ARCHIVED REVIEWS (Ma-Mn)

Made
Magnolia
Maid in Manhattan
Majestic, the
Malibu's Most Wanted
Man Apart, a
Man on the Moon
Man Who Cried, the
Man Who Wasn't There, the
Mansfield Park
Map of the World, a
Master of Disguise, the
Me, Myself & Irene
Me Myself I
Meet the Parents
Memento
Men in Black II
Men of Honor
Men With Brooms
Mexican, the
Minority Report
Miss Congeniality
Mission: Impossible 2
Mission to Mars

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Archived Video Reviews (Ma - Mn)
 

MADE - B-
Starring:
Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Famke Janssen, Sean Combs, Peter Falk, Faizon Love, Vincent Pastore, Drea DeMatteo
Directed by:
Jon Favreau
Comedy, 94 min
(14A) (Artisan, 2001)


After having established their significant chemistry in 1996's immensely likeable Swingers, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn bring it up a notch with Made, a rambling Swingers-meets-Sopranos Mob comedy that draws almost all of its pleasures from the two actors' prickly comedic rhythms. Written and directed by Favreau (he also wrote Swingers), Made follows two friends from L.A. - one an honest hard-worker (Favreau) striving for a better life for his stripper girlfriend (Famke Janssen), the other a dim-witted motormouth (Vaughn) - who are asked to make a drop in New York for Janssen's mobster boss (Peter Falk). While in the Big Apple, the duo meet up with rapper Sean Combs (suitable as a local mobster) and make enemies with virtually everyone they run into, but not much really happens in terms of plot or storyline, with Vaughn's mouth just getting the two into trouble time and time again. As can be expected, the lack of drive and purpose does get a bit repetitive, but Favreau's direction sticks to a likeably improvisational style and the leads play off of each other like a modern-day Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, with Vaughn's nattering machine gun style perfectly matched by Favreau's exhausted frustration and dry double takes.
(top) (back)


MAGNOLIA - B
Starring:
Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards, William H. Macy 
Directed by:
Paul Thomas Anderson
Drama, 188 min
(18A) (Miramax, 1999)


Paul Thomas Anderson's follow-up to the masterful Boogie Nights is a big, sprawling mess of a picture, much of which works and some of which doesn't. Among the highlights in this ensemble piece about a group of Los Angelinos: Tom Cruise's Oscar-nominated performance as a vulgar sex televangelist grappling with family problems; the comical opening vignettes; the tentative romance between John C. Reilly's nice cop and a frazzled druggie (Melora Walters); and Julianne Moore falling apart as a distraught wife. Among the lowlights: a hammy Jason Robards as a dying TV producer; the surprising lack of story for a three-hour picture; Anderson's self-indulgence with directorial flourishes; and his tendency to let his overly showy scenes run for too long. That said, there's still enough good here to outweigh the bad, resulting in a chronicle of love, forgiveness, anger and remorse that's worth seeing…with the fast-forward button ready. (top) (back)

MAID IN MANHATTAN - C+
Starring:
Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Tyler Posey, Stanley Tucci, Bob Hoskins, Di Quon, Kevin Wade
Directed by: Wayne Wang
Comedy, 105 min (PG) (Columbia, 2002)


Seeing as how her love life and riches are frequently flaunted on the covers of tabloids, one can understand why Jennifer Lopez would want to try and "keep it real" with her fans by dressing down to play a woman with more spunk than bucks. The problem with Maid in Manhattan, however, is that this manufactured image retooling seems to overwhelm the movie, thanks primarily to Lopez' overly processed performance and underwhelming work from Ralph Fiennes as the film's prince charming, but also because this is pure cookie-cutter filmmaking without any of the spark of, say, Pretty Woman or Working Girl. Directed by Wayne Wang (1999's Anywhere But Here), Maid in Manhattan stars Lopez as Marisa, a single mom and chambermaid at a posh Manhattan hotel who gets mistaken for a wealthy socialite by a Republican statesman (Fiennes) and doesn't worry about correcting him until it is too late. Watching Lopez and Fiennes come together means just sitting through the motions, so it is nice to see such a well-rounded supporting cast, with Bob Hoskins adding class as the head of hotel service staff and Natasha Richardson bringing the right amount of clueless pretension to the role of a hotel guest with eyes for Fiennes. (top) (back)

THE MAJESTIC
- C+
Starring:
Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Laurie Holden, David Ogden Stiers, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey DeMunn, Brent Briscoe, Hal Holbrook
Directed by:
Frank Darabont
Drama, 152 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2001)


After having looked to Stephen King prison stories with his last two pictures (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), director Frank Darabont tries to out-Capra Capra with The Majestic, a sugar-dusted picture with more sap than a maple tree. Set in 1951, The Majestic casts Jim Carrey as Peter Appleton, a budding Hollywood screenwriter who, after being accused of being a Communist, has a drunken accident and winds up in a picturesque California town. Struck with amnesia, Peter has no idea who he is, but the townsfolk believe him to be Luke Trimble, the long-missing war-hero son of the local theatre owner (Martin Landau) and fiancé of the doctor's daughter (Laurie Holden). For a while, The Majestic unspools like a pleasant walk through small town life and a time long gone, with Carrey giving a sincere performance that balances out the more hammy work by Landau. But Darabont - who seems almost allergic to letting films wind up in due time - lets everything unravel for at least 30 minutes too long and the inspirational touches of the film, whether it is the power of the movies, the true meaning of America, or the triumph of the human spirit, are too gooey, blunt and long-winded for the picture's own good. (top) (back)

MALIBU'S MOST WANTED - C
Starring:
Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Anderson, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Ryan O'Neal, Blair Underwood, Bo Derek, Damien Dante Wayans
Directed by: John Whitesell
Comedy, 86 min (14A) (Warner, 2003)


8 Mile meets Bringing Down the House with Malibu's Most Wanted, a jokey white-rapper sketch stretched into a tired and spotty feature (indeed, it is based on a character launched by Jamie Kennedy on his hidden camera show The Jamie Kennedy Experience). Kennedy, best known as the geeky film fanatic in the Scream franchise, stars in Malibu's Most Wanted as B-Rad, the rich boy son of a California politician (Ryan O'Neal) who, in his heart, believes he is a hard-core gangsta rapper who has every right to speak like Snoop Dogg, complain about living in the "hood" and make call-outs to Dr. Dre. Determined to shake B-Rad's lifestyle out of his system, O'Neal's political strategist (Blair Underwood) hires a couple of actors (Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson) to kidnap B-Rad and show him what South Central is really like, but the comic potential of the struggling thespians pretending to be Boyz in the Hood peters out quickly (Diggs in particular seems to be trying too hard). This essentially leaves Malibu's Most Wanted as a one-character outfit, but despite Kennedy's enthusiasm and eagerness to please, B-Rad is a rather predictable caricature that - like the film's entire fish-out-of-water storyline - has been seen before. (top) (back)

A MAN APART - C-
Starring: Vin Diesel, Larenz Tate, Timothy Olyphant, Jacqueline Obradors, Geno Silva, Steve Eastin, Juan Fernandez, Mike Moroff
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Action, 105 min (14A) (New Line, 2003)


The desire to seek revenge over the death of a loved one has fuelled many an action vehicle, but most of the time these film's stars aren't up to the task of expressing the grief over the loss. It didn't work for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage (2002), it didn't work for Kevin Costner in Revenge (1990), it didn't work for Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill (1990) and it certainly doesn't work for Vin Diesel in A Man Apart. Spending most of the movie scowling, brooding or pensively staring into the ocean, Diesel gives his most bone-headed and flat performance to date in A Man Apart. As Diesel's career has grown to XXX size, it is clear that the interesting figure from Boiler Room and Pitch Black has been gradually replaced by a dull hunk of egocentric muscle. Here Diesel plays Sean Vetter, a drug-enforcement agent whose wife is murdered after he brings down a Mexican cartel. Bloody with anger, Sean vows to seek justice, but director F. Gary Gray (1998's The Negotiator) appears to think his film is more thoughtful than either the screenplay or leading man allow. As a result, there are lots of blank stares and moments of quiet reflection, all of it acting to only enforce an already plodding pace. (top) (back)

MAN ON THE MOON - B-
Starring:
Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti, Vincent Schiavelli, Peter Bonerz, Garry Becker, Leslie Lyles 
Directed by:
Milos Forman
Drama, 118 min
(PG) (Universal, 1999)


Even now, Andy Kaufman remains one of the most selfish comedians to ever hit the spotlight. After all, here was a guy who cared more about entertaining himself than his audience, even if it meant bewildering, annoying and angering those around him. Because of this, it's fitting that this biopic about the comedian from director Milos Forman (The People Vs. Larry Flynt) draws its inspiration from Kaufman's subversive, everything-is-an-act act. That's not to say, however, that it results in a superior film. Jim Carrey makes all the right moves portraying Kaufman and there's an undeniable joy that accompanies his performance, but Man on the Moon remains a frustrating experience. Throughout the film, the man behind Kaufman's acts never comes into focus, reducing him to a bunch of infamous gimmicks (Taxi's Latka Gravas, abrasive lounge lizard Tony Clifton, the yahoo singing the Mighty Mouse theme on Saturday Night Live…) rather than a worthy film subject. (top) (back)

THE MAN WHO CRIED - C
Starring:
Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Johnny Depp, Harry Dean Stanton, Oleg Yankovsky, Miriam Karlin, Pablo Veron
Directed by: Sally Potter
Drama, 102 min (14A) (Universal, 2001)


As she indicated earlier with The Tango Lesson (1997) and Orlando (1993), writer-director Sally Potter is far more interested in visual flow than dialogue but, with the inert and ineffective The Man Who Cried, she proves that images alone - devoid of a compelling story or performances - do not result in anything more than a superficial response. Christina Ricci gives an almost wordless performance here as Suzie, a Russian dancer once deserted by her father in Russia and left on her own in England, then France, during World War II. In Paris, Suzie befriends a sexy gypsy (Johnny Depp) and a Moscow gold digger (Cate Blanchett) with her sights on an Italian opera star (John Turturro), but Blanchett is the only performer who seems to be enjoying herself, going full-tilt with the accent and emoting. Ricci heads in the opposite direction, resulting in a blank void at the center of the picture, and Depp (Ricci's love interest in Sleepy Hollow) basically reacts as though his character from Chocolat were unwillingly transferred over to this picture. Though Potter occasionally grasps the isolation and hesitation associated with Suzie's emotional detachment at times of war, The Man Who Cried is often little more than emotionless suffering. (top) (back)

THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE - B
Starring:
Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Michael Badalucco, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johansson, Richard Jenkins
Directed by: Joel Coen
Drama, 116 min (14A) (USA Films, 2001)


After the weightlessness of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Joel and Ethan Coen are back on their marks with The Man Who Wasn't There, a gorgeous - if often meandering - homage to 1940s revenge thrillers like Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Billy Bob Thornton, tossing away all traces of the excitable criminal he played in Bandits, gives an almost wordless performance here as Ed Crane, a small-town barber who doesn't like to talk or really express himself, only allowing viewers into his head with a minimalist dead-pan narration. Presented with the offer to invest in a dry-cleaning business and hardly oblivious to the affair between his wife (Coen regular Frances McDormand) and her boss (James Gandolfini), Ed decides to blackmail the big man, leading to a series of events that slowly (actually, too slowly) steamroll out of control. Shot in marvelous black and white by Oscar-nominee Richard Deakins, The Man Who Wasn't There certainly has some pacing issues, but it is visually transfixing, drawing one's stare with images as simple as a rotating barber chair or hair falling to the floor, and the performances are striking, particularly Tony Shalhoub's Doberman-like work as a fast-talking lawyer. (top) (back)

MANSFIELD PARK - B+
Starring:
Frances O'Connor, Embeth Davidtz, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Harold Pinter, Lindsay Duncan, Sheila Gish 
Directed by:
Patricia Rozema
Drama, 112 min (PG) (Miramax, 1999)


Money doesn't necessarily equate trust in this well-executed adaptation of a novel by Jane Austen (yes, her again). Canadian Patricia Rozema sits in the director's chair for this one, telling the quietly riveting tale of Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor), a poor girl who goes to live with her rich cousins in the early 1800s. While there, Fanny becomes embroiled in romantic triangle, torn between the status that comes from a dashing - though oddly distrustful - man of wealth (Alessandro Nivola) and following her heart, a choice that could leave her with nothing. It's hardly an original scenario, but Rozema wisely keeps the viewer in suspense about the rich man's true character and she balances out the romance with a reminder that many of the characters got rich off the slave trade. As well, Rozema found a real treasure in O'Connor, an Australian actress with a playful spark and a wonderfully truthful connection to her character's thoughts and feelings. (top) (back)

A MAP OF THE WORLD - B
Starring:
Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, David Strathairn, Chloe Sevigny, Ron Lea, Louise Fletcher, Marc Donato 
Directed by:
Scott Elliot
Drama, 128 min
(14A) (First Look Pictures, 1999)


Sigourney Weaver steps away from being a mother among aliens to be a painfully human mother in this well-drawn and strongly acted picture. Based on a 1994 novel by Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World tells the horrifying story of what happens when a mother's life crumbles around her. Weaver plays Alice Goodwin, a part-time school nurse who is overcome with guilt when her best friend's daughter drowns under her care. Things get even worse when Alice is accused of abusing a young boy and is incarcerated when her husband (David Straithairn) can't collect bail money. A movie with such weighty issues could easily have tumbled into overwrought melodrama, but what keeps the film running on course (at least until the overdone final act) are the fine performances. Julianne Moore is nicely controlled as the dead girl's mother and the powerful Weaver is more than willing to make Alice a bundle of contradictions who refuses to ask for sympathy. (top) (back)

THE MASTER OF DISGUISE - D
Starring:
Dana Carvey, Jennifer Esposito, Harold Gould, James Brolin, Brent Spiner, Edie McClurg, Brandon Malale, Erick Avari
Directed by: Perry Andelin Blake
Comedy, 80 min (PG) (Columbia Tristar, 2002)


With the exception of the first Wayne's World (1992), the impersonation-based, skit-directed talents of Dana Carvey have never been well suited to feature films (Anyone remember 1994's Clean Slate or 1990's Opportunity Knocks?) and this astoundingly awful comedy, aimed at kids who won't remember Carvey's prime years of Saturday Night Live success (and may not be as depressed over Carvey's fall from grace as their parents), is about as ill-fitting as they come. Painfully toothless and irritating, Master of Disguise casts Carvey as Pistachio Disguisey, a whiny annoyance and comedic void who happens to be the latest in a long line of talented disguise-artists with phony Italian accents. After Pistachio's parents (James Brolin and Edie McClurg) are kidnapped by a flatulent - yes, flatulent - madman (Star Trek: The Next Generation's Brent Spiner), it is up to Pistachio to track him down, posing as a turtle, an old lady, a cherry pie, George Bush Jr., a salsa dancer, Robert Shaw in Jaws and a billionaire along the way, but each impression is as obvious as it is familiar, with Carvey failing to bring even the slightest level of novelty or inventiveness to the laboured screenplay or Perry Andelin Blake's crushingly stilted direction. (top) (back)

ME, MYSELF & IRENE - C+
Starring:
Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, Anthony Anderson, Lin Shaye, Danny Green, Jessica Harper
Directed by:
Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Comedy, 116 min
(14A) (20th Century Fox, 2000)

Having already wrestled with himself in The Mask, Liar Liar and Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey is the best reason to see Me, Myself & Irene, a raunchy comedy about a Rhode Island State trooper who suffers from a split personality disorder. One minute, Carrey's the meek and passive Charlie. The next, he's Hank, Charlie's aggressive, vulgar and horny alter ego. Unfortunately, Carrey isn't simply the best reason to see Irene, he's also the only reason. Directed by There's Something About Mary's Peter and Bobby Farrelly (who previously worked with Carrey on Dumb and Dumber), the film lacks the zippy zaniness and creative spark that hotwired Mary, instead surrounding Carrey's character with forgettable supporting characters (Renee Zellweger never gets into the spirit as Charlie/Hanks' love interest), gags that are rammed into the ground and an overly convoluted, slow-moving storyline. Carrey does score the occasional big laugh, but the material here is too weak to offer any support. (top) (back)

ME MYSELF I
- C+
Starring:
Rachel Griffiths, David Roberts, Sandy Winton, Yael Stone, Shawn Loseby, Trent Sullivan
Directed by: Pip Karmet

Comedy, 104 min (14A) (Sony Pictures Classics, 2000)


Ever wonder what would happen if the dice of fate came up with different numbers? Gwyneth Paltrow did - the result being the charming Sliding Doors (1998) - as did Franka Potente in last year's Run Lola Run. Now Me Myself I gives Rachel Griffiths the chance to live parallel lives, but the results here are decidedly mixed, with a delightful lead performance being reduced by flat secondary characters and a muddled message. Griffiths (an Oscar nominee for Hilary & Jackie) plays Pamela, a thirtysomething single reporter who, wondering how her life would have turned out if she had accepted an earlier marriage proposal, is hit by a car driven by another Pamela, one who long ago agreed to marry and has since had three kids. The second Pamela then disappears, leaving the first one to live her life, and there is an uneasy comical tension to her adjustment. Inevitably, however, Pamela grows into her role and the film starts pacing back and forth, unsure of what to do with the situation or the characters. (top) (back)

MEET THE PARENTS - B
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, James Rebhorn, Thomas McCarthy, Jon Abrahams
Directed by:
Jay Roach
Comedy, 108 min (PG) (Universal, 2000)

The awkward tension between a father and a prospective son-in-law gets milked to its full comic potential in Meet the Parents, an inspired, loose-limbed farce that perfectly matches the personas of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. Stiller plays Greg Focker, a male nurse who wants to marry his girlfriend (Teri Polo), but must first seek the approval of her father (De Niro), an ex-CIA agent who wants only the best for his daughter. As can be expected, comic complications ensure, many involving De Niro's cherished cat, Greg's unfortunate last name, and an overflowing septic tank. What's funny here isn't so much what happens or what is said (the screenplay repeats itself a few too many times for that), but rather how Stiller and De Niro react to the situations and each other. De Niro, clearly relishing his second career as a comedian, does his lightest comic work yet and Stiller plays the There's Something About Mary screw-up routine for all it's worth, which, judging from this picture, is still quite a lot. (top) (back)

MEMENTO - A-
Starring:
Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss, Mark Boone Junior, Stephen Tobolowsky, Harriet Harris, Callum Keith Rennie
Directed by:
Christopher Nolan
Suspense, 116 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)


Truly great cinematic mysteries leave the audience in constant suspense about what is going to happen next. The masterful Memento, however, takes its thrills and story in the opposite direction, with one never sure of what happened first. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Memento tells the story of Leonard (Guy Pearce), a former insurance investigator bent on seeking revenge for the man who he believes raped and murdered his wife. Problem is, Leonard was also attacked that night and it has left him with the inability to form memories. He can remember everything that happened until his wife was killed, but everything else is erased from his mind just moments after reaching it. It's a tricky set-up - ripe with duplicitous secondary characters and uncertain motives - and Nolan pulls it off exceptionally, going so far as to actually have the story unfold backwards, with each successive scene chronologically preceding the one it follows. The mind-bending, Oscar-nominated screenplay begs for constant attention and consistently leaves you guessing where everything is going, savouring the performances, relishing the skill that went into the film's vision, and wanting to rewind and replay scenes just moments after they unfold. (top) (back)

MEN IN BLACK II - C+
Starring:
Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Comedy, 88 min (PG) (Columbia Tristar, 2002)


Watching Men in Black II, an all-flash sequel to 1997's alien invaders comedy, one can't help but wish that the heroes could somehow use their memory-erasing device known as the neuralizer on the audience. Perhaps then we could forget the inventiveness of the original picture and not feel that Men in Black II is an unnecessary retread of the same old sunglasses, aliens and shtick. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones basically go through the motions here returning as Agent Jay and Agent Kay, members of a top secret government organization that tracks intergalactic visitors. Kay was neuralized at the end of the first film, but here his memory is brought back to help Jay fend off the evil Serleena, a Medusa-like alien queen who has taken the shape of a Victoria's Secret model (Lara Flynn Boyle). Watching Kay get acquainted with the alien subculture isn't nearly as fun as it was with Kay in the first feature, mainly because Jones looks like he just showed up for a paycheck (Smith is as spirited as ever), but also because director Barry Sonnenfeld - who wisely keeps the film at a brisk 88 minutes - falls back on familiar supporting characters (the talking pug dog, the martini-toting worm guys) instead of actually trying something original or fresh. (top) (back)

MEN OF HONOR - B-
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron, Michael Rapaport, Hal Holbrook, David Keith, Powers Boothe, David Conrad
Directed by:
George Tillman, Jr.
Drama, 128
min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2000)


The story of Carl Brashear is an inspirational, almost unbelievable one. After all, Brashear enlisted in the Navy the year the armed forces were desegregated and he overcame giant obstacles - harsh racism, bureaucratic bullies, the loss of his leg - to become the first top-ranking black Navy diver. It's Brashear's story that is told in Men of Honor and, though the film is too conventionally structured and square-jawed for its own good, it remains a powerful one. Much of this is due to the film's strong lead performances: As Brashear, Cuba Gooding Jr. is as much about restraint as his Oscar-winning turn in Jerry Maguire was about enthusiasm and his performance is unaffected and truthful. As Brashear's hard-drinking superior, Robert De Niro is far from restrained, but his boom-and-holler is put to effective use. All in all, Men of Honor is a respectable and interesting biopic, but one can't help but feel that had director George Tillman Jr. had taken more creative risks, it could have surpassed honorable to be incredible. (top) (back)

MEN WITH BROOMS - C
Starring: Paul Gross, Leslie Nielsen, Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Noldon, James Allodi, Jed Rees, Polly Shannon, Jane Spidell
Directed by: Paul Gross
Comedy, 104 min
(14A) (Alliance Atlantis, 2002)

As a Canadian, one can't help but want to like Men With Brooms, a shaggy comedy directed, starring and co-written by Paul Gross (Due South) that is marked by distinctively Canuck touches (multiple appearances by beavers, the treatment of curling as a game of the Gods, a cameo by the Tragically Hip) and is far less embarrassing an enterprise than something like, say, Red Green's Duct Tape Forever. But when you get right down to it, a sports comedy - even one about an offbeat game like curling - needs to do more than just run through the motions to entertain and Men With Brooms, as generic a film as the Hollywood assembly line would spit out, completely misses the button. Gross plays Chris Cutter, the runaway skip of a beloved curling team who returns home to pay respects to his late coach and, out of respect for the older man's last wish, regroups his teammates for one last chance at glory. What's disappointing here isn't the fact that the story's sports angle is so predictable, but rather that all of the characters only follow suit, with male bonding that plays like watered down Ed Burns, Molly Parker wasted as the woman that Chris should have pursued long ago, and Leslie Nielsen unable to bring any depth to the thin role of Chris' father. (top) (back)

THE MEXICAN - B-
Starring: Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini, Bob Balaban, J.K. Simmons, David Krumholtz, Sherman Augustus, Richard Coca
Directed by:
Gore Verbinski
Comedy, 123 min (14A) (Dreamworks, 2001)


The term "star vehicle" was invented for films like The Mexican. After all, this is an exceedingly slight, unbalanced and overlong road movie that exists primarily to bring together box office-draws Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, each of whom can easily turn the star-wattage to full power. That said, Pitt and Roberts actually spend only a small portion of this rambling film together, with Pitt playing Jerry, a dim bagman forced into "one last job" that involves tracking down an antique gun in Mexico. Roberts is Jerry's frustrated girlfriend, Samantha, whose attempt at leaving her man is thwarted when she gets kidnapped by a gay hit man (James Gandolfini) who also has his stake in the pistol. Both Roberts and Pitt are clearly having a good time - their collective joy can't help but shine off the screen - but the most rewarding performance here is courtesy of Gandolfini (TV's The Sopranos), whose charismatic presence is greatly missed whenever he steps aside (which is, unfortunately, too often). Directed by Gore Verbinski, The Mexican has too weak of a final third to be considered a substantial piece of work, but there is still something to be said for star power and fans of these actors can easily argue that The Mexican rests clearly on the entertaining side of the border. (top) (back)

MINORITY REPORT - B+
Starring:
Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow, Peter Stormare, Tim Blake Nelson, Kathryn Morris, Lois Smith
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Suspense, 145 min (14A) (20th Century Fox, 2002)


After making a maiden voyage into Stanley Kubrick territory with the fascinating and challenging A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Steven Spielberg makes a similar trip with Minority Report, a dark and tantalizing science-fiction thriller marked by complex themes, a twisty story and dazzling technical flair. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick and resembling a futuristic meld of The Fugitive and Impostor (also based on a Dick tale), Minority Report stars Tom Cruise as John Anderton, the head investigator of the Pre-Crime police unit in the Washington, D.C. of 2054. With the assistance of three psychic oracles, the Pre-Crime division is in charge of arresting potential perps for crimes before they are committed, but when Anderton's face shows up as a future murderer, he goes on the lam to uncover if and why he is being framed. As Anderton proceeds with his investigation, pursued by a rival officer (Colin Farrell), Spielberg keeps the sleek surprises coming and presents a splendidly realized vision of the future in which privacy is almost extinct, cars run on magnets and relentless mechanical spiders perform I.D. checks via retinal scans, but everyday habits like reading a newspaper and fighting for one's life never go out of style. (top) (back)

MISS CONGENIALITY - B-
Starring:
Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson, Heather Burns
Directed by:
Donald Petrie
Comedy, 110 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2000)

In the spirit of this light comedy about a tomboyish FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) who goes undercover at the Miss United States beauty pageant, it's only fitting that we hand out some titles of our own. First up is Miss Charming and, hands down, this award goes to Bullock, who once again lifts a screwball comedy above its soft-centered screenplay with a delightful slapstick performance. Winner for Mr. Charisma is Michael Caine, whose haughty, innuendo-laced work as a pageant consultant is undeniably inspired. Other accolades must go to Candice Bergen, who takes the sash for Miss Scene-Stealer as a terrifying pageant director, and William Shatner, whose winking work as a Bert Parks-like emcee awards him the title of Mr. Self-Parody. As for the also-rans, the list begins with Benjamin Bratt, who is nothing more than a pretty face as Bullock's partner, and ends with director Donald Petrie, who could have emerged a true winner had he been able to get as much comic momentum out of his screenplay as his actors. (top) (back)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 - B
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson, John Polson, Rade Serbedzija
Directed by:
John Woo
Action, 123
min (14A) (Paramount, 2000)

For an idea of that inventive spark that has been missing from all the recent James Bond pictures, look no further than this gloriously kinetic thriller. Directed with all the pyrotechnic grace and skill we've come to expect from John Woo, Mission: Impossible 2 stands as a sharp improvement over the static, overly convoluted original film because it infuses the spy genre with a welcome breath of fresh air. Tom Cruise, who has never before been this athletic on screen, returns as superspy Ethan Hunt. This time, Ethan gets to woo a stunning thief (Thandie Newton) while trying to foil the worldwide domination plans of an ex-colleague (Dougray Scott). Some of Woo's visual trademarks are becoming too much of a cliché (enough of the white doves already!) and the storyline requires more than a little suspension of disbelief, but for the most part, this is pure, adrenaline-fueled action at its most satisfying. (top) (back)

MISSION TO MARS - C+
Starring: Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, Kim Delaney, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Directed by:
Brian DePalma
Drama, 113 min (PG) (Touchstone, 2000)

Considering the dramatic inertness of director Brian De Palma’s recent work (Snake Eyes, Mission: Impossible), it should come as nothing of a surprise that this sci-fi drama adds up to little more than a series of pretty pictures (think 2001: Lite). Starring Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise, Connie Nielsen and Jerry O’Connell as members of a NASA crew who head to Mars to rescue a stranded astronaut (Don Cheadle) who may have been the victim of a strange alien force on the planet, Mission to Mars is stuffed to the brim with wide, expansive shots, engulfing visuals of space and nifty special effects. But while the film certainly looks great, it is also terribly shallow with regards to both character and story. Despite the best efforts of the cast, the characters all fall victim to that most ruthless of film villains – dialogue so wooden you would think it was a toothpick. Too bad looks aren’t everything. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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