Sunday, December 9, 2007

ruthless movie

Can a single day turn a person's entire life around?

Mitch Albom apparently thinks so. At least that's the premise of his latest heart-tugger, a made-for-TV movie with the simplest of messages and the clunkiest of titles: Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day.

The two-hour movie, which airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC, is the third of Albom's best-selling books to be adapted as a movie for the network. The others were the Emmy-winning Tuesdays with Morrie >>in 1999 and The Five People You Meet in Heaven in 2004. Both movies, like this one, were simple morality plays, and both managed to capture sky-high ratings for the network. This one probably will, too.

By the way, Oprah is nowhere to be seen on this project; it was simply put together by her TV production company, with Albom adapting his own book for the teleplay.

For One More Day stars Emmy winner Michael Imperioli, who for several years played a ruthless and immature hoodlum on HBO's groundbreaking gangster soap opera, The Sopranos. Here he's Chick Benetto, an alcoholic and broken-down former baseball player who has managed to make a royal mess of his life.

Portraying Benetto's long-suffering mother, Posey, is Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), with other key roles filled by Samantha Mathis (Broken Arrow) as the younger Posey, Scott Cohen (Gilmore Girls) as Chick's self-absorbed father, Len, and Imperioli's 9-year-old son Vadim, in his film debut, playing Chick as a young boy.

As we meet the middle-aged Chick, he's in rough shape. His marriage is over, he's a failure at his sales job, and he's just learned that he wasn't invited to his only daughter's wedding for fear he'd stage his usual drunken scene. When he grabs a six-pack and jumps into his car one rainy night, it's obvious that he's headed for trouble, and the ensuing accident is hardly a surprise.

Chick survives the crash, somewhat unbelievably, with only a few minor bumps and bruises. Still despondent, though, he's on the verge of suicide when an apparition appears to him. It's his mother, who has been dead for years, and she proceeds to take her desperate and very confused son under her wing. She then spends the entire next day with him, offering gentle encouragement and revealing secrets about his family that he'd never known.

But she never really tells him how to live his life, even when he directly asks her to. "It's up to you," she tells him, smiling sweetly.

Through a series of sometimes disconcerting flashbacks, we see that Chick was forced early on by his overbearing and controlling father to choose between being a "momma's boy" or a "daddy's boy." He chose Dad, whose only goal was for his son to make it to the Major Leagues as a baseball player.

Like most things in Chick's life, though, his baseball career didn't pan out. He spent years on a bumpy and undistinguished ride through the minors, although he was called up briefly by the New York Mets, where he managed to stick around just long enough to ride the bench for a World Series.

Along the way, his dad walks out of his life, and in the end, the adult Chick learns a shocking truth about his father. It turns out the guy was a much bigger jerk than anyone knew - anyone but his wife, that is, a woman who spent her life doing whatever she had to do in order to keep her children fed and clothed. When she loses her job as a nurse, she works as a hairdresser and cleans houses. "You were a cleaning lady?" the adult Chick asks in astonishment, a hint of disapproval in his voice.

Much of the story is melodramatic and slow-moving, and Imperioli spends an inordinate amount of time gazing morosely out of windows and wondering what he's doing hanging out with a ghost, even if it's one who makes him lunch with the crust cut off the sandwich, just the way he liked it when he was a kid.

And at age 41, the actor is simply unconvincing playing a character who is old enough to have a married daughter, or to have appeared in a World Series in 1973 - unless, of course, he was about 12 years old when he suited up.

Burstyn, on the other hand, is wonderful as a loving mom who tenderly tries to convince her son that his life is still worth living. And Mathis as the younger Posey poignantly captures the pain and silent sacrifice that marked so much of her life.

So what's the moral of Albom's story? Well, maybe it's this - that it's never too late in life to acknowledge our mistakes and try to make amends.

Then again, maybe it's something much simpler, that people are so hungry for a feel-good tale - even if it's wrapped in a syrupy, sentimental package of platitudes - that when they find one, they'll make it into a best-selling book or a highly rated TV movie.Statham) always ran with a bad crowd and it cost him seven years of his life when he took the rap for mean Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta) and wound up in jail. After his release, Jake becomes unbeatable at the tables using a formula for the ultimate con that he learned from two mysterious fellow prisoners. Now he is ready to take his revenge. ...more

By Ron Wilkinson Dec 9, 2007, 2:58 GMT

Creepy and mysterious as �he Usual Suspects,?unseen forces and cryptic messages pit men against themselves in one of the darkest and best action-thrillers of the year.

Writer/director of the 1997 hit action flick �ock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels?Guy Ritchie has improved on the formula with his latest, the smash hit �evolver.?nbsp; The sophisticated, sleazy and action-packed gem revolves (no pun intended) around incorrigible criminal Jake (Jason Stathem--�he Transporter,?�natch?. Jake has occasion to do a very intense seven years in the criminals?school of school: prison. Given the fantastic choice of fourteen years in max with a moderate chance of survival or seven years in solitary, he takes the seven years.

But in fact the seven years of solitary are not completely solitary. He does the time in the company of two most amazing criminals. One is a master con-man and the other is a master chess player. From these two he learns the perfect con. He also learns the only way to improve is to play someone better than yourself. He also takes leave of his senses.

But this is perfect in the context of the film where everything is just a little irrational, anyway. We don� know he is nuts until he bets everything against uber-tough guy Macha, the reigning kingpin whose kingdom is in Jake� sights. Macha is played by Ray Liotta who combines �ogs of War�?Christopher Walken and �lengarry Glen Ross�?Alec Baldwin in what may be Liotta� best performance ever. The only thing close is his 1990 smash hit opposite Robert De Niro as Henry Hill in �oodfellas.?nbsp; But Liotta has way better lines in this film and carries it off 110%.

Jake� two prison mentors swear they will take him with them when they leave, but that doesn� happen. On the outside he makes a mysterious introduction with two very soft spoken, but apparently very good, criminals, Zach and Avi. Zach, a thug with a brain, is a laid back and calculating Vincent Pastore (�alvatore �ig Pussy' Bonpensiero?in the �opranos?TV series).

Avi is a sinister and brainy Andr?Benjamin (�e Cool?2005) who plays his part like Lawrence Fishburn in �ulp Fiction.?nbsp; His answers are short, sweet and to the point. And he never makes mistakes. In fact, he never even resorts to violence. He just figures things out.

Zach and Avi offer Jake the ultimate con: he must give them all his money or die of a rare but deadly blood disease.

Behind the scenes is Sam Gold, the man who pulls all the strings. We never see Sam Gold; he speaks through a withered, vicious woman who is reminiscent of one of the sadistic female KGB operatives in James Bond films. Sam Gold himself has all the trappings of Christopher McQuarrie� mythical god-like underworld expediter Kaiser Soeze in the classic mystery-thriller �he Usual Suspects.?/P>

In fact, director Guy Ritchie and screenwriter Luc Besson succeed in suffusing the entire movie with that same larger-than-life, Wizard of Oz type of presence---the unseen father-devil who has ultimate control. And the control is off the screen, always in the background. The characters themselves are never completely on their feet, no matter how tough, smart, sophisticated and charismatic they may be.

The presence of the ruthless Gold gives all of the other characters some of our sympathy. No matter how godless Macha is, he must be better than Gold. As for Jake, we root for him from the word go. He is the underdog made good. He served his time and is ready to go down in flames, just like a rock star. A regular Elvis Presley of the criminal underworld.

The bottom of the totem pole is hit man Sorter, played in a splendid performance by Mark Strong. Sorter is the man who never misses. But something is wrong with his target, Jake. He has Jake in his sights and somehow misses. Things are off kilter and even the Spock-like Sorter can� sort them out. There is a sense of creeping confusion here. A sense of creeping doom. Sorter can� shoot someone ten feet away, Macha is losing his kingdom and the greatest con-man in the world is being conned.

Jake has to learn to play someone smarter than himself. But he is the smartest there is. Who is left? Where is Kaiser Soeze when you need him? He may be closer than you think.


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