Da hip hop witch

Yet another attempt to parody the success of “The Blair With project.” This one involves a journalist who accompanies five kids from the suburbs into the Hood in search of the infamous “Hip Hop Witch.” Made on the cheap, the film is barely funny. The main attraction is the brief testimonies of numerous popular Hip Hop artists, including Vanilla Ice and Eminem. Will only appeal to people so high on reefer that they don’t care what they watch as long as it’s loud. (A-PIX)


A sequel that feels more like a prequel stars Chris Masterson of “Malcolm in the Middle” as a stable boy who dreams of one day becoming a knight. Life is simple at the Monastery where Geoff (Masterson) lives, but all that changes when he enters a forbidden dungeon and discovers a young dragon named Drake (voice of Robby Benson). Raised in secret by a kindly Friar (John Woodnutt), Drake’s existence soon makes its way to the King’s castle. There, the King’s chief advisor Lord Osric (Harry Van Gorkum) makes plans to steal the dragon’s heart and rule the kingdom. Drake’s fate rests in the hands of Geoff, who is seduced by power when Osric promises to make him a Knight. Once released of the spell, Geoff teams up with two visitors from the East to save Drake and the kingdom from the evil Osric. Although made-for-video, “A New Beginning” features high production values and visual effects. While the effects are not nearly as intricate as the feature film, they are very serviceable and help move the story along. Masterson is a likeable hero, while Gorkum snarls with the best of them. (Universal)


Usually I despise movies like this, but the talented cast and a weepy script do wonders to make this more than it is. Chris Klein is wonderful as rich kid Kelly Morse, sentenced to a summer of manual labor after a car race ends in the destruction of a diner. At first Kelly hates his punishment, but then he meets Samantha, played with sweet spirit by Leelee Sobieski. Despite the fact that she’s from the wrong side of the tracks, Kelly falls in love with Samantha, upsetting her long-time boyfriend Jasper (Josh Harnett). When Jasper learns that Kelly has reciprocated, his anger sets into motion a chain of events that will forever change all of their lives. Gorgeous scenery, an honest star-crossed lovers script that doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator and top flight acting go a long way in making “Here on Earth” a better film that it has a right to be. (Fox)


Kate Winslet’s performance could melt an iceberg. She plays Ruth Barron, a young Australian woman whose trip to India leads her into a Hindu cult. Worried, Ruth’s parents make up a story that brings their daughter home. Suspecting that she has been brainwashed, Ruth’s mother (Julia Hamilton) hires American deprogrammer P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel) to break the spell. But as the days wear on, Waters begins to fall under Ruth’s spell, and finds himself helpless as he becomes the victim. Co-written and directed by Jane Campion, “Holy Smoke” has a lot more on its mind than becoming another one of those 1970’s cult movies with Peter Fonda as the evil cult leader. Instead, Campion looks at what forces a woman of moderate means to turn her back on everything, including family and friends. The film is more of an indictment than an exploration, and Campion uses images and dialogue to drive the point home. (Miramax)


Joe Mantegna and Sam Rockwell are engaging as two contract killers coming to a crossroad. Tom (Mantegna) is a used car salesman who occasionally works as a contract killer, eventually mentoring his co-worker and friend Jerry (Sam Rockwell) in the business. After years of work, Tom gets a conscience and decides he wants out of the business. His decision forces him to face his inner demons and Jerry, who has become so obsessed with the business that he’s willing to make Tom his next job. Based on a stage play, “Jerry & Tom” lives and breathes on its lead performers, who not only play the hapless hit men, but actually understand them and their dilemma. Saul Rubinek’s dialogue driven film is a wonderful example of what can happen when great writing, acting and direction come together. Mantegna shows a world weariness that’s believable, while no one plays dense like Rockwell. Interesting supporting cast includes Ted Danson, Peter Reigert, Maury Chaykin and William H. Macy. (Miramax)


Usually I’m not a big fan of Japanese animation known as Anime (I think it has something to do with “Kimba The White Lion” flashbacks), yet there’s something so exquisite about “Princess Mononoke” that I’m willing to put aside my prejudices. Epic in its scope yet extremely personal in its message, “Princess Mononoke” is an environmental message delivered as winning animation. For it’s American release, a stellar cast of voice talent has been recruited to make the film more accessible, which would be difficult to do. The story is very universal, dealing with man’s encroachment of the forest. Set in ancient Japan, the film deals with the battle between the humans and the mythic Gods of the forest. Billy Crudup voices Ashitaka, a warrior who becomes cursed by a forest God. Seeking a cure in a far away village, Ashitaka learns first hand how much the people depend on the forest for their well being. When he meets the God’s human warrior, princess Mononoke (voice of Claire Danes), he begins to understand the plight of the forest. The more Ashitaka tries to balance the scales, the more he becomes conflicted. There’s only one ultimate solution, one perfectly realized through dazzling animation and knowing direction. The film frames aren’t just painted images but engaging characters who say and do interesting things. (Miramax)


Good cast, lame plot. It’s easy to see why this misguided crime drama didn’t do much business in theaters. Aside from the cast, the film doesn’t have much going for it. Even then, the cast is forced to say and do some pretty weird stuff, which makes you question why they even got involved with this project to begin with. Perhaps director John Frankenheimer was the lure, whose “Ronin” starring Robert De Niro proved that he was still capable of churning out riveting work. There’s nothing riveting about “Reindeer Games,” which stars Ben Affleck as a recently paroled con named Rudy who is hiding under the identity of another con, who died in prison. What Rudy doesn’t know is that con had agreed to participate in a casino robbery with his girlfriend (the always luminous Charlize Theron) and her crazy brother (Gary Sinise). All the Rudy wants to do is score with the girlfriend, so he agrees to go along with the charade. What follows is a series of goofy moments that are supposed to distinguish the film but end up dragging it under. There are a couple of scenes that rise above the rest, but not many. (Dimension)


Pedestrian action-thriller about a journalist who uncovers a secret government operation. Peter Onarati stars as journalist Jake Lowe, who uses his ex-Army Reserve training to parachute near a mountain installation run by the government. What he learns is that a giant underground city is being built in preparation for a direct hit by a deadly comet. When word of the disaster leaks out, Jake must collect his wife and make it to the mountain before all hell breaks loose. Dennis Hopper plays the visionary who designed the mountain installation. Run-of-the-mill and extremely derivative of “Deep Impact.” (Paramount)



KOMODO (PG-13/Sterling)


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