Sun, 27 Feb 2000

Spooky films cause fright at theaters

JAKARTA (JP): A man coming home from space and a rosary coming from Latin America cause some commotion in films currently playing at local cinemas.

The following reviews and grades are by Oren Murphy (OM) and Tam Notosusanto (TN).

The Astronaut's Wife. Psychological thriller, 109 minutes; starring Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea DuVall, Samantha Eggar and Donna Murphy. Written and directed by Rand Ravich. Graded C+ (TN)

The Bone Collector. Detective story, 118 minutes; starring Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker and Ed ONeill. Directed by Phillip Noyce.

Washington is a paralyzed forensics veteran who joins forces with Jolie, a brilliant rookie cop, to solve a series of gruesome murders meticulously set up by an ingenious, diabolical killer.

Effectively chilling, this film apparently derives some of its gory inspiration from the likes of The Silence of the Lambs; in particular: a scene where the lead star chomps off a man's face (although here it's for self-defense). 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)

Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella). Comedy-drama, 116 minutes; starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Marisa Paredes and Horst Buchholz. Directed by Roberto Benigni.

This Italian Oscar winner begins as a mere screwball comedy with the unoriginal plot of a guy (Benigni) who defies all odds to get a girl (his real-life spouse Braschi). Then it becomes something else as the film takes on the grim atmosphere of a Nazi concentration camp. Benigni ran the risk of presenting comedy that is offensive and trivializing the most horrifying atrocity of the 20th century. Instead, he comes up with an inspiring tale that celebrates the human spirit. He deserves every single one of those awards he garnered. Graded A- (TN) Note: Shown in Italian with Indonesian subtitles only.

She's All That. Teen comedy, 95 minutes; starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard, Kevin Pollak, Kieran Culkin and Anna Paquin. Directed by Robert Iscove.

George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion gets relocated to an American high school, where the school's Mr. Popular (Prinze) makes a bet with his buddies that he can turn the most infamous dork (Cook) into a Prom Queen. Long before we get to the climactic Prom Night, we know that he and everybody else will be blown away by the makeover results. There isn't much surprise, and humor is sparse. But the petite Cook reminds us of a younger, more fiery Holly Hunter. Graded C (TN)

Stigmata. Supernatural thriller, 103 minutes; starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Nia Long and Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Rupert Wainwright.

A woman learns not to accept oleh-oleh from South America. The young, atheist hairdresser begins to display signs of stigmata soon after receiving a rosary as a souvenir from her mother in Brazil. A priest from the Vatican is sent to investigate. The movie has the style and depth of a long music video and bumbles its way through Catholic mysticism. Graded C (OM)

Three Kings. Action-adventure, 114 minutes; starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze. Directed by David O. Russell.

American soldiers serving in the Gulf War find a map of Sadam Hussein's hidden bunkers in the backside of a captured Iraqi soldier. A treasure hunt for stolen gold bullion ensues in which the soldiers find themselves over their heads and questioning the legitimacy of their involvement in the Gulf.

An unconventional script and quirky directing make this one of the most original films of the year. Graded B+ (OM)

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)