2002 Reviews

THE HOT CHICK
(PG-13) - December 27

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Popular girl accidentally switches bodies with a low-life loser.

REVIEW: While Jessica (Rachel Adams) and her friends are in the mall, she acquires a pair of magical earrings. Before long, Jessica loses one of her earrings while tormenting Clive (Rob Schneider), a hapless thief. Somehow, Jessica and Clive switch bodies after Clive jokingly places the earring on his ear. Does Jessica learn how to get by without her good looks and treat others with respect? Will Clive figure out how to handle his new monthly visitor? All these and many more questions will be answered if you can sit through this film.

This is one of those movies that reveals most of the best gags in the trailer. There were a few laughs, but not as many as I expected. I felt that they could have spent a little more time with Rachel Adams as Clive. Rob Schneider did a passable job as a young teenage girl and the movie actually does have a message... treat everyone with respect. And Rob's old buddy, Adam Sandler does a cameo that isn't really funny. So, if you're bored, this is a modest diversion... as long as you're not expecting much.

BOTTOMLINE: If you're a Rob Schneider fan it's OK, if you're not a fan... don't bother.


THE LORD OF THE RINGS
The Two Towers

(PG-13) - December 21

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The battle for Middle-Earth truly begins.

REVIEW: Frodo (Elijah Woods) and Samwise (Sean Astin) continue their journey to Mount Doom to destroy the ring of power. They are joined by Gollum, a creature that wishes to possess the ring... again. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are in search of the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, who were captured by the Uruk-Hai. The kingdom of Rohan faces imminent attack by the forces of Saruman (Christopher Lee), so Aragorn and friends help lead the people to Helm's Deep - a supposedly impregnable fortress. The fellowship is divided and faces incredible odds... but, in their hour of need, a friend returns to lend a hand.

The second film in the trilogy is darker than the first and more action-packed. Peter Jackson's cinematic vision strays from the book more so this time around, but it still makes for a dramatic film that maintains the essence of Tolkien's story. The effects improve with each film... especially the Gollum... it makes Jar Jar Binks look like a saturday morning cartoon character. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has become an instant classic that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

BOTTOMLINE: Fantasy film lovers will be left wanting more... don't despair... you only have to wait another year. Arrrghhh!


STAR TREK: NEMESIS
(PG-13) - December 13

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Picard's clone leads the Remans against the Federation.

REVIEW: Shortly after the wedding of Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), the Enterprise is diverted to Romulas on a mission of peace. Prior to reaching Romulas, the crew discover an android named B4 that appears to be a prototype for Data. To everyone's surprise, Shinzon (Tom Hardy), the Reman leader, is a clone of Jean-Luc Picard who was originally created to infiltrate Star Fleet. This plan was abandoned and the youthful Picard clone was sent to the Romulas' sister planet Remus to work in the mines. Shinzon rose to power and lead the Remans into battle and eventually became their leader. Picard and the crew of the Enterprise soon discover Shinzon's words of peace are false, but can they stop him from destroying the Federation with his new weapon?

Screenwriter John Logan and director Stuart Baird, both Trek newbies, try to breathe new life into this aging sci-fi franchise. This film attempts to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan but never quite makes it. The motivation of the Shinzon character doesn't seem believable and a lot of the supporting cast aren't allowed to do much onscreen. I look forward to the DVD release and all the deleted scenes I expect to find. Don't get me wrong, this is actually one of the better TNG films, but I was expecting a little more.

BOTTOMLINE: While a definite improvement over the previous TNG film, it seems like little more than an above average TV episode.


DIE ANOTHER DAY
(PG-13) - November 22

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Bond is back to save the world from another madman bent on global domination.

REVIEW: James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is captured in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea after his cover is compromised. A prisoner exchange is made and Bond is released 14 months later. British Intelligence fears that Bond cracked under the relentless torture and interrogation. But Bond has other ideas and wants to finish the mission he started. While in Cuba, he encounters Jinx (Halle Berry), an NSA agent that is working the same case. The trail leads back to London and the wealthy adventurer, Gustav Graves, who isn't exactly what he appears to be.

Pierce Brosnan seems quite comfortable in his role as 007 and Halle Berry is both beautiful and exciting. There is even talk of Jinx getting her own film. The new Bond villains, Zao (Rick Yune) and Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) are over-the-top and delightfully evil. Let's not forget the effects and stunt work which reach new levels of greatness. This film is a fun ride that will be difficult to top when it's time to make the 21st Bond adventure.

BOTTOMLINE: The Bond franchise is still going strong, even if this story is a bit campy at times.


HARRY POTTER and the Chamber of Secrets
(PG) - November 15

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The magic is back as Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts school.

REVIEW: Dobby, a mischevious house elf informs young Harry Potter that it's not safe for him to return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year. Harry ignores the dire warning and, with the help of the Weasley family, escapes the clutches of his evil aunt and uncle. It's not long before the school is plagued by mysterious attacks and Harry quickly comes under suspicion because he is always near the scene of the crime. It's up to Harry, Hermione and Ron to solve the mystery before the school is closed down for good.

There are a several new characters introduced in the second installment of the Harry Potter franchise. Most notable are Jason Issacs as the delightfully evil Lucious Malfoy and Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, a pompous wizard with no real talent. This film has a bit more action and excitement than the first since time isn't wasted introducing all of the characters and situations. The film is long at 2 hours and 40 minutes... be sure to make a pitstop before taking your seat in the theater.

BOTTOMLINE: If you liked the first film, you should enjoy this one even more.


I-SPY
(PG-13) - November 1

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A spy and a boxer join forces to recover a stolen jet.

REVIEW: Alexander Scott (Owen Wilson) is an agent for the BNS (Bureau of National Security) that is hopelessly in love with fellow agent, Rachel (Famke Janssen). A top secret jet with super-stealth technology was hijacked and is now in the possession of arms dealer, Gundars (Malcolm McDowell). Gundars plans on auctioning the jet to the highest bidder at a pre-fight party in Budapest. The only way agent Scott can infiltrate the party is by accompanying undefeated boxing champion, Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy). The mismatched pair's only hope of averting disaster is to work together... despite the fact they can't stand each other.

I-SPY was directed by former actress, Betty Thomas, best known for her role as Lucy Bates on Hill Street Blues. There are moments in this movie that will make you laugh and others that will make you cringe. At times, Eddie Murphy's character is quite irritating, but I suppose that is what the director wanted. If you have nothing better to do, I-SPY is a fun diversion... but it probably won't be long before this average comedy will be available for rental.

BOTTOMLINE: If you're a fan of either Murphy or Wilson you'll probably enjoy this film, if not, watch the original I-SPY TV series with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.


THE RING
(PG-13) - October 18

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Journalist investigates her niece's untimely death.

REVIEW: Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is asked to investigate the mysterious death of her niece. Rachel's independent young son, Aidan (David Dorfman) tells his mother that his cousin knew she was going to die. Rachel's investigation leads to a videotape that supposedly will kill you exactly seven days after you watch it. After Rachel watches the disturbing tape she is startled by a phone call... the soft, raspy voice on the other end tells her she only has seven days to live. Rachel enlists the aid of Noah (Martin Henderson), a photojournalist, to find the origin of the tape. Unfortunately, her son watches the tape when she is out of the room. It is now a mad dash against time, to save her life and the life of her son.

This film gets under your skin from the opening scene until the credits roll. The bizarre and chilling imagery of the "videotape", the limited but effective use of visual effects and an outstanding performance by Naomi Watts combine to create a suspenseful, entertaining movie. By the way, the Ring is actually a remake of the popular Japanese horror film, Ringu.

BOTTOMLINE: If you like scary movies... this is the best I've seen in a very long time.


THE TRANSPORTER
(PG-13) - October 11

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Delivery man opens the wrong package.

REVIEW: Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is an ex-military man that makes a living in France delivering "packages", no questions asked. He is extremely good at what he does and follows three simple rules: no names, don't change the rules after the deal is made and don't open the package. Frank breaks his own rule and opens a package that is obviously a living person. A young woman named Lai (Qi Shu) was being transported by her father so she wouldn't interfere with his business. A business that deals in human slavery. Soon Frank and Lai are working together to free Asian immigrants trapped in cargo containers.

Written and produced by French film maker, Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element) this movie is wall-to-wall action with a few intermissions to allow viewers to catch their breath. Corey Yuen directs this film, while not ground-breaking, does offer neat twists on the standard action film... such as the "oil" fight. If action is what you seek, accept delivery of The Transporter.

BOTTOMLINE: Action movie that delivers the goods.


THE TUXEDO
(PG-13) - September 27

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A mild mannered chaffuer becomes a spy... sort of.

REVIEW: Jimmy Tong (Jackie Chan) is a timid taxi driver who is hired as a chauffeur for secret agent, Clark Devlin (Jason Issacs). Clark Devlin is seriously injured in an explosion and just before he slips into a coma, informs his chauffeur to put on his tuxedo and find Walter Strider. Jimmy soon discovers that his boss' tuxedo is no ordinary piece of clothing. The tuxedo is actually an advanced computer-controlled exoskeleton complete with cool spy gadgets. Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is a young agent that discovers a bottled water tycoons plan to take over the world by contaminating the water supply with a bacteria that makes you thirsty. Blaine and Tong are a mismatched pair that join forces to stop Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster).

Not the best Jackie Chan movie in recent history, but there's still enough humor and action to keep the average filmgoer entertained. Jennifer Love Hewitt turns in a decent performance as the novice spy and love interest... even if she's only half Jackie's age. James Brown, the godfather of soul, also has a brief cameo that is amusing.

BOTTOMLINE: Average action/comedy that is worth a matinee viewing.


BALLISTIC: Ecks vs. Sever
(R) - September 20

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Spys and explosions... that's about it.

REVIEW: Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas) is a retired operative for one of those hush-hush government agencies that is forced out of retirement. Sever (Lucy Liu), a rogue agent that was once a member of the aforementioned hush-hush agency, kidnaps the child of a man intent on acquiring "nano-assassin" technology. For whatever reason, Ecks must face Sever but eventually learn that they share a common enemy.

This film is loaded with every spy cliche in the book and fails at almost every level. The only reason I refrained from giving a "Bland" rating was due to the appearance of Ray Park (otherwise known as Darth Maul) and his all-too brief fight scene with Lucy Liu. I'd advise waiting for this film to air on cable instead of wasting money on it at the theater

BOTTOMLINE: One of the most boring action movies in recent history.


S1MONE
(PG-13) - August 23

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Film director creates a virtual actress that develops a life of her own.

REVIEW: Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) is a director whose popularity is on the decline. His most recent project is floundering due to temperamental actress, Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder). After his female star quits and the studio drops its support, the once defiant director has nowhere to turn. That is, until a dying scientist (Elias Koteas) gives Viktor the means to create a virtual actress. Once the film is completed, it becomes a huge success due to Viktor's newfound female lead. Viktor's new creation becomes extremely popular and he soon finds himself being overshadowed by S1mone (Rachel Roberts).

Now, if you're interested in Hollywood as an industry, this film offers a sampling of how things work. Or, if you're into light hearted comedies, you might find this film appealing. Al Pacino is amusing as the befuddled director that loses control of his creation but this film isn't for everyone .

BOTTOMLINE: Interesting look at Hollywood and the potential impact of virtual actors.


SPY KIDS 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
(PG) - August 16

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The Spy Kids are back to save the world... again.

REVIEW: Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara) Cortez have grown a little and are now officially part of the newly formed Spy Kids division of the OSS. A device that could destroy the world is stolen but the OSS is able to track it to a mysterious island which is inhabited by odd creatures. A brother and sister team of rival spy kids are sent to investigate, but the Cortez kids aren't about to be shown up.

Robert Rodriguez is seemingly having a lot of fun with the Spy Kids series. Cool gadgets, special effects and this time around paying homage to stop motion animator, Ray Harryhausen. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino are back as the Cortez parents while Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor play the grandparents. The story doesn't really make a lot of sense, but it should keep the kids entertained and those adults that are still young at heart will enjoy it as well.

BOTTOMLINE: A fun-filled kid-friendly adventure.


XXX
(PG-13) - August 9

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: An extreme thrill seeker becomes a secret agent.

REVIEW: An NSA operative is killed attempting to infiltrate an organization known as Anarchy 99. Due to an inability to blend in with the hardcore criminal element, numerous agents have lost their lives trying to get close to this group. NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to recruit criminals for this dangerous assignment. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is a thrill seeker that performs dangerous, illegal stunts which are videotaped and displayed on his web site. Gibbons drafts Xander, against his will, and tests him in various situations. Xander passes with flying colors and soon finds himself in Prague playing secret agent with the fate of the world resting on his shoulders.

Rob Cohen, director of The Fast and the Furious, reimagines the spy movie with Vin Diesel as the XXX character. The standard spy movie plot seems fresh and exciting with plenty of over the top stunts. Some of the one-liners are a little cheesy but they fit this movie well. Buckle up and hold on for the wild ride that is XXX.

BOTTOMLINE: High octane movie that puts a new spin on an old genre.


SIGNS
(PG-13) - August 2

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The loss of a man's faith against the backdrop of an alien invasion.

REVIEW: After his wife's untimely death, Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), a former man of the cloth, loses his faith. Graham's brother, Merrill Hess (Joaquin Phoenix) returns home to help his brother raise his two children, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin). The kids discover a crop circle in their corn field and before long similar crop circles are being found all over the planet. It becomes apparent that this is not a hoax... as the Hess family soon finds out.

M. Night Shaymalan's new film is a unique take on the old alien invasion storyline. Instead of displaying a massive military assault full of whiz bang special effects, he shows us a much smaller, personal tale from the viewpoint of one family. This film slowly builds suspense, much like M. Night's previous dark efforts, "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable". But this story has something more... a sense of humor. The audience I watched this film with laughed as much as they gasped.

BOTTOMLINE: Very engrossing film that proves Shaymalan is more than just a one hit wonder boy.


AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER
(PG-13) - July 26

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The dysfunctional Powers family, reunited... yeah, baby.

REVIEW: Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is back and this time he has to rescue his father Nigel Powers (Michael Caine). Dr. Evil joins forces with the equally demented Goldmember, who has the habit of coating his victims "members" in gold and eating his own sunburnt flesh. Eck! Austin travels back to 1975 on his father's trail and teams up with gorgeous CIA agent, Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles). The disgusting Fat Bastard is also back, as well as the scene-stealing Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) and Scott Evil (Seth Green).

If you're a fan of the Austin Powers series you will no doubt want to see this movie. The cameo-filled opening is by far one of the funniest things I've seen at the theater in quite a while. It's unfortunate that the rest of the film does not maintain that level of humor. Some of the jokes fall a little flat and the whole Goldmember character isn't funny in the least. Don't get me wrong, there are some good bits here and there, but they all seem to fall short of that hilarious opening.

BOTTOMLINE: The first 15 minutes - great... the remaining 80 - mediocre.


STUART LITTLE 2
(PG) - July 19

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A little mouse has another big adventure.

REVIEW: Stuart Little (Michael J. Fox) and the whole Little clan are back for another family-friendly film. This time around, Elanour Little (Geena Davis) is being extremely over protective of her littlest Little while George (Jonathan Lipnicki) spends more time with his friends and less with his brother. Stuart is feeling left out and unimportant. Margalo (Melanie Griffith), a small injured bird who is on the run from the evil Falcon (James Woods), crashlands in Stuart's car. Can Stuart save the day? What do you think...

This is a feel good movie, with surprisingly effective action sequences. The voice talent is also very good, including Melanie Griffith, the hilarious Nathan Lane as the pampered cat Snowbell and James Woods as the menacing Falcon. The film's opening is quite moving as the camera pans across the post 9/11 New York City skyline while the song "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" plays.

BOTTOMLINE: OK... it may be a kid flick but, I'm a big kid and I liked it!


EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS
(PG-13) - July 17

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Spiders get supersized and attack a small town.

REVIEW: As is often the case, radioactive waste causes spiders to mutate and grow to huge proportions. The local sheriff, Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer) doesn't believe her son when he tells her about giant spiders at a nearby mine. Meanwhile, Chris McCormack (David Arquette) returns to Prosperity, Arizona to take over the family mine after his father's death. It isn't long before the entire town is overrun by countless mutated spiders and the townsfolk make a last stand... at the mall.

Eight Legged Freaks was produced by the duo behind Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla... and harkens back to the campy atomic monster movies of the 1950's. This movie has a few laughs, a few jumps and is worth a viewing... but no more than a matinee price.

BOTTOMLINE: Almost brings back the bygone days of classic B movies... almost.


CROCODILE HUNTER: COLLISION COURSE
(PG) - July 13

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A hungry crocodile is wanted by the CIA and Steve Irwin.

REVIEW: A damaged U.S. spy satellite explodes in space and its black box goes down in Australia. The CIA, determined to retrieve the satellites top secret information, dispatch two agents into the outback. A large male crocodile, that's been snacking on a very disgruntled rancher's herd, eventually swallows the satellites black box. Meanwhile, the Discovery Channel's Steve and Terri Irwin are traveling the outback examining some of Australia's less-than-friendly wildlife. Eventually, the rancher's quarrel with the crocodile results in the Irwins being called into relocate the grumpy reptile. Soon everybody is after this croc... but for very different reasons.

This is basically an episode of the Crocodile Hunter TV show loosely interwoven with a simplistic spy satellite story. The irrelevant subplot is not why people will see this movie. It's all about Steve's contagious enthusiasm and unique sense of humor. One thing that continually distracted me however, was the way in which this movie was filmed. All the "Crocodile Hunter" segments were "TV" size then it would go "widescreen" for the rest of the film. I understand it was filmed in this manner so that it would seem like an ordinary episode of the show, yet it kept pulling me out of the movie. If you're a Crocodile Hunter fan, you'll probably like this film. If not... you might be a bit grumpy after watching this movie.

BOTTOMLINE: If you like the TV show you can probably tolerate this movie.


REIGN OF FIRE
(PG-13) - July 12

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Dragons have put man on the endangered species list.

REVIEW: While exploring a tunnel under construction in England, a young boy awakens a hibernating dragon. Fast forward about twenty years and we find that mankind has nearly vanished from the planet as a million dragons scorch what's left. Quinn (Christian Bale) leads a small community of survivors that have taken shelter in an old castle. Survival is a struggle as food supplies continue to dwindle. It's quite amusing when the adults act out bedtime stories for the children... it's then you realize how myths and legends are passed from generation to generation. One day, what's left of the U.S. military arrives seeking refuge before continuing their hunt. The leader, Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) has determined that there is only one male dragon and if they can kill him, the species will die. Quinn and Van Zan oppose each other yet eventually join forces to face the beast.

If you go to the theater expecting to see wall-to-wall dragon battles, you'll be disappointed. The focus is more on how mankind can return from the brink and survive against all odds. Matthew McConaughey beefed up a great deal for this role and is quite convincing as the driven military man while Christian Bale is tormented by the fact that he was the young boy that reawakened the dragons. The dragons do steal the show... if only they could have had a little more screen time.

BOTTOMLINE: Engaging film about human survival and determination... with really cool dragons!


LILO & STITCH
(PG) - July 6

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: An alien experiment crash lands on earth and is adopted by a Hawaiian family.

REVIEW: Experiment 626 escapes from an intergalactic police force and becomes stranded on Hawaii. Attempting to evade capture by his creator and a supposed alien expert on Earth life forms, experiment 626 pretends to be a dog and is adopted by a young girl named Lilo. The young Hawaiian girl names the extra-terrestrial fugitive, Stitch. Originally designed to be an unstoppable destructive force, Stitch slowly learns to care for Lilo. Unfortunately, Lilo and her sister Nani (Tia Carrere) are facing separation from social worker Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames) as alien reinforcements arrive on Earth to recapture Stitch.

This is a more contemporary film than standard Disney fare and is a lot of fun, especially all the Elvis musical numbers. The animation is very good (Of course... it's Disney!) as well as the voice acting. This movie succeeds as a family film and as a comedy.

BOTTOMLINE: Funny and charming animated tale that everyone can enjoy.


MEN IN BLACK II
(PG-13) - July 5

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The scum of the universe are back and only Agent K knows how to stop them.

REVIEW: Agent J (Will Smith) finds himself facing an alien named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) that is looking for the "light" and will destroy the Earth to get it. 20 years earlier Serleena was thwarted by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Unfortunately, Agent K is now working as a postal employee and is unaware of his former occupation as a "Man in Black." MIB Chief Zed (Rip Torn) directs Agent J to bring Agent K out of retirement to save the Earth one more time.

Barry Sonnenfeld returns to direct the sequel to the highly successful 1997 film. Now, this isn't a bad movie, it just lacks freshness. There are funny moments, Frank the dog comes to mind, but most of the jokes seem rehashed. Special effects are decent and the cameo by Michael Jackson is amusing.

BOTTOMLINE: Not bad... but it doesn't have the irreverent spirit of the first film.


SCOOBY-DOO
(PG) - June 28

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The Scooby gang breaks up... then reunites to solve the mystery of Spooky Island.

REVIEW: Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Thelma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby Doo are brought to life for the big screen version of the classic 1969 cartoon. The story opens as Mystery, Inc. captures yet another misguided individual trying to scare people for some nefarious reason. The Scooby gang splits shortly after this particular adventure, due to personality conflicts and to explore solo careers. Two years later, the gang is brought together by the owner of Spooky Island, Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson). It seems that normal teenagers that visit his spring break hideaway leave with totally different personalities. Is Mystery, Inc. up to the task of solving this creepy caper? What do you think?

The computer animated Scooby-Doo is decent but Matthew Lillard steals the show as Shaggy. He does the best live action interpretation of a cartoon character that I have seen. The other characters are OK but nothing outstanding. The story itself is fairly disjointed but it's not like it really matters. The story is there to bind together oneliners, sight gags and fart jokes. The ultimate villian is amusing, for those of us who actually watched the show in the 80's. Fans of the cartoon will find this movie tolerable, if not enjoyable.

BOTTOMLINE: If you loved the cartoon, you'll probably like the film, if not, ruh-roh, raggy... this movie rucks!


MINORITY REPORT
(PG-13) - June 21

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Police officer is accused of a murder which he hasn't committed... yet.

REVIEW: In the future, officer John Anderton (Tom Cruise) leads a special PreCrime unit that prevents murders from ever happening. With the use of 3 psychics, known as precogs, murders can be seen before they occur. PreCrime Director Burgess (Max von Sydow) plans on taking his successful program nationwide... despite some minor glitches. Unfortunately, John Anderton is seen committing a murder by the precogs and is soon on the run from his former officers and a relentless Federal detective, Ed Witwer (Colin Farrell). Anderton kidnaps the female precog Agatha (Samantha Morton), hoping she can help him prove his innocence before he runs out of time.

Spielberg creates a very believable world that should stand the test of time like another sci-fi classic, "Blade Runner." The special effects are so well done that you almost forget this is a make believe world and for the most part, Philip K. Dick's story keeps the audience guessing. Minority Report is very exciting until the last quarter of the film where it seems to run out of steam.

BOTTOMLINE: Visionary sci-fi tale that stalls towards the end.


THE BOURNE IDENTITY
(PG-13) - June 14

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Assassin with amnesia tries to stay alive.

REVIEW: French fisherman pull a man with multiple gunshots from the Mediterranean sea who regains consciousness with no memory of his identity. The only clue he has is a Swiss bank account number that belongs to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). He soon discovers that people want him dead and that he knows how to defend himself. Bourne eventually teams up with Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente) and she helps him elude capture. Jason Bourne tries to put together the mising pieces of his past before he runs out of time.

Based on a Robert Ludlum novel, The Bourne Identity is stylishly directed by Doug Liman. All the action scenes are well done, especially the car chase scene. The film's plot is fairly weak but overall this is a highly enjoyable film. If the box office warrants, hopefully The Bourne Identity will become an ongoing franchise like the Bond series.

BOTTOMLINE: Matt Damon makes the leap to action star in a very big way!


BAD COMPANY
(PG-13) - June 7

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A street-wise hustler joins the CIA.

REVIEW: Chris Rock plays two roles in his latest film. First, a short lived CIA agent that is killed in the line of duty and second, a chess-playing, ticket-scalper from New Jersey. The two happen to be identical twins unaware of the others' existence. The CIA, desperate to complete the mission that was started by Michael Turner, enlist the aid of the slain agent's twin brother... against the field director's (Anthony Hopkins) wishes. Prior to his death, Michael Turner was negotiating the purchase of a portable thermonuclear device from a former Soviet Union Colonel. The CIA must recover that bomb at all costs.

This movie neither succeeds or fails at being an action film or a comedy. But, if you're a Chris Rock fan, you'll probably like this movie... even if his humor is toned down significantly to allow a PG-13 rating.

BOTTOMLINE: Average action/comedy that doesn't exceed any expectations.


THE SUM OF ALL FEARS
(PG-13) - May 31

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A young Jack Ryan must stop World War III.

REVIEW: Tom Clancy's latest Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) adventure takes place before the previous movie adaptations; Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games & Clear and Present Danger. Early in Jack Ryan's CIA career he specialized in analyzing Russian intelligence. His expertise is called upon when a new Russian President comes to power and 3 russian scientists suddenly go missing. CIA Director Bill Cabot (Morgan Freeman) sees promise in the young analyst, which is well founded as he tracks down a nuclear device that has made it to American soil. Individuals with connections to the Nazi party want to eliminate both the US and Russia... what better way than to have the superpowers eliminate themselves. It's up to Jack Ryan to prove the Russians weren't responsible to avert an all out nuclear war.

Ben Affleck does a convincing job as the analyst that is thrust into a situation that is way over his head. The story is involved but not convoluted, the pace never slows for long and the subject is quite scary considering recent events.

BOTTOMLINE: Stylish spy/thriller that is gripping and entertaining.


SPIRIT: Stallion of the Cimarron
(G) - May 24

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The wild west from a horse's perspective.

REVIEW: The latest animated film from Dreamworks Pictures tells the story of Spirit, a stallion that would not be broken. Spirit is a fearless stallion that grows to adulthood to lead his herd. Eventually, man encrouches upon the mustang's territory and Spirit is captured while distracting the wranglers as the rest of the herd escapes. Spirit is taken to a Cavalry outpost where a Colonel (James Cromwell) is intent on breaking him. A young indian brave named Little Creek (Daniel Studi) is also captured and together the two escape. At first, Spirit wants nothing to do with the two-legged creature that escaped with him but a beautiful mare named Rain freely goes with the young indian. Spirit is torn between his freedom and the his newfound feelings for Rain.

Spirit combines both computer and traditional animation seamlessly. The beautiful vistas and incredible animal animation are amazing. I also liked the fact that the animals didn't speak or break out into song continuously. Although, Bryan Adams does break out into song a great deal of the time. The songs serve their purpose in furthering the story but I was never really a big Bryan Adams fan.

BOTTOMLINE: Beautiful imagery and classic story-telling combine to make an enjoyable film.


STAR WARS II: Attack of the Clones
(PG-13) - May 18

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Boy meets girl, clones battle droids and Yoda is one bad mother.

REVIEW: The former Queen of Naboo, now Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), travels to Coruscant to discuss the Separatist movement. Amidala is nearly killed by an assassination attempt so the Jedi Council assign Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan Magregor) and his young apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) with the task of protecting her. It is discovered that the Republic had been secretly assembling a clone army while the Separatists had been manufacturing a droid army. It's up to the hopelessly outnumbered Jedi to stand against Darth Sidious (Christopher Lee) and the Separatists.

Yes... Jar Jar Binks is back, but it is only briefly and his presence actually makes sense this time around. The romance between Amidala and Anakin is under way which will ultimately result in the births of Luke and Leia. We get to see Yoda kick some serious ass in this movie as do all the Jedi for that matter. There is also the largest scale battle ever seen in a Star Wars film. "Attack of the Clones" is visually amazing and far more entertaining than "The Phantom Menace."

BOTTOMLINE: Must-see for Star Wars fans and a definite improvement over Episode I.


SPIDER-MAN
(PG-13) - May 3

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: A genetic spider bite transforms a timid teenager into a wall-crawling hero.

REVIEW: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) lives with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) and next door to Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the girl he has had a crush on since they were kids. During a high school field trip the awkward, yet intelligent Parker is bitten by a genetically engineered spider. Peter soon discovers that he has acquired the abilities of a spider... he can climb walls, spin webs, has increased strength and agility. Inadvertently, Peter's inaction leads to the murder of his Uncle Ben, so Peter decides to devote his life to helping people with his newfound abilities. Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) is an obsessed scientist that tests a new strength enhancer on himself that drives him insane. Using other inventions developed by Oscorp, Norman becomes the Green Goblin and terrorizes the city... only Spider-Man can hope to stop him. Director Sam Raimi has done an outstanding job of transfering the 4-color adventures of Spider-Man to the big screen. Costumes, effects, and performances were all top-notch... even though some have complained that certain effect shots were a little cartoony... it didn't bother me in the least. The pacing of this film is tight, almost perfect... plenty of action intermingled with character development that advances the plot. With the origin story out of the way, Spider-Man II can hit the ground running... here's hoping that this is the start of a long-running franchise with Sam Raimi leading the way.

BOTTOMLINE: Hands down the best comic-inspired movie ever!


THE SCORPION KING
(PG-13) - April 20

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: An evil king is taken down by the World Wrestling Federation.

REVIEW: This film takes place approximately 10 years prior to the Scorpion King's introduction in The Mummy Returns (2001). Akkadian assassin, Mathayus (Dwayne Johnson - The Rock), is hired to kill the sorceress, Cassandra (Kelly Hu - last seen on TV's Martial Law). Cassandra is controlled by the ruthless Memnon (Steven Brand), who uses her visions to defeat those who oppose him. A ragtag group of various rebel tribes, led by Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan), are eventually brought together by Mathayus to stand against Memnon's armies. Don't expect Oscar-caliber performances here... but then again, not many Oscar winners could body slam a bad guy like the Rock! Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'...? It's a box office hit, Jambroni!!

BOTTOMLINE: A fun action movie that entertains.


PANIC ROOM
(R) - March 29

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Would-be thieves encounter a resourceful woman and her child.

REVIEW: Because Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her husband Stephen (Ian Bauchas) are separating, Meg and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) need to find a new home. A friend discovers an incredible house in Manhattan that hadn't been placed on the market yet, so, Meg quickly purchases the property. An unusual feature of the home is a "panic room"... a nearly impenetrable room which has it's own ventilation system, buried phone line, survellience monitors, etc. During their first night in the home, three men break in. Supposedly, the previous occupant had a great deal of money hidden somewhere in the house. Barely escaping the thieves, Meg and Sarah are able to reach the panic room. Among the intruders, only Burnham (Forest Whataker) seems concerned about the woman and her child's well-being. Unfortunately for Meg and Sarah, what the men want is in the panic room. Country singer Dwight Yoakam is quite convincing as Raoul, a mysterious, violent man. He seems well suited to play this sort of role... which is similar to his character in the critically acclaimed Sling Blade. David Fincher, best known for directing Fight Club and Seven, is able to create a good deal of suspense in a rather average story. Unique camera work and good performances, but ultimately it's little more than an exciting popcorn flick... then again, what's wrong with that?

BOTTOMLINE: Decent thriller, if you can forgive a few inconsistencies.


BLADE II
(R) - March 22

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: The daywalker is back to kick some mutant vampire ass.

REVIEW: The sequel begins in Germany with Blade (Wesley Snipes) hot on the trail of his former mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) who was supposedly killed in the previous movie. Shortly after the reunion we are introduced to Nomak (Luke Goss), a mutant vampire that feeds on vampires as well as humans. Vampires that Nomak feeds upon become infected and turn into "reapers", nearly indestructible creatures that have to feed constantly. Blade is eventually approached by the vampire nation to lead their "blood pack" against the reapers. The blood pack was led by Rienhardt (Ron Perlman) until Blade assumed the role. This causes friction between the two characters which results in some humorous exchanges. This movie surpasses the original in many ways. The action is more over-the-top and this is the only movie that I've ever seen that truly captured the feel of a comic book fight scene. The special effects are turned up a notch or two - vampires don't turn to dust as much as they explode in a shower of sparks. Blade is less moody this time around and you can tell that Wesley Snipes is having fun with the character. If you like action/horror movies then prepare for a wild ride.

BOTTOMLINE: Intense action, suspense and mutant vampires. Sounds like a good movie to me!


RESIDENT EVIL
(R) - March 17

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Unethical biological experimentation results in flesh-eating zombies.

REVIEW: The Umbrella Corporation, widely recognized as a leader in health care and medical research also develops biological weaponry for use in germ warfare. One of it's experiments, the T-virus, is stolen then released in it's underground research facility. Everyone within the complex is infected so the super computer locks down the facility. An assault team is sent in to find out what happened. Resident Evil is based on the Capcom video game series of the same name and takes place prior to the events of the first game. Milla Jovovich plays the strong, sexy female lead - similar to those that dominate most of the action video games of late. This film doesn't waste much time with plot or character development and jumps right into the action. The action and special effects are generally well done and the pacing only occasionally slows down. The producers of this film did a decent job of making the most of their source material and it's very likely that there will be sequels... depending on box office results of course.

BOTTOMLINE: An entertaining and suspenseful video game inspired movie that will probably make you jump.


ICE AGE
(PG) - March 15

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Unlikely trio of prehistoric animals band together to save a human child.

REVIEW: Dinosuars no longer rule the planet... mammals are now at the top of the food chain due to the ice age. Most animals are migrating south to warmer climates except for one solitary mammoth named Manfred (Ray Ramono) who travels north. Along the way he is joined by an annoying sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo) that Manfred rescues from a pair of gay rhinos. Meanwhile, a human village is attacked by a pack of sabertooth tigers that were seeking revenge on the humans. The leader of the sabertooth tigers wants the human leader's child. The child's mother escapes from the tigers by jumping from a waterfall. Diego (Dennis Leary) is sent after the human infant. Manfred and Sid find the small human child down by the river and after some coaxing by Sid, Manfred agrees to return him to the human tribe. Diego joins the group but has ulterior motives for the child. The scene-stealing squirrel is a riot with his ongoing struggle to aquire nuts for the winter... especially the final sequence. Ice Age is a charming and funny animated tale that can be enjoyed by all ages.

BOTTOMLINE: Evolution has never been funnier.


THE TIME MACHINE
(PG-13) - March 8

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Scientist travels through time in attempt to save fiancee.

REVIEW: Brilliant scientist Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is haunted by his fiancees murder and devotes 4 years of his life in an attempt to change the past. Alexander is successful in developing a means of traveling through time and goes into the past but cannot change the eventual outcome of his fiancee's fate. Unable to change the past he decides to travel into the future to discover new technology. After witnessing the moon's destruction, he eventually travels over 800,000 years into the future. This future time has recovered from the moon's destruction and humans have been divided into two species. The Eloi, peaceful surface dwellers and the Morlocks, vicious underground creatures that prey on the Eloi. The Morlocks are led by an Uber-Morlock (Jeremy Irons) that does not want the man from the past disrupting the balance of this new world order. Jeremy Iron is very good as the intelligent Morlock, he is unfortunately not onscreen that long. Overall, this movie has average special effects but, the Morlock creatures could have been better. There doesn't seem to be any real emotional attachment between the main characters, but then again this is "just" a sci-fi movie.

BOTTOMLINE: Average sci-fi flick, as long as you don't think about the plot too much.


JOHN Q
(PG-13) - February 16

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Desperate father holds hospital hostage.

REVIEW: John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington) and his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) are having difficulty making ends meet since John's hours were cut at the local plant. Things go from bad to worse when John's seemingly healthy son collapses while playing baseball. After being rushed to the hospital, it's discovered that the boy has a serious heart defect and the only thing that will save his life is an expensive heart transplant. Unfortunately, the health insurance provided by John's employer will not cover such a costly procedure. The hospital's representative (Anne Heche) and Cardiologist (James Woods) seem indifferent to the Archibald's situation. After exhausting every reasonable option, John has little recourse but to take matters into his own hands. After barricading himself and several hostages in the hospital's emergency room, John demands that his son be placed at the top of the donor list. On the opposite side of the standoff is Detective Grimes (Robert Duvall) and Police Chief Monro (Ray Liotta). John Q exposes the problems with our health care system in a dramatic and occasionally humorous way. Eddie Griffin plays a patient in the ER that has a number of one-liners that got a hearty laugh from the audience. Denzel puts in another outstanding performance, as did most of the other performers. This movie keeps your attention until the very end, even if the outcome is expected.

BOTTOMLINE: An entertaining movie, with moments of humor that dramatically reminds us of the sad state of health care.


COLLATERAL DAMAGE
(R) - February 8

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Firefighter goes after the man that killed his family.

REVIEW: Firefighter Gordon Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is about to pick up his family when they are killed by a terrorist bomb that was intended to kill American officials visiting the Colombian Embassy. In typical movie fashion, the government is slow or unable to apprehend the man responsible. It just so happens that Gordon Brewer saw the man's face and decides that he would take matters into his own hands. The terrorist's trail leads to Columbia where Gordon ends up protecting a woman and a child from a couple of thugs. Complicating things is the fact that the woman he helped was the wife of the terrorist that Gordon is after. This movie was originally intended to be released in early October. In light of September 11th, the studio decided that the film was too closely related to current events. As Arnold ages, his action scenes seem to be less frequent but still exciting. Some of the digital effects in this film are quite obvious... like when Arnold goes over a waterfall. Even though this was your basic formula picture... it did seem quite appropriate that the hero was a firefighter.

BOTTOMLINE: Not a bad Arnold movie, not a great Arnold movie... just an average Arnold movie.


BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF
(R) - February 1

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: An indestructible beast terrorizes the French countryside.

REVIEW: In the mid 18th century, a French province suffers numerous attacks by a beast that eludes capture. Eventually, the King of France sends Grégoire de Fronsac, a man of science, who is accompanied by his indian friend, Mani (Mark Dacascos - from TV's "The Crow") to investigate. The townspeople greet Grégoire and Mani with a great deal of skepticism. A young girl manages to escape the beasts attack and describes a mysterious man who seemed to be controlling the creature. Although this film is based on the true story of the Beast of Gevaudan, it quickly leaves the facts behind to craft an interesting tale that links a secret society with the downfall of the French monarchy. The fight and action scenes in this film are incredible as well as the unique editing style that would speed up and slow down the film for dramatic effect. The creature effects are well done... but not perfect. I highly recommend this french film but, if you're opposed to reading subtitles, you may want to wait for the English-dubbed DVD.

BOTTOMLINE: A French, action, kung fu, horror movie with a style uniquely its own.


BLACK HAWK DOWN
(R) - January 18

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Intense and realistic view of actual U.S. military operation in Somalia.

REVIEW: Director Ridley Scott brings the events of October 3rd, 1993 to the screen in both stylistic and horrific detail. The nation of Somalia was in the middle of a civil war with innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Disease and starvation had already claimed 300,000 lives by the time the UN and United States become involved. Eventually, American forces are dropped into Mogadishu to capture Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid's lieutenants. Things quickly go wrong. The first 25 minutes of this film are spent setting up the situation and briefly introducing the main characters. From that point on, the action and violence are relentless. Many of the scenes are chaotic and disjointed... presumably what war is really like. Even though this movie is almost two and a half hours long, little time was spent on actual character development. The film's title is in reference to the 2 Black Hawk helicopters which were shot down during the operation. Notable actors are, Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore and Sam Shepard. If you like realistic war films you will probably love this movie... if not, you may want to pass on this very true-to-life depiction of war.

BOTTOMLINE: A gripping war drama that leaves you exhausted.


IMPOSTOR
(PG-13) - January 4

        

    PLOT IN A NUTSHELL: Respected scientist is accused of being an alien assassin.

REVIEW: In the year 2097, humans are at war with the Alpha Centauri who seek to take over Earth. Scientist Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) helped in developing a bomb of devastating power that may finally turn the war in Earth's favor. Government agent Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio) arrests Spencer Olham and accuses him of being an Alpha Centauri replicant. According to intercepted transmissions, he was sent here to kill the Chancellor by means of a sophisticated bomb in his chest. Spencer manages to escape and attempts to prove his innocence by obtaining medical scans that his wife Maya Olham (Madeline Stowe) had made at the hospital. This movie is based on a 1953 short sci-fi story written by Philip K. Dick, better known for inspiring the movies Blade Runner and Total Recall. Originally intended to be a 30 minute portion of an anthology film, Impostor was reworked into a feature length movie. Half an hour of Impostor would have been much easier to endure considering it plays like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone. You know what I mean... there is a twist ending but you already figured out the twist in the first ten minutes of the show. The special effects, sets, etc., while not outstanding, were far better than the rest of this sci-fi stinker.

BOTTOMLINE: A very predictable film with an unsatisfying conclusion.