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'The Pink Panther'
By Dan Vinson
Originally slated for an August
2005 release (delayed because
of studio buyouts), the newest
entry in "The Pink Panther"
sweepstakes is not strictly a
remake, but an amalgamation of
all the Inspector Clouseau films
starring the inimitable Peter
Sellers. He played Jacques Clouseau
five times for director Blake
Edwards (six, if you count the
final posthumous cobbling by Edwards)
between 1963 and 1978. Now, if
anyone can approximate Sellers,
it's Steve Martin, but Martin's
"Cheaper by the Dozen"
director Shawn Levy is not someone
who echoes Blake Edwards.
This "Pink Panther"
concerns theft and murder. The
theft is, of course, the "pink
panther" diamond from the
finger of French soccer coach
Yves Gluant (Jason Statham), in
front of a packed stadium. And
he's also the murder victim. Chief
Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline)
wants this case closed quickly,
but more importantly, he wants
the credit. Passed over for the
French Medal of Honor five times,
he won't allow a sixth. To ensure
bumbling, so that he and his ace
detectives can quietly go about
solving the crime, he finds the
most incompetent police officer
in France, Jacques Clouseau. A
loyal public servant, if woefully
lacking verbal and manual dexterity,
the promoted Clouseau gets assigned
a partner, Ponton (Jean Reno),
who secretly reports their "progress"
back to Dreyfus. In Clouseau's
corner for real is his adorable
and equally clumsy secretary,
Nicole (Emily Mortimer). Starting
with Gluant's girlfriend, the
pop star Xania (pop star Beyoncè
Knowles), the suspects begin to
pile up, also including a disgruntled
player formerly known as Xania's
boyfriend, the team trainer Yuri
(Henry Czerny), and assorted Gluant
Meanwhile, Clouseau and Ponton
get used to working together -
Clouseau's interviewing tactics,
bizarre mannerisms, and attacks
"without warning" to
keep Ponton alert - and Dreyfus'
team forges on. But then Clouseau
becomes famous after inadvertently
thwarting the "gas mask bandits"
(insert clever cameo here), and
Dreyfus needs to knock him down
a few pegs. When Clouseau and
Ponton follow Xania to New York
they proceed to make public fools
of themselves (via Dreyfus), and
worse, France. The disgraced Clouseau
is off the case, and Dreyfus,
by jove, is ready to take over.
But something on the Internet
sparks Clouseau to grab Ponton
and Nicole and try to close the
case. In the final, very public,
unmasking - Scooby-Doo style -
will Clouseau be right, or Dreyfus?
Will Clouseau live to solve crimes
Bathed in full-time silliness
and accents (even Frenchman Reno
seems to be doing one), "The
Pink Panther" contains enough
pratfalls to fill a soccer stadium.
Clouseau seemingly can't walk
five feet without falling or setting
something on fire. That gets old.
The Sellers films more successfully
balanced physical comedy and sight
gags with ridiculous, witty, referential
dialogue, but this "Panther"
script, despite the obvious Martin
touches, isn't quite as smart
about being dumb. And whereas
the original "Panther"
paved the way for generations
of spoofs, 40 years later, with
audiences encountering, among
innumerable others, "Airplane,"
"Naked Gun," "Austin
Powers," and "Scary
Movie" (not to mention "Saturday
Night Live"), no matter Martin
and company's intentions, spoofs
aren't unique anymore.
Still, this doesn't mean they're
entirely unwelcome either. There
are four chief reasons to catch
this "Pink Panther":
Martin, Kline, Mortimer, and priceless
tough guy Reno. All their film
work is plenty varied and here,
especially when Clouseau and Ponton
try to pass for Xania's backup
dancers, plenty funny. CV
'Final Destination 3'
By Erin Randolph
You can't cheat death. But somehow
horror films - including the "Final
Destination" series - continue
to cheat their audiences out of
genuinely scary films. And beyond
that, they're hardly ever rated
correctly. Films that should have
been made for an 18-and-up audience
are dumbed down into PG-13 teen
flicks. And the opposite is true
sometimes, as well.
"Final Destination 3"
is in the latter category. This
film, about high school seniors
who attempt to cheat death, is
more appropriate for a PG-13 crowd,
if only because the film's main
characters are under 18 (which
makes things interesting when
we see two 17-year-old girls'
boobs exposed in a scene clearly
made to titillate the males' senses
in the audience).
In this installation of the
franchise, set six years after
the original, a high school senior
has a premonition about a fatal
rollercoaster ride that turns
out to be true. Her boyfriend
and some of her classmates fall
to their gory deaths, but those
who were allowed to exit before
the ride embarked are left to
deal with the ramifications of
circumventing their fate: death.
As death comes after the rollercoaster
riders in the order they should
have died, the girl with the premonition
powers works to warn those whose
turn is up next.
"Final Destination 3"
isn't scary; it's gruesome, with
deaths punctuated by plenty of
blood, guts and brains splattered
about. And it's the extremely
violent deaths that create an
underbelly of discomfort that
exists within the viewer, who's
left to wait for gory death after
gory death without much respite
as these teens drop like flies.
And it may make some people rethink
riding rollercoasters or visiting
On top of all the extreme violence,
there are glaring plot holes that
prevent this film from fully succeeding,
even for those whose only requirement
in a horror film is blood and
plenty of it. Had the gore-factor
been turned down, and had this
film been marketed to a high school
crowd, these plot holes may have
been more forgivable. Perhaps
such alterations will be made
in "Final Destination 4."
By Lexi Feinberg
Harrison Ford has built a career
playing strong everyman types,
laughing in the face of danger
and ensuring that good always
prevails over evil. In "Firewall,"
he plays - you guessed it - an
average Joe fighting to save his
family from bad guys who threaten
to unleash domestic chaos.
Working as a top computer security
executive at Landrock Pacific
Bank, Jack Stanfield (Ford) designs
high-tech anti-theft software
to keep criminals from hitting
the jackpot during robberies.
The system is completely foolproof
and perfectly protected, which
gives a group of baddies headed
by Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), a
prime "eureka!" moment:
they will stalk Jack and follow
his every word and movement for
a year, so they can break the
codes by using him as a pawn.
They learn everything there is
to know by trailing him, monitoring
his computer access and learning
secrets about his family.
One evening while he is at a
business meeting, his stalkers
break into his upscale ocean-front
home and seize his wife Beth (Virginia
Madsen), daughter Sarah (Carly
Schroeder), and son Andrew (Jimmy
Bennett). But instead of taking
them captive to a far away place,
they decide to camp out at their
home and hold an informal slumber
party with guns. But there is
no time for cheese dip or pillow
fights; these guys mean business.
The movie becomes a cat-and-mouse
chase through a series of B-list
action segments (yes, there are
several car chases), and ultimately
collides into a deadend wall of
immeasurable stupidity. Ford growls
his lines like an aged grizzly
bear, and thanks to Joe Forte's
absurd script, his dramatic moments
only invoke laughter. Madsen,
fresh off her success in "Sideways,"
is reduced to a vacant chirpy
The nail in the coffin for "Firewall"
is its unapologetic string of
product placements. It seems obvious
that there was a bidding war for
corporate sponsorship during production.
Throughout the story, an iPod,
camera phone, and computerized
dog collar help save the day.
The moral of this story is that
if you don't have fancy gadgets,
you may as well accept your doomed
'Mrs. Henderson Presents'
By Lexi Feinberg
Mrs. Henderson (Judi Dench),
a wealthy woman living in London
circa 1937, doesn't roll over
and die when her husband passes
away. While she is saddened by
the loss of her longtime love,
she isn't about to bury herself
with him. "I'm bored with
widowhood!" she announces
to her friend Lady Conway (Thelma
Barlow). And instead of taking
up embroidery or making a daily
routine out of sipping tea and
eating crumpets at noon, a different
plan of action is taken: she buys
a theater and features female
performers wearing nothing but
"Mrs. Henderson Presents"
is the story of a courageous lady
who takes an unconventional route
after personal tragedy. After
buying London's Windmill theater
on a whim, she meets with a manager
named Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins),
hoping he will run the business.
Immediately, they engage in bickering
love-hate banter, each taking
turns offending the other. Although
they seemingly can't stand each
other, there is a lingering sexual
tension, and they agree to do
business together (strictly professionally,
Van Damm comes up with a revolutionary
idea for the theater called Revuedeville,"
a series of musical vaudevilles
performed nonstop throughout the
day. While he insists on full
artistic control, Mrs. Henderson
meets his demand with inadvertent
reluctance. She just can't help
from offering her two cents, ranging
from "what a frivolous bore"
to "how delicious!"
Soon after, he bans her from the
theater, but she sneaks inside
wearing a variety of costumes,
including a foolish tap-dancing
bear suit at an audition. There
are no limits to Mrs. Henderson's
stubborn eccentricities, or Van
Damm's strong desire to run the
company without her interference.
becomes so popular that other
local theaters copy it - bringing
the Windmill to near bankruptcy
- Mrs. Henderson steps in with
the lucrative idea of getting
girls naked on stage. But first,
she must convince Lord Cromer
(a surprisingly uptight Christopher
Guest) to grant them permission
within country guidelines. He
finally agrees, unable to turn
down this powerful woman, with
the understanding that the girls
must stand still resembling nude
statues in a museum. There will
be no jiggling, frolicking or
the like. And the theater group
is off to recruit a group of young,
beautiful women, including Maureen
(Kelly Reilly), to stand in the
background and display what nature
gave them, while the real singers
and actors perform the show.
"Mrs. Henderson Presents"
is a ton of fun with the flashy,
energetic musical numbers and
silly offbeat humor. Writer Martin
Sherman ("Indian Summer")
provides a generally light, entertaining
romp at the theater, and director
Stephen Frears ("Dirty Pretty
Things") continues his winning
streak. The dynamic between Van
Damm and Mrs. Henderson, played
to perfection by Dench and Hoskins,
is a throwback to 1940s screwball
comedies in the vein of "His
Girl Friday." They both wear
their flaws like badges of honor
and it's a hoot to watch them
engage in verbal duels.
Where the movie falls short
is when it injects drama into
an otherwise pleasant, easygoing
story. The blitzkrieg hits, bombs
start striking London (World War
II), and a twinge of forced drama
explodes with them. In these brief
spots, the movie struggles to
find its footing.
The story is inspired by true
events, and it's easy to distinguish
which scenes are real and which
are written in for dramatic effect.
Thankfully, most of the film's
run is a rip-roaring, crowd-pleasing,
grand ole time. It's tough to
make a movie that includes screwball
comedy humor, musical numbers,
and a backdrop of war-stricken
London. "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
rises to the occasion and generally
shines, earning a well-deserved
round of applause. CV
By Lexi Feinberg
Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) is a hard-working
businesswoman with an impressive
income, a brand new house and
a great group of friends. What
she doesn't have, though, is a
man by her side, due in part to
overly high standards and a busy
work schedule. But unlike many
films that would portray Kenya
as a gorgeous woman who somehow
can't get a date, in this case,
it is clearly her own choice to
be single. Like 42.4 percent of
black women who aren't married,
she just hasn't found that IBM
- ideal black man - to settle
down with yet.
When her friends set her up
on a blind date, she is shocked
to see that it's a white guy,
Brian (Simon Baker) smiling and
introducing himself. Overcome
with discomfort about dating out
of her race, Kenya leaves skid
marks as she races out of the
coffee shop. But it won't be long
before they are reacquainted at
a party. Brian is a landscaper,
she discovers, and, shockingly,
her bushes need tending to. And
after seeing how great Brian is
with his hands, that he loves
dogs, enjoys adventure, and looks
perfect with his shaggy hair and
finely sculpted biceps, Kenya
can't help but to sample some
"Something New," the
directorial feature debut by Sanaa
Hamri, breaks no new ground with
its familiar plot devices, but
does offer flashes of intelligence
and truth beneath the surface,
while touching on the very touchy
issue of race. And if you can
look past the predictable formula,
and the fact that this story itself
is far from being something new,
it's at least a pleasant way to
spend a couple of hours. CV
'When a Stranger Calls'
By Joshua Tyler
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"
helmer Simon West steps into the
PG-13 horror genre director's
chair to deliver one of its weakest
entries yet. "When a Stranger
Calls" is the story of a
teenage babysitter named Jill
(Camilla Bell) tasked with hanging
out at a lavish house in an isolated
location and watching kids until
their parents get back. She's
not there long before she's frightened
by a cat, and the creepy music
starts there and never lets up.
But there's nothing to justify
all the scary background sounds,
as Jill wanders aimlessly through
her employers' well-appointed
house doing nothing.
Eventually, the phone rings
and on the other end is a lot
of heavy breathing. Jill hangs
up, but it keeps ringing and so
she keeps answering. Who is this
creep on the other end of the
phone? Is it her boyfriend? Her
spazzo, party-whore girlfriend?
Hold on, she's got to take a break
to get scared by an icemaker.
If you've seen any of the trailers,
then it's not a spoiler to tell
you that the strange caller is
actually in her house. But the
movie takes its time getting there,
and to make up for it, it tries
to find scares in the completely
mundane existence of lavishly
wealthy rural living. This type
of in-house scaring has been done
better, even recently, in movies
like "The Glass House"
and last year's "Hostage."
"When a Stranger Calls"
brings nothing new to the table,
and screws up a lot of the good
stuff that's already been done
Perhaps it seems old hat because
this is a remake of a 1979 pseudo-thriller
of the same name. The difference?
That movie was at least rated
R, allowing the possibility, however
slim, of actually being scared
by something. However, the new
"When a Stranger Calls"
is a minimum-effort horror movie.
It does just enough to scare easily
unnerved 13-year-old girls, and
not much else. Luckily for Sony
Screen Gems (but perhaps not so
lucky for those of us who wish
they'd stop making this sort of
movie), there are plenty of underage
would-be babysitters willing to
pile into theaters and pay for
on this story | Return