Films Review May

BEAUTIFUL JOE (R)

Quirky, off-beat romantic drama snuck in under the radar, and it’s low profile should actually help lengthen it’s video shelf life. Why? Because it stars Sharon Stone, who should be able to attract enough fans to make this road movie worth the trip.


The irrepressible Billy Connolly stars as Joe, a New York florist who has just learned that he’s going to die. Anxious to make his last days more exciting, Joe hits the road for a cross country trip. He hits a little road bump in Louisville, Kentucky in the form of a woman named Hush (Stone), a former stripper turned gambler with two kids and a crime boss on her trail. Joe agrees to give Hush and her kids a lift, unaware of the baggage that she carries, or the fact that a mob henchman (Gil Bellows) is hot on her tail. Joe and Hush agree to head to Las Vegas, where she hopes to start a new life and he hopes to end his. There’s just one complication. Joe has fallen in love with Hush, giving him a reason to live. While the cast is fine (except for Stone’s patently fake Southern twang), the plot and situations are common place and do little to reflect life on the road. (Columbia-TriStar)

BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (R)

“Before Night Falls” isn’t a great film, but it does feature a great performance from Javier Bardem, one of Spain’s leading exports. As Cuban poet and writer Reinaldo Arenas, Bardem delivers a soulful performance filled with understanding and understatement. If only the film was as brave and bold. I didn’t know anything about Arenas before I saw “Before Night Fall.” After seeing the film, I still don’t know much about the man. Writers Cunningham O’Keefe, Lazaro Gomez Carriles, and Julian Schnabel deliver a patchwork of a script that seems to be all over the place. The writer’s attempt to cover so much territory creates a film of epic proportions that frequently loses focus of its intimate subject. Please click on title for complete review. (New Line)

BEST IN SHOW (PG-13)best in show photo.JPG (201291 bytes)

Someone once said that dying was easy, comedy was hard. If that’s true, then satire is a bitch. A female dog to be exact. Like the canines on display in Christopher Guest’s “Best In Show,” satire can be just as finicky. It takes someone with keen observation and a sharp ear to get it right. One slip and the illusion is broken. Guest has proven himself a master of satire, first with “Spinal Tap” (directed by Rob Reiner), then “Waiting For Guffman,” and now the hilarious and biting “Best In Show.” Guest, along with co- writer Eugene Levy and a talented troupe of players, creates false realities that are a pleasure to inhabit. Whether it’s a small town pageant waiting for the arrival of a big stage producer, or a big city dog show, Guest finds plenty to poke fun at. Please click on title for complete review. (Warner)

BROOKLYN BABYLON (R)

Strictly for hip-hop fans, this updating of “Romeo & Juliet” is trite and tired. Anyone outside of the hip hop scene won’t recognize anyone in the cast, while the dialogue and direction are so amateur you wonder how this film even got made in the first place. Tariq Trotter plays Sol, a Rasta rapper living in Brooklyn who falls in love with a Jewish girl he meets during a minor traffic accident. She’s Sara (Karen Goberman), and lives on the “other” side of town. Of course their love is forbidden, and when it’s discovered, sets into motion a war between their two worlds. Was this a tax write-off or what? (Artisan)

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (PG-13)

dungeons and dragons photo.JPG (236995 bytes)Nifty visual effects and a grand sense of adventure help elevate this science-fiction fantasy based on the popular video game. You can feel writer-director Courtney Solomon’s passion for the project in every frame. It took Solomon eight years to get “Dungeons and Dragons” to the big screen, and while it’s not exceptional, it is a lot of fun. The film incorporates a number of familiar elements, including a young female Empress (Thora Birch) trying to keep her kingdom from an evil ruler (Jeremy Irons). Empress Savina (Birch) has only three days to find a mythical rod that controls the mighty Red Dragons and is her only hope of keeping her kingdom free. She’s joined on her quest by two thieves (Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans) and a dwarf and elf. Hot on their trail is the evil ruler’s lieutenant (Bruce Payne), who must stop Savina from completing her quest. The visual effects allow the characters to inhabit all sorts of weird and creepy worlds where the abnormal is the norm. The acting is okay, but it’s the visual effects that steal the show. The film has enough action, comedy and adventure to please most everyone. (New Line)

FEVER (R)

Henry Thomas, who once played young Norman Bates, is equally creepy here as a young man who lives in a tenement where people keep dying. Nick Parker (Thomas), who teaches drawing from his apartment, thinks he knows who the killer is, but his neighbors and the police have another theory. Is Nick crazy, and will his sister be able to help him? Director Alex Winter, whose “Freaks” is a cult classic, manages to keep us guessing from the first frame to the last. Winter creates a moody piece of film noir that looks terrific and features strong performances from Teri Hatcher as Nick’s sister and Bill Duke as a police detective with a lot on his mind. It’s Thomas, however, who keeps you glued to the screen. Nicely done direct-to-video thriller. (Studio)

FOREVER MINE (R)

The sexual tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife in this compelling drama by writer-director Paul Schrader (“Hardcore”). Joseph Fiennes stars as Alan, an insignificant yet handsome cabana boy at a popular Miami Beach resort. Alan prides himself on taking care of his clients, especially Ella (Gretchen Mol), the wife of a corrupt politician (Ray Liotta). They share a hot and heavy affair, which ends when Ella decides to pursue her life as a politician’s wife. All that changes over the years as Alan becomes a big time drug dealer, gaining the respect and power of his position. When he seeks out Ella, he sets into motion a series of events that will affect all three of their lives. Schrader is a master of the morality play. The guilt trips he puts on the characters make them more interesting. Fiennes, Liotta and Mol shine as the tumultuous triangle. (MGM)

HANGMAN (R)

Familiar faces and sturdy direction help elevate this pedestrian thriller. Lou Diamond Phillips stars as a police detective who has been singled out by a serial killer to solve his vicious game of Hangman. When the game starts to get to him, detective Nick Roos (Diamond) turns to psychiatrist Dr. Grace Mitchell (Madchen Amick) for help. Good thing, because the serial killer has picked her as his next target. Okay thrills, and the cast (which includes Dan Lauria) shows conviction, yet you can’t escape the fact that you’ve seen this all before. (Columbia-TriStar)

HOMICIDE: THE MOVIE (PG-13)

Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana’s Emmy-winning series continues on as a made-for-television film, and the results are pretty much what you would expect. Fans of the series will appreciate this opportunity to see their favorite characters again. All of the original cast returns for this suspenseful tale about the manhunt for the person who shot former shift commander Al Giardello, a leading candidate for Mayor of Baltimore. Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty, Richard Belzer, Andre Braugher and Michelle Forbes star. (Trimark)

HOUSE OF MIRTH, THE (PG)

A stellar cast, an intelligent script and thoughtful direction distinguish this big screen adaptation of Edith Wharton’s celebrated novel. Writer-director Terence Davies evokes a powerful performance out of star Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”), who stars as Lily Bart, a strong minded single woman who enjoys her life among New York’s high society in 1905. Despite her charm and beauty, Lily is still single, and slowly watches as her life passes her buy. She has no shortage of suitors, but her prospects of marrying rich are looking less and less likely. Lily shares a comfortable relationship with a lawyer (Eric Stoltz), but he has no designs of marriage. A wealthy businessman (Anthony LaPaglia) does want to marry her, but not for love. Lily would even settle for a local inventor (Pearce Quigley) if her nemesis Bertha Dorset (Laura Linney) would let her get close enough. The harder Lily tries to move up the social ladder, the worse her situation becomes. Terence Davies does an exceptional job of bringing the period alive. There isn’t a bad performance in the bunch (the supporting cast includes Dan Aykroyd, Elizabeth McGovern, Jodhi May, Terry Kinney and Eleanor Bron) while the period detail is lush and colorful. Anderson is absolutely stunning as Lily, a performance filled with keen observation and exceptional timing. The truth is out there, and the truth is that anyone looking for a great movie should check into “The House of Mirth.” (Columbia-TriStar)

KEPT (R)

Ice-T is the only attraction in this ho-hum derivative erotic thriller. He plays a police detective investigating a murder, with all fingers pointing at architecture firm boss Barbara Weldon and her new, young male assistant Kyle. Poor Kyle. He thinks he’s in heaven when he lands a job at a prestigious architecture firm, but when his duties include keeping his female boss sexually satisfied. Tough call, especially since she’s married and harbors deep, dark secrets. Now Kyle has to prove his innocence or take the fall. You’ve seen it all before, and better. (Columbia-TriStar)

PAY IT FORWARD (PG-13)

At the end of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.,” as the camera captures a close-up of young Gertie (Drew Barrymore) with tears rolling down her cheeks, composer John William’s turns up the violins to emphasize the emotion of the moment. It was pure manipulation, but it worked. It worked because Spielberg is a master of manipulation. Director Mimi Leder is not. While Leder is more than a competent director, her skills at handling honest, human emotions are very limited. She showed promise with her work on television’s “E.R.,” but her feature films have been more about situations than people. Leder believes that bigger is better, as witnessed in “Deep Impact.” Even her quiet moments seem noisy and distracting. Please kick on complete title for full review. (Warner)

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (NR)requiem for a dream photo.JPG (33418 bytes)

Despite the obviously infected open sore on his arm, the young, frail-looking man injects a needle filled with heroin into it. He ignores the pain, patiently waiting for the drug to kick in and numb his mind. It doesn’t take long before his pupils expand, signaling that all is well in this junkie’s world. Director-writer Darren Aronofsky explores that world with an uncommon viciousness in his newest film, “Requiem for a Dream.” Based on the novel by Herbert Selby Jr., who had a hand in writing the screenplay, “Requiem for a Dream” is hard stuff to take. Aronofsky gets us as close to being a junkie as possible without putting a needle in our arm. Please click on title for complete review. (Artisan)

TELL ME NO LIES (R)

What is it with direct-to-video erotic thrillers? Either the women are DJ”s, psychiatrists or cops who go undercover as strippers. Is the genre so limp that those are our only choices? Seems to be judging by this new thriller starring Amber Smith as a co-ed DJ who is being stalked by a serial killer. When the police fail to protect her, she decides to take matters into her own hands and decides to seduce the killer. What better way to screw with his mind than screw him. At least that’s original. The rest of the film is a low-budget joke, pretty much what you would expect from a film starring someone named Amber Smith. (Artisan)

TEXAS FUNERAL, A (R)

Director William Blake Herron creates an uneasy current of tension in this well-acted and ultimately satisfying gothic drama about a family funeral that seems to bring out the worst in everyone. Martin Sheen briefly stars as the family patriarch, Sparta Whit, whose untimely death brings together his family, including son Zack (Robert Patrick in a strong performance) and Joanne Whalley as daughter Miranda, who is out on a pass from an insane asylum. The script allows each of the family members to shine, while putting just enough of a spin on the dysfunctional family bottle to make all of this seem fresh and inviting. Patrick, who held up quite nicely on “The X-Files” this past season, holds the film together as a stern father who loses touch with his son, while Whalley steals scenes as a woman on the edge. (Studio)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

BOUNTY HUNTERS 2: HARDBALL (NR/Dimension)

CABIN BY THE LAKE (R/USA)

INTO THIN AIR: DEATH ON EVEREST (Not Rated/Columbia-TriStar)



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