Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2001

Movie Listings

September 13, 2001


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

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.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Kevin Smith finishes up his New Jersey saga by giving a whole movie to Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), the slacker duo who have drifted in and out of all his films to date. As the guys travel to Hollywood to stop production on a movie about them, Smith gets a chance to poke fun at the film industry, whiny Internet geeks and, ultimately, himself. "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" has something to offend just about everyone and continues Smith's tradition of sneaking in interesting ideas and sharp satire underneath all the scatological humor. The whole movie is a virtual love letter to the filmmaker's loyal fans, and nobody else is likely to understand it or even care. It spends most of its running time simply referencing other films (including Smith's own) and throwing in constant in-jokes, some of which work better than others. That's not the strongest narrative foundation for a movie, but Smith and his cameo-riddled cast (which includes everyone from Ben Affleck to Chris Rock to Mark Hamill) are funny enough to more than make up for the slow spots. (R) -- LL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Jeepers Creepers
If you haven't seen a movie in 30 years, "Jeepers Creepers" might seem original, and even a bit scary. However, anyone who knows the rules of bad horror films will probably find themselves counting the idiotic cliches just to make the time go faster, and they'll have plenty to keep them busy. Victor Salva ("Powder") wrote and directed this unpleasant experience, about a brother and sister (Justin Long and Gina Philips) who encounter a demonic killer in rural Florida, and he certainly knows how it's done -- the characters are stupid, the violence is disgusting and every moment of real creepiness is undone by Salva's dedication to insulting his audience. Even the ending, which is arguably better than the rest of the film, is stomach-turning and predictable. It's usually fun to ridicule movies like this, and there is some definite camp value here, especially as the story reaches its absurd climax. But it's hard to enjoy the work of a director whose only real talent is being inept and derivative, and who takes such evident pride in his work. (R) -- LL
* Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

At some point, everyone has come across that one irksome guy who doesn't know when to shut up. This poses a huge problem if that person is your best friend -- and your career involves organized crime. Such is the case for Bobby (Jon Favreau), an amateur boxer who supplements his income as a low-rent bodyguard. When the mob offers to bring Bobby further into the fold by asking him to perform an "errand" in New York, the aspiring henchman agrees, provided his obnoxious childhood buddy Ricky (Vince Vaughn) can tag along. Favreau (who also wrote the screenplay) makes his directorial debut with "Made." Obviously, there's a not-so-subtle attempt at rekindling the charisma he and Vaughn showed in "Swingers." While their characters are somewhat different from the lounge-loving hipsters of the 1996 sleeper, the rapport is the same, and certain scenes mimic the verbal sparring and rat-a-tat pacing of Favreau's previous screenplay. But there's also a meandering quality to the whole affair that is hard to defend. The film often comes across as a series of set pieces rather than a coordinated narrative -- especially noticeable in a lackluster ending that shifts focus away from the leads to a third party. "Made" doesn't entirely hold together, but it capitalizes on a naturally funny situation that is magnified by the true chemistry between its leads. (R) -- JN
*** Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

The Musketeer
Imagine a movie where Luciano Pavarotti had been cast as a deaf mute or Jackie Chan had been tapped to play a quadriplegic, and one begins to get a picture of the bind that stunt coordinator Xin Xin Xiong found himself in. The mind behind the breathtaking stunts in "Once Upon a Time in China" seemed a natural for making old-fashioned swordplay look exciting. Sadly, his work has been personally photographed by director Peter Hyams ("End of Days"), a once-capable filmmaker whose current visual sense is as keen as Stevie Wonder's. His quick cutting and clumsy or occasionally out-of-focus camerawork undermine all of Xin Xin's efforts. Hyams and alleged writer Gene Quintano ("Loaded Weapon I") can't think of anything to do with Alexandre Dumas that hasn't been done better by Douglas Fairbanks or Richard Lester. As D'artagnan, former soap opera star Justin Chambers is out-acted by his sword. But to be fair, Hyams has a gift for making great actors like Stephen Rea, Catherine Deneuve and Tim Roth look like community theater novices. (PG-13) -- DL
No stars Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

This teen-age updating of Shakespeare's "Othello" curiously misses the mark by following the Bard's storyline just a little too closely. While it may be set in a contemporary private high school in the South, the narrative seems to bend over backwards to match Shakespeare's template, negating the tension that should be inherent in a story involving racism, drugs and sex. This lack of spontaneity is only heightened by Jeff Dana's oppressive score, in which strings blare on cue right before moments of portent. As Odin, the movie's version of the Moor, Mekhi Phifer is more than credible, but Josh Hartnett ("Pearl Harbor") ably steals the film as ably as his Iago, or this case, Hugo hoodwinks the big "O." As a basketball teammate who is homicidally jealous of Odin's popularity, Hartnett effortlessly switches gears from pure vindictiveness to eerily convincing fake kindness. In its attempts to contemporize the play, "O" winds up being more stiff and pompous than the most old-school adaptation could be. (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.

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.

Rock Star
The story of Tim "The Ripper" Owens, the tribute band singer who ended up fronting Judas Priest after Rob Halford's departure, is perfect for Hollywood, and Hollywood has responded. Sort of. Mark Wahlberg is perfectly cast in this highly fictionalized account of Owens' story, as Chris Cole, who does, indeed, go from cover band wannabe to actual rock star, an adventure which ends up overwhelming him emotionally and straining the relationship with his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston). Director Stephen Herek and screenwriter John Stockwell make the movie a lot of fun early on, with plenty of energetic comedy and a sense of authenticity, thanks to the dozen or so real musicians who are involved both on camera and behind the scenes. They just can't resist turning "Rock Star" into a trite morality play, though, and all the price-of-fame cliches nearly ruin what starts out as a pretty good party. This is one instance where the true story -- where the overnight star stays with the band and remains successful -- would have been a lot more interesting than the carefully written fictional account. (R) -- LL
** 1/2 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.

Two Can Play That Game
As with writer-director Mark Brown's previous film "How to Be a Player," love and war are indistinguishable in "Two Can Play That Game." Vivica A. Fox stars as Shante Smith, a young marketing executive who has made a science out of preventing the men in her buddies' lives from straying. When her own beau Keith (Morris Chestnut, "The Brothers") shows up at her favorite nightspot with another woman, she launches a 10-day psychological assault. The outcome of the attack might be funnier if the battle between Keith and Shante weren't so lopsided. As the movie progresses, one wonders if the gullible fellow is such a prize at all. Fox does have the requisite poise and charm, and it's a pleasure to see Anthony Anderson ("Exit Wounds") playing a character who's not a complete buffoon. As Keith's advisor Tony, he's pretty much the star of the film as he dispenses surprisingly astute advice for a fellow who can't get a date himself. One almost wonders what the film would be like if Anderson and Chestnut had traded roles. The lobby poster might not have been as attractive, but the battle would have had more ammunition. (R) -- DL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

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