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BANDITS  (2001)
  (MGM)
         
Rated:  PG-13
Warnings:  Language, Violence, Mild Sexual Situations, Adult Themes
Starring:  Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett

    A pair of bank robbers, recently escaped from prison, embark on a crime spree with the help of a ditzy housewife they've taken hostage.

    The story is fun from the very first moment you meet these two unlikeliest of criminals.  Two of the nicest guys you'd ever want to take you hostage.  Bruce Willis (who's hair definitely has seen better days) is superb in his need for anger management training and Billy Bob Thornton's hypochondriac is hysterical.  The icing on the cake though has got to be Cate Blanchett who's bored and lonely housewife is a few cards short of playing with a full deck.
    Surprise twists.  Great chemistry between the actors.  A delightful ending.  This will be a must have in my video library.

* * * 1/2


  
A BEAUTIFUL MIND  (2001)
    (Universal)
* * * *
         
Rated:  PG-13
Warnings:  Language, Violence, Sexual References, Adult Themes
Starring:  Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Ed Harris, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh     Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer.

      Biopic of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr., who after graduate school suffered from severe schizophrenia, overcame his mental breakdown with the help of his devoted wife Alicia and returned to teaching at Princeton where he won a Nobel Prize in 1994.

    Wow.  What a movie.
    The casting is impeccable.  Russell Crowe once again delivers a performance worthy of Oscar recognition in the role of Nash.  it's amazing how he handles Nash's mental flaws.  Not with the usual big bravado that most actors use to represent mental illness, but with a gentle subtlety and with human respect.  Handling the man's insanity with a substantial sanity.  Crowe is brilliant.
    Ed Harris is equally wonderful as the mysterious man from the defense department who becomes such a big part of Nash's life.  Mysterious and scary.  On a side note, in the middle of filming this movie, Harris and Crowe both received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Harris in Pollock and Crowe in Gladiator).  Thank goodness they're both professionals and didn't bring personal baggage back to the Princeton set when filming resumed.
    The other members of the cast are equally wonderful to watch.  Jennifer Connelly (Pollock) as the woman who loves Nash and Paul Bettany (A Knight's Tale) as Nash's best friend Charles Herman.  Bettany adds the nuances of levity the story needs at just the right moments.
    Directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Cocoon), the sentimentality and emotional moments keep to all the right levels.  You never feel that you've been manipulated as some movies do, and Howard doesn't direct this with a heavy hand as he has often been known to do.
    There's no way to get around it.  A Beautiful Mind is a beautiful movie.  Everything about it is done to perfection.  Winner of three Academy Awards - Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly), Best Director (Ron Howard) and Best Picture.    


  
BEST IN SHOW  (2000)  

         
Rated:  PG-13  (Moderate Language, Mild Violence, Sexual References, Adult Themes)
Starring:  Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr, Larry Miller, Bob Balaban

    Follows 5 hopefuls and their owners/handlers as they prepare to participate in the pinnacle of dog shows, The 125th Annual Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show.

    Directed by Christopher Guest from a screenplay he co-wrote with Eugene Levy.  In this mock documentary, Guest captures the idiosyncrasies and neurotic tendencies of some pretty extreme individuals with hilarious results.  He does for dog shows what he did for community theatre with WAITING FOR GUFFMAN.    
    Each of the 5 spotlighted dogs and their people are an extreme, from the neurotic preppies and their psychoanalyzed Weimeraner to the gool ole' boy and his Bloodhound.  All delightful and full of funny moments.
    One of the funniest characters is the play by play commentator, Fred Willard, who not only knows nothing about dogs but also shows his extreme lacking in many other conversational people skills as well.
    Whether you're a dog person or not, this small gem is a hit.

* * *


  
BIG FAT LIAR   (2002)
    (Universal)
    
Rated:  PG
Warnings:  Mild Language, Mild Violence
Starring:  Frankie Muniz, Amanda Bynes, Paul Giamatti, Amanda Detmer, Donald Faison, Lee Majors

    What's the harm in telling a little lie or two?  Well for Jason Shepard, there's no such thing as a little lie or two - everything that comes out of his mouth is far from the truth.  His falsehoods are about to catch up with him when he meets someone - a Hollywood producer - who not only steals a story idea but who lies even more than he does.
    
    Directed by Shawn Levy (television's The Famous Jett Jackson).  This is not strictly a movie for kids, it's one of the rare movies that even with a PG rating, bridges the gap and provides entertainment for both kids and adults alike.  There are lots of little insider jokes about moviemaking that adults will get and the little ones won't, but there are plenty of laughs for everyone.
    The story (written by Dan Schneider) is crisp and sharp and very funny.  Funny in the way the kids scheme, funny in how the Hollywood producer gets his come-uppance, and funny in the movie industry itself.  The kids have a great time making their way around the back lots of the studio; where there's a new world and a new adventure around every corner.  The prop room is a blast, filled with all sorts of things like dinosaurs, mummies, and silver DeLoreans with flux capacitors.
    The casting is very good.  Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) and Amanda Bynes (The Amanda Show) work very well off one another, and each one has an incredible sense of comedic timing.  But Giamatti is the real thrill here, so obnoxious and so nasty that we all revel in the torment he endures at the hands of these kids.  It's just delightful.

* * *


  
BLOW  (2001)
   (New Line Cinema)
               
Starring:  Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Paul Reubens, Rachel Griffiths, Jordi Molla, Cliff Curtis, Max Perlich  
Rated:  R  (Strong Language, Violence, Nudity, Sexual Situations, Adult Themes)
    
    True story about George Jung, currently serving time in prison, who almost single-handedly initiated the Columbian cocaine trade in the United States during the mid seventies.

    Based on the book by Bruce Porter.
    Directed by Ted Demme, Blow follows Jung in an entertaining and thought provoking way, step by step from insecure Massachusetts kids to prison inmate.  It does little to glamorize the lifestyle of a drug trafficker, if anything it depicts how dangerous and ultimately depressing a career choice this is.
    Johnny Depp pulls off an impressive performance and is surrounded by nothing more than top notch actors in every role.
    Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman), as Jung's California partner, immediately buries any idle notion anyone may have had previously about not having an acting ability.  He's just delightful.
    The movie has a great soundtrack, the costumes and set design for each period depicted are right on.
    Inmate George Jung, sentenced until 2015 at Otisville, got his own private showing of this film along with the film's director, producer and the prison warden.  Jung will be 72 years old when he's released.

* * * *


  
BOUNCE  (2000)
    
Starring:  Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Joe Morton, Natasha Henstridge, Tony Goldwyn, Jennifer Grey, John Galecki
Rated:  PG-13  (Language, Moderate Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual References, Adult Themes)

    A cocky ad executive, who's life was turned on it's ear when the airplane he was supposed to have been on crashes, tries to overcome his guilt and inner demons by developing a relationship with the unknowing widow of the man he'd given his boarding pass to.

    Written and directed by Don Roos, who's previous effort was THE OPPOSITE OF SEX.
    Very well written story.  Sweetly romantic with a definite edge.
    Very realistic and believeable performances by both Paltrow and Affleck.  Ben Affleck showing much more depth onscreen than we've seen him show before.
    This was filmed after Benneth's (Ben and Gwyneth's) own relationship ended.  That could have been a real disaster because the couple's relationship in the story is so delicate, but they both proved that they are both professionals.


  
THE BOURNE IDENTITY  (2002)
  (Universal)
         
Rated:  PG-13
Warnings:  Language, Violence, Adult Themes
Starring:  Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Chris Cooper

    A man rescued at sea who suffers from amnesia, tries to piece his life back together and discovers he may have been a spy.

    Based on the book by Robert Ludlum.  Directed by Doug Limon.
    Very suspenseful.  Well written.  Great casting and acting - especially by Matt Damon.  Who knew he had it in him (the sleuthy spy action stuff, that is).

* * * 1/2  (VERY GOOD)
        

  
BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY  (2001)
  (Miramax)

Rated:  R
Warnings:  Strong Language, Moderate Violence, Brief Nudity, Brief Sexual Situations, Broad Sexual References, Adult Themes
Starring:  Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones

    A British woman, tired of being habitually single, decides to take an active role directing her life and in particular her love life.

    Renee Zellweger, does quite an impressive job transforming herself into a Brit in this role.  Not the type with subtle refined qualities that the likes of Gywneth Paltrow usually takes, but a middle class commoner.  She pulls off the task with zeal.  There was originally some controversy about a Yankee being cast in this role, but I do believe Renee's performance has squelched all the negativity.
    Hugh Grant doesn't play his usual "everybody's sweetheart" sort of role either.  Hooray.  He's downright despicable here.
    Fortunately, we do get the delightful experience of seeing Colin Firth in a larger role than normal.  He is absolutely delightful and oh so yummy too.
    The story is entertainingly told, and exceptionally acted by all.  There are alot of laughs to be had here.    

 * * * 1/2
     

  
BRING IT ON!  (2000)


Starring:  Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union
Rated:  PG-13  (Language, Mild Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual References, Adult Themes)

    When the new team captain of the championship winning cheerleading squad learns that their moves were stolen from an inner city school by her predecessor, she not only scrambles to get a new routine to save their reputation, but also to get the defrauded school into the competition as well.

    Fresh new angle - that cheerleading is a sport, and the squad members are drawn to achievement and serious athletic competition instead of the social or popularity angle typically portrayed in bimbo airhead cheerleader movies.
    The cheer routines are quite impressive to watch.  The cheer squads were made up of 20 individuals, 8 actors and 12 actual cheerleaders.  The cast spent several weeks prior to shooting at cheerleader camp working very closely with cheer and dance choreographers as well as with veteran cheerleaders.  Their efforts really paid off.
    The story, written by Jessica Bendinger, doesn't go for cheap laughs.  It stays upbeat with a positive focus on hard working teens who really take pride in their sport.

* * *


  
BUBBLE BOY  (2001)
  (Touchstone)
         
Rated:  PG-13
Warnings:  Language, Moderate Violence, Sexual References, Adult Themes
Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Marley Shelton, Swoosie Kurtz, Danny Trejo, Fabio, Vern Troyer

    When a teen, who's spent his entire life inside a germ proof plastic bubble, discovers he's in love with the girl next door, he decides to build a portable bubble and go to Niagra Falls to stop her from getting married.

    Totally ridiculous.  Very VERY loosely based on the MTV movie with John Travolta "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble".
    The title character, through his travels across country in his bubble suit, encounters absurd characters and insane situations.  There are biker gangs and overly happy cults, midgets and side-show acts, an middle eastern man selling ice cream and curry from a van and then there's Fabio.  Who could ask for more?     

* *

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