20 dates

Interesting concept sends mixed signals. It wants to be a clever documentary, but lacks the honesty and spontaneity. It also wants to be a mock-umentary, and on that level, it works, but only intermittently. Director-star Myles Berkowitz is a amicable person, so it’s easy to invest in his conceit. Berkowitz, a divorcee, is looking for true love. To that end, he has brokered a deal to make a film about his attempts at dating. He’s obligated to date 20 different women, but as he works his way through one bad or funny date after another, he finds true love in Elisabeth Wagner. Now he must choose between true love or completing the film, and the results are more run of the mill than revelatory.

20 datesWhile it’s easy to warm up to Berkowitz, it’s hard to believe any of this is real. (Fox)


200 CIGARETTESFormer casting director Risa Bramon Garcia has assembled a stellar line-up of hot, young talent for her nostalgic comedy-drama, including Ben Affleck, Paul Rudd, Courtney Love, Janeane Garofalo, Christina Ricci and Jay Mohr. Unfortunately, the film is so disjointed and lacks any sense of time and place that it basically becomes a showcase for the performers and not the director. The action takes place on New Year’s Eve 1981, and follows a diverse group of young people as they search for the meaning of life and a good time all in the same night. Even though the film attempts to cash in on current interest in the time period, it fails to establish a sense of identity. Okay, but no big deal. (Paramount)


A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAMHandsome, theatrical production values enhance this filmed version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s presentation of the delightful comedy. Not the current theatrical release with Michelle Pfeiffer, but an equally dazzling presentation.(Miramax)


CONFESSIONGripping, highly charged drama about a man who saves his soul by taking responsibility for his actions. Ben Kingsley is terrific as Harry Fertig, a man who takes the law into his own hands when he kills those responsible for his son’s death. When his son falls ill, Harry takes him to a local hospital, where the boy dies of neglect. Still bereaved, Harry returns six weeks later and kills the staff members responsible. Now it’s up to high profile attorney Roy Bleakie (Alec Baldwin) to save his life, but Harry refuses to stand behind the insanity defense. Instead, he wants to honor his son’s memory by taking responsibility for his actions. The drama intensifies as the two men explore each others motives. Director David Jones, working from a thoughtful, literate script by David Black (based on the novel “Fertig” by Sol Yurick), does an excellent job of keeping the film from becoming overwrought or melodramatic. Instead, the drama unfolds with assurance. Kingsley is noble as the father, while Amy Irving has some nice moments as his wife. Baldwin shines as the attorney whose political career hangs in the balance with this case. (Sterling)


CRUEL INTENTIONSSmart, at times sexy, high school remake of “Dangerous Liaisons.” Unfortunately, not for one minute do you believe any of this. These teenage characters say and do things that betray their age, and even though you’re drawn into their web of sexual tension, you find yourself rolling your eyes up more than once. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe star as the dastardly duo Kathryn and Sebastian, step brother and sister who live in a luxury in a Manhattan mansion. Sebastian desperately wants to get into Kathryn’s pants, and she has eyes for his sporty little car. Kathryn is willing to give in to Sebastian’s desires if he can seduce the headmaster’s daughter at their private school. Reese Witherspoon plays the virginal Annette, who falls under Sebastian’s spell. Like all films based on the 1782 novel by Choderlos De Laclos, the characters delight in their deceit, and in the hands of teenagers, it seems even more cruel. The cast is fine, but its hard to take them seriously. (Columbia-TriStar)


EIGHT DAYS A WEEKWinsome little comedy finally seeing the light of day after sitting on the shelf for two years. Obviously the popularity of “Felicity” star Kerri Russell inspired the studio to add the title to their release schedule. It’s not a bad romantic-comedy, but it is lightweight. Joshua Schaefer stars as Peter, who has lived next door to Erica (Russell) his entire life. He’s always had a crush on Erica, but has never acted on it. Acting under the advice of his uncle, Peter decides to do camp out under Erica’s window all summer until he wins her heart. This pseudo Romeo & Juliet has some cute moments, but most of them never rise above the television sitcom level. Writer-Director Michael Davis gets decent performances out of his likeable cast, and fans of teenage romantic comedies might find plenty to like. (Warner)


KILLER TONGUEGuys generally go crazy for a girl who likes to use her tongue. They’ll die when they meet Candy. Literally. See, Candy has this little problem. While waiting for the release of her bank robber boyfriend, Candy accidentally eats a piece of meteorite that dropped into her soup. Now Candy has a tongue with a mind of its own, and anxious to kill all of her enemies. Yes, all of this is totally preposterous, but you just can’t help but watch as Candy’s tongue does some really outrageous things. You can’t take any of this seriously, but that is what the filmmakers had in mind. They present everything “tongue-in-cheek,” or in the case of this film, tongue out of cheek. Cheesy special effects and a genuine sense of the macabre help fuel this tidy little effort. (A-PIX)


MESSAGE IN A BOTTLEFine performances distinguish this sappy romantic drama based on the best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. Robin Wright Penn plays a Chicago Tribune researcher who stumbles across a message in a bottle. Intrigued by the tender message inside, she begins a campaign to learn who the writer is. Some clever research leads her to the Carolinas, where she meets the author, Garrett Blake (Kevin Costner). Garrett design and makes custom boats, and lives with his father Dodge (Paul Newman, the best thing about the film). Garrett is reluctant to get involved with Theresa Osborne (Penn), especially after he learns of her true intentions. The film deals with loss and love on many levels, and the cast always rises to the occasion. Unfortunately, director Luis Mandoki seems intent on pumping up the sentimentality until it is almost unbearable. He doesn’t trust his material or characters enough to allow them to carry the film’s emotional baggage. (Warner)


PRISONER OF LOVEModel Naomi Campbell co-stars in this pedestrian mob movie as a bartender who witnesses a mob hit. In order to keep Tracy (Campbell) from the authorities, the mob assigns Johnny (Eric Thal) to keep an eye on her. While keeping her chained up in a warehouse, Johnny begins to fall in love with his charge, much to the dismay of his superiors. Even though we’ve seen this all before, director Steve DiMarco still pretends that he’s making art. (Sterling)


THE MUMMYThe summer of 1999 wasn’t big enough for two theatrical “Mummy” movies, so Miramax’s Dimension Home Video division took for the fall for this second entry into the race. Directed by Russell Mulcahy (“Highlander”), “Tale of the Mummy” is an uninspired and tiresome effort that is so bad at times it’s laughable. The opening shows tremendous promise, but all hope fades as the film leaps from an Egyptian archaeological dig to the streets of London. It’s there where the film becomes a hokey mess, filled with embarrassing visual effects and performances so wooden you could surf on top of them. Louise Lombard stars as the granddaughter of a famous archaeologist who died under mysterious circumstances after he discovered the tomb of an evil Egyptian prince called Talos. When Samantha (Lombard) has the tomb transported to a museum in London, the mummy begins its mission to become human again. This is accomplished by enveloping his victims in swirling bandages that are obviously computer generated. Jason Scott Lee co-stars as an American detective assigned to Scotland Yard trying to make sense of the murders. Lee’s dialogue is so muffled you can’t understand a word he says. The rest of the film should be so lucky. (Dimension)



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