Films Review July

4TH FLOOR, THE (R)

Juliette Lewis the best thing about this awkward thriller that fails to pay off at the end. Lewis plays a young woman whose first apartment becomes a living nightmare. Despite the oddball neighbors and landlord, Jane Emelin (Lewis) is determined to stay her ground. Her weatherman boyfriend (William Hurt) wants her to stay at his place, but she’s bound and determined to make it on her own. Then someone or something on the floor below hers begins a campaign of terror designed to make her abandon the apartment. Is it all in her minds, or has something taken control of her apartment and wants her dead? Director Josh Klausner manages to squeeze enough modest chills from his screenplay to make this worth a look. Shelly Duvall seems to have fun with the crazy landlord. The ending leaves something to be desired. (A-PIX)

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (R)

Director Pedro Almodovar (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”) won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his funny, off-beat but ultimately touching portrait of a woman in search of her child’s father. Cecilia Roth is honestly touching as Manuela, a woman still haunted by the death of her son Esteban. Desperate to fulfill Esteban’s last wishes to connect with his long-lost father, Manuela sets off on a journey to find the man she abandoned years earlier. Her quest takes her from Madrid to Barcelona, where she encounters a gallery of Almodovar characters. Always one to relish in the bending of genders, Almodovar creates a wonderfully engaging tale of a woman looking for the father of her son, but finding something quite extraordinary along the way. Highly recommended. In Spanish language with English sub-titles. (Columbia-TriStar)

AUDREY HEPBURN STORY, THE (PG)

At first you cringe at the thought of Jennifer Love Hewitt playing screen icon Audrey Hepburn, but there’s real nobility in her performance. I was skeptical, and with good reason. Audrey Hepburn is Hollywood royalty. If you’re going to do her life story, you better get it right. Despite it’s meager television production values, director Steven Robman and writer Marsha Norman have done a decent job of bringing Hepburn’s colorful life to the screen. Hewitt is radiant as the young Hepburn, whose career is examined from her early European films to her brilliant performance in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Time considerations don’t allow the filmmakers to go into great depth, but you do get a sense of Hepburn’s life, which was filled with magic and heartache. Frances Fisher stands strong as her mother, while Eric McCormack has some nice moments as Mel Ferrer. Not bad for what it is. (Columbia-TriStar)

DIAMONDS (PG)

Absolutely delightful road movie stars Kirk Douglas as a family patriarch trying to heal from the wounds of losing his wife and the complications of a stroke. Afraid that he will spend his last days in a room estranged from his son Lance (Dan Aykroyd), Harry (Douglas) decides he wants to go on one more road trip in search of some diamonds that a mobster once promised him. Douglas delivers a wonderfully engaging performance, one of courage and honesty, playing a man whose mind refuses to be trapped by his current physical limitations. The film finds its heart when Lance and his son Michael (Corbin Allred) agree to take Harry on a road trip, where they encounter a wild line-up of interesting and dangerous characters. Lauren Bacall is delightful as a madam, while Aykroyd is both sentimental and sweet as the son who wants to share in his father’s happiness. Very unexpected and life affirming. (Miramax)

DOWN TO YOU (PG-13)

Lightweight romantic comedy stars Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles as a young couple whose best friends and temptation threaten their relationship. The stars are likeable, and there are some winning moments in this teen flick, but the script is slim to the point of being convenient, while the situations seem like they were lifted from television sitcoms rather than the pen of an original writer. Prinze plays Al Connelly, who realizes that Imogen (Stiles) is the best thing in his life and will do anything to get her back. Of course it leads to all sorts of desperate situations that can only appeal to sixteen year old girls with time on their hands. (Miramax)

GORGEOUS (R)

Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan tries something a little different, and the results are only modestly engaging. Chan plays C.N. Chan, a rich bachelor who lives the good life but lacks true love. Shu Qi plays Bu, a country girl who heads to the big city seeking the mysterious writers of a love letter. When their paths cross, Bu falls for Chan, but suspects that she’s too plain to be his type. So she pretends to be the missing girlfriend of a local mobster, setting into motion a chain of events that will provide Chan with enough opportunity to display his trademark moves and slapstick comedy. “Gorgeous” isn’t a full-blown Jackie Chan action film, as it relies more on romance and plot than bone-breaking stunts. Chan is fine as a man who has everything but love, while Bu seems distant as the love interest, a spoiled woman willing to do whatever it takes to get her way. (Columbia-TriStar)

HURRICANE, THE (R)

Director Norman Jewison’s absorbing film didn’t fare well at the box office, but should find its audience on video and DVD, where they can experience Denzel Washington’s Oscar-nominated performance. Washington is powerful and evoking as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a one-time contender for the middleweight boxing title in the 1960s, whose life was put on hold when he was framed by a crooked cop for several murders he didn’t commit. Washington perfectly conveys the hope and desperation, and ultimately despair, of a man struggling to make sense of a system that failed him. After suffering through several failed appeals, Carter’s freedom ends up resting in the hands of a student who picked up his novel “The Sixteenth Round.” With the aid and assistance of his mentors, Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon) works to free Carter. The opposition to their effort is only one of several roadblocks the group faces as they do everything in their power to free what they believe is an innocent man. Carter became a cause celibre during his prison stay, and was even canonized in a Bob Dylan song. While the film does play loose with the facts, the rich tapestry of the dialogue and the honest performances are more than enough to recommend the film. (Universal)

MANSFIELD PARK (PG-13)

Writer-director Patricia Rozema took a big chance when she loosely adapted Jane Austen’s novel, potentially risking offending the film’s core audience. Yet her inclusion of Austen’s letters and journals actually makes “Mansfield Park” an honest Austen experience. What results is a smart and romantic comedy-drama about how one woman of meager means manages to turn the tables on her rich relatives. Frances O’Connor is absolutely delightful as Fanny Price, sent as a young girl to live with her rich relatives at their estate Mansfield Park. As she becomes a young woman, Fanny is never allowed to forget where she came from. When handsome Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) enters her life, Fanny must find her emotional balance or lose true love forever. Light and breezy, the film features excellent performances, sharp, witty dialogue that is light years ahead of its time, and intuitive direction that keeps everyone on the same playing field. (Miramax)

MINION, THE (R)

Another direct-to-video (or was it made for cable?) effort for former action star Dolph Lundgren. When a female archaeologist uncovers the key to the Anti-Christ’s bottomless pit (yeah, you read right), a secret Temple of Christ sends one of their own (Lundgren) to retrieve it. He’s met with resistance by the archaeologist, who soon teams up with Lucas (Lundgren) when a Minion of hell also wants the key to unleash his master. You just wish all of these people would go to Hell and get it over with. (Touchstone)

MY DOG SKIP (PG)

mydogskipphoto.JPG (105791 bytes)“My Dog Skip” is a swell movie, a winning tale of a boy and his dog. Based on Willie Morris’ fond recollection of his childhood, “My Dog Skip” is rich in nostalgia and feel good moments. The irrepressible Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm In The Middle”) stars as Willie, who leads a seemingly Norman Rockwell existence in a small Mississippi town. Muniz perfectly conveys both the innocence and trust of a young boy looking for meaning in his life. As an only child completely devoid of any school age friends, Willie needs a best friend more than anything else. He finds one when his mother buys him a dog for his birthday, much to the dismay of his father. Diane Lane is very sensible as Willie’s mother, while Kevin Bacon shows great strength as a man who doesn’t want to set his son up for heartbreak. Click title for complete review. (Warner)

REAL MACAW, THE (PG)

Kids will really love this adventurous family film about a grandson (Jamie Croft) who teams up with a talkative parrot named Mac to find hidden treasure and get his grandfather out of a retirement home. This Australian import features gorgeous scenery and likeable characters. Children will absolutely adore Mac, the talking parrot who gives up the pirate life for a simpler life. Mac finds happiness with Benjamin, an elderly man who has a thing for fine feathered friends. Their serenity is interrupted when Benjamin’s debts force him into a retirement home. Enter Sam (Croft), Benjamin’s grandson. Mac and Sam set off to find treasure, closely followed by Sam’s parents and a professor who wants the treasure for himself. rated G, the film contains elements of excitement and suspense but is fine for the entire family. Available for sell-through at $19.98. (Paramount)

SPY GAMES (R)

Despite the presence of durable Bill Pullman (“Independence Day”), this International spy thriller lacks conviction. It’s pretty to look at, including co-star Irene Jacob as a KGB agent who is having an affair with a CIA agent (Pullman) and wants to live the American dream. When a highly sensitive video tape encoded with government secrets ends up missing, it brings out the espionage community, forcing Harry (Pullman) and Natasha (Jacob) to return to service. There’s not much here except star presence, as director Ilkka Jarvilaturi fails to do anything special with the material. Familiar faces flesh out the background, but the plot goes nowhere quick. (Trimark)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

BOILER ROOM

QUIET DAYS IN HOLLYWOOD (R/First Look Pictures)


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