2001 Reviews

Fellowship of the Ring

(PG-13) - December 20

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A ring of incredible power threatens all of Middle Earth unless it can be destroyed.

REVIEW: Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a young Hobbit, inherits a magical ring from his uncle Bilbo. The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) discovers the ring's true origin and realizes that its existence threatens all of Middle Earth. A group, consisting of Hobbits, Humans, Elves and Dwarfs, embark on a perilous mission to destroy the ring. They are met with many obstacles, such as Orcs, the white wizard Saruman's (Christopher Lee) evil creations and Sauron's dark riders. This movie is obviously based on J.R.R. Tolkiens classic Lord of the Rings series. While not being entirely faithful to the books it certainly does an outstanding job of bringing the incredibly detailed world of Middle Earth to the big screen. Director Peter Jackson does what hasn't been done before and films three movies simultaneously. The Two Towers and Return of the King are currently in post production and should be released in 2002 and 2003, respectively. If you're a fan of the books... you won't be disappointed. If you've never heard of The Lord of the Rings... prepare yourself for a fantasy film that has no equal... and possibly the overwhelming desire to read the books if you can't wait two years to see how it ends.

BOTTOMLINE: Incredible imagery combine with a classic tale to make a memorable movie.

(PG-13) - December 14

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Convict Danny Ocean assembles a criminal gang to rob three Las Vegas casinos.

REVIEW: After serving four years in prison, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is released and immediately resumes his nefarious activities. He recruits fellow criminals Dusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) and others to attempt the seemingly impossible... knock over three Las Vegas casinos in one night. Complicating matters is Danny Ocean's former wife, Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts) who is now dating casino owner, Harry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Most people either like director Steven Soderbergh's work or they don't. I'll admit that I am in the "don't" category. Aside from Erin Brockovich, I've yet to find any of his films very entertaining. He attempts to be pseudo-intellectual, understated and ultimately... his films end up boring me. There never seemed to be any suspense in this film nor was there any real chemistry between George Clooney and Julia Roberts... which is crucial to the film's plot. The overwhelming star power in Ocean's Eleven wasn't used to it's full potential. So, if you like other Steven Soderbergh films... give it a shot. If not... hold on to your wallet.

BOTTOMLINE: A rather bland dramatic comedy that never steals more than a chuckle or two... and maybe the $7.00 I paid for my ticket.

(PG-13) - November 30

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Downed U.S. pilot fights for survival behind enemy lines.

REVIEW: A fragile ceasefire has been established between warring factions within eastern Europe. On a routine reconnaissance mission, pilots Lt. Stackhouse and a disillusioned Lt. Burnett (Owen Wilson) see something they weren't supposed to and are shot down by surface-to-air missiles. According to the NATO officer in charge, a U.S. rescue attempt at this point would destroy any chance at peace. Burnett's commanding officer (Gene Hackman) has his hands tied as Burnett attempts to evade his pursuers who cannot allow him to reveal what he saw to the world. Tension builds as Burnett is being pursued by a renegade military force and a relentless mercenary. Owen Wilson does a good job as an action hero, considering he's best known for his comedic talents. Behind Enemy Lines was supposedly rushed into theaters to capitalize on the feelings of patriotism sweeping the country since September 11th. So, if you want an action flick with top-notch special effects that has America kicking a little ass... this movie gets the job done.

BOTTOMLINE: A no-brainer, feel-good, suspense-filled, action flick. Enough adjectives?

HARRY POTTER and The Sorceror's Stone
(PG) - November 16

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A young boy learns that he has the potential to be a powerful wizard.

REVIEW: A trio of magical characters deposits a young Harry Potter on the doorstep of a typical English home. Harry grows up unloved and mistreated by his Aunt and Uncle. Eventually, letters are delivered to Harry that invite him to attend Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the train ride to Hogwart's School, Harry is befriended by fellow first year students Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Harry learns his parents, both powerful in the ways of witchcraft, were murdered by a dark wizard and that he alone survived. There is a sinister force at work within Hogwart's School and it's up to Harry and his young friends to solve the mystery. I went into this film with no grand expectations because I've never read the books and have no desire to. That being said, I was impressed with the level of detail in... well, everything. The effects were incredible and the entire cast seemed perfect in their respective roles. I read that director Chris Columbus wanted to remain faithful to J. K. Rowling's book... which is probably why the movie seems to lose momentum. It has to cover so much ground in a limited amount of time. If the movie could have been tightened up a little I would probably have given it a better rating... but it's not a good sign when I occasionally check my watch during a movie.

BOTTOMLINE: Good performances and visual effects yet the movie drags a bit.

(PG-13) - November 9

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A man obsessed with outer beauty learns to appreciate inner beauty instead.

REVIEW: Hal (Jack Black) lived his life completely fixated on how women looked instead of what kind of person they were. As fate would have it, one day Hal and Tony Robbins, the self-help guru, were trapped together in an elevator. Tony Robbins put Hal under a hypnotic suggestion that allowed him to see a person's inner beauty... not merely their outer appearance. Normally, beautiful women would not give Hal the time of day... but with Tony Robbins' help it seemed that every attractive woman he met was interested in him. However, from other people's perspective, the new women in Hal's life were downright homely at best. Hal then met Rosemary Shanahan (Gwyneth Paltrow), a woman destined to be his soul mate. The Farrelly brothers sense of humor leans toward the extreme and tends to push the good taste envelope. This time around, except for a few uncomfortable moments, this film attempts to be a sweet, good-natured comedy. This movie doesn't hit the comedy bullseye but it does have a few near misses that makes it worth the price of a matinee ticket... and Gwyneth Paltrow (the thin version) is certainly nice to look at for 90 minutes.

BOTTOMLINE: A kinder, gentler Farrelly brothers film that is good for a couple of laughs.

(PG-13) - November 3


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Highlander meets Sliders with a dash of Matrix.

REVIEW: Parallel dimensions exist... one of the more advanced universes has an agency that regulates travel between these dimensions. Rogue agent Yulaw (Jet Li) is systematically eliminating his counterpart from every other dimension. The result is that the remaining life force is divided among the survivors. Gabriel (Jet Li) is a sherrif's deputy whose noticed that his strength and intellect have steadily increased over the past year or so. As fate would have it, Gabriel and Yulaw are the only two remaining and they are destined to meet. The story may be a stretch and Jet Li isn't known for his acting prowess... but he certainly knows how to kick ass... even when it's his own ass he is kicking.

BOTTOMLINE: Lots of action with cool special effects.

(G) - November 2

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Monsters don't live in your closet... they just visit once in a while.

REVIEW: In a parallel dimension, monsters exist, but they aren't really mean and nasty. Their dimension requires screams to power their vehicles and homes. Monsters, Inc. is the leading producer of scream fuel, which is obtained by entering our dimension, via a child's bedroom closet door, and scaring little kids. James P. Sullivan "Sulley" (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are the top employees at Monsters, Inc. Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) is after Sulley's top spot in the company... or so it seems. By accident, a human child enters the monster dimension and causes widespread chaos. Sulley develops a bond between the child, that he affectionately calls "Boo", and tries to return her home. It's been said before, but this movie can be enjoyed by all ages. The voice talent seems perfect in their respective roles and the animation is simply incredible. After seeing this movie, young kids might not be so afraid of the monsters lurking in their closets...

BOTTOMLINE: Unique concept that is destined to be another classic from PIXAR Studios.

(PG-13) - October 26

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A Robin Hood story with a martial arts twist.

REVIEW: Greedy Chinese officials get rich at the expense of poor peasants. Kindly Doctor Yang (Donnie Yen) treats the sick by day, and by night he steals from the rich and gives to the poor as the Iron Monkey. Doctor Yang is helped by Miss Orchid (Jean Wang), who is also a gifted martial artist in her own right. Eventually, Governor Cheng has everyone in town arrested who could possibly be the Iron Monkey. Wong Kei-Ying (Rongguang Yu) and his son, Wong Fei-Hung (Sze-Man Tsang) are passing through town and are arrested as suspects. Wong Kei-Ying is released, but to gain his son's freedom, he must capture the Iron Monkey and bring him to justice. Originally produced over 8 years ago, this movie was directed by famed fight choreographer, Wo Ping, who is best known for his work on the Matrix. Another recent US release was The Legend of the Drunken Master which also featured older versions of the characters Wong Kei-Ying and Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan). This movie not only has incredible fight scenes but an actual story that has truly funny moments. The entire film is subtitled but you soon forget the fact that you're reading all the dialouge. If you're into Hong Kong action... this is a film not to be missed.

BOTTOMLINE: A classic Hong Kong action movie.

(PG-13) - October 12

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Soulmates that wait a very long time between their first and second date.

REVIEW: Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) is out shopping for his girlfriend when a chance encounter with a mysterious woman (Kate Beckinsale) becomes his obsession. There is immediate chemistry between the two but the woman believes in fate and destiny. Just when she is about to hand Jonathan her phone number a gust of wind blows it away, she takes this as a sign they weren't supposed to be together. But, to be fair, she writes her name and number in a book and tells Jonathan that she will sell it to a used bookstore somewhere in New York City. It's at this point the two part ways. Jump ahead almost a decade and both have moved on with their lives and are on the verge of matrimony. Both are having cold feet and the rest of the movie is spent in a desperate search for the one that got away. If you don't believe in fate and destitny, this film isn't for you. If you're into harmless romantic comedies this movie hits the mark.

BOTTOMLINE: Cute, funny and romantic movie of near misses.

(R) - October 5

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Bad cop, good cop and one helluva day.

REVIEW: Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is a young officer with a wife and a new baby that has been given the opportunity to join the narcotics division. Detective Sergeant Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) takes the rookie into his unit and quickly introduces him to his version of street justice. Jake is torn between wanting to advance within the police department and his revulsion at the tactics Harris uses to get the job done. As the day unfolds, it seems that Harris has gotten himself into some trouble and is attempting to solve his problem... by any means necessary. Denzel Washington has portrayed inspirational characters in recent films like Hurricane and Remember the Titans... don't expect that this time. Alonzo Harris has no redeeming qualities which just proves the depth and quality of Denzel Washington's acting abilities. Ethan Hawke also puts in a fine performance as the young cop that is in way over his head. The film's tension slowly builds until little past the halfway mark when the suspense gets cranked up several notches. You will feel your stomach knot as the young officer finds himself in a seemingly impossible situation. If foul language, violence and police brutality bother you... don't see this film. But, for a gritty police drama that isn't too far over-the-top, check out Training Day.

BOTTOMLINE: Intense and gripping view of the dark side of law enforcement.

(PG-13) - September 28

             PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The world of male modeling... DUH!

REVIEW: The world's most popular and dimwitted male model, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) faces serious competition from hot newcomer, Hansel (Owen Wilson) for the Male Model of the Year Award. Meanwhile, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Malaysia plans on increasing the minimum wage in his country. The fashion industry relys heavily on the cheap child labor that is found in Malaysia and a mysterious group of influential designers decides to take serious steps to stop the wage increases. Eccentric fashion designer, Mugatu (Will Ferrell) is directed to eliminate the Prime Minister by any means necessary. Those means involve the easily influenced Derek Zoolander. Ben Stiller expands his simpleton character, which he created for the VH-1 Fashion Awards several years ago, into a full length feature film. I wasn't expecting much from this movie and left the theater pleasantly surprised. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions... mostly at the sheer absurdity of it all. I really hope that models are not as stupid as this movie portrays them. Ben Stiller puts his entire family to work in this picture. His father plays a male fashion model agent, his mother plays an irate protestor and his wife plays a reporter that happens to be Derek Zoolander's love interest. Isn't that convenient.

BOTTOMLINE: Vapid, vacuous pretty boys abound in this above average comedy.

(PG-13) - September 7


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: French Musketeers... Hong Kong style.

REVIEW: A very young D'Artagnan (Justin Chambers) watches as his parents are killed by the Cardinal's evil henchman, Febre (Tim Roth) for not paying excessive taxes. D'Artagnan strikes at Febre with his father's sword, blinding Febre in one eye, then D'Artagnan is struck down and left for dead. A former musketeer, and friend of the family, finds and trains D'Artagnan to be an incredible swordsman. Fast forward a number of years and we find the Musketeers in disarray as the Cardinal attempts to wrest political control away from the King. D'Artagnan, now a young man, attempts to join the beleaguered Musketeers. Soon Febre can no longer be controlled by Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea), and threatens to involve France in a war with England. D'Artagnan's love interest is in the form of Constance (Mena Suvari), a young girl that just happens to have the ear of the Queen. This is a very international film, which although I liked a great deal, definitely had a different flavor than American movies. I can't quite put my finger on what the differences were, maybe pacing, dialogue, or possibly something more subtle. Regardless, this movie had a few laughs, a little romance but I'll admit it... I was there to see the action! And there was plenty of it... in the form of Xin Xin Xiong, the man who choreographed the over-the-top fight sequences. One thing I noticed was that most fights tended to be dimly lit so that you could not clearly see the actor's faces... I assume having asian Musketeers just wouldn't maintain any semblance of historical accuracy.

BOTTOMLINE: International/European production with incredible Hong Kong fight choreography, plus American marketing equals an entertaining take on a classic.

(R) - August 24


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Two stoners travel to Hollywood to stop a movie.

REVIEW: Writer/director and tight-lipped actor, Kevin Smith brings that Jersey duo to the big screen one last time. In all of Kevin Smith's previous films; Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob have made appearances. In this film, the foul-mouthed Jay (Jason Mewes) and the ever-expressive Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) learn that a movie is being produced by Miramax - based on comic book characters they inspired... Bluntman & Chronic! They also learn that movie nuts on the internet have been bad mouthing not only the Bluntman and Chronic movie, but Jay and Silent Bob as well! They decide to travel to Hollywood and stop the movie, thereby shutting up all the internet punks. Along the way there are numerous star cameos, sex jokes, language that would embarass a sailor and satires of other movies like, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Good Will Hunting and The Fugitive. Now, you can enjoy this movie without having seen the other Kevin Smith films, but you won't catch all the injokes that really make this movie great. Be warned, Jay and Silent Bob are not particularly good role models... but damn they are two funny m**ther f**kers!! Snootchie bootchies!

BOTTOMLINE: If you're a Kevin Smith fan... this film is a laugh riot! If you're not, maybe you should be.

(PG-13) - August 19


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A woman tries to protect her children... from ghosts?!

REVIEW: It's 1947 and Grace (Nicole Kidman) hires 3 servants, that appear on her doorstep one morning, to help her maintain the large estate that she shares with her two children. Grace suffers from migraine headaches and her children have a disease that makes them extremely light sensitive, so this requires that the house remain in almost total darkness. It seems that Grace's husband has been lost in the war and that she had recently had a breakdown of sorts which resulted in the previous servants leaving abruptly. Grace's daughter claims to have seen a young boy named Victor in her room. Unexplained sounds and mysterious voices are soon being heard throughout the house and it seems that they are trying to force Grace and her children to leave. The Others shares similarities with another creepy movie, The Sixth Sense. Both are slow paced films, with almost no special effects, that gradually build suspense to a twist ending that makes you say, "Of course," when it's over. I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would and recommend it to anyone that prefers suspenseful films to the gory, slasher variety.

BOTTOMLINE: Suspenseful ghost story with a cool twist ending.

(R) - August 18


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The gang's all back... and they plan on sticking together.

REVIEW: The kid's from American Pie have had a year of college under their belt and now summer vacation is here. Jim (Jason Biggs) hasn't changed much... he still has problems with women and his dad (Eugene Levy) is still trying to be the "cool" dad. Oz (Chris Klein) and Heather (Mena Suvari) are able to maintain a monogamous, long-distance relationship... amazing in a teen sex comedy. Everybody else is back as well and they decide to rent a house on the lake and have the summer of their lives. American Pie 2, like its predecessor, is somehow able to rise above the rest of the teen sex crop. There are several belly laughs and a lot of chuckles in this sequel that may actually surpass the original. This one time... in band camp.... if this made you laugh the first time, go buy a ticket.

BOTTOMLINE: If you liked the first Pie, you'll probably enjoy a second piece.

(PG) - August 10


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A white blood cell battles an evil virus in Frank's body.

REVIEW: Frank (Bill Murray), a filthy zookeeper, loses a hard-boiled egg to a sneaky monkey, and in an act of defiance, retrieves the egg from the monkey and proceeds to eat it. The egg not only rolled around in the bottom of a monkey cage but was also in a monkey's mouth. A nasty virus, named Thrax (Laurence Fishbourne) hitched a ride on the egg and into Frank's mouth. Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), a white blood cell working the mouth beat didn't notice as Thrax snuck past him. The virus will kill Frank in less than 48 hours... unless Osmosis Jones can stop him. The live action scenes are below average but the movie improves when it's inside the animated "City" of Frank. Notable voice talent includes David Hyde Pierce as a naive cold pill and William Shatner as crooked Mayor Phlegmming. While this isn't a classic movie it is a unique concept that delivers some disgusting humor.

BOTTOMLINE: Bodily function humor abounds in this microscopic adventure.

(PG-13) - July 27


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Human lands on planet with talking apes.

REVIEW: The year is 2029 and Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is a research pilot on the space station Oberon. Due to safety concerns, only specially trained chimps are allowed to fly. One test flight enters an interstellar storm and is lost. Leo, disobeying orders, follows after the lost chimpanzee. The storm bounces Leo's shuttle through time until it crash-lands on a planet where apes rule and man is the lower species. Human rights are the topic of discussion at the apes dinner table. The apes military faction, led by General Thade (Tim Roth) and Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) have little regard for human life and would prefer to eradicate the species. Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), Senator Sandar's (David Warner) daughter, is a very vocal supporter of human rights. Eventually, Leo reluctantly helps lead a human revolt against the apes. Tim Burton did not remake the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film, he reinvented it. Certain homages are paid to the first film, such as using exterior locations from the original and a clever cameo by one of the 1968 stars. Great care was taken to have the ape characters move like apes and maintain certain animal mannerisms. At the same time they could be vain like humans, worrying about their hair, wearing makeup and false teeth. An orangutan named Limbo (Pail Giamatti) has several humorous moments and deposed military leader Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) brings a sense of dignity to the apes. This movie has a couple of twists that cause the film to switch gears and even leaves Planet of the Apes primed for a sequel. I enjoyed this movie a great deal and would gladly pay $7.00 (or whatever ticket prices cost) to watch the sequel.

BOTTOMLINE: Incredible makeup/costumes and performances combine with a fun story.

(PG-13) - July 18


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Dinosaurs seem to find people quite tasty.

REVIEW: Dr. Grant (Sam Niell) is promised a great deal of research money if he will guide a small plane over Isla Sorna, the second Jurassic Park island. Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda Kirby (Tea Leoni) finance this would-be sightseeing trip, that not surprisingly, goes horribly wrong. There are also new predators on the island, a Spinosaurus and plenty of Pteradons. T-rex is there, but he's no longer the baddest dino on the block. This is classic summer moviemaking at its best. No convoluted plot to slow down the story, just lots of action and really cool dinosaurs. Unlike previous Jurassic Park films, there is no greedy, evil corporation to confuse the situation. It is simply man versus animal and man is definitely the underdog. Laura Dern reprises her role, albeit briefly, as Dr. Ellie Sattler. The real stars of the film, however, are the dinosaurs but all the actors do well with their respective roles. If you like your dinosaurs a little more ferocious than Barney, you will enjoy Jurassic Park III.

BOTTOMLINE: Realistic dinosaurs and all out action.

(PG) - July 11


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Alien invaders are slowly destroying the planet.

REVIEW: The story begins as Aki, a female scientist, returns from Earth orbit to a devastated New York City. She finds a single living plant among the desolation as well as the phantom aliens that have destroyed most of the planet. At the last minute she's rescued by a small military group that was patroling the area. Military High Command wants to destroy the aliens with an experimental orbital cannon. Aki and other scientists disagree with this strategy. They believe that the Earth, and everything on it, has a spirit and that the cannon will harm the planet far more than the phantom aliens. The scientists are looking for 8 distinct "spirits" of the Earth to use against the alien invaders. The computer animation is outstanding, for the most part. Some of the characters seem a little stiff but the enviroments and facial details are approaching photo realism. Voice talent includes, James Woods, Donald Sutherland, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames. Final Fantasy is a so-so sci-fi/fantasy story that had grand aspirations but never quite delivers.

BOTTOMLINE: Incredible imagery with average story.

(PG) - July 6


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Animals enlist Dolittle's aid to save forest threatened by logging company.

REVIEW: Our story begins as Lucky the dog (Norm McDonald) fills the audience in on the good Dr. and his ability to talk with the animals. In addition to his human patients, Dr. Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) helps as many animals as he can. This puts a strain on his relationship with his wife and oldest daughter. A group of animals persuade the doctor to help them save their forest from loggers. Mrs. Dolittle, who happens to be a lawyer, suggests reintroducing a carnival bear into the wild to repopulate an endangered species of bear. There's only one problem, Archie doesn't want to move to the woods but Dolitte convinces the bear to give up show business. The funniest moments of the movie are when Archie is learning how to be a real bear. This film will not cause a laugh riot but you will leave the theater with a smile.

BOTTOMLINE: Family fun that's good for a chuckle or two.

(PG) - June 22


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Animated quest for the lost city of Atlantis.

REVIEW: Mild-mannered Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) is a linguist that is trying to complete his late grandfather's work - find the fabled city of Atlantis! Milo is approached by a wealthy friend of his grandfather's that can help him fulfill this dream. A ragtag group of adventurers are assembled for this extremely dangerous undertaking which is led by a man named Roarke (James Garner). After overcoming numerous obstacles, which result in the loss of many lives, the remaining crew reaches Atlantis. Milo falls in love with the beautiful Kida (Cree Summer) who tells him how the city of Atlantis was lost. Roarke was intent on stealing the city's power source, even though this would mean the end of Atlantis. There are several recognizable voices in this film including; John Mahoney, Leonard Nimoy, Claudia Christian, the late Jim Varney, and Don Novello better known as Father Guido Sarducci. This movie is a departure from the standard Disney formula. It is a more action based story, with no musical numbers and people actually die! Heavens forbid. The animation is quite stylized yet fits the story well and at times, the action may be a little too intense for really small children... hence the PG rating.

BOTTOMLINE: Action, adventure, Atlantis and no singing.

(PG-13) - June 15


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Adventurous heiress must save the world.

REVIEW: Our story begins as everyone's favorite videogame vixen, Lara Croft, battles a seemingly unstoppable robot. Lara eventually dispatches the bucket of bolts, which was merely part of a training exercise. Lara soon discovers a clock left by her late father that is counting down to the alignment of the planets... and something else. The illuminati, a secret organization bent on ruling the planet, want Lara's clock because it is the key to a device that allows an individual to travel through time. Angelina Jolie is quite convincing as the thrill-seeking tomb raider. She is, by far, the best part of this movie. Angelina looks the part, sounds the part and kicks ass just like her polygon counterpart. The movie plays out like most of the videogames upon which it is based. Which, if you're a fan of Lara Croft, will seem like familiar territory. But, what makes a great game doesn't necessarily make a great movie. Games usually have thin plots that loosely tie together separate elements of gameplay. This movie is very much like the games in that respect. If you expect a larger-than-life videogame on the screen you'll be happy. Tomb Raider may be the best videogame based movie ever... but that doesn't make it a great movie!

BOTTOMLINE: One of the better videogame film adaptations.

(R) - June 8


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Hacker is forced to steal confiscated drug money from the government.

REVIEW: The movie's opening scene actually takes place near the end of the film. After this intense special effects moment, we flashback to an introduction of the main characters and prior events. Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a computer hacker on probation who is approached by Ginger (Halle Barry). Ginger's boss, Gabriel (John Travolta), wants Stanley to embezzle funds from government accounts that maintain seized drug money. Gabriel is part of a highly secretive government agency that works outside the law... eliminating terrorist threats as they see fit. Gabriel's superiors want him to abandon this plan but, he doesn't see it that way. Stanley ultimately agrees to help so that he might be able to see his daughter again. This movie is a typical action thriller that gives hormone-driven males a glimpse of Halle Barry's bare breasts. The women aren't totally left out... they can see Hugh Jackman wearing nothing but a towel. Jackman is quite good as the man in way over his head while, Travolta and Barry are also good but, aren't given as much to do. In addition to the fine performances and bare boobies there are several cool effects and spectacular stunts to make this a good all around summer popcorn flick.

BOTTOMLINE: Average action movie with occasional moments of inspiration.

(PG-13) - June 1


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Seriously injured loser get's replacement animal parts.

REVIEW: Marvin Mage (Rob Schneider) tries repeatedly to pass the police obstacle course so that he can follow in his father's footsteps and become a cop. Unfortunately, he's out of shape, asthmatic, uncoordinated... you get the idea. To avoid hitting an animal, Marvin swerves off the road and plummets into a ravine. Marvin is seriously injured but a mysterious doctor puts him back together with a variety of animal parts. Marvin meets animal lover and environmentalist, Rianna (Colleen Haskell) and falls hopelessly in love. Marvin's animal side soon takes over and the comedy ensues. From interesting grooming habits to uncontrollable sexual urges, marvin explores his animal nature. Colleen Haskell (from Survivor fame) does an adequate job as Marvin's girlfriend and Rob Scneider plays his standard downtrodden character. Look for cameos by Norm MacDonald and Adam Sandler... who pays homage to Rob Schneider's character from Waterboy. This movie could have taken the low road, and sometimes it makes a detour or two, but for the most part it attempts to be a family-friendly comedy.

BOTTOMLINE: Mindless fun that doesn't resort to extreme gross out tactics.

(PG-13) - May 25


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A love triangle and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

REVIEW: In 1923 America, two young friends, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), dream of flying. By the early 1940's they are both ace Army pilots. Meanwhile, Europe is engulfed in World War II while America watches and waits. Rafe volunteers to fly with England's pilots against Hitler's forces. Shortly before he leaves for his assignment he falls in love with Army nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale). Danny and Evelyn meet up when they are both reassigned to Pearl Harbor. Rafe is shot down during an aerial dogfight and presumed dead. Danny and Evelyn comfort each other after the loss of Rafe. Their relationship soon grows into something more. Rafe unexpectedly returns just in time for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The main cast are very believable in their respective roles. There are also a number of well-known actors in strong supporting roles; Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin, Dan Akroyd and Mako. Even though this film is just over 3 hours long, it never seems to drag. The battle scenes are epic, exciting and as real as I have ever seen.

BOTTOMLINE: An epic war/romance movie with effects that rival reality.

(PG) - May 18


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: An ogre falls in love with a beautiful princess.

REVIEW: Shrek (Mike Myers) is an ogre that is content to live alone in his swamp. That is until the evil lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) rounds up all the fairy tale creatures in the kingdom and deposits them in Shrek's swamp. The only way lord Farquaad will remove the ogre's unwanted guests is for Shrek to rescue the princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from the dragon's keep. Shrek's unwanted companion in his quest is a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy) that doesn't know when to shut up. I knew this fairy tale was going to be different when the opening music was Smashmouth's All Star. The other musical selections are also inspired. The visuals are simply amazing and you soon forget that you're watching computer generated images flickering on a screen. You definitely don't have to be a kid to enjoy this fractured fairy tale.

BOTTOMLINE: Hilarious sendup of classic fairy tales with incredible computer animation.

(PG-13) - May 11


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A would-be knight that jousts to a rock-n-roll score.

REVIEW: Heath Ledger (The Patriot) plays William Thatcher, a peasant squire that jousts in a tournament after his master's untimely death. With the help of his fellow squires and a writer (Paul Bettany) with a gambling problem, William continues to compete against real knights... knowing all the while that if discovered, he will be imprisoned or worse. William Thatcher is soon enamoured by the beauty of young Lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon). She is unfortunately being courted by the ruthless Count Adhemar (Rufas Sewell), an unbeaten competitor in the jousting tournaments. The film's eventual outcome is quite predictable but still very satisfying. While a little disconcerting at first, the modern rock-n-roll score soon grows on you. This movie is a lot of fun as long as you don't expect an accurate historical look at knights and jousting.

BOTTOMLINE: Surprisingly fun blend of contemporary music and slang with medievil jousting.

(PG-13) - May 5


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The dead rise and cause trouble... again.

REVIEW: The O'Connells (Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz) are back... with a precocious 8-year-old son (Freddie Boath) that gets into as much trouble as his parents. On an expedition, the bracelet worn by the Scorpion King (The Rock, DaWayne Johnson), is discovered by the O'Connells. The Scorpion King was a great warrior that gave his soul to Anubis so that he could control the dark god's army. The bracelet can lead whoever wears it to the Scorpion King and awaken him. After returning home, the young Alex O'Connell playfully places the bracelet on his wrist... of course it won't come off and now the bad guys want it. The bad guys plan on bringing the original mummy, Imhotep (Arnold Voslo) back from the dead to kill the Scorpion King when he is awakened so that they can control Anubis' army. This movie starts with an incredible epic battle scene and never lets up until the credits roll. This movie is bigger, louder but not necessarily better than the original. I think some of the goofy charm of the first movie is lost in the sequel for the sake of trying to outdo the first. Several of the effects sequences seem rushed and have a cartoony feel. But don't get me wrong, if you like computer generated effects, intense action and a few funny moments... the Mummy Returns is an entertaining diversion.

BOTTOMLINE: Nonstop action plus tons of special effects equals an enjoyable popcorn flick.

(PG) - April 27


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Uhhh... read the title.

REVIEW: Mick Dundee (Paul Hogan) is back, this time he has an 8 year-old ankle-biter with him. Since the last movie Mick and Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) have had a son and taken up residence in Walkabout Creek, but have yet to marry. At her father's request, Sue heads to Los Angeles to take over a newspaper whose editor was killed in a car accident. Father and son tag along for an adventure in America. Eventually the down-under family discover smugglers hiding behind a third-rate movie studio. When the original Crocodile Dundee was released it was a surprise hit. And now, 15 years later, they attempt to recapture that spirit?! While this isn't a bad movie it does feel a little tired. Paul Hogan is definitely still Crocodile Dundee... he's just lost a step or two.

BOTTOMLINE: A nice, family-friendly movie... but wait for the video.

(PG) - April 13


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: French knight and his servant are transported to modern day Chicago.

REVIEW: Jean Reno (The Professional, Godzilla, Ronin) plays Thibault, a noble knight that was to wed a beautiful princess (Christina Applegate). But a jeolous rival employed a witch to cast a spell on Thibault's bride-to-be. He desired not only the princess but her castle and lands as well. The spell backfires and Thibault ends up drinking the potion and killing his beloved. To put things right, Thibault's idiot servant André (Christian Clavier) brings a wizard (Malcolm MacDowell) to Thibault's cell. This spell backfires as well so, instead of going back in time to prevent the tragedy... Thibault and his servent travel into the future. There is plenty of low brow humor to be found in this film... including poor dining etiquette, suspect personal grooming habits, and flatulence. The film's main drawback is that some of the scenes seem short and the editing a little choppy. Just Visiting isn't a laugh riot but it does have humorous situations.

BOTTOMLINE: Amusing fish out of water tale that suffers from poor editing.

(PG) - April 6


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Kids must rescue their secret agent parents.

REVIEW: Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) are ordinary kids with ordinary parents. Or so they thought. Gregorio (Antonio Banderas) and Ingrid (Carla Gugino) Cortez are, in actuality, semi-retired secret agents. When the world's greatest secret agents begin disappearing, the married spy team comes out of retirement and are promptly captured. It's now up to the kids to save the day. Spy Kids is fun entertainment and you will recognize many of the faces including: Teri Hatcher, Robert Patrick, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo and Tony Shalhoub... also look for a surprising cameo at the very end of the film. Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed this movie, which is unlike any of his previous works, which include: Desperado, From Dusk til Dawn and The Faculty. Certain elements of this film remind me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with lot's of high tech gadgets and cool special effects thrown in for good measure. This movie was obviously made for a younger crowd but, if you're still a kid at heart, you will enjoy Spy Kids.

BOTTOMLINE: Entertaining cross between James Bond and Willy Wonka.

(R) - March 23


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Rogue cop discovers police corruption and kicks ass.

REVIEW: Steven Seagal returns to the big screen as officer Orin Boyd, a man that doesn't always follow orders. He gets placed in a rundown precinct after he saves the vice president's life by "not following orders." Enter a streetwise man (DMX) that seems to be on the wrong side of the law. I'm not a fan of rap music and I don't really know who DMX is but, his acting is easily on a par with Seagal's. Which isn't saying very much. The two eventually team up to take down the dirty cops that framed the brother of DMX's character. Comic relief is present in the form of Tom Arnold (True Lies) and Anthony Anderson (Romeo Must Die and Me, Myself and Irene). Stick around for the closing credits as these two seemingly ad lib their way through a slew of sex and masturbation jokes. Since I wasn't expecting much from this movie I left the theater pleasantly surprised.

BOTTOMLINE: Less preaching from Seagal plus more ass kickin' equals an entertaining action movie.

(R) - March 16


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Russian and German snipers are pitted against each other during WW II.

REVIEW: The city of Stalingrad is undersiege by Hitler's forces during World War II. The Russian army is on the verge of collapse until one Russian soldier is able to inspire them. Enemy at the Gates is based on the true story of Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law), a young Russian soldier from a small village that is thrust into the war. Political officer Danilov (Joesph Fiennes) witnesses Vassily eliminate 5 German soldiers with extreme precision and he starts writing about his exploits in hopes of raising the spirits of the demoralized Russian army. In the midst of chaos a love triangle develops between Vassily, Danilov and Tania (Rachel Weisz), a woman that fights alongside the men. The Germans bring in Major Koenig (Ed Harris) a marksman of unequaled skill to eliminate the Russian snipers. Other notable stars are Bob Hoskins, who plays Krushchev and Ron Perlman who plays Koulikov, a Russian that trained with Major Koenig before the war. While I'm sure that many aspects of this story are fictionalized for dramatic storytelling, you can tell that great care went into the historical accuracy of the period. The scenes of warfare are very realistic and at times difficult to watch. If you have a passing interest in war movies you will probably enjoy this film... if not, you may want to avoid the front lines.

BOTTOMLINE: Slow in spots but fine performances and incredible realism make up for it.

(R) - March 2


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Death, mayhem and romance surround a quest for a cursed pistol.

REVIEW: Jerry (Brad Pitt) has to repay a debt to a mobster named Margoiles (Gene Hackman). Jerry's final job is to travel to Mexico and retrieve a valuable pistol that has a cursed history. Unfortunately, his girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts) has had it with Jerry's criminal association and decides to leave him and head for Las Vegas. Since the gun is extremely valuable, various groups are after it. A hit man named Leroy (James Gandolfini) grabs Samantha in hopes that she will lead him to Jerry and the gun. James Gandolfini steals the show as Leroy the homosexual hitman. Although his character is very similiar to that of his other role as Tony from HBO's Sopranos, it is still the best thing about The Mexican. This movie seemed unsure what it wanted to be... was it an an oddball comedy, a drama, a mobster movie or a romance? Who knows for sure. I do know that both Pitt and Roberts play characters that are hapless, irritating airheads... ultimately they deserve each other and moviegoers deserved a better film.

BOTTOMLINE: Aside from James Gandolfini's performance, this movie could have been left in a Mexican desert.

(R) - February 23


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Elvis impersonators pull off casino heist.

REVIEW: Critics have generally panned this movie... which isn't entirely unfounded. But the reason that I and my entourage couldn't miss this particular film was due to our Vegas vacation we went on last year this time. While taking in a show at the Riviera we saw numerous crews setting up film equipment. We asked around and learned that Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell were doing a film together. Certain female members of our group wanted to wait around for a glimpse of Costner. It was already late and the likelihood that any stars would show up was doubtful so, we returned to the Las Vegas Hilton (the Star Trek one, of course) for gambling and sleep. Most of us were wasted and went to our rooms, but my wife, Jo Ann, was addicted to nickel slots so she stayed behind. Eventually, someone came up to her and asked if the machine she was on would take dimes. Not even looking she said "No." The gentleman asked if he could sit next to her and that's when she told the man that he looked "familiar" He replied by saying that she wasn't doing his ego any good. To make a long story short, my wife ended up talking to Kurt Russell for a couple of hours while the two played nickel slots. From my wife's story, Kurt Russell sounds like a very nice, approachable individual that seemed above the whole Hollywood scene. Also starring in this movie are; Christian Slater, David Arquette, Bokeem Woodbine, Howie Long, Jon Lovitz, Ice-T, Thomas Haden Church, Kevin Pollack and Courtney Cox. Aside from Russell, Costner and Cox everyone else dies very quickly or their screen time can be measured in single digits. The expected Elvis jokes never happen and you can tell that this director was probably directing music videos a week before he started this project.

BOTTOMLINE: What could have been a fun movie ended up taking itself a little too seriously.

(R) - February 16


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter cross paths once again.

REVIEW: Ten years after "Silence of the Lambs," Anthony Hopkins reprises his role as Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. Unfortunately, Jodi Foster chose to pass on this film, so Julianne Moore took on the part of Federal Agent Clarice Starling. The story begins as Mason Verger, a horribly disfigured and extremely wealthy man (played by an uncredited Gary Oldman), is purchasing Hannibal Lecter memorabilia. Mason Verger is the only person to survive an attack by Hannibal Lecter and he is using all of his resources to bring Hannibal out of hiding so he can exact his revenge. Meanwhile, Clarice Starling is coordinating a drug bust between several agencies. When the bust goes bad, through no fault of her own, Clarice Starling's career is put in jeopardy. Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), a self-serving beauracrat that Starling rejected in the past, does his best to help discredit her. Hannibal Lecter has taken up residence in Florence, Italy and is now the acting curator af a museum. The previous curator "mysteriously" disappeared. Eventually, he is discovered by greedy Italian detective Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini), who is far more concerned about the reward for Hannibal Lecter than he is about bringing him to justice. This movie was slow and didn't seem to have a clear sense of direction. I was expecting a better movie since it was directed by a favorite of mine, Ridley Scott. Anthony Hopkins was still quite creepy as Dr. Lecter but Julianne Moore did not seem comfortable in her role. Gary Oldman, covered under a pound of makeup, was very convincing as the twisted and disfigured billionaire, Mason Verger. If you are at all squemish, you may want to avoid this movie. The final scene goes off the scale on my gross-out-meter. You've been warned!

BOTTOMLINE: This movie felt more like a snack instead of a full course meal.

(PG-13) - February 9


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Domineering girlfriend comes between a man and his friends.

REVIEW: After Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs) starts dating Judith (Amanda Peet) it isn't long before she is running his life. Unfortunately, Darren's friends, Wayne (Steve Zahn) and J.D. (Jack Black) no longer fit in Judith's plans. The three guys have been lifelong friends and share a strange obsession with Neil Diamond. Wayne and J.D. cannot stand idly by as their best friend is taken from them so they concoct various schemes to win Darren back. Enter Sandy (Amanda Detmer), an old girlfriend from high school that Darren never got over. This film is full of slapstik, sick jokes and Neil Diamond! What else could you want?

BOTTOMLINE: A really stupid movie that kept me laughing... a lot.

(PG-13) - February 2


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Escaped convicts go on a humorous odyssey.

REVIEW: The Coen Brothers' (Raising Arizona, Fargo) most recent comedy is a retelling of Homer's Odyssey set in 1937 Mississippi. The story begins as three convicts escape from a chain gang and go in search of the money from an armored car heist. The leader of the group is Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) a fast-talking, hair-slicking pseudo-intellectual. His associates, Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete (John Turturro) are, shall we say, intellectually challenged. On their journey they encounter many obstacles such as, lynch mobs, gangsters, cops, three sirens, the KKK, and an abusive bible salesman. To pass time, while working on the chain gang, the inmates would sing. So, to earn a little money, the three escaped convicts stop at a radio station/recording studio and sing "into a little tin can" for $10 a piece. They are accompanied by a man that sold his soul to the devil so that he could play the guitar better than anyone. The new musical group refer to themselves as the Soggy Bottom Boys and are soon a sensation with their song, "A Man of Constant Sorrow". Music plays a large part in this film and since the story takes place in the 1930's all the music is from that era and is mainly Folk or Blue Grass music. I wasn't sure what to expect when I sat down in the theater but I soon found myself laughing out loud. (A rare occurrence for me.)

BOTTOMLINE: Off the wall humor and moments of inspired comedic genius.

(PG-13) - January 27


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A martial arts love story.

REVIEW: I have eagerly awaited the release of this film for some time... and I was not disappointed. This movie tells the story of Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat), a true martial arts master that tires of killing and wants to retire his famous sword, the Green Destiny. Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), his long time friend and a master in her own right, takes his sword to Peking at Lu Mo Bi's request. Although deeply in love, Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien can never express their true feelings for one another. To do so would dishonor the memory of Li Mu Bai's brother who died many years earlier while engaged to Shu Lien. Enter Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), a young but gifted fighter that steals the Green Destiny. Jen's father, the governor, has arranged her marriage but she is torn between duty and her love for a thief known as Dark Cloud(Chen Chang) that she met in the desert. Eventually, the four cross paths and the resulting fight scenes are truly incredible. From gravity defying battles across rooftops and treetops to graceful ballet-like encounters to a good old fashioned barroom brawl. Wo Ping (The Matrix) was the man who choreographed this film's much talked about fight sequences. Ang Lee, best known for Sense and Sensibility, directed this film which is destined for classic status. Although Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is subtitled, after the first fifteen minutes you forget that you're reading the dialogue and are drawn into the relationships and amazed by the fantastic fights.

BOTTOMLINE: Breathtaking action sequences combine with a true love story.

(PG-13) - January 19


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Reclusive writer teaches inner-city prodigy.

REVIEW: Gus Van Zant (director, Good Will Hunting) brings the fictional story of one-time novelist, William Forrester (Sean Connery) and his student, Jamal Wallace (Robert Brown) to the big screen. Jamal is an exceptional basketball player that also has a gift for writing. He hides his love of writing from his friends so that he can fit in. Forrester watches the world from his apartment window due to a self-imposed isolation. A legend (of-sorts) surrounds the "man in the window" and Jamal's friends dare him to break in and steal something. Forrester startles the young man during his break-in and Jamal drops his book bag. Jamal's writings are in the bag and when Jamal recovers his bag there are critiques written on every page. Eventually, the two get together and start to learn from each other. Jamal is offered a free ride at an exclusive school for two reasons: his remarkable test scores and his basketball ability. Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) is a bitter professor that cannot believe a person of Jamal's race and financial standing can write like he does. Ordinarily, I like fast-paced action/adventure fare, but I can appreciate this touching film about friendship.

BOTTOMLINE: A brilliantly crafted drama that never becomes overly dramatic.

(G) - January 12


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A selfish emperor learns the value of sharing and friendship.

REVIEW: Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is a very self-centered ruler that is quite unconcerned with anyone else's needs. The emperor's advisor, Yzma (Ertha Kitt) and her assistant, Kronk (Patrick Warburton) are fired because they were undermining Kuzco's authority. Pacha (John Goodman), a local villager, is summoned before Kuzco so that the emperor can determine the best place to put his summer home. Unfortunately, that location would destroy Pacha's village. Before Pacha's village can be leveled, the evil Yzma takes revenge upon Kuzco and mistakenly turns him into a llama. Almost every animated Disney film made for the past 15 years has been a musical. Fortunately, this film deviates from that pattern and offers an outrageously funny buddy picture that can be enjoyed by preschoolers as well as a more mature audience. David Spade is perfect as the self involved ruler and Patrick Warburton was hilarious as Izmer's dimwitted assistant. Even if you can't find a kid to take to this film... don't miss this one. It's a riot!

BOTTOMLINE: A welcome change of pace from the standard Disney fare.

(PG-13) - January 5


    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Jesse and Chester have an excellent adventure... that they can't remember.

REVIEW: In the tradition of Bill & Ted, Wayne & Garth, and Cheech & Chong... we now have Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) & Chester (Seann William Scott). A pair of dimwitted slackers awake one morning with no recollection of the previous evening's events. As the title suggests, Jesse's car is missing and our moronic duo try to find it. Along the way they learn that they were given $200,000 by a transsexual stripper who embezzled it from a strip club. In addition to the stripper, Jesse and Chester are also being pursued by 5 "Hot" chicks, a gang of muscle-bound jocks, 2 Austrian homosexuals and a group of nerds that believe in aliens. Star Trek fans will recognize Brent Spiner (Data) as an irritable French ostrich wrangler. It would be pointless to try and explain the plot... as if it mattered. If you entered the theater expecting this film to be intellectually challenging, you will be sadly disappointed. My suggestion is watch this film with no expectations, turn off your brain and laugh at people that (I hope) are infinitely more stupid than you.

BOTTOMLINE: For stupid, juvenile humor... look no further, this is it!