Aing Collections

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Friday, October 29, 2004

 

Judul Film

Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, The ()- 2000 / Des McAnuff / Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Piper Perabo, Randy Quaid, Robert DeNiro (co-prod), June Foray, Keith Scott, Janeane Garofalo, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, James Rebhorn, David ALan Grier, Norman Lloyd, John Polito, Don Novello / (88 mnt) And now here's something we hope you'll really like Fans of Jay Ward's classic TV kids' cartoon for adults (which is to say, just about everybody) can relax. This megastar mix of CGI animation and live action is remarkably faithful to the spirit of the original; it's also a mostly adorable comic-adventure fantasy brightened by flashes of true inspiration. The film's real hero may be playwright-turned-screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan, whose script re-creates the show's mix of frantic punning, topical references and plot implausibilities and maintains the breakneck rhythm of its three-minute episodes. As to the plot, suffice it to say that plucky Rocket J. Squirrel (voice of original Rocky June Foray) and dim-bulb Bullwinkle T. Moose (Keith Scott, also the voice-of-God narrator) find themselves in the real world along with arch nemeses Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro, in a hilarious chin prosthetic) and his no-goodnik henchpersons Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo, who have the cartoon characters down cold). With a little help from not-so-tough FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo), Moose and Squirrel have two days to foil FL's scheme to take over America. Their adventures play out like a sweet-natured, Hope and Crosby road picture complete with numerous celebrity cameos, including Whoopi Goldberg as the aptly named Judge Cameo and veteran scene stealer Jonathan Winters, who nearly makes off with the picture as three separate characters. Director Des McAnuff takes a little too long getting our heroes into the action, but once they do appear, their animated incarnations are so inherently funny that they're de facto sight gags. The opening and closing Frostbite Falls scenes, done in the style of the TV show, are also a treat. The only jarring notes are the steroidal action sequences; Boris and Natasha were always trying to kill Moose and Squirrel, but it's disconcerting to see our heroes menaced in the flesh... as it were. [PG]

American Psycho ()- 2000 / Mary Harron (prod.) / Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Reese Witherspoon, Chloe Sevigny, Cara Seymour, Justin Theroux, Bill Sage, Guinevere Turner, Park Bench / {Amerika Serikat-Kanada} (101 mnt) It's not a great film, but let's face it: Considering the source, this is as good as it was ever going to get. Director Mary Harron takes Bret Easton Ellis's notorious 1991 novel about empty sex and violent death among New York City's yuppie scum for what the book's apologists claimed it was all along: a blood-soaked satire skewering the image-obsessed '80s, and a fitting post-mortem for a morally bankrupt decade epitomized by corporate cannibalism, rampant cruelty and greed. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is just one of many immaculately tailored and completely interchangeable VPs at the Wall Street firm of Pierce & Pierce, but he's the only one likely to quip "I'm in murders and executions" rather than "mergers and acquisitions" and actually mean it. At the end of a day that starts with a rigorous beauty regimen involving pricey products pour l'homme, and a long day at the office spent making dinner reservations at the city's trendiest restaurants, Bateman makes time for the occasional brutal murder: one of the city's many homeless, perhaps; or a young lady friend; or even an envied fellow VP at P&P. Taking their cue from the outrage that greeted Ellis's novel, Harron and co-writers Guinevere Turner and Roberta Hanley cagily cover themselves on the misogyny front (the film's women — Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis and Cara Seymour — are the only characters granted a modicum of humanity) and excessive violence (nearly all the notoriously gory set-pieces occur offscreen), but they also leech the essential outrageousness from Ellis's gruesome tale. Bale, pumped to underwear-model perfection, is a truly terrifying spectacle of grinning, shifting masks, and Gideon Ponte's production design is perfect, right down to the last exquisite detail. In the end, the real horror of American Psycho is in the endless surface details, and if the film feels empty, Harron has herself covered there as well: Emptiness is what's it's all about. [R]

Angela's Ashes ()= 1999 /Alan Parker (prod., wrt with Laura Jones) /Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owen, Michael Legge, Ronnie Masterson, Pauline McLynn, Liam Carney, Eanna McLiam, Moira Deady, Kerry Condon, Gerard McSorley, Eamonn Owens, Andrew Bennet (narasi)/ (145 mnt) / That Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up wretchedly poor in Ireland was a best-seller owes much to his tone: wry, self-deprecating, witty and remarkably free of self-pity, given that he and his brothers spent much of their childhoods hungry, cold, sick and humiliated by spiteful children and feckless adults. Alan Parker's adaptation is meticulous, unsentimental, beautifully acted and uses narration to evoke McCourt's distinctive voice, but nearly two and a half hours worth of dying babies, rain-spattered streets, ragged children and filthy, bug-infested rooms is a bit oppressive. Born in Brooklyn in 1930, Frank (played by Joe Breen as a child, Ciaran Owens as an adolescent and Michael Legge as a teenager) was the oldest child of Angela (Emily Watson) and Malachy (Robert Carlyle) McCourt. His parents fled impoverished, class-conscious Ireland individually, hoping to find fortune in the US; they returned home together, poorer than ever, after the death in infancy of their fifth child drove Angela to a nervous collapse. Malachy's alcoholism and stubborn pride (he refused work that was "beneath his dignity"), insured that the family remained destitute and desperate; Malachy eventually decamped for good, leaving Angela and the children (she bore seven; four lived) to scrape by on welfare and church charity. That the film isn't sheer misery is largely a credit to the cast. Watson nurtures a small spark in Angela, but never falls back on uplifting Hollywood cliches about smiling through the tears; her Angela is, ultimately, defeated by the burdens life piles on her shoulders. The subtle Robert Carlyle breathes surprising warmth into the thankless role of Malachy, and Parker elicits excellent performances from the young actors. [R]

Anna and the King ()- 1999 /Andy Tennant/Jodie Foster, Chow Yun Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Syed Alwi, Randall Duk Kim, Lim Kay SIu, Melissa Campbell, Keith Chin, Mano Maniam, Shanthini Venugopal, Deanna Yusoff, Geoffrey Palmer, Ann Fairbank, Bill Stewart, Sean Ghazi, K.K. Moggie/(147 mnt) / Much more than THE KING AND I without the music, this is a smart and splendidly decorated rethinking of Anna Leonowens's famous chronicle of her years as tutor to the royal family of Siam. Ostensibly hired by King Mongkut (Chow Yun-Fat) to teach his eldest son English and Western science, the prim Anna (Jodie Foster) arrives in sweltering 1862 Bangkok with her parasol held high and her convictions firmly in place. "The way of England is the way of the world," she assures her young son Louis (Tom Felton). But once ensconced behind the walls of the king's gilded palace, Anna learns the meaning of "culture shock." Confronted with the King's 26 wives, numerous concubines, brood of 53 little princes and princesses (with ten more on the way) and, worst of all, slaves, Anna realizes that the ways of Siam have little to do with the Empire, and, moreover, the King intends to keep it that way. Marauding death squads from neighboring Burma -- an English protectorate -- have been slaughtering his people, and he fears it may be the handiwork of encroaching British colonials. The sight of murdered bodies dangling from leafy palms is a far cry from "Getting To Know You," and parents should be advised that this is definitely not a sugary children's tale. Director Andy Tennant (EVER AFTER) transforms Anna's oft-told tale into a much more explicit critique of imperialism; here, the final tragedy of the concubine Tuptim (played with surprising power by Chinese actress Bai Ling) is the result of Anna's uncomprehending English meddling, rather than Siamese brutality. Freed from the generic confines of action movies, Chow cuts a dashing, romantic figure; Foster turns her biggest liability -- her hard, humorless demeanor -- into an asset, bringing an unexpected element of longing to her portrayal of the repressed widow. Writer Steve Meersom, Peter Krikes from Anna's diary Tata Artistik (Luciana Arrighi, Art Nursey, Mark Fisichella, John Ralph, Ian Whittaker), Costume Design (Jenny Beavan) [PG- 13]

Any Given Sunday ()- 1999 / Oliver Stone / Al Pacino (Tony D'Amato), Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz (Christina Pagniacci), Jamie Fox, Lawrence Taylor (Luther "Shark" Lavay), Lauren Holly, James Woods, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Matthew Modine, Aaron Eckhart, Jim Brown, Bill Bellammy, LL Cool J, Lela Rochon, Vanessa Struthers, Jim Caviezel, Andrew Bryniarski, Elizabeth Berkley, John C. McGinley, James Karen / (165 mnt) An extremely loud, often brutally realistic meditation on the power of money and testosterone in pre-millenial America. Oliver Stone looks at contemporary pro football with the cynicism of NORTH DALLAS FORTY plus the technical effects he pioneered in NATURAL BORN KILLERS: mis-matched film stocks, faster-than-the-eye cutting, pulverizing sound and music. Stone isn't grinding an axe as loudly as usual here, but he remains one of our least subtle filmmakers. As entertaining as much of the movie undeniably is, the story is slight for its length (most astute viewers will have predicted the ROCKY-esque fate of Stone's fictional Miami Sharks before the appearance of the Warner Brothers logo) and, as usual, his characters are somewhere between clichés and archetypes. Fortunately, by way of compensation, Stone handles his huge ensemble cast extremely well, getting terrific old-fashioned movie star turns from Al Pacino as a burnt-out head coach, Jim Brown as his philosophical assistant, Cameron Diaz as the ruthlessly bottom-line oriented team owner, Ann-Margret as her alcoholic mother, Jamie Foxx as a quarterback who hits the big time too fast, and Matthew Modine and James Woods as team doctors with radically different medical ethics. Stone also gets some great work around the edges from Lauren Holly, who's amazing as a sports wife from hell, and from SHOWGIRLS laugh riot Elizabeth Berkely, who's charming (and all but unrecognizable) as a hooker/groupie. Former New York Giants star Lawrence Taylor, however, nearly steals the picture in the small but pivotal role of a blocker putting his life, literally, on the line. [R] (wrt : Stone) (prod: Stone, Fonner)

Autumn in New York ()- 2000 / Joan Chen / Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Vera Farmiga, Sherry Stringfield, Jill Hennessy, J.K. Simmons, Mary Beth Hurt,Sam Trammell, Kali Rocha, Steven Randazzo / (105 mnt) If you've ever complained that they don't make melodramas the way they used to, you bear some karmic responsibility for this weepy, overwrought love story. When wealthy, middle-aged womanizer Will Keane (Richard Gere) spots Charlotte (Winona Ryder) celebrating her 22nd birthday in his chi-chi Manhattan eatery, he envisions nothing more than another notch on the bedpost. Will turns on the silver-haired charm, complements the ridiculous hats Charlotte fashions from pipe cleaners and bits of folded paper (her primary inspiration seems to be Dr. Seuss drawings) and whisks her away to a charity gala in a fairy-tale satin gown. The morning after this magical first date, he starts delivering an obviously well-rehearsed kiss-off speech. But Charlotte trumps him with the news that she's dying from old movie disease (OK, she has a neuroblastoma, but it amounts to the same thing), which is in no way spoiling any top-secret plot twist since it's revealed so early and drives every subsequent dramatic development. On the plus side, director Joan Chen captures a genuinely enchanted New York, glittering with Chinese lanterns and Christmas lights, and in a mere handful of scenes, Elaine Stritch delivers an affecting performance as Charlotte's embittered, once-wealthy grandmother (whose fabulous Greenwich Village townhouse would do a lot to lift most people's gloom). Newcomer Vera Farmiga, as the illegitimate daughter Will has never bothered to make part of his life, makes something very close to gold out of her brittle scenes with Gere. The trouble lies with the leads: Gere's dominant mode is petulant smugness, Ryder's waiflike charm is well past its sell-by date, and if they're not the most charmless doomed lovers of all time they come damned close. Their utter lack of romantic chemistry leaves a hole in this tear-jerker's heart that nothing can fill. Writer : Allison Burnett [PG-13]

Beach, The ()- 1999 /Danny Boyle /Leonardo di Caprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet, Robert Carlyle, Paterson Joseph, Lars Arentz Hansen, Abhijati Muek Jusakul, Zelda Tinska, Victoria Smurfit, Daniel Caltagirone, Peter Gevisser, Lidija Zovkic, Staffan Kihlbom /{Britania} / (118 mnt) / This slick thriller, which was plagued by production problems and a delayed release, never decides whether it wants to be an exotic, titillating episode of MTV's The Real World or a Gen-X Lord of the Flies. A disaffected member of the virtual generation, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) flees to Thailand in search of authentic experience, only to find himself stuck in a thoroughly commercialized, mall-style Asia, one packaged for youthful tourists — sorry, travelers — like himself. But the promise of something different is held out by a dope-addled waste case (Robert Carlyle) who calls himself Daffy Duck and commits bloody suicide after a single enigmatic conversation with Richard. Daffy leaves behind a hand-drawn map to an unspoiled corner of heaven on earth. Richard and an attractive French couple, Etienne and Francoise (Guillaume Canet, Virginie Ledoyen), make their way to the fabled beach and discover an idyllic commune led by the imperious Sal (Tilda Swinton). But Richard's affair with Francoise disrupts the hippie haven, and soon paradise is as rotten as an overripe mango. Alex Garland's bestselling novel is a brisk page-turner whose deceptively glossy surface is supported by carefully crafted thematic underpinnings and crammed with sharp characterizations. Doyle's movie jettisons much of the telling detail; it has the shambling rhythm of a shaggy dog story and so simplifies the characters' ethical dilemmas that it's hard to care what they do. And stripped of the careful grounding in Richard's petulant obsession with Vietnam War movies, the picture's obvious allusions to APOCALYPSE NOW and THE DEER HUNTER seem capricious and show-offy. A canny move for DiCaprio, whose morally compromised Richard is light years removed from TITANIC's Jack, the movie is a disappointment overall. It could have been a seductive fable with a concealed sting; instead, it's just a lazy moral tale. Sinema Darius Khondji, Editor Masahiro Hirakubo [R]

Better than Chocolate ()- 1999 / Ann Wheeler / Wendy Crewson, Karin Dwyer, Christina Cox, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Marya Delver, Kevin Mundy, Tony Nappo, Jay Brazeau, Beatrice Zeillinger, Peter Outerbridge/ {Kanada} / (104 mmnt) The not-so-incredible story of two girls in love. On the day 19-year-old Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) meets new girlfriend Kim (Christina Cox), she also gets a teary phone call from her meddling mother Lila (Wendy Crewson) that turns her life upside down. Lila announces that her second husband has left her for a much younger woman, and she's pulling up stakes and moving, along with Maggie's brother Paul (Kevin Mundy), into the spacious apartment Maggie claims to live in. Maggie suddenly has two big problems: She actually lives out of the back room of the lesbian bookstore where she works, and Lila has no idea that Maggie is gay, or that Kim, who moves in after Maggie finds a quick, convenient sublet, is Maggie's girlfriend. Canadian director Anne Wheeler and screenwriter Peggy Thomson further complicate the screwball set-up with several ancillary plots; by the third act they're juggling no fewer than four story-lines. They include subplots involving pre-op transsexual Judy (Peter Outerbridge), who's desperately in love with Maggie's boss Frances (Ann-Marie MacDonald); and a budding relationship between Paul and Maggie's bisexual coworker, Carla (Marya Delver), the girl who "likes all the chocolates in the box." Aside from a nice performanc from Outerbridge, only Lila, a bitter woman whose only consolation in her whole disappointed life comes from downing bon-bons and tormenting her daughter, is really of any interest. And when Lila hooks up with a vibrating marital aid, it becomes clear that Wheeler and writer Peggy Thomson have completely lost their bearings. The absurd denouement — complete with skinheads, a fiery explosion and a fairy-tale ending — is the inevitable wreck on the rocks.

B-Monkey ()- 1998 / Michael Radford / Asia Rgento, Jared Harris, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Rhys Myers/ (97 mnt0 / {Britania - Italia - Amerika Serikat} / A curious mix of flashy crime melodrama and sappy love story, this lurid thriller directed by IL POSTINO's Michael Radford has been knocking around for the better part of three years awaiting US release. London-based Italian waif Beatrice (Asia Argento) is an armed robber, a thief nicknamed "B. Monkey" for her skill at getting into and out of tight spots; she even has a monkey tattooed on her shoulder. She lives with Paul (Rupert Everett), a dissipated upper class drug dealer, and volatile street kid Bruno (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) in an emotionally complicated menage-a-trois, but is beginning to long for a simpler, more normal life. Her opportunity comes when she meets Alan (Jared Harris), a jazz-loving schoolteacher who spots her in a pub and falls head over heels. Beatrice abandons Paul and Bruno, tells her various other criminal cohorts that she's retired, and sets up house with Alan. But surprise: You can take the girl out of the underworld, but you can't take the underworld out of the girl. Gorgeous and dopey at the same time, this film is mostly notable for the English-language debut of Asia Argento, the grave, smoky-voiced daughter of Dario Argento, the Italian horror director. Argento is captivating; you truly can't take your eyes off her. Co-star Everett turns in a fabulously seedy performance as the dissolute Paul (the film was made before MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING landed him on Hollywood's A-list), and VELVET GOLDMINE's Rhys-Meyers is a study in razor-sharp cheekbones and rent-boy chic. But the love story is ridiculous, and the richly overwrought cinematography, while beautiful, further undermines whatever credibility the narrative might have had. Overall the film is a stylish lark with no resonance, a mean-spirited one-night stand of a movie.

Boys Don't Cry ()- 2000 / Kimberly Peirce /Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard,Brendan Sexton III, Alison Folland,Alicia Goranson, Matt McGrath, Rob Campbell, Jeannetta Arnette / (114 mnt) A harrowing dramatization of the final days of 21-year-old Nebraskan Brandon Teena, whose short life ended in brutal rape and multiple murder. Shortly before his 21st birthday, Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) blows into nowhere town Falls City, NE, bearing little more than a rap sheet and a way with the ladies. Brandon falls in with a rough crowd: volatile ex-con Jim (Peter Sarsgaard), Jim's buddy Tom (Brandon Sexton III) and

Jim's troubled childhood friend Lana (Chloe Sevigny). Kicks in Grand Falls are scarce — getting high, bumper-skiing" (clinging by a rope to the bumper of a reeling pick-up truck) and hanging out — but Brandon is smitten with Lana and sticks around. Lana falls hard for the tender, considerate Brandon, but there's something she doesn't realize, even after they have sex; Brandon Teena, born Teena Brandon, is really a woman. Once the truth is known, Brandon's dream world, a place where gender is open to interpretation, comes to a sudden, savage end. Since his 1993 death, Brandon Teena has become a flash point for academics and the subject of a perceptive 1997 documentary, THE BRANDON TEENA STORY, which offers keen insight into the culture in which Brandon died. Director Kimberly Peirce is more interested in emotional drama, the rush of an audacious, often reckless life lived on the edge and on the run. Swank's nuanced performance is remarkable and it's a powerful film. But Peirce's quest for some truth underlying this bewildering tale of lies, dissociation and deception leads her to fabricate a version of events that distorts what's known about the case; she even elides completely the death of a second witness to Brandon's demise. The result is a flawed but compelling cinematic corollary to Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song or Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, non-fiction fiction but with an emphasis on the latter.

Bright Shining Lie, A ()- 1998 / Terry George / Bill Paxton, Amy Madigan, Eric Bogosian, Kurtwood Smith, Vivian Wu, Donald Logue, Robert John Burke, Harve Presnell, Les Mau, Picharika Narabunchai, Ed Lauter, James Rebhorn, Jon Marsh, Kay Tong Lim, Jon Lafayette, RIchard Libertini / (Film Televisi) / [130 mnt] Working without his usual collaborator, director Jim Sheridan, Irish screenwriter Terry George (IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE BOXER) directed this made-for-HBO feature about a significant, but heretofore unheralded, figure from the Vietnam war era. The film unfortunately errs by going in too many directions at once. Subsequent to its premiere on HBO, the film was released on home video.

In 1962, John Paul Vann (Bill Paxton) is a US Army officer who requests assignment as an official observer in Vietnam. While there, he witnesses the haphazard manner in which the South Vietnamese army conducts the campaign against Communist forces in the North. Vann attempts to convince military brass that winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese is the only way to victory, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. Vann resigns.

In his personal life, Vann cheats on his wife Mary Jane (Amy Madigan). Professionally, he works at a desk job, but he soon wants to journey back to Vietnam. He joins a civilian aid program, under the command of General Weyand (Ed Lauter), and assumes the role of US "civilian advisor" to the South Vietnamese army. Vann and partner Doug Elders (Eric Bogosian) quickly learn that providing aid to South Vietnamese villages means bribing their South Vietnamese allies. When Vann refuses to go along, his Asian staff members are butchered and his village home is base bombed.

Weyand expands Vann's role to that of military advisor--in this way, Vann soon becomes a "commanding general" in charge of ten divisions of South Vietnamese troops (although still technically a civilian). As his stature grows, Vann becomes obsessed with beating North Vietnam's brilliant General Jiapp, causing friends like Elders and reporter Steven Burnett (Donal Logue) to feel that Vann has "sold out" his idealistic stance. After a hollow ceremony in which Vann is honored for engineering an attack on Jiapp's forces that in truth went horribly wrong, Vann is killed in a helicopter crash.

Those familiar with Paxton only from his recent nice-guy turns in films like TWISTER (1996) and A SIMPLE PLAN (1998), will be surprised by his nuanced performance here as the hyper-macho Vann, a career military man who can no more stay away from battle than he can stay faithful to his wife. Other standout performances include Bogosian as the civilian advisor and Vivian Wu as the schoolteacher with whom Vann has an affair. Amy Madigan has little to do but fret in the role of Vann's long-suffering wife.

Though George does seem at times to almost evade the actual subject of the conflict in Vietnam, detailing instead Vann's bumpy career and troubled marriage, the film's strength is its choice of subject: Vann had a bird's-eye-view of the conflict in Vietnam, and in fact has been heralded in recent years as a strategist who proposed policies (including the "hearts and minds" factor) that many believe might have won the war--or at least have ended it sooner.

George, however, does bow to cliches at various points in the proceedings: at one point, Vann drunkenly walks past a brothel where a Vietnamese hooker greets him with, "I really, really like you, GI." Been there, done that in a dozen other movies, most notably PLATOON (1986) and FULL METAL JACKET (1987).

In attempting to make A BRIGHT SHINING LIE the last word on Vietnam (Vann witnesses several seminal events at which he wasn't present in real life), George denies himself the opportunity to create a wholly original war film, one that gets inside the head of one man who was important in waging it. [R]

Carried Away ()- 1996 / Bruno Barreto /Dennis Hopper, Amy Irving (prod. exec), Amy Locane, Julie Harris, Gary Busey, Hal Holbrook, Christopher Pettiet, Priscilla Pointer, Gail Cronauer / )194 mnt) A near-moribund relationship between two small-town schoolteachers, Joseph and Rosealee, (Dennis Hopper and Amy Irving) is first threatened, then rekindled, by a concupiscent 17-year-old Chaterine Wheeler (Amy Locane). Directed by Bruno Barreto (DONA FLOR AND HER TWO HUSBANDS) from a novel by Jim Harrison (LEGENDS OF THE FALL), CARRIED AWAY lacks the charm of the former film and the visual sweep of the latter. Still, this melodrama features some decidedly steamy sequences, even if much of the simulated huffing and puffing is provided by stars from whom -- how shall we put this? -- the bloom of youth is fast departing. [R]

Cell, The ()- 2000 / Tarsem Singh / Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, Dylan Baker, James Gammon, Patrick Bauchau, Tara Subkoff, Catherine Sutherland, Jake Thomas, Pruitt Taylor Vince / (115 mnt) Of course you can't really divide form and content; the medium is the message, the telling is the tale and so on. But the flagrant disparity between this tale of the rush to save a woman from a sadistic serial killer and the visually inventive way in which it's told demands comment. Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is part of an experimental program to treat mentally ill patients so locked into their own minds that conventional therapy is useless. With the help of lots of drugs and cool machinery, the therapist actually enters the patient's mind, the mental transfer taking place while they're suspended from wires in a high-tech medical lab, wearing fetishistic rubber suits molded to resemble the muscle beneath the flesh, faces covered with cloths. What an image! And that will be your mantra throughout this film. The FBI has just captured sicko killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), who kidnaps women, drowns them in a fully-automated tank of his own fiendish devising, then bleaches their bodies until they look like porcelain dolls. Icky. Unfortunately, he's had a brain seizure and lies comatose, unable to tell anyone where the girl he just abducted is hidden. Unless Catherine can enter his twisted mind and extract the information, the missing girl will die. So Catherine steps into Stargher's mental chamber of horrors, which seems to have been designed by Salvador Dali, the Quay brothers, Damian Hirst and fashion photographers Pierre and Gilles. It's mind-bogglingly gorgeous in a totally trippy way; if this were the '70s, no one would see the movie straight (though the nastiness of the imagery is bummer material). The shame is that whenever you get hauled back to the story, it's impossible not to notice its debt to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The costumes are phenomenal, the set design ravishing and the sadistic inventiveness extraordinary; it's a shame it's all harnessed to a clichéd story, but hey — you can't have everything. Writer: Mark Protosevich, Cinematographer: Paul Laufer, Art Director: Geoff Hubbard, Set Decorator: Tessa Posnansky, Costume Design: Eiko Ishioka, Make Up: Michele Burke, K.N.B. EFX Group

CHAMELEONAn unexpectedly benign riff on PREDATOR, this made-for-TV sci-fi odyssey deals with a shape-shifting babe named Kam (Bobbie Phillips) who's only 99 percent human. Engineered by IBI executive Cortez (Philip Casnoff) to act as a corporate assassin, Kam is ordered to wipe out a married activist couple who've developed a credit chip that plays havoc with the profit margin of big businesses like IBI. Kam drives the chip's creators to suicide but cannot bring herself to kill the couple's child, Ghen (Eric Lloyd). Flooded with an inexplicable protective instinct, the artificially manipulated Kam disobeys Cortez and sprits Ghen away to a people's liberation army headquarters in the forest, where she falls for the group's underground leader, Mattheson (John Adam). Returning to the city, Kam discovers that Cortez is really a rogue operative seeking the chip for his own covert operations; she annihilates him when he threatens Ghen. With the resistance movement growing stronger, Kam is faced with a choice: Keep her job as a highly paid hit gal, or make whoopee in the glen with a guerilla Galahad. What's a synthetic woman to do? It's really not as sappy as it sounds: Kam's discovery of a nurturing, maternal instinct is a nice twist, and it helps that Lloyd (who appeared as Tim Allen's son in THE SANTA CLAUSE) isn't a typically precocious child star. The repeated Kam-IBI standoffs grow predictable and the action gets bogged down in empty moralizing, but director Stuart Cooper cannily uses nifty special effects to demonstrate how the chameleon-like mantrap eludes pursuers by fading into the background. Even the sci-fi phobic will enjoy charismatic Phillips, who makes her presence felt even when she's blending into the woodwork. -- Robert PardiU.S.

R90

Philip Casnoff , Bobbie Philips (Kam), Eric Lloyd (Ghen), John Adams, Mark Lee, Inga Hornstra, Anthony Neat, Jacky Miragliotta, Frank Whitten, Laurie Foel, Cormac Costello, Tara Jaksewicz, Gavin ColemanStuart Cooper, 1998

Special Effects:Brian Holmes

CLOSE MY EYES

Stephen Poliakoff, 1991

A superb British film, set during a summer heat wave in late-1980s London, CLOSE MY EYES examines the unorthodox relationship between a brother, his sister and her husband.

Since leaving home, Richard Gillespie (Clive Owen) has given up a well-paid job for one in the government monitoring rampant urban real estate development, while his sister Natalie (Saskia Reeves), whom he sees only occisionaly, has drifted from job to job, finally marrying the rich but stuffy Sinclair Bryant (Alan Rickman), who has made a fortune in, as he puts it, "trends and analysis," and lives in an opulent mansion on the Thames. Meeting Natalie and Sinclair for lunch, Richard is struck by the attractiveness and maturity of his sister, who has always flirted with him, and their natural affection for each other inadvertently develops into overt lovemaking. Although nearly as ardent, Natalie attempts to end the affair, which Sinclair suspects, throwing Richard into a depression that culminates in a failed suicide attempt. His frustration boils over into anger: he accuses Natalie of using him. But by film's end, he appears to accept the end of his obsessive love: the final image has Natalie and Sinclair walking off together, followed a few paces behind by Richard, into the season's first cool weather.

British writer-director Stephen Poliakoff (better known as a prolific playwright although he directed 1987's HIDDEN CITY) uses his incest theme absolutely without prurience (unlike, say, BUTTERFLY or Bertolucci's LA LUNA), as a forceful metaphor for the irresponsible, success-without-thought 80s, which is symbolized by the new gleaming glass and steel commercial buildings in London's Dockside redevelopment. The buildings also seem largely empty, with their interiors underlit, as if hiding their occupants from the glaring sunlight outside.

Poliakoff's characters are exceptionally well written, developing the movie's themes in expert detail, and the three performances by Owen, Reeves and especially Rickman (a British stage veteran who takes welcome leave from his delightfully sinister villains in films like DIE HARD and ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) are exceptional. Only occasionally overloading the dice (Richard's boss is dying of AIDS) and belying his limited screen experience, Poliakoff directs with nuance, sustaining the subtle air of tension and often surreal menace of his tale. Well mounted by producer Therese Pickard, the movie features exquisite production design by Luciana Arrighi and cinematography by Witold Stok.

Alan Rickman, Clive Owen, Saskia Reeves, Karl Johnson, Lesley Sharp, Kate Gartside, Karen Knight, Niall Buggy

Clueless ()- 1995 / Amy Heckerling / Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Dan Hedaya, Donald Faison, Elisa Donovan, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto, Aida Linares, Wallace Shawn, Twink Caplan (asoc. prod), Justin Walker, Sebastian Rashidi, Herb Hall, Julie Brown, Ron Orbach / [97 mnt] A gem. Director Amy Heckerling, whose FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) defined a generation of suburban proto-slackers, goes back to high school -- this time in Beverly Hills -- and the result is pricelessly fresh and funny. Cher (Alicia Silverstone, who's perfection itself) and her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) are both fabulously rich and, well, fabulous -- till they resolve to repudiate their shallow worldview and dedicate themselves to doing good. First task: the transformation of grunge girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) into a popular babe. The frivolous trendiness of these overprivileged teenagers is winningly portrayed, and Heckerling's version of teen-speak approaches poetry. There's scarcely a hint that kids face any problems bigger than chipped nails and mismatched accessories, but CLUELESS is impossible to dislike: It's as good-hearted as its bubbly protagonist. Can it really be based on Jane Austen's Emma? As if! [PG-13]

Crazy in Alabama ()- 1999 / Antonio Banderas/ Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Lucas Black, Cathy Moriarty, Meatloaf, Rod Steiger, Ricard Schiff, John Beasley, Robert Wagner, Noah Emmerich, Sandra Seacat, Paul Ben-Victor, Brad Beyer, Fannie Flagg, Elizabeth Perkins, Linda Hart, Paul Mazursky, Holmes Osborne, William Converse Roberts, David Speck / (111 mnt) A film so spectacularly wrong-headed you just have to marvel as it equates the wacky adventures of a ditsy murderess and the civil rights struggle. Shot in the lively colors of a Frank Tashlin comedy and kicked off by a bouncy credits sequence featuring Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walking," the story opens in mid-'60s Alabama. Thirteen-year-old orphan Peejoe (Lucas Black) and his brother Wiley (David Speck) live on their grandma's isolated farm, serenely unaware of the world's complexity until Aunt Lucille (Melanie Griffith) blows in, seven kids in tow. She's just killed her abusive husband Chester, and wants to pursue her life-long dream of Hollywood stardom. Lucille dumps her children on mom; Lucas and Wiley move in with their uncle Dove (David Morse), the town undertaker. As Lucille whizzes cross-country, chatting all the way with Chester's head (stashed in a patent-leather hatbox), Peejoe runs afoul of bigoted Sheriff Doggett (Meatloaf Aday). A group of African-American boys stage a sit-in at the town's white-only swimming pool and one winds up dead; Doggett swears it was an accident, but Peejoe knows better. The pool incident draws national attention, civil rights activists come to town, and Peejoe learns a hard lesson about doing what's right. Lucille, Peejoe and African-Americans in the segregated South are all looking for freedom; that's the logic behind the parallel stories, and it doesn't wash — in fact, it's pretty near offensive. And Griffith, starring in husband Antonio Banderas' directing debut, doesn't help; Lucille must win over men and women alike with her vulnerability and sweetly sensual charm. The affected, simpering Griffith isn't the least bit charismatic; frankly, between the harsh hair color — jet-black is singularly unforgiving — and the pillowy, over-inflated lips, her appearance often verges on the grotesque. Which, come to think of it, could be said of the movie as well. [PG-13]

January 11, 2000

CABLE GUY, THE

Ben Stiller, 1996

Our rating: 3

King of Comedy: Jim Carrey with Matthew

Broderick

Totally wired

Much of this dark farce, about the chaos that

erupts when a buttoned-down milksop (Matthew

Broderick) slips the Cable Guy (Jim Carrey) 50

bucks for free premium service, verges on the

unwatchable.

It's an uneasy hybrid of vulgar slapstick and

nightmarish comedy-of-mortification, and its

modest ambitions are entirely subordinate to

Carrey's manic mugging and capering. But it

soars above the plebian rudeness of DUMB AND

DUMBER by virtue of a few moments of excoriating

brilliance.

Although first-time writer Lou Holtz Jr.'s

awkward script could easily have been played for

light laughs, director Ben Stiller (REALITY

BITES) consistently brings out its darkest

implications. One keenly edited sequence

intercuts Carrey's vigorously lewd karaoke

rendering of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to

Love" with Broderick's seduction by a wanton

young woman (Misa Koprova). At once amusing and

appropriately discomfiting, it's a perfectly

balanced construct that could be toppled by a

single false cut, and isn't.

Carrey's Cable Guy, his personality formed

entirely by TV, is the neediest nerd of all

time, and his dismantling of Broderick's ordered

life is in the classic tradition of anarchic

comedy, complete with undercurrents of

class-based hostility and homoerotic menace. A

cruel clown, Carrey puts the belligerent libido

back in the sexless spazz character perfected by

Jerry Lewis, and exploits teasing as the

socially condoned form of torture it is. In all,

about a third of the film (most of it contained

in three extended sequences) is audaciously

funny and genuinely disturbing. The rest will

sorely test the devotion of Carrey's fans.

Country of origin:

U.S.

Genre:

Comedy; Thriller

Color or b/w:

Color

Production Co(s).:

Bernie Brillstein/Brad Grey; Licht/Mueller Film

Corp.

Released By:

Columbia

MPAA rating:

PG-13

Parental rating:

Cautionary; some scenes objectionable

Running time:

91

Jim Carrey

Cable Guy

Matthew Broderick

Steven

Leslie Mann

Robin

Jack Black

Rick

George Segal

Steven's Father

Diane Baker

Steven's Mother

Ben Stiller

Sam Sweet

Eric Roberts

Himself

Janeane Garofalo

Medieval Waitress

Misa Koprova

Heather

Andy Dick

Medieval Host

Harry O'Reilly

Steven's Boss

David Cross

Sales Manager

Amy Stiller

Steven's Secretary

Owen Wilson

Robin's Date

Keith Gibbs

Basketball Player

Tommy Hinkley

Basketball Player

Shawn Michael Howard

Basketball Player

Jeff Kahn

Basketball Player

Suli McCullough

Basketball Player

Jeff Michalski

Basketball Player

Joel Murray

Basketball Player

Andrew Shaifer

Basketball Player

Cameron Starman

Cable Boy

Kathy Griffin

Cable Boy's Mother

Jeremy Applegate

Medieval Times Serf

Adam Consolo

Medieval Times Serf

Michael Fossat

Medieval Times Serf

Kennedy Kabasares

Medieval Times Serf

Robert L. Rasner

Medieval Times Serf

Paul Greco

Raul

Aki Aleong

Karaoke Party Guest

Dona Hardy

Karaoke Party Guest

Lloyd Kino

Karaoke Party Guest

Sara Lowell

Karaoke Party Guest

Cynthia Mason

Karaoke Party Guest

Michael Rivkin

Karaoke Party Guest

Harper Roisman

Karaoke Party Guest

Sandra Thigpen

Karaoke Party Guest

Sean Whalen

Karaoke Party Guest

Marty Zagon

Karaoke Party Guest

Staci Flood

Karaoke Video Dancer

Mary Lee

Karaoke Video Dancer

Raydeen Revilla

Karaoke Video Dancer

Darlene Worley

Karaoke Video Dancer

Cynthia Lamontagne

Restaurant Hostess

James O'Connell

Bathroom Attendant

Douglas Robert Jackson

Bathroom Patron

Charles Napier

Arresting Officer

Christopher Michael

Arresting Officer

Charles Knox Robinson III

Steven's Lawyer

John O'Donohue

Prison Guard

Lydell M. Cheshier

Jail Inmate

Jason Larimore

Jail Inmate

Ahmad Reese

Jail Inmate

Emilio Rivera

Jail Inmate

Bob Odenkirk

Steven's Brother

Julie Hayden

Steven's Sister

Annabelle Gurwitch

Steven's Sister-in-Law

Blake Boyd

Steven's Brother-in-Law

Lisa D'Agostino

Newsroom Researcher

Tabitha Soren

Herself

Rikki Klieman

Herself

Robert Simels

Himself

Leonard Turner

Sam Sweet Judge

Carlo Allen

Sam Sweet Court Judge

Conrad Janis

Father "Double Trouble"

Thomas Scott

Sam at 8 years

Steven Scott

Stan at 8 years

Christine Devine

Anchor Woman

Mark Thompson

Newsroom Reporter

Wendy Walsh

Reporter Outside Courtroom

Marion Dugan

Robin's Neighbor

Bill Beasley

Nuclear Dad

Christine Beasley

Nuclear Mom

Adam Beasley

Nuclear Kid

Devon Beasley

Nuclear Kid

Barbara Babbin

Bar Patron

Frank Davis

Bar Patron

Julian Reyes

Bar Patron

Kyle Gass

Couch Potato

David Bowe

Helicopter Paramedic

Robert "Bobby Z" Zajonc (credited as Bobby

Zajonc)

Pilot Producer:

Andrew Licht

Jeffrey A. Mueller

Judd Apatow

Co-Producer:

William Beasley

Exec. Producer:

Brad Grey

Bernie Brillstein

Marc Gurvitz

Director:

Ben Stiller

Writer:

Lou Holtz Jr.

Cinematographer:

Robert Brinkmann

Editor:

Steven Weisberg

Music Composer:

John Ottman

Production Design:

Sharon Seymour

Art Director:

Jeff Knipp

Set Decorator:

Maggie Martin

Casting:

Juel Bestrop

Sound:

Nelson Stoll (mixer)

Special Effects:

Matt Sweeney

Sony Pictures Imageworks

Costume Design:

Erica Edell Phillips

Make Up:

Sheryl Leigh Ptak

Stunts:

Freddie Hice

Photo credit: Melinda Sue

Gordon/Columbia/TriStar

Dark Harbor - 1999 / Adam Coleman Howard / Alan Rickman (David), Polly Walker (ALexis), Norman Reedus (no namme) / (96 mnt) Wae []

The Debt Collector1999 - UK - 109 min./ Anthony Neilson /The first feature of Anthony Neilson, The Debt Collector is a dark contemporary thriller set in Edinburgh. The protagonist, Nick Dryden, has just been released from prison after serving 16 years for murder. In his youth, he was Edinburgh's most notorious and violent criminal, but his rehabilitation has worked wonders. Now he is a free man, married to a successful journalist and admired in the art world for his strikingly disturbing sculptures. But for Gary Keltie, the policeman who arrested him, life has been different. Depressed by the futility of his job and alone in the world except for his aging mother, he resents Dryden's new-found success and vows to sabotage it. There is one more person who is also obsessed by Dryden: the seriously disturbed adolescent gangster Flipper, although his reasons are not hatred but hero worship. The three men are on a collision course in this modern Scottish myth which exposes the extremes of human nature. -- Billy Connolly, Ken Stott, Francesca Annis, Iain Robertson, Annette Crosbie, Alistair Galbraith

ScreenwriterGraham Broadbent

DEEP BLUE SEA

Renny Harlin, 1999

JAWS had one vindictive shark chewing up unsuspecting vacationers; this effects-heavy action picture has three super-smart vindictive sharks chewing up thick-as-a-plank scientists. That's what we call progress. At the floating research station Aquatica, Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burroughs) is messing with things that man was not meant to know: She's looking for a cure for Alzheimer's Disease, which she thinks lies deep in the brains of sharks. About to lose her funding, McAlester sends most of the staff home for the weekend and, with a skeleton crew, prepares a flashy demonstration of her findings for corporate muckety-muck Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson). Need we say that it goes dreadfully awry, resulting in the bloody demise of one of her team (staged, incidentally, as a striking homage to Ed Begley Jr.'s CAT PEOPLE death scene)? And it just goes from bad to worse. The Acquatica is damaged, trapping McAlester, Franklin, shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Blake) and sundry chum-in-lab-coats deep in the facility's lower levels. The violent storm raging above has cut them off from help, and those sharks are doing some awfully smart and spiteful things... just what did McAlester do to their brains, anyway? The pitch was obviously JAWS meets ALIEN, but the whole is decidedly less than the sum of its parts. The situation is inherently suspenseful (add extra shudders if you have a particular fear of drowning), the pretty evenly-matched second-tier cast makes it a little harder than usual to call the order of devouring, and the sharks are worth whatever portion of the budget was spent on them. But the bottom line is that the characters are two-dimensional and the story is intensely formulaic: Run, splash, scream, repeat with variations. If that sounds like fun to you, get on line.

R

110 mnt

Devil in the Flesh- 1998 // (mnt) Steve Cohen / Rose McGowen (Debbie), Alex McArthur (Peter Rinaldi), Peg Shirley, J.C. Brandy, Phil Mmorris, Robert SIlver, Sherrie Ross, Ryan James Bittle, Julia Nickson-Soul, Krissy Carlson, Wendy Robie, Philip Boyd / 999 mnt) (( Dearly Devoted )) Waw [R]

Samuel L. Jackson, Saffron Burrows, Thomas Hane, Stellan Skarsgard, LL Cool J, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport

DEEP RISING

Stephen Sommers, 1998

ALIEN meets ANACONDA, by way of SPEED 2. Somewhere in the South China Sea, the luxury liner Argonautica -- a floating resort hotel crammed to the rafters with the vulgar rich -- is invaded by something very, very big and very, very nasty. Meanwhile, no-questions-asked entrepreneur Finnegan (Treat Williams) and his scrappy crew are ferrying a mysterious gang of thugs to an unspecified destination in the same general part of the middle of nowhere. Engine failure forces them to board the Argonautica, which is covered with blood and mysteriously empty, except for a few stray passengers and crew members hiding out in the vault and babbling about things on the loose. That covers the setup: Most of the picture's appropriately named running time is dedicated to following the dwindling band of survivors as they flee a Freudian nightmare come to life: slimy, snaky, fanged tentacle horrors that swallow people and digest them alive. Ick. Among the monster bait: mercenary creep Hanover (Wes Studi), the Argonautica's sniveling owner (Anthony Heald), glamorous jewel thief Trillian (Famke Janssen) and Pantucci (Kevin J. O'Connor), Finnegan's sad-sack engineer. Were things over at the 90-minute mark, this would be a tight, brainless thrill ride; as it is, it goes for one too many climaxes and wears out its welcome.

R

106 mnt

Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O'Connor, Wes Studi, Derrick O'Connor, Jason Flemyng, Cliff Curtis, Clifton Powell, Trevor Goddard, Djimon Hounsou, Una Damon, Clint Curtis, Warren Takeuchi

Devil's Arithmetic, The

1999

Donna Deitch

Kirsten Dunst (Hannah Stern), Brittany Murphy, Paul Freeman, Mimi Rogers, Louise Fletcher, Nitzan Sharron, Shelly Skandrani, Kirsty McFarland

95 mnt

TV

R

Jane Yolen (novel)

Robert J. Avrech (ske)

Dick

1999

Andrew Fleming, SHeryl Longin

Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya, Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Teri Garr, Ana Gasteyer, Devon Gummersall, Bruce McCulloch, Ted McGinley, Ryan Reynolds, Saul Rubinek, Harry Shearer, G.D. Spradlin, David Foley

95 mnt

The mystery of the 18-minute-gap in Richard Nixon's White House tapes -- and how it connects to the previously undocumented involvement of two teenage girls in the Watergate scandal -- is the subject of this political comedy. Betsy Jobs (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene Lorenzo (Michelle Williams) are high school students and best friends living in Washington D.C. in 1972. Betsy is pretty and popular, while Arlene is cute but a bit awkward. Arlene is obsessed with singing star Bobby Sherman, but that comes to a halt when she and Betsy get lost during a school field trip to the White House. A

chance encounter with Checkers the dog leads to the girls' meeting President Richard M. Nixon himself (Dan Hedaya). In Nixon, Arlene sees a strong, caring man who loves his dog, and she soon develops a furious crush on the president; Betsy is puzzled but remains supportive. Arlene's devotion to the president is rewarded when she

and Betsy are named official White House dog walkers; however, when Arlene and Betsy discover that Nixon has a foul mouth and a short temper and, worst of all, kicks his dog, they realize that the President is not all he appears to be. And when they overhear Nixon ranting about Bob Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch), a pair of reporters from The Washington Post looking for dirt on the President, Arlene and Betsy decide that they're happy to help. Dick also features Dave Foley as Bob Haldeman, Harry Shearer

as G. Gordon Liddy, and Ana Gasteyer as Rosemary Woods.

With better writing, this story of two teenage girls who accidentally become enmeshed in the Watergate scandal might have aspired to the level of such political satires as Dave, Bulworth,

PG13

Disturbing Behavior

1998

David Nutter

James Marsden, Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl, Steve Railsback , Bruce Greenwood, William Sadler, Chad E. Donella, Ethan Embry, Katherine Isabelle

83 min.

David Nutter made his directorial debut with this fantasy thriller, attempting a switch on The Stepford Wives premise. The Clark family moves from Chicago to Cradle Bay, and Steve Clark (James Marsden) is cautioned by Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl) about the separating factions at the local high school, where the Blue Ribbons, a club of robotic perfect students, rule. Gavin claims a conspiracy is afoot, and sure enough, he turns into an ultra-perfect himself. Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes) joins Steve in investigating, and they soon suspect school psychiatrist Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood), a neuropharmacology specialist. The soundtrack contrasts alternative rock with tunes by

Barry Manilow, Wayne Newton, and Olivia Newton-John. -- Bhob Stewart

R

Divorcing Jack

1998

David Caffrey

David Thewlis, Rachel Griffiths (Lee Cooper), Robert Lindsay, Jason Isaacs, Laura Fraser, Richard Gant, Bronagh Gallagher

UK / France / Ireland

110 min.

David Caffrey made his feature directorial debut with this British-French comedy-thriller adapted by scripter Colin Bateman from his own novel. In Belfast of the near future (1999), newspaper columnist Dan Starkey (David Thewlis) is walking through a park when he meets Margaret (Laura Fraser). He spends the night at her

apartment, returning the next day to find her whispering "divorcing Jack" just before she dies from gunshot wounds. When Starkey becomes the suspect, he flees, accidentally killing Margaret's mother. Visiting Boston Globe journalist Charles Parker (Richard Gant) steps

in to help his friend. Shown at the 1998 Cannes Film

Dogma ()- 1999 / Kevin SMith / Ben Affleck, George Carlin, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Alanis Morisette, Bud Cort Janeane Garofalo, Dwight Ewell, Ethan SUplee (suara), Guinevere Turner/ (96 mnt) / Make no mistake, Kevin Smith's talky, farcical comedy of cosmic errors is clever. But it's clever in a deeply juvenile way, like the high-IQ wise ass you knew in parochial school who rehearsed for a career in law by confounding priests with preposterous scenarios in which, technically speaking, it wasn't actually sinful to covet thy neighbor's wife or fail to honor the Sabbath. Cardinal Glick (George Carlin, a veteran Catholic teaser) is preparing to kick off his trendy "Catholicism — Wow!" campaign, featuring a friendlier image of our Lord and the restoration of indulgences, the spiritual get-out-of-jail-free cards that helped disgrace the Mediaeval church. Banished angels Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck), who've been languishing in Wisconsin, like that last bit; they figure on picking up their indulgences at Glick's Red Bank, NJ, church and soaring back into God's good graces. Unfortunately, the Almighty (Alanis Morissette) can't afford to be trumped on a technicality; if the angels return to Heaven, the world will cease to exist. So Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) is recruited to stop Bartleby and Loki, aided by Serendipity the muse (Salma Hayek); Rufus the 13th Apostle (Chris Rock), who was left out of scripture because he's black; and unlikely prophets Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself). Arrayed against them are spiffy demon Azrael (Jason Lee), the roller blading Stygian Triplets and a really disgusting excrement monster. Smith's sensibility owes plenty to comic books; grossness, grandiosity and easy irony are constantly elbowing each other for position. But he pulls off one hell of a trick, slipping more than a little preaching in between the sight gags and profane disquisitions on matters sexual. Say what you will about his sense of humor, genuine faith is rare enough in popular culture to make any sighting worthy of note.

Donnie Brasco (1997)

Mike Newell

Al Pacino (Lefty Ruggiero), Johnny Depp (Joe Pistone/Donnie Brasco), Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche, Zeljko Ivanek, Gerry Becker, Robert Miano, Brian Tarantina, Rocco Sisto, Zach Grenier

121 mnt (US), 126/127 (Eropa) An FBI undercover agent infilitrates the mob and finds himself identifying more with the mafia life to the expense of his regular one. (more)

R

Writing credits Joseph D. Pistone (book Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia) & Richard Woodley

Drive Me Crazy ()- 1999 / John Schultz / Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, Stephen Collins, Mark Metcalf, William Converse Roberts, Faye Grant, Susan May Pratt, Kris Park, Ali Larter, Mark Webber, Gabriel Carpenter, Lourdes Benedicto, Keri Lynn Pratt, Natasha Pearce, Derrick Shore, Jordan Bridges, Jacque Gray / (103 mnt) Sure, teen movies like teenagers tend to be self-absorbed, consumed by the rituals of dating and being popular, and a little annoying to anyone over the age of, say, 20. But this romantic comedy, based on How I Created My Perfect Prom Date, by popular young adult novelist Tod Strasser, is smarter and more engaging than it has to be. Nicole (Melissa Joan Hart, of TV's Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) is part of the in crowd, a bright, pretty, school spirit kind of girl who's desperate to go to the big dance with hunky basketball player Brad (Gabriel Carpenter). But Brad asks some cheerleader instead, so Nicole turns to next-door neighbor Chase (Adrian Grenier) for help. A sarcastic non-joiner who's just been dumped by his girlfriend (Ali Larter), Chase agrees to Nicole's plan, which calls for them to act as though they're dating until their sweethearts realize the error of their ways and come running back. To Nicole and Chase's mutual surprise, the scruffy boy next door cleans up into a bona fide hunk, who in turn realizes that under the scrupulously shallow, rah-rah surface, Nicole is still the same person who was his childhood soulmate. The romantic complications will come as no surprise, but Hart is the movie's not-so-secret weapon. An apparently effortless charmer, she's managed to resist being transformed into a buffed and styled to perfection Hollywood teen, and serves as living evidence that it is possible to be cool, smart, principled and pretty at the same time.

Drawning Mona ()- 2000 / Nick Gomez / Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Affleck, William Fichtner, Marcus Thomas, Peter DObson, Kathleen Wilhoite, Tracey Walter, Paul Ben-Victor, Paul Schulze, Mark Pellegrino, Raymond O'Connor, Will Ferrell,Lisa Rieffel, Robert Arce, Brittany Peterson, Marla Lasala, Philip Perlman, Melissa McCarthy, Brian Doyle-Murray / (91 mnt) / Is there anything so painful as a comedy whose every gag falls flat and then lies there, flopping like a dying flounder? The cast of this broad, mean-spirited farce gamely don hideous wigs, monstrous clothes and tool around in boxy little Yugos with vanity license plates, apparently hoping to run into a joke. Sadly, they never do. Mona Dearly (Bette Midler) is the meanest woman in boring little Verplanck, NY; her own family lives in terror of her sputtering rages. No one's sorry when she drowns after going off the road in her son Jeff's (Marcus Thomas) car; no one's surprised to learn that the brake lines were cut, and no one's especially anxious to find out who was responsible. Of course, that might be because just about everyone in town had a reason to do Mona in, including her battered husband (William Fichtner), his hard-bitten girlfriend (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Jeff's sad-sack business partner Bobby Calzone (Casey Affleck). Show tune-loving Chief Rash (Danny DeVito) must sort through this small army of suspects while helping his daughter Ellen (Neve Campbell) prepare for her wedding to Bobby. Since everyone involved seems to have proceeded from the smug assumption that low-class, small-town types are inherently funny — from the roots of their ghastly hair to the heels of their tasteless shoes — no one seems to have felt compelled to develop the film's plot beyond the pitch, "a white-trash MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS." Scenes play like sketches ("the smutty undertaker," "the folk-singing lesbian auto mechanic," "What really happened to Jeff's hand?"), characters are defined by their accessories and atmosphere is established through tacky songs of the '70s. The film fairly oozes condescending self-satisfaction, which might be less annoying if it were even remotely funny. — Maitland McDonagh [PG-13]

8mm () - 1999 / Joel Schumacher / Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Christopher Bauer,Catherine Keener, Myra Carter, Amy Morton, Jenny Powell, Anne Gee Byrd, Jack Betts, Luis Oropeza, Rachel Singer, Don Creech, Norman Reedus / (119 mnt) / Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is a surveillance expert on the rise. He's living the American dream with a wife, Amy (Catherine Keener), infant daughter, and a house in the suburbs of Harrisburg,

Pennsylvania. After the completion of an assignment for a U.S.

Senator, Welles is summoned to the house of a recently deceased

captain of industry. His widow, in settling his estate, has

discovered an 8MM film in her late husband's private safe. The

silent short depicts the apparent murder of a young woman by a

large, masked figure, what is known as a "snuff" film. Greatly

disturbed by the film's contents, the widow hires Welles to find the

identity of the woman and determine if she is still alive. Welles

finds the girl's identity and follows her trail from the time she

ran away from home to Hollywood. Once there, Welles meets adult

bookstore clerk Max California (Joaquin Phoenix) to act as Virgil to

Welles' Dante. As the two begin their descent into the world of

underground pornography, the detective grows more and more distant

from his family, as if he cannot shake the taint of the world in

which he now walks. Tom and Max eventually meet pornographers Dino

Velvet (Peter Stormare) and Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini). By this

time the detective finds he can no longer walk out of the inferno. Andrew Kevin Walker- Screenwriter Robert Elswit- Cinematographer Mychael Danna- Composer (Music Score) Mark Stevens- Editor [R]

Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, The (1995)

Christopher Monger

Hugh Grant (Reginald Anson), Tara Fitzgerald (Betty), Colm Meaney, Ian McNeice, Ian Hart, Kenneth Griffith, Tudor Vaughan, Hugh Vaughan, Robert Pugh, Robert Blythe, Garfield Morgan, Lisa Palfrey, Dafydd Wyn Roberts, Ieuan Rhys, Anwen Williams

Britania

99mnt

A romantic comedy about a town that wouldn't give up. A man who couldn't get out. And the mountain that brought them together.

When an English cartographer must tell a Welsh village that their mountain is only a hill, the offended community sets out to change that.

A gentle, affectionate portrait of a village in Wales

This film is a gentle, affectionate portrait of a village in Wales, its people and its Mountain. Within the village, there are long standing feuds and traditions. Then, two Englishmen arrive with a job to do and history is made. It may or may not be based on a real Welsh village. The writer and many of the names in the credits have Welsh sounding names. The scenery is beautiful and the characters are delightfully observed. It is a piece set at the time of the First World War. It has echoes of Under Milk Wood, of The Shooting Party, and of Clochemerle. Kenneth Griffith was memorable in Clochemerle and plays the Reverend Jones in this film. At first, Hugh Grant seems to be playing yet another floppy haired, romantic hero, but as the film unfolds, there is greater depth to his character. The harsh reality of mining is simply portrayed and we are reminded of the heightened need for coal in wartime. The Great War itself casts a shadow over the whole village, making the film poignant and touching.

PG

Writing credits Ifor David Monger (story) and Ivor Monger

END OF DAYS

Peter Hyams, 1999

Have you ever noticed that if you flip the notorious number of the Beast, 666, you get 999? In dreams and revelations, numbers often appear upside down or reversed, explains a brusque but learned priest, Father Novak (Rod Steiger). So forget that hooey about the anti-Christ's 666 birthmark and start worrying about New Year's Eve 1999, when the Prince of Evil will come to claim his bride. If that notion doesn't scare the bubble right out of your champagne, you're probably not the audience for this cross between THE OMEN and a Chick tract, in which the world is going to hell unless Arnold Schwarzenegger accepts Jesus as his personal savior. Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) is a suicidal ex-cop haunted by the murder of his family; he and his partner (Kevin Pollack) work for an NYC-based security firm, which gives him access to a lot of fire power that will come in very handy indeed. Hired to protect an expensively dressed Wall Street muckety-muck (Gabriel Byrne), Cane is plunged into a disturbing case involving a sniper priest and the beautiful Christine York (Robin Tunney), a young woman who's being tormented by grotesque visions and pursued by a squad of holy hitmen. Christine, it ensues, was chosen at birth to bear Satan's child, who must be conceived between 11 pm and midnight on New Year's Eve; Satan (in the skin of that nameless Wall Street guy) is hell-bent on making their unholy date. This could be devilish fun, but director/cinematographer Peter Hyams slows the action to a ponderous crawl, and for all the gray-on-gray production design and murky photography, the movie lacks a sense of bone-chilling dread. Gabriel Byrne seizes the occasional opportunity to make hay as the devil, seducing and tempting and being just plain wicked, but even he winds up smothered by the apocalyptic gloom.

R

123 mnt

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Robin Tunney, Rod Steiger

Writer:Andrew W. Marlowe

Cinematographer:Peter+Hyams

Erin Brockovich ()- 2000 / Steven Soderbergh / Julia Roberts, Aaron Eckhart, Albert Finney, Marg Helgenberger, Cherry Jones, Peter Coyote, Scotty Leavenworth, Gemmenne De La Pena, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick, Valente Rodriguez, Conchata Ferrell / (130 mnt) A true-life David and Goliath story, this entertaining; if predictable — vehicle for the blinding smile that is Julia Roberts is also essentially NORMA RAE brought up to date, which means the beleaguered title character, a twice-divorced mother of three with scant prospects, is a funny, foul-mouthed force of nature who always lands on her feet. We discover this fairly early, as Erin (Roberts) guilt-trips lawyer Ed Masry (the amazing eyebrows that are Albert Finney) into giving her a job, despite her complete lack of legal expertise. While working for Masry, Erin stumbles upon some medical records placed, mysteriously, in certain real estate files. Confused, she convinces Ed to let her investigate and discovers a cover-up: Contaminated water is the cause of devastating illnesses suffered by the residents of a small local town. With the help of her too-good-to-be-true biker boyfriend (Aaron Eckhart, a far cry from IN THE COMPANY OF MEN); the initially reluctant Ed, who'd been planning to retire; and the initally reluctant townspeople, who don't believe they have any real recourse, Erin winds up participating in one of the largest ($333 million) successful lawsuits in U.S. history. There are a couple of bogus red herrings en route to the never-in-doubt happy ending, but ultimately the story seems rather slight. That's partly because a good vs. evil saga needs interesting villains, and all this movie can come up with is a briefly glimpsed bunch of weasely Pacific Gas and Electric lawyers. Still, Erin is a great character, and Roberts — who seems to be having the time of her life — more than runs with her. [R]

Eye of Beholder ()- 1999 /Stephen Elliott /Ashley Judd, Ewan McGregor, Jason Priestley, k.d. lang, Patrick Bergin, Genevieve Bujold, Ann-Marie Brown /{Amerika Serikat - Kanada - Britania - Australia) / (( Voyeur )) / (107 mnt) / A self-consciously arty thriller, equal parts Black Widow and The Conversation, that's as meticulously deranged as its paranoid protagonist. A burned-out surveillance expert (Ewan McGregor) known only as "The Eye" stumbles onto the trail of an especially lethal femme fatale, Joana (Ashley Judd) while investigating a routine case. The Eye is already a shell of a man, devastated by his wife's abandonment many years earlier; not only did she vanish without a trace or a word of explanation, but she took their little girl. Somehow the violent femme (who acquires and sheds names, wigs and outfits with terrifying speed) and the missing daughter get conflated in the Eye's troubled mind. He can't bear to arrest her, even after he realizes murder is her way of life, so he follows her across country, hovering protectively in the shadows. Marc Behm's cult novel takes film noir cliches erotic fixation, lethal dames, world-weary detectives and pushes them to their absolute extremes, leeching out the veiled eroticism and replacing it with ice-cold alienation. Director Stephen Elliott effectively evokes the Eye's dislocated state of mind through exaggerated sound design, odd camera angles and movements and images that must be dreams or hallucinations but are photographed as though they were absolutely real. But he doesn't make the story resonate emotionally, perhaps because the fact that Judd and McGregor are obviously about the same age obscures the warped father/daughter dynamic (the novel's Eye is middle-aged, old enough for his missing daughter to be in her 20s). The movie's assets include an insinuating performance by Genevieve Bujold, who plays the creepiest shrink since Hannibal Lecter. One-time TV heartthrob Jason Priestly has a fine old time playing a bleach-blond sadist, while k.d. lang languishes in the role of the Eye's helpful co-worker.

Face

1997

Antonia Bird

Robert Carlyle, Ray Winstone, Steve Sweeney, Gerry Conlon, Leon Black, David Boateng, Lena Headey, Eddie Nestor, Steven Waddington, Christine Tremarco, Andrew Tiernan, Sue Johnston, Damon Albarn, Philip Davis, Hazel Douglas

Britania

110 mnt

Carlyle excels as Ray and the rest of the cast are equally brilliant in the parts although the all, inevitably pale in comparison to Carlyle, who shows why he is Britain's best young actor.

Writing credits: Ronan Bennett

FairyTale: A True Story 1997 /Charles Sturridge / Florence Hoath (Elsie Wright), Elizabeth Earl (Frances Griffiths), Paul McGann, Phoebe Nicholls, Bill Nighy, Bob Peck, Peter O'Toole, Harvey Keitel, Anton Lesser (cam: Mel Gibson) / {Britania} / (98 mnt) / (( Illumination )) / Writng Albert Ash (story) & Tom McLoughlin Two children in 1917 take a photograph, believed by some to be the first scientific evidence of the existence of fairies.There are two different points of view that FAIRYTALE's difficult story can be told: the children and the adults. Apparently, it looks like the adults will be far more interested than the children because of its long discussions about fairy sightings and its overly dramatic nature; this actually is the kind of audience this movie was shooting for. On the children's side, it is magical in the make-believe universe, but not without a couple of horrifying and sorrowful moments (the scarred-face soldier out of WWI, for instance), and may end up as boredom along the way. The fairies and their surroundings would have looked better on the screen if they appeared larger, but there some things to believe in, just as the opening scene tells you; they do exist as fantasy figures to enlighten a child's imagination. The two young girls pull off some charming performances, and some luscious scenery is vivid all throughout. FAIRYTALE should have been a real "family" fantasy picture in the way it is presented, but stands out its own way as a movie that focuses on a slight examination of sightings that is virtually unexplainable (almost similar to science fiction!). Children will most likely appreciate the fairies more than the movie itself. And where is Mel Gibson??? [PG]

The Fall () -1997 / Eric Shaeffer / Eric Schaeffer, Amanda De Cadenet, Francie Swift, Lisa Vidal, Roberta Maxwell, Jose Yenque, Josip Kuchan, Rudolph Martin, Rocket Redgrave / (94 mnt) A narcissistic, ego-driven gabfest courtesy of indie auteur Eric Schaeffer, who appears not to have figured out that therapy is cheaper than moviemaking. Everything rests on Schaeffer's shoulders: He's the writer, the director and and the self-serving star (a sort of poor man's Daniel Auteuil) of this exercise in wishfulfillment, which takes a Harlequin romance premise and tarts it up with generic erotic fantasy. Are we really meant to believe that Schaeffer's self-effacing yet conceited Michael Shiver -- a novelist turned New York cabbie -- just slays supermodel Sarah Easton (Amanda De Cadenet) with his sexual prowess and love of the little pleasures of day-to-day life? Their torrid affair -- complete with full frontal nudity of Schaeffer but, in a self-involved departure from the norm, not of de Cadenet -- is complicated both by Sarah's marriage to a rich, Italian pretty boy and by the fact that after her initial enchantment with slumming, she's ready to step back into her glamorous life. Schaeffer the wordsmith and Schaeffer the thespian love their combined voice; they appear to have ganged up on Schaeffer the director and convinced him to treat us to frequent voice-over readings of wretched poetry and overwrought love letters, composed and delivered during various dark nights of the soul. And when Schaeffer is done desecrating New York landmarks with his melodramatic excretions, he takes his self-loving ways to Paris. We

all know of the dangers of low self-esteem, but there's also such a thing as excessive self-esteem: Does the fact that Schaeffer is a sufferer mean the rest of us have to suffer too?

Fear and Loathing Las Vegas ()- 1997 / Terry Gilliam / Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Mark Harmon, Cameron Diaz, Katherine Helmond, Michael Jeter, Penn Jillette, Craig Bierko, Lyle Lovett, Harry Dean Stanton, Flea, Paul ROmano, Richard Portnow / (128 mnt) / What a strange, occasionally magnificent folly is Terry Gilliam's film of Hunter S. Thompson's mind-altering-substance-fueled kaddish for the '60s. By turns mordantly funny, horribly tedious and indulgent of the worst sort of self-indulgence, this astonishingly faithful adaptation of Thompson's account of three days of drug-crazed degeneracy in 1971 Las Vegas is both defiantly out of step with current times and obstinately hard to surrender to: The sound is mixed into a numbing jumble of words and sheer noise, the killer soundtrack is muffled, and every glorious, candy-colored image is undermined by some corched-earth shot of just-plain hideousness. Johnny Depp plays Thompson's alter ego Raoul Duke, who's sent to Vegas to cover a penny-ante dirt-bike race and, egged-on by partner in crime Dr. Gonzo (Benecio Del Toro, packing an astonishing layer of blubber gained especially for the role), uses the opportunity to live on reds and cocaine (hold the vitamin C), trash hotel rooms and generally behave as badly as can be. Depp's performance is saved from being merely an astonishing feat of mimicry -- he has Thompson's look and mannered speech down cold -- by his sneaky sense of physical comedy: Depp does positively Chaplin-esque things with Thompson's trademark cigarette holder (when he's surprised, as he often is, it springs to cartoon-like, exclamation-mark alert) and his ether-induced stagger should win him instant admission into the Ministry of Silly Walks. From the outset, Gilliam brilliantly uses Thompson's drug-induced state to establish the notion that there's no line between voice-over and ordinary speech: Thompson never knows whether he's thinking or saying things out loud. That clears the way for Depp to talk constantly, and the sporadic brilliance of Thompson's jaundiced observations occasionally shines through the self-serving, gonzo posturing. A peculiar and oddly haunting achievement. [R]

Finding Graceland ()- 1999 / David Winkler/ Harvey Keitel, Jonathon Schaech, Bridget Fonda, Gretchen Mol, John Aylward, Susan Traylor, Tammy Isbell, Peggy Gormley / (97 mnt) / Hollywood never tires of exploiting mythic figures in order to manufacture an uplifting, feel-good experience. Where once it was Santa Claus in MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, now it's Elvis Presley. Here, the chronically depressed learn

to alleviate suffering through an intermediary; thus a road picture about redemption via a dead (or is he?) celebrity. Riddled with guilt over the car accident that claimed his wife's life, embittered Byron Gruman (Jonathon Schaech) drives his crash-battered Cadillac convertible cross-country. Byron offers a lift to a stranger who claims to be Elvis (Harvey Keitel) en route to Graceland, and everyone Byron encounters believes this hitchhiker is the King who's returned from a long sabbatical. Even though the skeptical Byron repeatedly tries to ditch him, the ersatz Elvis pays to have Byron's car -- the symbol of its owner's moribund psyche -- overhauled. Outside of Las Vegas, Byron falls for Ashley (Bridget Fonda), a Marilyn Monroe impersonator; "Elvis" performs at Ashley's lounge show and wows the crowd. Although Byron finds a newspaper clipping that reveals his companion's true identity, he nevertheless drives him all the way to Graceland. Elvis disappears, but not before helping Byron start his life anew. However unforgivably manipulative it may be, this maudlin picture -- executive

produced by Presley's widow, Priscilla -- does manage to whip up a foam of saccharine steam. But does popular culture really need to turn

Elvis into a highway social worker, dispensing mini-miracles on Route 66? The film attempts to dig box-office gold out of formulaic mines already populated by the likes of ZORBA THE GREEK and AUNTIE MAME; once again, a larger-than-life figure resuscitates the Puny of Spirit. Sadly, Keitel lacks the requisite bravado stature. Although convincing as a buttinski impostor, he embarrasses himself with an on-stage Elvis impression which suggests a reasonable facsimile of William Shatner doing a rock 'n' roll infomercial. {PG-13}

Firelight

1997

William Nicholson

Sophie Marceau, Stephen Dillane (Charles Godwin), Kevin Anderson (John Taylor), Joss Ackland, Lia Williams, Dominique Belcourt (Louisa)

Britania/AMerika Serikat

103 min.

AKA Le lien sacre

Desperate to help pay her father's debts, Swiss governess Elizabeth (Sophie Marceau) agrees to conceive a child for an unknown British aristocrat (Stephen Dillane). In return for giving up her child, the landowner will pay her a small fortune. It all seems strictly business, but something undeniable happens between them during the actual act of conception. Though it's difficult, Elizabeth keeps her bargain and lets the nobleman have her newborn daughter. She copes with her grief and longing for the girl by painting and writing in a journal. Seven years pass and Elizabeth takes a job as a nanny to an unruly little girl, Louisa (Dominique Belcourt). Much to her horror, Elizabeth realizes that the child's father is the man she sold her baby to and that the angry spoiled brat before her, is her own. To

make matters worse, the girl's father Charles makes Elizabeth swear to keep the situation secret, for reasons that before long become painfully apparent. The presence of Charles's father Lord Clare, who has an unbridled penchant for compulsive shopping adds more tension to the already strained atmosphere. Though it is extremely painful, Elizabeth agrees to the terms and then sets about teaching her charge/daughter manners. Though a costume drama set in the early 1880s, Firelight deals with themes of surrogate motherhood, parenting and even mercy killing. -- Sandra Brennan

R

Nic Morris- Cinematographer

Fight Club ()- 1999 / David Fincher/ Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto, Van Quattro, Markus Redmond, Michael Girardin, Rachel Singer, Sydney "Big Dawg" Colston, Pat McNamara, Zach Grenier / (139 mnt) A bracing, mesmerizing, bitterly funny and deeply unsettling fable about disaffected, emotionally emasculated young men whose search for meaning leads straight to their inner bare-knuckle brawler. Fight Club is the brain child; make that brainless, testosterone-fueled gut child; of scruffy wild boy Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and a nameless, insomniac cubicle slave (Edward Norton). They meet on a plane, bond over the coincidence that they're carrying the exact same briefcase (though Tyler's is full of the chi-chi soap he sells to high-end boutiques, while our office peon's bag is packed with papers). A freak accident blows our protagonist's tastefully appointed apartment to kingdom come and propels him first into Tyler's pestilent house on the industrial side of town, and then into a bloody, sweaty journey of self-discovery that never goes quite where you think it's going. Faithfully adapted from Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Fincher's film is a brilliantly realized series of sucker punches, a philosophical howl disguised as a muscular guy movie. Neither Palahniuk nor Fincher is onto anything especially new: The plight of the post-feminist, post-war generation of men without fathers, coming-of-age rituals or meaningful jobs launched the Iron John movement and keeps an army of therapists in clover. But Palahniuk nails the searing alienation and directs it into something simultaneously horrifying and logical (not for nothing is he regularly compared to J.G. Ballard); in his hands Fight Club and its successor, the anarchic Project Mayhem, seem perfectly reasonable alternatives to spiritual suicide, one expense report at a time. Fincher translates Palahniuk's muscular prose into viscerally powerful images as fresh and invigorating as they are profoundly disturbing. He also gives Pitt and Norton the room to deliver what may be the best performances of their careers to date; Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf and Jared Leto are equally striking in supporting roles. [R]

Flawless ()- 1999 / Joel Schumacher/ Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Miller, Chris Bauer, Skipp Sudduth, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Nashom Benjamin, Scott Allen Cooper, Rory Cochrane, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Vincent Laresca, Karina Arroyave, John Enos, Jude Ciccolella, Mark Margolis / (111 mnt) It's hardly flawless, but this surprisingly grim comedy-drama is about as good as director Joel Schumacher gets. Abandoned by his wife and resigned to living among junkies, prostitutes and sundry lost souls at a seedy East Village residential hotel called El Palacio, retired security guard Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) suffers a debilitating stroke when he confronts a gang of gun-wielding thugs who've invaded a neighbor's apartment. As part of his rehabilitation, Walt's doctor suggests he take singing lessons; they'll improve his speech and raise his equally damaged spirits. So Walt; a gruff homophobe who never had more than two words to say to the flamboyant transvestite who live across the air shaft, one being "faggot"; swallows his disdain and approaches Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who plays piano at a local drag revue. Rusty is busy preparing for the "Flawless" drag ball, but agrees to help and is soon coaching Walt through "The Name Game." There's also bit of business involving a local drug czar's missing loot, hence the gun-wielding thugs. Amusing as it all sounds, there's an unusual amount of suffering going on here. Walt is suicidal and Rusty, for all her Miss Thing bluster, has a sneaking suspicion that she's little more than "a fat, ugly drag queen," one with an abusive boyfriend, no less. Schumacher's stylish films are only ever as good as his actors, but it's not De Niro who delivers the K.O. here; look to Hoffman for that. With a tired smile frozen on a mask of a face that can barely hide the self-pity and broken heart, he's extraordinary. This is a far cry from loud-and-proud empowerment of PRISCILLA or even TO WONG FOO; it's a throwback to the '70s, self-loathing laid on thicker than the grime on the El Palacio's walls. [R]

Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999)

Matthew Bright (ske)

Natasha Lyonne (Crystal/White Girl), María Celedonio (Cyclona), Vincent Gallo, David Alan Grier, Michael T. Weiss, April Telek, Bob Dawson, Jennifer Griffin, John Landis, Max Perlich

97 mnt

A girl escapes from juvenile prison with a 16-year-old serial killer in a twist on the "Hanzel Gretel" fairy tale. (more)

A modern version of Hansel and Gretel, "Freeway 2" is the story about a locked-up homicidal lesbian, Cyclona, who escapes with a fellow bulimic inmate, Crystal (named after her mom's favourite drug) to seek help from her childhood savior, Sister Gomez (played by Vincent Gallo). As they journey from the States to Tijuana they kill, steal, perform strange sexual acts, and, of course, have sex. I don't know what to think of this movie, it was very abnormal, but what was I expecting going to a Midnight Madness show at The Toronto Film Fest. I like Natasha Lyonne's performance a lot (much different than her role in another film fest movie "But, I'm a Cheerleader"), and it's almost on par with Reese Witherspoon's performance in the original "Freeway". The film, though, was not nearly as good as the original, but it had it's moments, and the gross out humour was hysterical. All in all, this is an average sequel which doesn't match the original, but is a must see for original "Freeway" fans and Natasha Lyonne fans.

R

Game, The ()- 1997 / David Fincher /Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katarina, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Tommy Flanagan / (128 mnt) / Director David Fincher followed the success of his dark and atmospheric crime thriller Seven (1995) with another exercise in stylish film noir, this time lifting the pallid atmosphere a notch to indulge in a fast-paced trip through the cinematic funhouse. Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a Scrooge-like San Francisco investment banker following in his father's Scrooge-like footsteps. On Nicholas's 48th birthday (the age at which his father committed suicide), his younger, free-spirited brother Conrad (Sean Penn) blows into town and gives Nicholas a special gift for "the man who has everything" -- a ticket to CRS (Consumer Recreation Services), a company that constructs games custom-fit for each participant to provide, as CRS salesman Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn) cryptically puts it, "whatever is lacking." Nicholas's secure life begins a downhill slide as CRS masterminds a series of elaborate pranks, harmless at first, that quickly become malicious and life-threatening. Stripped of financial resources and convinced that he can trust no one, Nicholas begins to wonder if CRS is a front for a more covert operation, and if the game is in fact an attempt to steal his fortune and leave him for dead. Determined to fight back

alone, Nicholas infiltrates CRS in order to "pull back the curtain and meet the wizard." The Game comes close to the kind of technical virtuosity and unerring sense of control found in films of Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott, clearly Fincher's influences here (the film includes visual references to both Blade Runner and The

Shining). Michael Douglas excels as the detached investment banker whose life is stripped away, piece by piece, before his own eyes.

Despite a truly preposterous ending, David Fincher's nightmare thriller is a tense, involving entertainment for most of its running time. Michael Douglas is an expert at playing the role of ...[R]

General, The ()- 1998 / John Boorman (ske) / Brendan Gleeson, Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Angeline Ball, Jon Voight, Eanna MacLiam, Tom Murphy, Paul Hickey, Tommy O'Neill, Brenda Fricker,

Eamonn Owens, Jim Sheridan / {Rep. Irlandia} / (129 mnt) / (( I Once Had a Life )) / <> In a small way, I'm almost glad that all films aren't as good as "The General". It's dripping with one of those intangible elements that seems to escape other films. Sheer quality craftsmanship and excellent storytelling. There's a very rich quality to this film. What we see on screen merely scrapes the surface of a full history that is eluded to but not entirely exposed explicitly, which is what I think works best to keep interests up. Just brilliant film work in every regard makes this story come to life. Crime, ethics, political standpoints and complex relationships. Martin Cahill, the film's central character, is the anti-hero thief, something of a modern day Robin Hood but much more visceral. I understand that John Boorman was allegedly one of Cahill's break-in victims. From what we see in the film, he remains constant to his own beliefs and principles, even if that means breaking the law at every turn. His schemes and plots to outwit the cops are so simple and effective you can't help but like him. He's very clever despite a lack of education, and he doesn't shift to the world around him as much as it shifts for him. His biggest weakness appears to be cream filled pastries. Even if he's been beaten, he won't allow his adversaries the pleasure of seeing him suffer in any way. I don't know how faithful the film is to the truth, history or the spirit of Cahill's actions. But one thing I do know is that the superb craftsmanship of this film should propel on to everyone's must see list, but that's not too likely to be. At least for North American audiences this film has many things going against it. It's in black and white. The Irish accents are thick and difficult to understand at times. It doesn't seem to have the sort of advertising campaign that it deserves. And worst of all, it appears to have unanimous critical acclaim. Often great films aren't hits, they don't strike a chord with the masses, but in my book, that's fine. You can only tell the quality of a great film in comparison to one that's inferior. Personal taste aside, this film is simply done extremely well. [R]

Ghost Dog: The Way of Samurai ()- 2000 / Jim Jarmusch / Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Henry Silva, Isaach de Bankole, Cliff Gorman, Victor Argo, Tricia Vessey, Camille Winbush, Gene Ruffini, Richard Portnow, Frank Minucci, Frank Adonis / {Amerika Serikat-Prancis} (111 mnt) Points for an interesting concept; demerits for the dull execution. Writer-director Jim Jarmusch's first feature since his brilliant DEAD MAN is an uneasy mixture of classic samurai adventure, post-Scorsese gangster drama, hip-hop sounds and stylings, and Jarmusch's trademark brand of deadpan cool. Too bad it doesn't work, even as the postmodern comic book it aspires to be. High atop a dilapidated building in a burned-out, boarded-up urban neighborhood, a hired gun known only as Ghost Dog (a low-key Forest Whitaker) lives in contemplative isolation as a latter-day samurai, a contract killer who follows the precepts set forth in the Hagakure, the 18th century how-to manual for aspiring Japanese warriors. Chief among its teachings is total devotion of body and soul to one's master; in Ghost Dog's case, that master is Louie (John Tormey), a small-time mobster who once saved his life. Louie hires Ghost Dog to whack a fellow wiseguy named Handsome Frank (Richard Portnow), who's been messing around with his boss's unstable daughter (Tricia Vessey). Ghost Dog carries out the assignment without considering the consequences. Handsome Frank was a made man, and mob boss Mr. Vargo (Henry Silva) and his lieutenant, Sonny (Cliff Gorman), demand retribution. Nothing could be further from the energy this sort of pastiche demands than Jarmusch's laconic style — perfect for the poker-faced comedy of STRANGER THAN PARADISE or death-trip mysticism of DEAD MAN, but numbing here. In reconfiguring ancient samurai legend as new-school gangster myth, Jarmusch draws heavily from all the right places — Hiroshi Inagaki's SAMURAI trilogy; Wong Kar-Wai's ASHES OF TIME; Seijun Suzuki's BRANDED TO KILL, which provides Jarmusch with his best visual ideas — but he makes the film all his own mainly by draining the life out of it.

Gone in Sixty Seconds ()- 2000 / Dominic Sena / Nicolas Cage, Giovanni Ribisi, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, Delroy Lindo, Christopher Eccleston, T.J Cross, William Lee Scott, Vinnie Jones, Grace Zabriskie, Scott Caan, Will Patton, James Duval, Timothy Olyphant, Chi McBride, Mike Owen / (119 mnt) A cynical, glossy remake of an obscure '70s cult item (a shoddy piece of filmmaking attached to a jaw-dropping, 40-minute car chase) and the epitome of filmmaking by the manual. This is a movie machine with all the moving parts on the outside, clicking and spinning and humming so vigorously that you might be hypnotized into thinking it's fun. Reformed car thief Randall "Memphis" Raines (Nicolas Cage) now runs a desert service station and supervises go-cart races. That is, until he hears that little brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) is in trouble; Kip tried to follow in Memphis's light-fingered footsteps, but screwed up a big job for a psycho named Ray Calitri (Christopher Eccleston). If big brother doesn't do something, Kip is roadkill. "Something" turns out to be grand theft auto on an especially grand scale: Fifty high-end cars in four days: Porsches, Jaguars, Ferraris and Aston Martins. So Memphis reassembles the old gang — mentor Otto (Robert Duvall), pals Donny (Chi McBride) and Sphinx (Vinnie Jones), ex-girlfriend Sway (Angelina Jolie) — and gets down to the business of boosting cars and dodging cops (Delroy Lindo, Timothy Olyphant) and crooks (led by Master P) who resent the competition. This soulless demolition derby takes two things from the original: the multicar, time-sensitive heist and the gimmick of code-naming the vehicles after girls — the coveted Shelby Mustang GT 500, for example, is Eleanor. Pains have been taken to pretend the story is character-driven, but the "characters" are just collections of tics and pro forma backstory; only Jolie and Jones (of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELLS), who come equipped with charisma to burn, make any real impression. And the car stunts are ridiculous, all lightning-fast editing and computer enhancement; by the time action is this far removed from reality, who cares? [PG-13]

Girl, Interrupted ()- 1999 / Jammes Mangold / Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Clea DUvall, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, Vanessa Redgrave, Travis Fine, Elizabeth Moss, Angela Bettis, Jillian Armmenante, Drucie McDaniel, Alison Claire, Christina Myers, Joana Kerns, Bruce Altman, Mary Kay Place, Ray Baker, Kurtwood Smith / (127 mnt) / HEATHERS made Winona Ryder the pallid patron saint of smart-mouthed teenage misfits; this adaptation of Susanna Kaysen's memoir of mental turmoil could make her the wide-eyed icon of the morose and self-destructive. In the late '60s, 18-year-old Kaysen (Ryder), paralyzed by alienated frustration, is persuaded to check into a mental hospital, where she's diagnosed as having a "borderline personality." Her fellow patients include secretive Daisy (Brittany Murphy), whose eating disorder springs from an unhealthy relationship with her father; sweet-natured Polly (Elizabeth Moss), disfigured by self-inflicted burns; compulsive liar Georgina (Clea Duvall) and anorexic Janet (Angela Bettis). And then there's willful, defiant Lisa (Angelina Jolie), whose enchanting, wild-child charisma masks sociopathic self-centeredness; she's the flame to which Susanna is inexorably drawn. There's very little plot, and director Mangold's attempts to make a connection between the social confusion of the '60s and Susanna's inner turmoil don't really work. The film's strength lies in the generally sensitive performances delivered by the ensemble cast. Kaysen's book apparently struck some deep, personal chord in Ryder; she committed to the project early and stuck with it throughout an attenuated development process; ironically, she plays its most passive role. Because the introverted Susanna is so recessive, it's easy to lose patience with her troubles many (if not most) teenage girls are plagued by self-doubt and the sensation of drowning in complex and contradictory expectations; most aren't as smart and financially secure as Kaysen, or as beautiful as Ryder. Jolie, on the other hand, plays Lisa as a seductive monster; with her pillowy lips and cocky posture, she's like some demon of lethal sensuality. It's a stunning performance, though perhaps better suited to an erotic horror film (say, any of Barbara Steele's Italian films of the '60s); when Jolie's onscreen, everyone else might as well lie down and play dead. Winona Ryder (exec. prod), Kaysen (assoc. prod.) [R]

Girls in Prison ()- 1998 / John McNaughton /Missy Crider, Ione Skye, Anne Heche, Bahni Turpin, Nicolette Scorsese, Jon Polito, Nestor Serrano, Miguel Sandoval, Richmond Arquette, Raymond O'Connor, Tom Towles, William Boyet, Angie Ray McKinnie, Ralph Meyering, Diane Mc Gee, Letitia Hicks, Patrick McCormack / (83 mnt) / Originally produced for Showtime's uneven series of remakes of 1950s AIP B features (titled "Rebel Highway"), this densely plotted women's prison picture is something different--a tongue-in-cheek melodrama that spoofs the babes-behind-bars subgenre, action-movie cliches, and various '50s phenomena including the McCarthy witchhunts. Compulsively watchable trash, the film may have been directed by John McNaughton, but its over-the-top tendencies bear the clear imprint of its coscripter, legendary filmmaker Sam Fuller.

In the 1950s, three girls become friendly while serving time in prison. They are: Melba (Bahni Turpin), who murdered a Red-baiting TV commentator for exploiting a photo of her soldier brother's corpse on his show; Carol (Ione Skye), a playwright, who was made so disraught by the failure of her anti-McCarthy play and her actor-father's having fallen into a coma, that she impulsively killed a barroom loudmouth; and country singer-songwriter Aggie (Missy Crider), accused but innocent of having murdered a record company executive, Boss Johnson (Jon Polito), who got physical with her. The three young women form a clique with a fourth member, the impressionable Suzy (Nicolette Scorsese).

When a riot breaks out in the prison yard, Melba and Carol protect Aggie from a "hitgirl," and warn her that there is a contract out on her life. On the outside, Aggie's song "Endless Sleep" has been turned into a hit, after having been taken from Johnson's office by the scheming Benito Borcelino (Nestor Serrano) and Johnson's associates Jennifer (Anne Heche) and Miranda (Angie Ray McKinney). Melba's restaurant-owner friend, Lum Fong (Harvey Chao) recruits a private detective, Lucky (Miguel Sandoval) to investigate Aggie's case. Little does Lucky (or anyone else) know that Suzy is in fact the next designated "hitgirl"--Borcelino (who is, in fact, Suzy's boyfriend) asks her to kill Aggie as a favor to him. After a strip-tease performance for the prison inmates, a riot breaks out and Suzy is unmasked; she kills herself in shame.

When Lucky roughs up Borcelino, he finds out who is behind the frame-up of Aggie: Jennifer, who not only killed Johnson, but is also a full-blown sociopath. At the same instant, Jennifer is getting herself arrested and placed in the same prison as Aggie. In a move to protect Aggie and flush out a possible "hitgirl," the prison authorities decide to hold a potato-sack race in the prison yard. As the race becomes a shambles, Jennifer tries to kill Aggie, but is instead forced by the young country singer to confess, and thus vindicate Aggie of the killing of Boss Johnson, in full view of the prison populace.

"Hitgirls"? A newscaster bludgeoned to death on live TV in the 1950s? An experimental play in which a character condemns McCarthy to his face--performed while the Senator was still in ascendence? A striptease show in a women's prison? A potato sack race? GIRLS IN PRISON is an incredibly imaginative, and at points downright bizarre, concoction that has nothing to do with its namesake, a 1956 potboiler about teens in trouble. Fuller's presence as a coscripter--he wrote the screenplay along with his actress wife Christa Lang--is curious, given the low-profile nature of his contribution to this made-for-cable project (this was the last Fuller screenplay filmed during his lifetime). Fuller's involvement is also unusual for the very fact that the film is first and foremost a campfest. No matter how absurd the occurrences are in Fuller's work as a filmmaker (SHOCK CORRIDOR, THE NAKED KISS) he rarely, if ever, played them for intentional laughs.

Perhaps this emphasis on humor is more Lang's contribution than Fuller's, but it can be said for director McNaughton that he does deliver the requisite prison-picture brutality at several points--in fact, the movie more often resembles '80s fare like THE CONCRETE JUNGLE (1982) and THE NAKED CAGE (1986) more than it does a seminal 1950s entry in the genre like WOMEN'S PRISON (1955). McNaughton also makes impressive use of a gaudy color scheme and faux-noir lighting patterns (nearly every set contains a shadow cast by venetian blinds or prison bars).

The performers give their roles the proper level of cartoonish intensity, with Missy Crider qualifying as a properly simpering lead, and Anne Heche stealing the show as the psychotic villainess. Her sincere approach to such an outrageously overwrought role (recalling her work in the equally insane WILD SIDE) is one of the film's closest ties to the Fuller tradition. [R]

Glory Daze ()- 1996 / Rich Wilkes / Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Vinnie DeRamus, Spalding Gray, Vien Hong, Matthew McConaughey, Alyssa Milano, John Rhys-Davies, Sam Rockwell, French Stewart, Megan Ward, Mary Woronov / (93 mnt) /"El Rancho," a sort of punk rock Animal House, is the setting for this college drama. Five roommates live in this group house on the cusp of college graduation. Jack (a mohawk-wearing Ben Affleck) is an art major pining over his ex-girlfriend, while Rob (Sam Rockwell) fears domestication after graduation. The artist of a popular campus comic strip, Mickey (Vinnie DeRamus), is still too shy to talk to girls. Slosh (Vien Hong) is an A-student who gave up his education in favor of drinking and partying. The elder of the crew is Dennis (French Stewart), who, despite the wisdom and advice he offers to his younger housemates, is unaware of the less-than-academic attentions of his professor (John Rhys-Davies). The five consider whether they can postpone their lives to stay for one more year. The

film missed the trend in Generation X films (Reality Bites, Singles, Kicking and Screaming) by a few years; as a result, the punk characters and soundtrack of this latecomer probably provide a more authentic atmosphere. The rowdy debauchery distinguishes itself through genuine honesty -- drinking and destroying furniture may not be the healthiest way to deal with youthful angst, but it is certainly popular. Spalding Gray, Matt Damon, and Matthew McConaughey make interesting cameo appearances.

R

Godmoney ()- 1997 / Darren Doane (co skr with Atkins) / Rick Rodney (Nathan), Bobby Field, Christi Allen, Stewart Teggart, Chad Nell, Sean Atkins, Fletcher Dragge / (94 mnt) / Seorang [R]

The Grotesque ()- 1995 / John Davidson / Alan Bates, Theresa Russell, Sting, Trudie Styler, Maria Aitken, Jim Carter, Michael Cronin, Richard Durden, James Fleet, Bob Goody, Lena Headey, David Henry, Edward Jewesbury, Timothy Kightley, Nick Lucas, Steven Mackintosh, Anna Massey, John Mills, Annette Badland, Chris Barnes, Jeffry Wickham / {Britania} / (( Grave Indiscretion )), (( Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets )) / (97 mnt) / The Grotesque (aka Grave Indiscretion, aka Gentleman Don't Eat Poets) is a very black, very British comedy that puts an unusual and perversely entertaining spin on the classic tea-cup-and-intrigue mystery. Sir Hugo Coal (Alan Bates) is a grumpy, eccentric English gentleman (and self-styled paleontologist) obsessed with reconstructing a dinosaur skeleton with bones dredged up from a nearby moor. He is also penniless, and so must live vicariously off the inheritance of his smoldering American wife Harriet (Theresa Russell). Enter: the crafty and secretive Fledge (Sting) and his wife and co-conspirator Doris (Trudie Styler) the new Coal family servants. Fledge immediately sets his sights on Harriet and the Coal fortune, Doris on the household wine cellar. When Hugo and Harriet's daughter Cleo (Lena Headey) announces her engagement to demure poet Sidney Giblet (Steven Mackintosh), Hugo is less than pleased, but not for long, since Sidney is murdered soon after and, we learn, his body gruesomely disposed of. As the rivalry between Fledge and Hugo escalates, Cleo, the police, and the poet's shrewd mother Mrs. Giblet (Anna Massey) follow a trail of clues from the swampy, bone-littered moor to the Coal pig sties and finally (rather horribly) back to the Coal dinner table. Though criticized for its irreverent humor and somewhat ambiguous ending, The Grotesque is worth a watch. Sting and his real-life partner Trudie Styler (who co-produced the film) are both wonderful as the loathsome, manipulative servants, as is Anna Massey as the poet's investigative mother. The real stars of the film, however, are not the actors, but the dense, ornamental interiors provided by Jan Roelfs and Michael Seirton. Every corner of the Coal mansion is littered with artifacts and art objects, every frame crawling with worms, frogs, and reptiles. Like a Dutch still life, The Grotesque is simultaneously repellent and attractive, a painterly assemblage of morbidity and

dramatic artifice. -- Anthony Reed

Trudie Styler- Producer

Patrick McGrath- Screenwriter

Andrew Dunn- Cinematographer

Anne Dudley- Composer (Music Score)

Green Mile, The ()- 1999 / Frank Darabont (+ske.) / Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, Graham Greene, Bonnie Hunt, Patricia Clarkson, Doug Hutchison, Jefrey DeMunn , Harry Dean Stanton, Gary SInise, William Sadler, Brent Briscoe/ (187 mnt) / Pure corn, so beautifully crafted and emotionally satisfying that surrender to its cliches is easy, even though they're recycled from pretty much every life-affirming prison movie ever made. Adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel, originally published in serialized form, the story is set in 1935 Louisiana, where Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) supervises Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row inmates they call his beat, E Block, the "Green Mile" in deference to the color of the faded linoleum floor. Under Edgecomb's calm and fair-minded direction, the Mile is a pretty decent place for the end of the line, despite inevitable irritants like sadistic guard Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), whose connections keep him from being fired. But everything changes when John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives to await execution. A massive black man, seven feet of pure muscle criss-crossed with scars, Coffey has the demeanor of a sweet-natured child; his manner is disturbingly at odds with his conviction for raping and murdering two little girls. As Edgecomb gets to know his new charge, he begins to suspect there's more to this gentle giant than meets the eye... much more; Edgecomb begins to believe that Coffey has been touched by the hand of God, who surely wouldn't waste His bounty on a baby killer. King has two basic modes, ooga-booga and misty-eyed sentimental; Green Mile is firmly in the latter camp. The material is derivative and pandering; everything plays out the way you want it to, which isn't always the way it should (the fate of clever mouse Mr. Jingles is the perfect example). But Frank Darabont (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) directs in classic Hollywood style, smooth and self-effacing, and his cast does the same; their modest, on-the-money performances, which look effortless because they're so meticulously thought out, make the hours fly by. [R]

The Haunting ()- 1999 / Jan de Bont/ Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, Owen C. Wilson, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes, Alix Koromzay, Todd Field, Virginia Madsen / 112 min. / In the 1860's, industrialist Hugh Crain financed the construction of Hill House, a beautiful but forbidding mansion where Crain hoped to house a wife and children. However, Crain died an unexplained death at Hill House, and ever since tales have circulated that the mansion is haunted by evil spirits. 130 years later, Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), long fascinated by the Hill House legend, brings three people there for what he tells them will be a study in sleep disorders. Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is outwardly brave, but it soon becomes evident that Hill House's sinister reputation has her on edge. Luke (Owen Wilson) quickly finds himself wondering: if this is really about studying sleep, why bring everyone to a haunted house? And Nell (Lili Taylor) finds herself inexplicably drawn to the mansion, with a fascination that soon bears terrifying fruit as the true story of Hill House is revealed. The Haunting was directed by Jan de Bont; the screenplay was written by David Self and based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting Of Hill House, which was also the basis for Robert Wise's 1963 film The Haunting, widely regarded as one of the screen's finest ghost stories. Jerry Goldsmith- Composer (Music Score) [PG13]

Heart ()- 1999 / Charles McDougall / Saskia Reeves, Christopher Eccleston, Kate Hardie, Rhys Ifans, Bill Paterson. Anna CHancellor, Matthew Rhys / (84 mnt) / Jimmy McGovern (ske.)Maria Ann McCardle (Reeves), Gary Ellis (Eccleston), Tess (Hardie), Alex (Ifans) [R]

Heaven ()- 1998 / Scott Reynolds (+skr.) / Martin Donovan (Robert Marling), Danny Edwards, Richard Schiff (Stanner), Joanna Going (Jennifer Marling), Patrick Malahide, Karl Urban, Jeremy Birchall, Clint Sharplin, Michael Langley / (103 mnt) /One of the best films i've seen this year. unfortunately nobody got a chance to see it because harvey and bob over at miramax decided to release it on only ONE screen. it's sad that they didn't have faith in it. martin donovan is absolutely incredible in it. it's a really remarkable film - it has the most innovative narrative structure i have seen in a film in years (including pulp fiction). It's a brilliant film - rent it when it comes out on video. [R]

Hideous Kinky () - 1998 / Gillies MacKinnon / Kate Winslet, Saïd Taghmaoui, Bella Riza, Carrie Mullan, Pierre Clémenti, Sira Stampe, Abigail Cruttenden,Ahmed Boulane, Michelle Fairley, Kevin McKidd /

{Britania - Prancis} / (97 mnt) / Gillies MacKinnon directed this $5.6 million production with a screenplay by his brother, Billy MacKinnon. The film adapts the 1992 autobiographical novel by Esther Freud (Sigmund Freud's granddaughter) about hippie misadventures in North Africa in 1972, as described by a five-year-old girl. Disenchanted with the dreary conventions of English life, 25-year-old Julia (Kate Winslet) heads for Morocco with her children, six-year-old Lucy (Carrie Mullan) and precocious eight-year-old Bea (Bella Riza). Living at a low-rent Marrakesh hotel, the trio survives on the sale of hand-sewn dolls and a few checks from the girls' father, a London poet who also has a child by another woman. After the girls match their mother with gentle Moroccan acrobat and con man Bilal (Said Taghmaoui), sexual

gears are set in motion, and he moves in, serving as a surrogate father. Julia's friend Eva (Sira Stampe) urges Julia to study in Algiers with a revered Sufi master at a school of "the annihilation of the ego," and in another sequence European dandy Santoni invites

Julia and the girls to his villa. As finances dwindle, Julia's philosophy is "God will provide," although usually it's Bilal who provides. This film was shot October-November 1997 in Morocco, where Winslet caught a stomach bug. Back in London, she went directly into

the hospital and thus missed Titanic's London premiere. The score blends North African music with British-American pop hits of the '60s. The film's title derives from a word game played by the girls. Shown at the 1998 Dinard Festival of British Cinema and the 1998 London Film Festival. -- Bhob Stewart

Hideous Kinky joins A Walk on the Moon in looking at the late Sixties sexual revolution from a female perspective, a vantage point from which the great experiment went somehow ...read more [R]

Highway Hitcher ()- 1998 / Kurt Voss (+ske.) / William Forsythe, James LeGros, Elizabeth Pena, Jamie Kennedy, John DOe, Jaason Simmons, Michael McKean, Nancy Allen / (( The Pass )) / (90 mnt) / I can't see this movie's point. I mean... the story is terrible, the acting ridiculous and the direction very, very lame. So I can't see how did the writer and director wanted to convince us that this movie was good. If they tried to make something scary they failed (R)

Henry. Portrait of a Serial Killer II. Mask of Sanity ()- 1998 / Chuck Parello (wrt., prod.) /Neil Giuntoli, Rich Komenich, Kate Walsh, Carri Levinson, Daniel Allar, Penelope Milford / (85 mnt) / This eminently respectable follow-up to John McNaughton's shocker is a chilling exploration of miserable malaise that unfolds at the intersection of blue-collar despair and stone psychosis. Like the first HENRY, it opens with a grisly, deeply unsettling montage of dead bodies: men and women, young and not young, strangled, stabbed and suffocated at home, in wooded thickets and in vacant lots. Unrepentant serial killer Henry (Neil Giutoli), a nondescript lug with an unsettlingly bland face, is introduced as he prepares to murder an anonymous woman (Penelope Milford) for no apparent reason. Having seen the first film sheds little light into the darkness of his psychosis: Henry (inspired by controversial real-life killer and pathological liar Henry Lee Lucas) just kills people: It's what he does. He drifts into a job delivering and servicing Porta-Johns, and is taken in by married coworkers Kai (Rick Komenich) and Cricket (Kate Walsh). Kai, Henry soon learns, moonlights as an arsonist -- "I'm no firebug," he explains testily. "It's all about money" -- and teaches Henry the ins and outs of burning things; Henry introduces Kai to killing. Like its predecessor, this morose little horror show is surprisingly character-driven, though the characters are a singularly unpleasant lot, working-class outcasts just a step away from brutal criminality. Cricket is a sullen slut and Kai is a thug. Their boss, Rooter (Daniel Allar), slips LSD into people's drinks for a laugh. Cricket's artsy niece Louisa (Carri Levinson), who falls for Henry, is a loon who's tormented by visions of her junkie mom covered with worms. But the cast all give their characters more depth and shading than you'd expect: Walsh is particular noteworthy as the foul-mouthed Cricket. Giutoli, stepping into Michael Rooker's boogeyman shoes, isn't as bone-chillingly creepy as his predecessor, but does a more than creditable job. [R]

High Fidelity ()- 2000 / Stephen Frears / John Cusack (co-prod.), Iben Hjelje, Todd Luiso, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Chaterine Zetta-Jones, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Chris Rehmann, Ben Carr, Lili Taylor, Joelle Carter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Shannon Stillo,Drake Bell, Laura Whyte, Sara Gilbert, Chris Bauer, K.K. Dodds, Bruce Springsteen, Beverly D'Angelo / (107 mnt) True or false: Any movie whose opening sequence features the 13th Floor Elevator's 1966 regional hit "You're Gonna Miss Me" is by definition terrific. If you answered true, you're probably primed for director Stephen Frear's adaptation of Nick Hornby's cult novel about music geeks and the women that love them. In which case, you'll be pleased to know that despite a setting change (the film takes place in Chicago, not Hornby's London), the end result is completely faithful to its source, and, for good measure, one of the sharpest and emotionally resonant romantic comedies in what seems like years. The action centers around a tragically hip record store called Championship Vinyl. Owner Rob (John Cusack, never better) is music-obsessed and a flop with chicks, the sort of guy who alternates between compiling Top Five lists of opening album tracks and Top Five lists of girlfriends who dumped him, most recently the lovely and too-good-for-him Laura (Iben Hjejle). Meanwhile, Rob's two assistants, the loutish Barry (cult fave Jack Black) and the preternaturally geeky Dick (Todd Louiso), are even more insufferable in their insularity, the sort of snobs who'll cut a customer dead if he has the temerity to (rightly or wrongly) add a "the" to a song title. That's pretty much the whole story; as you might expect, the course of true love does not run smooth, but Rob gains some wisdom and everybody lives happily ever after, although not before we encounter a hilarious succession of name actors in small but crucial roles: Tim Robbins as a sensitive New Age twit, Catherine Zeta-Jones as one of Rob's old flames, former Cosby Kid Lisa Bonet as a Sheryl Crow-ish heartbreaker and Bruce Springsteen as himself. Anyone who's ever been dumped, dumped somebody, or acted like a jerk will be able to relate to Rob's self-absorbed cluelessness, and the soundtrack is a total delight, with more obscure but nifty oldies than you've had hot meals. Be warned, though: If you didn't answer "true" to the question up top, there's a distinct possibility you'll miss about two thirds of the movie's best jokes.

Hollow Man ()- 2000 / Paul Veerhoeven /Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Joey Slotnick, Mary Randle, Frank Devane/ (113 mnt) This mean-spirited invisible man movie tries to hide its poverty of fresh ideas behind a load of state-of-the-art special effects. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) heads a top-secret, Pentagon-financed project charged with making people vanish from sight, the better to creep around doing nasty things in broad daylight. His team includes Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue) and Matthew Kensington (Josh Brolin); Linda is Sebastian's ex and Matthew is her new squeeze, a situation they've scrupulously kept secret from the volatile Sebastian. If he weren't the team leader, there's no way megalomaniacal, paranoid and ruthlessly self-serving Sebastian would get to sample a potion that might have psychological side effects. But he's the boss, so now you see him, now you don't, and between the drug and the heady freedom invisibility confers, his behavior quickly gets very ugly. "It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror anymore," Sebastian observes in a rare moment of introspection. Discovering that Linda and Matthew have been carrying on behind his back pushes him over the edge; he decides the whole team must be conspiring against him, and you know that can't be good. James Whale's 1933 INVISIBLE MAN covered pretty much the same psychological ground; all this movie adds is a certain prurience that seems to have been toned down rather late in the game. Why write a distasteful invisible rapist scene if you aren't going to go the full exploitative distance? The effects — which are flashy without being especially interesting — can't take up the slack for a script that quickly degenerates into a cheap reprise of ALIEN. Viewers have way too much time to ask inconvenient questions, like, what's the strategic military advantage of invisibility when heat-sensitive goggles and film pick up invisible beings as clear as day? Writer:Andrew W. Marlowe (from a story by Gary Scott Thompson and Andrew [R]

Holy Smoke ()- 1999 / Jane Campion / Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Julie Hamilton, TIm RObertson, Sophie Lee, Dan Wyllie, Pam Grier, Paul Godard, George Mangos, Kerry Walker, Leslie Dayman, Samantha Murray, Austen Tayshus, Simon Anderson, Genevieve Lemon (unbilled)/ [114 mnt] A headstrong young woman and a cocksure older man are locked in a battle of wills in this sly film directed by Jane Campion and co-written with her sister Anna. On a visit to India, Ruth Barron (Kate Winslet) becomes a disciple of a local guru, much to the dismay of her loopy but essentially good-hearted family. On the advice of a friend, they hire an American "exit counselor" named PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel) to un-brainwash Ruth, and trick her into returning to Australia. Waters sweeps into the less-than-ideal circumstances like the superstar victor of 189 deprogrammings he is: Sure, Ruth's family are nut jobs, the assistant he was promised has gone missing and there's no suitable replacement available. But PJ forges ahead, whisking Ruth off to an isolated halfway house in the outback; he reckons it will take all of three days to strip her of her starry-eyed delusions about the sleazy swami and return her to her old life. How wrong he is. Under all the apparently far-ranging talk — and there's plenty of it — Campion's film is fairly single-minded. Ruth and PJ are locked in a staring contest, a childish endurance test played for adult stakes; Campion's nine-minute short PEEL: AN EXERCISE IN DISCIPLINE (1982) covers the same essential ground. Ruth and PJ both think they know everything and are both convinced they have the upper hand; each will do whatever it takes to win, no matter how searing the emotional cost. Winslet and Keitel are perfectly matched, go-for-broke actors handed dramatic license to do a psychic striptease, which is how Winslet winds up naked and urinating in the dust while Keitel ends up in lipstick and a dress. Campion's seductive flourishes are eye-catching but never gratuitous, and the image of Winslet as a multi-armed goddess is truly ravishing. [R]

Hope Floats ()- 1998 / Forrest Whitaker /Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr., Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman, Cameron Finley, Michael Pare, Kathy Najimy / (1112 mnt) / No, it sinks slowly, like a stone in molasses. Her open face surrounded by a shiny mane you just know smells like Herbal Essence shampoo, Sandra Bullock is like the wiggliest, friendliest, most bright-eyed puppy alive. Whose heart is hard enough not to soften before her guileless charm? So you're rooting for one-time Corn Queen Birdee Pruitt from the get-go. How could her tacky, so-called best friend Connie (Roseanna Arquette) go on a sleazy talk show and tell the world she's having an affair with Birdee's hound-dog husband (Michael Pare)? With Birdee there, no less, isolated in a soundproof booth and thinking she's going on-air to get a beauty makeover. Anybody dealt such a hand gets the knee-jerk sympathy vote, especially when she holds her head up and manages a wan little smile in the face of abject humiliation. But this sodden romance manages to squander that considerable store of good will over the course of two very long hours at the heartbreak hotel, masquerading here as the home of Birdee's mom, Ramona (Gena Rowlands). Nothing earthshaking happens once Birdee gets home to Smithville, TX: Mama Ramona tells her to get off her duff and on with life, old acquaintances gloat secretly -- and not so secretly -- at the sight of the high-school golden girl brought low, down-home charmer Justin Matisse (Harry Connick Jr.) tries to rekindle their adolescent romance. Director Forest Whitaker, who appears to have been typed as a female-friendly director in the wake of WAITING TO EXHALE's runaway success, drags out the already painfully slow proceedings with syrupy dissolves, slo-mo sequences and redundant flashbacks, underscoring it all with an intrusively obvious country soundtrack that matches lyrics to emotions with cringe-inducing exactness. Cameo : Rosanna Arquette, Producer: Lynda ObstSandra BullockMary McLaglenElizabeth Hooper, Writer:Steven Rogers [PG-13]

Hurricane, The ()- 1999 / Norman Jewison / Denzel Washington, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, Vicellous Reon Shannon, John Hannah, Debbi Morgan, Clancy Brown, David Paymer, Harris Yulis, Leon Friedman, Rod Steiger, Badja Djola, Vincent Pastore / (125 mnt) There's nothing like a real-life miscarriage of justice story in which the facts are clear (at least in hindsight) and the wrong eventually righted; they're a visceral kick to the status quo with a "triumph of the human spirit" chaser. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (Denzel Washington) spent his Paterson, NJ, youth on the streets and in juvenile detention; he later channeled his anger into boxing with considerable success. In 1966 Carter was convicted of triple murder at a trial rife with perjury and high-level corruption; a second trial was equally tainted. He subsequently began corresponding with Lesra (Vicellous Reon Shannon), a Brooklyn-born teenager who'd been deeply moved by Carter's autobiography; with his socially committed, Canadian guardians, Lesra spurred an investigation that led to Carter's release. Norman Jewison's account of Carter's 22-year ordeal is heartfelt, angry and refreshingly jaundiced about the transitory nature of celebrity commitment to causes where resolution is slow in coming. But it's also awkwardly told, simultaneously too long and too short; it's another of those movies whose struggle to make concise dramatic sense of hugely complicated and protracted matters reminds us why there are books. It is, in fact, adapted from two books: Carter's autobiographical The Sixteenth Round and Lazarus and the Hurricane, which describes Lesra's and the Canadians' (nine in real life, three in the film) crusade. The film rushes through Carter's early life to get to the trial, then bogs down in his jailhouse quest for justice and, later, inner serenity. The way the Canadians are introduced makes them look like a cliched device intended to give Carter's personal ordeal larger resonance; only later does it become clear that they're real players in his story. But the material is inherently compelling and anchored by Washington's performance; if he doesn't quite capture the seething fury of the young Carter, he articulates Carter's intellectual and spiritual growth with quiet intensity. [R]

Hush ()- 1996 /Jonathan Darby (co-ske)/Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jonathon Schaech, Hal Holbrook, Nina Foch, Debi Mazar, Richard Lineback/ [100 mnt] Mother knows best, dammit!: This trashy, overwrought thriller gets itself worked up into a fine, sleazy lather that recalls the matricidal glories DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! and YOU'LL LIKE MY MOTHER, then wimps out at the end. Completed in 1996, it has been shuffled from release date to release date, which seldom bodes well. Orphaned Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow), who secretly longs for the security of a family, finds herself pregnant by handsome boyfriend Jackson (Johnathon Schaech) immediately after their first visit to Kilronan, his family's vast Kentucky horse farm. Brushing away any potential suspicions -- did patrician mom Martha (Jessica Lange) really have to mess about with Helen's diaphragm when she was cleaning the bathroom?-- the young couple get married and return to Kentucky to help Martha spruce up Kilronan, ostensibly so it can be sold. But it soon becomes apparent that Martha is a bona fide man-eating mama who's not about to let some pallid, big-city chippie steal away her precious son: She drops insidious hints designed to undermine their relationship, whispers around that Helen's a frail little thing having a tough pregnancy, and gradually asserts the iron-fisted will beneath her belle of the barn veneer. It's not hard to see where all this is going, especially after Helen makes the acquaintance of Jackson's paternal grandmother (Nina Foch), whose reminiscences suggest that Martha is a psycho tramp who may well have murdered her husband when she learned that he was leaving her. In addition to its message about the dangers of mother love that borders on the incestuous, this film, like last year's THE LOCUSTS, seems to warn that too thorough a knowledge of animal husbandry turns women into castrating harpies, no doubt useful information for young men thinking of marrying country girls. [PG-13]

Ideal Husband, An ()- 1999 / Oliver Parker (+skr.) / Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, John Wood, Lindsay Duncan, Peter Vaughan, Jeroen Krabbé, Ben Pullen / {Britania - Prancis} / (96 min.) A romantic and sentimental comedy set at the turn of the 19th century, An Ideal Husband delves into themes of love, passion, and betrayal among the aristocracy. Sir Robert Chiltern (Jeremy Northam), a brilliant politician and a perfect gentleman, is the ideal husband for the charming Lady Chiltern (Cate Blanchett). They have a widely envied marriage until charming Mrs. Cheveley (Julianne Moore) appears with the intention of revealing a dark secret from Chiltern's past. When his world seems to be falling apart, Chiltern turns to his lifelong friend Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett), the most eligible bachelor in town. Goring soon finds himself caught up in a web of lies, temptations, and secret liaisons. Furthermore, the persistent charms of Sir Robert's sister Mabel (Minnie Driver) are becoming a serious threat to his much-cherished bachelorhood. Using political intrigue and clever wit, An Ideal Husband draws a picture of a society struggling with issues still valid today. [PG13]

In Crowd, The () - 2000 / Mary Lambert / Susan Ward, Lori Heuring, Matthew Settle, Nathan Brexton, Ethan Erickson, Laurie Fortier, Kim Murphy, Katharine Towne, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Tess Harper, Jay R. Ferguson, A.J. Buckley, Charlie Finn, Erinn Bartlett / (108 mnt) For a movie, this makes a great drinking game: Last one to say "I hate Brittany!" when the movie's villainous sexpot dips her finger seductively into a pot of lip gloss has to swill a cosmopolitan in one gulp, or something of the kind. Poor little Adrien Williams (Lori Heuring) has been languishing in a mental hospital following an unfortunate incident involving her high school psychologist: When the object of Adrien's unrequited affections took official steps to discourage her, she smashed up the poor man's car with a hockey stick. But staff doctor Henry Thompson (Daniel Hugh Kelly) thinks Adrien got a bum rap, and arranges a conditional release. He uses his influence to get Adrien a job at the snooty Cliffmont Country Club, with the understanding that she'll be a model employee — no drinking, no drugs, no hanky panky — and that if she loses the gig, it's back to the booby hatch. But Adrien immediately falls in with the wrong crowd. Rather than making friends among the fresh-scrubbed staff, she starts hanging out with spoiled little rich bitch Brittany Foster (Susan Ward) and her gaggle of hard-partying, back-biting, oversexed trust-fund brats. In addition to being vain, frivolous snobs, Queen Brittany's buzzing little bees are clearly hiding something; people keep remarking sotto voce on Adrien's

striking resemblance to someone named Sandra, and Brittany's best friend Kelly (Laurie Fortier) drops a series of none-too-subtle hints that Brittany is not to be trusted. Strange things start happening: Kelly has a mysterious accident, and Adrien regularly finds herself alone in deserted laundry rooms, scary basements and malfunctioning elevators, where the inevitable false scares ensue. The greatest mystery, though, is how this thoroughly trashy picture wound up opening theatrically, rather than going direct to video where its sleazy assets might have been appreciated.[PG-13]

Insider, The ()- 1999 / Michael Mann / Al Pacino, RUssell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse, Debbie Mazar, Stephen Tobolowsky, Colm Feore, Bruce McGill, Gina Gershon, Michael Gambon, Rip Torn, Linda Hart, Nestor Serrano, Wings Hauser, Bill Sage (tidak tercantum), Vyto Ruginis (ttrct), / (155 mnt) / An exciting dramatization of the strange events that marked the turning of the legal tide against Big Tobacco, and a particularly dark moment in the annals of CBS News. In 1992, Jeffery Wigand (Russell Crowe) was making $300,000 a year as a head researcher at Brown & Williamson, the third-largest tobacco company in the country. A year later, he was living out of a hotel under an assumed name and generally fearing for his life. What happened? Fired not long after he began raising uncomfortable questions about how much B&W execs did in fact know about nicotine addiction and carcinogenic additives, Wigand went to 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) who urged the scientist to be interviewed by Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer). Wigand then further violated his confidentiality agreement with B&W by giving a deposition as part of Mississippi State Attorney General Michael Moore's attempt to sue major tobacco companies for billions of dollars in Medicaid payments. The fall-out restraining orders, a nasty personal smear campaign, even death threats — nearly destroyed Wigand's life. But the cruel irony of it all was that CBS, nervous about any potential lawsuits that might interfere with the network's impending sale to Westinghouse, pressured 60 Minutes into pulling the segment. As a piece of corporate muckraking, director Michael Mann's film is about as factually accurate as it needs to be; as entertainment, it's gripping stuff. Mann's expressionistic style gets an additional jolt of breaking-news excitement from Dante Spinotti's hand-held cinematography, and what could have been dull, expository scenes are

dynamically staged (whatever did directors do before cell phones?) and suffused with a sense of creeping paranoia. Crowe's white-knuckled

performance raises interesting questions about Wigand himself before he's dropped in favor of Bergman's much less problematic heroics, and

Pacino is brimming with righteous brio. But Bergman's Capra-esque heroism is qualified by a version of events that's surprisingly soft on

CBS News: Charges that 60 Minutes might have exploited Wigand are stifled in a blast of rhetoric the moment they're raised, Wallace is

generously given an opportunity to explain himself and the whole fiasco is conveniently blamed on greedy corporate counsel. Writer:

Eric Roth Michael Mann (based on the Vanity Fair article "The Man Who New Too Much" by Marie Brenner) Editor:William Goldenberg Paul Rubell David Rosenbloom [R]

I Went Down ()- 1997 / Paddy Breathnach / Brendan Gleeson (Bunny Kelly), Peter McDonald, Peter Caffrey, Tony Doyle, Antoine Byrne, Donal O'Kelly, David Wilmot / {Ireland - UK} / (105 mnt.) / This Irish-British road movie follows the misadventures of some Irish ex-cons. When Dublin hood Tom French (Tony Doyle) comes down hard on slow-witted Anto (David Wilmot), Git (Peter McDonald) intervenes and then is assigned a mission. He is ordered to travel to Cork to bring back French's friend Frank Grogan (Peter Caffrey) and the money Frank in holding. Along for the ride is French's associate Bunny (Brendan Gleeson). The two rescue Grogan from gunmen, but Grogan claims to know nothing about any money, only about his 18-month affair with French's wife. Thus, uncertainty looms on the horizon as the three drive back to Dublin. A cheerfully morose tour of the other Emerald Isle, the Ireland of rundown pubs, dead-end jobs and nasty lads busting heads in back rooms. Sad-sack Git (Peter McDonald) is fresh from doing a stint in jail in place of his drunken old dad, and is in the midst of a heart-to-heart with best friend Anto (David Wilmot), who stole Git's girl (Antoine Byrne) but feels ever so bad about it. Next thing Git knows, he's rescuing Anto from a bunch of seedy tough guys who answer to local crime boss Mr. French (Tony Doyle), and according to some archaic code of criminal honor, that means he owes Mr. French something. So Git finds himself paired up with portly Bunny Kelly (Brendan Gleeson) -- a flash sort with Elvis sideburns and white shoes -- and sent down to Cork, where they're to collect an old criminal associate named Frank Grogan (Peter Caffrey). Grogan turns out to be a chatty weasel who implies that they're taking him back to be killed because of his affair with Mr. French's wife, and tries to play the reluctant chauffeurs against each other. In the grand tradition of mismatched buddies, it's hate at first sight with Git and Bunny -- Git thinks Bunny is a sociopathic moron, while Bunny thinks Git is a naive nuisance -- but come to tolerate and even like each other as their ramshackle road trip progresses. The joy of Conor McPherson's richly detailed script lies in the dialogue: Without giving in to national stereotypes, the fact of the matter is that the Irish can make directions to the laundromat sound entertaining, and McDonald and Gleeson's fine performances as the oddly likable no-hopers bring it to vivid, seedy life. -- Maitland McDonagh Conor McPherson- Screenwriter[R]

I Know What You Did Last Summer ()- 1997 / Jim Gillespie / Jennifer Love Hewitt (Julie James), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Helen Shivers), Ryan Phillippe (Barry Cox), Freddie Prinze Jr, Muse Watson, Bridgette Wilson, Anne Heche ("Missy"), Johnny Galecki, Stuart Greer, J. Don Ferguson, Deborah Hobart / (100 mnt) / Four teens are in great danger one year after their car hits a stranger whose body they dump in the sea. (more) Riding on the coattails of the success of "Scream," comes this lame excuse for a thriller. "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson should have taken some of his own advice: "Last Summer" is nothing more than all of the cliches his "Scream" satirized. And what do you know: like "Scream," "Last Summer" boasts a glossy cast of teen actors and TV up-and-comers. Too bad there isn't one notable performance in the bunch. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Love Hewitt just prance around in their scantily clad outfits and take turns screaming their lungs out, and Ryan Philippe and Freddie Prinze Jr. are truly stiffs from the Keanu Reeves school of acting. Oh yeah . . . and the big revelation of the killer's identity is probably one of the biggest let-downs in horror film history. Avoid this at all costs. Writing credits Lois Duncan (novel) Kevin Williamson

[R]

I Still Know what You Did Last Summer ()- 1998 //Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Brandy Norwood, Mekhi Phifer, Muse Watson, Bill Cobbs, Matthew Settle, Jeffrey Combs, Jennifer Esposito, John Hawkes, Ellerine Harding, Ben Brown /(96 mnt) When we last saw small-town cutie Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) she was a nervous wreck. She and three of her high-school pals accidentally killed a man on a windy back road and made the mistake of trying to get away with it. So someone decided to teach them a lesson with a big, sharp hook. Now Julie's away at college, having nightmares and feuding with boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), who stayed behind to work. The Fourth of July weekend -- which is when all the trouble started -- rolls around, and Julie's new best friend Karla (Brandy) wins an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway for four to an island resort. Off go Julie, Karla, Karla's boyfriend Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer) and classmate Will (Matthew Settle), whom Karla invites when Ray doesn't show up. Don't you know that no sooner do they get to Tower Bay than a ferocious hurricane blows in, the desk clerk turns out to be Jeffrey Combs (of REANIMATOR and other genre gems) and the off-season staff starts showing up covered with blood and stuffed into closets, industrial dryers and other nasty places. The attractive youngsters run, scream, declare that this can't be happening and repeat as necessary. The less you demand of this bloody, by-the-numbers sequel, the more you'll enjoy it. [R]

Jaded ()- 1996 /Caryn Krooth / Carla Gugino (Meg), Rya Khilstedt (Pat),

Anna Levine, Christopher McDonald, AIda Turturro, Richard Bright, Ellen Greene, Lorraine Toussaint / (100 mmnt) / Whould somebody please tell me what type of movie this is supposed to be? I have never seen a movie deal with a serious subject so flippantly. I feel sorry for Carla Gugino, who was obviously told this was going to be in a drama, she is excellent here. As for the rest of the cast...what the hell happened? Every other character in this film is a cartoon, shallowly written and played. Christopher McDonald acts as if he's in yet another Disney kids flick, and Rya Kihlstedt seems to have wandered onto the set from the latest Chained Heat flick. This is a poor, poor movie and director Caryn Krooth should shoulder the blame, she seems to have absolutely no idea. Thankfully on further perusal, she hasn't touched anything else before and since. This is a disgrace. [R]

James Dean: Live Fast Die Youngy ()- 1997 / Mardi Rustam / Casper Van Dien, Carrie Mitchum (Pier Angeli), Diane Ladd, Louis D'Alto, Dale Gibson, Casey Kasem, Wil Hall, Robert Mitchum (George Stevens), Rebecca Budig, Carman Romano / (( James Dean: Race with Destiny)) / () / Dan Sefton (ske.) I bought this movie because I have enjoyed the few films that Casper Van Dien has made. He does a credible job of portraying James Dean. Details of his Hollywood life came out that I had not known at the time of Dean's life (i.e. his relationships with Pier Angeli and Ursula Andress). What proved most discouraging were the "terrible" Italian accents (particularly from an accomplished actress like Diane Ladd) and from the Mitchum girl. I also found the background music uneven and sometimes so loud the dialog was muted. What might have been a good film came off as pretty amateurish. [PG-13]

Jane Austen's Mafia ()- 1998 / Jim Abrahams / Jay Mohr, Billy Burke, Christina Applegate, Pamela Gidley, Olymmpia Dukakis, Lloyd Bridges, Jason Fuchs,

Joe Viterelli, Tony LoBianco, Blake Hammond, Frankie Totino, Vincent Pastore, Marisol Nichols / (mnt) Wiseacre parodist Jim Abrahams and his cohorts draw a bead on THE GODFATHER trilogy and CASINO and the scattershot gags fly thick and fast. College-educated, Korean War veteran Anthony Cortino (Jay Mohr), son of respected but very clumsy Don Cortino (Lloyd Bridges), must accpt his place in the Family; deal with his psycho, coke-addict brother (Billy Burke), Goody wo-shoes sweetheart Diane (Christina Applegate) and sexadelic gold digger Pepper Gianini (Pamela Gidley); and run the prosperous Peppermill Casino, where the money flows thanks to cutthroat games of "Snakes and Ladders" and "Guess the Number." There are a couple of very funny sight gags -- the snarling attack sheep are worthy of Monty Python -- lots of fart jokes (one of which pays off pretty spectacularly), and several very witty lampoons of Mafia movie stereotypes and a lot of obvious ones. In short, it's the usual mixed bag and the jokes miss as often as they hit. But they keep on coming, detouring occasionally from Cosa Nostra japes to lob a few at The English Patient, A Christmas Carol, Showgirls, Forrest Gump and the insufferable Lord of the Dance, just for variety. Yes, it's dumb. Yes, Mafia movies are old hat. But as Abrahams himself points out, if there's room on TV for the deadly serious Last Don, then there's room for some smarty-pants to take some potshots. And come on: Can you really sit straight-faced through a recitation of goodfella nicknames that include Willy "Big Red-Ass Baboon on His Head" Denunzio when Willy has a big red-ass baboon on his head? [PG-13]

Joe the King ()- 1999 / Frank Whaley / Noah Fleiss, Val Kilmer, Karen Young, Ethan Hawke, John Leguizamo, Austin Pendleton, Max Ligosh, James Costa, Peter Tambakis, Harlee Ott, Camryn Manheim / (93 mnt) This well-acted, despairing portrait of a lower middle class 14-year-old slipping inexorable into crime and alienation is admirably uncompromising. Nothing good ever happens to Joe (Noah Fleiss), the son of a brutal, drunken father (Val Kilmer) who's employed sporadically as a janitor, and a harried, overworked mother (Karen Young) with a secret weakness for the lachrymose song stylings of Johnny Ray. Joe is underfed, scruffy and holding down a part-time job at a local greasy spoon that insures he never gets enough sleep. He's doing badly at school, being harassed by the many neighbors to whom his father owes money, and can't bring himself to just steer clear of the old man instead of provoking him. The few adults who take a passing benevolent interest aren't much in the way of role models: co-worker Jorge (John Leguizamo) is an ex-con with a filthy mouth, dopey guidance counselor Len Coles (Ethan Hawke) tries to intervene and makes things infinitely worse. Even Joe's older brother (Max Ligosh) is too caught up in his own troubles to help. Set in the '70s and shot on Staten Island, actor Frank Whaley's semi-autobiographical writing/directing debut is clearly heartfelt and a welcome respite from the self-referential smirkiness of so many first films. The unusually strong cast smacks of family and colleagues lending their support to an intensely personal project conceived in the tradition of a PIXOTE and LOS OLVIDADOS. Leguizamo served as executive producer and Hawke signed on when it was still in the script stage. Camryn Manheim and CAFE SOCIETY director Raymond de Fellita have small roles as teachers, veteran character actor Austin Pendleton plays a pawn-shop owner and Whaley's brother Robert acts and composed the score. But in the end, the film feels a little futile; its relentless, one-miserable-note tone is numbing.

Judas Kiss () - 1998 /Sebastian Guttierez /Gil Bellows, Carla Gugino, Alan Rickman, Till Schweiger, Emma Thompson, Hal Holbrook, Greg Wise, Lisa Eichorn, Philip Baker Hall, Roscoe Lee Browne / (97 mnt) / Young lovers and small-time New Orleans scammers Coco Chavez (Carla Gugino) and Junior Armstrong (Simon Baker-Denny) move up a few rungs when they kidnap wealthy computer mogul Ben Dyson (Greg Wise) in Sebastian Gutierrez's neo-noir. During the crime, Coco kills Dyson's girlfriend, Patty (Beverly Penberthy), wife of Senator Rupert Hornbeck (Hal Holbrook). Assigned to the case are FBI Agent Sadie Hawkins (Emma Thompson) and Police Lt. David Friedman (Alan Rickman). When Hornbeck threatens Friedman instead of assisting him, the detective suspects that this is no ordinary kidnapping for ransom, and he does his own investigation. A conscience-stricken Coco realizes that she may have been set up to kill Patty, and she, too, takes matters into her own hands. A fairly complex tale of betrayal and corruption, Judas Kiss also spoofs noir conventions -- for instance, agent Hawkins is reading Jim Thompson's crime novel The Killer Inside Me, and he discusses the writer's works with Friedman during lulls in the action.

[R]

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love ()- 1996 / Mira Nair /Indira Varma, Sarita Choudhury, Ramon Tikaram, Naveen Andrews, Rekha (Rasa Devi), Khalid Tyabji, Arundhati Rao, Surabhi Bhansali, Garima Dhup, Pearl Padamsee, Kusum Haidar, Harish Patel, Ranjit Chowdhry, Achla Sachdev, Arjun Sajnani / {India - Britania} / (117 mnt) / Mira Nair Writing credits Helena Kriel Mira Nair Also Known As: Tara and Maya (English title: fake working title) [R]

Keeping the Faith ()- 2000 / Edward Norton / Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach, Ron Rifkin, Milos Forman, Holland Taylor, Lisa Edelstein, Rena Sofer, Ken Leung / (129 mnt) Imagine! What could have been a one-joke movie about a rabbi and a Catholic priest in love with the same woman is a very entertaining, hugely neurotic romantic comedy — the kind of thing people used to call a "real New York movie" before Woody Allen poisoned that well with his increasingly sour and mean-spirited films. Best friends since childhood, Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) and Brian Finn (Ed Norton) grew up together on Manhattan's Upper West Side; now Jake is a rising young rabbi at a West End Avenue synagogue, and Brian is a priest at an uptown Catholic church. Each has a freewheeling approach to his faith that doesn't always sit well with their more conservative superiors, who feel their congregants shouldn't be in danger of confusing the sermon with open-mike night at Caroline's comedy club. But Jake and Brian persevere; their mutual dream is to open a karaoke cappuccino bar that will promote interdenominational harmony through shared humiliation. And then in walks Anna Riley (Jenna Elfman), the girl they both adored in grade school, all grown up into a hugely successful businesswoman with a dynamite figure and a bold sense of humor. Romantic sparks fly, and no matter how you cut it, the situation is ripe for disaster: Brian's got that vow of celibacy thing; Jake's mother (Anne Bancroft) hasn't spoken to her other son in two years because he married a Catholic girl, and marrying out of the faith isn't exactly the example a rabbi is expected to set. First-time director Norton is still on a learning curve, but Stuart Blumberg's screenplay is sharp enough to carry him through the rough spots. And the three leads are just terrific: very, very funny without ever sacrificing character for the sake of a gag. Writer : STuart Blumberg [PG-13]

Kevin and Perry Go Large ()- 2000 / Ed Bye / Harry Enfield (wrt.), Kathy Burke, Rhys Ifans, Laura Fraser, James Fleet, Louisa Rix, Tabitha Wady, Paul Whitehouse, Natasha Little, Kenneth Cranham / (82 mnt) {Britania} Dance Music, Nice girls and comedy in force So here it is, Harry Enfields comic creation Kevin on the big screen. I was not sure if the transition from TV to Cinema would be able to be done, but it was and with great style. For people that are unaware, Kevin is a teenager like every other teenager, dirty, hates his parents, wants to do his own thing and never listens to anyone else.Harry Enfield does exaggerate this characature some what but you can then see exactly how much like yourself he is.The basic plot is Kevin is a virgin and is desperately trying to lose his virginity as soon as possible, and the film follows him and his friend Perrys attempts at trying to do this.The film does seem to be on one track when it comes to the jokes with most of them to do with erections. this is not too much of a trouble as there is many other jokes to go with it.All the way through the film is an absolutely wonderful Soundtrack comprising of the biggest dance tunes out there, you may even want to dance along with the tunes as they are banging out. This is one of those movies where you will probably go out and buy the soundtrack album after you have seen it.

Knight in Camelot, A ()- 1998 //Whoopi Goldberg (Vivien Morgan), Michael York (King Arthur), Paloma Baeza, Simon Fenton, James Coombs, Robert Addie, Ian Richardson, Amanda Donohoe / [120 mnt] / (Film Televisi) / Yet another variation on Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee At King Arthur's Court". Here a computer malfunction causes a computer researcher to be sent back in time with her laptop, which she uses to amaze the court. [G]

Last Days of Disco, The ()- 1998 / Whit Stillman / Chloë Sevigny (Alice Kinnon), Kate Beckinsale (Charlotte Pingress), Christopher Eigeman, Matthew Keeslar, MacKenzie Astin, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Beals, Matt Ross, Tara Subkoff, Burr Steers, David Thornton, Ildiko Jaid, Sonseeahray Flöthmann / (113 mnt) / The dialogue is fresh and chances are you’ll be grinning from here to Bolivia when the "Love Train" rolls through the subway at the end.You have no idea what men think about women’s breasts, womaniser Des McGrath (Christopher Eigeman) pleads. No, not a rehash of Boogie Nights, but the third instalment, following Metropolitan and Barcelona, of Whitman’s yuppie odyssey.

This New York yarn centres on publishing assistants Charlotte (flawless snotty American accent by Kate Beckinsale) and her best friend/biggest rival Alice (Chloe Sevigny). Bitchy Charlotte - In physical terms, I'm cuter than you, but you're much nicer than I am,” - and Alice fall in with a parade of self-absorbed fellows in pullovers and drab ties. The “verbal” action between this set of intellectual folk takes place at a ludicrous dance palace in the very early 80s, with the “disco movement” decaying and Reagan's soul-devouring materialism taking hold.In the main these are disagreeable people, but as much as you urge yourself to loathe them, you can’t quite do it. Whitman’s wildly self-indulgent and witty script (“Do you think the neurological effects of caffeine are similar to that of cocaine?”) makes them impossible to ignore and eventually their awfulness becomes disturbingly compelling. A bit like Friends, only without dumb Joey and flaky Phoebe. Although, aesthetically and visually Whitman’s film doesn't quite ring true – clothing looks too 90s and they'd never be able to talk so much in a club – the dialogue is fresh and chances are you’ll be grinning from here to Bolivia when the "Love Train" rolls through the subway at the end. [R]

La Cucaracha ()- 1998 / Jack Lopez / Eric Roberts, Joaquin d'Almeida, Victor Rivers, James McManus (wrt), Tara Crespo, Michael Pena, Alejandro Patino / (95 mnt) Walter Poole (Roberts)A haunting and exceptionally tight film...a great ensemble cast, from top to bottom; skillfully and thoughtfully directed...keep an eye out for this guy! [R]

Last Stop, The ()- 2000 / Mark Malone / Adam Beach (Jason), Jürgen Prochnow (Fritz), Rose McGowan (Nancy), Callum Keith Rennie, Winston Rekert, P. Lynn Johnson, William S. Taylor, Amy Adamson, Damon Johnson / (100 mnt) {Canada} / Waw

Let the Devil Wear Black ()- 1999 / Stacy Tittle / Jonathan Penner (wrt. w Little) (Jack), Jacqueline Bisset, Mary-Louise Parker (Julia), Jamey Sheridan, Philip Baker Hall, Jonathan Banks, Maury Chaykin, Chris Sarandon, Jeffrey Schoeny, Randall Batinkoff, Norman Reedus, Matt Salinger / (89 mnt) "Let the Devil Wear Black" is dark, sexy and smart modern interpretation of "Hamlet". Distinctively noirish, this clever film maintains a fast and steady pace that explores the deep rooted psyches of the main characters. Although the film surely would be characterized as a thriller, the writing and directing are strong enough to justify "Devil" as a character piece as well. Stacy Title's wry sense of humor is apparent from beginning to end. Furthermore, Ms. Title's shooting style, complemented by Jim Whittaker's cinematography, is more imaginative and animated as compared to her previous film "The Last Supper". This film is funny, tragic and engaging. It is truly a gem and not to be missed. [R]

Leprechauns ()- 1999 /John Henderson /Randy Quaid (Jack Woods), Whoopi Goldberg, Roger Daltrey, COlm Meaney (Seamus Muldoon), Kieran Culkin, Zoë Wanamaker, Daniel Betts, Orla Brady (Kathleen), Caroline Carver, Frank Finlay, Phyllida Law, Michael Williams, Harriet Walter, Kevin McKidd/ (mnt) / (( Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, The )) / [Film Televisi] /K/ [G]

Liar Liar ()- 1997 / Tom Shadyac / Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Jennifer Tilly, Swoosie Kurz, Amanda Donohoe, Jason Bernard, Mitchell Ryan, Anne Haney, Justin COoper, Carey Elwess, Chip Mayer, Eric Pierpoint, Randall "Tex" Cobb/ (86 mnt) Oh, laaaaaaaady!A sickly soft-swirl confection of low laughs and smarmy sentiment, this message comedy returns Jim Carrey to the form his fans know and love: He's a one-man whirlwind of pratfalls, silly faces, rude sounds and anarchic epater le bourgeoisie schtick. And hey -- there's an important lesson in there, too: Nothing in this crazy old world is more important than a little boy's love for his dad. Awwwwwww. Lies are the air workaholic lawyer Fletcher Reede (Carey) breathes, both on the job and off. His ex-wife (Maura Tierney) is sick to death of him, and his adoring son Max (Justin Cooper) lives in a state of perpetual disappointment. When Fletcher breaks his promise to attend the child's 5th birthday party, Max makes a special birthday wish: that Fletcher will have to tell the truth for 24 hours. Wacky complications ensue, as Fletcher tells the whole truth and nothing but to family, acquaintances and colleagues in the office and -- even worse -- the courtroom. You'd be wrong to imagine that just because this movie's premise involves words, its comic strategy is verbal -- this is, after all, a picture whose supporting characters include "Zit Boy." Instead, compulsive truth-teller Carrey spends most of his time mugging, contorting himself and quite literally bouncing off walls. The evidence is irrefutable: He is the modern-day Jerry Lewis, a creepy blend of the infantile, the manic and the deeply hostile. Fans who were put off by THE CABLE GUY's ugly edge should be mollified by this picture's relentless smugness: It's simultaneously all touchy-feely in its celebration of paternal love, while painting women as frumps, sex bombs, martyrs, bitches and ugly cows who say stupid things like "Real beauty comes from the inside." [PG-13]

Loser ()- 2000 / Ammy Heckerling /Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Zak Orth, Tom Sadoski, Jimmi Simpson, Greg Kinnear, Dan Aykroyd, Twink Caplan, Bobby Miano, Mollee Israel, Colleen Camp / (98 mnt) A sweet-natured and refreshingly uncartoonlike look at the trials of an unworldly Midwestern college boy negotiating his freshman year at NYU, this low-key comedy once again proves that Amy Heckerling (CLUELESS, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH) can be trusted not to embrace the tedious clichés of teen films. Farm boy Paul Tannek (Jason Biggs), the first member of his family to get into college, has earned a full scholarship to the school of his dreams. But he's nervous about fitting in with sophisticated New York City types; they may get Seinfeld, but Paul just doesn't get that ironic humor thing. Enter Paul's dorm mates, Chris (Thomas Sadoski), Adam (Zak Orth) and Noah (Jimmi Simpson), a boorish, conniving pack of party-hearty rich boys who regard classes as unwelcome distractions from the business of getting wasted and getting laid; they label the studious Paul a loser and conspire to get him thrown out of the dorm. Worse, Paul has fallen hard for Dora (Mena Suvari), a smart, pretty girl in his English class; trouble is, she just wants to be friends because she's having a clandestine affair with their teacher, the condescending Professor Alcott (Greg Kinnear). The rest is just complications: crossed signals, bad timing and weaselly supporting characters conspiring to keep the perfectly matched leads apart. What makes this movie stand out is its relative subtlety: Paul doesn't start out a hellish geek and turn into Joe Cool. He's just an ordinary kid, and Biggs is pitch-perfect casting: Not too handsome, not too smooth, but sweet and funny and sharper than he at first seems — the kind of guy who becomes better looking as you get to know him. Among the film's more unexpected lessons: You never know when animal husbandry skills are going to get you in good with a girl. [PG-13]

Man on the Moon ()- 1999/ Milos Forman / Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti, George Shapiro, Tom Dreesen, Richard Belzer, Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, Vincent Schiavelli / [118 mnt] Yes, Jim Carrey's impersonation of late comedian Andy Kaufman is remarkable. But it never transcends impersonation to become a full-fleshed performance, and Milos Forman's film is a series of incredible simulations that never quite cohere into a movie. Kaufman fans may get a nostalgic kick out of the faithful recreations of his confrontational pranks and put-ons, but there's not much in the way of insight into what made Kaufman tick, which is generally acknowledged as a flaw in biopics. Following a perfunctory prologue featuring little Andy performing for his younger sister, the movie fast-forwards to the '70s, where Kaufman is doing a similar act, baffling customers who don't get the joke in a guy badgering them to sing along with children's songs. But he's spotted by manager George Shapiro (Danny DeVito, Kaufman's Taxi co-star); "You're insane," declares Shapiro, "but you just might be a genius!" Ouch... even if you don't know that Kaufman met Shapiro through family connections, that's a wince-inducer. Then come the career peaks and valleys: Kaufman invents the foreign man who mangles jokes and impersonations before doing a spot-on Elvis; lip-syncs the Mighty Mouse theme; becomes Taxi's breakout star; sabotages his TV career by acting up on SNL and its short-lived competitor Fridays; denies that he's obnoxious lounge singer "Tony Clifton;" reinvents himself as an odious professional wrestler who specializes in grappling with women; performs at Carnegie Hall; gets cancer. The cancer turns out not to be his latest stunt, though even today there are people who aren't entirely convinced it wasn't a hoax. It could be argued that Kaufman's channeled his life into his personas, which he frequently kept up offstage, but that's a specious argument. Staging "Kaufman-mania" on the big screen is what it is; pretending there really was no one behind the curtain is a copout. [R]

Message in a Bottle ()- 1999 / Luis Mandoki / Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, Paul Newman, John Savage, Illeana Douglas, Robbie Cotrane, Jesse James, Bethel Leslie, Tom Aldredge, Viveka Davis, Raphael Sbarge, Richard Hamilton / (132 min) Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, Message In A Bottle stars Robin Wright Penn as Theresa Osborne, a writer for the Chicago Tribune. While her son visits her cheating ex-husband, Theresa goes on a vacation by herself. One day, while running on the beach, she finds a bottle washed up on the shore. She opens it and inside finds a love letter unlike any she's ever read. Captivated by the author's words of love, she returns to her job at the Tribune where she convinces her boss to run an article about the mystery writer, known only as "G". He approves, and Theresa begins her hunt. Scrutinizing every physical detail of the letter and the path the bottle may have taken, she eventually locates Garret Blake (Kevin Costner), a North Carolina sailor who has found an interesting means of therapy after the tragic death of his beloved wife Catherine. Since her death, Garret has developed the routine of opening a bottle of fine, writing a letter to his wife, putting the letter in the emptied bottle and setting it loose in the sea. As Theresa spends time with Garret, she quickly falls in love with him, though she neglects to

tell him she knows about the letters. Garret, prodded by his cantankerous, no-nonsense dad, Dodge (Paul Newman), emerges from his shell of grief and develops an interest in Theresa as well. Theresa returns to Chicago and Garret soon visits her; he meets her son, Jason (Jesse James), but also discovers her knowledge of the letters. Eventually the two, who have both lost love, must cast off their emotional baggage and decide if they will pursue love even if it can't always last. [PG13]Kevin Costner- Producer

Michael Collins ()- 1996 / Neil Jordan / Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, Alan Rickman, Julia Roberts, Charles Dance, Ian Hart, Richard Ingram, John Kenny, Roman McCairbe, Ger O'Leary, Michael Dwyer, Martin Murphy, Sean McGinley, Gary Whelan, Frank O'Sullivan, Frank Laverty, Owen O'Neill, Stuart Graham, Brendan Gleeson, Gerard McSorley, Liam d'Staic, Owen Roe, Paul Bennett, Claude Clancy, Paul Hickey, Ian McElhinney, Aisling O'Sullivan, Jonathan Rhys Myers / {Britania - Amerika Serikat} (mnt) Clearly a labor of love, Irish writer-director Neil Jordan's biography of Michael Collins is an admirable tribute to his country's beloved patriot that sometimes verges on hagiography. Beginning with the brutally suppressed Easter Uprising of 1916, Jordan's film chronicles Collins' (Liam Neeson) struggle for an independent Irish republic, from the organization of his fellow guerrilla warriors to his negotiation of the controversial treaty that would plunge his country into civil war and lead to his own assassination. History can be messy, particularly when it's the history of a man to whom, it can (and will) be argued, the words terrorist and freedom fighter are equally applicable. Jordan cannily sidesteps the troubling issue by presenting Collins as the hero of what amounts to a briskly paced, beautifully executed espionage thriller -- complete with daring escapes, exploding cars and a beautiful woman (Julia Roberts). And while the film is unflinching in its depiction of the brutality of both the English and the Irish, Jordan pointedly dissociates his hero from any actual ugliness. He may have been the architect, but Collins is never shown with blood on his hands.

Mickey Blue Eyes () - 1999 / Kelly Makin / Hugh Grant, James Caan, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Burt Young, James Fox, Joe Viterelli, Gerry Becker, Maddie Corman, Tony Darrow, Paul Lazar, Vincent Pastore, Frank Pellegrino, Scott Thompson, John Ventimiglia / (103 min) Would you believe Hugh Grant as a violent Mafioso from Kansas City? Don't worry if you can't: that's part of the joke in this romantic comedy. Michael Felgate (Hugh Grant) is a British expatriate living in Manhattan who runs a successful auction house dealing in rare and valuable art. When Michael meets Gina (Jeanne Tripplehorn), he's immediately smitten, and three months later he asks for her hand in marriage. Gina, however, tells Michael that she could never marry him because of her family. Crestfallen, Michael wants to find out what the trouble could be; and when he tracks down Gina's father Frank (James Caan), he discovers the nature of Gina's family problems: Frank is a Mafia kingpin, and several of Gina's previous boyfriends have met an ill fate trying to fit in with his criminal lifestyle. Frank, however, takes an immediate liking to Michael and asks him for a few small favors. Before long, Michael has inadvertently laundered mob money through his auction house and has to pass himself off to rival gangsters as Mickey Blue Eyes, a wiseguy from Kansas City. Mickey Blue Eyes was co-produced by Hugh Grant's significant other, Elizabeth Hurley, and directed by Kelly Makin, whose previous credits include the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy. While Mickey Blue Eyes can't quite attain the level of comedy reached by the other 1999 mob comedy Analyze This, it offers several solidly humorous sequences that lift it above ...read more [PG-13] Elizabeth Hurley- Producer

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ()- 1997 / Clint Eastwood / Kevin Spacey, John CUsack, Jack Thompson, Jude Law, The Lady Chablis, Alison Eastwood, Irma P. Hall, Paul Hipp, Dorothy Loudon, Anne Haney, Kim Hunter, Geoffrey Lewis,Richard Herd, Leon Rippy, Bob Gunton, Michael O'Hagan / (155 mnt) Long, lumpy and sadly charmless, this adaptation of John Berendt's nonfiction portrait of Savannah, GA, refracted through the prism of a scandalous true-crime story, tramples all over the silkily seductive voice that makes the book so compulsively readable and eerily haunting. In order to compress and give linear structure to the dense but loosely connected web of gossip Berendt wove into an unlikely bestseller, screenwriter Lee Hancock invented the character of writer John Kelso (John Cusack), who's sent to Savannah to cover the lavish annual Christmas soiree of wealthy, homosexual antiques dealer Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey). After the party, Williams shoots his lover, volatile hustler Billy Hanson (Jude Law) -- characterized by one local harpy as "a good time that had not yet been had by all" -- and claims it was in self-defense. Kelso decides to hang around and see if there's a book in the trial, the better to serve as the audience's guide through a gallery of hothouse personalities as bizarrely warped as wax figures in some eccentric house of horrors. Cusack, who's apparently meant to be from New York, spends most of the film with his tiny mouth hanging open in an unlikely comic-book expression of shock at the baroque goings-on. The Southern Gothic material is all in Berendt's book, but onscreen his cast of fascinating eccentrics quickly descends into pointless grotesquerie, in part because time constraints force most of them into walk-on parts. The film's unquestioned star is transvestite performer The Lady Chablis, a pivotal figure in Berendt's book who plays herself in the film and is an absolutely riveting -- if not altogether likable -- example of what it means to turn life into performance. [R]

Minus Man ()- 1999 / Francis Hampton / Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Brian Cox, Mercedes Ruehl, Dwight Yoakam, Dennis Haysbert, Sheryl Crow, Eric Mabius, Larry Miller, Lois Gerace, Alex Warren, Brent Briscoe /(115 mnt)I met a man who wasn't there An offbeat serial killer picture that eschews the usual snarky humor, bloody special effects and urgent race to stop the butcher before he kills again in favor of a zen-like sense of detached observation. Vann Siegler (Owen Wilson, of the crooked nose and little mouth pursed into a perpetual "o") is the hollow man, an amiable-seeming drifter whose placid exterior conceals a bone-chilling secret; he's a serial poisoner who picks his victims from among the human tumbleweeds he encounters on the road. Vann isn't a mad dog, or a powder-keg itching for someone to look at him the wrong way; he's methodical, quiet and engaged in constant self-analysis, though he doesn't seem to have figured out anything about himself or why he does the things he does. He just does them. Vann wanders into a tranquil small town and takes a room in the home of Doug and Jane Dean (Brian Cox, Mercedes Reuhl), a quietly unhappy couple who gradually begin to treat him more like a son than a lodger. Doug gets Vann a job at the local post office, where he drifts into an affair with lonely co-worker Ferrin (Janeane Garofolo), begins picking off victims closer to home and is almost unmasked completely by accident. Actor turned screenwriter Hampton Fancher, probably best known as half of the team who wrote BLADE RUNNER, makes his directing debut with this hard-to-get-a-handle-on, not-quite-thriller. His choice of material is certainly interesting; Vann embodies real-life FBI profiler John Douglas's much quoted remark that Hollywood has serial killers all wrong; if they were really so brilliant they'd find better things to do than cut up women. But the banality of faceless evil isn't actually all that compelling on the hoof; the film's more interesting as a curiosity than as a film. [R]

Mission : Impossible II () -2000 / John Woo / Tom Cruise (prod.), Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, Anthony Hopkins, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Sherbedgia, William R. Mapother, Dominic Purcell, Matthew Wilkinson, Nicholas Bell, Kee Chan, Kim Fleming / Yes, it's a hit machine, a blockbuster by the numbers. But it's actually sharper, less reverential and generally better than MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, a stylish, globe-trotting, action-packed espionage romp in the style of James Bond films before they degenerated into smirking, bloated spectacles. Rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) and his crew have hijacked both a lethal, man-made virus named Chimera and its antidote, and are ransoming them off to the highest bidder. Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) orders are to recover the doomsday bug with the help of Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), a stunner of the glamorous, light-fingered international felon variety. The reason for her mandatory inclusion, which Hunt learns after he's fallen for her considerable charms, is that she's Ambrose's ex and ideally suited to insinuate herself into his confidence. Computer whiz Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) is back handling the hacking, and the action comes complete with vehicular pursuits, cunning masquerades, spectacular shootouts and clever gadgetry. Neither MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE director Brian DePalma nor M:I2 helmer John Woo is known for his subtlety. But Woo, late of the no-holds-barred Hong Kong school of movie mayhem, is a singularly graceful filmmaker, a true believer in the power of elegant stunt

choreography and the infinite allure of the human face. That's not to say that this picture lacks spectacular CGI effects — it doesn't only that Woo doesn't worship at their altar. Some leaden dialogue and overstated imagery here (enough with the birds), a bit of wildly improbable plotting there — it doesn't matter; this is top-of-the-line disposable entertainment. An uncredited Anthony Hopkins replaces the disgraced Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) as the head of the IMF; though his role is small, he gets the film's best line, spoken to a reluctant Hunt: "This is not Mission: Difficult, Mr. Hunt. It's Mission: Impossible." Touché! [PG-13]

Motel Blue ()- 1997 / Sam Firstenberg / Sean Young, Soleil Moon Frye, Robert Vaughn, Rob STewart, Berry Sattels, Spencer Rochfort, Malcolm Yates, Sal Landi, James Michael Tyler, Elizabeth Giordano, Lou Rawls, Seymour Cassel,John LaMotta,Jay Rasumny,Jeanette O'Conner / (96 mnt) Motel Blue is a good movie that has you guessing though the whole movie. ("Soleil Moon Frye" From I've been waiting for you) Stars in this exciting thriller. It's about a department of defense, investigator Kyle Rivers on her first assignment after training is assigned to investigate Lana Hawking, for top secret clearance as an engineer for the military. During the course of the investigation she becomes obsessed with Lana's second life and gets trapped in a web of lies leading to her downfall. [R]

Murder of Crows, A () - 1999 / Rowdy Herrington (+ske) / Tom Berenger (Clifford Dubose), Cuba Gooding Jr (Lawson Russell), Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Ashley Laurence, Mark Pellegrino, Eric Stoltz, Doug Wert / (102 mnt) R/ [R]

Muriel's Wedding () - 1995 / P.J. Hogan / Toni Collette, Bill Hunter, Rachel Griffiths, Jeane Drynan, Gennie Nevinson, Matt Day, Daniel Lapaine, Sophie Lee, Belina Jarrett, Rosalind Hammond, Pippa Grandison, Chris Haywood, Daniel Wyllie, Gabby Millgate, Katie Sauders, Dene Kermond / {Australia} (105 mnt) / P.J. Hogan's MURIEL'S WEDDING, one of the surprise hits of early 1995, harks back to the recent US success of other Australian films with its satirical, delightfully campy style. Toni Collette stars as Muriel Heslop, a young ABBA fan who sets out to make a life for herself by leaving her hometown, family and friends. Muriel is a plump and unhappy woman who dreams of escaping to a new and better life through marriage. She's also a fanatical follower of the Swedish pop band ABBA, whose songs are featured prominently on the soundtrack. She's dumped by friends who look down on her and ridiculed by her father (Bill Hunter) for being useless. When her parents give her a blank check to get her started in business, she seizes the opportunity to reinvent herself, emptying the family bank account and leaving provincial Porpoise Spit. She surprises her vacationing ex-friends by showing up at the same resort they're staying at, but winds up making a new friend in Rhonda (Rachel Griffith). She moves to Sydney, finds a job, changes her name, and embarks on new adventures. Secretly Muriel feeds her obsession by going to wedding boutiques to fit dresses and by keeping a private photo album of herself in different dresses. Through the personal ads, she meets and marries a wealthy young white South African (David Lapaine) who is trying to secure Australian citizenship so that he can swim in the Olympics. Muriel is thrilled at her wedding, despite the groom's obvious apprehension. Muriel cannot sustain her dreams. Rhonda is confined to a wheelchair after sudden surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in her back; Muriel's father leaves her mother (Jeanie Drynan) for another woman (Gennie Nevinson) and loses his job; and her mother kills herself with sleeping pills soon after the wedding. Muriel decides she cannot continue to lie. She resumes her true first name, gives up on her marriage, and asks Rhonda, who moves back to Porpoise Spit to live with her mother, to return to Sydney with her. Like the Australian hits STRICTLY BALLROOM (1993) and THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994), MURIEL'S WEDDING projects a cheeky, benevolent satirical spirit, celebrating the dreams of losers and outcasts. The film relies heavily on Toni Collette, who supplies the necessary screen charisma. Her Muriel is emotionally flamboyant, by turns mopish and highly excitable. Ultimately, the comedy here is grounded in self-hatred, hostility, and despair. Nearly everyone who wanders through this brash and deliberately tasteless film is stupid, ungainly, or grotesquely tragic. But this only heightens the pleasure during moments of delirious merriment, as when Muriel lip-synchs an ABBA song at a karaoke contest, resplendent and unashamed in a tight-fitting white satin jumpsuit. [R]

My Giant ()- 1998 / Michael Lehmann / Billy Crystal, Kathleen Quinlan, Gheorghe Muresa, Joanna Pacula, Zane Carney, Rider Strong, Steven Seagal, Harold Gould, Doris Roberts, Phil Sterling, Heather Thomas / (103 min) Third-rate talent agent Sammy Kanin (Billy Crystal) is more devoted to his career than his wife Serena (Kathleen Quinlan) and son Nick (Zane Carney), so instead of going to Nick's birthday party, he chooses to travel to Romania where his teen client Justin Allen (Rider Strong) is acting in a period adventure movie. When Sammy's auto swerves off the road, he wakes up in a monastery, having been removed from the wreckage by sensitive, Shakespeare-quoting, 7'7"-tall giant, Max (pro basketball player Gheorghe Muresan), a ward of the monks who works as a monastery caretaker. Sammy sees Max

as his ticket to the top, gets him a warrior role in the adventure movie, and takes him back to the U.S. where Max hopes to win back a long-ago girlfriend Lillianna (Joanna Pacula), living in Gallup, New Mexico. Sammy and Max head for Vegas, where actor Steven Seagal (as himself) is shooting a film with a villain role perfect for Max. When Sammy contacts Lillianna, she expresses disinterest in Max, forcing Sammy to seek a solution that can bring the two together. Kids should enjoy this well-directed comedy from Michael Lehmann (Heathers), though adults will probably be rolling their eyes. NBA star Gheorghe Muresan is a 7'7" giant who is lured to [PG] Billy Crystal- Producer / Original Story

Nang Nak ()- 1999 / Nonzee Nimibutr / Intira Jaroenpura, Winai Kraibutr / {Thailand} / [Bahasa Thai] / [mnt] Waw

Outside Providence ()- 1999 / Michael Corrente /Alec Baldwin, Shawn Hatosy, George Wendt, Tommy Bone, Samantha Lavigne, Jonathan Brandis, Adam Lavorgna, Jesse Leach, Jon Abrahams, Richard Jenkins, Mike Cerrone, Amy Smart, Robert Turano, Kristen Shorten, Tim Crowe, Gabriel Mann, George Martin, Jack Ferver, Chris Jewett, Alex Toma, Libby Langdon (also assoc. prod.)/ (95 mnt) Oh Lord, another '70s coming-of-age story with the requisite gross-out humor and carefully calculated oldies soundtrack; is this really what the world needs? Believe it or not, the answer is yes. And if that isn't surprise enough, be warned: This may be the first time you'll read the words "Alec Baldwin" and "Oscar-worthy performance" in the same sentence. True, the plot is, let's say, time-tested. Young Timothy Dumphy (Shawn Hatosy) is going nowhere in decaying, blue-collar Pawtucket, RI, where he lives with his single father (Baldwin), who calls him Dildo; crippled younger brother; one-eyed, three-legged dog; and a posse of stoner pals, one of whom is actually nicknamed "Drugs." Dumph and company have a marijuana-fueled brush with the law, so one of Dad's mobbed-up friends pulls some strings and gets the kid into a nearby prep school, where he's the only student carrying his clothes in a plastic garbage bag. When he meets patrician beauty Jane Weston (Amy Smart), the de rigeur opposites-attracts romance gets underway, with life-changing consequences for both. But since the script is co-written by the same Farrellys who gave us DUMB AND DUMBER and THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, it's studded with comic set-pieces that are light years beyond bad taste, howlingly funny and — surprise! — sufficiently grounded in reality to have actual emotional resonance. You actually find yourself caring about these characters, even the crippled brother — who's nowhere near the sentimental cliche he sounds. Meanwhile Baldwin (bulked up a la DeNiro and playing totally against type), is a revelation, funny and touching as the not-so-clueless dad trying to do the best for his kids under tragically difficult circumstances. Though there's one jarringly false note (involving George Wendt in a cameo), all in all this is probably the most engaging teen period piece since AMERICAN GRAFFITI. Prod & wrt.: Michael Corrente, The Farrellys (based on the novel by Peter Farrelly)[R]

Ordinary Decent Criminal () - 2000 / Thaddaeus O'Sullivan / Kevin Spacey, Linda Fiorentino, Peter Mullan, Stephen Dillane, Helen Baxendale, David Hayman, Patrick Malahide, Gerald McSorley, Tim Loane, Gary Lydon, Paul Ronan, Christoph Waltz / { Britania - Jerman - Rep. Irlandia - Amerika Serikat } / (93 mnt) This is an enjoyable gangster movie, albeit a bit predictable. Spacey is surprisingly convincing as an Irish gang leader, but you do wonder if Irish actors would have been better in the lead roles, especially given the variable degrees of success with the accents. Linda Fiorentino could have been made more of (Last Seduction fans will be disappointed), but there are some funny moments, and more feel-good, human elements than many gangster movies [R]

Oxygen () - 1999 / Richard Shepard /Adrien Brody, Maura Tierney, James Naughton, Tim Kirkman, Laila Robins, Paul Calderon, Dylan Baker, Olek Krupa, Frankie Faison, Slavko Stimac, Michael Henderson, Robert Shepard, Eddie Perez / (90 mnt) / Serious taphephobes will probably want to sit this one out, but thrill-seekers who don't suffer from a morbid fear of being buried alive might want take a look. On a bright Manhattan afternoon, wealthy Frances Hannon (Laila Robins) is kidnapped, driven to a remote location and buried alive in a oblong wooden box with a flashlight and just enough oxygen to last 24 hours. If she doesn't panic. Her kidnapper, Harry (Adrien Brody), sends her millionaire husband Clarke (James Naughton) a videotape detailing his wife's predicament and demands $1 million in exchange for her location. Clarke goes straight to the police, and Captain Terry Kinney (Tim Kirkman) calls in ace Detective Foster (Maura Tierney). He catches her at a bad time: Foster — who also happens to be Kinney's wife — has a taste for booze and S&M, and she's on her way home from a drunken evening spent with a guy who uses her arms as an ashtray. Foster pulls herself together and arranges a police ambush at the drop-off point, but once under arrest, Harry will only negotiate with the cop who busted him &#151; the one with the burns on her arm. Harry senses Foster's dark side, and the interrogation soon becomes a lurid game of quid pro quo. Aside from the jolting opening sequence, Richard Shepard's film owes entirely too much to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to be in any way original. But some of it does work, thanks to an entertainingly perverse turn by Brody. Cat-and-mouse thrillers are only as tolerable as the cat is engaging — mind games can easily become exasperating — but Brody brings a dangerous charisma to his portrayal of a clever sadist who's impervious to his own pain. His performance, and a hilarious, out-of-nowhere bit from Dylan Baker (HAPPINESS) as a no-nonsense FBI agent, will catch your breath and hold your attention. — [R]

Panthom of the Opera, The ()- 1998 / Dario Argento / Julian Sands, Asia Argento, Andrea di Stefano, Nadia RInaldi, Corlina Cataldi - Tassoni, Istvan Bubik, Zoltan Barabas / (Italia) / (103 mnt) In keeping with the his cult reputation, Italian filmmaker Dario Argento's take on Gaston Leroux's enduring Gothic tale of terror and obsession features plenty of sex and graphic, high-tech gore (although hard-core Argento purists may find the splatter scenes rather sparse). Unlike other renditions of the illustrious Phantom, Argento's version suffers no facial disfigurement and therefore remains unmasked. His creepiness, shown in the early parts of the story, comes from having been abandoned as a baby and raised by rats in the labyrinthine catacombs beneath the Paris Opera. Unaccustomed to humankind, the Phantom (Julian Sands) spends his days in the darkness playing an organ, murdering intruders, saving his rodent family members from the theater's exterminator and occasionally wandering about the opera house. His life changes when he falls in love with beautiful young singer Christine (Asia Argento), understudy to temperamental zaftig diva Carlotta (Nadia Rinaldi). Desperate to have her, the Phantom plays a haunting melody and lures her into the bowels of the great theater. There he will begin a macabre courtship destined to end in tragedy. Those who enjoy finding continuity mistakes will be delighted to discover that while the story is set in 1877, the theater is lighted with electricity, something that did not happen in real life until 1888. [R]

Pariah ()- 2000 / Randolph Kret / Damon Jones, David Oren Ward, Aimee Chaffin, David Lee Wilson, ANgela Jones, Anna Padgett, Dan Weene, Ann Zuppa, Brandon Slater, Jason Posey / (105 mnt) Take a tip from the title: Shun this well-meaning but ridiculous revenge drama about a vicious gang of bone-headed, California neo-Nazis and the man hell-bent on destroying them. Seven months after the suicide of his African-American girlfriend (Angela Jones), who was brutally raped by racist skinheads, the once mild-mannered Steve (Damon Jones) decides to get even. In a stroke of logic that doesn't bear much thought, he figures that the only way to beat the skins is to join them. So Steve gives himself a skinhead makeover — buzz cut, bomber jacket, swastika tattoos, Doc Martens — then tries to insinuate himself into the gang through Anna (Ann Zupa), an overweight, pathological liar the other skins have affectionately nicknamed Babe ("You know, like the movie"). The skins, led by Hitler-quoting Crew (Dave Oren Ward) and his adoring flunky David Lee (David Lee Wilson), are wary of the newcomer; more important, they're too busy drinking beer, beating gay men and stalking Hollywood in scary slo-mo to pay him much mind. Desperate to infiltrate their ranks, Steve is forced to commit an appalling act of violence. It's clear from the opening image — a blood-splattered Pez dispenser — that writer-director Randolph Kret wants to scare his audience into heightened awareness of white-supremacist hate crimes. But he lacks the insight into the phenomenon to pull it off, and truly effective films like ROMPER STOMPER and AMERICAN HISTORY X not only got there first, but raised the shock bar pretty high. Since each scene of brutality is undermined by badly written and unintentionally laughable dialogue — "I got tummyache!" screams a mildly retarded skin after being shot in the stomach — it's hard to take Kret's serious intentions seriously. The problem is only compounded by the poor acting and technical incompetence. With special guest appearances by the boom mike.

Passion of Mind ()- 2000 / Alain Berliner / Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgard, William Fichtner, Sinead Cusack, Peter Riegert, Eloise Eonnet, Chaya Cuenot, Julianne Nicholson, Joss Ackland, Gerry Bamman, Morgan Hasson, Hadrian Dagannaud-Brouard / (105 mnt) Between its nocturnal altered states and far too few lucid moments, this dream-heavy snoozer offers viewers little refreshment. Hairstyles are the key to telling which of her dual roles star Demi Moore is playing at any given time. It's hair up as Marty, an aloof, stylish, take-no-prisoners head of a New York literary agency, with all the material trappings: nice Manhattan loft, designer threads and expensive handmade jewelry. She's on the fast track, but she's also daft. It seems when Marty falls asleep, her dreams transport her to a simpler, slower-paced life in the South of France. There her name is Marie — hair down — a bohemian, ex-pat American book reviewer, widow and mother of two girls. Complicating matters further, Marie's dreams are of Marty's career-driven, urban days and nights. Hair preferences aside, Marty/Marie finds this bizarre, symbiotic double life unmanageable: One of them's got to go — but which one? Add to this mish-mash a lover in each dimension — William (Stellan Skarsgard) in France and Aaron (William Fichtner) in New York — and major unresolved mother-daughter issues, and you've got the ultimate internal tug-and-pull crisis. Save for a smattering of stunning photography (Eduardo Serra0 during the French sequences, and winning performances by Fichtner and Skarsgård, Belgian director Alain Berliner's (MA VIE EN ROSE) American debut is sadly inauspicious. What may have looked good on paper across the Atlantic gets lost in the translation to our shores. Moore, who's in way over her pretty head, should just turn out the lights, pull up the covers and get a good night's sleep. — Stephen Miller. [PG-13]

Perfext Storm ()- 2000 / Wolfgang Petersen / George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C.Reilly, William Fichtner, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Karen Allen, Bob Gunton, John Hawkes, Allen Payne, Christopher McDonald, Josh Hopkins, Dash Mihok, Cherry Jones, Janet Wright, Michael Ironside / (129 mnt) Wolfgang Petersen directed DAS BOOT. Sebastian Junger's nonfiction best-seller was riveting. The special effects are state of the art. So why is this account of the fate of the Andrea Gail, a 70-foot swordfishing boat that vanished in the middle of the storm of the century, so oddly slapdash? October, 1991: The Andrea Gail leaves Gloucester, MA, manned by seasoned captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney), warring tough guys Murph (John C. Reilly) and Sully (William Fichter), quiet Albert Pierre (Allen Payne), sad-sack Bugsy (John Hawkes) and rookie Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg). Forced far afield by poor fishing, the crew has no idea that three weather systems are about to converge and unleash a tempest of unparalleled proportions. Since the fate of the Andrea Gail is ultimately unknowable, journalist Junger cast a wide narrative net, interspersing interviews with survivors of the "perfect storm" with side trips into historic disasters at sea, the economics of commercial fishing, the physics of weather and background on the

Andrea Gail's crew. Petersen also pursues several narrative threads, periodically cutting away to a foundering sailboat and her crew of three; the Coast Guard rescuers dispatched to aid stranded sailors; and the ordeal by waiting of family and friends ashore. But while books can digress at will, Hollywood films must move forward like sharks or die. Petersen's efforts to keep things moving are infelicitous: Enthralling details are thrown overboard, Christopher MacDonald wallows in the role of a TV meteorologist who expounds on how that whopper of a storm is developing, and James Horner's overbearing score labors to whip up emotion at every turn. Make no mistake, the weather effects are stunning (not real-looking, but impressive none the less), several scenes pack a powerful emotional wallop, and the downbeat conclusion is a bracing antidote to Hollywood's usual feel-good endings. But, overall, the book is a far

more rewarding experience than the movie. Barry Levinson exec. prod. [PG-13]

Playing by Heart

Structured as a series of vignettes, Willard Carroll's ambitious ensemble comedy-drama follows the intertwined destinies of a staggering cast of 11 characters. Extroverted club kid Joan (Angelina Jolie) falls in love with a reticent fellow nightcrawler (Ryan Phillippe). Uptight theater director Meredith (Gillian Anderson) is being courted by Mr. Perfect (Jon Stewart). Gracie's (Madeleine Stowe) hobby is impersonal hotel adultery with Roger (Anthony Edwards). Paul (Sean Connery) and Hannah (Gena Rowlands) have been married for 40 years and are coping with his imminent death and the emotional aftermath of a lingering infidelity. Mildred (Ellen Burstyn) is tending to her son Mark (Jay Mohr), who's in the hospital dying of AIDS, while Hugh (Dennis Quaid) is telling a different sob story in every bar in Los Angeles. The sound of Connery uttering sitcom-esque zingers is painful, but Jolie and Quaid shine through their characters' cliches: You just plain believe when Jolie tells someone she's only just met that she loves him, or when Quaid starts acting like an executive blowhard who's had one martini too many. Unfortunately, this isn't a Lou Reed song, so no one really does anything wild. And despite the script's conspicuous aspirations to deep meaning, Carroll ultimately just sets up the dramatic pins and knocks them down in a perfect strike. The film's sterile atmosphere can't be blamed on the glamorized L.A. setting alone: The situations Carroll devises are perfectly controlled but

dramatically void. Though his insistence that love will conquer feels like fascist mandate rather than Shakespearean whimsy, there's no doubt Carroll is a romantic. Who but a romantic would have us believe that couples with serious lifelong problems could resolve them within the space of a week? For all the film's flirtation with jagged and disturbing material, it's a fairy tale at heart, and if that's what you're looking for, you may come away satisfied. --Sandra Contreras

DANCING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE

U.S.; U.K.

Gillian Anderson, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery, Anthony Edwards, Angelina Jolie, Jay Mohr, Ryan Phillipe, Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Jon STewart, Madeleine Stowe,Patricia Clarkson, April Grace,Alec Mapa, Jeremy Sisto, Matt Malloy, Christian Mills, Kellie Waymire, Tim Halligan, Nastassjia Kinski, David Clennon

Practical Magic () - 1998 / Griffin DUnne / Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest, Stockard Channing, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexandra Astrip, Mark Feuerstein / (105 min) Griffin Dunne directed this romantic fantasy adapted from the 1995 Alice Hoffman novel about the Owens family of witches, regarded as outcasts in the town where they live. Aunt Frances (Stockard Channing) and her sister Aunt Jet (Dianne Wiest) tried to pass on practical magic skills to their nieces, subdued Sally (Sandra Bullock) and fiery Gillian (Nicole Kidman), brought up by the two aunts after their parents died. The aunts concoct spells for the lonely and the lovelorn, but the family's use of witchcraft unfortunately invokes a curse that spells doom to the family's menfolk. Denying her powers, Sally attempted to lead a life minus magic. Her marriage to fish merchant Michael (Mark Feuerstein) brought two daughters -- and Michael's death. Moving into the aunt's seaside mansion, the widowed Sally warns the aunts not to influence her daughters. Sally intervenes when Gillian suffers at the hands of her abusive Bulgarian boyfriend Jimmy (Goran Visnic), and Arizona detective Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn), investigating Jimmy's disappearance, turns up in town, eyeing Gillian and Sally as the leading suspects. Filmed in Washington (San Juan Island, Whidby Island, Coupeville, Friday Harbor). [PG13]

Blue Juice ()- 1995 / Carl Prechezer / Sean Pertwee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Steven Mackintosh, Ewan McGregor, Peter Gunn, Heathcote Williams, Colette Brown, Michelle Chadwick, Keith Allen, Robin Soans, Jenny Agutter, Guy Leverton / {Britania} / [90 mnt] My main reason for watching this film was Ewan MacGregor, me being a big fan. This is a pretty good story about a guy, dubbed J.C., not wanting to grow up, and then friends who try to encourage this. Being torn between public admiration and the commitment to his girlfriend, J.C. shows us a slice of his life.Although this film ends with every main character having gone through some dramatic moral change, it is a very enjoyable film about friends and lifestyle. Recommended for the child in all of us who doesn't want to be an adult.

Dead End ()- 1999 / Iren Koster / William Snow, Victoria Hill, Matthew Dyktynski, Peter Hardy, Michael Edward-Stevens, Gabriel Dargan, Jerome Dargan / {Australia} / [90 mnt]

Exception To the Rule ()- 1997 / David Winning / Sean Young, Kim Cattrall, Eric McCormack, William Devane, Diego Wallraff, Stephen Mendel, Bob Lujan, Mark Acheson, Rob Daprocida / (98 mnt) Kim Cattrall, Sean Young & William Devane are all very enjoyable in this movie, and the story is generic but not too bad. Now if only Eric McCormack could act his way out of a paper bag or had half the charm of a dishrag... Any decent actor in the male lead and this movie could have been truly "okay."

Gossip ()- 2000 / David Guggenheim / James Marsden, Lena Heady, Norman Reedus, Joshua Jackson, Kate Hudson, Marisa Coughlan, Edward James Olmos, Sharon Lawrence, Eric Bogossian, Timm Zemanek / (90 mnt) Imagine a hysterically overwrought episode of Felicity crossed with hit-and-run Gen-X angst thriller BODY SHOTS and you more or less have the measure of this pandering picture about what happens when poisonous rumors take on a life of their own. It begins in a college journalism class, where super-hip professor Goodwin (professional ranteuse Eric Bogosian) is lecturing on the blurring of news and entertainment. Assigned to write a paper on the topic, three super-cool students — Jones (Lena Headly), Derrick (James Marsden) and Travis (Norman Reedus) — decide to go the prof one better. They devise a project: They're going to start a virulent rumor and plot its spread through the student body. Jones comes up with the idea, but Derrick supplies the buzz — he catches a glimpse of super-snotty, vociferously chaste fellow student Naomi Preston (Kate Hudson) in a drunken swoon in the arms of her boyfriend, Beau (Joshua Jackson). Derrick proposes that they concoct a story that Naomi was seen doing the nasty with Beau, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. To the trio's smug delight, everyone does, embellishing and spinning bizarre variations on the original. But within 24 hours the story has mutated into sordid accusations of date rape, Naomi is filing charges and Jones is having second thoughts about their little jaw-wagging joyride. Set in Anytown, USA, and art-directed within an inch of its chichi life (does it come as any surprise that executive producer Joel Schumacher originally conceived it as a project for himself?), this moral tale is so thoroughly preposterous on every level that the only way to enjoy it is to throw logic to the wind and groove on Marsden's

cheekbones and the shelter-porn appeal of his super-swanky loft. [R]

Groove ()- 2000 / Greg Harrison / Lola Glaudini, Hamish Linklater, Denny Kirkwood, Mackenzie Firgens, Vincent Riverside, Rachel True, Steve van Wormer, Nick Offerman, Ari Gold, Angelo Spizzirri, Jeff Witzke, Bradley K. Ross, Lew Baldwin, Dmitri Ponce / (83 mnt) A sweet-natured ode to rave culture saddled with a ridiculously clichéd plot line that first-time director Greg Harrison can blame on no one but himself, since he's also the screenwriter and editor. The action unfolds over the course of 12 hours, and starts with securing the locale: Promoter Ernie Townshend (Steve Van Wormer) and his cohorts break into a long-abandoned San Francisco warehouse and transform it into a grown-up play space, wired for sound and complete with candles, disco ball and trippy visuals. An e-mail goes out, and ravers begin making plans. Leyla (Lola Glaudini), a longtime NYC scene-maker new to the West Coast, looks for a ride. Rave regular Colin (Denny Kirkwood) persuades his uptight brother David (Hamish Linklater) to give it a whirl; Colin has a surprise for girlfriend Harmony (Mackenzie Firgens) and wants David to be there to share. Aaron (Bradley Ross) and Neil (Jeff Witzke) take a disco nap to prepare for their one-year anniversary night out. Chemistry student and part-time dealer Cliff (Ari Gold) is joined by his friend Todd (Angelo Spizzirri), who thinks the rave scene is touchie-feelie bull. People converge at the map point and make their way to the ever-growing party, where they hook up, break down and bliss out. Harrison has said he wanted his film to reflect the intense sense of community that fuels rave culture; ironically, the documentaries BETTER LIVING THROUGH CIRCUITRY and MODULATIONS are actually in a better position than GROOVE to explore the scene's emotional pull because they can turn the camera on a variety of people and let them explain themselves. Harrison's picture, by virtue of being fiction, has to define characters and then give them things to do; that his script is so reliant on hoary clichés is unfortunate, because they undermine its energy and the infectious drive generated by its pulsing soundtrack. — Maitland McDonagh [R]

Hell Mountain ()- 1998 / Mike Rohl / Bentley Mitchum, Jack Scalia, Kate Rodger, Andrew McIlroy, Christopher Clarke, Noëlle Balfour, Vitezslav Bouchner, Sarah Douglas, Rebecca Floyd, Klara Hlouska, Marta Hrachovinova, Alena Krupka, Renata Krupka, Nicole Nieth, Richard Toth, Nada Vinecka, Tina Wiseman / {Kanada - Republik Ceko} / [90 mnt] Well the name, Hell mountain, was a cool name I thought, and after reading the story in the the papers I decided to tape it, bad mistake! After watching it for about 5 minutes I realised that 3 of the minutes had been sex scenes, strange, but ok this might work out good, it didn't. The unmotivated sex and nudity happened more often and the cheap action I was hoping for collapsed under the strength of semi-naked (ugly) girls, and the post-catastrophe action movie turned into a pathetic soft core film.But if you are really tired (or drunk), then you might laugh at the priceless actors (specially the couple in latex).

Komodo ()- 1999 / Michael Lantieri / Billy Burke, Michael Edward-Stevens, Paul Gleeson, Jill Hennessy, Nina Landis, Simon Westaway, Kevin Zegers / (85 mnt) Terminally below-mediocre island-based horror flick desperately attempting to cash in on the non-existent demand for homicidal lizard cinema. After his parents are devoured by the title critters, a little kid is taken back to the island they were offered on as part of a psychological experiment(!?) and, lo and behold, they're still there. Bland hero and typical love interest run around as standard supporting characters get killed. Not so much actively bad as pointless, but why bother? Some nice "Lord of the Flies" moments near the end are too little, too late.

Mad Cows ()- 1999 / Sara Sugarman / Anna Friel, Joanna Lumley, Anna Massey, Phyllida Law, Greg Wise, Nicholas Woodeson, Prunella Scales / {Britania} [90 mnt] Based on the best-selling novel, this adaptation about an Australian who has a baby with her aristocratic cad of a boyfriend is written and directed by newcomer Sara Suggarman, who has injected her own particular style into the film. At times, this is over the top - more like a music video than a film - and the jerky camera movements can be annoying. However, this is a likeable film, very light-hearted and at times very amusing. Cameos from the likes of Al-Fayed and Sophie Dahl add a bit of humour to the precedings.

Contender, The ()- 2000 / Rod Lurie / Gary Oldman (prod. exec.), Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater, Sam Elliott, William Petersen, Saul Rubinek, Phillip Baker Hall, Mike Binder, Robin Thomas, Mariel Hemingway, Kathryn Morris, Kristen Shaw, Douglas Urbanski, Angelica Torn / {Amerika Serikat-Jerman} (126 mnt) A treat for a nation weaned on tawdry political scandal, televised House Judiciary hearings and The West Wing, this smart political thriller gets pulses pounding with no pyrotechnics and only one car crash. And it's a doozy: An wayward sedan careens off a bridge right where Governor Jack Hathaway (William Petersen), who's been tapped by Democratic president Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) to fill the spot left vacant by the recently deceased veep, happens to be fishing. He's unable to save the woman who's trapped inside, and even though Hathaway's heroics send his approval ratings through the roof, his nomination is nevertheless withdrawn by a president nervous about having a potential Chappaquidick on his hands. Evans nominates Ohio senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) instead, but getting her confirmed by the House Judiciary Committee is going to be a problem. The committee is headed by Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman), a truculent Republican congressman with a bone to pick with Evans and an even bigger grudge against Hanson, whom he considers incompetent; he'll stop at nothing to have her discredited. Runyon's big chance comes when a background check uncovers something very nasty from Madame Senator's distant past, something that threatens not only her confirmation but her entire political career. Taut, intelligent and marvelously acted (there may be a few too many characters on hand, but there's not a bum performance among them), the film marks a giant step forward for former film critic Rod Lurie, whose previous directorial effort, DETERRENCE, fell far short of its ambitions. Not so here: His script is full of crackling dialogue, and, despite a cloying denouement that would have made Frank Capra gag, it serves as an eloquent response to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The film marks a groundbreaking moment for Allen as well: Amazingly, this is her first starring role in a feature film, and she's smashing. [R]

Coyote Ugly ()- 2000 / David McNally / Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey, Izabella Miko, Bridget Moynahan, Tyra Banks, Del Pentecost, Michael Weston, John Goodman, LeAnn Rimes / (94 mnt) Mix equal parts FLASHDANCE and COCKTAIL, add a shot of do-me feminism and shake lasciviously: That's the recipe for this meretricious excuse for an inspirational tale, whose bottom line is squeezed into skintight pants. Coyote Ugly is a Manhattan bar owned by Lil (Maria Bello) and staffed by breathtaking, half-clad beauties who spend as much time shaking their bon-bons on the bar as they do pouring drinks. No wonder the joint's a hit with the dudes; the question is, why are so many women drinking there? Could it be that they're reveling in the heady atmosphere of female self-empowerment? Aspiring songwriter Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo), a starry-eyed, small-town girl trying to make it in the big bad city, is almost ready to crawl home to Jersey when she spots coyotes Zoe (Tyra Banks), Rachel (Bridget Moynahan) and Cammie (Izabella Miko) in a diner. She overhears them say that they're raking in big bucks (the movie never quite makes it clear how, but why sweat the details?); in fact, Zoe has saved enough to quit and go to law school. Violet has stage fright — inherited from her late mom, who abandoned her showbiz dreams to raise a family — but she sweet-talks Lil into giving her a chance, and soon she's bumping and grinding with the best of them. But can Violet also nurture her relationship with sensitive Kevin (Adam Garcia), win the respect of her blue-collar dad (John Goodman) and realize her dream of writing pop pabulum professionally? The bar scenes are the only reason to sit through this jello shot of a movie: They're sexy, sleazy (in a PG-13 kind of way) and driven by a smoking soundtrack. Just don't hurt yourself trying to figure out how the syrupy message about respecting yourself and hanging on to your ideals squares up with the relentless jiggle show. [PG-13]

Deuce Bigalow. Male Gigolo ()- 1999 / Mike Mitchell /Rob Schneider, Arija Bareikis, William Forsythe, Eddie Griffin, Oded Fehr, Gail O'Grady, Richard Riehle, Jacqueline Obradors, Big Boy, Amy Poehler, Dina Platias, Torsten Voges, Deborah Lemen, Bree Turner, Andrew Shaifer / (86 mnt) What a card"Department of redundancy department" title notwithstanding, ex-SNL-er Rob Schneider's first starring vehicle is nowhere the non-stop grossathon you might suspect; in fact, it's actually a sweet, often very funny story about a schlemiehl redeemed by love. Deuce Bigalow (Schneider, of course) is an underpaid fish tank cleaner whose love life is mostly confined to abuse from the counter girl at a local pet shop. All that changes when he runs into the ridiculously good looking Antoine Laconte (Oded Fehr), a world class gigolo who tools around to the accompaniment of (what else?) Blondie's "Call Me." Deuce scores the job of house sitting while Antoine's doing a gig in Europe, but accidentally trashes the place. Desperate for cash (and afraid for his life — Antoine's got a collection of scary medieval weapons) Deuce winds up renting himself out to some of the gigolo's less glamorous clients, including a Norewegian giantess whose head is always out of the frame. There's probably something here to offend just about everybody, but a lot of it is a genuine hoot (love that Tourette's-syndrome lady) and Schneider is surprisingly endearing. His Deuce may be a dim bulb, but he's also a decent guy who makes his stable of variously unhappy women feel good about themselves. In any case, it's hard to resist a movie with a scantily clad Marlo Thomas as a horny housewife with a taste for men in lederhosen. [R]

Dr. T & The Women ()- 2000 / Robert Altman / Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Robert Hays, Matt Malloy, Andy Richter, Lee Grant, Janine Turner, Holly Pellham-Davis / (122 mnt) Why are the well-heeled and Neiman Marcus-clad wives of Dallas all stirred up to see Dr. T? If your OB/GYN looked like Sullivan "Sully" Travis (Richard Gere), you wouldn't be asking why these ladies-who-lunch opt to skip. Handsome, charismatic and much in demand among Dallas's female upper crust, Dr. T loves his job, loves his family and, most of all, loves women. But in Robert Altman's grand Texan take on the screen-worn subject of male-female relationships, Dr. T's world is about to careen out of control faster than you can say "darlin'". As the Travis family prepares to marry off perky cheerleading daughter Dee Dee (Kate Hudson), Sully's beautiful trophy wife (Farrah Fawcett) has been packed off to a sanitarium, suffering from what her shrink (Lee Grant) dubs "Hestia complex" (don't ask). Black-sheep daughter Connie (Tara Reid), a JFK-assassination buff, is inexplicably miffed by her sister's choice of the mysterious, dark-haired and big-boned Marilyn (Liv Tyler) as maid of honor, while champagne-addled sister-in-law Peggy (Laura Dern, in a comically brilliant performance) has invaded the Travis homestead with her three daughters and magnum-sized problems. But Dr. T also is under physical and spiritual siege at work, what with the complaints of his patients &#8212; mainly the insecure Dorothy (Janine Turner) — and staff, headed by Carolyn (Shelley Long), who herself has an itty-bitty crush on Dr. T. Offering some much-needed love and attention is Bree (Helen Hunt), the country club's new golf pro. Unfortunately, while Gere and Hunt tee-off nicely, their onscreen chemistry eventually wobbles into the sand trap — it's one of the film's few miscalculated shots. But Anne Rapp's snappy, loquacious and catty script gives the predominantly female ensemble plenty to chew on. Lyle Lovett's soundtrack provides a twangy musical backdrop, and the movie's hush-hush ending, like Texas, is [R]

Mummy, The ()- 1999 / Stephen Sommers /Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Kevin J. O'Connor, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Hyde, Oded Fehr, Omid Djalili, Erick Avari, Aharon Ipale, Patricia Velasquez, Carl Chase / (120 mnt) A mummy movie for the video-game generation, this boys' own adventure deals decisively with the conceptual absurdity that undermines many older variations on the theme: Since reanimated mummies shuffle along at the speed of your arthritic grandpa, why didn't all those terrified Egyptologists, treasure hunters and reincarnations of long-dead Egyptian princesses just run a little faster? This new mummy, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo, assisted by extensive computer-generated effects), is no schlub in moldering bandages: He's a rag-clad Terminator who turns himself into a sandstorm, visits the plagues of Egypt upon his enemies, commands flesh-eating scarab beetles and regains human form by sucking the very life from those who desecrated his tomb. Why a 3000-year-old Egyptian priest would summon up plagues originally visited upon Pharaoh by the God of the Israelites is a bit puzzling, but hey he's spent a long time seething in that sarcophagus, so who knows what he's been thinking? Boris Karloff's gloomy Imhotep (in the 1932 original) may have been a more elegant creation, but this year's model kicks some serious ass. The movie's other stroke of inspiration is to graft the mummy onto a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-style adventure in which a charming American adventurer (Brendan Fraser) and a lovely lady Egyptologist (Rachel Weisz) go searching for the legendary Egyptian city of the dead and find themselves battling hoards of baddies at regular intervals. The razzle-dazzle factor is high, and many viewers won't mind that it's all rather hollow, formulaic stuff any more than they'll be troubled by the offhanded treatment of Arabs as buffoons, exotics and verminous riff-raff (it's one thing to set a movie in 1926, and another to appropriate the era's insidious racism). In all, it's the quintessential summer movie: noisy, spectacular and disposable. — [PG-13]

Rowing the WInd ()- 1990 / Gonzalo Suarez / Hugh Grant, Lizzy McInnerny, Valentine Pelka, Elizabeth Hurley, Jose Luis Gomez, Virginia Mataix / {Spanyol} / (( Remando al Viento )) / (96 mnt) This English-language Spanish production is a fairly successful examination of the "haunted summer" of 1816 wherein the lives of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, her sister Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Dr. John Polidori intertwined to produce Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's classic gothic novel Frankenstein. This same material inspired Ken Russell's overheated horror film GOTHIC (1987). ROWING WITH THE WIND opens with a beautifully photographed sequence--accompanied by Ralph Vaughan Williams' haunting "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis"--in which Mary Shelley (McInnerny) writes on board a decrepit schooner as it drifts through massive ice floes near the North Pole, the very same setting that marks the climax of Frankenstein. Reminiscing about the events that have brought her to this place, McInnerny flashes back to her courtship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Pelka) and their elopement to Switzerland where they met Lord Byron (Grant) and his friend Dr. Polidori (Gomez). Accompanied by McInnery's sister Claire (Hurley)--who has had an affair with Grant--the quintet spends the summer at Grant's villa. From here the plot is virtually identical to that of GOTHIC, highlighting such biographical nuggets as Percy Shelley's inability to swim, Byron's callous bon mots, Polidori's suicide, and the death of the Wollstonecraft-Shelley children. The move from Switzerland to Italy is detailed, as are the events in the years following, wherein Shelley drowns and Byron dies of disease in Greece during the Greek-Turkish war. While in GOTHIC Russell uses the events to highlight the sexual decadence and debauchery that he imagines took place, director-writer Gonzalo Suarez takes a different, more gothic approach. He shows Mary Shelley to be haunted by the image of the monster she created in Frankenstein, which she sees lurking whenever a tragedy befalls her family and friends. While all the principals are excellent, Grant steals the movie as the eccentric, unconventional Lord Byron. Although Suarez's screenplay suffers from literary pretensions that occasionally result in somewhat stilted dialog, his visualization of the material

is breathtaking. Cinematog. Carlos Suarez

Small Time Crooks ()- 2000 / Wody Allen / Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Elaine Stritch, Hugh Grant, George Grizzard, Brian McConnachie, Kristine Nielsen, Larry Pine, Julie Lund, Maurice Sonnenberg, Richard Mawe / (95 mnt) Sure to be hailed as a return to Allen's filmmaking heyday — when he made "the early, funny ones," as an admirer remarks in STARDUST MEMORIES — this thin, clichéd comedy of crime and social climbing contains some scattered laughs and whole lot of padding. Frenchie Winkler (Tracey Ullman) has laid down the law to husband Ray (Allen): No more crime — she doesn't want to spend another anniversary looking at Ray through a plate of glass. But Ray and his half-witted buddies Tommy (Tony Darrow) and Denny (Michael Rapaport) have a great plan. There's this pizza parlor for rent, two storefronts down from a bank; if they rent the place they can tunnel into the bank vault from the basement. Frenchie, meanwhile, will divert suspicion by pretending to run some kind of business upstairs. The irony, of course, is that the gang that couldn't dig straight tunnels into a dress shop, while Frenchie's slapdash cookie business explodes; a year later all involved are rich beyond their wildest dreams. But wealth doesn't buy happiness; the Winklers are treated like tacky parvenus and their marriage is sorely strained by Frenchie's clueless attempts to improve herself. Most of the comedy is wrung from Ray's tiresome kvetching and Frenchie's pretenses: her attempt to broaden her vocabulary by memorizing the dictionary (she only gets through the As), her conversion to wine snobbery, her attempts to cultivate a cultured and sophisticated social circle. Allen assembles his usually stellar cast, including Elaine Stritch as a daffy socialite, Hugh Grant as a sleek cad, Elaine May as Frenchie's dumb-bunny cousin and Jon Lovitz as a habitual arsonist, but the movie feels tired and logy. Their best efforts to drag it out of its doldrums just aren't enough. — Maitland McDonagh [PG]

Strange Justice ()- 1999 / Ernest R. Dickerson / Delroy Lindo, Mandy Patinkin, Regina Taylor (Anita Hill), Paul Winfield, Stephen Young, Louis Gossett Jr, Phillip Shepherd, Leila Johnson, Julie Khaner, Janet Land, Kathleen Laskey, Lisa Mende / (95 mnt) (Film Televisi) Buku Jane Mayer. SKenario Jim Abramson.Amusing work of fiction based on actual events (but not to closely). Several very good actors turn in fine performances, but the script is a travesty of justice. A shameful event in the nation's judicial history becomes a shameless attempt at character assassination, particularly upsetting since those too young to have watched the Thomas hearings will probably have their notions of what really happened warped. I was a lifelong knee-jerk liberal at the time of the hearings, just having a crisis where my views were changing, and the "high-tech lynching" (words surprisingly left in from the script) was enough to tip the scales, so it was a very important moment for me. Although one can't fault the production values, the movie was perpetrated by partisans trying in the best Orwellian fashion to change history into what they wistfully wish it had been, which is 180 degrees from what it was. Let's hope history does better justice to a distinguished and much-maligned jurist than this peculiar ideologist fantasy. If you thought "JFK" was sound history, you'll enjoy this one.

Summer of Sam ()- 1999 / Spike Lee / John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Jennifer Esposito, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rispoli, Saverio Guerra, Brian Tarantino, Al Palagonia, Ken Garito, Bebe Neuwirth, Patti LuPone, Mike Starr, Anthony LaPaglia, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ben Gazarra, Joe Lisi, James Reno, Arthur Nascarella, John Savage, Jimmy Breslin, Michael Badalucco, Michael Imperioli, John Turturro (suara) / ( 145 mnt) A tabloid slice of tabloid life, ragged, vivid, awkward and punchy all at once. Writer-producer-director Spike Lee's hopped-up, sexed-up reimagining of the long hot summer of 1977, when dirty, un-tourist-friendly NYC sweltered in the shadow of the .44 caliber killer, is an unexpected companion piece to DO THE RIGHT THING. They're kinetic swirls of insular New York neighborhood life, laced with mob mentality, heat waves, fast girls and macho guys, street dynamics, intergenerational strife and childhood loyalties shredded on the teeth of adult life's endless conflict and compromise. What it's not really about is lumbering psycho "Son of Sam" (Michael Badalucco), the bogeyman who stalks spooning couples and rants his way into every character's consciousness. The story turns on Vinny (John Leguizamo), a newlywed hairdresser who's cheating with every girl in the neighborhood while keeping starry-eyed bride Dionna (Mira Sorvino) perched unhappily on a pedestal at home. Meanwhile Vinny's long-absent buddy Richie (Adrien Brody) comes home sporting punk duds and attitude, at the same time a self-appointed neighborhood protection squad take it upon themselves to hunt down Son of Sam. For their money, anyone with hair as freaky as Richie's is a likely candidate. Lee isn't a subtle filmmaker: "Why just let a group of local lowlifes hang around shooting the breeze when you can cluster them in front of a "Dead End" sign?" seems to be his motto. And he's sometimes astonishingly clumsy: Almost every sex scene — there are many — goes on long enough for its emotional grip to dissolve into clinical detachment. But Lee also taps into some powerful energy: The lifestyle chasm between disco flash and punk sleaze, the hellbound hedonism of Plato's Retreat, the blind fury unleashed by the great blackout of July 13. — Maitland McDonagh [R]

Susan's Plan ()- 1998 / John Landis / Nastassja Kinski, Billy Zane, Michael Biehn, Rob Schneider, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dan Aykroyd, Lisa Edelstein, Thomas Haden Church, Bill Duke, Adrian Paul, Sheree North, Jeff Morris, Lauren Tom, Steven Banks, Christina Venuti / (89 mnt) I actually didn't expect this film to very funny, as the cover mostly made it look like more of an action movie - but as it turns out it was very very funny. Great actors, great story and plot twists everywhere! It reminded a bit of "Two Days In L.A." but this one was far better. Most comedies nowadays have enough good jokes in them to last about ten minutes, but John Landis proves that movies like this still can be made. [R]

Tomorrow Never Dies ()- 1997 / Roger Spottiswoode / Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Gotz Otto, Joe Don Baker, Ricky Jay, Geoffrey Palmer, Colin Salmon, Terence Rigby, Vincent Schiavelli / (119 mnt) Kinetic, knowing, crammed with high-tech gadgetry and sophisticated in the most superficial sense of the term: What else could you ask of a James Bond picture? Pierce Brosnan's sophomore effort duplicates the virtues of GOLDENEYE, and even improves on it: Hong Kong action legend Michelle Yoeh is a phenomenal addition to the pantheon of Bond girls (Teri Hatcher isn't, but she's dealt with expediently), Jonathan Pryce's villain -- press mogul Elliott Carver -- is shrewdly overwrought and, in a clean break from a disagreeable tradition, the movie actually ends when it's over, rather than dragging viewers through a series of bogus -- sorry, bonus -- climaxes that leave them feeling as though they've been hauled through an explosive wringer. And while Brosnan's Bond does deliver a few of the juvenile one-liners for which the series is famous, the movie's overall sense of humor is a bit sharper. It's really very amusing to see Bond treated with such withering disdain by his cohorts: Q (Desmond Llewelyn), M (Judi Dench) and Miss Monneypenny (Samantha Bond) treat him as though he were a bright but undisciplined adolescent who needs a firm talking-to. Even Bond's new car talks back to him. The plot involves Carver's attempts to engineer a world crisis that will benefit his global media empire, including a fledgling satellite news network. To that end he and his nefarious cohorts, led by psycho Aryan ubermensch Stamper (Gotz Otto) sink a British naval ship and blame it on the Chinese. Pryce has a fine old time playing media megalomaniac Carver as an ungodly hybrid of Rupert Murdoch and William Randolph Hearst by way of Charles Foster Kane: The highlight of his upstart news network's launch is the reading of Carver's declaration of principles. Sure, the whole thing is so sweetly ephemeral that you start forgetting it before the end credits have finished, but it's thoroughly enjoyable while it's on the screen. [PG-13]

Wonder Boys ()- 2000 / Curtis Hanson / Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey, Jr., Katie Holmes, Richard Thomas, Rip Torn, Philip Bosco, Jane Adams, Michael Cavadias, Richard Knox, Alan Tudyk / (112 mnt) In this comedy, a middle-aged man juggles his problems with women, literature, and career, while a younger man chases the artifact of his dreams. Pittsburgh college professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) is currently single following his divorce from his third wife; after publishing an acclaimed first novel, Grady has been working on a follow-up, but he's been sidelined by a severe case of writer's block. Grady has more than his writing career to think about; his affair with one of the (married) chancellors at the University of Pittsburgh (Frances McDormand), has resulted in her pregnancy, while Hannah (Katie Holmes), a student boarding at Grady's house, has developed a crush on him. While Grady is obsessed with his book, one of his students (Tobey Maguire) has an obsession of his own: finding a jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe. Based on the novel by Michael Chabon, The Wonder Boys also features Robert Downey Jr., Rip Torn, and Richard Thomas. — Mark Deming

Eel, The ()- 1997 / Shohei Imamura / Koji Yakusho (Takuro Yamashita), Misa Shimizu (Keiko Hattori), Fujio Tokita, Mitsuko Baisho, Akira Emoto, Sho Aikawa, Ken Kobayashi, Sabu Kawahara, Etsuko Ichihara / {Jepang} / (Bahasa Jepang) / (( Ungagi )) / (117 mnt) Synchronicity of form with the content has been an undeniable goal of art since it's conception. In film, that is where real magic starts and there is no master of medium that hasn't mastered this essence. That is visible here as well. Unfortunately, content, if we mean intriguing story, never made it in. What we have is a sorry collection of characters unable to think, act or express themselves - (shall I be guessing) oppressed by their culture? And this is where synchronicity starts: because all the form is just equally inept, unable, clumsy, luke warm, unwilling, closed-off, just as the world it portrays. Credits to the master whose work in its success leaves me nauseated. Shame to the west, whose taste is ignorant to all above, unbearably fake ingredients, cheesy pathos of music - final signature of the Imamura's baton. Not to mention insulting ethics that disturb even a sworn anti-feminist. Thank you very much.

Mask of Zorro, The ()- 1998 / Martin Campbell / Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Chaterine Zetta Jones,Stuart Wilson, Matthew Letscher, Maury Chaykin, Tony Amendola, Pedro Armendariz, L.Q. Jones, William Marquez, Jose Perez, Victor Rivers, Moises Suarez, Humberto Elizondo / (136 mnt) Dashing caballeros in gleaming black-leather boots, cracking their bullwhips, flashing their swords and smoking disdainfully slim cigars: If stars Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas had succumbed to the temptation to camp it up, this would be THE PHANTOM all over again. But the Tonys swash their buckles straight -- OK, with just the slightest hint of knowing smiles -- and the result is old-fashioned fun that goes down as smoothly as a vintage cocktail. The year is 1821, and the people of Alta California are caught in the war between Mexican revolutionary Santa Ana and the forces of Spanish oppression, embodied in brutal governor Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Smith). Their one hope: the avenger named Zorro (Spanish for "fox"), who cuts a dashing figure in his black mask and cape while fighting for justice and the rights of the poor and defenseless. The man behind the mask is aristocratic Don Diego de la Vega (Hopkins), whom Montero ferrets out and imprisons; his wife is killed and his infant daughter Elena kidnapped to be raised as Montero's own child. Twenty years later, Elena is a beautiful and spirited young woman (Catherine Zeta Jones), Montero has hatched a new plan to exploit Alta California to his own ends, and Don Diego has escaped and is training a successor, the bandit Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas), who has his own unfinished business with Montero's minions. Rakishly handsome and a natural-born charmer, Banderas wears Zorro's slightly fetishistic getup with such graceful delight that the slate is wiped clean of such travesties as ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE. But the movie's secret weapon is Hopkins, whose Don Diego is a grizzled bon vivant who can still break a lady's heart as smoothly as he can extinguish candles with his whip. Prod. exec. Spielberg [PG-13]

Surat Untuk Bidadari ()- 1994 / Garin Nugroho / Nurul Arifin (Berlian Merah), Windy, Hotalili, Ibrahim Ibnu, Fuad Idris, Adi Kurdi, Jajang Pamoncak, Viva Westi / {Indonesia} / (Bahasa Indonesia) / (( Letter for an Angel )) ? (118 mnt) This is the only film that speaks for the director's reputation as the most respected filmmaker in the country today. Garin Nugroho stayed near his territory this time, documentary. Unlike his first full-length feature, 'Cinta dalam Sepotong Roti' ('Love in a Slice of Bread'), that tried to play with dialogue, 'Surat Untuk Bidadari' is silent, pseudo-documentary drama that tells a story from a little kid point of view. Loosely adapted from a short story 'A Letter to God' that was banned by Soeharto government, the film takes you to a place that you've never been or even imagined! It deals with a story of a motherless kid who spends his time wandering around taking pictures of women (including Madonna's poster posted at an abandoned bus) and obsessed to know much about their breasts! Other characters were played well, some were named Red Horse or Stalion. The photography is toxicating. (One scene involving actual slaughtering of a cow a la Apocalypse Now is fantastic). If you curious about Garin Nugroho's works, this is the one to check out.

Saint, The ()- 1997 / Philip Noyce / Val Kilmer, Elizabeth Shue, Rade Sherbezija, Valery Nikolaev, Henry Goodman, Alun Armstrong, Michael Byrne, Evgeny Lazarev, Irina Apeximova, Lev Prigunov, Charlotte Cornwell, Emily Mortimer / (114 mnt) Huge, expensively produced action machine designed to ensnare the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE crowd. Evil Russian oil billionaire Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija) hires international man of mystery Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) to purloin an energy formula from idealistic scientist Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), intending to use it to take over Russia or some such megalomaniacal thing. But Templar -- a wounded loner who's spent a lifetime displacing his passions into in high-tech skullduggery, falls for the meek and virtuous Russell -- who wants to give cold fusion to the shivering world. Quelle calamity! Forget the title: This monolith is so far removed from the sophisticated pulp adventurer (played on TV by pre-Bond Roger Moore, and in old movies by George Sanders) dreamed up by novelist Leslie Charteris that his name doesn't even merit a "based on the character created by" credit. In keeping with modern tastes, Templar has been darkened and dirtied up, metamorphosed into Batman -- minus the rubber fetish gear -- by way of a traumatic childhood, a wounded psyche and a meaningful quirk: He takes the names of Catholic saints as his aliases. Kilmer slips in and out of a series of ludicrously elaborate disguises, some more convincing than others, while poor Shue shuffles through the role of a sexy, book-reading babe pretending to be a dowdy lady scientist in kneesocks. Tretiak's psycho son (Valery Nikolaev) and his droogies provide the villainous rush that keeps our heroes constantly on the run, and the whole business is beautifully photographed. Wesley Strick co.wrt-- Maitland McDonagh [PG-13]

Time Served ()- 1999 / Glen Pitre / Catherine Oxenberg (Sarah), Jeff Fahey, Louise Fletcher, Bo Hopkins, James Handy, Larry Manetti, Lourdes Colon, Scott Schumacher, Zach Gray, Maureen Steindler / (90 mnt) Well, lets see. Woman goes to prison for a crime she didn't commit. Just so happens she's a really hot woman. So obviously she's a perfect candidate for the prison's "work release program", a strip/prostitution bar! Sound believeable so far? And what do you know, the very judge that put her away happens to frequent this bar and you better believe that he "wants a piece" of our heroine. The whole plot is a sort of mask for the stripping parts. Those were actually pretty believable. You won't se any buxom women like in that Demi Moore movie. Some of them are, shall I say, not so "asthetically pleasing." Well, in summary it's not the best movie, but for a budget of what seemed to be about $1,000, it wasn't that bad. [R]

Touch Me ()- 1997 / H. Gordon Boos (+ ske.) / Amanda Peet, Michael Vartan, Peter Facinelli, Kari Wuhrer, Erica Gimpel, Jamie Harris, Greg Louganis, Stephen Macht / (107 mnt) I had no idea what this movie was about before I watched it and I have to say that I really liked it. I thought that the story was told in a very interesting way. The AIDS storyline is rarely told from an heterosexual perspective (philadelphia, etc...) I liked the fact that it wasn't just a dramatic movie but that there was also romance in it.I thought that the cast was incredible and the chemistry between Amanda Peet and Michael Vartan was great. I didn't know any of the actors before but I have definitely seen talent in this movie. Although the story is a bit slow at times and some might say contains some clichés, in general this movie is very good. Who said clichés have to be a bad thing? In this case I think that what one might say is superficial, was actually done intentionally. I recommand this movie to everyone. Amanda Peet is amazing in it! [R]

Twin Falls Idaho ()- 1999 / Michael Polish / Michael Polish, Mark Polish, Michele Hicks, Lesley Ann Warren, Patrick Bauchau, John Gries, Garrett Morris, William Katt, Teresa Hill, Robert Beecher / (105 mnt) Written, directed by and starring identical twins Mark and Michael Polish (they both wrote the script; Michael directed), this moody oddity is easy on the eyes but offers little substance beneath the stylish surface. Kohl-eyed beauty Penny (Michele Hicks), who turns casual tricks while waiting for her modeling career to take off, arrives at a seedy hotel for a rendezvous with a stranger named Francis Falls (Michael Polish). She's surprised to find Francis's brother Blake (Mark Polish) by his side, but the Falls have little choice in the matter: They're conjoined twins, attached at the torso and sharing a middle leg. At first Penny is disturbed, but she soon warms to the brothers' gentle manners and off-beat sense of humor. When she again meets the Falls on Halloween, Penny finds herself strangely attracted to Blake, a development about which Francis, who depends on his brother for survival, is none too happy. The film has a slow and pensive tone, but for all its lyrical pretensions it lacks real poetry. The script glosses over themes of dependency, loneliness and love, offering tantalizingly vague dialogue in lieu of insight. Some intriguing sexual undercurrents arise but then go undeveloped. It is, however, gorgeous to look at and lovely to listen to. With its vintage decor, flickering lights and minimalist romantic score, this handsome and technically accomplished first feature owes a strong stylistic debt to David Lynch's "Twin Peaks." The film's real originality lies in the brothers' amazing physical performance: Bound together by a well-concealed corset, one anticipates the other's every move as they hobble around in their three-legged, two armed suit, whispering softly into one another's ears. It's eerie to watch, and it says more about their unique relationship than such heavy-handed symbols as a two-dollar bill and set of chopsticks. [R]

Victory ()- 1995 / Mark Peploe/ Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Irène Jacob, Rufus Sewell, Jean Yanne, Ho Yi, Bill Paterson, Irm Hermann, Simon Callow / [ Britania - Prancis - Jerman] / [mnt] Tahun 1913, Axel Heyst (Dafoe).

Waking the Dead () -2000 / Keith Gordon / Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly,Molly Parker, Janet McTeer, Paul Hipp, Sandra Oh, Hal Holbrook, Nelson Landrieu, Ivonne Coll, Lawrence Dane, Ed Harris, Larry Marshall, John Carroll Lynch, Bruce Dinsmore / (103 mnt) Director Keith Gordon tries to pull an intelligent, thought-provoking movie out of Scott Spencer's intelligent, thought-provoking novel about a young politician haunted by either his conscience or his dead girlfriend. For the most part he succeeds... all the film needs is a little life. Eight years after his girlfriend Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) died in a 1974 car bombing that also left two Chilean exiles dead, young and politically ambitious Chicago D.A. Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup) is offered a shot at a congressional seat in an impoverished district. It's what Fielding has worked for his entire life: Harvard undergrad, a stint with the Coast Guard during Vietnam, law school and the tutelage of a powerful Chicago politico (Hal Holbrook). But just as Fielding accepts his party's nomination, he begins to sense Sarah's presence and recalls her deep commitment to helping the poor and politically persecuted. These are more than just memories: Fielding begins getting strange phone calls and thinks he sees Sarah across crowded rooms. Pangs of conscience, or has his better half really come back from the dead? Spencer's sardonic, mercilessly self-aware first-person narrators are difficult to translate to the screen — witness the debacle of Endless Love, his haunting novel of romantic obsession that became the abysmal potboiler starring Brooke Shields.Crudup captures the essence of a man facing moral compromise, but the story's central ambiguities are rendered too literally. A tale of conscience lost and found becomes little more than a smart but tepid ghost story for idealists and '60s survivors, and not a terribly spooky one at that. Jodie Foster exec. with her egg [R]

Whatever It Takes ()- 2000 / David Hubbard / Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Shane West, Marla Sokoloff, Manu Intiraymi, Aaron Paul, Julia Sweeney, James Franco, Kip Pardue, Scott Vickaryous, Colin Hanks, Richard Chiff, Erin Champaign / (92 mnt) OK, those dead white folks could tell a good story, but they didn't know squat about lip gloss or tie-in soundtracks. Fortunately, today's Hollywood hotshots have stepped in to rectify the missing hottie and synergy factors in the works of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Choderlos de Laclos (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and now, Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac. High school jock Chris (James Franco) has the hots for smart, sensitive Maggie (Marla Sokoloff), but she won't give him the time of day. So he gets her lifelong best friend, Ryan (Shane West), to help out; Ryan pens sensitive email on Chris's behalf, tips him off to Maggie's likes and dislikes and generally instructs Chris in the art of making nice with girls. Ryan's reward: a date with Chris' stuck-up cousin Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), Gilmore High's resident object of all male desire. To Ryan's shock and dismay, his dream girl isn't so dreamy; she's rude, selfish, shallow and has an icky rash on her toes. Could it be that the woman he really loves is Maggie, whom he's just delivered into the clutches of a world-class wolf? Packed with fresh-ish young faces complete with high TV-generated recognition factor — between them, the young stars have featured slots on Freaks and Geeks, The Practice, Once and Again and Nash Bridges, and have appeared on a slew of other popular shows — this modest romantic comedy has its share of charming moments. But it feels desperately like the rehash

it is; most of what isn't inspired by Cyrano bears a striking resemblance to the Melissa Joan Hart vehicle DRIVE ME CRAZY. And it's larded with blinding glimpse-of-the-obvious homilies: Treat your friends right, don't go along with the crowd, and to thine own

self be true. Worthy sentiments all, but not exactly fresh insights. [PG-13]

What Lies Beneath ()- 2000 / Robert Zemeckis / Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer,Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, James Remar, Miranda Otto, Amber Valetta, Katharine Towne, Victoria Bidewell, Eliott Gorestsky, Ray Baker, Wendy Crewson / (123 mnt)Though it aims to revitalize the conventions of classic ghost stories, this slow, derivative chiller (which lifts liberally from GHOST STORY, REAR WINDOW and A STIR OF ECHOES) wastes far too much time on red herrings and telegraphs its plot points with painfully obvious dialogue: "Will that [paralyzing drug] work on all mammals?" "You know the cell phone doesn't work until you get to the middle of the bridge." High-strung Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer), who abandoned a promising musical career to marry genetic researcher Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford), is suffering from a bad case of empty nest syndrome. Her only child (Katherine Towne) has left for college, and Norman is too preoccupied with a major project to spend much time at home. Claire begins seeing and hearing things at their lakeside house, muffled whispers and the reflection of a dead woman in the water. She first suspects that their next-door neighbor (James Remar) has murdered his wife (Miranda Otto), but when that proves false she starts looking closer to home for the restless

spirit who keeps filling the bathtub and hurling a photograph of Claire and Norman to the floor. Director Robert Zemeckis stages several technically accomplished suspense scenes, but the shocks are predictable; the only thing missing is the cat leaping out of the closet. And while the film tries to walk the line between psychological suspense and flat-out supernatural horror, the plot's mechanics are always visible. Pfeiffer is remarkable as Claire; she seems to have so externalized the notion of "thin-skinned" that her own epidermis has become transparent, and negotiates several tricky character twists apparently without effort. Ford, however, gives another of the joyless, wooden performances that have become his stock in trade, and doesn't even seem to be trying to make the preposterous ending plausible. And as to the PSYCHO-derived score, composer Alan Silvestri should just plain be ashamed. [PG-13]

Where the Heart Is ()- 2000 / Matt Williams / Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, Joan CUsack, James Frain, Dylan Bruno, Keith David, Sally Field, Margaret Ann Hoard, Natalie Pena, Yvette Diaz / (120 mnt) In the mood for a picaresque tale with trailer park touches, in which the heroine's rat-bastard boyfriend gets run over by a train? Then look no further than this adaptation of Billie Letts's Oprah-hyped bestseller (a clue, incidentally, to its weird mix of implausibility and uplift). Teenaged Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) has never lived in a house without wheels, is pregnant by the aforementioned rat-bastard, en route to California (rat-bastard wants to land a job in the oil fields) and obsessed with the number five (seven in the book, but screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel must have their reasons). After a bathroom break at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart, Novalee finds herself abandoned, so she takes up secret, nocturnal residence in the store's sporting goods section. Next thing we know, she's in labor on the floor, and is rushed to the hospital by a smitten local librarian (James Frain). When she awakens, the decent folks at Wal-Mart offer her a job, and over the course of the next hour and a half Novalee grows in oh so many ways. She finds a surrogate family in the town's lovable eccentrics (including Stockard Channing as a cute religious nut and Ashley Judd as a girl who can't say no), discovers her own creativity and finally realizes she's in love with the librarian, despite his JANE EYRE-ish secrets. To be fair, this could have been worse. There are a couple of genuine laughs, the actors are game (particularly Joan Cusack as a no-nonsense talent scout) and the film's five-minute tornado scene is scarier than the whole of TWISTER. But it's hard to shake the feeling that somebody's being condescended to big time, though given the film's plethora of head-shaking, "I don't think so" moments, it may be a mistake to take anything seriously enough to take offense. [PG-13]

Whipped ()- 2000 / Peter M. Cohen / Amanda Peet, Brian van Holt, Judah Domke, Zorie Barber, Jonathan Abrahams, Callie Thorne / (85 mnt) It isn't every sex comedy that leaves you needing a cold shower; rarer still is the sex comedy that leaves you desperate for a hot one. Peter M. Cohen's crude farce is a misconceived roundelay that crosses the thin line dividing gross-but-funny from just plain gross. Slippery Wall Street suit Brad (Brian Van Holt) makes the alpha-male monsters of IN THE COMPANY OF MEN look good: His master plan involves triple-teaming some poor woman with college buddies Zeke (Zorie Barber) and Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams). Aspiring screenwriter Zeke doesn't even care if his pickups rip him off, as long as they put out first; Jonathan, on the other hand, admits he's only slept with a few women but has had great sex thousands of times with himself. Rounding out this quartet of college buds is Eric (Judah Domke), wittily nicknamed "the married guy" on account of his unfortunate conjugal situation. Eric's greatest pleasure lies in slobbering over the salacious details of his three friends' sex lives when they meet weekly for Sunday brunch at a local diner. These four high-fiving fools are begging for their come-uppance; instead, their wildest dreams come true. Brad, Zeke and Jonathan each meet the perfect girl. One problem: They're all the same girl, an uncommonly accommodating brunette named Mia (Amanda Peet). To reveal more would only further spoil this already rank comedy, so suffice it to say that after having Mia fulfill just about every male desire between the sheets, Cohen has the audacity to position

his movie as a feminist revenge fantasy. Throw in an extended bit of toilet humor involving a battery-powered marital aid and, well, a toilet, and you've got the makings of something really foul. [R]

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night Dream ()- 1999 / Michael Hoffman / Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Stanley Tucci, Anna Friel, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Dominic West, David Strathairn, Sophie Marceau, Roger Rees, Max Wright, Gregory Jbara, Bill Irwin, Sam Rockwell, Bernard Hill, John Sessions / { Amerika Serikat - Italia }(115 mnt) Lavish and star-studded, Michael Hoffman's version of Shakespeare's fairy-dusted game of romantic round robin is a thoroughly respectable affair: Your high school English teacher would approve, and parts are terrifically enjoyable. The story, about the tangled amours of a gaggle of pretty young things, could keep a soap opera in plot twists for weeks. Hermia (Anna Friel) and Lysander (Dominic West) are desperately in love, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius (Christian Bale). Meanwhile, Hermia's friend Helena (Calista Flockhart) adores Demetrius, who rejects her cruelly. The four of them unwisely repair to the woods, where fairy monarchs Oberon (Rupert Everett) and Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer), are in the midst of a supernatural marital spat. Oberon's revenge is to make his imperious lady fall magically in love with Bottom (Kevin Kline), a thesping rube whom spiteful Oberon has graced with a donkey's head. In a more benevolent vein, Oberon sends his emissary Puck (Stanley Tucci) to sort out the young lovers' problems, a mission that goes comically awry. Midsummer is a lark with a sneakily serious heart, about both love's all-consuming fire and theater's heart-breaking illusions. The trick is not to bog it down in the mechanics of magic. Hoffman sets the story in 19th-century Tuscany, the better to revel in lush Italian landscapes and stage comic bits with bicycles and phonographs. Cute enough for the human world, but

his imagination fails when it comes to the fairy kingdom, a fantasy-busting thing of portly nymphs and wings attached with straps. And why be so crude as to set poor Helena and Hermia to cat-fighting in the mud? Among the featured players, Tucci and the imperious Everett are sheer delights, and Kline plays Bottom for

nuance rather than buffoonery. Pfeiffer is a bit stiff and Flockhart exasperatingly frazzled. Production Design:Luciana Arrighi, Art Director: Maria Teresa Barbasso, Andrea Gaeta, Set Decorator: Ian Whittaker, Costume Design:Gabriella Pescucci [PG-13]

Almost Famous ()- 2000 / Cameron Crowe / Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Angarano, Noah Taylor, John Fedevich, Mmark Kozelek, Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin, Olivia Rosewood, Jimmy Fallon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liz Stauber, Bijou Phillips / (122 mnt) A wonderfully evocative cinematic tapestry woven from the early life experiences of writer-director Cameron Crowe, this quasi-autobiographical paean to the music that shaped and defined a generation captures the essence and soul of the '70s. Circa 1973, nerdy 15-year-old William Miller (Crowe stand-in Patrick Fugit), a gifted aspiring music journalist, has snagged a unbelievably plum assignment: A lengthy piece for the fledgling Rolling Stone on the talented but not-yet-famous Stillwater, fronted by Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and the charismatic Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), whom William met while they were opening for Black Sabbath. In order to get the interviews and background material he needs, William — with the nail-biting consent of his overly protective mother (Frances McDormand), who worries about the sex and drugs she knows go hand-in-hand with rock 'n' roll — joins the band and their barely legal "band aids" (groupies to the rest of us) on their ill-conceived, "Almost Famous" bus tour of various U.S. cities. Despite the warnings of rock critic Lester Bangs (the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman) that professionalism and befriending the band don't mix, William does — what fan wouldn't? — and compounds his transgression by falling in love with Russell's personal band aid, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Sharply observed, bittersweet and suffused with the kind of detail that only someone who lived through the era could summon up, Crowe's script is funny, heartfelt and very cool. His ensemble cast — especially Fugit, Crudup, Hoffman, McDormand and the sensational Kate Hudson — reward him with performances as vivid and intense as a blacklight poster. Producer:Cameron Crowe, Ian Bryce Music Composer: Nancy Wilson Costume Design: Betsy Heimann [R]

American Perfekt ()- 1997 / Paul Chart / Amanda Plummer (Sandra), Robert Forster (Jake), David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk (Alice), Paul Sorvino, Joanna Gleason, Geoffrey Lewis, Chris Sarandon, Jay Patterson, Judson Mills, Rutanya Alda / (100 mnt) I hope this movie receives more attention now that it's on video. Robert Forster gives a great performance that anchors the film. Also, the casting director has populated this effort with a very talented cast that is willing to go as far as the story requires. Yes, the road movie is a tired genre but I think the performances elevate the movie above its premise. [R]

American Virgin ()- 2000 / Jean-Pierre Marois / Bob Hoskins, Robert Loggia, Mena Suvari, Gabriel Mann, Sally Kellerman, Lamont Johnson, Bobbie Phillips, Rick Peters, O-Lan Jones, Michael Milhoan, Freda Fo Shen, Kristin Norton, Alexandra Wentworth, Cynthia LaMontagne, Michael Cudlitz, Kristin Minter, Jane Morris, Octavia Spencer, Ron Jeremy, Brian Bloom, Vincent Schiavelli, Esai Morales (hapus sebagian!) / {Amerika Serikat - Prancis - Spanyol} [106 mnt] (( Live Virgin )) A lightweight parody of the porn industry and daytime talk shows that has the look and feel of a middling direct-to-video feature, this film probably merited theatrical release because it features Mena Suvari, AMERICAN BEAUTY's dewy object of desire. Warring porn kingpins Ronny Bartoloti (Robert Loggia) and Joey Quinn (Bob Hoskins, affecting a broad American accent) share a lot of history, all bad: Ronny trained Joey in porn filmmaking, Joey decamped and set up a rival business, Ronny stole Joey's wife, Mitzi (Alexandra Wentworth). And that's nothing compared with what's coming. Joey has devised a new wrinkle in smut: He's going to broadcast the deflowering of a beautiful virgin on pay cable and the Internet; viewers wearing specially made virtual-reality suits will feel as though they're in the middle of the action. The show is called Live Virgin, and the virgin is Ronny's high school age daughter, Trina (Mena Suvari), who — in the time-honored manner of disgruntled teenage girls — has figured out the one thing she can do that will drive her father insane. After Trina announces her Live Virgin gig on a daytime talk show hosted by gimlet-eyed provocateur Quaint McPerson (Sally Kellerman), the complications start piling up. Quaint's son Brian (Gabriel Mann), Trina's ex-boyfriend, still loves Trina and will do anything to stop her. Ronny is out to kill Quinn, Quaint is hellbent on getting exclusive coverage of the event and keeping her son away from Trina, and Joey is gleefully orchestrating his sordid circus maximus. The feature-film debut of French fashion photographer Jean-Pierre Marois, this inconsequential farce has some funny moments, but it's the sort of thing you forget within hours of having seen it. Suvari is charming, and the cast also features Vincent Schiavelli as a sleazy cab driver and Esai Morales as a pretentious porn director. Cinematographer: Agle Egilsson

Bring It On ()- 2000 / Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Nicole Bilderback, Tsianina Joelson, Rini Bell, Nathan West, Huntley Ritter, Shamari Fears, Natina Reed, Brandi Williams, Richard Hillman / (105 mnt) A movie about high school cheerleading must be either a joke or a jiggle-fest for lechers, right? Wrong: This engaging, high-spirited tale of back-stabbing on the competitive cheerleading circuit may not be as barbed a look at high school mores as, say, ELECTION, but it's fresh, clever and thoroughly charming. Perky, popular Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) has just assumed the mantle of squad leader for San Diego's nationally acclaimed Rancho Carne Toros squad (the Toros themselves are the lamest high school football team around), and to her horror, nothing is going right. On her first day in charge, Torrance loses a cheerleader to a broken leg, and the audition for a replacement is very grim indeed. Torrance is on the verge of rubber-stamping a hair-tossing, lip-glossed squad member's annoying younger sister when in swaggers recent transfer student Missy Pantone (Eliza Dushku). Cute name notwithstanding, the black-clad Missy is no starry-eyed pom-pom pusher — she wouldn't even be trying out if Rancho Carne High had a gymnastics team. Torrance takes Missy anyway, only to have her protege announce that the team's current routine, the one they were planning to take to the regional finals, was stolen from the East Compton Clovers, an inner-city L.A. squad. And it gets worse: The desperate Torrance hires a choreographer to work up a new number, a move that could get the Toros disqualified if they're caught. And for the first time ever, the Clovers, led by the ambitious Isis (Gabrielle Union), are competing professionally and plan to kick the Toros' lily-white butts. Like CLUELESS, this sparkling trifle touches lightly on weighty matters — notably race/class privilege — without trivializing them. It showcases a trio of talented young actresses, captures the exuberant athleticism of competitive cheerleading and positively exudes good-hearted charisma. Who could resist? [PG-13]

Bedazzled ()- 2000 / Harold Ramis / Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor, Miriam Shor, Orlando Jones, Paul Adelstein, Toby Huss, Gabriel Casseus, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jeff Doucette, Aaron Lustig, Rudolf Martin, Julian Firth / (107 mnt) An annoying schmuck sells his soul for seven opportunities to win the girl of his dreams, none of which turns out exactly as he'd wanted. Every office has an Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser), someone so relentlessly, cluelessly irritating that co-workers will turn on their heels to avoid saying hi to him at the soda machine. Like all misfits, Elliot nurses a secret crush on an unattainable woman, in this instance co-worker Alison Gardner (Frances O'Connor). After botching an attempt to chat with Alison, Elliot utters those fateful words: "I would do anything to have that woman in my life." And suddenly he's face-to-face with a scarlet-clad temptress (Elizabeth Hurley) who says she's Satan and offers a variation on the standard Faustian pact. Elliot makes the usual wishes: He wants to be married to Alison; he wants to be rich and powerful; he wants to be a sports star, a sensitive man, a silver-tongued bon vivant (a sequence in which Elliot becomes a rock star was cut but appeared in the commercials). But the devil is in the crucial detail Elliot invariably forgets, so his fantasy unravels into a comical disaster each time. Purists will hate this loose remake of the 1967 film starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook (who also scripted) just because it's there, but it's quite enjoyable on its own terms. Hurley's gleeful, hip-swinging performance as the Princess of Lies, whom she plays like a frightfully upbeat saleswoman who happens to be peddling perdition through self-indulgence, is genuinely witty and allows her to don a variety of provocative getups. Fraser and O'Connor slide effortlessly in and out of various editions of their pitchfork-crossed characters, and there's a small nod to the stars of the original film in the pair of hellhounds named Peter and Dudley. Costume Design: Denna Apple [PG-13]

Crow: Salvation, The ()- 2000 / Bharat Nalluri / Kirsten Dunst, Eric Mabius, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, William Atherton, Fred Ward, Grant Shaud, Dale Midkiff, Walt Goggins / (102 mnt) James O'Barr (comic book series) (comic strip) I saw this movie at a screening and, sacrilege oh sacrilege, I liked it better than Crow I. Finally someone has made a movie where the female characters are as strong as the men, not just whimpering decorations. I found Shelly in Crow I depressing insipid and saccharine. Here, Jodi Lyn O'keefe plays this totally strong girl that Eric Mabius loves for her fighting spirit. It actually works - you feel there is something unique and beautiful between these two that should be allowed to live on. I was oddly touched at the end when they get back together. (I admit it - I cried). It's just kind of beautiful. You wish there could be more of this in the world. There is plenty of action and violence - but finally the girls are doing their fare share. Some of the violence is raw - but where it belongs - in the rape scenes. Hollywood normally whitewashes violence against women - tries to make it sexy- but no one is pussyfooting around here. It's gross. No soft-focus, no slo-mo: the rape scene is just plain brutal. Who knows maybe this is a girls movie, a feminist film that rocks. Eric Mabius is wonderful as the Crow. [R]

House on the Haunted Hill () - 1999 / William Malone / Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Evelyn Price, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher , Chris Kattan, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Max Perlich, Jeffrey Combs, Lisa Loeb / (90 mnt) A flat-out fright flick that shares little more than its title and bare-bones premise with the 1958 horror spoof starring Vincent Price. First, the house: It used to be a mental institution, highly respected until loony Dr. Vanacutt (RE-ANIMATOR's Jeffrey Combs) took over and turned it into his own private corner of hell, vivisecting and electroshocking and otherwise tormenting his patients until they rebelled, slaughtering the staff and setting the place on fire. Some 60 years later it's been refurbished, and amusement park magnate Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush) rents it for a birthday bash honoring his wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen). To spice up the festivities, he offers $1,000,000. to any guest who makes it through the whole night. But hey — what's going on? Sure, spiteful Steven shredded Evelyn's guest list in favor of his own, but the guests who appear in the oversized doorway aren't the ones he invited either. They include production assistant Sara (Ali Larter), who swiped her boss' invitation; cool and capable Eddie (Taye Diggs); ditsy TV twinkie Melissa (Bridgette Wilson); and level-headed Dr. Blackburn (Peter Gallagher). Rounding out the group is Pritchett (Chris Kattan), the house's owner; he just wants to collect his rental fee and split. But before he can, the group find themselves locked in. Are the subsequent scary events Steven's sadistic idea of fun? Is Evelyn responsible? Or — gasp! — is the house really is as evil as its reputation? Director William Malone lets the action drag; the script relies heavily on contrivances of the "Hey, I'm going to go poke around in the basement by myself" variety; and the scariest images are lifted directly from JACOB'S LADDER and GHOST STORY. But for horror fans in a forgiving mood, it's an adequate fear fix. Producer:Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis Production Design: David F. Klassen, Richard F. Mays, Lauri Gaffin [R]

If These Walls Could Talk 2 () -2000 / Jane Anderson, Martha Coolidge, Anne Heche / Vanessa Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Jenny O'Hara, Marley McClean, Paul Giamatti, Donald Elson, Elizabeth Perkins, Chloë Sevigny, Michelle Williams, Natasha Lyonne, Nia Long, Heather McComb, Amy Carlson, Lee Garlington, Sharon Stone, Ellen DeGeneres, Regina King, Kathy Najimy, Mitchell Anderson, George Newbern, Lucinda Jenney, Steffani Brass / (mnt) Produced by Ellen DeGeneres (executive)

Virgin Suicides, The ()- 2000 / Sofia Coppola / James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, Hanna Hall, Chelse Swain, A.J. Cooke, Leslie Hayman, Danny DeVito, Michael Pare, Jonathan Tucker, Anthony DeSimone, Noah Shebib, Robert Schwartzman, Lee Kagan, Chris Hale, Joe Dinicol, Scott Glenn, Suki Kaiser / (97 mnt) First-time writer/director Sofia Coppola doesn't quite nail the leering, voyeuristic quality that made Jeffrey Eugenides's novel such an unsettling experience, but she's nonetheless transformed the material into something intriguingly eerie: a morbid teen movie for melancholy adults. It's the mid-1970s, and over the course of a single year of life in tony Grosse Point, MI, all five teenage daughters of the Lisbons (James Woods, Kathleen Turner) will meet a tragic end. Smiling, golden-blond and entirely inaccessible, the Lisbon girls are the stuff of which teenage dreams — and, sometimes, lifelong obsessions — are made. The nightmare begins with the inexplicable suicide of the youngest Lisbon (Hanna Hall), is followed by the girls' house arrest by their desperate parents — prompted in large part by the aggressive sexuality of Lux (Kirsten Dunst) — and ends in utterly baffling tragedy. Contrary to the expectations of cynics who still blame Coppola for single-handedly ruining THE GODFATHER: PART III, this film is quite an achievement, and it didn't direct itself. Coppola wisely treats the sad fate of the Lisbon girls as more than a conventional mystery; her film is about mystery, specifically the mystery of adolescent girls in the eyes of adolescent boys. And if she mistakenly reads the creepy tone of book's first-person-plural narrator — the collective voice of the town's now-grown men, still haunted by the teenage girls they once coveted — as wistful nostalgia, other details are close to perfect. The soundtrack (Heart, ELO, Todd Rundgren, and an original score by the French duo Air) is spot-on and the costume design (pukka shells and knee-socks) is hideously accurate; the production design, guided by Bill Owens' celebrated photos of suburbia, offers a frightening vision of domestic hell (flocked wallpaper, sectional sofas and brown paneled rec rooms). Coppola has imagined a world that's quietly dying, like the town's diseased elm trees: OK on the outside but rotten at the core. [R]

Woman on Top () - 2000 / Fina Torres / Penelope Cruz, Murilo Benicio, Harold Perrineau Jr., Mark Feuerstein, John De Lancie, Anne Ramsay, Ana Gasteyer / (93 mnt) Bright, bubbly and thoroughly inconsequential, this formulaic romantic comedy rests firmly on the slender shoulders of Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, in her first English-language starring role. Cursed by motion sickness, Brazilian beauty Isabella Oliviera (Cruz) must always be in control: in the car, on the dance floor, in bed...everywhere. Her macho husband Toninho (Murilo Benicio) puts up with Isabella's headstrong ways for three years — after all, it's her inspired cooking that makes his restaurant an instant hit — but eventually rebels and cheats on her with a more compliant cutie. The devastated Isabella decamps for San Francisco, where her old friend Monica (Harold Perrineau Jr.), a flamboyant transsexual, now lives, and asks a conjure woman to cast a spell that will make her forget Toninho. Free of romantic regrets, Isabella blossoms and soon has her own Brazilian cooking show on a local station; every recipe ends with the enticing advice to share it with someone you love. Then the remorseful Toninho arrives with reconciliation on his mind and everything goes haywire; it takes spells, some steamy cooking and the intercession of Isabella's beloved sea goddess Yemanje to put everything right. Whimsy is an infinitely delicate thing, and director Fina Torres has a touch of lead, as her dreary CELESTIAL CLOCKWORK more than proved. Conceived in the tradition of surprise smash LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, this frothy mix of magic realism and old movie cliches would be as unpalatable as SIMPLY IRRISISTIBLE if not for Cruz's incandescent charisma. Is there another actress alive who could pull off the scene in which Isabella walks merrily down the street, blithely unaware that droopy tulips straighten up as she passes and a growing mob of starry-eyed men is trailing after her, let alone make it charming? — Maitland McDonagh [R]

WOrld is Not ENough, The ()- 1999 / Michael Apted / Pierce Brosnan, Denise Richards, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, John Cleese, Serena Scott Thomas, Maria Grazia Cucinotta / { Amerika Serikat - Britania } / (128 mnt) The world changes and special agent James Bond -- as originally conceived by Ian Fleming, a sociopathic, sexist Cold War dinosaur -- soldiers on. In this newest installment in the 007 saga (the 19th or 21st, depending on where you stand on CASINO ROYALE and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN), Bond is pitted against a walking dead man named Renard (Robert Carlyle), who feels no pain because of the bullet making its way through his brain. Renard seems to be gunning for beautiful Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), who's inherited an oil empire from her murdered father (an old law school chum of Judi Dench's M) and is constructing a pipeline through a network of unstable former Soviet republics. But what's Elektra really up to, and what's the real story behind her kidnapping several years earlier, an ordeal that left her missing part of an ear and ended when she killed her captors? Bond finds himself entangled with both Elektra and Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), a scientist whose expertise comes in mighty handy when someone needs to explain why it's imperative to disarm that thermonuclear thingamabob sometime in the next three minutes, lest Istanbul become toast. The requisite gadgets include the usual fully loaded car and a pair of X-ray spex that briefly turn Bond into the Immoral Mr. Teas; the action set pieces owe a great deal to previous films, including the ski chase from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and LIVE AND LET DIE's speed boat hijinks. Purists may be bothered that Bond spends an awful lot of time being rescued from peril by supporting characters, and Richards reaches astonishing heights of ineptitude; Dr. Jones's degree appears to be in aerobics with a minor in Valley Speak. And like all recent Bond movies, the whole thing goes on way too long. [PG-13]

Bats ()- 1999 / Louis Morneau / Lou Diamond Phillips, Dina Meyer, Bob Gunton, Leon, Carlos Jacott, David Shawn McConnell, Marcia Dangerfield, Oscar Rowland, Tim Whitaker, Juliana Johnson, James Sie, Ned Belamy, George Gerdes / (91 mnt) A straight-faced throwback to the glory days of mutant wildlife on the rampage, this small-scale shocker pits a flock of way-too-smart bats against the residents of tiny Gallup, TX. The first hint that something's amiss comes when two teens are ripped to bits in their car. Enter weirdo researcher Dr. McCabe (Bob Gunton) and Dr. Hodge (Carlos Jacott) of the Centers for Disease Control. They seem to know altogether too much about what's going on, and are remarkably reluctant to share it with local lawman Sheriff Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips) or visiting bat expert Dr. Sheila Casper (Dina Meyer). Turns out there's not all that much to know; McCabe has created a race of oversized, ultra-intelligent, hyper-aggressive super bats (Why? "Because I can!" he cackles) and they're on the loose in Southern Texas, getting in people's hair and then ripping their scalps off. If the bats spread, everybody's going to be very, very sorry. You may be having a flashback right about now to NIGHTWING or CHOSEN SURVIVORS, because let's face it — there are only so many ways you can spin "us vs. the killer flying chihuahuas." The special effects bats are pretty amazing, though it may not have been a good idea to show them in close-up so often; real bats don't look real in close up (you know, nature's gargoyles), let alone fake ones — no matter how carefully and accurately constructed. And once the little beasts start crawling into cars through the exhaust pipes with malevolent intent and dive-bombing people in convenience stores, it's hard not to think of GREMLINS. [PG-13]

Bounce ()- 2000 / Don Roos / Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tony Goldwyn, Alex D. Linz, David Dorfman, Natasha Henstridge, Joe Morton, Johnny Galecki, Jennifer Grey, David Paymer, Sam Robards, Lisa Carpenter Prewitt, Nicole Tocantins, Caroline Aaron / (102 mnt) Writer-director Don Roos's follow-up to the blackly funny OPPOSITE OF SEX is altogether more somber, but his biting wit keeps it from becoming mired in gloom. Cocksure, Los Angeles-based adman Buddy Amaral (Ben Affleck), who's just landed the lucrative Infinity Airline account, gets delayed at Chicago's O'Hare airport by bad weather. He winds up hanging out with sexy businesswoman Mimi (Natasha Henstridge), whose flight has been cancelled, and rumpled playwright Greg Janello (Tony Goldwyn), who desperately wants to get home to his family in L.A. Greg, who's managed to score a scarce airport-hotel voucher, generously gives it to Mimi. And in an uncharacteristic moment of altruism (albeit tainted by the fact that he sees an opportunity to spend the night with Mimi), Buddy gives Greg his ticket and uses his Infinity connections to hustle Greg through the boarding gate. An hour after take-off, the plane blows up and kills everyone aboard. Thoroughly shaken by his brush with death and the way in which he escaped it, Buddy goes into a year-long, alcohol-fueled tailspin that nearly costs him his job and finally lands him in a posh rehab facility. Newly sober, Buddy starts making amends, surreptitiously checking in on Greg's widow, Abby (Gwyneth Paltrow), who's just started working as a real estate broker. Buddy does a little good deed, slipping her some much-needed work, but doesn't reveal that something more than coincidence has brought them together. When they start falling in love, things get very complicated — how can Buddy now tell Abby he's the guy who put her husband on the doomed plane? Beneath the plot's romantic turns lies a surprisingly complex examination of the personal and professional price of honesty; falsehoods, half-truths, little white lies and self-delusion spur most of the key plot developments, and Roos never resorts to platitudes to account for their effects. [PG-13]

Bumblebee Flies Anyway, The ()- 2000 / Martin Duffy / Robert Cormier (novel)Jennifer Sarja (wrt.) Elijah Wood (Barney Snow), Janeane Garofalo (Dr. Harriman/Handyman), Roger Rees, Joseph Perrino, Rachael Leigh Cook, George O. Gore III, Adam LaVorgna, Oni Faida Lampley, Jeffrey Force, Janet Paparazzo, Chris Petrizzo (99 mnt) Without giving anything away, I just want to say that the cast, script, cinematography, and direction combine to produce a film that speaks to the hearts of all who enter into the dreamworld created by cinema. In my opinion, so many pointless films are made today, but The Bumblebee Flies Anyway is NOT in this category. This movie exemplifies why movies are made and what makes a good film. Movies are made for many reasons: they speak to us, the offer us an escape by making us voyeurs, but most of all, they tell us a story with which we can identify. The Bumblebee Flies Anyway more than allows all these cinematic miracles to take place. It tells a story so compelling and gripping you feel like a part of the film, you feel like the characters are your best friends, you feel, at times, like jumping into the film and showing your compassion for the characters.In addition to exemplifying why movies are made, The Bumblebee Flies Anyway also shows us what makes a good film. It has everything: drama, moments of comedy, wonder, mystery, intrigue, and most of all, it provides a solid story which has all the elements of a good narrative (a protagonist who is faced with a problem or struggle that he has to find his way through). The film has elements of love and romance; I must say that Elijah Wood and Rachael Leigh Cook have a wonderful rapport and chemistry together. The film also serves as an example of true friendship between two people. Young people could learn a great deal from the friendship between Barney Snow (the Elijah Wood character and Mazzo (don't know the name of the young man who played Mazzo). The only thing I wished had been done differently about the film is I wish it could've been longer. I know for certain reasons directors, editors, and producers make the decision to take time out of the film for length purposes. I didn't want this one to be over. The film did resolve all of its conflicts, but as a lover of film and one who finds solitude in the dreamworld of cinema, I wanted more. I won't say anything more, but to say that I highly recommend this film. The last twenty minutes of the film are enough to take your breath away; it's beautiful!!! The Bumblebee DOES Fly Anyway. [PG-13]

Chasing the Deer ()- 1994 / Graham Holloway / Brian Blessed, Iain Cuthbertson, Mathew Zajac, Fish, Brian Donald, Sandy Welch, Peter Gordon, Carolyn Konrad, Lynn Ferguson, Lewis Rae, Simon Kirk, Andy McCullogh, Callum McDougal, Steven Cooper, Michael Leighton / Britania} / (97 mnt)

Children of Heaven ()- 1999 / Majid Majidi / Amir Naji, Amir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Sediqi, Nafise Jafar-Mohammadi, Fereshte Sarabandi, Kamal Mir Karimi, Behzad Rafiee / (Iran) / { Bahasa Farsi } / (( Bacheha-Ye Aseman )) / (88 mnt) If you think Iranian cinema is all about slow pacing, allegorical plotting and symbolic goldfish like the one that drives Jafar Panah's acclaimed WHITE BALLOON, you're in for a pleasant surprise. This utterly charming feature from writer-director Majid Majidi is not only wonderfully entertaining, it's also one of the best children's films in recent memory. One afternoon, on his way back from the cobbler's, 9-year-old Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) accidentally loses his sister's only pair of shoes in a bustling Tehran marketplace. The loss is a catastrophe -- without her shoes, Zahra (Bahare Sediqi) can't go to school -- but the siblings decide not to burden their already impoverished parents with this additional bit of misfortune. Instead, Ali devises a scheme whereby they can both share his own pair of tattered sneakers: Zahra can wear them to school in the morning, then rush to a prearranged rendezvous point where she'll hand them off to Ali in time for his afternoon classes. The children's determination to help each other and protect their parents is a touching illustration of honor and resourcefulness in the face of grinding poverty, and gives Majidi an opportunity to demonstrate his belief that the proof of the essential goodness of human beings lies not in the grand gesture, but in small, everyday kindnesses. Majidi delivers his message with an extraordinarily light touch, and his two very young leads are terrific. Sure, it's sentimental, but no more so than, say, THE BICYCLE THIEF. The film even climaxes with an exciting footrace before ending on a simple moment of quiet grace -- complete with goldfish. (In Farsi, with English subtitles.) -- Ken Fox

Charlie's Angels ()- 2000 / Joseph McGinty Nichol / Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Kelly Lynch, Tim Curry, Crispin Glover, John Forsythe, Matt LeBlanc, LL Cool J, Tom Green, Luke Wilson, Sean Whalen, Ned Bellamy / (98 mnt) So inconsequential that it starts evaporating from memory the minute it's over, this big-screen version of the '70s TV show is pleasant enough (if occasionally disconcertingly vulgar) while you're watching. In another context, that might be damnation by faint praise, but under these circumstances it's as good as it gets, though why it took ten screenwriters (three credited) at least a dozen rewrites to craft something so ephemeral is anyone's guess. The crime-busting "Angels" are gorgeous geek-girl Natalie (Cameron Diaz), cool and commanding Alex (Lucy Liu), and pouty Dylan (Drew Barrymore, one of the movie's producers), a barely grown-up wild child. As in the popular but deeply stupid series (whose original stars; Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith; declined to make cameo appearances here), they answer to a mysterious millionaire who's only ever heard on the phone (John Forsythe, reprising his series role) and who sends them on a mission involving a kidnapped computer geek (Sam Rockwell), his steely partner (Kelly Lynch), their flamboyant competitor (Tim Curry), a silent villain (Crispin Glover) and some purloined voice-recognition software, the misuse of which could mean the end of privacy as we know it. Frankly, who cares? The preposterous plot is just an excuse for these cheese-puff girls to go undercover as belly dancers, race-car drivers, geisha girls and the like, and to mix it up in insanely stylized action sequences masterminded by Hong Kong fight choreographer Yuen Cheung Yan (brother of The Matrix choreographer Yuen Wo Ping). The tone is equal parts exuberant hokiness and affectionately ironic self-awareness (a reference to "T.J. Hooker The Movie" gets a big laugh), though the movie's posterior ogling is a little off-putting. (Movies this ass-obsessed are usually located in the gay-porn section of your local video store). Bill Murray plays the Angels' sidekick, Bosley, while Tom Green (Barrymore's significant other) is simply awful as Dylan's swain, Chad; for him, even this small role is still far too large. [PG-13]

Don Quixote ()- 2000 / Peter Yates / John Lithgow, Bob Hoskins, Isabella Rossellini, Vanessa L. Williams, Lambert Wilson, Amelia Warner, Tony Haygarth, Peter Eyre, Lilo Baur, James Purefoy, Trevor Peacock / (120 mnt) { Film Televisi} Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra (novel) [PG-13]

Fille de d'Artagnan, La ()- 1994 / Bertrand Tavernier / Sophie Marceau (Eloise), Philippe Noiret, Claude Rich, Sami Frey, Jean-Luc Bideau, Raoul Billerey, Charlotte Kady, Nils Tavernier, Luigi Proietti, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Pascale Roberts / (Prancis) {Bahasa Prancis} / (( Return of the Musketeers)) [R]

Lady Chatterley ()- 1992 / Ken Russell / Joely Richardson, Sean Bean (Mellors), James Wilby, Shirley Ann Field, Amanda Murray, Soo Drouet, Frank Grimes, David Sterne, Melanie Hughes, Brian Blessed / ( Britania ) / { Film Televisi } (110 mnt) D.H. Lawrence (novel) Lady Chatterley, whose husband was paralyzed in a war, is faced with the prospect of living the rest of life completely unfulfilled sexually, emotionally and maternally. She then meets Mellors, the family gameskeeper, with whom she begins an affair. D.H. Lawrence's novels, from which the movie was adapted, addressed some very touchy subjects of the 1920's English culture: sexuality and the dichotomy of the social classes. The movie, filmed for TV in four segments, does an excellent job of portraying the lives of Lawrence's characters and the lifestyles and fashion of that era. While the movie seems to get somewhat slow in places, the story would somehow be less complete without them. Part of the controversy surrounding Lawrence's was the great detail with which he described the sexual encounters between Lady Chatterley and Mellors. The books, though banned for many years in England, were nevertheless quite popular and became an instrument of social change. Many movies that attempt to depict sexual intimacy somehow fail to capture the atmosphere or feeling of the moment quite as well as director Ken Russell did in this movie. The scenes were quite convincing and should be required viewing for anyone who wishes to avoid movies where the sex scenes were added solely for the sake of the box office. The actors Joely Richardson and Sean Bean did a superb job at presenting to the audience the sexual intimacy and how they were affected by the social ramifications of their relationship. Despite the rather long playing time of the movie, they manage to maintain the quality of their roles as people in a complex social predicament. While the movie contains some nudity, it is important to note that the only scene that depicts full-frontal nudity is one that is void of any sexuality; the couple, overwhelmed at having found true joy in their lives, run and frolic naked through the woods. A good lesson for future moviemakers and censors: nudity in movies need not - nor should it always be - associated with sex. The bottom line: Lady Chatterley is a good quality love story that includes all the social politics, the old-world class distictinctions, and the many other elements that make up the relationship of the couple involved. If you liked the books, you will most likely enjoy this movie as well.

Love, Honour and Obey ()- 2000 / Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis / Sadie Frost, Jonny Lee Miller, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Kathy Burke, Sean Pertwee, Denise Van Outen, Rhys Ifans, Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis, John Beckett, Trevor Laird, William Scully, Perry Benson, Mark Burdis / ( Britania ) / [103 mnt] I went to see this film on the day of release without having any prior knowledge of what the plot was, all I knew was that it had a damn good cast and looked a true 'brit flick'. I was treated to one of the funniest films I have seen in ages, this film knocks spots off Lock Stock (to which many people compare it to). The film feels true, and all the characters come across as real people, rather than actors portraying others.The pace of the film is excellent, with enough funny moments to make you want to see it again - without giving away a spoiler, the 'hole in the head scene' was so funny, I laughed until I hurt. Take my advice, ignore the people ready to knock this film and see it for yourself, maybe you won't like it - but i'm sure you won't be let down!

Million Dollar Hotel, The ()- 2000 / Wim Wenders / Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Davies, Mel Gibson, Jimmy Smits, Peter Stormare, Amanda Plummer, Gloria Stuart, Tom Bower, Donal Logue, Bud Cort, Julian Sands, Conrad Roberts, Harris Yulin, Charlayne Woodard, Ellen Cleghorne / ( Jerman - Britania - Amerika Serikat ) (121 mnt) After I saw this movie yesterday, I primarily had a sad feeling inside me. This not a happy movie. It's about love and feelings, about people living at the trashdump of society who struggle to get their share of the American Dream. It's also a lovestory beyond the usual Hollywood-Romantic-Comedy-Tom-Hanks-Meets-Meg-Ryan-Style. I guess many people do and will take the movie's slow and silent mood for boring - but it's not! The lovestory between Tom Tom and the fragile, disturbed & sad looking Elouise (showing a great performance by Milla Jovovich). Also great: Mel Gibson as kind of Persiflage of his stereotyped Cop-Character. Watch this movie - it's different. [R]

Watcher, The ()- 2000 / Joe Charbanic /James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Keanu Reeves, Ernie Hudson, Chris Ellis, Robert Cicchini, Yvonne Niami, Jennifer McShane, Gina Alexander, Rebakah Louise Smith / (93 mnt) Have you heard the one about the diabolically clever serial killer and the troubled cop he draws into his perverted world of death and psychological torture? Sure you have — in fact, if you like serial killer stories, you've heard it lots of times. And that's the biggest thing wrong with this routine psychological thriller; that and the fact that Keanu Reeves plays the diabolically clever serial killer. Former Los Angeles-based detective Jack Campbell (James Spader) is a mess, driven to a total nervous breakdown by his pursuit of strangler David Griffin (Reeves), a murderer so ingenious that the police could do nothing to stop him. Three years later, Campbell is moping around Chicago, a sleepless prescription pill junkie who's tormented by migraines and seeing a sympathetic therapist (Marisa Tomei, whose lackluster performance suggests once again that her Oscar for MY COUSIN VINNY was the luckiest fluke in the world). And then the taunting phone calls start; Griffin has pulled up stakes and moved to the Windy City, eager to resume his sadistic cat-and-mouse game with Campbell, with a new twist. Griffin sends Campbell photos of nameless young women and gives him a deadline to find them; if Campbell fails, the girls die. Soon the clock is ticking, victims are dying, Campbell is cracking under the pressure, and so on. First-time feature director Joe Charbanic, who also co-wrote the script, cut his teeth on music video (including several for Reeves' band Dogstar) and gives the film an edgy, artfully gloomy look. But revitalizing a genre as overworked as this one is no job for beginners, and if Reeves weren't onboard this picture would have gone straight to video like countless others of its kind. [R]

Reach the Rock ()- 1998 / William Ryan / William Sadler, Alessandro Nivola, Bruce Norris, Karen Sillas, Brooke Langton, Richard Hamilton, Norman Reedus / (100 min) William Ryan made his directorial debut with this comedy-drama set in the small town of Shermer, Illinois, where vandalism by Robin Fleming (Alessandro Nivola) gets him thrown in jail by the two-man police force -- Sergeant Phil Quinn (William Sadler) and his dim-bulb deputy, Ernie (Bruce Norris). Quinn blames Fleming for the accidental swimming death of his nephew (Norman Reedus) four years previous. While the inept cops aren't looking, Fleming steals the key to his cell and exits, creating more town problems -- and then he returns. It's all a gambit on his part to gain forgiveness from Quinn and also to get his ex-girlfriend Lise (Brooke Langton) to bail him out, in hopes of attracting her attention. [R] John Hughes- Producer / Screenwriter

Road Trip ()- 2000 / Todd Phillips / Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott, Amy Smart, Paulo Costanzo, D.J. Qualls, Rachel Blanchard, Anthony Rapp, Fred Ward, Tom Green, Andy Dick, Ethan Suplee / (91 mnt) When it's not wasting time with character, this deliberately dumb collegiate comedy is good for a few laughs of the big butts and sex variety, but not much else. Sweethearts since childhood, Josh (Breckin Meyer) and Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard) go off to separate colleges — he moves to upstate New York, she's in Texas — and try to do the long-distance-relationship thing, complete with endless phone calls, mushy videotapes and all. But in a moment of weakness, Jake gives into temptation with a lithe, leggy blonde (Amy Smart) who records the whole sordid act on a tape that Jake's brainy pothead roommate Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) accidentally mails to Tiffany. Now Jake's got three days to get from Ithaca to Austin and intercept the tape, and he can't afford airfare. Along for the ride are best friend E.L. (Seann William Scott), Rubin and Kyle (DJ Qualls, the movie's secret weapon), a 90-pound virgin who has no self-esteem but does have the keys to a shiny Ford Taurus. There's no classic bit on par with anything in AMERICAN PIE or THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, but a mouse gets licked, French toast is shoved down a pair of dirty sweat pants then eaten, and an old man sports a startlingly large erection. And when director Todd Phillips runs out of inspiration, he isn't too proud to pilfer the past: The cheesy group singalong is straight out of WAYNE'S WORLD, and the questionable laugh riot of seeing a bunch of uncool white boys surrounded by a large group of vaguely threatening black men hasn't been tried — wisely — since ANIMAL HOUSE. Oddly, the film's chief selling point, "edgy" MTV comedian Tom Green, is also the movie's biggest bore: He's the film's narrator, and his gross-out shtick wears very thin, very fast. Ivan Reitman prod. esec. [R]

Rogue Trader ()- 1998 / James Dearden / Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel, Yves Beneyton, Betsy Brantley, Caroline Langrishe, Tim McInnerny, Irene Ng, Lee Ross, Simon Shepherd, Jhn Standing, Pip Torrens / {Britania} (105 min) Based on the tell-all autobiography by Nick Leeson, Rogue Trader tells the true story of how one man managed to bring down England's best respected merchant bank. Ewan McGregor plays Leeson, an ambitious young man from North London who is hired by the Barings Brothers Bank and sent to Indonesia to help untangle some problems with bearer bonds. Leeson does well enough to earn a transfer to Singapore, where he's put in charge of Barings' staff at the Singapore International Money Exchange. The Asian economy is booming and a variety of new financial strategies are changing the shape of the marketplace; while his superiors in London are a bit baffled by the range of possibilities, Leeson takes to the work like a duck to water, and he's soon trusted to do as he pleases. This eventually proves to be his downfall; without a separate team watching the accounts in the back office, Leeson is soon juggling figures to cover up for certain mistakes and gambling on the market with the bank's funds, not just their clients'. In 1995, Leeson's schemes finally collaped, leaving Barings bankrupt; Nick and his wife (another Barings employee) tried to flee the country to avoid arrest. Leeson was eventually sentenced to six-and-a-half years in a Singapore prison for his financial misdeeds; he was released after four years and four months, a week before Rogue Trader opened in British theaters. -- Mark Deming (R)

Shaft ()- 2000 / John Singleton / Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa L. Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Busta Rhymes, Dan Hedaya, Toni Collette, Richard Roundtree, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Josef Sommer, Lynne Thigpen, Philip Bosco, Pat Hingle, Lee Tergesen, Daniel Von Bargen, Zach Grenier (hapus), Mekhi Phifer (hapus) / (98 mnt) John Singleton clearly reveres the heyday of '70s action pictures, their low-key car chases, muddy-looking location cinematography and restrained gunfights. The most surprising thing about his sequel/reworking of pioneering blaxploitation picture SHAFT is how true to the '70s it is, from the funk-heavy soundtrack to the restrained mayhem. The question is whether it can hold the attention of today's adrenaline junkies, who weren't born when SHAFT opened and have no sentimental attachment to the "black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks." It's a bad sign when audience enthusiasm peaks during the credits sequence. NYC cop John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) catches a particularly ugly murder at a swanky nightspot: A young black man has been beaten to death, and the chief suspect is an arrogant multimillionaire's son, Walter Wade (Christian Bale). Shaft is convinced that terrified employee Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette) saw the whole thing, but she gives him the slip and Wade later skips bail for Switzerland. Two years later, Wade returns to New York and is rearrested; but without Palmieri's testimony he's sure to walk. Determined to silence her, Wade tries to hire volatile drug lord Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright), who has his own bone to pick with Shaft. And then everything goes right to hell. Singleton and Jackson's devotion to the original film's innovations (including its constant reminder that in America race is always an issue) is evident, though reports from the troubled set suggest that theirs was an uphill battle. If original Shaft Richard Roundtree (who has a substantial cameo in the new film) hadn't blazed the trail, Wesley Snipes, Will Smith and Danny Glover wouldn't be rolling up on white baddies today, cans of whup-ass at the ready. The trouble is that in 1971 Shaft stood alone, while today he's just another guy bucking the corrupt system. Wrt: Singleton & Richard Price [R]

Shattered Image ()- 1998 / Raul Ruiz /William Baldwin, Anne Parillaud, Lisanne Falk, Graham Greene, Billy Wilmott, O'Neil Peart, Leonie Forbes, Bulle Ogier / (103 mnt) A traumatized newlywed honeymooning in Jamaica dreams she's a ruthless hired gun in Seattle. Or is it the other way around? This initially intriguing but ultimately silly thriller from director Raul Ruiz is an unsteady mix of arty brain-bender and schlocky erotic thriller. Jessie (Anne Parillaud) arrives in Jamaica with new husband Brian (Billy Baldwin), convinced that the creep who once brutally raped her is still on the prowl. She's a bundle of frayed nerves: paranoid, utterly dependent on Brian and disgusted by her own weakness. In her dreams, it's a different story: She's a cool, unemotional hit woman who kills only men, but is also haunted by a recurring dream -- one in which she's an unstable rape victim honeymooning in Jamaica with her new husband, Brian. As dreams and reality switch places and collapse into one another, it's increasingly difficult for Jessie -- and the audience -- to tell the dreamer from the dream. Prolific and highly regarded auteur Ruiz has more than a few great films under his belt, and the film is stylishly shot by Robby Muller, who's worked with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch. Screenwriter Duane Poole, on the other hand, has C.H.O.M.P.S. and SCOOBY-DOO GOES HOLLYWOOD on his resume: His lackluster and derivative script -- a crazy-quilt of SUSPICION, GASLIGHT, DR. CALIGARI and a host of Brian De Palma movies -- is a big problem. Parillaud's colorless performance is another: She seems determined not to have any fun at all. The film's at its best in those rare moments when it manages to escape the confines of its script and its underwhelming cast and indulge in the kind of tricky visual puzzles that made Ruiz's THREE LIVES AND ONLY ONE DEATH -- a much better film about reflections and reality -- such a rare pleasure. -- Producer:Peter Hoffman, Barbet Schroeder, Susan Hoffman, Lloyd A. Silverman Co-Producer: Lisanne Falk [R]

SLC Punk ()- 1999 / James Merendino / Matthew Lillard, Michael Goorjan, Annabeth Gish, Jennifer Lien, Christopher McDonald, Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, Summer Phoenix, James Duval, Til Schweiger, Adam Pascal, Chiara Barzini, Kevin Breznahan, Christina Karras, Russ Peacock / (99 mnt) / Very possibly the most ruthlessly irritating comedy since the dreaded S.F.W. attempted to put its finger on the pulse of young America, and that's saying something. It's 1985, and deep in the heart of Ronald Reagan's America — Salt Lake City, Utah — punk-rocker Stevo (the redoubtable Matthew Lillard) is angry. Disgusted by the banality of the world around him, Stevo wears his electric-blue dye-job with pride, swearing to remain "hardcore" amid rampant selling out. But it isn't easy: His hippie-turned-corporate lawyer dad (Christopher McDonald) is pressuring him to go to Harvard Law School, and Stevo has to travel to Wyoming just to buy beer. But he and his friends (including Michael Goorjian, Devan Sawa and Annabeth Gish, the local scene goddess) are determined to stay true to all that being a punk signifies, and so engage in a lot of punk-rock behavior: partying, discussing the virtues of anarchy, pogo-ing at rock shows and spewing invective against fascists, skinheads, mods, rockers, poseurs of every stripe and — above all — rednecks. It could be that writer-director James Merendino meant this rambling and solipsistic film to be a satire on the bone-headed pseudo-politics that marked so much of the '80's hardcore scene. But there's an earnestness afoot that would indicate otherwise. Merendino, who directed WITCHCRAFT IV before turning to more serious films, has all the manic energy of a punk-rock Richard Lester. And his film is quite stylish, full of flashy editing and a wide variety of optical effects bolstered by a soundtrack that's any aging punk's wet dream. But it's all in the service of nothing in particular, and the hyperactive Lillard — who, when used sparingly, can be funny (remember his bit in SCREAM?) — is on-camera and in-your-face the entire time. He's unbearable. Exec. Producer:Jan De Bont Editor: Esther P. Russell (R)

Sleepers ()- 1996 / Barry Levinson / Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Billy Crudup, Ron Eldard, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Bacon,Vittorio Gassman,Minnie Driver, Terry Kinney,Jeffrey Donovan, Lennie Loftin, Joe Perrino, Brad Renfro, Jonathan Tucker, Geoff Wigdor, Bruno Kirby, Sean Reilly, Joe Urla, Wendell Pierce, Frank Medrano, John Slattery , Aida Turturro, Ben Hammer, James Pickens Jr. / (140 mnt) The dullest movie ever made about child abuse, conspiracy and murder. Shakes (Jason Patric), Michael (Brad Pitt), Tommy (Billy Crudup) and John (Ron Eldard) grew up in the same tough New York neighborhood and spent a hellish year together in the Wilkinson Home for Boys, where they were systematically beaten, humiliated and sexually abused by sadistic guards. As adults, Tommy and John -- who've grown up into murderous gangbangers -- happen upon the worst of their tormentors (Kevin Bacon) in a local bar, and shoot him in cold blood. Michael, now a junior D.A., prosecutes the case with an eye to making sure his friends go free, and Shakes helps him out. What's apparently meant to be a grim meditation on lost innocence and the poisonous nature of revenge -- we assume this on the basis of the somber tone and dreary color scheme -- is instead a bloated bore of a movie in which nothing happens that isn't first shown and then described in voice-over. Like the book on which it was based, which was promoted as a nonfiction memoir and had its veracity vociferously challenged on several fronts, this picture feels patently, crudely false from start to finish. Robert De Niro sleepwalks his way through the role of a hoodlum priest whose moral dilemma is singularly unpersuasive and utterly uninteresting. [R] Writer: Barry Levinson (based on the novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra) Cinematographer:Michael Ballhaus Music Composer:John Williams Production Design: Kristi Zea

Slight Case of Murder, A ()- 1999 / Steven Schachter / William H.Macy (Tery Thorpe), Adam Arkin, Felicity Huffman, James Cromwell, Julia Campbell, James Pickens, jr., Paul Mazursky, Vinny Pastore, Michael McMurtry, STephanie Belding / (100 mnt) / (( A Travesty )) / {Film Televisi} Donald E. Westlake (book)

Snow Falling on Cedars ()- 1999 / Scott Hicks / Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, Youki Kadoh, James Rebhorn, Max von SYdow, Sam Shepard, Rick Yune, Reeve Carney, Anne Suzuki, Arija Bareikis, Eric Thal, Celia Weston, Daniel von Bargen, Akira Takayama, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Zak Orth, Zeljko Ivanek / (125 mnt) Flawed, but fascinating, this somber adaptation of David Guterson's award-winning novel is sometimes sluggish and difficult to follow, but it's also unexpectedly poetic. Nine years have passed since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but on a small island due north of Seattle, the wounds are still fresh. Early one frozen morning, the dead body of local fisherman Carl Heine Jr. (Eric Thal) is found, overboard and tangled in his net, with a nasty gash over his ear. The most likely suspect is Kabuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune), a Japanese-American who was seen fishing the same fog-bound waters as Heine just hours earlier. And Kabuo has a motive: To circumvent laws preventing non-citizens from owning land, Kabuo's father (Akira Takayama) once made arrangements to secretly purchase seven acres of strawberry fields from Carl Heine Sr. (Daniel Von Bargen). But before the final

payment could be made, the Miyamotos -- and every other islander of Japanese descent -- were sent to California's infamous Manzanar internment camp, and the land was sold out from under them. As Kabuo stands trial for murder, local reporter Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), an embittered veteran who lost an arm to a Japanese bullet and his childhood love (Youki Kudoh) to Kabuo, takes his place in the courtroom with more than purely journalistic interest. SHINE director Scott Hicks improves on Guterson's novel by focusing less on the book's weak mystery plot and more on its real subject: how the pain surrounding a particularly shameful chapter in American history lingers on. Suffused with dark, shifting shadows, the film is handsomely shot by Robert Richardson, the extraordinary visual stylist behind most of Oliver Stone's films. But it's far more Terrence Malick than Stone, and hardly the crowd-pleaser one would expect in a bestseller-to-screen adaptation. The storyline is fractured by multiple flashbacks that echo, overlap and collide with the illogicality of memories in a beautifully cinematic attempt to capture the brooding heart of Guterson's tale. [PG-13]

Soldier ()- 1998 / Paul Anderson / Kurt Russel, Jason Scott Lee, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee, Michael Chiklis, Gary Busey, Jason Isaacs, Jared Thorne, Taylor Thorne, Brenda Wehle, Mark Bringelson, K.K. Dodds / (98 min) After scripting Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys, David Webb Peoples continued to traverse the science fiction landscape with this action-adventure directed by Paul Anderson. A prologue shows infants classified 1A and placed in an academy promoting violent militarism. Spawned in such an environment, Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell) became a top-ranking interplanetary fighter. However, military upgrades in genetic engineering made Todd obsolete. Todd's commanding officer, Captain Church (Gary Busey), has a confrontation with West Point-trained Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs), who heads the new generation of genetically engineered fighters. One such warrior is Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee), who defeats Todd and others led by Church. The trio, presumed dead, is put in a garbage ship which dumps them on the distant Arcadia 234 planet. However, Todd survives and is nursed by homesteaders Sandra (Connie Nielsen) and Mace (Sean Pertwee), while their mute son Nathan (brothers Jared and Taylor Thorne) watches. Todd is regarded with suspicion by others in the colony. But when the warrior supermen, led by Caine 607, attack the settlement, Todd turns out to be their only line of defense. The one-man army springs into action to eliminate the super squadron amid leftover props from Demolition Man, Event Horizon and other sci-fi movies. Sinematog: David Tattersall [R]

Soldier's Sweetheart, A ()- 1998 / Thomas Michael Donnelly (+skre.) / Kiefer Sutherland, Georgina Cates, Skeet Ulrich, Daniel London, Louis Vanaria, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., Christopher Birt / (112 min.)

Thomas Michael Donnelly directed this Vietnam drama, filmed in New Zealand and adapted from Tim O'Brien's short story, "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," about a group of army medics in Vietnam. Rat (Kiefer Sutherland) narrates the tale seen in flashbacks: Rat's buddy Fossie (Skeet Ulrich), after learning about a unit that pooled money to bring in a hooker, manipulates the black-market to import his hometown girlfriend, innocent teen Marianne (Georgina Cates). The M*A*S*H-like unit is pleased by her presence, but Marianne finds the war carnage fascinating; she experiments with small-arms fire, goes wandering off into dangerous territory, and becomes friends with a unit of Green Berets, much to the dismay of Fossie. Just when he's on the brink of sending her home, she sets forth on an all-night patrol with the Green Berets. This film and Donnelly's The Garden of Redemption, another war drama, are two/thirds of a planned Showtime trilogy. Locations in New Zealand. [R]

Southie ()- 1998 / John Shea / Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan, Anne Meara, James Cummings, Amanda Peet, Will Arnett, Lawrence Tierney, John Shea, Steve Koslowski / (95 min.) "Southie" is common usage in Massachusetts for a resident of South Boston. John Shea directed and co-scripted (with James Cummings and Dave McLaughlin) this low-budget crime drama which won the American Independent Award at the 1998 Seattle Film Festival. Out of money and out of luck, Danny Quinn (Donnie Wahlberg) leaves NYC and returns home to South Boston where his dysfunctional family is allied with an Irish Mafia crowd. When Danny's pals open a private casino with an assist from a different Irish Mafia group, this leaves Danny stuck in the middle when trouble erupts between the two factions. Hugh Wilson- Producer [R]

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ()- 1999 / George Lucas / Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August, Frank Oz (Yoda), Ian McDiarmid, Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie, Ahmed Best, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Park, Ralph Brown, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Sofia Coppola / (131 min.) In 1977, George Lucas released Star Wars, the ultimate sci-fi popcorn flick turned top-culture myth machine. It quickly became the biggest money-making film of all time and changed the shape of the film industry. After two successful sequels (1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return Of The Jedi) that extended the story of the first film, Lucas took some time off to produce movies for others with mixed success. In 1999, Lucas returns to the Star Wars saga with a new approach -- instead of picking up where Return Of The Jedi left off, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is the first of a trilogy of stories that will trace what happened in the intergalactic saga before the first film began. Here, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson); Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who will later father Luke Skywalker and become known as Darth Vader, is just a nine-year-old boy. When the Trade Federation cuts off all routes to the planet Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are assigned to settle the matter, but when they arrive on Naboo they are brought to Amidala, the Naboo Queen (Natalie Portman), by a friendly but opportunistic Gungan named Jar Jar. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan plan to escort Amidala to a meeting of Republic leaders in Coruscant, but trouble with their spacecraft strands them on the planet Tatoonie, where Qui-Gon meets Anakin, the slave of a scrap dealer. Qui-Gon is soon convinced that the boy could be the leader the Jedis have been searching for, and he begins bargaining for his freedom and teaching the boy the lessons of The Force. The supporting cast includes

Pernilla August as Anakin's mother, Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum, and Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi master Mace Windu; Jackson told a reporter before The Phantom Menace's release that the best part about doing the film was that he got to say "May The Force Be With You" on screen. The overarching Star Wars legend enriches this movie, even if you have to be familiar with the first three Star Wars films to appreciate it. Most reviewers have undervalued the [PG]

Stigmata ()- 1999 / Rupert Wainwright / Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache, Rade Sherbedgia, Enrico Colantoni, Dick Latessa, Portia de Rossi, Patrick Muldoon, Ann Cusack / (102 mnt) An atheist in Pittsburgh spontaneously bleeds from her wrists, and halfway around the world, someone at the Vatican is getting very, very nervous. Exactly why is the mystery at the heart of this interesting twist on The Exorcist from British director Rupert Wainwright, but it's just half the fun. The other half is the film's funky style, funkier soundtrack (courtesy Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins) and wild performance from Patricia Arquette. Soon after receiving a rosary sent from a remote Brazilian village by her globe-trotting mother, 23-year-old hairdresser Frankie Paige (Arquette) is rushed to the emergency room, her body wracked by spasms and both wrists pierced by identical puncture wounds. The doctors figure botched suicide attempt, but when Frankie returns a short time later with mysterious lacerations to her back, she has witnesses, including a Catholic priest, who swear she didn't injure herself. The priest believes the wounds are stigmata, physical manifestations of the wounds Christ suffered during crucifixion. Word of the apparent miracle quickly reaches Rome, and a Jesuit investigator of miracles Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) is dispatched to Pittsburgh. What he sees astounds him, but when Frankie begins reciting phrases in a long-dead language and scrawling a mysterious text on the walls of her apartment, Father Kiernan begins to suspect Frankie is the subject of an even darker phenomenon. Wainwright, who directed last year's THE SADNESS OF SEX, got his start in commercials and music video, and it shows: This

film is filled with short, rapid-fire takes, edited to a pulsating beat and punctuated with blasts of noise. And the style suits the often violent material, as well as Arquette's remarkable physical performance; both hit with a visceral punch that conveys the agony and a bit of the ecstasy of mystical experience. Touched By an Angel this ain't. Phot : Jeffrey L.Kimball [R]

Stir of Echoes, A ()- 1999 / David Koepp / Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn, Zachary David Cope, Conor O'Farrell, Lusia Strus, Stephen Eugene Walker, Mary Kay Cook, Larry Neumann Jr., Jenny Morrison , Steve Rifkin, Chalon Williams / (110 mnt) Ignore the inevitable unflattering comparisons to surprise blockbuster THE SIXTH SENSE, even though both films revolve around a youngster who sees dead people. SIXTH SENSE may have the boffo twist ending, but this is by far the better film on a sustained level, and features what has to be one of the creepiest first half-hours in recent film history. Regular guy Tom Witzkey (Kevin Bacon) has made a solid life for himself, his devoted wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and their precocious son Jake (Zachary David Cope). They've recently rented a house in a solid, working class Chicago neighborhood, and Maggie is pregnant again. The trouble begins innocuously enough; there's a party, drinking, and an argument about hypnosis between Maggie's college-educated sister (Illeana Douglas) and the down-to-earth Tom. On a dare, he allows her to hypnotize him, and she leaves behind what she thinks is a harmless post-hypnotic suggestion -- that he be more open-minded. Unfortunately, his mind is suddenly an open door, and all manner of spooky things step through, whispering and afflicting Tom with terrifying visions. More unsettlingly, he realizes that little Jake hears them too, and always has. Tom's awakening ends with a truly chilling apparition; it's almost a relief when the story shifts into lower gear as Tom realizes that he's getting a message about some long-buried wrong, and swears to find out what it is. Bacon gives a fine, affecting performance as a guy whose eyes have been opened to something he'd just as soon not have seen, and Cope is a genuinely likable child actor; you'd love to protect Jake from the dead and their oppressive needs. Working from a novel by sci-fi legend Richard Matheson, writer turned director David Koepp has fashioned a scary, intelligent thriller that remains haunting long after it's over. Writer: David Koepp(based on the novel by Richard Matheson)[R]

Swingers ()- 1996 / Doug Liman / Jon Favreau (+wrt.), Vince Vaughn , Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, Heather Graham, Deena Martin, Katherine Kendall, Brooke Langton, Blake Lindsley / (97 mnt) Director-cinematographer Doug Liman gets points for breathing a bit of life into an already tired indie sub genre. Liman sets his all-guy gabfest against L.A.'s very trendy nouveaux lounge scene, where Vegas is Mecca and Ol' Blue Eyes is king. Jon Favreau stars as Mike, an aspiring stand-up comic who leaves his native Brooklyn after his girlfriend of six years dumps him for another guy. After six months in Los Angeles, Mike is still pining for his ex, while Sinatra-wannabe Trent (Vince Vaughn) -- his womanizing best friend -- tries desperately to pull him out of his funk. The Rat Pack worship is amusing, though the OCEAN'S ELEVEN argot quickly wears thin, and regular forays into such kitsch L.A. cocktail lounges as the Derby and the Dresden Room help separate this comedy from its more mundane brethren: BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, THE LOW LIFE, et al. But this kind of nostalgia often conceals an ugly reactionary edge, and here the genial humor is occasionally marred by an overall sexist tone and some downright nasty homophobic and racist attempts at humor. Ah, the good old days. [97 mnt]

Talented Mr. RIpley, The ()- / Anthony Minghella / Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, James Rebhorn,Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Davenport, Sergio Rubini, Philip Baker Hall, Celia Weston, Rosario Fiorello, Stefania Rocca, Ivano Marescotti, Anna Longhi, Alessandro Fabrizi, Lisa Eichorn / (139 mnt) Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1955 literary crime novel, this coolly beautiful film is both a superior thriller and an engrossing study of a sociopath's progress. Life hasn't been especially generous to Tom Ripley (Matt Damon); he's handsome and charming, to be sure, but he's also penniless, badly educated and without the connections that open doors for the more fortunate. Then coincidence throws wealthy Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) Ripley's way. Greanleaf's shiftless son Dickie (Jude Law) is knocking around Southern Italy, squandering his allowance on jazz, women and liquor. Greenleaf hopes that Ripley, whom he thinks knew Dickie at college (a misconception Ripley fails to correct), might be willing to go to Italy and talk some sense into the boy. He'd pay of course... Ripley needs no persuasion to abandon his cold-water flat for an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe. But he's not interested in getting Dickie to come home; instead Ripley befriends Dickie's well-bred girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), immerses himself in Dickie's favorite music and takes to Dickie's hedonistic lifestyle as though to the manner born. The problem: Having tasted la dolce vita, Ripley must now figure out how to hang on to it. For movie buffs, Anthony Minghella's film labors in the shadow of Rene Clement's 1961 PURPLE NOON. But it's a fine thriller in its own right and actually truer to the novel; among other things, neither Damon nor Minghella shies away from its homoerotic undertones. Minghella aspires to the look of glossy, late-'50s Hitchcock films (Hitchcock, of course, adapted Highsmith's perverse STRANGERS ON A TRAIN), all tainted glamour and swank corruption. He also embraces the cynical sympathies that make Highsmith's books feel so unnervingly timeless, notably her clear-eyed understanding that not only does wickedness often go unpunished, but if it's packaged attractively enough, it's often actively rewarded. Great art direction, great costume. Prod exec: Sidney Pollack[R]

Teaching Mrs. Tingle ()- 1999 / Kevin Williamson / Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Jeffrey Tambor, Barry Watson, Marisa Coughlan, Liz Stauber, Michael McKean, Molly Ringwald, Vivica Fox, John Patrick White, Lesley Ann Warren / (96 min.) Kevin Williamson, screenwriter of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and creator of the TV series Dawson's Creek, makes his directorial debut with this dark comedy. Leigh Ann Watson (Katie Holmes) is a high school senior who is pretty, popular and smart, and she looks like a shoo-in to be named Class Valedictorian. However, that's before Mary Beth Carter (Liz Stauber), a conniving student competing with Leigh Ann for the honor, sweetly recommends a history class taught by the notoriously ill-tempered Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren). The vile Mrs. Tingle ends up handing Leigh Ann her first failing grade, damaging her chances of winning the valedictorian's honor (and the scholarship that goes along with it). Things go from bad to worse when, through no fault of her own, a copy of Mrs. Tingle's final exam turns up in Leigh Ann's backpack, putting her future at school in serious jeopardy. A furious Leigh Ann decides that it's time someone did something about Mrs. Tingle, and after Leigh and two friends pay the teacher a visit, Mrs. Tingle mysteriously disappears. Writer/director Williamson nods to his well-documented enthusiasm for the work of John Hughes by casting Molly Ringwald as the substitute teacher who replaces Mrs. Tingle. The film was produced under the title Killing Mrs. Tingle, but the title was changed in the wake of the Colorado high school shootings, in which two students killed several students and faculty members. Kevin Williamson apparently had only one bullet in his gun, and it was fired some time ago. The mastermind behind the TV teen soap opera Dawson's Creek and the ...read more [PG-13]

Thomas Crown Affair, The () - 1999 / John McTiernan /Pierce Brosnan (prd.), Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Ben Gazzara, Faye Dunaway, Frankie Faison, Fritz Weaver, Charles Keating, Mark Margolis, Michael Lombard / {Amerika Serikat - Rep. Irlandia} (113 mnt) This swank, self-consciously erotic caper flick gets off to a dreadfully ordinary start, but finds its footing when the head games begin. For self-made billionaire Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan), life isn't worth living without a challenge. So he orchestrates the daredevil, daylight theft of a priceless Monet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It looks as though he's home free until Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) sashays into the investigation, ostensibly on behalf of the museum's insurance company. Banning immediately figures Crown for the mastermind and is sure she can retrieve the painting, enriching her bank account in the process. Her plan, however, involves getting dangerously close to the charismatic Crown, and the two consummate game players are immediately drawn to each other. Or are they? The apparently incendiary romance might be part of a game whose stakes grow higher with each kiss. This remake of the fondly remembered 1968 Faye Dunaway/Steve McQueen picture is surprisingly faithful; screenwriters Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer tweak Alan Trustman's original script without resolving its fundamental structural imbalance — the attenuated opening heist delays the start of the far more interesting cat-and-mouse romance. And their new scenes involving Crown and his psychiatrist (Dunaway) serve no purpose except to accommodate Dunaway's diva-ish presence. But while the first film was distinguished by annoyingly gimmicky camera tricks, this one glides along on sheer, luxurious gloss (very like ENTRAPMENT, in fact, which beat it to the box office and in turn owes a huge debt to the first THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR). It's enjoyable poppycock, obsessed with the trappings of wealth (the camera lingers as lovingly on expensive clothes, lavish dwellings and rich-boy toys as on Russo and Brosnan's often bare flesh) and in love with its own chic affectations. [R]

Three Seasons ()- 1999 / Tony Bui / Don Duong, Nguyen Ngoc Hiep, Tran Manh Cuong, Harvey Keitel (prod. eks.), Zoe Bui, Nguyen Huu Duoc, Minh Ngoc, Hoang Phat Trieu, Diem Kieu / {Amerika Serikat-Vietnam} (110 mnt) Winner of the Sundance Jury Prize and Audience Award, writer/director Tony Bui's debut is also the first American movie filmed in Vietman with Vietnamese actors. Who can fault him for exoticizing the country he left as a young boy when his film offers such luminous evidence that it's a stunning and heterogeneous place, ripe with thousands of compelling stories? But sometimes Bui's own film feels like the hothouse product he implicitly criticizes when he compares natural lotus flowers and the plastic imitations people seem to prefer. The four stories Bui tangentially (and perhaps a bit whimsically) interrelates are set mostly in dusty Saigon, where there's scant evidence of decades of Communist rule. Instead, we meet an American war veteran (Harvey Keitel) searching for his daughter; Hai (Don Duong); a cyclo driver infatuated with a fresh-faced prostitute (Zoe Bui); a street kid (Nguyen Huu Duoc) looking for his stolen case of cheap watches and cigarette lighters; and a lotus picker (Nguyen Ngoc Hiep) in whom an ailing, leprous poet (Tran Mahh Cuong) finds his muse. That Bui's formalist approach to visuals and poetic handling of mood aren't the norm for ambitious young American filmmakers makes it that much more unfortunate that his would-be lyrical storytelling largely falls flat. The chasm between Bui's classical aspirations and his ham-strung story-telling is exacerbated by the film's leisurely -- or some might say soporific -- pacing. For all the potentially heart-tugging moments Bui sets up, it's fairly easy to remain emotionally removed, though cinematographer Lisa Rinzler deserves accolades for her striking work in the lotus picking scenes. After all the various stories have been neatly and picturesquely resolved, you have to wonder whether there was any real purpose driving all those pretty pictures. Sill, Bui's sensitivity and attentiveness mark him as a director to watch. [PG-13]

Tower of Terror () - 1997 /D.J. MacHale / Steve Guttenberg (Buzzy), Nia Peeples, Michael McShane, Kirsten Dunst, John Franklin, Shira Roth/ {Film Televisi} (113 mnt) Based on the ride at Disney/MGM Studios, Florida, this Disney made-for-TV ... (more) User Comments: One of John Franklin's Best (more)

U-Turn ()- 1998 / Oliver Stone / Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Powers Boothe, Claire Danes, Joaquin Phoenix, Jon Voight, Julie Haggerty, Bo Hopkins, Valery Nikolaev, Aida Linares, Ilia Volokh, Brent Briscoe, SHerie Foster, Laurie Metcalf, Liv Tyler, Richard Rutowski (+ prod, Stuart Stone) / (125 mnt) Who'd have thought incest, murder, lust, greed, backstabbing and insanity could be so painfully boring? Oliver Stone's self-consciously postmodern gloss on novelist John Ridley's fairly straightforward narrative is a clotted mishmash of noir cliches tricked up with the sort of frantically glitzy cinematography and editing that made NATURAL BORN KILLERS such a migraine-inducing experience. No-luck gambler Bobby Cooper (Sean Penn) is on his way to Vegas to settle accounts with some volatile Russian gangsters -- the guys who cut off two of his fingers when he was a little slow to pay up -- when fate sticks out its foot and trips him up but good. A broken radiator hose lands him smack dab in middle-of-nowhereville Superior, AZ, and while inbred mechanic Darrell (Billy Bob Thornton) fixes up his car, Bobby steps right into a writhing nest of small-town vipers: two-timing bombshell Grace McKenna (Jennifer Lopez) and her scheming, much older husband Jake (Nick Nolte), who used to be married to Grace's mama (Sheri Foster) until she threw herself off a cliff; deluded white-trash tartlet Jenny (Claire Danes) and her psycho boyfriend Toby N. Tucker (Joachin Phoenix) -- they call him TNT, you know. Then there's menacing Sheriff Potter (Powers Boothe) and a wacky old Indian seer (Jon Voight) with a dead dog and an apparently endless supply of enigmatic advice; and gun-toting granny Jamilla (Aida Linares) and gum-snapping waitress Flo (Julie Haggerty). The parade of eccentrics never ends, and Stone's near-miraculous achievement is to drain the life right out of material so sordid you'd think it couldn't help but be interesting. A must to avoid. [R]

Vendetta ()- 1999 / Nicholas Meyer / Alessandro Colla, Bruce Davison, Christopher Walken, Luke Askew, Clancy Brown, Richard Libertini, Megan McChesney, Gerry Mendicino, STuart Stone, Andrew Connelly, Andrea Di Stefano, Joel Gordon, Edward Herrmann, Kenneth Welsh, joaquim d'Almeida / (mnt) {Film Televisi} True story of 1890's Sicilian immigrants who work on the docks of New Orleans and are accused of murdering a popular lawman.

Warlock III: The End of Innocence ()- 1999 / Eric Freiser / Bruce Payne, Ashley Laurence (Kris), Paul Francis, Jan Schweiterman, Richard P. Hearst, Angel Boris, Boti Bliss, Eamon Draper, Catherine Siggins,Majella Corley, Rick Hearst / (90 mnt) Kpmentar [R]

Wedding Bell Blues () -1997 / Dana Lustig / Paulina Porizkova, Illeana Douglas, Julie Warner, John Corbett, Jonathan Penner, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Edson, Debbie Reynolds, Victoria Jackson, Joe Urla, Stephanie Beacham, John Capodice, Steven Gilborn, Carla Gugino, Leo Rossi, Jeff Seymour, Liz Sheridan / (111 mnt) A bittersweet shaggy-dog tale about three women with man trouble who decide to get their act together and take it on the road -- to Las Vegas. Micki (Julie Warner) has been dumped just about at the altar; boyfriend Jeff (Joe Urla) says she's not passionate enough. Aimless, stunningly beautiful Tanya (Paulina Porzikova) is pregnant, and longtime beau Tom (Richard Edson) is less than thrilled. And love 'em and leave 'em Jasmine (Ileanna Douglas) is tired of hearing her extended family offer prayers that she'll find a husband before it's too late. So the trio drives off to Vegas on a half-serious quest to wed anyone who'll stand still long enough, just so they can say they tied the knot before they turned 30. This is a chick flick, make no mistake, and the whole thing has an amateurish, on-the-fly quality that's occasionally awkward but more often endearing. The warm performances from the leads go a long way to pulling it all together, and despite its distinct sisters are doing it for themselves bent, strident man-bashing is not on the menu. A sweet, minor find, making a brief stop in theaters before going to video. It's a shame it won't be staying longer. [R]

Wild Wild West ()- 1999 / Barry Sonnenfeld (+prod.) / Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek, Kenneth Branagh, Ted Levine, M. Emmet Walsh, Bai Ling, Rodney Grant, Musetta Vander, Frederique Van Der Wal / (107 min) Yet another TV series is revived for the big screen, as Will Smith and Kevin Kline join forces as James T. West and Artemus Gordon, the most sophisticated government agents of the 1860's, in the film adaptation of Wild Wild West. West and Gordon represent two opposite ends of the personality scale: West is a smooth-talking charmer and man of action who prefers to shoot first and ask questions much, much later; while Gordon is intensely methodical and cerebral, with a genius for gadgets and mechanical innovations. They're brought together by no less an authority than the President of the United States to track down an evil genius named Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh). Loveless was once an honored military leader and inventor until one of his schemes went awry and left him paralyzed from the waist down. Driven mad by the experience, Loveless is determined to get revenge on the United States by assassinating the President, using a 60-foot tall mechanical spider. Assisting Loveless is a team of beautiful female criminals, Miss East (Bai Ling), Amazonia (Frederique Van Der Wal), Munitia (Musetta Vander) and Miss Lippenreider (Sofia Eng). As the initially suspicious West and Gordon learn to work together, they also find themselves helped by an attractive woman, Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek), who has her own bone to pick with Loveless. Wild Wild West reunites star Will Smith with director Barry Sonnenfeld, who previously worked together on the hit Men In Black (1997). Wild Wild West features a hip-hop theme song from one-time Fresh Prince Smith, along with a more traditional Western score from composer Elmer Bernstein. Wild Wild West is a wild wild mess, from its first frame to its last. There are occasional moments of fun (I don't think that Will Smith is capable of [PG-13]

Woman Wanted ()- 1999 / Kiefer Sutherland / Kieffer SUtherland, Holly Hunter, Michael Moriarty / A superb performance from Hunter highlights this gem of amovie. It is a complete mystery why this gem of a movie has apparently failed to find a theatrical release and been shown first on cable TV. " Woman Wanted " has a strong cast and demonstrates again that Holly Hunter is one of the most gifted actresses around today. Coming on top of her wonderful performance in " Living Out Loud " and a great turn on stage in the off-broadway play " Impossible Marriage " it is a delight in this movie to see her combining wistful emotion with a fierce self-confidence that really makes you care what happens to the enigmatic character of Emma Riley. Emma is the " Woman Wanted " hired as a housekeeper by the Goddard father and son strongly played by Michael Moriarty and Kiefer Sutherland (who also directs the movie) and the way Hunter plays the role evokes memories of characters from earlier movies such as Miss Firecracker, Always and Once Around. She somehow manages to look a dead ringer for Carnelle in Miss Firecracker, even though that movie is over 10 years old, and totally different from the Judith the 40 something New Yorker in Living Out Loud. Perhaps this is the true meaure of a great actor." Woman Wanted " comes over a shade or two darker than the excellent book by Joanna McClelland Glass (who also wrote the screenplay) which is a shame as the movie could have done with some of the book's lighter moments to offset a sombre mood . But take nothing away from the main performers who have a good chemistry - especially Sutherland and Hunter - and the line from Sutherland about the emergency room being a good substitute for family is a classic. Above all, though, I shall remember " Woman Wanted " for the emotional power of Hunter's performance as Emma Riley and to borrow Spielberg's words she is a true " architect of character. "

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