Sat, 05 Feb 2000

Banderas' brutal movie joins cinema lineup in the capital

JAKARTA (JP): Antonio Banderas seems to have fun beheading brutal, unwashed tribesmen at the movie theaters. The following reviews and grades are by Rayya Makarim (RM), Oren Murphy (OM) and Tam Notosusanto (TN).

Anna and the King. Period drama, 140 minutes; starring Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Tom Felton, Keith Chin and Bai Ling. Directed by Andy Tennant.

The story of the 19th century British governess who conquers the heart of the King of Siam is again brought to the screen, this time without songs.

For a change, a real Asian actor (though not quite Thai), action-star Chow, plays the monarch. Meanwhile, Foster shows off a British accent as the single-mother Anna Leonowens. The film is considerably enjoyable although the characters remain distant and flavorless throughout. Graded: B- (TN)

Double Jeopardy. Action thriller, 105 minutes; starring Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood and Annabeth Gish. Directed by Bruce Beresford.

Judd gets wrongly imprisoned for the murder of her husband, whose body is never found. Then she finds out that dear hubby is still walking and breathing in another part of the country, with their child and a new wife. Even though she keeps saying, "I just want to see my son," we know that all she wants is revenge. Vigilantism is alive and well at the movie theaters. Graded: C+ (TN)

Fight Club. Dark comedy, 139 minutes; starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter. Directed by David Fincher.

Men discover beating each other into a pulp is nourishing for the soul. Sardonic social commentary and graphic violence make strange, but often effective bedfellows. A piercingly funny script and highly original plot save the film from the inconsistencies of pretentious anarchist theory. The target audience is clearly males aged between 16 and 25, but others will find nourishment in its irony, or at least in seeing Brad Pitt punched repeatedly in the face. Graded: B+ (OM)

The Mighty. Youth drama, 100 minutes; starring Elden Henson, Kieran Culkin, Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands and Gillian Anderson. Directed by Peter Chelsom.

A humongous, slow-witted teenager teams up with a brilliant, disabled boy to battle bullies and bad guys alike. It's really rare that we get inspiring and unsentimental films like this, which touchingly portrays a friendship as such a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. See if you can recognize The X-Files's Anderson, in her supporting bit as rednecked white trash. Graded: B+ (TN)

The Patriot. Action, 90 minutes; starring Steven Seagal, Gailard Sartain and L.Q. Jones. Directed by Dean Semler.

It's a wonder how Steven Seagal maintains his indomitable persona: keeping a consistently sour facial expression and speaking in such a low voice that we all need to bring hearing aids to the theaters. Here he plays a genial small-town doctor and single father who just happens to know how to kick away ten baddies in an instance without even messing his hairdo. Standing in his way is an army of militiamen who have unleashed a deadly virus in the small Montana town. Oscar-winning cinematographer Semler (Firestorm) made his sophomore directorial work with this uneven, flat piece. Graded: D+ (TN)

Random Hearts. Adult drama, 130 minutes; starring Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Haysbert and Bonnie Hunt. Directed by Sydney Pollack.

Ford and Scott Thomas learn that their respective spouses, who are killed in a plane crash, were having an affair. Then they go and have an affair of their own. Whether they do it out of passion or revenge, this slow-moving film never tells, thanks to Pollack's uneven direction. Graded: C+ (TN)

The 13th Warrior. Adventure, 102 minutes; starring Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora and Omar Sharif. Directed by John McTiernan.

Braveheart moves to Scandinavia. The film is ostensibly about an exiled Arab diplomat, Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, (Banderas) who joins a group of Norse warriors in their return from abroad to defeat a terrifying and cannibalistic foe. What it's really about is bloody battles with more scenes of decapitation than any film in recent history. The cinematography is at times breathtaking and the battle scenes well-choreographed, but the story is sidelined to make room for more dismemberment. Graded: C+ (OM)

The World is Not Enough. Bond movie, 127 minutes; starring Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards and Judi Dench. Directed by Michael Apted.

When British oil tycoon Robert King is killed at the MI6 headquarters, James Bond's mission is to protect his daughter and heir Elektra (Marceau) from his killer, Renard (Carlyle), who plans to sabotage an ongoing construction of the new King pipeline. The villains are more complex, even if nothing else is shocking about this 19th Bond film. Graded: B (RM)