Films Review July


Congenial family adventure stars Ashley Peldon and Zachary Browne as two friends who are assisted in their search for gold by the spirit of a Native American, played with gusto by Raoul Trujillo.

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Director Harry Bromley-Davenport does a decent job of making all of this matter, and while the kids are okay, they’re not engaging enough for us to overlook their limited talents. Nice scenery and a noble attempt to teach while entertain, the film will appeal to those who enjoy nature films. (A-PIX)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Director Paul Schrader’s latest film is painted against a snow white backdrop, like one of those empty canvases with only a dot on it that hang in a museum. The bleak background helps put the emphasis on the dot, magnifying it to the point of distraction. That’s what Schrader has done in adapting Russell Banks novel for the screen. Set during a cold, frigid winter in New Hampshire, “Affliction” ignites the screen with powerful performances and a lit fuse of a screenplay that never lets up. Click here for complete review. (Universal)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)John Travolta is sensational in this entrhalling true-life tale of a personal injury attorney who begins a crusade for eight families who claim that two local factories are responsible for contaminating their drinking water and killing their children. Travolta stands tall as Jan Schlichtmann, who puts everything he has on the line, including his practice and his friendships, in order to prove his client’s case. Like all great courtroom dramas, Schlichtmann must face off in court against major coroporations who have more money and more time to make the case go away. That doesn’t stop Schlichtmann, whose dedication is admired by the eight families who just want an apology. The more he digs, the more he digs himself deeper into debt. The cast is excellent, especially Robert Duvall (nominated for Best Supporting Actor) as a no-nonsense attorney whose presence is missed when he leaves the frame. William H. Macy and Tony Shaloub mnage to keep the home fires burning as Schichtmann’s partners, while Kathleen Quinlan is very affecting as one of the mothers. (Touchstone)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Gaelic ghost story wastes a good cast. Lovely Alison Elliott (“Wings of the Dove”) and Jared Harris (“Happiness”) stars a a couple who take their young son to Ireland when Nora (Elliott) learns that her mother is ill. Nora, who has been suffering from blackouts and trances, blames her condition on drinking too much. She doesn’t know that her mother (Lois Smith, so good in “Twister”) is a witch, and that her blackouts are actually visions being projected by a 2,000 year old druid that her uncle is keeping in the basement of the house. It’s all rather silly, but director Michael Almereyda (“Nadja”) plays it out with a poker face. The cast does their best to make some sense of it all, but the screenplay is so trite and filled with cliches that there is nothing to salvage but their dignities. Christopher Walken plays Nora’s creepy Uncle Bill, and manages to chew as much scenery as they can throw at him. His performance is embarassing, but I guess Walken felt compelled to deliver it due to hius involvement in “Nadja.” (Trimark)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)It is a common practice in Hollywood to save Oscar-worthy films and release them at the end of the year, where they will be fresh in the minds of voting members of the Academy. That’s why there is always a proliferation of personal dramas and epic undertakings crowding theaters the last two weeks of December. “Hilary and Jackie” doesn’t even open in theaters until December 30, yet in my opinion it is one of the best films of the year. It comes with all the obvious Oscar trappings: two strong female characters, accomplished writing and direction, it’s a period piece that spans four decades, and it’s British. It stars the vivacious Emily Watson, whose knock-out performance in her film debut, “Breaking the Waves,” garnered her an Oscar nomination. Watson should be able to cash in on that promise with her brilliant performance in “Hilary and Jackie,” a tough yet engaging tour de force that should not only net her another Best Actress nomination, but the award itself. Watson is simply mesmerizing as real-life, world class cellist Jacqueline du Pre, whose turbulent life is captured with love and respect in Frank Cottrell Boyce’s sympathetic screenplay. Based on Hilary and Piers Du Pre’s book “A Genius in the Family,” Boyce’s screenplay is thoughtful and honest. It captures both the light and dark sides of life with aplomb. Click here for complete review. (Polygram)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Business as usual in this standard issue made-for-cable thriller. The only saving grace is star Joely Fisher, who made me laugh on television’s “Ellen.” Here she plays Beth, a smart and studious woman who joins her carefree sister Megan (Charlotte Ross) for a little R & R in the Carribean. Their vacation is cut short when they set sail on a yacht with Megan’s fiancee, only to find themselves under siege by a professional killer. Beth manages to hide out below deck, but the stranger kills the fiancee and kidnaps Megan and takes her to his island hideout. Oh please! Beth manages to escape from a watery grave when the killer sinks the yacht, and then sets out to find her sister. It’s all pretty ho-hum, with the writer serving up one cliche after another. Director Rob Hedden never tries to make any of this more than it is, which is passable cable exploitation fare. (Universal)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Purists will wince, but children will adore this animated take on the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Several songs have been excised and some liberty has been taken with characters and situations, yet the framework is basically the same. Miranda Richardson lends her voice to Anna Leonowens, the attractive widow who agrees to move her 10-year-old son Louis to Siam in order to become a teacher to the children of the King of Siam (voice of Martin Vidnovic). At first Anna is taken aback by the strange customs and rituals of Siam, and is especially weary of the King, who has a bad temper. It’s not long before Anna has the whole kingdom singing, much to the dismay of the King. The animation is colorful, the musical score a true delight, and the characters and situations engaging and enjoyable. Your kids probably haven’t had the pleasure of sitting through the original, so they will have no problem with the liberties taken here. Available for sell-through at $22.95. (Warner)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers a powerfulk performance as a former lawyer-turned crime writer whose latest tome gets him into hot water. That’s because his latest book isn’t really his. The manuscript belonged to an old man who died before he could sell it. So Lawson Russell (Gooding Jr.) submits the work as his own, and upon its publication, learns that the contents are real. Enter Tom Berenger, who plays an investigator who knows for a fact that the murders in the book are real. Things get dicey when Russell finds himself between a rock and a hard place as he tries to protect his reputation and his life at the same time. Director Rowdy Herrington does a splendid job of keeping an edge on all of this, while the actors deliver performances that show conviction and intelligence. (Sterling)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Good morning, Mr. Larsen. Your mission is to infiltrate your local cineplex and attempt to understand Hollywood’s endless fascination with teenagers. Your mission will be filled with dangerous pitfalls, mindless dialogue, hair-raising cliches and deadly plot retreads. You won’t be able to distinguish your contact because they all look alike. You’ll run the risk of losing your mind and your patience. As usual, the company will disavow any knowledge of your mission (we validate parking, as usual). Sometimes I feel like a spy when I’m asked (or forced at gunpoint) to sit through a film clearly designed for an audience that owns stock in zit medicine. Like a hot dog purchased at the snack bar, movies aimed at teenagers keep repeating with regularity. Unfortunately for anyone over 25, there’s very little new that’s under this sun. Instead of mining new territory, Hollywood keeps rehashing past glories. Cinematic teen angst has been around since the advent, and I’m sure James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” would have fit comfortably into the classrooms of “To Sir with Love” or “The Breakfast Club.” Click here for complete review. (Miramax)


vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Only the most non-demanding youth will enjoy this trite and silly exercise based on a popular computer game. The youthful cast, Freddie Prinze Jr. (“She’s All That”), Matthew Lillard (“The Curve”) and Saffron Burrows (“Deep Blue Sea”), will attract those familiar with their previous work, but once they hit play, the party is over. With a plot as a simple as blowing your nose, “Wing Commander” finds Earth being threatened by an alien species intent on annihilation. It’s up to a small group of fighter pilots to save the day. Their efforts are hampered by a script that is older than dirt, lifeless dialogue, and cheesy computer generated visual effects. Director Chris Roberts doesn’t help matters by delivering all of this without much humor or reflection. (Fox)


DESERT WINDS (NR/Vanguard Films)

GIRL NEW DOOR, THE (R/Avalanche)




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