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February 2007 Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 02/19/2007

Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in February of 2007 (other than the reviews I have already done from the month.)  Check back later as the month progresses.

Go directly to my reviews of Because I Said So, The Messengers, Norbit, and Hannibal Rising.

Because I Said So Review

Daphne Wilder (Diane Keaton) is a self-employed cake baker/decorator from L.A. and a divorced mother of three grown daughters…all of which she wants to marry off.  Oldest daughter Maggie (Lauren Graham) is a psychologist (with a troubled recurring patient named Stuart, played by “Arrested Development” alum Tony Hale) is the first one to get married…to a man named Derek Decker (Colin Ferguson.)  Middle daughter Mae (Piper Perabo) is a supposed wild child who marries an Elvis Costello-looking man named Eli (Matt Champagne.)  As for youngest daughter Milly (Mandy Moore) though…she is beautiful, successful, sexually adventurous, and has a bubbly personality…so of course she can’t find a man.  She is the owner of a catering service called Good Enuf to Eat, and in addition to supplying her with cakes, Daphne feels like she has to set her up with a man.  Daphne decides to place an online personal ad for her (without letting her know that she is doing it) and then interviews the replying potential Mr. Rights.  After interviewing a string of losers in a restaurant, she feels like she has found the right catch in successful architect Jason Grant (Tom Everett Scott.)  During the interview process, restaurant jazz guitar player Johnny Dresden (Gabriel Macht) watches in amusement.  He is also a single guitar teacher with a young son named Lionel (Ty Panitz) and resides with his own single father, Joe (Stephen Collins.)  After talking to Daphne himself, Johnny swipes one of her Milly contact information cards after Daphne has already concluded that this tattooed musician would not be a good match for her daughter.  He uses the card to meet Milly, which works, because she is immediately seduced by his charms.  She also begins dating Jason when Daphne suggests that Jason hire Milly’s catering service to cater a party for his architect firm so that they can meet.  So…Milly begins dating two men…and guess which guy her meddling mom is rooting for to be her new potential son-in-law?  She might be better off getting orgasm lessons from Milly and applying them to Johnny’s dad Joe (yes…these are events that occur in the movie.)  Director Michael Lehmann’s sub-par chick flick would have been much better if it weren’t for Keaton’s over-the-top clumsiness disguised as “comedy.”  When she isn’t falling over the place in an attempt to hook her daughters up, the actress can be touching in calmer scenes.  I honestly can’t believe the same director who made the 1989 cult classic black comedy Heathers made this embarrassment of a movie.  Oh…and to Mrs. Lorelai Gilmore…what were you thinking appearing in this movie?


The Messengers Review

Jess Solomon (Kristen Stewart) is a teenager who lives with her father Roy (Dylan McDermott), her mother Denise (Penelope Ann Miller), and her toddler brother Ben (twins Evan and Theodore Turner.)  She has been a headache for her parents, because she has a suspended license following a drunken driving accident that injured Ben…causing him to become mute.  They currently live in Chicago, but an unemployed Roy has decided to pack up his family and move to a farm in North Dakota where he plans to raise sunflower seeds.  When they get there, the town’s bank manager, Colby Price (William B. Davis), tries to offer him a price for the farm for more than they paid for it.  He doesn’t tell Roy that the previous owners…mother Mary Rollins (Shirley McQueen) and her two children, Michael (Jodelle Ferland) and Lindsay (Tatiana Maslany)…were murdered in the farmhouse five years ago.  Roy turns the offer down and, after being saved by a murder of crows that mysteriously attack him, hires drifter John Burwell (John Corbett) to work the farm in exchange for room and board.  The creepy silent Ben likes to stare at the ghosts that are in the house, but Jess feels like she is going out of her mind when the ghosts start attacking her.  Of course, no one believes her, so she asks local teen Bobby (Dustin Milligan) to help her figure out what is going on.  Hong Kong twin-brother filmmakers Danny Pang and Oxide Pang Chun directed this formulaic PG-13-rated horror flick.  When I did my research on the movie, I discovered that the brothers also did the 2003 movie The Eye, a remake of which is being produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner (with a potential release date scheduled for later on this year.)  I had heard of the movie, but I hadn’t seen it yet (my brother has seen it, and he considers it one of the creepiest movies he’s ever seen…but he is the same guy who liked Freddy Got Fingered.)  I rented the movie after viewing The Messengers, and I have to agree that The Eye was much, much better.  Also, as soon as I saw the “The Practice’s” McDermott was in the cast of this movie, I knew that this one was going to be rated PG-13 (I like the actor, but something about him doesn’t scream “R-rated” to me.)  Corbett was a pleasant surprise though, portraying a character that goes through a personality transformation that I’m not at liberty to expand upon in fear of spoiling the “twist” end for you.  The movie is slightly better than recent PG-13 rated horror movies like Blood and Chocolate and The Return, but I think that the brief heyday of good PG-rated horror movies…like 1999’s Oscar-nominated The Sixth Sense, 2001’s The Others, 2002’s The Ring, and 2004’s The Grudge…is over.

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Norbit Review

Norbit Albert Rice is an orphan who was born in 1968 in Boiling Springs, Tennessee, and abandoned by his mother at the Golden Wonton Restaurant and Orphanage, run by Mr. Wong (Eddie Murphy) and his wife Ling Ling (Alexis Rhee.)  The Wongs raised him, but the racist, anti-Semitic Mr. Wong wasn’t the best of family role models.  The only friend the five-year-old Norbit (Khamani Griffin) had was another orphan named Kate Thomas (China Anderson.)  She attempted to teach him how to ride a bike, and they pretended to marry each other, sealing their vows with a ring sucker.  Unfortunately, Kate is adopted, and he is left alone.  In 1977, a pair of older redheaded brothers (Michael and Travis Vossler) bullies a 9-year-old Norbit (Austin Reid.)  A big 10-year-old girl named Rasputia Latimore (Lindsey Sims-Lewis) saves him and declares herself his girlfriend.  For some reason, Norbit feels indebted to her forever, and they become a couple.  In 1985, a 17-year-old Norbit (Jonathon Robinson) marries Rasputia (Yves Lola St. Vil) because he feels like he finally has a family…no matter how dysfunctional it is.  In the present day, Norbit (also Murphy) is still married to the morbidly obese Rasputia (Murphy once again.)  He has become a timid shell of a man, because Rasputia controls every aspect of his life.  He works as the bookkeeper for Rasputia’s three beefy brothers, Big Jack (Terry Crews), Earl (Clifton Powell), and Blue (Lester “Rasta” Speight.)  The bothers run the Latimore Construction Company, and they go around shaking down other local businesses for protection money.  Mr. Wong and two former pimps named Pope Sweet Jesus (Eddie Griffin) and Lord Have Mercy (Katt Williams)…who now run the local ribs joint called the Rib Shak…are the only ones not intimidated by the brothers.  One day, Norbit comes home early and finds Rasputia having an affair with local aerobics instructor and the inventor of the “Power Tap” method named Buster (Marlon Wayans.)  Rasputia manages to turn the situation around and put the blame on Norbit, though he is still not happy.  His miserable existence gets a little better when a grown up Kate (Thandie Newton) comes back to town with the intention of buying the Golden Wonton from Mr. Wong.  She has made her fortune selling a line of clothes, and she wants to turn the establishment into just an orphanage.  Unfortunately, she is engaged to real estate developer Deion Hughes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.)  Norbit hangs out with her anyway, which makes Rasputia insanely jealous.  He finds out that Deion is conspiring with the Latimore brothers to turn the orphanage into a strip joint, but the meek little Norbit doesn’t have the stones to stand up to them and expose them for the frauds that they are.  He also has no guts to leave his horrible wife, since he has been so severely cuckolded.  This is the sixth film in which Murphy has played multiple roles, following 1988’s Coming to America, 1995’s Vampire in Brooklyn, 1996’s The Nutty Professor, 1999’s Bowfinger, and 2000’s Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.  Why he did this awful movie is beyond me.  I didn’t find him or any of his characters funny in the slightest.  In fact, Griffin is the only one who made me laugh at all (please don’t make a spin-off of the character though.  A little Pope Sweet Jesus can go a long way.)  Actor-turned-producer (he was the “bad boy” genius in ABC’s sitcom “Head of the Class”) Brian Robbins is also an occasional director, and he messed up royally this time with this movie.  Murphy may have been the frontrunner going into this years Oscars for his role in Dreamgirls, but I truly believe that this movie is why he lost the golden statue.


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Hannibal Rising Review

It has been said that author Thomas Harris only penned the Lecter prequel novel Hannibal Rising because producer Dino De Laurentiis told him that he would make one with or without Harris’ involvement, so he eventually decided to write one.  I don’t know how good the novel was, but director Peter Webber’s adaptation of it (using the screenplay also written by Harris) isn’t too bad.  As the story begins, we find a happy, well-adjusted 8-year-old Hannibal Lecter (Aaron Thomas) and his younger sister Mischa (Helena-Lia Tachovska) living with his family in Lithuania in 1944.  When World War II arrives, Hannibal’s father (Richard Leaf) and mother (Ingeborga Dapkunaite) take their family from their castle to their secluded summer home in the woods.  Unfortunately, a battle between a Russian tank crew and a German fighter plane kills everyone, except for Hannibal and Mischa.  They try to survive on their own, but they are soon visited by a small band of Nazi war mercenaries, led by Vladis Grutas (Rhys Ifans), who uses the kids’ home as a shelter to wait out the war.  Their hunger while waiting gets to them, so Grutas and the others, including Petras Kolnas (Kevin McKidd), Enrikas Dortlich (Richard Brake), Zigmas Milko (Stephen Walters), Bronys Grentz (Ivan Marevich), and Pot Watcher (Goran Kostic), kill and eat Mischa, which forms Hannibal’s later bloodthirsty psyche.  Eight years later, Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) is living in an orphanage that is actually the former Lecter mansion.  He escapes and goes to Paris to look for his uncle Richard.  His Japanese aunt, Lady Murasaki Shikibu (Gong Li), tells him that his uncle is dead, but has him stay with her anyway.  She teaches him a bunch of skills, like martial arts, cooking, flower arrangement, and samurai sword fighting.  One day at a local market, a butcher named Paul Momund (Charles Maquignon) insults Hannibal’s aunt, and he later takes out his aggression on the butcher by brutally killing him.  A Nazi war criminal hunter, Inspector Pascal Popil (Dominic West), investigates Momund’s murder and suspects Hannibal, but he can’t prove anything.  Killing the butcher makes Hannibal want to get revenge against the mercenaries now, and with his medical school training and the discovery of some dog tags left behind in the summer home containing the names of all of the men, Hannibal seeks out and plans to kill them one by one.  Only the pleading of his aunt and Popil’s investigation can stand in the way of Hannibal avenging his sister.  I found the movie’s story to be interesting.  I liked the little hints of his future trademarks, such as a mask that was similar to the one he wore in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs.  Everyone is griping that the mainstay actor of the Lecter films, Anthony Hopkins, should have played the part.  I totally disagree, because no amount of CGI or makeup will make Hopkins look like a young man (though a small cameo at the end might have been cool.)  Ulliel’s performance was appropriately creepy, and it worked for me.  I would have liked the movie to be a little gorier…but the story made up for it.  I’m just glad that the movie wasn’t as boring as Webber’s last movie, 2003’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

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Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

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