Films Review February


Eriq La Salle (television’s “E. R.”) pulls double duty as director and actor in this atmospheric tale of a psychiatrist (Michael Beach) on the mend from personal tragedy who drags a film crew to a mental hospital to make a documentary on a radical new treatment. Once inside, controversial shrink Dr. Ty Adams (beach) encounters a patient who calls himself Satan (La Salle), and makes life a living hell for everyone he comes in contact with. Even though the plot and script are rather pedestrian, La Salle manages to milk as much suspense from the premise as possible, and gets sturdy performances from his cast, including Ronny Cox, John C. McGinley, and Beach. (Lion’s Gate)


photo Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde) hits another home run with this warm hearted, frequently funny romantic comedy about a country girl who makes it big in the city, and then has to return home to take care of some old business. Witherspoon shines as New York City fashion designer Melanie Carmichael, who accepts the proposal of her beau Andrew Henning (Patrick Dempsey), son of the state’s governor. Before Melanie can marry Andrew, she has to fly home to Alabama and dissolve her marriage to red-neck husband Jake (Josh Lucas). What should have been an easy in and out becomes complicated when Jake refuses to grant her a divorce, unlocking old emotions and wounds. Light, breezy direction by Andy Tennant, a sweetheart of a script, and a wonderfully engaging supporting cast make this one of the most delightful romantic comedies in years. (Touchstone)


Samuel L. Jackson manages to rise above the material in this derivative action thriller about a chemist named Elmo (Jackson) who invents a new recreational drug that should provide him with a nice nest egg, but ends up with scrambled eggs when his $20 million formula attracts the attention of a vicious drug dealer (Meat Loaf), who will do anything to acquire it. Robert Carlyle plays the British gangster Elmo turns to in order to unload the drug, while Emily Mortimer has a lot of fun with her kick ass performance as a professional assassin with her own agenda. Director Ronny Yu knows how to pump up the action, but he’s working from a script that seems to borrow from rather than pay homage to all that came before it. (Columbia-TriStar)


Exceptional tale of a dysfunctional family and their youngest son’s attempt to escape the madness. Kieran Culkin is outstanding as Igby Slocumb, a seventeen-year-old rich kid who has been kicked out of one school after another. One doesn’t need to look under a microscope to see what is behind Igby’s behavior. His mother (Susan Sarandon), suffering from terminal breast cancer, is always zonked out on pills, while his father (Bill Pullman) suffers from the effects of schizophrenia. His older brother (Ryan Phillippe), an opportunistic college freshman, isn’t much help. When Igby’s godfather (Jeff Daniels) invites him to New York for the summer, Igby gladly accepts. Free of his family’s grip, Igby opens up and finds soul mates in several people, including his godfather’s mistress (Amanda Peet), a performance artist (Jared Harris), and an equally jaded and disillusioned college student (Claire Danes). Writer-director Burr Steers does more than create engaging, off beat characters, he has recruited a terrific cast to give them life. Family dysfunction hasn’t been this funny, or sad, since “The Royal Tenenbaums.” (MGM)


Excuse me waiter, but there is a fly in my poop, I mean soup. No, I was right the first time. Obviously working under the theory that flies are attracted to crap, writer-director John Olson piles it on in this remarkably silly and preposterous horror film about a horde of deadly insects. When a group of friends attending a funeral take refuge in a beach house, they are overcome by mutated insects that like to eat their victims from the inside out. Despite the film’s camp appeal, and some gross out moments, there is nothing here to make this cheap effort stand out from the hive. Says a lot about personal hygiene. (Columbia-TriStar)


Evan Rachel Wood is charming as Emily, a teenage violin prodigy who spends her summer off moments listening to local kids unload their secrets and handing out misguided but well meaning advice. Emily’s seemingly perfect life becomes complicated with the arrival of a baby sister, two new neighbor boys, and the opportunity to audition for the local symphony. Emily may have garnered the trust of the local kids, but who can she trust with her own secret? Vivica A. Fox is excellent as her violin teacher, a woman who sees beyond Emily’s talent to discover a young woman in the making. Engaging performances and a script that is both sweet and relevant make “Little Secrets” a big winner. (Columbia-TriStar)

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