Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World (C-) unleashes more Jusassic Park dinosaurs but little of the imaginative whimsy for which he is famous. This unfocused action film coasts on a meandering plot with bland characters and a lack of discipline that sometimes results in self-parody.
P.J. Hogan’s My Best Friend’s Wedding (A) gamely casts Julia Roberts as the woman who doesn’t get the guy, and that drives her character crazy. Knocking the Pretty Woman off her pedestal turns out to be a winning formula for a spiteful revenge comedy co-starring Cameron Diaz, Dermot Mulroney and Rupert Everett. It’s cheeky and joyous.
David Mirkin’s film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (B+) is a surprisingly winning female empowerment comedy with Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino posing as impresario inventors to wow the folks they want to school with as they return to their ten-year get-together. Splashes of neon color, smart flashbacks, spicy writing and a potpourri of whimsical characters blend for an all-out comic joyride.
Every groovy costume, character and quirk in director Jay Roach’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (C-) suggests the film will be a smashing fun-fest. But regardless of the kitschy freeze frames, the spiraling flowers and the lace-lined crushed velvet suits, the film often strikes an empty pose. Mike Myers plays the zany leading character in this 007 spoof. It’s a flighty romp that seems more suited for a Saturday Night Live segment than a feature film.
David Lynch’s Lost Highway (C-) is a film noir with Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette that loses its way with some plotting hokum about characters that possibly move out of each other’s souls. It’s a jarring, disconnecting ride that starts with promise and goes off the rails.
For writer/director Kevin Smith, making movies seems a lot simpler than therapy. A pioneer of no/low budget films with his Clerks debut, he is creating a cottage industry out of working on his own hang-ups, insecurities and doubts on the big screen. It’s as if he says, “let’s have a dialogue” to his inner selves, and out pops a talky movie from his percolating psycho-mind. In Chasing Amy (A-), Smith further explores how one’s skewed outlook of the world alters one’s own relationships as a central character (Ben Affleck) determines if he can successful date and “convert” a woman who is a lesbian (Joey Lauren Adams). Funny friendship dialogue between Affleck and Jason Lee is a highlight; Adams is somewhat successful in embodying her part (it could be better written). Peppered with whip-smart wit and irrational human obsessions, it’s a mature look at human connections from a filmmaker who sometimes refuses to grow up.
Betty Thomas’ film about and starring controversial radio personality Howard Stern, Private Parts (B-) turns out to be more genial than genital. Instead of showcasing the sex-obsessed shock jock, the film portrays Stern as a doting husband. It’s sometimes sweet but not necessarily what fans may have expected. Still there’s plenty of funny stuff and gross gags here too.
Theodore Witcher’s Love Jones (B-) tells a love story set in Chicago’s sexy art district as Larenz Tate and Nia Long discover the pacing, rhythm and rhyme of romance to the beat of a modern beat poetry community. This slice of life pulses with power and opportunity; and even when it doesn’t land just right, it’s great to see a story told in this milieu with talented actors strutting their stuff.
Despite the big guns, street talk and Mafia themes, Mike Newell’s crime drama Donnie Brasco (B) is essentially a love story at heart. Al Pacino plays a mobster and Johnny Depp an FBI agent who infiltrates the 1970’s Mafia, but the betrayal to the friendship that ensues has echoes of infidelity. It’s great to watch Pacino and Depp act together and the latter act without eccentric makeup. It’s an original relationship movie amidst lots of great action.
Director John Singleton comes of age with the historical Rosewood (B+) which addresses the way hate breeds throughout generations. Ving Rhames and Jon Voight give affecting performances.
In the battle of ‘90’s volcano movies, Roger Donaldson, a craftsmanlike director who doesn’t veer too much from centrist entertainment, has made the best of the batch: Dante’s Peak (B). Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton provide enough human interest that when the blast of excitement happens, you still have some skin in the game about who survives.