Films Review July

JOHN Q. (PG-13)

Good intentions aside, “John Q.” is a heavy-handed drama about the horrors of HMO’s, an easy target for anyone who has had to deal with one. No one likes insurance companies and HMO’s, so it’s easy to rally the troops.

“John Q.” is so clever in its manipulation that it even pretends to give the troops what they want, an intense drama about one man’s fight against the greedy, uncaring hospital bureaucrats who are willing to let his son die. While audiences are in the moment, they may actually find all of this riveting. Ten minutes after the film ends, so does the buzz. Then reality sets it. It doesn’t take long to realize how preposterous and grandstanding “John Q.” really is. The screenplay by James Kearns, making his debut, is a marriage between “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Falling Down,” a hostage drama about a man at the end of his rope. Unfortunately, the air is awfully thin up on Kearns’ soapbox, resulting in a lack of common sense and logic. Please click on title for complete review. (New Line)


More back draft from director Jim Wynorski, one of three of the worst directors on the face of the Earth. Make that the entire universe. This one stars Ice T (obviously slumming while on hiatus from “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit) and Tom Arnold (just slumming) in a contrived (and non-flammable) story about an arsonist who has the city police and investigators roasting. This puppy goes up in flames without a whimper. Arnold plays the ham-fisted developer who sets everything into motion, while John Bradley plays the fire captain with a certain degree of authority. Cheap, cheap, cheap, and that’s not a bird talking. (Fox)


Occasionally engaging neo-noir thriller about a timid video store owner (Robert Patrick, playing against type) and a fresh, out-of-prison female con named Harley (Jennifer Esposito) who team up to retrieve some stashed cash. Too bad Harley didn’t bother to inform Roy (Patrick) that the money was stolen from a local mob boss, who has sent his goons to retrieve it. Looking for a little excitement in his life, Roy gets more than he bargained for when he and Harley find themselves on the run for their lives. Director Phil Jones does a credible job of setting up pedestrian material, and creates a vivid look, but the film suffers from slow pacing and plot twists that are anything but. Esposito, so good in “Don’t Say A Word,” plays the tough chick with aplomb, while Patrick seems to be acting every syllable. (Dimension)


“The Fugitive” meets “Total Recall” in this science-fiction thriller based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (“Total Recall,” “Blade Runner”). Fans of the author and the films based on his work will find most of “Impostor” familiar, yet director Gary Fleder (“Kiss the Girls’) infuses it with enough white-knuckle thrills and riveting performances to give fans what they want. Gary Sinise is quite good as scientist Spencer Oldham, who lives in 2079, and helps the government in their pursuit of an alien race intent on taking over Earth. The aliens, armed with an internal nuclear device, replicate Earthlings and take over their lives until they are called into duty. Vincent D’Onofrio co-stars as a detective who suspects that Oldham is really an alien, and thus begins the scientists’ race to prove his innocence. Like current events in the Middle East, the thought of human bomb walking around is frightening, and director Fleder gives the premise all the juice he can. Once rated “PG-13” during its theatrical run, “Impostor” now sports an “R” rating to allow the filmmakers to tell the story without flinching. (Dimension)


You’ve got to love those Brits. After years of ripping off their comedies, they get even by remaking Robert Aldrich’s “The Longest Yard” as a soccer film starring former player Vinnie Jones (“Snatch”) in his first starring role. While Jones lacks the drippy charisma of Burt Reynolds at the height of his career, he does look great on the soccer field. Jones play (what else?) former soccer star Danny Meehan, who winds up in prison after fixing an important match. When the warden approaches him to put together a team and then play against the brutal guards, Meehan and the other prisoners jump at the opportunity to get even. While the film follows pretty much the same path as the original films (with an extremely sharp and witty screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn), it seems overly familiar to make an impact of its own. Not bad, just familiar. (Paramount)


Despite the presence of current flavors of last month Mia Kirshner, Dominique Swain, Meredith Monroe and Rachel True, this anorexic drama about the haves and have nots at a prestigious college is filled with lame characters, trite dialogue, and not an ounce of suspense. Kirshner plays Alicia, the new girl at Colby University, where her bank account is no match for the rich snobs who rules the campus. In her attempts to fit in with the cool (as ice) kids leads Alicia down a dark and dangerous path to self awareness and hopefully a better agent. (Columbia-TriStar)


Movies about writers are so rare that to find two of them in wide release at the same time must be one of the signs of the Apocalypse. There aren’t many movies about writers because the art of writing is boring. Most of us would rather see a movie based on a great book than see a movie about a great writer. There have been exceptions, extremely notable ones at that (The Diary of Anne Frank, Angela’s Ashes), but with the arrival of “Iris” and “Pinero,” you won’t have to keep looking. Acquired by Miramax Films and released last December to qualify for Oscar consideration, both films are just now making their way into local theaters. Please click on title for complete review. (Miramax)


To really appreciate writer-director Todd Solondz’s darkly comic “Storytelling,” rent the Unrated version, which allows the teeth to bare it’s sharp and incisive fangs. Not nearly as funny as “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” Solondz’s two-part look at complicated relationships is a small movie, but big on unexpected laughs and meaningful performances. The always engaging Selma Blair (so hilarious in “The Sweetest Thing” and “Illegally Blonde”) stars in the first installment entitled “Fiction.” She plays a college student whose relationship with a disabled student and her professor (Robert Wisdom) goes from bad to worse, while in “Non-Fiction,” the fabulous Paul Giamatti (he was top banana in the remake of “Planet of the Apes’) plays a documentary filmmaker who convinces a family to let them be the subject of his latest project. John Goodman and Julie Hagerty are great as the parents whose lives are totally turned upside down by the intrusion, while Noah Fleiss, Mark Webber and Jonathan Osser play the kids. With “Storytelling,” it is apparent that Solondz has plenty of axes to grind. Some of his subjects are welcome targets, while others seem trapped in a corner by a mean-spirited man-child. (New Line)

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