Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Lovable mice play nice at local cinema

JAKARTA (JP): A mouse named Mr. Jingles, from the Tom Hanks prison movie, joins his fellow rodent Stuart Little at the cineplexes. The following reviews and grades are by Rayya Makarim (RM) and Tam Notosusanto (TN).

American Beauty. Dark comedy, 121 minutes; starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Chris Cooper and Wes Bentley. Directed by Sam Mendes.

Forty-two-year-old Lester Burnham is having a mid-life crisis. He hates his job, his wife can't stand him, and his teenage daughter Janey thinks he's a loser. Feeling comatose for years, Lester undergoes a radical life change when he meets Janey's cheerleader friend, Angela. This story about dysfunctional families in demented suburbia is a perfect blend of powerful drama and black comedy. The characters are well-developed and the acting is superb. If it doesn't receive an Oscar for Best Actor or Best Actress, it will definitely receive one for Best Picture. Graded: A (RM)

Anywhere But Here. Comedy-drama, 114 minutes; starring Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Eileen Ryan, Ray Baker and John Diehl. Directed by Wayne Wang.

Adele is a restless, flamboyant woman who wants the best for her grounded, angry teenage daughter Ann. But all Ann wants is to go to college and get away from her overbearing, possessive mother. Well-acted, well-written and sensitively directed by Wang, who manages to work Sarandon and Portman beautifully together to reach a range of emotional keys that blend comedy with drama. Graded B (RM)

Enemy of My Enemy. Hostage thriller, 90 minutes; starring Peter Weller, Daryl Hannah, Tom Berenger and Jeremy Lelliott. Directed by Gustavo Graef-Marino.

Some people apparently just couldn't resist redoing Die Hard. Hence we get this lame, predictable rip-off, with the setup moved to the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, and Eastern European terrorists keeping everybody hostage in exchange for a political prisoner. Unlucky them, two security system experts are hiding somewhere in the building and later begin to thwart their evil plans. Weller and Hannah play these two reluctant heroes, who, even in moments of high pressure, can repeatedly find time to stop and smooch each other. Graded D (TN)

The Green Mile. Supernatural fable/ Prison drama, 188 minutes; starring Tom Hanks, David Morse, James Cromwell, Michael Clarke Duncan and Bonnie Hunt. Written and directed by Frank Darabont.

Darabont's Oscar-nominated second attempt to adapt a Stephen King prison story has Hanks leading a group of Depression-era Death Row prison guards whose new inmate is a mentally disabled, towering black man (Duncan). It turns out this gentle giant has miraculous healing powers which some of them get a chance to benefit from. But nobody can seem to help him avoid the electric chair. Aside from some ghastly execution scenes, this is a poignant story with some biblical resonance which is bolstered by a first-rate cast that includes a lovable, scene-stealing mouse. Graded B (TN)

The Hurricane. Biopic, 155 minutes; starring Denzel Washington, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, David Paymer and Rod Steiger. Directed by Norman Jewison.

This true account of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's life doesn't only detail his 20 years of imprisonment for a crime he never committed, but also his relationship with a wide-eyed teenager and his social-worker guardians, who later mounted a high-profile legal defense that eventually freed him. Veteran cineast Jewison again demonstrates what classic moviemaking is all about, while Washington offers a look into Carter's unbeatable soul through his impressive, blazing performance. Graded B+ (TN)

Stuart Little. Animated/live action family fare; 85 minutes; starring Geena Davis and the voices of Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane and Jennifer Tilly. Directed by Rob Minkoff.

When was the last time you fell in love with a digitized image? The wonders of technology have made the adorable mouse author E.B. White created decades ago, a real-looking, living, breathing rodent in this family-friendly movie. And Fox's voice gives Stuart the Jiminy Cricket spirit that will steal your heart away. The Sixth Sense's M. Night Shyamalan co-wrote this ode to adopted children everywhere while The Lion King's co-director Minkoff wrapped it all in an engaging mix of adventure, comedy and drama. Graded B (TN)

Turbulence II: Fear of Flying. Disaster movie, 98 minutes; starring Craig Sheffer, Jennifer Beals, Tom Berenger and Jeffrey Nordling. Directed by David Mackay.

Yet another film you will never find among any airline's inflight movies. This Airport-meets-The Cassandra Crossing flick pits innocent passengers against sadistic hijackers who carry a lethal virus on board. And the passengers belong to a fear-of- flying group who take the flight as part of their therapy. The way this derivative, formulaic movie goes, you stop caring about their plight after the first 30 minutes. The film is basically a gravesite for sinking careers belonging to Sheffer, Beals and especially Berenger, who is becoming a regular in the trash movie circuit. Graded C- (TN)

The Wings of the Dove. Period drama, 101 minutes; starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott and Charlotte Rampling. Directed by Iain Softley.

Adapted from a Henry James novel, this Oscar-nominated film tells of a woman (Bonham Carter) whose love for her working-class boyfriend (Roache) is forbidden by her family. When a terminally ill, American rich girl (Elliott)is enamored by the boyfriend, the woman comes up with a plan that's both vengeful and all-too- human. As we go through this exquisite film, we find how things are not simplistically black-and-white. And this is a film that benefits from a stellar cast, particularly from Bonham Carter's superbly nuanced performance. Graded A- (TN).