Author

Glenn Kenny

Sony Pictures plagued by duds

Six-time Oscar nominee Robert De Niro in a new thriller. The next Jim Carrey comedy. A kiddie film made by Danny DeVito. Demi Moore, unharnessed at last. And four Michael Keatons for the price of one. On paper, it looked like a great summer for Sony Pictures Entertainment. But while every other big studio ended the season with at least one $100 million hit to brag about, Sony seems to have developed a reverse Midas touch.

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Three Stooges now on tape

Three Stooges now on tape

On a recent Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, caustic comic Andy Kindler revealed that he’d finally figured out why women didn’t like the Three Stooges: ”They’re not funny.” Having put that issue to rest, though, Kindler opens up another can of worms: What did men of the boomer and post-boomer generations (myself included) find so hysterical about these vaudevillians that would justify the surge of interest in the old shorts of Moe, Larry, Curly, and Shemp?

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When Jackie Chan’s first widely distributed Hong Kong movie played U.S. theaters, it was a real kick seeing the irrepressible, energetic hero win over a houseful of jaded action fans, who first scoffed at the rampant corniness but then got caught up in the rush of the actor’s goofily optimistic charm and innovative stunt work. At home, you can replay Rumble in the Bronx’s stunts, pondering just how (not to mention why) the stunt-double-eschewing Chan does them.

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”Sure, it got lousy reviews when it played theaters,” you may say to yourself, ”but this hipster Grand Hotel is the work of four hot independent directors (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell), and it’s got an eclectic cast and four different stories. So how bad can it be?” Well, not only is Four Rooms that bad — it’s worse. In a way, the movie is perversely fascinating; rarely has such a multifaceted gob in the face been shot at audiences.

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For some, it’s all they’ve got and all they’ll ever have. For others, it’s where they wind up after failing to stay in the big time. For still others, it’s where they get top billing while making do with supporting roles in major movies. Three of these guys are, respectively, Costas Mandylor, C. Thomas Howell (who once worked for Francis Ford Coppola), and Michael Madsen (who must really like staying busy). And their sanctuary is in quick-to-video action pictures that show no signs of letting up their assault on your local video stores.

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Even Mel Brooks’ best movies have a fairly high groaner-to-zinger ratio, so it’s almost beside the point to complain that this long overdue companion to Young Frankenstein could have used judicious script editing. The real problem here is Leslie Nielsen, who can be funny playing stolid and stupid but who doesn’t come close to living up to Brooks’ conception of Dracula, which demands someone a bit more ethnic than this WASPish actor.

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Michael Madsen meanders gloomily through Man with a Gun, which would more accurately be titled Man With Several Guns. As a hitman assigned to off his squeaky-voiced, evil, va-va-va-voomish girlfriend, Madsen broods and broods…then broods some more. His Getaway costar Jennifer Tilly plays both the squeaky-voiced, evil, va-va-va-voomish girlfriend and her squeaky-voiced, good, less provocatively outfitted twin. The complicated plot and dark settings suggest classic noir, but the movie’s clunky rhythms render it more enervated than moody.

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C. Thomas Howell shrugs through his role as a too-rough cop enlisted by an organization of vigilante officers in The Sweeper. Letting his goatee do most of his acting for him, he shows up for a series of explosions-and-flying-bodies set pieces that are refreshingly old-fashioned given Hollywood’s current love affair with computer F/X. Hey, stunt pilots still have to feed their kids, right? Besides, these scenes give the movie what little charge it can whip up. C

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Watching the splendid Ian McKellen embody any Shakespeare character is always a pleasure, and his slithery portrayal here of the Bard’s most hissable villain is a treat. But the usually astute McKellen, who was also one of the film’s prime movers behind the scenes, goes awry in setting this Richard III in pre-WWII Britain. He doesn’t shoehorn the actual events of the time into the story but tries to draw analogies between Richard’s power-mad schemings and the popularity of fascism.

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