Films Review May

A COOL, DRY PLACE (PG-13)

Vince Vaughn is wonderful as Russell Nash, an attorney whose wife Kate (Monica Potter) has abandoned him and their five-year-old son Calvin (an adorable Bobby Moat). Struggling to live life as a single father, Russell is eventually attracted to Beth (Joey Lauren Adams), a sweet woman who fulfills Russell’s life.


Then Kate returns, demanding that she rejoin the family or she’ll take Calvin away. vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Director John N. Smith does an excellent job of handling comedy and drama in equal doses, creating a film that it both enjoyable and meaningful. Both Potter (Patch Adams) and Adams (Chasing Amy) glow in their roles. (Fox)

ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Director Larry Clark (“Kids”) takes on another group of unruly individuals in this modern day “Bonnie & Clyde” tale about two sets of lovers who team up for a life of crime and one big heist. Tight and gritty, Clark’s film is filled with insightful, mesmerizing performances and unsavory situations that feel real. Young Vincent Kartheiser co-stars as Bobby, a young junkie who is injured during a hold up. With the help of his girlfriend Rosie (Natasha Gregson Wagner) he recovers, and teams up with Mel (James Woods) and his girlfriend Sid (Melanie Griffith) for some small time jobs. It’s a family affair as the foursome goes from one explosive situation to another, including a drug deal that ends badly. Despite the dark tone of the film, the characters are never boring, and the film has a lot to say. Woods is especially effective as a hard liner who understands that family is fleeting. (Trimark)

BENT (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Martin Sherman’s play about the persecution of homosexuals by the Nazi’s during World War II arrives on the big screen, and the results are disastrous. Director Sean Mathias fails to instill the film with the intensity and integrity of the play, and instead of being an important study of a very sensitive subject, it turns into a chaotic mess. The irony is that Mathias is a noted stage director, so he should have known better. Another problem is that the film has been trimmed from its previous NC-17 rating to a milder “R” rating, which removes the impact of the piece. Even Mick Jagger can’t breathe any life into the film playing a transvestite cabaret singer. Even funnier, on the screening cassette that I received, all of the frontal male nudity had been blurred out, so all of the men look like Ken dolls. (MGM Home Entertainment)

CRUISE, THE (PG-13)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Fans of off-beat documentaries will appreciate this little slice of life from director Bennet Miller. Miller focuses his camera on one Timothy “Speed” Levitch, a New York Tour guide who spouts his wisdom from the top of a double-Decker tour bus. Miller just lets the camera roll (over several days) and captures all the wit and philosophy of a man who doesn’t like conformity. It’s not for everyone, but Levitch is an honestly engaging personality who is hard to turn off. (Artisan)

HANGING GARDEN, THE (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Dry tale of a dysfunctional Irish family and the consequences the son faces when he returns homes after a 10-year absence for his sister’s wedding. Director Thom Fitzgerald has drafted a good cast to flesh out his drama, but a confusing screenplay and tired family conflicts give them little to work with. Chris Leavins stands out as William, the son who is reluctant to return to the place where he tried to commit suicide. (Orion)

HOLY MAN (PG)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)If audiences can get beyond the smokescreen that is the coming attraction trailer, they’re going to find a very different and much more satisfying movie called “Holy Man.” The trailers make “Holy Man” look like another outrageous Eddie Murphy comedy. Sure, there are plenty of laughs, yet “Holy Man” is a comedy of substance. It’s not a great film by any means. Tom Schulman’s screenplay is serviceable at best, but it does lay the ground work for actors like Jeff Goldblum and Eddie Murphy to do some of their best work. Along with Kelly Preston and Robert Loggia, the “Holy Man” cast takes pedestrian material and makes it feel refreshing. Click here for full review. (Disney)

IMPOSTORS, THE (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Something totally different from the creators of “Big Night.” Writer-director-star Stanley Tucci teams up with Oliver Platt to play down on their luck actors looking for their big break. When they attend a performance of “Hamlet” by a bad actor (Alfred Molina) and cause a commotion, Maurice (Platt) and Arthur (Tucci) find themselves on the lam from the actor’s henchmen and the police. When they hide out in a crate on the docks, they are accidentally loaded aboard a luxury liner headed for Europe. The actors decide to use their talents to evade detection, but when they learn that the actor is aboard the ship, it becomes a classic slapstick chase as they try to stay one step ahead of their captors. In between their escapades, they find themselves embroiled with numerous characters and a couple of terrorists trying to blow up the ship. The cast couldn’t be better (Lili Taylor is a standout), and set in the 1930’s, the film features outstanding production and costume design. Tucci really hits the mark with this tribute (and ultimate send-up) of The Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. Filled with shipboard romance, outrageous comedy and a finale that recalls those great Busby Berkley musicals, “The Impostors” is a night to remember. (Fox)

IN DREAMS (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Misguided thriller has that distinct Neil Jordan gloss, but lacks coherency and focus. Annette Bening stars as a mother and wife who has freaky dreams that take place in an underwater town. What she doesn’t realize is that her dreams are actually psychic connections with a serial killer (Robert Downey Jr., more creepy than usual), and that the killer has set his sights on her husband and daughter. Jordan favorite Stephen Rea plays the psychiatrist who tries to help Bening get a grip on reality, and is then forced to eat crow when he realizes that her dreams are real. I really wanted to like “In Dreams” because if its subject matter and visual style, but the performers just aren’t up to the challenge and the script is so confusing and trite you just want to scream. (Dreamworks)

ROWING WITH THE WIND (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley star in this handsome production about that fateful summer Mary Shelley wrote the novel “Frankenstein.” Shot in 1987, “Rowing with the Wind” examines the relationship between Shelley (Lizzy McInnery) and Lord Byron (Grant) during what was supposed to be a leisurely summer spent with their respective mates Percy Shelley (Valentine Pelka) and Claire Clairmont (Hurley). Instead, as Mary begins to write her infamous novel, the monster that haunts the page seems to manifest itself in real life, bringing tragedy to the proceedings. It’s not a great film, but it does offer an early look at Grant and Hurley, and depicts a love story that is seldom mentioned must less seen. (Miramax)

SHADOW OF A DOUBT (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Pretty decent thriller stars Melanie Griffith as a lawyer defending a popular rap star accused of murdering a woman. Kitt Devereux (Griffith) is the woman you want on your side when you need an iron clad defense. Unfortunately for Kitt, her ex-lover is heading up the prosecution. Even worse, after digging deep to gather evidence that will clear her client, Kitt learns that the real killer might have ties to a presidential candidate. Directed with flair by Randal Kleiser, who really doesn’t do enough these days, “Shadow of a Doubt” features all of the prerequisite elements of a great thriller. You never know who to trust, and just when you think you’ve cracked the case, the writers toss in some surprises. The cast is good, especially Tom Berenger as Kitt’s ex, and Craig Sheffer as an accused rapist who may or may not have ties to the case. Even though it premiered on cable, “Shadow of a Doubt” is a full-fledged thriller that demands a look. (Columbia-TriStar)

SOMETHING ABOUT SEX (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes) Writer-director Adam Rifkin’s (The Dark Backwards) terrific tale of love lost and found in Los Angeles. Rifkin has assembled an interesting and talented cast to tell his tale of three couples who think they have it all, but then begin questioning their relationships when a bachelor friend (Jason Alexander) opens his Pandora’s box of doubt. It’s a shame that this dandy little film got dumped on cable and then on video without the benefit of a theatrical release. It’s smartly written and directed, and the cast is delightful, including Jonathon Silverman, Amy Yasbeck, Patrick Dempsey, Christine Taylor, and Charles Shaughnessy. Rifkin and his cast nail the Los Angeles experience with wit, intelligence and a lot of soul searching. (A-PIX)

VERY BAD THINGS (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Writer-Director (and actor) Peter Berg takes the premise of “Stag,” a small film about a bachelor party gone horribly astray, and turns it into one long macabre joke. There’s lots of dark humor in “Very Bad Things,” which finds a group of friends headed for Las Vegas for the bachelor party of Kyle (Jon Favreau), who is engaged to be married to Laura (Cameron Diaz). A night of drinking and drugs turns deadly when one of the group (Jeremy Piven) accidentally kills a hooker during a wild sexual tryst. Things escalate when the group is also forced to kill a hotel security guard. They manage to bury the bodies in the desert, and all the men agree to keep is a secret. It’s not long before the men start cracking, leaving it up to the leader of the group (Christian Slater at his most wicked) to kill them one by one. Even though it’s cartoonish at times, “Very Bad Things” actually works as a dark comedy, filled with graveyard humor. Watching the talented cast (including Daniel Stern) unravel is half the fun. (Polygram)

WINCHELL (R)

vidcass1.gif (2845 bytes)Here’s a change of pace, a good film that would have been great had the filmmakers been allowed to lengthen the running time. At 108 minutes, there’s barely enough time to savor the tremendous performance of Stanley Tucci as the highly regarded and highly feared newspaper columnist and radio commentator Walter Winchell. Tucci is so dead-on in his portrayal that you feel you’ve been transported back in time to the 1940’s. Thanks to exquisite production design and powerful direction courtesy of Paul Mazursky, “Winchell” rises above the usual made-for-cable biographies. It’s filled with interesting characters, a sense of nostalgia, and a screenplay that makes you want more. Too bad HBO didn’t allow Mazursky to delve deeper into his subject instead of skimming over several important encounters. What remains is top notch, just not as complete as it could have been. (HBO)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

ALIEN ARSENAL (NR/Full Moon)

DEADLY BUGS (BMG)

I, ZOMBIE (NR/Bedford Entertainment)

KILLER BEES (BMG)

MEMORIAL DAY (PG-13/Artisan)

MEN OF MEANS (NR/York Entertainment)

MY SWEET SUICIDE (Artisan)

PLEASURECRAFT (R/Surrender Cinema)

RAP MANIA: THE ROOTS OF RAP (NR/Real Entertainment)

TEENAGE SPACE VAMPIRES (PG/Full Moon)

WORLD OF SID & MARTY KROFFT (NR/Rhino Home Video)



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