Poor Los Angeles. Two nasty earthquakes in one week (see “The Last Warrior” review below). In this overly familiar made-for-cable disaster film, a group of people on a subway train are trapped in an underground tunnel when Los Angeles rocks and rolls. Even though director Jean Pellerin milks as much suspense out of the script and characters as possible, anyone who remembers those cheesy ABC Movie of the Week disaster movies from the early seventies and “Daylight” with Sylvester Stallone will recognize every plot point.

The cast features such familiar faces as Roy Scheider and Ted McGinley. (Paramount)

HANNIBAL (R)hannibal

“Hannibal,” the much anticipated sequel to Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning “Silence of the lambs,” is a feast for the eyes, not the stomach. What was once taut and terrifying has become mundane. Everything that made the first film so riveting has been tossed out the window. What remains is an exercise in gratuitous violence geared to titillate rather than horrify. It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since novice FBI agent Clarice Starling first met infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Their first encounter, inside a high security prison hidden deep within the bowels of FBI headquarters, was a memorable battle of wills. Please click on title for complete review. (MGM)


Well, it’s one way to stop illegal immigration. In the year 2006, a violent earthquake measuring 9.5 causes Southern California to separate and become an island. Dolph Lundgren stars as Nick Preston, a former Green Beret trying to lead a group of survivors to the new mainland, dodging a gang of escaped convicts and a deadly plague along the way. Produced on a decent budget that allows more carnage than usual for direct-to-video efforts, the film suffers from a lack of conviction from the cast and by-the-book direction by Sheldon Lettich. Fans of Lundgren might enjoy this riff on “Escape from L.A.,” but it’s not nearly as much fun. (Artisan)


Leapin’ Lizards! Yes, this film has those. It’s really hard to take any of this seriously, a badly written, badly acted monster movie that feels like a throwback to the “Godzilla” franchise from Toho. Judging from the credits, “Reptilian” is a Japanese monster movie with a generic cast of mostly Anglo actors. When an archaeological expedition uncovers the bones of an ancient dinosaur, they set into motion a battle between two worlds. Set sometime in the future, the bones are generated back to life by a blast from an alien spacecraft, which also has the capability of beaming the fire-breathing monster anywhere it wants. Filled with neat special effects for a B-movie and a computer generated monster that never looks real, “Reptilian” would have made a great tongue-in-cheek spoof, yet the director and writer play it straight. That forces the actors to recite one bad line of dialogue after another until even the best of them look stupid. Turn off the sound and enjoy the visuals. (Columbia-TriStar)


Even though they didn’t direct “Say It Isn’t So,” the Farrelly Brothers (“There’s Something About Mary”) lend their off-beat brand of humor to the proceedings, and the results are equally funny. Director J.B. Rogers captures the same balance of sweet and sour in this hilarious tale of an animal control worker who falls in love with a hairdresser, only to learn that she’s really his sister. Well, at least that’s the way the film starts. Chris Klein (“American Pie”) is wonderful as Gilly Noble, a simple guy who spends his days working at the animal shelter and his nights looking for his real parents, who gave him up at birth. When Gilly meets inept hairdresser Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham), it’s love at first sight. Jo has just returned home to their small Indiana town two help take care of her mother, Valdine (Sally Field), and her father, (Walter), who is recovering from a serious stroke. Just when Gilly begins to think that his life is complete, the private eye he hired to find his parents arrives with stunning news: his real mother is Valdine. That makes Jo his sister, and that makes what they just did incest. Gilly is immediately branded a pervert, and spends the rest of the film trying to clear his name. His journey is filled with outrageous encounters and sight gags, including a scene where Gilly attempts to retrieve an engagement ring from the rectum of a cow. Funny stuff, supported by a winning cast that never flinches. There’s some pretty risky stuff on display here, yet Gilly and Jo are so genuine and inviting they ground the over-the-top jokes. (20th Century Fox)


Sweet-natured and unassuming, “Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire” is ultimately self-serving. What begins as an engaging story about two brothers on the cusp of life changing decisions ends up being nothing more than another low-budget calling card to the movie industry. Co-written by and starring real life brothers Derick and Steven Martini, everything about “Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire,” including the off-beat title, feels less like a labor of love than an opportunity to prove how clever they can be. Every line, character and sitcom situation is designed to showcase them and not the story. Which is a shame, because the cast is absolutely smashing. Even though they’re trapped under a thick layer of cute dialogue, the cast still shines. I liked both Derick and Steven, and hope to see more of them. They’re very likeable, and that’s their and the film’s greatest strength. Steven has sort of an Owen Wilson-thing going on that’s very appealing, while Derick has the presence and looks to be a major player. Please click on title for complete review. (Studio)


It must be nice to have friends like Vince Vaughn, Bridget Fonda, Billy Bob Thornton and Peter Fonda. How else do you explain their presence in co-writer/star-director Dwight Yoakam’s vanity western? Shot on a modest budget in one of those small western town sets, “South of Heaven, West of Hell” is much too familiar and derivative to make an impact. Yoakam plays a U.S. Marshal trying to protect a small town from a gang of outlaws that he used to hang with. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this violent saga is headed, specially for anyone who has seen “Purgatory,” a much more interesting film with a similar theme. The cast looks like they’re just along for the ride, never bringing more than a casual conviction to their supporting roles. Yoakam stretches himself too thin as both director and star, never allowing himself to succeed in either capacity. (Trimark)





Comments are closed.