Archive for Thursday, November 16, 2000

Movie listings

November 16, 2000


Almost Famous

Ratings:* = Awful** = Worth a look*** = Good**** = ExcellentReviewers: Loey Lockerby, Dan Lybarger and Jon Niccum

Based on his experiences in the early '70s as a 15-year-old reporter for Rolling Stone, writer/director Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire") weaves a stunning ode to the "industry of cool" that is part real events and part fiction, but one that attains a towering level of truthfulness. Newcomer Patrick Fugit interprets Crowe's experience as William, a San Diego teen assigned to cover the (fictional) band Stillwater. Introducing William into the bus-concert-hotel regimen is a young but worldly groupie (Kate Hudson in a career-making role) who the journalist falls in love with as quickly as he does the new lifestyle. "Almost Famous" succeeds as a terrific coming-of-age story, an accurate depiction of the music industry, a treatise on journalism and an affectionate recreation of a time and place. Ultimately, it is the best "serious" movie ever made about rock. (R) JN

**** Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.


Brendan Fraser takes over from Dudley Moore in this remake of the 1967 cult classic, about a sweet-natured loser who makes a deal with the Devil to get the girl of his dreams. This time around, the Devil is played by model Elizabeth Hurley, who prances around in sexy leather outfits and delivers every line as if she'd just taken e-lo-cu-tion lessons. Fraser is much better, showing remarkable versatility, as the fulfillment of his wishes requires him to play everything from a Colombian drug lord to a sophisticated New York writer. "Bedazzled" has plenty of snappy dialogue but not much else, and it comes off as just another forgettable, you could say "soul-less," Hollywood offering. (PG-13) LL

  • * Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.

Best in Show

Those who've witnessed the televised dog shows on ESPN often wonder what the pets' masters are like when the cameras aren't rolling. Christopher Guest provides those answers with "Best in Show." Guest and company, many of whom worked on his previous documentary spoof "Waiting for Guffman," portray eccentrics who are tailed on their way to the Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia. A few scenes linger too long the byproduct of films formed from improvisation and Fred Willard overstays his welcome as the ill-informed TV commentator covering the event, but the rest of the ensemble (especially Catherine O'Hara and co-writer Eugene Levy) deliver one memorable gag after another. The film rightfully avoids depicting the dogs as quirky, which makes certain scenes all the funnier because of the personalities and moods that their owners ascribe to them that simply don't exist. (PG-13) JN

*** Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

Billy Elliot

Thanks to director Stephen Daldry's eye for detail, "Billy Elliot" is uplifting without ever feeling phony. Terrific newcomer Jamie Bell stars as the titular character, an 11-year-old British coal miner's son who wants to be a ballet dancer. Billy's growing obsession rouses the ire of his dad (Gary Lewis), but earns him the support of his harsh but sympathetic teacher (Julie Walters). Thanks to some believably gloomy surroundings (nicely captured by "Trainspotting" cinematographer Brian Tufano), the lad's struggles are as engrossing as they are predictable. "Billy Elliot" gives audiences what they ask for, but does so in a sincere, intelligent and graceful manner. (R)

*** 1/2 Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.

Charlie's Angels

Without eschewing the sex appeal and cheesiness of the original series, "Charlie's Angels" goes light years beyond the track record of recent TV adaptations. The film pulls this off by portraying its titular trio (Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore) as super-intelligent, deadly, action heroes like a feminized mix of James Bond, "M:I-2" agent Ethan Hunt and "The Black Mask" character popularized by Jet Li. Former commercial director McG relentlessly batters the audience with a montage of jarring edits and flexing flesh as if he were a ninja warrior directing a hip music video. The comedy portion of the program is clunky and obvious (especially a just-collecting-a-paycheck Bill Murray as Bosley), though the frequent "Matrix"-like action sequences help to bale out the humor. Like the '70s series, this update is silly, forgettable eye-candy, but it's presented with a staggering modern level of kinetic energy. (PG-13) JN

** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Dancer in the Dark

Moonlighting singer Bjork gives a moving portrayal of an immigrant factory worker trying to raise money so that her son won't lose his eyesight the way she is losing hers. Bjork claims she'll never do another movie, but she deserves the Best Actress award she received at Cannes. The rest of "Dancer in the Dark" is wanting. Eccentric Danish director Lars Von Trier recycles the same visual style and themes that worked better in his earlier "Breaking the Waves." A mismatching of cinema verite and musicals, "Dancer in the Dark" features an amusing attempt to pass off Sweden as Washington State and ineptly photographed and edited dance numbers. (R) DL

** 1/2 Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen

Once upon a time, horror movies weren't pseudo-hip attempts at tongue-in-cheek; they were actually scary. Twenty-five years later, William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" puts the current crop of slasher flicks to shame even if the digital effects and added scenes (including a truly pointless epilogue) distract more than they enhance. Ellen Burstyn ("Requiem for a Dream") plays an actress who discovers her daughter (Linda Blair) has an illness (whose symptoms include projectile vomiting and a rotating head) that mere medicine can't solve. While the gore runneth over, Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty put in just enough suspense and clever plotting to frighten the hardest of viewers. Now, if they could only exorcise those damn changes. (R) DL

*** 1/2 Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.

The Legend of Bagger Vance

Robert Redford's ode to golf stars Matt Damon as a former professional who gets dragged out of retirement to play in a tournament. He gets help from a mysterious caddy named Bagger Vance (Will Smith), who offers spiritual advice along with the golf clubs. Although the movie takes place in Georgia during the 1930s, there is nary a sign of the poverty and racism that existed in the region at the time. In fact, anything that could create real conflict is ignored in favor of getting back on the golf course. This is a truly fantastic looking film, but its beauty is at the expense of depth and drama. (PG-13) LL

** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Legend of Drunken Master

While packaged as a new movie, "The Legend of Drunken Master" is actually a dubbed stateside release of Jackie Chan's 1994 sequel to his 1978 breakthrough movie "Drunken Master." The flick requires heavy suspension of disbelief (Chan looks older than the actors playing his parents) and has a thin plot. The latter trait is actually a bonus because the story leads drunken boxing virtuoso Wong Fei-hung (Chan) into a series of jaw-dropping hand-to-hand battles that include a bout with a thief that takes place in, under and around a train. Chan also manages to hold his own against a legion of axe-wielding bandits. "The Legend of Drunken Master" features gorgeous period production and is one the finest showcases for Chan's unique brand of martial artistry. (R) DL

*** Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.

Little Nicky

If Adam Sandler made some sort of Faustian deal to enable him to get this flat, soulless comedy out of development hell, it looks as if Satan got the better end of the bargain. Sandler plays the son of Satan (Harvey Keitel). The lad is on a mission to prevent his power-hungry brothers (Rhys Ifans and Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr.) from ruining the balance of good and evil. Loaded with celebrity cameos (everybody from the Harlem Globetrotters to director Quentin Tarantino) and cheesy digital effects, "Little Nicky" has the sophomoric outrageousness of Sandler's earlier movies but only a fraction of the guilt-inducing laughs. (PG-13) DL

* Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Meet the Parents

Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro may not seem like an obvious comedy team, but they play off each other beautifully in this surprisingly restrained comedy from "Austin Powers" director Jay Roach. As the disapproving father of Stiller's girlfriend, De Niro shows what a great actor can do with a slight script, while Stiller has just enough intensity to make a worthy adversary. The humor goes over the top at times, but Roach is usually smart enough to stay out of his actors' way. (PG-13) LL

** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Men of Honor

The life of Carl Brashear, who was the first African American to enter the Navy Dive School AND the first amputee to become a Master Diver, is perfect for a Hollywood movie and Hollywood has obliged in grand fashion. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Brashear, with Robert De Niro as the (fictional) diving instructor who comes to respect this determined hero. Director George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food") is a gifted storyteller and keeps the film moving along nicely. He also pulls excellent work from his cast, especially Gooding, who has to overcome the script's rather one-dimensional portrayal of his character. (R) LL

*** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Pay It Forward

Grounded on a premise that's almost too simple, "Pay It Forward" seems to work in spite of itself. Haley Joel Osment ("The Sixth Sense") devises a favor system that winds up having implications far beyond his own attempts to follow it. Screenwriter Leslie Dixon and director Mimi Leder ("Deep Impact") exceed their quota of implausibilities, clichand extraneous details. Nonetheless, a terrific performance from Kevin Spacey as Osment's aloof teacher and Leder's occasionally edgy handling help make the movie seem less like a sappy "Afterschool Special." (PG-13) DL

** 1/2 Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.

Red Planet

Are there little green men on Mars? No, but there are windstorms, killer bugs and a homicidal robot. Oh, and oxygen. Don't ask. Most of "Red Planet" could have come out of a Screenwriting 101 class ("insert obvious plot point here"), and the actors, including Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss, don't even try to look like they're not just picking up a paycheck. Director Antony Hoffman has created a stunning Martian landscape out of southern Australia, and he keeps the story moving quickly enough that its fundamental lameness won't hit until you're out of the theater. Like the cheesy '50s films it emulates, "Red Planet" is best enjoyed with one's head in the clouds or the stars. LL

** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Remember the Titans

While it becomes heavy handed and simplistic, "Remember the Titans" can be forgiven because its heart is in the right place. Based on an actual 1971 football season in Alexandria, Va., the movie recalls how white and black athletes were forced to play side-by-side and how a reluctant but militaristic black coach (the terrific Denzel Washington) and his white defensive coordinator (Will Patton) led them to victory. While the film suffers from predictability, director Boaz Yakin ("Fresh") shows a remarkable prowess with the young cast and creates a believably tense environment. (PG) DL

** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

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