Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 12, 2005
For once, there’s no shortage of good movies to suit all tastes

If you’re planning on going to the movies this weekend, you’ve got options. And for the first time in months, they’re not all bad.

Crash, written and directed by Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) heads up my list as by far the best movie released this year.

Though it opened last weekend at number four on the box office top ten list, I think this one is going to have staying power. With a powerhouse cast including Matt Dillon, Oscar nominee (for Hotel Rwanda) Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillipe, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, and Jennifer Esposito, Crash is a powerful ensemble piece that explores racial and social conflict in Los Angeles. Beautifully non judgmental and scathingly incriminating, Crash doesn’t have any answers. It only asks elegantly morose questions, and does so with humor, drama and tragedy.

I sat down with the cast of Crash at the movie’s press junket in April and found out that they weren’t shy about doing a potentially controversial project. “I think we’re always looking for something controversial,” said Thandie Newton.

“Those are the projects you hope for as an artist.”

Don Cheadle said the fact that the characters are all painfully flawed wasn’t something that scared him away either.

“All characters are flawed,” he said. “If they’re not, you don’t have a good story or a good writer. That’s the beautiful thing about this film. It’s real.”

Grade: A.

Currently playing. Rated R, for language, sexual content and some violence. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

If you’re looking for a fairly non offensive family film, Kicking and Screaming is harmless and, for the first half at least, hilarious. Will Farrell stars as Phil Weston, the son of a criminally competitive sports dad played by Robert Duvall.

Phil goes head to head with his dad by coaching his own 10-year-old son’s soccer team, which is in heated competition with the team his father is coaching.

Predictably, these two teams wind up going to the championship game. Excessive moralizing is expected; what’s disappointing about the moralizing in this movie is that it comes abruptly, at the last minute. Do you really need to come out and say that it’s wrong to be a psychotically hyper-competitive soccer dad? It just doesn’t work.

But the movie in general works because of Farrell. There’s just nobody funnier than Will Farrell. The movie’s short running time also makes it a quick and easy family night out.

Grade: B

Opens tomorrow. Rated PG, for thematic elements, language and some crude humor.

Running time: 87 minutes.

Unleashed opens this weekend as the most brutally audacious movie I’ve seen all year.

And I loved it. Jet Li turns in an astonishingly well rounded performance as Danny, a man who’s been trained to attack and kill like a dog. Mobster “Uncle Bart” (Bob Hoskins) raised Danny in a dark kennel, meeting his most basic needs for survival but depriving him of any human communication or affection. Danny is trained as an attack dog, to maim and/ or kill people who owe Bart money.

When Uncle Bart is badly injured by angry enemies, Danny escapes, and finds himself taken in by a kind blind piano tuner named Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). They teach Danny how to experience life independently, how to relate to others and how to function in society. And they teach him the joy of music.

But just as Danny is finally becoming unleashed, he’s pulled back into his violent past. Only by now, he’s more human than dog.

I don’t have a good reason why, but I just didn’t have high expectations for this movie.

Still, I was as entertained as I possibly could have been by Unleashed. Director Louis Leterrier uses Li’s bombastic martial arts talents to the maximum without overdoing it. This isn’t a typical Jet Li vehicle film — it’s about the story, and Li’s skills simply magnify a great plotline. Writer Luc Besson did a great job making this pulpy, violent, tender story into a continuously gripping and sympathetic action film.

Grade: A

Rated R, for strong violent content, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

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