MARK S. DEROSA - MOVIE REVIEWS 2000

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CONTENTS


CLICK ON THE REVIEW YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE:

WHAT THE COLORS MEAN:
TOP OF THE LINE
(A+)
MUST SEE
(A)
VERY GOOD
(B)
GOOD
(C)
BORDERLINE OR BAD
(D)
*BOMB*
FINDING FORRESTER
DRACULA 2000
SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE
POLLOCK
HOUSE OF MIRTH
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES
TRAFFIC
THE GIFT
THE FAMILY MAN
CAST AWAY
VERTICAL LIMIT
OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
BEFORE NIGHT FALLS
STATE AND MAIN
THE SIXTH DAY
BOYS LIFE 3
CHOCOLAT
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR
WHAT WOMEN WANT
MISS CONGENIALITY
QUILLS
UNBREAKABLE
BOUNCE
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
LITTLE NICKY
YOU CAN COUNT ON ME
THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE
CHARLIE'S ANGELS
LUCKY NUMBERS
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
THE YARDS
DR. T & THE WOMEN
THE CONTENDER
BILLY ELLIOT
BOOTMEN
PAY IT FORWARD
GIRLFIGHT
TIGERLAND
DANCER IN THE DARK
BEST IN SHOW
THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB
MEET THE PARENTS
URBANIA
DUETS
ALMOST FAMOUS
NURSE BETTY
SNATCH
SIBERIA
PSYCHO BEACH PARTY
THE CELL
CECIL B. DEMENTED
BLESS THE CHILD
THE TAO OF STEVE
HOLLOWMAN
SAVING GRACE
EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
NUTTY PROFESSOR: THE KLUMPS
LOSER
BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER
WHAT LIES BENEATH
THE FIVE SENSES
X-MEN
CHUCK AND BUCK
IT'S THE RAGE
THE KID
SCARY MOVIE
TRIXIE
ROCKY & BULLWINKLE
THE PERFECT STORM
ME, MYSELF, & IRENE
JESUS' SON
CHICKEN RUN
BOYS AND GIRLS
GROOVE
SHAFT
SUNSHINE
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST
SHANGHAI NOON
PASSION OF MIND
8-1/2 WOMEN
MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 2
SMALL TIME CROOKS
ROAD TRIP
DINOSAUR
HAMLET
HUMAN TRAFFIC
UP AT THE VILLA
GLADIATOR
COMMITTED
TIMECODE
THE BIG KAHUNA
WHERE THE HEART IS
GOSSIP
U571
THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
EAST IS EAST
FREQUENCY
KEEPING THE FAITH
AMERICAN PSYCHO
28 DAYS
ME MYSELF I
JOE GOULD'S SECRET
WINTER SLEEPERS
BUDDY BOY
HIGH FIDELITY
THE SKULLS
HERE ON EARTH
WAKING THE DEAD
FINAL DESTINATION
ERIN BROCKOVICH
MISSION TO MARS
THE NINTH GATE
THE NEXT BEST THING
WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM
DROWNING MONA
THE CLOSER YOU GET
JUDY BERLIN
THE WONDER BOYS
THE BOILER ROOM
PITCH BLACK
HANGING UP
THE WHOLE NINE YARDS
THE BEACH
SIMPATICO
SCREAM 3
THE BIG TEASE
ISN'T SHE GREAT
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

TRAFFIC

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(2:27)-[USA FILMS]-MICHAEL DOUGLAS, DON CHEADLE, BENECIO DEL TORO, LUIS GUZMAN, DENNIS QUAID, CATHERINE ZETA JONES, STEVEN BAUER, ERICA CHRISTENSEN, TOPHER GRACE, MIGUEL FERRER, AMY IRVING: Steven Soderbergh is having quite a year. First there was the wonderfully crafted, written and acted 'Erin Brockovich' and now the film that appears to be the one to beat for an Academy Award this year. This is a finely woven and extraordinarily written and filmed tale of drugs and drug smuggling. There are really three major stories happening under one larger theme. Each is interesting and compelling as the other and all blend easily together and are often linked through something as simple as two of the characters walking by one another on a street. The locations are primarily in Southern California (La Jolla), Mexico and Ohio. There are visits to Washington DC as well where one character, Robert Wakefield (Douglas) is taking over the President's appointed position of Drug Czar. This is a lofty task as he travels all around the country and eventually into Mexico to organize his team and figure out the inner workings of the smuggling business between the two countries and Mexico's equivalent to Drug Czar (a man eventually found to be doing some of the trading himself). Unbeknown to Wakefield, however, is the addiction of his own daughter Caroline (Christensen) who along with her friend Seth (Grace) is busy freebasing and giving herself away for more. In one of the more memorable performances of the year Benecio del Toro plays a Mexican State cop struggling with conscience as he realizes more and more how much he is aiding the corruption and the Drug Lords that is rampant in Mexico. This is a performance worthy of recognition at the end of the year. The third storyline deals with a businessman (Bauer) who is arrested and how his pregnant wife (Zeta Jones) handles the situation from unsuspecting housewife to savvy business maven. As her husband is sent off to jail her house is watched by the two detectives (Cheadle and Guzman) who inhabit a good portion of the film as they stake out various places and protect the witness to her husband’s crimes. All in all this is a masterful work covering a very real problem of drug running and smuggling between the two countries. Soderbergh uses an interesting contrast between the United States and Mexico in his colors. Mexico is filmed in a brown, almost dirty feeling color as if to allow us to know when we are there. Throughout the film, however, he gives us all that is necessary to know where we are and what is happening. Soderbergh is becoming a top rate director and I expect him and his work to be honored a great deal in this award season. (A+)
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ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

Release:12/25/00-(PG-13)-(1:57)-[MIRAMAX / COLUMBIA PICTURES]-MATT DAMON, PENELOPE CRUZ, HENRY THOMAS, LUCAS BLACK, RUBEN BLADES: All the Pretty Horses sort of escaped me. Maybe it is because I am not all that big of a Matt Damon fan. Perhaps it is because I am frightened by the fact that the film, clocking in just under two hours, was shaved down from four. I cannot imagine what would have been taken out considering that the film moved so slowly for me at two. In it's defense I would have to say that I have not read the book it is based on. Perhaps that would have helped in my enthusiasm for seeing this in the first place. What played out in front of me was a tired and somewhat dull saga of a poor misunderstood Texan who falls in love with the daughter of a Mexican Rancher and is thrown in jail for crimes he did not commit. There are some supporting actors in the film that I found interesting. Henry Thomas for one is an underrated and used actor. The young Lucas Black was frigteningly scary with his accent that I do believe is the real thing. Penelope Cruz is a beautiful and captivating actress who will go far with her charming looks and charisma. None of this could save the film for me. From beginning to end I tried so hard to care for the character Damon portrayed and when it was over it still hadn't happened. This is a film that would have screamed Academy Award in mere content and form. The cinematography is beautiful but even it will probably not be mentioned in the end of the year awards. For the mere fact that it was not anything but dull (IE: not offensive, badly written or annoying) I am going to recommend the film to those who may have more of an understanding or basic desire to see what was done with the book. For me, I will probably just go see Traffic again. (C)
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THE HOUSE OF MIRTH

Release:12/22/00-(PG)-(1:34)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-GILLIAN ANDERSON, ERIC STOLTZ, DAN AYKROYD, LAURA LINNEY, ANTHONY LAPAGLIA, ELIZABETH MCGOVERN: Who is this Dana Scully? Whoever she is there is absolutely no sign of her here. What we have instead is a finely crafted and deeply moving performance by Gillian Anderson that I am rather surprised has not graced at least one or two of the end of the year awards lists. "The House of Mirth" completes a trio of sullen and depressing films for me in a single weekend. It is a beautifully shot and wonderfully costumed period piece set the turn of the previous century, 1900 New York City. It is a tale of the upper class and those who struggle to be there. It is about morals and manners, society at its finest and its very worst. Class society is a bitter and nasty group eager always to maintain in their own status while making sure that others are kept in their rightful positions. Mirth is centered around the lovely Lily Bart (Anderson), a woman of more meager means who is socially on the verge of the upper class by family. In a world where the woman is brought up solely to marry Lily is somewhat of a game player unwilling to conform entirely to the rules at hand and yet ironically vulnerable to what the world is offering instead. She is in love with a confirmed bachelor named Lawrence (Stoltz), who it would seem has a penchant for affairs with married women while in no shape nor means to commit to anything but teasing her for a hand in marriage. She has also has acquired a great deal of debt through playing Bridge and as such takes a loan from the husband of a friend (Aykroyd) whom in turn (and unknowing to Lily) is expecting she become his mistress. As a result of the debts and her refusal to pay for them as wished, she is somewhat outcast and gossiped about in society. Her life and lifestyle is the impetus of her elderly Aunt's demise through illness and disapproval and Lily herself is cast off to join the working class. It is through her buying the letters of a high society nemesis Bertha (wonderfully portrayed by Linney) that she holds the means to her redemption in society and the ability to destroy Bertha. Her own inability to play by those rules and the fact the letters are all to her one true love Lawrence keep her quiet an unable to play the game. Others aid her at times, a good society friend throughout (McGovern) and a one-time suitor (LaPaglia) but her stubborn nature does not allow this help to really transpire. What follows is a sad and spiteful journey of exile from the classes and a towering performance, albeit somewhat depressing by the talented and obviously versatile Anderson. The wonderful sets and attention paid to the time period makes this a well worth visit to a story of upper class hypocrisy. (B)
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POLLOCK

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(1:22)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-ED HARRIS, MARCIA GAY HARDIN, AMY MADIGAN, JENNIFER CONNELLY, JEFFREY TAMBOR, BUD CORT, JOHN HEARD, VAL KILMER: This was Ed Harris' labor of love. This is a film that truly felt on the mark in its depiction of a troubled and talented artist in the 20th century. It had all the markings of a truly moving biography, a piece of history involving a wonderfully classic artist. The problem with the depictions of the troubled artists is that you leave wondering why you even care. Ed Harris was very good in his portrayal of Jackson Pollock, as was Marcia Gay Hardin as the "love" of his life Lee Krasner. There are times when watching films such as this, however, that I cannot help but to wonder if it was necessary to bring us that far into the artists life. There were the triumphant moments of the artist at work. Beautiful poetic scenes of his personal style and the colors that made Jackson Pollock one of the most well known and revered of the century. But the intensity of his depressions, morbid sensibility, crassness, rude nature, alcoholism and death wish mentality simply does not make for more than what would be needed in a biography on A&E. Yes, it is true to life and fit to form for a tortured artist, but no, it is NOT something that should be taken to this extent without prior knowledge that you will either need to drink or run out to purchase some St. John's Wort to combat the darkness of his personality. There is SO much brooding and scowling, yelling and pure unpleasant negative energy in this character (and thus the film) that I tend to wonder why Pollock himself didn't paint only with black and shades of gray. Where did his inspirations for the colorful and amazing work he created come from? If they were a part of his psyche or persona why did he hide it? Alcoholism is a subject that has been detailed and studied in many a film. "Pollock" is a case study in its evils and the crash course of living and dying that it will provide. Harris is sullen and inherently unlikable as the pained artist, Hardin is equally tortured and nuts for having been with him for as long as she was. Love is a very odd emotion. As a film I found this to be a complete downer and a not something I would ever really consider watching again. There are, however, commendable efforts in bringing the story to life. Some of the characterizations were cartoonish and too much of an impersonation, but overall a rather good depiction of the era. This is NO Disney flick folks, but apparently a true telling of this man's life. Got Depression? (C)
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SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE

Release:12/29/00-(R)-(1:32)-[LIONS GATE FILMS]-JOHN MALKOVICH, WILLEM DAFOE, CARY ELWES, EDDIE IZZARD, UDO KIER, CATHERINE MCCORMACK: "Shadow of the Vampire" might have been a somewhat forgettable film were it not for the wonderfully appropriate, over-the-top performance of Willem Dafoe as the vampire Nosferatu, or shall we say Max Schreck, the actor playing him. To give credit where it is due, the twist that makes this a little more than a run of the mill vampire flick is the writer's (Steven Katz) idea to manipulate history by suggesting that the famous director of this classic horror film went out and actually found a vampire to pose as an actor playing a vampire. That is delightfully original and the suggestion is pulled off successfully. The problem is that the execution of the film itself is slow and listless. It is really a rather ordinary production with that one bright and shining performance that pulls it all together. As Max Shreck or Orlock the vampire (so named because Bram Stoker would not give permission for a film on his novel "Dracula") is an inspired and campy creature of the night. His eyes, movement and the clicking of his ultra long fingernails make for a creepy and genuine vampire treat. The actors around him are equally as creeped out by his mere presence, not to mention his acting styles and rather nasty habits. The film's director F.W. Murnau (Malkovich, not really doing anything we haven't already seen him do, is obsessed with his production and seemingly unphased when his Director of Photography is 'stricken' as well as others on his crew disappearing. He has made a deal with this vampire and somewhere the deal seemed to fall apart. Key to the film's eventual completion is the second photographer Fritz Wagner (Elwes), the film's producer (Ronan Vibert), a hammy actor named Gustaf (Izzard), and a primadonna actress named Greta (McCormack), who also happens to be the pay off for the vampire. The photography of Shadow is deep and enjoyable. It illustrates the European darkness and time period of Czechoslovakia (although it was filmed in Luxembourg). The sets are very well reproduced to give the proper feel of the original film's Transylvania like atmosphere. It just seems to have been a little drawn out and methodical in its presentation. Were it not for anticipation of Dafoe's next scenes I could very likely have dozed off. Expect an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Dafoe. (C)
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DRACULA 2000

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(1:27)-[DIMENSION FILMS]-JONNY LEE MILLER, JUSTINE WADDELL, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, JENNIFER ESPOSITO, GERARD BUTLER, COLLEEN FITZPATRICK, JERI RYAN, OMAR EPPS: UGH!! What was I thinking when it was suggested that we spontaneously see this film? Have I learned nothing about cheesy shlockfests that tout an updated horror theme only to show a few 21st century technical aspects and a few Matrix wannabe fight sequences. What a waste of time and money. What a stupid script. What a ridiculous twist on the old Nosferatu and Bram Stoker stories. Why do they bother? Should I have been tipped off that they would release a movie with the 2000 date on it in the last week of the year? Would it have been better if it were to be called Dracula 2001? NO. Everything about this film was utter nonsense and silly over dramatizations. Jonny Lee Miller better get a new agent. Christopher Plummer must really need a paycheck. Jennifer Esposito better hope that she can sink her teeth into something with a bit more substance. HELP THESE ACTORS. This time around the motley crew decides to break into Von Helsling's safes (made easy through the technical aspects I spoke of earlier) and uncover the ancient coffin of Dracula while searching for something a little more substantial. It isn't long before the whole group is either dead or undead and a trail of other undead soon follows from London all the way to the intensely fake settings of Mardi gras in New Orleans. (Note to producers: If you are going to try to replicate Mardi gras, there simply has GOT to be gratuitous nudity. It wouldn't BE Mardi gras without it.) It seems that Von Hesling's (Plummer) daughter shares the blood of the ages old vampire, and once the old bloodsucker is released he needs to find Mary (Waddell) and own her. Once found it is revealed that he is not only Dracula, but was originally Judas Iscariot, forced to the world of the undead for his betrayal of Jesus Christ. Yea...sure. Even the vampire is a lackluster and an unappealing casting job. Another note regarding this horrible film is the over saturation of the Virgin Records store and signs. Everywhere we looked there was neon, T-shirts and logos on trucks and packages. I would guess that Virgin had a great deal to do with the funding of this monstrosity. Pity, I rather like Virgin records. Released at the unfortunate time of Christmas, Dracula 2000 would undoubtedly get lost in all the films out there even if it were good, but seeing that it is not, this one is going to fade away mighty fast. My friends, don't even waste your time with the video rental...get NOSFERATU and remember what this horror story should really be about.(BOMB)
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FINDING FORRESTER

Release:12/19/00-(PG-13)-(2:13)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-SEAN CONNERY, ROB BROWN, F. MURRAY ABRAHAM, ANNA PAQUIN: There is always going to be something powerful about a relationship that is difficult to describe and yet so well defined and believable as to suggest it could possibly have been real. There is not a great deal that can be sad is new within the structure of the storyline that is "Finding Forrester", except for the core of its focus. What makes the movie the enjoyable film that it is would be the remarkable performances and the well structured characterizations of Jamal Wallace and William Forrester. Newcomer Rob Brown is the gifted Jamal, an inner city (Bronx) kid adept at basketball and powerful in the skill of the English language and writing its words. What occurs is the off chance meeting in which Jamal is dared to enter an apartment at the top of an old building. Known to everyone in the neighborhood as 'the window' all that is known about who resides there is that they watch the world through binoculars. Upon entering the apartment Jamal is frightened and ends up leaving his backpack, filled with his journals. When he gets the backpack returned with the journals marked up with comments regarding his writing a relationship begins. The basis of this story, directed by Gus Van Zant, is SO familiar to the Academy Award winning "Good Will Hunting" that it feels somewhat recycled and manipulative. The characters and locations are different but the theme in so many places and pieces remains the same. With any less of a cast this would have gone the quick route of the video rental, but with the venerable and ultra crabby Sean Connery in the lead as well as the astounding Rob Brown playing the heart and soul of the story, there is a reason to see what is being done here. There is a typical foe in the Academy Award winning F. Murray Abraham's bitter English teacher, a failed writer himself perhaps angry that a student with the 'background' such as Jamal's could have anywhere near the talent that is being displayed. Then there is the obligatory young woman (the underused Anna Paquin) who finds the charms of Jamal hard to resist while offering bits of advice and support towards his eventual triumph over the powers that are trying to knock him down and out. Much like the story in "Girlfight" several months ago, this is tried and true. The story isn't the real reason to see this film. Much like "Girlfight" it is the find in the lead that should be the reason to trot out to a theater and enjoy "Good Jamal Wallace". (B)
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STATE AND MAIN

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(1:42)-[EL DORADO PICTURES/FINE LINE]-ALEC BALDWIN, CHARLES DURNING, CLARK GREGG, PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, PATTI LUPONE, WILLIAM H. MACY, SARAH JESSICA PARKER, DAVID PAYMER, REBECCA PIDGEON, JULIA STILES : This is one hilarious film. The star is the entire ensemble and the quick and witty material. What we have here is a farce that could be played out on a stage. It moves with grace and ease and is delivered with the force and pace of a film made in the golden age of the business. The tale is simple, big town Hollywood filmmakers invading a small time, simple-minded atmosphere. The battle is on, the problems are many, and the answers can always be bought. "The Old Mill" is a film that was being done in neighboring New Hampshire, but unfortunately that wasn't working and another location had to be found right away. Enter Waterford, Vermont, a sleepy little village where the townsfolk haven't changed much in many years. The problems begin, however, when it is discovered that the old mill, a selling point to the location, is no longer there, it burned down in 1960, the victim of a teenage arsonist on a rampage. This, however, is but one problem that is amongst many in the normal day of a film production. David Mamet's wonderful satire of the film industry gives pause to the inside jokes and the outside references that the world of film viewers would understand as well. The incredible cast each lives up to the part given to them with a sense of tongue-in-cheek and a realism to the references they are making throughout the troubled shoot. Problems include tempramental stars Claire (Parker) who, after signing her contract will not bare her breasts; Bob Berringer (Baldwin) who has a penchant for underaged girls; Carla (Stiles), the underaged girl; a confused writer (Hoffman) and his burgeoning relationship with a local (Pidgeon);the harried producer (Macy)and egocentric moneyman (Paymer); and the small town mayor and his wife (Durning and Lupone). The plot lines and twists lob back and forth better than a Wimbledon Tennis Final and the audience is kept hopping as one fire is put out as another begins flaming. Mamet's rare style is tamed here from the normal barrage of four-letter words he is associated with. The subject matter is not one that is void of that sort of language, but Mamet's script went in a different direction entirely. This is solid filmmaking and the sort that can be viewed several times in order to catch the quick lines, glances, and behind the main scene nuances that make "State and Main" one of the better films of 2000. (A)
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BEFORE NIGHT FALLS

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(2:05)-[GRANDVIEW PICTURES/FINELINE]-JAVIER BARDEM, OLIVER MARTINEZ, ANDREA DI STEFANO, JOHNNY DEPP, SEAN PENN, MICHAEL WINCOTT, OLATZ LOPEZ GARMENDIA: I had never heard of the poet and author Reinaldo Arenas before the buzz about "Before Night Falls" began. A true spirit of genuine sensitivity and unabashed talents shoved aside and persecuted for homosexuality and the threat of art against the revolution, it seems, is a subject much worth the time both to make and view this film. Richly mixed with pieces of the work this mind of the 60's, 70's and 80's gave the world, "Before" is actually based on the book released 3 years after the films subject died in 1990. It covers the entire young life of the free-spirited artist, from poverty-stricken childhood through his aids related death in New York City in 1990. Javier Bardem, as the artist, gives a performance so vivid and realized that there is no doubt that this man existed for his writing and the work spoke volumes about lives very little like the ones we are used to or have even heard before. Born in 1943, Reinaldo was 'sensitive to poetry' as a young man, which annoyed and separated his father from the family. His youth was in the company of nearly an entire household of women and as young as 10 Reinaldo attempted to run off and join the revolution that was occurring in his native Cuba. All along he is writing poetry and later books of the accounts of his childhood as well as other stories and memories. Once published Arenas is then pushed out of favor not only because of his threat to the Cuban cause as an artist (fear of propaganda), but as a homosexual too. The persecution of gays in these days is likened to the use of concentration camps. Julian Schnabel (director of the interesting "Basquiat") takes a very interesting subject and turns it into a first rate account of the life of this man, narrated throughout by the actor playing the artist as well as simply having the artists poetry or lines read in its native tongue (with benefit of subtitles). There is some confusion in the filmmaking regarding the dreamlike sequences that bounce us from reality to childhood to fantasy about men. Bardem's troubles with the English language are also a deterrent to the full understanding of what might be happening at certain points in the film. This does not, however, take anything away from the difference a film like this can make (and be) from the parade of overblown manipulations that overcrowd the market. There is substance and history in "Before Night Falls", and the class is well worth the taking. Look for very showy (and small) roles from two very well respected actors of their generation, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, added hue to an already colorful piece of work. (A)
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OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?

Release:12/22/00-(PG-13)-(1:43)-[TOUCHSTONE PICTURES/UNIVERSAL]-GEORGE CLOONEY, JOHN TURTURRO, TIM BLAKE NELSON, CHARLES DURNING, MICHAEL BADALUCCO, JOHN GOODMAN, HOLLY HUNTER : It is no secret that the Coen Brothers are a bit out there and irreverent in their style of filmmaking, writing, casting, and subject matter. Let me assure you that those who are fans of the Coen Brothers or the previously mentioned style of difference will enjoy the latest in their rapidly growing range of choices. "Oh Brother" is an interesting (to say the least) look at the old south and three low-life chain gang escapees on their adventure towards what one is claiming to be a treasure. The 'leader' of the three escapees is Ulysses (Clooney) who is actually out to make sure that he can get to his wife before she is married to another man (a bonafide man). He has 6..no make that 7 daughters and is determined to win back Penny (Hunt). With him (literally chained in the beginning) is Pete (Turturro) and the perpetually dopey Delmar (Nelson). Along the way a la The Odyssey (which a title card at film's opening claims the film is based on) there is a Cyclops monster (Goodman), a patch wearing and large thief, a group of sirens (whom Delmar believes have turned Pete into a toad), and a slew of the most stereotypical blends of what the old south was like. One of the best and brightest reasons for watching "Oh Brother", aside from the Coen Brother's usual stock of talented and fun-loving actors, is the music that they have chosen for the ride. Throughout there is a great sampling of all sorts of music from the era that accentuate the mood and plot silliness to make the feel of the film really work the way it is supposed to. At one point the boys pick up a hitchhiker along the way that claims to have sold his soul to the devil in order to play a guitar. The four go to a blind man's recording studio and cut a record as the Soggy Bottom Boys and as they continue their travails it is cut and sold only to become one of the most sought after and popularized hits of the time. Once they are back in Atlanta they find themselves on stage and being wonderfully received, thus giving them a bit of a treasure they did NOT expect. The film is in the normal zany Coen Brother's style and method, but that, to me is what I have come to expect. Like so few other films those who are involved with theirs seem to genuinely be having a good time in the making. Coen lovers must see "Oh Brother" for the art of silliness it portrays. Those who aren't in a silly mood, might be better off with one of the period dramas that are about. (B)
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VERTICAL LIMIT

Release:12/08/00-(PG-13)-(2:06)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-CHRIS O'DONNELL, BILL PAXTON, ROBIN TUNNEY, SCOTT GLENN, IZABELLA SCORUPC0: For those of you who enjoy the thrill of being bounced up and down, thrown around and shocked as if on a roller coaster, "Vertical Limit" could very well be the movie of the year for you. Between avalanches, cliff dives and falls into huge and unforgiving crevices, the shock value of the film is what it really has going for it. The rest (with the exception of the aptly cast Scott Glenn) is rather run of the mill. We have seen this film before in many other places and countless other tragedies in the making. It is a concept so well worn by the film industry that we find ourselves able to go to the bathroom without feeling that we've actually missed something. In the case of "Vertical Limit" you may miss a death or two, seeing that they are in plentiful number, but that isn't all that important in the grand scheme of it all, you expect and can normally pick in the beginning scenes who will and won't survive just by their lines. Chris O'Donnell is a National Geographic photographer whose relationship with his sister has been strained for three years since he had to cut his father loose from a mountain climb that went bad. She is now an experienced daredevil climber on a ill-fated trip up K2 with a Billionaire (Paxton) who is promoting a new business venture by doing the climb. One disaster after another and BAM the team of climbers is trapped in a hopeless situation that most feel can never be remedied. Glenn plays a rugged old-timer who knows more about climbing and the mountain in question than anyone else (perhaps in history). The main story is in this long and arduous rescue attempt with a crew of very different people and opinions. Needless to say there are plenty of hardships, losses and arguments along the way. God knows there are a great deal of moments where one will gasp much like that ride on the roller coaster mentioned earlier. Perhaps with the focus of a ride intact, this could be a rather enjoyable film. For the purpose of a script and anything but predictability, I would highly suggest that you go elsewhere.(C)
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CAST AWAY

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(2:23)-[TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX/DREAMWORKS]-TOM HANKS, HELEN HUNT, NICK SEARCY, CHRISTOPHER NOTH: There is something so utterly appealing about Tom Hanks that I can only assume he would be well received by critics and fans alike should he be sitting on screen reading a phonebook. Castaway is not an exception to the long line of films that Tom Hanks can be very proud of. In it he has a role that bolsters his clout as one of the biggest movie stars to ever grace the American screen. He is undoubtedly to receive accolades and nominations for his performance, a part he put so much of himself into. Robert Zemekis takes a simple Robinson Crusoe styled theme with this film and takes it to the bare minimum both in the lack of sharp or slick special effect or a huge and overblown soundtrack to lift the 'blandness' of what life alone on a tropical island could actually represent. Hank's Chuck Nolan is a hard driven FedEx employee that moves at the quickness of time and sets his world to that clock. His fiancé Kelly (Hunt, who is in every film this year), is patiently waiting for a proposal of marriage, and all in life otherwise seems to be in order. It is on the way to the Christmas Eve flight where he hands her the ring to ponder and turns around saying "I'll be right back". He wasn't. In a sequence that is both realistic and somewhat harrowing in its sudden and tragic mood, Zemekis brings us out over that ocean where the plane develops a problem and crashes, killing all aboard with the exception of Nolan. He floats on a raft to an island and begins what is to be his life for the next four years. What follows is both comical and frightening as the realizations of situation and the minor triumphs and pitfalls befall Nolan as he fits in to his new and sparse environment. Key to his survival is the friendship he strikes up with a volleyball (that he names Wilson after the brand) that has floated ashore in a FedEx package from the wreckage of the plane. As he moves along the survival instinct sets itself into place and Hank's character begins to learn how he must adapt to live. Flash forward four years later and the ingenuity is increased and honed and Nolan builds a raft, which he takes back out into the ocean and finally is discovered by a passing ship. What follows is the most intense message of the movie. What is the title to suggest? He is a castaway (a la Gilligan on the island)? or he is cast away as a man presumed dead. Kelly has moved on and is married with child. He is a hero and a saved man but his life is effectively over and must be started again. The film is somewhat long and slightly arduous in spots, but overall is a stellar example of what the finest in Hollywood can provide without trying too hard to tug on the strings that manipulate. A worth effort and a must see for Hank's performance.(A)
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THE FAMILY MAN

Release:12/22/00-(PG-13)-(1:34)-[UNIVERSAL/BEACON PICTURES]-NICHOLAS CAGE, TEA LEONI, DON CHEADLE, JEREMY PIVEN, SAUL RUBINEK: I wasn't quite sure what I should expect with this new "holiday classic" starring Nicholas Cage. There seems to be a struggle yearly to create new holiday classics and I suspect this is because the holiday itself continues to be extended further and further into the year before the actual holiday. I can't say that "The Family Man" will be a classic in the eyes of the world, most definitely not for me. I will say it is a role that suits its star to a tee. After all of the tough guy roles Nicholas Cage has found himself a place to call home. He's funny as the fish out of water. The light glaze in his eyes as he is thrown into an unfamiliar territory 180 degrees from what his life has become. We make choices in our lives and the path is based upon those choices. For Jack Campbell the choice was to go to London for an internship all those 13 or so years ago. Behind him he left the woman that he might have married and a life that might have been. In an opposite of "It's a Wonderful Life", more suitably titled "This Could have been your Life" Jack finds himself exactly where he would have been if he had, as suggested by that girlfriend, changed the plan and NOT gone to London. Considering that he DID go, Jack has become the hard-nosed and cold-minded UNfamily oriented man that runs a corporation on Wall Street in New York City. He is every bit the calculated and bonvivant bachelor that this sort of life style would suggest or stereotype. Suggesting that there are no gray areas between the world of Jack as Corporate President and Jack as Family Man and Tire Salesman becomes the crux of the story. One night, Christmas Eve to be exact, he stops in a grocery store and is confronted with a situation and, unbeknown to him, an angel (Cheadle). As a result of announcing to this angel that he has everything that he needs the switch (or challenge) is on and Campbell is placed into the life that he could have had in order to learn something about value and the meaning of life itself. Although Cage is adept at bringing about the comic element that is the saving grace of the film, the pretense that the way of life is family can be a slap in the face to those who don't live that type of family life. Somehow I walked out of "The Family Man" thoroughly amused by the performance of sheer exasperation and cluelessness amidst an almost humdrum environment painted to be the better of choices in life. For some, I suppose this IS an answer, the problem with 'The Family Man' is that it is seemingly preaching that it is the ONLY answer. Remembering this is a big studio manipulative release, I decide that the positives actually do outweigh the negatives and suggest that this is a worthwhile adventure into a theater only because I might have identified personally to the absolute confusion (and horror) in the eyes of Cage. Classic? I don't think so. It's a wonderful life? Sure didn't look like he thought so...(B)
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THE GIFT

Release:12/20/00-(R)-(1:52)-[LAKESHORE ENTERTAINMENT/PARAMOUNT CLASSICS]-CATE BLANCHETT, GIOVANNI RIBISI, KEANU REEVES, GREG KINNEAR, HILARY SWANK, KATIE HOLMES: I love Cate Blanchett. That said I must say that I left the theater having seen this promising film feeling a little let down and bewildered. It was the sort of a story that screamed for acceptance in the belief that its subject matter could be a truth in this world. It is, in fact, something that I would choose to believe the possibility of myself. The unfortunate part of "The Gift" was in its construction. The film itself seemed sloppy and sparse. Some scenes didn't feel that they needed to be where they were and others simply were odd and /or fragmented. Cate is a poor southern woman in a town FILLED with every Southern stereotype and hick accent imaginable. Her husband was killed a year ago in an explosion and she is left raising three young sons, one of whom is resenting the fact that he is now fatherless. To make her ends meet (meagerly) she is a reader and psychic. She has a gift that has passed on down through her family and can see things via Tarot cards and often in her dreams and visions. When she meets the young daughter of a local politician (Holmes) and fiancé to a local school counselor (Kinear) she begins to see something is wrong, but says nothing. The visions, however, perpetuate as she reads for a local woman (Swank) who is beaten by her husband (Reeves). It is when the husband begins to threaten Blanchett's character, Annie Wilson that the visions begin to increase. When the young woman is reported missing, she begins to see visions of her body in a lake wrapped in chains and becomes a key to the investigation and subsequent trial of Donnie Barksdale (Reeves) who had been having an affair with the girl. The story doesn't end with his conviction; however, as Annie begins to see more in her visions and dreams. Giovanni Ribisi plays a pivotal role in the film as an extremely disturbed young man whom Annie has helped with her readings, Reeves is actually quite believable as the ne'er do well battering husband and Swank is downright scary as the scared and defenseless battered wife. She seems to flourish in the offbeat hick type role. The film itself is dull and predictable in its melodrama. It is a styled as a horror movie and simply does not deliver what a good horror movie should. Blanchett's considerable talents are wasted in the role. The Gift is not going to do well in the box office game due to a plethora of better material out there to enjoy.(C)
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MISS CONGENIALITY

Release:12/22/00-(R)-(1:50)-[CASTLE ROCK / WARNER BROTHERS]-SANDRA BULLOCK, BENJAMIN BRATT, MICHAEL CAINE, CANDICE BERGIN, WILLIAM SHATNER, ERNIE HUDSON : "Miss Congeniality" is strictly a play by numbers formulaic film. We have seen the likes of this plot and script so many times before that most of us could very easily sit back and predict what the next scene will tell us. The difference with this film as opposed to others that I have seen like it is Sandra Bullock. Ms. Bullock is a genuinely gifted comic actress. There is a wonderful charm about her appearance and timing that makes each scene she graces as Gracie Hart, bumbling FBI agent, a welcome one to watch. The film uncovers a deadly bombing suspect known only as the citizen and discovers that the criminal is about to infiltrate a beauty pageant called Miss United States. As the rough and tumble crew of agents kicks around the ideas regarding who should become the inside person for this assignment, it never occurs to one of them that Gracie would be able to fit the bill. When discovered she is reluctant of course. Gracie takes on the assignment and is overhauled personally in an airport hanger with the guidance of the surly and resentful Vic (Caine), who eventually turns the tomboy into quite the lady. (Set to the strains of the Tom Jones classic "She's a Lady".) The film takes place almost entirely at this beauty pageant run by a somewhat bitter Kathy Morningstar and hosted by Stan Fields (Shatner), both of whom secretly have been fired from their positions after this year's contest. Bullock, as a contestant begins to come alive and feel different about herself and the whole concept of womanhood. There are romantic sparks with her FBI leading man Eric (Bratt) and the rest is pretty much every single twist and turn you have seen and will continue to see in this type of big budget situation comedy in a full length feature film. This may be run of the mill but there are some precious and witty moments almost entirely provided by Bullock. Not a bad theater experience by any means. "Miss Congeniality" is another film that might lose a bit of its luster in a crowded marketplace of Academy Award hopefuls. This is a simple and fun film that does not take a great deal of effort to understand or get into. (B)
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WHAT WOMEN WANT

Release:12/15/00-(PG-13)-(2:07)-[ICON/WINDANCER/PARAMOUNT PICTURES]-MEL GIBSON, HELEN HUNT, MARISA TOMEI, ALAN ALDA, ASHLEY JOHNSON, LAUREN HOLLY: I am not quite sure what women want even after seeing this film. Actually I am thinking that if women really want this sort of a movie (and it IS an ultimate chick flick) I can honestly say that I do not want what women want. Mel Gibson is likable and charming in the lead as Nick Marshall, an unadulterated chauvinist pig in the advertising world that is bagging the ladies with his smooth charms and good looks on a nightly basis. He's got it all AND he is about to get a promotion that will take him even a notch higher. Enter Darcy Maguire (Hunt) an even better ad creative director brought in by the company's big boss (Alda) to shape up and capitalize on their lacking women's market focus. This does not please our Nick considering Darcy is brought in to take the job he had expected. What transpires is his interesting attempt to study and try a box filled with women's products in order to begin thinking of campaigns that might work, when he slips and falls into his tub followed by a hairdryer. The next thing you know Nick can hear the thoughts of every passing female. This both intrigues and scares our lead. He is hearing things that he isn't sure he wants to hear, but suddenly is realizing that this could work for him. He begins to use this "power" as a tool to sabotage Darcy by reading her thoughts and taking the credit for the work she was doing in the campaigns. Go figure...Nick did NOT plan on falling for this savvy woman (and vice-versa) and suddenly our bad boy is developing a conscience. Along the way there are comic foils and a few very funny scenes wrapped around the plethora of very interesting and eclectic array of women that inhabit Nick's life. These include his daughter, a 15 year old that hasn't got the highest opinion of her ne'er do well gigolo dad, an gopher in his office, a suicidal filing girl, a sex-crazed coffee house waitress, a therapist, his housekeeper and two assistants that don't seem to be thinking much when he's around. The problem with "What Women Want" is twofold. It's a one-tone idea dragged into too many situations and solutions, AND it is entirely too long. There are several scenes that are so utterly boring that my mind traveled to so many different places I couldn't even really tell you what the conversation on screen was all about. This film could have easily lost at least 30 minutes and been better equipped to take on an audience. As it is I seemed slightly resentful as the movie lagged on. I could only think of all the things that I needed to do with my day and how LONG this movie was. Checking the watch and wondering where the film is going on several occasions does not make for the best of suggestions to other moviegoers. This is a film I would skip in the crowded marketplace of potential Oscar winners. The cast is amiable (even the over-used Hunt..who is turning into the female Michael Caine. Maybe this film does answer the question the title poses...but I must have missed it somewhere. Perhaps I was checking my watch at the time.(C)
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DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR

Release:12/15/00-(PG-13)-(1:28)-[20TH CENTURY FOX]-ASHTON KUTCHER, SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT, KRISTY SWANSON, JENNIFER GARNER, MARLA SOKOLOF: What if Ted and Bill settled down and each got married after their excellent adventure? Would they have had a couple of kids who grew up to be Jesse and Chester? Perhaps this is just a re-working of the Bill and Ted concept amped up for a new generation of filmgoers? Granted there is no time travel and the leads are a touch too old to actually be Bill and Ted offspring, but the concept of free-wheeling partying guys without a care in the world and an incredible knack for getting out of just about anything unscathed remains. It would seem that instead of traveling back to learn about history, Jesse (Kutcher) and Chester (Williams) are basically on a search for Jesse's car. Thus the title. These two pot-smoking party boys seem to have had just a little too much fun last night and in waking up for a new day in their very simple world they find out that they've managed to trash their twin girlfriend's house AND misplaced the car with the gifts that will prove they haven't forgotten their anniversaries. Whew...life is tough. While looking for the car the film takes our dudes on a wacky adventure that turns out to be high intrigue (that's sarcasm, folks) about a transmographer that some aliens are trying to locate. How it seems the aliens think that Jesse and Chester have gotten this transmographer is beyond me. I do know that the transsexual at the strip club gave them a briefcase full of money, which seems to be missing as well. What a mess. There are Ostriches, angry girlfriends, a cultist group in bubble wrap costumes, new tattoos and all sorts of other side adventures that complete the very garbled picture. It is silly, it is ridiculous and it is EXACTLY what it is supposed to be. Suspend the idea of a meaningful script and find your inner dude. This is the sort of film that is merely one gag after another built around two dudes grinning like idiots and having a heck of a good time doing so. Quite frankly, this film hit the spot on the 'take me away' function that it provided after a long week of too much work. Enjoy it and KNOW that you are never going to hear one of these boys asking "Dude, Where's my Academy Award?"(C)
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CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

Release:12/15/00-(PG-13)-(2:00)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-CHOW YUN FAT, MICHELLE YEOH, ZIHI ZHANG, CHEN CHANG: This is a masterful piece of artwork, brought to life by an experienced and unique director familiar to American audiences through his mainstream works such as "The Ice Storm", "Sense and Sensibility" and "Ride with the Devil". Ang Lee has gone beyond the martial arts theme with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and created a truly inspirational format of peace, tranquility, spirituality, the soul and some of the most fascinating fight scenes I have ever seen put on film in my life. The camera work alone in Crouching Tiger is worthy of award recognition. What this artist and his crews of technicians and actors do with the tried and true action genre is enliven and revive the concept by bringing a whole new angle and beauty to the way the scenes are fought. The actors fly through the air and jump from rooftop to rooftop in gazelle like leaps of grace and poise. The kicks and thrusts are graceful and powerful and each and every one is choreographed exquisitely. The story revolves around the Green Destiny, a sword owned by the Wudan master fighter Li Mu Bai. He has come back from the training and is giving up his sword and as a result an adventure begins. Along with his soul mate (a mesmerizing Michelle Yeoh as Yuh shu Lien, part of a beautiful love story within the context of the film) they encounter a young force that has been mentored (unknown to all in her life) by a master criminal named Jade Fox. What Fox doesn't even know is that this young fighter Jen (Zhang) has passed in prowess over the master herself, who could not read the Wudan manual that she had stolen to learn the martial arts herself. It is young Jen who is in the throws of either taking her talents the way of good (crouching tiger) or evil (hidden dragon) and is thoroughly confused herself, as she is about to be married off by her parents to a man she does not love. Instead, we flash back to the days she spent in the desert and the man that she has fallen in love with, a rebel soldier named Lo. It is through the magnificent scenes of fighting and struggle over the sword and its own particular power that Jen grows into the fighter that she is. Through the discovery of this young wonder the masterful Li Mu Bai has also discovered his meaning by desiring to mentor the young warrior. In a wonderful epic style Ang Lee takes you through an ancient Peking backdrop and the surrounding natural beauty. There is one stunning scene in particular that finds the young Jen in combat with her 'foe' Bai, while jumping through the treetops. It is nothing short of breathtaking the way this is done. A true original and unique voice that could very well bring an old genre to a new audience altogether. This Chinese film, subtitled in English is bound for awards this season and a hefty market for seekers of an art house film that offers something truly original. (A)
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CHOCOLAT

Release:12/15/00-(PG-13)-(X:XX)-[MIRAMAX PICTURES]-JULIETTE BINOCHE, JOHNNY DEPP, ALFRED MOLINA, HUGH O'CONNOR, JUDI DENCH, LENA OLIN, CARRIE-ANNE MOSS, LESLIE CARON: Some say there is no greater pleasure than chocolate. In Lasse Halstrom's tale about human nature and the magical healing (and rejuvenating) powers that certain ancient chocolate recipes bring to a small town in Southern France, this line of thinking is a true one. This delightful tale set in 1959 begins with an overhead shot of a beautiful village of God-fearing people whose lives are pretty much cut out of molds and never expected to change in any way. A northern wind is blowing and with it arrives the mother and daughter team of Vianne (Binoche) and Anouk (Victoire Thivisol). The two, who seem destined to travel as that wind blows rent the pasterie shop and the room above it from crusty owner Amande (Dench). Within a week they open a chocolate shop, to the curiosity of the many sheltered townspeople and the chagrin of the mayor (Molina), a repressed and controlling leader on a mission to make sure things stay as they are. Slowly the inhabitants of the quiet village begin to visit Vianne in the shop and they taste the morsels that she has to offer. One by one the results begin to unfold amongst them. From the battered wife Josephine (Olin), thought by others merely to be crazy, to the Amande's grandson, whose estrangement from her is due to problems that have been going on for some time with she and her daughter Caroline (Moss). Each is in someway touched by the woman and her daughter and the chocolate they are making based on recipes from the ancient Mayans. All have a hint of chili pepper to awaken the soul and heal what is ailing. It is the arrival of the river people and their 'captain' Roux (Depp) that begins the real transformation of the village. It is when Vianne and those who have not listened to the slander set forth by Mayor Reynaud are found mixing with these 'immoral' river rats that the stage is set for possible tragedy based solely on the judgment and closed minds. It is through the awakenings of the weak, and the sermons of the novice priest (O'Conor) that resolution is finally to be had for the town itself. It would seem, however, that the resolution comes with a little more difficulty for Vianne herself as she struggles with the call of the wind to move on and set up shop in another town as her mother had always done. Touching performances as well as a simplistic and rustic set and script set the tone for this mild and pleasing tale about acceptance of others differences. Juliette Binoche is a beautiful woman who has chemistry with the quirky and handsome Depp in tow. This is another of Miramax’s charming little dittys for the holiday season. Small but warm, Chocolat is a tasty morsel. (A)
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BOYS LIFE 3

Release:12/08/00-(unrated)-(1:29)-[STRAND RELEASING]-JASON GOULD, SARA GILBERT, ELLIOT GOULD: Although it might have been better as a viewing at Outfest or even in the company of some friends in the living room of my home, Boys Life 3 is good work in all of it's parts and deserves note for the tasteful and often humorous messages each of the filmmakers is making. In five short films there are varying themes from the gay child of a celebrity to the hypocrisy of the three-way fantasizer, to a father's desire for a son to lose his virginity. All subject matter deals, of course, with themes of homosexuality in some way shape or form. The most inventive of the shorts is the French "Majorettes in Space" which deals primarily (and in irreverent and in your face style) with the Catholic religions stand against condom use. Clever and very real, it hits points that bring the subject matter home. Jason Gould's 1996 short "Inside Out" is the celebrity child's answer to what one in that sort of position does with his own life. Scenes at a support group led by Christina Crawford and a whacky tongue-in-cheek introduction to Scientology highlight this film. "Hitch" deals with the cross-country trip of a duo whose sexual tastes differ but the tensions remain. The theme of the straight boy and gay man on the road is claustrophobic and dark in its camerawork and highlights the basic needs and urges that become universal to the male of the species. In "Just One Time", the shortest of the shorts, we find a barrio gay boy being recruited by a young woman whose boyfriend keeps insisting that she invite another woman into their bed to fulfill his fantasy. He'd only need it just one time and all would be satisfied. When she smartly agrees with her naked boyfriend in the bed, asking 'you'd do it for me to, right?' she introduces the answer to her problem by letting him go first. Very cleverly done. The last short is the story of a teen on his 17th birthday whose father is bringing him to a seedy hotel in order to lose his virginity. What he finds there is a $30 dollar hooker with a heart (Gilbert) who has THIS 17 year old all figured out. It is a sweet exchange of dialogue and a wonderful message for the young gay man coming to terms with his own sexuality. Boys Life as a whole is a nice hour and a half, but as the movie experience goes, I cannot suggest it wholeheartedly as a $9.00 event. Wait a bit and rent it on video, all of the parts will please you just as much, if not more, in the comfort of your own home. (C)
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THE SIXTH DAY

Release:11/17/00-(PG-13)-(2:04)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, TONY GOLDWYN, MICHAEL RAPPAPORT, MICHAEL ROOKER: Forgive my crass view of this run of the mill action clone (pardon the pun), but I am not quite sure why I bothered to watch this in the first place. I find it a little difficult to watch ONE Arnold Schwarzenegger, much less two of them on the same screen. "The Sixth Day" is an actioner about cloning. In the film world this would seem a bit of an irony, considering most of the actioners are clones of each other. How many of them have starred this over-the-hill box office hero? Too many. This would be the time in a man's career to begin a few more acting films and can the shoot em up and hang from a helicopter variety. But this is Arnold, not exactly somebody that will ever be taken very seriously as an actor. Unfortunately this current adventure into the future is so utterly ridiculous that it doesn't really require a great deal of explanation. Suffice it to say that it is silly and contrived, but that is what one would expect from this genre anyway. Although the film is better than Arnold's last venture into the world of the Devil himself (that isn't saying much except that Mr. S should probably avoid films with the word SIX in the title) it is still very difficult to sit through without wondering what the writers were thinking when they put this together. Tony Goldwyn is a big bad man named Michael Drucker who runs Replacement Technologies and fancies himself taking over where God left off. What he has done along renowned scientist Griffin Weir (Robert Duvall) is to perfect and utilize the cloning of humans, which although still highly illegal, is rather effective a way to recycle bad guys. The problem is that due to a miscalculation that occurs when family man and expert pilot Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) is replaced at the last minute in a flight that carries Drucker to an assassination, Adam is cloned when he is still very much alive. This is a Sixth Day violation and now Arnold is being sought lest they be discovered and the cloning be ceased. All that occurs between the onset of the situation and the resolution (like you didn't know that would happen) is the pitting of the sleazy replicas against the dynamic duo of Adam Gibson and....Adam Gibson. This guy, as always, is undefeatable and ingenious. Never has he dodged as many bullets and survived as many means of destruction that would have killed off the average man in moments (if not sooner.) For once I would like to see his hero get wiped out. That would be something to pay admission for. That isn't going to happen here and fortunately I didn't pay for the price of admission either. The Arnold machine of cranking out high tech action films is not quite over yet, but unless they can clone him into a man about 10 to 15 years younger, they are never going to be the same. Wait for the video on this one if you have any need to see it at all.(D)
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QUILLS

Release:11/22/00-(R)-(2:03)-[FOX SEARCHLIGHT]-GEOFFREY RUSH, KATE WINSLET, JOAQUIN PHOENIX, MICHAEL CAINE, BILLIE WHITELAW: There is not much cheerful to be witnessed in this dark and dreary account of the madness of a brilliant writer caged in an asylum, but never able to stop the obsession he had with words. If there were ever any doubt as to the range and prowess of Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush there will be none of that any longer. His no holds barred portrayal of the Marquis de Sade is alive and creative, non-stop and brilliant in its every detail. The subject matter is hard and driven, controversial in its telling as it was controversial in its living. A intense and arrogant sexual being, the Marquis de Sade is locked up in the Charenton Asylum in Paris where he spends most of his day scribbling away at parchments in his lavishly ornate cell. The Marquis, a sexually obsessed and arrogant man is also passing along his writings through an opening in the doorway that would otherwise be used for food and laundry. It is, in fact, the lusty and beautiful laundress Madeline (Winslet) that is taking these writings and smuggling them out to the gates of the Asylum where a young man on a horse is picking them up to be published. It is in one of these books, "Justine" that the Marquis receives the most attention, as all of Paris seems abuzz with the nature of the novel. When it falls into the hands of Napoleon, however, that becomes another matter. The Marquis is ordered killed, but instead Napoleon is persuaded to 'tame' the man with the methods of Doctor Royer-Collard (Caine) a sadistic old physician who uses intense methods of torture. When the doctor comes to the Asylum to overlook the work of the priest running it, Abbe Collard (Phoenix) the troubles all begin for the Marquis. It is through this doctor’s stay that the bulk of the story takes place, highlighting the Marquis' lust for Madeline, Madeline's lust for the Abbe, the Abbe's secret desire for Madeline and the Doctor's marriage and 'consummation' with a 16-year-old girl freshly plucked from a nunnery. The film is brashly lit and typified with dark hallways and ancient stone castle rooms. The characters inhabiting the asylum are all as one would have expected in that day and setting, a mix of oddities and characterizations. The descent of the Marquis is beautifully covered, if not somewhat uncomfortably as they slowly take more and more away from the man. He never stops writing to the bitter end, a long and arduous culmination for several of the characters portrayed. This is pure art house and period. For those who do not handle this sort of film in the vein of Merchant - Ivory, let me assure you there is a muscle throughout "Quills" that the proper society of the M-I films never touched. The portrayals of madness and reality are quite good, as are all of the performances through out. Quills is not for the queasy or pure of heart, but will grab attention when it comes time to hand out some awards in the up-coming season. (A)
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UNBREAKABLE

Release:11/22/00-(PG-13)-(1:47)-[TOUCHSTONE PICTURES]-BRUCE WILLIS, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ROBIN WRIGHT PENN, SPENCER TREAT CLARK, CHARLAYNE WOODARD: The man who brought one of last years most incredible film successes returns in a similar vein, with a very intriguing and yet somewhat bland work spinning wildly in the supernatural world. There are no kids seeing dead people here and yes, Bruce is indeed alive himself. The premise in fact would have you believe the exact opposite of the place that M. Night Shyamalan took us the last time. David Dunn (Willis), a security guard at Temple University in Philadelphia is on a train coming back from New York City where he has had an interview for a job that would take him away from his wife and son. His marriage we will find out has been estranged, although they still live together, and Dunn is a sad and listless man who, it would seem, is not fulfilling his life's purpose. What happens that becomes the catalyst to the change that will occur in and for Dunn is that the train derails, killing all aboard except him. He walks off without a scratch and back into the world that he is not quite sure he understands. Enter comic book collector Elijah Price, in the films very first scene we are introduced to this man at his birth. He is a functional cripple with a disease that has left him with brittle bones that break easily and swiftly. Through the years he has had scores of breaks and spent countless weeks in hospital beds or on crutches and canes. It is Elijah that takes an interest in the eeriness of the sole survivor aspect of the train wreck and opens communication by leaving a note on Dunn's car. Elijah then takes on the task of trying to prove to a disbelieving David that the former High School football star is in actuality a super hero who cannot be killed. This is a hard pill to swallow for Dunn but the events that follow seem to bring along a burden of proof and a power of a dark magnitude dating all the way back to his high school days and a wreck he had survived in his car. The film takes you through the slow and sullen machinations of this confused and catatonic unlikely hero as he begins to understand his own purpose and patch his life up with his wife (Penn) and the son that believes in the super powers so much he at one point wants to attempt to prove the theories at hand. My complaint with Unbreakable is its methodical pace. It moved at a numbingly slow step that seemed to match the personality of its lead character. When we finally do arrive at the trademark M. Shymalan secret I felt I had been handed something rather anticlimactic. Perhaps it was the very fact that I was waiting for the secret that caused my expectation to color the improbability of what ended up being delivered. This is not a bad film by any means, but by NO length is it a comparison to the bang that was delivered in his last effort. (C)
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BOUNCE

Release:11/17/00-(PG)-(1:42)-[MIRAMAX]-BEN AFFLECK, GWYNETH PALTROW, JOE MORTON, NATASHA HENSTRIDGE, TONY GOLDWYN, JOHNNY GALECKI: If this is what it takes to fall in love, I am not sure that it is the right thing for anyone. Bounce is a romantic 'tear-jerker' (although I don't recall crying once) that puts the two leads in the most interesting of positions. Ben Affleck, who is amiable and handsome, but still doesn't seem to work for me personally as a leading man, plays Buddy. Buddy is a closer, an advertising wiz that cannot seem to do anything wrong. On the night that he has made sure that his agency is IN for the Infinity Airline account, however, his life takes a resounding twist. It is a snowed in Chicago night and it would seem that all flights are delayed or cancelled out of O'Hare Airport. Buddy meets Mimi (Henstridge) a beautiful blonde in organ development and Greg (Goldwyn), a writer who is in need of getting home to his wife and two boys. At the last minute Buddy, forever the player gives Greg his boarding pass and spends his night with Mimi only to wake up and discover that the flight he was on has crashed. Tragedy sets the mood. One year later Buddy, upon his release from a rehab (he's a drinker) decides, by all appearances, to either check up on or make amends to the widow and children of Greg. This is the set up for the unlikely romance in which neither one of the participants is very honest about much at all. By the time the romance is perking up it is revealed through a film taken by Mimi that Buddy actually KNEW Greg and this, it would seem, is too much for Abby (Paltrow) to take. Soul-searching, sage advice, and the revelations of what the world all means while testifying in victims of the plane crashes law suits bring about a solution for both of the leads in this melodrama and bam, the movie is over as characters are literally walking into a sunset. Coming from a writer that brought us the wildly clever and different "The Opposite of Sex", Don Roos is sadly mistaken in this unrealistic telling of an offbeat and unusual pairing. This just doesn't feel right from the beginning to the end. Those involved, however, are not insulting and I did not feel manipulated as I do so often by Hollywood big budget flicks. This is nice enough and not nice enough. This is the sort of a film that would be better suited as a Lifetime movie of the week. Save it and rent it on video. (C)
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HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

Release:11/17/00-(PG)-(1:42)-[UNIVERSAL STUDIOS/IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT]-JIM CARREY, JEFFREY TAMBOR, CHRISTINE BARANSKI, BILL IRWIN, MOLLY SHANNON, TAYLOR MOMSON, ANTHONY HOPKINS (narrator): It is said that the now beyond classic "The Wizard of Oz" was panned and scorned at its release in 1939. It is also said that Theodore Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Suess did not want these characters brought to the big screen and repeatedly shunned the film world as a result. Those who reviewed The Wizard of Oz were basing the film on something they could not have foreseen, a quality that stood the test of time and history. Grinch, on the other hand, may not be able to do so the same way, but in all likelihood will become a staple in the Christmas video rental and post November sweeps television line-ups for years and years to come. This movie, a Ron Howard vision and world, belongs to Jim Carrey. He is both crass and somewhat scary in his familiar shenigans and mannerisms, but that isn't to say that there are some solid and winning comic moments, as would be hard to find in ANY film that uses Carey's considerable talents. As the Grinch he is the classic outcast from the town of Whoville, where he once had a crush on the lovely Martha May, but was scorned by classmates in gift-giving, only to banish himself to a mountain dwelling and live out his years hating Christmas. It is the doe-eyed charms and innocence of a young girl named Cindy-Lou that brings the crusty Green Grinch back into the world again and the rest, as they say, is history. The staging, sets, and ample cinematic trickery are up to par with the year that we live in but it is SO highly silly that it becomes a caricature of itself. Somehow there is a loss of what the story stands for or its OWN innocence in the translation from the outstanding animated HALF hour that we all grew up with as children (at least I did). I must admit there were some genuinely funny moments and interesting characterizations in "Grinch" but for the most part the live action characters were almost garrish and hideous to look at, leaving me a little cold. I wondered just what young minds would think of the nature of the evil and the extreme ugliness of the title character. Carey is in his element in films like this, but aside from its resell value for the Christmas holiday, I don't expect this to become any Wizard of Oz anytime soon, if ever. (C+)
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LITTLE NICKY

Release:11/10/00-(PG-13)-(1:29)-[NEW LINE CINEMA]-ADAM SANDLER, PATRICIA ARQUETTE, HARVEY KEITEL, RHYS IFANS, TOMMY 'TINY' LISTER: Adam Sandler is a comedian with a following. His empire is growing and his legions of fans are undoubtedly following. I have a question, however, about those who look at a movie like this one and then decide it is a PG-13 when the years most delightful and thought-provoking film gets an R. Is the 'F' word THAT horrible in a world where kids are going to hear it on or off the big screen anyway? Is the gross out madness of "Little Nicky" any LESS of an offensive message that it should be rated acceptable with children and the message of other films deemed unacceptable because of one word? I don't understand. "Little Nicky" is by far one of the worst of Adam Sandler's growing stock of juvenile and utterly ridiculous sense of humor. With "Big Daddy" and "The Waterboy" there was at least a sense or semblance of an adult, with "The Wedding Singer" there was a real fleshed out (albeit obnoxious) character. In Little Nicky all we get is a man-child who wants to be on a camp out with a bunch of 10 year-olds telling stupid jokes and pointing at sexual organs and snickering. This movie pokes fun at the concepts of Heaven and Hell, good and evil while taking so many licenses with the world and everyone in it. There are jokes that are far more what I would expect 'offensive' to young children here than in most PG-13 movies, but that obviously isn't important. It seems that making sure that the world is laughing at gross out jokes is selling tickets, so the blind eye is turned. As one of three sons of the Devil, it would seem that young Nicky (Sandler) is the one with a heart. HIS mother was an angel (although the brothers have always told him she was a goat) and his relationship with his father is touching and brings out the best in the Prince of Evil. When dad decides he is not going to give up the thrown as expected the other two sons (Ifans and Lister) decide to go up to Earth and cause trouble. Problem is that they have shut down the gates in the process and the souls are not coming in. IN a small matter of time The devil (Keitel) is going to decompose and one of the bad brothers will take over the position. The crux of the story is the fish out of water tale of Nicky coming up to earth in order to make sure that the two other brothers return in time for Dad to be all right. The comedy ensues as Nicky learns about life, love, dying, living, good and evil with a group of misfits in New York City. There are a few comical moments that make sense, but for the most part we are dealing with a growing trend in making sure the audience is thoroughly grossed out by the time the film is complete. This will make loads of money and Sandler will continue his magic box-office. He is likable, although particularly annoying here. The film is salvageable but REALLY stupid. What's your mood? (D)
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YOU CAN COUNT ON ME

Release:11/10/00-(R)-(1:51)-[PARAMOUNT CLASSICS / SHOOTING GALLERY PICTURES]-LAURA LINNEY, MARK RUFFALO, MATTHEW BRODERICK, JON TENNEY, RORY CULKIN: "You Can Count on Me" was a very pleasant surprise. It didn't evoke a flood of tears, nor raise any concerns about the world or a true event. It didn't highlight any deeply emotional scarred moment from my past or represent a piece of who I am in the present. Or does it? With a breakthrough performance for a wonderful Laura Linney as the single mother of an eight-year old in a sleepy little town somewhere on the east coast, the film examines a life in unaffected turmoil. Linney is Sammy who, along with her brother Terry lost her parents while still a child to a fatal car collision. Seemingly the two children that have grown apart into adulthood could not be any more different...and yet so much alike. Terry has been gone for a great many years when the film begins and has disappeared for at least the last 6 months of those years. Although Sammy fears the worst she is a survivor having felt the sting of abandonment via her parents and the nasty ex-husband and father to her young son. When Terry finally arrives there is the instant resurfacing of the differences that highlights the character in this brother-sister relationship. While she questions her brother's methods in finding what he might be looking for in life, she herself is blindly struggling to figure out what it is she may want through empty sexual relationships with local men, including Bob (Tenney), who wants to marry her and Brian, her married boss (Broderick). The breaking points seem to be her realizations of her own confusions and methods of living as a result of her difficulties with the free-styled and reckless brother and his growing relationship with her young son. This is an effective look at the relationship between two siblings who need each other and honestly cannot and will not ever really be able to be there entirely for one another even as a result of that need. Relationships are rarely looked at with such a rare and honest intensity. Simple and complex these people become so real that I am recognizing pieces of myself and my own sister and wondering just how she is doing. A cleverly written script and some effective performances from Ruffalo as the pot-smoking, aimless brother and Culkin (GOD he looks like McCauley) as the son in need of a male role model highlight and add to the reasons to Count on this film. It lives up to the title and then some. (A)
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THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE

Release:11/03/00-(PG-13)-(2:07)-[DREAMWORKS PICTURES & 20TH CENTURY FOX]-WILL SMITH, MATT DAMON, CHARLIZE THERON, BRUCE McGILL, JOEL GRETSCH, J. MICHAEL MONCRIEF: Robert Redford's well-crafted and slick telling of a pro-golfer, a young protégé and the man that came out of nowhere and changed the lives of all he touched by being a caddy...is pretty much the type of movie that one would expect. Well tailored and beautifully shot, it is a film that might be best described as an acquired taste. Sentimental and geared towards Academy Award voters, this is the tale of Pro-Golfer Rannulph Junuh, who in the early 1900's was one of the best golfers in the world. When he shipped off to the first World War he was changed by all that he saw there. He disappeared. Once returning to his native Savannah, Georgia he lives the life of a recluse and avoids the bride that he loved all those years ago (Theron). When Junuh begins to resurface he is coerced into playing a golf 'tournament' that pits him as the local Savannah pro against the two best players in the world, Walter Hagen (McGill) Bobby Jones (Gretsch). As if on cue, the title character then appears out of the darkness and offers his services to the changed golfer who has 'lost his swing'. Will Smith is a formidable presence as the part psychologist and all mysterious man that is filled with advice and sayings regarding golf, life and whatever else may be needed. His manner is simple and calm, his voice that of intelligence and spirit. Together with the young boy (and narrator) Hardy the bulk of the film takes place during the course of this two-day golfing event that finds Junuh in the depths of his alternate world and unable to play the game that he once had won so many tournaments in. This, of course, all changes with the help of Vance and the re-kindling romance with the lovely Adele. As most movies of this nature go, the thrust of the story is leading to the climactic and understandably predictable ending. It is easy to say that this should or would be different if the lesson were to be about acceptance or change, but there is also the message of the golf as a game to be played and not won. That doesn't stop Junuh or Redford. The sights and recreations of the early 1900's Savannah make "Bagger Vance" a nice film to view. Other than the human side to the Vance character, Smith's performance and the young narrator (with a cameo by Jack Lemmon as the boy in present day) the film is Hollywood sentiment. I always find that a little hard to take. (B-)
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CHARLIE'S ANGELS

Release:11/03/00-(PG-13)-(1:32)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-CAMERON DIAZ, DREW BARRYMORE, LUCY LIU, BILL MURRAY, SAM ROCKWELL, KELLY LYNCH, TIM CURRY, CRISPIN GLOVER: In a way it is almost embarrassing how much fun I had watching this film. Based on the kitschy television series of the same name the greatest point that I took out of the viewing of this film was the fact that everyone involved in its making looked to be having a wonderful time making it. There is obviously a trick to making something as obviously ridiculous as this film. KNOW that it is silly and have fun in the silliness. There have been attempts made to recreate television success from the past on the big screen and the fact that the recreations were taken as some sort of serious project took away the focus of what a film like this should be all about. FUN. Add to the mix a decently written script and MANY wonderfully pleasant and screen-savvy performances and the result is the pleasurable, crowd-pleasing, bombs exploding and ass kicking experience that is "Charlie's Angels". Charlie is still invisible and still the voice of John Forsythe, but our angels are different, which makes sense considering the originals might have a bit of difficulty with the moves that these ladies were performing in nearly every scene. Each of our angels is SO much fun that I would almost like to see them create a sequel. Natalie (Diaz)is a fun loving, booty-shaking blonde who starts dating (and having conversations with) a bartender during the course of her current 'job'. Alex (Liu) is in a failing relationship with an actor (Matt Leblanc) who she cannot reveal her real career to (he thinks she is a bikini waxer.) And Dylan (Barrymore) is pulled into this job from a psuedo date with the sea-worthy oddball Chad (Tom Green). Together with Charlie's trusted confidant Bosley (Murray) the group is out to solve the mystery of the kidnapping of a wealthy software tycoon (Rockwell) and his slick partner (Lynch) who implicate the sleazy bad guys Corbin (Curry) and the man only known as 'creepy thin guy' (Glover). A few twists later the angels are embroiled in a caper that would have knocked off any private eye in mere moments, but they not only survive but manage to look fabulous throughout. If not for the sheer fun of it all this movie is a hoot for the slow motion hair flipping that established the original angels in the 70's. This is well worth the viewing. Watch out Spice Girls, GIRL power belongs to the angels! (B+)
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LUCKY NUMBERS

Release:10/27/00-(R)-(1:45)-[PARAMOUNT PICTURES]-JOHN TRAVOLTA, LISA KUDROW, TIM ROTH, ED O'NEILL, MICHAEL RAPPAPORT, BILL PAXTON, MICHAEL MOORE, MICHAEL WESTON: In a likable and cleverly written comedy vehicle that saves John Travolta from the depths of the "Battlefield Earth" dilemma, "Lucky Numbers" strikes it rich and gives its audience a rare comedy work. Travolta plays Russ Richards a local 'happy talk' weatherman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania whose personal universe is a complete one down to his reserved booth in the local Denny's. His only problem, it would seem, is his problem of overspending and overextending himself, which leads him to the foreclosure of his home and several other debts that tend to create problems. That is where it begins. The icing on the cake (a phrase also used by game show host Bob Eubanks in an interview Russ likes to watch over and over) would have to be the snowmobile dealership that Russ has invested in as Harrisburg has its warmest winter on record. The money problems bring him to strip bar owner and friend Gig (Roth) who makes suggestions seem to all fall apart one by one. Finally Russ teams up with the Lottery Girl on the network, Crystal (Kudrow), to rig the lottery and finally have enough money to make everything work. There is a distinct comedy of errors as the plot twists and turns and characters bend and swerve in and out of favor with each other over the ownership of said winning lottery ticket. Included in the bunch of bozos is the Television station boss Dick (O'Neill), a bored and unmotivated cop (Paxton), Crystal's slob of a cousin (Moore), The 'hit man' with a bat (Rappaport) and Russ' snowmobile sidekick Larry (Weston). What is well done about this piece is that it isn't at all manipulative. It isn't even all that hard to believe in its ridiculousness. Travolta and Kudrow are really fun characters that work well off of each other and Roth is a wonderful sideman in the role. Although not the best comedy of the year (I'd be more likely to choose either 'Meet the Parents' or 'Nurse Betty' for that title) I would have to say that "Lucky" is a well-crafted film and well worth the trip to the theater. (B+)
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REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

Release:10/20/00-(UNRATED)-(1:45)-[ARTISAN FILMS]-ELLEN BURSTYN, JARED LETO, JENNIFER CONNELLY, MARLON WAYANS, CHRISTOPHER MCDONALD, LOUISE LASSER: As intense as it is brilliant, "Requiem for a dream" is a story of addiction and the downward spiral that occurs with it. The difference between this film and a host of others that have portrayed the experience of losing oneself to the ravages of dependency is the amazing filmmaking, artistry, direction, lighting, editing and acting all within the masterful domain of Darren Aronofsky, whose debut film "PI" broke ground itself in 1998. Make no mistake this is a depressing film. There is only so much that can be looked upon lightly with a subject that is as real and grim as the one that 'Requiem' covers. Based on a novel by the same name the film runs through the lives of Sara Goldfarb (shine up another Oscar for Burstyn), her son Harry (Leto), his girlfriend Marion (the stunning Connelly), and Harry's best friend Tyrone. Each of these characters is swiftly taking a trip that is inevitable for most when they are manipulated and snowballed through rationalization and simple naiveté. Sara is a lonely widow whose only pleasure is the show on television hosted by a diet guru (McDonald). Her son, who ritualistically pawns her television is aimless and sets up a drug 'business' with his pal Tyrone, believing that it will get them ahead and result in the opening of the store that would house his girlfriend's designs. When Sara is invited by phone (and later mail) to eventually appear as a contestant on her favorite show. This makes her popular amongst her friends and gives her the needed spark to live again. The problem becomes her weight as she discovers she is unable to fit into the red dress she wore at one of the happiest times in her life. What follows is the trip to the doctor and the beginning of a daily regimen of diet pills that spirals with intense effect of close-ups, fast frame motions, cranes and other assorted camera effects that exemplify the experience that Sara is having. Likewise, the three younger characters and their drug abuse of a different type is not so much focused upon in its fixing but in its effects within and around the characters. This is a ride much like the Coney Island roller coaster that plays as a backdrop once was. Where as the subject matter is going to turn off your average market researched audience, the film ranks among one of the most powerful examples of distinct style and method. It is a film to be remembered made by a filmmaker that has enormous talent. (A+)
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THE YARDS

Release:10/20/00-(R)-(1:55)-[MIRAMAX FILMS]-MARK WAHLBERG, JAMES CAAN, JOAQUIN PHOENIX, CHARLIZE THERON, FAYE DUNAWAY, ELLEN BURSTYN: In a role that is further breaking Mark Wahlberg away from his Calvin Klein/rapper roots. A depressing and somewhat average portrayal of dissected family and corrupt business in Queens, New York, Wahlberg plays an ex-convict who returns home after having taken the rap for a car theft 16 months prior. He wants his life to go on the straight and narrow, but seems fated only to fall into the traps and Greek tragedy styled drama that the family he returns to brings. His mother, who has been ill and is very much affected by the fact that her son didn't turn out much like she would have liked him to, is weak and bedridden through most of the film. Her sister (Dunaway) has been widowed and remarried a business owner in the yards, Frank (Caan). The business he runs is basically contracted repairs and building of cars for the trains, a business that has its problems and shady aspects. The competition has been rough over the years and as a result there is a great deal of payoff and under the table deals to make the process work in the favor of the company. When Leo (Wahlberg) comes to Frank reluctantly for a job he becomes unwittingly embroiled in the world of the Willie (Phoenix) who is, seemingly a simple and tragic figure who is also engaged to Leo's cousin Erica (Theron). Unfortunately where Leo goes, trouble follows and within days of his return he is involved with the death of a man and the injuring of a security guard. Although he did not commit the murder he is implicated and as a result sent on the run. From this point on the string of events and tragedies spins out of control. What occurs is nothing short of the taking down of a family, a business, a police department, a political candidate and a man who is trying to set his life straight. Performances are effective in this dark and moody piece, but the truth of the matter remains that I have seen this before. (C)
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DR. T & THE WOMEN

Release:10/13/00-(R)-(1:34)-[ARTISAN FILMS]-RICHARD GERE, HELEN HUNT, FARRAH FAWCETT, LAURA DERN, SHELLEY LONG, KATE HUDSON, TARA REID, LIV TYLER: Robert Altman has a gift of bringing together incredible acting ensembles. In Dr. T and the Women we find no exception. Richard Gere is the doctor in a world predominantly surrounded by women of all shapes and sizes. There is the wife he loves, but finds slipping away in mental illness (Fawcett), the daughters (Hudson & Reid) who are preparing for the first's marriage. Also invading the home world is the sister-in-law (Dern) and her three little girls. Dr. Travis is also surrounded by women in his professional life. As a gynecologist he seems to constantly be inundated with women of all shapes, sizes and age groups in his upscale Dallas practice. His only respite is the short trips he makes with a group of the only guys in his life. For the most part they are in some way connected to the women. Enter the former golf pro (Hunt) and life begins to spin in a slightly different direction. The two click and the doctor begin to fall for somebody new. In a typical Altman style there is mayhem occurring throughout the film with the Doctor as the central focus. It is a dizzying effect that swirls you through the lives of all the characters that have any interaction with the doctor at all. The film seems to lead us to a culmination point in which the even-keeled Doctor, who's life had been making a slow decent towards chaos for some time, is literally and figuratively sucked into a twister and spit out in an alternative environment. Suffice it to say this is an enlightening film that plays Dallas as a stormy town sporting a lot of high society type women, nearly all of them wearing hats of one form or another. It's an odd mix of words and filmmaking, but a highly tolerable one based on the aforementioned ensemble cast. Look for good performances from Kate Hudson, Farah Fawcett, Shelly Long and Laura Dern as the sister-in-law who drinks just a little too much. I liked Dr. T but should not have seen it so soon after Billy Elliot. (B-)
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THE CONTENDER

Release:10/13/00-(R)-(2:12)-[DREAMWORKS FILMS]-JOAN ALLEN, GARY OLDMAN, JEFF BRIDGES, CHRISTIAN SLATER, SAM ELLIOT, WILLIAM PETERSON: The tagline for "The Contender" reads 'Sometimes you can assassinate a leader without firing a shot.' Sometimes? In our current political climate the assassination of an official running for office seems like common practice. Drag them down, look for any dirt that will discredit their good name to the all-to-eager and waiting public. Cynical, perhaps, but true. This is a film that takes that reality and bashes it. It gives a powerful character that does not bow down. It shows the true meaning of pettiness and retribution in its ugliest forms. It gives us the painting of an administration of high integrity and levelheaded decisions. It shows the true nature of people, but also spares us the notion that everyone is out to get everyone else. The contender is a true Hollywood meets Washington marriage. It is a throwback to the days of idealism and Jimmy Stewart mixed with the cold hard maniacal cynicism that is always there to knock it down. Would a Jimmy Stewart character last in Washington today? Will Laine Hanson (Allen)? The President of the United States (an assured and well cast Bridges) is choosing Senator Hanson as his new running mate after the death of the Vice President only weeks before. The appointment must be confirmed in congress, but a certain congressional leader is none to happy about the appointment of a woman. Shelly Runyon (Oldman in a remarkable performance deserved of recognition) sets out to discredit the Senator in a witch-hunt that uncovers aspects of the woman's past that may or may not be true, the Senator simply will not have anything to do with the accusations. Add to the mix Governor Hathaway (Peterson), a long time friend of Runyon and the man thought to have been the likely choice instead of Hanson and there is a political battle to be hashed out by FBI agents on the hunt for information. There are familiar areas to be had in this film, but for the most part the twists offered are fair and workable. The film does not try too hard to manipulate its audience and the acting is top notch in all areas. For political junkies in this, that time of the year, I can heartily recommend the film. A good intriguing and well-written script is always a pleasure. (A-)
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BILLY ELLIOT

Release:10/13/00-(R)-(1:48)-[BBC/WORKING TITLE FILMS]-JULIE WALTERS, GARY LEWIS III, JAMIE DRAVEN, JEAN HEYWOOD, JAMIE BELL, ADAM COOPER: There are times when the world of film delivers a genuine gem. There are times when a story is told that can touch and move you to places that you either haven't been or needed to go without the tricks or traps of Hollywood manipulation. "Billy Elliot" is that gem. It is a slice of life with the beauty of youth, the strife of real life, the bond of family, the blessing of talent and the prize in a soaring spirit. The title character is an 11-year-old boy (the amazing Jamie Bell) in a British mining town during the 1984 strikes. His father and brother are part of the strike and he is left to watch his aging grandmother after school as the men spend the days at the picket line. His only respite is the gym in the center of the village in which he takes his grandfather's boxing gloves and goes, mostly unsuccessfully into pee wee bouts. One afternoon Mrs. Wilkinson's (Walters) ballet class moves into the gym to utilize space and help pay the rent. Drawn like a moth to a flame, the young boy slowly begins to work his way into the class. The boys father (a wonderfully effective Gary Lewis) soon discovers that his son is not boxing and the traditional gender roles and masculine mining town mentality and ego are played to aplomb. When he forbids Billy to dance, Mrs. Wilkinson trains him on the sly with the plan to take him to London to audition for the Royal Ballet School. Eventually this is discovered as Billy misses his audition because his brother Tony (Jamie Draven) has been arrested during the strikes. As time and the strike go on it is the scenes in which young Billy rebels against the stereotypical dancer as a poof by being exactly who he is. One of the finest moments comes as he dances purposefully in front of and all around his bewildered father after having been caught training a friend in the gym one night. This is the turnaround and the father is shaken into realizing that Billy has promise. What follows is the awakenings of fate, life, family and dreams. A beautiful story with affecting performances and a lead that is so graceful and enchanting a dancer, this is a film that cannot and should not be missed. Rated R for language, it would otherwise be the type of film that would rule come Oscar time. I will be personally upset if it doesn't win that sort of recognition as it is the most deserved of the honor in years.(A++)
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BOOTMEN

Release:10/06/00-(R)-(1:33)-[FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES]-ADAM GARCIA, SAM WORTHINGTON, SOPHIE LEE, RICHARD CARTER: This generally uplifting tale of successes and dreams set and produced in Australia will undoubtedly be compared to the country's "Strictly Ballroom" in years to come, based solely on the subject matter. This is a movie about dance and vision. The film takes place in Newcastle, Australia, not too far from Sydney. It is a steel town and the factories are the main source of their economy. Sean (Garcia) and his brother Mitchell (Worthington) were a tap dancing duo when they were kids, but have grown up to follow in their father's footsteps by working in the local factory. Sean, who still dances regularly has dreams of taking this to bigger places and as such joins an audition for a tap show that is in Sydney. He wins the role, but at the same time has met Linda (Lee..a young Olivia Newton John ringer), a hairdresser. The two forge a relationship, but while he is away his brother convinces Linda he won't return and sleeps with her, thus damaging the core relationship of Sean and Linda upon his return. He does return quickly because of his individualism and the fact that he got sacked in Sydney. Once back he decides to form his own group of dancers to make his way. At about this time he discovers his brother's dealing with illegal activities and bails him out a couple of times, eventually coercing his sibling to join the tap group. It isn't until the suggestion of another dancer and a moment at his factory job that he realizes that the difference that will make the "Bootmen" fly is to give the elements of what he knows a background mixed with the dancing he has been doing over the years. When the factory is closed down and many of the workers are now out of a job, the Bootmen come to their amazing crescendo of discovery to perform a benefit in the Steel mill that he hailed from. There are trite and familiar soap opera themes abounding in the storyline that include a tragic death, the typical villain's attempts to foil the big event, the need for acceptance and mending of the father and son relationship and themes of the middle class world versus and their fears and misunderstanding of men dancing in the first place. The story is loosely based on the formation of the now famous Australian group Tap Dogs, and the director (Dein Perry) is, in fact, the Tap Dogs founder. The film is fun and lively but often moves so quickly as to establish every bit of information that the author's feel necessary to the plot. It's slightly dizzying but a wonderful showcase for the magnificent Adam Garcia (who starred in London's stage version of "Saturday Night Fever"). Expect to be seeing more of him. Good show, mates. (B+)
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PAY IT FORWARD

Release:10/20/00-(PG-13)-(2:03)-[WARNER BROS.]-KEVIN SPACEY, HELEN HUNT, HALEY JOEL OSMENT, JAY MOHR, JIM CAVIEZEL, JON BON JOVI, ANGIE DICKINSON: There is a solid theory alive and kicking throughout the Hollywood feel-good film of the year. An A-list cast of Academy Award winners and nominees abound. Unfortunately for me "Pay it Forward" is trying a little too hard to pull the heartstrings and in doing so comes across as a little too easy to believe. Kevin Spacey turns another role into a very memorable character and Helen Hunt takes her Oscar winning waitress role to a different level as an alcoholic mom raising a boy in and around the tawdry arena of Las Vegas. Spacey delivers a knockout perf as a Social Studies teacher with a past of his own. He assigns his new 7th grade class to 'do something that will change the world' by the end of the term. Young Trevor comes up with the Pay it forward while passing a group of the homeless on his way to his own home. He takes one of the guys to his house and feeds and shelters him while telling him to pay it forward. Trevor, unhappy with his mother's drinking his nearly never there father (Bon Jovi) decides he will bring his teacher together with his struggling mom. What ensues is a relationship with all of the normal Hollywood film snags and moments. Lessons are learned by all. The film opens with a Los Angeles reporter being handed the keys to a brand new Jaguar by a lawyer who witnesses the reporter's car being destroyed. The only explanation for this deed is that he is paying it forward and the reporter (Mohr) should do the same. The reporter decides to trace the roots of this deed and follows it to Las Vegas. There are a great many moments where the heart strings are tugged in this film as well as a couple of inconsistencies, but the overlying theme, based on a book of the same title is thought provoking and workable in theme. I would love to see the ideas of Pay it Forward be treated as a reality, but still, I'm afraid, have a problem with the ease and sparkle that the Hollywood treatment often provides. (C+)
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GIRLFIGHT

Release:09/29/00-(R)-(1:53)-[SCREENGEMS]-MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, JAIME TIRELLI , PAUL CALDERON, SANTIAGO DOUGLAS, RAY SANTIAGO: Were it not for the charisma and talent of the lead in "Girlfight", I would have to recommend this film for video rental. It is ordinary and rather mediocre in its storyline and production. That is to say that we have seen this story before scores of times and the inner city struggle as well as its characterizations are nothing new to the big screen. The twist in Girlfight is the obvious, the hard-edged and troublemaking ne'er do well who finds their particular niche as a fighter (the one that nobody really believed in, of course) is a girl. The script is amiable enough and there is talent in all areas, it is just hard to look past the fact that I have seen the Rocky themed underdog storyline many times before. Michelle Rodriguez on the other hand is a find. As the 18 year old Diana Guzman this young actress manages to powerfully win over an audience with tenacity and a great deal of caustic energy from the opening moments of the film as she stands in front of a locker staring crossly through half closed eyes. The conviction of her character and the truth in her telling her story is astonishing to the point of making the tried and true telling of the embattled teenage hood from the broken family with the abusive father feel like it is slightly new again. Her scene where she fights back with said father was one of the better ones in the film. Once we are through the school fights, convincing of the trainer, attitude adjustments and trials of first love, however, we are glazed slightly with the need to find a new direction to take a story such as this in. That's right, it's a GIRL this time. Needless to say there is the emotional twist in Diana's first big fight being against the man that she is falling in love with, fellow boxer Adrian (Douglas). The conflicts are handled well and the judges decision must go to Rodriguez, who should be undoubtedly picking up some new roles as a result of her work here. For those who love the tried and true with a dose of wonderful acting, Girlfight is your film. (C)
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TIGERLAND

Release:10/06/00-(R)-(1:41)-[20TH CENTURY FOX]-COLIN FARRELL, MATHHEW DAVIS, CLIFTON COLLINS JR., THOMAS GULRY, SHEA WHIGHAM: Unlike anything I have ever seen Joel Schumacher do in his career, comes a gritty and depressing birds-eye view of the preparation to send young American men off to the Vietnam war in 1971. Tigerland is the final leg in boot camp training for soldiers in the army. It is so called because it is a battleground in the United States that one soldier calls "next to hell". It is designed to simulate the jungles and the atmosphere of fighting in Vietnam. The story is a view of a period in which some of these soldiers either make it or break it up to the last moment in which they are shipped off to the real thing. The story centers on Bozz (an exciting cross between Russell Crowe and George Clooney with a brooding and handsome presence). Bozz is the anti soldier, he is forever in trouble mouthing off to superiors, fighting or ending up in the stockade. The men in charge have an underlying respect for him, although they will not show it. They know that he is one of the more superior soldiers; he simply does not choose to do it their way. Throughout the training Bozz is a focus of the ever barking chain of command above him and the soldiers that seem to put him on a small or invisible pedestal. There are a couple that Bozz even assists with his own smarts and know-how of the way that things work, in getting out of the war altogether. He is befriended by war-buddy Paxton, a somewhat naive college educated soldier who is writing in a journal throughout the training, and is the narrator of Tigerland. Although Bozz would never admit to the war-buddy aspects of their 'relationship' it is apparent throughout that there is a bond and that Bozz is looking out for him. The story told is one of a bleak and hopeless subject of negativity and hatred, but the script and the filmmaking are superior and nowhere near the cliché or treaded ground used in so many of the coming of age-styled war epics of the past. Schumacher has gone where he has never been before and succeeded with aplomb. The casting is sensational and should boost the careers of a couple of key players such as Farrell, Davis and Clifton Collins Jr. as Miter, the 'mentally affected' soldier thrust into a commanding position that he cannot handle. This is nowhere near an uplifting film, but it is quality and Oscar worthy filmmaking. (B+)
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DANCER IN THE DARK

Release:10/06/00-(R)-(2:20)-[FINE LINE FEATURES]-BJORK, CATHERINE DENEUVE, PETER STOREMARE, DAVID MORSE, JEAN MARC BARR, JOEL GREY: Make no mistake, this is not an uplifting movie. It is, however, a finely woven piece of film work told in a bleak and sympathetic style by a director who has taken the art of suffering to heights in the past. Lars Von Trier, who broke through several years ago (and introduced us to Emily Watson) in Breaking the Waves is repeating his quick-cut editing and hand held camera stylizing, and to good effect in this bleak tale of a elfish young Czechoslovakian immigrant living in California with her young son. The twist being that this martyr-like styled pixie is going blind quickly and working as hard as she possibly can in the factory and with odd jobs in order to save the money necessary for an operation for her young son's eyes, which will, it seems, suffer the same fate as her own. As young Selma (the stunning debut performance by Icelandic phenom Bjork, who won Best Actress at Cannes this year) is prone to daydreaming as well. As she toils away at the monotony of the machines or listens to the rhythms of the train on the track she fantasizes a musical number and suddenly scenes are set with dancing workers and Bjork flavored vocals. Her friend Cathy (Deneuve) is trying to help her throughout but, it would seem to no avail. She is being courted as well by a sad sack who seems to appear whenever she is around, waiting to give her a ride. The harsh tone of the film revolves around a destitute policeman named Bill (Morse) who owns the property that Selma and her son have a trailer on. When his wife thinks he has money that he doesn't he proceeds to steal Selma's savings, which he discovered one night after pretending to leave the blind woman's house. When Selma, who has been fired from her job and quit her local play because of her eyesight discovers the missing money she goes to Bill and his wife. The suicidal policeman shamelessly accuses Selma of stealing his money and is shot in a struggle, leaving Selma to take the complete blame for his death. A wonderful courtroom musical scene highlighting Joel Grey as Selma's tap dancing idol is a highlight, but the sadness that is inherent is a little difficult to avoid. Truly a classic work in a style that formula lovers will abhor, I found it mesmerizing particularly for Bjork's magnificent performance. (A-)
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BEST IN SHOW

Release:09/27/00-(PG-13)-(1:30)-[WARNER BROS./CASTLE ROCK]-EUGENE LEVY, CATHERINE O'HARA, CHRISTOPHER GUEST, MICHAEL MCKEAN, JIM PIDDOCK, PARKER POSEY, FRED WILLARD: This is a wild and often very entertaining spoof of the already rather ridiculous world of the dog show. Created by Christopher Guest, the mastermind that brought about the classic "This is Spinal Tap" and 1996's wonderful "Waiting for Guffman", Best in Show brings together a delightfully talented group of actors in their element while improvising the ins and outs of a Dog competition while creating the most delightfully odd characters to come across in any film of late. Guest himself appears as the owner of a Bloodhound in competition. He is Harlan Pepper who owns a fish and tackle shop and is training himself to become a ventriloquist. There is the quirky Gerry and Cookie Fleck with the Terrier. Gerry literally has two left feet and Cookie seems to have known everyone she runs into from the past. There is the rich Poodle owner (Sherri Coolidge) married to the ancient millionaire who has a 'relationship' with her dog's handler (Jane Lynch). And the couple whose dog is depressed after having watched them have sex (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock). Throughout this mock documentary are the wonderful workings of sarcastic minds mixed with a clever bit of editing that throws in just the right piece of information to accompany the improvisation that is happening with the actors. At the show itself there is the mastery of Fred Willard as the show's commentator Buck Laughlin. This role is reminiscent of the character that Willard played on Fernwood Tonight all those years ago and holds up brilliantly as he has a great percentage of the funniest lines this film has to offer. There is a distinct style of humor that is at work here under Guest's direction. It is subtle and twisted in its use of a common theme in America today. Much like the human beauty pageants that permeate our land the dogs are groomed and treated like royalty to win these shows. As silly as all this appears in this mock documentary, one cannot help but to feel that there is some truth to this and that is very scary. With a looming writer's strike at bay for the upcoming year, one cannot also help but to wonder if this style of improvisation could not be used a little more often. It does work and sure does look like an awful lot of fun. (B)
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THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB

Release:09/29/00-(R)-(1:34)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-TIMOTHY OLYPHANT, DEAN CAIN, BEN WEBER, ANDREW KEEGAN, JOHN MAHONEY: West Hollywood is indeed a town of beautiful, and healthy people. The gay men do inhabit the city. The shallow factor is great and this film grabs a hold of each and every cliché that is available to it to emphasize and highlight them all. In its defense it is not an offensive film whatsoever. The truth of the matter would have to be that ANY movie, gay or straight in its content and characters that is a romantic comedy and a coming to terms with life lesson is going to grab at all available clichés. This is a fact in movie making. What does that really say for The Broken Hearts Club? It says that the film is rather normal. There are laughs and there are some decent and likable characters, but like most other films of this genre, it is neatly wrapped up with the proper doses of angst, joy, anger and the requisite tragedy to prove as the transition. John Mahoney is a Bar owner and a crusty old guy, in a relationship with 'the purple guy' for over 20 years. His bar is the host of the Broken Hearts Club baseball team. This is a group of friends that for all stereotypical reasons should NOT be playing baseball. This is just a backdrop for the entanglement of this group of miserable sods who just don't know how to live their lives. They might think they do, but in the course of the film they discover in one way or another just how wrong they are. By films end, however, they are all on the straight and narrow (bad choice of phrase) and life is hunky dory. The main problem with a lot of the characters, if not all, is that we don't really get to know them very well. It is all quite peripheral and I couldn't really have cared less what happened to one or the other. Perhaps it is because I have known these people in my own experience. Perhaps it is because I chose not to. Either way the Broken Hearts Club is likable, but probably better broken into little pieces and used for different episodes of Will and Grace. As far as gay cinema it is somewhat of a snore. As far as mainstream, I doubt very much it will do that big a business. (C)
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MEET THE PARENTS

Release:09/29/00-(PG-13)-(1:45)-[UNIVERSAL PICTURES/DREAMWORKS]-ROBERT DENIRO, BEN STILLER, BLYTHE DANNER, TERI POLO, JON ABRAHAMS, and OWEN WILSON: Ben Stiller is becoming the schlep to love in the movies. This is a man who is making a career out of being the nice victim next door in his film work. Fortunately for him the role seems to be suitable and the laughs are continuing. "Meet the Parents" is another such role in which the affable Greg (Stiller) is in love with and would like to marry the beautiful teacher Pam (Polo) but discovers that it would be best to ask her father's permission to do so first. The opportunity arises swiftly when Pam's sister announces a wedding to be held at the girl's parent's home in Oyster Bay, NY. Greg goes with Pam to meet her parents. From the moment they arrive the interrogation begins and the fun along with it. Pam's father Jack (DeNiro in another very funny role) is a retired CIA agent who Greg is told was a florist. Her mother (Danner) is a sweet woman. Jack is a bit protective of his daughter and as such begins to suspect Greg not to be good enough for her. What ensues is a series of mistakes, mishaps and domino effect physical comedy (along with a very well timed and clever script). DeNiro is perfect as the hard ass who talks of 'the inner circle of trust in his family', and after the first polygraph test Greg, who although trying so hard to win the man's respect, is beginning to feel a bit out of his element. Top off the weekend with the fact that his slightly large carry on luggage was not carried on and is lost by the airline with the engagement ring inside of it, a cat named Mr. Jinx whom Greg inadvertently loses and replaces with a look-alike except for the tail (which he proceeds to spray paint) and the series of mishaps which result in black eyes, fires, and sewage back-ups to name a few. This is a comedy of errors in which you look at the lead and wonder just how unlucky is this guy going to get? What has to be done to salvage the reason that he came to meet the parents in the first place? As in most studio based larger budget films we find this to be neatly wrapped up and laced with highly unlikely methods of plot device. In order to get the caliber of cast that is acceptable. The truth is that "Meet the Parents" is genuinely funny. There are some deep guffaws to be had by all. I suggest it to lighten a mood or make your own family look like they are not that bad after all. Whatever the reason, I do suggest "Meet the Parents" as a good fall escape and a keeper. (A)
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URBANIA

Release:09/15/00-(R)-(1:45)-[LION'S GATE FILMS]-DAN FUTTERMAN, ALAN CUMMINGS, MATT KEESLAR, SAMUEL BALL: If for nothing else "Urbania" should be experienced for its twists, turns and flashes through the mind of a man in one of the most potent of life's fluxes, grief. Dan Futterman (of Broadway's "Angels in America" and television's "Judging Amy") is presented in a breakthrough performance that offers up a combination of said grief, torment, loneliness, anger and the memories of love and completeness that is rarely found in the world of relationships. Set in the West Village of New York City, Charlie is prone to stopping at phones to talk to the answering machine of his former lover, begging and pleading for a voice at the other end. It is a dark and bleak existence that he is now living in and there is a distinct pain in nearly every utterance and line that Charlie offers up. The loss is of his best friend and lover Chris (Keeslar) and although the circumstance of this loss is not entirely clear for sometime, it is obvious that Charlie is unable to accept whatever has happened. Through sweeping camera angles and quickly cut flashes of past moments intertwined with the present a story of betrayal is woven, the question being who and why, where and how. Charlie is beginning to follow the road to his own recovery and pick up the pieces of his life as he wanders into the bar in which he has seen the strapping man whom he has crossed paths with in the past. The man with the large tattoo is straight, but Charlie as he tells Matt the bartender, knows what he is doing. While he waits on this night that the clock is to be turned back, he visits an old friend dying of AIDS, Brett. There is a tension in this relationship that is eased through jabs and self pity on the part of Brett, who is part bitter at the reasons behind the visit and part happy for any company at all. He's especially glad its Charlie whom it would seem there had been some feeling for in the past. Charlie also finds himself acting out in angry manner with an unknowing soap actor in a tryst (almost) gone bad and giving unwanted detail of unwanted sexual activity to the loud couple that lives upstairs as they wait for their dinner in a local restaurant. What waits for Dean (Ball) in the meeting that finally occurs, however, is the turning point for Charlie's character in working through what has happened to he and his lover. The film offers a twist of dark proportion that oddly coincides with the strange and eerie stories of urban folklore that are sprinkled throughout the film. This is an original piece of work well worth the price of the film and the quality of all parts of the filmmaking. Futterman is an actor that could very well be a long shot for Academy Award consideration, were the Academy to remain as open to the work and not shy away from the subject matter as they did with last years "Boys Don't Cry". (A)
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DUETS

Release:09/15/00-(R)-(1:53)-[SEVEN ARTS PICTURES/BEACON PICTURES]-MARIA BELLO, ANDRE BRAUGHER, PAUL GIAMATTI, HUEY LEWIS, GWYNETH PALTROW, SCOTT SPEEDMAN: I have to begin by asking myself why I would even make the initial move towards a film that has anything to do with karaoke. I don't particularly go for that sort of thing outside of the theater. It was my impression that this film was all about the popular bar fad of the nineties. The truth is that Karaoke is merely the common tie to all of the ensemble characters that inhabit the tour of the mid-west of these United States. Each one of the central characters is either a singer looking for the cash prizes in bar contests, or somebody directly tied to such a person. Otherwise what Duets is attempting is to take these characters and watch them through their individual life turning points, slowly and surely fleshing out the drama of all these different types of beings. And I do mean slowly. This is a film that does have a few redeeming qualities and isn't what I would rate amongst the worst. It is, however, a film that pales in comparison to the fun and original fare that I have been seeing of late in "Nurse Betty", "Almost Famous" and "Urbania". Duets is so simple in its complexities that it becomes tedious and predictable. The film follows several characters as they weave through what they are experiencing as a life. There is the Karaoke hustler (Lewis) who really doesn't have a home and runs into his daughter (Paltrow) along the way. Add a frustrated, on the edge salesman (Giamatti) who goes out to 'buy a pack of cigarettes' only to walk into a karaoke bar and end up on a wild adventure of unpredictability and random acts of violence. There is the escaped criminal (Braugher) that teams up with Giamatti's character, The young lady willing to get to California any way she can (Bello), her unwitting traveling partner (Speedman) and a few other minor and colorful pieces of work along the way. The eventual culmination of all characters is the big contest for 5 Grand in Omaha, Nebraska; where due to 'circumstance' you never actually do find out who wins the big prize. Of note with the film, directed by Gwyneth's dad Bruce, is that all characters (save Braugher) did their own singing. Unfortunately, that isn't quite enough. (C-)
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ALMOST FAMOUS

Release:09/13/00-(R)-(2:00)-[VINLY FILMS/DREAMWORKS PICTURES]-BILLY CRUDUP, FRANCES MCDORMAND, KATE HUDSON, PATRICK FUGIT, JASON LEE, ZOOEY DESCHANEL, PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ANNA PAQUIN, FAIRUZA BALK, NOAH TAYLOR: This is a delightful adventure into the days of rock and roll in the 70's. Based on Cameron Crowe's own youth as the youngest rock and roll journalist, "Almost Famous" follows the trials and tribulations of growing up and becoming a small part of a history all at the same time. The film, entirely original and not in the least manipulative, is beautifully shot, written, directed and gives us a slew of dead on performances all of which captured the period, the feel and the realities of what that tumultuous time period brought. William Miller (An enormously likable Patrick Fugit) is a composite of Cameron Crowe. His Mother (wonderfully played by McDormand) is a fanatical college professor that preaches the evils of rock and roll while condemning adolescence as a marketing tool. His sister (Deschanel) leaves home early, not wanting to be subjected to mom and becomes a stewardess. She leaves behind her stack of albums under William's bed, the key to the door of the future for the 11 year old (who up until days before had been told he was 13). As we move forward 4 years to 1973, William is now a writer for his school paper and an avid rock and roll enthusiast. There is innocence and a charm, but he is by no means the picture of rock and roll. He manages to meet and talk to CREEM magazine editor Lester Bangs (ace character actor Seymour Hoffman) and finds a mentor that gives him his first professional job, writing an article about Black Sabbath. It is at the Sabbath concert that William meets the characters that will shape the crux of the film and change the person he is to become. Not allowed in (he is not on the list) William ends up meeting all the young female groupies (Band-Aids, as they call themselves). The most prevalent of this group is the effective and inspired Penny Lane (a star turn for Hudson). It is with the back up band's arrival that the ticket is born, however. As Still Water arrives they are convinced that young Miller should be able to write an article about them and the relationship begins. What follows is the hiring of William by Rolling Stone to write an article about the band and its lead guitarist Russell Hammond (dead on portrayal by Crudup). The ups and downs, lessons and triumphs are all effects of the road trip and the affects of rock stardom and the shaping and molding of the young and talented focus of the film. Each nuance and twist and turn offered in "Almost Famous" is real and memorable. Everyone knows their part and is directed with ease and believability. It is an undertaking that beautifully highlights an era of deep and classic rock and roll, with no signs of a string to pull at tear ducts or teach us a lesson (so often the motive in any film based on truth, scratch that...any film at all!) "Almost Famous" is a keeper, folks. This is highly inspirational and filled with fun and memorable tunes of a period gone by. Crowe hands us another winner and establishes himself even further as a leading director for today. (A)
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NURSE BETTY

Release:09/08/00-(R)-(1:47)-[USA AND GRAMMERCY PICTURES]-RENEE ZELLWEGGER, MORGAN FREEMAN, CHRIS ROCK, GREG KINNEAR, ALISON JANNEY, TIA TEXANA, AARON ECKHART, CRISPIN GLOVER, PRUITT TAYLOR VINCE: The tag line says it all: "She needs to see a doctor." For those who understand (or even live) fanaticism such as I do, "Nurse Betty" is not all that far from a reality. A dark and funny reality. All right, that may be a little bit of a stretch for us as viewers, but for Betty Sizemore it becomes a core point behind this wonderfully funny and well written Neil Labute film. Betty (Zellwegger) is a waitress at the Tip Top Diner and lives a quiet unassuming life in Kansas with her husband Del (Eckhart) the shady car dealer (and drug dealer as well). She had always wanted to be a nurse and had not been able to complete her training. Betty's favorite show is "A Reason To Live", a daytime serial with leading character Dr. David Ravel (Kinnear in another very funny part). When two hit men (Freeman and Rock) come to town to 'settle' a problem with Del they end up scalping and killing him without knowing that Betty is in the other room (watching her show on tape.) The shock of witnessing the murder of her husband puts Betty into an altered state of mind in which she believes she was once engaged to Dr. Ravel. She sets out to California to find her doctor and the comical set of circumstances begins. After a quirky stop in Arizona she lands in Los Angeles and applies for a job as a nurse (in full uniform) and inadvertently ends up saving a man's life based solely on a procedure she saw on the program. Upon winning the respect of the hospital she lands a pharmacy job and an apartment with the streetwise sister of the man she saved. Through even more coincidence betty ends up meeting George, the actor who plays the doctor at a fund raiser. He thinks that Betty is in character to try to get a job on the show and along with several of the staff that are also at the fund raiser, become quite impressed with how much she knows her character. The comedy ensues. All along Betty is being chased by the retiring and lovelorn Freeman (who should be AA nominated) and his acerbic and impatient son (Rock at his best). "Nurse Betty" is filled with good comic turns and a clever script that almost makes the silliness seem possible. This is a dark comedy indeed, but dark with a silver lining of clever form. (A)
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SNATCH

Release:(LONDON) 09/01/00-(R)-(1:45)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-JASON STATHAM, BRAD PITT, STEPHEN GRAHAM, VINNIE JONES, DENNIS FARINA, ALAN FORD, BENECIO DEL TORO, EWEN BREMMER: Madonna's boyfriend (and the father of baby Rocco), Mr. Guy Ritchie, is back with a fervent and manic follow up to his breakthrough directorial hit of 1998 "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." "Snatch" is a melting pot of character gangsters all intertwined loosely and /or directly to a hug diamond that is heisted by four hoods in Antwerp and brought back to London. One of them, a Russian, calls Boris the bullet dodger and the hold up of an underground gambling parlor is set up in order to steal the diamond from the man that is carrying it attached in a briefcase on his wrist. Boris hires three smaller time crooks (Black men who ride in a car to the tune of "Dreadlock Holiday" by 10CC). This results in all hell breaking loose and the overlapping themes and characters go into full tilt. This style is familiar to Ritchie's last work, but in this case that is an advantage. As all goes wrong for the three small time crooks in their botched attempt at holding up the underground gambling party a big time thug (Bricktop) is using hoods Turkish and Tommy to set up a fight that will be thrown by the fighter they choose. Meanwhile they are out to look for a trailer to use as their office and come across a group of Pikers (Gypsies) to purchase said trailer. One of those Pikers is Mickey (Pitt in one of his best roles to date), an unintelligible dirt bag who ends up breaking their fighter's nose in the process of a wager made over money and the trailer. As a result he becomes the pick of the two hoods for the fight that is to be thrown. Mickey is a hot head, however and the fight is NOT thrown, which causes problems for all involved and increases the bizarre nature of the chain of events that continue. As revenge begets revenge and each character reveals a little bit more of their natures and some hidden smarts or weaknesses, the diamond remains a focal point as it would seem that all want to 'snatch' it. The performances to watch are Pitt and the cameo by Trainspotting's Ewen Bremmer. Wild fight scene editing and a well-crafted script make up for a now well-worn gangster theme. Ritchie is king of this genre. (A)
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SIBERIA

Release:(LONDON)08/25/00-(R)-(1:30)-[SIBERIA FILM]-HUGO METSERS, ROELAND FERNHOUT, VLATKA SIMAC, JOHNNY LION, NICOLE EGGERT, NEFELI ANTHOPOULOU, SYAN BLAKE, JESSICA STOCKMANN: This is a gritty, interesting sexual obsession story of two criminal minded Dutch men in their 20's fighting the fight between sport and love when it comes to sexual escapades with the unassuming female tourists in Amsterdam. Hugo, it would seem is the brains, while Goof is light hearted and leaning towards falling in love. He has a simpler mind, a sweet and almost naive smile and laugh as well as appearing to suck his thumb while sleeping. The two men steal the identities of their sexual romps by ripping the main page from the women's passports, stealing money and then confiscating all memory by taking their camera. They meet their match in Lara, a German woman who claims to be from Siberia. She manages to move in to the men's home and while Goof falls in love with her and plans to take her to Siberia, Hugo has a love/hate relationship and ends up having a physical relationship. The film has its share of twists and turns as the three leads steal from each other learning never to trust a friend. Lara has discovered the men's secret occupation (or pastime), and is soon gone with all of their money. She doesn't go far as she stays in a local Pot hotel where the boys plot with and against each other in twists that change each characters sensibilities and core. This brings the film to a satisfying completion. Thumping Techno music and interesting film techniques add to the style in this Robert Jan Westdijk film. (B+)
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PSYCHO BEACH PARTY

Release:08/25/00-(UNRATED)-(1:35)-[STRAND RELEASE]-LAUREN AMBROSE, THOMAS GIBSON, NICHOLAS BRENDON, and KIMBERLEY DAVIES: Going camping at the beach. "Psycho Beach Party is a great deal of fun based on the Charles Busch play of the same name (Busch playing the over-the top sexual female police detective), the film plays like a piece of theater, actors emoting fervently and the sets very colorful and staged. What strikes me the most about the film is the wonderful lead in Lauren Ambrose. As the squaresville teen with schizophrenic tendencies, this young thesp alternates between a sweet teen, a nasty dominatrix and a streetwise black supermarket checker with relative ease and no end of energy. Florence (the sweet teen persona) is just a normal teenager with a nerdy best friend, a thrice widowed mother (Beth Broderick) and a Swedish exchange student (Matt Keeslar) staying in her home. She has eyes for the perfect boy, Starcat (Buffy's Brendon) and is dying to learn how to surf. When the local surf boys won't teach her she moves on and takes lessons from the local surfing God Kanuka (Gibson). As she begins to assimilate with the gang (along with a B-movie starlet named Bettina who is hiding out from the studios in a haunted beach house) there are a series of murders of young people in the neighborhood and on the beach. One by one they are checking out and finally a pattern is detected by the astute and well-coifed Detective Monica Stark (Busch). It would seem that each of the victims have imperfections. As focus seems to be falling on our young teen hero Chicklet (Florence's surfer/beach name) the film and story come to a head at the big luau, where her personalities come out in front of everyone. Young psychiatry student Starcat comes to the rescue and hypnotizes the confused teen to come to the wild and campy conclusion of who actually IS the murderer of all these kids. The film is funny and very light. It is a sure bet that the play would carry this off a little better, as it is a theater piece in its feel. It is a worthy afternoon heat escape that will provide chuckles and be worth the matinee price. (B+)
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THE CELL

Release:08/18/00-(R)-(1:48)-[NEW LINE CINEMA]-JENNIFER LOPEZ, VINCE VAUGHN, VINCENT D'ONOFRIO, MARIANNE JEAN-BAPTISTE, JAKE WEBER, DYLAN BAKER: Under the premise of futuristic scientific ability to enter a comatose mind and works towards possibly healing or bringing that mind out, comes this somewhat overblown serial killer thriller that puts yet another absolutely gorgeous great mind up against a sick puppy with an inner child in order to get him to reveal where he had stashed his latest victim before he fell comatose from a rare brain disorder that is severe even for schizophrenics. Carl Stargher (D'Onofrio), abused severely as a child has become a serial killer of young women in adulthood, effectively toying with them, trapping them in a large glass room, drowning them slowly and horrifically and then turning them into dolls (a little 'Silence of the Lambs' for you). FBI agent Peter Novak (Vaughn), who has had bad experiences, as both a prosecuting lawyer, and it would seem, in abuse situations as a child himself, is the man on the case. They get Carl, but only as he is rendered comatose and unable to answer any questions regarding the last girl that he took. Enter the beautiful Catherine Deane (Lopez), whose experiments with mind visits for comatose patients has been practicing with a young boy in the lab she shares with two equally dedicated scientists (Jean-Baptiste and Baker). What creates the tension in "The Cell" are the special effects and gross out torture tactics that are displayed throughout the visits by Deane and eventually Novak into the mind of Carl. Special effects are well done and somewhat psychedelic, but do not really match the high quality and imagination of the supreme "Matrix" of last year. The acting is good to mediocre and the story in 'The Cell' is not all that original. A part of me would have preferred to see this under the influence of something to enjoy the twists and turns of the colors and effects provided. Lopez is adequate and used more for her physique rather than her acting abilities. She is appealing but not the best actress out there today by a long shot. Vaughn is ordinary and doesn't really spark the leading man energy that may have built up a little tension between the leads. This is a nice try for summer fare, but not the best of the summer by any means. (C+)
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CECIL B. DEMENTED

Release:08/11/00-(R)-(1:28)-[ARTISAN ENTERTAINMENT]-MELANIE GRIFFITH, STEPHEN DORFF, ALICIA WITT, ADRIAN GRENIER: John Waters at his quirky, wildest best. This is a tale of a group of off-color terrorists that fight the big fight against mainstream and big studio movies by kidnapping a bonafide movie star at a premiere in Baltimore (where Waters always shoots) and forcing her to star in their film. The ringleader of the group is director Cecil B. Demented, whose 'vision' is ongoing and uses all manner of guerilla tactic and armed attack to film his scenes in real life. The director and his crew (the sprocket holes) live in a huge warehouse and interact amongst each other as characters in any John Waters film would do. They are funny and off the wall. The deal here is there is no sex until principal photography is completed so the sexual tension is ripe throughout. Melanie Griffith is wonderful as a spoiled Hollywood A-lister targeted by the nefarious group to headline their work and aim steadily at the entire film business as they do. Throughout the very quick paced film are literally scores of inside jokes, references, and marquee headlines that are most definitely worth their weight in gold. Waters has hit the nail on the head lambasting everything from Forest Gump to Focus Groups. At one point Griffith yells to a hostile crowd outside of a theater: "Family is just another word for censorship!". Waters seems in many ways to be parodying his own background in underground cinema by bringing the Demented character out as a diehard that will do anything to get his movie made. The whole gang is somewhat demented, but that is the wonderful mainframe behind so many of Waters mainstream stabbing ventures. This is great fun especially for those who are in the business, but for those that aren't the irreverent and colorful characters that always inhabit Mr. Water's work are here in high volume and packing a wallop in a work that most definitely has NOT been done before. (A)
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BLESS THE CHILD

Release:08/11/00-(R)-(1:47)-[PARAMOUNT PICTURES AND ICON PRODUCTIONS]-KIM BASINGER, HOLLISTON COLEMAN, JIMMY SMITS, CHRISTINA RICCI, RUFUS SEWELL, ANGELA BETTIS, IAN HOLM: When Hollywood meets Satan it can almost be rather comical. The glamorization and overproduction of the darkness and the depths that the occult, Satan and his followers encompass is often just a bit out of the reach of the reality that I expect evil probably exists. It's out there, of this there is no doubt, but I would hesitate to believe that it doesn't take shape from thousands of rats or morph from a nasty old nanny. "Bless the Child" is a below average thriller that borrows from many others before it. It would seem, unfortunately that there is no new ground being broken. Kim Basinger is Maggie O'Connor, a Children's nurse whose husband had left her not too long ago when the film opens. Her drug addicted sister Jenna (Bettis) shows up at her door one night with a newborn and bolts leaving Maggie to take care of the little girl. 6 years later there is a serial killer on the loose killing 6-year-old children. It seems that there is a former child star turned Satanist that is looking for a child with special powers to further his evil machinations. Cody (Coleman), is that child. The movie is a series of chases and kidnappings as the evil Erik (Sewell) continues to try and obtain the young girl. Smits arrives in as an FBI agent, brought in to work on the killings of the children and becomes involved with the plight of Maggie and the search for her niece. Basinger is formidable in the role as the beleaguered woman thrown into this dark web of hellfire and special powers, but this is nowhere near the caliber role as her Academy Award winning turn in "LA Confidential". The film was so utterly average that that I found myself dozing in a couple of sections. Although I didn't fall asleep, I am sure that I wouldn't have missed all that much if I had. (C-)
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THE TAO OF STEVE

Release:08/04/00-(R)-(1:43)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-DONAL LOGUE, GREER GOODMAN, KIMO WILLS, AYELET KAZNELSON: "The Tao of Steve" is one of the most offbeat and unusual of romantic comedies that I have ever had the pleasure to have seen. Based on an autobiographical story by Duncan North and blessed with a star-turning perf by Donal Logue in the lead, Greer Goodman as the pursuit and directed by Jenniphr Goodman in a terrific debut, Tao touched my heart and my soul with a warm wit and clever story. And that is the whole point. Love stories happen to people of all shapes and sizes. Even Dex, who at one time was a class rogue, thin and quite the ladies man, has no problems with the ladies, and he is at least 100 pounds overweight at this time in his life. He is a stoner who works part time with kids and is basically letting life pass by in this Santa Fe backdrop. Syd (Greer Goodman) is the woman that is changing him. The film opens with a 10 year college reunion, which is where the two are reintroduced. It seems that Dex slept with her all those years ago, but doesn't even remember. Strike one. But Dex, at first, is relatively unphased. He is teaching his philosophies to a slightly dimmer pal named Dave (Wills) that is all about the way that The Tao of Steve McQueen is going to get him laid. It is a well-versed philosophy in which Dex has prospered. But it is in the introduction of Syd back into his life that he realizes that his focus is somehow misguided. The story is a beautifully written and played out interaction of two people that are skirting around the issues of love and life while trying their best to either stay away or get closer to each other in the process. They are flirting, and yet seem to dislike each other in healthy doses as time is moving on. Through intelligent conversations about Kierkegaard and Don Giovanni (Dex's wake up call), the two are slowly drawn together through intelligence and attraction for more than the physical. This is not an obvious story as so many romantic comedies can be. It is carefully woven to avoid that path and succeeds in doing so. What happens for the couple is best left for you to observe yourself. Suffice it to say that I am looking forward to seeing the film again, and know that there is a future for a love like the one these two and the film's creators have given us.(A)
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HOLLOWMAN

Release:08/04/00-(R)-(1:54)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-KEVIN BACON, ELISABETH SHUE, JOSH BROLIN, KIM DICKENS: The summer is not the time for Academy Award winning films. In my humbled opinion this below par and absolutely ridiculous waste of celluloid might get mentioned in the special effects categories, but only if there is a lack of rival product. This movie was really bad. The story was stupid and not scary at all. The script was medieval and sophomoric. The acting was wooden and pieced together horribly (I cannot believe that Elisabeth Shue was ever nominated for an Academy Award based on what I saw here.) Kevin Bacon is now seemingly into making sure that nudity is in all of his contracts. Whatever. I like Kevin, but this typical and boring loutish and arrogant brilliant scientist bit is so overdone and so unbelievable. Who cares? The story is a modern horror film that mixes the telling of a self made Frankenstein monster and Invisible Man hybrid that needs credit and accolades to the point of going beyond the rules of the project at hand and overstepping the big Generals at the Pentagon. (The Pentagon??) His likewise brilliant staff of amiable scientists is all bowing to his mastery while loathing his very being (how could you not?). His second-in-charge (Shue) is an ex-lover that is now with the third in charge (Brolin) which in and of itself seems to be enough for the over-the-top self made monster to go on a murdering rampage that is typical summer action / horror / thriller bloodbath style. The heroes live in this one, and the monster comes back from the (insinuated) dead more than once. Gee, did I ruin the surprise? Paul Verhoeven is below his level, but obviously having fun with the subject at hand. The "fun", however, is nowhere near enough to save this mess and it's tepid dialogue. I laughed, but I am not so sure I was supposed to do so where I did. Oh well. That's what I get for not listening to my intuition and waiting for this to come out on DVD. I suggest that you do just that. Wait, if you need to see this at all. (D-)
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SAVING GRACE

Release:08/04/00-(R)-(1:33)-[FINE LINE FEATURES]-BRENDA BLETHYN, CRAIG FERGUSON, MARTIN CLUNES, TCHEKY KARYO,: A very simplistic look at a tale with chuckle potential. "Saving Grace" is all about Brenda Blethyn, an actress that epitomizes middle aged Britain woman in so many ways (Oscar Nominated with her roles as middle class women in both "Secrets and Lies" and "Little Voice".) She has a quiet style and demeanor here that is slightly off the beaten path as a woman whose husband jumps out of a plane and perishes, leaving her with the lies and piles of debt that she never knew existed. She lives in a quiet little British seashore / fishing village that is so quaint and pretty that you almost want to take a vacation and relax. Her home is built with stone and covered with Ivy and is grandly decorated and furnished. Unfortunately it is also 2000 pounds a month to keep mortgaged, due to unsuccessful business ventures and the fact that her husband had used it as collateral. So Grace, who is an expert gardener and has a well-kept greenhouse on the premises, hatches a plan with her yard keeper Matthew to grow his marijuana plants (previously kept in the cemetary). Together the two of them grow over 20 kilos of spectacular bud in a matter of what seems like weeks in order to make enough money to pay the enormous amounts owed by Grace. The comedy is in the precious moments of the effect of the drug. Grace and Matt getting stoned is a hoot. The old ladies that run the store are out of hand. The pub dwellers setting up chairs outside to watch the nightly lighting of the greenhouse (akin to an alien spaceship landing in Grace's yard) is pleasant. But Graces trek into London to look for a drug dealer clad in a head to toe white Georgy Girl outfit complete with scarf and hat is delicious. The subplots of Matthews's relationship and the growing of Grace's character as a human (she faces off and then teams up with her late husband's mistress at one point) are nice. Unfortunately the film is somewhat bastardized by a silly and unnecessary Hollywood ending that rather makes you wish that you had been stoned to witness it. Unless of course you were. (B-)
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THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

Release:07/28/00-(PG-13)-(1:19)-[LIONS GATE FILMS]-DOCUMENTARY ABOUT TAMMY FAYE MESSNER: This is really a humorous and delightful change of pace. An icon of eyelashes, Ms. Tammy Faye Baker has been around the Christian world for a long time. Starting with her puppets and evangelist husband Jim Bakker. This is the woman who is regarded as the first lady of Christian Broadcasting having (along with Jim) started no less than three thriving networks and a huge theme park that was second only to the Disney parks. Along the way there have been a lot of hardships and mistakes. A lot of lemons handed to the sob queen. This documentary looks at them all and camps it up just a little bit to make it a far more appealing and appropriately styled piece of work, considering the subject matter. The newly ubiquitous RuPaul Charles is the narrator of the piece taking you from the humble Minnesota beginnings of Tammy Faye to the very recent release date of her husband from prison this past March. She is NEVER without her eyelashes (a trademark) and is comically inclined in her manner from start to finish. The doc highlights the good times, the upstarts, the successes, the failures, the divorce and bankruptcy, the children, the shows, the attempts at other shows and nearly every aspect that one can possibly muster up for the diminutive star of the Christian broadcast world. A hats off to filmmakers Fenton Baily and Randy Barbato for a documentary in a quirky style that I must admit I hadn't seen done. It is divided into sections with hand puppets heralding the oncoming bit. So odd, and yet it seems to fit in the sense of what we are doing here so well that I could do nothing but chuckle every time they appeared. In that this is a subject that is real and seems almost to be a parody of itself, but isn't, I am happy to say that this is a welcome piece of celluloid after a few very large budgeted disappointments in the summer array. Never having been the most ardent fan of Tammy Faye and most certainly not a Christian myself, I still recommend this piece of likable fluff for a great deal of laughs and entertainment quality. (B+)
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NUTTY PROFESSOR 2: THE KLUMPS

Release:07/28/00-(PG-13)-(1:45)-[IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT/UNIVERSAL FILMS]-EDDIE MURPHY, JANET JACKSON, LARRY MILLER: I made the dire mistake of NOT seeing this film in a matinee. Perhaps the simple knowledge of not having spent the money I did would have saved a little bit of what I left in that theater. Like my dignity. I like Eddie Murphy; he's a funny man. The only reason I am not completely failing this film is because Mr. Murphy is a clever comedian with a true talent for characters. Unfortunately I did not like a single character that he played. I barely liked a single piece of dialogue. I feel cheated and victimized in manners described and portrayed in this very film. It is an utter waste of celluloid and I should have known better. The make-up work of Rick Baker is a spectacle to be sure. I wouldn't have wanted to be the one sitting in those chairs for all those hours being done up to create all these characters. Fortunately I wasn't. In the first Nutty Professor this Klump family idea was SO funny and so endearing. Unfortunately here they took a smaller idea and expanded on it. Much like taking a skit from Saturday Night Live and trying to make it into a full-length feature film, the Klumps just do not have what it takes to hold their own. Add to this the fact that the trend to just gross everyone out a la "Scary Movie" or "Something about Mary" is being taken yet another step further into a gutter here. Quite frankly I feel the need to stop talking about this film. It's best to just let it go. (D-)
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LOSER

Release:07/21/00-(PG-13)-(1:38)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]-JASON BIGGS, MENA SUVARI, ZAK ORTH, TOM SADOWSKI, GREG KINNEAR, DAN AYKROYD: Boys and girls the teen angst film is wearing a bit thin. The trend is reaching its end for this go round. It was fun, but it isn't going to last much longer. Soon something else will be the trend and by the time we make this turn again, these cherubs will all be in their thirties. Oh well. "Loser" is making fun of the normal, un-hip, country boy that goes to the big city with morals and high hopes intact. It isn't the first time the tale has been told and it will most definitely not be the last. There is some appeal to lead Jason Biggs, and Mena Suvari is very endearing. Somehow these two had a bigger effect on me in their last go-rounds. Paul is in his first year of college in New York. His roommates are the intensely unlikable trio of jerks that all look like they used to be Macauley Culkin. Dora is a misguided pretty who is having an affair with the obnoxious professor, and everyone is the most exaggerated that they could possibly be to bring forth the ultra predictable love story plot that is so fluffy and sweet that the concession stand will not be necessary. There is nothing at all original about "Loser". The characters aren't original, the story is SO played and even the direction is lackluster. Amy Heckerling is a teen angst goddess when it comes to the film world. Unfortunately I believe that she took the genre one too far. I rather doubt that any of the roommates careers will go much farther. Biggs has a good chance of living this down and Suvari is adorable and SO likable that I am going to forgive her for this mistake. I guess you could say that the boy gets the girl and everyone is happy. Blah Blah Blah, the end. Rent this one in the video store next month. (D)
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BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER

Release:07/21/00-(R)-(1:35)-[LIONS GATE FILMS]-NATASHA LYONNE, CLEA DUVALL, RUPAUL CHARLES, CATHY MORIARITY: If I didn't know better and wasn't able to look at this comedy as a slice of the ridiculous and an over the top homage to the style and wackiness of John Waters, I would be scared. Scared because this is a story based in parody on the true to life ministries or camps that actually proclaim they can bring back a gay person to being straight, because, after all, that is the way we are supposed to be and the homosexuality is a choice (cough, cough). At the risk of sounding political I laugh at the true to life basis for which Director Jamie Babbit has taken aim portraying as the moronic "theory" that it is. The film itself is simple and looks, more than likely on purpose, like a film built with sets that will be used in the high school play. The campiness of True Directions itself would beg to wonder whether these caricatures are serious even in parody or all in on some sort of cosmic joke for which they will all yell "Surprise" or "Gotcha" at it's completion. The message is pure and simple. It is about being true to who you are. No message is simpler. I can see where the use of exaggerated stereotypes may have been useful and necessary to the 'plotline', but if the film gets out of the gay circuit, it is bound to create a backlash and controversy. Good. Megan (Lyonne) is a cheerleader. She doesn't like her boyfriends hound dog lick kisses, is vegetarian, and has pictures of women in her room as well as her locker. Her parents (Stole and Cort), as a result, set up an intervention and send her off to a place that can straighten her out. True Directions is run by Mary (Moriarity), a scary and shrill woman, and Mike (Charles, who lets face it is simply RuPaul without the get up). The other 'students' of the 5 step program each display a distinct and loud stereotype of the gay lifestyle. The process is silly and pastel in every direction. The story is uninspiring but truthful in its purpose. The characters are needed but I can't help but to think that I might have liked this film out of some sense of warped political correctness. I had fun, but I doubt very much this will send too many people clamoring back for a second look. What I found more interesting than the film itself was a recent "Politically Incorrect" with Ms. Babbit, RuPaul, and two of the leaders of a real life "True Directions". Now THAT was funny. (B-)
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WHAT LIES BENEATH

Release:07/21/00-(PG-13)-(2:10)-[DREAMWORKS PICTURES]-: MICHELLE PFEIFFER, HARRISON FORD, DIANA SCARWID, JOE MORTON, JAMES REMAR, MIRANDA OTTO: It is hard these days to sit back and really be able to say that a movie really scared you. So many of the films that have come out in the last resurgence of the horror genre have been built on the scare tactic. That is not to say that the film is actually scary, it is more on the level of having been able to create some sudden moments that jarred you or made you jump. "What Lies Beneath" is an interesting digression from the Scream mentality. For one thing it is about mature adults, for another there would seem to be an actual ghost involved in this one. This film is a well-put together piece of work. It seems to weave in pieces of a puzzle throughout. It is the type of film that would be best to be especially aware of the littlest of details throughout, for it seems that each and every one of them have a meaning and a place. Michelle Pfeiffer, who is so endearing and beautiful in any role, is the sheepish housewife and ex-musician named Claire. She lives with her Scientist husband Norman in a beautiful Vermont home that she is often alone in. Soon Claire begins to hear and see things. She is convinced that her neighbor has been murdered and she is seeing her ghost. It does appear that the ghost that she is seeing is that of a young woman, but as time reveals, it is somebody quite different. With the aid of her loyal and spiritually inclined friend Jody (Scarwid), Claire begins to unravel a story that is at the base of this ghost and all of the strange activity in her home. Her husband, who is quite involved in his research, sends her to therapy. There are elements of a great many styles and clichés involved with this work, but by no means is it dull or cheaply done. The presence of the established cast and the prolific director (Zemeckis, I understand always wanted to do a horror film), give the project credence and the feel of watching a first rate horror/thriller. There are a few twists and a somewhat interesting resolution to it all, but my main complaint was as it is with most horror films. I left the theater wondering if that was all there was. I questioned elements and felt a little cheated by some "special" effects. Otherwise a worthy theater visit, especially on a hot summer day. (B-)
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THE FIVE SENSES

Release:07/21/00-(R)-(1:45)-[FINE LINE]-GABRIELLE ROSE, NADIA LITZ, MARY-LOUISE PARKER, DANIEL MACIVOR, PHILLIPE VOLTER, MOLLY PARKER, MARCO LEONARDI: Director Jeremy Podeswa takes the subject of the title of this gentle and moving film quite literally. He plants the five senses firmly into a weaving tale that follows the lives of each of the film's lonely people, who are trying to find something missing and in essence reaching out for something or someone in doing so. The senses are represented by each of the smaller stories within the larger one. Touch is represented by the forlorn massage therapist Ruth (Rose), who is lost without her deceased husband and not connecting with her teenage daughter Rachel (Litz). Rachel, it turns out is a representation of sight in her habit of voyeurism. It is as a result of her wandering off to watch a young couple in the woods that she looses a child in her watch. The missing child is gone throughout the film much to the fear and sadness of her emotional mother (Molly Parker) and Ruth. Representing hearing is the sad Richard Jacobs (Volter) who is, ironically, an Ophthalmologist who is loosing his hearing. He is separated from his wife and daughter, who live in France, and spends a good deal of time listening to an opera singer next door. He has written a list of sounds that he wants to hear for storage in his head and finds wonderful company in a prostitute whose daughter, it turns out, is deaf. Robert, a gay man who is calling all his past 'lovers' to see if any of them smell like love, is best friends with Rona, a woman whose fear of intimacy matches his own. Rona is a cake maker who has had a fling with a lively Italian man named Roberto. He has flown to Toronto to be with her and try to get a job as a chef. He speaks no English and is constantly shoving spoons of new food under her nose, thus the representation of taste. Between all of these lonely characters and the wonderful sense of Toronto in beautiful cinematography, there is uniqueness to this film that took me pleasantly by surprise. There is darkness in trying to connect with others in this world and Podeswa has touched it in a way that I had never experienced before. A slightly slower script may prove somewhat distant for some audiences, but for those who enjoy different and touching cinema, treat your senses to this delight. (A)
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X-MEN

Release:07/14/00-(PG-13)-(1:36)-[20TH CENTURY FOX]-HUGH JACKMAN, PATRICK STEWART, IAN MCKELLAN, FAMKE JANSSEN, JAMES MARSDEN, HALLE BERRY, ANNA PAQUIN, BRUCE DAVISON: In what could very well become the big hit of the new summer (and perhaps even a few summers to come) I welcome you to the rich, colorful, and special effects laden world of mutants and heroes. Based on the famous series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and directed by the talented Bryan Singer, X-Men is a visual feast without the hokey sentiment that has been witness in so many other comic strip based franchises. Built around the not too distant future, where a two groups of underground mutants, led by rivals and childhood friends Dr. Charles Francis Xavier (Stewart) and Magneto (McKellan) this is a story about an impending war and Magneto's desire to use the power of on the run teenage mutant Rogue (who can absorb the powers of whomever she touches) to manipulate metal at the Statue of Liberty and thus annihilate the entire City of New York. There are so many mutants here that it is hard to keep up. There is Wolverine (Jackman) who wanders into the fray to side with Xavier's team when he is attacked while carrying Rogue in his truck. Wolverine has retractable claws and can fight like a devil, but has a sour disposition to match. In Xavier's camp are Cyclops (Marsden), who wears a visor to protect the world from his razor rays; Storm (Berry in a blond wig), who rolls her eyes back to create any sort of weather condition, Dr. Jean Gray (Janssen), who to a lesser extent is able to read minds and see where mutants are, like Xavier. On the evil mutant side add the huge Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Toad (Ray Park), and the shape-shifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijin-Stamos), who's head to toe makeup makes her virtually unrecognizable. Add the swarthy senator (Davison) that is building a fight against the mutants and you have a diverse and interestingly eclectic cast of characters and actors. To be introduced to all of these mutants is like keeping a scorecard of who has what power. But it all adds up and the creation of some wonderful special effects (bridges, maps, weather, fighting) and the uncharacteristically funny and enjoyable script (for summer fare such as this), make the movie a must see for many ages. It is suggestable that you get to know these characters as I have no doubt that you will be seeing them again in summers to come. (A-)
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CHUCK AND BUCK

Release:07/14/00-(R)-(1:34)-[ARTISAN ENTERTAINMENT]-MIKE WHITE, CHRIS WEITZ, LUPE ONTIVEROS, BETH COLT, PAUL WEITZ: Simple in its slightly disturbing innocence, but nowhere near the offense that its underlying theme will possibly go in some over analytical heads, "Chuck and Buck" is a well done and wonderfully portrayed story of not growing up. Mike White is slow. He is a childlike man of 27 that either is not all there upstairs or will simply not let go of a childhood that represented a great deal more fun and comfort. As a child Buck was best friends with Chuck. They hung out and played businessman and put on little pieces of theater like "The Devil and the Reindeer". They were typical 11 years old in every possible way, including the fact that they experimented with their bodies, as children will do. Flash forward to 15 years later and Buck really hasn't grown up. His toys and surroundings are pretty much as they have been since those times many years before. As the movie opens Buck's mother passes on and the childhood friend from long ago, who now goes by the name of Charlie receives an invitation to come up to Santa Barbara from his LA home for the funeral. Charlie brings along his charming and patient fiancé Carlyn. Everything is fine but Buck makes an unwanted advance to Chuck in an awkward moment and Charlie and Carlyn are gone. An offhanded invitation to visit LA by Carlyn prompts Buck to find his way down to live, and to stalk his former best friend. After several misguided and seemingly innocent, yet straightforward attempts, Charlie tells Buck to take a hike. Buck, who has been hanging outside of a theater that is directly across the street from Chuck's work, meets the sarcastic Beverly (Ontiveros). They form a friendship, but more importantly Buck writes a play called "Hank and Frank" and with the appropriate offer of money Beverly helps to cast and then directs the 'homoerotic misogynistic play'. After Chuck again tells Buck to hit the road being a bit put off by the contents of the show, which he went to under protest, Buck again takes a different tactic. What follows is sweet and almost touching, if not somewhat unbelievable in it's grasp. Believable or not I liked how this film wraps up. I also liked a character that would otherwise be somebody you are meant to hate. That says something. This is a delightful change of pace with a subject that is true to form. If you are looking for a taste of the different, Chuck and Buck could be a great deal of fun. (B+)
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IT'S THE RAGE

Release:07/07/00-(R)-(1:37)-[SILVER NITRATE RELEASE]-JOAN ALLEN, GARY SINISE, ANDRE BRAUGHER, JEFF DANIELS, ROBERT FORSTER, DAVID SCHWIMMER, ANNA PAQUIN, GIOVANNI RIBISI: Where do I begin? Within the confines of this film lies a stellar ensemble of actors and a topic that could easily be interesting and informative in its own right. The case for gun control in a country gone a bit far with the 'practical need' for protection and carrying weapons I would have expected "It's the Rage" to be something that would hit a nail on the head, or perhaps even give me pause to think about the fact that living in a city such as Los Angeles or Chicago (depicted here) can be as random and chaotic. It becomes so for the lives in this film, but unfortunately to a point of exaggeration that is giving this dark tale a screwball comedy sort of feel. Somehow I expected more and the film just wasn't able to deliver it. The film opens in a suburb home. It's the middle of the night and a housewife (Allen) is waking up to find her husband (Daniels) missing. She hears shots and goes downstairs to find him standing over a body. He has killed his partner, whom he thought was an intruder. This man is interrogated by a retiring cop (Forster) who knows that the man shot his partner on purpose. His lawyer and friend (Braugher) is there to help him get off. The lawyer, however, has a casual encounter with a street savvy young woman (Paquin) who he rescues, has a relationship with and subsequently shoots to death. The Lawyers boyfriend (Schwimmer) a depressive is tired of the lawyer coming home late all the time and shoots him. The street smart girl's brother (Ribissi), fresh out of jail himself, is enraged over his sister's death and shoots a Video store clerk, who just happened to be in love with the street smart girl. The housewife leaves the husband, who eventually confesses by mistake and ends up in jail, and starts to work for an eccentric genius who proceeds to stop all correspondence with the world and lose everything he owns. All in all there is nothing but odd weavings of characters and acts of violence. I cannot see a message being given to loudly because the whole landscape seems a bit too ridiculous. The actors, as I said, are likable, but this might better be viewed back on Cinemax where it originally debuted. (C-)
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THE KID

Release:07/07/00-(PG)-(1:41)-[WALT DISNEY PICTURES]-BRUCE WILLIS, SPENCER BRESLIN, EMILY MORTIMER, LILY TOMLIN, JEAN SMART, CHI MCBRIDE: There is definitely a lighthearted good feeling to "The Kid", but it goes one step beyond in traditional Disney style and tries a little too hard to tug at the heartstrings and bring a tear or two to the eyes. Bruce Willis is making a career out of turning away from the tough dude out to free the world into an actor that plays well against children. After the career resurgence last year in the surprise monster hit "The Sixth Sense", Willis chose to take on a role that casts him as a cold and hard-edged Image Consultant to some very famous people. He is successful and driven and hasn't cried since he was 8 years old. There is no family or girlfriend and no time to be bothered. He moves about his scheduled and emotionless day telling people not to cry or feign self-pity until the day that an 8-year-old child appears in his home. Russ is convinced that he is hallucinating and goes to a psychologist, but soon realizes that he is being visited by himself as an 8-year-old child. As he swiftly approaches 40 he starts to unravel with this 'inner' child and discovers with the help of his calm and efficient assistant (Tomlin), an LA anchorwoman whom he image consulted on a plane (Smart) and Amy (Mortimer), the woman that he is meant to be with but doesn't seem to know, that the child is there to make that happen. Once this realization is recognized the sappiness truly begins and the new team of middle aged Russ and 8-year-old Russ set off to figure out just what is supposed to be remembered. Suddenly they are back in 1968 and everything begins to become clear. After a visit from a 70-year-old Russ to the other two (all these generations of Willises), the answers are all there and the magical transformation can take place. There is a nice message in here that encompasses allowing people into our lives, family, and the concept of forgiveness and that sometimes people may just be doing the best that they possibly can with what they have. Along with the messages come the subliminal Disney notes that post "Cry Here". I don't know about anyone else, but I always seem to see them, and quite frankly it bothers me when I am manipulated in the movies. But what should I expect, that is Disney's job, and they do it very well. (C+)
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SCARY MOVIE

Release:07/07/00-(R)-(1:27)-[DIMENSION FILMS]-ANNA FARIS, JON ABRAHAMS, SHANNON ELIZABETH, LOCHLYN MUNRO, SHAWN WAYANS, REGINA HALL, DAVE SHERIDAN, CHERI OTERI, MARLON WAYANS, KURT FULLER: I am sure that I am not alone in this opening assessment of 'Scary Movie': This movie really scared me. The problem with that is that it was a parody. A comedy. This movie was SO sophomoric that I found it difficult to laugh at even the silliest of the gags. I wasn't necessarily grossed out, although it would seem that was the ultimate goal. I almost feel as though I felt sorry for the film. I felt sorry for the filmmakers. I felt sorry for the cast. The writers have got to be embarrassed that they put their names on something this moronic. But they did and it got made and undoubtedly there is a country full of sophomoric morons who will go out and see it from morbid curiosity or the need to be challenged. I should be careful. After all, I saw it too. A spoof of the recent craze of horror movies that has done so well in box office revenues, 'Scary' runs the gamut of skewering by covering all the Scream franchise, I know What You Did Last Summer, The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense with touches of The Matrix and The Usual Suspects thrown in for good measure. From the beginning to the end this is a push-the-envelope sleaze fest that will win big with fraternity and teenage styled audiences that are looking for a quick and light way to be grossed out. There are enough sex, gay, and bathroom jokes in this movie to last until next summer when I suspect that somebody else will try to top the 'how far will we go to be as stupid as possible' mentality that is offered. I would love to highlight one or two scenes that gave me genuine laughs but I am afraid I didn't find them. I didn't walk out insulted or angry, just disappointed in the hour and a half that I had wasted. For those of you looking for a movie with some good laughs and a universal appeal, Scary Movie is NOT the film you will want to see this weekend. Why don't you go and see "Chicken Run" again? (D-)
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TRIXIE

Release:06/28/00-(R)-(1:54)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-EMILY WATSON, DERMOT MULRONEY, NICK NOLTE, NATHAN LANE, BRITTANY MURPHY, LESLEY ANNE WARREN, WILL PATTON: For the fans of wonderful ensemble work and cleverly written comedy mixed with a well constructed crime noir type piece, "Trixie" is a good bet and a very refreshing film. Emily Watson is in yet another role that displays a remarkable range and ability to expand into comedy. She is delightful here as Trixie, a small time drugstore security guard that longs to be a detective. Trixie is a somewhat cloudy gumshoe in the making, mixing up metaphors in nearly every sentence she utters. She is sort of woman that leaves people speechless and gazing off to the side wondering what they have just heard and what she really meant to say. Trixie gets a break and lands a job in a small resort casino that puts her right into the middle of a case of murder, mayhem and intrigue the likes of the films of the 40's and 50's. At the casino Trixie is befriended by the ex-con lounge act Kirk Stans (Lane) who always has a cut-up done in the voice of a famous actor, a 16-year-old barfly named Ruby, and a ladies man named Dex who works for the crooked town developer Red Rafferty (Patton). Trixie develops a relationship with Dex but as a result is pulled into the goings on that occur in his bosses boat. The dark side of all of this is the involvement of a local Senator (Nolte) and the murder of a rather drugged out singer (Warren) who is tied sexually to Red, Dex, and the Senator. It becomes Trixie's focus to figure out the reason, motive, and killer of Dawn Sloane. What follows is a script that reads more like a screwball comedy than the private dick film of the early genre, and it works. All of the pieces fit very neatly together and move towards a rather convincing and somewhat surprising twist for a conclusion. Watson is marvelous and continues a streak of believable and well-chosen roles. Nolte is in his element as the sleazy Senator. Warren is reminiscent of her "Victor Victoria" and Lane is wonderfully believable as the has been lounge lizard who wants to drink until he forgets his name. The film could possibly be a little too much for some, but all in all a very funny script and delivery. (B+)
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THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY & BULLWINKLE

Release:06/30/00-(PG)-(1:20)-[TRIBECA/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS]-RENE RUSSO, JASON ALEXANDER, PIPER PERABO, RANDY QUAID, ROBERT DENIRO, JUNE FORAY, KEITH SCOTT: For those of us who remember or have watched repeats of the original Rocky and Bullwinkle program on television, this seemingly frivolous and low-brow big screen attempt is anything but. It is a faithful rendering of an offbeat and original children's and adult cartoon and can, will, and should be enjoyed by all groups for light summer fare. Stabbing fun at its somewhat cult status in television history, the film opens with the animated facts of the show's success and subsequent cancellation in the mid 1960's. A combination of campy 60's bad guys and new technologies of our current era, however, then provide the means for the dastardly villains Boris (Alexander) and Natasha (Russo), alongside the scheming 'Fearless Leader' (Deniro) to enter the world in human form and unleash their diabolical plan to create a new television network called RBTV (Really Bad TV) in order to hypnotize and zombify all humans thus taking over their thinking and getting them to vote for Fearless Leader as the President of the United States. Granted, this doesn't go over well in the white house where FBI honcho Cappy Von Trappment (Quaid) assigns novice bureau member Karen Sympathy (Perabo) to find Rocky and Bullwinkle (voiced by Foray and Scott) and bring them into the real world and to New York City by the time of Fearless Leader's speech to the masses. Trouble is found at every corner that has Sympathy jailed and leaves the newly found lifelike R & B on the road by themselves. An assorted array of colorful characters and lively star turn cameos ensues and the campiness remains intact and faithful to the so bad that they are funny puns and comedy bits made famous by the original run of the cartoon series. With no shortage of car chases and action sequences, the film fits snuggly into the summertime film fare and is a welcome respite from the technical and high body count action film that normally inhabits the marketplace. A great deal of fun special effects and a clever Deniro doing an impression of himself in "Taxi Driver" are the icing on the cake. Take the kids, take a friend, or take a parent. This is another in the "all-ages should have fun" category. (C+)
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THE PERFECT STORM

Release:06/30/00-(PG-13)-(2:05)-[BALTIMORE SPRING CREEK PICTURES/WARNER BROS]-GEORGE CLOONEY, MARK WAHLBERG, DIANE LANE, JOHN C. REILLY, WILLIAM FICHTNER, JOHN HAWKES, ALLEN PAYNE, MARY ELIZABETH MASTRANTONIO: This summer's true story / special effect extravaganza is actually a pleasant surprise. Based on a book by Sebastian Junger about the 1991 storm and the unfortunates that were stuck out at sea during it, 'Perfect' is a faithful, if not somewhat lacking interpretation that soars tremendously in the effects-laden viewing categories. The film has a lengthy stretch of character and plot development in the sleepy little fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The characters include a fisherman whose life is the sea (Clooney as the 'skipper' of the doomed Andrea Gail, Billy Tyne). There is the new man to the trips Bobby (Wahlberg) and his lady love (Lane), the divorced father (Reilly), the angry loner (Fichtner), the womanizer (Payne), and the lonely 'loser' (Hawkes). The real star of the film, however, is the raging sea as it tosses and throws all upon it through its own brand of anger when the hurricanes and weather fronts collide to create what one meteorologist termed "The Perfect Storm". The fateful trip of the Andrea Gail is decided by ego as Tyne and crew go out to get a greater amount of Swordfish due to having had bad luck in previous trips and having been beaten by the likes of a female captain (Mastrantonio as an insinuated possible relationship) and her crew. They have their share of problems but end up hauling in enormous amounts of fish only to turn around when the freezer breaks and head directly into the monster. Fate and a broken radio provide the seal of their fate and as the skipper and Bobby steer the ill-fated vessel through the gigantic waves, gale force rain and tremendous winds. The film cuts from the swaying fisherman's boat to a beleaguered yacht on its way to Bermuda and the Coast Guard ship and rescue team that is sent out to save the souls stranded in the storm. Director Wolfgang Peterson and the effects team do a splendid job of creating the storm and its elements, but unfortunately, as often happens in films such as this, the writing of the scenes that lead up to and attempts to identify and flesh out the characters that are lost to the star of the film bring the overall quality of the full product down. I can say one thing; I will not be doing any high seas fishing anytime in the future. This is a great summer film and worth the trip for its special effects. (B-)
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ME, MYSELF, & IRENE

Release:06/23/00-(R)-(1:47)-[20th CENTURY FOX]-JIM CARREY, RENEE ZELLWEGER, CHRIS COOPER, ROBERT FORSTER, and RICHARD JENKINS: There really isn't a great deal that is very new about this film. It isn't as though it is boring or predictable, that would hardly be a possibility with the antics of the spastic Carrey running throughout. It is, however, a film that is relying on its shock values, the gross-out jokes that have worked for the Farrelly Brothers in past work (especially "There's Something About Mary"). There are funny moments and moments that you just can't believe that they are doing what they are doing, but for the most part "Me, Myself, & Irene" is simply not all that special. Carrey is a Rhode Island motorcycle cop that has married and has triplets with his lovely young wife. The problem is that the wife had the kids with another man, made obvious by the fact that the children are black and Carrey, of course, is not. When his wife takes off with this other man, a black dwarf who drives a limo and is a member of Mensa, Charlie (Carrey) begins holding in all his emotions and ability to confront anyone. Years later it is that holding back that creates Charlie's other personality Hank, a brash and rude, almost evil split personality that is lashing out at everyone and everything as if making up for lost time. Enter the pretty Irene (Zellweger), who is arrested and in need of being hauled back to a town upstate in NY where she is being charged with something she hasn't done because of the underhanded dealings of an old boyfriend who, with his bosses at the EPA, are afraid that she knows too much. Charlie escorts her back to this little town and the fun and antics begin. From this point out it is purely a film based on gross out jokes and the rubbery moves of Carrey as he flips from the personality of Charlie to Hank and then back again. Irene, of course, falls in love with the sweet and unassuming Charlie and has to contend with the loud, obnoxious, and abrasive Hank to finally get to him. Chases, near misses and shoot-outs occur and finally there is Charlie's ability to win out over the personality of Hank and, with the help of his three grown (black) sons, foils the bad guys, gets the promotion and marries the girl. Whoops, I gave away the ending...were you surprised? Jim Carrey fans this is right up your alley. Farrelly Brother fans, this is a noble attempt below the par of last year's Mary. It will do well for the gross out aspects, but will not be remembered as their best by any means. (C)
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JESUS' SON

Release:06/23/00-(R)-(1:48)-[LIONS GATE FILMS]-BILLY CRUDDUP, SAMANTHA MORTON, JACK BLACK, HOLLY HUNTER, DENIS LEARY, DENNIS HOPPER, WILL PATTON: Perhaps it is my background or the fact that I am a fond lover of all films that are against the grain, but I loved 'Jesus' Son' and was drawn to its dark and sardonic brand of humor from beginning to end. The careers of both Billy Cruddup, who here plays FH (for Fuck Head) and Samantha Morton as the erstwhile Michelle, are bound to be boosted by powerful and dynamic performances that set the tone for what could otherwise be considered "Drugstore Cowboy" meets "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" Based on a book of short stories by Denis Johnson, 'Son' takes us through a number of years in the life of this forever smiling and most times delusional junkie that moves from place to place and person to person in a cloud. A great percentage of the story here is based on a key relationship between the spacey FH and fellow heroin addict Michelle. They are lovers, friends and enemies that move in and out of each other's lives throughout, until her death of a self-induced overdose designed to elicit some attention from FH. There are a great deal of colorful characters that weave in and soon out of FH's atmosphere. Denis Leary is a long gone friend that spends time with FH until his eventual overdose. Jack Black is brilliant in his over the top pill-popping orderly in a hospital full of goofs. Dennis Hopper is an old recovering junkie that is in the rehab with FH, and Holly Hunter is a 'crippled' AA meeting crasher that comes for the support. The scene for the film is all around the country in the early 1970's. There are no pretty people and there is a tone of bleakness and dark personality and scenery. All of this works to the advantage of this tale of how another side has lived in this country (and still does). Cruddup ("Without Limits" and "Waking the Dead") is perfect in this role. He makes the otherwise unlikable character into somebody that you genuinely want to like. His surroundings are somehow brightened by the infectious manner of a beautiful, albeit very lost face. Jesus' Son is a sometimes-confusing tale that reads like stories that are thrown together and patched up out of order. There is a definite style and tone created by Australian director Alison MacLean ("Crush"). Perhaps not for the faint of heart or those intimidated by needles and drug use, but all in all a unique and memorable experience for me. (A)
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CHICKEN RUN

Release:06/21/00-(G)-(1:25)-[DREAMWORKS PICTURES]-MEL GIBSON, JULIE SAWALHA, MIRANDA RICHARDSON, JANE HORROCKS, PHIL DANIELS, TIMOTHY SPALL, LYNN FERGUSON: A simple delight. I welcome you to the world of the chickens of Tweedy's farm. The Claymation masterpieces of Academy Award winning artists and directors Peter Lord and Nick Park("The Wrong Trousers", "A Close Shave"). This is British from the word go, but a delight to the senses and the funny bone from the first to the very last frame. Familiar voices include those of Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous), and Jane Horrocks (Little Voice). The story is simplistic and tame by the terms of the wild antics that have been involved in the Nick Parks short films of the past, but the message and the entire production along with the overcoming the odds type feel that is portrayed is a winner. The film takes place entirely on a chicken farm in England in the 1950's run by the evil money minded Mrs. Tweedy and her lesser of an evil husband. The many chickens on the farm led unceremoniously by the free spirited Ginger are always trying to make a break for it and find the freedom that the world holds. Time and time again Ginger is caught and thrown into "solitary" for a night. Plan after plan is schemed and all to naught. Mr. Tweedy is convinced that the chickens are planning something, but Mrs. Tweedy is more concerned with the profits not being what they should and the fact that the chickens are not smarter than her idiot husband. Some of the best scenes of the film are the chickens in action and being 'caught' momentarily by Mr. Tweedy, only to have him wondering out loud that it isn't really there. When Mrs. Tweedy discovers that there is a better way to make profits, by turning the chickens into pies, our little heroes begin to step up their efforts to make the escape a reality. For a while they are convinced that an errant Super Rooster named Rocky is going to teach the how to fly, but that plan is dashed eventually and he disappears. That doesn't stop Ginger who finally devises the perfect plan to get them all out to their paradise. The final scenes and entire film are filled with wonderful lines and amazing Claymation and sets. This is a delight for all ages, although I will have to see it again to hear some of the lines drowned out by laughing neighbors. There is a British sense of humor happening but for the most part the jokes and script is universal. If the movie hadn't have done it for me, however, the tag lines that sold it would. "Escape or Die Frying", "A Few Good Hen", "Poultry in Motion" "CR:1" "Chicken Impossible". This is a sure fire hit the likes of "Babe". Chalk up another in a busy year for Dreamworks. (A+)
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BOYS AND GIRLS

Release:06/16/00-(PG)-(1:26)-[DIMENSION FILMS]-FREDDIE PRINZE JR., CLAIRE FORLANI, JASON BIGGS, AMANDA DETMER: On we go with the onslaught of cookie-cutter style youth oriented films, the style, the script and the premise all the same as it has been before. Each one with the requisite realization of love, geeky roommate, pretty people and happy ending. Oh wait...that's just about EVERY Hollywood film. "Boys and Girls" is tolerable. There are likable people playing likable parts. Perhaps we can even identify with one or two of them along the way. There is a story, even though it has been played thousands of times before. There is a nice backdrop of San Francisco and the lovely UC Berkely Campus (although personally I enjoyed "Groove's" SF at night) There is the immensely appealing Freddie Prinze Jr., the very pretty and pleasing Claire Forlani, and the new prince of cut-up sidekicks, Jason Biggs. The script isn't a total insult to intelligence and that could be considered a plus, but the clue that I am giving you here is that I am trying a little too hard to make this film be OK. I shouldn't have to do that. It should sell itself, and unfortunately I have seen it way too many times in the past. Prinze is Ryan, the geeky kid who meets the free spirit Jennifer (Forlani) when they are first 12 and 13. No sparks. Again in High School, where it is easy to say that they just don't click. It probably doesn't help that Ryan seems to be wearing braces for upwards of 6 or so years. Suddenly we are in college and the two meet yet again. This time around, however, they become sparring partners and eventually friends once Jennifer breaks up with Ryan for her roommate Amy (Detmer). Long story short, they become 'brother and sister', he saving her from dates by her request and her saving him because he is simply not ready. Eventually of course there is that turn about and they are in bed. Whoops, Jennifer deems it a mistake and the forlorn Ryan severs the ties and ignores all her calls. Of course love finds it's way by films end, which normally I might not share, but it isn't as if you didn't figure this out anyway. This is a rental film. It is cute, fluffy and something that can easily be stopped and started several times as you answer phone calls or the door. You won't miss a thing, trust me. (C-)
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GROOVE

Release:06/16/00-(R)-(1:26)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]-LOLA GLAUDINI, HAMISH LINKLATER, DENNY KIRKWOOD, MACKENZIE FIRGENS: Youth films come in many different shapes and sizes. Although "Groove by NO means would fit into the mold of last year's "American Pie" or this years "Road Trip" it is still about the youth of America and another side of what makes certain people tick. This is all about the dance, the high, and the party. Filled from beginning to end with the pumping sounds of an underground club and the djs that spin their bouncing and hypnotic magic over the all-night alternative lifestylers, the film does follow a few key players. The real star of the show is the rave itself, an all night party that is designed to please every sense but cannot be in one location due to the intensity, the drug culture and the sheer volume of the music. The very first frame of the movie is the discovery of the abandoned wherehouse in San Francisco that is going to house this latest party. A small team of promoters and builders are responsible for the locating, designing, decorating and marketing of each event as an individual happening. Emails are sent and a voicemail details directions and instructions. The party is on. There are map points and posted guards to ward of the undesired element. As one key player will state, there are no problems, only challenges. Going to the rave tonight are Colin (Kirkwood) and his unwilling brother David (Linklater), a virgin raver. There is Harmony, Colin's boyfriend (although there is some doubt when she catches him in a long passionate kiss with Anthony). There is the lovely Leyla (Glaudini), recently transplanted from New York and a little lost in direction. As the night goes on Leyla and David find a connection that is becomes a match made in "heaven". There are the costumed college kids, the gay couple who are unable to find the rave, the drug toting teacher's assistant, and all sorts of near kids getting a little too high. It is, however, the music and the DJs (who are the stars of the show, coming on one after the other) and the rave in and of itself that are the star of this film. At one point the cops come in and bust up the fun and everyone is ushered out. Within an hour or two, the fearless leader (who does it for the nod given in gratitude by so many), power is hooked up and the nights biggest and best known DJ is well on his way to pumping up the volume one more time. The party ends at sunrise, but it is safe to assume that once the sun goes down again, the underground system kicks into high gear and another rave location is born. (B+)
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SHAFT

Release:06/16/00-(R)-(1:38)-[PARAMOUNT STUDIOS]-SAMUEL L. JACKSON, VANESSA WILLIAMS, JEFFREY WRIGHT, CHRISTIAN BALE, BUSTA RHYMES, DAN HEDAYA, TONI COLLETTE: I wouldn't have known it to be possible, but it seems that John Shaft is even badder than he was in the 70's. The man is positively the coolest thing going. He cannot do anything wrong. He gets away with murder (literally), never misses a shot, never gets hit, is smart and crafty and doesn't let anyone (and I mean anyone) get the best of him. The man is BAD. Amidst the rumors of tension and attitude on the set I can still say without reservation that there could be no other Shaft other than Samuel L. Jackson. He is the definitive Shaft, perhaps even more so than his predecessor (Richard Roundtree). Jackson is actually the nephew of the Shaft of yore. The man that Jackson makes shaft, however, is beyond larger than life and because of that over the top characterization it almost delivers us into a place that is so Unreal that it becomes acceptable, funny, tongue in cheek and highly entertaining. The film opens with the murder of a young black man outside of a restaurant by a racist pig named Walter Wade Jr. (Bale in a role very similar in vein to his American Psycho). Wade disappears, leaving the grieving family and a very angry John Shaft behind. Cut to two years later and Wade is returning to town. Shaft gets the tip and apprehends him but he gets off on a bail, put up by his wealthy father. As a result John quits the force and with the help of fellow police worker Vasquez (Williams) begins looking for the witness to the original crime (Collette), a waitress who for the last two years has been on the run herself. Meanwhile Wade teams up with an over the top Hispanic drug "lord" named Peoples (Wright in a very funny role), and they try to get to the waitress before Shaft does. There is a very large body count in this film, but I suppose that it just wouldn't be the right mix without it. There are ample car chases and crashes to make the summer going action film lover smile in his (or her) theater seat. It is the performance of Jackson, however, that takes the show to it's higher grade. Jackson and Shaft are both so cool. One final note: When they could have updated the title tune made famous by Isaac Hayes back in 1971, they chose not to. I am grateful for this. The song still works as the anthem that it is. (B)
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SUNSHINE

Release:06/09/00-(R)-(3:00)-[PARAMOUNT CLASSICS]- RALPH FIENNES, ROSEMARY HARRIS, JENNIFER EHLE, WILLIAM HURT: With it's gorgeous cinematography, top-notch performances, lush and historical storyline that spans nearly the entire 20th century, "Sunshine" would have all the makings of a modern classic costume drama. It is, however, very long and that could be a deterrent to the average film-goer. Yet it is a true showcase for Ralph Fiennes and is truly a piece of art worthy of the time spent. From acclaimed Director Istvan Szabo comes the epic story of one Hungarian family through the years of strife, war, and massive turbulence. The family Sonnenschein (which means sunshine) spans from great-great grandfather and on down to its narrator who finishes the film as the latest generation in this family. Three of those generations feature separate performances by the masterful Ralph Fiennes. He is first the cold and stoic Ignatz, who educates in medicine and becomes a judge. He marries his cousin Valerie (who captures the heart of the film in performance as well as in a photograph taken early on in the film). The family has great wealth from Ignatz's fathers producing of the Sunshine tonic, the secret recipe removed from an explosion that killed his father many years earlier. It is because of the rise to power as a judge that Ignatz takes the family name and changes it to Sors to ignore ties to Jewish heritage. Ignatz and Valerie have two sons, one of whom becomes a champion fencer in the 1936 Olympics. Adam (also played by Fiennes) becomes a national hero in the next generation, which finds Rosemary Harris skillfully portraying the older Valerie (after an equally illuminating performance by her real life daughter Ehle as the younger Valerie). National heroism does not save Adam, however, as the Second World War is underway and the Hungarian Jews are rounded up and sent to various camps. Of that generation of the family only Valerie and Adam's young son Ivan survive. Adam's wife, brother, sister-in-law and nephew are all killed. Ivan first witnesses the brutal killing of his father in a death camp, and later becomes a Stalin Inquisitor to have his revenge against the fascists. In the end Ivan becomes a hero as well in the Hungarian uprising of 1956. There are strong and brutal performances throughout the film from those mentioned previously as well as William Hurt, Deborah Kara Unger, James Fain and Rachel Weisz. It was hard to get myself to commit to the idea of a three hour epic, but I have to say that I was delightfully moved and only itchy to leave a couple of times. This is a beautifully shot and performed film. It should not be missed especially if you are a fan of superior direction. Look to the character of Valerie to show the film's true soul. (B+)
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LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST

Release:06/09/00-(PG)-(1:35)-[MIRAMAX/INTERMEDIA FILMS]- KENNETH BRANAUGH, NATHAN LANE, ADRIAN LESTER, MATTHEW LILLARD, NATASCHA McELHONE, ALLESANDRO NIVOLA, ALICIA SILVERSTONE, TIMOTHY SPALL: I have been mulling over how I felt about Kenneth Branaugh's latest re-working of William Shakespeare and believe that I have finally come to a conclusion. This unusual and spirited attempt at recreating the comedy "Love's Labour's Lost" is...well...unusual and spirited. The mere thought of the work being transformed into a musical set in the 1930's and using the classic popular tunes written by the likes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins got me into the theater. What I found when I got there is what could be the confusion. Did Mr. Branaugh mean for the film to be silly and erstwhile? Was it his intention to make most everyone on screen look rather ridiculous? Was it supposed to take the comedy and turn it into a vaudevillian style slapstick show? Perhaps it was and perhaps that is exactly what a selected audience is looking for. This is not a bad film; perhaps I have lost my sense of what a good musical comedy should really be. I will, mind you, give Mr. Branaugh his due in creating a very different take on an age-old work. There is a good deal of ingenuity involved in his choices. The actors are very good with the job that they do and the dancing and silliness looks, to me, to be thoroughly enjoyed by all. Although there were parts of the film that were inspired in their comic sensibility, there were others that bordered dull. There was no shortage of familiar music to listen to, but the singers were not always the most accomplished in their voice. None of this really makes any difference for the purpose of the film seems to be to take a tried and true Shakespearean farce and turn it into something more than it has always been. Branaugh is so good at the craft and has shined so often before (His Hamlet was brilliant), I chalk up this effort to a slight effort with a fun and harmless atmosphere. Nathan Lane is funny and Timothy Spall (who's Maurice Chevalieresque rendition of "Thank Heaven's for Little Girls". The main boys and their main girls are all very adequate and the story, well...the story is still "Love's, Labour's Lost", but this time it is set in wartime Europe with kings and queens and camaraderie and pacts. Boys swear off women but fall in love nevertheless. If you are in the mood for a light-hearted film in the vein of Woody Allen's 'Everybody Says I Love You'(with Shakespeare speak), this movie is a delightful way to spend an hour and a half. [C]
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SHANGHAI NOON

Release:05/26/00-(PG-13)-(1:48)-[TOUCHSTONE PICTURES/SPYGLASS ENTERTAINMENT]- JACKIE CHAN, OWEN WILSON, LUCY LIU, ROGER YUAN: Although I am not the greatest fan of the normal Western genre or, for that matter, the fighting styles of the far east stars, there is something very endearing, funny and likable about Jackie Chan that cannot be denied. This guy is an action star with a twist. Yes, he is a kick-ass, no-nonsense fighter, but he is not the macho brawn that most of the action genre film stars have provided through the years. This guy pokes fun at himself, the intensity of the type of film and seems to have a genuinely good time in doing so. For "Shanghai Noon" Chan is teamed with a typical California 'dude' type actor in Owen Wilson, an equally charming and comfortable with himself style of actor. The two work well together. Combined with some awesome scenery and wonderful camera work, and some very funny situations as well as lines, the film merits the near two hours of viewing and leaves you feeling as though you've been aptly entertained. Chan plays Chon Wang, a humble servant of a Chinese Dynasty in the Forbidden City in 1881. The beautiful Princess Pei Pei (Liu) is coerced into leaving the city and virtually kidnapped and taken to Carson City, Nevada to be held by the evil Lo Fong, who runs a mining camp filled with slave labor of Chinese workers. 4 guardsmen and an interpreter are sent to Carson City to save the princess. On their way a small gang of rather inept robbers takes over the train that the rescue team is riding with the gold that is to ransom the princess and the silliness and mishaps begin. Wang sets out on foot (in the wrong direction) for the city and continuously runs into Roy (Wilson) along the way. Wang, of course beats of Indian warriors and is heralded by a large tribe that marries him off to one of their daughters (who proceeds to save Wang and Roy several times throughout the film), but eventually the two fighters end up forming a reluctant liason in order to retrieve the gold and save the princess. It is a typical story of partnership, misunderstanding and comic foil, but as I stated earlier, it is the two leads that make the pairing so likable. There are no surprises to be had in this film, but for some lighthearted goofy fun, charm and a lot of ass kicking throughout, "Shanghai Noon" becomes an early good bet for summer film enjoyment. [B]
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PASSION OF MIND

Release:05/26/00-(PG-13)-(1:45)-[PARAMOUNT PICTURES CLASSICS]- DEMI MOORE, STELLAN SKARSGARD, WILLIAM FICHTNER, SINEAD CUSACK, PETER RIEGERT: Demi Moore returns after a 5 year absence to a film that is a far cry from the type of script she was taking in the past. The problem, however, is that this particular script moves entirely too slowly and isn't at all clear for the most part about where it is taking you. Sure there is a twist that wraps up the confusion in the end, but the road that is taken to get to that point is long and winding. What it tries to do is to keep you guessing as to what is real and what is imaginary. You paint different possibilities and scenarios along the way. Much like a daytime serial it takes you on this long journey and frustrates the viewer leaving you wondering if you are going to be paid off in the end or disappointed in the ride altogether. There is a beauty about Ms. Moore, whose voice seems to get a little raspier each year. Here she portrays a woman with two lives, one of them a dream and the other a reality. The problem is that even she is not sure which is which. On the one hand there is the career woman in New York City. Successful and well put together, Marty seems to have it all and be it all. When she goes to sleep at night she is Marie, an earthier mother of two in the gorgeous countryside of France. There she is counseled by best friend Jessie (Cusack) and is still mourning the death of the father of her two daughters. The film twists in and out of New York and France, going back and forth each time Marty closes her eyes and falls asleep. Lives become complicated as she meets and falls in love with a man in each of these existences. There is the calm and grounded William in France, a writer who Marie at one time had written a bad review on one of his books. Then there is Aaron, an accountant and another mild-mannered and patient man who Marty meets and slowly begins to let her self go to. To the usual man on the street, the wild tales of another life that Marty/Marie is telling these men and therapists in both of these "existences" would result in her hospitalization. Whereas she is not exactly posing a threat to society she is most definitely not all there. What troubled me, however, was not her tale or vivid imagination and recollection of dreamstates, but the fact that after sitting in the theater trying to make heads or tails out of what the situation really was, after really wanting to know which was real and which was a dream, I left with an unsatisfactory taste in my mouth. I felt somewhat cheated by the script and the odd explanations to this double life scenario. Fortunately the shots of France and New York were beautiful, but unfortunately there is a lot of contrived rhetoric in-between. [C]
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8-1/2 WOMEN

Release:05/26/00-(R)-(1:58)-[LIONS GATE FILMS]- JOHN STANDING, MATTHEW DELAMERE, POLLY WALKER, VIVIAN WU, TONI COLLETTE, AMANDA PLUMMER: I became a fan of the offbeat sensibilities of Peter Greenaway a couple of years ago with the delightful and eccentric "Pillow Book". The filmmaker is back in 8-1/2 Women with a delicious and silly homage in effect to the great Fellini. There is a lot to consume in this film. A great deal of ridiculousness and stretches of reality, but then who is to say what is or isn't possible in the world today? The story centers on the bonding and relationship between a father and son. The father, a successful and rather wealthy banker based in Vienna, is purchasing a gambling casino in Kyoto for his son and partner as the film opens a deal that ends up with his bloody nose. Not long after the elder Emmenthal John (Standing) is grieving over the loss of his wife and Storey's (Delamere as the son) mother's death. As part of the grieving process it is Storey who suggests that the rather spacious castle/home in Vienna be used for the purposes of concubines. Before long the two men are bedding and housing a eclectic group of 8-1/2 women in the place. The women, ranging from the Japanese Mio (who wants to be more female than the female impersonators in kabuki), and Simato (who Storey obtained in trade for her having stolen in the Pachinko Parlor, the odd Austrian Beryl (Plummer, who loves horses and pigs), the nun-wannabe Griselda (Collette), and the beautiful Palmira, who tried to seduce Phillip some three years earlier and failed. The quirkiness of all involved and the plethera of different personalities and diverse backgrounds that then are all sharing the large home in Vienna make for a great deal of quick-cut moments of one-liners and simple to complex situations that all put together in Greenaway fashion become the whole. The fact that these two men are absolutely oblivious to the fact that although it is they that have this "harem", it is, in truth, the women that are running the show, especially the marvelous Palmira (Walker) and Phillip's oriental representative Kito (Wu). As easily as the women have entered the Vienna mansion, however, one by one they are then leaving in one manner or another. The film is not for the formula lover. There is no real rhyme or reason to the style or story. There is a great deal of many, many parts carefully leading up to a whole and many could get lost. There is plenty of nudity, although not a stitch of sex on the screen. I recommend the film for the extreme independent film lover. It is visual and funny in an 'inside' sort of way. [B+]
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MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 2

Release:05/24/00-(PG-13)-(2:08)-[PARAMOUNT PICTURES]- TOM CRUISE, THANDIE NEWTON, DOUGRAY SCOTT, BRENDAN GLEESON, ANTHONY HOPKINS, VING RHAMES: Proving himself further and further as the James Bond of the our generation as he tackles the role of Ethan Hunt for the second time. It doesn't hurt whatsoever that the force behind this sequel is the mighty action master John Woo. His penchant for quick cuts, amazing stunts and face-masks make the twists and turns in this otherwise fairly familiar story all that much more fun to watch. I have seen far worse as far as a script is concerned, and above anything else I am fully aware that we are watching the beginning of a parade of summer action adventures. That in mind, I will have to put Mission in an upper echelon of mastery. Tom Cruise looks better and more sophisticated and COOL than he ever has on the screen before. He is the ultimate of spies and is up to absolutely any task at all. The stunts that he takes on in this particular episode are nothing short of breathtaking. In the film you watch him scaling cliffs, leaping and jumping, skydiving and fighting, bouncing and riding motorcycles on back wheels. From what I understand most every stunt was done by the agile Cruise, making him not only the worlds top action star, but the biggest risk taker as well. This mission (and he did choose to accept it) was to thwart the evil doings of an Australian pharmaceutical firm that has created a virus that could virtually wipe out mankind in a matter of hours in the wrong hands. With his team of two chosen men and one female thief-in-the-night that he must recruit, the chase goes on after the virus and the terrorists that it has fallen into the hands of, lead by Sean Ambrose (Scott). Ving Rhames as Hunt's logistics partner is the only actor held over from the original film and Newton provides the brief respite from the films constant movement as she and Cruise develop a relationship that would seem required in a film of this nature. There is nothing but fighting, shooting, chases, and pulling off masks in this sequel, including a final sequence that actually lasts just a little too long for its own good. All in all, however, this is a summer movie that will satisfy those who love the genre and Cruise. It is what it is supposed to be and more. Bring on those Crazy, lazy, hazy days of summer...[B]
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SMALL TIME CROOKS

Release:05/19/00-(R)-(1:31)-[DREAMWORKS PICTURES/SWEETLAND FILMS]- WOODY ALLEN, TRACEY ULLMAN, HUGH GRANT, ELAINE MAY, JON LOVITZ: In a departure from the angst-ridden New York scenario usually surrounding the film work of Woody Allen, and with a slight slapstick style that floats back to the silliness of his earlier work, "Small Time Crooks" is great fun and wonderful writing. Although Woody himself doesn't ever really stray far from the character that we have come to know him as over the last few decades, his power to assemble a cast of characters and weave a story together will always amaze me. Granted, not all his efforts are the works of art that I might anticipate or come to expect, but Crooks is fun. Simple, lighthearted and funny fun. Allen plays Ray, a small time crook who is married to Frenchy (the last Frenchy I remember was in "Grease"). Together they live a meager existence in New York, but Ray isn't satisfied and wants something more. He decides with some dimwitted help from a couple of cohorts (Michael Rappaport, Tony Darrow, and Lovitz) to purchase the lease on a Pizza Parlor two doors down from a bank and with a map he already has, tunnel underneath to get into the vault. Once they are in they turn it into a cookie shop where Frenchy becomes the money maker with her talents. Before you know it the shop is booming, Frenchy's cousin May (the delightful Elaine May) is hired and a thwarted attempt at tunneling that leads into a dress shop brings the realization that the bank job isn't necessary at all. With business booming Ray and Frenchy et al are now in the money. Frenchy is able to acheive the high society placement that she has always desired and the couple begin to fall apart and split up from the changes that money brings. Enter David (Grant) as the Professor Higgins to Frenchy's Eliza Doolittle. He is hired to sophisticate her and in the process is learning the ways of a gigolo and con man. The film twists around again when Frenchy's accountants leave her without a penny and the business goes bankrupt. The films end is clean and quick. It's almost a bit like a script you would find written by somebody working for Disney. Too clean. That would be my only complaint in this otherwise delightful film. The wonderful work of both Ullman and May alone make the sit through totally worthwhile. Allen is still well suited to the lighthearted comedy and he and Ullman make a wonderful pair. Sit back, relax, and laugh. [B+]
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ROAD TRIP

Release:05/19/00-(R)-(1:31)-[DREAMWORKS PICTURES]- BRECKIN MEYER, SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT, AMY SMART, PAULO COSTANZO, DJ QUALLS, TOM GREEN, RACHEL BLANCHARD: This years high caliber entry into the annals of youth oriented 'gross out' or simply 'kids will be kids' filmdom is the slightly off-kilter, but harmless and silly (in a good way) "Road Trip". Buoyed by the ever-popular presence of Tom Green as the resident king oddball at Ithaca College in New York, this romp is a situation that at it's core involves extracurricular activities (yes, sex) and the ensuing attempt to cover up said activity. Boys will be boys and in college the spirit of spontaneity and devil-may-care philosophies is ever present. Green is more or less a narrator in this tale that he is relaying to a group of perspective students and parents to Ithaca. He embellishes, enjoys liberties and paints pretty pictures throughout (such as conversations between topless women). The story that Barry (last name Manilow) tells involves good natured and honest student Josh (Meyer), who is faithful to his girlfriend up until that fateful night that the pretty blonde Beth (Smart) asks him to be the highest bidder for a charity at the house in order to thwart the attempts of the evil teacher's assistant (Rent's Anthony Rapp). Attraction leads to the filming of the resulting bedroom romp and the next thing you know the tape has been sent in place of the one made to his girlfriend in Austin, Texas (who he thinks is blowing him off.) When he realizes that the wrong tape has been sent, the trip gets under way with Josh, E.L. (Scott as the resident trouble maker and instigator), Rubin (Costanzo as the brains, on Xanax at 12 for thinking too much), and Kyle (Qualls as the skinny innocent that has been under daddies rule for his entire life). Cars blow up, busses are stolen, fraternities are partied and virgins are deflowered along the way as the young men make there way on this road trip between Ithaca and Austin. The plot is contrived and leaves gaping holes in logic, but then what about this sort of a film is supposed to be logical anyway. When you realize that we are talking about college students in pursuit of figuring out life the only way they know how (basically from one party to the next), all the lessons and plot culminations tend to actually make sense and put a smile on your face. Needless to say everyone pretty much gets exactly what they want by the end of the film and we leave the theater wanting to go back to college. Perhaps that is exactly the point. This is not an Academy Award film (but who knows about Tom Green and the little mouse for best kiss on the MTV Movie Awards!) [C+]
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DINOSAUR

Release:05/19/00-(PG)-(1:24)-[WALT DISNEY PICTURES]- DB SWEENEY, ALFRE WOODARD, JULIANNA MARGULIES, JOAN PLOWRIGHT, OSSIE DAVIS, DELLA REESE: In one of the most advanced and amazing film achievements to date in animation, "Dinosaur" grabs the screen and sends the viewer to a land that one can only imagine in a most technically advanced and realistic manner. It is nothing short of remarkable to sit in a darkened theater and watch these wonderfully life-like creatures rambling across the motion picture screen with ease, grace and prehistoric aplomb fighting the fights and overcoming the odds in a tried and true Disneyesque storyline that proves once again that the naiveté of youth and innocence shows the faith and fortitude necessary for the big win in the end. Yes, Disney has visited this hollow ground before, over and over and over. This time around the script that is offered up is not all that different than the offerings of the past. There is nothing all that unusual or magical about the words that come out of the mouths of these wonderfully adept or all too "human" creatures. It is, after all, a Disney film. The fact that these animals and predators are talking at all is a testament to the power of the imagination. Interestingly enough, it is the NON-predatory creatures and the lemur monkeys that are doing all the conversing amongst one another. The huge and butt ugly Carnotaurs do nothing but scream, roar, growl and drool. The story isn't the star here, however. It is the amazing and mind-boggling digital computer animation, all the processing hours and work that went into the effects that make this new and highly technological art form work. For that purpose alone the price of admission is well worth it. The focus and hero of "Dinosaur" is the Iguanodaun Aladar. His egg, lost to its mother when larger beasts attacked the area of the nest all those years ago is raised by a family of warm and openhearted Lemurs. It grows up to be part of the family and there are no qualms about this from anyone. A catastrophic meteor shower sends the survivors off to find livable land. Aladar and his adopted family come across a herd of dinosaurs that are doing just the same. There is safety in numbers so they join. Aladar champions the older and slower of the group and as a result is triumphant in delivering them and eventually the rest of the group to the 'promised land' of green valleys and lakes. Along the way of course there is a love interest for Aladar in the form of Neera, a fellow Iguanodaun. This is a marvel in its blend of live action sets and backgrounds mixed with the computer-generated characters. Try to overlook the silliness of the script or the fact that the Dinosaurs and Monkeys are speaking at all and you have a wonderfully entertaining piece of film work to enjoy. [B]
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HAMLET

Release:05/12/00-(R)-(1:50)-[MIRAMAX FILMS]- ETHAN HAWKE, KYLE MACLACHLAN, DIANE VERONA, JULIA STILES, BILL MURRAY, LIEV SCHREIBER: Just how many times has Hamlet been redone on film anyway? Director Michael Almereyda shows that another time is a worthy event to be remembered as one of the better takes on the great bard's classic tragedy. An entirely different spin puts the tale into the modern day New York City setting that seems perfect for the stories hardened edges and slick underweavings. A fresh outlook on a story told many times makes this Hamlet an entirely different tale altogether. Instead of Denmark we have The Denmark Corporation, and Elsinore has become a huge luxury hotel. The cast is a wonderfully accurate take on the well known characters with a well chosen Ethan Hawke in the title role, Sam Shepard as his murdered father, Diane Venora as Gertrude, Julia Stiles as Ophelia, Bill Murray as Polonius, and my personal favorite Kyle Maclachlan as Claudius. The music and the technological look and feel are a wonderful plus as well. The film has a feel of an independent feature. Innovative and original, not glossed over and cleaned up for the market research audiences. The language too is a great deal easier to comprehend, although Almereyda has seemingly taken the original and kept it as it should be. The story doesn't stray from it's original intentions, but instead makes Hamlet into a young striving filmmaker. When he is confronted by the ghost of his father to avenge his death, it is with a film that he has put together that he decides to guilt Claudius instead of killing him outright. As the story goes it is the sad mistake of shooting Polonius, who is standing behind a mirrored closet door in the bedroom of Gertrude that the whole series of sad events begins its descent. Impressive turns by Hamlet's mate Horatio (Karl Geary) as well as Steve Zahn and Dechen Thurman as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern round out the cast as the film moves into its culmination on the roof of the High Rise Hotel. Foils and all there are four bodies down by the end of that scene. Hamlet has been reborn for a new and modern age. It is being brought to the masses and to younger audiences and I applaud not only the effort but the result. I have a feeling that I will be going to see this one again, and that in itself is enough to give the film high marks. [A]
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HUMAN TRAFFIC

Release:05/05/00-(R)-(1:40)-[MIRAMAX FILMS]- JOHN SIMM, LORRAINE PILKINGTON, SHAUN PARKES, NICOLA REYNOLDS, DANNY DYER, DEAN DAVIES: "Human Traffic" moves at a pace of a very busy intersection, much like its title seems to indicate. The excesses of a group of young folk in the city of Cardiff, Wales who work in dead end jobs, live for the weekends and party and smoke like it is going to go out of style. It is a universal message in a lot of ways. The excesses are the rebellion against parents and the corporate world as well as the need for fantasy and escape. I lived it for years myself. The question here is whether those of us who do NOT swoon at the sound of a British accent might not just feel this to be a somewhat vapid experience, and the characters a bit ill-defined or even cliché. The film is narrated throughout by Jif (Simms), who works in a clothing store 5 days a week and hangs with a group of similarly inflicted mates. Jif is trapped by the world and considers himself sexually paranoid, a problem that has persisted since his failure to maintain an erection during a sexual encounter some time ago. His best friend is Koop, a record store clerk who pushes vinyl and dreams of spinning those records. Koop's girlfriend is Nina, who quits her corporate job and seems always under his watchful jealous eye. Moff is the bright and energetic conversationalist who weaves the tales while cranked on ecstasy, but at home is constantly battling his seemingly unaware family. Lulu is the sophisticate of the group, a beautiful club-wise femme-fatale that has been Jip's club mate for weeks, but is steadily falling for the sexually repressed lad. The film goes in and out of all sorts of various styles of filmmaking from fast edited and vibrant club scenes, to fantasy episodes and documentary styled exposes on the characters and the club scene in general. Each character has his or her own neurosis that is played well in the different styles throughout. Had you ever wondered what you might look like in your early 20's if you had filmed some of the nights out on the town or in the apartment? That is some of the feel that you will find in this first time directorial effort from Justin Kerrigan. There is a signature feel to it much like what "Trainspotting" did for Scotland (although nowhere near as severe or clever). The blanket of youth and the age of the party personified. This is NOT a message film, nobody dies or even gets sober, perhaps with that in mind it is best to view "Human Traffic" for what it is: slightly daft, all over the place, and a decent (albeit quick) European escape into youth culture. Don't try to make it anything more and it could be fun. [C]
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UP AT THE VILLA

Release:05/05/00-(PG-13)-(1:36)-[OCTOBER FILMS]- KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS, SEAN PENN, ANNE BANCROFT, JAMES FOX, JEREMY DAVIES, DEREK JACOBI, MASSIMO GHINI: Florence, Italy 1938 and the wonderful Villa that is on loan to Mary Panton are most definitely beautiful to see. Pre-World War II Italy and the mixings and matching of aristocratic and aging 'foreigners' in the small quaint Florence of yesteryear seem akin to going to the country to visit the older relatives. There are a lot of lunches and teas and picnics. Everyone dresses marvelously and there is a great deal of old money to spare. The problem in Florence at this particular time seems to be that the refugees from surrounding countries are starting to enter the land and expect food and work to live. Mary (Scott Thomas), it would seem is a little tired of being poor herself, although she is not quite the refugee, she is a beautiful woman who carries herself well and looks every bit the part that the elders in this town are happy to associate with. It looked like Mary's dirt-poor days were over when the rich and highly successful Englishman, Sir Edgar Swift proposed marriage and comfort. Mary's new friend Princess San Ferdinando (a delightful Bancroft) has taken her under her wing. The princess, it would seem, relates to the match of Mary and Edgar. She herself has married many times and for position and money rather than for love. The story, and it is not a very strong one, really begins when the Princess introduces Mary to the visiting American, Rowley Flint (Penn). He hasn't got much of a reputation and is married, thus there is an instant chemistry between he and Mary, although you wouldn't know this by listening to her. He is assigned on the night that they meet (at a dinner party in a local restaurant) to drive Mary home. He is a bit forward with her that evening and she leaves him stranded way out in the country. On her way home she nearly hits a young refugee (whom she had felt sorry for earlier when he played the violin horribly at the restaurant) and ends up taking him home and to her bed. When he comes back the next night for more, she is perplexed because she thought he was leaving and turns him down. After he begins to force himself on her. One thing leads to another and he shoots himself dead. Her relationship with Rowley then grows out of his help in her hiding the evidence that ties her to this death. What happens from here, however, is rather unlikely and on the level of tedium. There is no real resolution. Rowley is arrested with the gun and she gets the Princess drunk to find out some dirt on the Italian Policeman. That gets Rowley out of jail and the whole death aspect seems finished. Mary tells all that matter about the 'fateful' evening, ends the proposed marriage, angers the Princess and leaves town on a train with Rowley. Is this a love story? Is this a mystery? Is it a period piece for the sake of the scenery and costuming (the best part). What it is, unfortunately is a weak story with superior actors. What it was to me was something that made me simply want to go to Italy. Not much more than that. [C-]
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GLADIATOR

Release:05/05/00-(R)-(2:30)-[DREAMWORKS PICTURES/UNIVERSAL PICTURES]-RUSSELL CROWE, JOAQUIN PHOENIX, RICHARD HARRIS, CONNIE NEILSEN, DJIMON HOUNSON, OLIVER REED, DEREK JACOBI: The Hollywood epic is back. The Ben-Hur for a new millennium. Russell Crowe is the man for the job and Ridley Scott sure does know how to create a massive scene in grandiose and spectacle. The problems with "Gladiator" are that it is pure Hollywood. It is grand, yes, but it is also rather too tedious for its own grandness. The stories of Rome are often larger than life. The history of the role of Caesar and the Coliseum battles of Christian against lion, slave against soldier are all immense and wonderful story telling. I do not question the validity of this sort of tale or that the excesses that were part of the Roman Empire existed or not. I do wonder sometimes what created the mentality of the massive amounts of 'sheep' that followed that sort of regime. The terror that lived through the rule of one man. Granted that sort of a thing could be possible today as well, but as in any hero epic tale, the man that the focus lies on cannot merely be a man. Russell Crowe as Maximus is this sort of a giant. He takes a licking' and keeps on ticking'. He is the leading soldier in battle against the enemies of Rome for Marcus Aurelius (Harris) for some time. He is so loved that he causes inflamed jealousy in the heir to the throne, the ineffective Commodus (Phoenix). Commodus ends up killing his father out of the rage of hatred for Maximus and what he stands for in his father's eyes. He takes the thrown and has Maximus sent away to be killed. That doesn't work of course, so he has Maximus' family murdered. All along he is beginning his terror reign in Rome and eliminating the Senate, which has been crucial to Roman government for years. He is trying to bed his beautiful sister Lucilla (Nielsen), who has the only natural next heir to the power of Caesar. Meanwhile Maximus is sold into slavery and becomes a gladiator with a troop owned by the lowlife Proximus (Reed in his final role). Soon enough the Proximus show makes its way to the Roman Coliseum and Maximus is revealed to be alive to commodus. More attempts to kill Maximus fail and plots that Lucilla works with Maximus to overthrow Commodus fail as well. It all comes down to the final Coliseum battle between the brave and noble Maximus and the snarly and backstabbing Commodus. Guess who wins? There is a lot of special effects to be had in this Ridley Scott extravaganza. The flashbacks to the wheat fields of home, Maximus' out of body experiences. The amazing battle scenes (most notably the beginning carnage that really packs a punch). All is not lost and testosterone will definitely be satisfied. Crowe is without a doubt a leading man on the rise.[C-]
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COMMITTED

Release:04/28/00-(R)-(1:36)-[MIRAMAX FILMS]- HEATHER GRAHAM, CASEY AFFLECK, LUKE WILSON, GORAN VISIJIC, ALFONSO ARAU, PATRICIA VELASQUEZ: A film about unshakeable faith, commitment and spirituality can be dangerous ground to tread upon. What writer and director Lisa Krueger has done here, however, is a clever and complimentary tale about a young lady (the enormously appealing Graham) and her unyielding faith in the concepts of love, faith and relationships. Starting on the morning of her wedding to Carl, Joline does a ritual that will make the commitment even easier throughout her days, weeks, months, and years ahead. She has even tattooed a wedding ring onto her finger, a symbol of permanency without doubt. What happens 597 days later is what makes "Committed" the film that it is to become, a comic farce about just how far one woman will go to prove to herself or to the world at large that the faith that she believes in is real. It seems that Carl is in need of space, he is in a fog and has gone to be on his own. He has sent a postcard with a cactus that leads Joline down to Texas, where she actually does locate him working for the El Paso paper as a photojournalist. Upon finding him Joline takes to following in her rented car and parking outside of the house next door to where Carl is now living. There she is courted from outside the car by an artist named Neil (Visnijic), but still holds true to her wedding vows. Things become more complicated when she spies Carl with a new girlfriend, Carmen, but that doesn't last as Joline approaches her and befriends her. It is Carmen that brings Joline to her grandfather, a spiritual 'medicine man' of sorts that is key to her methods in trying to save Carl. Carl, you see, is in a spiritual wheelchair, until she discovers it could even be worse, a spiritual coma. She finally runs into Carl in his home and is unceremoniously dumped, upon which she takes up a camp and works spiritual spells to save him and the relationship. The twist in the title would come from the fact that Joline's commitment to being committed ends up with her being committed...to an institution. It isn't long, however, before she is out of the hospital and awakened to the fact that her relationship is indeed over. There are so many very funny turns and plays on a theme thrown in to this film that one cannot help but to route for Joline, she is over the top and a borderline stalker, but delving into her personality you find a real need for the faith to be real in her life. I recommend the film for anyone who has ever been, is or plans on ever being in a relationship. There is a lot of food for thought in 'Committed'. Today I seemed to be hungry for Krueger's recipe. [B+]
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TIME CODE

Release:04/28/00-(R)-(1:33)-[SCREEN GEMS]- SALMA HAYEK, STELLAN STARSGARD, JEANNE TRIPLEHORN, SAFFRON BURROWS: In this innovative, inventive and all-consuming 4-screens-in-one adventure in filmdom, there is no chance for a slow moment. The concept in and of itself is enough to keep you busy just by the sheer fun of watching all the intertwined episodes playing out in real time side by side. Mike Figgis (of "Leaving Las Vegas" and last years "Loss of Sexual Innocence") has returned this time around with a film that is like no other film that I have ever seen. That alone is enough for me to love it. That the film is not edited and the actors were given their storylines and improvised virtually all of what is seen is, to me, the beginning of a whole new sort of entertainment. There are several stories that are the basis of "Time code", all of which seem to intertwine in area and character and all of which eventually come together in the end. Stories include the actress, Rose (Hayek) who is auditioning for a role at the building that houses Red Mullet productions. Red Mullet, where a lot of the activity takes place, is where Alex (Starsgard) works. Alex and Rose are having an affair which is being listened to with a device planted in Rose's purse by her very jealous and rich girlfriend Lauren, who sits in a limousine while eavesdropping. Alex has just been dumped by his girlfriend Emma (Burrows), who spends a great deal of time walking around sadly afterwards. Alex is also a head man at Red Mullet, who is under the scrutiny of his co-workers due to his drinking. Owners and VP's that include the likes of Holly Hunter, Steven Weber and a wonderful Golden Brooks as an Executive Producer in charge of urban noir. Throughout the film there is a masseur played by Julian Sands that travels from neck to neck and even plays a part in the big audition for Rose later in the film. All four parts of the screen play with each other in a manner in which often characters will almost literally walk from one 'into' another. It did not, however, become tiresome or difficult to follow as volume from a dominant screen is highlighted and all four are not competing relentlessly for attention. In a film world where there are so many stretches of time and places to look at one's watch, what we have found in Figgis' Time code is a purely enrapturing experience full of interesting and full characters, dialogue and action. Firmly imbedded in my mind already as a top 10 film for the year 2000, I look forward to going back to see this treasure again and again to check whatever I may have missed each of the other times. [A+]
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THE BIG KAHUNA

Release:04/28/00-(R)-(1:30)-[LION'S GATE FILMS]- KEVIN SPACEY, DANNY DEVITO, PETER FACINELLI: The world of the traveling salesman is not totally new to the big screen, but this three man piece, based on the play "Hospitality Suite" showcases the already very well known talent of Kevin Spacey, while bringing an equally known Devito to the forefront as a more serious actor. Spacey's role is not that far a cry from the Academy Award winning "American Beauty" role that is still very fresh in our minds. In fact, it is almost literally the same type of a character and as such could almost be a pitfall to the feel of what is seen in "Kahuna". Three salesmen working for a company that sells industrial lubricant are in Wichita, Kansas to sell their wares. They are most interested, however, with a huge industrial businesses President..or as Spacey's Larry calls him, "The Big Kahuna". The fact that they are hosting this meeting in a hospitality suite makes the theater-style feel that much cozier in it's limited set and scenery. Devito is the 52-year-old salesman who has been traveling with Larry for 12 years and is feeling that it is time for a change in his life. He talks to Larry about God and Love and daydreams jumping off of the building after puffing on a cigar. What is different about this trip is that they have brought along a young researcher for the company (newcomer Peter Facinelli), a Baptist that is more interested in selling Jesus to this big kahuna once meeting him, than the lubricants they are there to sell in the first place. He is more or less the antithesis of both the elder salesmen and green from the word go. It is never quite established whether the sale is made or the connection pays off, but what is learned is a great deal about each of the characters. Through intricate dialogue and finely performed monologues, we get to know a great deal about each one of these men's lives and what has brought them to the point that you find them at this moment. It is a simple film, but for those of us who are fond of bravura line delivery and sharp theater-written lines, this is an engaging work. Some minor production problems are evident, but considering the piece that is being filmed, it is hardly enough to take away from the work done. Spacey fans will continue to love his in your face character. Devito has never been better. [B]
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WHERE THE HEART IS

Release:04/28/00-(PG-13)-(1:53)-[20TH CENTURY FOX]- NATALIE PORTMAN, ASHLEY JUDD, STOCKARD CHANNING, JOAN CUSACK, JIM BEAVER, DYLAN BRUNO, KEITH DAVID: In "Where the Heart Is" we have a genuine chick flick. Sorry I can't help it, it's true. That is NOT to say that in TOO negative a light, it is simply stated as a fact. Based on the novel the film follows the life and changes of a pregnant teenager leaving Tennessee for California with her no-good redneck boyfriend in a car that he purchased for 80 dollars. They get as far as Oklahoma when she has him stop at a Wal-Mart to go to the bathroom and the no good boyfriend abandons her. Novalee (Portman) proceeds to start living in the Wal-Mart, seeing that there is no place else to go. She keeps a journal of how much she owes them and ventures out into the world during the day. While there she meets Sister Husband (Channing) the "Welcome Woman" and a local AA member who lives with her boyfriend, fornicates a lot and then apologizes about it over saying grace at each meal. Novalee has her baby in the Wal-Mart (not on aisle 5, she doesn't like that number) and gets 15 minutes of fame as 'The Wal-Mart Mommy'. There she meets Lexi Coop, the baby machine who names her children after snack candies. Soon Novalee is living with Sister Husband and developing a 'friendship' with Farthy the librarian, who's life is on hold because of his alcoholic sister. Meanwhile the no good boyfriend has become a Country singer with the help of Manager Ruth Myers (the ALWAYS funny Joan Cusack) and we watch his life go up and then back down again. A tornado takes away Sister Husband but that leaves Novalee 41,000 from her estate, affording her the means to build a home. Novalee, by this time has begun to make a mark herself as a photographer, becoming more and more what she is afraid that she is unable to be. Soon the no good boyfriend reappears (after losing his legs when a train runs over him while he's drunk) and gives Novalee the key to what is missing for her. All in all this is a story about the growth of a little girl into a young woman, but along the ride it is a somewhat contrived display of characters and relationships that are woven together through circumstance and fate. In the end it is a love story and a moral victory for self-esteem. Truly a picture that tells us the human spirit exists in us all, unfortunately I didn't believe any of it. There were no tears shed; the film is more along the lines of a "Forrest Gump" than a "Terms of Endearment". Actors are fair, Portman is a beautiful young actress (but doesn't really convince you as a tennesse teenager with heaps of trouble), Judd is coming into her own gracefully, Channing is funny and a wonderful character actress, Cusack is a riot, Bruno is such a good hick and Field, in a cameo, is scary as the runaway mother to Novalee. Not a bad film, but not really a tangible one at all. You may not want to take the boyfriend. [C-]
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GOSSIP

Release:04/21/00-(R)-(1:30)-[WARNER BROTHERS]- JAMES MARSDEN, LENA HEADEY, NORMAN REEDUS, KATE HUDSON, EDWARD JAMES OLMOS, SHARON LAWRENCE, ERIC BOGOSIAN: I could start a rumor that this is a good movie, but in all honesty that would be cruel and malicious. There isn't much to "Gossip" both literally and in terms of the film I have just seen. There are absolutely NO likable characters in this film. It is a landscape filled with excesses and pretty people, snobbery and shallow lifestyles. It would seem to be an exaggeration to an extent of being laughable. I don't quite know who these people are, and perhaps they really do exist somewhere, but it most certainly is not the type of existence that I lead in my college years. I know that doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but the contradictions are so prevalent that I missed parts of the film while rolling my eyes to the back of my head. The very rich Derrick Webb lives in this gigantic loft, stuffed to the gills with furniture and art and all sorts of trinkets, making it look like a museum of modern art filled with staircases (so many staircases). His platonic girlfriend Cathy Jones lives there (and complains about the rich kids: Irony #1) with him. Travis, the loner artist also lives in this loft, he can't afford rent but has monitors and editing equipment all over his room (irony #2). The trio's only class, apparently, is some sort of communications class in which there is a teacher that films the discussions about modern media and the like. Today's topic is gossip. Our happy trio decides that they will conduct an experiment and start a rumor in order to prove just how easily these things can get out of proportion and twisted around. The rumor begins after a lavish college party, you know..the kind that has rows and rows of martinis and several levels of floors all connected by more stairs. Pretty Naomi and boyfriend Bo enter and are spied by Derrick making out in a room upstairs (he's in the bathroom with a very sick young lady). The trio decides that the rumor should be that these two had sex. And so it goes like wildfire, only it would seem that Naomi ends up being raped, or so she says. What's true? What isn't? What is a rumor? What is the truth? The film turns into an elaborate and far-fetched "Cruel Intentions" meets "Mission: Impossible" and spirals into a maze of images and silly twists. I can't say that I wouldn't mind living in a place like this loft, but that isn't the point, is it? I would highly suggest that this silliness be kept for a night of martinis and conversation. You probably won't pay much attention and the cocktails sure would make it better! This, by the way, will do nothing for any of these up-and-comers careers.[D]
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U571

Release:04/21/00-(PG-13)-(1:56)-[UNIVERSAL PICTURES/STUDIO CANAL]- MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY, BILL PAXTON, HARVEY KEITEL, JON BON JOVI, JAKE WEBER, ERIK PALLADINO: Full of action and explosions, U571 is a film that I expect will do a bang up job in the box-office. For the type of film delivered a good job is done. I will admit that for the amount of damage and hellfire that this German submarine is subjected to, that I go away utterly impressed by the workmanship that went into that under water vehicle. Is it possible that something can be built that well? McConaughey is a Executive Officer Tyler, who as the film begins has been turned down as the Captain of his own ship. Suddenly he and his crew are taken off of a furlong and ordered to head back out to see on a mission to commandeer a top-secret coding machine (looking much like a typewriter) from a stranded German submarine (U571). Upon coming upon it and boarding it with 9 of his men, the mission is accomplished. As they are leaving, however, the ship they arrived in (The S-33) is destroyed by a torpedo and they are left stranded inside this German underwater vessel. What proceeds is a non-stop barrage of depth charges, action filled explosions, water bursting through damaged pipes and guns cracking left and right, as the men do their best to return to safe waters in an enemy ship. There is no way that they can radio distress without being picked up by the enemy. It takes the brains of a Captain and leader to maneuver this sub underneath an enemy battleship up and over while fixing destroyed equipment on the boat in order to take on the ship from the other side. Men are lost and Tyler learns what it takes to be the Captain that Lt. Commander Dahlgren had said that he was not ready to be. Unfortunately the Lt. Commander is one of the men that is lost in this conquest along the way. There is a great deal of formula in "U571". The music is pumped in to rev you up to a feverish patriotic crescendo. The men are all good looking and really fill out those uniforms. There is bravery everywhere and nary a complaint. The script is mediocre, but nowhere near as bad as some have been or it could have been itself. All in all this is a heart-pumping, adrenalin moving roller coaster ride through the high seas of World War II battle. There are some decent performances in the film and, as said before, a good deal of moving and shaking. I recommend this to the war film lover or the action enthusiast. It is NO "Das Boot", but it is an effective film [B]
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THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

Release:04/21/00-(R)-(1:37)-[PARAMOUNT CLASSICS/AMERICAN ZOETROPE]- JAMES WOODS, KATHLEEN TURNER, KIRSTEN DUNST, JOSH HARTNETT: Dark and rich in moodiness, "The Virgin Suicides" is an impressive and thought-provoking directorial debut from the daughter of legendary Francis Coppola. Sofia, it would seem, can make a statement of her own. Set in the mid 1970's in a suburban neighborhood in Michigan, the story revolves around 5 pretty sisters ranging in ages from 13 to 17. Their mother (Turner) is a deeply religious and protective woman who lords over them, often not allowing them out or around other people. Their father (Woods) is a math teacher at their school, equally protective but seemingly under the control of his wife. The film opens with the youngest girl's attempt at cutting her wrists. It fails and as a result she is sent to psychiatrist (played by Danny Devito). He suggests that the girls interact with boys their own age. As a result of that visit the Lisbon family invites some boys over. The party doesn't last long as Cecilia again attempts to take her life by jumping from the upstairs window, this time succeeding. Time passes and the remaining four girls return to school almost a stigma of curiosity for neighborhood boys (who as the story is told in a narrative) still remain confused about the series of events that play out later in the film all these 25 years after they have occurred. Enter Trip Fontaine, the most popular and charming boy on the high school canvas. He pursues young Lux (Dunst) who finally is wooed by him. He devises a plan to take her to the school dance by talking Mr. Lisbon into coercing his wife by telling her that all the girls would be escorted. The prom night is successful enough; Lux and Trip are even named King and Queen. Lux, however, misses her curfew spending the time with Lux and the girls are grounded to remain in the house for the rest of their young lives. Lux never sees Trip again and is subject to the fears of her mother at one point by having to burn her rock records. The girls communicate by flashing lamplights in Morse code to the neighborhood boys and spending endless phone calls listening to various tunes from the day. The film culminates in one night, a night that the narration is unable to explain. It is as if the girls simply wanted to punish their strict parents. A sad and touching tale that works on many different levels. I don't know if this is a true story or not, I question why the girls didn't just leave as fantasized on the screen, but what transpires is faithful to the title of the film and leaves you wondering about wasted youth and beauty and the complexities of strict religious upbringing. Beautifully filmed and cleverly designed (the home is as drab as the lives lived within), I found 'suicides' completely entertaining and well worth the word of mouth that I will be giving it. [A]
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EAST IS EAST

Release:04/14/00-(R)-(1:36)-[MIRIMAX/FILM FOUR]- OM PURI, LINDA BASSETT, JIMI MISTRY, RAJI JAMES: A comedy with serious tones about a proud Pakistani man who's culture, ideals and heritage are displaced in the broad and changing atmosphere of 1971 Manchester, England. George khan (Puri) came to Britain in 1937, leaving behind a Pakistani wife, met Englishwoman Ella (Bassett) and took her as his second wife in 1946. Settling in Manchester they have raised a family of 7 children, 6 boys and 1 girl. The film opens as George is maintaining a Pakistani custom of an arranged marriage for his eldest son Nazir, only to have it fail as the young man flees moments before the vows. As a result Nazir is dead to the father and the resentments of the English raised family begin to grow around the stubbornness of a man that just doesn't seem to listen and rests entirely on his homeland's cultures and customs. His strong-willed and even tempered wife is the rock of a family that includes Tariq and Abdul (the brothers next targeted by George for arranged marriages); Maneer (whom they call Ghandi); Saleem, the artist; Meenah, the only daughter and Sajid, the youngest son. It is Sajid that gives a great deal of the comedic flair to "East is East" as he spends nearly the entire movie in a parka (a la Kenny in 'South Park') and creates quite a ruckus when it is discovered that he has not been circumcised. Once the new arrangements are made for the marriages of Abdul and Tariq are in place the mood of the film sharply turns as culture, generation and simple human relationships all come tumbling down as George increasingly becomes angrier about the fact that no one is adhering to him or his culture. As Ella is quick to point out, it is he that is not listening and as a result the family is slowly, if not very suddenly falling apart at the seams. There are some intense moments in which George is unable to control is fear of change and anger and hits both children and his wife, something coldly identified with abuse in today's day and age, but mainly a cultural act of being disgraced in the eyes of George. The lighter moments do rule throughout the film and make the topic and the script a difference to behold and a thought-provoking and touching piece of work about families, cultures and change. Take for example that the oldest son does show up later in the film, working with his male 'friend' in a deluxe hat shop in a nearby city. "East is East" is broad and specific in its brand of comedy, but wonderfully acted and written. I highly recommend it as an alternative to normal Hollywood fare.[A-]
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FREQUENCY

Release:04/28/00-(PG-13)-(1:58)-[NEW LINE CINEMA]- DENNIS QUAID, JAMES CAVIEZEL, ANDRE BRAUGHER, ELIZABETH MITCHELL, NOAH EMMERICH, FRANK McANULTY: "Frequency" is a thriller out of left-field with a concept that throws a curve and asks you to believe the what-ifs in life. The story is both touching and intriguing, the concept different enough to draw sizable attention and create a firm word of mouth activity for box office. Frank Sullivan (The underrated Dennis Quaid) is a fire fighter and family man in October of 1969, the year of the big Mets World series in New York. His wife Julie (Mitchell) is a nurse and he has a 6-year-old son named Johnny whom he affectionately calls 'little chief'. The story, however, begins in both 1969 and 1999, where John, now a 36-year-old cop (Caviezel) has just had a girlfriend walk out on him and is sulking with his neighbor and oldest friend Gordo. Gordo's son stumbles across John's fathers' old Ham radio in a search through a closet for fishing gear and the adventure begins. It seems that Frank Sullivan had died in a warehouse fire 30 years prior, but all of a sudden with the help of the effect of the Northern Lights in the sky (a phenomenon that had occurred the last time 30 years ago) suddenly father and son are talking in two different time periods via the Ham radio. It seems at first conversation that both Sullivan men are skeptical, but soon enough John is warning his father that he died in the fire that has yet to happen in the time frame that he is in. Realizing the truth, the older Sullivan subsequently avoids the mishap at the warehouse and lives, only to begin altering the past and setting in motion a series of changes in the lives of those involved. For instance, there is a serial killer known as "The Nightingale Killer" killing nurses. As the film unfolds it is discovered that the altering of his own father's death has created the space for his mother to be a victim of this mass killer. Together and through the time warp father and son slowly piece together the case and begin to prevent the deaths that happen as a result of Frank's living. Andre Braugher is the cop that mentor's John and is slowly convinced of Frank's wild notions as a result of his abilities to predict World Series events. What is fun is that as the men begin to work together to solve these shifts, time continually is altering events, people and even furniture as a result. At one point the adult John is saying 'hello' to his 6-year-old self and offering his friend one word for the future: "Yahoo". This is a refreshingly new twist on the thriller genre that I found that I really did want to believe the what-ifs it was offering. [A]
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KEEPING THE FAITH

Release:04/14/00-(PG-13)-(2:08)-[TOUCHSTONE PICTURES/SPYGLASS ENTERTAINMENT]- BEN STILLER, EDWARD NORTON, JENNA ELFMAN, ANNE BANCROFT, ELI WALLACH, RON RIFKIN, HOLLAND TAYLOR: Light, fluffy, and religious is not exactly the sort of combination that brings me out of a film raving about what I had just seen. The fact that this was a romantic comedy involving characters that remind me of sitcoms probably isn't helping the matter. On top of all of that figure in that this is a formulaic and sappy premise with a requisite way too happy ending and I have to admit in all honesty that I must flee to the independent movie theaters at once. Don't get me wrong, it isn't about the parts of this movie, it is, instead, merely what it ends up as a whole. The cast is amiable and likable in their respective parts. I, personally cannot see the bouncy Elfman as a match to the acerbic and nebbishy Stiller (although his role as the Jewish Romeo and his one date with the abs queen are comical). I also can't quite grasp Norton as a catholic priest (although I can definitely see him in the director's chair). Jake, Brian, and Anna became fast friends back in junior high school. They are the three musketeers until her departure for California in 8th grade. Now, all these years later, Jake has become a hip rabbi and Brian a hip priest, Anna is a high-powered, fast-talking corporate executive newly sent back to New York to shape up the office there. What follows is the budding 'affair of the heart' between the beautiful and utterly charming Anna and the somewhat paranoid and close-minded Jake, who doesn't quite seem to be keeping his faith in everyone else. Jake's mother (the wonderful Bancroft), it is inferred, has not communicated with her other son Ethan because he married out of the religion. Jake, as a result of this and his congregation's opinion, is lying and keeping the relationship under wraps. Both Anna and Jake in doing this secretly have also kept it from Brian, who it would seem has fallen in love with Anna as well. His revealing of his feelings and subsequent drinking binge make for one of the lighter and more comical moments of the film as Norton stumbles around and ends up in a bar to share his feelings with an understanding bartender. What follow are the traditional sad moments of transition and the realizations of love. BAM, there is a happy ending and all religions are together as one singing Karaoke in a combination Jewish/Catholic Adult and youth center on its opening night. A little too much sugar for me. The thing that I take away from "Keeping the Faith" is the utterly charming screen presence of Jenna Elfman. There is a Meg Ryan quality and beauty about her; with the right leading man you might have something there. Religion and romantic comedies aren't the best mix in the mainstream. [C-]
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AMERICAN PSYCHO

Release:04/14/00-(R)-(1:40)-[LIONS GATE FILMS]- CHRISTIAN BALE, WILLEM DAFOE, JARED LETO, REESE WITHERSPOON, SAMANTHA MATHIS, CHLOE SEVIGNY: American Psycho is odd. I could very well leave the review there and it would pretty much sum it up. Welcome to the shallow, material 80's Wall Street world of Patrick Bateman (Bale). Patrick is a well-tuned body that runs through daily rituals to keep the shell in the order that it is. He and his high-powered and equally void of character friends hang out in the restaurant du jours, compare business cards brandished in little silver carrying cases and dress and look alike. Bateman himself looks like so many other people that he is called by at least 3 different names from his own through the course of the film. Through part of it he uses yet another identity, that of one of his victims (Leto). His girlfriend Evelyn (Witherspoon) is oblivious to his character and wants only to get married. His mistress Courtney (Mathis) is too wasted to even know what restaurant she is in and his secretary (Sevigny) is smitten because of her habitual attraction to unavailable men. As so many in the 80's, Bateman is an addictive soul in a crowded city. Yes, he does cocaine and various other drugs during the film's time frame, but his real addiction or 'disease' as it were, would be his habit of chopping people up in various ways for the sport, storing body parts in the freezer, hanging bodies in the closets or dragging bodies out of his beautifully manicured high rise apartment in Jean Paul Gautier overnight bags. He likes to talk endlessly about adult contemporary pop artists and their music as he is preparing himself for the kill. The script offers us a litany on the likes of Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, speaking in monotone delivery no doubt to lull his victims into a sense of pure lethargy before hacking them to death. As time goes on it would appear that Bateman is quickly becoming more addicted to the feeling of homicidal rage and the killings begin to increase leading up to a wild chase through New York and a harried and bizarre confessional phone call to his 'lawyer' Howard. But that doesn't do it. The call is interpreted as a joke, the bodies have been cleaned up and removed and it would seem that one of his victims had lunch with Howard the lawyer in London all within the last 10 days. We the viewers are left to wonder what this was all about. What's the deal? Did these gruesome murders ever take place or was this all some sort of sick delusional fantasy through the eyes of said American psycho. The truth is that I don't know. What's more is that I don't particularly care. You decide for yourself, I'm leaving. Where am I going? I'm going to return some videos. [C-]
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28 DAYS

Release:04/14/00-(PG-13)-(1:43)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]- SANDRA BULLOCK, VIGGO MORTENSEN, DOMINIC WEST, ELIZABETH PERKINS, AZURA SKYE, STEVE BUSCEMI, ALAN TUDYK, MARIANNEJEAN-BAPTISTE, DIANE LADD: The subject of drug abuse and alcoholism is not often treated in a lighter manner, but what "28 Days" does is just that. A message driven story about the path taken, the before and after picture in the life of party girl over the edge, is filled with pathos, realism, chanting, humor and the occasional Sony product placement all neatly wrapped up and resolved in under two hours. Bullock plays Gwen Cummings, whose wild lifestyle with boyfriend Jasper (West) is vividly displayed in opening scenes as they party down and light the apartment on fire while fooling around drunk. Come 'morning' the two remember that they are late for Gwen's sister's wedding and arrive drunk. During the course of the reception they dance, she lands in the cake and steals the limo in order to find another, only to crash dazed and confused into the side of a house. Suddenly Gwen is in Serenity Glen Rehab and things start to look a little different. Her roommate is Andrea, a 17 year old heroin addict, and her group mates include a self-deprecating doctor, an angry mother of two, a gay German who just wants to get laid, the guy that just wants to score with her and a floating guitar player that sings a song or two about drunks and sobriety. There are humorous "M*A*S*H" like announcements that come through the hospitals speakers from time to time and the appropriate staff of helpful yet stern nurses and counselors to make the process an easier one. As Gwen's transition is not the smoothest, she tries to find out where drugs can be purchased through her counselor (Buscemi) and later is visited by Jasper only to come in drunk. Her turning point is a fall out of a window to retrieve some pills that lands her in a foot cast with crutches throughout the rest of the film. Recovery begins not without the flashbacks of childhood with a drunken mother. Along the way Eddie (Mortensen), a famous baseball player is admitted to the rehab and a few sparks fly. The truest message of the film is found, however, in the awakening of Gwen's character and the concept of asking for help. Although there are weaknesses, such as the ease in which drugs and needles are obtained within the rehab and the simplicity of resolution between characters and families (like her own with sister Lilly), the major points and symbolisms regarding recovery in a rehab setting are true to form. Bullock does a convincing turn as party girl and reluctant sober. My favorite bit in the film had to be the Soap opera that young Andrea identified with and the house all ended up watching. Let's see "Santa Cruz" hit the air...now THAT looked funny!![B]
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ME MYSELF I

Release:04/07/00-(R)-(1:44)-[SONY PICTURES CLASSICS]- RACHEL GRIFFITHS, DAVID ROBERTS, SANDY WINTON, YAEL STONE: Here is a story that has been told many times before. Whom amongst us, upon reaching a certain part of our lives, has not wondered what it would be like should we have taken the other or any number of other paths way back when. The great "what if". In this likable Australian version of same, it is the star that makes the watch truly worth its while. Rachel Griffiths (Pamela) is a wonderfully appealing and capable lead and swiftly becoming a star in her own right in the states as well as her native Australia. In this story Griffiths is a successful writer that works for a popular magazine and has awards coming out of the woodwork for the job that she does. She is alone by choice, it would seem, and on the event of a major birthday and a date with a loser, has begun to wonder what it would have been like if she had said yes to a marriage proposal to 'love of her life' Robert 13 years ago. After a foiled attempt at killing herself (the power goes out as she is about to drop her dryer into the tub with her in it), Pamela is given her answer. Pamela is sideswiped while stepping off a curb and wakes up to find herself face to face with...Pamela. This Pamela, however, is the one that DID marry Robert and has two sons and a teenage daughter. What follows, after finding herself abandoned by the housewife Pamela, is the adjustment into somebody else's life and home, even it IS hers in another reality. Pamela is faced with the truths of how the "what ifs" would have worked and in the process is learning what we all seem to need to figure out in the end: It isn't so bad where you are in the first place and it isn't as good as you think it would be in the fantasy. There is a good deal of attention to the finer points that would make this story seem all that much more ridiculous. The details are slick and meticulous and as a result the film is not as Disney like in its final result. Griffiths is so likable as Pamela Drury that you can let the 'been done before' storyline go and simply enjoy the manner in which she makes it work for you. Light and fluffy Australian style. [B-]
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JOE GOULD'S SECRET

Release:04/07/00-(R)-(1:48)-[OCTOBER FILMS/USA FILMS]- IAN HOLM, STANLEY TUCCI, PATRICIA CLARKSON, HOPE DAVIS, SUSAN SARANDON, STEVE MARTIN: In this story based on a true events and characters, it would seem that Joe Gould's secret was the volumes of human conversations he had been writing over the years in 1940's New York City. Gould (Holm), having lived on the streets, a vagrant of upper-class demeanor, had been collecting these 'conversations' and upon the eventual meeting with New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, has amassed some 1.2 million words (or three times what is in the bible). Mitchell discovers the eccentric and boisterous Gould while sitting in a coffee shop one day and decides that he will be a subject for one of his articles. What transpires is an odd relationship in which Mitchell is seemingly adopted by the loudly chattering Gould, who constantly shows up at his office and calls him at home. Mitchell is a silent and meager man, gentle in spirit and personality. His wife is a photographer (Davis), and he has two young daughters. As a result of Mitchell's article written about Gould, the latter is thrown into a small but underplayed popularity. It brings him notoriety, famous friends such as EE Cummings, Alice Neel (Sarandon), the attention of a publisher, fan letters (some with cash) and a benefactor that pays for a small room in an apartment building. As time goes on, however, Gould seems to lose his momentum, as he is unwilling to allow anyone to see any of the many volumes that he has written. As time goes on Gould is eventually hospitalized and dies and Mitchell is inspired to write a follow-up article, which is, in a large part, the inspiration for the film itself. Holm is a demanding and gregarious lead, taking a firm and appropriately annoying presence in every scene he inhabits. Tucci, as the soft-spoken antithesis of his subject, is wonderfully soothing and easy to handle. Tucci is a talent to be reckoned with. Although "Gould" isn't quite the joy that I found with "Big Night" a couple of years ago, there is wonderful writing, slick direction and a wonderful recreation of the city of New York in the 1940's. A sweet and gentle story of characters and relationships, "Gould" is well worth the price of the ticket. Holm's is the type of performance that could be remembered at award time, were it not so far away. [B]
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WINTER SLEEPERS

Release:04/07/00-(UNRATED-SEX & NUDITY)-(2:04)-[BAVARIA FILM INTERNATIONAL/X-FILME]- FLORIANE DANIEL, HEINO FERCH, ULRICH MATTHES, MARIE-LOU SELLEM, JOSEF BIERBICHLER: In a film completed before the wild success of his "Run Lola Run" last year, creator Tom Tykwer takes us to a small skiing village in Germany. His story takes us in and out of a few select lives that inhabit this village and the concepts of coincidence, fate and destiny between them all. Although not as frantic in its pace as Lola, "Winter Sleepers" has an edge that keeps this filmmaker out there testing different ground and presenting unusual material. At times slower in its pace, the story weaves us through the snow covered hills and roads through the farm houses, taverns and small but ornately decorated homes of its characters. The set-up to the film is an accident and a series of events that lead up to it. Rebecca and her boyfriend cannot, it would seem, get into the house quick enough to make love. She drags him in without him even having closed the door on his new luxury car. As a result the car is stolen and driven by an intense fellow named Rene, who has no short-term memory as a result of an injury of war. It isn't quite clear why Rene steals the car and it becomes obvious that he most certainly does not remember it. Local farmer Theo is transporting his horse on the same road as this car and while trying to retrieve something on the floor ends up swerving to move out of the way of Rene. Theo has to shoot the horse and in the process finds that his young daughter has stowed away and is now in a coma. Throughout the film we see the series of events that occur as a result of this accident and the lives becoming all intertwined. Rebecca, the pretty young translator; her boyfriend Marco, a handsome ski instructor who is both jealous, egocentric and unfaithful, Rebecca's roommate Laura, a shy nurse and aspiring actor; and the theater projectionist, the aforementioned Rene, a dark and brooding man that falls for Laura. Theo, it would seem is the darkest core of this group, harboring a painful grudge as well as his own secret and subsequently chasing the wrong person. What happens to all these lives is in some cases interesting, some tragic and some cathartic. The film itself is thought provoking and beautiful to watch in its snow filled mountain range style and European feel. I recommend "Winter Sleepers" to lovers of unusual and subtitled fair. Big studio this is not, but that is precisely why I went to see it in the first place. [B+] ]
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BUDDY BOY

Release:03/31/00-(R)-(1:43)-[INDEPENDENT PICTURES]- AIDAN GILLEN, EMMANNUELLE SEIGNER, SUSAN TYRRELL, MARK BOONE JR.: Suffice it to say that a visit to the theater to see "Buddy Boy" should not happen after church on a Sunday, come to think of it if you are going to Church at all it could be something that you may want to pass on. It is dark, brooding, menacing, sad and will undoubtedly allow you to appreciate your own life in a comparison. Francis (Gillen, who stars in Britain’s "Queer as Folk") is a lonely, sexually frustrated stutterer who is in a religious stranglehold. He lives with his mother, or was that Stepmother, or was that...whoever it is completely relies on Francis. She is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking has been that does wonders on the young man's self-esteem and threatens his well being through the wrath of God. He works processing photos in a shop that booms loud music while it's desk clerk reads comic books. It is there that a small side plot has Francis recognizing a photo of a young girl that he has seen on a milk carton. Francis discovers a hole that he can look through and see a beautiful woman in a building across the street and proceeds to watch her at night. One night by fate he rescues her from an attack outside of her home and she, in gratitude, tries to invite him over. Gloria (Seigner) is clever and gracious and holds parties, rather the polar opposite of Francis. The two of them begin a relationship, however, despite the relative uneasy nature of Francis' character. The result is the unwinding of Francis' religious guilt and pent up lifestyle. He is beginning to see things while he continues to watch Gloria through the hole and while at home is still dealing with his "mother" and her new fried Vic (Boone Jr.). The slower pace of the film's story mixed with the quick editing of establishing shots in Francis' daily life and events is an interesting mix. We watch as his fantasies and realities are mixed and slowly he seems to blend them together into a high pitch of dementia and acceptance of his hatred for the God that he has been brought up to follow. The acting in the film is intense and theatrical (especially Tyrrell) and it is at times a bit hard to believe that somebody as refined as Gloria would fall for Francis and his secretive shyness. The film is a dark and eerie reminder of the styling of Roman Polanski and could be any inner city in its bleakness. Plan on feeling black and moody or perhaps, like myself, grateful for your own sanity once the film is completed. [B] ]
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HIGH FIDELITY

Release:03/31/00-(R)-(1:47)-[WORKING TITLE FILMS/DOGSTAR]- JOHN CUSACK, IBEN HJEJIE, TODD LOUISO, JACK BLACK, LISA BONET, CATHERINE ZETA JONES, JOAN CUSACK, TIM ROBBINS, LILI TAYLOR, NATASHA GREGSON WAGNER, SARA GILBERT: There is definitely something to say about a clever appealing writer and actor. John Cusack is becoming one for our ages. He is an everyman. He is funny, clever, appealing and his work appeals to and attracts a quality of depth, message and all around pathos that leaves you thinking and rolling around on the floor all at the same time. He is a normal guy mixed with the angst of Woody Allen. He would be a wonderful candidate for a therapist's chair in this outing. As Rob Gordon, a rare vinyl record shop owner in a seedier neighborhood of Chicago, Cusack delivers a straight punch to the everyman questions about relationships, fidelity, rejection and the misery of break-ups. Rob's latest girlfriend has just left him for Ian, a hippy dippy crisis counselor and he is not happy. He pines away the hours at his shop with his two slacker assistants Barry (a career making turn for Jack Black), and Dick (the extremely funny Louiso). He hashes over the loves of his past, at one point revisiting several of them to discover the roots of his problems. His life (with the assistants) consists of a series of top 5 obsure references to records, artists and subjects of songs showing us the hidden file-o-faxes that live in the minds of these men. All along he is in desire of winning back the fair Laura (Hjejie), while revisiting exes on the list including Taylor and Zeta Jones. Events do turn for Rob and the message would seem to lie in growing up. Why does the grass look greener on the other side of the fence? There are clever turns by the spacy Robbins, the always wonderful Joan Cusack, a sexy and mature Bonet and the ever charming Wagner. What is concluded from "High Fidelity, however, is winning and revealing of human nature and the power of becoming an adult and taking the actions that life seems to lay out in front of us. A welcome addition to the movie screen with wonderful writing and acting throughout. [A]
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THE SKULLS

Release:03/31/00-(PG-13)-(1:45)-[UNIVERSAL PICTURES]- JOSHUA JACKSON, PAUL WALKER, HILL HARPER, LESLIE BIBB, CRAIG T. NELSON, : This film geared towards young adults and college aged teens is about a secret society within the walls of a campus. This isn't your run of the mill fraternity. This isn't just about a little hazing and a beer bust or two. These guys, The Skulls, have been around for years, have alumni all over the world that include Presidents and Senators, AND seem to have enough money to throw around that would make any secret society the must have organization for any orphaned and basically poor townie who wants to become a big time lawyer. Luke McNamara (Dawson Creek's Jackson) is that young man. He lost his mother when he was so young that he doesn't even remember her face, his father was gone before that. He is the opposite of elitist and serves food in the cafeteria to those who are. He does, however, have one quality that these Skulls do like. He is a master rower and that spells Skull. Luke is called to Skull duty to the dismay and disgust of his girlfriend (Bibb) and best friend, journalist Will (Harper). His first night consists of jumping through hoops to get to a drug that knocks him out, waking up in a coffin in a theater-like room with a well designed lighting system, and going on an outing that has he and his new soul mate Caleb (Walker) falling off a building into a moat. Caleb is the son of the Skulls grand master Litten Mandrake (Nelson) who would, as it is revealed, do anything to get what he wants for himself and his son. The catalyst of the Skulls is the murder of Luke’s friend Will and the subsequent cover-up that lead our hero on the chase of his life to uncover the who’s, whys and how’s of the deep dark secret Skulls. The premise is highly unlikely and the organization at that level would seem intensely far-fetched. I was unimpressed with pretty much all aspects of this film, although I will say that Pasey..er..Luke...er...Joshua is an appealing and believable lead. This is a definite skip for the real movie fan, a possible rental when it arrives in a couple of months. On the whole, however, this secret society would have been better off kept as a secret. [D] -]
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HERE ON EARTH

Release:03/24/00-(PG-13)-(1:36)-[FOX 2000]- CHRIS KLEIN, LEELEE SOBIESKI, JOSH HARTNETT, MICHAEL ROOKER: More aptly titled "Here on the boring, contrived and saccharine Earth", I was tempted to talk to anyone about what might be a suitable meal after the film's completion ALL throughout watching this mundane teenage 'Terms of Endearment'. The performances were suitable and the actors, albeit relatively unknown, were definitely nice to look at, but the film was downright lacking in any means of its own personality. This in its parts has been done so many times before and most often better. I, personally did not really care for any of the characters in any way, there really seemed to be no reason to do so. The center of the story belonged to Kelley (Klein), otherwise referred to as Ritchie Rich. He is the very pampered college boy about to graduate from the prestigious all-boys school (as its valedictorian of course) and is sent a beautiful automobile as a gift from his absentee father. Kelley and two friends sneak the car out for a night on the very small town and brave the enemy territory of the townies diner only to butt heads with country boy Jasper (Hartnett) & friends over Jasper's girlfriend Sam (Sobieski). Trouble ensues with a drag race that ends up destroying what seems to be the only hangout in the one-horse town, owned by Sam's family (and of course her father is the town's sheriff). Boys are sentenced to rebuild the diner for the summer and Kelley is forced to take a room in the home of Jasper. Fights and bitterness, sulking and stubbornness follow. Sam falls for Kelley over the objections of her long time beau and then proceeds to drag the two men around without making her decision. Once she finally does, however, all the elements change form as Jasper gives up heroically and Sam develops problems of her own, the oldest heart tugging tricks in the book are utilized and the audience is cheated out of a suitable story or means of knowing if the diehard feelings between the two young lovers are ever going to be able to go anywhere. The film itself is a good looking one, with its pretty fields and forests, waterfalls and country atmosphere but that isn't enough to sustain the tedium that dominates this lame storyline. If you insist on seeing "Here On Earth", you should be advised to down a double shot of espresso beforehand OR better yet go on in for a nice nap. Don't expect to feel entertained, however, because this will more than likely not happen. [D-]
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WAKING THE DEAD

Release:03/24/00-(R)-(1:46)-[USA FILMS]- BILLY CRUDUP, JENNIFER CONNELLY, JANET MCTEER, HAL HOLBROOK, MOLLY PARKER: This is a unique look at a bond between two lovers. Impressive in its scope and style, it slowly shifts us back and forth through the 70's and the early 80's in the life of Fielding Pierce (Crudup). It opens with a Pierce in front of a televised news report in 1974 in which a political bombing in a car has taken the lives of two Chilean refugees. Killed in this explosion is his lover, Sarah Williams (Connelly) who is an activist who has been assisting the couple. Pierce is an aspiring politician, who seems to be the oil to Sarah's activist vinegar, but their love is one for the books. Flash forward to 1982 and Pierce is now running for congress, aided by his sister (Mcteer) and a mentor (Holbrook) while dating the mentor's niece (Parker). It would seem, however, that Pierce's life is beginning to unravel at this time. He is catching glimpses of and at one point receives a phone call from Sarah, long buried and gone. This causes turmoil in his congressional run as well as with his girlfriend and counter-culture brother (Paul Hipp), who is trying to call in favors regarding his new Korean hooker girlfriend (Sandra Oh). Pierce is soon elected and what happens from there out is what makes the film well worth the price of the ticket. This is a film about what is real and what is in the heart. It encompasses emotion and feelings, sanity and longing. Billy Crudup delivers a superior performance as a man deeply missing the love of his life. He is torn between what he deciphers as real or unreal. There is a distinct style of editing when the camera focuses on Crudup that seems to personify the loss of control that he has over the thought processes that were, at one time, so stable and real for him. The film is sedate and dark in its nature, but encompassing and touching to the core. I highly suggest it for those who like to think. We will be seeing more of both Crudup and Connelly. [B+]
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FINAL DESTINATION

Release:03/17/00-(R)-(1:34)-[NEW LINE CINEMA]- DEVON SAWA, ALI LARTER, KERR SMITH, KRISTEN CLOKE: As horror/thriller films go, this one has an edge up. There is a lot out there these days that can build on our own fears and the premise that begins "Final Destination" is certainly one of those universal "what if's". 40 students from a local Long Island high school are going to Paris for a 10 day field trip. One is frightened a little more than normal and has an overly real sensation or dream of the plane blowing up soon after its take-off. Alex (Sawa) and 6 others are then ushered off the plane when he comes to and proceeds to freak out. First of all, the 'dream' that he had was scary and very unnerving. Second, it then happens after these 7 are not allowed to board the plane again. The trick? They are all fairly spooked or angry with Alex, even though it would appear that they had just had their lives spared as a result of this vision. Its understandable, of course considering that 35 or so of the others are gone. All but one, the loner type, Clear (Larter) want nothing to do with Alex as he begins to realize that although they had been spared, they cannot cheat the death that was supposed to happen and one by one are beginning to be visited by the grim reaper himself. Witness the late night encounter with the local coroner (Tony Todd of Candyman fame) who wryly tells Alex and Clear that he'll be seeing them soon when they are leaving the funeral parlor to find out what had happened to first 'victim' Todd. There is pathos and humor thrown into the mix of inevitable and sometimes predictable carnage. John Denver's (a notable plane victim himself) anthem "Rocky Mountain High" figures prominently into the storyline seeming to appear quite often as Mr. Death is about to make his entrance. The trick for Alex throughout this odd foray into visions, sensations and premature visits from death is that he must convince the ever-present FBI squad of two that he is NOT responsible for the deaths of the folks that are meeting their untimely demises (not to mention the 287 on the plane..an eery reminder of the flight that was lost over NY waters a couple of years back.) This is NOT the best film I have seen this year, but in all respects and for the type of film that was written here, I enjoyed its angle and freshness. Good casting all around and the decent script bring up the rating to better than average. [B-]
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ERIN BROCKOVICH

Release:03/17/00-(R)-(2:11)-[UNIVERSAL / COLUMBIA /JERSEY FILMS]- JULIA ROBERTS, ALBERT FINNEY, AARON ECKHART, MARG HELGENBERGER, CHERRY JONES, PETER COYOTE: There has been no doubt in my mind as to the movie star quality of Julia Roberts in the past. Perhaps there were moments when I began to think that she was becoming one note in her acting. I was wrong. This is Ms. Roberts in the peak of her form. Erin Brockovich to Julia Roberts is what Norma Rae was to Sally Field. This is an all around good film. Wonderful performances, an excellent script and first rate direction. Even Erin's slinky little outfits are worth the mention as an essential piece of the character. Based on a true story (with a cameo by the real Brockovich as a waitress in an early diner scene), Roberts takes on the role of the young mother of three down on the luck and out of a job. Upon leaving a failed interview she is broad sided by a doctor in a Jaguar and takes the guy to court with the help of Ed Masry (Finney) who owns a small, yet modest law firm. When he is unable to win her award she ends up working for him, in a wonderful manipulation that is the first sign of the talents that Brockovich truly has. In the course of her file duties she discovers the records of a real estate deal mixed with medical records and with Masry's permission sets out to figure out what this is all about. What she uncovers in Hinkley, California is the cover-up of a multi billion dollar corporation in putting a poisonous amount of chromium 6 into the water of the town over the course of years, thus causing all of its residents to fall ill in one manner or another without knowing that PG&E was responsible. What follows is the utter perseverance and drive of Brockovich to get to the bottom of matters. She is relentless in spirit and in language and pursues the people of Hinkley past and present to file as a group against this company. Notable amongst the residents are the Henson Family (including Helgenberger) and one of the few holdouts (Jones). What results is nothing less than triumphant for all. It is not only the result that triumphs here, however, Brockovich and Roberts in her portrayal are likable and relatable. Her Harley Davidson driving boyfriend who watches her kids beats the stereotypes and she blows them away. She is smart and anything but lazy, she is funny and passionate. This is a wonderful cinematic fare. I highly recommend it to all audiences as it is truly entertaining in all of its capacities. I may just see it again myself. [A+]
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MISSION TO MARS

Release:03/10/00-(PG)-(1:53)-[TOUCHSTONE PICTURES]- GARY SINISE, DON CHEADLE, TIM ROBBINS, CONNIE NIELSEN, JERRY O'CONNELL: It's really quite a shame, actually. Upon seeing trailers for this film one would expect to see something rather interesting. Despite a decent cast and some fun to watch special effects, however, there isn't much to this science fiction entry that I haven't seen before. It is unoriginal and slightly contrived and melodramatic. Brian DePalma has had successes in other genres but in putting his had into this one has found himself in an unfortunately over-saturated market. It would seem that all plot lines, twists, moods and even deaths have all been seen in one film from the past or another. Gary Sinise is a hot shot Mars astronaut that together with his hot shot wife (Kim Delaney in a cameo) were the team to go to the Mars Mission. Unfortunately his wife fell ill and passed and his chances were dashed due to his grief and absence from further training for the mission. When the mission leaves it takes with it a crew that lands on the planet and comes upon a mountain with a "secret". What happens is that something comes out from inside that mountain and destroys the team, with the exception of Luke (Cheadle) who is stranded up there for over a year before the brave rescue mission, comprised of Jim (Sinise), Phil (O'Connell), and sugary husband and wife team Woody and Terri (Robbins and Nielsen) rockets to his rescue. On the way the ship blows in half and the team is stranded in space until they can get to their pod ship, losing Woody in the process. Back on Mars it would seem that within a couple of hours of finding Luke alive and fully bearded amongst the plants that have kept him company, Jim figures out the secret of the whole plot by dropping a bag of M&M's on the floor and remembering about the DNA design Phil had created with them in zero gravity earlier. Oh please. Despite some very interesting visual effects primarily within the spaceships and down on the planet itself later in the film, there is such a problem with the words that these characters are saying. It is hokey and sappy and not even remotely the type of science fiction that one might say to themselves "Who Knows?" or "Could be". I tended to roll my eyes and smirk at the ease of solution and the cornball sentimentality. Then I remembered it was a big budget film. Sci-fi fans, check this out for some effects, for plot and script, there's always 2001: A Space Odyssey. [C]
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THE NINTH GATE

Release:03/10/00-(R)-(2:13)-[ARTISAN ENTERTAINMENT]- JOHNNY DEPP, FRANK LANGELLA, LENA OLIN, EMMANUELLE SEIGNER, BARBARA JEFFORD, JACK TAYLOR: There was a certain tug-of-war going on for me in the viewing of "The Ninth Gate". I am a fan of films of this nature; the occult and the demons of the world can make fascinating viewing and interesting subject matter. Director Roman Polanski, who has dabbled so classically with this sort of theme in the past ("Rosemary's Baby"), doesn't quite meet the full out air of fright, fear or intensity for what the theme of this film should suggest, however, and in that, I feel that I would suggest theater film viewing for Polanski fans and a take home version for those just idly curious. The mood and cinematography are right on for the story and Johnny Depp works his classic deadpan role in keeping with his underground character resume. Depp plays Dean Corso, a book detective hired by collector Boris Balkan (Langella) to locate two more copies of a book that supposedly, in it's authenticity, can summon up the devil himself. The book is from the 17th century and the missing copies are questioned in their authenticity. In setting out to find these books, Corso meets an assortment of odd characters and the bodies begin to be counted. Book owners and keepers alike are mysteriously murdered and pages from the then destroyed books are missing. Corso discovers in his work that the original book, supposedly copied itself from the works of Lucifer himself, is different in small and distinct ways from the other 'originals', all adding up to the combination that will eventually conjure up the entrance to the ninth gate. There is trouble from Balkan along the way as well as the wife of a former book owner who heads up an "Eyes Wide Shut" familiar coven and seems to enjoy a good fight (not to mention that she's got a mean bite). Then there is the 'guardian angel', known only as the Girl, who seems to appear wherever Corso is to help him out or supply him with appropriate advice to move on to the next stage. The girl appears and disappears at will and can float. There is an interesting moodiness to "The Ninth Gate" that works so well with an actor like Depp. There is a foreign feel to it's filming, it's story is interesting but a good cup of coffee is suggested before viewing. [C]
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THE NEXT BEST THING

Release:03/03/00-(PG-13)-(1:35)-[PARAMOUNT/LAKESHORE ENTERTAINMENT]- MADONNA, RUPERT EVERETT, BENJAMIN BRATT, MICHAEL VARTAN, JOSEF SOMMER, LYNN REDGRAVE, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: Admittedly I am a Madonna fan. It is true that she has one of the most amazing careers out of the sheer fact that she is dynamic, smart and constantly controversial. "The Next Best Thing" will not go down in the annals of her history as her best achievement. Don't get me wrong, it isn't the worst film I have ever seen, but by far it is nowhere near the best either. She plays Abbie, yoga instructor and best friend to Robert, who is gay and comfortable with that fact. As the story begins Abbie is being dumped by yet another man (Vartan). She runs for shelter and comfort to Robert, who at the same time is mourning the death of a dear friend. The two have a couple cocktails too many on a Fourth of July adventure and end up having sex together. After a short period of not speaking, Abbie announces that she is pregnant and the two decide to raise the child together. Flash ahead 6 years to a well-adjusted child in a nucleus family that really works. Robert is dating although completely devoted to his son Sam. Abby is feeling the pangs of loneliness and finally, by chance, meets a handsome investment banker (who walks into the yoga center thinking it is a power gym.) A relationship begins and the tone of the comedy switches to a soap opera with a gay twist. What follows is the unfolding of hurt feelings, jealousies, and uncovered secrets of the past. Characters scream at one another and the happy nucleus family is threatened to be torn apart and moved from Los Angeles to New York City. Robert, coaxed and supported by a good friend (Harris) as well as his parents (Sommer and Redgrave) decides to take Abbie into a custody battle. What follows is contrived, slightly melodramatic and highly unlikely. It simply takes the fun out of what truly needed to stay light and fluffy in order to survive. Unfortunately the pairing of Madonna and Everett doesn't seem to work for the most part, although some of their Los Angeles Gay Community "IN" jokes do work, but then I live in Los Angeles. Madonna fans should like this simply because she is in it, but I expect that she can do better than this. [C]
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WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?

Release:03/03/00-(R)-(1:40)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]- GARRY SHANDLING, ANNETTE BENING, JOHN GOODMAN, GREG KINNEAR, BEN KINGSLEY: Often the success of a major motion picture will depend on it's leading man. With that in mind I am going to have to give this movie a benefit of the doubt, considering Garry Shandling, although dry and sometimes amusing, can be annoying as all hell and rather hard to look at as well. Suffice it to say that there is a decidedly smaller market for Shandling on the big screen than in his brilliant character driven "The Larry Sanders Show". In the film, Shandling is sent from his home planet, one inhabited by millions of men and no women, to impregnate a woman thus eventually being able to take over the universe. After assuming the persona of Harold Anderson, and entering the earth through the bathroom of an Arizona Western Airline plane, his attached and artificial penis in place, the mission begins. Anderson is posing as a Bank Sales Manager in Phoenix, meets the sleazy over-sexed co-worker Perry (Kinnear) and begins the search. Perry takes him to an AA meeting where he meets the newly sober and relationship-soured Susan, who he focuses on. In no time at all they are married and finally she is pregnant. The comic relief comes from the over-zealous airline detective who is the only one that seems to figure out that the alien enters through the airlines. As he chases down Anderson, he is dogged by his bosses, who eventually fire him and his wife, who eventually leaves him assuming that he is having an affair. Anderson's 'comic relief' comes from a defective penis that seems to buzz like a vibrator when aroused. While this is a decent joke, it also grows rather tired as it is overplayed throughout the film. The film has a few funny moments and all is NOT lost, but for the amount of stupid sex jokes I really don't see a whole lot of word of mouth or return business whatsoever. Ultimately appealing (and highly underused in any film) is Linda Fiorentino (Perry's sexy wife who has a quick adulterous fling with Shandling's character. Bening and Goodman are also appealing in their respective roles. All in all I think that Shandling's presence and brand of self-effacing humor is best left to HBO in half hour dose. [C-]
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DROWNING MONA

Release:03/03/00-(PG-13)-(1:35)-[DESTINATION FILMS/NEVERLAND FILMS]- DANNY DEVITO, BETTE MIDLER, WILLIAM FICHTNER, CASEY AFFLECK, NEVE CAMPBELL, JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I don't seem to have a symbol for 'whodunit' or mystery films. Suffice it to say that the symbol for comedy is appropriate, but what "Drowning Mona" really is combines slapstick with a theme that has been seen in anything from old detective programming to classic Agatha Christie. Granted, this is nowhere near as good as what I have previously described, but there are some genuinely funny moments, lines and characters in MONA that make the outing a little more than worth the regular rental. Mona Dearly is a none-too-loved resident of a small and lower-class upstate New York town that was at one time the chosen test area for the Yugo car. For that reason nearly every automobile in the entire burg is a Yugo. As the film opens, the grumpy and ill-natured Mona (Midler) starts up her son's car and takes a drive. Unfortunately it would seem that the car's brakes had been tampered with and dear Mona meets her maker by flying over a cliff and into the lake. What ensues is the classic model of an 'everyone has a motive' murder mystery with a comic spin. The main suspect to the Broadway show tunes loving Chief of Police Wyatt Rush (Devito) seems to be his future son-in-law Bobby (Affleck) who, it would seem was rather tortured by Mona in life. Bobby has a landscaping business with Mona's half-witted son (Marcus Thomas) and is constantly ribbed by their entire family, including Mona's husband Phil (Fichtner). Also in the mix is a has-been waitress named Rona (Curtis), who is having an affair with both father and son in the Dearly family and fears being tied to Mona's death. Bobby's fiancé (and the Chief of Police's daughter) Ellie (Campbell) is also equally effected by the prospect that her future husband and father of their unborn child could be a murderer. As would be expected there is a warm and fuzzy wrap-up to the plot, but not without another body being added to the count. The script bothers me only in it's conclusion, having hoped for something a little more biting or a little less out of left field. This is silly fair, but there are some wonderful moments of laugh out loud comedy that can be worth it to those of us that appreciate the inane. Bette Midler is delightfully crass and rude, saving her for the moment from the mistake of "Isn't She Great". [C]
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THE CLOSER YOU GET

Release:02/25/00-(PG-13)-(1:32)-[FOX SEARCHLIGHT]- IAN HART, PAT SHORT, CATHLEEN BRADLEY, NIAMH CUSACK, SEAN MCGINLEY: A weekend full of movies with messages, none of them overbearing, however. "The Closer You Get" hands you its message directly in it's title. We are all, it would seem, looking for that other person in our life, that mate or partner, that husband or wife. The premise here being that this person can be right under your nose and the closer you get the harder it is to see. From the producers of the hit "The Full Monty" comes a small Irish village whose men seem to think that the only way they are going to get married is to advertise in a paper in far-away Miami, Florida. The American Women, as a result will come. The focus of the bunch would seem to be Kieran (Hart), who seems to think he is somewhat of a gift to women in the first place. His newly died platinum blonde hair and penchant for grabbing his own groin area would perhaps say otherwise. He is the town's butcher and together with his sheepherder older brother Ian (McGinley), a 36-year-old virgin named Ollie (Pat Shortt), the philandering pub owner (Ewan Stewart) and an 18 year old ready to see the world (Sean McDonagh) the ad is written and sent. The women that are right under their noses are The pub owner's wife Kate(Cusack), who is eyed by Ian; Mary, who owns the postal/grocery store and likes to get into the mail; and siobhan, the pretty young assistant in the butcher shop who's charms Kieran is oblivious to. The situation is in the preparation for the arrival of the American women and the turning point would be the big dance in which a group of Spanish men are invited by Siobhan and the jealousies of the men are reared. From that point on the small catholic influenced town begins to wake up out of it's emotional shells and open their individual eyes to the ones that are already in their midst. One by one the solutions are bound to occur. While speaking volumes of the simplicity of life both from a standpoint of what is around us and what is inside, "Closer" offers a quirky sensibility with easy to watch performances and quaint Irish landscape. I wouldn't run back to the theater for this film, but I most certainly do not regret having been there today. [B+]
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JUDY BERLIN

Release:02/25/00-(Not rated)-(1:33)-[THE SHOOTING GALLERY]- AARON HARNICK, EDIE FALCO, MADELINE KAHN, BOB DISHY, BARBARA BARRIE, BETTE HENRITZE: Having grown up in the suburbs of Long Island I can relate whole-heartedly to the black and white bleakness in the tone set for "Judy Berlin". This is a wonderful character ensemble with quirky performances and memorable moments. The title character is a happy-go-lucky and spirited young actress-to-be in her last day before leaving for LA (yes, this really IS the Emmy Award winning mobster's wife in The Sopranos!) She inadvertently reunions with down and out 'filmmaker David Gold (Harnick), who is depressed and home from LA for some time. His parents are the wonderfully loopy Alice (Madeline Kahn's last film role), and somber school principal Arthur (Dishy). Among the ensemble are the cynical and not widely liked teacher Sue Berlin, Judy's mother (Barrie), who is embarking on an affair with the principal. There is a teacher who's memory is going and struggles with that acceptance (Henritze) and assorted other faces that we have all known trudging along in the dismal dark tones of a seemingly dead-end existence (including gossipy school workers Anne Meara and Julie Kavner). Add to all their lives an unusually long and dark total eclipse of the sun that takes the tone into the black of night at three in the afternoon and the mood of the small world of Babylon, New York is set. The centerpiece of the work has to be Falco's Judy. She is neither somber nor dark. She is positively chirpy in her own simple way. She wears "adult" braces and works for a park that recreates the settlers existence 150 years ago. What she represents is the saving grace for the quasi-cynical and fresh out of hope David. It would seem that she is the to be the turning point for David, although we might never know. Each of these actors is a master to their character, allowing you to feel the loneliness, sadness or easy joys of simple life that are typified in smaller town inhabitance. At least in this town. I highly recommend "Judy Berlin" to those who enjoy acting in true character form. I was impressed with the director's vision of making the darkness accessible and in so many ways comic. I hope this is recognized. [A]
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THE WONDER BOYS

Release:02/23/00-(R)-(1:56)-[PARAMOUNT]- MICHAEL DOUGLAS, TOBEY MAGUIRE, FRANCES MCDORMAND, KATIE HOLMES, RIP TORN, ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: Grady Tripp is having a very bad weekend. In the course of a couple short days his wife leaves him, his girlfriend (also his bosses wife) tells him that she is pregnant, he takes on an oddball student who proceeds to shoot his bosses dog (after it maims Douglas) as well as steal his prized jacket owned by Marilyn Monroe. His car is stolen, his editor shows up with a transvestite, a young student is trying to woo him, and he continues to have these strange "spells". Grady's real problem, however, is that he cannot follow up a successful book that he wrote 7 years earlier. It seems he doesn't like to use the phrase 'writer's block', and for good reason. What he's got is the inability to stop writing his latest book, which at last look was up to 2612 pages long. "The Wonder Boys" is my first favorite film of 2000. A wonderfully crafted film in all of it's angles and corners. "LA Confidential's" Curtis Hanson moves into another genre entirely and with his Confidential Cinematographer and Art director creates a bright and shiny winter Pittsburgh during the weekend of Wordfest a haven for writers and writer wannabees. Grady (in Douglas' wonderful departure role) smokes pot and seems to float aimlessly through his own existence. James Leer (Maguire) is quirky and morose. Downey (who filmed while on a leave from prison) is magnificent as 'spirited' book editor (who is quite taken with Leer). McDormand is perfect as the girlfriend who is giving up, and Rip Torn is the successful author Q, who continues to churn out the novels. What I like the best about the this film is the script. A wonderful and witty film about a man who needs to and eventually does have himself an awakening. His constant pot smoking, inabilities to commit or ''be there' for those closest and seeming inability to leave the safe haven of his follow up novel show a man on the verge of having the life that was meant to be his. There is a scene in this film that is solid representation of the way his awakening occurs. I felt it and appreciated it. All around fine work by everyone involved. I highly suggest this film for everyone, but especially those with the soul of a writer. [A]
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THE BOILER ROOM

Release:02/18/00-(R)-(2:00)-[NEW LINE CINEMA]- GIOVANNI RIBISI, VIN DIESEL, NIA LONG, NICKY KATT, SCOTT CAAN, RON RIFKIN, BEN AFFLECK: The evils of business, young businessmen and money hunger is visited early in the decade. It would seem that the theme is done over for the times. "Wall Street" or "Glengarry Glen Ross" retouched with a slick editing style and a street-wise rap music background. Seth Davis is a smart and savvy young New Yorker who runs an illegal gambling casino for local Queens college students out of his apartment. He has dropped out of college himself and is holding the wounds of a strained relationship with a tough and seemingly unsympathetic father (Rifkin), a well known Judge. Seth is drawn into the world of JT Marlin, a stock broker company that is, by all appearances, all that stock broking and making millions is about. There are, however, as Seth begins to uncover, differences. JT Marlin and it's Senior members are running a scam on unsuspecting stock buyers with no guilt, no thought and all of the trimmings and excesses that illegal trading and non-existent companies can buy. They are bigots and thugs in suits. The plot revolves around the unraveling of this company and the eventual use of Seth in doing the trick. But the underlying theme is Seth's desire for the acceptance and love of his father. What I did like about this movie was the strength of some of the younger character actors. Ribisi is very strong and has a bright future although he is by no means your normal pretty boy. Nia Long adds a great flare as the company's high-paid secretary and a love interest for Seth. Vin Diesel in one of two releases this weekend is strong as a loud and overbearing senior trader and Nicky Katt is rather good as an insufferable and arrogant broker. Watch for a scene in which the young traders sit in a sparsely decorated living room in one of their new houses watching "Wall Street" with one by one saying the lines along with the actors in on the TV. Great play on it's obvious comparison. There is also a good moment in a restaurant as the "gang" of traders is sitting next to a group of gay men. You go, girls. Not a bad sit through for the money. [B-]
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PITCH BLACK

Release:02/18/00-(R)-(1:47)-[USA FILMS/INTERSCOPE]- VIN DIESEL, RAHDA MITCHELL, COLE HAUSER, KEITH DAVID: This is your basic, run of the mill spacecraft crashes on another planet and attempts to survive killer aliens sci-fi movie. There are parts of this film that are mundane and lifeless because, quite frankly, it just isn't necessary to run through this sort of a plot topic yet again. What director David Twohy did with this, however was to spice it up. What he did was to give it a really rapid and creative editing process. It was the filmmaking process (and some casting) that made "Pitch Black" tolerable in it's viewing. The story revolves around a spacecraft which pilot Carol Fry ("High Art's Mitchell) is forced to land on a desert like planet. Many of it's passengers (all of which were in a deep sleep) are lost, but the survivors are left to make their way on this hot planet with three suns. Also on the ship are a convicted murderer (a wonderful Vin Diesel) and Johns, the "lawman" who is transporting him (Hauser). The early use of contrasted blues and browns to highlight the intense brightness of the planet are really quite interesting but it isn't long before the new inhabitants discover that there is to be a total eclipse, resulting, of course, in pitch black. It would seem that for some reason the last inhabitants all disappeared from the planet 22 years ago, during the last time this occurred. Once the light is gone, the film plays between the human fear of the dark and the growing presence of bat (or pterodactyl) type alien creatures that prey on the humans one by one, attracted to the smell of their blood. Most of the characters are consumed as one would expect, and the cast dwindles to the last survivors and the final escape back to the light. What is good about the film, aside from the aforementioned pace, editing and camera techniques is the gigantic persona of Vin Diesel who plays this larger than life convict, who isn't really as bad as one would be led to believe. He is powerful and has the ability to see forms in the dark through oddly brightened eyes. Otherwise this is rather run of the mill. Sci-fi lovers may find this more appetizing, but I would be more prone to suggest the film as a video rental. [C-]
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HANGING UP

Release:02/18/00-(R)-(1:33)-[COLUMBIA PICTURES]- MEG RYAN, DIANE KEATON, LISA KUDROW, WALTER MATTHAU: Dysfunctional families are quite prevalent in feature films. Hanging up is about yet another one. Eve is the middle sister of three. She is a successful albeit scattered and obviously overwhelmed party planner who is prone to car accidents and pacing floors with the phone connected to her ear. Older sister Georgia is a mega-conglomerate as a publisher/creator of a magazine (named GEORGIA) that is currently celebrating it's 5th anniversary. She often has two phones working. Younger sister Maddie is a soap star that is just trying to be recognized, and yes lives with a cell phone. (I LOVE Lisa Kudrow). Everyone hangs up on each other throughout. Dad is a crusty OLD spaced out alcoholic fart aptly played by Matthau (a la Grumpy, funny AND mean old men.) The film centers around Eve who seems to be strapped with the duty of taking care of dad, who's health is failing and is forced into hospitalization. Georgia is wrapped up in her own busy world and Maddie is simply not available. This film never really examines the characters that are involved. You sort of get to know Eve, but there is SO little development of the other two sisters or any of the other peripheral characters. There is only a glimpse of the mother who left (Cloris Leachman). There is some smart and quick witted writing and without doubt an ultimate appeal of casting, especially in the leads. All in all, however I had some problems. For one thing it felt a bit manipulated by the death of Matthau's character. That isn't to say that it was unnecessary or unexpected, it was after all the part of the film when the sisters overcame the dysfunction and joined together to dance and throw flour all over each other. I don't know why I complain, it IS a Hollywood film and I expect that sort of thing. Don't get me wrong, I really love these actresses and the writing was NOT bad like I have seen in other big budget fare. It is sort of odd, however, when two obviously successful people have a damaging car accident in the garage of a hospital and absolutely nothing comes of it, aside from the mother of the "victim" becoming a shoulder to cry on for the cause of the accident (Ryan). No insurance, no lawsuits, no threats or anger...what alternate planet is this hospital on? I am suggesting this film to see both on the big screen for fans of the actors and on video for those who would probably be better off waiting. [C+]
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THE WHOLE NINE YARDS

Release:02/18/00-(R)-(1:45)-[MORGAN CREEK/WARNER BROS.]- MATTHEW PERRY, BRUCE WILLIS, MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN, AMANDA PEET, NATASHA HENSTRIDGE, ROSANNA ARQUETTE, KEVIN POLLOCK: Comedies on film can be so hit or miss with a discerning audience. Clever comedies are very hard to find. "The Whole Nine Yards" is, in parts, clever due only to the delivery of certain lines and the actors that are delivering them. As a whole, there is really not much to this film. It is light and fluffy and I felt it best to write down the few elements that I did take with me for fear that I would forget them quickly. Matthew Perry is a good physical comic. His facial expressions and not so subtle paranoid persona can be amusing and sometimes laugh out loud enjoyable. Unfortunately for me I found myself thinking more about the weight that Perry has put on of late while looking at him rather than the comic ability or character he was portraying. That character (Oz), is a dentist that has relocated to Quebec in Canada with his hateful wife (Arquette) and her equally hateful mother, to pay off debts incurred by the wife's father and Perry's dental partner for embezzlement. Oz is not a happy man and is prone to smashing his head against the steering wheel of his car in frustration. Enter the new next door neighbor Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski. A well known contract killer with 17 hits under his belt who is hiding out in Canada from a mob boss in Chicago. Oz is instantly frightened and his wife is instantly intrigued. She sends Oz off to Chicago to rat on Jimmy and collect reward money, where he meets Jimmy's beautiful and estranged wife Cynthia (Henstridge) as well as a monstrous hit man working for both sides (Duncan) and the mob boss with the speech impediment (Pollock). Oz falls for the beautiful Cynthia only to discover that absolutely everyone seems to have a hit out on everyone else. Even Oz's wife has had a hit out on him, using a young contract killer wannabe named Jill (a delightful Peet) who poses as the dentist's secretary. Jill becomes a comical groupie to Jimmy and the hits begin. All this in the name of 10 Million Dollars. What follows is what doesn't work for me. A clean and happy wrap-up and lot's of love at first sight. Everyone (who lives) gets exactly what they are looking for and we, I suppose are supposed to smile and leave the theater happy with the world. Granted, there are some good comic moments and I like Willis MUCH more in roles like this that showcase his considerable comic abilities, but the whole did not equal the parts.[C+]
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THE BEACH

Release:02/11/00-(R)-(1:59)-[20TH CENTURY FOX]- LEONARDO DICAPRIO, TILDA SWINTON, VIRGINIE LEDOYEN, GUILLAUME CANET, ROBERT CARLYLE: It is quite obvious that Leonardo likes the water. "The Beach" does have it's fair amount of beautiful blue and tempting tropical settings. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the film is the scenery and the cinematographic choices. Aside from the over-crowded and messy Bangkok settings that the film originates in come the warm and inviting sands and waterfalls of the titles main reference. The Beach is a secret place. In fact it is to many, an urban legend. Richard (DiCaprio) has traveled to Thailand to get away from it all and finds himself in a run down hotel next door to a rather rabid Scotsman by the name of Daffy (Carlyle). After a short exchange of conversation and weed at the top of the wall between the two characters hotel rooms, Daffy winds up killing himself (only to appear in Richard's dreams later on in the film). Before he checked out, however, he left a map to "The Beach" presenting the ideal different getaway for Richard and the French woman he has his eyes on who is staying on the other side of his room with her French boyfriend. After copying the map and giving it to some stoner Americans he partied with the night before, the three travelers take their journey to the mysterious island. Once there they discover that the island is in two sanctions. One is a group of gun-toting rebels guarding the huge crops of marijuana and the other is the secret community that appears and is, for all practical reasons, a commune of characters doing it all on their own. They are cut off from civilization, only to visit the mainland for rice from time to time. They are sworn to secrecy and have a deal with the 'farmers' that nobody else should come to the island. All is perfect in paradise until sharks begin to attack and Richard is asked to escort the communities leader to the mainland for supplies. Then the lies begin. Richard is later excommunicated by the groups leader for having copied the map (4 tourists end up on their last trip as a result) and invariably bringing the deal between the two parts of the island to a halt. DiCaprio goes a little 'daffy' himself for a period of the film as he plays jungle warrior and scopes out the farmers and goes through an interesting segment whereas he more or less becomes a video game. An interesting choice for a follow-up to his star making role in "Titanic", the film will not give him the same attention. Director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting") gives the film good flavor and allows it to run rather smooth with only a bit of a drag during the Richard in the jungle scenes. Overall an interesting viewing and a tropical respite for those who like to travel in film. [C+]
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SIMPATICO

Release:02/04/00-(R)-(1:44)-[FINE LINE]- NICK NOLTE, JEFF BRIDGES, SHARON STONE, CATHERINE KEENER, ALBERT FINNEY: A cerebral piece of cinema based on a Sam Shepard work intertwining past deeds taking tolls and the world of horse-breeding and racing. Nick Nolte is a down and out self proclaimed private detective with a hold on a long ago friend (Bridges), who has been living with his blackmail for years while having built a huge success in horses in Kentucky. It seems that in the past Nolte, Bridges and their lady friend Stone (played in flashbacks by younger actors) had a scam going with the races that was uncovered by a commissioner (Finney). They tried to buy the guy off, but he wouldn't have anything to do with that. They framed him with the secret that Nolte then carries around for most of the film in a shoebox, and as a result became rich. Bridges made something of those riches and married Stone, who Nolte had asked to marry him in flashbacks. Nolte's life did not go as well. As the film opens Nolte is calling Bridges to get him out to California, claiming that he had been arrested for harassing a woman that he really cared for (Keener). Bridges, knowing that Nolte is volatile and could ruin him, flies out and essentially what follows is that the two characters virtually trade places. Bridges assuming the scummy and alcoholic persona of Nolte, and Nolte confronting the ex-commissioner (under an assumed name and identity) and his old lover (Stone). All of these characters are sad. They have all been imprisoned in their own lives by the deeds of their past. The only one coming close to reconciling is Finney, who has indeed moved on. Keener is refreshing as the simple supermarket teller with a dream to go to the Kentucky Derby who assists Bridges by flying to Kentucky. The film has some interesting character resolutions but by no means is a "happy" ending. The writing is very good, but it isn't a film that I would ever feel the need to see again. Performances are top notch as would be expected from the grade of actors. [C+]
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SCREAM 3

Release:02/04/00-(R)-(1:55)-[DIMENSION/MIRAMAX]- NEVE CAMPBELL, COURTNEY COX ARQUETTE, DAVID ARQUETTE, PARKER POSEY, SCOTT FOLEY, PATRICK DEMPSEY, DEON RICHMOND, & CAMEOS. DIRECTOR: WES CRAVEN: And the killer IS...don't worry, I won't go there. Scream 3 is a well written sequel. The closing in a trilogy that neatly wraps up from the previous two. It isn't the best horror film in town or in the history of the genre, but it is satiric in the vein of the first Kevin Williamson penned groundbreaker and serves up PLENTY of laughs and quite a few fun jolts as well. Our killer is at it again on the set of a second sequel to the horror film based on the "real life" events of the murder story in "Scream". It seems that one by one the cast of "Stab 3" is being offed in the same order that the characters they play would in the script. Each killing supplies the investigating Detective (Dempsey) with a picture of Maureen Prescott (the murdered mother of Sidney played by Campbell) at the scene of the crime. Gale Weathers (fresh off a failed gig on Sixty Minutes II) is clued in to the continuing murders and shows up to be reunited with Dewey and the actors and director of the new film sequel based on the original murders that she wrote about in her book. Of special note here is the wonderful comic performance of independent movie queen Parker Posey, who has played Gale Weathers in the Stab series. The film is somewhat ordinary in it's horror aspects. We've seen this all before, but the comic sensibilities of the ongoing cast and Posey are well worth the sit through a well paced final bow of this franchise. It's funny, although the cast and director insist that this is the end to "Scream" the film leaves you with the literal metaphor of an open door. So who knows? As for the murderer....well, you'll just have to go and see for yourself. [B-]
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THE BIG TEASE

Release:01/28/00-(R)-(1:28)-[WARNER BROS]-CRAIG FERGUSON, FRANCES FISHER, MARY McCORMACK, DAVID RASCHE, CHRIS LANGHAM & CAMEOS: My first favorite of the new year. Ferguson (Mr. Wick on "The Drew Carey Show") gives a turn as both writer and amiable star of this mock-documentary style tale of perseverance and determination. As Crawford MacKenzie, Ferguson, a well renowned hairdresser in Glasgow, Scotland, mistakes a form letter from the company that runs the International 'Platinum Scissors' Hairdressing Contest as an invitation to compete. With cameras and crew in tow, and a nervous BBC style documentarian directing (Langham), Mackenzie flies off to Los Angeles and the Century Plaza Hotel only to find that he had been invited just to be in the audience. What ensues is his romp through the hairdressing world of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in pursuit of the HAG card (Hairdressers of America Guild) and a slot as a participant in the contest. He is aided along the way by a brassy (and connected) publicist Candy Harper (Fisher) and a wannabe limo driver (Donal Logue) and opposed by nemesis Norwegian hairstyling star (and 3 time platinum scissors winner Stig Ludwiggssen (Rasche) and Monique Geingold, head of WIHF (World International Hairdressing Federation). The adventure is fun, well written, full of laughs and well worth the view. Call this "The Little Hairdresser that Could." Ferguson is a comic talent that we will see more from (Look for "Saving Grace" later this year. [B+]
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ISN'T SHE GREAT

Release:01/28/00-(R)-(1:36)-[UNIVERSAL]-BETTE MIDLER, NATHAN LANE, STOCKARD CHANNING, DAVID HYDE PIERCE, JOHN CLEESE, AMANDA PEET: In a word, NO. This is a truly sad film. If I could have found a graphic for the rolling of eyes I would have used it. I love Bette Midler, truly I do, but what was she thinking? I love Paul Rudnick as well, but yikes!! The only way this can be stomached is to KNOW within you that this film is completely designed and created from head to toe to be a symbol of all that Jacqueline Susann stood for in her personal and 'professional' lives. It is satire and parody in it's gaudiest form (but nowhere near the fun of her own "Valley of the Dolls"). It is blatant and sugar coma inducing silliness. Granted, Susann, who embodied a lot of what this film portrays and makes fun of, was a bit larger than life, but the campiness is overdone and the fiction is a bit too obvious. I felt as though I were watching a combination of a weekly 60's drama television series (with the weak transitions and cheesy music) and a below par 60's psychedelic film romp (except I sometimes like those). There are a few yucks here and there in "Isn't She Great", but I have to admit that I was rather embarrassed to walk out of the theater. I've got to say that Bette will always rule for me, but trying to pull off "dramatic" death bed scenes in a film as purposefully ridiculous as this one might have had her rolling her eyes as well. If it's any conciliation, the trailer for The Divine Miss M's upcoming "Drowning Mona" looked to be quite a bit better. If you are going to see this, do so on video..and perhaps after a few drinks (I am not even a drinker, but I do know that it would be funnier!) [D-]
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EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Release:01/28/00-(R)-(1:50)-[DESTINATION FILMS]-EWAN McGREGOR, ASHLEY JUDD, PATRICK BERGIN, GENEVIEVE BUJOLD, K.D. LANG, JASON PRIESTLY: Without a doubt this was released in the beginning of the year for a reason. It is rather mundane. There are no real surprises, no 'psychological thrills' and not much new in any sort of technique at all. McGregor is a voyeur who works for some intelligence agency. He deals with cameras and computers almost exclusively and lives almost completely in his own world as a result. He has lost his wife and child because of his reclusive and travel oriented occupation and cannot let go of the image of what his daughter would be in his life now. He stumbles upon a similarly loss-afflicted Judd, while on one of his "jobs" and discovers her to be a serial killer. The film is primarily McGregor's stalking of Judd throughout the country, set in transition through those little snow globe souvenirs you find in gift shops. He plays the guardian angel, she is the 'victim' turned aggressor (who wears more wigs than I saw in "Wigstock"). Lang appears as the good hearted workplace foil to McGregor's "Lucky" (what was his name anyway, did she say Wilson?) Bujold as the teacher/trainer from Judd's past who taught her how to take care of herself and Priestly as a rogue drug addict or trafficker who almost gets the best of her. My humble opinion? Wait for the video on this one, nothing too special here. [C-]
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