Sat, 22 Jan 2000

'Fight Club' leads new movies in town

JAKARTA (JP): Pugilists are making our theaters their very own fighting ring, starting this week. The following reviews and grades are by Rayya Makarim, Oren Murphy and Tam Notosusanto.

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 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 bland throughout. Grade: B- by 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 the pretentious anarchist theory.

The target audience is clearly men 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. Grade: B+ by OM.

Good Will Hunting. Drama, 126 minutes; starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck and Stellan Skarsgard. Directed by Gus Van Sant.

Will is a mathematics genius with a photographic memory who prefers to work as a janitor and drink with his buddies rather than solve mathematics problems that leaves even Nobel Prize- winning professors baffled. When an MIT professor tries to groom him for bigger and better things, Will senses "change" that may jeopardize his already safe surroundings.

With the help of a counselor, he finally breaks through old traumas and insecurities. The story is full of human conflict that is acted with such precision by co-stars Damon and Affleck. Although the movie's conclusion is perhaps predictable, it is the individual moments and sensitive acting that really make this film shine. Grade: A- by RM.

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 is rare that we get inspiring and unsentimental films like this, which touchingly portrays a friendship as a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. Grade: B+ by 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 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 instant without even mussing his hairdo. Standing in his way is an army of militiamen who unleash a deadly virus in the small Montana town. Oscar-winning cinematographer Semler (Firestorm) makes his directorial work with this uneven, flat piece. Grade: D+ by TN.

Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies. Horror, 96 minutes; starring Andrew Divoff, Paul Johannson, Holly Fields and Bokeem Woodbine. Written and directed by Jack Sholder.

A malevolent genie who is accidentally freed from his confinement grants wishes in exchange for people's souls. It starts out as an interesting twist on the Aladdin tale, but later proceeds to continuous gore. We are left wishing this schlocky movie gone, with nothing of its kind to return. Grade: D by TN.

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