Lovely & Amazing, Martin Lawrence, Master of Disguise, The Naked City and Signs

LOVELY & AMAZING-- Lovely & Amazing, the new comedy from writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) provides a welcome escape from a summer season of computer-generated images of heroic

Aug 1, 2002 at 2:06 pm

LOVELY & AMAZINGLovely & Amazing, the new comedy from writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) provides a welcome escape from a summer season of computer-generated images of heroic figures and the prestigious sheen of beautifully clean gangster fathers. The truly special effects in Holofcener's second feature effort are the fragile emotions of the enormously insecure adult Marks sisters, Michelle (Catherine Keener) and Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer), their black adopted sister Annie (Raven Goodwin), and their mother Jane (Brenda Blethyn). Love, body image, race and age factor into this tragicomic examination of their less-than-perfect lives. Keener shines as the eldest, and possibly most brittle, sister, whose loveless marriage and arrested development leads her to seek comfort in the arms of a geeky teen-ager (Jake Gyllenhaal). Mortimer draws far more attention for submitting to a very naked post-sex evaluation of her body by a shallow, but surprisingly gentle, movie star (Dermot Mulroney). Small wonders never cease to amaze, but the true wonder of Lovely & Amazing is that none of the women's stories feel like a secondary plot line. In fact, there is no plot at all. Just an independent look at the sometimes plain ugliness of real life. Lovely & Amazing, indeed. — tt clinkscales (Rated R.)

CityBeat grade: B

MARTIN LAWRENCE LIVE: RUNTELDAT— Director David Raynr films comic Martin Lawrence in one of his concert appearances. Compared to Lawrence's recent film roles, this stand-up appearance has to be an improvement. — Steve Ramos (Rated R.)

MASTER OF DISGUISE— In director Perry Andelin Blake's comedy, ex-Saturday Night Live comic Dana Carvey plays an Italian waiter whose life turns upside-down after he discovers he comes from a family of disguise experts. The core gag behind Master of Disguise is the number of goofy personalities Carvey portrays. "Turtle Man" is the one character who warrants explanation. Jennifer Esposito is the pretty sidekick who aids Carvey's silliness. — SR (Rated PG.)

THE NAKED CITY— The work of New York City photographer Weegee was the inspiration for director Jules Dassin's 1948 movie about a NYPD detective investigating a murder case. The film takes advantage of its New York City locations, but its story soon loses its grip. The Naked City is the fifth film in the Cincinnati Film Society's The Forgotten Society series, a selection of films inspired by the Cincinnati Art Museum's Weegee exhibit. The screenings take place at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Tickets are $5 for the general public. Ticket cost for CAM, CFS members and college students with a valid ID card is $4. Cincinnati CityBeat is the media sponsor for all CFS programs. — SR (Unrated.)
CityBeat grade: C

SIGNS— Director M. Night Shyamalan fails to provide the sufficient jolts and surprises one expects from a successful supernatural thriller. But that doesn't mean Signs is without redeeming qualities. Shyamalan's story of an ex-reverend (Mel Gibson) who tries to figure out the origins of the mysterious crop formations on his rural Pennsylvania farm combines alien invaders paranoia with Alfred Hitchcock-inspired suspense. To the film's benefit, Shyamalan substitutes elaborate alien spaceship battles with a claustrophobic story set around an isolated farmhouse. The effect is creepy and effective. Gibson is appropriately solemn as the widowed father trying to protect his two children from whatever might be hiding in the cornstalks. Joaquin Phoenix adds some zip as Gibson's younger brother. Still, Signs revolves around Shyamalan's filmmaking. Working with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, Shyamalan creates one stunning scene after another. Signs never ceases to dazzle. With the exception of its final moments, Signs never manages to scare us as often we'd like. — SR (Rated PG-13.)
CityBeat grade: C