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In this column we will feature thumbnail reviews by Wayne Case, a veteran of Hollywood's Big Machine who currently works for an independent film company in Los Angeles. Wayne ranks the films on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (good). The following are Wayne’s rankings of films for 2000.


ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER—8
Full review can be found here: All About My Mother.

ALMOST FAMOUS 8
While this didn’t resonate for me, I do respect and recommend it. I was never really big on rock music and rock bands, and that’s probably the reason. Writer/director Cameron Crowe based this on his own experiences. The entire cast is excellent and includes: a sweet debut by Patrick Fugit as the teenaged writer called William; an award worthy turn by Oscar winner, Frances McDormand, as William’s mother; Kate Hudson as groupie, Penny Lane; Billy Crudrup as Russell, the lead of the fictional group named Stillwater. This probably won’t be the breakthru performance that I continue to expect from Crudrup, but it does showcase his talent and range. Also, this is the first time I’ve appreciated Kate Hudson.

AMERICAN BEAUTY—9 1/2
(Full review here: American Beauty.)

ANNA AND THE KING Rated: 6 I wanted to like it but never became engaged. It is well produced and well cast, but I missed the music that accompanied this story in The King And I. Too long by half an hour at 2 1/2 hours, doesn’t anyone remember how to say “cut”?!

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK 5 1/2

BATTLEFIELD EARTH 1
They just don’t get any worse than this. It’s ugly, dull, & stupid. Was John Travolta really trying to emulate Bette Davis’ Whatever Happened to Baby Jane accent?!
(See Jon Bastian’s full review here.)

BEAU TRAVAIL 4 1/2
From France, in French, with English sub-titles, from French director Claire Denis. Great visual style, but inscrutable. The director seems to have forgotten that she needed to tell the story! Also, a bit low on energy, at least up until the final sequence, which is mixed-in with the end credits! This French Foreign Legion genre is ripe for a big budeted American update. I’d love to see what Tony Scott or Joel Schumacher would do with a juicy/steamy script & starring Tom Cruise, Ryan Phillippe, or Paul Walker.

BEST IN SHOW 7
This is the third “mocumentary” featuring the considerable talents of director/actor/writer, Christopher Guest. The other two are This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and Waiting For Guffman (1996). He wrote and performed in all three; he directed Guffman and Best In Show, while Rob Reiner directed This Is Spinal Tap. For anyone that saw and liked the earlier two, this is a must see. It is also a must see for dog owners and/or dog lovers. It’s easy to forget that the cast is acting rather than just being. None is actually better than the others, but I particularly enjoyed Parker Posey, Eugene Levy and Fred Willard. The plot concerns several dog owner/trainers who converge at a big competitive dog show in Philadelphia. All want the prize for “best in show”. Not for all audiences, this will be most appreciated in the specialized theatres located in larger cities and at film festivals. I smiled throughout, and enjoyed several big laughs also. Some adult material resulted in the appropriate MPAA rating of PG-13.

THE BICENTENNIAL MAN Rated: 8 I realize that many will disagree with me on this one, but I was fascinated & entertained. This is a very thoughtful
film and the pace is appropriately measured. At 2 1/4 hours, given the scope of a 200 year time span for the story, I wouldn’t know what to cut. Robin Williams is appropriately and thankfully restrained this time & director Chris Columbus is in a more the usual for him adult mode. The art & set decoration is very clever and not overdone.

BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 3
Strictly for Martin Lawrence fans, which leaves me out. Some funny bits, but a series of skits doesn’t a movie make. Although the top two films on the recent AFI funniest comedies of all time list, Some Like It Hot and Tootsie are about men in drag, don’t expect to see this one on future lists.

BILLY ELLIOT 10
Read his full review here.

BLESS THE CHILD 3 1/2
This lackluster thriller takes yet another crack at the forces of evil. In terms of quality, think Stigmata and The Ninth Gate rather than The Omen or The Exorcist. This one is not worth your time. Oscar winner Kim Basinger is in a terrible slump. This loser follows the equally unfortunate I Dreamed Of Africa. Neither of those films were worthy of Ms. Basinger and their failure was not her fault. I hope to see her in something worthy of her talents, soon.

BOILER ROOM 7

BOOTMEN 6
A guilty pleasure, but still a major disappointment. October 2000 openings in New York and Los Angeles in only half a dozen theatres were poor and most reviews were negative. My guess is that the next stop is a quick appearance at video stores. Bootmen is an alias for the real Australian male tap-dancing tour group, Tap Dogs. I expected to like this one for, at least, three reasons: One, the lead actor/dancer Adam Garcia, who is likely to become a star, possibly as soon as in his next, the now-filming Riding In Cars With Boys, co-staring Drew Barrymore. Two, it’s an Australian production shot in and around Sydney, and I love most things Australian. Three, this is basically a musical featuring robust dancing and I love good musicals. Well, they just didn’t get it right. The blame has to go to the co-writer/director/choreographer/co-producer one Dein Perry. Mr. Perry was the creative force behind Tap Dogs, so it is clear that he is talented. Perhaps film just isn’t his best medium, and/or he spread himself too thin. Obviously, Bootmen is based on his life experiences; he should have gotten help from experienced film makers. Sam Worthington is effective as Garcia’s brother, but leading lady Sophie Lee is mild even though she did bring fellow Aussie, Olivia Newton-John to mind. I would like to ask Mr. Perry just why he decided to show actor Garcia smoking cigarettes throughout much of the film. It was absolutely unnecessary and sets a poor example.

BOUNCE 8
Read his full review here.

BOYS AND GIRLS 3
Unless you are a major Freddie Prinze, Jr. fan, avoid this lame trifle. Mr. Prinze has the potential to be a star along the lines of Tyrone Power or Tony Curtis, but I have to wonder how many more mistakes like this and his previous mess, Down To You, even a career on the assent can withstand. Rent She’s All That if you need a Freddie Prinze, Jr. fix before his next up Head Over Heels, which co-stars the charming Monica Potter.

BOYS DON’T CRY—8

BRING IT ON 4 1/2
Click here for the full review…

BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER 5
I really wanted to like this one, and still feel like I should be kind to it. However, it really isn’t very well done. Don’t blame the cast. Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, and Brian Cibrian impress, but writer/director Jamie Babbit just didn’t quite bring it off. The plot deals with the adventures of a teenage girl who is sent to a rehab camp, “True Directions”, when her parents become alarmed that she is showing strong lesbian tendencies. This subject has great comedy potential and I hope some more talented filmmakers give it a try.

CENTER STAGE 7 1/2
See my full review.

CHOCOLAT 8 1/2
What a sweet concoction this latest from talented director Lasse Hallstrom this one is. While not up the extremely high standard set by his most recent previous success, The Cider House Rules (1999), this is a delicious follow up, nonetheless. Although the language spoken is English (with a French accent), everything else about the film “feels” French. This is an art movie for people that don’t generally like “art house” movies. I can’t recall a more seamless film. Everything “fits” perfectly. The tone is consistently enchanting and the ensemble cast made me forget they were acting. The very French Juliette Binoche, Oscar winning best supporting actress of The English Patient (1996) won me over with her sweet performance this time. Up until this film, co-star Lena Olin (Mrs. Lasse Hallstrom off-screen) was a strong contender as the working actress I liked least. I absolutely hated her in Havana (1990) and have often hoped to never see her again. Her husband brings out the best in her and I think she is fine here. Oscar winner Judi Dench is wonderful and will be in contention for another Oscar nomination. How nice to see Johnny Deep back and effective in a rare, for him, leading man role. Two-time best actress Oscar nominee, Leslie Caron makes a welcomed return and continues to charm. The plot concerns a mother and daughter who arrive in a small French village under rather mystical conditions and open a chocolate shop at the start of lent. The Catholic mayor, as played by Alfred Molina, takes an instant dislike to them and attempts to drive them out. The story tells us what effect this conflict has on various villagers. This one is worth your time an money.

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES—10
(Full review here: Cider House.)

CHICKEN RUN 8
While not quite up to the standard set by Babe, that’s the film I am reminded of. I recommend this for all audiences. I only laughed out loud a few times, but it kept a constant smile on my face. SEE IT!

CHUCK & BUCK 8
What a pleasant surprise! This small (very) independent film is well worth seeking out, although it will probably play only the top 20 markets. Thirty year old Mike White is both the writer & the star. As Buck, this is his acting debut, but he has previously written a couple of other minor films, and scripts for television shows Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks. (Next up is his script for the 2001 Adam Sandler vehicle, American Neurotic.) Chuck is portrayed by Chris Weitz, also thirty and also making his acting debut. He received writing credits for Nutty Professor II—The Klumps and Antz. His brother, Paul Weitz, likewise, has his first acting job here in the supporting part of Sam. Paul directed American Pie, and these brothers have recently co-directed Chris Rock’s upcoming release, Down To Earth. (The Brothers Weitz are the sons of 50s & 60s actress, Susan Kohner, who got a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for Imitation of Life.) Be warned that this is a film for adults. At worst, it deserves three Oscar nominations: Best original script, best song (Freedom Of The Heart), and best supporting actress, Lupe Ontiveros.
(See Jon’s full review)

CRIMINAL LOVERS (LES AMANTS CRIMINELS) 7 1/2
This is a “specialized film” if there ever was a film that deserved that tag! In French and absolutely NOT for most audiences, I found it fascinating. Think Natural Born Killers meets Pulp Fiction with an overlay from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Be warned that nudity, sex and violence abound! Expect director Francois Ozon to deliver a breakout film in the near future.

DANCER IN THE DARK 7
“DARK” indeed! This is the most depressing film I’ve seen since 1951’s A Street Car Named Desire. I admire director/writer Lars von Trier, who is clearly a gifted filmmaker. I question his choice of material/subject matter this time around, however, and prefer his previous release, Breaking The Waves, one of the best films of the nineties. Lead actress, Bjork, deserves a best actress nomination for her amazing performance. I hated all the hand-held camera work, which became tiresome and distracting.

DINOSAUR 5
For me, this was a MAJOR disappointment. I loved the trailer, but that trailer contained 90% of what I enjoyed in the full film. Yes, the effects and techniques are terrific, but this is just another of the Disney standard issue where the animals have human voices.

DISNEY’S THE KID 4
Personally, I hated this film, but recognize that there is an audience that will/does enjoy it. A terrific idea is hiding deep inside, but the Disney people have thoroughly dumbed it down. Also, this film contains more music than the entire soundtrack for the film version of Evita and that’s usually a sign of desperation. This material deserved treatment similar to that given The Sixth Sense. Star Bruce Willis is OK and I must assume that he helped select the leading lady, Emily Mortimer, since she looks just like his real life ex-wife, Demi Moore! Jean Smart is terrific in her two scenes and Lily Tomlin is present but woefully under-utilized.

DROWNING MONA—3
Yet another “comedy” that simply isn’t funny. I can’t think of a single reason for anyone to pay to see this one.

ERIN BROCKOVICH—8½.
Julia Roberts is a STAR. She can expect consideration for a Oscar nomination and this shows her to great personal advantage. A real crowd-pleaser… Based on a true story, this proves that even familiar material can be extremely entertaining when done correctly. Albert Finney is a likely (Best Supporting) Oscar nominee for 2000 also.

THE EXORCIST 9 1/2
Reissued in September 2000, with 11 additional minutes and improved sound, this is a true classic and probably the scariest film that I’ve ever seen! Don’t miss it in a theatre on a large screen. Originally released in 1973, this is a film that holds up quite well, and only tips it’s age by having so much of the cast smoking nonstop on camera! Director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty are in top form. The cast is exceptional and includes Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, and Jason Miller. Although this was her only shinning moment on the screen, the then 12 year old Linda Blair is breathtaking and shocking! Although some of her more colorful dialogue is dubbed by Mercedes McCambridge, her performance is a marvel. Mike Oldfield’s music, “Tubular Bells”, is as recognizable as any music ever used in films. How nice it is that Warner Bros has reissued this remarkable film, so that we can see it as intended.

FINAL DESTINATION—4
The first half hour was terrific, but what follows is completely unacceptable and incomprehensible. Devon Sawa and the rest of the cast are good in a lost cause.

FINDING FORRESTER 7 1/2
Many are going to like this one more that I did. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t resonate for me. Maybe that’s because I was reminded of one of my top 100 favorites, Dead Poet’s Society (1989), and this doesn’t measure up to that for me. I won’t be surprised if Oscar winner Sean Connery gets another nomination for this. While I do think he is quite good, I got the feeling that I was watching “Sean Connery’s Greatest Hits.” Newcomer Rob Brown is effective, as is direction by Gus Van Sant. I don’t want to discourage anyone from attending, even though I’m not enthusiastic about it.

FREQUENCY 7 1/2
Full review pending…

GLADIATOR 7 1/2
No Spartacus, but very entertaining. Russell Crowe is terrific, and is likely to be remembered at awards time. I’m glad to see this genre revived. Be warned…very bloody.

GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS 4
I’ve seen worse, unfortunately, but this one seemed like it was 6 hours long. Do NOT look for Oscar winners Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall to get similar recognition for this LOUD loser.

THE GREEN MILE—8 1/2
(Full review here: Green Mile.)

HANGING UP 3
What a waste! What a mess! This is not a comedy in the tradition of The First Wives’ Club even though the ad materials want you to think so. Closer to writer Nora Ephron’s Mixed Nuts than to her Sleepless In Seattle!

HERE ON EARTH—4 1/2

HIGH FIDELITY—3
Hated it!

HOLLOW MAN 5
See Wayne’s full review here.

I DREAMED OF AFRICA 4 1/2
This misfire contains more snake footage than Anaconda… Blame the script and/or direction for its failure. Episodic and remote, but it is beautifully photographed. Kim Basinger gets everything possible out of the material, but it dosen’t really matter. One of my favorite composers, Maurice Jarre, recycles his Doctor Zhivago score for this one…

THE IN CROWD 2
As directed by Mary Lambert, who includes both Pet Cemetery and Pet Cemetery 2 in her resume, this dog should have just been buried in a pet cemetery. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this muddled mess. Poor boxoffice results are no surprise.

THE INSIDER—8 1/2
(Full review here: The Insider.)

JESUS’ SON 6
As usual, Billy Crudup is very impressive, but as usual with his films, don’t expect a lot of business. This is an off-beat, independent & very specialized project that contains a lot of extreamly unpleasant drug stuff. I hated most of the first hour, but the last 40 or so minutes were good enough for me to give it a qualified recommendation. Holly Hunter is outstanding in a cameo.

KEEPING THE FAITH 7
See my full review.

THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE 7
Just looking good isn’t enough. This is the sixth film to be directed by Robert Redford. It reminds me of A River Runs Through It; the style and pace is similar to that of The Horse Whisperer; it is considerably less successful than his Oscar winner, Ordinary People, which is clearly his best to date. I enjoyed Bagger Vance more than most people have, will or would, but I must admit that I was disappointed. Somehow, it’s just too slight and remote. There is absolutely no edge. The cast is not to blame for any shortcomings. Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, and Will Smith are all excellent, but not memorable. While Mr. Smith’s fans were not interested and stayed away by the millions, I was relieved that I escaped having to endure a reprise of the stuff he does in things like Men In Black. Young actor, J. Michael Moncrief has charm, ability and a bright future. All technical aspects are strong, and the music by Rachel Portman, who also did last year’s The Cider House Rules, is exceptional.

At a budget of a reported $80 million, and a likely domestic gross of only $35 million, anyone wishing to see it in a theatre had better hurry. It will gone very soon.

LITTLE NICKY 3
Awful, just awful—but sure to be a hit with his many fans, just getting thru this Adam Sandler effort was a real struggle for me. I confess to enjoying three of his earlier films, namely, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer, and Bulletproof. On the other hand, I truly hate his most recent previous blockbuster, Big Daddy, which I consider irresponsible, ugly and inept. I do look forward to an upcoming potential project planned to star Mr. Sandler and to be directed by Paul Thomas Anderson of Boogie Nights fame. What a combination that would be!

Give writer/director Steven Brill a little credit; he actually manages to get the story told on screen, and that’s not always a given in this type exercise. Leading lady, Patricia Arquette continues with her specialty of providing a dead spot in the middle of the screen every time the camera finds her.

Unless you just love Mr. Sandler, and/or the type humor prominent in Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura films, I suggest that you avoid this one.

LOVE & BASKETBALL 7
Entertaining story of a young Black woman’s love of the sport & her man. University of Southern California included in locations. Fight On!!!

LOSER 4
Well, they got the title right. Director Amy Heckerling has quite a range. It’s hard to believe that the same person that delivered the excellent Clueless and the clever Fast Times At Ridgemont High, could also be responsible for the disastrous Look Who’s Talking, Too and the pathetic Johnny Dangerously. While not as bad as her worst, there is no good reason to spend your time and/or money on this, her latest, LOSER. Stars Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari will survive, but Greg Kinnear needs to vow to never repeat this character again. While well crafted, the plot is trite and very much like that recent lame excuse called Boys & Girls.

LUCKY NUMBERS 2
This will find it’s way to my worsts of the year list. Consider yourself lucky if you pass this number. Nora Ephron has some entertaining films on her writing and/or directing resume (Michael, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless In Seattle), but this is a lot like her 1994 turkey, Mixed Nuts. While I realize that a person’s weight is a personal matter, I have to comment on John Travolta. For the $20 million or so he receives per film, he really should get himself in better physical shape. A few more like this and his previous bomb, Battlefield Earth, and his career will be in big trouble again. Lisa Kudrow is just annoying and exhibits none of the charm I’ve come to expect from her in television’s Friends.

MAGNOLIA Rated: 7 …(a major disappointment after the great Boogie Nights from the same writer/director, Paul Thomas Anderson) The first half is terrific, but a surprise that I won’t reveal here is absurd. Tom Cruise deserves, at least, a supporting actor nomination, and the rest of the large cast is almost as good as he is. At over 3 hours, it is too long by 30 minutes. This should have been another Short Cuts, which it resembles, but it “falls” far short of that.

THE MATRIX—7

ME, MYSELF & IRENE 5 1/2
There are some laughs here, but I expected much more from this re-teaming of Jim Carrey and the Farrelly brothers. Dumb & Dumber, this ain’t. See for yourself, but don’t expect There’s Something About Mary or King Pin. Also, Jim Carrey can sleep thru the early morning Oscar nomination announcements this coming February.

MEET THE PARENTS 5
Think of this as the minority report. I was NOT amused. Director Jay Roach is a graduate of the University of Southern California, so he can’t be all bad…If you are numbered among the millions of fans of the two Austin Powers films, both directed by Mr. Roach, you are likely to enjoy this one also. Millions have already and ultimate boxoffice could well reach over $125 million. That still doesn’t make it a good film. Although he was never one of my personal favorites, I do consider Robert De Niro to be one of the most gifted actors of his generation. However, he is in the same overacting/obnixous mode that poluted his other recent hit, Analyze This. Since I could only tolerate the first twenty minutes of that and made it through all 107 long minutes of this, I suppose I consider this the better of the two. Top billed Ben Stiller is likeable is his part as the one to Meet The Parents of his girlfriend; that’s a big part of the problem for me. I just don’t think it’sfunny when a nice person is put thru all sorts of crap they don’t deserve. I loved There’s Something About Mary. The only similarity is that both star Ben Stiller. Go! Enjoy! Just don’t tell me that I have to sit thru the already “green lighted” sequel, which is due in 2001!

MISS CONGENIALITY 4 1/2
Chalk up another “MISS” for producer/star Sandra Bullock. She is a big favorite of mine, but she really did need a good film after Gun Shy and 28 Days. This ain’t that. Suggestion: let someone else produce her next films and work only with top directors. Donald Petrie isn’t likely to be confused with one of those. Ms. Bullock is her usual likeable self, Michael Caine is good in a very badly written part, Candice Bergen is poorly directed to be way too shrill, Benjamin Bratt is as good as the material allows, and William Shatner is beyond direction.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE:2 7 1/2
Entertaining, but disposable. Tom Cruise is effective and likeable as our latest “action hero.” Director, John Woo, does a terrific job with the action pieces, but connecting scenes are rather flat and contain no subtext. I expected more from a script by Robert (Chinatown) Towne, but he was recently quoted as saying audiences for this type film want no complexities. His mission: accomplished! Both Dougray Scott & Thandie Newton are pleasantly watchable. (See the full Film Monthly review here.)

MISSION TO MARS—4½
A big disappointment from favorite director, Brian De Palma (Carrie, The Untouchables, Dressed To Kill). Blatant theft of ideas and scenes from some of the most loved films ever made is among this MISSION’s many sins.

THE NEXT BEST THING—3
This is not the light hearted romp that the trailer promised. I found it flat and foul. Madonna hardly registers and Rupert Everett overplays a character he perfected in My Best Friend’s Wedding. PASS…

THE NINTH GATE—4
This is the latest mis-step from Roman Polanski (Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby). Reminiscent of the recent and wretched Eyes Wide Shut, a suspenseful start simply ends some 2-¼ hours later without any climax!

NURSE BETTY 9
See my full review here…

NUTTY PROFESSOR 2—THE KLUMPS 4
OK all you Eddie Murphy fanatics, this one’s for you. Your man creates approximately 8 different Klump family members here and that he does extremely well. The makeup is outstanding and may even get another Oscar for Rick Baker. However, this is not a good film. It is slap-dash, silly, sappy, obnoxious, repetitive, gross and extremely frantic. The whole thing seems rather desperate, but that won’t make a bit of difference to the millions that will see it and most will leave the theatre content. As for me, I felt like I’d been “klumped”! The film’s idea of fun is to have a 7 foot, sex-crazed hamster projectile-shitting numerous turds. I admired Bowfinger, and hope for more films in that vein from Mr. Murphy soon.

THE PATRIOT 7 1/2
This is VERY violent and bloody, but also entertaining. Easily the best film from Producer/Director team, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, probably since they allowed someone else (Robert Rodat of Saving Private Ryan fame) to do the writing this time out. This also may well be the best and the most successful film ever made about the American revolution. Mel Gibson is excellent and is likely to get a Oscar nomination for best actor. Heath Ledger is noteworthy.

THE PERFECT STORM 8
See Wayne’s full review here.

PROOF OF LIFE 8 1/2
My full review here.

QUILLS 4 1/2
Definitely not for me. I was alternately bored and annoyed throughout. Keep in mind that the only previous Philip Kaufman film that I’ve enjoyed was the 1983 boxoffice failure, The Right Stuff. I found The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (1988) unbearable, and consider The White Dawn (1974) a yawn. The acting is QUILLS is better than the direction, and Oscar winner, Geoffrey Rush lets it all hang out in more ways than one. Oscar winner, Michael Caine, however, is awful and seems to be in a different movie; blame Mr. Kaufman for this lapse. Also, inexplicably, the entire film is lit like a stage production. Critical response has been extremely mixed. The LOS ANGELES TIMES’ Kenny Turan gave it the worst review I’ve seen all year, but The National Film Board picked it as the best film of 2000. I lean in Kenny’s direction this time. Director Kaufman is threatening to direct Robin Williams as Liberace next. My mind reels at the possibilities…

REMEMBER THE TITANS 7 1/2
Set in and around a real Virginia high school in the early 1970s, this one stars Denzel Washington as a football coach. Big opening weekend (Sept. 29, 2000) business of over $20 million and enthusiastic exit poll grades from all demographics aside, I’m a little less enthusiastic than most of you are likely to be. Maybe I’ve just seen too many similar films. In my opinion, Hoosiers (1986) is the best sports movie ever, and this is not up to that standard. Gregory Allen Howard is the only credited writer, which is unusual for a film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and this is the third film directed by Boaz Yakin, who does breakout work here.My major objection is that it is choppy. That is, several plot point just get lost. Second-billed Will Patton matches Denzel Washington’s super performance, and the rest of the cast is excellent. I must point out, however, that the actors playing high school students are almost ten years older than they should be. Shades of television’s Beverly Hills 90210…

Special praise to eleven-year old Hayden Panettiere as Will Patton’s daughter and to Kip Pardue as the quarterback named “Sunshine.” The film is blatantly manipulative, but ultimately, that doesn’t matter.I wouldn’t want any of my misgivings to keep any of you away if you think you might enjoy it, because it really is most entertaining. Consider this a big recommendations, with some minor reservations.

THE REPLACEMENTS 3
See Wayne’s full review here.

ROAD TRIP 7 1/2
See my full review.

SCARY MOVIE 6 1/2
Gross it is, and gross it did! The boxoffice is already over $120 Million (and could reach $150 million). The cost to make was less than $20 million. The reason for its success: it’s funny! Be warned that there are scenes that you’d only expect in X-rated fare, and I’m still shocked that the MPAA gave it an R rating. The level of humor is reminiscent of Porky’s and There’s Something About Mary. Among the films it spoofs are: The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and all three of the Scream series. Unless you saw and enjoyed most of these, you should probably pass.

SHAFT 6 1/2
I was entertained, generally, but found it a little “slack” in some of the transition sections between the solid action sequences. Samuel L. Jackson was born to play this part; I also enjoyed Toni Collette and Christian Bale; Jeffrey Wright, however, comes close to stealing the film. Don’t mistake this for a film with only Black audience appeal.

SHANGHAI NOON 7 1/2
Jackie Chan & Owen Wilson entertain in this well-produced and well- reviewed “buddy western”. Jackie Chan fans will be pleased and Owen Wilson almost steals the film in a “breakout” performance. Stay for the outakes over the closing credits…

THE SIXTH SENSE—8 1/2
Full review here: Sixth Sense.

THE SKULLS 7
See my full review.

SMILING FISH & GOAT ON FIRE 7
This is an excellent little specialized film that was made on a budget reported to be less than $50,000. The title, which refers to the childhood nicknames given two brothers by their part-Native-American grandmother, is the least effective thing about it. The setting is present day Los Angeles and the rather slight story tells of the romantic lives of Chris and Tony, capably played by real life brothers, Derick and Steven Martini. These talented gentlemen also co-wrote and co-produced along with the film’s excellent director, Kevin Jordan. An award-worthy supporting performance is delivered by 75 year old Black veteran performer, Bill Henderson. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more projects from all of these folk soon.

SPACE COWBOYS 7
Alternate title suggestion: “Grumpy Old SpaceMen”… This is good, solid, easy entertainment from Clint Eastwood, who stars along with Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Donald Sutherland, Blair Brown, Marcia Gay Harden and Loren Dean. My only real objection is that, as usual when he directs, Clint lets it all go on too long.

THE STRAIGHT STORY Rated: 3 (I expect mine to be the minority
opinion…) I’d rename it ?Straight To The Nursing Home.? Where were the maps? Where was the Highway Patrol? Why wasn’t their any other traffic on the road he traveled? Where were his other children during all this?! Richard Farnsworth is probably a nice older gentleman and he is a likely Oscar nominee. So be it, BUT he won’t get my vote this time! It’s time for
director David Lynch to try for something akin to Blue Velvet & Twin Peaks, please!!!

I lasted for 45 minutes of SIMPATICO & felt that it seemed like a lot more time than that. It is wretched & incoherent.

THIRTEEN DAYS 8 1/2
My full review here soon.

TIGERLAND 8 1/2
See my full review here…

TRIXIE 1 1/2
They just don’t get much more annoying than this one. Don’t be suckered in by the cast. If you like Emily Watson, rent Hilary And Jackie or Breaking The Waves; if your taste runs to Dermot Mulroney, rent Copycat or My Best Friend’s Wedding; if it’s Nick Nolte (looking embalmed), try The Deep or The Prince Of Tides. Blame this mess on co-writer/director Alan Rudolph, who is approaching 60 years old and should seriously consider early retirement. Of his 20 feature films, he made only one that was exceptional…1984 release CHOOSE ME.

28 DAYS 5
See my full review.

U-571 6 1/2
A good World War II submarine adventure. Unfortunately, no strong identities for the young look-alike cast were established early in the film, so I was not able to distinguish between them later. Also, since the film is based on real life events that I knew about, there was little suspense for me.

UNBREAKABLE 4
Unwatchable, unbearable, unsavory.
Tedious, pretentious, ponderous.
“I see bad people.”

URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT 4 1/2
For three reasons, I wanted this one to be good. It isn’t…
One: I’ve been a fan of cast member/actor Hart Bochner since the terrific Apartment Zero. Two: USC Cinema graduate, John Ottman makes his debut as director here and also does the editing and musical scoring. (Among his previous credits, include his highly praised work as editor and composer for the excellent The Usual Suspects.) Performing all three of these functions for one film is most unusual. Three: I enjoy this genre when it is well done. In this film, the problem is the script/plot. Individual scenes are fine, and it looks/sounds great. Unfortunately, it is also repetitious and muddled.

Expect much better work from John Ottman in the future. One of the few good reason to see this film is if you want to catch the early work of an actor who will soon be a star, Matthew Davis. This is (probably) his first film, then he gets second billing in Tigerland, slated to open shortly. He is also in the mega-budgeted 2001 release Pearl Harbor, and will co-star with Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blond.

VERTICAL LIMIT 6-1/2
Read his full review here.

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES 6
Director Sophia Coppola shows that she did inherit talent from her father, but I never did quite get the point of the story here. Kirsten Dunst delivers a break-out performance.

WAKING THE DEAD—3
Let this sleeping dog lie!

THE WATCHER 6
Damning with faint praise: The Watcher is…well, watchable, but that’s about all. My rating is probably too kind and I question whether we needed yet another film dealing with serial killers since I read that more serial killers exist in film than in real life. First time director Joe Charbanic does a decent job, but I felt the gears grind as he layered on technique to obscure the familiar. The cast is good, starting with James Spader who doesn’t seem to have aged much since his early films like Wall Street. Oscar winner, Marisa Tomei, who is NOT one of my favorites, is good enough here, and I enjoyed watching Keanu Reeves in a smaller part as the killer. It’s nothing special, but it did hold my attention..

THE WAY OF THE GUN 4
I had to force myself to stay all the way through this one. I just didn’t like it at all. Christopher McQuarrie wrote and directed and my guess is that he has delivered exactly what he intended; I’m just not sure WHY. Grosses have been poor and that can’t come as much of a surprise since I can’t imagine just who the targeted audience is. Language and violence rarely bother me, but they do here, since they are unnecessarly harsh. Although he is only slightly more than adequate, it was nice to see Ryan Phillippe maturing. Supposedly, he worked out to gain 25 puonds for this part; it wasn’t worth it. Juliette Lewis has never been one of my favorites, but I must admit that she is effective in the very awkward part of a very pregnant surrogate mother. Other cast members including Benicio Del Toro, James Caan, Taye Diggs, Scott Wilson, Dylan Kussman, and Kristin Lehman were up to their assignments and I can only assume that they thought this one was going to be up to the standards set by writer McQuarrie’s earlier successful script, The Usual Suspects. Not even close…

WHAT LIES BENEATH 7
See my full review.

WHERE THE HEART IS 8 1/2
See my full review.

WHERE THE MONEY IS 7 1/2
See my full review.

WHAT WOMEN WANT 3
This well may be exactly want most women and some men want from a movie. As for me, I want my wasted two hours and price of admission back. If you like the trailer, and/or if you are a Mel Gibson fan, don’t let me influence you to pass, since I suspect that most of you are just going to love this one. I found it trite, undisciplined, redundant, bloated, embarrassing and rancid. Direction by Nancy Meyers is bad enough to necessitate legislation keeping her away from any camera ever again. Good ole Mel is encouraged to try to emulate Cary Grant or the Pillow Talk-styled Rock Hudson; he reminded me of The Three Stooges instead. Of course, I hated Meet The Parents, also, so what do I know!

WHIPPED 1 1/2
When the year 2010 rolls around, if I have the energy to do a list of the worst films of this current decade, Whipped is a strong candidate for inclusion on that list. The scene where a vibrator is dropped into an unflushed toilet sets the tone for the entire film. Consider this a warning!

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS 8

WONDER BOYS—9 1/2
Wayne’s full review can be found here: Wonder Boys.

X-MEN 6 1/2
I’m probably being generous here, but I was pleasantly surprised. I disliked the trailers and haven’t looked at a comic book in forty years, and yet, I was entertained. Clearly, this is not intended for everyone. However, it is a real movie and not an unending compilation of 10 second film clips in the style of Armageddon or a headache disguised as a film such as Con Air.

Australian Hugh Jackman delivers a break-thru performance while Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, and James Marsden are fun to watch. Big boxoffice indicates a sequel is almost certain.

YOU CAN COUNT ON ME 9
What a terrific little gem this is, and what a pleasant surprise! I did not like the trailer, and I was not impressed with the ads and posters. None of these materials come close to capturing the essence. Before seeing this film, I was not a Laura Linney fan, but this won me over and she deserves a best actress Oscar nomination. I wasn’t even aware of debuting director, Ken Lonergan, who also did the outstanding writing. His only other screen credits are for writing The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Analyze This. Neither even hinted at the level of talent exhibited here. Male lead, Mark Ruffalo, has about fifteen previous credits in unsuccessful or little known films from the nineties; this is the one that will put him in contention for major parts. He, too, is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Third billed is 10 year old, Rory Culkin, and, yes, he is a younger brother from the clan that brought us Macaulay and Kieran. Rory is excellent in a touching part where he never once gets “cute.” Matthew Broderick is equally effective in a smaller part as the new manager of the bank where Linney works. His performance reminds me of his terrific work in last year’s Election.

The setting is a small upstate New York town, present day. Linney is a loan officer at the local bank, and is raising her young son alone. Her brother, Ruffalo, returns to the house where they grew up after he has been away and out of touch. The relationship between the brother & sister is at the heart of the story; it is told with poignancy and humor.

I highly recommend this for adult filmgoers. It is one of the very best of the year.

...more to come!



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