Ladies Man, the
Lady and the Tramp II
Lake Placid
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Last Castle, the
Legally Blonde
Legend of Bagger Vance
Legend of Drunken Master
Life as a House
Life of David Gale, the
Life or Something Like It
Light It Up
Like Mike
Lilo & Stitch
Limey, the
Little Mermaid II
Little Nicky
Lizzie McGuire Movie, the
Lord of the Rings: Fellow...
Lord of the Rings: Two...
Lost and Delirious
Lost Souls
Love & Basketball
Love & Sex
Love's Labour's Lost
Lucky Numbers

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Archived Video Reviews (L)

Starring: Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, Will Ferrell, Lee Evans, John Witherspoon, Tiffani Thiessen, Tamala Jones
Directed by:
Reginald Hudlin
Comedy, 84 min (14A)
(Paramount, 2000)

Tim Meadows' Saturday Night Live character Leon Phelps may go by the name "Ladies Man" but, more than anything, he comes across like a young child who has taken to appreciating sex as though it were the world's greatest toy. As a result, there's a disarming sweetness to The Ladies Man, even if this slight comedy comes up drastically short in the laughs and story departments. Meadows gives off all the right vibes as Leon, a lisping, stuck-in-the-'70s lothario and Chicago radio host whose fondness for the ladies (and the ladies of other men) has gotten him into hot water with a local support/revenge group (led by SNL's Will Ferrell). In case it isn't painfully obvious, that isn't much of a plot and, as directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film all too often leaves Leon to fend for himself, offering little in the way of solid set pieces or inspired farce. Still, considering it is part of an SNL cannon that includes far more Superstars than Wayne's Worlds, The Ladies Man could have been far more excruciating. (top) (back)

Starring: Scott Wolf, Alyssa Milano, Chazz Palminteri, Jodi Benson, Bill Fagerbakke, Mickey Rooney, Bronson Pinchot, Cathy Moriarty
Directed by: Darrell Rooney
Animated, 70
min (G) (Walt Disney, 2000)

It may be yet another direct-to-video Disney cheapie, but Lady and the Tramp II is nonetheless a pleasant, moderately diverting tale that, unlike many such sequels, does little to sour ones memories of the original film. Placing more of an emphasis on self-realization than romance, this colourful adventure follows puppy Scamp (voiced by Scott Wolf), the lone son of Lady and Tramp, as he grows frustrated out of being a house pet, makes his way to the streets to be a "junkyard dog" and finds a little love with a cute stray named Angel (Wolf's ex-fiancée Alyssa Milano). Lightweight and only somewhat inspired, Lady and the Tramp II isn't destined to be a classic alongside the 1955 original. Unlike many Disney sequels, though, it does more than rehash the previous picture (like, say, Little Mermaid II) and it doesn't wear its let's-make-a-quick-buck origins on its sleeve (like, say, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command). All in all, this is one of the better sequels to come out of the Disney cannon. (top) (back)

Starring: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White, Meredith Salenger, David Lewis
Directed by: Steve Miner
Suspense, 87
min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 1999)

A croc of a tongue-in-cheek horror film - aspiring for, and failing to meet, the comic pleasures of 1990's Tremors - Lake Placid offers ample evidence that David E. Kelley, screenwriter of Lake Placid and creator of TV hits like Ally McBeal and The Practice, should either stick to the small screen or take an extended vacation. Lake Flaccid - sorry, that's Lake Placid - stars Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda and The General's Brendan Gleeson as a group of investigators looking into the mysterious appearance of a gigantic, nine-metre crocodile that has been chewing up people and livestock surrounding a remote Maine lake. Unfortunately, director Steve Miner (Halloween: H20) fails to use this scenario for any worthwhile suspense or humor, sticking to predictable scenes in which the only no-name actor in the crowd becomes lunchmeat and limp sarcasm is supposed to pass for wit. Betty White is embarrassing as a bizarre and foul-mouthed old lady and Oliver Platt provides the only real laughs as an eccentric croc-expert. (top) (back)

Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Racel Blake, Vince Colosimo, Russell Dykstra
Directed by:
Ray Lawrence
Drama, 113 min
(14A) (Lions Gate, 2001)

With its multitude of vivid characters and murder mystery that seems almost incidental, Lantana is a lot like a Down Under version of Gosford Park and, indeed, there are enough subtleties, top-notch performances and satisfying moments of dialogue here to warrant such a comparison. The winner of several awards from the Australian Film Institute (including Best Picture and Best Actor), Lantana stars Aussie Anthony LaPaglia as Leon Zat, a Sydney homicide detective having an affair on his suspicious wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong). Sonja, meanwhile, is secretly seeing a relationship therapist (Barbara Hershey) whose daughter was murdered two years ago and is feeling increasingly isolated from her own husband (Geoffrey Rush). When one of the characters disappears, the various strands of Lantana coil together like the Australian plant of the title and the tragic relationships here - fraught with lies, deception, pain, love and moments of complete privacy - come into full display, almost making the viewer feel like a voyeur into these lives. LaPaglia, often cast in supporting roles as an Italian tough guy, has never been better than he is as Leon, skillfully embodying the confusion, vulnerability and isolation that can come with middle age
. (top) (back)

Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Daniel Craig, Iain Glen, Leslie Phillips, Noah Taylor, Chris Barrie, Julian Rind-Tutt, Richard Johnson
Directed by:
Simon West
Action, 100
min (PG) (Paramount, 2001)

In this popular video game-turned-movie, Angelina Jolie certainly looks the part of archaeologist heroine Lara Croft, strapping twin gun holsters to her thighs, sporting plenty of tight shirts, and topping it all off with her trademark smirk and pillowy lips. In all other respects, however, Tomb Raider is a bust, consisting of little more than impersonal Indiana Jones-style action and a bunch of mystical hokum so convoluted you would think this was another Mummy sequel. Directed with little sense of fun or excitement by Simon West (Con Air), Tomb Raider centers on a mysterious clock once unearthed by Lara's father (Jolie's real-life dad, Jon Voight) that is in danger of reaching the wrong hands and giving unfathomable power to the forces of evil. Or something like that. Truth be told, the story in Tomb Raider - along with the screenplay and characters - is really an afterthought, with much of the film's vision restricted to displaying Jolie's shapely body. As far as action goes, there is a nifty sequence in which Jolie is tied to a bungee cord, but other that that, Tomb Raider is all generic and empty thrills. Game over. (top) (back)

Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Delroy Lindo, Mark Ruffalo, Clifton Collins Jr., Frank Military, Robin Wright Penn, Dean Miller
Directed by:
Rod Lurie
Action, 133 min (14A) (Dreamworks, 2001)

Seemingly set in a United States prison just this side of Never Never Land, The Last Castle is a bombastic, heavy winded military thriller that makes something like The Longest Yard seem like a portrait of credibility. Robert Redford, doing what appears to be a wooden Clint Eastwood impression, plays Gen. Eugene Irwin, a widely respected soldier in the U.S. armed forces who is sent to a military prison for disobeying a direct order that left men dead. The jail is run by the cruel Col. Winter (James Gandolfini), a career pencil pusher who gets his kicks out of punishing the inmates. Once Irwin learns of Winter's habits, however, it isn't long before he is (unbelievably) inspiring everyone within the prison to stand up for their rights and take action, even if it means staging a large-scale revolt and secretly building a completely functional catapult without any of the guards being aware of it. Needless to say, there's not a lot here that is plausible and, though Gandolfini takes extra steps to ensure Winter isn't the typical foaming-at-the-mouth villain, director Rob Lurie balances the playing field far too heavily in Irwin's favour (he made a similar mistake with the political drama The Contender). All in all, this Castle doesn't hold up. (top) (back)

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Davis, Selma Blair, Luke Wilson, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge, Ali Larter, Jessica Cauffiel
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Comedy, 95
min (PG) (MGM, 2001)

Hot off the critical adoration that met her performance as overachiever Tracy Flick in the wonderful high school comedy Election, Reese Witherspoon turns in another winning comedic turn in this bubblegum comedy. A surprise box office smash, the film casts Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a California sorority girl whose politically ambitious boyfriend (Tigerland's Matthew Davis) dumps her before leaving for Harvard Law School and switching his "Marilyn" for a "Jackie" (the sharp Selma Blair, Witherspoon's Cruel Intentions co-star). Intent on getting her man back, Elle enlists at Harvard, improbably accepted on the basis of her solid marks in fashion and design, and she proceeds to teach those stiffs at Harvard a thing or two. Directed by first-timer Robert Luketic, Legally Blonde obviously wants to be another Clueless, but it is extremely shallow and predictable even compared to that film, never really offering much insight into what makes Elle tick and taking the unlikely story too far when a first-year law student like Elle ends up defending a murder suspect. Still, Witherspoon's delightfully perky performance keeps the film zipping along and ensures that, though lighter than a feather, Legally Blonde wins on appeal. (top) (back)

Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jack Lemmon, Dermot Crowley, Joel Gretsch, Bruce McGill, Harve Presnell
Directed by:
Robert Redford
Drama, 127 min
(PG) (Dreamworks, 2000)

Having previously romanced the concept of horse training with The Horse Whisperer and fly-fishing with A River Runs Through It, director Robert Redford turns his loving eyes to the early days of golf with this well-shot and appealing, but ultimately thin, sports drama. Based on a novel of the same name and set in 1930s Savannah, Ga., the film casts Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh, a former golf phenomenon who has returned from WWI with such shell shock that he lost his ability - and desire - to play the game. Enter Bagger Vance (Will Smith), a mysterious caddy who appears out of nowhere to help Junuh regain his "authentic swing." Throughout The Legend of Bagger Vance, Smith charms, Damon smiles as a Redford stand-in should and Charlize Theron, as Junuh's love interest, sparkles like the belle of the ball. It's all perfectly likeable, but Redford places far too much of an emphasis on the story's mythical elements and self-help spirituality, often sacrificing drama and emotional involvement in the process. (top) (back)

Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Ti Lung, Felix Wong, Ken Lo, Andy Lau
Directed by:
Lau Ka Leung
Action, 102 min
(PG) (Dimension, 1994/2000)

Long before he went Hollywood, Jackie Chan struggled to establish himself as a unique Asian action star. All too often cast as a Bruce Lee-style hero, Chan only found his own identity - that of a likeable goof with lightning quick limbs - with the release of Drunken Master (1979). That film's sequel, 1994's Drunken Master II, has now been released with "classic" bad dubbing for American audiences as The Legend of the Drunken Master, yet another attempt to cash in on Chan's State-side success. Here Chan plays Wong Fei-Hung, a real-life Chinese folk hero who specializes in "drunken boxing," a fighting style that increases its power with the consummation of alcohol (wine is to Wong what spinach is to Popeye). In comparison to other re-released Chan films, Legend of Drunken Master fits somewhere in the middle, offering some great fight sequences along with a nothing story and poor supporting performances. In other words, it's no Supercop but, thankfully, not another Twin Dragons either. (top) (back)

Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Mary Steenburgen, Jena Malone, Jamey Sheridan, Sam Robards, Scott Bakula
Directed by:
Irwin Winkler
Drama, 124 min (14A) (New Line, 2001)

The manipulation and metaphors are piled on with a wheelbarrow and shovel in Life as a House, a sunny-side-of-American Beauty drama that features some sturdy performances but is ultimately as easy to see through as a sheet of Plexiglas. Kevin Kline, a highly skilled actor we don't see enough of, plays George Monroe, a baby boomer architect who has just been fired from his job and diagnosed with a terminal illness. With time running out, George decides to spend the summer ripping apart his shack of a home, constructing a dream building and, in the meantime, restoring the framework of his strained relationships with his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and distant, drug-addicted son (Hayden Christensen). Throughout, Kline does a commendable job of crossing pain with humour and Scott Thomas nicely thaws her Random Hearts iciness, but the real star here is Christensen, soon to be seen as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars II and III, whose performance is daring, enlightening and touching. In the end, though, there is no getting around the flaws in the film's foundation, with the thin screenplay stretched beyond its limits (What's with the Graduate-style subplot?) and Irwin Winkler directing with a light-as-a-sledgehammer touch. (top) (back)

Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Leon Rippy, Rhona Mitra, Melissa McCarthy
Directed by: Alan Parker
Drama, 131 min (14A) (Universal, 2003)

If one is to make a movie based on a hot button topic like the death penalty, precautions must be made to ensure that the issues doesn't just get exploited for heavy melodrama or cheap twists. Unfortunately, this was not taken into consideration when filming The Life of David Gale, a Dead Man Walking-style drama that falls victim to both symptoms. The film stars Kevin Spacey as Gale, a broken college professor and anti-capital punishment activist on death row for raping and murdering his colleague (Laura Linney). Kate Winslet is Bitsy Bloom (where do they come up with these names?), a reporter assigned to interview Gale and help him reveal the truth in the few moments left before his death. Unfortunately, the strong actors here disappoint, with both Linney and Winslet in particular having barely anything to do aside from watch from the sidelines. Though Spacey shows skill as a man of intelligence trying to make sense of his life, he is unconvincing as the hot man on campus. That said, The Life of David Gale is reasonably compelling for at least the first third, but the story falls apart once director Alan Parker kicks the story contraptions into high gear, toying with histrionics and believability to the point of distraction. (top) (back)

Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Tony Shalhoub, Christian Kane, Stockard Channing, Chris Shyer, James Gammon, Lisa Thornhill
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Comedy, 103 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2002)

Forget the title. Watching Life or Something Like It, one realizes that nothing here seems to represent life or anything like it, staged as it is in a cloying, popcorn-headed universe about as believable as star Angelina Jolie's Marilyn Monroe-style, platinum blonde hair. Directed by Rock Star's Stephen Herek, Life or Something Like It casts Jolie as Lanie, a Seattle TV reporter with a cute Mariners slugger for a fiancé and big dreams of hitting the airwaves at a national level. But when a homeless prophet (Tony Shalhoub) predicts that Lanie will die in 6 days, she begins reexamining her life, her goals, and that cute cameraman (the likeable but limited Edward Burns) with whom she bickers as though they were grade-school kids with crushes. Unfortunately, the storyline is yet another forced, awkward and all-too-predictable tale about the problems of women being overly ambitious (apparently, Lanie learned nothing from watching Michelle Pfeiffer's journalist in 1996's Up Close & Personal). Jolie's talents and distinct lips are much better suited to extreme characters like her mental patient in Girl, Interrupted and, perhaps realizing this, both the actress and Herek seem to have an almost dismissive approach to the character. (top) (back)

Usher Raymond, Vanessa L. Williams, Forest Whitaker, Rosario Dawson, Marchello Robinson, Sara Gilbert, Clifton Collins Jr
Directed by: Craig Bolotin
Suspense, 99 min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 1999)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and The Negotiator (1998) meet The Breakfast Club (1985) and Dangerous Minds (1995) with this highly illogical urban teen drama, the story of a group of teenagers who care so much about learning that they take over their inner city school, holding an on-campus cop (Forest Whitaker) as their hostage in exchange for improvements to their educational environment such as window repairs and additional text books. Thankfully, the young actors here (including R&B singer Usher Raymond and Roseanne's Sara Gilbert) don't embarrass themselves and do what they can with their warmed-over clichés of characters. Too bad the same cannot be said for Judd Nelson as the one teacher that cares, singer/ex-Miss America Vanessa L. Williams - horribly miscast as a very unlikely hostage negotiator - or director Craig Bolotin, whose well-meaning agenda about the state of many inner-city American schools cannot excuse obvious lapses in logic (why not just tear-gas the place?). (top) (back)

Lil Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Jonathan Lipnicki, Crispin Glover, Eugene Levy, Robert Forster, Allen Iverson, Sandra Prosper
Directed by: John Schultz
Comedy, 100 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2002)

The "Mike" in the title of Like Mike refers to Michael Jordan and, like Mike's Space Jam (1996), this basketball comedy has enough game to be a serviceable family film, even if it hardly qualifies as a slam dunk. Pint-size, 15-year-old rap star Lil Bow Wow shows real likeability here as Calvin Cambridge, a 13-year-old orphan who finds a pair of runners that he believes once belonged to Jordan and that, following a lightning incident, transform him into an unbelievable hoops wizard, so talented that he earns the chance to play for the Los Angeles Knights, a fictional NBA team. More than being a basketball phenomenon, though, Calvin longs to be adopted and it is only a matter of time before Morris Chestnut, as the Knight's star player, steps into the role of father figure. Despite the predictability of the Flubber-meets-Annie-with-cornrows plot, however, Like Mike scores a few baskets thanks to Bow Wow's enthusiasm and the lively relationship that forms between him and Chestnut, with additional assistance courtesy of costars Eugene Levy (as the team promoter), Robert Forster (as the coach) and Jonathan Lipnicki (as Calvin's best friend). Like Mike occasionally dribbles when it should soar, but it still plays a passable game. (top) (back)

Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Daveigh Chase, Christopher Michael Sanders, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames, Jason Scott Lee
Directed by: Chris Sanders, Dean Deblois
Comedy, 85 min (G) (Walt Disney, 2002)

Stitch, the comic animated costar of Disney's Lilo & Stitch, may not be a fully rounded character, but he certainly isn't short on personality, energy or laughs. Like a hyperactive hybrid of TV's My Pet Monster, Pikachu, E.T. and Mr. Peepers from Saturday Night Live, Stitch (voiced by Christopher Michael Sanders) is an alien-bred genetic experiment with blue hair and six legs designed for mass destruction who is rejected by his home planet and goes into hiding on Earth, posing as the pet of a little Hawaiian orphan named Lilo (Daveight Chase) and her big sister Nani (Tia Carrere). In doing so, Stitch discovers the importance of family (even an unconventional one), all the while being pursued by other aliens, trying to control his desire "to destroy," and being exposed to the joys of Elvis music (eight rockin' Presley tunes are on the soundtrack). Visually, Lilo & Stitch isn't as breathtaking as recent CGI-animated flicks, but the watercolor images are dreamy (harking back to the days of Dumbo and Bambi) and even if the film lacks the depth and wonder of previous Disney marvels like The Lion King and Tarzan, it certainly has enough laughs and spunk to entertain the tykes and anyone who takes a seat next to them. (top) (back)

Starring: Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, Barry Newman, Joe Dallesandro, Nicky Katt, Amelia Heinle
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Suspense, 89 min
(14A) (Artisan, 1999)

After tackling film noir with The Underneath (1994) and tweaking it with Out of Sight (1998), visionary director Steven Soderbergh enriches the genre with this cool, subtle and immensely entertaining picture. A throwback to the revenge pictures of the '60s, The Limey casts Terence Stamp as a recently released British jailbird who heads to Los Angeles to extract revenge for the death of his daughter, a wannabe actress who had recently been living with a '60s record mogul (Peter Fonda). Although Stamp and Fonda's acting styles are polar opposites (Stamp is all coiled intensity, Fonda gets off on pretty boy arrogance), the two veterans give mesmerizing performances, all of it enlivened by our own memories of their previous work. Still, the real star here is undoubtedly Soderbergh, who uses a simple story to experiment with time, story structure and visual style, resulting in a captivating, stream-of-consciousness motif that illustrates how slices of the past dramatically alter the present. (top) (back)

Starring the voices of: Jodi Benson, Samuel L. Wright, Tara Charendoff, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett, Kenneth Mars, Max Casella, Stephen Furst
Directed by: Jim Kammerud
Animated, 75 min
(G) (Walt Disney, 2000)

In Disney’s endlessly appealing The Little Mermaid (1989), a young mermaid, unhappy with her life on the bottom of the sea, longed to live with humans and made a deal with the demented sea-witch Ursula to make her dreams come true. This unimaginative direct-to-video sequel simply reverses the story, as the human daughter of ex-mermaid Ariel finds herself drawn to the ocean and is soon making pacts with the late Ursula’s Cruella-esque sister Morgana. Return to the Sea is a step up from other recent Disney sequels like Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and Pocahontas 2, but it is still almost shocking to "sea" endearing characters like Sebastian the crab and Flounder the guppy reduced to such meandering, overly familiar material. The film’s most condemning sin is its pitiful musical numbers, not one of which deserves mention alongside the original film’s wonderfully memorable tunes. (top) (back)

Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keital, Rhys Ifans, Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr., Kevin Nealon, Quentin Tarantino, Jon Lovitz
Directed by:
Steven Brill
Comedy, 84
min (14A) (New Line, 2000)

As anyone who has sat through the tedium of The Waterboy or Billy Madison can attest to, it is never a good sign when Adam Sandler mangles his voice into an annoying whine. Unfortunately, he goes one step further in Little Nicky, adding a lisp to the whine that makes this easily his most painful performance to date. As a result, Little Nicky is one of the worst films in Sandler's "oeuvre," a big-budget dud so dreadful and laboured it makes Big Daddy look like Erin Brockovich. Sandler plays the title character, the cowering moron son of Satan (Harvey Keitel) who has to travel to the surface to put an end to a reign of terror brought about by his reckless brothers (Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr. and The Replacements' Rhys Ifans). Throughout the film, Little Nicky tries to get in touch with his "inner evil," but the entire picture is just an overbudgeted fiasco that has Sandler replaying old junior-high school schtick, looking like a dork, falling victim to shoddy special effects and trying the patience of even his most loyal fans. (top) (back)

Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg, Robert Carradine, Hallie Todd, Alex Borstein, Yani Gellman, Brendan Kelly, Carly Schroeder
Directed by: Jim Fall
Comedy, 93 min (G) (Disney, 2003)

It's really not a bad thing that Hilary Duff and Disney decided to part ways over salary demands for the popular Lizzie McGuire TV franchise. After all, the series' animated sections have run their course and, watching The Lizzie McGuire Movie, in which Duff appears just as well-coiffed, well-dressed and lacquered as she did as the "babe" in the spy spoof Agent Cody Banks and in her pop music videos, it is a little difficult to buy this little-miss-perfect as the awkward, unpopular kid in school. Likeable, but not nearly as deft at pratfalls as, say, Amanda Bynes (What a Girl Wants), Duff stars here as Lizzie, a "dorky" junior high graduate who travels to Rome with her classmates and falls for a cute Italian pop singer (Yani Gellman) who takes Lizzie all around the city and woos her into appearing with him at a music awards show. It's all just a poor disguise to get Duff's singing career off the ground and, unfortunately, there's nothing here to distinguish The Lizzie McGuire Movie from any other expendable Disney TV movie of the week. This, sadly, also means that most of the supporting roles - the sweet Adam Lamberg as Lizzie's nerdy best bud Gordo excepted - all turn in grating, overcooked, Sitcom 101 comedic performances. (top) (back)

Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Ian Holm, Sean Bean
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Drama, 160 min
(14A) (New Line, 2001)

Once considered to be unfilmable (some awful animated versions certainly didn't help), author J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth world of wizards, hobbits and elves comes gloriously to life in director Peter Jackson's adaptation of the first installment in the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. A blockbuster hit that satisfies on almost every level, The Fellowship of the Rings succeeds not because of its astonishing special effects, its expert performances, its breathtaking battle sequences or its stunning production values (the film won several of the 13 Academy Awards it was nominated for), but rather due to a canny combination of all of these that Jackson uses to present a film that is at once intimate and grand. The boyish Elijah Wood headlines the cast as Frodo, a pint-size hobbit who embarks on an old-fashioned quest to rid the world of evil with the aid of a wizened wizard (Oscar-nominee Ian McKellen), a mysterious loner (standout Viggo Mortensen), and many more. Throughout, Jackson succeeds in crossing his vibrant world with an impending sense of dread and, though some Tolkien fanatics may feel that the hobbits get pushed a little too much out of center stage, most will get too caught up in the magical epic swirl to give it a second thought. (top) (back)

Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Liv Tyler, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Drama, 179 min (14A) (New Line, 2002)

The bad news is that The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the third entry in Peter Jackson's trilogy of films based on J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings novels, suffers from a case of middle child syndrome. With no real beginning and no real end, it requires both The Fellowship of the Ring (part 1) and The Return of the King (part 3) to feel complete. That said, The Empire Strikes Back had the same problem, so it isn't as though this shortcoming is detrimental to the film's success on its own levels. Bigger, darker and better than Fellowship in adventure and scope, Towers finds a split fellowship, with hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) making their way to destroy the all-power ring of the title and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) fighting off the hordes of monsters unleashed by evil wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee). As before, Jackson fully immerses his audience into a new world thanks to stirring performances and visual artistry, but here there are two elements worth singling out: the epic depth of the incomparable battle at Helm's Deep and the conflicted and marvelous creature that is Gollum, a former owner of the ring and the single best CGI character to date. (top) (back)

Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Greg Kinnear, Tom Sadoski, Zak Orth, Jimmi Simpson, Dan Aykroyd
Directed by:
Amy Heckerling
Comedy, 95 min
(PG) (Columbia Tristar, 2000)

She may have received solid marks for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, but writer-director Amy Heckerling flunks out with this all-too-aptly titled romance. Set at an unnamed New York university, Loser tells the story of Paul (Jason Biggs), a small-town kid with an awful haircut, and Dora (Mena Suvari), a rebellious city girl who is sleeping with her professor (Greg Kinnear) and who also happens to be the woman of Paul's dreams. With the right script, these actors may have been able to mine laughs out of this far-too-familiar situation, but Heckerling's screenplay stenches of bad movies past (including Biggs' own Boys and Girls) and, though the director previously seemed to understand teenage life, she just seems lost here. If might have helped had the characters not been as colourless as they are clueless, a flaw that leaves American Pie costars Biggs and Suvari with nothing to play with (a too-eager-to-please Suvari comes across particularly bad). (top) (back)

Piper Perabo, Jessica Pare, Mischa Barton, Mimi Kuzyk, Graham Greene, Luke Kirby, Grace Kung, Emily Van Camp
Directed by:
Lea Pool
Drama, 100 min (18A) (Lions Gate, 2001)

Considering Piper Perabo's amateurish work in Coyote Ugly and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, not only is her performance in Lost and Delirious fiery and explosive, but also a thrilling revelation: it turns out there's a real actress behind those saucer eyes after all. Based on the Susan Swan story The Wives of Bath and directed by Lea Pool, Lost and Delirious gets bogged down with blunt nature symbols, but nonetheless tells a compelling coming-of-age story about three teenage roommates at a Canadian boarding school. Mary (Mischa Barton) is the new girl in the room and it isn't long before she is keyed into the passionate romance that has developed between Paulie (Perabo) and Victoria (Jessica Pare). It's when others at the school learn of the liaison that everything starts to fall apart and Pool does a sturdy job of avoiding the possibly exploitative aspects of the story, instead drawing delicate performances from Perabo, Pare (who tries to convince everyone - including herself - that she isn't gay) and the wonderfully expressive Barton, best known as the dead girl in The Sixth Sense. Eventually, however, all the poetic metaphors become a bit too much for Pool to handle and the film, unfortunately, ends on a note that stings of cliché. (top) (back)

Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Philip Baker Hall, Elias Koteas, Alfre Woodard, John Diehl, Sarah Wynter
Directed by:
Janusz Kaminiski
Horror, 98 min
(14A) (New Line, 2000)

If Bless the Child, Stigmata and End of Days weren't enough of an indication, Lost Souls makes it painfully clear: the devil needs a new Hollywood agent. Marking the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan), Lost Souls casts an overwhelmingly serious Winona Ryder as Maya, a Catholic school teacher who was once the victim of demonic possession and now believes that Satan is about to take over the body of an atheist crime novelist (The Truth About Cats and Dogs' Ben Chaplin). Despite Kaminski's credentials, however, Lost Souls is a murkily shot, pointless and often nonsensical Exorcist rip-off that is situated far below the talents of everyone involved. Part of this is due to the large number of useless supporting players, all of whom overwhelm an already convoluted story, but the bulk of the blame should go to the dull screenplay. It gets so top-heavy with religious themes that it never creates a palatable sense of dread or any believable emotional involvement. (top) (back)

Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, Debbi Morgan, Harry J. Lennix, Kyla Pratt, James DuMont, Tyra Banks 
Directed by:
Gina Prince-Blythewood
Drama, 127 min
(PG) (Touchstone, 2000)

After the misogynistic shallowness of He Got Game, it's nice to see Spike Lee attach his name to a heartfelt basketball picture that is actually worth catching. This Lee-produced Sundance Film Festival favourite, written and directed with vibrancy by first-timer Gina Prince-Blythewood, centres on basketball-playing neighbours (Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan) whose dreams and love for the game drastically influence their relationship as friends and lovers. With regards to the love story, Prince-Blythewood follows a rather familiar playbook, but her direction is vivid, her writing honest and her actors inspired, resulting in a sports story that doesn't seem recycled so much as refreshed. Certainly playing to the film's advantage is Lathan, who previously costarred with Epps in The Wood and gives a forceful, commanding performance as a woman who refuses to see basketball as a man's sport. (top) (back)

Famke Jannsen, Jon Favreau, Noah Emmerich, Ann Magnuson, Cheri Oteri, Josh Hopkins, David Schwimmer
Directed by:
Valerie Breiman
Comedy, 82 min (14A)
(Lions Gate, 2000)

X-Men's Famke Janssen has yet to find a role to top her seductive work as man-crushing villainess Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye (1995), but her sparkling performance in Love & Sex certainly comes close (even if the movie itself is something of a letdown). Here Janssen plays Kate, a magazine writer who has generally been unlucky with men, even letting her one true love (The Replacements' Jon Favreau) slip away when his neuroses became overwhelming. Writer-director Valerie Breiman uses Kate's past and present to underline all of the fears and insecurities that mark modern relationships, but she comes up short in actually bringing anything new to the table, faltering early on with awkward flashbacks and never fully recovering thanks to a storyline that is far to skimpy for its own good. Thankfully, Janssen is never less than delightfully unassuming and, though he oftentimes seems to be doing a Woody Allen impersonation of Albert Brooks, Favreau makes for a likeable male lead. (top) (back)

Kenneth Branagh, Alessandro Nivola, Alicia Silverstone, Natasha McElhone, Nathan Lane, Matthew Lillard, Adrien Lester
Directed by:
Kenneth Branagh
Comedy, 95 min (PG)
(Miramax, 2000)

With adaptations of Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995) and Hamlet (1996) on his resume, it is fairly obvious that Kenneth Branagh has a passion for Shakespeare. In the case of Love's Labour's Lost, however, it seems as though he didn't have enough faith in the original material, transforming the Bard's romantic comedy into a pre-WWII MGM musical complete with classics like "Cheek to Cheek" and "There's No Business Like Showbusiness." It's an interesting idea, but Branagh's labours in combining different genres are too evident and eventually pop the story's romantic spirit. The antic, prone-to-mugging cast includes Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off) as the King of Navarre and Branagh, Adrien Lester and She's All That's Matthew Lillard (hardly one you'd expect to see singing and dancing) as academics who vow to give up women. The ladies who put a crimp in this plan are led by Alicia Silverstone, who plays the Princess of France as if she doesn't understand the material. (top) (back)

Starring: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O'Neill, Bill Pullman, Michael Rapaport, Michael Moore, Daryl Mitchell
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Comedy, 105 min
(14A) (Paramount, 2000)

Everyone's a loser in this sour and mean-spirited dark comedy that makes the drastic, desperate mistake of treating every single person on screen like an idiot. John Travolta plays Russ Richards, a hapless local weatherman whose snowmobile business is going under during a particularly long heat wave and who enlists his station's ditsy lotto girl (Lisa Kudrow) to help him rig the state lottery and solve all of his problems. Before long, dead bodies are showing up in rivers and everyone's trying to get a piece of the action, but director Nora Ephron, who usually limits herself to sunnier romances (Michael, Sleepless in Seattle), treats everything with a leaden hand and she offers no explanation for why these stupid, selfish people are worth watching in the first place. All in all, Kudrow has never been this shrill or unlikeable and Travolta spends the entire film frantically trying to coast along on his charm. Unfortunately, he earned more laughs in Battlefield Earth and The General's Daughter than he does here. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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