Monday, April 14, 2003

Anger Management / *1/2 (2003)

Trying to make sense of the material in "Anger Management" is almost like trying to understand Adam Sandler's entire career: the longer you attempt it, the more of a headache you wind up with. For nearly three fourths of its overlong running time, the movie holds up a bizarre and baffling pretense in which simple behavior spawns major overreactions and harsh punishments from others, sometimes seeming so severe that it's a wonder no one makes a point of challenging it beyond an amazed stare. And then the movie plays its nasty trick; no, not the kind that sheds new light on previous stuff, but the kind that makes us wonder why we even had to endure it all in the first place. The only thing missing from the climax, in fact, is someone jumping out in front of the hero and saying "Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"

The Core / **1/2 (2003)

You know it from the title. You can see it in the trailers. Even before you've gawked at two finalized seconds of "The Core" on screen, you know it is the most blatantly silly disaster film ever made. The notion is imbedded into our heads before the theater even goes dark. And why wouldn't it be? Any movie teasing the idea that human technology has advanced fast enough to allow men to venture deep into the cores of this complex planet has little plausibility going for it. Of course, credibility isn't exactly essential to disaster movies to begin with, but even then, certain borders have still been drawn and stepping over them can possibly be more damaging than beneficial.

A Man Apart / ** (2003)

One of "A Man Apart"s early scenes features a specifically stressed dialogue exchange in which a commanding officer instructs the men in his anti-narcotics team, one member of which is played by Vin Diesel, to drop their firearms before descending into a deadly drug bust to capture an infamous cartel leader. They follow through on the order because, well, it's the safer scenario. Then we cut to the next scene where we witness both the good guys and the bad guys engaged in major gunplay, thousands of rounds of ammunition piercing everything in sight as a result. Emphasizing this specific event wouldn't ordinarily be necessary at the start of a film review, but in this movie, it underlines not only an exact logic problem with one scene, but with the whole film itself. Like a chain reaction, this kind of implausible subtext repeats itself over and over again throughout this endeavor, depleting us of basic patience and robbing the film of its essential function to make a shred of sense.

Phone Booth / **** (2003)

It's not very safe to be on a phone anymore. Just ask anyone who gets stuck in traffic next to a driver with his ear glued to a highly-distracting cellphone, or the guy who takes a call inside the house when he should be keeping an eye on his kids at the deep end of the swimming pool. Consider the working woman who is receiving obscene phone calls because of the way she dresses, and think of the teenagers who are cleverly manipulated into a death trap by murderous men who ask with a certain rustic charm in their voice, "do you like scary movies?" The phone itself isn't necessarily a culprit to these kinds of conflicts—after all, would Alexander Graham Bell have invented it if he knew it would cause so much dismay?—but as the movies continue to tell us, they can be merciless magnets for deception and betrayal, easily turning an ordinary day into one we'd rather forget ever happened.