"We know that the road to freedom has always been stalked by death." ---HL Staff that went to Rome---

White Chicks

Like, omigod! There go the Wayans on another frickin' TV talk show! Thanks to the Sony marketing machine of one of the odder summer tentpole movies, the Wayanses (from the top five entertaining Wayanses to the two stars of this movie) have been doing press everywhere. LA Times, Conan, Tavis, Oprah?!? And to a (black?) person, they've all screamed that this movie is hilarious (okay, so Tavis Smiley's as tough as a cirrus cloud, but still). So under the sway of you readers and the Sony hype machine, I went to the theater to laugh. Instead, I came, I saw…I snoozed.

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BAADASSSSS!

You hear that? That's the sound of "Baadasssss!" buzz buzz buzzing all over select theaters around the country. And, for once, it's for a movie that totally deserves it.

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Saved

I need Jesus. Or at least that's what our emotionally, wartime state would seem to suggest as we are engaged in a nebulous, protracted "war on terror" against religious fundamentalist fanatics. "You're either with us or against us" claims one of our more openly religious Presidents in some time, a similar type of clarion call that is spoofed within an inch of its life in the brilliant, strikingly smart teenage satire "Saved!" And like our horrifically smudged line of separation between church and state that this country was supposedly founded upon, you're either with this film or against it.

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The Day After Tomorrow

As I used to temp for some a bunch of tree-hugging granola head lawyers at an environmental law firm, I've heard about this movie for quite some time. Even though this movie seems to aid their cause, the Fox publicity machine has (wisely?) downplayed the political and environmental themes of its summer blockbuster of a disaster flick. The result? You should go see it – the day after tomorrow.

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Troy

"Is there no one else? Is there NO ONE ELSE?" screams Achilles in the "Troy" trailers. Well, for me, there sure ain't. My movie event of the summer has come in the second week of May, an amalgam of actor, writer, and director star power awash in sword and sandal period epic. Toss in the time-tested plots and characters of Greek poet Homer's "The Iliad," and I was all set for a "Gladiator"-esque time at the cinema, the one movie to which "Troy" will invariably be compared. To answer a Maximus-like question, we were entertained – but nothing more, nothing less.

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2004 Summer Preview
 
Never Die Alone

Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

"I wish I never met you!" This is a harsh statement that all of us have, at some time, thought about or said to someone or, worse yet, have had said to us. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" gives this phrase a whole new, disturbing meaning. If you could truly erase someone from your memory, would you? Better yet, could you?

 


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Twisted

Like most men, I have several versions of the perfect woman. Of course, that is an oxymoron since nobody is perfect, but one version would be an Ashley Judd with the mind of an Angela Davis - tall, hopelessly beautiful, speaks four languages but with the mind of a black revolutionary. Since THAT ain't happenin', I'm stuck watching her waste her talents in more sad sack fodder for what's becoming its own section in the video store, the Ashley Judd Woman In Peril While Getting Helped by an Older Mentor aisle.

 

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Edwardo Jackson's Oscar Picks
 
The Passion of The Christ

City Of God

Growing up in Rio de Janeiro's City of God slums ain't easy. Starting off in Brazil's turbulent '60s, the Tender Trio, a loose gang of ghetto Robin Hoods who brazenly stick up gas trucks in broad daylight, graduate into shadier, more dangerous ventures at the behest of a little kid, bloodthirsty wannabe hoodlum Li'l Dice. Somehow surviving into the transitional '70s, Li'l Dice has grown into the hood rich Li'l Zé (Leandro Firmino), king of the City of God's bustling coke trade. Blessed with a gift of crime and saddled with a massive short man-ugly man's complex, Li'l Zé tries to take over the weed trade too, touching off a brutal gang war that embroils the City of God right on into the '80s. Narrating and documenting it all is aspiring photographer Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), Li'l Zé's contemporary, but a fundamentally good guy who seems to be unable to escape the slum's perpetual violence.

Barber Shop 2: Back In Business

Building off the breakout, low-budget hit "Barbershop," "Barbershop 2" is indeed "Back in Business." Giving a hint at what's to come with an historical opening sequence featuring Eddie's (Cedric) introduction to Calvin Sr.'s barbershop, BS2 soon brings us up to the present, with a fully committed Calvin Jr. (Cube) managing a successful, people-oriented business cum-cultural hub of the community. Between an anger management, Crystal-Lite version of Terri (Eve), the once-rookie, now head case, all-star white barber Isaac (Troy Garity), a thug life posing Ricky (Michael Ealy) who's quietly trying to better himself, the lovelorn Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), and the endlessly riffing Eddie, Calvin Jr.'s got his hands full. Well those hands just got fuller when a wave of gentrification sweeps in the promise of a hair cuttery chain across the street called Nappy Cutz, which threatens to ruin not only Calvin's business but also the soul of the community.

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Miracle

Every player has that one coach they just hate. Mine was a JV basketball coach/Army reservist who, when not being called off to the Gulf War, was making teenaged boys cry from ten minute wall sits, line running until we puked, and constant attacks on our manhood to see if we even had any. What my marginally talented, adolescently unstable mind didn't realize was that he was trying to take a ragtag team of individuals and mold them into a team, a team that WINS. Although we failed miserably (and consistently), a similar, more famous story plays out in "Miracle," the quintessentially American, Horatio Alger-esque real life account of how stern taskmaster Coach Herb Brooks molded a group of young individualistic underdogs into an Olympic gold medal winning team that pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of team sports.

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Torque

The plot's a little convoluted (especially for a biker flick) but here's what I've got so far: Ford (Henderson) has just returned to Cali from hiding out in Thailand for some crimes he did commit and drug traffickers he had pissed off. Of course, the only thing to bring him back was his love for Shane (Monet Mazur), who's giving him a hard time because of the way he had dipped out on her just ahead of an FBI raid. Never mind that the biker gang leader Henry (Matt Schulze) and black biker gang leader Trey (Cube) are out to kill him for different yet interconnected reasons having to do with a murder Ford didn’t commit. He just wants to make things right, win back his girl, and ride off into the sunset - at 200 MPH.

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Year In Review: 2003  

My Baby's Daddy

It was mind-numbingly stupid, offensive, badly written, and just. Not. Funny.
Also, this movie slipped out on Friday WITHOUT the benefit of advance critic screenings (not that I would've been falling over myself to get to this one anyway) -- almost always a sign that the studio's so freakin' embarrassed, they just want to dump the movie, take their lumps, and move on with their lives. Well, as many of you will be SHOCKED to read (okay, not really), I came to bury this movie, not to praise it.

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Cold Mountain

"Come back to me is my request." From the lips of the right woman, your woman, if Nicole Kidman’s Ada WAS that woman, it’s enough to make you drop your weapon, desert an army, and dodge a war. At least that’s what "Cold Mountain" would have you believe, an exquisitely unglamorous Civil War romantic drama whose entire fate hinges upon one woman’s simple request of her beloved soldier, and how their loyalty to hope, love, and each other transforms them both.

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The Count Of Monte Cristo

"The Count of Monte Cristo" is a classic tale of revenge, what happens when a good guy is wronged - and has sixteen years to think about it. The trailers seemed to showcase a sense of adventure in this not-so faithful adaptation. For a change, a movie lived up to its marketing: "Prepare for adventure. Count on revenge." And enjoy a few laughs at the expense of a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously.

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Monster's Ball

This movie is a masterpiece of despair, a case study of two aching souls conjoined by loss. Everything around the central pair of Hank and Leticia is a testament to a rural Georgia world slathered in self-loathing, racism, and hate. Peter Boyle's trash-talking, oxygen-tank-breathing Buck is so palpably real, I think we all know someone so horrendously backwards, time-warped, and filled with hate. Buck has to be the worst, most dysfunctional father on the face of the earth. The way that racism and self-hatred is diluted through the generations is fascinating to watch, particularly through the performance of the Aussie born Ledger as the grandson, whose quiet drawl and general attitude of malaise and hopelessness might as well be the postcard for this movie.

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Black Hawk Down

After the romantic comedy, one of the most overdone genres in Hollywood is the war movie. Because it is so overdone, it's also one of the hardest genres to get right. With all the classic war movies out in the social consciousness - "Platoon," "Apocalypse Now," and "Full Metal Jacket" just to name a few - how does someone do a war movie that doesn't feel like a ripoff of every other war movie ever made? You hire Ridley Scott and make "Black Hawk Down."

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Kate & Leopold

America loves Meg Ryan. They love her doing what she does best - the romantic comedy. Never mind a gritty role in "Courage Under Fire," and a questionable turn on and off screen in "Proof of Life" - we want to see her bouncing and percolating her way through trifles like "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," and the quintessential romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally." Well that's what "Kate and Leopold" is, a trifle, one that Merry Meg's perkiness and a decent high concept can't even save from the conventionality of Hollywood's most originality-challenged genre.

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How High

Talk about perfect counterprogramming. When you think of the holidays, don't you usually think about family, friends, and…weed? Jersey Films and Universal sure hopes you do, as they've launched the perfect antithesis to such holiday heavyweight movies like "Ali" or "A Beautiful Mind." But what's on Method Man and Redman's minds (or lack thereof)? Puff, puff, pass, pa'tna.

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The Royal Tenenbaums

Genius is never appreciated. At least not in this lifetime. In Wes Anderson's latest offbeat comedy "The Royal Tenenbaums," genius is on full display, even if coherence and entertainment isn't.

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A Beautiful Mind

I find it wholly ironic that one of the big Hollywood movies this season centers on a man in search of "a truly original idea." The thing about "A Beautiful Mind" is that it's original in some ways yet slightly formulaic in others. Backed by a powerhouse performance and a sweetly nuanced script, "A Beautiful Mind," despite some minor flaws, definitely has a beautiful heart.

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Lord Of The Rings

Someone once said that there are only three stories ever told. Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. In the most ambitious screen adaptation to date of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary trilogy "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring," "Fellowship" is an ambitious, dazzling paean to that last, most basic of all stories - good versus evil.

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How High

Talk about perfect counterprogramming. When you think of the holidays, don't you usually think about family, friends, and…weed? Jersey Films and Universal sure hopes you do, as they've launched the perfect antithesis to such holiday heavyweight movies like "Ali" or "A Beautiful Mind." But what's on Method Man and Redman's minds (or lack thereof)? Puff, puff, pass, pa'tna.

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