ARCHIVED REVIEWS (Bo-Bz)
Boiler Room
Bone Collector, the
Bones
Book of Shadows
Bounce
Bourne Identity, the
Bowfinger
Bowling for Columbine
Boys and Girls
Boys Don't Cry
Bridget Jones's Diary
Bring It On
Bringing Down the House
Bringing Out the Dead
Brokedown Palace
Broken Hearts Club, the
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Brothers, the
Brown Sugar
Bubble Boy
Bulletproof Monk
Business of Strangers, the
But I'm a Cheerleader

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Archived Video Reviews (Bo - Bz)
 

BOILER ROOM - B-
Starring:
Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nicky Katt, Ben Affleck, Nia Long, Tom Everett Scott, Jamie Kennedy, Scott Caan
Directed by:
Ben Younger
Drama, 120 min
(14A) (New Line, 2000)

With Boiler Room, writer-director Ben Younger is more than aware that he is making a Generation X version of Wall Street. He is so aware, in fact, that he actually finds room in his picture for a tribute to that 1987 picture in which his characters, a young group of selfish, money-hungry stockbrockers, treat the film as their own gospel of greed. During such a scene – as well as any sections of the film that takes us inside the devious, sneaky world of a sleazy "chop shop" brokerage – Boiler Room makes for riveting entertainment, chugging along on the rhythm of its own passionate amorality. The film runs out of steam, though, when it tries to fit entirely routine subplots about an office romance, a father-son relationship and the FBI into the behind-the-scenes action. Giovanni Ribisi is somewhat mannered as the film’s protagonist, but Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel and Nicky Katt give commanding performances as three oily snakes. (top) (back)

THE BONE COLLECTOR - C+
Starring:
Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Ed O'Neill, Mike McGlone, Luis Guzman, Zena Grey
Directed by:
Phillip Noyce
Suspense, 118 min
(14A) (Universal, 1999)

Watching this routine crime thriller, one can pretty much tick off a list of earlier pictures that are being ripped off, with the most prominent victims being Seven, Copycat and, to a lesser extent, Silence of the Lambs. In other words, this is yet another atmospheric, only-in-the-movies thriller in which a diabolical killer actually takes more time planting clues for his pursuers than trying to get away with murder. Denzel Washington does what he can with the role of Lincoln Rhymes, a criminologist who, paralyzed from the neck down, enlists a rookie street cop (Angelina Jolie) to be his eyes, arms and legs in the pursuit of a madman. Directed by Phillip Noyce without the sense of dread that marked his Dead Calm, The Bone Collector has its terrifying moments, but most of them are only due to a fetish with gore and none of them are due to any character involvement. The film's spinelessness becomes particularly apparent when the killer's face is revealed. It's almost as though his identity was picked out of a hat. (top) (back)

BONES - C+
Starring:
Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Khalil Khan, Sean Amsing, Bianca Lawson, Merwin Mondesir, Clifton Powell, Michael T. Weiss
Directed by:
Ernest R. Dickerson
Horror, 92 min (18A) (New Line, 2001)

Rap star Snoop Dogg clearly relishes the chance to be bad to the bone in this hip-hop throwback to '70s blaxploitation horror pictures (though, truth be told, he was more genuinely frightening as a reality-based villain in Baby Boy). Fit snugly in leather pimp duds, Snoop Dogg plays Jimmy Bones, a Robin Hood of the hood who was killed by some shady partners in the '70s and now spends his time haunting his old Amityville-style townhouse. When a group of young entrepreneurs led by Khalil Khan buy the building with the intent of turning it into a dance-club (despite the warnings of psychic Pam Grier), Jimmy is more than happy to wreak havoc and seek revenge on those who betrayed him. Former Spike Lee cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson, who has directed more than his share of stinkers (1994's Surviving the Game, 1995's Demon Knight), shows a stylistic proficiency here and the film should please hard-core horror fans. Reaching a wider audience is another matter, and Bones, with its skeleton-thin storyline, all to often falls back on routine haunted house tricks (menacing shadows, pipes dripping with blood, projectile maggots) instead of trying to push the genre in a different direction or offer as much bite as bark. (top) (back)


BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 - F
Starring:
Jeffrey Donovan, Kim Director, Tristan Skylar, Erica Leerhsen, Stephen Barker Turner, Lanny Flanherty 
Directed by:
Joe Berlinger
Horror, 90 min
(18A) (Artisan, 2000)


Before becoming the victim of its own hype, The Blair Witch Project was an inventive, highly effective horror film that, in telling the documentary-style story of three slackers who disappeared in the woods, drew its terror out of brilliantly keeping the scares to our imaginations and baring little resemblance to the typical fright flick. Joe Berlinger, a documentary director making his fiction debut with this lousy sequel, seems to have no understanding for what made the original film so popular in the first place, instead shoving our faces in violent, bloody images (dead children, anyone?) and staging everything as if it were the umpteenth Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. Problem is, Book of Shadows is actually far, far worse than anything with Freddy Krueger, packed to the brim with dreary dialogue and amateurish performances, not a single scary scene and a pathetic excuse for a story that steals from the Scream sequels as it follows five fans of The Blair Witch Project who head into the Blair Witch's nesting grounds only to return with a strange spirit haunting them. None of this is worth the tape it is copied on. (top) (back)


BOWFINGER - B
Starring:
Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Robert Downey Jr, Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp 
Directed by:
Frank Oz
Comedy, 97 min
(PG) (Universal, 1999)


It's always a good thing when an actor writes a screenplay based on his or her specific strengths and, with Bowfinger, Steve Martin has not only written a movie that plays perfectly into his talents, but also into those of costar Eddie Murphy. As a result, though Bowfinger may be a little soft on the satire side, its eagerness to please is undeniable and some moments are howlingly funny. Set in the no-budget world of Los Angeles filmmaking, Bowfinger casts Martin as the title character, an Ed Wood-of-the-'90s director who, for his latest effort entitled Chubby Rain, comes up with a scheme to secretly film action star Kit Ramsey (Murphy) as he unknowingly interacts with his cast and use a glasses-and-braces-wearing look-alike (also Murphy) to fill in any gaps. As in The Nutty Professor, it is comically rewarding to have Murphy play two roles (one arrogant and mean, the other naïve and endearing) and, though his character's scheme is hardly plausible, Martin's performance is disarming and loose. (top) (back)


BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE - B+
Featuring:
Michael Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson, Matt Stone, Dick Clark, George W. Bush
Directed by: Michael Moore
Documentary, 119 min (14A) (MGM, 2002)


Michael Moore gets more press than the bulk of documentary filmmakers not because his ideas are passionate (though they are) or because he isn't above a little self-promotion (he certainly isn't). If anything, it is because he knows how to tell a story, take a stand and make a point while entertaining at the same time. Moore's Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine takes a deep look at the American gun culture, skillfully juxtaposing moments of horror (security-camera footage from the Littleton, Colorado, high school massacre) with satire (a South Park-style review of the country's violent past), and the result is a sobering, insightful and controversial work. Moore occasionally leans too far into blunt manipulation (at one point placing the photo of a murdered young girl on the driveway of NRA president Charlton Heston), but you have to admire his dogged journalistic ambition. Among the nuggets here: an interview with the creepy brother of an Oklahoma City bombing convict, a man who was saddened when he only ranked second on a list of bomb suspects, a Chris Rock stand-up routine and interviews with a thoughtful Marilyn Manson and seemingly racist Heston. Inflammatory, powerful and provocative indeed. (top) (back)

BOUNCE - B-
Starring:
Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Tony Goldwyn, Joe Morton, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey, Alex D. Linz, Johnny Galecki
Directed by:
Don Roos
Drama, 106
min (PG) (Miramax, 2000)

Any spring in the step of this romantic drama can be attributed to one sparkling source: lovely Gwyneth Paltrow. Playing the widowed mother of two young boys, Paltrow gives a stellar performance marked by happiness, sadness, hopefulness and confusion, with the actress often dancing between the emotions within spans of only a few seconds. Because of this, the Oscar winner effortlessly outshines everything else in the film including, unfortunately, her co-star (and ex-squeeze) Ben Affleck, who spends most of the movie either trying too hard or not enough as an advertising executive who feels guilty for the plane crash death of Paltrow's husband (Affleck gave the stranger his ticket at the last minute). Bounce was written and directed by Don Roos, but the film bares zero resemblance to the fiercely dark comedy of Roos' last picture, The Opposite of Sex, instead opting for a quiet, touching and understated, if occasionally mundane, look at what happens when love is mixed with loss. (top) (back)

THE BOURNE IDENTITY - B
Starring:
Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Gabriel Mann, Adwale Akinnvoya Agbaje
Directed by: Doug Liman
Action, 119 min (PG) (Universal, 2002)


The boneheaded testosterone of XXX may have left one worried about the future of spy films, but with The Bourne Identity, the elements of the genre slide pleasingly and - this is crucial - intelligently into place. Based on a 1980 novel by Robert Ludlam, The Bourne Identity stars Matt Damon as a man who is rescued from the Mediterranean Sea with bullet holes in his back and no memory of who he is or how he got there. It isn't long before he starts to dread learning his true identity since whoever he was is now being pursued by an assortment of assassins. Of course, the audience knows that Damon's character is CIA operative Jason Bourne, but the film's suspense likely would have been more potent if director Doug Liman (1999's Go) had taken some cues from Memento (2001) and North By Northwest (1959) and held back on some of the background exposition. That said, Damon makes for a cunning mystery man and protagonist, offering a thoughtful and acute performance even when working with a perfunctory romance with Run Lola Run's winning Franka Potente, and Liman's action scenes and car chases zip forward with a welcome sense of economy (no computer-generated explosions or overly flashy editing here). (top) (back)

BOYS AND GIRLS - D+
Starring:
Freddie Prinze Jr., Claire Forlani, Jason Biggs, Amanda Detmer, Heather Donahue, Alyson Hannigan, Monica, Andrew Lowery
Directed by:
Robert Iscove
Comedy, 103 min
(14A) (Dimension Films , 2000)

Considering how he already has She's All That and Down to You to his name, you would think Freddie Prinze Jr. would want nothing more to do with teen romances. Nonetheless, he plays yet another sensitive and dull boy-next-door in Boys and Girls, a grating romance that's like When Harry Met Sally without all the charm and laughs. In the film, Prinze plays a nerdy engineering student who seems to take forever to realize that his longtime friend (Claire Forlani) may also be his dreamgirl. Given Forlani's painfully mannered and overwhelmingly irritating performance, it's hardly difficult to see why it takes him so long. Directed with a heavy hand by She's All That's Robert Iscove, Boys and Girls doesn't feature a single honest emotion and it has even fewer satisfying laughs. Even American Pie's Jason Biggs, who could have provided comic gold as Prinze's girl-crazy roommate, is defeated by the awful material. (top) (back)

BOYS DON'T CRY - B+
Starring:
Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III, Alison Folland, Alicia (Lecy) Goranson, Matt McGrath
Directed by:
Kimberly Peirce
Drama, 116 min
(18A) (Fox Searchlight, 1999)

Anyone trying to figure out why former Next Karate Kid Hilary Swank took home the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Boys Don't Cry need look no further than this harrowing picture. As Teena Brandon, a small-town girl whose decision to live life as a boy (named Brandon Teena) resulted in her rape and murder in 1993, Swank gives the performance of a lifetime, immersing herself in this touching and conflicted character so deeply that you forget she's even a member of the female gender. Playing the girl who came to love Brandon while choosing to ignore any questions regarding his/her sexuality, Chloe Sevigny is stunning, offering an open-hearted young woman so enamoured that she refuses to open her eyes. Directed by first-timer Kimberly Peirce, Boys Don't Cry treats Brandon as a bit too much of a martyr, but that's a minor quibble in a film so painfully honest, unflinching and sympathetic that it isn't easily forgotten. (top) (back)

BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY - B+
Starring:
Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Embeth Davidtz, James Callis, Sally Phillips
Directed by:
Sharon Maguire
Comedy, 116 min (14A) (Miramax, 2001)

Fans of Helen Fielding's amusing 1998 best-seller were understandably in an uproar when, for this sprightly film adaptation, Texas-born, rail-thin Renee Zellweger was cast as Miss Jones, the British Everywoman who, particularly in her own mind, smokes too much, drinks too much, eats too much junk food, and obsesses too much. Because of all the naysayers, Zellweger's first-rate, Oscar-nominated performance here is all the more genuinely charming and wonderful, with the Nurse Betty actress masterfully employing an English accent and making the most of the voluptuous average-body weight she gained for the part (the actress added 20 pounds to her frame). The plot of Diary, inspired by Pride and Prejudice, follows Bridget as she faces one public humiliation after the next and into a romantic tizzy involving her dashing and devilish boss (Hugh Grant, terrifically cast against type) and a frosty barrister (Colin Firth). Throughout, Zellweger is never less than adorable and first-time feature director Sharon Maguire (an old friend of Fielding's) keeps the action moving along briskly, making the most of a solid supporting cast and capturing all of the quirks, spunk, embarrassment and humour that readers have come to love about Bridget's misadventures. (top) (back)


BRING IT ON - B-
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union, Jesse Bradford, Natina Reed, Nicole Bilderback, Rini Bell, Huntley Ritten

Directed by:
Peyton Reed
Comedy, 99 min
(PG) (Universal, 2000)

Thanks to its good-natured screenplay and lively cast, this high school cheerleader comedy offers a lot to cheer about. Granted, it isn't as witty as Election, as sly as Rushmore or as memorable as Clueless, but it does make for a light, entertaining and surprisingly wholesome piece of pompom fluff. Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides) leads the strong cast, playing the newly appointed captain of an award-winning cheerleader team who realizes that there is more to life than short skirts and dance routines when she learns that all of her team's cheers have been swiped from an inner city team that doesn't have the funds to compete at the national level. Bring It On's screenplay may not have much weight and it occasionally falls back on formula, but it is clever enough to tweak its own premise and director Peyton Reed has assembled a great cast. Among the standouts are the spirited Dunst, the dynamic Eliza Dushku as an outcast-turned-cheerleader and Jesse Bradford as Dunst's offbeat love interest. (top) (back)

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE - C
Starring:
Queen Latifah, Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Missi Pyle, Betty White, Jean Smart, Angus T. Jones, Kimberly Brown
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Comedy, 105 min (PG) (Touchstone, 2003)


One doesn't expect a culture-clash Hollywood comedy to hew closely to reality, but Bringing Down the House is one of those broad experiences so grounded in stereotypes and fantasy - as opposed to characters and feasibility - that it winds up suffocating in crass storytelling. Steve Martin, who has spent far too many films playing uptight men stuck in "crazy" circumstances (Novocaine, Housesitter, Father of the Bride…) plays a workaholic lawyer whose life is turned upside down when the blonde woman he's been wooing on-line turns out to be a sassy black convict (Queen Latifah). Latifah is an aggressive and commanding actress - for proof, look no further than 1996's Set It Off or her Oscar-nominated turn in Chicago - but she has every reason to be embarrassed by Bringing Down the House. Though a hit at the box office, the film falls back on weary caricatures, off-colour race remarks (Betty White complains about the "Negroes" in her neighborhood) and trite family dynamics, with the odd occasional laugh undercut by a moment of interracial inanity. The only one here that really seems to be in on the gag is Eugene Levy (best known as the father in the American Pie films), as Martin's partner and an unlikely Ebonics aficionado. (top) (back)

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD - B
Starring:
Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, Ving Rhames, John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, Marc Anthony, Mary Beth Hurt, Aida Turturro
Directed by:
Martin Scorsese
Drama, 121 min
(14A) (Paramount, 1999)

It may be called Bringing Out the Dead, but this addition to Martin Scorsese's classic New York series (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) is thrillingly, blazingly alive. A dynamic adaptation of a novel by Joe Connelly, the film casts Nicolas Cage as a New York City paramedic whose demanding job - the midnight shift in Hell's Kitchen - is taking its toll on him both physically and mentally. Visually, Bringing Out the Dead brings to mind the work of Spike Lee, David Fincher and Oliver Stone, with Scorsese taking full advantage of fluid camera shifts and mesmerizing montages. Cage, in his best role since Leaving Las Vegas, clearly appreciates the opportunity and he gives a potent performance as an empty shell of a man. Bringing Out the Dead isn't as striking as it could have been - Arquette is flat as Cage's love interest, sections of the film feel like warmed-over Taxi Driver - but Scorsese's talent burns through and ensures the film is an assured and vivid piece of work. (top) (back)

BROKEDOWN PALACE - C+
Starring:
Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Daniel Lapaine, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jacqueline Kim, John Doe
Directed by:
Jonathan Kaplan
Drama, 82 min
(PG) (20th Century Fox, 1999)

Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale give natural and compelling performances in this hopelessly contrived prison drama that never comes across as more than a teenage version of Return to Paradise or Midnight Express. Directed by The Accused's Jonathan Kaplan, the film casts Danes and Beckinsale as two American teens whose friendship with a foreign charmer (Daniel Lapaine) results in them being sentenced to 33 years in a Thai prison for drug trafficking after he attempts to use them as a transporter of heroin. Because of the young actresses' considerable talents, one can't help but feel sorry for them as they suffer through horrible circumstances, but the screenplay certainly makes it difficult to form an emotional attachment, constrained as it is by a definitive lack of sophistication or subtlety. In the end, we've seen all of this before, often with a more dramatic and sincere script and without such laboured supporting players as Bill Pullman's Bangkok-based ambulance chaser. (top) (back)

THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB - A ROMANTIC COMEDY - B
Starring:
Timothy Olyphant, John Mahoney, Dean Cain, Andrew Keegan, Matt McGrath, Mary McCormack, Nia Long, Zach Braff, Justin Theroux
Directed by: Greg Berlanti
Drama, 94 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2000)


Songwriter Jimmy Ruffin once asked, "What becomes of the broken hearted?" and, in the case of the West Hollywood gay men in this immensely likeable comedy, it turns out that they form a support group of friends that has the effect of at once cheering each other up and making them feel worse about themselves. Essentially an extended Sex and the City episode with gay men substituting for Sarah Jessica Parker et al, The Broken Hearts Club wittily chronicles the lives of a group of friends whose acceptance of their sexuality only leads to as many emotional problems as solutions. Leading the cast are Timothy Olyphant (Go), Lois & Clark's Dean Cain (who has a gay old time as a self-absorbed actor and lothario) and Frasier dad John Mahoney as the group's surrogate "mother" and coach of their comically hopeless softball team. Though he doesn't exactly trample new ground, writer-director Greg Berlanti offers a proud and revealing look at generally non-stereotypical characters we don't see enough of. (top) (back)

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF - B-
Starring:
Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Vincent Cassel, Emilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jeremie Renier, Jean Yanne, Eric Prat
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Action, 144 min (14A) (Universal, 2002)


French films can rarely be accused of subtlety and Brotherhood of the Wolf basically shoves our noses in its obviousness, gleefully acting as a genre-bursting, all-purpose thriller. Director Christophe Gans audaciously infuses his picture with elements from such wide-ranging sources as The Musketeer (floppy hats and swordplay), Wolfen (vicious dogs), Merchant-Ivory films (period dress and social critique), Sergio Leone pictures (a spaghetti western soundtrack), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (soaring martial arts), Ginger Snaps (crude monster effects), From Hell (prostitutes and secret societies), Dances With Wolves (Native spirituality), The Fugitive (a one-armed man) and whatever else he happened to find in the video store. In other words, if you don't like what is on the screen one minute, wait a couple to see what else is up Gans' sleeves. Based on a French legend, Brotherhood is basically the story of a Gallic naturalist (Samuel Le Bihan) and his Iroquois sidekick (Mark Dacascos) tracking a mysterious creature feasting on peasants in the countryside of Louis XV, but Gans' vision is so flamboyant and dizzying that it keeps the surprises coming, even if the film tries one's patience with a severely overlong running time. (top) (back)

THE BROTHERS - B-
Starring: Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy, Shemar Moore, Gabrielle Union, Tamala Jones, Tatyana Ali, Jenifer Lewis, Julie Benz
Directed by: Gary Hardwick
Comedy, 102 min (14A) (Screen Gems, 2001)


The brothers in The Brothers may be cut from the same cloth as the boys in The Wood and The Best Man (indeed, Brother Morris Chestnut even costarred in The Best Man), but that isn't to say that this romantic picture treads a painfully familiar path. Sure, the eventual outcome of The Brothers is sentimental and predictable (not to mention far too neatly sewed up and tidy), but this debut feature from writer-director Gary Hardwick is nonetheless a likable and generally well-written comedy. Fashioned as a male response to Waiting to Exhale, the film focuses on a group of life-long friends (Chestnutt, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore) who are forced to analyze their own love lives when Moore, a dedicated bachelor, announces his engagement. As an unhappy husband, stand-up comic Hughley (The Original Kings of Comedy) is the weakest actor of the bunch and his scenes come up short dramatically, failing to really grasp the pain and hurt of a broken marriage. On the other side of the coin, however, is the solid work from Chestnut, who made his debut in Boyz N the Hood and shows real star-power as a commitment-phobe doctor, and Gabrielle Union (Bring It On), who sparkles as Chestnut's latest squeeze. (top) (back)

BROWN SUGAR - B-
Starring:
Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Mos Def, Queen Latifah, Nicole Ari Parker, Erik Weine, Boris Kodjoe, Wendell Pierce
Directed by: Rick Famuyima
Comedy, 109 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


Rick Famuyima's Brown Sugar really isn't all that different from his debut picture, The Wood. Like that 1999 effort, Brown Sugar examines friendship and romance under a spell of '80s nostalgia, but the difference this time is that the fondness is for something very specific: the glory days of '80s hip-hop when groups like Grandmaster Flash were far more interested in having a good time than making the gangsta poses of today's artists. Because of Famuyima's thick crust of memories, Brown Sugar occasionally seems too in love with itself to surpass its predictable storyline - essentially, lifelong friends take their time to learn they are the perfect romantic match for each other - but the film is too likeable and good-natured to easily dismiss. The smooth Taye Diggs stars as Dre, a New York record executive who thinks hip-hop has lost its direction, and Love & Basketball's sunny Sanaa Lathan is his best pal Sidney, a prominent hip-hop journalist. To his credit, Famuyima adds some different elements to the mix - for starters, Dre actually marries someone other than Sidney - and he gets significant comic relief from supporting turns by Queen Latifah and, especially, Mos Def as an awkward-with-the-ladies rapper. (top) (back)

BUBBLE BOY - D
Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Marley Shelton, Swoosie Kurtz, John Carroll Lynch, Danny Trejo, Dave Sheridan, Verne Troyer, Geoffrey Arend
Directed by:
Blair Hayes
Comedy, 84 min (PG) (Touchstone, 2001)

The controversy was bubbling over upon the release of this airheaded comedy due to its relentless mockery of people with immunodeficiency disorders. Watching the film, however, one realizes that people with weak immune systems actually come across fairly unscathed, especially in comparison to the film's cruel, relentless and painfully familiar stereotypes of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, Asians, rednecks, circus freaks, little people and almost every other demographic one can imagine. October Sky's Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular character, a teenager who has spent his entire life trapped in a plastic shield thanks to an overprotective mother (Swoosie Kurtz), but decides to trek across the country from California to Niagara Falls if he is to stop the wedding of his true love (Sugar & Spice's Marley Shelton) to a boorish loser (Dave Sheridan). Along the way, Gyllenhaal's character gets involved with some bikers, a group of sideshow performers and a sing-a-long cult and, whenever it isn't striving to be offensive, there's not much here to hold onto aside from tedious visual jokes and slapstick involving the plastic bubble. Trust me, if you've seen the boy in the bubble fall over once, it isn't something you need to see again (or again, or again...). (top) (back)


BULLETPROOF MONK - C
Featuring:
Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jamie King, Karel Roden, Victoria Smurfit, Marcus J. Pirae, Chris Collins
Directed by: Paul Hunter
Action, 104 min (PG) (MGM, 2003)


No one would have really expected Chow Yun-Fat's follow-up to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) to even begin to approach that film's depth or visual artistry, but surely the actor could have chosen a more appropriate vehicle than Bulletproof Monk. Essentially a cartoon riff on Crouching Tiger with a few elements of The Matrix and the Eddie Murphy dud The Golden Child (1986) thrown into the mix, Bulletproof Monk stars Chow as a Tibetan holy man who has been assigned with the difficult task of protecting an ancient scroll that, if read, could provide someone with unlimited power. Having risked everything for the scroll during the last 60 years (the assignment freezes the aging process), Chow thinks he may have found a worthy successor in an unlikely guise: Kar (American Pie's Seann William Scott), a smart-mouthed pickpocket with a passion for chop-socky Asian films. Kar's initiation into the legend comes just as an aged Nazi is zeroing in on the scroll and the two mismatched leads are soon making gravity-flying leaps and stunts, but director Paul Hunter is never able to move beyond the inherently silly story to deliver any worthwhile action. As Kar's love interest, Pearl Harbor's sweet Jamie King is painfully wooden. (top) (back)

THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS - B-
Starring:
Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Frank Weller, Jack Hallett, Mary Testa
Directed by:
Patrick Stettner
Drama, 85 min (14A) (IFC, 2001)

Almost five years after the testosterone mind-games of Neil LaBute's In The Company of Men, first-time writer-director Patrick Stettner brings us the estrogen version with The Business of Strangers, a similarly talky, showy and angry drama about the mind games between and within genders. Stettner's film may not live up to that shocking, flagrantly anti-PC 1997 picture - after all, this territory has already been covered - but it is nonetheless a relatively gripping drama driven by two top-notch performances. Stockard Channing (TV's The West Wing) plays Julie Styron, a tough, hard-working businesswoman fearful that she is about to be fired and Julia Stiles (O) is Paula, Julie's young assistant. Stuck together at an airport hotel for the night, Julia and Paula are at first hostile to each other, but are eventually bonding, sharing secrets, committing a violent act and engaging in a compelling power struggle. Overall, there's too much of a nagging blueprint to Stettner's screenplay - the film is obviously diagrammed for certain reactions and revelations - but there is no faulting Stiles' fast-and-furious work or the deeply felt performance by Channing as a woman who has sacrificed everything to be where she is today. (top) (back)


BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER
- C-
Starring:
Natasha Lyonne, Cathy Moriarty, Clea DuVall, RuPaul Charles, Melanie Lynskey, Katharine Towne, Eddie Cibrian, Kip Pardue
Directed by:
Jamie Babbit

Comedy, 81 min (18A) (Lions Gate, 2000)


Rigid right-wing views are always ripe for parody, but when it came time to film this skin-deep indie comedy, director Jamie Babbit unfortunately felt the need to mock everyone on screen, specializing in all the cruelty and misconceptions that the film is supposed to be rallying against. Propped up with the tone of a wannabe John Waters picture, But I'm a Cheerleader casts American Pie's sweet Natasha Lyonne as Megan, a popular cheerleader who, based on her love of tofu and Melissa Etheridge (not to mention her fantasies of female classmates) is thrown into a lesbian intervention camp designed to block any same-sex impulses by having its students learn about traditional male and female roles. The program is run by Cathy Moriarty at her most over-the-top and the gay characters here are all such flaming stereotypes - apparently, homosexuals can think of nothing but sex - that they come across more like satirical targets than real people. Ultimately, But I'm a Cheerleader needed an intervention of its own. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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