Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Cast Away
Catch Me If You Can
Cats & Dogs
Cat's Meow, the
Caveman's Valentine, the
Cecil B. Demented
Cell, the
Center of the World, the
Center Stage
Changing Lanes
Charlie's Angels
Charlotte Gray
Cherry Falls
Chicken Run
Chill Factor
Chuck & Buck

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Archived Video Reviews (Ca - Ch)

Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, Christian Bale, John Hurt, Irene Papas, David Morrissey, Vicky Maragaki
Directed by:
John Madden
Drama, 129 min (14A) (Universal, 2001)

The Greek island of Cephalonia, a place of dazzling sun-kissed beauty, comes across far better than any of the actors in this out-of-tune World War II drama that, in its reduction of history to a shallow love story, basically plays like a literary Pearl Harbor. Nicolas Cage gives a damp and overwrought performance as the Corelli of the title, an Italian captain who, while stationed on the island, falls for a beautiful Greek woman (Penelope Cruz) who happens to be engaged to a local freedom fighter (Christian Bale). Director John Madden, whose last film was the quick and snappy Shakespeare in Love (1998) has here unfortunately lost his sense of pacing (Cruz and Cage's characters come together at a crawl) and, though the late-movie battle scenes are done effectively, he has basically turned Louis de Bernieres' 1994 best-selling novel into a pretty postcard. Certainly not working in Madden's favour are the film's unwieldy and unconvincing accents. Cruz' Greek maiden speaks with a Spanish lilt, Bale goes for volume over believability and, though Cage may have some Coppola in him, here he slaps on an Italian accent apparently borrowed from Chico Marx. Only John Hurt, compelling and credible as Cruz' doctor father, hits the right notes. (top) (back)

Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Valerie Wildman, Geoffrey Blake, Chris Noth, Jennifer Lewis, Nick Searcy, Lari White
Directed by:
Robert Zemeckis
Drama, 147 min
(PG) (20th Century Fox, 2000)

The story of a FedEx systems engineer who is marooned on a Pacific island following a plane crash, Cast Away is one of those movies that either sinks or swims based on the work of its lead actor. After all, a film like this not only requires an actor's incredible physical transformation, but also enough charisma (not to mention guts) to star in a film almost entirely by his or herself. Thankfully, Cast Away stars Tom Hanks, an ideal actor for this role who steps up to the plate and knocks the coconut clear over the horizon. Reteaming with his Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis and spending the bulk of the movie by himself (that is, aside from the volleyball that becomes his only companion), Hanks gives an incredibly subtle, captivating performance as a man who must take stock of what he has, what he has lost, and how he can keep going. The rest of the movie doesn't do him justice, padding everything with strained and overreaching bookends, but Hanks' brilliant performance is one that many actors would kill for. (top) (back)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, James Brolin, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Drama, 140 min (PG) (Dreamworks, 2002)

Steven Spielberg was the perfect choice to direct Catch Me If You Can, a wily and hugely entertaining adaptation of the autobiography of conman Frank Abagnale Jr. Not only does the film play directly into the director's familiar lost boy theme, but it also gives Spielberg the chance to loosen up and have fun, a nice little excursion following splendid but decidedly difficult pictures like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) and Minority Report (2002). Catch Me If You Can takes a rewarding and personal approach to the story of Abagnale, a quick-on-his-feet manipulator who, in the mid-1960s, split from high school, began impersonating an airline pilot, emergency room physician and attorney, cashed more than US$2 million worth of forged cheques and made it onto the FBI's most wanted list before he turned 21. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an effortlessly charming performance as Frank, capturing both the joy and loneliness of this lifestyle, and the supporting cast is well-rounded with turns by Tom Hanks as the FBI agent who spends years on the case and an Oscar-nominated Christopher Walken, bringing dignity and humanity to the role of Abagnale Sr. Directly from the jazzy opening sequence, this is a spirited and giddy picture worth catching. (top) (back)

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins, with the voices of Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Sean Hayes, Susan Sarandon, Joe Pantoliano
Directed by:
Larry Guterman
Comedy, 87 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)

Cat lovers have every reason to hate (and dog lovers have every reason to love) Cats & Dogs. After all, the film clearly splits the two camps into good and evil, with Fido coming across as man's faithful best friend and Whiskers plotting world domination. Yes, that's right, cats are plotting world domination, or at least they are in this action-adventure that uncovers the secrets behind the eternal canine-feline war and blames much of it on a certain Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Will & Grace's Sean Hayes), a megalomanical furball intent on making cats the superior species so long as he can keep the neighbourhood pooch patrol (led by Alec Baldwin, with Tobey Maguire as the new recruit) in the doghouse. Brought to life using a mix of real four-legged pets, animatronic puppets and computer effects, the animals here can talk, fight, plot, and even kickbox, providing far more entertainment than the film's weak storyline and litterbox-worthy screenplay. Though kids may get caught up in all of the animal adventures and Hayes turns Mr. Tinkles into a worthy adversary, Cats & Dogs is decidedly short on real inspiration, falling back on cutesy family scenes, repetitive chases and the typecasting of Jeff Goldblum as an absent-minded scientist. (top) (back)

Kirsten Dunst, Edward Herrmann, Eddie Izzard, Cary Elwes, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Tilly, Claudia Harrison, Ronan Vibert
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
Drama, 112 min (PG) (Lions Gate, 2002)

Once celebrated filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (Paper Moon, The Last Picture Show) hasn't had much critical or commercial success since Mask (1985), but he regains his footing with The Cat's Meow, a vicious yet loving look at old Hollywood mystery and gossip. Set in 1924 and based on a stage play by Steven Peros, the film recreates the rumoured events surrounding the final days of Thomas Ince (played by Cary Elwes), a movie producer who died following a weekend yacht cruise in mysterious circumstances that many believe involved the love triangle between media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann), his movie star mistress, Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst), and notorious womanizer Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard). Though oftentimes as superficial as many of the showbiz phonies on screen, The Cat's Meow is nonetheless highly entertaining, capitalizing both on our collective desire for Hollywood scandal and Bogdanovich's appreciation of character, with Herrmann's Hearst coming across as a paranoid bully, Jennifer Tilly providing the laughs as gossip columnist Louella Parsons and Dunst giving her first adult performance as a young starlet who was fond of more than Hearst's money. (top) (back)

Samuel L. Jackson, Ann Magnuson, Colm Feore, Anjanue Ellis, Tamara Tunie, Anthony Michael Hall, Damir Andrei, Jay Rodan
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Suspense, 105 min (14A) (Universal Focus, 2001)

Director Kasi Lemmons followed up her 1997 stunner Eve's Bayou with this intriguing thriller and, wisely, she once again enlisted Samuel L. Jackson as her main man, allowing the actor to give a soulful and all-encompassing performance that carries the picture past its uneven spots. Sporting waist-length, salt-and-pepper dreadlocks, Jackson plays Romulus Ledbetter, a Julliard-trained musician whose schizophrenia got the better of him, driving him to leave his wife and daughter (now grown up and played by Anjanue Ellis), move to a cave in New York City's Central Park and rant to strangers about the threatening voices he hears coming from the Chrysler Building. When he discovers the frozen corpse of a young male drifter in a tree, the police rule it to be an accident, but Ledbetter is suspicious and turns amateur detective. Throughout The Caveman's Valentine, there is real pleasure to be found in watching Jackson wrestle with his inner demons, but here Lemmons has a much less secure grip on the proceedings than she did in Eve's Bayou, never fully overcoming the story's more standard-issue mystery gears (the film is based on a 1994 cult novel by George Dawes Green) with her fluid - if at times overdone - cinematic imagery. (top) (back)

Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Alicia Witt, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ricki Lake, Adrian Grenier, Patricia Hearst
Directed by:
John Waters
Comedy, 88 min
(18A) (Artisan, 2000)

No one expects a John Waters movie to not be crudely shot or not have a fetish for the abnormal, but many of his fans do hope for a sharp satirical worldview. Cecil B. Demented, however, specializes in warped parody so tame and just plain irritating that you'd think it was written by a junior high student. The game Melanie Griffith plays Honey Whitlock, a Hollywood movie star who is kidnapped by a group of guerrilla filmmakers led by the title character (Stephen Dorff), a megalomaniac cult director who wants to rage against the studio machine. The picture falls apart, however, because Waters has no idea what to make of Dorff's lunatic, a man who destroys mainstream movie theatres but he doesn't seem capable of producing anything worth seeing or even smart enough to tie his own shoes. Mixed in with Waters' numbingly predictable visions of outcasts include such obvious Hollywood targets as Patch Adams and The Flintstones that may be machine-made, but are virtual masterpieces compared to Cecil B. Demented. (top) (back)

Starring: Jennifer Lopez,
Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jake Weber
Directed by:
Tarsem Singh
Suspense, 107 min
(18A) (New Line, 2000)

With The Cell, another music video director makes his bid for feature film success and, yet again, style is given much more significance than substance. In this visually adept but dramatically inept feature from director Tarsem Singh, Jennifer Lopez plays a child psychologist who has been conducting experiments that allow her to actually enter the minds of her patients. When a serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) lapses into a coma upon being captured, it is up to Lopez to enter his synapses and find out where he trapped his latest victim. As Lopez ventures in and out of D'Onofrio's mind, Singh offers a wide variety of surreal and visually striking images, but they never come together to form a cohesive whole. Worse, Singh displays little knowledge of what goes into making a story compelling, offering paper-thin characters and a storyline overwhelmed by a sense of pointlessness. As for Lopez, she basically poses from one scene to the next, never becoming more than another visual. (top) (back)

Molly Parker, Peter Sarsgaard, Carla Gugino, Balthazar Getty, Mel Gorham, Iam Gomez
Directed by:
Wayne Wang
Drama, 88 min (18A) (Artisan, 2001)

Having previously handled feminine relationships with The Joy Luck Club (1993) and Anywhere But Here (1999), director Wayne Wang dives headfirst into sexual introspection with The Center of the World only to realize - about two steps too late - that this pool isn't even half full. Shot on grainy digital video that almost gives the impression that one is watching it through a web-cam, The Center of the World chronicles the weekend of Richard (Peter Sarsgaard), a repressed computer-wizard/millionaire, and Florence (Molly Parker), the stripper who agrees to accompany him to Las Vegas provided any sexual activity - kissing and intercourse is off limits - is restricted to four hours per night. Watching The Center of the World, with its pretentious sex scenes and voyeuristic camera work, it's clear that Wang is trying to say something about sexual politics, but the film never really comes across as anything more than hollow exhibitionism. Parker and Sarsgaard (almost unrecognizable from Boys Don't Cry) should be commended for their bravery to bare all physically and emotionally, but the screenplay never really lets their characters come into focus, with Florence in particular barely developing beyond her manufactured persona. (top) (back)

Amanda Schull, Peter Gallagher, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy, Susan May Pratt, Ethan Stiefel, Eion Bailey, Shakiem Evans, Ilia Kulik
Directed by:
Nicholas Hytner
Drama, 116 min
(PG) (Columbia TriStar, 2000)

When it came time to make this ballet drama about a naif (Amanda Schull) attending the demanding American Ballet Company, director Nicholas Hytner chose to cast dancers instead of actors. One can see why he took this route - after all, how are you going to buy the characters if you don't buy their work on the dance floor - but he seems to have forgotten one important thing: not all dancers can act. With only a few exceptions (Peter Gallagher as a tyrannical theatre director, Donna Murphy as a strict teacher and Susan May Pratt as a closet bulimic), the entire cast gives amateurish performances and many of them have such a similar look that you never get a finger on their characters. It may have helped had the screenplay been more than a steady run of clichés taken straight out of Fame, The Turning Point, Flashdance, etc., but at least the dancing is quite good, with the standout being Ethan Stiefel as a bad-boy choreographer. (top) (back)

Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt, Amanda Peet, Dylan Baker, Richard Jenkins
Directed by:
Roger Mitchell
Drama, 99 min (14A) (Paramount, 2002)

Road rage is the ignition and revenge is the fuel in this thoughtful and low-key - if occasionally frustrating - thriller that succeeds because it doesn't stack the deck too heavily in favour of one party over the other, portraying both leads as flawed men with unfortunate short fuses. Directed by Roger Mitchell without a smidgen of the sunshine he brought to Notting Hill (1999), Changing Lanes casts Ben Affleck as Gavin, a smug young lawyer who gets into a fender bender with a down-on-his-luck father named Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson), gives him a blank cheque and abandons him on the side of the road. As a result, Gibson is late for a child-custody hearing and he decides to seek vengeance by keeping the critical legal file that Gavin left behind. What follows is a battle between the two men - a car "accident" here, a spoiled credit line there - and, though the bad deeds ultimately get out of hand and the ending is too pat, Changing Lanes develops into a smart morality tale for Gavin and Gibson, with one man questioning his career and the other his decision to go sober. The fact that both actors have played similar roles before (Affleck in Bounce, Jackson in A Time to Kill and The Negotiator) does little to reduce the impact of their taut work. (top) (back)

Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Kelly Lynch, Tim Curry, Sam Rockwell, Luke Wilson, Crispin Glover 
Directed by:
Action, 99 min
(PG) (Columbia Tristar, 2000)

There's nothing wrong with movies that want nothing more than to offer good, dumb entertainment, but even the silliest films need their wits about them. Despite the fact that it took 17 writers to get it to the screen, however, Charlie's Angels just doesn't have a brain in its pretty little head. That's too bad because stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu are clearly in the right spirit when it comes to the film, an update of the 1970s jiggle TV classic about three feisty babes who make up a crime-fighting unit backed by an anonymous millionaire. Directed by video veteran McG as cinematic fast food, the actresses have fun - particular highlights involve Liu playing dominatrix to a bunch of computer geeks and Diaz getting down with her bad self - but the film often favours dumb gags and overblown action over an interesting story or clever jokes. As a result, many of the film's comic moments never come into focus and the actors - particularly Bill Murray as the Angels' channel to Charlie - are wasted. (top) (back)

Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, John Benfield, Ron Cook, Robert Shannon, Jack Shepard, Rupert Penry Jones 
Directed by:
Gillian Armstrong
Drama, 121 min
(PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)

One would think that the nuanced, female-centric direction of Gillian Armstrong (1994's lovely Little Women) and the versatile, independent-minded talents of actress Cate Blanchett would be well suited for one another. In Charlotte Gray, however, even more so than in their underwhelming 1997 collaboration Oscar & Lucinda, the two talents effectively cancel each other out. Surprisingly muted and uninvolving for a film set in France during WWII, Charlotte Gray stars Blanchett as the title character, a Scottish woman who becomes an undercover agent in support of the French resistance in an attempt to locate her downed pilot boyfriend (Rupert Penry Jones). Before long, she's caught up in destroying German troop trains, hiding Jewish orphans and exchanging longing looks with a handsome French comrade (Billy Crudup). There's a lot of story here (the film is based on a 1999 novel by Sebastian Faulks and bares a strong resemblance to Captain Corelli's Mandolin), but Armstrong's unfocused direction never sufficiently connects the dots between scenes, resulting in far too many thin characters and undeveloped situations. As a result, neither Blanchett nor Crudup is provided with the opportunity to expose the souls of their characters. (top) (back)

Brittany Murphy, Gabriel Mann, Jay Mohr, Michael Biehn, Candy Clark, Joe Iscoe, Natalie Ramsey, Clementine Ford
Directed by: Geoffrey Wright
Horror, 92 min (18A) (USA Films, 2000)

It eventually evolves into a silly, badly lit, standard-issue slasher film, but Cherry Falls at least deserves credit for turning one of the primary trademarks of the genre upside down. Past experiences have told us that sex in this sort of film only leads to a gruesome death but in Cherry Falls, it is the virgins that are targeted. Directed by Geoffrey Wright (1992's Romper Stomper) and starring Jay Mohr (Go), Brittany Murphy (the tomboy in Clueless) and Aliens' Michael Biehn, Cherry Falls focuses on a small town in which virginal high school students are being butchered by a masked killer out for revenge, resulting in a push for promiscuity and general hormonal chaos. There are a lot of winking American Pie-meets-Scream gags throughout Cherry Falls (the film is even set in Virginia), but it isn't too long before the balance between gore and comedy starts swaying wildly out of control, leaving the not-bad cast (Murphy is one to watch) with little to do besides shriek, duck and run for cover. (top) (back)

Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Taye Diggs, Christine Baranski, Colm Feore
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Musical, 113 min (14A) (Miramax, 2002)

If Moulin Rouge re-imagined the movie musical genre for the MTV generation, Chicago kicks it into the new millennium thanks to irresistible performances, musical numbers that beg for repeat play and an invigorating combination of cynicism and va-va-voom. Adapted from Bob Fosse's 1975 stage satire, this deserved winner of the Best Picture Oscar is a stunning achievement for first-time film director Rob Marshall and a reminder of just how smooth and stunning a filmed musical can be. Set in the 1920s but all too relevant in our times of tabloid celebrities, Chicago tells the story of a fame-starved cutie (Renee Zellweger) who finds celebrated notoriety upon murdering her lover and hiring a show-boating lawyer (Richard Gere). In an inspired move, the stirring musical pieces here have all been visualized as springing directly from Roxie's mind. Zellweger doesn't have a strong singing voice, but she has the right not-so-innocent tone and there are dazzling turns by supporting players Gere, John C. Reilly (touching as Roxie's forgotten husband), Queen Latifah (delicious as a prison matron) and, especially, the Oscar-winning Catherine Zeta-Jones - all slink, sexuality and conviction - as the prison diva. (top) (back)

Starring the voices of: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson, Phil Daniels, Jane Horrocks, Lynn Ferguson, Imelda Staunton
Directed by: Nick Park, Peter Lord
Animated, 89
min (G) (Dreamworks, 2000)

Who would have thought that one of the best prison movies since the days of Stalag 17, The Great Escape and The Bridge on the River Kwai would star an almost grotesque-looking group of chickens? This im-peck-able animated feature from the stop-motion team behind the wonderful Wallace and Gromit shorts not only succeeds as a detail-perfect parody of classic POW flicks, but also as a flagrantly entertaining film for viewers of all ages. The observant and endlessly witty screenplay tells the story of the chickens at Tweedy's Chicken Farm, an excitable lot who are slowly coming to the realization that if they don't lay enough eggs, they'll wind up as dinner. Just when they begin to lose all hope, along comes Rocky, a "flying" circus rooster voiced to arrogant perfection by Mel Gibson. Although Chicken Run doesn't push the boundaries of stop-motion animation along the lines of, say, A Nightmare Before Christmas, you can't go wrong with a picture this stuffed with personality. (top) (back)

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth, David Paymer, Hudson Leich, Lonnie Smith, Judson Mills
Directed by: Hugh Johnson
Action, 102 min
(14A) (Warner Bros., 1999)

Less than three years ago, Cuba Gooding Jr. was jumping up and down on the Oscar stage after winning a trophy for his jubilant performance in Jerry Maguire, so it seems reasonable that the actor spends much of Chill Factor - the inane story of a bomb on an ice cream truck - with an expression that screams "What am I doing here?" Like a Willy Wonka spin on Speed, Chill Factor stars Gooding as an ice cream delivery man who is forced to team up with the night worker from a diner (Skeet Ulrich) to keep a deadly chemical compound out of the hands of a disgraced soldier (Peter Firth). Since the explosive needs to be kept below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), it is placed in Gooding's truck and the duo improbably races down the highway with terrorists close behind. Like a bad late-night cable movie, Chill Factor ineptly runs through all the usual moving vehicle action clichés, never generating any real suspense because the audience always feels far smarter than any of the idiots on the screen. (top) (back)

- B-
Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Johnny Depp, Peter Stormare, Carrie-Anne Moss, Victoire Thivisol
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Comedy, 122 min (PG) (Miramax, 2000)

Overrated and undeserving of its Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Chocolat is the cinematic equivalent of a bag of Hershey's Kisses - sweet, tempting and pleasant, but more of a manufactured product than something crafted out of love and care. Directed by The Cider House Rules' Lasse Hallstrom like a whimsical fairy tale and based on a novel by Joanne Harris, Chocolat features the lovely Juliette Binoche as Vianne, a beautiful unwed mother who arrives in a small French village in the 1950s. When Vianne opens a gourmet chocolate shop, some of the villagers are colorfully aroused by the tasty treats, but others - including the moralistic mayor (Alfred Molina) - view this woman's sweets as a threat to their conservative ways. Along the way, Johnny Depp shows up as an oppressed Irish drifter, but Hallstrom keeps the focus shifted away from any dramatic weight, instead focusing on the film's candy-coated message of tolerance and kindness. The director took a similar approach to Cider House Rules, but that film had a bright, shining spirit courtesy of John Irving's screenplay. Chocolat is certainly entertaining, but the sweetness here is far more fabricated, with the story following shallow story arcs straight from the assembly line. (top) (back)

Mike White, Chris Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros, Beth Colt, Paul Weitz, Maya Rudolph
Directed by:
Miguel Arteta
Comedy, 97 min
(14A) (Artisan, 2000)

Imagine What About Bob? (1991) with its easy humour substituted by erotic compulsions, arrested development and indie sensibilities and you still won't quite know what to expect from Chuck & Buck, an understated stalker comedy that succeeds at really getting under your skin. The film's screenwriter, Mike White, plays Buck, a gawky man-child who still clings to memories from when he was 11 as though they happened only yesterday. When Buck's mother dies, he decides to seek out Charles (American Pie codirector Chris Weitz), his grade school best friend (then known as Chuck), and he becomes obsessed with rekindling their friendship. Unfortunately, Chuck & Buck ends on a flat note with an unconvincing character turn, but White's performance is genuinely unsettling and director Miguel Arteta wisely uses realistic secondary characters (like the theatre director played by a scene-stealing Lupe Ontiveros) to keep the picture grounded and not just treat Buck as a source of bad-taste oddball comedy. (top)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

Looking for more? Visit Recent Video Releases, Recommended Releases or the following Archived Video sections: Aa-Am, An-Az, Ba-Be, Bf-Bn, Bo-Bz, Ca-Ch, Ci-Cz, Da-Dn, Do-Dz, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ma-Mn, Mo-Mz, N, O, P-Q, Ra-Rh, Ri-Rz, Sa-Sg, Sh-Sl, Sm-Ss, St-Sz, Ta-Ti, Tj-Tz, U-V, W, X-Z