Everybody's Fine

Everybody's Fine
The marketing for Everybody's Fine would have you believe that the film is a heartfelt dramedy about a widowed father coming to terms with the fact that his scattered children have, in a sense, outgrown him. From the smiling faces on the poster, or the liberal use of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" throughout the trailer, one might expect a balanced combination of laughter and tears meant to simultaneously move and uplift theatergoers. In truth, however, Everybody's Fine is all tears and no laughter, perhaps the saddest and most joyless film released in the last several months. Any quirkiness or levity implied in the marketing is entirely the invention of clever editing and musical choices. The film itself is an unrepentant, lump-in-the-throat drama that works emotionally yet ultimately fails with regard to its storytelling.

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Largo Winch

Largo Winch
Who would have thought there was a Belgian comic book hero out there to rival Tintin? I will come clean on this one right away and admit that I had never heard of Largo Winch before watching this film. However, a quick trip to Wikipedia exposes him as having a legacy spanning several decades, including numerous chronicled adventures, in both novel and comic book form, as well as a previous film incarnation and even a TV series to his name.

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Persepolis

Persepolis
I attended the Tehran Film Festival in 1972 and was invited to the home of my guide and translator to meet her parents and family. Over tea and elegant pastries, they explained proudly that Iran was a "modern" country, that they were devout Muslims but did not embrace the extremes of other Islamic nations, that their nation represented a new way. Whenever I read another story about the clerical rule that now grips Iran, I think of those people, and millions of other Iranians like them, who do not agree with the rigid restrictions they live under, particularly the women. Iranians are no more monolithic than we are, a truth not grasped by our own zealous leader. Remember, on 9/11 there was a huge candlelight vigil in Tehran in sympathy with us.

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DON'T LOOK BACK

DON'T LOOK BACK
Jeanne's reality is bending. The successful journalistic author is loosing her hold on reality - her family becoming literally unrecognizable, her belongings changing and moving without being touched and without any recognition of the changes from anyone else, even her own face is shifting in the mirror. Is Jeanne going mad or is something else at play here, something connected to the strange girl only she seems to see and the book she is trying to write about the lost years of her childhood - the years before she turned eight, of which she can remember nothing? This is the world of Marina De Van's Ne Te Retourne Pas.

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Wild Child

Wild Child
A spoilt LA brat being shipped off to an English boarding school for a spot of discipline and coming-of-age, may not on the face of it sound that the most appealing (or original) premise in the world. However this transatlantic teen romp is surprisingly watchable (after a clunky start), thanks to a neat script and directing.

The spoilt brat in question is 16 year old Poppy (Emma Roberts) who is uprooted from her pampered, shallow LA life by her despairing father (Aidan Quinn) and shipped off to the foreign world of early curfews, stern matrons, mandatory lacrosse, endless rain and various other English stereotypes under the watchful eye of headmistress Natasha Richardson.

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Sex Drive

Sex Drive
Sometimes, even a hardened critic can be surprised by a movie. Based on the promotional material, Sex Drive appears headed down the worn track followed by a long line of formulaic teenage road comedies. I won't bother listing the titles - those with a fondness for the genre know them by heart. Suffice it to say, it's not an impressive lineage. Sex Drive starts out much as one might suspect from a film with that title and, for a while, it meanders deeper into familiar territory, seemingly on cruise control. Then something unexpected happens. The characters begin developing personalities. The situations start going for more than just cheap laughs. It's as if John Hughes stole pages 30 through 110 of the Sean Anders/John Morris script and replaced it with something that has a heart in addition to gonads.

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the breezy directorial debut of Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black. Black knows film noir inside and out, because he uses the basic template here. He jazzes things up by employing an aware and self-deprecating narrator and toying with many of the clichés. Yet, although the tone is never more than semi-serious, and Black's tongue is never far from his cheek, we grow to like the characters. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang offers a few thrills, a surprise or two, and several wholehearted laughs. It gives off the same kind of vibe as Get Shorty.

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Evening

Evening
Evening, based on the 1998 bestseller by Susan Minot, is an example of a well-told familiar story. There are no surprises during the course of the film, which transpires across two time frames (1954 and 1998), but the strength of the screenplay and acting provide a satisfying, although not overwhelming, two hours of romance, drama, and tragedy. Longtime cinematographer-turned-director Lajos Koltai has fashioned the movie in such a way that it feels literate. Everything from the cinematography to the editing to the score has been calculated to remind us that this is an example of literature come to life on the screen. Those in search of traditional summertime fare need not apply.

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Almost Famous

Almost Famous
One of the best reviewed movies of 2000, Almost Famous is sure to appear on many critics' end-of-the-year Top 10 lists. A number of respected voices have already declared this to be the best film of the year. However, although there's no doubt that Almost Famous represents a thoroughly engaging two hours spent in a darkened theater, lauding it as one of the year's greatest may be an overreaction by some to the poor quality of other 2000 entries to date. In fact, one could argue that Almost Famous is not even 43 year-old writer/director Cameron Crowe's best feature - both Say Anything and Jerry Maguire were superior.

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Monster-In-Law

Monster-In-Law
Monster-in-Law is appalling misfire of a comedy - a motion picture that takes a situation ripe for the blackest vein of satire and reduces it to a puerile and edgeless pile of goo. Forgive me for a moment if I bemoan the lost potential here. Give a project like this to Danny DeVito, whose War of the Roses existed in not dissimilar territory, and the possibilities are endless. But with Robert Luketic at the helm, the experience of viewing this movie represents a one-way ticket into tedium and a forced 90-minute imprisonment with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, both of whom give performances that can charitably be called cringe-inducing.

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Edge
As "survival in the wilderness" films go, The Edge is a strange example. Leaving the theater, I didn't quite know what to make of it. In fact, I'll even admit to enjoying it on a certain level. I laughed frequently, but the problem is that I'm not sure the director intended there to be as much humor in his film as I uncovered. It's also worth noting that from time-to-time, the movie manages to achieve a certain level of tension, although it's far from the "white knuckle" variety. Overall, however, the picture really didn't work for me, except as an example of big-budget campiness.

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Revenge of the Boarding School Dropouts

Revenge of the Boarding School Dropouts
Now that their snowboarding school is a hit and their team is winning big, Eddy and Max enjoy success to the fullest. But with their hard-partying lifestyle, the dynamic duo might just be heading for a wipeout. If they dont want to lose everything theyve worked for, our heroes must valiantly battle the temptations of slackerdom and get their team back on track in this cool comedy starring Tom Green and Dave England.

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Gone, But Not Forgotten

Gone, But Not Forgotten
Drew (Aaron Orr) is a forest ranger who meets yuppie Mark (Matthew Montgomery) after he falls while rock climbing...

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Street Fighter

Street Fighter
A multinational military force known as the Allied Nations has managed to enter the fictional South East Asian nation of Shadaloo to combat the armed forces of a drug lord turned General named M. Bison, who has recently captured several dozen a workers. Via a live two-way TV broadcast, Bison demands Allied Nations regional commander, Colonel William F. Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme) secure a $20 billion ransom in three days, or he will kill the hostages and the world will hold Guile and the Allied Nations accountable. Guile's assistant, Cammy (Kylie Minogue), is only able to partially trace Bison's signal, determining that his hideout is somewhere in the river-delta region outside Shadaloo City.

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Predator 2

Predator 2
In 1997, Los Angeles is suffering from both a heat wave and a turf war between heavily-armed Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. A Predator watches a shootout between the police and Colombians, observing as Lieutenant Michael Harrigan (Danny Glover) charges into the firefight to rescue two wounded officers and drive the Colombians back into their hideout. Before the police can follow them in, the Predator crashes through a skylight and kills the Colombians. Harrigan and his detectives Leona Cantrell (María Conchita Alonso) and Danny Archuleta (Rubén Blades) find the Colombians have been slaughtered. Harrigan pursues the gang leader onto the roof and shoots him, catching a glimpse of the camouflaged Predator's silhouette, but dismissing it as an effect of the heat. Harrigan is rebuked by his superiors for disobeying orders. He is also introduced to Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), leader of a federal task force purportedly investigating the cartels, and Detective Jerry Lambert (Bill Paxton), the newest member of Harrigan's team.

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Liberty Stands Still

Liberty Stands Still
A gunman ties up an actor and locks him in his dressing room just before a performance. He also puts a bomb with a 90-minute timer next to the actor. Then, he goes to a room above an LA plaza and draws a bead on the actors lover, international arms dealer, Liberty Wallace. Calling himself Joe, he calls her cell phone, demonstrates that a rifle is pointed at her, and tells her to cuff herself to a hot-dog cart nearby (the cuffs are there). Over the next 90 minutes, the story unfolds as a result of his daughters death, he wants a public debate on the Second Amendment. As Liberty begins to bond with Joe on the phone, he gets some truths from her - and his revenge.

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