Continuing Film Listings

CAPSULE REVIEWS AND SUMMARIES By TT CLINKSCALES, RODGER PILLE AND STEVE RAMOS ABOUT A BOY -- (Grade: A) In Will, a smarmy British bachelor who joins a single-parents' club as a way to meet women,

May 30, 2002 at 2:06 pm


ABOUT A BOY — (Grade: A) In Will, a smarmy British bachelor who joins a single-parents' club as a way to meet women, actor Hugh Grant finds a screen character perfectly matched to his own unique blend of cultured arrogance and foppish personality traits. Grant's natural performance enhances the film's frequent, comic moments. He also gives its melodrama a sheen of credibility. Directors Paul and Chris Weitz (Amercan Pie) made the perfect choice in casting Grant as the lead in their adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel. Still, nobody would have guessed that Grant would end up making About A Boy the standout performance of his career. The film's core joke is that 38-year-old Will is incapable of committing to a relationship with anyone. He's an "island" by choice. But that doesn't stop a single-parent's club member's 12-year-old son, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), from choosing Will as his surrogate father. The comic catch: Can Marcus turn Will into a grown-up?

The dramatic payoff is funny, heartfelt and engaging — SR (Rated PG-13.)

AMÉLIE — (Grade: A) The most magical film this year is French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet's playful fantasy Amélie. This eye-popping tale follows the adventures of a pixyish waitress named Amélie (Audrey Tautou) in Paris' Montmartre neighborhood. Amélie watches movies with wide—eyed amazement, oblivious to the packed Parisian theater audience around her. She catches small details that ordinary moviegoers would ordinarily miss. She loves movies, and the movies seem to love Amélie right back. Dizzy photography and slapstick comedy keep the film moving. Amélie has more than enough trick shots to keep Jeunet's long-time fans happy. — SR (Rated R.)

A BEAUTIFUL MIND — (Grade: A) Russell Crowe's characters have heretofore been manly men. He's played tough men of loyalty who'd rather fight than have their honor questioned. In A Beautiful Mind, Crowe plays troubled John Forbes Nash Jr., a man who wants to be a strong intellect. A Beautiful Mind is a loose biopic that follows Nash's journey from his break-though mathematical discovery and acceptance into top-secret government work to his eventual breakdown. Jennifer Connelly continues her comeback with a fine performance as Nash's unfailing wife. In this Oscar hopeful season, A Beautiful Mind is one film that completely deserves its accolades. — RP (Rated PG-13.)

BLADE II — (Grade: A) The vampire world is threatened by a dangerous strain of über-vampires known as Reapers. Our bloodsucking hero, the "Daywalker" named Blade (Wesley Snipes) is on a quest to find his mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) who may be batting for the other team, if he's batting at all. The fight sequences effectively combine just a dash of the Matrix-inspired wire-fu techniques with old school martial artistry and a little WWF smackdown frenzy for fun. Queen of the Damned meets Aliens is how some Hollywood types might describe Blade II. The Aliens franchise would do well to have del Toro added to its directors' club, although it looks like he's going to be busy getting ready for another Blade installment. — ttc (Rated R.)

CHANGING LANES — (Grade: D) Imagine a Charles Bronson revenge fantasy with Samuel L. Jackson as the fiery ball of righteous fury. Add Ben Affleck as a Tom Cruise stand-in caught up in a legal/moral logjam a la The Firm. Doyle Gipson (Jackson) finalizes a loan to purchase a house to keep his ex-wife and sons from leaving him as part of a custody plan he has prepared to present. Hotshot Wall Street lawyer Gavin Banek (Affleck) seeks to wrestle sole control of a multimillion dollar philanthropic fund from a community board. An accident on the freeway between Gipson and Banek alters their plans and uncorks their all-too-human rage. In an attempt to restrain it's own lust for revenge, the story succumbs to its own highly implausible pretzel logic. This day-on-the-road-to-hell is too full of good intentions for its own good. —- ttc (Rated R.)

DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS — (Grade: B) Director Stacy Peralta, one of the original Z-Boys, reunites his fellow Zephyr Team skateboarders for a rousing documentary about pre X-Games teen-agers. Years ago, Peralta and his fellow Z-Boys rode the walls of empty swimming pools in a section of Santa Monica known as Dogtown and congregated around the Zephyr surf shop. Their stories are the source for the high-energy Dogtown and Z-Boys. Super-8 footage of skateboard greats Tony Alva and Jay Adams are mixed with 1970s Rock classics and new footage and narration from Sean Penn. The film even follows the Z-Boys after corporate sponsors snatch them for careers as celebrity skaters. Dogtown and Z-Boys is intentionally nostalgic, but it's too fast-paced to be seen as a history book-like trek down memory lane. Great documentaries take their audiences into unknown worlds. Dogtown and Z-Boys also makes sure it's a fun nostalgia ride — SR (Rated PG-13.)

ENIGMA — (Grade: A) The egghead cometh! Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible 2) plays Tom Jericho, a code-breaker for England during WWII, whose fling with a mysterious compatriot indicts him in a sticky web of treason and murder. Jericho must crack the German code to win the war and solve his lover's disappearance to save himself. Kate Winslet is along for the ride as the homely Hester Wallace, Jericho's only friend. Enigma is a whip-smart mystery and perfect counter-programming to the whiz-bang summer blockbuster. It's a film built on a snappy script by the brilliant Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) and able direction from Michael Apted (Enough). Watching the war plotline escalate just as Jericho's personal mystery becomes unraveled is one of the more engaging moments in film this year. — RP (Rated R.)

ENOUGH — (Grade: C) I'm still waiting for a director to tap into Jennifer Lopez's big star magnitude as well as Steven Soderbergh did in Out of Sight. The sad truth is that director Michael Apted wasn't able to in Enough. JLo sure tries hard to be a good actress in this somewhat clumsy spousal-abuse thriller, but as my third grade teacher told me, there is a difference between trying and accomplishing. She displays a pretty wide range of actor-y emotions, but never makes an affecting connection with the audience. Granted, most everyone in the audience just wants to see Lopez kick some bad boy ass. Giving Lopez the chance to kick butt is the one thing Enough does do well, but it comes far too late to be powerful. So what you're left with is a really long set-up to a short fight scene that's only pretty good. — RP (Rated PG-13.)

ESPN'S ULTIMATE X — (Grade: B) With the help of skateboader Tony Hawk and Moto X rider Carey Hart, writer/director Bruce Hendricks creates that rare Large Format film that breaks out of the hum-drum, educational film genre. Stuffed with dazzling photography of the 2001 Summer X Games in Philadelphia, a fast-paced showcase of skateboarding, BMX biking, Moto X and street luge competitions, and a thumping soundtrack that mixes Rock classics from Black Sabbath with songs from Alternative bands like Sum 41 and Foo Fighters, ESPN's Ultimate X is a fast and fun chronicle of the world's top actions sports athletes. — SR (Rated PG.)

HIGH CRIMES — (Grade: D) High Crimes marks the emergence of a new Hollywood power couple. Actors Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd team up for a follow-up to their 1997 suspense film Kiss the Girls. Their collaboration is a major disappointment. Adapted from Joseph Finder's novel, High Crimes tells the story of high-powered lawyer Claire Kubik (Judd), who discovers that her husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) was a covert military operative in El Salvador back in 1988. Claire seeks the assistance of wild card military lawyer Charles Grimes (Freeman) to clear Tom's name. Freeman and Judd's lead performances are little more than exercises on the rules of attraction. One more project together and they'll be ready to be spoofed by National Lampoon or the Wayans Brothers. — ttc (Rated PG-13.)

ICE AGE — (Grade: A) Of all the contemporary movie types, the animated feature is the one that's enjoying the biggest heyday. Director Chris Wedge continues the trend with the laugh-out-loud funny Ice Age, a tale of a woolly mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), an annoying sloth (voice of John Leguizamo) and a saber-toothed tiger (voice of Denis Leary) who team up to return a human baby to its tribe. Ice Age is that rare movie which captures the physical language of silent comedy. What's even more impressive is how it captures the clownish slapstick of silent comedy's bygone era. — SR (Rated PG.)

INSOMNIA — (Grade: A) A riveting break from teen-friendly blockbusters arrives courtesy of director Christopher Nolan's remake of the 1998 Norwegian thriller Insomnia, a riveting suspense movie that's as tense as they come. Al Pacino is LAPD detective Will Dormer, who's on the hunt for a killer in a remote Alaskan town. Robin Williams plays Dormer's prime suspect. Pacino and Williams shine in the film's large, action sequences. Still, the film thrives on Nolan's storytelling skills. After only three features, I already consider him one of the significant filmmakers working today. — SR (Rated R.)

JASON X — (Grade: D) If you've seen the ads for this ill-conceived installment in the Friday the 13th franchise, you might know the film better as "Jason in Space!" Sad but true, the hockey-masked killer from the '80s finds himself cryogenically frozen and then thawed out in the 25th century. So what does he do? Wield his primitive machete on the crew of his space transport. (Think of the kick-butt crew from Aliens mixed with a whole host of horny interns.) Jason X is bad for all the reasons you expect, but — toward the end — its campiness and over-the-top bravado are too overwhelming to ignore. It becomes laughably bad, a small step up from just plain sucky. Take the scene when Jason is stuck in a hologram and he encounters loose 1980s co-eds. Sure he's going to kill them — but it's the way he does it that almost redeems the movie. Almost. But we're still talking about a crummy B-movie with poor direction and some of the worst throw-away lines in horror film history. But when the filmmakers acknowledge their own absurdity, I tend to have an easier time laughing at them. — RP (Rated R.)

JOHN Q. — (Grade: F) The first half of John Q. is an enjoyable blue-collar drama. The second half of John Q. is so relentless in its attempts to generate audience tears that you can't help but laugh out loud. Denzel Washington is John Q. Archibald, a factory worker struggling to make ends meet for his family on his downsized salary. When his son Michael (Daniel E. Smith) becomes ill, John discovers that his insurance won't cover the bills. John Q. packs some appealing messages about the country's health care system. Unfortunately, these messages are soon washed over by the film's unintentional comedy. — SR (Rated PG-13.)

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING — (Grade: A) Director Peter Jackson tackles J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy books set in Middle-earth with a creative force. The results are extraordinary. The film tells the story of hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and the powerful Ruling Ring he inherits from his Uncle Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). There is plenty of showmanship in Fellowship, but there is also substantive storytelling. Fellowship of the Ring is so good that I imagine high-brow audiences who normally avoid these types of films will find themselves having a great time if they give the film a chance. ­ SR (Rated PG-13.)

MONSOON WEDDING — (Grade: A) The chaotic planning of a Punjabi wedding is the colorful backdrop for director Mira Nair's (Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala) joyful drama. Aditi (pop singer Vasundhara Das) is the daughter of Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) and Pimmi (Lillete Dubey), who hastily agrees to marry Hemant (Parvin Dabas), an engineer from Houston. Despite the culture clashes between Aditi's New Delhi family and her Americanized groom, Pimmi manages to keep his mind focused on the extravagant reception. A soundtrack of traditional music and contemporary Pop songs helps Nair portray Aditi's struggle to embrace her Punjabi past as well look towards her future. Comparisons to Robert Altman's The Wedding are unfair. Monsoon Wedding is too joyful to be considered an Altman-inspired film. In Nair's heartfelt tale, the monsoon rains may threaten, but love conquers just the same. — SR (Rated R.)

THE NEW GUY — (Grade: F) If the one person in Hollywood who still has a brain were forced to watch The New Guy, maybe, just maybe, there would be no more high school comedies. Void of any funny moments, The New Guy is all about little guys having their one chance to make it big. With DJ Qualls (Road Trip) as Dizzy, a geeky teen who wants to change his image, and Eddie Griffin (Double Take) as Dizzy's street-smart mentor, director Ed Decter has a decent shot at making us laugh. Both Qualls and Griffin have energy to spare, but not even Atlas could hitch this movie onto his broad shoulders and carry it towards a joke. The New Guy is bloated with all-star cameos from people who, the audience is supposed to assume, are poking fun at themselves: Henry Rollins, Kool Mo Dee and David Hasselhoff. Actually, these guys are poking themselves to make sure they're still breathing. — TTC (Rated PG-13.)

NINE QUEENS — (Grade: B) Argentinian director Fabián Bielinsky's caper film pays homage to David Mamet, telling a spirited tale about con artists and their knack for double-crossing. The twists begin after con artist Juan (Gastón Pauls) meets more experienced con Marcos (Ricardo Darin) while trying to trick a store clerk out of money. Afterwards, they decide to join forces on a scam involving a set of valuable stamps known as the Nine Queens. Marcos' sister, the pretty Valeria (Leticia Bredice), becomes an unwilling accomplice to the scam. Then again, nothing about Nine Queens is what it seems to be. Bielinsky makes an impressive directing debut with Nine Queens. Its climax is a complete surprise, which is the best compliment you can give to any caper film — SR (Rated R.)

PANIC ROOM — (Grade: A) Dark shadows and the sound of heavy breathing help Panic Room tell its crime story well. An old Manhattan townhouse provides the perfect setting for director David Fincher's suspense film. A stormy night seals the creepy mood. Jodie Foster is sweaty and determined as Meg Altman, a recently divorced mom intent on protecting herself and her teenage daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart), from a trio of criminals (Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam) who've broken into their new house in the dead of night. In interviews, Fincher compares Panic Room with another claustrophobic thriller, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. It's a fair comparison. Panic Room is the type of violent thriller Hitchcock would make if he were alive in these angry, cynical times. More importantly, with the exception of adding drama between Meg and her teen-age daughter, I can't imagine how Hitchcock could have made Panic Room any more enjoyable. — SR (Rated R.)

RESIDENT EVIL — (Grade: F) I should begin by saying that I am not familiar with the video game this film is based on. But boy howdy, it just has to be more fun playing it than watching it. An elite assault team led by a pair of female commandos (Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez) is sent into an underground genetics laboratory to find out why all the scientists are dead. After battling the lab's central computer, they find their greatest challenge is still ahead of them. The concept behind Resident Evil isn't bad. Take one part Aliens, three parts Return of the Living Dead, throw in a sexy Lara Croft-like heroine and you have the good parts of Resident Evil. However, those scant assets the film had going for it are hardly visible in the final product. — RP (Rated R.)

THE ROOKIE — (Grade: C) Dennis Quaid's easygoing performance as Jim Morris, a high-school science teacher and baseball coach who tries out for the Majors as part of a bet with his team, is the best thing about director John Lee Hancock's baseball drama. Told in a matter-of-fact style, The Rookie drapes its heartfelt themes about fathers, sons and second chances around Texas Big Sky country. The Rookie never manages to tug hard on the heartstrings, despite Hancock's melodramatic effort. As the middle-aged rookie, Quaid is looking weathered and more handsome than ever. Watching him in his worn boots and Wrangler jeans makes you wish Hollywood still made Westerns. — SR (Rated G.)

THE SCORPION KING — (Grade: D) The Scorpion King is ready to take center stage, rewarding wrestling actor The Rock for his popular walk-on role in The Mummy Returns. Too bad there's not enough heat in The Scorpion King to get things cooking. Mathayus (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is the last of a tribe of assassins charged to dispatch the sorceress Cassandra (Kelly Hu), whose advice has allowed the warlord Memnon (Steven Brand) to conquer the scattered tribal nations. Although King is full of anachronistic quips and goofy buddy banter, the movie doesn't feel like a breezy romp because it bears the weight of its big-time, action film expectations. Still, Johnson's on-screen appeal forecasts a real Smackdown somewhere in his film acting future, but that future is not now. — ttc (Rated PG-13.)

SHACKLETON'S ANTARCTIC ADVENTURE — (Grade: C) One of the greatest tales of human courage and adventure is shrunk down to a 45-minute, routine OMNIMAX film. Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, a documentary about Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated 1914 journey to Antarctica, replaces interviews with descendents of Shackleton's crew with dramatizations of Shackleton's struggle to rescue his men. Compared to the archival film footage and still photography shot by Frank Hurley, a Shackleton crewmember, the dramatizations are amateurish and uninteresting. — SR (Unrated.)

SORORITY BOYS — (Grade: D) They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, but the converse is also true. Take Sorority Boys director Wally Wolodarsky. He takes some simple comic treasures from Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds and Tootsie and mines from them a whole lot of trash. Dave (Barry Watson), Doofer (Harland Williams) and Adam (Michael Rosenbaum) are the studs of their KOK fraternity until they're framed for stealing the frat's designated party fund. In an attempt to sneak back into the frat house, they disguise themselves as homely sorority girls. The cast manage to seem a little charismatic. Barry Watson, as the lead transvestite, should get some work after this misstep. And Michael Rosenbaum plays Lex Luthor on TV's Smallville, so at least he has a credit to fall back on. — RP (Rated R.)

SPIDER-MAN —(Grade: C) As Spider-Man's costumed nemesis, the Green Goblin, Willem Dafoe's creepy grin is more entertaining than all of Spider-Man's explosions and digital effects. Tobey Maguire is given the body-hugging Spider-Man costume, and it looks good on him. As the boy hero of director Sam Raimi's sloppy blockbuster, Maguire is getting all the attention. Still, actioners like Spider-Man are all about its villains, and Dafoe is the best thing in an otherwise disappointing film. Spider-Man's best scene occurs early in the movie, when Parker loses control of his newfound super powers in his high school cafeteria. Later in the film, Spider-Man's origin story breaks down while Raimi crams in s much action as possible. Stylish images turn cluttered. The action becomes chaotic instead of engaging. Making dramatic matters worse, Maguire's emotional depth plummets every time he puts on his Spider-Man mask. — SR (Rated PG-13.)

SPIRIT —(Grade: B) Director Kelly Asbury tells the story of a mustang (voice of Matt Damon) who comes of age in the American West of the late 1800s. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is one of the more gentler of recent animated features, recapping Spirit's life from birth, his relationship with a tribe of Lakota Indians (Daniel Studi is the voice of one of Lakotas), an encounter with the U.S. Cavalry (James Cromwell is the voice of the Calvary leader) and a climactic adventure at the construction site for the Trans-Continental Railroad. I admire Spirit for intentionally walking away from the Disney method, choosing to tell a straightforward story free of comical best friends and musical extravaganzas. As a result, its story remains lifelike and heartwarming. More importantly, the painterly qualities of Spirit's hand-drawn images are beautiful. A high-tech hybrid of traditional hand drawing and computer-generated effects, Spirit dazzles when a bald eagle swoops through canyons. Later in the film, when Spirit outruns an out-of-control locomotive, the images leave you breathless. — SR (Rated G.)

STAR WARS: EPISODE II — ATTACK OF THE CONES — (Grade: B) Attack of the Clones stays close to the pulpy spirit of 1930s space hero serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and is better off for it. Free of the extended setup that bogged down the recent blockbuster Spider-Man, Attack of the Clones dives straight into its boy's life adventure, set 10 years after the most recent Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace. Two stories divide Attack of the Clones equally. One is the growing romance between Jedi-knight-in-training Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Queen-turned-Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman). The other is a more straightforward adventure where Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) discovers a plot by enemy forces to attack the Republic with a clone army. To say anything more would give the impression that Attack of the Clones is more Robert Louis Stevenson adventure than a collection of lavish cliffhangers. Like most Star Wars movies, in-depth storytelling is not Attack of the Clones' greatest asset. — SR (Rated PG-13.)

Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN — (Grade: A) Mexican-born director Alfonso Cuarón makes a heady impact on American cinema with his fast-moving road movie Y Tu Mamá También. Y Tu Mamá También follows the roadside adventures of two teen-age friends, Tenoch (Diago Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch's cousin, Luisa (Maribel Verdu), as they leave Mexico City in search for the perfect beach on the Oaxacan coast. Luna and Bernal are heartfelt as the friends who find themselves starry-eyed over the beautiful Luisa. But it's Verdu's passionate performance that ultimately sends Y Tu Mamá También spinning. As engaging as it is erotic, Y Tu Mamá También became the highest grossing film in Mexican history. One viewing and it's easy to understand why. — SR (Rated R.)

UNFAITHFUL — (Grade: C) A changed ending gives Adrian Lyne's new adultery drama a more abiguous ending. Still, Unfaithful, about a wife who goes astray, fails to match the dramatic intensity of Lyne's 1987 film, Fatal Attraction. As an English-language remake to Claude Chabrol's 1968 film La Femme Infidèle, Lyne makes no improvements on Chabrol's orginal movie. Diane Lane plays Connie (Diane Lane), the suburban New York City housewife who stumbles into an affair with a younger man (Olivier Martinez). Lane is believable as the pretty infidel, but it's a role she played better in A Walk on the Moon. Richard Gere, as Edward Sumner, a Manhattan businessman and loving father who discovers his wife's deceit, is saddled with the task of turning the movie from a family drama to a revenge tale. Lyne creates a slick veneer for the movie, but without an engaging story, it's not long before Unfaithful's characters cease to matter. — SR (Rated R.)

WHEN WE WERE SOLDIERS — (Grade: D) Mel Gibson plays heroic soldier and dutiful father in writer/director Randall Wallace's Vietnam War drama, the latest entry in Hollywood's post Sept. 11 wave of patriotism. We Were Soldiers is not the best of the current battle movies. That title still belongs to the gritty Black Hawk Down. It's also not the worst, easily besting the comic-book foolishness of Behind Enemy Lines. Gibson's noble presence, as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, a man who leads 400 Army recruits into an ambush by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, is the saving grace behind Wallace's lumbering film. Still, there is only so much even a hero as likable as Gibson's can do. — SR (Rated R.)