Steven Spielberg, that esteemed (and sometimes demeaned) captain of popular cinematic culture, dons his serious sailing cap again as he steers an unwieldy though ultimately stirring vessel known as Amistad. At least no one can accuse the guy of playing it safe. The narrative perils are daunting in this little-known true tale of a bloody slave-ship rebellion in 1839 and its jumbled aftermath in the U.S. judicial system. For one, the African captives don't speak English, and subtitles are used sparingly. That makes them as much of an enigma to us for at least half of the film as they are to the New Englanders who defend them as illegally gotten goods. Stars Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, and dynamic newcomer Djimon Hounsou. Do not miss the absolutely stunning opening scene.
Great big gobs of wiggly green goo. Everybody's favorite playmate, Robin Williams. All the gee-wizardry that '90s effects can conjure. A perfect formula for family fun, right? Oops. They flubbed it.
Kiss the Girls*
Kiss the Girls turns out to be one high-profile serial killer movie too many after The Silence of the Lambs, Copycat and Seven - adding little to a genre, which, even at its best, can be queasy and exploitative. Even those engrossed by the build-up here are likely to kiss off the rest after suffering through Girls' groaner of a wrap-up. Tracking a serial sickie for the second consecutive autumn, Seven's Morgan Freeman plays a Washington, D.C., forensic detective with a personal interest in eight Durham, N.C., abductions of accomplished, strong-willed women - one of them his violinist niece. Freeman and Judd are well-cast, but this adequately assembled thriller is more clinical than emotional, limiting even its better actors to establishing their competence and little more.
If what you want, what you really, really want, is a mindless hyperactive romp about a quintet of British airheads with flippy hair, flirty costumes, monster shoes and minute talent, then enter Spice World. It's movie as theme park, a loud, obnoxious and dull ride through Hollywood cliches, oddball Angloisms and so-so musical sequences. Although the Spices at least wink at the backlash against their manufactured rapid rise, the plot is thong-thin. The girls are in London preparing for their first live concert. Fame is their cage, and dictatorial manager Richard E. Grant is their keeper. Tailing the cavernous Spice Bus are a film producer, George Wendt of Cheers, a documentary crew and a sneaky tabloid photographer. Elton John is only the first of many awkward star cameos.
Though ship and ice don't meet until 100 minutes in, Titanic is the one long movie in recent memory that you can easily sail through with a minimum of wristwatch checks. Once all hell and not a few wood chunks break loose, the script shrewdly contrives a way for the lovers - actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio - to be both topside and below deck in the flooding, where Winslet's first-class traveler wouldn't otherwise be. The odds on favorite to capture more Oscars than ever before.
I Know What You Did*
Predictably, the derivative title here is a jumping-off point for another derivative slasher-revenge pic, and if one victim just happens to be another blond beauty queen, the box office won't suffer, will it? Kevin Williamson knows a lot about observing genre conventions, having parlayed his Scream script into a notably strange Christmas season release with lots of repeat business. Like Scream, this melodrama about the gory aftermath of a hit-and-run accident is aimed at that segment of the viewing public that can often be seen near the 7-Eleven Slurpee bar.
Film Legend: (*) - Original Version (D) - Dubbed (SC) - Slovak/Czech (ET) - English Titles
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