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Review of the day for the week of September 8, 1997.

Monday:
Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus
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Surprisingly, I actually liked the movie, Mr. Holland's Opus.

Reluctantly, Mr. Holland becomes a music teacher at a high school. He only plans to teach for four years, then spend the rest of his life composing music. But, somehow he winds up teaching music a lot longer - 30 years to be exact.

One summer, he teaches Driver's Ed. - for extra money. He is horrified by his students' lousy driving, but when his wife has a baby, he drives recklessly to get to the hospital. The students in the car were terrified. That was so-o-o funny.

Mr. Holland helps many of his students - not just in appreciating music, but in other ways. At one point, he asked the school band to play something for him. They were terrible. Not a single band member hit a note correctly. Does Mr. Holland give up on them? No...soon, with patience, he has them playing beautifully.

Other things happen. He discovers that his son is deaf. A favorite student is killed in Viet Nam. A brilliant student named Rowena is discovered. And on it goes - interestingly.

The best part of this movie is that it will make you appreciate your good teachers even more.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Tuesday:
The Truth About Cats and Dogs

The Truth About Cats and Dogs
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The truth about The Truth About Cats and Dogs is that it is an hilariously funny, romantic comedy.

I'd promised an online buddy that I'd write him an email note about The About Truth Cats and Dogs as soon as I returned from the theater, and this is what I wrote:

You will love The Truth About Cats and Dogs!! If you like Mrs. Doubtfire type movies, you'll enjoy it. A veternarian named Abby (Janeane Garofalo) has her own talk show. She helps a "caller" (Ben Chaplin), and he wants to meet and thank her - in person. Naturally, she lies, and says that she is "tall, blond, and hard to miss". Meeting Abby's friend, Noelle (Uma Thurman), who fits that description, he immediately thinks she is Abby. Abby, who claims her name is Donna continues to talk to him on the phone, but Noelle actually dates him. Who is he falling in love with - "Donna" or "Abby?".

And that's the Truth About Cats and Dogs.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
Excess Baggage

Excess Baggage
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Excess Baggage, Alicia Silverstone's latest half-hearted endeavor is entertaining, but nowhere near as laughably wacky as the 1996 Clueless movie (her best performance, in my opinion), yet it is certainly more humorous than Batman and Robin.

Silverstone's character, Emily Hope, is also oddly similar to Clueless "Cher": She's the privileged only child of a rich businessman; her mother died when she was little and she frequently schemes and connives plots that would only work in a movie. However, Emily is much more neglected, and therefore bitter, than Cher, and her antics are more out of anger and resentment than simple high school scheming. Emily is so desperate that she stages her own kidnapping in order for her so-far uncaring father to pay ransom, rescue her, and be so overjoyed at her safe return that he starts paying attention to her. Things are going smoothly until the car - that she has locked herself into the trunk of - is stolen. While a romance develops between Emily and the car thief, her Uncle Ray, who apparently loves Emily more than her father, catches on to her tricks.

Excess Baggage has too many serious moments and overstated morals to be a true side - splitter like Clueless, but it's still has enough humor, and good acting to rate it three stars.

My Rating = Three Star

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Thursday:
Fire Down Below

Fire Down Below
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Fire Down Below did not exactly set my heart on fire.

Seagal is an Invincible Man. At several different points during the movie, he is surrounded by men with guns, yet he knocks them all unconscious and doesn't even mess up his impeccably neat suit coat. Apparently, no person - make that no one at all! - can take him. So totally unrealistic. (It's a good thing it's rated R; any kid who saw it would get the impression that you can take on a group of armed men and not get hurt.) Even someone with as much karate and weapons training as Seagal's character has would eventually get hurt.

If you're still wondering, Seagal is defending a small Kentucky town from a father and son criminal team who are dumping toxic waste in rivers that supply the town's water. Along the way, he falls in love with a supposed murderer. Not much of a plot here.

Country music fans might like it because it has nonstop country jingles and appearances by a few country singers. Personally, I found all the country music annoying and distracting from the plot (which wasn't worthwhile anyway, but that's beside the point). Not much of a country fan, I thought some heavy metal would have juiced up the scenes where Seagal is punching guys out left and right.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Friday:
Before and After

Before and After
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Before and After kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Unlike other supposedly "thrilling" movies that I've seen lately, I couldn't figure out the ending. Also, the movie was so intense that I wound up nervously sucking ice cubes from my drained cup of Fruitopia. I simply couldn't move.

Edward Furlong portrays Jacob Ryan, a 16-year-old, accused of the brutal murder of his girlfriend, Martha Taverner. Jacob's mother, Dr. Ryan, is portrayed by Meryl Streep. She views the dead girl's body in the hospital, where she is employed - only to learn later that her own son is suspected of the horrid crime, and he has now run away. Vanished. Post cards are sent to their house from all over the country - supposedly from Jacob.

Meanwhile, Ben Ryan, Jacob's father, feels guilty because he fought with Jacob the day of the murder - before Jacob left to pick up Martha from work. When Ben examines Jacob's car, he discovers - how original! - a bloody glove. Wonder where the screenplay writer got that idea? So, loving father Ben Ryan destroys evidence, and a search, or rather, a manhunt is held for Jacob. What really happened that snowy, sinister day between Jacob and Martha? Did Jacob do it? Will he win his court case?

Definitely see this moving movie to find out!

My Rating = Three Stars

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Saturday:
Mrs. Winterbourne

Mrs. Winterbourne
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Despite the fact that the plot to Mrs. Winterbourne is repetitious, and the ending is no surprise, it is still - in my opinion - a highly entertaining movie.

Ricki Lake stars as Connie Doyle, a pregnant, broke, young woman involved in a train wreck. At the hospital, Connie is mistakenly thought to be the daughter-in-law of a very rich woman - Mrs. Winterbourne (Shirley MacLaine). Since Connie has nowhere to go, no money, etc., she decides to become Patricia Winterbourne, and live with her wealthy mother-in-law - the other Mrs. Winterbourne. It's not a bad life - Connie and her infant son are brought to the enormous estate of Mrs. Winterbourne, and Connie readily adapts to Patricia Winterbourne's lifestyle. All in one day, Connie is given a makeover, a checkbook, and a new boyfriend.

Oh, yes, an especially funny scene involves four people confessing to the same murder!

Althought you can easily figure out what's going to happen, "Will the truth be known?" - it's still a fun movie.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Sunday:
Hoodlum

Hoodlum
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This three - hour saga drags lethargically onward with the pace of a snail - who's just swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. Even the violent scenes where everyone gets shot are boring (if you're wondering how that's possible, just see the movie).

From the beginning, it is unclear who's after who and why. I get the impression that "Bumpy" Johnson (Lawrence Fishburne), the main character, is supposed to be the hero of the story, although he doesn't strike me as your prototypical good guy type. Bumpy shoots just as many people as the "bad guys" who are after him and his lottery business.

I can't give Fishburne points for great acting either, because all he did was keep a perpetually cold and disinterested expression on his face for the duration of the movie.

If you're particularly fond of stories about the Mafia and the 1930's, you might be more entertained by this headache of a movie than I was, but if not, skip it. It was too lengthy, too bloodthirsty, too brutal and too complicated for my taste.

My Rating = Two Stars

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