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Panic

#1 | Movie Reviews

Panic
Henry Bromell's Panic, is a perfect example of what the average independent film has become in 2000. It features recognizable stars and has the kind of storyline with the potential to play reasonably well in the average American multiplex. Like Grosse Pointe Blank, Analyze This, and TV's "The Sopranos", Panic features a premise that's quickly growing tired - that of a gangster/bad guy who visits a shrink. In this case, the patient is Alex (William H. Macy). Ultimately, the film is less about his relationship with his doctor (played by John Ritter) than about the reasons he's seeing a psychologist in the first place.

Panic

Gracie

#1 | Movie Reviews

Gracie
Gracie is a by-the-numbers sports drama about a young girl who defies the odds to succeed in an all-male arena. It's the kind of thing that might make for a compelling after school special, but is hardly what one expects to spend $10 for at a multiplex. The film hits all the expected high notes of melodrama, does plenty of preaching from the pulpit, and comes to a rather abrupt conclusion (immediately after the expected moment of redemption/triumph). Yet for all its faults, Gracie is made with enough grace to get us rooting for the protagonist. This is due more to the heartfelt performance of actress Carly Schroeder than it is the less-than-inspired inspirational screenplay by Lisa Marie Petersen and Karen Janszen.

Gracie

Bubble

#1 | Movie Reviews

Bubble
Bubble is a history-making movie: the first film released simultaneously in movie theaters, on pay-per-view TV, and on DVD. As the initial move toward the collapse of the multiplex-to-video window, it's a baby step. The film is an excellent choice for this. It's a low-budget, independent effort with little mainstream appeal. But Steven Soderbergh's name on it guarantees it won't be overlooked. For those not living near one of the thirty-odd venues offering Bubble on their marquee, there is no need to wait four months for home video availability. In fact, it's possible to argue that the DVD is the preferred way to see the film. It's not the kind of movie that will suffer from a reduction in screen size, and there are several valuable features on the disc (an intriguing deleted scene, interviews, and two commentary tracks) that are not found in theaters.

Bubble

Love Serenade

#1 | Movie Reviews

Love Serenade
Winner of the Camera d'Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Love Serenade, the feature debut of Australian director Shirley Barrett, has the kind of nasty, biting wit that juries at film festivals seem to appreciate. For the most part, movies tend to tell the stories of love affairs between the "right" people, with romance and fate being an integral part of the mix. Love Serenade is a clear exception -- call it an anti-romantic comedy. And, unlike Ellen DeGeneres' failed Mr. Wrong, with which it shares a few superficial characteristics, Love Serenade is well-written and ably acted.

Love Serenade

I Could Never Be Your Woman

#1 | Movie Reviews

I Could Never Be Your Woman
Considering the talent involved - writer/director Amy Heckerling (Clueless) and actors Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd - I Could Never Be Your Woman could contend for the most high-profile motion picture yet to take the direct-to-DVD route. This wasn't intended to be the path traveled by this motion picture; had all gone well, it would have been on multiplex screens a year or two ago. Financial mismanagement and bad decisions made the movie unreleasable and it languished until The Weinstein Company executed their home video rights. The result is a mixed blessing for Heckerling - her movie gets to see the light of day but it does so with the unenviable "direct-to-DVD" label. It's good enough to warrant better than the curt dismissal it is likely to receive in some corners.

I Could Never Be Your Woman

10,000 B.C.

#1 | Movie Reviews

10,000 B.C.
I suppose there's some entertainment value to be had from the sheer badness of 10,000 B.C. The movie takes itself serious enough that, viewed from a warped perspective in a state of inebriation, it might actually be fun. Seen in more mundane circumstances, however - such as after paying $10 at a multiplex - it's anything but that. 10,000 B.C. is one of those movies where one is tempted to ask aloud, "What were they thinking?" Its across-the-board clumsiness is surprising. One doesn't expect intelligent scripting or deep characterization from Roland Emmerich, but the film's lack of energy, poor special effects, and monotonous pacing lead to an inescapable conclusion: 10,000 B.C. isn't only brain-dead, it's completely dead. It's inert and without a heartbeat.

10,000 B.C.

Mifune

#1 | Movie Reviews

Mifune
It's refreshing to see a movie in which there are no special effects, no camera tricks, and no incidental music to strum on a viewer's emotional strings. These are some (but certainly not all) of the tenets of Dogma 95, the much-ballyhooed "cinematic vow of chastity" taken by four Danish directors, one of whom, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, is responsible for this film. In fact, Mifune is the third motion picture to receive the Dogma 95 seal of approval, following Tomas Vinterberg's The Celebration and Lars Von Trier's The Idiots (which has not been distributed in the United States). And, while I have an affinity for certain kinds of Hollywood overproduction, something like Mifune makes for a welcome contrast to the usual multiplex bombast.

Mifune

Mifune

#1 | Movie Reviews

Mifune
It's refreshing to see a movie in which there are no special effects, no camera tricks, and no incidental music to strum on a viewer's emotional strings. These are some (but certainly not all) of the tenets of Dogma 95, the much-ballyhooed "cinematic vow of chastity" taken by four Danish directors, one of whom, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, is responsible for this film. In fact, Mifune is the third motion picture to receive the Dogma 95 seal of approval, following Tomas Vinterberg's The Celebration and Lars Von Trier's The Idiots (which has not been distributed in the United States). And, while I have an affinity for certain kinds of Hollywood overproduction, something like Mifune makes for a welcome contrast to the usual multiplex bombast.

Mifune

RENT

#1 | Movie Reviews

RENT
Memo to director Chris Columbus: In most cases, it's a bad idea for a movie to be a direct representation of a play. "Opening up" the setting is sometimes not all that's necessary to make a stage production into something cinematic. In a theater, an intimacy exists between the players and their audience. This cannot be replicated on the screen; a substitute must be found for this, and a way must be divined to keep the energy level high. Successful musicals, like West Side Story and Chicago, find a way. Mediocre adaptations, like RENT, suffer and seem diminished as a result.

RENT

Royal Tenenbaums

#1 | Movie Reviews

Royal Tenenbaums
When I first heard the title of this movie, I thought it was a great ploy to release it around Christmas. Then I realized it was "Tenenbaums", not "Tannenbaums"... so much for that idea. Actually, Touchstone has elected a year-end release because they believe this movie, the third feature from critics' darling Wes Anderson (Rushmore), might have a shot at an Oscar or two. Despite the high profile cast, which features Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen & Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, and Bill Murray, the movie probably has limited box office potential - it's a little too quirky for mainstream America. But the mercurial Academy may feel differently about the production than the multiplex masses - at least that's the distributor's hope.

Royal Tenenbaums

Death of a President

#1 | Movie Reviews

Death of a President
It has been one of the hottest tickets everywhere in North America where it has been shown. Now, placed in a limited number of U.S. theaters despite the near-solidarity of a chain multiplex ban, the movie is opening less than two weeks before Election Day. That timing, one could argue, is a bigger political point that anything in the content. I'm referring to the pseudo-documentary Death of a President, which has received an inordinate amount of media coverage and has been tagged with the label "controversial." For this movie, as for Snakes on a Plane, the hype dwarfs the reality. Death of a President is celluloid mediocrity. It's neither interesting nor convincing.

Death of a President

Bandidas

#1 | Movie Reviews

Bandidas
In the history of really silly wigs, Dwight Yoakam’s long, crimped black hair in Bandidas has gone and snuck its way into the top ten. It’s part of the silliness of the film that stops it from being a truly terrible movie. That being said, there’s no other compliments I can ratchet out for this sucker.

Bandidas

Ready to Wear

#1 | Movie Reviews

Ready to Wear
"[Ready to Wear/Pret-a-Porter] is just a silly little movie, it's not a serious epic. So just enjoy, laugh with it, have a good time. It's no big deal."
- Robert Altman, director of Ready to Wear

One wonders whether Robert Altman arrived at that conclusion before or after the much-anticipated Ready to Wear was complete. Despite some delicious moments, this sluggish, overlong, halfhearted satire feels like a movie that wanted to go somewhere but never got there. With punches pulled and fangs capped, this look at high fashion is not at all what was expected from the director of The Player, one of the most vicious and biting sendups of the last two decades.

Ready to Wear

I Love You Too

#1 | Movie Reviews

I Love You Too
A commitment-phobe and a New Ager buddy-up to win over the women of their respective dreams.

I Love You Too

The Girlfriend Experience

#1 | Movie Reviews

The Girlfriend Experience
Steven Soderbergh makes two kinds of movies -- the Hollywood kind and the indie kind. Though let's be straight here: Even Soderbergh's indie films are essentially Hollywood. There's no risk involved with them from a financial perspective, and from the creative side they continue to lend the filmmaker the artsy street cred that allows him to go off and make big fluff films like Ocean's Whatever with impunity.

The Girlfriend Experience comes from the indie side of Soderbergh, a low-budget, quickly-made digital picture starring a cast of non-movie stars (though, in this case, not necessarily non-stars, depending on your knowledge of porn). It's far more enigmatic and challenging than any wide release multiplex picture you'll see these days, but does that automatically mean that it's better than those Hollywood types of movies?

The Girlfriend Experience