Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient (A-) is about love lost, planes crashed, bodies destroyed, candles extinguished and memories forever buried in the sand of a lonely desert. Gorgeously shot and leisurely paced with a modern story and flashbacks, the film includes a central doomed romance in pre-WWII North Africa between Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas and a subplot with Juliette Binoche (all outstanding performances) as a devoted nurse who connects several subplots. Unlocking the mysteries is part of the intellectual adventure, and those who are interested in austere and thought-provoking cinema masterworks will find sumptuous subtext in this challenging drama.
The man who played America’s top gun, a cocky race car driver, an acrobatic bartender, a brooding vampire and a covert operator is now on the sidelines as Tom Cruise plays the agent behind the sports superstars. Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire (A) is about a man who comes down to earth and discovers what truly matters when he finds romance, discovers a sort of surrogate parenthood and finds a client who can count on him regardless of his prestige. To paraphrase a famous line, the film “had me at hello” with superb performing performances by Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr. as the agent’s loyalists. Crowe uses lovely pop music including Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” to trace the emotional and romantic journey. Cruise has never been better and gives one of his most restrained and generous performances.
Wes Craven deconstructs scary with Scream (B+), a smart comedy/horror hybrid that features characters who are in the know about the rules of horror movies and still fall into their wicked traps. Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, David Arquette and Neve Campbell are strong in the ensemble, and Kevin Williamson’s witty screenplay is truly the star. Craven is the perfect veteran director to both amplify the body counts and multiply the laughs as the proceedings get more and more horrific.
Jeff Bridges and Scott Wolf headline a picturesque coming of age story in Ridley Scott’s White Squall (C). Despite navigating the young cast through a series of physical and emotional adventures, the makers fail to generate much central interest or momentum. it ultimately kinda looks like a cologne ad.
Kevin Pollack and Jamie Lee Curtis star in Harry Winer’s preposterous comedy House Arrest (F) about a bunch of kids who lock their bickering parents in the basement until they resolve their disputes. Billed as a family film, this pitiful exercise in annoyance wastes the talents of both its adult and child stars. It’s kind of the opposite of a night out (or in) at the movies.