RECENT VIDEO RELEASES

Anger Management
Bulletproof Monk
Confessions of a Danger...
Confidence
Core, the
Cradle 2 the Grave
Daddy Day Care
From Justin to Kelly
Good Thief, the
Identity
Kid Stays in the Picture
Lord of the Rings: Two...
Malibu's Most Wanted
Man Apart, a
View From the Top

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ANGER MANAGEMENT - C
Starring:
Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei, Krista Allen, Allen Covert, Luis Guzman, Kurt Fuller, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Peter Segal
Comedy, 106 min (PG) (Columbia, 2003)


With Anger Management, Adam Sandler tried to expand his audience base by enlisting a crowd-pleasing Jack Nicholson for a self-mocking start turn, but what sounds like a good idea turns sour in execution. Unfortunately, Nicholson never really catches fire here - he's all jutting eyebrows and Joker grins without a trace of the skill seen in About Schmidt - and Sandler takes several steps back from his revelatory work in Punch Drunk Love by turning in a rather dull performance barely removed from the usual Happy Gilmore/Big Daddy/Waterboy routine. Here Sandler plays a meek cat clothing designer who, after a minor incident on an airplane, gets sentenced to anger management classes with a psychiatrist (Nicholson) whose unconventional techniques include moving in with his patient and trying to steal his girl (Marisa Tomei). You know a movie is in trouble when certain gags seem lifted directly out of Analyze That (once again we get an oddball rendition of "I'm So Pretty") and despite supporting turns from the likes of Luis Guzman, Heather Graham and John Turturro (the highlight of Sandler's Mr. Deeds), director Peter Segal (1995's Tommy Boy) is unable to lift Anger Management out of a rut of tepid familiarity. (top) (back)

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


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

CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND - B-
Starring:
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)

CONFIDENCE - B-
Starring:
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)

THE CORE - C+
Starring:
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)

CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE - C-
Starring:
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)

DADDY DAY CARE - C
Starring:
Eddie Murphy, Steve Zahn, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Garlin, Regina King, Lacey Chabert, Laura Kightlinger, Kevin Nealon
Directed by: Steve Carr
Comedy, 92 min (PG) (Columbia, 2003)


In recent years, Eddie Murphy's family movie career has been more consistent than his adult-fare (think Shrek versus I Spy, Dr. Dolittle 2 versus Showtime), but Daddy Day Care is a quick kick in the shins to that streak. Taking a cue from 1983's Mr. Mom, Daddy Day Care casts Murphy as an advertising executive who, after getting the pink slip, turns his home into an affordable childcare alternative to the strict Chapman Academy (overlooked by Anjelica Huston in full Witches-style viciousness). As in too many recent Murphy flicks, the former Saturday Night Live star is the straight man here, almost sleepwalking through a role that could have easily benefited from a dose of enthusiasm. There are some amusing bits courtesy of Jeff Garlin (TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Murphy's partner and a Star Trek-loving mail clerk-turned-nanny played by Steve Zahn (who voiced the bear in Dr. Dolittle 2), but far too much of the humour here is supposed to be drawn from the gaggle of "cute" child actors. Too bad there's only so much comedy that can be drawn from temper tantrums, sugar highs, separation anxiety, cutesy faces, toilet training, loud wailing and crying fits before they become about as irritating as diaper rash. (top) (back)

FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY - C-
Starring:
Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Brian Dietzen, Katherine Bailess, Anika Noni Rose, Jason Yribar, Greg Siff, Brandon Henschel
Directed by: Robert Iscove
Musical, 81 min (PG) (Fox, 2003)


Imagine a spring break musical starring the cast of Saved By the Bell circa 1994 and you would have From Justin to Kelly, another vapid, dim-witted and irritating attempt to capitalize on the recent glut of reality TV programming. From Justin to Kelly stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, the finalists from the first season of American Idol, and Guarini in particular has all the screen presence of a floor mop. That is not to say that Clarkson fares much better - the budget-stressed wardrobe and muddy lighting are especially unflattering - but at least her soaring voice compensates for an amateurish performance (Justin's, well, not so much). The disposable storyline - a little bit of Grease, You've Got Mail and West Side Story with a lot of fromage - sees Clarkson playing a Texas waitress who heads to Florida for spring break and finds herself drawn to a lady-killing party promoter improbably played by Sideshow Bob - sorry, Guarini. The only condolence of From Justin to Kelly is that, as with The Real Cancun, the film failed at the box office, barely making a pit stop before heading to video. Hopefully this has saved us from big screen careers of Richard Hatch, all those Bachelors and, of course, From Clay to Ruben. (top) (back)

THE GOOD THIEF - B
Starring:
Nick Nolte, Tcheky Karyo, Ralph Fiennes, Nutsa Kukhianidze, Mark Polish, Michael Polish, Emir Kusturica, Said Taghmaoui
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Suspense, 109 min (14A) (Fox, 2003)


As Nick Nolte has aged from People's Sexiest Man Alive to rumpled movie veteran, the creases in his face have only deepened and, it's nice to report, so have his performances. No longer basing his career on botched Hollywood bonanzas like 1994's I Love Trouble, Nolte is spending more of his time on worthy arthouse characters like the wounded sheriff in Affliction (1997) and the title role in The Good Thief, a man with as many demons and additions (gambling, drinking, drugs) as skills plotting elaborate heists. A remake of 1955's Bob le Flambeur, The Good Thief casts Nolte as Bob, a career criminal down on his luck who essentially adopts a 17-year-old runaway (Nutsa Kukhianidze) around the same time that an opportunity for a grand scheme involving the safes at Monte Carlo falls into his lap. The Good Thief isn't worth watching for its plot machinations - in terms of excitement and elaborate plots, this is no Ocean's Eleven (2001) or The Score (2001) and questions about the plot are substantial. But director Neil Jordan (1999's The End of the Affair) isn't so concerned about building tension as he is about a study of Nolte's worn-out character and, in this regard, The Good Thief turns out to be a thrilling success. (top) (back)

IDENTITY - B-
Starring:
John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Clea DuVall, Alfred Molina, John C. McGinley, Rebecca DeMornay, Jake Busey
Directed by: James Mangold
Suspense, 90 min (14A) (Columbia, 2003)


Identity's groundwork has certainly been seen before: On a dark and stormy night, 10 strangers are stranded in a creepy hotel with no communication to the outside world. One by one, people start dying and every guest - plus the shifty hotel clerk (John Hawkes) - is a suspect (think Agatha Christy's Psycho). That said, though, director James Mangold (1999's Girl, Interrupted) is able to bring some new material to the structure, outclassing recent horror efforts like Wes Craven's They and Final Destination 2 with a moderately compelling story and fine performances from a group of character actors. It's too bad that Mangold drops his biggest twist too early in the proceedings and doesn't keep the editing tight enough, causing Identity to lack the narrative punch of an effort like Frailty (2002). Still, something has to be said for a suspense film that appears to be as concerned about engaging the mind as it is in murder and all the usual shocks. Starring, among others, John Cusack as a limo driver, Ray Liotta as a law officer, Amanda Peet as a prostitute, Jake Busey as a prisoner, Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott as newlyweds, Rebecca De Mornay as an actress, John C. McGinley as a grieving father and enough rain to sink the Titanic. (top) (back)

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE - B
Starring:
Robert Evans, Ali MacGraw, Dustin Hoffman, Phyllis George, Paul Newman
Directed by: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgan
Documentary, 93 min (14A) (Warner, 2002)


Robert Evans has led quite the life: discovered by Norma Shearer while sunbathing at a hotel swimming pool, he went on to become a small-time actor, the head of the ailing Paramount Pictures, the husband and then ex-husband of Ali MacGraw (she left him for Steve McQueen), a scandal-afflicted washout and then, finally, a Hollywood icon. The Kid Stays in the Picture, a lively documentary based on Evan's 1994 autobiography, tries to cram all of Evans' successes and failures into a 90-minute exploration and directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan have done a sensational job of bringing old photographs to life through unique animation and effects, all of it interpreted by Hollywood-spun narrative courtesy of Evans himself. Because of its roots and biased narration, Picture is undoubtedly one-sided (MacGraw no doubt has a few things to say about how she comes across here and Francis Ford Coppola has denied that it was Evans who pushed him to make The Godfather longer), but this is still a juicy little documentary full of Hollywood gossip and background of such classics as Love Story, Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, all of it outlined by Evans at his most salacious and romanticized. (top) (back)

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS - A-
Starring:
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)

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)

VIEW FROM THE TOP - C-
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Christina Applegate, Candice Bergen, Marc Blucas, Mike Myers, Rob Lowe, Jon Polito, Kelly Preston
Directed by: Bruno Barreto
Comedy, 87 min (PG) (Miramax, 2003)


Like Shallow Hal (2001), View From the Top has clearly been designed to illustrate that Gwyneth Paltrow can step away from her Oscar-prestige to play a woman with less than a star's glow. In the case of View From the Top, that means that she is playing a modest young woman who snaps gum and grew up in a trailer park in the middle of nowhere. The problem with the film, however, is that director Bruno Barreto (1997's Four Days in September) is so overly eager to show Paltrow slumming it that he piles on the hoop earrings, big hair and leopard print mini-dresses with such overly broad strokes that it jars with Paltrow's generally sweet performance. Here the Shakespeare in Love star plays a dreamer whose fantasies see her flying the international skies as a stewardess, but the film's central conflict - should she follow her ambition and risk losing her love (embodied by You Can Count on Me's Mark Ruffalo) - seems dated and pedestrian (why can't she have both?). Mike Myers shows up as a cross-eyed flight attendant trainer and Candice Bergen is welcome as Paltrow's mentor, but this is such an awkward little film - the grating "colourful" comic tics rub roughly against the drab story - that neither of them should have bothered. (top) (back)
Looking for more? Visit Recommended Releases or Archived Video: Aa-Am, An-Az, Ba-Be, Bf-Bn, Bo-Bz, Ca-Ch, Ci-Cz, Da-Dn, Do-Dz, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ma-Mn, Mo-Mz, N, O, P-Q, Ra-Rh, Ri-Rz, Sa-Sg, Sh-Sl, Sm-Ss, St-Sz, Ta-Ti, Tj-Tz, U-V, W, X-Z

All reviews by Mike Boon.