The Lizzie McGuire Movie - The truth is that I'm actually a 14 year old girl. There's the Justin Timberlake CD I bought, or the stuffed bears that I own. Or, the fact that I rented and watched this movie. I'm just a big girl. Ostensibly, I put it on to impress my boyfriend with the fun Roman scenery. However, we all know it's because I wanted to fantasize that I was Hilary Duff having all her adventures. Too bad that her trip to Rome seems so unlikely. I guess movies like this serve to teach us girls that even if you're as beautiful and talented as Hilary, with supportive parents and lots of good friends, your life can still suck because everything doesn't work out the way you wanted. **½ (out of 5)

White Oleander - Michelle Pfeiffer in an Oscar-wimpy portrayal of a psycho mother who turns her daughter goth. Based on a dull Oprah book by Janet Fitch, I found this movie to be pointless rather than depressing. It feels like the life story of someone who didn't amount to much more than their childhood hurts and fears. Minor characters drift in and out of her life, like the wasted cameos of Noah Wyle and René Zellweger, because those characters aren't important enough to be fleshed out because they only matter for how they reflect on Janet. Oh Ms. Fitch, get over your mother and get over yourself. **½ (out of 5)

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd - This movie didn't need to be made. I didn't like the first movie much, so to say that this movie sometimes surpassed the original is faint praise. There was a brief spark of fun watching such a good imitation of Jim Carrey, but then it just reminded me that I was watching a pale copy of a mediocre thing. The entire principal Eugene Levy plot-thing is awful, which is unfortunate since that's the entire plot. Such as it is. Still, there are some surprisingly good lines, such as, "Chicks are for fags." No, wait a minute... that line's pretty dumb, too. **½ (out of 5)

The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison - This movie reminded me how good documentaries can be. Of course, the director's prejudices show through, and the idea of what is "the truth" can always be argued. However, this movie felt like cinema verité; little slices from a life that I hope I never lead. It's funny how the movie panders to the warden, Burl Cains, but still leaves him looking like an idiot. The truth hurts. **½ (out of 5)

Varsity Blues - I needed to see a good football movie. I'd been burned out by the terrible ones in the last few years: "The Program" and even "The Waterboy". Instead, this movie was a simple high school drama, full of sex, drinking, and a little sports. Jon Voight was the evil football coach, and of course James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) was a lot of fun to watch. **½ (out of 5)

Affliction - Maybe I wasn't in the mood for a "Prince of Tides"-style male docudrama. And I usually like "dick-fiction"... for example, the terse sentences of Ernest Hemingway where a man's past and future can be summed up by the way he rides a horse. Ah, westerns. However, in this case, the movie is just too slow and too minimal to enjoy watching. Sure, James Coburn and Nick Nolte do a great job as violent, alcoholic men. The ending has a twist, but I've always hated "Rashomon"-like movies where they show you one scene and then contradict themselves later by showing how things *really* happened. If the audience comes along for the ride, they shouldn't be taken for one. Oddly, I like Rashomon, though... **½ (out of 5)

A Midsummer Night's Dream - When people think of Shakespeare, the word "frothy" doesn't often come to mind. However, the guy wrote more than a few insubstantial plays. Hollywood has turned this play into something even less... a mud-wrestling, sex-comedy star vehicle. Although Stanley Tucci makes a great Puck, and Rupert Everett looks great without a shirt on, I never want to see Calista Flockhart again try to do "Ally McShakespeare". **½ (out of 5)

Bent - Gay culture has been blamed for a lot of stupid things: white parties on the "circuit", ripped abs, drug use, alcoholism, materialism, and unsafe sex, to name a few. Worse, we have very few classics to show off. Maybe James Baldwin or Virginia Woolf... people that claim Walk Whitman or Leonardo Di Vinci are part of gay culture are stretching it, in my opinion. This movie is not quite the classic I'm hoping for someday, but it is quite good. It probably works better as a stage play, since the locations are so spare and intimate. It would be a good movie to lay at the Weisenthal Center... mostly to prove that inhumanity reaches across all boundaries. A depressing, relentless movie, but I'm glad I saw it. **½ (out of 5)

Dick - You know a movie is in trouble when you notice the costumes and sets a lot more than the plot or acting. But what setting it is! They really nailed the 70's... though I was often picky, noticing that some of the clothes and hair were from years later. Anyway, the story is cute, and great look back on a real scandal (compared to Clinton's recent embarrassment). Unfortunately, the jokes aren't funny at all, even though many of the bit players (actors from Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live) mug and pose as if to wring the last drop of humor from the script. It's just not funny. Cute in a slightly annoying way, but not funny. **½ (out of 5)

Fishing With John - Everything is wrong with this movie. It has a bad premise (a fishing show with the 90's favorite avant-guard hipsters), bad acting, bad shots on shiny videotape, bad music, and a pretentious attitude. None of the guests look like they are having any fun, and none John Lurie ideas seem to work. He's playing around with cinema verite (bending the "truth", wacky voiceovers, a music concrete soundtrack) but this kind of thing has been done many times before. What saves this DVD is the director's commentary, where John talks about the filming and what *really* happened. ** (out of 5) for the movie, **½ (out of 5) for the commentary.

Central Station - Fernanda Montenegro was upset that she didn't didn't win the Best Actress Oscar last year. She did a good job with this film, but it isn't really enough. It's a standard "road trip" plot, where the characters travel from one city to another on a quest. Ok, granted it's a great view of the seedy side of Brazil, and there's some good acting. But like many foreign films, they mistake character development for action. There's really no point to this movie, and it doesn't show us anything different. **½ (out of 5)

Wild Wild West - There is no reason that I should have liked this movie... I hated the TV show, and there are lots of things wrong here. However, it had great costumes, expensive sets, state-of-the-art computer graphics, and a fun manic energy. Plus, Kevin Kline and Will Smith are simply great here. The only sour notes are Kenneth Branaugh's terrible southern accent and Selma Hayek's complete lack of appeal. However, I'm a sucker for period settings, even if it is a silly over-budgeted comedy. **** (out of 5)

Dudley Do-Right - Another silly Brendan Frasier comedy. Why does he keep making these things? And who is paying him? Actually, this movie fares better than "George of the Jungle", because it has a better plot, and better actors. Credit goes to Eric Idle, though I'm not sure if Sarah Jessica Parker actually contributes much. Anyway, it's a kid's movie that kids might actually like... compared to 90% of everything else put out lately. I can't really recommend it, however. **½ (out of 5)

Anna and the King - This is an extremely beautiful movie, and I'm glad I saw it in a movie theater on a big screen. The setting is absolutely wonderful, and Chow Yun Fat makes a very good King of Siam... which had me worried since Yul Brenner is the prototype for the role (unlike Lou Diamond Phillips who has been touring "The King and I" lately). However, most of the time, I wished I was watching musical version. This movie may be more culturally aware and not as bigoted as that movie, especially since they wisely removed the entire "Little House of Uncle Thomas" sequence (Run Eliza! Run from Simon!) which treated Indians as children (in my opinion). However, that movie was a lot more fun than this one, and a long political battle with fake Burmese soldiers doesn't help the pace much either. **½ (out of 5)

The Thomas Crown Affair - This is a nice movie to look at. Ok, it's no "Anna and the King", but Rene Russo looks nice, Pierce Brosnan looks great and the sets are very impressive, even though most of the action takes place inside of expensive Manhattan buildings. There's several pointless interludes with Faye Dunaway as his psychiatrist, and entirely half the movie could have been cut, but it's a fun caper movie. Unfortunately, the love story subplot is interminable, and it takes forever for the two to fall in love. When they finally do (and you know they will), it feels fake and uncomfortable, as if we've just watched a painful game of sexual politics. By the end, I didn't really care who got the girl or the stolen painting. **½ (out of 5)

10 Things I Hate About You - I liked this movie more than American Pie, though it wasn't really any better. I like Joseph-Gordon Levitt, who is great in "Third Rock From the Sun", and Heath Lodger and Julia Styles are good as the tempestuous couple.. Unlike American Pie, which had cute set-up comedy scenes, this one has some nice acting, and a variation on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew". The old plots are the best, and the give-and-take mixed-up love affair of the bard is really the only thing this movie has going for it. Unfortunately, the dialogue uses the phrase "heinous bitch" twice and "vile" three times, and none of the times are funny. Hey guys, get a thesaurus! **½ (out of 5)

The General's Daughter - I should have disliked this movie as much as I did "8mm". It has the same perverse fascination with perversion, the same titillating MTV style editing of violence against women. They tempt the viewer with a story of kinky S&M edge play, and pretend to be repulsed while continuing to exploit naked, dead bodies. They are shocked, I tell you, shocked! However, I liked John Travolta more in this movie than I have in any other movie he's been in lately. There were enough little touches in this movie to keep me interested. It's funny that it's totally unrealistic, with more plot holes than a new graveyard. Travolta tells jokes to the General right after he finds out about the murder of his daughter. Travolta, as an "Army Special Investigator" is constantly threatened by people who are below him. There's tons of sexual innuendo among high-ranking Army officers, and the "PsyOps" division is full of bizarre potions, syringes, and medical experimentation performed on soldiers. At least I know why the Army refused to cooperate with this movie... it's pretty rancid. But fun, in a sick way, just the way Hollywood likes it. **½ (out of 5)

Bringing Out the Dead - Martin Scorsese known as a genius, a reputation justly deserved after "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver". However, that's a lot to live up to, and I don't think this movie lived up to expectations. Scorsese tries to give the movie a manic feel, but the toughest thing he can think of is a fast-speed montage featuring "Janie Jones" by the Clash. Not that I could argue with the Master, but the mood seems uneven, and the colored lights just seem to wash everything out on the screen (except for some great oversaturated white shirts.) Of course Nicolas Cage is great here, in full method fury, and Ving Rhames and John Goodman are also great as his erstwhile partners. However, my favorite is Tom Sizemore as the borderline partner... as great match for Cage's brooding insanity. The only bad actor is Patricia Arquette. I think it's the way her role is written, but every time she and Nick have a scene together, the movie bogs down. And there are a lot of talky scenes where Scorsese tries to set up some kind of love interest. It doesn't quite work, and it feels like the slow bits in "Rocky" when you wished Stallone would stop talking and start boxing. **½ (out of 5)

The World Is Not Enough - Bond movie are definitely getting better... better special effects, stunts, acting, dialogue, and cinematography. However, I like them less and less. Pierce Brosnon makes a great Bond (second-best after Sean Connery in my opinion), and there is actually an interesting plot. There are some campy things (helicopters with sawblades attached, a blonde bombshell who is a nuclear physicist, Bond looking great in a tuxedo while diving underwater in a boat/car/submarine thing). However, I think I liked the ultra-camp of Moonraker (remember "Jaws") or Bond getting tied to a laser. I don't think you could repeat that level of camp today (Austin Powers has that franchise), so the movie does the best it can. However, their Best Is Not Enough. **½ (out of 5)

Girl, Interrupted - I wanted to dislike this movie... it just reeks of the pseudo-introspective autobiography style that became popular in the eighties. Why do people think events are interesting just because it happened to them? The central premise of this movie, "is she crazy or isn't she" cannot sustain even five minutes of the plot. However, I liked some of the scenes here, especially the deleted scenes that are part of the DVD. I think the director cut out the wrong 50% of the movie. In retrospect, certain references in the final version (Susanna's "boneless" hand, the movie's title) don't make sense because those important scenes were removed. I don't know why Angelina Jolie was nominated for her role here. I guess it proves that the Oscar nomination committee likes it if you pretend to be insane or retarded. Winona Ryder floats through all of her scenes, but I like her anyway. I just didn't appreciate the endless subplots. In spite of everything, there are a few unsentimental moments, and some good writing. Maybe some good can come of self-centered Gen X'ers. **½ (out of 5)

Topsy Turvy - I really looked forward to this movie. It was written and directed by Mike Leigh, who also did "Secrets & Lies" and "Naked", not favorites of mine, but very interesting. I don't know why a "non-comedy" director would want to film a movie about the making of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado", but I guess he wanted to do it. As expected, the result is extremely dry... as if he really wanted to make a documentary and was depressed that all the principles are already dead. If they weren't this movie would have bored them to death anyway. There are no jokes, no interesting anecdotes, and no real plot except "Let's put on a show"! The actors are great, especially Jim Broadbent (whom I liked in "Brazil"). However, as Dorothy Parker said, "There is no *there* there". By the end of the extremely long 2+ hour film, I felt as if I'd watched "The Mikado" twice. Once as a static, mediocre play, and the other time in slow motion backwards. Topsy-turvy style, you might say. **½ (out of 5)

Scream 3 - I like the Scream series, because it's self-referential. This one talks about how the final movie of a trilogy is supposed to break all the rules and talk about the history of the characters. However, they also forgot that the last movie usually sucks, too. Look at "The Godfather III" or "Return of the Jedi", two sad conclusions to great beginnings. And so this movie gets bogged down with too much exposition and dialogue. I couldn't remember who was who (not helped by the fact that there's two sets of *everybody*... the originals and some dopey cut-rate actors portraying them), and half-way through I didn't care. Maybe I should go back and watch the first two movies again. But if I do, you know that I'll stop before I see the third again. **½ (out of 5)

But I'm a Cheerleader - As I've said, I'm a sucker for any gay-related movie that comes out, especially comedies. But this one goes for a too-light touch when talking about ex-gay "reparative" therapies. I loved the 1193 documentary "One Nation Under God" which slowly told the story of "Exodus International", and how the two guys that founded it are now lovers and happily gay. Instead, this movie is a trifle... they use an unrealistic color scheme and silly characters. Since the two gay men in the movie (one is Richard Moll who was "Bull" on Night Court!) are nasty and annoying, I was Hoping they might try to show both sides of the argument, like "Citizen Ruth". No such luck... it was just another unfunny joke that went nowhere. So... I'm hoping these ridiculous "ministries" go away soon, but this definitely isn't the sarcastic killing blow. **½ (out of 5)

Mission: Impossible II - They killed John Woo! Those bastards! Remember when Woo used to make good movies? That was before "Broken Arrow" and "Hard Target". I think the problem is that Woo is amazing at making Hong Kong movies that try to be American, but he's not so good at actually making Hollywood blockbusters. I know that throughout his career, he wanted to film our "great" action stars like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and (erm) Van Damme. Now that he's got his chance, he churns out awful action-less pieces of dreck like this movie. The stunts aren't even interesting. I think it's funny that the current hits of theaters are martial arts movies made in the US by people who were once inspired by Woo's talent (like "The Matrix"). Even the predictable slow-motion gunfight scenes (with flying doves) seems stale and uneventful. Maybe we're jaded, but I like to think we've left killer viruses, beautiful jewel thieves, and rubber masks as plot devices far, far behind. **½ (out of 5)

The Replacements - I liked this better than "Any Given Sunday", though it's really the exact same movie as that one, but with a slightly different spin. The Oliver Stone version got bogged down with details, like what the name of the team (or the football stadium) should resemble, or who the "good guys" are facing in the playoffs. However, "The Replacement" knows what we want: big hits, sexy cheerleaders, and some jokes. Some of the humor is a bit too stupid... the Japanese sumo wrestler or convict drafted to be a scab is like something out of "The Bad News Bears Breaking Picket Lines". At least this wasn't a ripoff of Paul Westerberg's old band. On second thought, that might have been a better movie. **½ (out of 5)

Meet the Parents - I don't think I've ever truly enjoyed a movie with Robert DeNiro in it. Let me check ""... yep, mm-hmm, well, there's the excellent "Brazil", but I don't attribute that movie's success to DeNiro. Elsewhere, he's a scowling, unfunny wreck. He's not very good at action, and his attempts at conveying any internal mental state are very overrated. In the same way, I think people are overrating today's teen sex comedies. Come on, "Road Trip" wasn't funny at all, and this movie is no "Something About Mary". I think "Clueless" was the first teen sex comedy that I didn't "get". This movie is painful to watch... sure Stiller makes a fool of himself this mild social farce, he's done that schtick since "Flirting With Disaster". He does the neurotic jewish thing really well (and c'mon... is that really a funny stereotype?), but it doesn't mean it's fun to go along for the ride. I enjoy watching some actors like Steve Martin or Woody Allen in uncomfortable situation. In this movie, Stiller just makes me wish the movie would end. However, there's at least two or three funny jokes, so caveat emptor. **½ (out of 5)

Antitrust - I have to go to every computer-themed movie that comes out... I even saw "The Net" twice. I'm just waiting for the first movie to realize that you don't need to capture the "Magic CD-ROM" that has all the secrets on it. I mean, why could they just rip another one? This movie has some fun parts, but any techie could find plot holes (video cameras in every geek household to capture keystrokes... why not just hack the OS?). Tim Robbins is fun as the Bill Gates surrogate (especially the scenes of him munching on Pringles), but why pull your punches? This movie would have been more fun if it would have named names. However, they get bonus points for good use of the GNOME desktop and Linux in action. I wonder when Tux the penguin will get his own feature film?. **½ (out of 5)

Dungeons and Dragons - Hmm, what? Again, I was doing other stuff while this movie was playing on the DVD. It's that kind of a movie. There was a few minutes where I was interested, but then it all fell apart in some bad CGI and even worse storyline. My favorite type of sci-fi/fantasy is when the story starts out with a simple character, and the audience gets to learn about the world as the protagonist does. For example, Star Wars is a classic fable of small-town kid goes to the big city. This movie, on the other, assumes we know and understand the odd pseudo-Middle-Earth world of Dungeons & Dragons. I could have done without the funny black actor who screamed such things like "I Gotta Get Paid" or "I Wanna Hit It Wit Her!" I know they're not going for an accurate depiction of any actual time period, but it's just silly. Combined with the rock music in "A Knight's Tale", I'm worried about the future of SCA-oriented film. I would have had more fun actually playing the game than watching this movie. Oh no! Roll a 12d+4 to avoid creating a bomb! Too bad, the saving roll failed! **½ (out of 5)


Beyond the Mat - Here's a documentary about a subject that is neither newsworthy nor particularly interesting. However, I like wresting, so go with me here. There's a case to be made for the epic struggle that is wrestling: good vs. evil, bad vs. good. It's also incredibly homoerotic - an angle definitely *not* covered here. However, this movie does a pretty good job of rehashing the pain and bizarre circus act that is "professional sport", and it shows the odd lengths people will go to to be part of the show. Hell, I'd love to be a professional wrestler myself. This movie makes it look like a lot of fun, even when it's showing the heartbreak and dark side of that form of entertainment. Then again, this is nothing groundbreaking, or anything that hasn't been shown before. And that's sad, because I think there's a lot more to it that this simplified fan-boy hagiography. **½ (out of 5)

Gone in 60 Seconds - It's stylish, I'll have to grant it that. It's directed by Dominic Sena, who also helmed "Swordfish" and "Kalifornia". So if the guy is another casualty of style over substance, you'll have to forgive him. I think the larger problem is that the movie is a retread, and the premise silly. Sena plays it straight, and instead of a "Charlie's Angles" send-up this film tries to be fast and hard. It works, to some extent, although there are way to many minor characters that we don't care about. They steal a *lot* of cars, and after a while, even that becomes boring. There's only one car chase... what's up with that? I was hoping for a "Blues Brothers" vehicle smash-up. We never feel like Johnny Law is breathing down Nicolas Cage's back, and the plot twists are incredibly silly (i.e. the bad guy complains when one car is fifteen minutes late, but not that any of them are smashed up of traceable). I hope this doesn't mean that we'll have a "Rockford Files" movie soon starring Mel Gibson, but who am I to say? **½ (out of 5)

The Road to El Dorado - Are USA animators out of ideas? We've done ancient Japan (Mulan), underwater (The Little Mermaid), Africa (Lion King), and now this. Maybe we're running out of old tales and stories to ruin. I can foresee setting a cartoon in the Pacific Northwest or Ireland, just to get those funky twisted beasties and rich legends to use. However, that's the only thing this movie really has going for it. The interaction of Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh is pretty stiff and "unfun". And don't get me started on the flat love story featuring the whining mumble of Rosie Perez. I'm sure Hispanic people deserve a better treatment than this movie, and I'm glad it didn't do much for Dreamwork's budget. Sure, all of these movies are drawn by underpaid Asian artists... why don't we farm out the *plots* to them too? **½ (out of 5)

The Claim - Sometimes I fall asleep when watching boring dull movies. This movie had me drowsy, too, but it was just that the amazing scenery was so amazing. The whole movie had a slow pace, and the worst I could say about it is that it felt like a PBS Masterpiece Theater three-parter... something that is "good for you" instead of fun to watch. I bet they could show this in American History classes in high school. But it's also a very good love story - the sophisticated kind that a some women like, when the heroines aren't so pure, and they make decisions that are not quite correct. There's a lot of quiet desperation here. Mike couldn't stop looking at the young bearded protagonist, Wes Bentley (the kid in American Beauty). I had mixed feeling about the other male lead, Peter Mullan. I think I was mislead that he was going to be the "bad town sheriff with too much power". However, this movie has a lot more depth than that. If anything, his relationship with Sarah Polley feels like Horace Tabor and Baby Doe, with the same tragic consequences. There's lot of other women here, like Milla Jovovich and Nastassja Kinsky, but they look like they've had a hard mining life. Instead, I go back to that scenery and the good-looking miner boys (in long johns, no less!). The plot, acting, music, and cinematography are all bland, and the mountains can't quite make up for it, but it shure is purty. **½ (out of 5)

The Tailor of Panama - It's great to see Pierce Brosnan as a bad guy. It's even more fun to hear him say, "Look at those titties... yum yum," with a straight face. This is a fun movie, and even more fun for those people who enjoy John Le Carré novels. Personally, I've tried to read similar spy novels several times, but I can't get over the ridiculous macho posturing. "Max Gunlove.... private investigator, secret agent, and the country's top high diving champion" et. al. et. al. The geopolitical backdrop of this movie is silly, though you have to give it credit for setting the action in Panama *after* Noriega's regime. And I thought nothing interesting was going on there, much less espionage and intrigue. Geoffrey Rush seems uncomfortable here, and Jamie Lee Curtis's role here feels like the director didn't know she was a talented actress and gave her the usual "dutiful wife" part. It's a spy movie, and a pretty intelligent one at that, and the plot taken some notice to follow and understand. But I just can't get over some silly the whole thing is... the way some people just can't into Star Trek movies, I guess. Not for everyone. **½ (out of 5)

A Knight's Tale - I guess my first warning should have been when the camera pans down during the intro over a beautiful jousting field, and the characters are all in nice costumes... and then they start pounding out "We will... we will... ROCK YOU!". Yeah, I bet Brian May's guitar would fit right in with the rest of Merry Olde Englande. So this is history, Hollywood-style, and at least they've finally given up any pretension of being accurate. I can see the director's idea to *convey* the action and romance of the plot by using modern music, but why did it have to be such stale 70's hits? "Lowrider" indeed. The worst was when a respectable renaissance dance becomes "The Hustle". But the action is fun, and the jousting (while incredibly repetitive, "Ride Heath Ledger, Ride!") was kind of fun to watch. I gotta say that I loved "The Full Monty"'s Mark Addy, even enough to forgive the addition of a fictitious Geoffrey Chaucer (!) as a WWF-styled herald (!!). I'm amazed that with those sets and the soundtrack budget, they could have made a movie that had suspense, intrigue, or any kind of forethought. Oh yeah, he "wins" in the end, right Rocky? **½ (out of 5)

15 Minutes - Everything comes down to timing. This is really a slight action movie... but after a season of wholly unentertaining thrillers ("Pearl Harbor"), I was in the mood for a little bit of fluff. And this movie throws it all in: there's firemen, policemen, and lawyers here. All we need are doctors, and we'd complete the trifecta (no, instead I guess we'd have the weepy prime-time series "Third Watch"). I instantly fell in love with bad guy Oleg Taktarov, with his *huge* build and striking blue eyes... I could have ignored Robert De Niro and Kelsey Grammer. Meanwhile, Ed Burns proves that he is the reincarnation of Andrew McCarthy, and that's not a good thing. The main plot of this movie - that American's concentrate too much on fame and famous killers, is entirely forgettable here. It feels like the director *wanted* to make a slice of cinema verite, or at least a rip-off of Blair Witch Project shaky camera work. However, at the pivotal scene, where the killer's home movie is shown on national tv, the director cuts to a stupid montage of people reacting to the footage, instead of showing it to the audience. I wish I *wouldn't* have watched this movie, when the director thinks it's much more interesting if I would have *watched* someone watch it instead. **½ (out of 5)

Proof of Life - This movie had the same problem that "The Wedding Planner" did. How do you get the happy couple to split up so that the chick can fall in love with the new guy? Since the supposed "romance" is supposed to occur during an incredibly stressful time for the Meg Ryan (her husband, the sad-eyed David Morse) the whole emotional tone of the movie doesn't work. Then again, I think anybody could fall in love with Russell Crowe. Anytime, anyplace. This is another movie that tries to be an action film for the guys in the audience, with enough love story for their girlfriends. Well, there are some good action action scenes here, and I've always been partial to prisoner-of-war movies. However, the whole suspense thing doesn't work, since there isn't the usual high-stakes handoff scene where "the deal goes bad". Instead, stuff happens in the plot, and then more stuff happens, and there's a happy ending that tries to be bittersweet but fails. Are you surprised? Nah, there's nothing here that's surprising. Unlike Harrison Ford's "Ransom", where Ford's *kid* was kidnapped, we never really feel sorry for anybody involved. Ryan is definitely out of her element here... she is incapable of playing drama. She tries to make do with an open-mouthed gape that she does, or a confused blonde-hair-flick, but those moves have been patented in too too many romantic comedies. It's time for her to be kidnapped, tied up, and taken far away from where any movies are made. **½ (out of 5)

Evolution - It's another can't miss that does. But I'm a little more generous than some reviewers. For example, seeing Ivan Reitman's name as the director, most people wrote this off as a Ghostbusters rip-off. They have a point: David Duchovny falls into the stupid-and-charming Bill Murray role, and Orlando Jones is the cold and intelligent Harold Ramis (but also has the "Funny Black Man" Ernie Hudson touch). It's a strange miscasting for all involved. Duchovny is better as a cold spook than a lovable comedic hero, and Julianne Moore is the last person you'd want to snuggle with. At the same time, there's some fun Ghostbusters touches here. Moore is clumsy for no apparent reason, and Seann William Scott is a dull-witted fireman wanna-be that brings in the cavalry in a fitting ending. It's all rolls into place, and it works when it shouldn't. At least, it worked for me. I could see how the whole package could fall apart for most people, and face it... this one isn't a classic. Reitman has directed Junior, Father's Day, and Ghostbusters II, so I think his initial success with Stripes was a fluke. The editing here is really, really bad, as characters have one scene before disappearing, and entire set pieces (a shootout with a dinosaur in a shopping mall, or Jones having an alien enter his body) are written, filmed, and dropped into the movie at random. Reitman doesn't deserve to be a director anymore than I deserve to fly jet airplanes, and it's embarrassing that this movie didn't have an easier time to make people laugh. After all, it has cute and funny aliens, and next to talking animated animals, that's a sure-fire secret for success. I hope Reitman doesn't get a second chance, but the tragedy is that after he wrecked this idea, nobody gets to make another movie like it (at least not for a while until "Men In Black 2" comes out in the summer of 2002). **½ (out of 5)

Nurse Betty - This movie reminded me of "White Men Can't Jump", which was advertised as a cute romantic comedy, but was actually a bleak drama that had no laughs in it at all. This movie is a lot like that; after the spousal abuse and the bloody killing in first fifteen minutes, the rest of the movie isn't so much fun to watch. A lot of the blame rests on the casting of the Renée Zellweger, who is almost too cute for her own good. She is pert and perky, and it's really sad to watch her walking around in a psychotic haze. It was more fun watching Jim Carrey in "The Cable Guy" or even JoBeth Williams in the underrated Tom Conti comedy "American Dreamer". Those two characters were insane, but had a fun self-deluded pep to them. Renée is just sad and pathetic here, and I kept waiting for her to hurt somebody or hurt herself. Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock don't help things. They both do some great acting here, but none of it is comedy. By stacking the deck with so many underhanded killers and a helpless leading heroine, this movie was painful to watch. Nurse! I need a painkiller! **½ (out of 5)

Zoolander - A lot of people told me this was funny. I hate it when I'm completely out of step with the rest of the world. Maybe this is funny because most teenagers don't know anything about fashion, so the only "material" that could reach the audience is the revelation that the fashion industry is made up of a lot of fags. I dunno... but besides runway walking, vacant stares, and bad clothing and music, there weren't a lot of jokes. I guess that's ok, because the movie *does* look fabulous, with great sets and fun cameos. Owen Wilson is actually quite good, and Will Ferrell proves that *he* thinks he's funny. Christ, the guy doesn't even deign to laugh at his *own* jokes in the outtakes. I think I'm a little sick of the way Ben Stiller adds his unfunny dad in all of his films. There's a lot here that's simply wasted time and space. I think Altman's "Ready To Wear" failed because it tried to do too much in one movie. This film, on the other hand, tries too little. But it still (kind of) works. So work it baby! Just don't let Stiller make any more movies like this. One is more than enough, and this ain't no "Austin Powers" franchise. **½ (out of 5)

Me Myself I - This movie completely disappeared from theater screens in about a week. And that's too bad, since it was a much different movie than Gweneth Paltrow's "Sliding Doors". Maybe prospective viewers became confused by Jim Carey's "Me, Myself, and Irene". However, note that I didn't say that this is a *better* movie than either of those. I was expecting the same British charm that made "Four Weddings and a Funeral" such a hit. Or, at least, the emotional connection of Nicholas Cage's "The Family Man". But while that film concentrated on the relationship between Cage and his kids, "Me, Myself, and I" is all about being a modern English woman. That view might be interesting to "Bridget Jones" devotees, it makes for a dull self-centered movie. ** 1/2 (out of 5)

Center Stage - Confession: I loved "The Kids From Fame". I love the movie, and I loved the TV show. In retrospect, neither was very good. However, the idea of a group of good-looking artists hanging out together has all the earmarks for a soap opera. And the men and women here are very pretty. Almost *too* pretty, since my boyfriend and I had a hard time telling them apart at times. An actual conversation we had during this movie, "Is that the blonde dating the guy?" "No, I think she's the *other* blonde... you know, who's dating the *other* guy.". They would change their hair and clothing so often that I forgot who was paired up. And since they changed their boyfriends just as rapidly, I lost track of the movie. There was a stupid plot, too (will our heroine get the lead in the Big Play?) but the main plot was really about who was paired up with who at any given moment, and I needed a scorecard. **½ (out of 5)

Gosford Park - Damn this movie was slow. I had high hopes, coming off all those Oscar nominations. And I really want to like Robert Altman. He's an intelligent director, and I want to admire that, However, excepting "The Player" and "Vincent & Theo" perhaps, I just don't like his films. It's particularly disgraceful to realize how much talent he's squandered: he got Lily Tomlin and Tom Waits to be in the same movie! Then there's such embarrassments as "Dr. T and the Women" that make me wonder if the guy really is a hack. He sure doesn't know how to pace this movie. The plot movie so slow, that you could forget it centers around a murder mystery. There's a promising idea about showing two classes of English society by themselves and interacting, but just because you feature rich people and their servants doesn't make you insightful or deep. Heck, "Upstairs, Downstairs" was more interesting than this. Even on fast-forward, this is an extremely sluggish mumbling mess. **½ (out of 5)

Shallow Hal - The start of this movie seems like the director has been listening to everyone: just put Jack Black in front of a camera and let him go crazy and dance. Whoops. I guess I spoke out of turn. It looks like that's not enough to make a movie, particularly a sweet romantic comedy. Black has on his best romantic comedy demeanor - which means that he's not cross-eyed with a scraggly soul patch. In fact, he look a lot like a cross between Jim Belushi and Peter Deluise. Now note, that's not an instantly attractive combination for a romantic lead. The plot is uneven, and by that, I mean that the Farrely Brothers (go, I'm getting tired of typing that name) create some really mean-spirited jokes, and then expect the audience to like or care about what happens next. It didn't work in "Outside Providence" (Christ, it *really* didn't work there), it didn't work in "Me, Myself, and Irene", and it doesn't work here. Just when I thought the movie was a gross-out throwaway, the Bros seem to get wrapped up in their own plot, wringing out details where the audience seems the girls as fat one second and skinny the next. Add in some schmaltz with burned children (what? No "crispy critters" jokes? You guys really are slipping...) and this movie is either a single unlikable mess, or two separate movies that don't taste great together. **½ (out of 5)

A Guy Thing - I have a soft spot for Jason Lee. It's not just that he's *adorable* or the Cinderella story of turning a skateboarding "career" into lead acting roles, or the fact that he often stars in gutsy creative movies. It's just that he's such a bland everyman. If it wasn't for the fact that the guy can skate like Tony Hawk, I'd say that he was Ben Stiller. Unfortunately, Lee isn't very funny. And in this romantic "blah-medy" there isn't enough plot to coast for polyurethane wheels on. I'm sure there's a "Gleaming the Cube" film out there for Lee, but until then, I'm glad he's working. It gives me hope that I too can become a major motion picture star. Why not, if this is what passes for talent? **½ (out of 5)

The Majestic - I don't want to kick a man when he's down... ok, I'm wrong about that. I love to kick a man when he's down, particularly when it's a smarmy has-been like Jim Carrey. Alright already, you know how to act. You've proven that you're an *actor*. However, you haven't proven that you're a *good* actor, or that you are interesting when you do it. Along with Robin Williams, you've prove a point... that you suck now. This movie stinks from the get-go, a long pointless opening scene where Carrey sits listening to Jewish stereotypes talk. Now, THERE'S riveting filmmaking! The movie goes downhill from there - what tries to be a exercise in gentle romantic storytelling is wasted by the endless clichés: a poor black man with a dog named "Dog", an old white man with a dog, a cute girlfriend with the cutest case of the hiccups, a self-centered screenwriter who has lost his way, a bout of amnesia causing said screenwriter to languish in a small town, which, of course, saves his soul. This crap writes itself, or maybe it just ferments like a bad odor into the finished product. There's so much more (and ironically, less at the same time) like obligatory liberalism, weak critiques of McCarthyism, and Martin Landau right before he died. This movie is a good example, why in the "good old days", most movies reeked. **½ (out of 5)

Super Troopers - Ah, didn't like it. I can say that, can't I? I mean, it's *my* movie review page. I should just say, "no for me" and move on. But then you wouldn't get the benefit of my incisive wit, now would you? Let's just take it for granted that I have a "thing" for police officers. Hell, one lonely night when I was single, I drove around Boulder considering getting arrested, just for the sexual thrill of getting frisked. But then it probably would have been a *female* cop, and that would have been no fun. Like this movie... no fun, that is. There's no laughs here. And no really cute guys, except for the annoying Farva or the shaving-cream-covered Rabbit. It plays the highway cop angle incredibly straight. If this movie was made in the sixties, they would have shown the fun-loving Narcs of the FBI. Where there's so much humor to be derived from making fun of the poh-lice ("Smokey and the Bandit" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" make pearls from pig's ears) there's really none when you treat them like heroes. So they suck at their highway patrol jobs... great. They suck at being comedians, too. **½ (out of 5)

Focus - I hate "feel bad" movies, the opposite of "feel good" movies. For example, "Schindler's List", or Todd Solodnz otherwise-excellent movies. Some movies want to sink into an anti-morality lesson about how much life sucks for some people. This movie is a little heartcolding slice of Amerikka. William H. Macy does some great acting, as do Laura Dern and Meat Loaf (billed here as "Meat Loaf Aday"... the surname is *not* an improvement). However, the movie gets low marks for its clichéd plot, ham-handed speechifying, and horrible ending where William and Laura admit they are Jewish, when in fact they are not. It's an unintentional parody of the "We Are All Columbine" bumper stickers. By creating a cold war movie that cowardly avoids naming names, this movie makes me long for a preachy afterschool special or self-important biopic. **½ (out of 5)

Autofocus - Another depressing movie. I always have had a crush on Bob Crane. Some of my first sexual fantasies at the age of ten involved the TV show "Hogan's Heroes". I kid you not. So, perhaps it's appropriate that this movie outs Crane as being one of the biggest horndogs of the seventies. And in that era of free love (and bad sitcoms), that's saying a lot. I was looking forward to watching this movie, since I like both Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe, and I really believe that John Carpenter killed Bob Crane. However, I was disappointed at how dull and lifeless they made Bob seem. C'mon, the guy was the sexiest actor of the seventies! Like Freddie Prinze Sr. before him, most fans couldn't believe such a promising and charming talent was gone. But from watching this movie, you'd never guess that "Hogan's Heroes" was a better-than-average comedy, or that Crane was anything but a boring womanizing lout. **½ (out of 5)

Fantasia 2000 - I didn't know Uncle Walt intended for the original Fantasia to be a serial movie with different episodes that came out every year. In fact, I kind of disbelieve the story: it sounds like something that was bantered around once but dropped when someone realized the marketing disaster and commercial failure that a repetitive classical musical feature would cost. In any case, the story is repeated twice here, and by the second time, it started to sound like an apology for the fact that this movie seems skimpy. Micky's classic "Sorcerer's Apprentice" takes up a sizable chunk, and it felt out-of-place with bad animation and a cutesy plot. However, it still towards over the competition. Who thought sperm whales swimming in air would be a good match for Respigi? Was there a single designer would thought fractal butterflies could sustain anyone's attention for the opening of the movie? Does *anybody* like Hirschfield except for snotty New Yorkers and his daughter Nina? The final Stravinski number might be the best, but I bet this DVD stays unplayed in most Disney collections as a good intention, but not very much fun to see. **½ (out of 5)

Sweet Home Alabama - I waited and waited to see this movie. I don't know why I waited so long. The movie didn't work the way it should, as if the parts were broken. We don't really like who she's supposed to marry, we don't like the country guy, either. We don't like Reese Witherspoon. There ain't enough Southern comfort and the jokes fall flat. I didn't believe the ending, and I didn't care what happened. I don't know why the sum is so much smaller than any of the parts, but I do know there's a lot of great important fiction ready to be made into movies instead of this crap. **½ (out of 5)

Star Trek: Nemesis - Ooh the odd-and-even rule. You should know it if you're a Star Trek fan. Even numbers good ("#2 Wrath of Khan", "#4 The Voyage Home") odd numbers bad (the first one, "#3 The Search for Spock"). The rule holds for "new generation" movies too. "Generations" was fun for the alternate-world Picard backstory and the death of William Shatner. However, the second one "Insurrection" and this one are jsut regressing to a really low norm. I guess they're not going to churn out any more of these movies, and who can blame them? This movie passed general release without a whimper, and I know that no one is standing in line for a big-screen "Voyager" film. Ok, there might be *one* guy standing in line, but he's just used to standing in lines, after waiting for the Matrix and Lord of the Rings movies. **½ (out of 5)

Serving Sara - I study the genre of "romantic comedy" like a fourth-year grad student trying to fit things into a thesis. I'm amazed at how tricky they can be. They can't be too trite, too funny, or make us hate the couple that ends up together in the end. The plot for this one reads like a one-sentence pitch: Elizabeth Hurley hires Matthew Perry to give her husband (Bruce Campbell... a *really* odd choice) paper for divorce. It takes about an hour for the plot to unravel (or "ravel", I'm not sure which). But the interesting things, as any deconstructionist can tell you, are the details. Perry is acting very odd in this movie, because he's actually trying to *act*. For some reason, he adopted a pit-bull bounty hunter persona that doesn't work. The only thing I liked in this movie was Cedric the Entertainer, who takes a nothing (and I mean NOTHING) part and ends up being charming, cranky, and funny all at the same time. I'd watch Cedric again in anything he does. As for Perry... well I should really stay out of movie theaters featuring films made by the "Friends" cast. **½ (out of 5)

Novocaine - I have this aversion of false tension in movies. For example, I hate most sit-coms. "The Cosby Show" was the worst. They would spin a false problem, and then resolve it in thirty minutes (or less, with commercials). I call it the "Theo Buys a Sweater" tact. Imagine that Theo buys a $50 sweater with the intention of wearing it once and then returning it (was that a *real* episode? It seems so to me). The sweater gets ruined, Bill Cosby discovers the deception, and the whole studio audience lets out a huge "ooooh" sound. What's with the "ooooh" sound? There's studio clapping and canned laughter, but is there a blinking sign that says "ooooh"? In any case, this whole movie is a big Theo Sweater Episode. It was painful to see Steve Martin dig a big hole, and even more painful to see it resolved. Maybe I need a painkiller for future movies of this sort. It feels so good when you stop banging your head against the wall, doesn't it? **½ (out of 5)

The Sum of All Fears - I was looking forward to this movie. I'm not usually a Jack Ryan fan, and I couldn't care less who was playing him. I'm kind of confused about Jack's *age*, since this movie has him as a rookie CIA agent, and Ben Affleck is really really younger than any of the previous Ryans. I was hoping the movie would \ build up to averting a nuclear terrorist attack, but instead, Baltimore gets blown up within the first half hour. Everything after that is a chess game. While this might be interesting for the "Soldier of Fortune" rent-a-cop crowd to read on paper in a trashy novel, it doesn't play very well on screen. We don't get to see most of the interesting stuff (the aftermath of a nuclear bomb, battles on an aircraft carrier, etc) so it's all a lot of talking, and incredibly disappointing. **½ (out of 5)

Old School - I don't know who would enjoy this movie. College students who wish they were older? Old guys who want to go back to college. Now there's an interesting premise here (it even saved Rodney Dangerfield in "Back To School") but it's trying to outdo the recent re-release of Animal House by portraying a fraternity system that never existed. I'm sure this film feeds off the greeks who want to think their sad underage drinking parties are a lot more fun and "wild" than they really are, but the same losers who try to hide a pony keg from CU officials are the same ones that will crowd around their house's lone VCR to watch this rental. And anything that promotes the greek system, Will Ferrell's or Vince Waugh's or Luke Wilson's respective careers, or unfunny movies like this one should be stopped by some kind of caped superhero if possible. . **½ (out of 5)

National Security - Steve Zahn looks cute here in his little cop outfit. I have a weakness for guys in uniform, but you knew that. And Martin Lawrence again proves to be way funnier than he has any right to be. Man, Lawrence is a comic genius... I wonder if he's really nuts (like the time he got arrested for wandering dazed in traffic), or if the guys is the most brilliant comic genius since Richard Pryor. I'd like to see Lawrence in a movie with a little more substance, maybe even a drama. This film alternates between funny moments, and sections that are just really really wrong. The entire premise of Lawrence landing Zahn in jail for beating him up is incredibly unfunny. It's like there were two directors here: one who could create fantastic action sequences, and one who is out of touch with reality. Well, they are both Dennis Dugan, and considering other mostly-bad movies he's made ("Saving Silverman", "Happy Gilmore", and "Big Daddy") I think it's obvious that the guy either hates his audience, or has complete and utter contempt for the viewing public as a whole. **½ (out of 5)

The Hunted - I made the mistake of trying to watch this one while doing other things. The movie is *completely* action drive, with very little dialogue. In fact, nothing much really happens. it's the kind of movie you'd show an action movie junky. or maybe you'd show it to a dog - all the flashing lights and moving images might make them cock their heads sideways with their tongue sticking out. It's a shame, since both Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro do some great work here. And it's great to see "The Exorcist" director William Friedkin working again. However, there's not enough here. Some small scenes where Benicio and Tommy Lee both get to wig out don't add much to the plot. All they do is suggested that all Army-trained special forces soldiers are insane freaks who are "killing machines" constantly on the edge of losing it. Are there really military schools like that? I'm sure hired killers don't have a union, but I think they should sue for character defamation. **½ (out of 5)

In The Bedroom - I left the room for a minute, and when I got back, I asked my boyfriend, "Are they going all Virginia Woolf?" And he said, "That's exactly what I was going to say!" Not that my boyfriend and I don't have some kind of freaky psychic link, but it was an easy coincidence. What else can you say about a film where two talented actors talk about their dead son? And talk, and talk. There's so much*acting* going on that the actors themselves disappear, and not in a good way. This has "exercise" written all over it. While it's fun to see Sissy Spacek bitch-slap Marisa Tomei (I never liked her either), I can't see Tom Wilkinson anymore without thinking of that horrible cross-dressing movie "Normal" that he was in. When the actors eclipse the material, I tend to change the channel. **½ (out of 5)