MovieMantz Reviews: ‘Poseidon,’ ‘Just My Luck’
First Published: April 29, 2006 6:44 PM EDT Credit: TAO Nightclub Las Vegas
-- - By Scott “Movie” Mantz?A See-Worthy Adventure?
?Poseidon?Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Emmy RossumDirected by Wolfgang Petersen
Move over, James Cameron. There’s another filmmaker out there who loves the water, and he may even love it more than you do.
That would be Wolfgang Petersen, who — after 1981’s ?Das Boot? and 2000’s ?The Perfect Storm? — jumps off the deep end yet again with ?Poseidon,? an exciting $175 million update of the 1972 Gene Hackman-Shelley Winters classic ?The Poseidon Adventure.?
Being back in familiar waters has done the German-born filmmaker some good, as he rebounds nicely from 2004’s disappointing ?Troy? to give summertime moviegoers exactly what they’d expect from a 21st Century disaster epic — amazing special effects, huge sets, edge-of-your-seat thrills and, of course, one mighty big wave.
As for all that other cornball stuff — you know, character development, good dialogue and any semblance of logic — hey, its summertime folks, so who needs that?
Certainly not Petersen, who keeps the film short and sweet with a running time of just 1 hour and 29 minutes (without the ending credits). And Petersen cuts right to the chase, which in this case comes in the form of an enormous 150-foot wall of water that flips the luxury liner over about 16 minutes in. Otherwise, the plot — what little of it there is — is pretty faithful to producer Irwin Allen’s original film. Then again, since that movie barely had a plot, how could it not be?
It’s New Year’s Eve, and the passengers aboard the SS Poseidon are about to celebrate the hard way. They include professional gambler Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), nine-year-old Conor (Jimmy Bennett) and his single mother Maggie (Jacinda Barrett), former New York mayor Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), his precocious daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum) and her fiancé Christian (Mike Vogel), a shy stowaway (Mia Maestro) and a suicidal gay man (Richard Dreyfuss). When disaster strikes just seconds after midnight, these former strangers have to rely on each other if they are going to escape from their sinking death trap before it gives the Titanic some company.
Back in the 70’s, Irwin Allen was the Jerry Bruckheimer of his day, earning the title ?Master of Disaster? for producing entertaining spectacles that pushed the boundaries of stunts and special effects beyond anything that moviegoers had seen before. The image of a passenger dangling from a table before crashing through a light fixture is one of the iconic images from the original ?Poseidon Adventure,? and of course, who can forget Allen’s incredible follow up, 1974’s ?The Towering Inferno??
But times have changed, and the prospect of watching people die in a big Hollywood movie isn’t as much fun as it used to be. As it is, the only true disaster epic to emerge from the studios since 9/11 was 2004’s ?The Day After Tomorrow,? but even that came with a message (global warming is bad for you). But what makes ?Poseidon? so darn entertaining is that it represents a return to the classic Hollywood disaster thriller. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s a B-movie that knows it’s a B-movie — think ?Titanic,? but without the love story.
At the same time, make no mistake — ?Poseidon? is not your daddy’s disaster flick. When the wave hits, it hits hard, and everything that isn’t nailed down is tossed around to a surprisingly violent effect. People die, and they die horribly. They fall, they get crushed, they get electrocuted and, of course, they drown. And as the survivors make their way to the bottom of the ship — which represents their only means of escape, since it’s now floating above the water — they pass by hoards of lifeless bodies at every turn.
And even though you know that the main characters will survive — at least, most of them will — Petersen tightens the screws on the intensity with each passing scene. You can’t help but hold your breath during the extended moments under water, and, perhaps borrowing from the claustrophobic fears that defined his 1981 submarine classic ?Das Boot,? Petersen masterfully directs an incredibly gripping, nerve-wracking scene where the survivors try to escape from a confined air vent that’s quickly filling up with water.
As with any disaster epic, the corny dialogue is delivered at the most inopportune times, and you never get to know any of the characters, but really, what do you need to know about them anyway? Sorry, but if you’re looking for an emotionally engaging, character-driven love story, then go rent ?Brokeback Mountain.? Otherwise, if you want to have fun with a big summer popcorn movie that’s packed with huge sets and non-stop thrills, then climb aboard ?Poseidon.?
And if the film does really well at the box office, then who knows — maybe Wolfgang Peterson will stay in the water for his next movie too!
Verdict: See it!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------?Better ‘Luck’ Next Time?
?Just My Luck?Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Chris PineDirected by: Donald Petrie
Lindsay Lohan may be one of the busiest young actors working today, but there is someone else in Hollywood who just might work harder than she does — her publicist. After all, if you had to do damage control every time your client got written up in the tabloids, you’d be pretty busy too.
Let’s face it, in the two years since ?Mean Girls? opened — when Lohan’s so-called private life got more attention than her movies — the 19 year-old starlet has had enough garbage written about her to fill up a 2-hour episode of ?The E! True Hollywood Story.?
And avid readers of gossip rags like US Weekly, Star Magazine and The National Enquirer have become well versed in those problems, ranging from her father’s run-ins with the law and an alleged eating disorder to hospitalized bouts of exhaustion and spats with fellow tabloid magnets Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. And don’t even get me started about her dating life.
But now Lohan is faced with a problem that even her publicist cannot put a positive spin on — her new movie, ?Just My Luck,? sucks. And that’s too bad, because the premise for the romantic comedy sure sounded like a cute idea. In it, Lohan plays Ashley Albright, an up-and-coming publicist (oh, the irony!) who takes her charmed life for granted. When it comes to winning the lottery or hailing a cab in New York, it never fails — Ashley pretty much gets whatever she wants.
Jake (Chris Pine), on the other hand, is practically a bad luck magnet with a (literally) crappy job cleaning toilets at a blowing alley, but he still works hard for the chance to sign a record deal for the band he manages. That chance comes when he sneaks into a top music producer’s masquerade ball, which is being organized by Ashley. When fate brings Ashley and Jake together on the dance floor, they share a magical kiss where their luck switches places. Now good fortune smiles upon Jake, but when Ashley’s life starts falling apart at the seams, she sets out to find her mystery man and get her good luck back.
To anyone who saw Lohan’s last movie, 2005’s ?Herbie: Fully Loaded,? it was quite obvious that she was anxious to put her clean-cut image as the face of Disney behind her (and since she had already become a staple in the tabloids, the feeling was probably mutual). Despite being a delightful family film, Lohan was practically busting out of her revealing outfits, which made her look older than she really was. To that extent, ?Herbie? could almost be seen as a transitional period for Lohan, who looked like she was more than ready to move on to more mature films.
But if ?Just My Luck? was supposed to be the first of those movies, then it falls far short. That’s because it’s a predictable, one-joke film that doesn’t go anywhere. And where director Donald Petrie scored before with romantic comedies like 1993’s ?Grumpy Old Men,? 2000’s ?Miss Congeniality? and 2003’s ?How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,? he misses the boat here by relying too much on slapstick gags that become increasingly unfunny, redundant and — unfortunately for Lohan and her charming co-star Chris Pine — embarrassing with each passing scene.
At least Lohan has not one, but three upcoming films that could put her back on track. First up, she plays Oscar-winner Meryl Streep’s daughter in ?A Prairie Home Companion,? the latest ensemble piece from legendary director Robert Altman. After that, she co-stars with Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone and Demi Moore in ?Bobby,? an ensemble drama about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Then there’s the controversial ?Chapter 27,? in which she plays a Beatles fan who befriends the man who killed John Lennon.
So as far as mature films go, Lohan may have better luck next time. As for now, at least she can take comfort in knowing that she just might be busier than her publicist after all.
Verdict: Skip it!------------------------------------------------------------------------------------‘Mission’ Incredible!
“Mission: Impossible III”Starring: Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour HoffmanDirected by: J.J. Abrams
So, fellow movie lovers, are you sick of Tom Cruise yet?
Are you tired of hearing about how happy Cruise and his fiancé Katie Holmes (a.k.a. TomKat) are with their new bundle of joy, Suri (a.k.a. TomKitten)? Haven?t you been overloaded with Cruise news for the past year, ever since he infamously mounted Oprah Winfrey?s couch in an effort to profess his love for Holmes? Didn?t he cross the line last summer, when his outspoken passion for Scientology and disdain for prescription drugs made even more headlines than the record-breaking box office grosses for ?War of the Worlds??
If you answered ?yes? to any of these questions, then join the club. As a die-hard Cruise fan ever since I first saw ?Risky Business? back in 1983, even I have to admit that I was a little disturbed by his alarming public meltdown, especially after decades of maintaining such a carefully controlled image. But just when I think I?ve had enough of his antics, I watch one of his movies on DVD or cable, and I suddenly remember why I became such a big fan in the first place.
That?s because the guy makes great movies, and his latest blockbuster-to-be, ?Mission: Impossible III,? is no exception. Inspired by the classic TV series that ran from 1966 to 1973, the third installment of the franchise ? which so far has grossed over $1 billion worldwide ? is by far the best ?Mission? yet. And just when it looked like the film would never get made ? thanks to a ballooning budget and a revolving door of directors that included David Fincher (?Seven?) and Joe Carnahan (?Narc?) ? the third time proved to be the charm for director J.J. Abrams, whose sensibilities as the creator of TV?s spy drama ?Alias? fit the ?Mission: Impossible? mold like a glove.
So it shouldn?t come as a shock that ?M:i:III? plays out more like a big screen version of ?Alias? than the now-dated TV series it was originally based on. In fact, that?s what makes it so much better than its predecessors ? sure, it sounds like a cliché, but this time, it?s personal. Just like Jennifer Garner?s Sydney Bristow fought to keep her cloak and dagger lifestyle a secret from her friends, so Cruise?s recently retired super-spy Ethan Hunt tries to keep his former day job a secret from his oblivious girlfriend, Julia (Michelle Monaghan).
That proves to be an impossible task in itself when Hunt is called back to active duty by the Impossible Missions Force to capture Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a ruthless arms dealer who is out to steal a mysterious device called the Rabbit?s Foot. Hunt traverses the globe from Berlin to Rome to Shanghai in an effort to track down Davian, but in the process, he soon discovers a conspiracy within the IMF that forces him to question the motives of his colleagues. But those are the least of his problems when Davian captures Julia, forcing Hunt to make a harrowing decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Coming roughly 10 years to the day after the first ?Mission: Impossible? launched Cruise?s career as a producer, ?M:i:III? turns out to be the perfect film to kick off the summer movie season. Where the first film was boring and confusing and the second film (2000?s ?M:I-2?) was stylish, but kind of corny, the third go-round has the perfect balance of action, suspense, humor, romance, heart and fun. And as expected, the stunts are quite spectacular, even if a couple them will draw comparisons to the famous bridge scene from 1994?s ?True Lies? and even one of Cruise?s own centerpiece stunts from the first ?Mission: Impossible.?
Speaking of which, there?s a reason why Cruise is the biggest, highest-paid star on the planet ? he works his tail off for it. Not only does he do most of his own stunts, but he also goes above and beyond for a grueling performance that exceeds what is normally required for the genre. The same goes for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who?s terrific in a menacing, but all-too-brief role that couldn?t be more different from his Oscar-winning performance in ?Capote.?
And thanks to his experience with handling an ensemble cast on his other popular TV series ?Lost,? director J.J. Abrams ? who also co-wrote the screenplay with his ?Alias? collaborators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci ? gives the supporting cast members plenty to do. After first working with Abrams in TV?s ?Felicity,? Keri Russell gets to flex her muscles in a small, but crucial role as Cruise?s protégé. Ving Rhames once again reprises his role from the previous missions as tech wizard Luther Strickell, while Jonathan Rhys Meyers (?Match Point?) and newcomer Maggie Q round out Cruise?s able team.
Some of the stunts push the boundaries of credibility, while the subplot involving corruption within the IMF may seem a little derivative of the first film, but so what? ?M:i:III? is so good that moviegoers may not even realize that Cruise?s love interest, charmingly played by sexy up-and-comer Michelle Monaghan (who was terrific in last year?s ?Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?), bears a striking resemblance to ? you guessed it ? Katie Holmes. Coincidence? Maybe, but regardless, ?M:i:III? is still a relentlessly entertaining action thriller that?s bound to make even more money than the first two films.
That is, if people aren?t already sick of Tom Cruise!
Verdict: See it!
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