Celebrity

Woody Allen’s latest is a black and white expose on the effects of celebrity, yet the film is never as interesting as its subject matter or stellar cast. Allen’s angst is usually good for a couple of laughs or insights, yet in “Celebrity” its annoying and tired. Too bad, because Allen has rounded up an interesting cast in which to tell his story, including Kenneth Branagh, Charlize Theron, Melanie Griffith, Winona Ryder, Judy Davis, and briefly, Leonardo DiCaprio.


Celebrity
Even though the actors are always watch-able, the film isn’t. (Miramax)

DEEP END OF THE OCEAN, THE (PG-13)

DEEP END OF THE OCEANAnother Lifetime movie-of-the-week parading around on the big screen as a feature, this family drama based on the best-selling novel fails to rise above all that came before it. Michelle Pfeiffer is good as the woman who loses her youngest son in a crowded hotel lobby. Unfortunately, Treat Williams is burdened with the role of the angry husband and father who blames his wife for their son’s disappearance. After nine years of grief and blame, the kid pops back up on the doorsteps of their new home, unaware of his previous life. He’s there to mow the lawn. Reunited with his family, Ben (Ryan Merriman) must now play catch up while his parents and brother attempt to reconcile their feelings. Directed with assurance by Ulu Grosbard, the film never rises above the dramatic level of the television movies that have covered similar ground. Even worse, the writers totally ignore several important plot points, leaving the audience feeling lost and bewildered. (Columbia-TriStar)

FINDING GRACELAND (R)

FINDING GRACELANDThis unlikely road film finds strength in its characters and situations. Jonathan Schaech is fine as Byron Gruman, a recent widower looking for answers to the meaning of life. His solitary road trip is interrupted when he picks up a hitchhiker (Harvey Keitel) claiming to be Elvis Presley. Skeptical, Byron humors the stranger. A quick stopover in Las Vegas brings them in contact with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Bridget Fonda, briefly). While in Las Vegas, a revelation forces Byron to think twice about his passenger. Director David Winkler has created a winsome comedy-drama that is fueled by a sense of mystery and a lot of heart. (Columbia-TriStar)

FLY BOY (PG)

FLY BOYFine, family fun that not only entertains, it provides a great message about the treatment of the elderly in our society. Director Richard Stanley does an admirable job behind the camera, delivering a film that both kids and adults can enjoy together. Durable character actor James Karen is wonderful as Gramps, the former World War II flying ace who is more than happy to include his young grandson Ray (Miko Hughes) in his escapades, including flying model airplanes. Even though his parents think he’s spending too much time with Gramps, Ray enjoys his visits, and sets out to help Gramps fulfill his last wish. (A-PIX)

I’M LOSING YOU (R)

I'M LOSING YOUWriter Bruce Wagner steps behind the camera to direct his acclaimed novel, and as a novice, he manages to capture the sort of emotions and situations one normally associates with a veteran director. Even though some of his set-ups don’t pay off in the expected ways, his characters are engaging and dimensional, while the paces he puts them through have resonance. Frank Langella is sensational as Perry Krohn, a well-to-do television producer who seems to have it all. His life comes crashing down when he learns he has terminal cancer. His attempts to reconcile his life are complicated by his son and daughter, who are also facing a crisis in their lives. Wagner does an excellent job of keeping the film from becoming maudlin, while the cast, most notably Langella and Andrew McCarthy as his son, keep things interesting. Supporting cast includes Elizabeth Perkins, Rosanna Arquette, Gina Gershon and Buck Henry. (Sterling)

KING COBRA (PG-13)

KING COBRABig, rubber snake movies are all the rage (Thanks “Anaconda”), but hopefully “King Cobra” will change all of that. A dismal, low budget effort that is making its debut on video, “King Cobra” brings nothing new to the mutant monster party except a sense of self depreciation that doesn’t serve the film well. When a giant cobra/rattlesnake hybrid breaks free from its laboratory cage, it puts the bite (squeeze?) on a small California town. Now it’s up to a small group of cliched characters to save the day, including snake expert Pat Morita. Fans of horror films will more than likely be disappointed by this PG-13 effort, which lacks the usual trimmings fans demand. (Trimark)

LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS (R)

LOCK, STOCKPowerful, hard-hitting comedy-drama about four men with their back against the wall who have seven days to come up with half-million dollars. Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran and Jason Statham are excellent as the four con men who think they’re going to pull off a fast one during a high-stakes poker game. Unfortunately, they’ve been set up, and now have one week to pay off their debt or face the music. The fun comes watching these four tone-deaf men spend the next week trying to settle their debt, including stealing from other criminals. Director Guy Ritchie, making his debut, does an excellent job of making all of this matter. He lights the fuse and then allows the actors to provide the pyrotechnics. The film has a kinetic pace that never lets up, providing for a giddy good time. This British entry is as hip and exciting as any of its American counterparts. (Polygram)

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (R)

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE“Shakespeare in Love” is one of those great, wonderful “what if” movies. What if one of the worlds greatest writers had writers block? What if producing plays in Elizabethan England was the same as hawking screenplays in Hollywood? What if one of the most treasured romantic tragedies of all time was originally called “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter”? You don’t have to be a admirer of the works of Shakespeare to enjoy this light and frothy romantic comedy. Never have the Bard’s words been so accessible. Still, those familiar with “Twelfth Night,” “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet” (the play, not the Leonardo DiCaprio movie) will be elevated by the film’s clever dialogue and cunning set-up. Directed with a deft touch by John Madden (“Mrs. Brown”), “Shakespeare in Love” is a rare treat: a period film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Set in 16th Century England, the film doesn’t wallow in the muck and despair that greets the peasants in the streets. Instead, it’s filled with colorful characters who not only bring life to the proceedings, but a great deal of humor. The laughs come courtesy of screen writers Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard. Their screenplay is one of the year’s best, a breezy blend of romance and comedy that never misses a beat. (Miramax)

TRUE CRIME (R)

TRUE CRIMEA crime has been committed, and once again it’s society that has to pay. Unless of course you read this review, then you can save yourself seven hard-earned dollars by skipping Clint Eastwood’s “True Crime.” Based on the novel by Andrew Klavan, “True Crime” should have been a celluloid page turner. It’s about a burnt-out reporter who stumbles across evidence that a death row inmate set to die in 12 hours may be innocent. Instead, “True Crime” crawls across the screen with the immediacy of a dead turtle. The real crime is how Eastwood has made such an unsatisfying movie out of all of this. Three high priced scribes took turns trying to make “True Crime” more than it is, including Paul Brickman, whose screenplay for “Risky Business” proved his ability for taking something ordinary and making extraordinary. (Warner)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

MICHAEL JORDAN: AN AMERICAN HERO (PG/Avalanche)

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S GOLF PUNKS (PG/Avalanche)

RECORD OF LODOSS WAR (NR/Central Park Media)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: BEST OF PHIL HARTMAN (NR/Trimark)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: BAD BOYS (NR/Trimark)

SLAYERS NEXT: FORBIDDEN DANCE (NR/Central Park Media)

THE TRAITOR WITHIN (PG-13/Paramount)



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