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April 2005

Follow That

When it comes to films, originals are often the best

Ten years ago John Travolta starred as Chili Palmer in the hit comedy Get Shorty, based on the Elmore Leonard novel about a Miami mobster who ends up producing films in Hollywood. Get Shorty won many fans and a heap of money at the box office for its originality and slick humor, and a decade later someone thought they could re-create that same movie and win back those fans and baskets of money all over again. But with the uninspiring sequel, Be Cool, they thought wrong. Unfortunately, mid-1990s cool has yet to become retro. Despite the return of the talented Travolta (Pulp Fiction), the story feels recycled and the characters come across as cardboard caricatures. The film begins slowly with Chili deciding to turn his attention to producing music, after becom-ing bored with the movie industry. In doing so, he stumbles upon the lovely young singer Linda Moon (Christina Milian) and decides to manage her career. And that’s pretty much it. Of course he has to contend with Linda’s old manager, Raji (Vince Vaughn), a white man who thinks he’s black, and Raji’s gay bodyguard, Elliott Wilhelm (The Rock), who really just wants to be an actor. But Chili teams up with Edie Athens (Uma Thurman), the widow of an old friend who ran a small-time record label, and together they strive to get Linda’s soulful voice to the top of the charts. The film is directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job), who won an MTV award in 1995 for Best Video of the Year, and it seems as though he may have had trouble deciding what Be Cool should be: a movie or a music video. Though the inclusion of artists like Steve Tyler from Aerosmith and André 3000 from Outkast may have added credibility to the story, the fact that they can’t actually act doesn’t help. And the film just goes to show that, like a television-produced pop band, you can’t really force cool.
German Release Date (subject to change) March 31
US rated PG-13

Screenwriter/director James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets) is a master at using comedy to relax his audience and then throwing in a serious theme when the viewer is least expecting it. On the surface, Spanglish seems like just another culture-clash comedy about the fish out of water trying to survive in a new land. But, underneath that, it’s a family drama about the difficulties of holding a marriage together and raising children with love and commitment in this ever-increasing age of anxiety. The film’s star, Adam Sandler (50 First Dates), plays the sensitive and restrained John Clasky, a soon-to-be four-star chef of a popular restaurant, who, despite having more money and professional success than he needs, feels that his life lacks something. At the center of his problems is his beautiful wife Deborah (Téa Leoni), who is a selfish, materialistic, superficial, independent woman of the world. The only affection she shows her overweight daughter is to buy her clothes that are a size too small. Enter the new Mexican housekeeper, Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), who is the exact opposite of Deborah, and displays the struggles and sacrifices of a loving mother trying to raise her own daughter. It’s not long, of course, before Flor becomes entangled in the web of the Clasky family, and the comedy of her attempts to learn English take a back seat to the unfolding drama of people coming together and apart. Ultimately we discover through the film that only “in the midst of confrontation can clarity be found.”
German Release Date (subject to change) April 7
US rated PG-13

New release on DVD

Another film that suffered from the Sophomore Slump of Sequels, and tried a little too hard to keep its original cool, is Ocean’s Twelve, the sequel to the box-office hit Ocean’s Eleven. As the trailer will tell you: “They’re All Back,” but the problem is that it’s not that big of a deal the second time around. Considering that Ocean’s Eleven was a stylish remake that made you forget about the original with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., this sequel makes you wish a sequel had been made of the 1960 original instead. Not that it’s an awful film, but rather it seems as though we’ve seen it all before, and the first time was much, much better. All the fine criminal gentlemen have the same great rapport together, and they’ve even added another beautiful high-profile actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), as counterpoint to the role of Julia Roberts (Closer), so she didn’t get too lonely in the Boys’ Club. Leaving Las Vegas far behind, the team plans three separate heists, in Amsterdam, Rome and Paris, while attempting to outsmart Europol, a French master thief known as Night Fox and Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who’s still upset about the 160 million they stole from his casino three years ago in the original film. Directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), who swiftly alternates between arthouse films and blockbusters, this attempt at arriving somewhere in the middle proves rather disappointing.
German Release Date (subject to change) April 11
US rated PG-13

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