Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
"Pi" defies description
On the surface, a mathematical thriller with religious overtones.or is it a religious thriller with mathematical overtones? Or is it an analysis of the nature of sanity, a consideration of how we fit in and find a place in the world where we live? See it and decide for yourself. The black-and-white cinematography is somehow simultaneously both subtle and lurid. "Pi" defies description; it is imaginative, engrossing, and shocking, easily the most daring and outrageous film I've seen this year. Writer-director Darren Aronofsky deservedly won the Directing Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Meeting Shakespeare's Muse
What were William Shakespeare's inspirations? Who was his muse? These are questions that have occupied the thoughts of scholars and lovers of literature down the centuries. This raunchy, brilliantly witty film suggests sly answers to these questions by showing us Will Shakespeare as a very real young man, with a very real, very bad case of writer's block. His new play, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter," is not going well. He has been paid for the play already, and has debts beside. He badly needs for inspiration to strike, for his muse to grant him a vision. The fates are kind, and inspiration does strike in the form of Viola, a beautiful young courtesan who loves the theater and wants nothing more than to act on the stage--in an age when women are forbidden to do so. Viola's gender-bending deception initiates an avalanche of riotous activity as well as a torrent of literary brilliance for Will. Romeo remains, but Ethel disappears forever, her place taken by Juliet, and pirate adventures on the high seas give way to the greatest love story of all--one mirrored by the love between Will and Viola, and just as impossible. Joseph Fiennes is wonderful as Will Shakespeare, bemused and befuddled, passionate and brilliant, clear-eyed and heart-breakingly beautiful. Gwyneth Paltrow continues to surprise and delight with the depth of expression and emotion in her performances. The supporting cast is dependable and solid--standouts are Judi Dench as a crusty, scathing Queen Elizabeth and Rupert Everett as competing playwright Christopher Marlowe. There are plenty of in-jokes and references to Shakespeare's work for the literate crowd, but this rollicking funfest can be enjoyed by more than just English Lit majors. Perhaps the best thing of all is that, as my friend Jeff said, the story ends well. After all, what else could a good film about Shakespeare do?
Not your mother's costume drama
This is not your mother's costume drama. From the very beginning, when the opening titles run over a psychedelic montage of religious iconography, you know that something different is happening here.and it isn't Masterpiece Theater. Dark and brutal, lurid and violent, this film unfolds like bloody flower. Religious intrigue, political machinations, sexual scheming--it's like an Umberto Eco novel. Cate Blanchett is an astonishing actress, a truly startling screen presence. She inhabits the body, mind and soul of the Virgin Queen with an ethereal grace underlain by steely resolve. Her portrayal of Elizabeth's inevitable transformation from a clear-eyed, idealistic girl with love in her heart to a coldly practical monarch who will be married always and only to England is heart-breaking--all the more so as the practicality is born only out of absolute necessity. Joseph Fiennes is dark and brooding, smolderingly sexual as the poor, sincere, doomed Lord Robert, who does all the wrong things for the right reason: his love for a girl who has become a woman. But that love is returned to him by a woman who has become a queen, and, as Robert himself says, "That love could corrupt the soul of any man." In the end, Robert's corrupted soul undoes them all.
The best heist movie in years!
A slam-bang actioner that pulls no punches, takes no prisoners, and never slows down for a minute--except for an excruciating scene in which Robert DeNiro directs the removal of a bullet from his own abdomen. Director John Frankenheimer hasn't been in form this good since "The French Connection"; this is the best heist movie in years. The fine ensemble cast generates an on-screen tension that cracks and sparks until the inevitable betrayal and, amazingly, doesn't fall apart afterward. If for no other reason, "Ronin" is worth seeing for its stunning location cinematography. All its high-speed car chases were filmed on location in France, with the actual cast.especially noteworthy in this day of stunt doubles and digital effects. DeNiro's performance is one of understated excellence, and Natasha McElhone (also seen on the big screen this year in "The Truman Show") blazes white-hot as a terrorist whose motives and loyalties are kept as secret as the contents of the locked suitcase so desperately sought by all.
The X Files (1998)
A bigger, badder Sunday-night episode
A satisfying installment in the ongoing saga of Mulder, Scully, and their attempts to thwart an invasion of the earth by ill-tempered aliens, aided and abetted by representatives of our own government (or are they?) who have sold out humankind for their own obscure motives. The movie's story falls squarely between the series' fifth and sixth seasons, which is, coincidentally enough, precisely when the film was released. It plays like a bigger, badder version of a regular Sunday-night episode, one with a bigger, badder budget. Part of the reason for the series' popularity lies in its rich cinematic feel and atmosphere, and this is brought with great success to the big screen. Another part lies with the series' real accomplishment: the striking of an amazing balance between dramatic closure and actual plot resolution. The ability to leave the audience feeling satisfied while still leaving many unanswered questions, and often posing new ones, is creator Chris Carter's great miracle, one which he has accomplished only with lesser success in his second series, "Millennium." Don't expect this movie to stand alone, independent from the series--like, for the most part, the "Star Trek" movies do--or to get around to answering all the questions it asks. If you follow the series, you already know that the sixth season opener picks up the movie's story-line and runs forward with it, screaming like a banshee.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Beautiful and lyrical, a scathing condemnation of war
Terrence Malick is one of Hollywood's true iconoclasts. After directing two of the most visually stunning and influential films of the 1970s ("Badlands"  and "Days of Heaven" ), he disappeared from the scene for twenty years, writing and directing nothing until this film. Like his earlier films, "The Thin Red Line" is a beautiful and lyrical work; it is also a scathing condemnation of the effects and consequences of war. Every actor in Hollywood was hot to land a part, and the cast is full of recognizable names. With but few exceptions, this is not a problem for the film. Never have I seen such a cast of big-name actors so thoroughly subjugated to a director's will. Standouts are Ben Chaplin as a young military officer, conflicted by the things he is forced to do and can view only as atrocities, and Nick Nolte as an aging general turned monstrous by his blind, overwhelming pride and ambition. (John Travolta and George Clooney, however, make such brief appearances that they are actually distracting due to their high recognition factor.) Malick is not afraid to indulge in overt philosophizing; contemplating the nightmare of conflict, one character wonders in voice-over, "This great evil: where does it come from? How does it sneak into the world? From what seed or root does it grow?" Caught up in circumstances beyond their control or understanding, these men find themselves demonstrating both cruelty and compassion, brutality and benevolence, and wondering at the meaning of it all. We can do nothing but wonder, too.
Snake Eyes (1998)
A whip-smart thriller
This movie suffers from what I've come to think of as "Broadcast News Syndrome." You know the symptoms: a movie comes to a satisfying conclusion, one you could gladly accept and feel good about, but then it goes crashing into an annoying and unnecessary epilogue. Like "Broadcast News," however, if you cut away the final five minutes or so before the end credits run, what remains is a worthy film. In spite of this glaring problem, "Snake Eyes" is a whip-smart thriller that teases, reveals, suggests, hides, and tears at breakneck pace through a convoluted cover-up that would do the greatest conspiracy theorist proud. Director Brian DePalma is an inconsistent master whose films are always a crapshoot; for every "The Untouchables" (undeniable triumph), there's also a "Mission: Impossible" (slick, empty success), a "Bonfire of the Vanities" (dismal clunker) and a "Raising Cain" (guilty pleasure). This film falls into the triumph category, although perhaps a qualified one. Ably aided and abetted by dizzying, sinuous cinematography and Nicolas Cage's wild-eyed, no-holds-barred performance, it all comes together in an unsettling, exhilarating concoction that works.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The costs of war; the worth of the individual
Spielberg was shunned by the Oscar nominations last year in large part due to the controversy over who deserved the writing credit for "Amistad." (Then of course there's the whole white-director-black-story issue, for which he's been paying ever since "The Color Purple".but don't get me started on that.) It may have been the best possible move for him to work with Tom "He Can Do No Wrong" Hanks this time out. This is definitely a five-hankie picture: I wept continuously for the first twenty minutes and was on the brink of tears for almost the entire remainder of its three-hours-plus running time. Spielberg has an uncanny ability to confront us on film with things that require our social and individual attention--consider "The Color Purple," "Empire of the Sun," "Schindler's List," "Amistad," and now "Saving Private Ryan." That these films were made by the same man who directed "Jaws," "E.T.," and the Indiana Jones movies is astonishing. No other filmmaker working today produces this variety of films, from those intended to prod and provoke thoughtful adults to those that speak so clearly to our children and to the child in each of us. "Saving Private Ryan" is a devastating depiction of and meditation on the costs of war, a heart-breaking but ultimately affirming examination of individual human worth. Tom Hanks is Everyman, with whom we can all identify, and Matt Damon is the titular Private Ryan, a beaming, scrub-faced, bright-eyed beautiful boy whom we all want to save. What is one man's life worth? What are the consequences of inhumanity? What is the value of integrity? This film shows us that society cannot answer these questions; the answers lie inside, and must come from within.
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Spectacular re-telling of the Exodus
For sheer spectacle, it's tough to beat the Bible. With "The Prince of Egypt," DreamWorks makes good on its promise to deliver a state-of-the-art animated film that will compete favorably with the best Disney has to offer. As with "Antz," released earlier this year, DreamWorks has successfully resisted the temptation to populate this film with characters that can be turned into further revenue through toy sales. (I do wonder, though, if three soundtrack albums--the film's soundtrack, an "inspirational" album, and a "country" album--were really necessary.) The animation team has accomplished something truly spectacular; watching "The Prince of Egypt" is like seeing life breathed into a rich, luxurious tapestry. The Biblical story told in the books of Genesis and Exodus is followed very faithfully, with only minor changes made for dramatic reasons. The action sequences are truly exciting, overall pacing is excellent, and the miracles wrought by God are depicted with awed and respectful wonder. One truly astonishing, harrowing sequence recounts the slaughter of firstborn Hebrew children by bringing hieroglyphic drawings to life on the walls of an Egyptian temple. The voice work is especially good--Val Kilmer is fine as Moses, and Pharoah, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, positively seethes with arrogance and hubris. The storytellers wisely chose to end their tale at the climactic crossing of the Red Sea; even the delivery of the Ten Commandments is portrayed only in an epilogue vignette. (After all, the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty years after that, and Moses ultimately is not allowed to enter the Promised Land--perhaps not the uplifting ending the filmmakers had in mind.) Some of the subject matter is dark and disturbing, and there is no shying away from the harsh realities of the original texts. By all means, see it with the children in your life--and be prepared to discuss it with them afterward.
A delightful fable for the 90s (and the 50s)
I'm glad I didn't know going in that this was one of those written-directed-and-produced-by monsters. I still would have bought my ticket, but with an unhealthy skepticism--an inner voice would have been whispering, "Vanity project.vanity project.vanity project!" After all, there is something to be said for having an open mind. Writer/director/producer Gary Ross (screenwriter of "Big" and "Dave") has dreamed up an oddball alternate reality in which everyone lives in a 1950s television sitcom not unlike "Leave It to Beaver." Culture clash ensues when two 1990s teen-agers (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) find themselves somehow part of the perfect black-and-white TV family. Their new "parents" (William H. Macy and Joan Allen) are blithely unaware that anything untoward has happened. The developing melodrama is delightful and full of gentle humor. The four principals are fine--Joan Allen, in particular, delivers a devastating performance as a mother realizing her own ignorance and learning about the fullness of life from her children. The supporting cast (which includes Don Knotts, Jeff Daniels, and J. T. Walsh in one of his final roles) is wonderful. The integration of color with black-and-white cinematography is stunning, at times direct, at others subtle. The underlying messages are not hidden, but are there in plain view for anyone to find.
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
A slice of life for the sociopathic set
This movie could have been subtitled, "Or, Wednesday Grows Up and Gets Serious." Sadly, Christina Ricci's gleeful, viciously amoral jezebel didn't earn her an Oscar nomination, and I will feel personally cheated, as I did when Meg Ryan wasn't nominated for "When a Man Loves a Woman" and when Kathy Bates was overlooked for "Dolores Claiborne." Ricci's Deedee Truitt warns you right up front that you won't like her, that she doesn't grow a heart of gold by the end of the movie, and she ain't kiddin', Jack. This movie gleefully overturns every social taboo, skewers every sacred cow, and is vastly entertaining in the process. Lisa Kudrow is a delight as the uncharacteristically centered (or is she?) sister of Ricci's brother's deceased boyfriend--did you get all that? "The Opposite of Sex" is a slice of life for the sociopathic set.
One True Thing (1998)
A showcase of astonishing acting
Meryl Streep may be the greatest actor working today. Her chameleonic portrayals never fail to astonish; she seems actually to be the characters she brings to the screen. In "One True Thing," she gives life to a deceptively straightforward, profoundly complex woman doing her best to play the hand life has dealt to her. Surviving with cancer is no easy task, and not just surviving but actually continuing to live one's life is even harder--and this is precisely what Kate Gulden (Streep) means to do. Renee Zellweger ("Jerry Maguire") not only holds her own in this exalted company but shines as Streep's daughter, who learns to see in a new light her parents' lives as well as her own. Streep is a powerhouse and deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her work here; her "I'm only going to say this once" dialogue with Zellweger will leave you devastated. Zellweger, though, is the real revelation--her face conveys every emotion, every conflict as she begins to learn the many truths about her parents' strengths and weaknesses. Director Carl Franklin ("Devil in a Blue Dress") handles the extremely difficult story material with sureness and delicacy.
The Object of My Affection (1998)
Dealing honestly with the need for intimacy
Unabashedly crowd-pleasing (notwithstanding a bittersweet conclusion), this movie shows us definitively that Jennifer Aniston is more than just a haircut. Aniston demonstrates a deft comic timing that underscores her sincerity as well as her vulnerability. Like "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss," this film deals honestly with the need for physical and emotional intimacy in relationships. Interestingly, it manages to show us something of each major character's emotional complexity without short-changing any. For a scene of exquisite, almost painful tenderness, one between Paul Rudd and Amo Gulinello ("You can read poetry to me any time") stands unequaled. Another scene between Aniston and Rudd is, to almost universal surprise, almost unbearably erotic. It might not turn off even your sister's straight boyfriend.
Another strong Disney heroine
Disney's most recent animated film contains fewer of the crowd-pleasing elements that made "The Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King" into box-office bonanzas (although there is a tiny dragon, Mushu, voiced by Eddie Murphy, and a horrifyingly cute roly-poly dog does make a mercifully brief appearance early on). Instead, "Mulan" tells a surprisingly mature story through beautiful animation in the classic style. From lush gardens to stark snowscapes to ornate temples, the settings frame and complement the storyline beautifully. When her father is injured and unable to represent his family in the emperor's army, Mulan disguises herself as a boy and rides forth to take his place and defend her family's honor. Disney has released a series of animated films with strong heroines ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pocahontas"), and "Mulan" continues the trend. (One might wonder at Disney's agenda; the only central male character in a recent animated Disney film ["The Lion King"] is not human.) Mulan's cross-dressing adventures are fascinating enough to engross child and adult alike (in the end, she manages to include her faithful soldier sidekicks in the joke), and Shan-Yu, the leader of the Huns, is as wicked a villain as anyone has a right to hope for. It all comes to a fine, satisfying conclusion, and the story's emphasis on the value of family relationships makes for a worthwhile shared experience.
Lost in Space (1998)
Pure, shameless entertainment
Danger, Will Robinson! Sure, it's ridiculous, but you do remember the television series, don't you? Did you honestly expect anything more? The important thing is that it's a hell of a lot of fun! Incredible special effects (the most digital effects scenes in a single film to date), an entertaining if not terribly deep plot, Gary Oldman seriously camping it up as Dr. Smith, and Matt LeBlanc looking buff in his flight suit.does it get any better? William Hurt and Mimi Rogers are dependable as always, and Dick Tufeld returns to provide the voice of the robot. "Lost In Space" is pure entertainment at its shameless and unrefined best.
Deep Impact (1998)
The thinking person's action flick
I have to admit it: the posters made me gag. "Oceans rise.cities fall.hope survives"? Oh, please! Well, it's not "Armageddon," and it doesn't star anyone who looks remotely like Ben Affleck, but this is definitely the summer's thinking person's action flick. I was quoted over the summer in US magazine as saying, "If a man had directed ['Deep Impact,' which was directed by Mimi Leder], it would have been 'Die Hard' on a comet." Which, interestingly enough, is pretty much what "Armageddon" was. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that kind of slam-bang fare; I certainly oohed and aahed over the destruction and the sheer spectacle of "Armageddon" (not to mention Ben in his T-shirt). What you'll never see in a Michael Bay movie, and what puts "Deep Impact" on the map for me, are performances with the subtlety of Robert Duvall's and Billy Bob Thornton's; brutal, heart-wrenching scenes like the final moment with Tea Leoni and her father on the beach; and rich character development that leaves you unable to ooh and aah over the destruction, because your connection with the characters leaves you horrified at the loss. "Deep Impact" is one of a rare breed.
The Truman Show (1998)
Insightful and delicately beautiful
Peter Weir is one of the most interesting directors working today. His casting of Jim Carrey as the titular Truman may have raised some eyebrows, but then Weir has never been known for his conventionality. Weir has a way of drawing great (or at least greatish) performances out of his actors: Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society," Rosie Perez in "Fearless." And Carrey has shown seeds of greatness before; rent "Doing Time on Maple Drive" (if you can find it) to see what I'm talking about. Truman's entire life, since the day of his birth, has been orchestrated on a giant television studio set, the only world Truman knows, and televised worldwide as "The Truman Show." Truman represents something impossibly difficult to find in our society today: an absolutely innocent person. This goes a long way to explain his public's fascination with him. Ed Harris brings a bizarre dignity and ethic to his portrayal of Christos, the god-like creator and director of "The Truman Show." This delicately beautiful film shows us the utter hypocrisy of our media and the herd-like docility with which we accept that very hypocrisy. Although it doesn't offer many answers, it asks a lot of the right questions.
Next Stop Wonderland (1998)
Relationships are difficult and dangerous things. Two of my other favorite films this year ("Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" and "The Object of My Affection") concern themselves with ongoing relationships. "Next Stop Wonderland" focuses its attention on that preliminary occurrence without which no relationship can exist, that moment of mystery venerated by E. M. Forster in his novel Howards End: the making of a connection between two people. Writer-director Brad Anderson demonstrates a clear understanding of connections (both good and bad) between people, as well as how they do and don't come about. Hope Davis is delicate and vulnerable as the jilted, insecure, lonely Erin, and Alan Gelfant is sincere and ruggedly attractive as Alan Monteiro, the man Fate may or may not have in mind for her. In Howards End, Forster tells us that things would be better between us poor human beings if we could "only connect." I won't spoil things by giving away its ending, but this delightful film allows the viewer to be consumed by the mystery of whether Erin and Alan will, or will not, ever connect.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
When movies are at their best...
Movies are at their best when actors are allowed to do what they do: act. Director Martin Brest isn't afraid to allow his principals (Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, and Clare Forlani) to take their time making their characters real for us. And these characters are real--they not only live, they also breathe on the screen. In fact, Brest luxuriates in the story-telling process and allows us to revel in the glorious results. This is an exquisitely emotional film, delicate and beautiful, brutal and incisive. Although some reviews have criticized its length (approaching three hours) and pacing, the truth is that virtually every scene is vital. In fact, some sequences seem to move with somewhat less smoothness and subtlety than others, suggesting that, even at its current length, the film has been extensively edited for time. Hopkins is ferociously good; Pitt is enigmatic and engaging; Forlani is breathtaking, luminous, a revelation of deep and naked emotion. Inspired by "Death Takes a Holiday" (1934), "Meet Joe Black" is less concerned with what happens in the next life than with how to live fully and with integrity in this one.
Dark City (1998)
A worthy descendant of "Metropolis" and "Blade Runner"
Nobody saw it. Nobody liked it. I don't care--writer/director Alex Proyas ("The Crow") has given us of the most visually audacious and thought-provoking genre films in years. Fans of genre fiction, television, and film (for instance, "Blade Runner") will be familiar with the themes presented here: What is the nature of humanity? How do I know where I belong? Are my memories true? Is there some great conspiracy underlying everything I know? Am I the subject of some secret experiment? How do I know what is real? Who am I, really? Am I sane? How can I be sure of anything--or anyone? Who is in control? "Dark City" is unrelentingly demented, dark and vicious, disturbing in the extreme, and well worth seeing. In repeat viewings, I've come to realize that the acting is far more subtle and intense than I had at first realized. Kiefer Sutherland, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly and Rufus Sewell are all in good form, and what at first might appear to be lack of depth in characterization is actually a finely realized "incompleteness" in the characters themselves. The special effects are first-rate, especially considering the relatively modest budget; the on-screen transformations of the city as it is "tuned" are wondrous to behold. A personal fascination of mine is movie trailers, and the trailer for this film (included on the DVD) is easily the best of 1998.
Journey to the Territory of Unrequited Affection
One of the very few movies I saw twice this year, and not just because newcomer Brad Rowe is so terribly easy on the eyes. Whether you're gay or straight (although, I suspect, particularly if you're a gay man), you're bound to see yourself on the screen more than once. Billy (Sean P. Hayes) rushes headlong to a place where we've all gone before, a place where angels fear to tread: the Territory of Unrequited Affection. We've all been there; we've all done it. The desire and need for emotional as well as physical intimacy is a great and terrible thing, and Billy's struggle is one we can identify with while still seeing the humor inherent in our own all-too-human endeavors. Bright, cheerful cinematography makes the most of the distinctly L.A. locations (West Hollywood, Catalina Island). Gentle, tender, funny, for the most part honest, and not a diatribe--which meant that I could recommend it to my straight friends, too.
A Bug's Life (1998)
More of a kid-flick than "Antz"
"A Bug's Life" is clearly oriented more toward children than is "Antz." The story is more kid-accessible, and the characters as well as the overall style have a much higher "cute" factor. (For example, consider the fundamental decision to make the ants in "A Bug's Life" light blue and lavender, while comparable characters in "Antz" are more mundane shades of brown.) The central and supporting characters are a varied assortment of different insects, which makes for easy identification and increased toy sales. The voice casting is a delight: Phyllis Diller is an absolute hoot as the ant queen; Kevin Spacey embodies sheer villainy as the head grasshopper meanie; David Hyde-Pierce gives dry voice to a worldly, jaded walking-stick. Gary Rydstrom's sound design is remarkably rich and detailed, putting the viewer right in the middle of each meadow, underground anthill, and grasshopper swarm. The story makes some of the same points concerning individuality and cooperation as does "Antz," and they are no less meaningful (although perhaps a bit less original) for having been heard before. If possible, Pixar's animation is even better than PDI's outstanding work in "Antz." Exterior shots are unbelievably detailed, with single leaves visible being blown by wind in the trees and individual clusters of clover leaves weaving and bending as the bugs hop across them. "A Bug's Life" is a riotous, rollicking roller-coaster ride of a flick. I saw it in a theater full of families with kids, and a good time was had by all. The hilarious "outtakes" over which the end credits roll are an especially imaginative touch.
Heart-stopping and daring
Considering its decidedly lukewarm reception and relatively unsuccessful showing at the box office, it's no great surprise that there was little mention of this film come Oscar time. However, three of this year's show-stopping performances happen right here: Oprah Winfrey as Sethe, a former slave, deeply haunted by past tragedy and the consequences of her own actions, trying to make a place for herself in a newly emancipated society; Kimberly Elise as Sethe's daughter, profoundly dissatisfied with her life but unable to take even a single step into the world outside her haunted home; and Thandie Newton as Beloved, the enigmatic figure who is or is not, may or may not be, who and what she seems to be. Heart-stopping and daring, this film tells a dark, violent story of forgiveness and redemption. Winfrey and Newton are astonishing in their portrayals--not for one minute of the film's nearly three-hour running time does anyone resembling a talk-show host appear on the screen--but the less showy character brought to life by Kimberly Elise is the film's deep and secret heart.
A fable for contemporary neuroses
"Antz" is an enjoyable, engaging contemporary fable that gracefully illuminates the value of group cooperation as well as personal individuality and integrity. The voice casting is gleefully on target; you can't help but love a movie that includes both Woody Allen and Sylvester Stallone. The computer animation is absolutely first-rate, drawing the viewer into the story rather than calling attention to itself; the individual characters voiced by Allen, Stallone, and Sharon Stone are especially effective. In its heart of hearts, this is a Woody Allen picture--the situations, humor, and neuroses are all classic Allen. The opening and closing panoramas make it clear that the movie itself knows that it's a Woody Allen picture. The movie may be a bit too intense in places for extremely young children; one battle scene, featuring an assault upon the ants by monolithic termites, bears more than a passing resemblance to the "bug attack" sequences featured in last year's "Starship Troopers." DreamWorks is to be especially commended for resisting the marketing temptation so eagerly embraced by Disney in "A Bug's Life."
The Big Lebowski (1998)
A celebration of coolness
The Coen Brothers strike again, and provide yet another glimpse into the skewed world inhabited by their imaginations. This perfect and unexpected follow-up to their popular and critical success "Fargo" is an absurdly loony movie that defies simple categorization. Is it a comedy, a thriller, a mystery, a neo-noir? The truth is that, somehow, it's all of that--and a bag of chips. More or less, it's about bowling, mistaken identity, and a soiled rug. Jeff Bridges is so mellow, so cool as The Dude, and Julianne Moore, everybody's favorite indie darling (let's just forget "The Lost World"), is perfect as the mind-bogglingly bizarre Maude. Look for appearances by all the usual suspects (John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro) as well as a few new friends. "The Big Lebowski" celebrates coolness, hallucination, and nihilism, and it elevates bowling beyond the status of New Religion directly to The One True Faith.