Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

Movie Listings

August 23, 2001


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

American Outlaws
By sanitizing the story of the infamously rough bank and train robber Jesse James, director Les Mayfield ("Flubber") does him as big a disservice as Bob Ford did when he shot the outlaw in the back. In "American Outlaws," Jesse (Colin Farrell), Frank (Gabriel Macht) and Cole Younger (Scott Caan) take on a railroad magnate (Harris Yulin) who has been driving the residents of Liberty, Mo., from their land. None of the actors playing the members of the James-Younger Gang come across as if they could pilfer a baby's candy, much less take on the hired thugs of Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton). Farrell's antiseptic handsomeness is completely wrong for even a romanticized take on the saga, and Ali Larter ("Legally Blonde") is downright arboreal as his love interest. There aren't many westerns in theaters these days, and "American Outlaws" and its lame "Young Guns" approach is a fair explanation of the scarcity. It makes a viewer feel like an investor in one of the banks Jessie hit. (PG-13) -- DL
* 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

American Pie 2
Screenwriter Adam Herz works with bodily discharges and fetishes the way a jazz musician handles melodies and instruments. The storyline for the sequel pretty much follows the first "American Pie," but Herz and director J.B. Rogers ("Say It Isn't So") manage to elicit a surprising amount of guilty chuckles for a retread. This time around the guys (Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott and Eddie Kaye Thomas) are fresh out of their first year of college and are living together in a Lake Michigan beach house. Herz has a pretty good idea of what worked in the first movie, so there is more of Eugene Levy as Jim's well-meaning but intrusive dad, and Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), who stole the last film as a band camp devotee, has a more substantial and affectionate role. It's encouraging that the new film's funniest gag involves a trombone that has no kinky complications. If Herz and his collaborators keep up this type of comedy, they may one day succeed at making flicks that don't rely on violating innocent flutes or pastries. (R) -- DL
*** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Anniversary Party
Unless a movie set in Hollywood is as good as "Sunset Boulevard," it's hard not to wish the filmmakers had chosen a more imaginative locale. The new Tinseltown comedy "The Anniversary Party" sometimes falls into that trap, although there are several moments when the filmmakers' temptation to stay at home seems justified. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming wrote, directed and star in this showbiz-set tale of a previously estranged couple (Leigh and Cumming) who are about to celebrate their sixth anniversary. The party turns out to be more about business dealings, avoiding lawsuits and facing previously neglected responsibilities. "The Anniversary Party" is at its best when it lightly skewers standard Hollywood behavior (Jane Adams is a riot as an actress who has become a basket case over recent motherhood). When it starts to get somber, it nearly falls apart because the characters aren't deep enough to elicit concern. (R) -- DL
** Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin
The location and time period for "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" are so captivating that one can almost forgive director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love") for making a flick in which few of the central characters ring true. Set during the Italian and German occupation of Greece during World War II, the film concerns a rural Greek doctor (John Hurt) and his daughter (Penelope Cruz) who are forced to billet an Italian officer (Nicolas Cage) in their home. Predictably, initial opposition turns into romance. The gorgeous backdrops are authentic, but the cast, who mostly come from other parts of the world, aren't. For example, Cage's Italian accent is as cheesy as a hunk of Provolone, and his broad performance is the acting equivalent of meta discourse. Madden's tone is consistently agreeable, but the landscape would be much more enchanting with credible people. (R) -- DL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Others
The old dark house movie makes a comeback with this creepy ghost story, thanks to writer-director Alejandro Amenabar's gift for creating subtle chills and loads of atmosphere. Set on a remote, fog-enshrouded English estate during World War II, "The Others" gives its star, Nicole Kidman, a virtual one-woman show, as a mother trying to protect her children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) from all manner of threats, both natural and supernatural. The audience is treated to an unusually intelligent ghost story, where discussions of religion, loneliness and familial devotion are comfortably intertwined with the things that go bump in the night. Kidman's performance is as layered and unnerving as the rest of the film, which moves slowly, but delivers its jolts by making viewers use their imaginations. In this era of shallow, noisy spectacles passing themselves off as horror films, that's a rare gift indeed. (PG-13) -- LL
*** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton brings his twisted sensibilities to the 1968 sci-fi classic, taking the basic plot, about an astronaut (Mark Wahlberg) who crash-lands on a world where apes (led by a terrifying Tim Roth) enslave humans, and giving it the patented Burton touch. That means creating a unique, fantastical world and throwing in lots of twisted humor. It also means going overboard with that humor (Charlton Heston shows up to say one of THOSE lines at a pivotal dramatic moment) and tacking on a surprise ending that's really freaky, but makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Burton never fails to be interesting, but his sillier impulses make it hard to tell what kind of movie he's trying to make -- or if he even knows himself. (PG-13) -- LL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Princess Diaries
Garry Marshall does it again, turning a virtual unknown into a real movie star in less than 2 hours. In 1990, it was Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." This time, it's Anne Hathaway in a fluffy fairy tale about a teen-ager who discovers she's the heir to a European throne. Hathaway's character learns to be regal from her grandmother, played by Julie Andrews, who could give lessons in class and elegance to anyone by simply standing in the same room. Hathaway is a quick study, and she's charming enough to carry the film without too much help. This is a perfect confection for its target preteen audience, who haven't had many movies made for them, let alone one as likable as this. (G) -- LL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Rat Race
Back in the '60s, there were several stunt-filled comedies where a bunch of big stars ran around like lunatics for three hours. Someone at Paramount decided it would be a good idea to revive the genre, and they came up with this noisy, grating film about a group of people racing to retrieve $2 million. Director Jerry Zucker reminds us just how long it's been since his "Airplane!" days, having apparently lost his gift for light absurdity. There are some funny gags in "Rat Race," but they drag on forever and are surrounded by overblown banality and shameless hamming by the movie's veteran cast (including John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg and Rowan Atkinson). The last 30 seconds of the film are great -- the cast gets to dive into the mosh pit at a rock concert -- but no audience should have to wait that long for the good stuff. (PG-13) -- LL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Rush Hour 2
The pairing of veteran Hong Kong star Jackie Chan with loudmouth comic Chris Tucker isn't quite as novel with "Rush Hour 2," but there is enough of Chan's comic acrobatics to compensate for some of Tucker's less charming moments (what exactly IS he doing in Hong Kong besides making a jerk of himself?). This time around, Chief Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective Carter (Tucker) try to take out a murderous gang of counterfeiters. The new film has a stronger villain. Zhang Ziyi from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" may be pint-sized but she's all cold menace -- not bad for someone who doesn't speak a word of English on-screen. Chan gets to put a wastebasket to novel use, and Tucker has a couple of bits (one where he demolishes a Michael Jackson song and another at a craps table) where he demonstrates some chops we haven't seen before. The story's thin and a bit flat, but there's enough action to feed the rush. (PG-13) -- DL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Sexy Beast
"Sexy Beast" starts off as a conventional British heist film but progresses in delightfully strange and unpredictable ways. Ray Winstone ("Nil by Mouth") stars as a retired British gangster who is bullied back into crime by a small but demonically persistent criminal named Don Logan (Ben Kingsley). The veteran Kingsley is so fearsome and eerily amusing that one almost forgets the other performers, and the fact that he once won an Oscar for portraying Gandhi. Winstone, who normally plays heavies, is suitably likable, and Ian McShane (TV's "Lovejoy") is terrifying as the cold-hearted mastermind of the robbery. Rookie feature director Jonathan Glazer picked up a lot of camera tricks from helming Radiohead videos, but he thankfully uses them for the benefit of the story. The folks behind this flick sometimes err on the side of outrageousness. Nonetheless, in a summer full of "poxy" flicks that aim for formula and fail at even that lowly goal, "Sexy Beast" is a ferocious alternative. (R) -- DL
*** 1/2 Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.