Films Review May


At this point in time, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is no longer just a movie. It is an event. Not since the release of “Star Wars” has any film generated such a high level of hype and buzz. It’s not surprising when you consider that both films share common themes, visual cues and ideals, including a young boy discovering his hidden powers, characters drawn over to the dark side, and wise old wizards. You needn’t have read any of author J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books to appreciate “Sorcerer’s Stone.” Screenwriter Steve Kloves (“Wonder Boys”) creates a little magic of his own, condensing the novel without offending the diehards. The result is a film that will please both fans and everyone else just looking for a good time. Please click title for complete review. (Warner Bros.)


The film-making team behind the award-winning “Koyla” reunites for this nostalgic romantic war film set just before World War II. Central to the plot is Franta Slama (Ondrej Vetchy), a forty-something Czechoslovakian who has been confined to a communist-ruled prison camp as an enemy of the people. His crime? Flying for the Royal Air Force during the war. As Franta flashes back in time, we watch as he and another young pilot named Karel Vojtisek (Krystof Hadek) flee Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and become pilots for the RAF, leading raids against their homeland. Like “Pearl Harbor,” the film deals with the affection both men share for the same woman, the lovely Susan (Tara Fitzgerald), and how it affects their war efforts. Director Jan Sverak employs numerous classic Hollywood devices to tell the story, giving the film a glossy, romantic look. The cast couldn’t be better, the production values are first rate, and the story is filled with plenty of drama, action and romance. The only problem I had with the film was that the screening copy the studio sent me was missing the English subtitles, making it difficult to follow the dialogue. (Columbia-TriStar Home Video)


Director Anthony Hickox puts a dark comic spin on “The Whole Nine Yards.” In that film, dentist Matthew Perry and his scheming wife learn that their neighbor (Bruce Willis) is a mobster and plan to cash in on that knowledge. In “Federal Protection,” Armand Assante stars as Frank Carbone, a connected mobster who is almost killed in a mob hit. After making a deal with the Feds and testifying against the mob, Frank is placed in the witness protection program and moved into a small suburban neighborhood. It’s not long before the local women find their way to Frank’s front door, and all hell breaks loose when a scorned wife takes out her husband’s infidelity with her sister on the mobster. Hickox delivers the goods, including enough dark comedy and action to make “Federal Protection” worth a look. Angela Featherstone plays the wife, while Dina Meyer is excellent as her promiscuous sister. (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment)


Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ‘66) seems like the perfect choice to play disjointed and disillusioned television talk show host Bobby Bishop, but after about fifteen minutes you realize that the dream casting is really a nightmare. Despite the presence of a bubbly Courtney Cox-Arquette as his ex-girlfriend who doesn’t want anything to do with him, most of “Get Well Soon” focuses on Bishop’s nervous breakdown and ultimate search for meaning in his life. Gallo endlessly rambles on, never allowing director Justin McCarthy complete control over the proceedings. Anyone who wants to see the edgy actor intermingle with New York’s underbelly might welcome this lightweight effort that’s billed as a romantic comedy but has very few laughs. (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment)


If you really want to enjoy the splendors of Indian director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s tale of revenge, rent the DVD. For some unknown reason, Columbia-TriStar has chosen to release a dubbed version on video, totally robbing the film of any authenticity. With Kashmir popping up in the news everyday, perhaps the video label should change their mind. The only way to appreciate the film is to hear the actors speak in their native dialect. Chopra introduces many elements of Indian film-making into the film, including some unexpected musical numbers that totally catch you off guard. Hrithik Roshan is excellent as a young man who has spent ten years planning the revenge of the killing of his parents at the hands of an Indian police squad. After learning that his adoptive father is the man responsible for killing his family, Altaaf (Roshan) runs away from home and returns ten years later to exact revenge. Filled with plenty of local color and sturdy production values, “Mission Kashmir” may not be for everyone, but those looking for something out of the mainstream will appreciate the effort. (Columbia-TriStar Home Video)


Like a moth to a flame, director Mark Pellington’s supernatural thriller “The Mothman Prophecies” disintegrates in front of our very eyes. Based on the non-fiction best seller by John A. Keel , supposedly based on true events that plagued a small West Virginia town, “The Mothman Prophecies” will disappoint anyone looking for a good scare. Pellington, the director of “Arlington Road,” does manage to generate a modicum of suspense, and gets decent support from actors Richard Gere, Laura Linney, and Alan Bates, but in the end the film lacks the moth balls needed to raise goose flesh. Like most modern studio horror films, “The Mothman Prophecies” looks sharp, but it’s all dressed up with no place to go. Please click on title for complete review. (Columbia-TriStar)


“Saved the Bell” and “The Other Half” star Mario Lopez stars as college student who takes a job as a courier to make ends meet. What he doesn’t know is that he’s smuggling illegal drugs, and before you can say tuition, finds himself caught in a violent struggle with his new bosses and the FBI. Despite the presence of actors Ali Landry, John Saxon and Nancy O’Dell, “Outta Time” looks like it was made to target Lopez’s Hispanic fan base. The plot is pretty pedestrian, and the acting isn’t much better. (Artisan)


Occasionally charming comedy about a Newfoundland restaurant owner whose business is going to the birds, literally. Named The Auk after an extinct bird, the restaurant faces the same fate until the restaurant owner’s best friend fakes a rare bird sighting. The ruse draws in a plethora of bird watchers, who turn the small town and restaurant into a tourist Mecca. William Hurt is especially good as Dave Purcell, the restaurant owner, while comedian Andy Jones is frequently hilarious as the best friend and inventor whose salvage operation has left him holding a lost shipment of cocaine. Like “The Full Monty” and other small town comedies, “Rare Birds” features eccentric characters and a wonderful view on life. The lovely Molly Parker shines as Purcell’s female best friend who helps out when the tourists arrive. (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment)


Rude, crude and filled with ineptitude, the sort of college comedy that teenagers watch, discuss and then dismiss. A decent cast, including Jason Schwartzman of “Rushmore,” wander aimlessly in this tale of a nerdy college student who blackmails three fellow students, who are running a cheating scheme, into setting him up with the most beautiful girl on campus. Hey, it could happen. Devon Sawa, Jason Segel and Michael C. Maronna play the college seniors who get caught, and take Ethan (Schwartzman) up on his offer to hook him up with the lovely Angela (James King). Unfortunately, the more Dave (Sawa) tries to help, the more Angela falls for him instead. “Slackers” came and went in theaters so fast that the target audience never had a chance to find it. Now they can. (Columbia-TriStar Home Video)


Strictly for the hip-hop crowd, this violent revenge fantasy seems to have been dumbed-down in order to appeal to its target audience. The film features an impressive debut by Beanie Siegel, who stars as Beans, a Philadelphia street gangster who wants it all. With the help of his crew, Beans takes what he wants, even if it belongs to a rival gang. Director Abdul Malik Abbott, who also co-wrote the generic and muddled screenplay, fails to make “State Property” anything more than a throwaway effort with rap stars pretending to be actors. Poorly executed and filled with the sort of violence and language that brings nothing to the party other than shock value, “State Property” needs a new lease on life. (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment)

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