Connery looms large in streetwise 'Forrester'
By STEVE PERSALL
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2001
[Photo: Columbia Picture]
William Forrester (Sean Connery), left, and Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) are an unlikely pair of friends in Finding Forrester.
(PG-13) Author William Forrester (Sean Connery) wrote the great American novel, then disappeared from public view, like J.D. Salinger. Self-exile in Brooklyn ends when a gifted writing student (Rob Brown) deduces his identity, then asks for guidance in a major class assignment. Each stubborn man learns something from the other in a dutifully uplifting film by director Gus Van Sant.
First impressions: "Finding Forrester is a film about literary greatness written by someone who appears never to have cherished a book. . . It's a terrible omission of detail, especially since (screenwriter Mike Rich is) ignoring the very process he's practicing. Writers write, but Rich gets it wrong.
"Rich doesn't fare any better with the other potentially inspirational aspect of Finding Forrester. Jamal's inner city existence and his chance to advance beyond it through literature should be more moving than this. . . Van Sant does have a nice way with Jamal's hip-hop surroundings, though. Finding Forrester feels genuinely streetwise. . .
"Connery is solid, as usual, in a role tailored for his proud lion persona. Most of his scenes happen in William's apartment, and Connery always plays it too big for the room."
Second thoughts: It's always gratifying when such a transparent lunge for Oscar fame fails to get a single nomination.
Rental audience: Connery buffs, literary types.
Rent it if you enjoy: The Hurricane, Good Will Hunting.
(PG-13) Adam Sandler plays goofy-dull as Satan's clumsy son, sent to upper Earth to stop his evil brothers from destroying humanity. A wheezy accent, greasy hair and shy posturing is the extent of Sandler's comedy creation. Harvey Keitel embarrasses himself (again, after Holy Smoke) as the devil.
First impressions: ". . . a series of disconnected gags designed to offend, but rarely sharp enough to be given such credibility. Jabs at organized religion, demonic messages hidden in music and a wheelchair posse crashing into a bus are the high points. Talking dogs that copulate, a man with female breasts implanted on his head and Dana Carvey's mugging are the lows. . .
"Sandler is entitled to a few mistakes in his career, but the cavalier sloppiness of Little Nicky is a bit alarming. He doesn't even seem motivated enough to repeat himself, much less apply any new comic ideas. Nobody with such a limited range of talent should take anything for granted when it comes to pleasing an audience."
Second thoughts: Very high (or low, depending on your perspective) on my list of 2000's 10 worst movies.
Rental audience: Sandler freaks only.
Rent it if you enjoy: The Waterboy, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, ad(am) nauseam.
DVD: New and noteworthy for digital players
'Rocky' shot Stallone to stardom
Rocky: 25th anniversary special edition
Americans needed a red-white-and-blue hero in 1976 when the nation's bicentennial birthday rolled around. Bad vibes from Vietnam, Watergate and societal violence lingered. Movies like All the Presidents Men, Network and Taxi Driver wouldn't let us forget.
Then along came a street bum with dreams of stardom and an unlikely stage to make them come true. Not boxer Rocky Balboa, but the struggling actor-screenwriter who created him, Sylvester Stallone. The former University of Miami drama student had returned home to New York to act, getting mainly walk-on parts and a $200 gig in the porno flick Party at Kitty and Studs (retitled The Italian Stallion after Rocky became a hit).
Stallone was broke and nearly homeless when he went on a two-week writing binge resulting in Rocky. The author gambled, taking a low advance payment from producers in exchange for starring in the movie and a piece of the profits. Three Oscars and $117-million in ticket sales later, Stallone was a star.
The 25th anniversary DVD of Rocky includes a 33-minute interview with Stallone recalling the lean times and the celebrity that followed. Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen handles the audio commentary track during the movie along with producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff and actors Talia Shire and Burt Young.
Three featurettes are included: a behind-the-scenes documentary and posthumous tributes to actor Burgess Meredith (Mickey the trainer) and cinematographer James Crabe. Original preview trailers, TV ads and poster art round out the package.
REWIND: Videos worth another look
Penn and Wright, together and apart
Today is the fifth wedding anniversary for mercurial actor-director Sean Penn and actor Robin Wright (Penn). Don't expect them to celebrate. They're presently separated, something Hollywood gossips anticipated sooner than this.
Robin Wright Penn, left, and Sean Penn star in Shes So Lovely.
Hey, a firecracker like Madonna couldn't handle Penn's infamous temper. So, why would anyone believe Princess Buttercup or Forrest Gump's sweet girlfriend Jenny could do it?
Some marital tension may have developed as Penn and Wright worked together on four films, especially since he was her director twice. One such collaboration, The Pledge, featuring one of Jack Nicholson's best performances ever, will be available on home video in June.
Until then, try any other Penn-Wright connections, or separate projects noted here:
She's So Lovely -- Wright plays an addicted, neglected wife whose husband (Penn) is sent to prison. When he gets out, she's married again to a gangster (John Travolta). Directed by Nick Cassavetes from a script written by his legendary father, John.
Hurlyburly -- David Rabe's scathing stage play about Hollywood players and losers is outdated, yet features a roster of strong performances including Penn as a cocaine-addicted casting agent and Wright as his suffering lover.
The Crossing Guard -- Penn directs a downbeat tale of a father (Nicholson) whose child was killed by a drunk driver (David Morse). The driver's parole sets a moody revenge plot into motion. Wright impressed as an artist endorsing life, not grief.
The Princess Bride -- Wright plays Princess Buttercup, gentle heiress to a kingdom under siege in Rob Reiner's madcap spoof of fairy tale conventions. You never hear a bedtime story quite the same way again.
Dead Man Walking -- Penn's reputation in some quarters as America's finest actor was bolstered by his Oscar nomination for best actor in Tim Robbins' death-row drama. Susan Sarandon won an Academy Award as a sympathetic nun.
Forrest Gump -- Sure, you've seen it plenty of times. Just once, pay close attention to Wright's delicate performance as wayward Jenny. It's a model of understated backbone in a role that, on the surface, appears to have none.
Sweet and Lowdown -- Another Oscar nomination for Penn, this time playing an egotistical jazz guitarist in Woody Allen's Prohibition-era comedy.
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