Cider House Rules, the
Cinderella II
City by the Sea
Claim, the
Collateral Damage
Confessions of a Danger...
Contender, the
Core, the
Corky Romano
Count of Monte Cristo, the
Coyote Ugly
Cradle 2 the Grave
Cradle Will Rock
Crazy in Alabama
Crew, the
Crocodile Dundee in LA
Crocodile Hunter, the
Crouching Tiger, Hidden...
Curse of the Jade Scorpion

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Archived Video Reviews (Ci - Cz)
Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker, Erykah Badu, Kieran Culkin
Directed by:
Lasse Hallstrom
Drama, 125 min
(PG) (Miramax, 1999)

John Irving lovingly adapted his own 1985 bestseller for this gentle, Oscar-nominated fable about Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), a young man raised in an orphanage who leaves home during WWII to experience more of the world around him (including Charlize Theron, lovely as a military man's lonely wife). What Homer encounters is tinged with fiery issues like abortion, addiction and incest, but it's a testament to Irving's screenplay and the lyricism of Lasse Hallstrom's direction that these issues never overwhelm the film's brightly shining spirit. As in the director's What's Eating Gilbert Grape, the performances here are pitch-perfect, with the standouts including Delroy Lindo as a forceful migrant worker, singer Erykah Badu as his daughter and Maguire, who seems to grow up before our eyes. Although he struggles with a New England accent, Michael Caine won an Oscar for his subtle work as Homer's mentor. (top) (back)

Voices by:
Jennifer Hale, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Rob Paulson, Corey Burton, Russi Taylor, Holland Taylor, Tress MacNeille
Directed by:
John Kafka
Animated, 73 min (G) (Walt Disney, 2001)

Disney's shameless mining of animated treasures hits a new low with Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, a deadly dull animated picture that joins the cheap Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000) and dismal Return of Jafar (1994) as one of the studio's worst direct-to-video sequels. Designed to answer a question that no one ever really asked (What happens after happily ever after?), Cinderella II isn't so much a complete film as a series of three vignettes that may appeal to the young, but will be crushingly boring to everyone else. In the first story, Cinderella (voiced blankly by Jennifer Hale) has troubles adjusting to the princess lifestyle. In the second, French mouse Jaq (one of the few characters that remains endearing here) gets a wish from the Fairy Godmother to be turned into a human and, in the third, Cinderella plays matchmaker for her once-wicked stepsister Anastasia (no, not the Russian princess). Of the three, only the final tale has even a touch of substance, saddled as they all are with flat animation, simplistic messages and painfully predictable story arcs. Truth be told, if my dreams came true, Disney would stick to worthwhile stories and wisely leave remaining classic characters like Pinocchio, Bambi and Snow White alone. (top) (back)

Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, James Franco, Eliza Dushku, William Forsythe, George Dzundza, Anson Mount, Patti Lupone
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Drama, 108 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2002)

Over the years, it has gotten to the point that Robert De Niro could practically play a cop while in a coma (in the last year alone, he slipped on the holster as a detective in Showtime and 15 Minutes). Thankfully, however, the actor still has the ability to draw you into his performances, something he does quite well in City by the Sea, a familiar and generally marginal picture with just enough drama to keep you involved. De Niro plays Vincent LaMarca, a veteran homicide detective whose abandoned junkie son (James Franco) is the leading suspect in a murder investigation taking place in the shattered shell of Long Beach, New York (the "city" of the title). Inspired by a true story and directed with a focus on geography by Michael Caton-Jones (who teamed with De Niro on 1993's This Boy's Life), City by the Sea certainly isn't a surprising picture, but the well-rounded performances help raise it above the mediocre, with solid turns by De Niro as a man haunted by the past, Patty Lupone as Vincent's bitter ex, Frances McDormand in the thankless role as Vincent's girlfriend and a jittery Franco, who seems to be channeling James Dean via Johnny Depp (the Spider-Man costar previously won acclaim for playing Dean in a TV movie). (top) (back)

Wes Bentley, Sarah Polley, Peter Mullan, Milla Jovovich, Nastassja Kinski, Julian Richings, Sean McGinley, Duncan Fraser
Directed by:
Michael Winterbottom
Drama, 120 min (14A) (United Artists, 2000)

Michael Winterbottom may already bear claim to directing one wrenching adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel (1996's Jude), but when it comes to this version of Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), set during the California gold rush, everything doesn't pan out quite as well as one would have hoped. Filmed in the B.C./Alberta Rockies, The Claim focuses on the citizens of a frontier town about to be drastically affected by the head surveyor of the Central Pacific Railway (American Beauty's Wes Bentley) and the arrival of a mother and daughter (Nastassja Kinski and Sarah Polley) with a few dark secrets about the town's mayor (Peter Mullan). As always, Winterbottom has a fascination with grand-scale themes and metaphors, neither of which are lost in the beautiful snowy mountain ranges of The Claim, but here the grandeur of everything and multiple subplots are something of a burden, often distracting from the understated and stirring performances from Bentley, Polley and, especially, Mullen. (top) (back)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Elias Koteas, Cliff Curtis, Tyler Garcia Posey
Directed by: Andrew Davis
Action, 103 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2002)

When you get right down to it, Collateral Damage isn't any more formulaic or silly than a 1980s Schwarzenegger hit like Commando (1985). The major difference here is that while the earlier pictures were well aware of their limitations, Collateral Damage's weaknesses are unintentionally highlighted due to its aging protagonist and Sept. 11 shadows (originally set for release in 2001, the film's release was pushed back to avoid fallout from the terrorist attacks in the US). Here Schwarzenegger plays Gordon Brewer, a fireman who lost his wife and son when terrorists struck a Los Angeles building. Frustrated with politicians and a lack of response, Gordon decides to head straight into Columbia to seek out revenge against the leader of the guerillas (Cliff Curtis). To get a feel for the absurdity of this premise, simply try to imagine a family member of a World Trade Center victim sneaking into Afghanistan to single-handedly kill Osama bin Laden. Even without the parallels to real-life terror, however, the film would still be little more than tepid action mechanics, complete with fuzzy international politics and an Austrian hulk who is beginning to look his age (that's 55), thus seriously reducing our belief in him as a bare-knuckle fighting hero. (top) (back)

Jerry Seinfeld, Orny Adams, Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby
Directed by: Christian Charles
Documentary, 82 min (R) (Miramax, 2002)

Following the phenomenal success of his 1990-98 sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld could have easily just secluded himself in his mansion, surrounded by piles and piles of cash. In his heart, though, Seinfeld is a stand-up comedian and, following a high profile HBO event, not only did he return to the microphone, but he decided to retire his entire old act, start again from scratch and have much of the process filmed for this documentary. By offering such a candid look at the process, Comedian humanizes Seinfeld, capturing a man many consider to be at the top of his game facing insecurities, learning from his mistakes, seeking advice from his peers (Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling…) and awing over his idol (Bill Cosby). In addition, Comedian modestly succeeds on the primary front: to illustrate that the act of making people laugh is an art that requires far more skill than just being able to stand in front of a crowd and act the clown. Helping the film's case is its second subject, Orny Adams, a relatively talented but unknown comic who struggles, struggles and struggles to make a name for himself. Problem is, Adams is a sour, self-loathing character and whenever he appears, you want the focus to shift back on Seinfeld. (top) (back)

- C
Heather Graham, Luke Wilson, Casey Affleck, Alfonso Arau, Goran Visnjic, Mark Ruffalo, Kim Dickens, Clea DuVall, Dylan Baker
Directed by: Lisa Krueger
Comedy, 99 min (14A) (Miramax, 2000)

Without the proper care and handling, quirkiness can easy become insufferable and Committed, Lisa Krueger's indie follow-up to 1996's sisters-on-the-road comedy Manny & Lo, treads awfully close to these dangerous waters. Heather Graham sports ringlets here as Joline, a deeply spiritual New York City rock-club manager who hightails it to Texas when her husband (the deadpan Luke Wilson) splits in an attempt to find himself. Because she has such faith in her marital vows, Joline doesn't treat his departure as a rejection so much as a mistake and Graham brings a really adorable sweetness to the character. That said, Committed ultimately consists of too much forced whimsy, with Mexican spirits, trips to the insane asylum, strange brotherly relations, voodoo dolls and hunky neighbours all mucking up the story with scripted "kookiness." All of this is designed to supposedly help Joline become a better person, but the film lacks the commitment to either its characters or its star to make it work. (top) (back)

Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer, Kristen Wilson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed by: George Clooney
Drama, 114 min (14A) (Miramax, 2002)

Auto Focus, A Beautiful Mind and a dose of giddy enthusiasm get thrown into the blender with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, an adaptation of Chuck Barris' 1984 unauthorized autobiography that isn't as fun as it could be but still offers an entertaining look at Barry's unbelievable life. Of course, whether or not this was actually Barris' life is still up for debate. You see, along with being a grandfather of reality TV (having created The Gong Show and The Dating Show, among others), Barris claims that he also led a secret life as a CIA assassin. In his directorial debut, George Clooney shows a few too many directorial ticks - throwing in more visual flourishes than are warranted, often at the expense of character development - but he wisely plays everything straight, thereby better developing the joke of having Barris zip around Europe on secret missions with his seductive mystery contact (a sexy Julia Roberts). Often cast as the cocky jerk in films like Charlie's Angels and Welcome to Collinwood, Sam Rockwell gets a chance to shine here as Barris, capturing all of the growing contradictions and pressures that blossom out of his two enveloping lifestyles (as Barris' girlfriend, Drew Barrymore is unfortunately one note). (top) (back)

Edward Burns, Andy Garcia, Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Donal Logue, Morris Chestnut, Luis Guzman, Franky G.
Directed by: James Foley
Suspense, 97 min (14A) (Lions Gate, 2003)

In con game movies, everyone is always hoodwinking everyone else and the draw of it all lies in trying to figure out the difference between the lies and truths before any of the characters on the screen. Because of this, it is a shame that Confidence lays its cards on the table so early in the game and that anyone familiar with the genre will no doubt catch on even before then. That said, Confidence is still relatively fun while it lasts. This sprightly cousin to Confidence director James Foley's Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) and a last-score film like Heist (2001) follows a group of conmen led by Edward Burns that makes the mistake of fleecing some cash from a vengeful little big man (Dustin Hoffman). Rather than run, the group decides to bring Hoffman's character - along with a seductive pickpocket (Rachel Weisz) - in on their latest scam involving a crooked banker (Robert Forster). Considering his whiney work in Life or Something Like It, Burns is surprisingly authoritative here, but it is Hoffman who truly runs away with the picture. Hitting on everything in sight (including both Burns and Weisz) and rattling on about subjects big and small (his character has a case of ADHD), Hoffman is clearly enjoying every minute of his screen time. (top) (back)

Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges, Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, William Peterson, Philip Baker Hall, Sam Elliot, Saul Rubinek
Directed by:
Rod Lurie
Drama, 127 min
(14A) (Dreamworks, 2000)

It's not as thought provoking as it wants to be, but writer-director Rod Lurie's political thriller is a taut, intelligent and luridly entertaining picture. The film casts Joan Allen (who played the president's wife in Nixon) as Laine Hanson, a US Senator who, having just been named Vice President following the death of the incumbent veep, is thrown into a torrid sex scandal by a powerful congressman (Gary Oldman) in charge of confirmation hearings. There are a lot of big, timely issue buttons being pressed in The Contender and Lurie makes the most of every one, resulting in a lot of absorbing backstage politics. As usual, Allen gives a forceful performance as a woman who lives by the strength of her convictions and there's also solid work from Oldman and Jeff Bridges (as the type of President you'd only dream about). Because of this, it's a shame Lurie drops the ball so close to the finish line, finishing his picture with an overblown music-swelling conclusion and some political revelations too idyllic to be believed. (top) (back)

Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Bruce Greenwood, Stanley Tucci, DJ Qualls, Tcheky Karyo, Richard Jenkins
Directed by: Jon Amiel
Suspense, 134 min (PG) (Paramount, 2003)

In The Core, a group of renowned scientists bore to the center of the Earth but, more than anything, they spend most of the film drilling through the cheese of disaster films ranging from Armageddon (1998) to 1974's Earthquake. As usual, there is a group of comically contrasting members of the disaster response team, a series of effects-heavy showstoppers (the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Coliseum) and bounder-heavy dialogue. Despite the presence of some accomplished actors, however, The Core makes for a generally under-whelming adventure. As the film opens, people with pacemakers are collapsing in the streets, birds are going haywire in Trafalgar Square and electrical storms are popping up over the entire planet, all of it due to the fact that Earth's core has stopping spinning and its electro-magnetic field is faltering. Scientists Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci and Tcheky Karyo join astronauts Hilary Swank and Bruce Greenwood for a journey to the center of the Earth to jump-start the planet, but the drama slows down considerably once they head beneath the surface thanks to generic pitfalls and predictable problems. As a result, if the running time were any longer, The Core would have been a real bore. (top) (back)

Chris Kattan, Vinessa Shaw, Peter Falk, Richard Roundtree, Chris Penn, Fred Ward, Peter Berg, Dave Sheridan, Matthew Glane
Directed by:
Rob Pritts
Comedy, 87 min (PG) (Touchstone, 2001)

Three years after unleashing the comic hell of A Night at the Roxbury, Saturday Night Live's Chris Kattan returns with Corky Romano, another torturous exercise in clueless comedy. This time around, Kattan plays the title character, a dorky wannabe veterinarian and the spastic black sheep of a mafia clan led by his father (Peter Falk) and two brothers (Chris Penn and Peter Berg). When the FBI begins investigating Falk, the family recruits Corky to pose as Agent Pissant (a name so unfunny it hurts) and steal evidence gathered against his father. Along the way, Corky dances like a maniac to '80s music, delivers a lecture while wired on cocaine, romances a female agent (Vinessa Shaw), destroys everything around him with his flailing arms, destroys everything around him again, destroys everything once more, and continues to do this repeatedly until one is actually clamoring for one of Kattan's one-note SNL characters like Mr. Peepers or Mango. Throughout Corky Romano, Kattan is far too eager to please to have any sort of edge and he becomes exceedingly bland as the film proceeds, leaving behind only numbing, sub-last 30 minutes of SNL set pieces and all the usual body function gags. Put a cork in this one and toss it out. (top) (back)

Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominczyk, Richard Harris, Luiz Guzman, Helen McCrory, Henry Cavill, Michael Wincott
Directed by:
Kevin Reynolds
Drama, 131 min
(PG) (Touchstone, 2002)

It's easy to muck up a swashbuckling flick - just ask the players behind 2001's awful The Musketeer - but director Kevin Reynolds does a competent job with this adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' class 1844 novel, wisely focusing more on story and character motivation than floppy hats and ruffled sleeves. This dense story about deception, love and revenge stars Angel Eyes' Jim Caviezel as Dantes, a naive young ship captain who is betrayed by his best friend (Guy Pearce) and wrongfully sent to the infamous prison of Chateau D'If to rot away. Once he escapes, Dantes passes himself off as the Count of Monte Cristo in order to seek revenge, but Caviezel never really ignites with all-consuming vengeance, unfortunately leaving his character's heart too exposed for real tension. Better is Pearce, who embodies the scheming villain with such fleshy jealousy and resentment that one almost wishes he could have played both leads. Reynolds, who also directed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), moves the story forward with enough of a kick to ease any chances of boredom (quite an accomplishment considering the large amount of exposition) and clearly focuses his sights on providing involving, if slightly square, matinee-style entertainment. (top)

Starring: Piper Perabo, Maria Bello, John Goodman, Tyra Banks, Isabella Miko, Adam Garcia, Bridget Monynahan, Melanie Lynskey

Directed by:
David McNally
Drama, 101 min
(PG) (Touchstone, 2000)

With the Flashdance-meets-Cocktail fluff that is Coyote Ugly, producer Jerry Bruckheimer does his best to appeal to both genders. Not only does his bargirl drama offers the promise of lots of bare flesh and sexy dancing, but there's also the female-friendly story about a woman finding herself and realizing her true potential. As it turns out, though, Coyote Ugly is both too glib and too much of a tease to succeed in either area. Directed by David McNally with all the gloss and substance of a beer commercial, Coyote Ugly stars Piper Perabo as a New Jersey girl who heads to New York to find success as a songwriter and winds up working at a rowdy bar where revealing clothes, hosing down customers and gyrating on the countertop are all part of the job description. Perabo has the right look for Violet - that of a good girl pretending to be bad - but seeing as how she's the only character we get to know beyond a rough outline, she should have been more than a pretty face. (top) (back)

DMX, Jet Li, Mark Dacascos, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, Julie DuPage, Kelly Hu, Gabrielle Union, Lester Speight
Directed by:
Andrzej Bartkowiak
Action, 101 min (14A) (Warner, 2003)

You would be excused if you thought Cradle 2 the Grave was a sequel. After all, not only does the film have a "2" in its title, but it acts as something of a family reunion since Jet Li and DMX costarred in Cradle director Andrzej Bartkowiak's Romeo Must Die (2000) and DMX, Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson were all featured in Bartkowiak's 2001 picture Exit Wounds (not surprisingly, Wounds' lumpy Steven Seagal has been dropped from the equation). Unfortunately, neither Romeo nor Wounds really worked and Cradle follows suit, weakened primarily be a series of anemic action sequences and a disposable story. DMX, promising in Wounds but flat here, plays a single father and thief whose daughter is kidnapped after he steals a bag of black diamonds and refuses to give it up without compensation. Li, as a Taiwanese cop, joins forces with DMX to nab the criminal masterminds, but his motives are unconvincing (why wouldn't he call on other law enforcement groups instead of a small-time group of safecrackers) and he gets even less of a chance to show off his action chops than he did in The One (2001). For some reason, Gabrielle Union wastes her time and charisma here in the shallow role of the babe girlfriend. (top) (back)

Hank Azaria, Ruben Blades, Susan Sarandon, John Cusack, Angus Macfayden, Joan Cusack, Cary Elwes, Bill Murray, Emily Watson
Directed by:
Tim Robbins
Comedy, 135 min
(PG) (Touchstone, 1999)

Writer-director Tim Robbins' ode to theatrical life was overshadowed by Topsy-Turvy during its initial release, but it deserves to find an audience on video, even if it is only to see Emily Watson play a happy character for once. Actually, there's a lot worth seeing in Cradle Will Rock, most notably the star-studded ensemble cast. Robbins sets his story around the controversial staging of a 1937 pro-union play by Marc Blitzstein and there's a star peeking out of every crevasse, be it John Cusack as Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Murray as a ventriloquist, Susan Sarandon as a fascist sympathizer, Ruben Blades as muralist Diego Rivera or Hank Azaria as Blitzstein himself (Angus Macfayden may not be a star, but he gives a star performance as Orson Welles). Robbins' film has too much of a political agenda and the historical aspect of the film has been stretched and altered beyond belief, but there's a boisterous and vibrant charm here that is undeniably infectious. (top) (back)

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison, Lucinda Jenney, Taryn Manning, Rolando Molina, Karem Malicki-Sanchez
Directed by:
John Stockwell
Drama, 99 min (14A) (Touchstone, 2001)

Stripped of all her Bring It On makeup and willing to look like a greasy and lost young woman, Kirsten Dunst gives her best, most authentic performance yet in crazy/beautiful, a teen drama packed with more real emotion than a dozen Get Over Its. Taking its structural cues from Romeo & Juliet, crazy/beautiful casts Dunst as Nicole, the rebellious and troubled 17-year-old daughter of a California congressman (X-Men politician Bruce Davison) who falls deeply for Carlos (charming newcomer Jay Hernandez), a first-generation Mexican-American who takes the bus for two hours every morning just to attend the type of school that will provide him with the opportunities he strives for. With its wild girl corrupting straight-arrow boy routine, crazy/beautiful occasionally veers too closely in spirit to Drew Barrymore's silly Mad Love (1995) and it's too bad that the relationship between Nicole and her father and the interracial aspects of the story are so blueprint familiar. Still, director John Stockwell (the lead actor from 1985's My Science Project) makes terrific use of Dunst's revealing and honest performance, allowing for a deep romantic connection with Hernandez and a touching tenderness in Dunst's final scenes with Davison. (top) (back)

Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Lucas Black, Meat Loaf Aday, Cathy Moriarty, Robert Wagner, Rod Steiger, Louis Miller Jr.
Directed by:
Antonio Banderas
Comedy, 113 min
(PG) (Columbia Tristar, 1999)

Mask of Zorro swashbuckler Antonio Banderas made a surprising choice for his directorial debut, telling a story that's not so much about action or steamy romance (Banderas' specialties) as it is about family and civil rights in the Deep South circa 1965. Melanie Griffith, in a role that seems tailor made for her, headlines her hubby's film as Lucille, a nutty wife who chops off her abusive husband's head, stuffs it in a hatbox and heads to Hollywood with stars in her eyes. Meanwhile, Lucille's nephew (Lucas Black) has to deal with the harsh realities of racism when he witnesses the death of a young black boy at the hands of the local sheriff (Meat Loaf Aday). Crazy in Alabama is based on a novel by Mark Childress and was adapted for the screen by the author, but there are no indications here for why the two running plots of the film needed to be told together. As a result, the picture wavers uneasily between comedy and drama, with neither side of the story really making much of an impact. (top) (back)

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel, Carrie Anne-Moss, Jennifer Tilly, Lainie Kazan, Jeremy Piven

Directed by:
Michael Dinner
Comedy, 86 min
(Touchstone, 2000)

Ever wondered what would happen if you crossed the TV sitcom The Golden Girls with The Sopranos? Probably not, but the result would bare a strong resemblance to this leaky misfire, a run of inane storytelling and witless gags that gives senior citizens a bad name. Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Seymour Cassel and Dan Hedaya lead the hammy cast, playing a retired group of wiseguys who, fed up with the young turks invading their Florida apartment building, stage a murder that ends up getting them thrown back into the world of organized crime. With the exception of a comic riff on the restaurant scene in Goodfellas, The Crew is basically uninspired hackwork, forcing a not-bad cast to play below their talents and the lead actors to come across as mobster versions of Grandpa Simpson. Directed by TV vet Michael Dinner (The Wonder Years) from a script by former Golden Girl scribe Barry Fanaro, The Crew is a lame comic misfire from beginning to end. In a word: Fuggedaboudit. (top) (back)

Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Jere Burns, Jonathan Banks, Serge Cockburn, Alec Wilson, Paul Rodriguez, Aida Turturro
Directed by:
Simon Wincer
Comedy, 94 min
(PG) (Paramount, 2001)

In this sequel that nobody asked for, Paul Hogan takes a break from selling SUVs to return to the world of Mick Dundee, the Australian from the outback who first hit the screen in Crocodile Dundee (1986). Unfortunately, the 13 years since Dundee's last cinematic outing (1988's Crocodile Dundee II) have not been kind to old Mick. Though still amiable, Hogan is starting to look like something of a leathery reptile himself and many of the fish-out-of-water gags that were charming in the first adventure (dealing with muggers, reacting to advances in plumbing) are only recycled here for far weaker effect. Directed by Simon Wincer, who worked with Hogan on the failed western Lighting Jack (1994), Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles finds Mick, his wife (Hogan's real-life spouse Linda Kozlowski) and their young son heading to Los Angeles and becoming embroiled in the crooked goings-on behind a suspicious movie studio. There may have been some opportunities here for a kid-friendly Hollywood spoof, but Wincer's direction is lethargic and the storyline is, to put it mildly, kangaroo dung. All in all, this is just an unnecessary retread of Dundee's last two vehicles that would have felt dated in the late '80s, let alone 2001.
(top) (back)

Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, David Wenham, Magda Szubanski
Directed by: John Stainton
Comedy, 89 min (PG) (MGM, 2002)

If you are familiar with the Animal Kingdom-meets-Crocodile Dundee adventures of cable TV's Crocodile Hunter (a.k.a. real-life Australian animal preservationist Steve Irwin), you know what to expect from this feature-length extension of the television series. Similarly, if you get a kick out of watching Steve and his American campfire girl wife, Terri, as they encounter a wide range of animals or, alternatively, if you think Steve is in serious need of some Ritalin, you know if you should dive into Collision Course or run for the hills. Everyone else is advised to proceed with some caution. Yes, there are thrills to be found in watching the Irwins interact with kangaroos, snakes, spiders, reptiles and a particularly restless crocodile and, yes, Steve should be commended for being so passionate about teaching his audience about all creatures, big and small. But, crikey, couldn't the film's screenwriters have come up with a better story than this inane croc about government agents tracking a lost satellite and an overbearing farm widow hoping to bag herself a crocodile? Rather than drive the film forward or hold it all together, the supposed plot machinery simply grinds everything to a halt. Oh well, at least it is better than Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. (top) (back)

Britney Spears, Anson Mount, Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall, Justin Long, Richard Voll
Directed by:
Tamara Davis
Drama, 93 min (PG) (Paramount, 2002)

This Britney Spears teenybopper picture exists for exactly two reasons: One, to allow the blonde pop princess to continue to expand her empire and two, to provide Britney's fans with the opportunity to revel in her giggles, singing, dancing, pouting and mid-section for more than the typical music video will allow. On those two levels, it must be said, Crossroads is a Spice World-level success and her many young girls will no doubt be asking to watch it, baby, one more time. As for the rest of us, well, at least we can be assured that it isn't nearly as bad as previous musician star vehicles like Glitter (Mariah Carey), On the Line (Lass Bass) or even The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston). Though the role is hardly demanding, Spears doesn't embarrass herself here as Lucy, a recent high school graduate who decides to head cross-country with two childhood pals (Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning) and a hunky mystery man (Anson Mount) to be reunited with the mother (Kim Cattrall) that abandoned her when she was three. Along the way, Lucy finds love, ridiculousness abounds (broke, the girls proceed to win thousands of dollars doing karaoke) and the film touches on adult issues like rape and pregnancy with an insulting degree of glibness. (top) (back)

- A
Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-Fat, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei Pei, Sihung Lung, Fa Zeng Li, Xian Ga, Yan Hai
Directed by:
Ang Lee
Action, 120 min
(PG) (Sony Pictures Classics, 2000)

Hong Kong-style martial arts and epic Hollywood narrative mesh together magically with this astonishing Oscar-winner, an all-out triumph from Sense and Sensibility director Ang Lee. Based on a novel by Wang Du-lu and set in a fantastical world resembling imperial China, Crouching Tiger works on several thrilling levels at once, telling the stories of two women, one a highly skilled veteran warrior (Michelle Yeoh) with an unspoken longing for her long-time ally (Chow Yun-Fat), the other a passionate young heiress (Zhang Ziyi) with a bandit lover (Chang Chen) and startling martial art skills. There's no question that Crouching Tiger's key selling point is its soaring, dazzling action scenes and for good reason: the battles (courtesy of Matrix choreographer Yuen Wo-ping) offer the exhilarating pleasures of acrobatic flips, kicks, strides, and gravity-defying leaps. Just as important, however, are the film's operatic vision and psychological depth, both of which match the action every intoxicating moment after the next. (top) (back)

Clive Owen, Alex Kingston, Gina McKee, Alexander Morton, Kate Hardie, Paul Reynolds, Nick Reding, Nicholas Ball
Directed by:
Mike Hodges
Drama, 110 min
(14A) (Shooting Gallery, 2000)

Mike Hodges, who directed the original, better version of Get Carter back in 1971, turns his coiled intensity to the world of gambling with this taut and smoldering British thriller that inexplicably took two years to find a North American distributor. Looking like a fleshier Michael Stipe crossed with James Bond, Bent's Clive Owen gives a magnetic performance as Jack, an emotionally detached writer who takes a job as a croupier only to find himself drawn to sleaze and crime, often gambling with own life in the process. Jack slowly develops completely different relationships with three women (ER's Alex Kingston among them) and his life takes on even stranger turns when he begins making choices as if he were his literary alter ego, Jake. Throughout it all, Owen remains distanced and dispassionate, but his cold gaze is transfixing, effortlessly capturing one's attention and transferring the gamesmanship of the casino to all facets of this fascinating character's world. (top) (back)

Starring: Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Markinson, Wallace Shawn
Directed by: Woody Allen
Comedy, 102 min (PG) (Paramount, 2001)

Working with the same low-key style he employed in Small Time Crooks, Woody Allen doesn't bring as much snap to this screwball comedy tribute as one would have hoped (1940's His Girl Friday is an obvious influence and far superior), but even mediocre Allen films have their own pleasures. Unfortunately, one of these pleasures is not Allen who, at 68, is simply getting too old to be playing a ladies man who can score with the likes of Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron and Elizabeth Berkley. Nonetheless, here the filmmaker is once again cast as the romantic lead, a 1940s insurance investigator who, along with his sworn-enemy efficiency expert colleague (Hunt), gets hypnotized at a party into believing they are in love. The magician (David Ogden Stiers) has even bigger plans, however, eventually convincing Allen and Hunt's characters to commit jewel heists on his behalf and leaving them to try and solve crimes they actually committed. There is a lot of madcap potential in this scenario, but Allen's pacing isn't brisk enough to easily manage the competitive romance and the two leads come awfully close to being decidedly unlikeable. Luckily, Allen's dialogue and insults still sting with wit and the period detail adds an extra charm. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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