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They bicker, emotionally blackmail each other, kiss and make up. Because they have history. But Bruce Willis and John Malkovich aren’t the “real” couple at the heart of “Red 2,” the action comedy sequel about retired government assassins. They’re just part of a love triangle, one that Mary-Louise Parker completes. Her character Sarah may be Frank’s (Willis) dizzy but decreasingly naive lady love, but Marvin (Malkovich) is the one who gullibly fills her in on this bloody if exciting life they’ve led and somehow continue to lead. And he’s the one who gives her guns.
As sympathetic, methodical ghostbusters, Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) make the old-fashioned haunted-house horror film “The Conjuring” something more than your average fright fest. In 1971, they come to the Perrons’ swampy, musty Rhode Island farmhouse – newly purchased from the bank – to investigate the demonic spirit that has begun terrorizing the couple and their five daughters – a working class family who thought they had clawed their way into a rustic dream house.
In animation shorthand, “Turbo” is “Cars” with snails. It’s light on the jokes, but cute, with animation so vivid it looks photo-real. It’s another “impossible dream” tale, this time of a motorhead mollusk who has a need for “terrifying, blinding speed.” Theo (Ryan Reynolds) is an auto-racing-obsessed garden snail who longs to escape his colony of tomato-munchers. The occasional terror by a Big Wheel-riding tyke nicknamed “Shell Crusher” and the odd assault by crows is the only excitement in this over-organized, limited world.
At first glance, “Blancanieves” looks like a gimmick: It’s a Spanish film based loosely on the story of Snow White, and it’s photographed to resemble a black-and-white silent film from the earliest days of narrative cinema. But, like 2011’s mostly silent Best Picture winner “The Artist,” this is the case of convention breeding invention, and director Pablo Berger is artistically liberated by his techniques when most filmmakers would be shackled by them. Spain’s official selection as Best Foreign Film for this year’s Oscars (it wasn’t nominated), “Blancanieves” begins in the tradition of grand, lurid melodramas. In 1920s Seville, a famed bullfighter is gored in the ring, and his pregnant wife goes into labor as she looks on. She dies giving birth, and her husband, now paralyzed, rejects his newborn daughter in grief.
(photo of a scene from "Scream 2")
Being blind isn't funny. But then, neither is "Mr. Magoo." For a while, it has a chance. The mildly amusing opening credits are a nimated, showing the real Magoo with the real Magoo voice. But then we shift to a live-action "comedy" with Leslie Nielsen bumbling around, doing a poor imitation of the blind, oblivious Magoo's nasal voice.
Late in "An American Werewolf in Paris," a Frenchman sarcastically thanks a club full of young Americans for all the great culture their country has added to the world. Funny, but this movie is just the kind of Hollywood product that those cranky Europeans crab about. Not quite a remake of or sequel to John Landis' 1981 horrific comedy "An American Werewolf in London," director Anthony Waller's new movie tells another werewolf story involving American students traveling overseas.
Cinque (Dijmon Hounsou, right) is sold in a Havana slave market in Steven Spielberg's "Amistad."
There's nothing wrong with "Jackie Brown" that a big pair of scissors wouldn't cure. Quentin Tarantino's caper comedy is visually arresting, but it's at least half an hour too long. Luckily, that bloated feeling can't obscure the movie's strengths, which include enjoyably deadpan dialogue and fine performances by Robert De Niro, Robert Forster and Samuel L. Jackson (wearing a braided beard that is like a perpetual motion machine).
'As Good As It Gets" doesn't quite live up to its title, but it comes pretty darn close. A wonderfully unconventional look at love and the tenuous way people make connections in today's anonymous world, James L. Brooks' new film features a stellar cast along with crisp, intelligent writing and a cute little dog who manages to upstage everyone, including Jack Nicholson. The movie follows three characters who have absolutely nothing in common but wind up needing each other desperately. Nicholson is Melvin Udall, an obsessive-compulsive romance novelist who has several unwavering routines. He uses a bar of soap only once. He can't step on sidewalk cracks. And every morning, he consumes a hearty breakfast served by the only waitress in New York who can put up with him.
"The Postman" shows what can go wrong when you trust movie stars to direct themselves (Kevin Costner in this case)>
If history has taught us anything, it is that no matter how difficult things become, humans have a way of surviving. Often even thriving. In "Guantanamera," the setting is modern-day Cuba. The humans in question comprise an assorted lot from former professor to undertaker, elderly musician to truck driver. The hardships include (redundancy alert) silly bureaucracies and uncompromising bureaucrats, high prices and low wages, uncertain transportation, vanities of the ego, the pain of lost love and, looking over it all, the angel of death.
What with the Jane Austen craze having runs its course, the past year has belonged to Henry James. And never has Hollywood played the literary cannibal game so completely nor so well. One estimate sets the overall number of James-inspired films and miniseries at 17. Even so, the recent mini-boom has been, well, Austenesque in its use of the best and brightest talents. Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady" starred Nicole Kidman and Barbara Hershey, while Iain Softley's "The Wings of a Dove" - which is still playing in the theaters - has been winning critical plaudits for Helena Bonham Carter.
1. With an awesome beauty, the sinking scenes in "Titanic" show us how spectacular the oceanliner was. The movie's superb special effects set the scene for a love story between characters played by (2) Kate Winslet, top right, and (3) Leonardo DiCaprio.
Pierce Brosnan is joined by Michelle Yeoh in "Tomorrow Never Dies.'
I am happy to say that "Alien Resurrection" more than makes up for the disappointment of "Alien 3." This movie returns to the roots of the Alien series with a real haunted house feeling to it. "Alien Resurrection" takes place 200 years after its predecessor. Scientists have cloned Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) from blood samples taken when she was on Fury 161. The reason, to revive the alien species to use as a weapon against enemies. The scientists remove the alien from her and begin to clone more aliens, making 12 before the aliens escape and begin wreaking havoc on the ship. Ripley teams up with a group of mercenaries to escape from the ship before it reaches Earth. There are many surprises along the way, including the birth of a new albino alien. I think "Alien Resurrection" is a pretty good movie, it's only problem lies in the casting of Winona Ryder as one of the muscle-bound mercenaries who assists in Ripley's escape. In the end, however, I found myself getting over that and accepting her as one of the crew. "Alien Resurrection" was a very good movie and had me jumping in more than a few places. If you liked the earlier Aliens movies then you will like "Alien Resurrection." Grade: B+
1. Foreground, from left, Portia DeRossi, Rebecca Gayheart and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Wes Craven's "Scream 2." 2. David Arquette, left, and Jamie Kennedy aren't above suspicion in "Scream 2."
Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley rely on their sit-com tricks in "For Richer or Poorer."
Bad guy Olek Krupa in "Home Alone 3": Children deserve better.