Films Review July

DRAGONFLY (PG-13)

Boy, February has been a bad month for wives. In “The Mothman Prophecies,” Debra Messing plays the wife of Washington Post reporter Richard Gere. After finding the perfect house in which to start their perfect life, the couple are involved in a car accident, and Messing later dies.


In the new film “Dragonfly,” Kevin Costner plays a Chicago emergency room doctor whose wife is killed in a freak avalanche-bus accident in Venezuela, where she has been on a humanitarian mission helping the Red Cross. In “The Mothman Prophecies,” Messing leaves behind a series of drawings of a moth-like creature she saw on the road before the accident. In “Dragonfly,” Costner’s dead wife attempts to contact him by having terminally ill patients draw pictures of a mysterious symbol. Please click title for complete review. (Universal)

A MATTER OF TASTE (R)

Sitting through co-writer/director Bernard Rapp’s delicious thriller “Une Affaire de Gout” reminded me how much better French filmmakers are at creating suspense. While American thrillers are almost always plot driven, most French thrillers are character driven. Like “With a Friend Like Harry,” “Une Affaire de Gout” is about how people react to each rather than to extraneous plot devices like car chases and explosions. You won’t find any such fat on the lean screenplay by Gilled Taurand and Rapp, a tasty character study that goes from bad to worse, creating an unnerving sense of dread with each bite. Please click title for complete review. (TLA Releasing)

CLEOPATRA’S SECOND HUSBAND (NR)

Unsettling, dark, and ultimately chilling, director John Reiss’s “Cleopatra’s Second Husband” reminded me a lot of “A Matter of Taste” (see above). Like Joseph Losey’s “The Servant,” both films deal with vulnerable men being controlled by someone they have let into their lives. That someone in “Cleopatra’s Second Husband” is Zack (Boyd Kestner), who has been hired (along with his foxy girlfriend Sophie, played seductively by Radha Mitchell) to housesit for vacationing couple Robert (Paul Hipp) and his wife Hallie (Bitty Schram). Anal Robert isn’t so sure he wants to leave his home and prized fish with Zack and Sophie, but with Hallie desperately trying to conceive, has no choice. The real fun begins when the couple return home early, only to find the fish dead, the house a mess, and Zack and Sophie unwilling to leave. Zack’s grip on Robert (not to mention Sophie’s sexual manipulation) becomes so strong that Hallie leaves. What began as a favor escalates into a mental mind field, with the meek Robert succumbing to Zack’s domineering spirit. You just know things will only get worse before they get better, and that’s where Reiss and his talented cast take us. They leave us with a constant sense of dread, never quite knowing where the characters are headed. Another small, independent film that snuck by and deserves to be seen. (First Run Features)

COLLATERAL DAMAGE (R)

Oh my. What’s a major motion picture studio to do when their new big buck action-adventure mirrors real life tragic events? Put it on the shelf and hope for better times down the road. Five months after it was shelved, “Collateral Damage” arrives in theaters, and unlike a fine wine, time has not been good to the terrorist thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger plays Gordy Brewer, a Los Angeles fireman whose wife and son are killed in a terrorist bombing. When the government drops the ball, Brewer takes matters into his own hands. After researching his target, a notorious Colombian terrorist named The Wolf (Cliff Curtis), Brewer makes his way to Colombia. Please click title for complete review. (Warner Bros.)

K-9 P.I. (PG)

Amicable third entry in the “K-9” litter features James Belushi and King as Detective Thomas Dooley (always loved that joke) and his K-9 partner Jerry Lee, now retired and try to enjoy the good life. Key word: trying. Old habits are hard to break (you can’t teach two old dogs new tricks), and before you can say fire hydrant, Tom and Jerry Lee attempt to stop a crime in progress. Of course they become suspects, and are forced to utilize their detective skills to clear their names. The plot is incidental to the dog jokes, and there are plenty of laughs in that department. Belushi, who has stayed with the franchise through one theatrical and two direct-to-video sequels, has his character down pat. He’s a loveable oaf, always one step behind the much smarter Jerry Lee. Not bad for what it is, which is exactly what it should be. (Universal Studios Home Video)

RESIDENT EVIL (R)

Absolutely wicked film version of the extremely violent and extremely popular video game. I’m not usually a big fan of director Paul W. S. Anderson, but he really gets it right this time, creating a hair-raising, shiver down your spine thrill ride about a group of security agents summoned to neutralize an underground laboratory that has been contaminated by a virus. From the first frame to the last, Anderson and his enthusiastic cast keep us on the edge of our seats, as we go from one bad moment to another. The special effects are pretty nifty (yes, I used that word), and the horror factor is really up there. Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez head up the tactical team, who have to reach the facility’s brain, nicknamed the Red Queen. When they’re not killing zombies (including zombie Dobermans), they’re dodging the security system, which is hell bent on stopping them. My favorite scene, where several team members attempt to outwit a laser, reminded me a lot of the first few minutes of “The Cube.” It slices, it dices, it turns people into julienne fries. Definitely not for the kiddies (who have probably already seen it), “Resident Evil” is one of the few game-to-screen transfers that doesn’t byte. (Columbia-TriStar Home Entertainment)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

DINO-TOPIA (NR/Artisan)



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