Movie preview

  • 2004-11-10
This week - Ladder 49 - Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Ladder 49

Director: Jay Russell

"Ladder 49" is best described as boring and sentimental. The central themes are love, family and valor in a the story follows a bunch of all-American firemen. No one needs to be told that firefighters are brave, but the movie keeps reminding us - in fact it's all it does. We never get under the skin of these natural-born heroes - the thick layer of melodrama gets in the way. The movie does try to depict the real people behind the heroes - trouble is, they are the kind of real people that only exist on film. The movie alludes to 9/11, but unfortunately, it gets so caught up in heroism and flag-waving that the actual quality of the movie seems secondary. If anything remotely original happened, it must have been during the two minutes I dozed off. (Julie Vinten)

"Ladder 49" has been labeled everything from "shameless treacle" to a film that "celebrates heroes without turning them into saints." Nevertheless, from an exhilarating alarm roaring blaze, this movie quickly disintegrates into a sputtering flame. The storyline begins with firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) lying in a burning building. In a series of flashbacks Jack's life from a rookie to the present dangerous moment are revealed. The husky Phoenix is practically the only reason to see this rather disappointing tribute. But even the gifted 30-year-old can't salvage a cliche-ridden script. It's always nice to see John Travolta in any role. However, in this potboiler he's just going through the motions to collect a paycheck it seems. Watch this drama only if you've seen every other film playing in town. (Laimons Juris G)

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Director: Danny Leiner

This is one movie that really gives the laughter muscles a firm workout. One evening, timid Korean-American Harold (John Cho) and his cocky Indian-American friend Kumar (Kal Penn) go through all sorts of crazy ordeals in their quest for fast food. This semirude comedy is filled with seriously funny sequences and the rest of the time it's just silly and lovable. Sure it's stupid, but it's also an upbeat social satire, which is very much aware of its own cliches and racial stereotypes. Cho and Penn deliver some charming and convincing performances, and it's largely due to this goofball screen-team that the movie succeeds as well as it does. Don't take "Harold & Kumar go to White Castle" too seriously - it's easygoing entertainment, and it really just wants to make you laugh. (Julie Vinten)

It's interesting to note that White Castle is the oldest hamburger chain in the United States. Their special 5-holed square patties are uniquely grilled over a bed of hot steaming onions. A loyal clientele has hungrily gobbled down over half a billion "slyders" (as the burgers are known) since 1921. You may think this movie was made to advertise and promote the fast-food restaurant but no, it's not a product placement picture. Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) get the munchies after smoking some weed. Despite the outstanding chemistry between Cho and Penn, there is really nothing the two likable actors can do to save this awful flick from being a genuine dud. Warning: contains profanity, nudity, blatant stereotyping, sexual situations and animal abuse - but nothing funny. (Laimons Juris G)

House of the Dead

Director: Uwe Boll

Cinema can't get much worse than this. This ghastly piece of trash is crammed with technical errors and has a ludicrous story, worse acting, and ridiculously unscary zombies. It's horrific not only because of it's amazing incompetence, but because it takes itself dead seriously. Reading interviews with director Uwe Boll, it's obvious that he considers "House of the Dead" an entertainment masterpiece. Honestly, that's hilarious. It's not entertaining, but absurdly amateurish. The studio might as well have chosen someone from the street with no previous directing experience or without any particular interest in cinema, and he could have made a better movie. It doesn't work on any level, not as a zombie-movie, not as a videogame adaptation, not at all. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. (Julie Vinten)

There are times when being a film critic is painful. "House of the Dead" is one of those moments. This graphic bloodbath of pornographic violence is the worst piece of crap this reviewer has had to sit through in his entire lifetime of watching films. Blatantly offensive, this movie acts as a vehicle for inciting violent and depraved crimes. Lacking any serious literary or artistic value it's an exercise in commercial overkill. The production features director Ron Howard's little brother who obviously didn't inherit any of his sibling's talents. If you want to see zombies on the rampage then watch the classy "28 Days Later" or the classic "Night of the Living Dead" instead. If you've recently had a lobotomy then this wretched concoction is right up your alley. (Laimons Juris G)