The Birdcage. Mike Nichols' big-budget remake of the 1978 La Cage aux Folles involves a gay drag club owner, Armand Goldman (Robin Williams), who lives with his star performer and longtime boyfriend Albert (Nathan Lane), and the imminent marriage of Goldman's son (Dan Futterman) to the daughter of a right-wing, homophobic, antisemitic senator played by Gene Hackman. Though funny at times, the plot jerks from one unsettling relationship to the next, as the already oxymoronic couple (raging queens who strangely show no affection toward one another) try to act like straight people to impress the senator. The hilarious dinner party scene aside, the humor-with-a-message plot is a bit too saccharine for grown-up tastes.
Executive Decision. This deeply predictable action thriller shows evil, dark skinned men killing senselessly and practicing their religion while noble white guys bond with each other and try to stop them. The racist, stereotypical treatment of the Middle Eastern villains is so cheap and unnecessary it's enough to make you convert to Islam. Meanwhile, in the white guys' camp, Kurt Russell plays the reluctant leader of an anti-terrorist squad sent on a daredevil mission to stop extremist hijackers. Most of the action takes place in the aisles and bowels of a 747. Some Mission Impossible-style gadget sequences spice up the otherwise monotonous plot, but if you've ever seen a movie before you can pretty much figure out exactly what's going to happen after thirty minutes. There is one and only one surprise--Steven Segal gets killed!
French Twist. A zippy French sex farce about a husband, a wife and the wife's butch girlfriend that generously expands the notion of what it means to be a family. Loli (Victoria Abril) is married to Laurent (Alain Chabat), a handsome and charming philanderer. One day while he's out carousing with his mistress, Marijo (Josiane Balasko) has car trouble and stops by to use Loli's phone, and I think we all know what that means. The story occasionally leans too heavily on the apparently exotic fact that the wife is having an affair with a woman, but the story is so good-natured that it manages to overcome its fascination with its own "daringness."
If Lucy Fell. Sweet, sentimental and utterly stupid, this romantic comedy stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Eric Schaffer as Lucy and Joe, two friends who agree to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if they haven't found love by Lucy's 30th birthday. Parker plays a bored psychotherapist comfortable discussing everyone's psychological shortcomings but her own, while Joe is a sensitive, guy-next-door painter committed to his five-year fantasy with the scantily clad rear-window girl (Elle Macpherson). Despite its superficial moralizing (beware lines like "Congratulations, you finally discovered the girl in your heart is not the girl of your dreams"), the dialogue is just great at times. Ben Stiller's performance as Bwick, Lucy's unlikely love interest, is downright hilarious. A welcome diversion for star-crossed lovers half-heartedly contemplating suicide.
Mary Reilly. The tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde told from the point of view of Jekyll's house maid, Mary Reilly (played by Julia Roberts). The film is essentially a character study of Reilly, and the question is Why? Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a strange, intelligent story that has a point. The story of Mary Reilly (based on the novel by Valerie Martin) is slow, predictable and empty. Half of the movie is taken up by shots of Julia Roberts walking around in the fog, or wandering around the stunning sets by Academy Award-winning production designer Stuart Craig. The sets are pretty, Roberts plays the pretty victim to perfection, and even John Malkovich is kind of good-looking, but the question is, what's the point?
Mr. Wrong. Ellen DeGeneres plays the straight man (so to speak) in this horrific romantic comedy about a 30-something career gal fending off attacks on her status as single older sibling. Bill Pullman plays the boyfriend turned stalker with such convincing psychosis it's hard to decide where the humor ends and the horror begins. Far from a simple romantic comedy about exploded expectations, this twisted tale exploits every fear you've ever had about intimacy. And if you never had any, it'll give you a few to consider before ever again saying, "I just want you to be yourself." A hilarious black comedy that starts on the set of a San Diego morning show and ends in a Tijuana jail.
Rumble In The Bronx. Whether or not you have a history with kung fu movies, this martial arts ballet starring Jackie Chan will have you suffering sympathy pains with the best of them. Chan, who trained in Chinese kung fu as well as opera, has an irresistible magnetism as the naive nephew visiting his uncle for a week in the Bronx. Low production values combined with million-dollar stunts and an impossibly campy screenplay make Rumble in the Bronx a perfect parody of itself, complete with a grizzly plot twist straight out of a Carl Hiassen novel. Comes complete with audio overdub. This is more than 90 minutes of kick-ass fight scenes (though that element definitely isn't lacking), it's vengeance with a Hovercraft. Don't forget to stay for the out-takes at the end.
Up Close and Personal. This B-side to Broadcast News stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford as earnest TV journalists struggling to lead meaningful lives in a trivialized profession. Up Close and Personal chronicles the rise of a tough-but-unseasoned trailer-park Cinderella (Pfeiffer) and her sexist but savvy Prince Charming (Redford). What's more, the movie is a Cinderella story unto itself: What appears to be the makings of a sappy and clichéd story actually triumphs as a relatively dramatic, touching and at times believable love story between characters struggling to decide who to love more: each other or themselves.
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