Films Review September

CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES (PG)

When it stays true to the original, this third entry in the “Crocodile Dundee” franchise is sweet and unassuming. It’s only when Paul Hogan and company try to be hip that the film falls flat. The more jaded movie audiences get, the harder it is to pull off Hogan’s style of humor, yet this film manages to entertain without being offensive.


crocodile dundee in los angelesWhen his live-in girlfriend Sue (Linda Kozlowski) heads off to Los Angeles to fill in for a magazine editor who mysteriously died in a car wreck, Mick Dundee (Hogan) and his 11 year-old son Mikey (Serge Cockburn) tag along for a little rest and relation of their own. That sets the tone for a series of cultural misunderstandings, including Mick shutting down a rush hour freeway to save what he thinks is a stray cat (it’s not, it’s a skunk). There’s some mystery and intrigue when Mick goes undercover at a movie studio to help Sue uncover who killed her predecessor. There’s plenty of industry in-jokes and some good natured ribbing, but the plot is really weak and only holds up under the strength of its endearing stars. (Paramount)

DRIVEN (PG-13)

driven photo.JPG (211963 bytes)Even though the screenplay by star Sylvester Stallone crashes and burns, the action sequences in this tried and true racing film are worth the money. Stallone should never be allowed to write another screenplay. His situations and characters are more stock than the cars, while the dialogue feels like a collision of cliches and hokum. Director Renny Harlin, who teamed up with Stallone on the breathtaking “Cliffhanger,” understands that all of the action is on the track, and the race scenes are truly harrowing. You feel like you’re in the driver’s seat when these four- wheeled rockets hit the track. Stallone stars as veteran driver Joe Tanto, who has been recruited by ruthless team owner Burt Reynolds to pair up with novice driver Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue), who drives with the best of them when he’s not distracted. Keeping Jimmy focused and taking home the trophy despite the owner’s win at all costs dictum keep Joe busy. Then there are the women, ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, ex-one-night-stands, who hover around the pit stops looking for a little action. They find plenty. The performances are okay, taking back seat to some incredible crashes and close-calls. (Warner)

FORSAKEN, THE (R)

forsaken photo.JPG (253270 bytes)Horror fans will lap up this vampire flick that doesn’t suck, except when it’s appropriate. Exploitation director J. S. Cardone does an admirable job of bringing together all of the elements horror fans expect in their vampire films. There’s enough gore and horror, plus equal doses of nudity and action, to satisfy anyone who with a hunger for this sort of thing. Kerr Smith (“Final destination’) stars as Sean, a young film editor who is broke and needs a ride to Florida to attend his sister’s wedding. Sean agrees to transport someone else’s Mercedes in exchange for a little cash and wheels. There’s only one rule. He can’t pick up anyone. So when Sean loses his wallet and needs gas funds, he’s forced to offer a ride to Nick (Brendan Fehr), a hitchhiker stranded in the middle of nowhere. What Sean doesn’t know is that Nick is a vampire hunter, and it hot on the trail of a band of vampire scouring the west. Sean doesn’t believe Nick, but when they encounter one of his victims, a young woman (Izabella Miko), all that changes. Especially when the woman bites Sean, infecting him. Now it’s a race to find the leader of the pack, a charismatic vampire named Kit (Johnathon Schaech), or become one of the living dead. The actors are all on board for a little fun, and their conviction helps make the familiar plot trappings bearable. (Columbia-TriStar)

LUCK OF THE DRAW (R)

A decent cast finds themselves on the run, literally, in this contrived direct-to-video action film about an ex-con who winds up with some valuable counterfeit plates that belong to the mob and are desperately wanted by a number of legal and corrupt parties. One day while looking for a job, ex-con Jack Sweeney (James Marshall) finds himself in the middle of a shootout between mobsters and police. Using the shootout and confusion as cover, Jack swipes a briefcase that he believes is filled with money. Instead he finds counterfeit plates. With everyone on his tail, Jack must stay one move ahead of his pursuers will trying to figure out what to do with the plates. The notable cast includes Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts, Ice- T and William Forsythe. No one embarrasses themselves, but they’re just along for the ride, which if you haven’t been down this road before, you might find interesting. (Artisan)

LUZHIN DEFENCE, THE (PG-13)

John Turturro delivers a smashing performance Alexander Luzhin, a chess genius who views life as a chess tournament. Totally absorbed in the game, perhaps as a lifeline from going completely mad, Luzhin walks through life on his own terms. Turturro effortlessly draws us into the world of a man who calculates every move of his life, the result of a childhood that was anything but stable. Now he has a hard time relating to others, but that doesn’t stop him from meeting and proposing to Natalia (Emily Watson), who is attending the tournament in Italy with her mother (Geraldine James), a socially conscious woman who wants Natalia to marry someone with class. So when Luzhin asks her hand in marriage, Natalia reluctantly agrees, in part to foil her mother’s attempts at setting her up with various beaus, but mostly because she sees in Luzhin someone who needs a soul mate. Director Marleen Gorris, who directed the wonderful “Antonia’s Line,” does a splendid job of bring Vladimir Nabokov’s novella to the screen. Set in the 1920’s, the film is filled with indelible nostalgic images and memorable performances. (Columbia-TriStar)

SEE SPOT RUN (PG-13)

Kids will love this silly symphony of slapstick gags and dog jokes. David Arquette plays a dog- hating mailman who winds up being a surrogate babysitter to his neighbor’s son when she’s forced to leave town. Gordon (Arquette) agrees to watch James (Angus T. Jones) because he’s in love with his mother Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), who has no clue. When the scheduled babysitter calls in sick, Gordon balances his job with watching the kid. Then Gordon and James encounter Agent Eleven, a police dog placed in the witness relocation program and on the run from a vengeful mobster’s henchmen. Unaware of their new found friend’s fame or involvement, Gordon and James welcome Agent Eleven into their lives, hoping to convert him into a regular dog. Told with the subtlety of a Saturday morning cartoon, “See Spot Run” is filled with the nonsensical sort of fun that children will find engaging without being too insulting. Their parents may disagree, but this movie obviously wasn’t made for them. Michael Clarke Duncan and Paul Sorvino co-star as the canine’s human partner and the mobster who wants him rubbed out. (Warner)

SPY KIDS (PG)

An engaging cast, nifty special effects and dazzling direction by Robert Rodriguez (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) turned this children’s fable into a bonafide box office hit. While the sequel is in the works, children of all ages can enjoy the antics of pint sized spies Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Samba) as they try to save their spy parents from the clutches of an evil madman, humorously played by Alan Cumming. A family-friendly film from Rodriguez seems like a joke, but the joke is on anyone who doesn’t think the action director can deliver the goods. Rodriguez brings along his usual arsenal of dazzling cinematic tricks to make this clever film pay off. Once the action begins, it never lets up, and the special effects and gadgets would make James Bond envious. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino co-star as parents Gregorio and Ingrid, former spies who hung up their weapons nine years earlier to start a family. When their former cohorts wind up missing and are presumed kidnaped, the duo find themselves back in action. When they end up missing, it’s up to Carmen and Juni, who had no idea their parents were spies, to save the day. Everything you could want in a mini spy film, plus winning performances from Cheech Marin as the kid’s surrogate uncle, Danny Trejo as their real uncle, Teri Hatcher and Robert Patrick as two of the villains. Available for sell-through on VHS and DVD. (Dimension)

STARTUP. COM (R)

Fascinating documentary about the rise and fall of two Internet entrepreneurs who came up with a great idea, marketed it, got the start-up funds, and just as they were ready to launch their site, discovered they no longer had the funds to operate it. There are probably thousands of stories just like this one, yet filmmakers Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim make this one so personal that it hurts. With unlimited access to their subjects, the filmmakers follow friends and businessmen Tom Herman and Kaleil Isaza Tuzman as they dream up, pitch, develop and eventually lose the web site called “govWorks.com.” The stress and frustration of launching such an effort is perfectly captured in close-up intimate detail. No one is spared in this in-your-face documentary. We watch as friendships and relationships are destroyed and lost in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. This documentary should be required viewing for everyone in business school. (Artisan)



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