Films Review May

BOA (PG-13)

An alien race of transvestites invades Earth, using their man-eating boas to suck the life force out of humans to use as fuel for their planet. Actually, it’s another snake-in-the-grass thriller about prisoners in a high security facility in the Antarctic being preyed on by a long-dormant, 80 foot-long Boa.


Dean Cain heads up the cast of expendable lunch meat, while the snake effects are pretty lame. Good idea sheds its skin before it takes a bite out of the genre. “Anaconda” on a tight budget. (Columbia-TriStar)

FROM HELL (R)

On the surface, “From Hell” may seem like a radical departure for filmmaking twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes. Upon closer inspection, this marriage of gothic horror and the urban sensibilities of the directors of “Menace II Society” makes perfect sense. Even though “From Hell,” based on the graphic novel about Jack the Ripper by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, takes place in 1888 London, the Hughes brothers are on familiar turf. Set in the squalid Whitechapel slums, the film is a shocking example of just how little things have changed over the last 100 years. The violent themes flowing through “From Hell” like a crimson river are reminders that human suffering and degradation are time honored traditions among the privileged and the poor. The Hughes brothers find relevance in the screenplay by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias, an atmospheric detective story told from the gutter instead of the ivory towers of Scotland Yard. Please click title for complete review. (Fox)

HOW HIGH (R)

Rappers Method Man and Redman muscle in on Cheech and Chong’s territory with this intermittently funny comedy about two stoners who are inadvertently accepted to Harvard, and do their best to turn the stuffy campus into party central. Urban audiences will most appreciate the effort, which features a hip-hop soundtrack and support from such reliable comedy stalwarts as Fred Willard and Hector Elizondo. (Universal)

IN THE SHADOWS (R)

One of those little movies that seems to come out of nowhere, “In The Shadows” is an exciting, well thought out and produced crime drama set in the world of movie stuntmen. Writer-director Ric Roman Waugh, himself a former stuntman and coordinator, does a better-than-average job in his debut behind the camera, creating characters and situations that come vividly to life. Matthew Modine plays Eric O’Byrne, a mob hitman who is sent to Miami to kill Lance Huston (James Caan), the Hollywood director who the family holds responsible for the death of Jimmy, a powerful mobster’s nephew who was working as a stuntman on the film. O’Byrne’s job becomes complicated when he falls for Huston’s daughter (Joey Lauren Adams) and becomes enamored with showbiz. The cast couldn’t be better, including Cuba Gooding Jr. as a quirky drug dealer, while the writer-director knows how to mix action and drama without sacrificing either. (Lion’s Gate)

KID, THE (PG)

Shot in 1997, this Canadian import stars young Jeff Saumier as Jimmy Albrght, a high school student who wants to box against the wishes of his parents. Taken under the wing of former trainer and boxer Harry Sloan (Rod Steiger), Jimmy learns he has what it takes to make it in the ring. When Harry dies, Jimmy teams up with his assistant Cappy, and after revealing his secret to his family, takes on formidable foe Trey (Daniel Brochu) in a championship bout. Directed with pedestrian flair by John Hamilton, “The Kid” (not to be confused with Walt Disney’s The Kid starring Bruce Willis) is a traditional boxing film with just enough punch to please fans of the genre. (Miramax)

LANTANA (R)

“Lantana” begins with a slow moving close-up of the tropical shrub that the film is named after. Despite the dense, thorny undergrowth, all we see are the sweet, colorful blooms. Then the camera moves in on an object. It is a woman. Her twisted, tangled body hints that she is dead. She is. Like the Norman Rockwell opening of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” “Lantana” director Ray Lawrence is making a point. Lawrence is cluing us in that not everything is what it seems. The dramatic contrast between the lantana shrub and the dead woman reminds us that under everything beautiful lies some ugliness. Please click on title for complete review. (Lion’s Gate)

OUT COLD (PG-13)

Hi-jinks in the high country as a group of Alaskan snowboaders attempt to stop a developer from turning their favorite mountain into a swanky ski resort. Even though most of this is familiar, the directing team of Emmett and Brendan Malloy manage to pump up the action with some jaw-dropping snowboarding, plus some genuinely funny antics. Jason London, Zach Galifianakis, Flex Alexander and Derek Hamilton play the local men who like to shred it up on secluded Bull Mountain. Their carefree existence is jeopardized when the town founder dies, leaving the mountain to his son, who decides to sell it to an unscrupulous Colorado ski developer (Lee Majors, well cast). The guys will do anything in their power to stop the developer, and even become embroiled in romance with his two spirited daughters. Every generation has a film like this, and “Out Cold” is no worse or better than those that came before it. (Touchstone)

SNOW DOGS (PG)

More fun in the snow, this one starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Ted Brooks, a successful Miami dentist who works his with cousin and tends to his widowed mother, Amelia (Nichelle Nichols). When Ted learns that he was adopted, and that his natural mother has left him an inheritance, he heads off to the small town of Toletna, Alaska, to collect and learn a little more about his heritage. Upon arrival, Ted learns that among his inheritance is a sled dog team that seems to have a mind of their own. After settling in and learning that a gruff local (James Coburn) is really his father, and that his old man desperately wants the sled team, Ted decides to train and enter them in the Arctic Challenge dogsled race. Filled with plenty of family friendly humor and great performances from the leads and supporting cast (including the colorful Brian Doyle Murray, M. Emmett Walsh and Graham Greene), “Snow Dogs” was a big hit in theaters and should have no problem repeating its success on video. (Walt Disney)

VANILLA SKY (R)

Director Cameron Crowe’s virtual frame-by-frame remake of director Alejandro Amenabar’s “Obre Los Ojos,” starring Tom Cruise as a publishing magnate who prefers pleasure over business. Rich and spoiled, David Aames (Tom Cruise) lives off his rich inheritance and enjoys the life of a rich playboy. He dates throws expensive parties, lives in a showcase residence, drives sports cars and dates beautiful women without a care in the world. Then he meets blonde and beautiful Julie (Cameron Diaz), an obsessive woman who doesn’t care to be dismissed so quickly by David. After stalking David, Julie convinces him to get in her car for one last goodbye. Angry at being tossed aside for someone else (Penelope Cruz, a carry over from the original film), Julie attempts to kills David and herself by driving her car off an embankment. Julie dies, but David is horribly disfigured, and finds himself on a dark and spiritual journey where nothing is what it seems. Accused of killing Julie, David must clear himself and his mind in order to understand the odd events that are engulfing his life. Crowe seems so enamored by the original film that he refuses to make it his own. Cruise is okay as the tormented David, and Diaz is truly terrifying as the obsessive Julie. Kurt Russell is okay as the police detective looking for answers, while Timothy Spall, Jason Lee and Noah Taylor lend good support as various friends and strangers who wander through David’s mind. (Paramount)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

L.I.E. (NR/New Yorker)

ON THE EDGE (R/Universal)



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