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Recent Reviews

The Day After Tomorrow
Dir. Roland Emmerich; writ. Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff; feat. Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Sela Ward, Kenneth Welsh (PG-13)
Certain people out there are going to feel very silly about trying to make a political event out of The Day After Tomorrow - a film which is not only not educational, but could be taught a thing or three (about physics, motivation, and cell-phone reliability) by reasonably smart folks in the audience. As a piece of entertainment, though, the film has an old-fashioned sensibility that (compared to director Roland Emmerich's bloated Independence Day, say) could almost be called modest. Tomorrow has the quasi-scientific moorings of classic '50s sci-fi. Paleoclimatologist Dennis Quaid announces that the end is nigh because, speaking of the salt/freshwater mix that produces oceanic current, "We've hit a critical de-salination point." Long story short, the northern hemisphere is about to be flash-frozen, and Quaid's kid (Gyllenhaal) is on a field trip to NYC. Tomorrow ends not with a plucky action hero, but with Mother Nature deciding she's done enough. Survivors emerge, and Gyllenhaal earns his lady's love. And from its new home south of the border, the White House admits that it was wrong all along about its environmental policy, and that it will do better henceforth. Now that, my friends, is a science-fiction movie. JD

Garfield: The Movie
Dir. Pete Hewitt; Prod. John Davis; Writ. Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow, based on the comic strip by Jim Davis; feat. Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky; Garfield's voice by Bill Murray (PG)
The 25-year-old comic strip leaps from the funny pages to the big screen in this movie devoted to Garfield, the curmudgeonly, rotund, yet lovable cat who gorges on lasagna, watches bad TV, and sleeps 18 hours a day. Just like many Americans. Jon (Meyer) tries to charm Liz, his former high school crush and veterinarian (Hewitt) by taking in Odie, a stray dog that has been left at the clinic. To Garfield's chagrin, Jon dotes on the new arrival. A jealous Garfield lures and locks Odie out of the house, and as dogs tend to do when allowed to roam without invisible fencing, Odie runs away. During an afternoon of channel surfing, Garfield spots Odie on TV and, realizing that he misses his canine pal, sets off to rescue him. Garfield is the film's only computer-generated character, and he convincingly unlocks cages, reroutes trains, and prompts a prison break from the animal pound. Yet his human emotional qualities teach kids that animals can feel love, grief, jealousy, and pain. As Garfield steps off the curb for the first time to rescue Odie, he announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, Garfield has left the cul-de-sac." In this act of bravery, Garfield realizes that to reap life's rewards, we often have to navigate a hostile world. LS

Gloomy Sunday (Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod)
Writ. & dir. Rolf Schübel, based on a novel by Nick Barkow; feat. Erika
Mározsan, Joachim Król, Ben Becker, Stefano Dionisi, András Bálint (R)
Suffused with the delicate Weltschmerz of 1940s Budapest on the brink of devastation, Gloomy Sunday, like Casablanca, tells a story of love, loyalty, and betrayal set against the backdrop of World War II. Gloomy Sunday is generated by a romantic Pythagorean theorem, a triangle in which two men agree to share the affections of one gorgeous woman. Laszlo (Krol), the generous and sensible restauranteur, fills Ilona (Mározsan) up with more than his renowned beef roulade. András (Dionisi), a brooding musician who composes a melancholic song that inspires dozens of suicides, keeps her on edge. Hans (Becker) is a German colonel willing to overlook Laszlo's Jewishness in order to savor his roulade, listen to András' song, and ogle Ilona. It becomes impossible to extricate love from death as the Nazis set about eliminating Hungary's Jews and the plot thickens to the consistency of Laszlo's most exquisite roux. Despite the stunning resolution in its final frames, a viewer is not easily released from the spell of Gloomy Sunday. SGK

Robot Stories
Writ. & dir. Greg Pak; feat. Tamlyn Tomita, Sab Shimono, Wai Ching Ho, Greg Pak (NR)
If robots are machines in human form, they can teach us something about what we think it is to be homo sapiens. Written and directed by talented novice Greg Pak, Robot Stories is composed of four separate, exemplary tales about the nebulous boundary between man and machine. An independent production devoid of expensive, and unnecessary, special effects, it offers crisp glimpses into a near future in which the intelligence is artificial but the emotion is real. SGK

Saved!
Dir. Brian Dannelly; writ. Dannelly, Michael Urban; feat. Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker (PG-13)
Mary is a student at an all-Christian high school. She's cute, white, and upper-middle class, just like most of the people around her; she's also part of the school's social elite, a clique called the Christian Jewels. When she realizes that her boyfriend is gay, Mary hallucinates a vision in which Jesus instructs her to save him; she eventually gives her virginity to the guy, who isn't converted but does impregnate her. There are laughs to be found here, sure, but they don't add up to much; and they definitely don't sell the basically humane themes - that life is full of gray areas, that the world is big enough for all kinds of people - that the filmmakers think they're advancing. JD

Super Size Me
Dir. Morgan Spurlock (NR)
In Super Size Me, his first feature film, Director Morgan Spurlock serves as his own guinea pig to test the hypothesis that a steady diet of fast food is hazardous to a consumer's health. By the final frames, a vigorous man in his thirties has become a depressed, exhausted maw, a swollen bundle of human tissue diagnosed as gravely ill. Spurlock resolves that for an entire month he will eat three meals a day at McDonald's. He will order everything on its menu at least once and will opt for the largest portions whenever prompted by an employee. From beginning to end of his dreadful ordeal, Spurlock is monitored by three increasingly appalled physicians and pitied by his vegan girlfriend. Super Size Me is a 96-minute anti-commercial, designed to demonstrate that Big Mac means big trouble. The film also includes conversations with John Banzhaf, the law professor who took on the tobacco industry and now challenges fast-food merchants; David Satcher, former surgeon general of the United States; and Marion Nestlé, a prominent critic of the food industry. The success of fast-food chains is symptomatic of a culture of narcissism, in which nothing is more compelling than individual comfort. After Super Size Me, no one can consider cheeseburgers a comfort food. SGK

The Terminal
Dir. Steven Spielberg; writ. Sacha Gervasi, Jeff Nathanson; feat. Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Kumar Pallana, Zoe Saldana, Eddie Jones (PG)
Tom Hanks plays this guy from the former Soviet Union who has just landed at a New York airport. Trouble is, while he was in the air a civil war broke out in his home country; when he lands, his country doesn't exist. Bureaucrats at the airport can't recognize his papers, because they come from a defunct nation, and can't think of any way to handle his case, so they tell him he has to stay in the terminal until they can work something out. He lives in the airport for nine months. The Terminal could be a Kafka-esque nightmare, or a redemptive adventure story, but no matter how you play out the plot, it's essential that you play it like a fable, that you acknowledge the premise is ridiculous and its details are not to be taken literally. Unfortunately, Spielberg does. JD

Two Brothers
Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud; writ. Alain Godard, Jean-Jacques Annaud; feat. Guy Pearce, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Freddie Highmore (PG)
Though Guy Pearce, playing a great white hunter, author, and looter of antiquities, has the largest speaking part, the leading men in Two Brothers are adorable tigers named Kumal and Sangha. What Babar did for elephants and Bambi for fawns, this film does for tigers: It humanizes them, which is preferable to demonizing them, but, given the film's dim view of our species as greedy, vain, and stupid, humanizing is a kind of libel. Two Brothers follows Kumal and Sangha out of the jungle and into the clutches of human captors, Kumal as a slave to the circus, Sangha into the private zoo of a pompous local potentate. "After this is all over," says Pearce's Aidan McRory, when the film is almost all over, "I'll never touch a gun again." Two Brothers offers a lesson in respect and restraint. Two Brothers concludes by announcing that, though there were 100,000 a century ago, only 5,000 tigers remain in the wild today. On the evidence of this film, it has been an incalculable loss to the acting profession. SGK

White Chicks
Dir. Keenen Ivory Wayans; writ. Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Andrew McElfresh, Michael Anthony Snowden, Xavier Cook; starring Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Terry Crews, Rochelle Aytes, Anne Dudek. (PG-13)
It took six writers to craft the screenplay for White Chicks, the latest comedic effort from director Keenen Ivory Wayans. Among them, this army of writers managed to concoct two lengthy fart scenes, one puke scene, one panty-sniffing scene, one toenail-in-the-champagne-glassscene, and countless riffs on the classic man-gets-his-testicles-scrunched routine. White Chicks is the story of FBI agents Kevin and Marcus Copeland (played by real-life brothers Shawn and Marlan Wayans), who are forced to impersonate two white, female Hamptons socialites in danger of being kidnapped. The result is an unholy union of Eddie Murphy's old Saturday Night Live skit "White Like Me" (itself a parody of the book Black Like Me) and Bosom Buddies. The script is so lame it can't even keep its repugnant stereotypes straight. The real stars of this debacle are the makeup artists who transform Shawn and Marlon Wayans into reasonable facsimiles of Hamptons socialites. If only a fraction of that commitment had gone into the screenplay, White Chicks might register as a guilty pleasure. As it stands, it's a depressing dud. GG


Films reviewed by:
GB: Gregg Barrios
JD: John DeFore
LMF: Laura Fries
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
WK: Wendi Kimura
AL: Albert Lopez
JM: Jonathan Marcus
AP: Alejandro Pérez
RP: Rich Perin
LS: Lisa Sorg
JW: Joe Weiss
EW: Elaine Wolff


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