Coming Soon to Video and DVD

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

November 18

  • "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" (PG-13): Our buff-and-limber gymnast-archeologist (Angelina Jolie) goes in search of Pandora's box, fighting with rivals Chen Lo (Simon Yam) and supervillain Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds) along the way. The plot seems to have been filched from the James Bond flea market of secondhand ideas. Lara visits such exotic locales as Shanghai and Hong Kong, exchanges errant bullets with a familiar array of musclebound grunts, somersaults through the air, rides turbo-powered motorbikes, participates in a few of those long-stick martial arts battles and even pole vaults onto an ascending helicopter. It's been done before and better. Only Jolie oglers need apply. Contains action violence and sexual situations.
  • "Mondays in the Sun" (R): Javier Bardem gives such a bighearted performance in this Spanish movie, you'd be remiss not to see it. Santa (Bardem) is just one of many laid-off dockworkers in Vigo, a northern Spanish coastal town. With little hope of employment, Santa and his friends have settled into a no-budget existence, highlighted by nights at a bar run by Rico (Joaquin Climent), another laid-off worker. Director Fernando Leon de Aranoa and co-writer Ignacio del Moral have created a sort of working-class un-sitcom, in which punch lines come after lengthy, seriously toned buildups. It's interested in the ferment between characters, the slow development of relationships over time. And to the patient viewer, the rewards are many, especially Bardem's performance. Contains sexual situations and obscenity.
  • "The Santa Clause 2" (G): In this sequel to 1994's charming "The Santa Clause," Scott Calvin/Santa (Tim Allen) needs a wife or he'll lose his blessed status (that's the clause in this title). Can he get a wife, save Christmas, and also help his son (Eric Lloyd) who just turned up on Santa's Naughty List? From the amazingly unappealing child actors (including Spencer Breslin and David Krumholtz) who play Santa's little helpers, to the absurd plot about a cloned, substitute Santa who turns evil, the story has all the charm of coal in a stocking. Contains dating scenes between adults, which is, of course, totally gross. And that fake Santa may be too scary for some children.
  • "The Sea is Watching" (R): Based on a recently discovered, unproduced script by Akira Kurosawa, "The Sea is Watching" could be considered the late master's only love story. True to Kurosawa form, Kei Kumai's film -- set in an Edo-period brothel and centering around a prostitute (Nagiko Tohno) who keeps falling for her johns -- has touches of surreal beauty, as when a near-biblical flood almost washes away the whorehouse in which most of the action takes place. Such grace notes, as well as a general avoidance of sentimentality, give the Cinderella story ballast, but the story is weakened by the sexist notion, underscored by the film's central metaphor, that a working girl's sins, but not her customer's, need to be washed away by the purifying waters of the ocean. Contains sexual scenes and violence.
  • "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" (PG): In this business-as-usual animated feature, Eris (voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer) is a mischievous goddess of chaos with too much time on her hands. Sinbad (Brad Pitt) is a cocky pirate who plunders ships and cares for no one but himself. Eris decides to have twisted fun with mortals in general and Sinbad in particular. She finagles a situation in which Sinbad must save the life of his friend Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) by finding the powerful Book of Peace. Along for the ride is Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Proteus's beautiful, headstrong fiancee who intends to keep Sinbad on a moral course to get that book. The movie, a mixture of two-dimensional and computer animation, doesn't seem to be trying to make more than a medium-size splash. Contains adventure action, mild sensuality and mild obscenity.
  • "Together" (PG): This mawkish film about the relationship between a 13-year-old violin prodigy (Tang Yun) and his dirt-poor father (Liu Peiqi) comes, surprisingly, from Chen Kaige. The Chinese director of "Farewell My Concubine" gets bogged down in a melodrama that includes not just the all-too-familiar trope of learning to play with heart over technique, but the revelation of a dark secret from the boy's past. His life as a budding music star in Beijing is not without some interesting relationships (with the bimbo down the block, for instance, played by the director's real-life wife, Chen Hong), but the one with his father is gooey with treacle. Contains mildly rude language.
  • "Winged Migration" (G): Over the course of four years, director Jacques Perrin led a team of 450 (including 17 pilots and 14 cinematographers) to follow the migratory patterns of birds all over the world. The Perrin team filmed in at least 40 countries and on all seven continents. But it's not the enormous undertaking that impresses so much as the sheer ecstasy of flight and the ability of Perrin's team to catch it. It's amazing how he achieved this: with helicopters, planes, boats and even balloons. And from the soaring skies, with birds flapping, fluttering or gliding around you, you see every kind of weather condition, from arid stillness over desertscapes to terrifying storm fronts over the sea. Of course, there are more birds than you can appreciate in one sitting (or virtual flight), including geese, eagles, swallows, pelicans and cranes. Contains nothing offensive, although the shooting of birds by hunters might affect some children.

    November 25

  • "Bruce Almighty" (PG-13): In addition to the many miracles Jim Carrey performs when his struggling newscaster character inherits God's powers -- such as parting the Red Sea, here represented by a bowl of tomato soup -- the actor has the ability to turn mediocre material into comedic gold. Despite the fact that the film, directed by Tom "Patch Adams" Shadyac, stretches its single-joke premise (Jim Carrey as the world's most mischievous and powerful magician) a little longer than it needs to, and despite a soggily sentimental ending, "Bruce Almighty" is mightily funny, a made-to-order vehicle for the world's most limber 41-year-old child. So what if it's silly? After all, as Carrey's onscreen girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) says, by way of cheering up the frustrated news clown, "There's nothing wrong with making people laugh." Contains obscenity, slapstick violence and sexual and excretory humor.
  • "The Legend of Suriyothai" (R): Spectacular but tedious, Francis Ford Coppola's nearly 21/2-hour edit of filmmaking Thai Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol's reportedly eight-hour original is both too long -- and too short. It's too short, because Coppola's version of the life of Suriyothai (M.L. Piyapa Bhirombhakdi), a 16th-century Thai queen, life leaves out so many details that it's nearly impossible to keep track of the enormous cast of characters, several of whom are played by different actors as they age. And it's too long, because even at this reduced length, it takes too much time getting to the payoff: an epic, elephant-filled battle in which the title character plays a prominent (and, for a woman, rare) role. Contains partial nudity, death by smallpox and miscellaneous violence by arrow, blade, bullet, cannonball and poison.
  • "The Man on the Train" (R): French filmmaker Patrice Leconte's tale of two men -- one a bank robber (pop star-turned-actor Johnny Hallyday), the other a retired schoolteacher (cinema veteran Jean Rochefort) -- and their relationship, which involves each one yearning, to a degree, to trade places with the other, is a piquant, thoroughly engaging character drama. When the two come together in a small French village, there's a sleepy, charming magic watching these two guys playing off each other. Although the film's contrived ending strays in the direction of Hollywood, the spiritual link between the two men and the force of the actors' personalities transcend everything. Contains violence.
  • "X2: X-Men United" (PG-13): By dispensing with the need for tiresome exposition, this classy, fast-paced, effects-slick sequel to "X-Men" is a vast improvement over the first film based on the enduring Marvel Comics stories about a band of genetic mutants with extraordinary powers. In this chapter, the X-Men (Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and James Marsden), a team of crime-fighting freaks led by telepathic whiz Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), join forces with their arch-enemies (Ian McKellen and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) to fight a common enemy, an anti-mutant bigot (Brian Cox) out to destroy their kind. The dark, delicious twist, of course, to the superhero formula is the fact that not only must our heroes battle injustice but the scorn of the so-called "normal" population -- a nice touch that has resonated with misfit teens for nearly 40 years. Yet who among us hasn't felt, at one time or another, a little bit like a mutant? Contains moderately violent sci-fi action, sensuality and a four-letter word or two.

    December 2

  • "Autumn Spring" (PG-13): This Czech film, an intriguing amalgam of cynicism and sentimentality, introduces you to an unforgettable mischief-maker. He's a 76-year-old Czech named Franta (Vlastimil Brodsky), who's always getting into prankish mischief with his pal Eda (Stanislav Zindulka), much to the exasperation of his longsuffering wife, Emilie (Stella Zazvorkova). Sooner or later, his con games are going to cost him his relationship with his wife, if he's not careful. On a more tragic note, Brodsky took his life in 2002, shortly after he made this picture. Thus, "Autumn Spring," which deals with issues of death and living life to the fullest, attains an even more powerful dimension. Contains sexual implications.
  • "The Cuckoo" (PG-13): Bergmanesque touches grace this poetic comedy from Russian director Alexander Rogozhkin. Set in World War II-era Lapland, just as hostilities between the Nazi-allied Finns and the Russians are about to come to an end, the film concerns the complicated relationships between a reluctant Finnish sniper (Ville Haapasalo), an injured Russian officer (Viktor Bychkov) and the rural Lapp woman who takes them both in (Anni-Kristiina Juuso). Of course, none of the three speaks or understands a word of the others' languages. By turns funny and moving, the wondrous little film unfolds like a fable, strange and strangely familiar, as are all fables inspired by the magical circumstances that sometimes lift us out of the muck of real life. Contains images of war dead, off-camera sex noises, mild obscenity and brief nudity. In Russian, Finnish and Saami with subtitles.
  • "Fellini: I'm a Born Liar" (Not rated): In "Fellini: I'm a Born Liar," Damian Pettigrew's documentary about the Italian director, Federico Fellini's legendary roguishness is most evident in anecdotes from people who worked with him. A grim Sutherland speaks of Fellini as a "martinet," a "tartar" and a "tyrant" who screamed his way through the production. British actor Terence Stamp, who played an emotionally deteriorating movie star in Fellini's 1968 "Toby Dammit," recounts some colorful anecdotes, too. Director Pettigrew shows Fellini at work, and those moments are priceless. Contains some sensuality and obscenity. In French and Italian with subtitles.
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (PG-13): Johnny Depp shines as pirate Jack Sparrow, the mincing, mascaraed, swishbuckling antihero of this high-seas adventure tale based on a Disneyland ride. Unfortunately, Depp's capering, cockney buccaneer, who teams up with a love-struck blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) to hunt down the undead villain (Geoffrey Rush) who has stolen Sparrow's ship and kidnapped a fair maiden (Keira Knightley), is not heroic enough to keep this bilge-filled vessel, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, from sinking. Only half funny and only half scary, it ends up being not too terribly much of either. It's a thrill ride that is strangely lethargic. Contains piratical violence.

    December 9

  • "Assassination Tango" (R): Robert Duvall is a great actor -- even when, as a filmmaker and screenwriter, he doesn't seem to know what he's doing. Starring as a ballroom dance-loving hit man who takes tango lessons from a hottie (Luciana Pedraza) while waiting for his mark to show up in Buenos Aires, Duvall is his usual compelling presence. Too bad Duvall the screenwriter didn't write himself a real script, with a real ending, or that Duvall the director can't seem to find some way to make us believe that the 31-year-old Pedraza would fall for her 72-year-old co-star, aside from the fact that they're a real-life couple and they have to go home together at the end of the day. Contains obscenity, a dimly lit sexual encounter and a shooting.
  • "Bad Boys II" (R): "Bad Boys II" is just like "Bad Boys," only louder, longer and the stars get paid more. This 21/2-hour movie, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, is loaded for bear with shootouts, car chases, helicopter chases and boat chases -- and then it starts all over again. More car chases and more shootouts. Whether they're shooting gangsters (dabbling this time in the ecstasy drug trade), swerving from dead bodies toppling from speeding cars or cringing from their barking supervisor (Joe Pantoliano), our lovable stars are in a constant catwalk contest. It's a testosteronal preen-off between Smith (the buffed and goateed ladies man) and Lawrence (the eye-rolling human bat). As the "Bad Boys" song goes, whatcha gonna do? Contains considerable violence, gunplay and action, pervasive obscenity, sexuality and drug content.
  • "Gigli" (R): In this lame double-star vehicle, Ben Affleck plays Larry Gigli, a mafioso hood in charge of baby-sitting a hostage. Jennifer Lopez plays Ricki, a contract killer who's hired to baby-sit Gigli. Written and directed by Martin ("Beverly Hills Cop") Brest, this is nothing more than an oglefest for die-hard fans of J-Lo and Ben-Yo. The story? Puh-leez. Brest wants guys to watch this thing, so he fills the movie with grittiness, violence and tough talk. And for the women, he makes Ricki a cool customer who outsmarts Gigli at every turn. Naturally they fall in love. In a word: fuggedaboudit. Contains violence, sexual situations and pervasive obscenity.
  • "How to Deal" (PG-13): Screenwriter Neena Beber (adapting from a book by Sarah Dessen) has made, quite simply, a bad, unimaginative story posing pretentiously as the very opposite. It's about Halley (Mandy Moore), the usual disaffected (but of course adorable) teen, who doesn't believe in true love because her mother (Allison Janney) and father (Peter Gallagher) are getting divorced and her vapid sister (Mary Catherine Garrison) is betrothed to a blue blooded nerd. Directed by Clare Kilner, the movie tries lamely to combine deeper issues (divorce, unwanted pregnancy and teenage ennui) with the saggingly tired conventions of teenage romance. The plot hinges around whether Halley will allow herself to fall in love with the eccentric Macon (Trent Ford), who's obviously madly in love with her. Worst of all is Nina Foch as Halley's addled grandmother who has developed a cannabis-smoking habit. Contains drug material, obscenity, sexual situations and Peter Gallagher with a soul patch.

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