Agent Cody Banks - My brother lent me this movie with the caveat, "Not as bad as you might think!" There's faint praise. And I guess it didn't do as bad as movie executives thought, since there's going to be a sequel. I like the idea of "Spy Kids" (done much better by Richard Rodriguez), but my main problem with this attempt is that Frankie Muniz is *already* a spy before the movie starts. There's no fun in haven't him discover his talents, or learn anything new, or overcome adversity. In a creepy plot element, Frankie's only flaw is that he can't pick up chicks. I know it's a common ailment among the straight junior-high-school set, but balancing an entire spy movie on that device is slightly nasty. Rent this one if your kids have seen everything else. ***½ (out of 5)

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life - Better than a sharp poke in the eye with a stick. Or even better than the video games, which got really creaky by the second one. And much better than Milla Jovovich's "Resident Evil" attempt. I just wish this movie didn't take itself so seriously. I mean, the first one had killer robots and lots of flips and jumps. This one plays like a morgue, with oh-so-scholarly jaunts to various international destinations. It hasn't worked lately for James Bond flicks, and it doesn't here. The whole plot centers around a Pandora's Box with African connections. I think the filmmakers spun a wheel to see which continent hadn't been ripped off yet. However, since they're not making any Indiana Jones movies on a regular basis, these will have to do. And they're good for an afternoon, at least. ***½ (out of 5)

EdTV - This movie shows that Matthew McConehey is a nice guy. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much more than that. And like most guys, he kinds of blends into the background. I didn't really need to watch this movie... it watches itself. Cheers, though, to Ellen DeGeneres, who is a lot funnier and smarter than she seems like she is. No romantic interest, and "The Truman Show" was a lot edgier and better. *½ (out of 5)

Pushing Tin - This seems like a cute movie, but under the fluff is an interesting character study and a fun thriller. I like John Cusack... though I can do without Billy Boob Thornton. This movie has jealousy, mind games, action, and and odd semi-homosexual subtext as the two air-traffic controllers battle their personalities against each other. Sad ending, and I really cared that it was sad. *** (out of 5)

Star Trek: Insurrection - Just when I'd given up on the Star Trek franchise, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Directed by Jonathan Frakes, it seems like a goofy weekly episode, mostly thanks to some funny lines by Brent Spiner. However, the plot moved along, the characters were fun, and best of all... William Shatner was nowhere to be seen. ***½ (out of 5)

Cookie's Fortune - After friends raved about this movie, I expected it to be funnier. However, it was a pretty good drama/mystery. Glenn Close does a wonderful job, and all the other actors play wacky southern types. Better than all the Elmore Leonard movie adaptations, but "Steel Magnolias" it was not. Just a good story, quite like "Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil. ***½ (out of 5)

Happiness - Because tragedy is so much more interesting than comedy. This is the darkest movie I've seen in a long time. I still haven't figured out if the director was trying to be snide and sarcastic or just plain cynical. The movie travels back and forth between a paedophile, a would-be rapist, and lots of other warped and abusive people. Not a single character was flawless, or even sympathetic, but somehow the movie kept my interest. Thank god there will never be a sequel. ***½ (out of 5)

Blade - This is a very bloody movie, but then again, it's about vampires. Not quite as good as "John Carpenter's Vampires" even though they had a similar plot and similar details. The AIDS metaphor doesn't really work in this movie, but it's not a big deal. Wesley Snipes is adequate, and the sword-fighting scenes are fun to watch (even speeded up three times normal). This movie looked like a comic book, which is a good and bad thing at the same time. ***½ (out of 5)

High Art - It's been a long time since I've watched a movie and actually cared about the lead characters. I wanted to fast forward to the end of this film because I was hoping everything would turn out all right (it doesn't, but it's still a satisfactory ending). Sure, the movie is slow, but it has beautiful cinematography ... which complements the art photography that the movie features. Toss in some amazing performances by women (including a nice welcome back for Ally Sheedy), and this is a downer film I would recommend for a quiet evening. Plus a nice moody soundtrack by Built To Spill. ***½ (out of 5)

October Sky - A poet friend of mine was making fun of me because one of my favorite books of all time is "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach. It's personal, I told her, she wouldn't understand. In the same way, I liked this movie a lot more than it deserves. This is a slightly true-to-life memoir of a boy growing up in Appalachia, who uses rocket science as a way to get out of his small town. Coal mining and mathematics... you wouldn't understand. ***½ (out of 5)

State and Main - I had to watch this movie again, even though it was accruing late charges at Blockbuster if I didn't bring it back. David Mamet's dialogue is just that good. However, I think he's been in Hollywood too long, and there's nothing as dull as a long in-joke about how "tough" it is to make a movie. Since the movie they are trying to make is a limp period piece about "The Old Mill", I expected a lot more acerbic humor about why most movies out of Hollywood suck. Instead, we get the usual "fish out of L.A." anti-charm. Who really cares? I was more interested in the minor players from the small town... they would have made a better movie from their perspective. Sure, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is great, as are Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica parker, Ricky Jay, Charles Durning, William H. Macy, and scores of others, but they can't save the fact that Mamet is trying to be sweet and fails. There is no intersection of Glengarry and Glen Ross in this small town, unfortunately. ***½ (out of 5)

Trekkies - This documentary is not surprising to anybody who has attended a Star Trek convention. I went once, and I had a great time. The diehard fans weren't pathetic at all... they seemed to have a good sense of humor about themselves. They liked dressing up as a sort of "tongue in cheek" homage to the show. Some fans were a bit fanatical, but what really got me mad were the smirking jerks in the back row that were making fun of the ones dressed up. They paid $30 to get in like the rest of us, but insisted that they weren't geeks. Luckily, this movie covers the "true fans" without seeming condescending (kudos to Denise Crosby for refraining from laughing). This movie tried to cover a little of everything, from merchandising to "Kirk and Spock porn". I'm not sure it succeeded... maybe it was a little too much... but it's a fun and well-made documentary. ***½ (out of 5)

Buena Vista Social Club - You have to give credit to Ry Cooder for re-discovering this amazing music. And luckily, he's in the background of this movie, letting the true Cuban stars shine. It's novel to watch a movie that's part concert film, history lesson, and riveting documentary. The music is a little mild for my taste, and it's a shame all of the songs are truncated due to time restrictions. In one case, Wim Wenders brilliantly mixes a concert performance, the recording session, and a street serenade within the same song. The rest of Wender's work is unextraordinary, and I really think he is overrated as a director. This is really a simple movie, and I hope it is widely watched (though not imitated by anybody else). ***½ (out of 5)

Mystery Men - In theory, superheroes are funny. however actually writing a comedy about them usually fails. I mean, I love the first issues of "The Tick" with Fernslinger and Feral Boy, but he was funny despite them, not because of them. There's not a single joke in this movie that works (especially Paul Reubens), but it's too stupid to be hip, and that's kind of refreshing. This isn't a smug movie (unlike Dumb and Dumber), probably because everyone looks so stupid. Plus, you've got to love a movie where William Macy says to Tom Waits, "You're a genius", and he says, "that's what the card says". ***½ (out of 5)

The Muse - Albert Brooks is like a low-rent Woody Allen. He has the same whine, the same "insider" plots (except he uses L.A. and not Allen's new York). His movies are cute without being funny. However, even though he is angry and cynical, his movies have a sweet, sentimental tone. I don't know how he does it, but it's kind of uplifting. If only Brooks would stop whining so much. Plus I hate Andie MacDowell, and the ending is kind of weak, but it's just... nice. ***½ (out of 5)

The Limey - I love Steven Soderberg's movies, ever since "Sex, Lies, and Videotape". However, I don't like Terence Stamp (who was also annoying in "The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert". He talks like a stroke victim, and his English accent is surprisingly uneven here. The Cockney rhyming slang is a fun touch, but there were a lot of places in the movie where I didn't hear what was going on. Maybe it was Terence, but this kind of movie shouldn't have a complicated plot. Soderberg plows the same land that he did in "Out of Sight", but that was a better, faster plot. Nice work by Peter Fonda, and Soderberg shows an amazing touch with the tricky editing (especially in the first half). However, some stylistic setting and good editing don't make up for the fact that Terence doesn't do much with the material. Ok, ok, I can't see another actor with enough clout or presence to play this part, but I just don't like Terence. ***½ (out of 5)

Ronin - I'm not a huge Robert De Niro fan (for example, I don't like "Taxi Driver"). However, he's great here, because being an action hero doesn't take any Method Acting (capital M, capital A). In fact, he mugs and frowns like usual (like he has gas or something), but the real star of this movie is the two (not one but TWO) great car chases. They are like something out of Streets of San Francisco, but the streets are in France. This gives the chases a high-speed, low-camera-angle intensity that was wonderful. Heck, the chase scenes last about twenty minutes total, and they have their own pacing, and changes in mood and music. Maybe the cars took some Method Acting lessons. About the rest of the plot... with not-scary Russians and Irish terrorists, who cares? Like De Niro says about the contents of the case that they chase around Paris and Nice for two hours... "I forgot". ***½ (out of 5)

Music of the Heart - I think I'm rating this one way too high. Meryl Streep is slumming here, (as she has done in several recent movies like "Death Becomes Her"). She doesn't even get to try on an accent here. However, I'm giving this movie a higher rating for two reasons. It's about music, and it's a great showpiece for director Wes Craven. Sure, we all knew that the Nightmare series and Scream were talented revolutionary "thinking man's" horror films. But I had no idea he could make a sappy made-for-tv vehicle. The movie only has two parts... the first "lets get the music class started", and then the next "save the music class". There's a lot of faults... for example Streep's kids change over fifteen years, but we only see some family reaction in the deleted DVD scenes. I have a bad feeling that Craven tested this movie in front of the idiot test audiences, and they said they wanted it shorter and stupider. And Craven, being a pop horror director, gave them just what they wanted. Bad move, but maybe he can try again with another mature film. ***½ (out of 5)

The Green Mile - I was utterly captivated by this movie. Stephen King is at once both overrated and underrated. He's overrated because I think his books are trite and formulaic, and his characters soulless and predictable. On the other hand, ho *can* tell a story, unlike many authors, and he makes me not care if I've heard it all before. I love movies with little vignettes. Probably the leading example is "It's a Wonderful Life"... a collection of bits and pieces that add up to more than the whole. There's a lot of great pieces here: small town policemen, a trained mouse, and (a King favorite) a backstory with a murder. However, I stopped the movie after the first tape and waited to play the second tape (and the third hour of the film) until the next night. By then, the spell was gone, and this movie seemed like the pseudo-supernatural movies "Phenomenon" or "Powder", where everything is important but unexplained, leaving the audience to wonder. However, trust me, nobody will discuss this movie a years after it's gone, unlike "Dead Man Walking". Which leaves Mr. King free for another year to churn out seven or eight more novels, which is not really a bad thing. ***½ (out of 5)

The Straight Story - I think director David Lynch ran out of ways of shocking people (he's already done severed ears, after all), so he decided to try the most shocking thing possible... a rated "G" movie. It's unfortunate that this movie tanked at the box office, because I'd like to see other directors make movies without caring about demographics. I'm not a Sissy Spacek fan, but she is... um, *interesting* here, and Richard Farnsworth deserved the Oscar nomination he received. It's a slow movie, and not much happens, but that's Lynch's strength. If it wasn't for the odd "no-sound" cinematography interludes, I'd say this was shot perfectly. It's a great rumination on death and growing old, and only occasionally too weird, obscure, and pointless. ***½ (out of 5)

Cider House Rules - Miramax tried to win this movie a few Oscars, but the academy (rightfully so) decided that there wasn't much there. The pro-abortion storyline and incest subplot seem tailor-made for PC audiences. However, Instead, I liked the "other stuff"... Michael Caine's strong performance as the orphanage's doctor. I'm a fan of Tobey Maguire, too, though I liked him more in Pleasantville and The Ice Storm than here. I also like John Irving, and while the plot must have read better than as a screenplay (so did "The World According to Garp"), the plot had a meandering quality that made me not care if we ever reached the climactic suicide at the end. I would love to see more of the orphanage, whether it's clichéd or not. Why won't Garrison Keillor make a movie? It would be at least as good as this. ***½ (out of 5)

Titus - I feel like director Julie Taymor is taking it easy. After doing the puppets for "Lion King" (which were good, but c'mon... they were *puppets*), I think she decided to make a difficult "adult" film. And what is more challenging that Shakespeare's most gory and profane play? Well, actually, it's easy. The plot is already written, and no critic would dare criticize it. You just come up with bizarre rubber-and-leather costumes, and then add modern elements. Romeo and Juliet set in South Miami Beach? Great! Hamlet in a Blockbuster Video? Fantastic! Julie creates some beautiful images here, but it must be hard to keep up those kind of visuals, since half-way through, the lighting gets boring, and the costumes turn dull. It's not one of favorite Shakespeare plays, and I don't anybody else will do it again soon since Taymor has covered it. Why can't directors think of *original* plots instead of mangling old stuff that wasn't very good it the first place? ***½ (out of 5)

Titan A. E. - Don Bluth directed this one, and you know what that means! "Space Ace: The Move". I've always wanted to see that. Dirk the Daring and Princess Daphne had a lot more character (and strangely were better drawn) than anybody in this movie. It was lauded as an animated "Star Wars", and if that was in fact the goal, they fell far short. However, at times it was extremely beautiful (like the crystal "funhouse-mirror-in-space" scene) and some of the action sequences were a lot of fun. I was amazed when I first saw Japanese animation in the early 1980s. The artistry and imagination was spectacular, even if I couldn't tell what they were saying despite taking five semesters of Japanese. I always thought cartoon for adults would catch on here, but this movie won't be the start of a great new wave of American animation. Matt Damon and Bill Pullman do the voices, which is a shame. Even though both of those guys are great actors, their voices aren't interesting or distinct enough to bring out any emotion in the animation. I mean, why cast Janeane Garofalo and Drew Barrymore if you aren't going to look at them? John Leguizamo is the only person who does good voice-over work here, but his character is one of the silly aliens brought in for humorous effect. The blend of CGI and standard animation is great, and I loved seeing the rough wireframes included with the DVD. I'd like to see a whole movie like that. In fact, the copy of the DVD I rented from Blockbuster was scratched (something I'm finding more and more of at Blockbuster), so ever now and then the screen would explode into squares and rectangles and yellow geometric shapes. It really looked better... this movie opens with the flattest, most boring matte painting. However, the scratches on the DVD made the opening look fantastic. Try it yourself (but only with Blockbuster DVDs, not your own). ***½ (out of 5)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - This is a good movie, and maybe the start of a new genre, "movies that fans of The Matrix will like". However, it just didn't resonate with me. I'm not a big fan of the kung fu parts of this movie. The first Shao Lin flying scenes got a lot of nervous laughs from the audience, sort of like when a went to see the awful Jackie Chan film "Rumble in the Bronx", and the first badly-dubbed English words give the audience some nervous titters. "Oh hell, what have we gotten ourselves into now?" But the first Karate action scenes seem to quite the audience down. This movie had a lot more on the ball than Jackie Chan has ever done, but I still didn't like the "love story" of this movie. The plot is both opaque and transparent at the same time (how's *that* for a zen koan for you?) when the sword changes hands, and people pop off to mysterious Buddhist retreats for no reason at all. There's an incredibly long, slow beginning and a tedious middle-third flashback sequence that goes on and on. And there's no reason for me to recommend this film unless you're in the mood to see some chop-socky. ***½ (out of 5)

The Art of War - Oops, I got this movie confused with "Ghost Dog". It thought it was going to be a completely different film. Oh well, a fun Wesley Snipes romp is good enough for a slow evening when I'm grading student papers and only watching the movie out of the corner of my eye. However, I'm not a big Snipes fan. A lot of his movies like "Money Train", "Passenger 57" and "Murder at 1600" are utterly forgettable, and this one is similar. I can't really remember the plot of this one even one day after seeing it, except that I found it funny that America has run out of bad guys and now has to set the United Nations up as the Ultimate Evil. The action is recycled Hong Kong chop-socky, though it worked so much better in John Woo's early films. Here, it just looks stupid when Snipes and the Bad Guy fire off rounds at each other from inches away and completely miss, only to reload with their backs to each other! Silly. It's strange that the US is stealing from China now. Kong Kong was making better action films than us in the nineties, so it's only understandable that we'd try to capture their formula. However, now it's just that - a formula. Even John Woo seems tired nowadays, and this movie tries to capture an oriental feel by having a black guy walk around the south of France with an Asian girl. Boy, I bet those two stood out ina crowd. ***½ (out of 5)

Tigerland - Thank god for war films. They allow a sort of homoerotic "buddy film" that consists of a bunch of guys sitting around talking. There's lots of "chick flicks" for that same sort of thing, but they don't usually involve lots of gunfire. Instead, we get the best of both worlds: character development and death (which usually causes the characters development). This movie is odd because it's a Vietnam movie where they never get to Vietnam. Instead, they show the *training* where they create an entire village that looks like Vietnam. Big whoop-de-do. "Starship Troopers" did a better job of describing military training, and that was completely imaginary. Billy Budd tragic hero Colin Farrell is great here, and I hope he goes far since he's a better-looking smarter Mel Gibson. It's funny to see his screen tests where he was trying to add an unfortunate Southern accent that he dropped later. Everyone else is completely superfluous to the film, and in the darker scenes covered in mud, they all look alike... and rather too old to be army recruits. "Full Metal Jacket" was a better film, but this movie is shorter and a lot tighter that that one, as well as better than a slew of other Vietnam shooters: "Casualties of War" and "Platoon" to name two. However, I'm not a fan of Joel Schumaker. I've never liked any of his films, and I think he's an underachiever that *almost* could be a filmmaker. If you've ever seen "Batman Forever", "Batman & Robin", "Falling Down", "Flawless", or "8mm", maybe you'll agree that any eighteen-year-old with a handheld Sony camera could do a better job. ***½ (out of 5)

Billy Elliot - Dance Billy, dance! Dance like the wind... like your life depended on it! Feel the breeze in your hair, the motion of... ah, to hell with it. This is just another English dramedy in the mold of "The Full Monty". Underprivileged boy has to fulfill his dream or get sent to work in the mines. One thing that bothers me is that the labor movement is an unexplained subplot like it often is. There's very few movies that don't treat coal mining like a dreaded punishment, perhaps "Matewan" or "The Pit Pony", but it's blue collar vs. salvation once again. If you doubt that Billy wins in the end, you'll be disillusioned, or maybe just illusioned, I'm not sure which. The dance is ok, though I'm amazed that Jamie Bell was nominated for an Acedemy Award... he just looks petulant here. But I got to see the amazing Julie Walters, so it was an ok film for a Saturday night's viewing. Al'right mate? ***½ (out of 5)

Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles - I thought this was a remake of the Mickey Rooney movie about Texas oilmen, but I was wrong. Instead, it's some incredible CGI wrapped around a rehash mishmash of the Heinlein book. I didn't like Paul Verhoeven's version, but at least it had a fun jingoistic feel (I never thought I'd use those two words together). This movie makes A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2 look like Don Bluth animation. On the other hand, once you've got the ten soldier models and a bunch of explosions, I'm sure it was easy to do the rest. And that's the problem here: they don't even bother with the boot camp sections of Heinlein's book, which, like the movie, were the best part. There's a rookie photographer who kind of fills the role, but he's mostly there for comedic interest. This series feels incomplete, as if it's the first DVD in a big box set. I'm sure the cartoon will go over well... kind eat up blood and guts. It's odd, because nobody really dies here, but kids can read between the lines. This film felt like a non-interactive videogame, or maybe one of those Quake "movies" that the script kiddies have been making. Which is not really unpleasant, but I hope it's not a trend. Open source this movie, now! ***½ (out of 5)

Dr. Dolittle - This movie has talking animals! How can you not love that? It also has a very restrained performance by Eddie Murphy, who was one of the funniest of America's comedians at one time. What happened? The only movies he makes that are successful now are the ones where he doesn't try to be funny, but lets the story do funny things to him (see also "The Nutty Professor"). I can't complain too much, because when it works, it works. It's just sad to see such a promising talent (he really sold "24 Hours", "Beverly Hills Cop", and "Trading Places" back in the day) go down the tubes to middling mediocrity. ***½ (out of 5)

Six Days in September - Here's a topic not often discussed: the 1969 Brazilian military coup. Lots of things like this happens all over the world, but we never hear about it. Kudos to this movie for presenting the *terrorists* point of view. It shows why someone might rise up in arms against the government - and how that action usually results in a bloody end. If anything, there's a sense of the futility of trying to get a radical political message out before an uncaring public. I think it's the best movie that could be made from those events, and it's amazing how they can make a movie based on a current tragedy without falling into the trap of making it insanely accurate (and therefore dull). This should be required viewing in high school, maybe. ***½ (out of 5) - I feel a little ambivalent about this film. I usually love techie movies, and I've read all the "birth of Microsoft/birth of the Internet" books I can find. And I respect the fact that charting the rise of the 90's Internet boom is an important subject for a documentary. However, I wish the filmmaker would have chosen a *good* startup. I thought the idea was flawed from the start - a private company that serves as a gateway to local government. Oh great... another layer of bureaucracy. For example, if my parking ticket doesn't get paid on, who do I call for a refund? The web site? Or Denver? That said, I also didn't like the fact that the movie concentrated on the financial aspects of the company and all the VC funding. Since what doomed the web site was a bad engine and lack of technology, I would have liked to talk to the programmers and managers that actually made things happen. As it is, I really wanted to slap around "Kaleil" and "Tom" and their codependent relationship. The fact that the two assholes have started yet another bad idea for a startup makes me hope that there isn't another installment and that this movie turns into a series. I think both guys are self-serving enough to make a movie about themselves and their exciting wonderful synegistic process of making a movie. ***½ (out of 5)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within - This is a groundbreaking movie. But that doesn't mean that it's very good. I mean, even "Tron" had some amazing special effects, but no real feeling in the characters. This movie is like that: all plot and no consequences. However, the eye candy is really sweet indeed. We've come a long way from the days of "Toy Story" and even "Toy Story 2". It's unfortunate that most of the movie takes place inside dark, dreary grey space stations. The few times the heroine has dream sequences were used for the commercials. They should have made a movie entirely made up of those dream sequences, even if they didn't make a lot of sense. Part of the fun of "virtual actors" should be the ability to make them fly and do unrealistic things. Instead, this movie seems like an exercise to see how dull and slow they could make an actress act. Of course she's beautiful, with big hooters. It's like they pandered to the fanboy demographic, leaving very little for the rest of us to watch. I think the fact Tomb Raider was a hit sent the wrong message to the powers that be. We want action and adventure... not tits and an arcane plot. Then again, I'm not a pasty twenty-something fanboy. ***½ (out of 5)

I'm The One That I Want - I recently read an article about Canada's yearly "Make Me Laugh" comedy festival - next to Aspen's ComedyFest, it's a huge event. Anyway, a prominent booking agent says that all the things I thought were important about comedy, (timing, material, physical ability), aren't necessities. All she wanted to see is if the audience *liked* the comedian or not. If the comedian (or rarely "comedienne") come across well, they can hire all the writers and coaches in the world. This makes me sad, because I really appreciate good stand-up. Some of my favorite are Bill Hicks, Steven Wright, and Emo Phillips, just because they are so different and original. Well, I like Margaret Cho, too, although she doesn't really do anything special. There's a few really good jokes in this two-hour special, but I've heard better material from Rita Rudner or Sam Kinison. Instead, we *like* her, we really really *like* her, especially those of us of the gay persuasion (hell, you don't have to "persuade" me to be gay! Ba-dum-bum RIMSHOT!). She whines a little too long about her misfortunes in Hollywood, but she comes off sounding honest and sincere. And as the great comedian George Burns once said (stealing from Frenchman and actor Jean Giraudoux, actually), once you can fake that, you've got it made. ***½ (out of 5)

America's Sweethearts - I like John Cusack. And I looked forward to this movie. Luckily, it didn't disappoint. For example, I was soooo worried that there was going to be a romantic subplot between Billy Crystal and Julia Roberts. Nowadays, I can't believe Crystal was the romantic lead opposite Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally". He looks sort of... *unlovable* now. So, I was happy to see that Cusack forms a love triangle with Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It's great casting of Jones as a psychotic bitch, because I really don't like her. In the "flashback" sequences in the movie, she looks plastic and wooden. It's odd... I don't think she's human. Maybe she's from the planet "Zeta". And she take up a lot of the screen time, too. I would rather watch Julia Roberts any day. I haven't been a big fan of some of her work ("Pretty Woman" or "Hook", ick), but she is incredible here. She can pull off any scene and make it look realistic. She's even good at throwaway lines and unimportant dialogue. Billy Crystal has some funny lines, and even the jokes that shouldn't work (a crotch-sniffing dog, for example), see kind of cute and nice. It's an easy romantic comedy, and worth inclusion in the "Sleepless in Seattle"/Nora Ephrom pantheon. ***½ (out of 5)

Planet of the Apes - I'm a fan of Tim Burton. Heck, I'm a fan of *any* movie director who seems to value cinematography and a strong visual sense. However, I've never liked the original "Planet of the Apes" series. Maybe it's because I can't stand Charlton Heston, that fake-acting William Shatner clone. The problem is, this movie was really made for the fans. It follows the plot of the novels close enough for the fan-boys, and I thought that was the *weakest* part of the idea. I mean, it doesn't make sense when I think of it more: why apes? Are they descended from the space monkey that lands during the anticlimactic battle scene like a Ape Ex Machina? If so, what's up with the "twist" ending, when Mark Wahlberg goes back to Earth? The movie ended so fast, I think Burton didn't want the audience to realize it made no sense. And Whalberg is no leading man, or leading monkey. Helena Bonham Carter was funny looking, but at least she can act. The star of this movie is Tim Roth, who does such an amazing job of movie and talking that I didn't know that he played "Thade", one of the main characters. Every minute he shares the screen with Michael Clarke Duncan is almost worth the price of admission. However, the whole is far less than the sum of the plots, and all the amazing sets, costumes, and acting seems to be swept under the rug in this forgettable summer movie. ***½ (out of 5)

Ocean's Eleven - I didn't see the original. Because I hate the rat pack. Because I think Sinatra was a jerk and didn't die soon enough. Because bad "caper" flicks were popular in the sixties and I don't think were well made at all. Today's capers have such elaborate plot turns and amazing storylines (Snatch, The Usual Suspects, The Croupier, or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels to name a few recent good ones). This movie just has: a casino robbery. We've seen places that were tougher to break into in Tom Cruise's first "Mission Impossible" or Sean Connery's "Entrapment", so it's not too impressive that they have to break into a vault protected with lasers and motion detectors. I don't know why Stephen Soderberg wanted to redo such a mundane and dull plot. Instead, the movie just looks like a commercial for the Bellagio casino. Why did Carl Reiner have to check explosives in a briefcase into the vault minutes before Shaobo Qin smuggles himself in the same vault? Couldn't Qin just carry some extra explosives in with him? Sheesh, this plot is creaky. Soderberg's done some bad movies before (Schizopolis, Underneath, and in my opinion, The Limey) that were slow and a waste of his talent. But still, in some scenes, Soderberg really knows how to create a scene and show the action. The camera pans up at the beginning and it's.... George Clooney! And Matt Damon! And Brad Pitt! Just seeing all of these guys on the screen at one time is magnificent. They are all good actors. And Julia Roberts is not as bad here as some critics think. She's supposed to look old and tired. She has a bad boyfriend, the scheming and Machiavellian Andy Garcia (a little miscast, like Don Cheadle, Casey Afflek, and Scott Caan, but Soderberg has the right to cast anybody he wants I guess). I have a feeling that all of the above were hoping for a career-lifting movie or maybe one of the many Oscars that Soderberg's films receive lately. But I'm afraid this movie will get slow box office receipts and fade away like the not-so-fun heist flick it is. If only they had filmed this movie back in the sixties when Las Vegas was still swanky and fun. (Later note) Ok, I saw the original now, and it really made me fall asleep. I guess I was cranky when I saw this... paying eight buck in a crowded theater can do that to a man. After another review, this movie was pretty harmless. It's a huge leap forward from the original, and there were a lot of fun sets. I wish the plot wasn't so weak, but it's a gentle action movie, kind of like most of the "thrillers" of the seventies. So, I guess there's worse ways to spent two hours. ***½ up from two-and-a-half (out of 5)

Made - Great movie, just great. Almost unwatchable, but great. Just great. Did I mention how great this movie is? I don't want to see it again, but the acting, the writing, all great. It has the fire and burn of an independent film, just a great little small movie about two guys and their friendship, with a little mobster stuff thrown in, you know, just for good measure, and to give the plot somewhere to go to. Oh, and there's a lot of yelling, a lot of screaming, in fact you might get really tired of hearing all of these people talk talk talk all the time, but that just means you're not used to the clever writing and realistic wordplay going on here. It's just great. I couldn't wait for it to end, but that's ok. it's just great. **** (out of 5)

The Score - Please, Hollywood, please stop putting Marlon Brando in any more movies. When he's on the screen, it's riveting - but not in a good way. I get the same watching-an-automobile-accident that I get looking at Michael Jackson's nose. Brando is an enormous wheezing Jabba the Hut, with an affected high-pitched "girly voice". I'd rather he died soon so I can keep my memories of "On the Waterfront" when Brando was cool. Luckily, he's only in part of this movie, and Ed Norton steals the show while he tries to steal the golden scepter hidden in the underground vault (the whole reason for the "plot"). Norton out-Kaiser Sozes Kevin Spacey as the most amazing performance of an actor acting retarded since Leonardo DiCaprio in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?". Like Johnny Depp in that movie, Robert DeNiro is overshadowed in this one, even though the movie is supposed to be about him. DeNiro's done quite a few dull heist flicks lately ("15 Minutes", "Ronin", "Cop Land", "Heat", the list goes on) and this movie shows how nice it can be when some thought at creativity is added to the dull mix of the "crime thriller". ***½ (out of 5)... just for Ed Norton

Jesus' Son - So, drug addiction isn't very interesting. But what's worse is a preachy anti-drug weeper ("15 days"... sheesh). This movie was based off a Denis Johson II book, and it feels a little too much like this stuff actually happened to the author. Squashed baby rabbits... shirtless tattoos in a laundromat... you can't make stuff up like that. It just doesn't make sense, and director Alison Maclean  doesn't try very hard to keep any kind of coherent narrative together. In fact, the voiceover has fun with the rambling storyline. It's a little to "po-mo" for me, and it's no "Trainspotting", but there's some fine work by Billy Crudup, Dins Leary, Dennis Hopper, Holly Hunter, Samantha Morton, and Jack Black. I think actors have a fun time wigging out and overdosing on camera. I just wish it was as fun to watch. ***½ (out of 5)

Shaft (2000) - This movie took me by surprise. It's really just a straight-forward police drama with an incredibly linear story. It's nothing that you couldn't see on any prime-time TV cop drama like "Homicide: Life on the Streets". I guess this is good - it makes for a very clear narrative and allowed Samuel L. Jackson to do some great acting and fun lines. However, the whole *reason* that Shaft was made in the first place is forgotten. I'm not a fan of seventies "blaxploitation" films, but where was the flash? The original was slightly camp, made for an "urban" audience, while the remake is just for white people who want to back in some of the fun "pimp" lifestyle of the that genre. It was fun to see Richard Roundtree with several scenes (not just a quick five-second cameo). I guess I should be happy that the very good director John Singleton made such a mature, easy-to-follow movie. However, the short video clip with Isaac Hayes on the DVD showed a more interesting possibility. After the annoying gangsta rap on the nineties, and the imbecilic "faux homey" lingo of suburban youth today, I hope there's a possibility for new creative movies to be made by African American directors that are created exclusively for black people, by black people. While I love a good "crossover" movie that appeals to all kinds of people, I think that in this case, expanding the audience has kind of watered down the product. ***½ (out of 5)

Double Jeopardy - I don't know why I am a fan of this movie. I guess it's just because I'm a sucker for a good premise. Ashley Judd isn't a very good actress - in fact she's kind of a non-actress, since she looks kind of bland up there on the screen. She's not very good at acting or speaking, and luckily this movie didn't contain any country-western songs, so I'm not sure why anybody thought she could be a box office draw. Having Tommy Lee Jones was kind of a distraction, really, since it just highlighted the fact that this movie was "Fugitive" lite, all the plot points without any of the suspense. And some of the details are outrageously bad: Judd steals a dress to go to a "bachelor's auction" only to talk to her dead husband and then walk away. Or when the husband next lures her to a New Orleans cemetery and seals her up in a conveniently unlocked mausoleum, without any of the millions of tourists seeing him. However, I loved the fast pace that didn't force me to sit through hours of "women in prison" scenes, and the cinematography is a lot more lush than in typical for movies of this type. And don't be fooled... there's going to be thousands more movies of this type in the years ahead. ***½ (out of 5)

Mulholland Drive - Have we come down to this? All the actresses are so generically pretty that I couldn't tell them apart. Or would want to. I like puzzle movies, but for them to work, the puzzle has to be worth the effort needed to figure things out. Memento was great, and The Matrix did just fine. However, Lynch has made a career off of strange movies, an I find them all to be more referenced than enjoyed, like Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks. Lynch is great at introductions... he is good at gimmicks or hooks to get the viewer involved (a dead girl, a severed ear). However, once the plot starts rolling, there isn't a payoff. It's like he doesn't trust his audience to understand any "big ideas" so he parcels out small bits of the plot out at one time. By the time I figured the movie out, I didn't care anymore. I think Lynch relied on the lesbian sex to keep viewers interested, but I was just biding my time until the end. I love the way this movie warps the myths and history of Hollywood, but only the director is in on the joke. I loved the way Naomi Watts carries two roles - it's a real breakthrough performance. I hope she goes on to many movies by many better directors. ***½ (out of 5)

Orange County - At first, this movie feels like a cheap MTV comedy. There's the ubiquitous soundtrack, the colorful but meaningless montages of teenagers having fun, and the same stifling jokes. Then, for a while in the middle, the adults take over. Lily Tomlin, Catherine O'Hara, Chevy Chase, John Lithgow, and Harold Ramis show up to show the teen stars how to be funny. Jack Black is great here, but if I was the director, I would have killed anybody under the age of twenty, and just let the pros out to play. The whole self-referential plot of a Californian writing a California story about California it extremely juvenile, like a bad high schooler's O Henry short story. Please MTV, stop making comedies, and give all your money to any one of your "video artists". I'd rather see two hours of Puff Daddy directing that anything like this puff comedy crap. I think an angry rap artist with a million dollars to shoot a movie could be very interesting indeed - rather than a self-absorbed white guy from Orange County. ***½ (out of 5)

Austin Powers in Goldmember - This is not a good movie. Have I said that before? Well, I'm afraid I'll say it again: this will not hold up as a classic example of cinema. Everything's bad here: bad makeup, bad acting, and bad jokes that go nowhere. On the other hand, I laughed (comma) a lot (period) OK, a lot of the jokes were recycled from the previous two movies, but that's what made them more fun. There was an interesting high-wire act going on. At one point, Dr. Evil and his son Scotty were doing their "interruption" routine, while AT THE SAME TIME, referencing the fact that they've done this before, and then taking the bit to a whole new level. All in about ten seconds. I was surprised that a lot of jokes *weren't* used: Beyonce Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra didn't even merit a single comment, nor was Myers new characters "Goldmember" more than a half-of-one-note joke. It's bizarre - like there was a whole extra hour of funny bits that was cut due to length. Maybe they'll show up on the extended DVD. This one's for the fans... not a memorable movie, but it shore wuz funny. ***½ (out of 5)

Unconditional Love - It's a gay movie. Not only because it has Rupert Everett in a starring gay role, but it also provides work for Kathy Bates, Julie Andrews, AND Lynn Redgrave. Only a fag would worry that those women don't have enough roles. It's odd that this movie is two hours long - it's like there a separate movie for each actor. It's an "awakening" movie for Kathy, and a gay funeral role for Rupert. It's a wacky cops-n-robbers flick, a weepy family drama, and a bloody serial murder movie all rolled into one! Oh, and a musical, since as I mentioned, it's gay. I really liked two or three of those films, but it's a shame that unlike the gay ensemble comedy "Sordid Lives", the whole is less than the sum of the two hours. ***½ (out of 5)

Tuck Everlasting - This is similar to a story I wanted to write. What if some people were immortal? This movie surpassed mine in many ways. While my story took place in a Howard Johnson's (no lie), this movie has a beautiful turn-of-the-century Americana feel. However, mine had a bigger scope. Didn't the director worry about the implications of living forever? Why isn't the Tuck family rich? Do they get sick? Did they never have an altruistic idea to help the world with their ability (besides fighting in Gettysburg) or heaven forbid *share* the magical spring. My god it's full of holes. ***½ (out of 5)

The Man Who Wasn't There - I love the Cohen Brothers: Blood Simple, O Brother Where Art Thou, Raising Arizona. You mainly get Ethan here (who has been writing fiction lately) and not Joel, and maybe that's why this movie is long on style and short on everything else. There's a Billy Bob Voiceover through the *entire* movie, so that it seems like he's reading a short story to the audience. I love the way the director writes the script, so they're not afraid of having a non-traditional story arc. However, the arc kind of peters out half-way through the movie, and there's no momentum towards the end. Still, black and white not only still looks great - I think it looks better than it ever did with today's new movie picture technology. All those blacks and grays... just beautiful. ***½ (out of 5)

13 Ghosts - Ever see the original William Castle movie? It's pretty lame. Then again, all of Castle's movies are lame - that's the whole *point*. So, this is yet another recent remake of a forgettable movie (see "Ocean's Eleven") with only a tangential connection to the original. I have a soft spot for actor Matthew Lillard almost as much as I hate Tony Shaloub, and I love the set design of the spooky house, all frosted glass and metal. And though the ghosts look cool, they don't have much to do, and there's too many of them to care about which is which. The same could be said for the actors, too. However, I still love the premise that you need special glasses to see the invisible ghosts. Points off for the lame attempt at a cool title like "Se7en"... I'm sorry, but I will never refer to this movie, not even in print on a small insignificant movie review web page, as "Thir13een Ghosts". That's just too William Castle, if you know what I mean. ***½ (out of 5)

Notorious C.H.O. - It's not very fair of me to review this movie. I'm a sucker for comedians and gay-friendly content - and here's a gay-friendly comedian. Almost *too* gay-friendly possibly, but that's why we love here (the paeans from her bracketing this concert performance would be nauseating if Cho wasn't so nice). To be cruel, Cho isn't very funny. I've heard better sets from funnier people, and Cho is often crude and lewd without any payback (or set-up). She's not for everybody, but I couldn't help wondering: if Cho makes it look easy, why aren't there more ethnic comedians out there? Where's the irate-but-hilarious Native American, or the ranting Swede? There's plenty Of black comedians out there, but none of them speak from suck a solid stance of rage and politics. Which makes me think that it *isn't* as easy as it looks, and Cho makes it look very, very easy. ***½ (out of 5)

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat - Boy, I feel like a whiner. A few posts above this one, I laud Margaret Cho, and complain that there's not enough funny political black comedians. Well, here's one. Still, I feel vaguely bored. I don't think this concert movie is as funny as "You So Crazy". And why do they call it a "concert movie" anyway? They don't say that musicians do "stand-up movies". There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, and the rest of Lawrence's stories about his arrest are pleasant, but nothing more. In the book "Bill Hicks" complains about the safe humor of joking about airline food. Lawrence is definitely a very frequent flier. ***½ (out of 5)

Igby Goes Down - Did you know Susan Sarandon was in this movie? And Jeff Goldblum? And Bill Pullman and Bill Irwin and Eric Bogosian and even Gore Vidal? Wow, what a star-studded cast for such a small, odd little movie. This film plays out like someone's uncredited autobiography. Someone who was affluent, arrogant, lived in New York. While rich teenage rebellion plays out nicely in "Risky Business" and "Harold & Maude", it's just annoying here. Like "The Royal Tennenbaums", the movie gives us a slew of idiosyncratic mean-spirited characters all fighting with each other, without telling us why we should care. So, I didn't. Nice work by Kieran Culkin and his brother Rory Culkin as Igbys. Are they making Culkins out of a factory somewhere now? ***½ (out of 5)

The Good Girl - Jennifer Aniston is a beautiful woman who works as a checkout girl. Judging from the fact that she has a low-paying job, we're supposed to assume that her life is a living hell. Forget the caring boyfriend, tons of caring funny co-workers, and the exciting affair on the side with a cute boy, this movie assumes that everyone not living a blue collar existence leads a life of loud whiny desperation. There's a lot of talking here, and some good plot points (a pregnancy, a death, a suicide) so it's not a terrible movie. It's just that Rosanne Barr's old show ten years ago was the last time that anyone told a funny interesting story about a less-than-glamorous life. ***½ (out of 5)

The Tuxedo - I don't usually like Jackie Chan movies. For example, I hated "Rumble in the Bronx" as a racist idiotic piece of trash. However, I liked this one. I think it's because Jackie's slowing down... his movies aren't based so much on stunts as on plot, action, and humor. If anything, this movie was a little *too* funny, veering off into "Rush Hour" territory with wasted work by Jennifer Love Hewitt. The plot is more like a bad version of "Spy Kids", but it's nice to know that Mr. Chan doesn't take himself too seriously even though he could probably rip my leg off at will (unlike idiots Van Damme or Segal). Or, perhaps he's just cashing out for whatever directory will take him for whatever price in service of whatever wacky premise the "team" of scriptwriters can fart out. Not that I blame the guy for taking the money - he's had too many broken bones to be picky, I imagine. ***½ (out of 5)

Joe Somebody - I like Tim Allen, and I like the fact that he used to live down the street from me. Not like I ever met him - he was gone long before I arrived. But his "everyman" acting and style is easy on the brain. However, the writing here is precocious. What pharmaceutical company has such an odd culture of "wellness centers", secret health clubs, and gossip where *every* employee talks to each other? Where do twelve year olds say things like, "Either you're lying or you've grown an ovary"? There's some hidden depths here, as in Allen's short monologue in front of a mirror. He might be an actor someday. But the rest is interminable boxing scenes with Jim Belushi and some character development that doesn't quite develop. ***½ (out of 5)

Ghost Ship - Oh my god, the first five minutes of this movie. Ok, ok, skip over the odd title written in a flowery hand that had me worried. Then fast-forward to fifty people getting decapitated all at once in slow motion. It's really clever if you're into that sort of thing. That is, it's clever until you realize that the director is Steve Beck, who did the *exact* same scene in the mild "Thir13en Ghosts". Is it an homage if you rip off yourself? The movie goes downhill from there. The "little girl ghost" isn't interesting, nor is the backstory (filmed over odd techno music), nor is the cliffhanger where our heroes have to figure out what to do (hint, getting of the ship would be a start). There are tons of plot holes (how can they lose everything, and still have wetsuits? Did anyone think that if you lock a man up in an *aquarium* that it wouldn't fill with water? And what kind of aquarium has a lock on it anyway?) The director runs through the movie like he doesn't really care about the details. Maybe he's just can't wait to create his next magnum opus, where an entire football team goes through a cheese grater over a span of twenty minutes. ***½ (out of 5)

The Affair of the Necklace - It's Hilary Swank! I thought after she won an Oscar that she fell into a hole of unfulfilled promise and would never be seen from again. Instead, she wound up in this historical drama - which is pretty much the same thing. If anything, fellow Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrowproved in "Shakespeare in Love" that there's gotta be a lotta humor and romance along with the period costuming. Otherwise, yer just eatin' scenery, and that's what Hilary does here. I don't believe the plot for a second, and the horrible framing technique at the first scene gives away the ending. However, Hilary can sure wear a necklace. ***½ (out of 5)

The Pianist - Oh, what a depressing week. Watching this movie didn't help much. I mean, I can really appreciate Adrian Brody's acting (though I'm not sure it was the *best* performance of last year), and the movie moved along nicely. It's just that it's yet another in a long series of depressing Holocaust movies. I know the Nazis were bad, I know a lot of people died, but it's really turning into a "Life is Beautiful" schtick to keep trotting out similar plots for Oscar-weepy consideration. Where's the tragic biopic of East Timor? ***½ (out of 5)

The Recruit - This movie is silly. Quite silly. It's a world where the CIA has elaborate stages set up like porn sets, and working for them is like a reality TV show. it's a silly world where anybody can write a computer virus that invades any computer using electric wires. Luckily, it's a silliness I quite like. Heck, I watching "The Net". *Twice*. It's a fun romp, and the lead guy, Colin Farrell, is quite cute. I know there's a type of guy that reads "spy novels", and there's a reason that Tom Clancy makes lots of money, but that justification always seems to elude me. Then I watch a fun romp like this. It doesn't take itself too seriously, not many people die, and it's a complete waste of time. Sometimes, I like that in a movie. ***½ (out of 5)

Punch-Drunk Love - This is the same movie as "About Schmidt". It's a simple character study that goes nowhere fast. Or more accurately, it gets there slowly. Adam Sandler does a great job, and it's amazing to see him act. There's more range here than a Jerry Lewis "hey lady"! This is the film Jim Carrey wanted to make. There should have been an Oscar nomination here. However, it doesn't mean the movie was fun to watch, or that I would want to see anything like this again.. ***½ (out of 5)

Monster's Ball - There was a lot of talk about this movie, and I'm not sure why. Sure, it's the kind of moody psycho drama that critics love. It even has capital punishment. But is interracial romance shocking these days? Is it even *interesting*? The movie deserves credit for skipping a melodramatic scene where Halle Berry confronts Billy Bob Thornton about the Big Secret. However, the movie ends there, as if they're congratulating themselves on their restraint. They must think that after one hundred minutes that the audience cares.. ***½ (out of 5)

Blue Crush - This movie is a running gag between my brother and myself. He's a sucker for cheerleader movies, and I'm tempted to buy him front-row tickets to the opening night of the upcoming "Bring It On Again". But he lent me this DVD, and I finally got around to watching it. It's not bad. It's kind of charming. The actors and actresses seem to go about their business as if they're not aware that anyone is really watching. It's rare, and really feels like non-touristy Hawaii. By the end, they decide that they've got to have a plot, and I didn't really care if the lead actress ever got to surf her big wave. I would rather have seen a bunch of Hawaiian people hanging out and talking, but I guess that will have to wait. ***½ (out of 5)

Behind Enemy Lines - From Luke Wilson to Owen. Here's a little too much Owen Wilson. One and a half hours of Owen Wilson. Did you know this was an Owen Wilson movie? I guess I didn't. It's based on a real event, and there lies it's downfall. By changing all the facts and adding odd "rah rah" Top Gunish moments (Owen becoming talkative for only a minute monologue at a time, kicking a football around) it turns into an unintentional farce every time Gene Hackman calls Owen "son". Now, I just read a critique that said that a review shouldn't take into account the reviewer's personal politics. On the other hand, this post-9-11 action flick wears it's own politics on it's sleeve, so why shouldn't I? The film is saved by some creative camera work and a fast-moving plot. However, as anything close to art, or a documentary, or a film that adds anything to any part of current events or life itself, it falls short. ***½ (out of 5)

Last Orders - So, then I tried to watch this movie while working at the same time. It's the opposite of "The Hunted" as it's completely dialogue driven. Starting out as a novel, it could have been a stage play since there were so few locations and backdrops to make it feel like a movie. However, what great actors: Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, and (my favorite) Ray Winstone, to name a few. The movie fails by portraying everything in flashback, so we never see the drama of Hoskins' adultery, or any doubt that Caine dies in the end. I wonder how actual English people feel about this movie, but for me the accents were so thick and the dialogue so full of slang that I had to watch it with subtitles on. That's a good thing though, it made it feel exotic. If filmed in America, this movie would have been deadly dull; a carload of old people spread a dead guy's ashes. However, add some local color, and all of a sudden you've got the Discovery channel. ***½ (out of 5)

Down With Love - When Bob Hope died recently, newspapers and television reporters mentioned what a wonderful performer and "entertainer" he was. Note I said "mentioned"... nobody seemed overwhelmed or sad at his death. In addition, when's the last time you saw a Bob Hope movie on television? Never. And do you want to know why? Because Hope was a no-talent hack that was forgotten about long before he died. That's the way I feel about the 60's era comedy this movie is trying to evoke. It's a gentle (except for an Austin-Powers rip-off of an edited conversation scene), meaningless bit of fluff that tries too *hard* to be frothy. Nobody really likes comedies that are knowingly hip. The movie fails by taking itself serious and lightly at the same time. It deserves points for giving us what we want - Ewan McGregor without a shirt and later singing (twice!) with Renée Zellweger. However, a little is not enough, and this movie is a little too little. ***½ (out of 5)

The Eye - The far east has given us some stellar horror movies lately: The Ring, Spiral, Chinese Ghost Story, Suicide Club, just to name a few. And even if they aren't all excellent, at least they are *original*. And what have we given them in return? Not two, not three, but *four* remakes of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Several teenage slasher films, and "Freddy Meets Jason". We've run out of ideas, and they have them by the score. True, this movie doesn't work on every level (why does the doctor fall in love with her?) but it uses the most interesting cinematic device since the Matrix bullet-time technique. Sometimes, the camera goes funny, and we see the world through the heroine's eyes. Objects come in and out of focus, leaving the viewer to think, "What the hell was that?" It's a clever idea, and I wish it would have been explored more. Instead, there's some cheesy CGI, and rather dull plot. But at least it got me thinking al lot more than any US scary movie has done lately. ***1/2 (out of 5)

The Santa Clause 2 - Oh, I was looking forward to this movie, probably just because I've been looking for a holiday mood. And Tim Allen delivers. It's a sweet movie, completely devoid of any sarcasm or knowing irony. There are really no jokes here for adults, unlike the "too hip for the playroom" Animaniacs or Tick. Even Hanna Barbara used to throw some wry humor towards the older segment of the viewing audience. And that's the only downfall of this movie; it's too linear, and the plot points (Tim falls in love, an Evil Santa tries to take over) are put away and done with before any momentum gets going. So, it's no holiday classic, and will be quickly forgotten, but at least it didn't suck royally like "Jack Frost". ***½ (out of 5)