ARCHIVED REVIEWS (An-Az)
Analyze That
Angel Eyes
Angela's Ashes
Anger Management
Animal, the
Animal Factory
Anna and the King
Anniversary Party, the
AntiTrust
Antwone Fisher
Any Given Sunday
Anywhere But Here
Apocalypse Now Redux
Art of War, the
Astronaut's Wife, the
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Austin Powers in Gold...
Auto Focus
Autumn in New York

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Archived Video Reviews (An - Az)
 

ANALYZE THAT - C
Starring:
Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Cathy Moriarty, Brian Rogalski, Reg Rogers, Rebecca Schull
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Comedy, 96 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2002)


The bulk of the appeal of 1999's Analyze This came from the sight of dramatic heavy Robert De Niro bursting the seams of his persona with a satire of his most famous mafia roles (including The Godfather, Goodfellas and Casino). With the arrival of the recycled sequel Analyze That, however, not only have we now grown accustomed to De Niro's comic chops in films like Meet the Parents, but the whole concept of a messed up Mafioso visiting a shrink has become old hat thanks to The Sopranos. As Analyze That opens, prison-bound mobster Paul Vitti (De Niro) learns that someone has put a price on his head, so he decides to fake a nervous breakdown in order to get released into the custody of nervous psychotherapist Dr. Ben Sobol (Billy Crystal). Once he is out again, though, the film is unable to bring any new dimensions to the odd couple relationship between Vitti and Sobol, instead opting for a series of decidedly flat scenes in which Vitti tries to find a straight job, with the film eventually deciding to follow in the stale footsteps of the De Niro dud Showtime by having Vitti play a consultant on a TV series. Like This, That was directed and cowritten by Harold Ramis. He was decidedly more successful with This than That. (top) (back)

ANGEL EYES - C+
Starring:
Jennifer Lopez, Jim Caviezel, Terrence Howard, Jeremy Sisto, Sonia Braga, Alfonso Arau, Victor Argo, Shirley Knight
Directed by: Luis Mandoki
Drama, 103 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2001)


It's unfair to judge a film based on the marketing campaign surrounding it, but when the film is something like Angel Eyes, in which its title, trailer and video cover all promise something that is nowhere to be found, such criticism is almost unavoidable. After all, everything about the picture makes it look like a supernatural love story, but as the picture moves forward, one realizes just how dull and down-to-earth it really is. Actress-turned-pop star-turned-actress Jennifer Lopez, returning to a hard-nosed cop role similar to the one she had in Out of Sight, plays Sharon Pogue, a tough-babe officer who is rescued from ambush by a mysterious stranger (Jim Caviezel). The man, who calls himself Catch, almost seems to be stalking Sharon, but he never gives any indication of who he is, why he never smiles or how he pays rent. Is he a ghost? An angel? I'm not telling, but the answer is stultifying in its blandness. All things considered, Lopez does give an engaging performance and, though he played too similar of a role in Pay It Forward, Caviezel has some strong moments. If director Luis Mandoki (Message in a Bottle) hadn't spent so much time building up to something that never happens, this may have actually been a passable romance. (top) (back)

ANGELA'S ASHES - C+
Starring:
Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Ciaran Owens, Michael Legge, Joe Breen, Ronnie Masterson
Directed by:
Alan Parker
Drama, 145 min
(14A) (Paramount, 1999)


There's no rule out there stating that movies can't be depressing, but what many filmmakers realize - and what Angela's Ashes director Alan Parker clearly doesn't understand - is that even the most grim, despair-ridden film needs moments of levity to help stave off boredom. Frank McCourt understood this, bringing a nice sense of wit to the sad story of his poverty-ridden childhood in Ireland for a 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. For this adaptation of McCourt's work, however, all resonance and spirit has been sucked out of the story, resulting in a film that amounts to little more than a steady run of mud, vomit, rain, blood and disease. Because of this, even when one feels obligated to have sympathy for this long-suffering family (led by the typically good Emily Watson as a domestic martyr and Robert Carlyle as a ne'er-do-well drunken dad), it's difficult to get attached to them or to really get a grasp on why the story needed telling in the first place.
(top) (back)


ANGER MANAGEMENT - C
Starring:
Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, Krista Allen, Allen Covert, Luis Guzman, Kurt Fuller, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Peter Segal
Comedy, 106 min (PG) (Columbia, 2003)


With Anger Management, Adam Sandler tried to expand his audience base by enlisting a crowd-pleasing Jack Nicholson for a self-mocking start turn, but what sounds like a good idea turns sour in execution. Unfortunately, Nicholson never really catches fire here - he's all jutting eyebrows and Joker grins without a trace of the skill seen in About Schmidt - and Sandler takes several steps back from his revelatory work in Punch Drunk Love by turning in a rather dull performance barely removed from the usual Happy Gilmore/Big Daddy/Waterboy routine. Here Sandler plays a meek cat clothing designer who, after a minor incident on an airplane, gets sentenced to anger management classes with a psychiatrist (Nicholson) whose unconventional techniques include moving in with his patient and trying to steal his girl (Marisa Tomei). You know a movie is in trouble when certain gags seem lifted directly out of Analyze That (once again we get an oddball rendition of "I'm So Pretty") and despite supporting turns from the likes of Luis Guzman, Heather Graham and John Turturro (the highlight of Sandler's Mr. Deeds), director Peter Segal (1995's Tommy Boy) is unable to lift Anger Management out of a rut of tepid familiarity. (top) (back)

THE ANIMAL - B-
Starring:
Rob Schneider, Colleen Haskell, John C. McGinley, Guy Torry, Michael Caton, Morisa Taylor Kaplan, Edward Asner, Cloris Leachman
Directed by: Luke Greenfield
Comedy, 83 min (PG) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)


It may have been difficult to predict based on his work on Saturday Night Live and supporting turns in Adam Sandler movies like The Waterboy and Big Daddy, but Rob Schneider makes for a likeable comedy loser. Sure, Schneider's Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo wasn't nearly as funny as it thought it was, but a surprising amount of The Animal is a hoot and it is all thanks to the comedian, as enthusiastic as he is shameless. In this relentlessly silly but relatively tame comedy, directed at too leisurely of a pace by Luke Greenfield, Schneider plays Marvin Mange, a wimpy wannabe policeman who, after a highway accident, is pieced together by a crazy scientist (The Castle's Michael Caton) using a variety of animal parts. Suddenly, Marvin is running like a horse, smelling like a dog, swimming like a sea lion, seducing a goat, craving raw meat and uncontrollably licking his own privates. Many comedians (Sandler included) could have easily worn out this gimmick within minutes and it would have been nice had their been more variety to Marvin's animal reflexes, but Schneider makes all the idiocy work and he has an extremely likeable romantic interest in former Survivor cutie Colleen Haskell, making her acting debut in an undemanding role. (top) (back)

ANIMAL FACTORY - B
Starring:
Willem Dafoe, Edward Furlong, Danny Trejo, John Heard, Steve Buscemi, Mickey Rourke, Seymour Cassel, Tom Arnold
Directed by: Steve Buscemi
Drama, 94 min (18A) (Columbia Tristar, 2000)


He made his directorial debut with the low-key and truthful alcohol drama Trees Lounge (1996), but Steve Buscemi turns to far more violent and grim subject matter - the social and political hell that is prison - with this dark, well-acted and decidedly non-sugar-coated drama. Edward Furlong (who was scared straight by prison stories in 1998's American History X) gets sent to the slammer here for marijuana charges and it is only through the camaraderie of a veteran con (Willem Dafoe) that his youthful face makes it through every day without being tortured or maimed. As Buscemi follows this unlikely relationship between Furlong and Dafoe's characters, he succumbs to many of the usual inmate clichés (revenge murders, deals with guards, gang attacks, ugly racism), but his cast keeps things interesting, with Dafoe finding the ideal balance between fright and friend and clever supporting roles for the likes of Tom Arnold (as a prison rapist) and Mickey Rourke (as one heck of an unattractive drag queen). (top) (back)

ANNA AND THE KING - C+
Starring:
Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Randall Duk Kim, Keith Chan, Syed Alwi, Deanna Yusoff, Melissa Campbell
Directed by:
Andy Tennant
Drama, 150 min
(PG) (20th Century Fox, 1999)


Jodie Foster excels at playing headstrong, intelligent women, but she usually acts more with her head than her heart, rarely projecting much in terms of passion. As a result, she's a weak link in this non-musical adaptation of The King and I (the fourth version to hit the screen), playing schoolteacher Anna Leonowens with the right amount of educated determination for a widow living in an exotic country, but never really dropping her guard when she falls for the King of Siam (Chow Yun-Fat). That's not to say, however, that Foster is entirely to blame for Anna and the King's shortcomings. Though Chow is extremely charming and the film has been vividly shot, Anna and the King suffers from some overly politically correct updates and drastic, awkward story changes. The last section of the film is more Last Emperor than Rogers and Hammerstein, complete with bloody border-war violence and an absurd climax designed to have Anna save the day.
(top) (back)


THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY - B-
Starring:
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, John C. Reilly, Jane Adams, Jennifer Beals
Directed by: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming
Drama, 115 min (14A) (Fine Line, 2001)


Stocked with unknowns, The Anniversary Party likely would have been little more than a slight and instantly forgettable inspection of Hollywood marriages and friendships. Packed as it is with name actors, however, the film achieves an extra and welcome layer of pleasure in drawing parallels between the actors and the roles they are playing. Cowritten and codirected by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, the picture focuses on the six-year anniversary of a shakily married actress (Leigh) and novelist (Cumming), but it is the guest list here that is most inviting, with attendees including Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Parker Posey and Jennifer Beals. Gwyneth Paltrow is on deck as well, playing a rising young star that brings out Leigh's jealousy, and the long-absent Phoebe Cates steals the show with an acute portrayal of a retired actress who decided to let her husband (real-life hubby Kline) stand in the spotlight and instead focus on her kids (played by the couple's real offspring). Charting a night in which tensely awkward interaction leads to hits of Ecstasy and emotional breakdowns, The Anniversary Party overstays its welcome with a lackluster final third, but it nonetheless hits many of its comical and emotional targets. (top) (back)

ANTITRUST - C
Starring:
Ryan Phillippe, Claire Forlani, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tim Robbins, Richard Roundtree, Nate Dushku, Yee Jee Tso, Ned Bellamy
Directed by:
Peter Howitt
Suspense, 119 min
(PG) (MGM, 2001)


Like last year's The Skulls, this slick corporate thriller desperately wants to be a teenage version of The Firm. Also like The Skulls, however, AntiTrust hits an error key on almost all levels, thanks primarily to a singular lack of suspense. Directed by Sliding Doors' Peter Howitt, the film casts Ryan Phillippe as Milo, a hotshot programmer who is recruited to work at a giant computer company founded by a bespeckled dork (no, it isn't the story of Bill Gates and Microsoft). Following the death of one of his former classmates, Milo begins snooping about the workplace and he soon learns that his billionaire mentor (Tim Robbins) may not be the innocent geek he purports to be. Throughout Milo's meandering investigation, Robbins keeps juicing the movie to life with his Arlington Road creep routine, but he isn't on screen enough, unfortunately leaving the bulk of the load to the lifeless Phillippe and the two bland mannequins in his life (Claire Forlani and Rachael Leigh Cook). Just hit Control-Alt-Delete.
(top) (back)


ANTWONE FISHER - B
Starring:
Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson, Stephen Snedden, Yolonda Ross, James Brolin
Directed by: Denzel Washington
Drama, 120 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


With a few exceptions (most obviously, his Oscar-winning turn in 2001's Training Day), Denzel Washington has spent most of his cinematic career playing well meaning and noble characters in films like Malcolm X (1992), Philadelphia (1993), The Hurricane (1999) and Remember the Titans (2000). Because of this, Washington's inspirational directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, doesn't surprise because of its good intentions, but rather how successfully Washington was able to turn a potentially melodramatic TV-movie-of-the-week-style drama into an affecting look at the strength of character and beating the odds. Based on the true story of its screenwriter, the film tells the story of Fisher, a naval enlistee who, with the assistance of a compassionate base psychiatrist (Washington), was able to face the demons of a brutal foster-care upbringing that included sexual, verbal and physical abuse. One gets the feeling that the scenes involving Washington's marital woes were squeezed into the storyline for the sole purpose of expanding the actor's screen-time (they certainly don't add anything narratively), but Fisher's story has been told with heart-warming clarity and newcomer Derek Luke, as Fisher, is passionate and honest. (top) (back)

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY - B-
Starring:
Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, James Woods, Matthew Modine, Ann-Margret, Aaron Eckhart
Directed by:
Oliver Stone
Drama, 157 min
(14A) (Warner Bros., 1999)


Football is more of a war than a sport in this all-star gridiron flick directed with in-your-face intensity by Oliver Stone. Al Pacino headlines the cast as an aging coach who, throughout a single season, has to deal with his team's money-driven new manager (Cameron Diaz), the injury of his quarterback (Dennis Quaid) and the blazing ego of the replacement QB (Jamie Foxx). Like Stone's Nixon, Natural Born Killers and JFK, Any Given Sunday is filled to the brim with name-brand actors and there are some great performances, most notably from Foxx, a sketch comedian proving himself as a powerful dramatic force. As usual, though, Stone's excesses get the better of him. Any Given Sunday has too many characters, too much noise, too much visual style and, most frustratingly, too many minutes until the end of the game. Even the biggest Pacino fans may have difficulties watching him yell for 160 minutes.
(top) (back)


ANYWHERE BUT HERE - B-
Starring:
Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Eileen Ryan, Corbin Allred, Ray Baker, John Diehl, Shawn Hatosy, Bonnie Bedelia, Thora Birch
Directed by:
Wayne Wang
Drama, 114 min
(PG) (20th Century Fox, 1999)


Susan Sarandon may have the years of experience behind her, but she is outshone every step of the way by young actress Natalie Portman in this mother-daughter melodrama. Directed with feminine understanding by Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) from a 1986 novel by Mona Simpson, the film casts Sarandon as a flighty free spirit who ups her daughter (Portman) from comfortable small town life and moves to Beverly Hills to start over, much to the dismay of her logical and unhappy child. Unlike Tumbleweeds' Janet McTeer, who played a similar role with enough heart to offset the eccentricity, Sarandon takes things over the top here, acting more with her loud makeup and clothes than her spirit. Portman, on the other hand, offers a clear portrait of a teenager in touch with - and torn up by - her emotions. It's an honest and thoughtful performance that overcomes the melodrama of the rest of the picture. The similar Tumbleweeds is a better film, but Portman is definitely worth watching.
(top) (back)


APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX
- A-
Starring:
Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Frederic Forest, Sam Bottoms
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Drama, 202 min (18A) (Paramount, 1979/2001)


After having played around with his Godfather trilogy many times over the years, Francis Ford Coppola felt it was time to tackle another one of his cinematic beasts from the past, namely Apocalypse Now, his 1979 nightmare Vietnam epic about a group of American soldiers (led by Martin Sheen) heading up river on a mission to assassinate a crazed colonel (Marlon Brando). With Apocalypse Now Redux, Coppola has re-edited his original masterpiece, inserting 49 minutes of additional footage and, though interesting as history, it is debatable as to if the extra scenes actually add to the film in general. Sure, the bonus footage of Robert Duvall's surf and napalm-lovin' Colonel Kilgore is a welcome addition, as are some additional scenes of interplay between the soldiers and a monologue by Brando's character, Colonel Kurtz. Others (an additional encounter with Playboy bunnies, the legendary French plantation sequence) are much less welcome, not only softening the film's grip of terror, but making it seem about twice as long as the 202-minute running time. Thank goodness then for DVD, a medium that can allow viewers to easily decide which version to watch by inserting or dropping any additional scenes at their own pleasure. (top) (back)

THE ART OF WAR - C-
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Anne Archer, Maury Chaykin, Marie Matiko, Michael Biehn, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Donald Sutherland, James Wong
Directed by: Christian Duguay
Action, 116 min
(14A) (Warner Bros., 2000)

There's a sense of disappointment that comes with watching most Wesley Snipes movies. After all, here's an actor who has shown his range in a wide variety of roles (The Waterdance, White Men Can't Jump, To Wong Foo…) yet who keeps persisting on starring in second-rate action vehicles that may as well have been written for Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Art of War, a murky, flat-footed potboiler that resembles a James Bond adventure crossed with Snipes' own Rising Sun (1993), casts the actor as a UN special agent who gets embroiled in an international mystery after the Chinese Ambassador to the UN is killed, possibly shutting down a lucrative U.S. trade deal. Though framed for the murder himself and left with nobody he can trust, Snipes sets off to clear his name, encountering all the typical clichés (double-crossing friends, political babble, random attacks of violence, a visit to a secret Chinese den…) that you would expect from a direct-to-video actioner. (top) (back)

THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE - C+
Starring: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea Duvall, Samantha Eggar, Donna Murphy, Nick Cassavetes
Directed by: Rand Ravich
Suspense, 110 min
(14A) (New Line, 1999)

Think Rosemary's Baby meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Species II and you will have more than a clear indication of what to expect from this paranoia thriller, written and directed by Rand Ravich, that follows formula from step one all the way through to its predictable climax. That said, though, The Astronaut's Wife isn't a complete washout, thanks primarily to the anguished complexity and disarming sweetness of Charlize Theron, a strong actress still searching for a strong role. Here Theron plays the title character, a young schoolteacher whose NASA astronaut husband (Johnny Depp) returns from space with a weird look in his eye and a tendency to sit in front of the radio listening to static. As in The Devil's Advocate, Theron plays the paranoid wife with a palatable spookiness and it is on the strength of her work - combined with Ravich's occasional bursts of visual creativity - that one is almost tempted to forgive the blunt and overly familiar screenplay. In the end, though, forgiveness is just out of reach. (top) (back)

ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE - C+
Voices of:
Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Don Novello, Claudia Christian, Jim Varney, John Mahoney, David Ogden Stiers
Directed by:
Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Animated, 96 min (PG) (Walt Disney, 2001)

Following the joy of The Emperor's New Groove, the beauty of Tarzan and the recent surge in stellar computer animated efforts like Shrek and Toy Story, Disney's Atlantis seems particularly un-see-worthy. Even without the inevitable comparisons, however, it is likely Atlantis still would have felt a little waterlogged. An animated action-adventure, the film is not only two-dimensional on a visual level, but story and character-wise as well. Basically Titan A.E. under water, the film follows a 1914 expedition to the fabled bottom-of-the-ocean city, with characters including our linguist hero Milo (likeably voiced by Michael J. Fox, also the pipes behind Stuart Little), a gun-happy commander (James Garner), a Atlantis princess (Cree Summer) and all the usual offbeat supporting characters (only one - a demolitions expert voiced by Don Novello - really lives up to potential). There are a bunch of cool mechanical objects and beasts that should appeal to young boys, but the New Age mumbo-jumbo that hits later in the story is likely to turn them off (that is, if the thin screenplay and formulaic characters haven't already done so). Put simply, a couple more like this, and the real lost empire will be traditionally animated Disney. (top) (back)


AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER - C+
Starring:
Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Michael Caine, Verne Troyer, Michael York, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Robert Wagner, Fred Savage
Directed by: Jay Roach
Comedy, 95 min (14A) (New Line, 2002)


Right from the go-go, Austin Powers in Goldmember bursts forward with an electrifying dose of mojo, employing a group of A-list celebrities eager to spoof the Powers flicks (this is number three), themselves, groovy musicals and Hollywood in general. And then, well, then Goldmember falls back on all the expected "Yeah baby"s and "Mmmwahahahaha"s, far too reliant on the series' overly familiar trademarks to be capable of pushing the laughs or once-fresh characters to new levels of inventiveness. In multiple roles, Mike Myers returns as the shagadelic, horny-and-hairy spy Austin Powers, Powers' arch-nemesis Dr. Evil, and corpulent Scotsman Fat Bastard, in addition to adding a new villain - a Dutch disco king with a golden endowment named Goldmember - to his repertoire. Problem is, Goldmember is a one-note creation and Myers' reliance on moldy gags and past-their-expiry characters like Fat Bastard, Frau Farbissina and Mini-Me means that this sequel's new additions - sweet pop singer Beyonce Knowles as the blaxploitation-inspired Foxxy Cleopatra and a clearly-enjoying-himself Michael Caine (star of '60s spy flicks like The Ipcress File) as Austin's pop - take a backseat to recycled gags and too much potty humour. (top) (back)

AUTO FOCUS - B
Starring:
Greg Kinnear, Willem Dafoe, Maria Bello, Rita Wilson, Marieh Delfino, Kurt Fuller, Lyle Kanouse, Ron Liebman, Michael E. Rogers
Directed by: Paul Schrader
Drama, 104 min (18A) (Columbia, 2002)


The most interesting thing about Bob Crane, star of the 1960s TV series Hogan's Heroes, is that he wasn't all that interesting. As the biography Auto Focus illustrates, he was a moderately talented nice guy who, once exposed to the glitter and excess of stardom, was exploited by his own weaknesses and desires and essentially saw his career and family life self-destruct. In 1978, after years of sexual promiscuity, forays into kink, descent to dinner theatre gigs and adventures in the growing area of home video, Crane was found dead in his hotel room, bludgeoned by a camera tripod. Directed by Paul Schraeder, Auto Focus employs a compelling visual style to track Crane's rise and fall, using bright '60s glow for the earlier scenes and an erratic, muddled tone for the latter sections that take place after Crane's creepy fascination with home-made porn and obsessive friendship with techno-junkie John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) have left him shattered. But though the film is less emotionally destructive that one would have hoped - Crane's inner demons remain largely at arm's length - there is no faulting the work of a well-cast Greg Kinnear, who makes a stunning emotional and physical transformation from suburban dad to creepy lecher. (top) (back)

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK - C
Starring:
Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Jamie Harrold, Sherry Stringfield, Elaine Stritch
Directed by:
Joan Chen
Drama, 104
min
(PG) (MGM, 2000)

Twenty years after Love Story (and only a few months after Here on Earth), along comes Autumn in New York, another photogenic dying lover melodrama that, it's safe to say, does nothing to improve the formula. Richard Gere, the king of May-December romances (Runaway Bride, First Knight, etc) plays Will Keane, a womanizing restaurateur who finds the perfect woman in Charlotte (Winona Ryder), a charming, attractive and funny hat designer 27 years his junior. Charlotte is also dying, a plot point that seems all too convenient for a commitment-phobe like Will. This unintentional joke, combined with the fact that the movie never really addresses the age difference between its lovers, only ensures that Autumn in New York is about as deep as a puddle of dew. Director Joan Chen, whose last picture was the shattering Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, does her best with the newsprint-thin screenplay, obvious metaphors and forced performances, but it's a losing battle. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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