Movie Reviews

In Theaters Now:

THE MUMMY RETURNS Alphaville - Universal 125 minutes PG-13.

Well, last month I said I was looking forward to this one and I was not disappointed! If you liked the first, you'll like this one. While it's basically more of the same, the more they give you this time is great fight sequences (maybe a little too under-cranked -- speeded up, which they do by reducing the shooting speed from 24 frames down to 20, 18 or 14, which we call undercranking from the days when you moved the film using a hand crank), lots of really good special effects, lots of monsters, lots of adventures, lots of funny lines -- there's never a dull moment from dear, old Mummy! Like I said, more of the same! And it's not boring, like the second Indiana Jones turned out to be!

Almost all of the characters from the original are here -- Rick and Eve are now married and have a young son. Eve's brother is still around freeloading off them (remember that bag of gold from the first movie, boy did it buy them a nice house)! Eve is now very sure of herself and no longer the klutz. It's junior (Alex, played by Freddie Boath) that now knocks over pillars and locks Scorpion King armbands on his wrist that won't come off, getting him in to trouble. The Magi Ardeth Bay is back working with them to stop evil in the world. The unfaithful Queen Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez) is back -- and this time with more than two lines -- as a reincarnate (Meela) who revives the High Priest Imotep who intends to defeat the Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson -- 'The Rock') and take his army so he can conquer the world! Also aiding the good guys is a new character, Izzy (Shaun Parkes), who has basically taken up the slack left by the poor departed Beni (who did get devoured by the Scarabs after all, it seems).

In the end Eve saves the day with a jousting contest against Anck-Su-Namun (it seems that Evie is also an incarnate of King Seti's daughter) and gives a helping hand to save her husband Rick from a real cliff-hanger!

The production crew is virtually the same as the first film: Stephen Sommers wrote and directed the epic, which has a battlefield sequence that makes Gladiator, Spartacus and even Starship Troopers look pale in comparison (special kudos to Hiro Koda, the fighting coordinator and Daniel Jeannette, the key animator)! Excellent sound design (multi-track stereo) by Lelsie Shatz, beautiful photography by Adrian Biddle and super effects by Nick Dudman and John Berton. They even have a real Egyptologist, Dr. Stuart Smith, to help make it somewhat accurate!

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hanna, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr.

A really great romp of a film! For most people, this is probably far better than Tomb Raider.

LAURA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER Paramount Pictures PG-13.

The movie that should have been, but wasn't.

For me, this movie was very inconsistent, when it should have been as cohesive as The Mummy Returns or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Largely I had problems with the intro and the very ending. Both of which should not have been done they way they were, especially the ending which looked like a hokey made for TV movie with that cliche freeze frame.

Angelina Jolie is potentially a good actor, when and if she gets there it will be totally up to her. In this movie, sometimes she hit the mark and other times she was off by a country mile. Largely the blame has to go to the director, Simon West, who is supposed to keep control of the film and draw a performance out of the actors. Jolie simply did not embrace the role of Laura Croft and make it hers, and the director didn't force the issue with her in the first outing. Maybe in future sequels Angelina will come to realize the latitude and attitude she must muster to make us believe in her as much as we did in Sean Connery, who was James Bond.

Where did she make the grade? Visiting her competition in his room and interrupting his shower to put him on notice that their peaceful coexistence was in jeopardy do to his current allegiances. She handled that scene quite well.

She also handled most of the action sequences very well. She's a very physical actor (and I've seen comments from viewers who felt she exaggerated about doing many of her own stunts -- and I take issue with them, she was up there doing a lot of physical work, taking some risks and did the action shots she was actually in, very well).

The movie is not a bad movie, but it's also not a great movie nor even a very good movie. It vacillates from fair to good. They did not develop the characters enough, even though they had plenty of time. They made it too slow and shallow in the beginning. Had it been deeper, the slowness might have worked. Since it was so shallow at times they needed to up the pace and cut out a lot of the set-up.

They took the worst elements of the game and left out elements that should have been mainstay in the series (if it is to become a series). The way, for example, some of the games begin (getting a phone call which sets up the mission) should have been utilized. Instead they chose a slow, droll, vapid psychological intro, as if this was supposed to be some deep Alfred Hitchcock film. The extra sub plots, with her father, for example, were largely unnecessary and could have been dealt with near the end, when she crosses the time barrier.

The script was over-packed with everything, including the kitchen sink, a director who didn't know what kind of a stew he was going to make while pushing a cute little girl around a big blue screen room and not giving her any motivation, except to act like a limited animation arcade game character... That simply was not enough to make this film work!

There is more depth to Jolie than she has yet to give us (I can see it... I can feel it... this girl has real power, and we saw a touch of it in the feature Girl Interrupted), but she has to come to the realization that a cute pout only gets you by in a film for just so long and that there is more to your body than just lips. You have eyes, brows, fingers, a nose -- a whole array of body parts with which to speak to the audience and what you choose to say must have a power or an attitude behind it at the core.

This could have been a stunning film and Jolie could have left the critics totally impressed with her command of a situation -- this simply didn't happen.

Since the movie is making money and drawing in an audience we may see Tomb Raider II down the line. I hope Angelina takes the bull by the horns and shows us a new dimension to Laura Croft -- one who is strong enough to transcend both bad script and bad direction, should that occur again. Again, it's not a bad film. It's easily better than the Avengers, which even the likes of Sean Connery couldn't save. I actually liked this film better than Swordfish!

The action sequences were quite good, well orchestrated, beautifully performed. Those out there saying that the movie had no plot are totally wrong. There was a plot and it was a good one. It just got watered down in the mess of a script that needed a consummate re-write artist, but didn't have one.

Did Jon Peters produce this film? It sure felt like one of his scotch taped, jig-saw puzzle pictures.

MOULIN ROUGE 20th Century Fox. PG-13.

This is a film for people of extremes: You either love it, hate it or simply don't get it. You really have to be a fan of gutsy musicals, such as the first film the director, Baz Lurhmann (Strictkly Ballroom and Romeo and Juliet), saw as a kid: Paint Your Wagon with songs sung by the likes of Clint Eastwood! While this movie was given an 8 minute standing ovation after it screened at the Cannes Film Festival...the director was also burned in effigy by some of the audience who called the film "anti-cinema."

The actors were picked for their singing ability (and to be frank, Nicole Kidman is in a league with J. Lo. -- see my review on J-Lo from last month!) but they give it a good shot and taking into consideration what the movie is supposed to be, it works well enough. (Do any of you remember similar experiments like Steven Bochco's Cop Rock from television or director Peter Bogdanovich's At Long Last Love -- both of which failed miserably with critics and the audience.) The movie is designed by the director to be very artificial -- as if you were seeing it on a live Broadway stage. He didn't want you to get lost and forget you were watching a movie. Every day he'd wake up at 5 am to start shooting and wonder if he was doing the right thing or not! To obtain the music used in the film from pop artists Lurhmann had to do a lot of political lobbying with the artists (David Bowie and Dolly Parton were among those who said yes, but Cat Stevens and Donna Summer turned him down). The critics are generally not being kind to this film. The film also stars Ewan McGregor and John Leguizamo, featuring 200 - 300 extras and dancers in some sequences.

LEGALLY BLONDE M-G-M Rated PG-13

The hair-brain comedy of the summer is taken from the Clueless mode which captured the attention of girls 16 to 20, who saw a little of themselves in that movie. I suppose they hope to see similar results with this effort.

First, the premise is a little hair-brained! A young man dumps his cute, blonde, honey (Reese Witherspoon) because he wants to go into politics and thinks he needs better? Huh? Who came up with this as a premise!? A politician doesn't want a cute, blonde, fluffy babe sitting in the back of the room, like John Dean's wife did during the Nixon era (and Mrs. Dean probably helped to make him the underdog hero with her sweet, silent looks).

Oh, well, you need a premise so we continue from here. So, to win back the love of her life this blonde babe decides to go to Harvard Law School and become a lawyer, and -- to the surprise of the entire student body -- Harvard accepts her (hey, she was in a Ricky Martin video, that's good credentials)!

So, now we've determined that this is a fantasy film -- and you have to have a pretty vivid imagination to accept a guy dumping a babe of a girlfriend and then Harvard taking this "Muffy" into their law school! We're not talking reality television, here. This is more like Fantasy Island...

Well, now at least, you understand the title: Legally Blonde -- you get it, right? Legal -- Harvard -- Law School -- Legal -- Legally -- Blonde Girl -- Legally Blonde. Clear now?

The film has some laughs and if you are taking out a girl who hates adventure films (which is about all we have this summer) then I supposed you will spend $30 on a pair of tickets for a film like this, a box of artificial butter flavor popcorn and a diet soda to show her a nice time. You will laugh at a lot of the situations and lines.

Personally, I'd watch this movie if it came on Showtime or HBO. It has some funny moments and entertainment value. It tries to be a little like Back to School or Clueless and it's a far cry better than some things, some people found funny, like American Pie (there's a sequel to Pie coming out real soon, too), which didn't make me laugh at all. Legally Blonde is better, for me, at least, than most Adam Sandler or Chevy Chase offerings.

FINAL FANTASY Colubmia Tri-Star

I saw a couple of teenagers heading to the theater, talking about this film. Well, if I were 16 years old, I'd probably go see this film and like it. It's sci-fi and I love sci-fi. However, this film hasn't got much more to offer than a the average low budget flick like Pitch Black which is currently airing on cable (in fact, Pitch Black was not all that bad of a film). It's no Alien, that's for sure. The special effects are a little thin and weak at times. Plus, the heroine has about as much emotion as a Barbie doll.

The concept of 'don't open the sealed thingy' is getting a bit worn -- and except for all the color effects, these sequences come from the last half hour of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The web site (Final Fantasy) seems more entertaining than most of the movie. The movie is better than most made for television sci-fi offerings, although I've seen some TV special effects that were superior. For those of you who are from the Electric Kool-aide era, this film would probably be very entertaining on a mystic, mushroom pizza night, just like the end of 2001. If you miss it, don't worry, it'll be on HBO or Showtime by Christmas and the Sci-Fi channel will probably run it well into the 22nd century!

Your money will probably be better spent on Legally Blonde! While Final Fantasy might make you squirm in your seat a little, you can do that just as well at home watching it on HBO or Showtime later this year!

THE PRINCESS DIARIES Walt Disney Pictures - Rated G.

A very old-fashioned, traditional type of Disney offering, much like the type that was made when he was alive, with a star like Haley Mills or Annette Funicello. In today's case, it's Anne Hathaway, who's a charming, total klutz who dreams of being more in life and gets a chance at the gold ring when Grand ma-ma (Julie Andrews of the Mary Poppins fame -- another Disney offering made long, long a-go, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth) brings the young girl to the Royal court of Genovia to become a proper Princess in this newest offering from Garry Marshall (who gave us Laverne and Shirley on TV).

Marshall, who is applying the successful elements of his previous efforts (especially Pretty Woman, which this is somewhat based upon, up to and including the casting of Hector Elizondo, in the role of the father figure who makes her transition into Princess very comfortable and humanistic) in this highly slapstick offering that is filled with some very funny, catastrophic bits and sequences including a Royal dinner in which everything that could go wrong, does go wrong (and then some)! This film doesn't have the daring of Pretty Woman nor the charm and sex appeal of a Richard Gere (who was also in Marshall's Runaway Bride) -- because he's not in it! So this is where the difference lies. Andrews and Hathaway both have a good presence and can handle the slapstick. If you've got a young girl between the age of 11 and 15 (who isn't into groups like Marilyn Manson) they should thoroughly enjoy this movie, as would the grandparents. For those out on a date, it's a hard one to call. Legally Blonde may fit a working class twenty-something audience a little more than this picture, but The Princess Diaries has some laughs and some consummate movie people behind it both on and off the screen.

Like I said, this is a very traditional, personally stamped Walt Disney picture -- much like the Parent Trap or Double Trouble was back in the 60's.

JURASSIC PARK 3 Universal Pictures

This epic doesn't have Steven Spielberg. Jeff Goldblum or even Sir Richard Attenborough behind the production effort. Instead we get director Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and The Rocketeer).

JP3 (I'm surprised that they haven't used this abbreviation for the series) does bring back Sam Neil (the Paleontologist, Dr. Grant) from the first movie, but not Laura Dern as his collaborator (instead we get a clone, in the form of Teá Leoni, remember her from Deep Impact?). Grant gets asked to go back to the original island as a consultant. Flying too low in an attempt to land (which Grant orders them not to do, for very good reasons, as we all know very well from JP1), their plane crash lands and they get stranded in Raptor-ville!

The bird cage is a new twist. Wanna know more, you'll just have to see it! It is scary, much like the first. Not as hokey as the second. Universal's attempt to franchise and clone huge reptiles (and maybe use up all the special effects shots left on the cutting room floor from the first outing).

Somewhat better than Final Fantasy and maybe even Tomb Raider. That ought to tell you something, eh?

SWORDFISH Rated R - Violence and nudity

A total let down for me. John Travolta was good and strong, yet he couldn't carry this film alone. Hugh Jackman is a poor man's (very poor man's) Mel Gibson. Producer Joel Silver's fire and car chases are getting old and thin (and this started with the last Lethal Weapon). Well, at least Halle Berry looks really hot in her outfits!

The entire movie got told to you by Travolta in the first 5 minutes. I could have left the theater after that and with the focus intentionally moving in and out, I was almost ready to leave! Those spot news, docu-drama opening touches told me this movie was out to be someone's dig me, aren't I cool, ego trip.

The computer sequences were bogus, as they usually are in movies (although the PDP-10 bit was interesting, but unnecessary -- and they actually found a real one, probably at the studio, to use as an insert shot, but you gotta be a true computer geek to appreciate this element).

I didn't understand the need for a flashback -- linear filmmaking (doing the story from start to finish) -- would have worked just fine. It was a cinematic gismo that simply didn't help the story, which should have started at the beginning and went straight to the end, instead of starting at the ending and going back to the beginning...

As with Tomb Raider the devices were all wrong. The writing was not cohesive enough. What we did have here was a stronger, central character in John Travolta who has always been in command since his days on Welcome Back, Kotter (and this was the element missing from Angelina Jolie in, Tomb Raider -- had she done a 'Travolta', Tomb Raider might have been the film of the summer).

Unlike Tomb Raider -- in which I saw a spark of potential -- I felt my $8.50 was wasted on this film.

If you really wanna see Halle's boobies, if you really want to see Travolta do his fast paced, heavy duty, used car sales pitch, if you really want to see cars blow up, wait for this film to come on HBO or Showtime -- it'll be there by Christmas, if not sooner... If you wanna take a date to a movie, go see something with more entertainment value like The Mummy Returns or even Legally Blonde!

I should have known something was up when the pitch line on TV for this movie said: "You'll believe a bus can fly." And to tell you the truth, when it did fly, I didn't really give a hoot!

--E.R.D.

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS Universal Pictures - PG-13.

When it comes to loyalties, where will this man's be placed?

Brian (Paul Walker) is undercover to solve a case involving street racers. A mysterious group of racers have been targeting 18-wheelers and robbing them of their cargo. Brian has been sent in to find out who is involved with these crimes.

The head of the racers is Dominic (Vin Diesel). He runs an auto body shop, but has his own street racer cars. Brian makes the connection with him by meeting his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). After attempting to beat Dominic at a street race, Brian is welcomed into his circle. Some of Dom's friends are leery of this newfound racer. The competition in Los Angeles with the street racer gangs is growing, but newcomers aren't welcomed in that often.

Brian enjoys the thrill of this lifestyle. He is soon working at the auto shop with Dom and falling for his sister. But the pressure from the police force and the FBI is making it hard on Brian. Where will his loyalties lie?

Ken Li and Gary Scott Thompson wrote "The Fast and The Furious". Rob Cohen ("The Skulls") did the direction. From the moment the movie started until the very end, you are on the edge of your seat. The cars in this film were exceeding 150 MPH and left you feeling dizzy from watching. The writers were able to intertwine different characters and stories just perfectly as to not confuse the viewer or give out too much information. The street racing was thoroughly enjoyable to watch, but nerve-wracking nonetheless.

The cast for this film was top notch. Newcomer Vin Diesel was outstanding. His performance as Dom was moving, intriguing and compelling. This is Diesel's first lead movie role and he pulled it off with flying colors. With his deep voice and physically fit physique, he could play the street racer, head honcho or the believable boyfriend. His appearance on screen is captivating.

Paul Walker portrayed the undercover police officer in a new light. He gave the role a heart. He wasn't just an officer out for the kill; he played the part as a human being out to do the right thing. This is Walker's second starring role. His first was opposite Joshua Jackson in the movie "The Skulls" in 2000.

Needless to say, I would recommend this film. It was fun, action-packed and interesting. It is a great "date movie" having a little bit of everything incorporated into it. Go see it on the big screen!

Enjoy!

(c)2001 Kelly A. Capossela

Kelly works out of the East coast and has been writing movie reviews regularly on the internet. You'll find a lot of her other reviews at http://4starmoviereviews.tripod.com/4starmoviereviews/ including many movies now out on DVD, Video or showing on HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and the Movie Channel.


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