The full Monty*
Unemployed steel laborers in depressed Sheffield, England take their cue from the Chippendales and strip for money. Imagine potbellied Teamsters doing the ol' bump and grind and you get the idea. The auditions, the rehearsals, the dropout who returns in time for the grand finale. It's an engrossing study of the male ego stripped bare. Director Peter Cattaneo and writer Simon Beaufoy are more keen about exposing the men's emotional shortcomings than their bodies. Low-budget films live and die by small moments, and The Full Monty is fully stocked.
Seven years in tibet*
Brad Pitt tutoring the Dalai Lama sounds like a match made in Oz. But solemnity, not absurdity, is the big problem with Seven Years in Tibet, a numbingly earnest bio of sorts about Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (Pitt). What saves the film however, is the breathtaking scenery, and wonderful look into Tibetan Buddhism. Unfortunately, the movie takes much to long to get to Tibet, and once there, the Chinese ruin the party.
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.
The central joke in The Devil's Advocate is that the devil is a lawyer, and old news or not, it's a promising premise for a glossy star vehicle. Al Pacino, good subordinate casting and a lush look generate some fun for a while. Then, as the movie approaches 2 1/4 hours, it begins feeling like eternal damnation. The Firm meets Rosemary's Baby is the nutshell description, with Keanu Reeves as the youngest legal hotshot in Gainesville, Fla. A New York law firm is beckoning, and though Reeves' scripture-quoting mom says beware, his adoring wife (Charlize Theron) thinks he can handle the big time. Pacino has fun rolling his eyes as you know who, but his showiest scenes come near the end when the movie has worn out its welcome and director Taylor Hackford is flailing for a wrap-up.
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.
Bruce Willis shows up in his first scene with a shave and a conventional haircut, but don't let the sight of a spruce Bruce fool you. His character is a master of disguises (and despite good grooming, amoral scum) in this loose, handsome and only functional variation on 1973's The Day of the Jackal. Willis does a lot with a little, with Richard Gere playing it straight in an appealing character role as a flawed IRA activist turned unlikely hero. The movie's saving point may be the chance to savor Sidney Poitier's still commanding presence in his best big-screen role in two decades or more.
Film Legend: (*) - Original Version (D) - Dubbed (SC) - Slovak/Czech (ET) - English Titles
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