Collin's Movie Reviews On A Stick (Capsule Reviews Last Updated 09/22/02)

By Collin Souter
Posted 01/21/01 03:47:56

As much as I’d love to write a long review of virtually every movie I see, I simply don’t have the time. And, hey, you probably don’t have time to read all those run-on sentences anyway (“You got a life to lead, cha-cha”). So, I’m offering you these bite-size chunks of opinions that may help you when deciding on what movies to see over the weekend. Exorcise your God-given right to bookmark this page, as I will be updating it every week. I personally supervised the dividing of the reviews into their four distinct categories, with 4-stars being the absolute Goddamn-highest highest rating.

BARBERSHOP A nice surprise. A wonderful day-in-the-life movie about a barbershop owner, played by Ice Cube, who doesn’t know how to make ends meet other than to maybe sell the shop to a loan shark. There is also a sub-plot about two bumbling criminals trying who steal an ATM machine, but the movie’s best stuff comes out of the characters who populate the barbershop. The ATM sub-plot almost feels as though it should be in another movie, but it does have some laughs. On the whole, this is still a wise, hilarious and thoroughly entertaining movie. (***)

FAST RUNNER (ATANARJUAT) A beautiful epic that takes place entirely in the freezing tundra of Far North Canada. The movie tells an almost Shakespearian story while also offering a glimpse of the Inuit culture. We see the building of an igloo, fair fights between rivals and a most courageous chase scene that will leave you a little breathless and most uncomfortable. For adventurous filmgoers only. I feel sorry for everyone else. (***1/2)

THE GOOD GIRL Jennifer Aniston plays a cashier at the Retail Rodeo who wishes for something bigger to happen to her other than coming home to her stoner husband (the always great John C. Reilly) and ringing up customers. Along comes Holden (Jake “Donnie Darko” Gyllenhaal), a brooding depressed kid and the only one who understands her. An affair between the two ensues. A wonderful, dark and funny movie that knows its characters inside and out. Instead of trying to find nice and convenient ways for every character to be happy at the end, Mike White’s screenplay instead stays consistent with the characters he created. The cast couldn’t be better and, yes, Aniston plays a different kind of role and we come out wondering why she has been holding out on us. (***1/2)

EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS A good, stupid old-fashioned B-grade drive-in monster movie that makes no pretense about being anything else. After the lifeless “Men In Black II” and the humorless “Reign of Fire” comes the real deal. Toxic waste makes a comeback as some chemicals leak out into a spider farm and cause the arachnids to grow twenty feet tall. Not unlike “Arachnophobia” meets “Tremors” meets “Starship Troopers” meets Roger Corman. Not great, but certainly a good time. (***)

I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART Sam Jones’ black-and-white documentary about alt-rock band Wilco and the making of their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot starts off as a dissection of the creative process then turns into a veritable modern-day David and Goliath as the band’s record label rejects the album. A funny, sad, scathing and joyous examination of the psyche one needs to overcome rejection of one’s craft. It joins the ranks of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Look Back” as one of the best rock documentaries ever (or just one of the best documentaries period). And you don’t have to be a Wilco fan to enjoy it. (****)

INSOMNIA A beautiful atmospheric thriller from Christopher Nolan, the director of last year’s “Memento.” Al Pacino plays a detective sent to Alaska to investigate a series of brutal murders. The round-the-clock sunlight in Alaska keeps him awake at night and dangerously effects his senses. Robin Williams, who plays the killer (I’m not giving anything away there), tries to blackmail him. A terrific movie with a thrilling chase sequence involving giant logs going down a stream. Al Pacino is great as always and Robin Williams gives his best performance since “The Fisher King.” Certainly, his darkest. (***1/2)

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE Hugely entertaining, but incomplete documentary on the life and times of one of Hollywood’s most important moguls, Robert Evans. Evans started out as an actor, but ended up being one of the biggest producers the industry has ever had. He gained notoriety by producing both “Godfather” movies, “Love Story, “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “Marathon Man, as well as countless others. The documentary moves like gangbusters and the movie brings the past to life in most unique ways, but I came out wishing I had learned more. Still, for those interested in the biz, it’s a must. (***)

LILO & STITCH A big surprise, seeing as how Disney has been in a strange transition period over the past few years, and with mediocre results. “Lilo & Stitch” finds the studio and its artists back in high form with this beautiful, bizarre and moving tale that plays like “Gremlins” in reverse. A young Hawaiian girl adopts a strange blue, bug-eyed alien she thinks of as just a strange dog. She doesn’t realize he has been programmed to destroy and has people from his planet looking for him. Thus, he starts out mean and nasty, but gradually gets a little nicer. The best hand-drawn animated movie since “The Iron Giant.” Strange, considering their similarities. I absolutely loved this movie. (****)

LOVELY AND AMAZING If Edward Burns actually made a good movie, it might be something like this. Three sisters—two white women in their ‘30s (Cathering Keener and Emily Mortimer) and one adopted 8-year old black girl (Ravin Goodwin)—question the roots of their self-worth after their mother (the great Brenda Blethyn) decides to go in for liposuction. A funny, honest and wonderfully acted little movie that strays far from maudlin soap opera clichés. In other words, you won’t see it on Lifetime. (***1/2)

MINORITY REPORT A great, glorious sci-fi film noir from two of Hollywood’s biggest icons. Steven Spielberg has made his best film since “Shindler’s List” and Tom Cruise continues challenging his audience with thought-provoking material, refusing to cater to a crowd eagerly awaiting a sequel to “Cocktail.” He plays John Anderton, a man who has been charged for a future murder. He must try and alter the course of his actions and clear his name before the alleged time of the killing. Fascinating, stunning to look at, fast, funny, thrilling. It’s the kind of movie that brings a genre back from the dead. Make sure you catch this on the big screen. (****)

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING Anybody who has ever had trouble gaining acceptance from a loved one’s family will have no trouble relating to this light, entertaining bit of fluff. In this comedy, a 30-year old Greek woman falls for a dashing professor, who has zero Greek in him, much to the dismay of her family. Actually, the movie contains little in the way of conflict, and it often forgoes character for caricature. Still, I can think of worse ways to kill 95 minutes. (***)

ONE HOUR PHOTO A far more realistic depiction of life at Wal-Mart than that stupid Ashley Judd movie, “Where the Heart Is.” Robin Williams plays a lonely clerk at a SavMart photo shop who obsesses over his job as well as a seemingly perfect nuclear family who have been coming to his place for years. Williams gives an even better performance here than in “Insomnia,” and director Mark Romanek gives the store an appropriately sterile and icy feel. The screenplay stays smart from start to finish with an ending that puts a twist on the domestic-thriller genre, rather than conforming to it. More of a chilling character study than a maniac-with-an-obsession scare-fest. (***1/2)

POSSESSION A wonderful romantic mystery about two historians (Gwenyth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart) trying to uncover some hidden truths about a famous love-lorn poet and the women in his life. The movie goes back and forth from present day to late-19th century. I walked in knowing nothing about it, but I hear the film has been mis-advertised as a thriller. This is a Romance X2, with something interesting to say about the difference 100 years makes in terms of how relationships form and the passions and pain that can sever them. Moving, literate, funny and beautiful. (***1/2)

ROAD TO PERDITION A beautiful, somber mood piece, with Tom Hanks as an emotionally distant father who also happens to be a hit man for the mob. When he becomes the target of his own mentor (Paul Newman), he and his 12-year-old son go on the lamb. A flawed, but interesting movie that is drunk on atmosphere and highlighted by Jude Law’s creepy performance. Worth seeing, even though it wastes Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of the best actresses on the planet. (***)

SPIRITED AWAY A stunning piece of work from Hayao Miyazaki, creator of “Princess Mononoke.” The Japanimation film tells a sort of “Alice In Wonderland” type story where a young girl ends up an a strange land where she must work to survive. Of course, there is so much more to the densely-layered storyline, but one can’t do justice to it in a capsule review. The movie demands to be seen twice: Once just to take in the story and a second to marvel again at its beauty. George Lucas could only dream of having this much imagination. The movie is being presented in its original Japanese form with subtitles as well as a dubbed English version. Either one is fine, but check your paper if you have a preference (and please leave the kids home if it’s subtitled). (****)

13 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING An interesting, but self-congratulatory film that has four different stories, each one of them interacting with one another. The best one follows Alan Arkin as the head of an insurance office compelled to make the happiest man he knows absolutely miserable. The movie has more to say about life than most movies these days, but if it didn’t pat itself on the back so much with its fortune cookie truisms, it might have been a great film along the lines of “Magnolia” or Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (***)

UNDISTPUTED For those of you who have been waiting for Walter Hill to branch out into uncharted territories with a gritty prison boxing flick, your day has come. Ving Rhames plays a world heavyweight champion who ends up in the Penn for allegedly raping a woman (yes, that does sound familiar, doesn’t it?) Eventually, he must fight the heavyweight champion inmate, played by Wesly Snipes. A very tight, well-acted boxing movie that has a lot to say about the sport and just enough to say about the characters. Peter Falk plays a mobster inmate who breaks Steve Martin’s record for the number of times the “f” word is spoken in one scene. (***1/2)

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN A wonderful coming-of-age film about two teenage boys who fall for an older woman as they travel across Mexico in search of a beach called Heaven’s Mouth. An obvious homage to Truffaut’s “Jules et Jim,” it nevertheless has the feeling of being a vital and fresh original. Much has been made of the film’s explicit sexual nature (hence the “No one under 18 admitted” rule), but you’ll probably remember it more for its characters, its humor and sadness. From the great Alfonso “A Little Princess” Cuaron. (****)


AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER I admit to a few guilty laughs in this sequel, but the series has certainly run its course and all elements of satire that existed in the first film has been done away with completely. It now exists as a series of poo-poo and pee-pee jokes. Fat Bastard, Mini-Me and Dr. Evil return. Beyonce Knowles plays the love interest. Michale Caine plays Austin's father. If you're a fan, you might get some yuks out of it, but if not, stay far away. (**1/2)

BLOOD WORK So-so thriller that gets by mostly because of its cast. Clint Eastwood plays a retired cop who helps out the sister of a woman who donated her heart to him. Jeff Daniels plays Clint’s tag-along as Clint tries to figure out who killed the donar. Predictable mystery that you won’t have trouble figuring out early on, but the cast helps the movie go down smoothly in spite of itself. Not one of Clint’s best. (**1/2)

THE BANGER SISTERS The ads don’t mention the story between Goldie Hawn character, an ex-groupie named Suzette, and would-be screenwriter Harry, played by Geoffrey Rush. Had the movie been about these two people, it would have worked. Instead, it tells a predictable story about Suzette’s 20-year reunion with her now-uptight, suburbanite former best friend,Lavinia (Susan Sarandon). The script had a good story going with Rush and Hawn. One wishes they would have stuck to it. (**1/2)

THE FOUR FEATHERS A.E.W. Mason’s book gets another treatment, this time from Shakhar Kapur, director of 1998’s “Elizabeth.” Unfortunately, Kapur’s subject—that of a military misfit who tries to redeem himself after bailing out of war—is played by such a boring leading actor (Heath Ledger) that after a while I just wanted it to end. Still, like “Elizabeth,” “The Four Feathers” is a beautifully produced movie. But unlike “Elizabeth,” it aspires to be too many things, but comes off as being just labored and stuffy. (**)

FULL FRONTAL A sometimes interesting and funny, but mostly self-indulgent experimental film from Steven Soderbergh. It examines several neurotics in L.A., many of whom are involved in the film industry. A movie-within-a-movie premise takes place within all the goings-on, but it doesn’t amount to much. It stars Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce and David Duchuvny. The actors make it a little more watchable. Soderbergh has already made a movie along these lines with “Schizopolis,” a much more interesting work. (**)

K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER The great director Kathryn Bigelow (“Near Dark,” “Strange Days”) gives us her weakest film, but it’s still not bad. The movie has Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson leading a crew of Russians aboard a submarine out to do a missile test and the dangers they encounter. Some great tension, but not too emotionally involving. Yes, Ford is a bit mis-cast, but I admire him for trying. (**1/2)

REIGN OF FIRE A sometimes fun, but other times dull apocalyptic action movie involving dragons that have taken over the world and the humans who battle them. The movie has some great action sequences and the production looks flawless, but it lacks a real sense of fun. Matthew McConaughey has some fun moments, but not enough to carry the movie. (**1/2)

SIMONE Andrew Niccol’s third outing after “Gattaca” in 1997 and the screenplay for 1998’s “The Truman Show” stumbles a bit in its second act where the situations turn hopelessly derivative to the point where one feels the film should be called “Weekend At Simone’s.” Al Pacino plays a Hollywood filmmaker who creates a sexy and alluring virtual movie star named Simone. Everybody buys into the idea that she exists in real life even though she has never made a public appearance. A good first act, a terrific third act, but the movie’s messages get lost amidst boring set pieces and labored dialogue. We should expect better from Niccol, writer of the best film of 1998. (**1/2)

SPY KIDS 2: THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS Another in a series of disappointing sequels, although kids still might enjoy this one. The Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni, return to retrieve a gadget from dangerous hands, a gadget that could wipe out the whole world. This time, the Spy Kids have to compete with two other Spy Kids, Gary and Gerti Giggles, two characters whose presence stops the movie cold just as it gets going. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gorgino return as the parents. The Island of Lost Souls itself is great, as is Steve Buscemi who inhabits it with his miniature zoo, but “Spy Kids 2” lacks the heart of the original, of which I am a huge fan. (**1/2)

STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES This may be the first movie in history to be released as both a sequel and a prequel. That may be the nicest thing history will say about this movie. Though, not as painful as “Phantom Menace,” “Clones” nevertheless falls under some of the same traps. Lucas has said that this chapter will be dark, but that’s coming from the guy who not only conceived Jar-Jar Binks, but actually left him in the movie! Lucas should leave the writing and directing to people who have a flair for it. (**)


MEN IN BLACK II The worst kind of sequel: Tired, re-hashed, stale and dull, dull, dull. Will Smith does his usual Will Smith thing. Tommy Lee Jones looks as though he just got out of bed and Lara Flynn Boyle shows off her cleavage. Chase scenes exist for no reason and the computer generated effects look uninspired. Only Patrick Wharburton earns a few laughs in the first 10 minutes, but they do away with him after that. No plot synopses necessary, here. Believe me, you won’t care. (*1/2)

TADPOLE This low-budget 77-minute film features Sigourney Weaver as the love interest for a pseudo-intellectual teenager (Aasron Stanford) named Oscar. But another older woman, Diane (Bebe Neuwirth), ends up sleeping with him. Nobody suffers any consequences for their actions, because, well, they’re intellectuals. A major disappointment that plays into a double-standard instead of condemning it. The dialogue also comes off as phony and forced. Made in two weeks, and it shows. (*1/2)

SCOOBY-DOO A permanent urine stain on the American quilt of life. “Scooby-Doo” represents the absolute worst in crass Hollywood filmmaking. A witless, agonizingly loud and tedious affair, this stinker should have been this year’s “Battlefield Earth.” Instead, people have actually been paying hard-earned money to see it. Don’t be one of them. Use your brain and see “Lilo & Stitch” instead. Hey, this stars Matther Lillard, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. It also features a cameo by pop band Sugar Ray. How much more of a deterrent does one need? Stay away, people. You don’t need this in your life. (ZERO STARS)

SIGNS A farmer/former priest wakes up one day and finds crop circles in his corn. Hmmmm, could they be from aliens? A movie supposedly about a former priest’s crisis of faith, but for some reason writer/director M. Night Shyamalan chose to disguise it as a ludicrous, inept and poorly conceived sci-fi movie that achieves more unintentional laughs than thrills. A few scenes hit their mark, but they hardly make up for the ridiculous ending or the mis-casting of Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix as brothers. As my girlfriend said when it was over, the movie should be called “Crap Circles.” (*1/2)

SWIMFAN A terrible movie, but if you get the right group of people together and make a night out for some good-natured heckling of a bad movie, this would be the one. It’s a run-of-the-mill repeat of the “Fatal Attraction” plot, but with high schoolers. A new girl in town, Madison Bell (Erika Christiansen) falls for a guy on the swim team, Ben Cronin (the drool-happy Jesse Bradford). They have sex in a pool and she proceeds to mess up his life. The last half hour is particularly absurd and by the end, the viewer realizes that the swimming pool is actually a metaphor for the gigantic holes on the plot. (*1/2)

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