video/dvd reviews
2003-2004

All reviews by Jason Aaron

 

The Three Musketeers

Back in the glory days of the 1940s, Mickey Mouse and his pals Donald Duck and Goofy were the crown jewels of Disney’s animation empire. These days their rare cartoon appearances are mere afterthoughts compared to blockbusters like Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

Now that the geniuses at Pixar are taking their product elsewhere, Disney itself has vowed to close down its traditional animation division and focus on computer generated films. Perhaps as some sort of last hurrah for the old hand-drawn days, Disney has released The Three Musketeers, starring its old stalwarts, Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Though it features some humorous Three Stooges-style gags, the films is eventually undone by its horrible musical numbers, which are “comical spins” on the music of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. If you’re a fan of the original Disney characters, do yourself a favor and pick up the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs, which collect decades worth of classic shorts. (G) Rating: 1; Posted 9/3/04


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

If you didn't see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind during it's theatrical release earlier this year, then you missed the best film of 2004. Forget Spider-Man, Will Smith, Jesus and the year's other blockbuster action heroes, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's beautifully eccentric and wildly imaginative masterpiece puts all of them to shame.

You may know Kaufman from his previous films, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, both critically acclaimed for their clever and oddball premises. Fortunately, unlike those two efforts, which were more fun to describe than actually sit through, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has a concept that pays off.

Jim Carrey (the superstar funny man in his best dramatic role to date) and Kate Winslet (who most of the world remembers from that little movie about the leaky boat) play a dysfunctional couple that can’t seem to stay apart, despite having their memories of each other erased. Considering the outrageous storyline and surreal imagery, it’s mind-boggling that this film turned out so emotionally powerful, especially in the hands of a director (Michel Gondry) best known for his music videos.

If you’re in the mood to have a mini-Kaufman film fest, then you should also pick up his grossly under appreciated 2002 adaptation of Gong Show host Chuck Barris’ autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. (R) Rating: 5; Posted 9/3/04


Late Night with Conan O'Brien – The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Thanks to talk show host Conan O'Brien, late night TV has become home to such outrageous characters as a masturbating bear and a robot pimp, as well as skits like "If They Mated." Undoubtedly, O'Brien's greatest contribution to television comedy has been Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a character responsible for what some have rightly called the funniest moments from the last ten years of television.

Created and voiced by former Saturday Night Live writer Robert Smigel (also remembered as one of "Da Bears" Superfans), Triumph's appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien have made him a pop culture star, complete with his own CD and music video. This new DVD collects Triumph's most popular escapades, including his dog-humping visit to the Westminster Dog Show, his appearance on Hollywood Squares (where he sat next to Kathy Lee Gifford), the notorious altercation with rapper Eminem at the MTV Video Awards, and most notably, his hilarious roasting of Star Wars’ fans waiting in line for the film's premiere. (NR) Rating: 5; Posted 9/3/04


Coffee and Cigarettes

The newest film from maverick director Jim Jarmusch is a series of vignettes, featuring an eclectic cast consuming massive amounts of coffee and cigarettes. The caffeine and nicotine consumption are all that connect these different segments, which were filmed over the course of almost two decades. Some of the scenes prove memorable, others utterly pointless. The best of the bunch are the newest shorts, one of which features actors Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan playing themselves, and another has Oscar winner Cate Blanchett playing double roles. The rest of the oddball cast includes Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Spike Lee’s siblings Joie and Cinque, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes, Bill Murray and rappers GZA and RZA.

Unless you're a hardcore Jarmusch fan or you've secretly been dying to see Murray rif with the Wu-Tang Clan, you probably won't find much here to your liking. (R) Rating: 3; Posted 9/3/04


The Barbarian Invasions

Sometimes it seems like nothing is harder for Hollywood to pull-off than the straightforward, honestly emotional family drama. Thankfully, our hockey-loving, bacon-producing neighbors to the north don’t seem to have that problem. From Canadian director Denys Arcand comes The Barbarian Invasions, a darkly funny and powerful meditation on one man’s death and the friends, family and former lovers who gather around him for the end.
Rémy (Rémy Girard) is a college professor who has spent his life pursuing both intellectual and sexual extremes.

Now, as his life slips away from him, he’s left to take stock of what he actually achieved along the way and what he never gained, like a relationship with his millionaire son. An unglamorized if offbeat portrayal of death, The Barbarian Invasions is an extremely smart, well-written example of how moving and meaningful every day drama can be. Hollywood take note. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 8/5/04


Kill Bill Volume 2

The first half of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill opus was a mad, bloody pastiche of Japanese samurai sword fights, gory anime and various pop culture tidbits from the last 30 years or so. In other words, most everything that the ingenious, man-child writer/director loves. The whole package was also wrapped with the gorgeous camera work, fractured narrative structure and super slick soundtrack that have become Tarantino trademarks.

Kill Bill Volume Two expands the lists of influences to include cheesy Chinese Kung Fu flicks and visceral 1970s American revenge films, like 1977’s Rolling Thunder, a Tarantino favorite. Taken all together, it’s an impressive collection of references and cinematic styles. Unfortunately, the pay-off of Volume Two fails to live up to the promise of Volume One. Sure, Uma Thurman‚s vengeful Bride finally does get to “Kill Bill” as you might expect, but compared to the final 30 minutes of Volume One, Volume Two’s climax is thoroughly under whelming. It’s great, bloody fun seeing The Bride hack and slash her way through Bill’s minions, consisting of Michael Madsen as a self-loathing, down-and-out swordsman and Daryl Hannah as a sinister one-eyed assassin. But once they’re both disposed of, the film loses all momentum. After three hours of over the top action, we’re left with some oddball family drama and a long meditation on Superman.

With both DVDs now available, fans can finally watch both halves as one film, the way Tarantino originally intended. Unfortunately, I think you’ll find that while impressive in its scope and style, Kill Bill peaks about two hours too soon. (R) Rating: 3; Posted 8/5/04


Freaks

Despite all the gory films made to look like music videos and the million dollar special effects of Hollywood’s last few decades, when it comes to being downright bizarre and visually surreal, few films can match director Tod Browning’s infamous 1932 cult classic Freaks.

Browning was a colorful eccentric best known for directing the original Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. For Freaks, Browning assembled a cast of real-life sideshow superstars, including Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, Human Skeleton Peter Robinson, Half Man/Half Woman Josephine Joseph, microcephalics Zip and Pip (inspiration for the cartoon “Zippy the Pinhead”) and Johnny Eck The Legless Boy. The scene-stealer among the group is Radian The Human Torso, who in one legendary scene demonstrates how he lights his own cigarette (top that, David Lynch).

This story of betrayal, which was banned in Great Britain for 30 years, begins when a beautiful acrobat and her strongman boyfriend decide to seduce a dwarf in order to steal his inheritance. When the circus performers decide to take their revenge on the scheming beauty, you end up with what is absolutely one of the Top Five most bizarre endings in movie history.

Now that this Citizen Kane of cult classics is finally available on DVD, don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself, as long as you’re not afraid of becoming “One of us! One of us!” (UR) Rating: 5; Posted 8/5/04


The Passion of the Christ

Unless you recently awoke from a coma, you probably already heard something or other about this little movie. Christians around the world flocked to it in droves, while critics (generally a godless, heathen bunch) were, on average, less than enthused. For those who already have a deep, personal connection to the story of Jesus, director Mel Gibson’s mercilessly graphic movie will surely prove deeply affecting. However, when you look at The Passion of the Christ as merely a film and not a piece of religious dogma, it proves dull, excessively violent and even laughably ridiculous in parts.

Gibson's decision to have a pale-faced, androgynous Satan float wordlessly through the background of several scenes comes off as hokey and over-the-top. When the devil shows up at one point cradling some sort of deformed, demonic Mini-Me, it's apparently supposed to be a creepy perversion of the Virgin Mary with child, but it proves about as creepy as a clip from an Ozzy Osbourne video.

Actor James Caviezel finally lives up to some of the promise he showed in 1998's The Thin Red Line by delivering an admirable performance, even though it consists for the most part of simply stumbling around, near death. However, no level of fine acting can elevate the sappy, melodramatic flashbacks showing Jesus and his mother in happier times, including the young carpenter's apparent invention of the table and chair combo (I seem to forget that Bible passage.).

Is the film anti-Semitic? Will it bring lost souls to Christ by demonstrating in graphic detail how he suffered on the cross? It's hard to answer those questions. But bottom line, it's easy to see that this is simply put a weak and deeply flawed film. (R) Rating: 2; Posted 8/5/04


The Station Agent

Films as tender and relaxed as The Station Agent just don't get made anymore. Well-made feel-good movies are, for the most part, a thing of the past. Last year's Whale Rider, regarded by many as 2003's best film, was a major exception. Though The Station Agent wasn't as lauded as Whale Rider, it did prove a real crowd-pleaser at the Sundance Film Festival, taking home awards for writer/director Tom McCarthy and actress Patricia Clarkson.

Peter Dinklage plays a sullen dwarf who inherits an abandoned train station and with it, a town full of nosey neighbors. Simple, subtle and sweetly humorous, The Station Agent is a great way to waste a couple of hours curled up on the couch. (R) Rating: 3; Posted 7/4/04


City of God

Larry Clark's Kids is one of the most disturbing films of the last several years, featuring grade school kids embroiled in sex and drugs. City of God is similar in theme only with loads of guns thrown in. Think Kids mixed with Goodfellas and you've got a good picture of this breathtaking film.

Teenage gangs rule the streets in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, but young Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) dreams only of being a photographer. Over the years, it falls to him to bare witness as hoods rise and fall, and the slums are consumed with violence. From the time he was just a small boy, Lil Dice (Leandro Firmino in a haunting performance) has been the most ruthless gangster on the streets, but he'll never be satisfied until the whole neighborhood is his.

Based on real events, this dark epic has all the energy and flash of a first-rate music video while still boasting the drama of an intense documentary. Not to be missed. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 7/4/04


Hellboy

Like a cross between X-Men and Ghostbusters, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is a collection of government-funded, super-powered oddballs who spend their nights battling other super-powered oddballs for the fate of the world. The misfits include a telepathic fishman, an emotionally fragile firestarter and a big, red demonic manchild with a soft spot for kittens (and these are the good guys).

Based on a comic book series by writer/artist Mike Mignola, the film does a great job of translating Mignola's lush, atmospheric artwork into cinematic eye candy, including dead-on character designs and CGI effects that blend seamlessly with the live-action shots. Unfortunately, for a setup this offbeat and imaginative, Hellboy takes itself awfully serious at times.

An unrequited love and a strained father/son relationship pack far less wallop than Hellboy's stone-fisted right cross. Hellboy works best when the action and the witty one-liners are coming fast and furious. When it pauses for melodrama, you start to realize that at a little over two hours, it's a little too long. (PG-13) Rating: 4; Posted 7/4/04


Playmakers (The Complete Series)

Lots of different TV shows made their debut on DVD lately, including all 52 episodes of the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon (from the days when TV cartoons had a 5-cent budget) and the 1970s live-action Wonder Woman series (from the days when young boys everywhere loved to watch Linda Carter change clothes by spinning around really fast). There have also been new seasons of high profile shows like Six Feet Under, The Simpsons and All In The Family. Amidst all that, it might be easy to forget about Playmakers, the first original dramatic series produced by ESPN.

Playmakers follows the behind the scenes drama of a fictional pro football team, including the struggles of a veteran running back returning from a knee injury, the wild young running back who claimed the starting job, a hard-hitting linebacker haunted by his past, a banged-up quarterback forced to play through pain and the coach who tries to hold them all together. Football has rarely, if ever, been adequately dramatized on screen, but Playmakers scores big, thanks to executive producer John Eisendrath and a cast of largely unknowns. One of the standouts is Tony Denison as coach George, a role that finally lets Denison make good on the potential he first showed 18 years ago on Crime Story (another great TV show now available on DVD).

It's not hard to figure out why the NFL pressured ESPN to can this show since it gives away far too many of pro football's dark secrets. For example, episode three, "The Piss Man," details the elaborate lengths players go through to beat drug testing. This three-disc set features all 11 episodes of the show's run, a short but memorable run that proved once and for all that ESPN is about more than just "Sportscenter," "College Gameday" and daytime flashbacks of Lou Ferigno in his prime. (NR) Rating: 4; Posted 7/4/04


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Aside from all the Oscars it took home earlier this year, Return of the King should also claim the prize as the most over-praised move in film history. It isn't anywhere close to being one of the greatest films ever, as some have claimed. It wasn't the best film of 2003 (that title should have gone to Whale Rider or 21 Grams). It's not even the best of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The accolades the movie received were really meant for the series as a whole, which of course was a mammoth accomplishment that fully deserved lofty praise.

However, when judged solely on its own merit, Return of the King proves too long and too cluttered to be considered perfect. Granted, the effects are flawless, the battle scenes stand head and shoulders above most any others ever filmed in terms of grandeur. Director Peter Jackson is able to maintain a high level of tension throughout, or at least until the ending, which staggers on far longer than it should…Tolkien be damned.

As with most any great journey, this quest of hobbits, dwarves and wizards seemed far more exciting when it was just beginning rather than once they finally reached their objective. (PG-13) Rating: 3; Posted 6/4/04


Bubba Ho-Tep
This is one of those films that boasts an interesting premise, but ultimately proves more enjoyable to simply describe than to actually sit through.

B-movie superstar Bruce Campbell (the Evil Dead series) plays an aging Elvis Presley, who's living in a Texas nursing home under the guise of an Elvis impersonator. Ossie Davis (NAACP Image Awards Hall of Famer) plays another resident at this colorful little retirement home who believes himself to be JFK, dyed black. Together, the pair must battle a resurrected Egyptian mummy who feeds on souls while dressed like a cowboy.

Sounds like the makings of a camp classic, right? Especially given Campbell's spirited performance as the cranky old King, who doesn't let a bad hip stop him from doing a little Kung Fu Fightin'.

However, director Don Coscarelli, creator of the low budget horror hit Phantasm, can't work the same magic here. At times, Coscarelli seems to think his film is creepy, funny, even dramatic (as Elvis longs to be reunited with his family), yet all it really achieves is a steady dullness. (R) Rating: 2; Posted 6/4/04


Walt Disney Treasures Wave Three (Limited Edition)
The third wave of the Limited Edition series of Walt Disney Treasures features several cartoons that the kids will love, including Mickey Mouse's most popular appearances, and the first ever Donald Duck compilation, as well as various programs that extend far beyond the typical kiddie fair.

Walt Disney On The Front Lines is a collection of WWII era educational films and recently declassified training material that boasts several fascinating shorts. You'll see Minnie Mouse and Pluto demonstrate how cooking fat can be turned into ammunition; the Seven Dwarfs combat malaria and even a goose-stepping Donald Duck, who wakes up inside a nightmarish Nazi world in the hilariously surreal "Der Feuhrer's Face." There's nothing hilarious about "Education for Death," which in its details of a young Nazis education, proves to be the most grim bit of animation Disney has ever produced.

Walt Disney On The Front Lines also includes the feature length Victory Through Air Power, which just like the rest of these rarely scene bits of history, features gorgeous art that ranks alongside Disney's most revered films. Walt Disney's Tomorrowland also features plenty of rarely scene or never-before-shown material, thought in this case it's relating to the then burgeoning idea of space exploration, as well as Walt's ambitious, utopian hopes for his Disney World Resort in Florida.

The Chronological Donald Volume One
collects the famous Duck's cartoon appearances from 1934 to 1941, including the first appearances of Daisy Duck and Donald's rambunctious nephews. Mickey Mouse In Living Color Volume Two covers Mickey's career from 1939 to 1995 and features his best-know works, such as "Mickey and the Beanstalk" and "Mickey's Christmas Carol." Considering how horrible Disney's new animated material is, it's at least refreshing to see that they still know how to treat the classic works in their vaults. (Unrated) Rating: 5; Posted 6/4/04


Bad Santa
Except for being without a doubt the boldest and freshest comedy in years, Bad Santa almost defies description.
How do you describe a film this painstakingly vulgar and still convince someone that it has real heart, which it does. In fact, I'd say it packs ten times the emotional warmth of any lame Tim Allen holiday snooze fest. You just have to dig beneath the layers of gross-out jokes and offensive behavior.

But don't worry, it's easy, since you'll be laughing your way through the entire film. Unless, of course, you're the type of movie fan who's eager to be offended. In which case, this story of an alcoholic department store Santa (played by the expertly cast Billy Bob Thornton) and his relationship with a misfit kid should definitely stay off your Christmas list. (R) Rating: 5; Posted 6/4/04


Addio Zio Tom (Goodbye Uncle Tom)
Without a doubt one of the most shocking and bizarre films ever made, Addio Zio Tom must be seen to be believed. Originally released in 1971, this Italian-made docudrama of the 19th century American slave trade was considered so inflammatory that it was completely recut and heavily edited before release. This director’s cut DVD (which was released a few months ago, but has only just recently begun to trickle into local, independent video stores) showcases the complete, uncut film for the first time anywhere.

It's hard to say that watching this sweeping, brutal film is really an enjoyable experience, especially considering there's no narrative, but instead just an endless stream of violence and perversion. However, one can only marvel at the achievement. Utilizing a massive cast of mostly Haitians, the writing/directing team of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco E. Prosperi crafted epic scenes of mind-blowing atrocities, juxtaposed with a call for violent revolution (think Nat Turner with an afro), all set to an outrageously cool score.

Is it over-the-top? Just a little. Educational? Hard to say. Exploitative? Probably. Unforgettable? Definitely. But is it for everyone? Definitely not. (NR) Rating: 4; Posted 5/7/04


King of New York (Special Edition DVD)
Next to Scarface (which got the special edition DVD treatment last year), Abel Ferrara’s hip-hop crime drama King of New York is the favorite film of every red-blooded, American gangster rapper.

Inspired in part by the rhymes of rap pioneer Schoolly D, King of New York was one of the first dramatic films to prominently feature rap music on the soundtrack. This story of a recently paroled drug kingpin reclaiming his old territory also features a terrific cast, including David Caruso (as a pre-NYPD Blue rule-bending cop), Victor Argo (whose recent passing ended a storied career of tough guy roles), Christopher Walken (as the cold-blooded king himself) and Larry Fishburne (from the days before he got an Oscar nomination and became “Laurence”), who steals every scene he struts and giggles his way through.

Among other highlights, the swan song for Fishburne’s gold chain and Kango-clad triggerman features what is easily one of the screen’s most memorable screams (think about it, they're tough to pull off). If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, know that this Special Edition DVD also features documentaries on director Ferrara and rapper Schoolly D. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 5/7/04


The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai is among the most predictable films you’ll ever see. Before you even press play, you'll already know that the alcoholic antihero is going to eventually get his act together, learn to fight like a true warrior and ultimately save Japan for all future generations, while also finding a little romance along the way. Basically, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the whole film.

So why is it still so enjoyable? Thank Tom Cruise, who brings real integrity to his shallow role as a Civil War vet haunted by his grisly past, who's seduced by the mysterious world of the samurai. Also thank director Edward Zwick, who's obviously studied the classic samurai films of Akira Kurasowa (like The Seven Samurai), as the battle scenes and sword fights here are stellar. Zwick, of course, has previous experience with sweeping battle scenes from his stint directing the 1989 Civil War tearjerker Glory.

While the plot packs no surprises whatsoever, The Last Samurai does score a few points for swapping the typical, Hollywood love scene for a moving sequence where Cruise's love interest dresses him for battle. Though it's a guilty one, The Last Samurai is still a pleasure to watch. (R) Rating: 3; Posted 5/7/04


The Pit Poet Picture Show
Without a doubt, 39th Street is one of Kansas City's most unique and vibrant districts, and Prospero's Books is a major reason why. The Pit Poet Picture Show serves as a suitable introduction to Prospero's Pit, the monthly poetry readings held at the store. The creation of J. Stapleton Jr., who previously filmed No War on Sundays profiling the anti-war movement in Kansas City, this DVD serves as a backdrop to round-robin, free–for-all readings, where amateur writers from across the city gather to present their latest works. The crowd has grown from just a handful in the early days to a healthy throng, where readings can go on for hours.

Though this short documentary contains little footage of the actual readings, it does feature interviews detailing both the excitement and tragedy within this artistic setting, as well as exclusive performances by local poets Bob Savino, Caroline O’Brien and Victor Smith. Smith's poem about a drug-addled couple overheard at a bus stop is easily the most affecting work. The DVD's special features include 22 minutes of bonus scenes (almost as long as the film itself) including a few more poems and interviews.

If you're not familiar with the eclectic trappings of KC's 39th Street and you've never checked out Prospero's lively poetry readings, The Pit Poet Picture Show may just whet your appetite to do so. (NR) Rating: 3; Posted 5/7/04


Dirty Pretty Things
Dirty Pretty Things has to be one of the coolest movie titles of recent memory, and it's the perfect moniker for this haunting love story about the tarnished, voiceless souls who so often fall through the cracks of society. Audrey Tautou, star of the quirky French hit Amelie, stars as an illegal immigrant working as a chambermaid at a London hotel. There she befriends a kindred spirit, a former doctor with a dark past (brought to life in an eye-opening performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor). When their hotel turns out to be part of an underground organ trade, both desperate immigrants are forced to decide just what price they're willing to pay for freedom. Like director Stephen Frears's previous films (The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons), Dirty Pretty Things is a menacing mix of authentic suspense and complicated romance. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 4/2/04


The Magdalene Sisters
While Mel Gibson's visually-assaulting but seriously flawed The Passion of The Christ is making believers swoon all across the country, a far more profound religious experience awaits viewers of a far-less heralded film, The Magdalene Sisters. Based on actual events at the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, this powerful film tells the story of three young girls who were condemned to lives of forced labor for such severe crimes as being pregnant, being raped and simply being too pretty.

A scathing indictment of religious hypocrisy, writer/director Peter Mullan's film was initially condemned by the Catholic Church. However, after a groundswell of grassroots support, it has helped shine a spotlight on the actual women who endured life in these prison-like sweatshops that were a source of significant revenue for the Church right up through the 1970s. At present, the only controversy surrounding this brutal little film is whether or not it's brutal enough, as the real-life victims of the Magdalene Sisters say their actual experiences were far worse. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 4/2/04


Kill Bill, volume one
Much was made of the amount of violence displayed in this, the 4th film from Gen X auteur Quentin Tarantino. One high-profile review even called it the bloodiest mainstream film ever made. However, if you're familiar with the type of beautiful ballets of bloodletting showcased in Japanese classics like Lightning Swords of Death, then you'll realize that Tarantino is merely doing what he does best: sprucing up neglected genres.

Kill Bill is Tarantino's love letter to Japanese samurai films, Chinese Kung Fu flicks and 1970s American revenge films like Rolling Thunder, jazzed up with pop culture tidbits like Bruce Lee's yellow jumpsuit from Game of Death, the jazzy theme song from the 1960s Green Hornet TV show and even legendary Martial Arts idol Sonny Chiba himself. Uma Thurman stars as The Bride, a bad-ass assassin back for vengeance on the former cohorts who betrayed her. There's not a lot of meat on the story (especially since this is just one half of a film that proved too long), but as long as you're willing to be distracted by the amazing fight choreography, you'll never notice the lack of plot or characterization. As with Tarantino's previous films, it's not necessarily about the story he's telling, but instead about how he's telling it. And Tarantino tells this one beautifully. Bloody, but beautiful. (R) Rating: 5; Posted 4/2/04


Matrix Revolutions
Last year's Matrix films rank alongside The Godfather III and Star War Episode I as the most disappointing sequels (or prequels, whatever) in movie history. The Wachowski brothers' status as Hollywood golden boys sure didn't last long. After these two pretentious, convoluted and colossally boring duds, they've found themselves replaced as sci-fi/fantasy darlings by a certain barefoot New Zealander with a hobbit-sized stack of Oscars. With their next film, maybe the Wachowskis will return to the moody, low-budget roots they displayed in their 1996 debut, Bound. You're far better off renting that then Matrix Revolutions. Unless of course you're actually looking for ridiculous dialogue, laughable death scenes, computer generated gaudiness and a perplexing, thoroughly unsatisfying ending. In which case, this is the film for you. (R) Rating: 1; Posted 4/2/04


The Missing
This search for a vicious witch doctor who hangs snakes from trees and buries men’s hearts could have played like an Old West version of The Silence of the Lambs. Unfortunately, director Ron Howard didn’t have the guts for that.

Despite how creepy the trailers looked, what Howard delivers is a poorly paced Western
that’s only slightly creepier than Little House on the Prairie and significantly less compelling than the John Wayne classic The Searchers, of which it seems a shoddy remake.

Cate Blanchett is a fiery, widowed rancher whose absentee father, played by Tommy
Lee Jones, has just recently returned home after years of living among “the savages.” When Blanchett’s daughter is abducted by a scar-faced Indian medicine man she’s forced to form an uneasy alliance with Jones in order to track them down. The resulting scenes of family drama are well-played and rarely overdone, thanks of course to Jones and Blanchett, who both deliver typically terrific performances.

It’s the action scenes that fall flat, proving convoluted, pointless and utterly devoid of dramatic impact, right up to the grossly anti-climactic finale, which plays more like a rough cut than a finished film. (R) Rating: 2; Posted 3/15/04


Veronica Guerin
It’s going to take a hell of a lot of effort before director Joel Schumacher can ever make up for his wretched past, most notably his murder of a promising Batman franchise with the colossal clunkers Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Veronica Guerin is a nice attempt at redemption, but it still falls flat, thanks to Schumacher’s tendency to avoid subtlety and originality at all costs.

This is a by-the-numbers retelling of an Irish journalist’s true-life battle against Dublin’s most powerful drug lord. Oscar winner Cate Blanchett gives a solid performance as a lionhearted woman who’s in way over her head, but despite some occasional thrills, the film can never rise above Schumacher’s bland handling.

For residents of present day Ireland, the real Veronica Guerin was a courageous and foolhardy fighter whose sacrifice continues to be celebrated. Unfortunately, this film is both forgettable and best forgotten. (R) Rating: 2; Posted 3/15/04


Duplex
Dark comedy is a tricky thing. Get it right, and you’ll have hilarious results. Get it wrong, and you’ve got a disaster. Unfortunately, director Danny DeVito has experience with both. His successes include the 1989 hit War of the Roses and the critically damned but surprisingly funny Death to Smoochy.

DeVito’s latest effort, Duplex, is an absolute disaster from start to finish. Ben Stiller
(who seems to alternate good and terrible films) and Drew Barrymore star as a married couple with an annoying, elderly neighbor. Think Throw Momma From the Train, only without the train. Or the laughs.

Like many of DeVito’s films, the violent shenanigans of the characters play like the cartoon antics of Wyle E. Coyote, rarely ever causing real injury. Viewers, however, will definitely feel the pain, as they suffer through every un-funny minute of this dud. (PG-13) Rating: 0; Posted 3/15/04


House of Sand and Fog
Ben Kingsley is quite simply one of the finest actors working today. Though his roles have ranged from a Nobel Prize winning pacifist (Gandhi) to a growling, snarling, mad dog killer (Sexy Beast), the one consistent element throughout his career has been his complete dedication and believability, no matter the character’s accent, nationality or situation.

In House of Sand and Fog, Kingsley plays a complicated Iranian exile whose new house is meant to be a business venture to aid his struggling family, but ends up being a source of great trouble and tragedy. As the home’s rightful owner, Jennifer Connelly leaves behind her flirtation with anorexia and post-Oscar doldrums, erasing all memory of her unhealthy outing in the Hulk. Connelly and Kingsley are both excellent as morally ambiguous characters caught beneath an impending doom from which there is no escape. (R) Rating: 5; Posted 3/15/04


Open Range
With his 1992 masterpiece Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood raised the bar so high that he probably put the final nail in the coffin of the western genre. Kevin Costner apparently didn’t get the memo. Costner’s lame attempt to craft a revisionist gunfighter’s tale of his own boasts all the machismo of the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns (like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly), but none of the characterization or moral ambiguity that made Unforgiven such a compelling classic.

The heroes of Open Range are New Age cowpokes (gruff on the outside, with Dr. Phil on the inside) who eat, sleep and breathe clichés. Other than the always-terrific Robert Duvall, the film’s only saving grave is the chaotic final shootout.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to sit through almost two hours of stale romance and dry exchanges to get there. (R) Rating: 2, Posted 3/7/04


Alice in Wonderland (Masterpiece Edition DVD)
By 1951, when Walt Disney released his animated version of Alice in Wonderland, it had been in development for over 20 years. Obviously, Lewis Carroll’s whimsical, meandering tale proved a tough book to adapt.

The finished film was too offbeat and unorganized to rank among Disney’s elite efforts, like Dumbo and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Still, the film is a testament to the sense of imagination and adventure that Disney’s animation studio once possessed in spades. This new Masterpiece Edition features several special features unearthed from the Disney vaults, including a newly discovered Cheshire Cat musical number, the Mickey Mouse animated short “Thru the Mirror” and various Alice-related TV programs of the 1950s.

The DVD’s more up to date features include a Virtual Wonderland Party and the Adventures in Wonderland set-top game. While this set doesn’t offer a new documentary look at the film, it does include a behind the scenes special from 1951 that provides a glimpse at how Disney used to be, and how it will seemingly never be again. (G) Rating: 4, Posted 3/7/04


Matchstick Men
Writer/director David Mamet is the master of films about con artists, films where the plot twists and turns like a roller coaster ride. If only Mamet had done Matchstick Men. Instead, it’s like Mamet-lite with a quirky but kind-hearted con man and a plot that takes one major twist. If you don’t see that twist coming, this will be an enjoyable though ultimately forgettable ride. If you do see it coming, then Matchstick Men loses every bit of dramatic tension and becomes so obvious and heavy-handed that not even Nicolas Cage’s terrific performance can hold your interest.

Ridley Scott is a fine director (despite Hannibal) and co-star Sam Rockwell is a fine, young actor (check out his performance in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), but instead of renting Matchstick Men, why not take in one of David Mamet’s masterpieces, like The Spanish Prisoner or Heist, and leave the conning to the experts. (PG-13) Rating: 3, Posted 3/7/04


Comic Book: The Movie
Late last year, the History Channel aired an intelligent, in-depth documentary tracing the history of comic book superheroes. At the same time movie theaters were showing American Splendor, one of the year’s best films, which also happened to be based on an underground comic series. Unfortunately, whenever it looks like comic books are creeping toward mainstream respectability, something like Comic Book: The Movie comes along to drag them back into the mire of geeksville. Even worse than the painstaking lack of humor (which is usually detrimental to a film that purports to be a comedy), this mockumentary’s most disgusting trait is that so many noteworthy people such as comic legend Stan Lee, indie filmmaker Kevin Smith and Jedi master Mark Hamill were involved in its creation.

If you’re not a comic fan, there’s probably no way in hell you’d ever pick up this film. Yet, even if you are a self-proclaimed comic geek, you should still avoid it like the plague. It will only make you ashamed. (PG-13) Rating: 0, Posted 3/7/04


The Italian Job
To put together a successful heist flick, you’ll need some quirky characters, exotic locations, a healthy dose of technical expertise, a lightning fast pace, and above all else, enough smarts to stay one step ahead of the viewer. The Italian Job fits the bill.

Despite being a remake of a 1969 Michael Caine film, this effort from director F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator) comes off as fairly fresh. Mark Wahlberg stars as a charismatic criminal mastermind whose motley crew of thieves includes wisecracking computer hacker Seth Green and lovely lock-pick Charlize Theron. These crooks wind up having to steal a boatload of gold, not once but twice, after they’re double-crossed by one of their own (played by a contractually obligated Edward Norton). If you’re looking for a slick, funny and never dull excuse to down a lot of popcorn, this one will do. (PG-13) Rating: 3, Posted 11/14/03


Raising Victor Vargas
It’s terribly rare these days to find a romantic comedy that’s of any substance, let alone one that involves teens. That’s what makes Raising Victor Vargas such a godsend.

As scripted by writer/director Peter Sollett, Victor is a troubled, teenage boy in the inner city. His “coming of age” involves a grandmother at her wits end, a younger brother who’s just hitting puberty, a sister who’s determined to make his life a living hell and the gorgeous, young girl of his dreams who won’t give him the time of day. Though it boasts plenty of raw honesty, Raising Victor Vargas proves itself far more satisfying, sympathetic and endearing than that other, more-infamous exploration of teenage sex-lives, 1995’s Kids. (R) Rating: 5, Posted 11/14/03


Chicago
While 2001’s Moulin Rouge is generally credited with reviving the long dead movie musical that title rightly belongs to Chicago. It wasn’t the best film of 2002, not by a long shot, regardless of how many statues it took home on Oscar night. But Chicago is definitely the most stylish and enjoyable musical in many a year. Starring Renee Zellweger and Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones as a couple of sexy, murdering vixens with jazz in their hearts, Chicago also features surprisingly adept musical performances from master character actor John C. Reilly, rapper Queen Latifah and a tap-dancing Richard Gere.

Where Moulin Rouge was gaudy and soulless, Chicago proves that a little bit of style and inventiveness goes a long way (and this from a guy who usually likes his musicals to have cute cartoon animals). (PG-13) Rating: 4, Posted 11/14/03


Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Best known for the uber-oddball Being John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman was the screenwriter behind two notable films in 2002. One inspired a high degree of controversy and critical acclaim, while the other seemed to slip completely under everyone’s radar. That’s unfortunate, considering Confessions of a Dangerous Mind outclassed Adaptation in every conceivable way.

Sam Rockwell (Heist, The Green Mile) delivers an absolutely uncanny, bravura performance as Gong Show host Chuck Barris (don’t miss Rockwell’s hilarious, dancing screen test among the DVD’s special features), and actor George Clooney proves himself to be a remarkably accomplished director in his first appearance behind the camera.

Kaufman’s screenplay is an adaptation of Barris’ Unauthorized Autobiography, which detailed his supposed exploits as a CIA assassin. Surprisingly, the surreal subject matter actually lends itself to several moments of honest emotion, in addition to loads of dark humor. (R) Rating: 5, Posted 11/14/03


The Lion King (Special Edition DVD)
The Lion King remains one of Disney’s most majestic and entertaining animated films, not to mention its most financially successful. Unfortunately, it also remains the source of great controversy.

Among the bonus features of the new two-disc Special Edition DVD is the discussion by filmmakers of the various influences on their story, including Joseph Campbell, the Bible and Shakespeare. The one obvious influence not mentioned is Kimba the White Lion, a Japanese TV series that first aired in the 1960s. Many animation fans remain quite furious that Disney denies any connection between the two despite the fact there is striking similarities between the general plot, most every main character, various scenes and even specific images.

This DVD release boasts a nice selection of features, including an all-new song sequence, deleted scenes, 5.1 Enhanced Home Theater Mix and Experiential features and games, but an acknowledgement of the film’s true roots would have been even more welcome. (G) Rating: 3, Posted 11/14/03


28 Days Later
When the summer’s two most over-hyped films (The Matrix Reloaded and The Hulk) prove to be glossy bores, it’s inevitable that a film like 28 Days Later emerge as a sleeper hit. This low-budget horror flick from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) should remind viewers that computer-generated effects aren’t necessary to deliver a kick-ass adrenaline rush.

Despite being shot on digital video for next to nothing, this story of a plague-ravaged London where enraged zombies stalk the living is so stylish and charged with kinetic energy that it makes the recent Matrix sequel look like the stilted posturing that it is. An amped-up homage to zombie classics like Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later isn’t scary enough to keep you up at night or haunt you for days like the marketing suggests, but it does display a maturity and wit that’s sorely lacking in many films of this genre. (R) Rating: 4, Posted 11/14/03


The Who: The Kids Are Alright (Special Edition DVD)
Though the band probably really died in 1978 when drummer Keith Moon finally succumbed to a lifetime of notorious excess, the passing last year of bassist John Entwistle was definitely the final nail in The Who’s coffin.

Coming exactly forty years after their very first recording, this new two-disc Special Edition DVD of their performance compilation, The Kids Are Alright, serves as a fitting tribute to some of rock’s most accomplished musicians. Originally released in 1979 and often ranked among the greatest rock films of all time, The Kids Are Alright features footage that covers The Who’s entire career, including a literally explosive appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, their legendary 4 a.m. performance at Woodstock and countless other TV gigs, promotional clips and rare interviews. Of the DVD’s countless special features (including the year’s coolest menus), the most poignant is undoubtedly the isolated audio track for Entwistle’s bass playing, which explains why he was called “Thunderfingers.” (NR) Rating: 5, Posted 11/14/03


Whale Rider
In a year dominated by uninspired sequels and moronic, major studio duds, it’s beautifully poetic and wildly refreshing to see a film like Whale Rider. While not innovative, groundbreaking or stylistically remarkable, it is —hands down — the most satisfying, inspiring and emotionally affecting film of the year.

In one of the most amazing child performances ever shown on screen, 11-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Pai, a native of New Zealand devoted to her tribe’s tradition and history but not able to live up to her grandfather’s narrow-minded expectations.

The ridiculously undeserved PG-13 rating is yet another example of why the Rating Board desperately needs a radical overhaul. If you’re the type of moviegoer who complains that the films today only celebrate sex and violence and that there’s hardly anything out there that’s suitable for family viewing, then Whale Rider is a movie that should supported in every way. See it, fall in love with it and tell your friends. (PG-13) Rating: 5, Posted 11/14/03


Finding Nemo (2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD)

These days, the magicians at Pixar stand head and shoulders above every other animation studio, including the once supreme Disney, now notable only as Pixar’s distributor. There’s a good reason Finding Nemo is the highest grossing animated film in history. Despite classics like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo is easily Pixar’s finest film. Viewers tag along as a worrisome clownfish and his peppy, memory-challenged colleague embark on an undersea odyssey from the beautiful Great Barrier Reef to the confines of a dentist’s aquarium.

Like most of Pixar’s DVDs, this one features worthwhile bonus features, including a documentary, educational guides to underwater life, a virtual aquarium feature and a visual commentary that mixes deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes clips. Saying it is such a cliché, but sometimes clichés are true: This really is fun for all ages. (G) Rating: 5, Posted 12/12/03


X2: X-Men United

While X-Men started off magnificently and then fell apart at the end, X2 starts off slow and unfocused before bringing everything together perfectly for the final showdown.

Returning for the second go-round, mutant-wise, are Wolverine, Storm and Jean Grey (all three of whom finally get to cut loose with their powers), Cyclops (who does little besides get his ass kicked, twice), Rogue (though without any real purpose, other than to look cute) and Professor X (who’s surprisingly clueless and helpless for the world’s most powerful telepath).

The dastardly Magneto and his sexy sidekick Mystique are back as well, though they’re not the true villains of the story. That title goes to Stryker (played by brilliant character-actor Brian Cox), a merciless general out to rid the world of mutants.

X2 is conversely darker and more humorous than its predecessor, but most importantly, it features the type of high-stakes action scenes that fans have been dying for. (PG-13) Rating: 4, Posted 12/12/03


Crime Story (Season One DVD Set)

Most moviegoers think of Michael Mann as the director of acclaimed films like Heat and The Insider. More serious fans know him as the creator of the 1980s TV hit Miami Vice. Only hardcore fans know Mann as the executive producer of Crime Story, one of TV’s great, unsung classics.

This tough-as-nails cop drama introduces Dennis Farina, a former Chicago cop making a nice living playing movie tough guys and near-do-wells (Snatch and Get Shorty). Lt. Mike Torello was the defining role of Farina’s career and the driving force behind Crime Story’s brilliance.

Playing a gruff cop with a bad marriage, a short temper, a gutful of gravel and a merciless job working major crimes in 1950s Chicago (and later in Las Vegas), Farina never seemed to be acting. This unforgettable but short-lived series also featured great performances from Anthony Denison as the up and coming crime boss who is Torello’s arch enemy, with comedian Andrew Dice Clay and creepy Silence of the Lambs star Ted Levine as seedy hoods, not to mention appearances by stars like Michael Madsen, Gary Sinise, Ving Rhames and Julia Roberts. (NR) Rating: 5, Posted 12/12/03


Blue Car

With this weepy, independent drama, soap opera star and writer/director Karen Moncreiff serves notice that she may one day make a great film. Blue Car shows promise, but little else.

This is the story of a teenage girl who's using poetry to try and make sense of her angry, distant mother, her absent father and her deeply troubled little sister, not to mention the poetry teacher whose interest in her seems to go a tad beyond the simply tutorial.

Already an accomplished actress at age 18, Agnes Bruckner delivers a convincing performance as the main character. Bruckner manages to outshine virtually all of her adult costars, including veteran actor David Strathairn, who plays the concerned yet lustful professor.

Movie screens never really suffer from a glut of coming-of-age stories starring young girls, so it’s great to see Moncreiff attempting to fill the void. Blue Car isn’t by any means a bad film. It’s just not a particularly memorable one. (R) Rating: 2, Posted 12/12/03


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

“Pirates of the Caribbean” is a Disney amusement park ride where plastic pirates with stiff, squeaky movements chase one another in endless circles. If it weren’t for the outrageously energetic performance of Johnny Depp, this film version would have about as much life as that aging ride.

For his role as the gleefully wicked scalawag Jack Sparrow, Depp drew inspiration from mush-mouthed rocker Keith Richards, giving viewers a pirate who appears to spend the film’s entire 140-minute running time in a state of mild inebriation. Compared to Depp, everything else in Pirates of the Caribbean is merely window dressing, most notably his co-stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who display all the charisma of well-sculpted mannequins.

Director Gore Verbinski does jazz things up with a touch of the same visual flair he displayed in The Ring, and the computer- generated skeletal pirates are far less rickety than their animatronic inspiration. But still, without Depp’s energy, this would be just another forgettable thrill ride. (PG-13) Rating: 3, Posted 1/8/04


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

In 1967, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had all the makings of a classic. Three years after the success of Disney’s Mary Poppins, MGM was able to reunite that film’s star, Dick Van Dyke, with its legendary composers, the Sherman brothers. This new children’s film would be of an epic scope, as penned by Willie Wonka creator Roald Dahl and based on a story by James Bond author Ian Fleming. Unfortunately, all that creative talent did not translate into a great film.

While Chitty Chitty Bang Bang does boast some outrageous musical numbers, gorgeous sets and wacky props, its most notable these days for its oddball pop culture significance. Older viewers will get a kick from seeing naughty comic Benny Hill playing a kindly toy maker, and fans of Marilyn Manson can gaze upon one of the shock rocker’s early inspirations, namely the terribly creepy Child Catcher, whose dialogue was sampled on Manson’s first album. Even if you’re a fan of this film from childhood, you may find it far more enjoyable to simply watch the bonus features, as Van Dyke’s memories of the filming are more entertaining than the actual film. (G) Rating: 2, Posted 1/8/04


Out of Time

Just when you think you’ve seen the height of improbability in Hollywood storytelling, along comes something like Out of Time to raise the bar for all future screenwriters who aspire to ineptitude. This murder mystery starring Denzel Washington makes improbable circumstances and boneheaded characters into an art form.

Washington plays a dimwitted yet tenderhearted sheriff who attracts both beautiful women and serious trouble like flies. When his gorgeous mistress turns up dead, his gorgeous, estranged wife is called in to investigate the murder, leaving the sheriff to rely on his wise-cracking sidekick to help him save his own hide. The plot twists here prove almost as exciting as a game of Twister and make about as much sense as well.

If Out of Time has any redeeming element, it’s Washington; as yet again he’s forced to demonstrate how to inject even the most ridiculous dialogue with a sense of drama. (R) Rating: 1, Posted 1/8/04


Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete First Season

Despite the fact that one of the greatest sitcoms of all time bore the name of its star, writer Larry David has clearly shown that his talent was just as important as Jerry Seinfeld’s in the success of Seinfeld. David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm is like Seinfeld only without the censors and double the angst. If it weren’t for the fact that the show is almost entirely improvised, it would definitely sweep the writing categories at the annual Emmy awards. As it is, David will simply have to settle for having the funniest show on television. For that, he can thank his co-stars including comedian Wanda Sykes, and former Seinfeld star Julia Louis Dreyfus, whose relationship with David goes all the way back to their Saturday Night Live days.

This new DVD set includes all ten episodes from the show’s first season, as well as the HBO Comedy Special that first introduced the world to David’s lovable loser. (NR) Rating: 4, Posted 1/8/04


Swimming Pool
If there was a sexier film than Swimming Pool in 2003, someone please clue me in. As far as I'm concerned, this steamy French mystery takes the prize.

Noted actress Charlotte Rampling plays a middle-aged British mystery writer who retreats to the French countryside, looking for peace and quiet. Instead, she finds a gorgeous, young sexpot played by gorgeous young actress Ludivine Sagnier (currently appearing in theaters as Peter Pan's Tinkerbell). The older woman's fascination with the younger serves to fire her creative energies and ultimately weaves a web of seduction, secrets and perhaps even murder.

Despite her young costar's stunning looks, Rampling is still the heart of the film's sexual fire. Almost thirty years after her suspenders-clad dance in the classic film The Night Porter, Rampling even adds another nude scene to her resume. Though the twist ending may leave the viewer feeling a little cold, the rest of this film will surely warm your fires. (R) Rating: 4, Posted 2/7/0


Capturing the Friedmans
This is a film so compelling, perplexing and provocative that it could only ripped straight from reality. What begins as a documentary about a professional clown turns into a showcase for home video footage of a family in the midst of utter chaos.

You'll have to decide for yourself just who to believe in this documentary about a small-town, middle-class computer teacher and his teenage son who are both brought up on charges of child molestation.

Capturing the Friedmans provides an unprecedented look at a seemingly normal family as it's ripped to shreds by bizarre revelations and horrendous crimes. It's impossible to place complete trust in any of the people presented throughout this film, which leaves the viewer with nagging questions that can linger long after seeing the film. Nothing about this film is simple, save its importance. It is undoubtedly one of the year's best. (NR) Rating: 5, Posted 2/7/04


Lost in Translation
It's great to see that at least one member of the Coppola family is still capable of quality work. While legendary director Francis Ford Coppola has gone from making celebrated epics like The Godfather to being a filmmaker of very little consequence, his daughter Sofia has done an exemplary job of keeping up the family name.

First off, the young director deserves enthusiastic kudos for resurrecting the career of Bill Murray, one of the most under-appreciated and sadly misused actors of his generation. Murray's role in Lost In Translation as a jaded, aging movie star who's weary of everything in his life, fits him so perfectly that it's literally impossible to imagine anyone else in the part.

This film is a romance between two lonely Americans trapped in Tokyo, one more subtle, beautiful and emotionally honest than most other romantic comedies. While her father's flawless epics defined the latter part of the 20th century, director Sofia Coppola has crafted a flawless film of her own, thereby serving notice that she'll be among the filmmakers to define the new century. (R) Rating: 5, Posted 2/7/04


American Splendor
On paper, this film looks like a disaster. How can there be drama where a film's real life inspiration pops up to remark how little he resembles the actor who's portraying him?

American Splendor breaks plenty of rules in the way it mixes fictionalized scenes, stylized interviews, actual footage from Late Night with David Letterman and panels from the comic books that inspired the whole thing. It's a wonder that it works at all, let alone to such perfection.

He may not look exactly like the real Harvey Pekar, but Paul Giamatti still does an amazing job capturing the gruff, comic curmudgeon. Hope Davis gives an equally adept performance as the neurotic fan that winds up marrying her favorite underground comic writer. In a year when X-Men 2 and The Hulk assaulted the senses of moviegoers, it's great to have a film like American Splendor to remind the world that comic books are more than simply superheroes in spandex. (R) Rating: 5, Posted 2/7/04


Film ratings range from “0” (watch TV instead) to “5” (a must-see).

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