David Ansen

Stories by David Ansen

  • Arts Extra: Wait! Read This Before You Fill Out Your Office Pool!

    Handicapping this year's Oscars is a bit like playing this year's stock market: a no-win situation. With a few exceptions, the races are as tight as Florida was in November, and any attempts to forecast the winner will only leave you, like Tom Brokaw and his colleagues, with egg all over your face. ...
  • Heading South

    "The Mexican" poses a problem for moviegoers everywhere. To go or not to go? You really want to see Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt together. And why not? The wattage both these stars produce with their smiles could solve California's energy crisis. But what their considerable charm can't salvage is "The Mexican," a tired, confused romantic comedy/noir thriller with all the suspense of an infomercial. Maybe it will help you decide if you know that Julia and Brad spend most of the movie apart. They're together only at the beginning (bickering) and at the end (bickering and making up). ...
  • Knock, Knock. Who's There?

    Hannibal Lecter, being a connoisseur of fine wines, Renaissance art, and dapper Borsalino hats, would have liked the idea of Ridley Scott directing the long-awaited sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs." Scott, as we know from "Blade Runner" and "Gladiator," is a visual stylist par excellence. Every frame of his movies has to look just so. "Hannibal" was shot in Florence, Italy (where the cannibalistic Lecter is masquerading as art expert Dr. Fell), in Washington, D.C. (where FBI agent Clarice Starling is based), and on the grand Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. (where Lecter's victim and nemesis, billionaire Mason Verger, plots his revenge on the man who de-skinned his face), and it looks gorgeous. Scott conjures atmospheres that are baroquely seductive. He also gives us sights--Verger's grotesquely disfigured face; a man with the top of his head cut off, revealing a red pulsing brain that Lecter intends to saute for dinner--that make one cringe with disgust.That's the good news....
  • Pass Me An Oscar

    Oscar nominations will be revealed unto the world on Feb. 13, at some ungodly hour, Pacific time. Already we can't stand the wait. Every year, at the height of the melee known as awards season, NEWSWEEK invites Hollywood's most acclaimed filmmakers to a hotel room in Beverly Hills for a full-contact discussion of movies, money and trophies. Directors have compared notes. Screenwriters have swapped outrages. This time we reached out to producers. It's a tenuous time in Hollywood. The Oscar race is strange and uncertain--Can Steven Soderbergh beat Steven Soderbergh?Will Miramax get shut out of the best-picture category?Will Liz Taylor be allowed near a podium?--and there's the threat of strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. What follow are excerpts from the producers' two-hour talk.NEWSWEEK: So who can tell me what it is that you people do for a living? Are you mostly on the phone all day long?STACEY SHER: Oh, that was so cheap! Mostly on the phone all...
  • Lock, Stock, Same Barrel

    Guy Ritchie, who made his name with the London crime comedy "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (and, yes, by marrying Madonna), isn't taking any chances with his second film, "Snatch." Essentially, he's made the same movie over again, with a bigger budget and with Brad Pitt in a funny and flashy supporting role as a bare-knuckle gypsy boxer with an indecipherable quasi-Irish accent.Once again you have larcenous plans gone farcically awry. In this case, the coveted object is an 84-carat diamond stolen in Antwerp, restolen in London and hotly pursued by several different parties of varying criminal ineptitude. Once again you have colorful lowlifes with names like Boris the Blade (Rade Sherbedgia), Turkish (Jason Statham) and Franky Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro, wrestling with a Yiddish accent). Ritchie again serves up his trademark mix of sadism and slapstick in his trademark music-video style. Still, he maintains a fine instinct for just how much blood he can splatter and still...
  • Sundance Memories

    It wasn't particularly hip to go to the Sundance Film Festival in 1986. The E! Channel wasn't there with the video cameras. (There was no E! just yet.) There were no Hollywood agents dressed in black, scouring the parties and screenings for the next Quentin Tarantino. (The first one had yet to arrive.) There were no cell phones, no baseball caps worn backwards, no product tie-ins and no bidding wars over hot movies. Hell, in those days, the little ski town of Park City, Utah, was even semi-dry: you couldn't get a drink in a restaurant unless you ordered a meal. At the time, Sundance was still called the U.S. Film Festival and had about it a loose, convivial, countercultural glow. As for the movies--well, I remember seeing too many earnest films about youngsters coming of age on farms. But the parties rocked.I'd been invited out from New York to participate on a panel with a handful of fellow critics. I was put up in a remote mountain condo that had more guests than bedrooms, and...
  • MY 15 FAVORITE FLICKS

    For all the bellyaching about what a bum movie year it was, when I looked back on the nearly 200 new movies I saw, there were close to 50 I could recommend. Not a bad percentage, all in all. Of course, alarmingly few were from Hollywood studios, but there's a lesson in that. Good things await those with an adventurous moviegoing spirit. I wish I had space to describe a few of the terrific documentaries ("Paragraph 175," "Dark Days," "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack") and room to cram in "Jesus' Son," "Gladiator," "Best in Show" and "Aimee and Jaguar," among other delights. But here are the 15 movies, in order of preference, that gave my bleary eyes the greatest pleasure.Michael Douglas redefined himself playing a pothead novelist-teacher at the end of his rope in Curtis Hanson's hilarious and melancholy comedy. Subtle, literate and generous toward its misfit characters, this wonderful ensemble piece showed what Hollywood artistry, left to its own devices, could achieve.In three...
  • Soderbergh Keeps His Streak Alive

    In Hollywood, 2000 may be remembered as the year of Steven Soderbergh. There's a real chance he may become the first director since Francis Coppola in 1974 to have two films nominated for a best-picture Oscar, "Erin Brockovich" and his panoramic new thriller "Traffic," which takes a scorching look at the way drugs have stained every stratum of society.Three groups have already named Soderbergh the year's best director for both films (the New York and Los Angeles critics, and the National Board of Review), and "Traffic" was crowned best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle. For the man proclaimed the great white hope of independent cinema back in 1989 for "sex, lies, and videotape," it's like a prophecy fulfilled.Sitting in his offices in Burbank in late October, Soderbergh had no idea all these laurels awaited him. Dressed in black jeans, black T shirt and black geek-chic glasses, posters of Godard films overhead, the straight-talking, unpretentious director didn't seem a...
  • Let It Show, Let It Show

    It was a strange year at the movies. Seventeen films so far have broken the $100 million mark at the box office, but it was hard to find anyone who really liked them. There were plenty of good movies--but only a few came from the big Hollywood studios. Cruise and Carrey ruled in blockbusters nobody got excited about, while "surefire" stars Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Travolta went belly up at the box office. And here we are at Christmas, the Oscar race's Last Chance Saloon. What's hype, what's heaven-sent? We take a look at six, bestowing snowflakes on a 1 to 5 scale. ...
  • Hit The Groove

    For a Disney animated movie, "The Emperor's New Groove" arrives on the Christmas scene as quietly as a mouse in padded slippers. Where's the usual brass band, the tie-in merchandise, the Emperor's New King-Size Burger? The lack of hype is refreshing, but will it help or hurt this larkish comic fable? The animation may not have the whirling computer-enhanced movement of a "Tarzan," the rich hues of a "Lion King," the intricate detail work of a "Beauty and the Beast": it's drawn in broad, bold outlines. But the unfussy, tossed-off quality actually helps give this original story zippy irreverence some of Disney's plusher cartoons lack.The antihero of "The Emperor's New Groove" is a thoroughly obnoxious teenage monarch named Kuzco, a ruler so accustomed to having his every whim catered to that he has no concept of compassion. David Spade does his voice, with a callow petulance that nails the brat perfectly. Unfortunately for Kuzco, his ambitious witch of an adviser, Yzma (Eartha Kitt),...
  • Twice As Sweet As Sugar

    Once upon a time, in 1959, in the pious, picturesque and puritanical French town of Lansquenet, a mysterious woman and her daughter, cloaked in red, blew into town on the wake of a north wind. The woman, Vianne (Juliette Binoche), opens a chocolaterie, and her rich, sweet confections, containing magical aphrodisiacal qualities, unlock the pent-up desires and appetites of the townsfolk, pitting the forces of liberation against the forces of repression, and bringing down the wrath of the rigid, powerful Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), upholder of the town's stuffy traditional values.The ingredients of "Chocolat," director Lasse Hallstrom's fanciful and stylish fable, could have been mixed in 1959, when artists declared open season on uptight conformists and the world began to let down its hair in preparation for the oncoming '60s. Amazingly, decades after the sexual revolution, these old battles seem to have acquired a new resonance. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Like...
  • Cliffhanger

    There is one reason, and only one, for anyone to check out "Vertical Limit." The hanging-by-a-fingernail mountain-climbing sequences are spectacular. The cliffhanger is such a primal movie experience that it can turn the most sophisticated moviegoer into a writhing 12-year-old, and director Martin Campbell, stunt coordinator Simon Crane and the special-effects crew serve up several lulus. Perhaps the best comes first: a stunning prologue on the sheer face of a Utah mountain, where brother and sister Peter and Annie Garrett (Chris O'Donnell and Robin Tunney) and their father (Stuart Wilson) find themselves dangling over the void suspended by a single fraying rope, facing a sacri-ficial Sophie's-like choice that, of course, will haunt the survivors for the rest of the movie. Bye, Dad.You could leave after this opening sequence and almost feel you'd gotten your money's worth. That way you'd be spared the many risible moments that occur, with dismaying regularity, whenever there isn't...
  • Hostage Heat

    Taylor Hackford's thriller "Proof of Life" leaves a lot to be desired, but it's got its hands on a fascinating subject. Inspired by a Vanity Fair article by William Prochnau and a book by former hostage victim Thomas R. Hargrove, it gives us a peek into the world of K&R (kidnap and ransom). As organized kidnapping has become a big business, it has given rise to K&R insurance policies, routinely taken out by multinational corporations on behalf of their endangered employees. The insurance companies in turn employ profession- al negotiators--many of whom are former CIA, FBI or Interpol agents--to bargain for the lives of the hostages spirited off by mercenary rebel forces.That's the job of London-based Aussie Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), a former soldier with a calm, cool bedside manner. In "Proof of Life" Thorne finds himself holding the hand of Alice Bowman (Meg Ryan), whose engineer husband, Peter (David Morse), has been abducted by drug-running guerrillas in the...
  • Swords, Sense And Sensibility

    At once elegant and sublimely silly, contemplative and gung-ho, balletic and bubble-gum, a rousing action film and an epic love story, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is one bursting-at-the-seams holiday gift, beautifully wrapped by the ever-surprising Ang Lee.Lee, sly fox that he is, starts slow. Like a poker player artfully hiding the full house in his hand, he gives us 10 minutes of stately, nearly immobile exposition. Then, in a nocturnal showdown of martial-arts finesse, all heavenly hell breaks loose. Two female warriors circle each other warily; then, with the gravity- defying logic of a dream, they leap into the air and literally fly to the top of a building. At the breathless end of this lyrically choreographed battle, audiences around the world have been known to burst into applause. And there is more, and even better, yet to come.For many American viewers, "Hidden Dragon" may be the first Chinese-language film they've ever seen. And they will no doubt feel that ...
  • King Of Kink

    The pointed arrival of "Quills" in the midst of Washington's show trials on Hollywood's alleged immorality couldn't be more timely. A literate, playfully provocative defense of free speech at its most abominable, director Philip Kaufman and writer Doug Wright's movie impudently positions the Marquis de Sade--the 18th-century pornographer who inspired the word sadism--as the twisted spokesman for the creative spirit.We focus in on the old pervert late in his life, when he is incarcerated in the lunatic asylum at Charenton. Fortunately for the marquis (Geoffrey Rush), it's run by a liberal priest (Joaquin Phoenix) who allows him comfy confines, ample wine, and quills and paper with which to pour out his obsessive sexual fantasies. With the aid of a young laundress (Kate Winslet), de Sade's inflammatory books are smuggled out and published--to the outrage of Napoleon. The emperor dispatches the chilly Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) to the asylum with orders to "kill or cure" the...
  • If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

    Even if there were no credits at the start of "Unbreakable," it wouldn't be hard to guess that it was made by the writer-director of "The Sixth Sense." There's the same tone of hushed gravity; the same gray skies and dark Philadelphia interiors; the same measured pace, the camera sitting still and staring while an atmosphere of dread settles upon the audience like a damp fog.And here again is Bruce Willis whispering his lines with fierce concentration. Willis is not dead this time--though he ought to be. Miraculously, his character, a security guard named David Dunn, has survived a train wreck that has killed every other passenger. There's not a scratch on him. This being a thriller by M. Night Shyamalan, we know there must be more than dumb luck involved. But what?Enter Elijah Price. Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) is David's physical opposite. Born with a condition rendering his bones vulnerable to the least impact, he's as breakable as David seems immune to physical harm. The owner of...
  • Family Hour

    Sammy (Laura Linney) is an orderly, tightly wound, somewhat overprotective single mom who works as a bank-loan officer in a small upstate New York town. Her prodigal brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) is the wild one (or so it first seems), a lost, not terribly bright soul who has been drifting around the country barely making ends meet. These adult siblings, who lost their parents at an early age, reunite in Kenneth Lonergan's funny, touching and beautifully calibrated "You Can Count on Me," the Grand Jury Prize winner this year at Sundance.Lonergan, a playwright, has a great ear for the way real people interact, and he knows how to shape scenes that lodge indelibly in your memory. The characters he creates--who include Sammy's lonely 8-year-old son, Rudy (Rory Culkin), who idolizes his childlike uncle, and Sammy's annoyingly fastidious new boss at the bank (Matthew Broderick)--all have the ability to take us by surprise. None more so than Sammy, whose capacity for running amok can rival...
  • Yippee For 'Yi Yi'

    Unless you are lucky enough to frequent film festivals around the world, the name Edward Yang will mean nothing to you. This Taiwanese writer-director is a world-class talent, yet until now none of his remarkable films have been commercially distributed in the United States. "Yi Yi," his seventh movie, is one of the year's best: a rich, funny, enormously humane portrait of a middle-class Taipei family in the throes of romantic, economic and spiritual upheaval. Three light-on-its-feet hours long, it starts with a wedding, ends with a funeral and in between captures what seems like a lifetime of experience.In a high-rise apartment in boom-or-bust Taipei lives 45-year-old NJ (Wu Nienjen), a partner in a floundering computer company, and his wife, Min-Min (Elaine Jin), a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. On the day of her brother's wedding, Min-Min's mother has a stroke, and NJ runs into his childhood love, Sherry (Ke Suyun), now married to an American, whom he hasn't seen in...
  • Fairway Zen

    Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) has lost his swing. A golden boy of golf with infinite promise, he left Savannah, Ga., to enlist in World War I, and returned, years later, a broken man. Now it's 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression. Junuh's long-abandoned girlfriend, Adele (Charlize Theron), desperate to save the country club her rich, dead father has left behind, brings together the two greatest golfers in the world, Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill), in an exhibition match. (These were the real golf giants of the era.) But to succeed she needs the long-vanished local hero to come out of his funk and return to the green. Enter the mysterious Bagger Vance (Will Smith), part-time caddie and spiritual guru, to teach the shattered Junuh how to regain his "authentic swing."This is the premise of Robert Redford's "The Legend of Bagger Vance," a handsome, pleasingly mushy tall tale whose outcome is never in doubt. Adapted from a Steven Pressfield novel by...
  • Horror Show

    All the best stuff in "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" happens before the credits--and the credits aren't at the end. This sequel is set after the release of the original "Blair Witch Project," and in the faux-documentary spirit of the original the townsfolk of Burkittsville are interviewed about the havoc the blockbuster movie has wreaked on their lives. Joe Berlinger, a documentary filmmaker himself ( "Brother's Keeper" and the HBO hit "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"), gets these snippets of duplicitous "reality" just right. It's a clever, funny start, and, for a moment, you may think there actually was a good reason to make a sequel to last year's one-of-a-kind phenomenon.And then the movie proper begins, in slick 35mm color, and it is just another dreadful teen horror flick--albeit one gussied up with self-conscious notions about the thin line between perception and reality. Once more we set out into the Black Hills of Maryland, but the characters have...
  • I See Nice People And They're Paying It Forward

    Hectoring Hollywood to straighten up and fly right is the popular political sport of the season. As if on cue, the life-affirming "Pay It Forward" arrives on the scene, swelled up with good intentions and garlanded with three recent Oscar-contending actors. Its hero is an 11-year-old boy, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment), who is inspired by his seventh-grade teacher to practice random acts of kindness. The teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a man whose face is disfigured with burn scars, exhorts his class to "think of an idea to change the world, and put it into action." Trevor, a solemn, sensitive lad whose mother is an alcoholic Las Vegas cocktail waitress (Helen Hunt), devises a plan to do three good deeds. Each of the three recipients of his selfless acts must "pay it forward," performing three good deeds in turn. Thus begins a movement with the potential to change the world.There are many different ways a premise like this could play out (imagine what the sardonic Spaniard Luis...
  • Dog Treats

    "This is Spinal Tap" and "Waiting for Guffman"--the pitch-perfect pinnacles of the "mockumentary" form--have inspired one too many bad imitations like "Drop Dead Gorgeous." But just when you thought the genre had lost its sparkle, along comes Christopher Guest to remind us how good it can be. Guest, who played in "Spinal Tap" and directed and starred in "Guffman," gathers his best improvisational-team players for "Best in Show," a sharp-eyed satire of the arcane world of dog shows. While it may not be as flat-out hilarious as its predecessors, it's as smart, quiveringly alert and fleet of foot as a purebred pointer on the scent of fresh game.The scenario is simple: we follow the owners and handlers of five dogs (a Weimaraner, Norwich terrier, bloodhound, Shih Tzu and standard poodle) headed for the prestigious Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia. The cast, which includes Parker Posey, co-writer Eugene Levy (as a man with two left feet), Catherine O'Hara, John Michael Higgins and...
  • Light & 'Dark'

    In Lars von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark," the Icelandic singer and composer Bjork gives what may be the most wrenching performance ever given by someone who has no interest in being an actor. It is fitting that when we first glimpse her character, a factory worker named Selma, she is rehearsing an amateur theatrical production of "The Sound of Music" in a working-class town in Washington state in 1963. Fitting because "Dancer in the Dark" unexpectedly turns into a musical itself--one that is the very antithesis of "The Sound of Music"--and because Bjork is herself an amateur in the best sense of the word.The movie won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May. (It opens the New York Film Festival this Friday and will be in theaters Sept. 29.) But the film aroused violently conflicting passions in Cannes. It's a love it or hate it movie. For some of us, however, it's possible to love it and hate it.There is little argument about Bjork. She deservedly won the best-actress award...
  • He's With The Band

    The music-crazed hero of Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" can't quite believe his luck. Here he is, all of 15 years old, on the road with the rock-and-roll band Stillwater, and Rolling Stone is paying him good money to write about it. (The magazine doesn't know how old he is: when it calls, he lowers his voice to disguise his youth.) Nervous, excited, grateful and confused, William (Patrick Fugit) is torn between being a fan and being a journalist. "Just make us look cool," says the very cool lead guitarist, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). On the other hand, William can't get the words of his cranky mentor, Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), out of his head: "You can't make friends with rock stars. These people are not your friends!" Making matters even more complicated (and embarrassing) are the phone messages his worried, protective mother (Frances McDormand) keeps leaving as she tracks his progress across the country: "Don't do drugs!"This is not a predicament many 15-year...
  • Goin' To California In Her Mind

    Renee Zellweger has never been totally of this world--you can't help but suspect there's cotton candy mixed in with her gray matter. That ethereal, pixilated quality makes her perfect to play the heroine of "Nurse Betty," a sweet, naive Kansas waitress who witnesses an event so gruesome and shocking (the scalping and murder of her no-good husband) that she enters a "fugue state," where reality is what she wants it to be.What Betty wants is to be a nurse; even more, she wants to be the lover of Dr. David Ravell, who happens to be her favorite character on the TV soap opera "A Reason to Love." Director Neil LaBute ("In the Company of Men") follows his deluded heroine as she heads for Los Angeles in a borrowed Buick to fulfill her dreams. The Buick, unfortunately, contains the money her husband's assassins (hit-man team Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock) are determined to collect. The chase is on.There are inspired moments in this edgy, unstable comedy, such as the scene when she meets her...
  • Sir Alec Guinness

    He was the perfect person to play John Le Carre's spymaster George Smiley, for he possessed all the necessary talents for a life of stealth: a face so ordinary as to approach anonymity, a mastery of disguise so accomplished he could vanish without a trace inside a role and a wary intelligence that allowed him to reveal the deepest secrets of his characters while slyly protecting his own.Alec Guinness, who died on Aug. 5 at 86, was perhaps the greatest example of a character actor in our century. His tour-de-force performance as all eight members of an aristocratic family in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" set the tone of a shape-shifting 60-year career that would bring him a knighthood, two Oscars, a Tony and--for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi--an unexpected fortune as the recipient of 2.25 percent of the grosses of "Star Wars." ("I shrivel every time it is mentioned," he wrote of his aversion to "Star Wars" mania.) While critics and audiences gasped at the virtuosity that enabled him to...
  • Houston, We Have Liftoff

    Clint Eastwood's "Space Cowboys" is at least three different movies--high-tech thriller, low-key comedy, rumination on aging--jammed together into an implausible but very likable entertainment. The idea of Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones (the first two in their 70s, one in his mid-60s and 53-year-old Jones) donning their astronaut helmets after three decades of inactivity to go on a high-risk NASA expedition into space may be farfetched, but with actors as sly and seasoned as these, who'll complain? Clint reassembles the members of Team Daedalus--whose dreams of making it to space were dashed back in the late '50s--for a mission to repair an obsolete Russian communications satellite. The old satellite has the same guidance system as one Eastwood designed: no one else, it seems, is capable of fixing it.Eastwood's movie, written by Ken Kaufman and Howard Klausner, throws in an old bureaucratic nemesis (James Cromwell) to oversee our heroes; cranks up the...
  • Thin Story About A Fat Man

    Playing the sweet, massive science professor Sherman Klump and his sleek, demonic doppelganger Buddy Love in 1996's "The Nutty Professor," Eddie Murphy took comic chameleonism to some rare, wiggy heights. The frosting on the cake was his all-in-one appearance as the entire Klump clan--lascivious Granny, ebullient Mama, grumpy Pop and grousing Ernie. The Klumps almost stole the picture, so it seemed a great idea to give the whole brood costarring status in the sequel alongside Sherman and Buddy, who are now battling over the profits on Sherman's fountain-of-youth formula.Well, this time it isn't just Sherman who has swallowed the wrong formula--it's the filmmakers. What was a ragged but often hilarious charmer has been genetically altered into a deafening and desperate mutant. Everything has been ratcheted up six notches. You liked the flatulence in the first movie? When someone passes wind in director Peter Segals's sequel, an entire restaurant catches on fire. A dream sequence that...
  • Secrets From Out Of The Past

    No brief plot synopsis can adequately summarize Andre Techine's gripping "Alice and Martin." It unfolds in time-hopping, elliptical style, dropping its psychological clues like bread crumbs in a dense forest of narrative. Techine, who has become, late in his career, one of the masters of French film ("Wild Reeds," "My Favorite Season"), never wastes time with the formulaic: it's the complexities and ambiguities of relationships that inspire his charged, lyrical cinema.The mystery here is Martin (Alexis Loret), a troubled young man from the provinces who flees to Paris to live with his gay half brother, Benjamin (Mathieu Amalric). Sharing Benjamin's dumpy apartment and his life is violinist Alice (Juliette Binoche). Martin finds sudden, unexpected success as a model--a career that accentuates the blankness that seems to be at his core. Obsessed with Alice, who separates her feelings from her sexuality, Martin eventually wins her love--only to push her away and retreat into madness...
  • Much Storm, Little Drang

    Wolfgang Petersen's movie of Sebastian Junger's nonfiction best seller "The Perfect Storm" promises excitement on the high seas, and you can't say it doesn't deliver. Once the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail runs into heavy weather (about an hour into the story), and the special-effects waves begin to roil, there's little danger you'll be bored. Petersen ("Das Boot," "Air Force One") is an action pro, and he's been given control over all the computer-generated tricks that money can buy. As Hurricane Grace and two other weather fronts collide to generate this legendary 1991 storm, the movie tracks not just the crew of Billy Tyne's (George Clooney) fishing boat but a yacht caught in the treacherous drink, and the astonishing efforts of Air Force and Coast Guard rescue teams to pluck the small craft's three endangered sailors from the jaws of catastrophe.Oddly, this helicopter rescue turns out to be the most thrilling episode in the film. What's strange is that we have no idea who these...
  • The Sourpuss We Loved

    HE WAS A CROSS BETWEEN W. C. Fields and a bloodhound, poured into a stooped, 6-foot-3 frame. No Hollywood leading man has ever looked or sounded or shuffled like Walter Matthau: out of that craggy sourpuss face, with its seen-it-all eyes, came a growl of withering disdain that could stop any outburst of innocence in its tracks. Now we can savor his elegant curmudgeonliness only in retrospect. Early on the morning of July 1, Matthau died of a heart attack at 79.The movie that indelibly created Matthau's dourly hilarious persona, and won him his only Oscar (for supporting actor), was Billy Wilder's "The Fortune Cookie" (1966). Wilder tailored the part of shyster lawyer Whiplash Willie for Matthau after seeing him play Oscar Madison on Broadway in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple." But the movie was almost his last. During filming Matthau suffered his first heart attack, and production had to shut down for three months while he recovered. "You see me going upstairs weighing 198 pounds,"...
  • All Grown Up On The Inside

    Image consultant Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) is rich, mean, selfish and incapable of commitment. On the brink of 40, he has a mysterious run-in with, you should pardon the expression, his "inner child." Except that pudgy 8-year-old Rusty (Spencer Breslin) is no metaphor, but a flesh-and-blood kid who is downright appalled by the man he's become--a guy with a twitch who lives without a dog or a woman and has a job teaching people to pretend to be what they're not. The grown-up is no more delighted to meet his former self--a pathetic dweeb who's the butt of schoolyard bullies. Both Russes, in each other's eyes, are losers.One doesn't need to be much more than 8 to predict where "Disney's The Kid" is headed. The presence of Disney in the title ensures that eye-misting life lessons will be learned. But if the endpoint is a homiletic given, the journey itself is more charming, and less sentimental, than you might suspect. Screenwriter Audrey Wells ("The Truth About Cats and Dogs," ...