left with the expertise to save the galaxy-to reunite with the MIB before the earth submits to ultimate destruction.

For the first since 1997, Tom Lee Jones and Will Smith team together with director Barry Sonnenfeld after a string of carrer failures.  For Will Smith, Wild, Wild West was a huge bomb even if it did gross $123 million and both Enemy of the State and Ali came up short of covering their budget. For Barry Sonnenfeld, Big Trouble was another victim of the curse of films delayed after 9/11. Will Men In Black II bring everything back together?
The story goes that several years ago an alien by the name of Serleena was looking for the light that held the key to a planet. But the MIB prevented this by sending the light out into space. Or so it was thought. The light is actually still on Earth and Serlenna has taken over MIB headquarters till she find Kay who knows the location of the light. Unfortunately Agent Jay wiped out his memory five years back. Now they must team up again to save the planet and destroy the scum of the universe. The plot amazingly flows pretty well despite the limited 87 minute length. The story, though, does seem very familiar to the original along with the weird sort of ending much like the first Men In Black. The film doesn't really explore into very new territories which is both good and bad for fans of the original.
Let me be the first to say that there is no better team up then Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The story itself doesn't really pick up into they're back together. The way they play off each other's reactions is fabulous. Will Smith is not as funny as he was in the original but he still has his moments. Tommy Lee Jones does a much better job here then in the original especially when his character is regaining his memory. Frank the pug basically steals the show. There are a lot of dog humor spilled by him, which spoken by anybody else would feel dumb and annoying but Frank makes it funny.  As good of an actress as Lara Flynn Boyle is, she was way too skinny to be considered seductive. How much support did she need to get her breasts that high up?
Overall, Men In Black II is not anywhere near the perfection of the original but is still an entertaining film. There were several things that annoyed me about the film. First, the scene involving Zed doing karate on Serlenna was stupid and just embarassing. Second, the  Ballchinnian was just disguisting. Third, why is Johnny Knoxville in this film? He is just stupid and I hope to God that Jackass the Movie bombs in theaters. Fourth, the very end of the film felt too much like the original and should have been thought out better. There were good things though. The best was the discussion between Jay, Zed, Frank and Zed at the very end. Also the cameo by Michael Jackson was much funnier that I had ever thought possible. Though it was similar to the original, that bothered less then I let on. Here's hoping that if a Men In Black III hits theaters, that they try some new territory.
My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Disney's Reign of Fire

Disney's Reign of Fire
Released July 12th, 2002
Starring:  Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco, Gerard Butler, Alexander Siddig, Doug Cockle, Scott Moutter, Benny Nieves, Rory Keenan, Randall Carlton
Director:  Rob Bowman
Premise: In present-day London, twelve-year-old Quinn watches as his mother, a construction engineer, inadvertently wakes an enormous fire-breathing beast from its centuries-long slumber. Twenty years later, much of the world has been scarred by the beast and its offspring. As a fire chief, Quinn (Bale) is responsible for warding off the beasts and keeping a small community alive as they eke out a meager existence. Into their midst comes a hotshot American, Van Zan (McConaughey), who says he has a way to kill the beasts and save mankind - a way Quinn's never seen done.

The world of dragons has rarely been explored in feature-length films and hasnt seen a dragon film released since Dragonheart which was greeted with limited appeal. Now Touchstone Pictures (Disney) teams up again with Spyglass Entertainment to try a script that has never been tried before with the subject of dragons. Add on to speculation if the film will work, Disney lets Bowman helm the project who has had very little feature-length film experience and starring very low-profile actors. Will the plan work and make Reign of Fire a sleeper hit?

Note: The CGI effects of Reign of Fire were created by Secret Lab (a.k.a. Dream Quest Images) but unfortunately due to the lack of success of DINOSAUR, Disney shut them down. This is one of the last special effects created by them for Disney.

The story goes that while digging a tunnel under the streets of London, construction workers awaken a beast that has hidden itself for hundreds of years. Like they did during the time of the dinosaurs, the dragons destroy every city around the world and world leaders destroy the rest of the planet by firing nukes to kill the creatures but fail. Now a rogue American comes to the spot where Quinn, the boy who survived the original attack of the dragon, is protecting a group of survivors. They want to head to London to kill the male dragon and therefore wiping out the species before humanity is wiped out. The story flows pretty good though it does slow down in parts. The action sequences are the best that have ever been seen in a film featuring dragons. The story though does feel like it plays too much by the book but it does a fairly good job.

Christian Bale does a very good job as Quinn. His characters is constantly changing emotions through out the film. Quinn has to be surrounded by fear and death almost in every scene and Bale does a great job of bringing that out of him. McConaughey plays the tough-love American down pat even down to the gruff southern accent. He is the action in the film and you have to give him credit just for shaving off his head just for this role. Scorupo is okay but her character is much more confident and not feeling corny while she is up in the air in the helicopter then on the ground.

Overall, Reign of Fire is a good popcorn film but not a spectacular film. I hate to even say that it is not even better the the sequel to Men In Black that is still out in theaters. Men In Black 2 at least made me laugh but Reign of Fire was just way too dark and had moments of laughter but not much. Plus the story plays too much by the book that it feels pushed just a bit. Another complaint is the way McConaugheys character dies. I wont give anything away but it feels sort of idiotic and a waste of a character. Other then that Reign of Fire does a good job based on its action sequences and is considered another good summer popcorn flick.

My Rating: *** 1/2 out of 5

New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember

New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember
Released July 26th, 2002
Starring:  Mike Myers, Michael Caine, Beyonce Knowles, Heather Graham, Seth Green, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Verne Troyer, Michael York, Will Ferrell, Mindy Sterling, Josh Zuckerman, The Osbournes
Director:  Jay Roach
Premise: It's been three years since Austin Powers, that swinging international man of mystery, has had to face his arch enemy, Dr. Evil. But after Dr. Evil and his accomplice Mini-Me escape from a maximum-security prison, Austin is called to action once more in his third and final installment of the highly successful Austin Powers movie franchise. Teaming up with the mysterious yet peculiar Goldmember, Dr. Evil hatches a time-travelling scheme to take over the world, one that involves the kidnapping of Nigel Powers, Austin's beloved father and England's most renowned spy. As he chases the villains through time, Austin visits 1975 and joins forces with his old flame, Foxxy Cleopatra, a streetwise but stylish detective. Together, Austin and Foxxy must find a way to save Nigel and stop Dr. Evil and Goldmember from their mischievous mayhem.

The third and possibly installment of the Austin Powers series pits England's favorite international man of mystery against his old foe Dr. Evil and his brand new partner Goldmember. The original Austin Powers grossed only $53 million but considering the very low budget, New Line opted for a sequel. The sequel, released in 1999, grossed $205 million by the end of its run. With that success, New Line payed Mike Myers $25 million to come up with another sequel. Will the third installment continue the tradition of being better then the last or will it follow the path of most sequels this year and be a piece of trash?
The story goes that Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, has finally captured his archenemy, Dr. Evil. But while Dr. Evil is in jail, Nigel Powers, the dad of Austin, is kidnapped by Goldmember. As you might have guesses, he loves gold. Even his privates are made of gold and he's Dutch (No Dutch Jokes...Yet!). When Dr. Evil escapes and plans the destruction of the world, Austin must team up with old flame Foxxy Cleopatra and save the world and his father.  The story for Austin Powers in Goldmember is good but much slower then Austin Powers 2. The film has tons of great moments of the film but in between those moments the story slows greatly and for an extended period of time. It also gets a little confusing in the end with the involvement of Austin's family (I won't spoil the movie for you!) but it seems to work out.
Mike Myers plays four characters in the new installment of the series. He plays Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat Ba*^&%d, and the title character, Goldmember. Myers seems to pay off with each of these characters except Goldmember. Goldmember seems to be a pointless character and just plain disguisting especially when he eats his own peeling skin. The character doesn't sound very Dutch and the Dutch jokes seem to be non-stop and annoying after some time. I'm not Dutch or anything but it may offend those that are. Beyonce Knowles is one of the worst parts in Austin Powers in Goldmember. She is very pretty but the fact is that she is very out of place within the film. Its not all her fault, her character isn't given many funny lines. Seth Green is even funnier as Dr. Evil's son especially when he decides to take over the family business. The baldness is scary but in a funny sort of way. Verne Troyer continues to make me laugh as Mini-Me. All the cameos in the film pay off greatly and are in perfect tune.
Overall, Austin Powers in Goldmember is better then the original but still not as funny as the sequel. There were many things to pick at. First the running time seems too short at only an hour and thirty-four minutes in length. Second, Beyonce Knowles is not great nor bad in this film but definitely feels out of place. Her '70's one liners begin to get tiredsome near the end of the film. Third, the film slows down for extended periods of time before picking up again. This becomes annoying at keeping the audience interested. And fourth, not all cameos are perfect in the film. The Britney Spears cameo seemed very pointless. Though I suspected as much that she would end up being a Fembot, it just seemed like a cheap way for her to get into the film and be part of the soundtack for the film. Though there are bad points, there are plenty of good ones as well. The other cameos are hilarious coming from Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Kevin Spacey, and Danny Devito especially in the opening ten minutes which are probably the best part in the entire film. Though the film isn't perfect, the entire experience is totally unforgettable. This film may not appeal to everyone since there are a huge amount of potty humor but most people will find something to giggle at. Not the best comedy of the year but still a great one.
My Rating: **** out of 5

Disney's The Country Bears

Disney's The Country Bears
Released July 26th, 2002
Starring:  Christopher Walken, Haley Joel Osment, Diedrich Bader, Julianne Buescher, Charles S. Dutton, Daryl Mitchell
Screen Writers: Mark Perez, Paul Rugg
Director:  Peter Hastings
Premise: 11-year-old Beary Barringtons favorite musical group is The Country Bears the greatest bear rock band in history. Even though the group broke up decades ago, Beary is their number-one fan and has listened to all their old records over and over again. The Bears have their differences now, and havent spoken to each other in years, but to Beary, nothing is more important than his quest to reunite the group for a benefit concert to save Country Bear Hall, the legendary venue where the band got its start.

The Country Bears is the first of many quick fix movies rolled out by the Mouse House which include orignal ones based on theme parks attractions like The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion as well as remakes like The Shaggy Dog and Freaky Friday. The Country Bears is based on the Walt Disney World theme park attraction of the same name which opened in 1971. The show was so popular that many years later Disney decided to make a feature length film based on the bears. Will the movie be just as popular as the Walt Disney World show or will people avoid it like the show at Disneyland?

The story goes that Beary Barrington has just found out from his older brother that he is a real bear adopted by his parents and that he doesn't fit into the family. He sets out on his higher purpose in life to find the former members of The Country Bears and bring them together so they can play at a benefit concert to save Bear Hall which will be destroyed if $20,000 is raised in time. The story of the Country Bears seems very unoriginal and resembles that of the Blue Brothers 2000 movie which wasn't seen by many people either. The plot seems very slow and doesn't get many giggles out of many people except a laugh or too from the small children. As the story goes on it just seems to be on a one way street to nowhere which disappoints much of the audience.

The characters in the film are mostly, well, bears! They are audio animatronic characters who have their facial expressions controlled by puppeteers. Though there are some human characters, they don't offer as much depth or emotion as the audio-animatronic bears do. Beary's family is just another typical Disney family that has a loving father and mother and a punky older brother. Nothing really new here or of anything of interest. Deidrich Bader and Daryl Mitchell who play Officer Cheets and Office Hamm (Ha...Ha!) were intended to be the comic relief of the film but they really aren't as funny as the trailers made them out to be.  They even seem to just plain disappear as the film rounds to the end of the film which begs me to ask where they went. The only funny part of the film was Christopher Walken who never seems to disappoint me. He brings out a very serious character as the beginning of the film and makes him funny in the long run. He was probably the highlight of the entire film.

Overall, The Country Bears is just very unoriginal and too predictable. The bad points beside the story and stale characters included the musical numbers. The main problem with them was that they felt way too staged. Somebody would make a one line comment and then they would suddenly brake out into a song and dance number. I thought Disney was better then this but I guess this proved me wrong. Though the musical numbers do seem way too staged, that doesn't mean I hated them. The numbers were well chorographed and the music had my foot tapping every once in awhile. But if you want to go for the music then just go to the local store and buy the soundtrack. Beside the music and Christopher Walken, The Country Bears doesn't leave much to the imagination. Note that the film is intended for children and thus my opinion my be meaningless to them. Take this into consideration when taking the children to the film. But if you are a parent and hate to be dragged to this then follow my suggestion: Sit back, relax, pay attention when Christopher Walken comes on screen, tap your foot to some of the music and thank God that they didn't make an It's A Small World movie.

My Rating: **1/2 out of 5

Touchstone Pictures' Signs

Touchstone Pictures' Signs
Released August 2nd, 2002

Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, Patricia Kalember, M. Night Shyamalan

Screen Writers: M. Night Shyamalan

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Premise: Everything that farmer Graham Hess (Gibson) assumed about the world is changed when he discovers a message an intricate pattern of circles and lines carved into his crops. As he investigates the unfolding mystery, what he finds will forever alter the lives of his brother (Phoenix) and children (Culkin, Breslin).

After a string of failures at the box office for Disney like Bad Company, Reign of Fire, and The Country Bears, Disney is hoping this will be a sign of better things to come. M. Night Shyamalan has been described as the next Spielberg after the surprising success of The Sixth Sense in 1999 and the cult following of the 2000 film, Unbreakable. Now that he has conquered ghosts and superheroes, he now goes after aliens. Will Signs bring back the same success or better of The Sixth Sense, which debuted in the same weekend in 1999, or will it show the decline of the director's success?

The story goes that a man by the name of Graham Hess, a former minister, has lost his faith after the death of his wife in a car accident. He soon finds that crop circles have appeared in his corn fields but dismisses them as pranks and nothing more. But soon the news from around the world shows the lights from alien space crafts and everything that we had feared about life from other worlds is coming true. An invasion by the life forms looks to happen and now Graham must find the faith within him which is the only way to save his family. The story, which was written by M. Night Shyamalan himself, is nothing but pure majesty. The plot mixes humor in well needed places and for the first time this year, I was scared more during a movie then I had ever been before. And I loved every moment of it. The story doesn't seem long or too short which is a great rarity among the modern feature-length films.

Mel Gibson, who has starred in many great successful films like Braveheart, What Women Want and the Lethal Weapon series, is sure to have another huge hit with Signs. Gibson plays the role of Graham Hess down pat. He plays with so much emotion especially with the scene involving the last supper the family shares together before the alien invasion happens. The tears just stream from his eyes which made the scene just so perfect. The kids in the film were amazingly good. Some cute children will ruin a film but these kids played their roles perfectly making us laugh, cry and scared. Joaquin Phoenix has another great role after the success of Gladiator. You just cheer for him at the very end of the film, which I will not give away in this review. M. Night Shyamalan, who made a cameo appearance in The Sixth Sense, plays a much larger role in Signs and shows that his genius goes beyond directing and writing.

Overall, Signs spells another huge success for director M. Night Shyamalan and actor Mel Gibson. This is the best movie I have seen in 2002 and one of the best films ever made. The scariness and the emotions go way beyond that of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The music was perfectly scored by James Newton Howard who also scored The Sixth Sense, Dinosaur, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The opening credit music set us up for the greatness to come and made the credits very interesting to listen to. There are so many things to love about this film that any problems seem ridiculous. Though the ending to the film, which I will not give away, was a bit cheesy but that is what Shyamalan intended. The Sixth Sense delivered a surprise ending but Signs gives you what you should have expected but dismissed it for some surprise ending. The movie is meant to make you think as a movie goer and it does that with excellent flare and style. Signs is sure to remain the top film of the year despite heavy competition from Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers later this year. Make sure you make it your duty to see this film. It would be a crime to miss it. You never know when life from other worlds may visit. You would like to be prepares, right? ;)

My Rating: ***** out of 5 (A Perfect Score)

Fox Searchlight's One Hour Photo

Fox Searchlight's One Hour Photo
Released August 21st, 2002

Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Varta , Gary Cole, Erin Daniels, Eriq La Salle, Carmen Mormino, Andrew A. Rolfes

Director: Mark Romanek

Premise: A young suburban family (Nielsen plays the mother; Vartan, the father) finds themselves the objects of obsession of an employee (Williams) at their local one-hour photo lab after they drop some family photo's off there...

The end of the summer offered so many choices that just didn't appeal to the movie going public. Among those were the lackluster comedies Serving Sara and S1m0ne. Even films like Feardot.com tried to tap into the fear of audiences but just never really "linked" up. Now these are moderately budgeted films with somewhat big name stars. Now it has to hit Hollywood hard that these films that look to be moderate winners are either big failures or small successes. It hurts even more knowing that they have been beaten by films that have miniature budgets and have no or limited stars. Among these is the film that critics have been raving about since the Sundance Film Festival. Robin Williams goes from his happy go-lucky characters to something way off the charts. This is the year for Williams to transition himself from comedian to Oscar-winning dramatic actor. And with no other big stars in the film, he is the main draw outside of the buzz for the film. Does Williams creepy performance deliver the goods to the audience or is the film underdeveloped?

The story is that Seymour Parrish is the photo manager at the local Savmart, working there almost every day for the past eleven years. In those long years, a certain family continues to come back to the Savmart and dropping off their family photos to be developed by Sy. In those years, he has become very attached to them and has "adopted" himself into their lives. He has become a sort of "uncle" to young Jack Yorkin who lives a so-called happy life with his mother and workaholic father, Will. He soon becomes very obsessed with them, so much so that he follows the mother, Nina, around and pretends to bump into her at the mall or even buying presents for young Jack. But once Sy is fired by Savmart for wasting prints by coping the Yorkin family pictures for himself, he begins to take matters into his own hands especially when he discovers the dark secret of Will Yorkin. The story sticks well to the point of following the destructive path of Sy the Photo Guy. The story does veer off course from time to time with dream sequences and such but it tends to come back on track in very quick time. There are many moments that keep the audience on the edge of the seat and surprises them as not to bore them for a hour and a half.

The characters in 'One Hour Photo' offer a outside view of what a normal family looks like and then revealing that nothing is as it seems. Robin Williams offers his best and most fearful performance of his career. He fits perfectly into the role of Sy the Photo Guy complete with loose glasses, white shirt and creepy smile that he offers his customers. Not only does he deliver an Oscar contending performance but also presents a stirring narrative over portions of the presentation. Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan are great as Nina and Will Yorkin. They deliver brilliant performances without drawing outside attention from the real story of Sy Parrish. The only real problem was Gary Cole who plays Jack Yorkin. His character came off as too cute and as his film mother put it too "sensitive". But he does offer a better performance then the normal child actors.

Overall, 'One Hour Photo' delivers more positives then negatives by the end of the feature. The big highlight of the film is definitely Robin Williams' brilliant and creepy performance as the photo clerk of Savmart. This will be the big draw for the film and that is surely what Fox Searchlight is counting on. The story does very well but does tend to throw things at the audience that just freak the audience out rather then intrigue them especially one dream sequence involving Sy. The acting performance of Gary Cole began to get on nerves for portions of the film but luckily he was limitedly seen near the end of the feature-length presentation. Other then those small quarrels, 'One Hour Photo' delivers what it was meant to and that was of a dark dramatic look at the so-called "picture-perfect" life of the modern family. If Hollywood hasn't gotten the hint from 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' then they should definitely get it from 'One Hour Photo' and the message is this: Good performances and better stories mean more then big name stars and loud special effects. Hopefully they will listen this time around.

My Rating: **** out of 5

Touchstone Pictures' Sweet Home Alabama

Touchstone Pictures' Sweet Home Alabama
Released September 27th, 2002
Starring:  Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen,Patrick Dempsey, Ethan Embry, Josh Lucas, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Matkevich, Rhona Mitra, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Katherine Towne, Fred Ward
Director: Andy Tennant
Premise:  This is the story of a young woman, Melanie, from a "white trash" background who runs away from her husband in Alabama and reinvents herself as a New York socialite. When her Park Avenue boyfriend, whose mother is the mayor of New York City, proposes marriage, she returns home to tell her parents the good news and obtain a divorce from her husband. In doing so, she is confronted with her past and must choose between the men.
Resse Witherspoon has risen from out of nowhere to become a big item in Hollywood. After starring in daring films like Cruel Intentions and Trumpet of the Swan, she received a large audience with her roles in comedies like the sleeper hit of 2001, Legally Blonde. Now she enters the arena of romantic comedies, of which only a select few have gone on to great success. The question now is not whether Resse can bring in the audience but rather if she outshines the rest of the movie. Will Sweet Home Alabama see the South rise again or will it fall much like before?

The story goes that Melanie Carmichael has risen up in the big city of New York. Not only is she becoming the next big fashion designer but she is also dating the son of the mayor. Melanie finally has it all when the man of her dreams proposes to her until she realizes what she left in her past. She travels to her hometown in southern Alabama seeking a divorce from her former husband, Jake. When she returns home, she finds that many things have changed and she isn't the same person she once was. Even Jake, her former drunk hick husband, has changed dramatically and seems to still be in love with her. Now Melanie must decide whether to choose her "picture-perfect" life in New York or a better life in Alabama. The story of
Sweet Home Alabama holds up pretty good but like most romantic comedies, it shows predictability. The opening sequence was a nice if not weird touch to start off on. But the story feels dragged near the final stretch of the film. The plot is more entertaining, though, then most recent romantic comedies which has just tossed the same things at the movie going public over and over again.

Obviously the main focuses based on characters is Resse Witherspoon as Melanie Carmichael. She is definitely the star of the show and should be the main focus of the audience. Her acting is fabulous in this film and she not only brings a comedic aspect to it but a emotional one as well. Though time could be spent talking about her, there were others who performed well in this movie. Candice Bergen is hilarious as the mayor of New York and the mother of Andrew, who proposes to Melanie. She shows great effect as her character tries harder and harder to prevent the marriage. Josh Lucas represents a perfect mix of southern hick and Alabama pretty boy impact on the audience. All the other supporting characters bring great aspect to
Sweet Home Alabama that none could reproduce. They offered great comedic timing as well as a sense of southern community within the plot of the film.

Sweet Home Alabama is another predictable romantic comedy but one that is done in great style. Resse Witherspoon and crew set this film out from the rest of the pack of wannabe romantic comedies.The plot is almost the same as any other but there is more comedy that mixes well with emotional moments and even offsets them sometimes. Some moments have too many "inside" southern jokes or two but those quickly passed. The acting was much better then expected for a movie of this genre though many characters seemed the same as in other movies. But those are minor things to pick at. There were holes in the plot that did confuse the audience and weren't completely answered which didn't really deliever the impact the ending was suppose to have. And suprise, surprise hearing the song, same as the title of the movie, heard not once but twice within the course of the film. Not that is a bad song but this was probably seen from a mile away by everybody. Once again Touchstone Pictures and Resse Witherspoon have a hit. This film will really launch Resse into a new direction in the film industry with more successes like this one.

My Rating: **** out of 5

Universal's Red Dragon

Universal's Red Dragon
Released October 4th, 2002
Starring:  Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Heald, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harvey Keitel, Mary Louise Parker, Emily Watson, Cliff Dorfman, Tyler Patrick Jones, Ken Leung, Anthony Reynolds, Tom Verica
Director: Brett Ratner
Premise:  This is the story of former FBI agent Will Graham, nearly killed by Hannibal Lecter, who finds himself asking the imprisoned killer for help in solving a new serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde.
Before Hannibal. Before Silence of the Lambs. There was evil in its purest form. That is the tag line that Red Dragon uses to lure the followers of Hannibal the Cannibal to the latest feature. Red Dragon is not exactly an original film. The film is a prequel to the previous Hannibal Lecter films but it is also a remake. Red Dragon is actually a remake of the first Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter, which starred Brian Cox as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Now Anthony Hopkins returns to the role that made him more famous then any other role he has played. Many people anticipated the return of this sinister villain in Hannibal but after a huge opening weekend and lackluster reviews, the film dropped quickly from the public eye. But the opening weekend was enough to spawn a prequel to the film. Will Red Dragon suffer the same fate as its predecessor or will it turn back the clock and bring the series back to its former glory?

The story takes place several years after FBI agent Will Graham had captured Dr. Hannibal Lecter, which had resulted in a bloody confrontation between the two. Graham had left the FBI because of this but he is sought out by Agent Crawford to help out with one last case. Will posseses an ability to get into the mind of the criminal and capture them quickly. After searching through evidence of the disturbing murders of two families, Will admits that had help in his cases. That help came from Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who is now in jail serving nine consecutive life sentences. Now Will must face his greatest fear of confronting Lecter again. If he doesn't then more and more people will die from the hands of this serial mad man. The story of Red Dragon is well done. It sets up a good opener of how Lecter was captured but the injured sustained by Lecter in that confrontation are not fully explained in the course of the film, which confused the audience. Outside of small squabbles, the story envelops the audience and really brings them into a suspense thriller that is well played.

Anthony Hopkins gives, once again, a stirring performance as Hannibal the Cannibal. He presents a character that is not only intelligent but one that will leave chills down your back. He plays him so well that it seems that he was destined to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Edward Norton gives a good performance as Will Graham. His character isn't cared for as much as Clarice in the previous Lecter films but then again, the audience isn't as attached to him as they are Clarice, emotionally that is. Ralph Fiennes presents a quite but twisted look to a serial killer. He plays the role straight out as a man who knows what he is doing is wrong but has no emotional control over. Others characters within the film are played as they should be and do not stand out amongst the earlier mentioned cast.

Overall, Red Dragon was a good film but not a fantastic film. One which the audience enjoyed but really didn't gain much from. The story played well with its two hour time frame but there were moments that offset this generally good film. There were parts in the plot like the ending to the confrontation between Lecter and Graham in the opening sequence and whole ending to the film that confused the audience and really let them down. The ending to this film could have been taken to a whole new level but they stuck with one that was sort of expected. Not to say that everything in the film was bad. The story played out for the most part except for the previously mentions plot holes. The acting from Hopkins, Norton and Fiennes really set this film from the rest of the trash that is currently cluttering the box office theaters. Plus the way Red Dragon transitions itself into Silence of the Lambs film by introducing Clarice but not showing her was very well done by the film makers. But all those good things can't take away the feeling the audience was a little cheated with the ending. This is a good film to see opposed to trash like Knockaround Guys and The Tuxedo which may or may not be getting more attention then films like this.

My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Walt Disney Pictures' The Santa Clause 2

Walt Disney Pictures' The Santa Clause 2
Released November 1st, 2002
Starring:  Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Nicole Leroux, Judge Reinhold, Spencer Breslin, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd, Kevin Pollak, Molly Shannon, Jay Thomas, Aisha Tyler, Michael Dorn
Director: Michael Lembeck
Premise:  Scott Calvin has been Santa Claus for the past eight years, and his loyal elves consider him the best Santa ever. But Santas world is turned upside down when hes dealt a double whammy of bad news: not only has his son, Charlie, landed on this years naughty list, but if Scott doesnt marry by Christmas Eve, hell stop being Santa forever. Desperate, Scott turns to the elves new invention a machine that can replicate anything to create Santa II and he leaves his double in charge. Things quickly go south at the North Pole when Santa II institutes some strange redefinitions of whats naughty and nice; worse, when Scott finally falls for a potential Mrs. Claus, she threatens to drive a wedge between him and Charlie. In a climactic battle pitting Santa, Charlie, the new Mrs. Claus, and the elves against Santa II and his army of tin soldiers, the future of Scotts family, the North Pole, and Christmas itself, hangs in the balance.

After a horrorific Halloween, the last thing you would expect would be a Christmas themed film. But here we are with the sequel to the 1994 smash hit, The Santa Clause. The movie opened modestly but soon gained popularity and was selling to packed houses over the Thanksgiving weekend. It just made natural sense for the Walt Disney Company to return with a sequel. The Santa Clause 2 was originally slanted for release in 2001 but the executives at Disney became aware that sequels to moderately old films won't automatically become the same hit as the original after 102 Dalmatians flopped in 2000 thanks in part to The Grinch. After the script was revised, Tim Allen finally returns as the big guy after eight years. But this time around, he doesn't have his hit TV show to bring in the sure-fire crowd like before. Will The Santa Clause 2 be as magical as the original or will the sequel follow the same steps as 102 Dalmatians?

The story goes that Scott Calvin has been Santa for eight years and it declared the best Santa ever by his elves and the children of the world. But his helper elves find that they missed a clause in his contract that states that he must get married before Christmas Eve or else he will not be Santa ever again. On top of this delema, his son Charlie has been found on the naughty list for incidents at school that involve his principal, who Scott soon falls head over heels for. But he soon must return to the North Pole as the temporary toy replacement takes in new order at the North Pole. The story was very well done. It introduced all the original characters in very nice fashion and brings good attention to brand new ones like Curtis, the keeper of the Santa handbook. One of the especially good parts was how they introduced Miss Mitchell and how she soon came to be the love interest of Scott Calvin a.k.a. Santa Claus. There were little or no problems with the story that tries hard to live up to the original.

The characters in
The Santa Clause 2 are very funny and do a great job of bringing the audience into the holiday world of the North Pole. Tim Allen is as funny as ever reprising his famous role as the big guy himself, Santa Claus. Spence Breslin is very amusing as Curits and really shows off his mature acting abilities in a comedy, which will be needed when he appears in The Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers in 2003. Elizabeth Mitchell is great as Charlie's principal. She really brings the romance into this familty comedy that is needed to offset some of the goofiness that happens all around but doesn't draw too much attention away from other important scenes. All the original characters are back and do a extraordinary jobs returning to their old roles.

The Santa Clause 2 is as funny or better then the 1994 original in many areas of the story and characters. Though the movie does seem perfect but there are slight flaws to this beautifully wrapped package. The main problem is the moral lesson expressed in the film. They are stated in lines of the film and come off as way too tacky especially with the emotional music playing. This is okay for a family audience but can get on nerves to older audience. This does not ruin the film in the least. The Santa Clause 2 does everything it sets out to achieve and does so with great flare. If this film does well enough, you might expect another sequel but even if this is the last chapter in the Santa Clause films then it goes off on a fabulous note. If there is one holiday film to take your kids to see this November, take them to see The Santa Clause 2. You won't forget it and neither will your kids after they are done laughing their heads off. And no worries for adults, the jokes appeal to both children and adults. Look for hidden Disney jokes and even a few Buzz Lightyear lines slipped into the story. One of the few films that lives up to the original.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

WB's Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

WB's Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets
Released November 15th, 2002
Starring:  Daniel Radcliffe, Sean Biggerstaff, David Bradley, Kenneth Branagh, Alfred Burke, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Alfie Enoch, Tom Felton, Julian Glover, Rupert Grint, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Shirley Henderson, Joshua Herdman, Jason Isaacs, Gemma Jones, Toby Jones, Matt Lewis, Miriam Margolyes, Rik Mayall, Hugh Mitchell, Sally Mortemore, Devon Murray, Katharine Nicholson, Edward Randell, Chris Rankin, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Ed Tudor-Pole, Julie Walters, Emma Watson, Jamie Waylett, Mark Williams
Director: Chris Columbus
Premise:  Harry Potter (Radcliffe) has not had a good summer. Not only has he had to put up with his overbearing Aunt Petunia (Shaw) and Uncle Vernon Dursley (Griffiths) and their dread of his magical abilities, but it seems as if Harrys best friends Ron Weasley (Grint) and Hermione Granger (Watson) have forgotten him as they havent replied to a single one of his letters. Then, suddenly and mysteriously, house-elf Dobby appears in Harrys bedroom and warns of great danger if the aspiring wizard should attempt to return to Hogwarts. But Harry is not about to let his friends down and, with or without the support of Gilderoy Lockhart, he will confront the dark force lurking in his beloved school.
The magical world of Harry Potter and his friends is revisited with the second film in the series. The original film, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, was met with a huge response. The film broke every record the box office held. Those record have since been broken by the release of Spider-Man but The Chamber of Secrets could offer a threat to the famous web slinger. The Chamber of Secrets is much different in that it is much darker then original which could alienate some of the key audience for the film. Will Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets follow in the steps of its predecessor or will it show that the original was just a mere fluke and change is not good for the series?

The story goes that Harry Potter has finally returned to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after the long break, though not without much difficulty. Apparently a house elf named Dobby has reason to belive that great danger will fall upon Mr. Potter if he returns. When Harry does return, many strange things begin to happen. Harry hears voices in the halls, people are found petrafied and the rumored Chamber of Secrets has apparently been opened. This means big trouble for the children of mudbloods  or those who have no parents of wizard/witch blood. It is up to Harry and his group of friends to protect Hogwarts from impending danger within the school itself. The story of
The Chamber of Secrets is the best that has been presented in a film intended for children in quite awhile. The plot keeps the audience interested in every aspect of the movie and keeps them guessing at what is to come next.

The acting within the film was much better then in
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. Those actors and actresses are much comfortable with their characters and that is quite evident within the film. Daniel Radcliffe is once again great as the lead character, Harry Potter. He showcases a broad range of emotions within the film which is rarely seen in a film intended for children. Richard Harris is fabulous in his last starring role as Professor Dumbledore. This is the perfect role for a legendary actor to go off on and Richard Harris does so with great flare and style. The only problem was the character of Rondald Weasley. There was no problem with the one who played him but the character itself. In the original film he was sort of mixed character but he has now been reduced to a comedic character, which is quite disappointing.

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets is one of the best films of the year. The magical world of Harry Potter is brought back better then ever. Though the film was filled with much darker moments then the original, those moments made the film altogether better, They brought much more excitement to the film and made the audience feel more connected with characters and what happened to them. The story keeps the audience guessing at what is going to happen next though there were thought to be too many scares for the younger audience. Though the film is near perfection, there are flaws to it. The running time of the film which was two hours and forty minutes long seemed much too long for a film intended for children though it did help better tell the story. And the CGI character to add on the most annoying list is Dobby the house elf. He seemed fine for the plot of the film but for the most part, he was too annoying and distracting for the purpose of the story. Other then those small squabbles, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets is one of the best films of the year and raises the bar for films intended for children. The film is fabulous for all ages and is a must for those who don't visit the movie theater often. One of the few films out there that actually rises above that of the original film.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

New Line's The Two Towers

New Line's The Two Towers
Released December 18th, 2002
Starring:  Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Sala Baker, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Martin Csokas, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham
Director: Peter Jackson
Premise:  The second novel of the classic trilogy of books by J.R.R. Tolkien that nearly singlehandedly established the modern genre of fantasy fiction as we know it. This middle chapter is preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Return of the King.

After much hype and anticipation, it is finally here. The second installment of The Lord of Rings series enters theaters almost one year to the date after the first film became a huge success at the box office. New Line is hoping that Peter Jackson can continue the magic not only in the film making but on the money making as well. The Fellowship of the Ring grossed nearly $300 million in 2001 and New Line is hoping for a bigger return with sequel after a small of amount of releases this year. But will The Two Towers fall under the sequel curse and not perform as well as the sequel or will the ring of power rule once more?

The sequel continues where
Fellowship left off with Frodo Baggins and Sam heading toward the land of Mordor with the ring. But they soon realize they are not alone and meet up with the creature Gollum, first as an enemy then as a helpful guide. Meanwhile Sarumen is nearly finished creating his army of 10,000 creatures and sets them out to destroy the human race. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli continue to fight this unmerciful battle helping the people of Rohen as they cower in Helms-Deep. The end looks grim but as we soon discover, there is always hope. Though The Two Towers is three hours in length, two hours and fifty-nine minutes to be exact, Peter Jackson doesn;t make it feel like it. The action is much more consistent then Fellowship and less moments of no action.

Most of the characters are the same as they were except for a few new characters that are introduced in
The Two Towers. One of those characters is the creature Gollum. This must be the year for annoying characters, first with Dobby in Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets and now Gollum. Gollum has conflicting emotions and eerie consciousness of what is going on but when he expresses those thoughts in the film, they come off more as comic relief then a great dramatic performance. Not an Oscar winning performance in the least.Elijah Wood continues his great performance as Frodo Baggins. He seems to confident with this character and though he not as seen in this film as with Fellowship, he plays his limited scenes very well even with the computer generated Gollum. John Rhys-Davies' Gimli in turned more into the comic relief of the picture as was the situation with Ron Weasley in Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets but for some reason, it works here. He character was meant to be the comic relief and those comedic moments are needed in the many dark moments of the film. Orlando Bloom is great at Legolas once again and many look forward to his performance outside The Lord of the Rings in next summer's Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Two Towers is a great improvement from The Fellowship of the Ring. Peter Jackson uses every minute of the three hour picture in wonderful style. The story is much more consisten with the action sequences keeping them spread out and not using too much relay time between the current sequence and the next battle. The characters that were in the Fellowship seem more in tune with their characters which is important in bringing the story to life. The musical score wasn't quite as exciting as in the first film but it still gets your heart pounding in the Battle for Helms-Deep. The only problem that I could see in the film was the creature Gollum. His important to the story but why does he have to be so annoying? Does the audience really need more charactets like Jar-Jar Binks? They needed him in the story but they could have made him less annoying so that his dramatic moments in the film don't come off as comic relief. Outside of that, The Two Towers is a masterpiece. Still not enough to take the number one or two spot this year but a solid third place for the second installment of the fantasy series. Anticipation is starting to build for the final film, The Return of the King, next Christmas.

My Rating: ***** out of 5

Dreamwork's Catch Me If You Can

Dreamwork's Catch Me If You Can
Released December 25th, 2002
Starring:  Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Brian Howe, Frank John Hughes, Ellen Pompeo, Jennifer Garner
Director: Steven Spielberg
Premise:  Frank Abagnale, Jr. (DiCaprio) worked as a doctor, a lawyer, and as a co-pilot for a major airline -- all before his 18th birthday. A master of deception, he was also a brilliant forger, whose skill gave him his first real claim to fame: At the age of 17, Frank Abagnale, Jr. became the most successful bank robber in the history of the United States. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks) had made it his prime mission to capture Frank and bring him to justice, but Frank is always one step ahead of him, baiting him to continue the chase.

There are few directors out there that can make a great film but it is even rarer for a director to make two great films in one year. Steven Spielberg will try to be one of those rare directors. Earlier this year, Spielberg directed the critically praised Minority Report, which gathered more praise for its box office battle with Disney's Lilo & Stitch then anything else. Now after directing box office draw Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg attempts to breathe new box office life into the career of Leonardo DiCaprio by adding the mix of Oscar winning actor, Tom Hanks. Will this experiment work and showcase the reasons why Spielberg is one of the greatest directors in Hollywood or will this one of the very few flaws in his career?

The story goes that Frank Abagnale Jr. lives a normal life with his parents but things begin to change very quickly. His family moves to a small apartment after his father runs into trouble with the IRS. Frankie's parents soon divorce after his mother begins to cheat on her husband. This drives the confused boy to run away from home. Frank makes a good life for himself by disguising himself as an airline pilot becoming the James Bond of the skies. But he runs from that job after an FBI agent named Carl Hanratty begins the chase to capture him. Hanratty will go to the ends of the earth just to catch him. The story, which was based on a true story, was well done but felt too weighted. Some of the elements seemed too unbelieveable for the audience to really accept. And some areas of the story seemed to last too long that in the end they felt flat for the most part.

The characters in the film were all based on real life people. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the lead character, Frank Abagnale Jr. It really wasn't much of a stretch for him to play a ladies' man but it had been some time since he played a character that was like the one he plays here. Frank Abagnale Jr. is a confused character who continues the chase not because he loves it but that he needs it. He needs the cat and mouse game with Agent Hanratty to fill that foid he is missing with his family. DiCaprio shows great acting ability especially in the end expressing this character. Agent Hanratty is not an Oscar winning performance for Tom Hanks but it is a character which seems like he had a lot of fun with. Christopher Walken is great as Frank Abagnale Sr. playing off Leonardo DiCaprio very well especially in facial expressions. It is ashame that his character is not given a good send off in the film rather then the plain ending his character gets.

Catch Me If You Can is another good offering from the creative genius of Steven Spielberg but certainly not one of his greatest. The film is certainly a great diversion from the usual dramatic films offered by Spielberg but Catch Me really seems slow and flat in certain areas of the film. Some of the characters were flat in some areas. Christopher Walken's character is great but sent off in a good way. At least there should have been something there for the audience for feel sorry for when his son is told his father is dead. Jennifer Garner's character, though nicely performed by the Alias star, seemed pointless in the overall effect of the film. Catch Me If You Can is a nice film, though, for people to relax in without having to waste a very long time with or being too blown away with elaborate special effects. Catch this film, if you can. If not, don't worry too much about it.

My Rating: **** out of 5

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