Films Review March

CROW, THE: SALVATION (R)

“The Crow” franchise continues with this third entry starring Eric Mabius (“Cruel Intentions”) as a man wrongly accused of his girlfriend’s death. After his execution, Alex Corvis (Mabius) is resurrected by a mysterious crow.


Aided by his girlfriend’s sister (Kirsten Dunst), Alex uses his supernatural powers to learn who really killed his girlfriend and exact revenge. This direct-to-video thriller has the look and style of the original film and sequel, while Mabius makes a decent leading man. Director Bharat Nalluri and writer Chip Johannnessen mine familiar story elements and make them their own. Things really get exciting when Alex discovers that a group of rogue cops are responsible for his girlfriend’s death, and that her father is one of the bad guys. Action fans will enjoy this exciting sequel. (Dimension)

DANCER IN THE DARK (R)dancer in the dark photo 1.JPG (35184 bytes)

“Dancer in the Dark” is the kind of film you either love or hate. There’s no in-between when it comes to director Lars Van Trier’s haunting musical about one woman’s harrowing journey through an unjust legal system. Shot in the director’s familiar Dogme style of hand-held cameras and crude jump cuts, “Dancer in the Dark” is cinema at its most unconventional. The director challenges us at every turn, forcing us to leave all of our previous cinematic luggage at the gate. Van Trier then takes us on a journey filled with memorable performances and unexpected turns. Those who willingly take that journey will appreciate the payoff. Those who like their narratives served straight up will abandon the ride altogether. I was hesitant to take the journey with the director, whose past films have been brilliant yet flawed explorations of the human spirit. Emily Watson’s brave performance as a disillusioned wife in “Breaking the Waves” demonstrated the director’s ability to draw the best out of his actors. Yet his cinematic indulgences (or lack of them) make his films difficult to watch. Dogma 95 dictates that the directors in the series must return to cinema’s roots, using hand-held cameras and natural lighting to create their canvases. Click on title for complete review. (New Line)

EASTSIDE (R)

Overly familiar tale about young man from East L.A. who is released from prison on his 21st birthday, only to face the harsh realities of the streets. In order to survive, Antonio (Mario Lopez) is forced into a hellish alliance with a local crime boss. Now Antonio is caught between a rock and a hard place. He doesn’t want to go back to prison, and he doesn’t want to work for the crime boss. His refusal could cost him his life. We’ve seen it all before, and there’s really nothing new here. Only for hardcore action fans with nothing else to do. (Artisan)

LUCKY NUMBERS (R)

Major misfire for all involved. It’s hard to believe that this mess came from director Nora Ephron, who should know better. There’s absolutely no chesmitry between the cast, and none of the characters bar one have any redeemable traits. It’s hard to root for people who make your skin crawl. John Travolta stars as a TV weatherman named Russ, whose side business selling snowmobiles is going under. Her conspires with the lottery girl (Lisa Kudrow) to fix the lottery, and their plan works. Unfortunately, no bad deed goes unpunished, and it’s not long before outside parties want a piece of the pie. Mean spirited and unfunny, “Lucky Numbers” is anything but. Director Ephron doesn’t understand the difference between dark and dumb comedy. (Paramount)

REMEMBER THE TITANS (PG)

rememberthetitanspicture.JPG (214467 bytes)Thoroughly satisfying drama stars Denzel Washington and Will Patton as two high school football coaches caught on opposite ends of a racial divide. Set in 1971, “Remember the Titans” reminded me a lot of “Brian’s Song.” It’s very noble and honest. Patton plays T.C. Williams High School football coach Bill Yoast, whose Alexandria, Virginia school has just incorporated racial segregation. In order to accommodate the ruling, black coach Herman Boone (Washington) has been hired to replace Yoast. Afraid that the white team players will quit the team and blow their chances for a future, Yoast agrees to stay on as assistant coach to help keep the peace. At first the two butt heads, but when they haul the players off to a football summer camp, they, like their players, begin to respect each other. It’s a different story back home, where prejudice still divides the town. That is until the team starts winning. Everyone loves a winner, and it’s not long before the town rallies together. Director Boaz Yakin does a sensational job of making all of this matter. Despite the fact that the team players are presented as types, the director and actors make them flesh and blood characters. We care about them, and cheer for them as they overcome numerous obstacles both on and off the field. I was especially fond of Hayden Panettiere as Patton’s daughter, much smarter than her years. She narrates the film, and it’s through her accepting eyes that we learn a few life lessons. Buy a copy for your home library. You’ll be glad you did. (Walt Disney)

TAO OF STEVE, THE (R)

Donal Logue, in a career-making performance, plays Dex, a slightly overweight charmer who has a way with the ladies. He chalks it all up to “The Tao of Steve,” a code that Dex and his buddies live by. Named after their hero Steve McQueen, “The Tao of Steve” serves the men well. Easy in, easy out. Then Dex meets an old college flame, and everything that he has learned flies out the window. Extremely referential and filled with bright, funny observations, “The Tao of Steve” marks the debut of director Jenniphr Goodman. Goodman displays a remarkable talent of being able to coax natural, realistic performances from her cast, including her sister Greer, who plays Dex’s dilemma. Big hit at Sundance, “The Tao of Steve” is smart and likeable. (Columbia-TriStar)

TURN IT UP (R)

It’s odd that New Line would release what amounts to nothing more than a B movie. “Turn It Up” has exploitation written all over it. Fugee band member Prakazrel Michel stars as Diamond, a young black man with a dream of being a Hip Hop superstar. It’s nice to have dreams. Just as his dreams begin to come true, his alliance to gang-banger best friend Gage (Ja Rule) threaten his very existence. I’ve seen so many low budget direct-to-video films with exactly the same plot that this one arrives too late to make a difference. Director Robert Adetuyi, making his debut, shows little flair for making the material his own. (New Line)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

AMERICAN VAMPIRE (NR/Maverick)

CAN OF WORMS (NR/Disney)

JOHNNY TSUNAMI (NR/Disney)

LOVER’S PRAYER (PG-13/First Look Pictures)

SPECIALS, THE (NR/Pioneer)

WILD FLOWER (NR/Avalanche)



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