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Video Release Dates and Reviews

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2001

Coming soon: "Dr. Dolittle 2" (PG), Dec. 4; "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (PG), Nov. 20; "Swordfish" (R), Nov. 6; "Shrek" (PG), Nov. 2; "Swordfish" (R), Oct. 30; "Angel Eyes" (PG-13), Oct. 23; "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" (PG-13), Oct. 23; "Freddy Got Fingered" (R), Oct. 23; "Town & Country" (R), Oct. 16; "Bridget Jones's Diary" (R), Oct. 9; "Angel Eyes" (R), Oct. 9; "The Mummy Returns" (PG-13), Oct. 2; "Heartbreakers" (PG-13), Oct. 2; "Series 7: The Contenders" (R), Sept. 25; "Amores Perros" (R), Sept. 25; "One Night at McCool's" (R), Sept. 25; "Kingdom Come" (PG), Sept. 25; "Along Came a Spider" (R), Sept. 25; "A Knight's Tale" (PG-13), Sept. 25; "The Forsaken" (R), Sept. 25; "Spy Kids" (PG), Sept. 18; "Someone Like You" (PG-13), Sept. 18; "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" (PG), Sept. 18; "Startup.com" (R), Sept. 18; "Driven" (PG-13), Sept. 18; "The Widow of Saint-Pierre " (R), Sept. 18; "The Luzhin Defence" (PG-13), Sept. 18; "Blow" (R), Sept. 11; "The Tailor of Panama" (R), Sept. 11; "Just Visiting" (PG-13), Sept. 11; "Me You Them" (PG-13), Sept. 11; "Shadow Magic" (PG), Sept. 11; "Memento" (R), Sept. 4; "Left Behind" (PG-13), Sept. 4; "The Dish" (PG-13), Aug. 28; "Company Man" (PG-13), Aug. 28; "Joe Dirt" (PG-13), Aug. 28; "See Spot Run" (PG), Aug. 28; "Exit Wounds" (R), Aug. 28;

Click on titles for complete reviews.

Aug. 14

  • "Blow Dry" (R): Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths — what's a great cast like you doing in a flyaway piece of nonsense like this? The inexplicable pedigree of "Blow Dry," an estranged-family dramedy set against the backdrop of the National British Hairdressing Championship, extends beyond the actors too. Directed by Paddy ("I Went Down") Breathnach and written by Simon ("The Full Monty") Beaufoy, this tale of a once-great barber (Rickman) reuniting with his hairdresser ex-wife (Richardson) for one last shot at the Golden Scissors wants to be both affecting and silly, but ends up being not much of either. Subplot for the kids: hunky Josh Hartnett and hottie Rachael Leigh Cook play a couple of love-smitten tonsorial trainees. Contains obscenity and brief nudity. Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter.
  • "Enemy at the Gates" (R): In Jean-Jacques Annaud's sometimes heavyhanded, often entertaining war epic, set during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, Jude Law is a Russian sniper who kills Germans by the dozen. Ed Harris is the immaculately dressed Major Koenig, a German sniper sent to get rid of him. Others involved: a Russian apparatchik named Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) and his communist boss (Bob Hoskins), who are using Vassily's success for the people's dailies; Tania (Rachel Weisz), a Jewish sniper for the Russians who's falling in love with Vassily; and the teenaged Sasha (Gabriel Thomson), an informant for both sides. The movie, based on the real exploits of a Russian sniper during World War II, certainly keeps your attention locked and loaded. But the more personal scenes – the romantic subplot, for instance – are pretty awful.Contains graphic war violence, nudity and sexual scenes.
  • "15 Minutes" (R): John Herzfeld's movie, which stars Robert De Niro and Edward Burns, is a violent detective drama disguised as a heavy, cautionary tale about America's thirst for fame at any cost. De Niro's a well-known New York detective who loves the limelight. Burns is a fire investigator, who has never been on a murder case. They're brought together by two wild and crazy Europeans (Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) who are on a killing spree in Manhattan purely to become rich and famous. Armed with knives and a video camera, they also like to burn buildings, which is where Burns comes in. The tired fame-at-any-price theme grinds forever onward, with Kelsey Grammer as a tabloid news anchor desperate for primetime with the Eurokillers. Hackneyed and nasty, this movie's only saving grace is decent chemistry between De Niro and Burns. Contains twisted violence, obscenity and sexual situations.
  • "Get Over It" (PG-13): This teenie romance follows the dull, predictable rules to a T: a high school senior named Berke (Ben Foster) spends most of the movie licking his wounds after his girlfriend Allison (Melissa Sagemiller) dumps him for a horrible guy. Meanwhile, Kelly (Kirsten Dunst), the sister of Berke's best friend becomes his friend, helping him learn lines for the school play. You'll never guess what happens. Martin Short continues to disgrace his career, this time as a pretentious, apparently amusing acting teacher. Funny he's not. This is an unbelievable waste of time for everyone - cast, crew and most importantly: you. Contains crude humor, teenage drinking and strong language.
  • "Josie and the Pussycats" (PG-13): By carrying crass product placement to its logical extreme (e.g., slapping McDonald's logos on the inside of a shower stall), "Josie and the Pussycats" hopes to mock advertising excess and teach us to think for ourselves. So why does it still feel like crass product placement? In Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont's updated, live-action take on the "Archie" comic spinoff and Saturday morning TV show, pop singer Josie (Rachael Leigh Cook) and band mates Valerie (Rosario Dawson) and Melody (Tara Reid) get signed by a shady record exec (the delightful Alan Cumming) whose corporate mistress (a flat and mostly unfunny Parker Posey) wants to insert subliminal ads into the girls' music to brainwash the youth of today. The problem? Just like all the other really hip commercials out there, "Josie" can't make fun of advertising without looking like its trying to sell something. Contains suggestive song lyrics, a naughty word or two, sexual double entendres and cartoonish scuffling.
  • "Me You Them" (PG-13): Andrucha Waddington's slow-paced movie about female emancipation in the Brazilian culture has appealingly golden images (courtesy of cinematographer Breno Silveira) and a great set of characters (a proud, sexually liberated woman and three sharply diverse lovers). But its plot loses momentum about halfway through and gets stuck in its own precious rut, in which we celebrate and re-celebrate the earthy goddess power of Darlene (Regina Case) as she nullifies the emotional abuse of her humorless husband, Osias (Lima Duarte), by dallying with (and getting pregnant by) three different men. Case is perfect as Darlene, a woman whose strength grows by the hour; and Stenio Garcia is affecting as the also-aged but romantically ardent Zezinho, one of her suitors. In Portuguese with subtitles. Contains sexual situations and frank language.
  • "Tomcats" (R): I've never understood why my wife thinks actor Jerry O'Connell is cute (and this when she's got someone who looks like Klaus Kinski to come home to). Maybe after seeing "Tomcats" -- the latest and currently lamest gross-out sex farce to pollute the silver screen -- she'll come to her senses and realize that he is actually ... the spawn of Satan. Okay, he's probably not literally the devil, but Gregory Poirier, the man who both wrote and directed this piece of celluloid offal about the sexcapades of a couple of horny commitment-phobes (O'Connell and the scarier-than-ever Jake Busey), is clearly in league with Beelzebub. How else to explain his ability to gain financing for a movie whose piece de resistance is a shot of a cancerous testicle gone astray in a hospital cafeteria? But I'll stop there, lest anyone else be forced to visualize what I had to sit through. Contains countless instances of obscenity, sex, nudity, gun violence and gross-out humor of such wide variety that it beggars description.

    Aug. 21

  • "Hannibal" (R): In this uneven adaptation of Thomas Harris's gruesome novel, FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) finds herself back in the eager hands of Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), her cannibalistic opponent who helped her out in "Silence of the Lambs." They come together again, thanks to a manipulative chess game orchestrated by one of the doctor's surviving victims (played by Gary Oldman, made up to suggest a melted Muppet). The movie is well mounted at first, thanks to the combined efforts of director Ridley Scott, scriptwriters Steven Zaillian and David Mamet, and two principal performers. But it should be clear to everyone, whether they've read the Harris novel or not, that "Hannibal" is hellbound for a gruesome denouement. And if you have read the book, you can expect some radical departures from the Harris story, particularly at the end. Even by its own dark standards, the movie's conclusion is as dramatically dissatisfying as it is disturbing. "Hannibal" dies from auto-asphyxiation. But Moore's performance makes that perfectly structured, alabaster face even more alluring. And Hopkins is always electrifying, even in a movie as problematic as this. Contains gruesome violence, some nudity and strong language.
  • "Pokemon 3 The Movie" (G): Stop the presses! Dozens of Pokemon make their first ever animated appearance in this installment of the mediocre series of animated films that have spun off of the infamous TV cartoon (which, for those just back from Mars, is itself a spinoff of a video game). Who exactly? Sorry kids, couldn't tell you. The names were all but unintelligible to my hairy, wax-encrusted adult ears. This much I got: When five-year-old Molly's dad, Pokemon researcher Spencer Hale, disappears into an ominous cloud of flying Scrabble tiles known as the "Unown" (thanks, "Pokemon 3," for creating a world of spelling bee dropouts), the girl adopts a mean-looking lion-thing named Entei as her surrogate father. Entei, one of the so-called "legendary" Pokemon, is clearly a product of Post Traumatic Stress. Meanwhile, returning hero Ash Ketchum and friends attempt to free Molly from her delusions while picking their way through a world that seems to have been overrun by frozen flowers. Contains interminable (albeit bloodless) Pokemon battle and a seemingly parentless tyke.
  • "Say It Isn't So" (R): I'm afraid it is so. Produced by the Farrelly Brothers, this is a bad-taste comedy that apes the Farrelly style without being funny. Directed by J.B. Rogers, it's about Gilly (annoying "pretty boy" Chris Klein), an animal shelter employee who falls in love with an incompetent but beautiful hairdresser (Heather Graham at her unfunniest) who proves to be his sister. Or does she? Gilly has to chase her to Beaver, Ore., to save her from sleazy-smoothie husband-to-be Jack Mitchelson (Eddie Cibrian), before it's too late. Jokes about dead animals, gunk in the hair, incest and all other taboos are flatter than the road kill Gilly finds himself picking up for a living. Contains tasteless, mostly not-funny material, sexual situations, violence, obscenity, etc.

    Aug. 28

  • "Company Man" (PG-13): Sometimes all you can say to a bad movie is: Wow. As in, how did such a terrible thing get made by so many people? This movie — a comedy, I'm told — is about a geeky high school teacher (Doug McGrath, also the co-writer and co-director) in the 1960s, who becomes a high-stakes CIA agent in Cuba, through a series of (supposedly funny) story complications. It's jaw-dropping to see Sigourney Weaver play his unfunny, scheming wife, and Woody Allen as a befuddled CIA station chief in Havana. What was everyone smoking? The worst performer of all is the shameless Alan Cumming as an effetely flamboyant Gen. Batista. Let me say this again: Wow, disaster through and through. Contains sexual shenanigans, strong language and nothing worth watching.
  • "The Dish" (PG-13): Rob Sitch's lighthearted Australian movie, starring Sam Neill, is about the Australian satellite dish crew that broadcast live pictures of Neil Armstrong's Moon Landing in 1969. The funny stuff concerns interaction between uptight NASA representative Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton) and the Australian scientists, led by pipe-smoking Cliff Buxton (Neill), who like nothing better than playing cricket in the giant dish. But don't expect belly laughs, based on director Sitch's very amusing "The Castle." The movie's more of a "charmedy" which portrays Aussies, almost uniformly, as cheeky, straightforward and intrinsically adorable. Contains strong language.
    Recommended Recommended by Style's Rita Kempley and Weekend's Desson Howe.
  • "Exit Wounds" (R): Take one rogue Detroit cop (Steven Seagal). Remove ponytail. Squeeze into an ill-fitting suit and toss into simmering stew of seven-figure drug deals seasoned with police corruption and liberal plot twists. Stir constantly with barrel of automatic weapon. Sure, the recipe is formulaic as hell in this reteaming of director Andrzej Bartkowiak and producers Joel Silver and Dan Cracchiolo ("Romeo Must Die"), but if you already like this sort of thing, you'll probably love this sort of thing. Seagal, as loose cannon Orin Boyd, may be a bit puffier than in his youth, but he still has the trademark perma-scowl and can still kick butt -- okay, maybe not with the best of them, but with the pretty good of them. As Boyd's quarry, Latrell Walker, rapper DMX is suitably unflappable. At least he keeps your eyes on the screen, even when you can't stand to look at that darn crease running down the middle of Seagal's meaty forehead. Contains obscenity, female toplessness, drug references, bone-breaking mayhem and carnage.
  • "Joe Dirt" (PG-13): About David Spade's dismal attempt to create an adorable, franchise-spawning, mullet-haired, redneck janitor-dude named, yep, Joe Dirt, I gotta say this: no dang good. This comedy's up on bricks and dripping oil. The story, a sort of trailer-park "Forrest Gump," is about a janitor (Spade) whose touching story as a radio guest becomes the talk – and laugh – of L.A. But his story isn't half as engrossing or funny as it's meant to be. And all too often, the movie's more grody than funny. Contains obscenity, major gross-out material, slapstick violence and sexual situations.
  • "See Spot Run" (PG): This is basically a bad kid comedy about doggy doo-doo jokes. It's about a mailman (David Arquette) who needs to grow up, a kid (6-year-old Angus T. Jones) who's growing up too fast and an FBI dog who has bypassed the joys of puppyhood. Arquette is the unfortunate victim, slipping, sliding and repeatedly falling into the icky stuff one unfortunate night. Are we clear about the general texture of this movie? There's nothing particularly deft here. It's all cute 'n' crude formula: the childish guy who does the phone commercials, a kid who looks like the kid in "Jerry Maguire," a big dog with huge jowls. And lots of flatulence jokes. Contains guns, castration references, flatulence jokes and other crude sight gags.

    Sept. 4

  • "Left Behind" (PG-13): Unfortunately, religious belief doesn't necessarily translate into great movies. This adaptation of the best-selling Christian thriller is riddled with laughable dialogue, hackneyed writing and uninspired direction. The movie, directed by Vic Sarin, is about the mysterious, portentous events that occur when, all of a sudden, millions of people disappear from the Earth. The story follows pilot Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson), news reporter Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron, former teen heartthrob), and two dastardly operatives (Daniel Pilon and Tony De Santis) who want to run the world's food supply. The movie, made by an outfit called Cloud TenProductions, is clearly designed to engineer sequels. But most secular viewers are likely to wish this first effort could make like its characters and disappear. Contains gunshot deaths, scenes of widespread panic and extramarital flirtation.
  • "Memento" (R): This smart, film-noirish psychological mystery, about a desperate man (Guy Pearce) who has lost his short-term memory, is a stunner. Because he keeps forgetting everything he learned that day, Leonard (Pearce) reassembles the psychic shards of his life by writing notes to himself, tattooing information on his body and taking Polaroid shots of people (including bartender Carrie-Anne Moss and cop Joe Pantoliano) who keep showing up in his life. He begins to believe that his memory loss has something to do with the murder of his wife, and that the killer may still be at large. Pearce makes you believe in his anguish, his perplexity, his waking nightmare. And the movie doesn't just draw you deeply into its own mystery, it makes you think about all human mystery. Contains sexual situations, partial nudity, violence and bad language. Recommended Recommended by Style's Rita Kempley and Weekend's Desson Howe.

    Sept. 11

  • "Blow" (R): Johnny Depp is personable and appealing as George Jung, America's biggest cocaine dealer in the 1980s. But although the first half of this biopic is fascinating, as George and friends (Ethan Suplee, Max Perlich, Paul Reubens) make a killing selling the white powder, the movie degenerates into too obvious a "rise and fall" scenario. Also, director Ted Demme's use of Jung's relentless narration, punctuated with rock songs of the times, as well as a doomed romance with Latin party girl Mirtha (Penelope Cruz), seems patterned too closely to "GoodFellas." And having Ray Liotta (the star of "GoodFellas") as Depp's father makes this parallel even more pronounced. Contains drug use, violence, obscenity and nudity.
  • "Just Visiting" (PG-13): Jean Reno and Christian Claver reprise their roles as zany time travellers in the 1993 French comedy, "Les Visiteurs." Also returning is director Jean-Marie Gaubert, who redid this uninspired English-language version with John Hughes. Twelfth-century French nobleman Thibault (Reno) and his valet Andre (Clavier) land in modern-day Chicago by mistake; they were trying to turn back the clock to save Thibault's betrothed love (Christina Applegate). With the help of Thibault's descendant, Julia (also Applegate), the medieval ones attempt to return to the past. But not before they have tangled with more treachery. The Frenchmen "kill" a sports utility van, wreak havoc in Julia's bathroom and kitchen, display outrageous behavior in a swanky restaurant, and so forth. Some of these gags are funny. But mostly, this is a crude disappointment. Contains a little foul language, crude humor and small hints of sexuality.
  • "Shadow Magic" (PG): Chinese-born, New York-based filmmaker Ann Hu visits the themes of cross-cultural tension and the love of movies in her Mandarin-language take on "Cinema Paradiso." Set in 1902, the fact-based film concerns the introduction of cinema to China by a Western entrepreneur, here played by Jared Harris as English huckster Raymond Wallace. Having trouble breaking through cultural biases, Raymond hires a local photographer's assistant named Liu (the immensely appealing Xia Yu) to work in his rinky-dink theater and bring in local customers. What follows are plenty of schmaltzy but effective scenes of slack-jawed Asian viewers watching footage of trains, babies and dancers twirling to a Richard Strauss waltz. More than anything, this is a film about film, and Hu's love of the medium's storytelling power shines through every frame. Contains mild obscenity. In Mandarin with English subtitles and some English.
    Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter and Weekend's Michael O'Sullivan.
  • "The Tailor of Panama" (R): Despite a dissatisfying conclusion, and a sense that things don't completely jell, director John Boorman's film (adapted from John Le Carre's novel) is lively and provocative. Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), an agent with the British secret service, is assigned to assess the political situation in post-1999 Panama. With the dubious help of local contact Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), the British tailor of the title, Osnard identifies Mickie Abraxas (Brendan Gleeson), a former revolutionary who's not afraid to stand up to Panama's drug-financed powers. The movie draws equally from Graham Greene's "Our Man in Havana" and the movie "Casablanca," with its depiction of a fascist, corrupt state, jaded expatriates, a correspondent who's making things up, and war rumbling in the background. And Brosnan impishly spreads his wings beyond 007's limited span. He's a treat of a cad here. Contains obscenity, nudity, sex scenes and violence.
    Recommended Recommended by Weekend's Desson Howe.

    Sept. 18

  • "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" (PG): Look, we hardly needed "Crocodile Dundee II," let alone this third installment in the now 15-year-old franchise. Oh well, someone's got to pay to keep Paul Hogan in sunscreen. Once again, the Subaru pitchman plays leathery Australian naif Mick "Crocodile" Dundee, this time transplanted from the outback to La La Land, where, in a reprise of his time-tested fish-out-of-water shtick, he encounters such Left Coast quirks as low-riders, gay bars and coffee enemas, courtesy of an equally leathery George Hamilton. But such cameos are wasted, and even his real-life wife Linda Kozlowski, who lent a bit of pizazz and sex appeal to the first flick, seems to be sleep-walking through this one as an investigative journalist trying to track down the mysterious death of the editor at her father's newspaper. Contains obscenity, hungry crocodiles and gunfire.
  • "Driven" (PG-13): Written, produced by and starring the multi-talented Sylvester Stallone, "Driven" is a high-octane thrill ride through the world of professional racing .‚.‚. oh, I just can't do it. Let's get real: Sly has never been much of an actor or writer. Perhaps if we're lucky, all that will end with "Driven," a turgid, virtually unwatchable mess from director Renny Harlin about the on and off-track rivalry between two hot-shot race car drivers (Til Schweiger and Kip Pardue). Playing a disgraced former racer, Stallone is brought in by crusty pit boss Burt Reynolds to mentor Pardue while simultaneously restoring his own damaged reputation. Result? Loud, laughable tripe. Contains a couple of obscenities and many high-speed car crashes.
  • "The Luzhin Defence" (PG-13): In this adaptation of a Vladimir Nabokov tale from Marlene Gorris (the Dutch director whose 1995 "Antonia's Line" won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film), Emily Watson plays a Russian aristocrat who falls in love with an eccentric chess grandmaster Alexander Luzhin (John Turturro). Now when I say "eccentric," I really mean "talks to himself and doesn't bathe." And that's how good an actress Watson is. You believe that she could fall for this package of damaged goods. Turturro makes you feel for his gawky, broken misfit too. Written for the screen by Peter berry, Gorris's story of genius, madness and the healing power of love is a kind of twist on "Shine," but without the earlier film's happy ending. "The Luzhin Defence" is a film where winning and losing – both on and off the chessboard – have rich, multiple meanings. Contains a discreet bedroom scene and sensuality.
    Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter and Weekend's Michael O'Sullivan.
  • "Someone Like You" (PG-13): If an earnest, likable woman (Ashley Judd) has started going out with a shifty-eyed work associate who has played a slippery customer in other movies (Greg Kinnear), and if she spends much of her time talking about this affair, and the relationships between men and women, with her good-looking, gym-buffed, always-ready-to-talk-about- sensitive-issues roommate (Hugh Jackman), where do you think this story's going to go? As a talent booker for a popular TV talk show who turns her heartbreak into celebrity, Judd is a likable performer and acquits herself well. Kinnear and Jackman are also good, in their limited roles. But unless your standards are so elastic that almost nothing that could turn you off a romance, this movie's too obvious to sit through without twitching. Contains sexual situations, some profanity.
  • "Spy Kids" (PG): For most family audiences, the surface razzle-dazzle of Robert Rodriguez's movie, a special-effects spin on such family entertainments as "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," by way of James Bond, should suffice. The story's about Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) Cortez, former secret agents, who are kidnapped by bad people (including Alan Cumming as a kids TV show host with evil global plans), only to be saved by their kids: 12-year-old daughter Carmen (Alexa Vega) and younger brother Juni (Daryl Sabara). This PG-rated adventure is loaded down with special-effects creations, such as giant, ambulatory thumbs and submarines shaped like goldfish. The kids will love them, no doubt. But those effects seem too glossy and perfect to be true, too computerized to feel even like innocent fantasy. And the central story, about a family learning to love and trust one another, seems merely tacked on for good measure. Did Rodriguez forget to program charm into his cutting-edge storytelling? Contains naughty language and cartoonish violence. Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter.
  • "Startup.com" (R): Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim's behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of govWorks.com is as much personal drama as it is documentary about a failed Internet startup. The players (in this case business partners and childhood pals Tom Herman and Kaleil Isaza Tuzman) worry, schmooze, raise millions, celebrate early success . . . and then turn on each other as the company's fortunes start to sour. It can get ugly, but when it does it makes for fascinating cinema verite. Contains obscenity. Recommended Recommended by Style's Rita Kempley and Weekend's Michael O'Sullivan.
  • "The Widow of Saint-Pierre" (R): Less self-consciously arty than his last outing "Girl on the Bridge," French director Patrice Leconte's latest is a ripping good yarn. Set in the mid-19th century on the French island of St. Pierre off Newfoundland, "Widow" tells the moving story of a condemned murderer (Sarajevo-born director Emir Kusturica, making his on-screen debut) awaiting the arrival of a guillotine from France. (Note: the French word for widow is slang for guillotine.) While sitting on what amounts to death row for five years, the prisoner Neel Auguste is befriended by the soft-hearted wife (Juliette Binoche) of the military garrison commander (Daniel Auteuil). As a result of her efforts to rehabilitate him, Neel becomes an invaluable member of the community, saving lives, performing odd jobs and impregnating a local woman. The end result: a richly layered moral tale about punishment, redemption and the importance of principal over protocol. Contains a stabbing, a stoning death, obscenity and a sex scene. In French with subtitles. Recommended Recommended by Style's Rita Kempley and Weekend's Michael O'Sullivan.

    Sept. 25

  • "Along Came a Spider" (R): Morgan Freeman, reprising his role from "Kiss the Girls" as a Sherlock Holmesian forensic psychologist, once again enlivens the formulaic cat-and-mouse genre in director Lee Tamahori's taut version of James Patterson's first novel in the Alex Cross series. Unlike the 1997 film, whose character-driven story got its spark from to the chemistry between Freeman's DC police detective and victim/collaborator Ashley Judd, "Spider" is all twisty, jolting plot. Here, Cross and a disgraced secret service agent looking to redeem herself (Monica Potter) match wits with a brilliant psychopath (Michael Wincott) who has kidnapped the daughter of a U.S. senator (Mika Boorem). The surprises are as effective – and necessary, since it already looks like we know whodunit – as the frequent (but never gratuitous) gunfire. Contains obscenity, a bit of sexually oriented dialogue, numerous shooting deaths and a child in jeopardy. Recommended Recommended by Weekend's Michael O'Sullivan.
  • "Amores Perros" (R): This biblically textured comtemporary drama, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is a triptych whose overlapping structure is reminiscent of such movies as "Pulp Fiction" and "Before the Rain." Basically, it's about how a group of characters in Mexico City – from unemployed teenagers to spoiled TV stars – become connected through ineffable forces of fate and circumstance. The story, which includes gruesome dogfighting, and ranges from bloody, brutal altercations in the poor sections, as well as operatic suffering in affluent surroundings, has a remarkable flow and grace to its design. The main narrative intersection – the one that brings these disparate people together – is a road accident. And the movie, ingeniously layered, keeps coming back to that incident, giving us an ever-expanding big picture. If at times, "Amos Perros" feels a little overwrought, not to mention brutal, its passionate conviction carries us through those moments. In Spanish with subtitles. Contains depictions of bloody dogfighting and dead animals, as well as violence. Also: nudity and obscenity. Recommended Recommended by Weekend's Desson Howe.
  • "The Forsaken" (R): Don't you hate it when this happens? While driving cross-country to his sister's wedding, a young man (Kerr Smith) gets dragooned into hunting for the undead after picking up a mysterious hitchhiker (Brendan Fehr) who happens to be a professional vampire tracker. Gunplay, semi-nudity, a sexual situation with vampirism, drug use, profanity.
  • "Heartbreakers" (PG-13): Max (Sigourney Weaver) and her daughter, Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt), are a scamming team, who attempt their last collective swindle on hacking, coughing tobacco billionaire William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman). But romantic complications follow. For Max, there's Dean (Ray Liotta), a husband and chop-shop owner from New Jersey who still loves Max even after she divorced him and fleeced his money. And Page falls in love with another target, nice guy Jack (Jason Lee), who owns a nice piece of property under his bar. The performers give this mediocre comedy more energy than it deserves. But Page's affair with Jack, in which she spends almost two hours of the movie in denial about her feelings, is too tedious for anyone to sit through. Contains sexual material, mostly language.
  • "Kingdom Come" (PG): When her mean husband dies, his widow (Whoopi Goldberg) prepares for a torturous few days and nights with her inlaws and relatives, including daughter-in-law, Charisse (Jada Pinkett Smith) and her unemployed husband, Junior (Anthony Anderson), eldest son, Ray Bud (LL Cool J), and the ultra-religious Marguerite (Loretta Devine), who's never far from her Good Book. This seriocomedy has some sassy parlor-room attitude. But the zesty performances and Doug McHenry's free-and-easy direction can't completely transform the overfamiliar archetypes in this African-American family comedy: deadbeat husbands, suspicious wives, hapless preachers and zealous bible-pounders. Contains some strong language and flatulence. Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter.
  • "A Knight's Tale" (PG-13): Forced to fill in for his deceased knight and jousting master, a squire called William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) decides to play a knight full time. Teaming with varlet-pals Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), acompulsive gambler (Paul Bettany) named Geoff Chaucer, and a handy-dandy blacksmith (Laura Fraser), he starts winning tournaments. But he meets his match in Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), a haughty hot-dogger. And he falls in love with Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), a smart, slinky damsel who isn't completely sure she likes a jock knight. Produced, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who made "L.A. Confidential," this movie's savvy without being smug, cute without being saccharin, and funny without slipping into over-the-top goofiness. And there's something irresistible about a medieval crowd rocking out to Queen's "We Will Rock You." Contains jousting violence and an implied sexual situation.
    Recommended Recommended by Weekend's Desson Howe.
  • "One Night at McCool's" (R): The trailers already give away one of this deliciously silly comedy's greatest sight gags (involving an encounter between Paul Reiser in S&M get-up and a dumpster). Don't worry though. There's plenty more where that came from. Where that came from, specifically, is the mind of Stan Seidel, the novice screenwriter who died last year before this goofy little gem could be released. Another treat in the story of three men (Reiser as a smarmy lawyer, John Goodman as a cop and Matt Dillon as a bartender) in love with the same woman (Liv Tyler) is Michael Douglas's .‚.‚. hair. As the mysterious Mr. Burmeister, the man to whom Dillon's Randy narrates most of the action, Douglas is basically there to hold up a graying Elvis pompadour so prominent deserves its own on-screen credit. First-time director Harald Zwart keeps the action lively and light while coaxing funny performances from his talented cast, including Reba McEntire as Reiser's dryly deadpan shrink. Contains obscenity, gunplay, assault and battery, sex scenes and sex-related dialogue, humor and fantasy sequences.
    Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter and Weekend's Michael O'Sullivan.
  • "Series 7: The Contenders" (R): In this black comedy, set in the near future, "The Contenders" is a TV show that selects and arms six contestants. Each one, followed by a camera person, has to kill the others until one is left standing. The front runner is Dawn (Brooke Smith), an eight-months-pregnant single woman in her thirties who won in previous "Contenders" series. Can she plug the meek nurse, the 18-year-old girl and the guy who used to be her main squeeze? With 10 kills already to her name, and a child growing inside her, she's time-tested, with a lot to live for. Filled with all the reality-TV staples (confessional interviews, over-the-top narration and even teasers before the next commercial break), this parody of such TV shows as "Survivor" mines all available ore from this low-yield subject. It's as funny as you could reasonably expect without Christopher Guest being involved. Contains violence and obscenity, as well as details of a surgery and a birth.
    Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter and Weekend's Desson Howe.

    Oct. 2

    "The Mummy Returns" (PG-13): A sequel to 1999's "The Mummy," this outing delivers more of the original release's camp-plus-action formula with a few tweaks. While the first one spent a lot of time establishing the (supposedly) cute relationship between adventurer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Egyptologist Evie Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) before unleashing the special effects and action scenes, "Returns" comes roaring onto the screen with a major battle sequence and a screenload of computer-generated effects in the first 10 minutes. It seldom pauses thereafter. The fights, swordplay, chases and explosions come at you in waves. It's like a big-screen version of the WWF's wrestling programs, only with more expensive production values, marginally better acting, more fighting and less blood. (Speaking of the WWF, if you're wondering how pro wrestler the Rock does as the Scorpion King, he seldom speaks.) The dialogue is basic: a few quips amid the flying fists and flashing swords, plucky impertinence from the imperiled kid, romantic comedy along the lines of an average TV show. "The Mummy Returns" is best viewed with low expectations, but if you saw the first one you already know that. Contains virtually nonstop comic book violence and potentially uncomfortable scenes involving snakes and scorpions. Trailer

    Oct. 9

  • "Angel Eyes" (R): This movie, with Jennifer Lopez as Sharon Pogue, a Chicago cop who needs a private life, is too haphazard about its intentions. It's part action movie, part mystery, and part character movie, with no element particularly dominant. And it's riddled with hackneyed chestnuts: A stranger (Jim Caviezel) who saves Sharon's life and who may be an angel; the dysfunctional family living under the emotional yoke of Big Bad Dad (Victor Argo); and the cop who has a hard time taking off that badge and being emotionally vulnerable. Contains sexual scenes, obscenity, car crash violence and a few shoot-em-up scenes.
  • "Bridget Jones's Diary" (R): She's not English, clearly, but Renee Zellweger is eminently likable as Bridget in this pleasant, if not wildly brilliant, adaptation of Helen Fielding's bestseller of the same name. When frumpy, 32-year-old Bridget decides to find a new man, she becomes the target of roguish manager Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who seduces her with smooth talk on e-mail and a squeeze of the bum. But also lurking in the background — and not seeming too palatable at first — is the sullen, repressed Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). In a movie that suggests a woman's value is entirely wrapped up in the wealthy man she persuades to marry her, it's devilish relief to see Grant upending his trademark niceness for something more scurrilous. Contains sexual scenes, very naughty words, overt sexual suggestion and a little bit of fisticuffs. Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter.

    Oct. 16

  • "Town & Country" (R): Deep into "Town and Country," a farce about infidelity among the wealthy from Peter "Funny Bones" Cheldom, there's a scene in which philandering architect Porter Stoddard (Warren Beatty) meets the parents of a woman (Andie MacDowell) who picked him up at a ski lodge. Daddy (Charlton Heston) is a rabid, clench-jawed gun nut, Mommy (Marian Seldes) is a foul-mouthed drunk in a wheelchair and daughter Eugenie (MacDowell) likes to pretend her stuffed animals are having sex. The interlude is hysterical, but it's just that: an all-too-brief interruption in an otherwise tired comedy about bed-hopping old marrieds. Not that that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that I don't really care about the characters (Diane Keaton, Garry Shandling and Goldie Hawn round out the cast as Porter's wife, best friend and lover), a quartet of S.O.B.s too rich and too obnoxious to seem like anything other than aliens to most Americans. Contains obscenity, partial nudity and a couple of relatively discreet sex scenes.

    Oct. 23

    "Angel Eyes" (R) An oddly put-together, only occasionally effective hybrid -- part action flick, part sentimental weeper. Jennifer Lopez, whose acting has improved, plays Sharon, a hot-tempered police officer estranged from her parents because she had called the cops when her father was beating her mother. (The odd note is that the family's view -- that wife-beating is a forgivable character flaw -- is actually given credence early in the film.) Separately, we meet Catch (Jim Caviezel), a mysterious loner who roams the city doing good deeds. He saves Sharon from a gunman and they start a romance. She discovers a tragedy in his past. Mystical psychobabble ensues. It contains strong language, a couple of violent fights and shootouts, a moderately explicit sexual situation, sexual innuendo and drinking.

  • "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" (PG-13) Dr. Aki Ross, the star of this 100-percent digitally animated cartoon based on a video game, looks just like a real human being—that is until she opens her mouth, moves and "acts." Sure, the army of computer graphics wizards who created her and the all-pixel cast under the supervision of director-producer-gaming software mastermind Hironobu Sakaguchi were able to make her look as lifelike as, say, Angelina Jolie (more so, in fact). But her tight and expressionless face, puppet-like movements and limited emotional range (given vocal life by actress Ming-Na) as she struggles to save the earth from aliens is nothing to make flesh-and-blood actresses lose sleep. "Final Fantasy" is primarily for gaming zealots, who are already used to doing without character development, and for aficionados of Japanese anime, for whom the incomprehensible plot will be business as usual. Contains a vulgar word or two and battle with sci-fi critters. Trailer

    Oct. 30

  • "Left Behind" (PG-13): Unfortunately, religious belief doesn't necessarily translate into great movies. This adaptation of the best-selling Christian thriller is riddled with laughable dialogue, hackneyed writing and uninspired direction. The movie, directed by Vic Sarin, is about the mysterious, portentous events that occur when, all of a sudden, millions of people disappear from the Earth. The story follows pilot Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson), news reporter Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron, former teen heartthrob), and two dastardly operatives (Daniel Pilon and Tony De Santis) who want to run the world's food supply. The movie, made by an outfit called Cloud TenProductions, is clearly designed to engineer sequels. But most secular viewers are likely to wish this first effort could make like its characters and disappear. Contains gunshot deaths, scenes of widespread panic and extramarital flirtation.
  • "Swordfish" (R): Halle Berry's naked upper torso, Hugh Jackman's naked upper torso, John Travolta's weird haircut and heavy-duty special effects do not a satisfying movie make. But this Dominic ("Kalifornia") Sena movie is certainly busy. Oh sure, there's a sort-of story, in which Gabriel Shear (Travolta), a shady, all-powerful guy who doesn't even blink when the FBI hisses at him, asks Stanley Jobson (Jackman), a master hacker just out of jail, to help him in a daring billion-dollar scheme. This is for folks just looking for medium-cool action stuff in a medium-range movie. You could do worse and you could do better. Contains sexual activity, violence, obscenity and emotional intensity.

    Nov. 2

  • "Shrek" (PG): Thanks to the cutting-edge wonders of PDI/DreamWorks' computer animation – the ability now to render the fluidity of the human face and evoke the realness of life – this is visually wonderful. And the story's great too. It takes amusing liberties with fairy tale characters, pokes fun at the Disney military-industrial complex and redounds with spirited off-screen performances from Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and others. Myers is best as the titutal green ogre with trumpet-shaped ears and a seemingly ferocious temper who's really a softie who just acts mean because everyone thinks he's mean.Contains flatulence, catty satire, crude humor, mild language and subversion of fairy tale tradition. Trailer Recommended Recommended by Style's Stephen Hunter and Weekend's Desson Howe.

    Nov. 6

  • "Swordfish" (R): Halle Berry's naked upper torso, Hugh Jackman's naked upper torso, John Travolta's weird haircut and heavy-duty special effects do not a satisfying movie make. But this Dominic ("Kalifornia") Sena movie is certainly busy. Oh sure, there's a sort-of story, in which Gabriel Shear (Travolta), a shady, all-powerful guy who doesn't even blink when the FBI hisses at him, asks Stanley Jobson (Jackman), a master hacker just out of jail, to help him in a daring billion-dollar scheme. This is for folks just looking for medium-cool action stuff in a medium-range movie. You could do worse and you could do better. Contains sexual activity, violence, obscenity and emotional intensity.

    Nov. 20

  • "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (PG): The young ones will love Jim Carrey's physically active Grinch, especially when he turns his back to the residents of Whoville and waves mistletoe in front of his butt. Too bad he can't use his facial tics--hidden behind that rubbery mask. And too bad director Ron Howard's adaptation of the bedtime classic isn't more than surface coverage. Like the rapidly diminishing heart of the loveless Grinch, the charm factor is about two sizes too small. The story, by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, feels like mere connecting tissue for Carrey's feverish antics. And against this industrial-military complex of Whoville sets, the message about the commercialization of Christmas seems hilariously inappropriate. Not that younger viewers will even pay attention to such issues. Contains some crude humor.

    Dec. 4

  • "Dr. Dolittle 2" (PG): This straight-to-video dog, this forgettable sequel to the forgettable 1998 remake has Dr. D (Eddie Murphy) trying to save a forest scheduled for destruction by getting two bears of an endangered species (voices of Lisa Kudrow and Steve Zahn) to mate. Funny? Not. Cute? Hardly. Adorable animals full of hilarious comments from plentiful off-screen celebs? Yes on plentiful celebs (Norm Macdonald, Michael Rapaport, Jacob Vargas). But negative on "hilarious." Some language and jokes about flatulence. Trailer


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