Written by: Andrew W. Marlowe
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak, Rod Steiger
My Advice: Wait for cable.
Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) is a man with a problem. Not only is he depressed and suicidal, but he really wishes he could pull off the scene where he wants to kill himself as good as Mel Gibson did in Lethal Weapon, but he can’t–which makes him even more depressed. He only thought he was having a bad day, because his buddy and partner is Kevin Pollak, who immediately upstages him and continues to do so in pretty much every scene. To make matters worse, Satan comes to New York City looking for not only a good lay (Tunney) but also an actor worthy of playing him (Byrne), whom he promptly possesses. Then, for no particular reason, Cane and partner go to work protecting Byrne-Satan, and then leave their client and job to chase after a would-be assassin, again for no particular reason. And of course, this leads them into a world that they never knew existedâ€”action movie hell.
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, based on a story by Andrew Kevin Walker & Kevin Yagher, which was based on the story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Christopher Walken
My Advice: Matinee.
Ichabod Crane (Depp) is a constable with roots in science and logic. He really isn’t fond of his peers and supervisors with their inquisitional ways and toys. The Burgomaster (Christopher Lee), sick of Crane’s whining, sends him upstate to the town of Sleepy Hollow. Apparently, this little burg has a bit of a problem. You see, a headless Hessian soldier (Walken) appears to be still walking (and riding) aroundâ€”and taking the heads of others. Crane is certain it’s all superstition, and resolves to find the earthly hand that’s causing the murders.
Written by: Michael Mann & Eric Roth, based on the Vanity Fair article “The Man Who Knew Too Much”
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall
My Advice: Don’t miss it.
Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) has information that the tobacco companies don’t want shared. Lowell Bergman (Pacino) is a 60 Minutes producer who runs across Wigand almost by accident when trying to get some scientific cigarette jargon translated into English. But Wigand is itching to tell somebody what he knows. And Bergman wants it on 60 Minutes. And the tobacco companies want Wigand to shut the hell up. Conflict ensues? You betcha.
It’s refreshing to see a film that shows as heroes people who don’t have noserings, don’t have children with seventeen women, and don’t blow things up. Those things have their place in the cinematic spectrum, but they’re workaday now. It’s just nice to see a movie about real people. And “heroes” is perhaps too strong a word, when you consider that it carries with it connotations of being better than others. The two protagonists of this film aren’t necessarily better than anyone else; they just try to do what they think is the right thing. Even the character of Mike Wallace (a fantastic Christopher Plummer), who some thought would be portrayed in a bad light, is simply portrayed in a realistic light. The flaws are all there, for everyone involved, and to see all of their motivations running rampant over one another makes for an extremely engaging film.
Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Charlie Kaufman
Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Orson Bean
My Advice: Don’t Miss It.
Craig (Cusack) is a puppeteer in a market that won’t support his artwork. Convinced by his wife, Lotte (Diaz), a Doctor Dolittle wannabe, to go get a job, he encounters Maxine (Keener). He finds himself inexplicably drawn to Maxine, but she won’t have anything to do with him. At least, until he finds a small door in their office building that leads intoâ€¦John Malkovich.
When I first wrote up a page draft on Corona for this film back in December of last year, I figured it would make a nice little art house weirdie if it ever really honestly got made. Even then, production was probably finished, but I couldn’t believe it. What I got, almost a year later, is nothing short of the strangest film I have seen, easily in a decade, possibly ever. And here’s the best part–it’s also a masterpiece. Kaufman and Jonze have managed to craft a film that throws pretty much everything up in the air: psychology, personal and sexual identity, artistic satisfaction. You name it, it’s probably in there somewhere. With plenty to offer in the way of bizarrerie–such as the offices on a building’s 7 1/2th floor to the question of what the New Jersey turnpike really means in a metaphysical sense–it’s got plenty to please those of us who are fans of the surreal yet while keeping enough farcical humor on hand to keep the “normals” in their seats.
Written by: Jim Uhls, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto
My Advice: Don’t miss it.
The narrator (Norton) of our story has a bit of a problem. He seems to be caught in a sleepless life-crippling malaise that threatens his spiritual well-being. In other words, he can’t get no satisfaction. Out of the drab void that surrounds him steps Tyler Durden (Pitt), a very strange man who sells soap. After even stranger circumstances leave the two rooming together, Durden suggests that they, just for a lark, try pounding the shit out of each other. And they actually like it. It makes them feel alive. This thing they’ve started doing for kicks strikes a chord in other men, too, because by the time the narrator turns around they’ve got spectators, then more participants, and then Tyler starts to draw up the rules…
Written and Directed by David O. Russell, based on a story by John Ridley
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn
My Advice: Matinee.
It’s Iraq, 1991, and the war is over. Soldiers cavort about, drinking and having a good time. When they are faced with an enemy soldier, they ask confusedly if they’re supposed to be shooting people at that moment. None of them have any idea why they were there to begin with, much less why they have to mollycoddle the press to try and keep them happy. However, when three soldiers find a map in an Iraqi soldier’s… ah… nethereye… they become convinced by a disgruntled Captain (Clooney) that it might be directions to a cache of stolen Kuwaiti gold. So they set out on a mission to fake their way into the bunkers, steal the gold, and get back before anybody notices. Easy, right? Right.
Written by: Alan Ball
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari
My Advice: Don’t miss it.
Lester (Spacey) is a man with a problem. His life sucks. He’s forty-two, he’s stuck in a marriage that is the opposite of bliss with his polyurethane wife (Bening), his daughter (Birch) thinks he is an utter loser, and his job is going absolutely nowhere. Then, he meets his daughter’s cheerleader friend Angela (Suvari), an escapee from a Nabokov novel, and the poor man becomes quite smitten. This rekindles Lester’s ambition and galvanizes him to try and find his lost youth–but the question is to what consequence?
Why didn’t I trust my legs to carry me out of the cinema when this film ended? Well, let’s start with the cast. Spacey is outstanding as the epicenter of change, and unless the running gets really crowded really quick, he’s at least got an Oscar nom nailed down–or there’s no justice in the world. Bening is forgiven for In Dreams. The supporting cast is marvelous as well, with the teens Birch, Suvari and relative newcomer Bentley holding their own support beams quite nicely. Also worth noting are Scott Bakula and Sam Robards as Team Jim from next door providing an amusing subplot, which of course leads to a damn serious subplot.
Written by: Tom Lazarus & Rick Ramage
Directed by: Rupert Wainwright
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache
My Advice: Wait and Rent It.
Father Kiernan (Byrne) is a man with a problem. He is an investigator for the Vatican, and his job is to go out and debunk religious miracles. Trouble is, whenever he finds one that he is sure is authentic, the case gets shunted somewhere off into the etrick, largely due to the machinations of Cardinal Houseman (Pryce). Frankie (Arquette) is a woman with a problem. She’s a hairdresser who after receiving a gift in the mail from her mother starts to experience the wounds of Christ, AKA the stigmata. Their two paths cross as they try to figure out why this is happening before the wounds are too much and Frankie gets to presumably meet Christ in the hereafter.
Written and Directed by: David Koepp, based on the novel by Richard Matheson
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Zachary David Cope, Liza Weil
My Advice: Matinee
Tom (Bacon) is, as a song once said, an ordinary average guy. He’s got a caring wife (Erbe), a decent neighborhood with good neighbors, and a son (Cope) who talks to dead people. Huh? Too involved to discuss here. Anyway, one night at a neighborly get together, his sister-in-law Lisa (Douglas) convinces him to submit to hypnosis. It works great guns on him, so much so that he starts to see things, specifically glimpses of something bad which happened in the neighborhood’s past. Now he’s got to figure out what some ghost is trying to tell him before it drives him completely around the bend and tears his family apart.
Written and Directed by: M. Might Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg
My Advice: Wait and Rent It.
Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Willis) is a man with problems. Although widely recognized for his prowess as a child psychologist, he has achieved this level much to the neglect of his wife (Williams), who still loves him nonetheless. Their lives are changed forever when a former patient of his, Vincent (Wahlberg), breaks into their house, accuses Crowe of failing him, and then shoots the doctor. More than a year passes, and the still psychologically scarred Crowe receives a new patient, the young boy Cole (Osment), who exhibits some of the same disorders that Vincent did. Determined not to fail a second time, he tries to assist the obviously tormented boy with his damaging secret.
This is a painfully flawed film–painful because its fine premise, that of a young boy who can perceive the spirits of the dead walking among us, is never given the justice it is due. The pacing is ponderous at best and since we can’t be trusted to recognize some of the more “scary moments,” James Newton Howard is there to give us nice little musical stings just to make sure we jump. Unnecessary and invasive.