THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Recently, I took a few days off work to complete that most time-consuming of projects: moving. In doing so, I didn't get a chance to write full-length reviews of a couple movies I saw. The films are worth mentioning, and so I review them here in capsule format.

Robin Williams develops some mental problems in One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo stars Robin Williams as Sy, a lonely middle-aged guy who works in the photo department of a Wal-Mart type discount store. He takes his job very seriously, which means that if you order double prints in glossy, you can be damn sure you won't open your envelope to find single prints in matte. Sy has been developing pictures of one family for so long, he feels like he knows them. He even makes himself extra copies of their photos so he can hang them around his apartment. Sy becomes obsessed with the family and tries to befriend them. When he discovers that they aren't the perfect picture of happiness, he feels hurt and takes action. One Hour Photo gives us what is hands-down the best performance of Robin Williams' career. He's absolutely brilliant. The movie doesn't glamorize what Sy does, yet it never makes him a flat-out villain either. He's not a monster, just a sad, lonely person who does something desperate because of it. Writer/director Mark Romanek could have taken an approach that was overly flashy or stylish, but instead he focuses very precisely on the emotions experienced by all the characters. The film kept me riveted from start to finish. It has moments of being tense, but mostly this is a portrait of the way one sorrowful man tries unsuccessfully to fill a void in his life. It's one of the year's best pictures.

( out of four)

Jason Statham delivers his latest "package" in The Transporter
The Transporter stars Jason Statham (Snatch) as Frank Martin, a guy who will deliver suspicious or illegal packages for a price. He's like an edgy version of Fed-Ex. One day, Frank breaks his own number-one rule: never open the package. Curiosity gets the better of him and he discovers he's been hauling a young woman around in the trunk of his car. When the recipient of the package finds out Frank took a peek, he tries to kill the transporter. Then Frank gets mad that the bad guy tried to kill him, so he tries to kill the bad guy. I think the screenplay for this movie was written by a two-year old. What The Transporter lacks in sophistication, intelligence, and logic, it more than makes up for in action. There are wall-to-wall stunts and explosions on display here. Most of them are pretty impressive, but the non-stop mayhem becomes tedious after a while. There's just much else here beyond that. I was amused by the film, but in the end it left me wanting a lot more story and a little less shooting.

( 1/2 out of four)

Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan make with the love in Brown Sugar
Brown Sugar does not have a new plot. It's that old chestnut about two opposite-sex best friends - Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs) - who spend years denying they are in love with each other before finally being driven into each others' arms. What makes this one different is that it features the hip-hop music industry as a backdrop. He works for a major record label; she's a music critic. The movie uses music as a comparison for love. Sidney talks about discovering hip-hop as a child, the way it helped her through tough times, and how her love for it now is greater than ever. As the film goes on, we realize she is also talking about Dre. Diggs and Nathan make a nice screen couple, and there are solid supporting performances from Queen Latifah, Nicole Ari Parker, and Mos Def. The music's pretty good, too. Brown Sugar takes an old tale and tells it in a fresh, modern way.

( out of four)

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