Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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May 2001

Comedy and Tradegy

You'll laugh, cry and shake your head in disgust

Fifteen-year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit), an overachieving high school senior, gets the chance of a lifetime: to spend a few weeks on the road with his favorite band, Stillwater, and write an article about them for Rolling Stone magazine. His mentor, rock critic Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), gives him one key piece of advice: “You cannot make friends with the rock stars.” That, however, is exactly what happens, as William allows himself to be seduced by the lifestyle and the group’s guitarist, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). He also falls in love with one of the groupies, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Meanwhile, back home, William’s mother (Frances McDormand) does her best to keep tabs on her son’s whereabouts by calling the hotels where he’s staying, leaving one clear message: “Don’t use drugs!” Can William write an unbiased piece about a group of people he worships? Director Cameron Crowe’s first film since Jerry Maguire is so engaging and entertaining that it’s destined to become a rock-era classic. His casting is impeccable: newcomer Fugit embodies innocence; Hudson is flamboyance; and McDormand is a delight. Almost Famous is, in fact, almost perfect.

Erudite and debonair African-American television writer Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) is an industry insider who has obviously sold out to white corporate America. When his boss, network exec Thomas Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport), demands that he come up with a fresh kind of show that isn’t targeted at middle class blacks and will “make headlines,” Delacroix has a brainstorm—he devises a program that is so blatently racist that it offends the entire population. That, he explains to his assistant, Sloan (Jada Pinkett Smith), will send a message to the audience. The result: Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show, a variety show set in a watermelon patch on a plantation featuring two lead characters, Mantan (Savion Glover) and Sleep ’n’ Eat (Tommy Davidson), who are described as “ignorant, dull-witted, lazy and unlucky” and are played by black actors wearing blackface. It’s an instant success—but at what price? Bamboozled is the work of master provocateur Spike Lee, who, as usual, confronts audiences with issues of race and racism. It is certainly the angriest film Lee has made, skewering almost everyone in it, both black and white. This is satire with a sledgehammer.

Mary Fiore (Jennifer Lopez) is the most successful wedding planner in San Francisco. But, she is a workaholic and has made no time for a romance of her own. Things change one afternoon when she is saved from being stuck by a runaway dumpster by handsome doctor Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey). The two spend a romantic evening together and Mary thinks she may have found Mr. Right, until Steve turns out to be the fiancé of her latest client, Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). As the planning of the wedding progresses, Mary and Steve’s mutual attraction poses a growing problem. The central flaw of the film is neither the acting nor the directing, but the script. The stars suffer through a lame dialogue, plot inertia and little chemistry. It doesn’t help that Lopez looks bored and McConaughey appears to be lost. Box offices should think about a quick divorce from The Wedding Planner.

Three pairs of strangers, running from lives they’ve left behind, are brought together by a karaoke contest. Meet Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis), a hustler, and his adult daughter, Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom he just met for the first time at her mother’s funeral. Then there’s Suzi (Maria Bello), a small-time singer who convinces cab driver Billy Hannon (Scott Speedman) to drive her across the country in exchange for sexual favors. Finally, there’s Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti), a salesman who snaps, abandons his family and starts singing karaoke. One day he picks up excon Reggie (Andre Braugher), and the two strike up an unusual friendship based on guns and mutual pessimism. What will the group learn about themselves? Director Bruce Paltrow returns to film in collusion with famous daughter Gwyneth who gives the least objectionable performance. Duets gets off to a slow start, with off-putting characters and inane dialogue. It gradually improves, but the stories are thin and the acting stilted. In the process, decent performances by Bello and Braugher fall by the wayside. Duets isn’t just offbeat. It’s off-key.

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