BOP 25 of Fall 2004: Selections 15-11
15) Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair is Reese Witherspoon’s latest high brow offering. This theatrical adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1840s satire is being panned by critics thus far as being far too Becky Sharp intensive. The moment Witherspoon signed on, though, BOP was expecting the southern belle to see her part dialed up. It’s Hollywood 101. As long as she offers another indie performance on the level of Election or Freeway, we see more Reese as a positive. But we still have neither forgotten nor forgiven her for the disaster-riffic Legally Blonde sequel.
The buddy comedy has been sucking wind for years now. The only decent one to come down the pike in 2003 was The Rundown, and it was only a marginal hit. 2004 has seen a total absence of quality buddy pictures, which is amazing for a genre that used to dominate the summer box office. Who would have thought that the salvation of the format would come in the form of a rap singer and an SNL News host?
That is the reality we are faced with as the trailers for Taxi indicate that Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah have tremendous onscreen chemistry. Anyone who says they saw that coming is lying. Taxi looks like an amalgam of a heist film, a Fast and the Furious clone, and an action comedy all rolled into one. When the project was first announced, BOP was not expecting much, but the trailers have definitely piqued our curiosity.
"From the creative team behind Election and About Schmidt" is more than enough to pique our interest in this modest little film. Director/writer Alexander Payne and his co-writer Jim Taylor have joined forces again; this time their subject matter of choice is the Rex Pickett novel Sideways. This road trip film for 30- to 40-somethings looks wry and acerbic, which is pretty much just how we like our humor these days. Starring Paul Giamatti, who wowed us in last year's American Splendor, and Thomas Haden Church, whom we've loved going all the way back to his portrayal of Lowell on Wings, the film follows the two guys to California's wine country as they go for a "last hurrah" before one of them is married. It's a salute to what remains of youth and an examination of what love means in a time where people are more jaded and cynical than they once were. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh bolster what looks like an already spectacular cast.
12) Shark Tale
The staff members at BOP are suckers for animated films, and the promise of one with such a terrific, creatively used voice cast is certainly intriguing. It's also fun to root for the little guy, and the little bottom-feeder named Oscar (Will Smith) is about as small as it gets. The fast-talking fish has big dreams, but it's not long before his little white lies land him in some hot water with the mob. In addition to Smith, the cast is outstanding and done with a wink and a nod toward classic mafia films of the past. Lending their voices are Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Jack Black, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Peter Falk, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Ziggy Marley and Doug E. Doug. DreamWorks CGI track record has been impeccable so far thanks to the Shrek series. Now it's time to see if their quality can hold up to the Pixar challenge.
11) Resident Evil: Apocalypse
BOP considers Resident Evil to be the best theatrical adaptation of a videogame in history. This is an honor akin to being named the best Hansen CD. We have to pick one, and with competition largely coming from Uwe Boll, it’s like drawing from a single card deck. Even so, the first Resident Evil film offered an innate understanding of the appeal of third person survival horror. Many of the shots were framed in a manner mimicking videogame sequences, with the overall effect being a perfect tone of creepy doom. The follow-up is being billed as more of a straight action film, but we hold out hope that it will again show an intrinsic comprehension of the permeating claustrophobia in the videogames.
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