EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS
"Not worth the ink"
Dir. Ellory Elkayem; writ. Jesse Alexander and Elkayem, based on story by Elkayem and Randy Kornfield; feat. David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, Scott Terra, Doug E. Doug, and Scarlett Johansson.
Do yourself a favor: Download the Eight Legged Freaks game from www.eightleggedfreaks.com instead of seeing the movie. The first-person shooter is free and has a storyline about as complex as the film — scream a lot, run around willy-nilly, and blast gigantic CGI arachnids.
The creators behind this flick couldn't decide if Freaks was going to be a spoof of, tribute to, or commentary on '50s sci-fi features, so they included a bit of each. The result is more Slugs than Scream and about as much fun as watching your computer crash.
Now, you can always go see the movie, but be warned: viewing this noisy, unoriginal film can permanently mar your soul. — John Brewer
"Internet twist not enough to save this horror Busta"
Dir. Rick Rosenthal; writ. Larry Brand, Sean Hood; feat. Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, Sean Patrick Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Katee Sackhoff, Ryan Merriman, Bianca Kajlich, Daisy McCrackin, Luke Kirby (R)
Despite a horror franchise full of shotgun shells, immolation, and decapitation, Boogeyman Michael Myers is back. Also back is Myers' sister Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), in a performance that will leave franchise fans scratching their heads. Adding to the bewilderment and dismay is the appearance of another rapper-cum-actor in the franchise's eighth installment. Three years after Halloween: H20, the makeshift masked maniac returns to discover Internet entrepreneur/Kung-Fu aficionado Freddie (Busta Rhymes) and six local college students Web casting live from inside the serial killer's nefarious house.
For Freddie and director Rick Rosenthal, showing unwitting, horny coeds curse and scream through the Myers place a la MTV's Fear is one surefire way to make money. But Rosenthal — who also directed Halloween II — deserves credit for frequently paying homage to John Carpenter's Halloween by depicting Myers as the same creepy "Shape" from the horror classic several times in Resurrection.
Yet the mayhem that ensues is bloody: Rosenthal splatters Resurrection with various grisly deaths (decapitations, impalements, head skewering, etc.) and shies away from the original's muted approach. Resurrection's screenwriters, apparently mindful of yet-another-sequel-cynicism, do rejuvenate the tired series with touches of The Blair Witch Project and Scream. But this quasi-novel approach is no treat once the plot relies on Rhymes' F-bomb-throwing, roundhouse-kicking character for comic relief.
Unlike his more subdued predecessor LL Cool J in Halloween: H20, Busta Rhymes busts out spewing some of the most ridiculous dialogue in the Halloween canon. Conversely, lines such as "Everyone is entitled to one good scare" — which encapsulated the original's mood and tone — are testaments to Halloween's sparse, yet revealing dialogue. With Resurrection, audiences have only to hear Rhymes shouting "Micheal Myers is a white shark in baggy-ass overalls," or "Trick or Treat muthafuckah!" to unmask this film's true-grue identity. — Albert Lopez
K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER
"Chilling tale of Soviet sub surfaces"
Dir. Kathryn Bigelow; writ. Christopher Kyle, Louis Nowra; feat. Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joss Ackland, Ravil Issyanov, Steve Nicolson (PG-13)
Opening titles announce that it took 28 years before this story of the Soviets' disastrous first attempt to deploy a submarine armed with nuclear warheads could be told. Kremlin secrecy is the obvious explanation for the delay, but the fall of the Berlin Wall also made it possible for Hollywood to portray Communist military men as something other than ogres. K-19: The Widowmaker is an American movie "inspired by actual events" that offers an inspiring portrait of heroic dedication to comrades, country, and peace. That its cast speaks English, with erratic Russian accents, proves who won the culture war. Imagine a Russian film about Teddy Roosevelt, or a Chinese production about the civil rights movement.
In July 1961, the nuclear reactor aboard K-19, on its maiden voyage, begins to melt down. The shoddy, ill-omened sub, 10 of whose crew died in dry dock, is commanded by Alexi Vostrikov, a martinet intent on proving he is a truer patriot than his father, a disgraced hero of the Revolution. Vostrikov clashes with his executive officer, Mikhail Polenin (Neeson), who sides with his submariners against Vostrikov's impossible demands. Tensions within the cramped vessel 300 meters beneath the sea become as hot as the reactor's core, on the verge of triggering a thermonuclear explosion and possibly even World War III. If you root for mutiny, think again. As Vostrikov, Harrison Ford augments his repertoire of facial expressions beyond just a scowl and a grimace. Despite a confusing conclusion, the film offers unexpected revelations of character, not just a debacle buried with its valiant victims. — Steven G. Kellman
LOVELY AND AMAZING
"Blurred take on four scattered lives"
Writ. & dir. Nicole Holofcener; feat. Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer, Raven Goodwin, Dermot Mulroney, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Legros (R)
When Elizabeth Marks' boyfriend leaves her, her mother tries to offer reassurance. "You're lovely and amazing," she insists, in a statement that gives Nicole Holofcener's film its title. But neither adjective is especially applicable. Her own agent describes Elizabeth (Mortimer), an aspiring actress, as "a neurotic mess." Lovely and Amazing is the mostly unsurprising story of how four insecure L.A. women — Jane Marks (Blethyn) and her three daughters — try to secure some bit of happiness within their coddled, curdled lives.
While vain Jane is recuperating from cosmetic surgery that almost does her in, daughter Michelle (Keener) reluctantly and resentfully cares for Annie (Goodwin), the 8-year-old daughter of a black crack junkie whom Jane has adopted. Michelle, who was high school homecoming queen, is not a happy homemaker. Her husband has, for credible reasons, grown weary of her, and all that she can think of to do to gain self-esteem is get a job at a photograph shop and commit statutory rape with her 17-year-old boss. Annie tries to eat her way to happiness, and Elizabeth, rejected for roles that she wants, takes on the task of adopting stray dogs. For her pains, one bites her in the face.
"Every child's entitled to a mother," says Jane, who is not very proficient in providing the entitlement. Despite its title, Lovely and Amazing, an Altmanesque mosaic of four scattered lives, is just bits and pieces. — Steven G. Kellman
REIGN OF FIRE
"When digital dragons attack, and lay waste to previous fire-breathing creations"
Dir. Rob Bowman; writ. Matt Greenberg and Terry Hayes; feat. Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco, Gerard Butler, Alice Krige (PG-13)
After lamenting "The only thing more dangerous than dragons are Americans," a ragtag group of British survivors helps a battered American army slay a dragon. So excited over the slaying are these oppressed Brits that they throw a party, blast Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" within their fortified castle, and flash spotlights through the dragon-patrolled air. Considering how preposterous these moments sound, it'd be safe to say Reign of Fire would meet a cheesy doom.
But, surprisingly, that's about as tongue-in-cheek as this dragon-centric film gets. Sci-Fi/Fantasy buffs also shouldn't worry about the dragons either: They're intelligent, terrifying CGI creatures that hiss, breathe, and roar with realism. They also leave the talking to the humans, resulting in the best dragons since Dragonslayer. Those human characters, however, do their best to complement these show-stealing dragons and accentuate this plot-driven tale of humanity's struggle to survive total extinction.
Attempting to bolster the human survival element (and maybe save some money), director Rob Bowman scrapped a $200 million Independence Day-style concept and opted for a more simplistic, gritty premise. After seeing his construction-worker mother accidentally awaken a dragon in London, Quinn (Bale) and his fellow survivors eke out an existence in a world ravaged and ruled by fire-breathing dragons in the year 2022. The village's chances for survival are augmented once the intense Van Zan (McConaughey) comes marching in with his well-armed band of Americans and dragon-slayer persona.
Sporting a bald head, dragon tattoos, a huge battle axe, and that omnipresent Texas drawl, McConaughey could've made Van Zan the Sci-Fi/Fantasy version of Apocalypse Now's Lt. Col. Kilgore. Instead, McConaughey tones it down with a surprisingly grim, nuanced performance. But in the end, Bowman garners the best performances from his dragons, which will undoubtedly blaze a new trail for future when-dragons-attack films. — Albert Lopez
STUART LITTLE 2
"There's a mousy sequel in the house"
Dir. Rob Minkoff; writ. Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel; feat. (voices) Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Melanie Griffith, James Woods, Steve Zahn, (actors) Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki (PG)
|Look deep in my mouth: Stuart Little during one of his celluloid adventures. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
Spectacular CGI effects notwithstanding, this sequel smacks of unseemly scenes of so-called "excitement." Mainstreamed into mediocrity, the Little family is less quaint and quirky than annoyingly normal — especially Mrs. Little, who overacts for two in this movie, with the unnecessary addition of a baby girl to the family.
Although the storyline borrows heavily from E.B. White's original book, introducing a sly sparrow named Margalo into the family, the script loses some sentiment in its desperately cool extreme skateboarding sequence, kamikaze crashes, and same stale soundtrack. The old-fashioned family feels funny this time around — but in a non-humorous way.
This $100 million flick should have been a straight-to-video endeavor, but if your 3-year-old drags you to the theater, focus on the fickle feline and the fantastic falcon — everything else falls absolutely flat. — Wendi Kimura