Films Review February

ANTZ (PG)

For an ant, life is no picnic. As part of a colony, there’s a lot of work to be done. Food has to be gathered. Tunnels have to be dug. The queen has to be tended to. There’s no room for individuality.


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Try telling that to Z, a worker drone who dreams of a better life. Z (voice of Woody Allen) may swing the axe all day in the tunnels, but he’d rather swing all night at the nightclub for worker ants. That’s where Z and his best friend Weaver (a bigger, stronger ant, voice of Sylvester Stallone) hang out after a hard day’s work. That’s also where Z meets and falls in love with Princess Bala (Sharon Stone), who as a kick goes slumming with her girlfriends one night. While the other ants dance in unison, Z and Bala cut a rug. Their act of independence starts a bar fight that is just one of the many delightful highlights of “Antz.” “Antz” is the second full-length computer generated animated film, and like “Toy Story,” is a perfect melding of clever storytelling and voice talent. With their expressive faces and soulful eyes, it’s easy to believe in the characters that inhabit this world. Directors Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson have created a wonderful film that plays across the boards. Children will love the action and antics, while adults will appreciate the sharp and witty dialogue and engaging story. The all-star voice cast also includes Danny Glover, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez and Christopher Walken. Available for sell- through at $26.99. (Dreamworks Home Video)

CLAY PIGEONS (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Director David Dobkin’s edgy little thriller about a small town, a cover up, a serial killer, and a young man who gets caught up in all of it. Joaquin Phoenix is excellent as Clay, whose simple life becomes extremely complicated when his best friend kills himself after learning that Clay was having an affair with his wife. To make matters worse, his friend has arranged for the suicide to look like murder. That puts Clay in a tight spot, which he cleverly gets out of. Unfortunately, the cover up ignites an avalanche of suspicion, especially when everyone Clay comes in contact with starts turning up dead. Clay turns to new friend Lester Long (Vince Vaughn) for help, only to learn that Lester is a serial killer, and has no problem helping implicate Clay in his recent spree. The fun begins when female FBI agent Shelby (Janeane Garofalo) comes to town to investigate, forcing both Clay and Lester to trust each other to avoid arrest. It’s much more complicated than that, as “Clay Pigeons” is filled with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns. There’s enough of a good time here to undercut the film’s dark side, while the performances are collectively in synch. I enjoyed “Clay Pigeons” for it’s sly attitude and convincing argument. (Polygram Home Video)

JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Even though there’s a lot of flowing crimson, John Carpenter’s vampire tale is anemic. It’s a by- the-numbers exercise in terror, with little suspense and virtually no investment from the actors. James Woods tries his best to infuse a little leadership in this muddled mess about a group of church-appointed vampire hunters out to stop one of the original bloodsucker’s from gaining immortality. Woods is accompanied by a standard-issue rag-tag team of experts, while their prey, a statuesque vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), recruits his army from the dead, and I don’t mean Congress. Carpenter fails to ignite the screen with any passion or suspense, instead relying on gross-out special effects (just how many times can you watch someone get their head ripped off and be impressed?) and lame dialogue. The film looks nice, and I liked when Valek ripped one of the hunters in half (is this guy in need of a manicure or what?), but overall, the film lacks the bite necessary to make it crucial viewing. (Columbia-TriStar Home Video)

MERRY WAR, A (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Richard E. Grant and Helena Bonham Carter are wonderful in this romantic comedy based on George Orwell’s “Keep the Aspidistra Flying.” Grant stars as Gordon Comstock, who has aspirations beyond working for a London advertising firm. He wants to be a poet, and decides to quit his job, much to the dismay of his girlfriend and co-worker Rosemary (Carter) to pursue his passion. Set in London in the 1930’s, the film is rich with period detail and simmers in the morality of the period. Rosemary desperately wants to become Mrs. Gordon Comstock, but doesn’t see much future with a poet. How Rosemary helps Gordon accept his place in life long enough to see that she’s the best thing in it makes for engaging viewing. (A-PIX)

NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Hope Davis is delightful in this romantic comedy about star crossed lovers whose lives intermingle but never meet until true love raises its ugly head. Davis plays Erin, a night shift nurse in Boston who is nursing her own emotional wounds since the breakup with her political activist boyfriend. Now she spends her time hanging out with her best friends. Erin’s self-imposed exile from dating is interrupted when her mother (Holland Taylor, always a pleasure) places a personal ad in a local newspaper. Before she knows it, Erin is fielding more than 60 suitors. What she doesn’t know is that across town her soul mate, an ex-plumber named Alan (Alan Gelfant), is setting into motion a series of events involving a loan shark, a corrupt businessman and a sexy coed who shares his marine biology class, that will seal their fate forever. Now they just have to get past all of the clutter in their lives in order to experience true happiness. Funny, sweet and occasionally charming, “Next Stop, Wonderland” features winning performances and sparkling dialogue. (Miramax Home Entertainment)

OFFICE KILLER (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Tidy little psycho thriller stars an effective Carol Kane as a mousy office worker named Dorine who resorts to extreme measures when she learns that the company she works for is downsizing. You have to admire Dorine’s initiative as she does a little downsizing of her own, turning the basement apartment of her mother’s home into a ghoulish gallery of victims. Kane is excellent as the studious worker who never complains, yet is incensed when she’s asked to work at home. Not only does the ever efficient Dorine get the job done, she finds time to get even with the dead weight back at the office, taking out her boss and co-workers one-by-one in the most unexpected ways. Directed with wicked flair by Cindy Sherman, “Office Worker” co-stars Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn, who learn that collecting overtime is the least of their worries. (Dimension Home Entertainment)

ROUNDERS (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)A strong cast, an excellent screenplay and compelling direction fuel this intense character study of a law student with a gambling problem. Mike McDermott (Matt Damon in a powerful performance) has it all, yet can’t shake his need to play poker. Even though his problem has affected his college work and he has promised his girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol) that he’ll never sit down at another game, Mike just can’t stay away from the cards. He’s put to the test when a his friend Worm (Edward Norton) gets out of prison and runs up an enormous debt on his tab at the card parlor of a Russian mobster (John Malkovich, appropriately evil). Forsaking his relationship with Jo and his studies, Mike agrees to help save Worm’s life by playing Teddy KGB (Malkovich) one last game. Directed with assurance by John Dahl, “Rounders” isn’t as much about cards and gambling as it is about the human condition, and just how fragile it is. Dahl gets excellent performances all around (Damon and Norton are especially effective), and creates an underlying current that keeps you on the edge throughout. (Miramax Home Video)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

METEORITES! (PG-13/Paramount)

PANDORA PROJECT (Not Rated/Pioneer)

THICKER THAN BLOOD (NR/Warner)

UNDERGROUND (New Yorker)



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