‘Back to Manhattan’ is filled with great characters making their way through aimless story

Eddie Sicoli (left) and Paul Dunleavy co-star in 'Back to Manhattan'
Eddie Sicoli (left) and Paul Dunleavy co-star in ‘Back to Manhattan’

My recent trips to a few film festivals provided me with an opportunity to check out some really interesting films. They weren’t all the best, but it was educational to see different styles and formats, from feature length to short.

At the Queens International Film Festival I attended last month, there was one film in particular that seemed to garner a lot of attention. I managed to catch a screening, but was pleased when given the opportunity to view the DVD the next night.

Read more‘Back to Manhattan’ is filled with great characters making their way through aimless story

Bruce Campbell is genius in Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead II’

[rating=4]Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Denise Bixler
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Writer(s): Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel

Bruce Campbell returns in this remake/sequel, 'Evil Dead II'
Bruce Campbell returns in this remake/sequel, ‘Evil Dead II’

The “King of B-Movies”, Bruce Campbell, returns in this half-sequel/half-remake of The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi returns as director and co-writer, Rob Tapert reprises his producing duties, and Campbell joins the behind-the-scenes crew in this film as co-producer.

How can a film be both a remake and a sequel, you ask? Well, Evil Dead II was originally intended to be a straight sequel to the original, but when Raimi was unable to secure the rights to footage from the first film, he attempted a quick and simple re-hash of what went down previously. So, the five original characters became just Ash and Linda… Linda is played by a completely different actress (Denise Bixler)… and the 80-plus minutes of the first film are condensed into about the first 15-20 minutes here.

Read moreBruce Campbell is genius in Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead II’

‘Meet the Parents’ is still funny the second time around

[rating=3]Starring: Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, James Rebhorn, Jon Abrahams, Owen Wilson
Director(s): Jay Roach
Writer(s): Screenplay by Jim Herzfeld, John Hamburg; Story by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke

Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller in 'Meet the Parents'
Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller in ‘Meet the Parents’

Meet the Parents comedy is memorable largely for the brilliant casting of Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. I think had you been told that DeNiro was going to do a movie like this back in the 80s, or even the earlier 90s, then no one would have believed you.

But DeNiro pulls off the role of Jack Byrnes, the father of the woman Ben Stiller’s Greg Focker, is looking to marry. When Greg and his girlfriend go to her parents’ house for the wedding of her sister, Greg struggles to make nice with the people he hopes will be his future in-laws. However, Jack isn’t too receptive to this new guy in his little girl’s life. And Greg has his own problems as he makes one mistake after another.

Read more‘Meet the Parents’ is still funny the second time around

‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club’ celebrates the Mouseketeers

[rating=2]Starring: Jimmy Dodd and the Mouseketeers

Disney has recently released a series of “treasures” from their vaults. A collection of cartoons and shows which highlight the classic productions they’ve put together over the decades.

Mousketeers such as Annette Funicello show their moves in 'Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club'
Mousketeers such as Annette Funicello show their moves in ‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club’

The first of them that I’ll be looking at this week is The Mickey Mouse Club, which features the first five episodes of the series from October, 1955. It’s a trip into the past that is telling of the time that they were made in. A time in which I was not yet in this world.

These episode aired about twenty years before I was born, and represent an era that was long, long gone by the time I’d grown up. The Mickey Mouse Club I remember was pretty different, although I honestly never watched it much. But it was a curious oddity for me to see these episodes, which at times I actually had a hard time getting through.

Read more‘Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club’ celebrates the Mouseketeers

‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement’ is goofy & light-hearted

[rating=2]Starring: Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo, John Rhys-Davies, Hector Elizondo, Julie Andrews
Director(s): Garry Marshall
Writer(s): Screenplay by Shondra Rhimes; Story by Gina Wendkos and Shonda Rhimes; Based upon characters created by Meg Cabot

Anne Hathaway gets wooed by John Rhys-Davies in 'The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement'
Anne Hathaway gets wooed by John Rhys-Davies in ‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement’

How do you criticize a movie like this? I mean, honestly? Sure I could cut into it, but seriously, that’d be like picking on the buck-toothed kid in the playground. It’d be so easy, but it would just be mean.

Princess Diaries 2 is a goofy, light-hearted piece of film. It’s got more fluff than cotton candy on a pillow. It’s just plain innocent fun. Anne Hathaway is adorably clumsy, and the story is nearly cartoonish in its treatment of the characters. It’s a live action Disney film in the tradition of harmless, pretty Disney pictures.

What else can I say? How about talking about the story a bit.

Read more‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement’ is goofy & light-hearted

‘The Bourne Supremacy’ is a fitting end to a high-octane action series

Matt Damon does one last turn as Jason Bourne in 'The Bourne Supremacy'
Matt Damon does one last turn as Jason Bourne in ‘The Bourne Supremacy’

[rating=3]Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Joan Allen
Director(s): Paul Greengrass
Writer(s): Screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Based Upon the Novel by Robert Ludlum

Sequels fail more often than succeed to capture the same sense of action, adventure, romance, or whatever it was that made the original film work. Rare examples include Empire Strikes BackGodfather II and Superman II. In those cases, the sequel actually managed to outshine its predecessor.

Read more‘The Bourne Supremacy’ is a fitting end to a high-octane action series

Jet Li shines in ‘Hero’

[rating=3]Starring: Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Dad Ming, Donnie Yen
Director(s): Zhang Yimou
Writer(s): Story by Zhang Yimou, Li Feng, Wang Bin; Screenplay by Li Feng, Zhang Yimou, Wang Bin

Jet Li in 'Hero'
Jet Li in ‘Hero’

After catching House of Flying Daggers, I was curious to see Hero, as it was the director’s first attempt at wuxia — a type of martial arts film. As you can see in my Flying Daggers review, I wasn’t too impressed with that film. However, Hero had much more going for it and proved to be a far superior effort.

Hero stars Jet Li as a “nameless” warrior who is summoned before the king to report how he killed the country’s most deadly assassins. But all isn’t as it seems, and the king begins to suspect that perhaps the nameless warrior is really a killer in disguise.

Read moreJet Li shines in ‘Hero’