JULY 2003

LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE & BLONDE: Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Bob Newhart, Luke Wilson, Jennifer Coolidge, Regina King, Alanna Ubach (Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld; MGM/UA) We always knew Reese Witherspoon--or, rather, Elle Woods--was more than just another cotton-topped airhead. But who knew the Harvard Law School grad was the kind of girl who’d postpone her wedding to what-a-great-catch Emmett (Luke Wilson) in order to travel to Washington and wage a war for animal rights? Now Playing

: (Animated; Directed by Tim Johnson; DreamWorks) When Russell Crowe grew too busy to lend his voice to this project, Brad Pitt piped up and said, "I can do that!" (Don't knock it; it’s a gig.) Other voices you may recognize on the soundtrack include those of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes and Christine Baranski. Now Playing

SWIMMING POOL: Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Marc Fayolle, Jean-Marie Lamour, Mireille Mosse (Directed by Francois Ozon; Universal/Focus) A prim, furtively alcoholic writer of mysteries seeks seclusion at the country home of her publisher, but her privacy is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of his brazen, outrageously promiscuous daughter. The slut loves to sunbathe and to take moonlight dips with naked men she scarcely knows, a habit which could turn lethal. This is the first English-language film to be directed by Francois Ozon, the man who gave us "Water Drops on Burning Rocks," "Under the Sand" and "8 Women." Now Playing

TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken, Claire Danes, Mark Famiglietti, Mark Hicks (Directed by Jonathan Mostow; Columbia) Mega-machine Arnie is meaner and maybe leaner than ever in the latest episode of this golden-cow franchise. The cyborg with the Austrian accent will once again protect John Connor, the menaced young man portrayed by Edward Furlong in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Fans of "In the Bedroom" will be thrilled to hear that Nick Stahl, the magnetic performer who played Sissy Spacek's son, will be taking over for Furlong. And we're personally thrilled that stunning Kristanna Loken plays the last of the red-hot terminatrixes. Watch your back, Arnie! Now Playing

CONFUSION OF GENDERS: Pascal Greggory, Nathalie Richard, Vincent Martinez, Alain Bashung, Julie Gayet, Cyrille Thouvenin (Directed by Ilan Duran Cohen; Picture This! Entertainment) A lawyer who can’t make up his mind, sexually speaking, is chased by a female colleague who has a teenage brother the lawyer is tempted to chase. He also has a crush on a man behind bars, as well as the convict’s sister, who, happily, is not behind bars. Is a puzzlement. Now Playing

MADAME SATA: Lazaro Ramos, Marcelia Cartaxo, Flavio Bauraqui, Fellipe Marques, Emiliano Queiroz, Renata Sorrah (Directed by Karim Ainouz; Wellspring) Set in the decadent underworld of 1930's Rio de Janeiro, this story, based on fact, centers on a man who is black, muscular, tender, violent and gay. One minute he is a macho menace wielding a sharp razor; the next minute he is a satiny seductress singing a Josephine Baker love song. The applause for this film when it was shown at Cannes last year was thunderous. Now Playing

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport (Directed by Gore Verbinski; Disney/Buena Vista) Unlike me, you were probably aware that this movie shares its title with a popular Disney theme-park ride. Apparently, it also share’s the ride’s cornball plot. And so we have Johnny Depp playing a romantic 17th-century rogue determined to rescue--and woo--a lady in distress (Keira Knightley). Depp has been looking more and more like the light that failed of late, but even Brando didn’t slip so far so fast. Now Playing

THE CUCKOO: Victor Bychkov, Ville Haapasalo, Anni-Kristiina Juuso (Directed by Alexander Rogozhkin; Sony Pictures Classics) A Finn branded as a coward and a Russian headed for a court martial in the final days of World War II are rescued and protected by a lovely young Lapp. And that’s the beginning of a beautiful three-isn’t-a-crowd relationship. Now Playing

THE HOLY LAND: Oren Rehany, Tchelet Semel, Saul Stein, Albert Illooze, Arie Moskuna (Directed by Eitan Gorlin; CAVU Releasing) A restless rabbinical student in Tel Aviv flees to Jerusalem, falls in love with a prostitute, becomes a buddy to a rowdy American expatriate bartender and a shrewd Arab operator. There's trouble ahead. Now Playing

THE HOUSEKEEPER: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Emilie Dequenne, Brigitte Catillon, Axelle Abbadie, Catherine Breillat, Jacques Frantz (Directed by Claude Berri; Palm Pictures) When a Parisian sound engineer is dumped by his wife, he hires an inexperienced housekeeper to keep his apartment in shape. Does he come to think of her as something more than a floor mopper and window cleaner? Take a guess. Now Playing

I CAPTURE THE CASTLE: Romola Garai, Rose Byrne, Henry Thomas, Marc Blucas, Bill Nighy, Tara Fitzgerald, Sinead Cusack, Henry Cavill (Directed by Tim Fywell; Samuel Goldwyn Films) When your father is a novelist who's had writer's block for 12 years, your step-mother is a scatterbrained nudist, and the castle you live in is coming apart at the beams, what are you to do? That's the question two desperate British sisters are asking themselves in this 1930's romantic drama based on the novel by Dodie Smith. Do you think the girls should try to trap the two American brothers they've recently met into marriage? Now Playing

KM. 0: Concha Velasco, Jesus Cabrero, Carlos Fuentes, Elisa Matilla, Tristan Ulloa, Cora Tiedra, Silke, Roberto Alamo, Merce Pons, Georges Corraface, Miquel Garcia, Victor Ullate Jr, Alberto San Juan, Armando Del Rio (Directed by Juan Lis Iborra and Yolanda Garcia Serrano; TLA Releasing) It's August in Madrid and ids are all asizzle at the Kilometre Zero Plaza, where 14 people come together and make complicated connections. With luck, they'll leave the plaza as seven happy couples. Now Playing

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: Sean Connery, Stuart Townsend, Peta Wilson, Shane West, Jason Flemyng (Directed by Stephen Norrington; Fox) Queen Victoria, who has reason to believe the world is about to be obliterated by evildoers armed with weapons of mass destruction, seeks help from an assortment of oddballs. No, not Bush, Cheney, Rummy and Ashcroft. We're talking here about Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer and people of that ilk. The thing to bear in mind about this cosmic, cross-century fantasy-thriller is that it is based on a cult comic strip (come to think of it, aren't all comic strips these days cult comic strips?). Also, it should be noted that the movie was directed by the man responsible for "Blade," which was based on still another cult comic strip. Remember when the comics just meant Blondie and Dagwood—and maybe Mandrake the Magician? Of course you don’t. Now Playing

NORTHFORK: James Woods, Nick Nolte, Claire Forlani, Duel Farnes, Mark Polish, Daryl Hannah, Graham Beckel, Peter Coyote, Jon Gries, Anthony Edwards, Kyle MacLachlan, Robin Sachs, Ben Foster, Marshall Bell (Directed by Michael Polish; Paramount Classics) The inhabitants of a 1950's Montana town--many of them on the weird side--must be evacuated before the big flood arrives, paving the way for massive hydroelectric dams. Writer-director Michael Polish and writer-actor Mark Polish are the twins responsible for the compelling "Twin Falls Idaho" and the excruciating "Jackpot," so who knows what to expect? Now Playing

THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK: Devon Gummersall, Dylan Bruno, Gina Philips, John Savage, Katharine Towne, Steve Van Wormer, Johnny Whitworth, Sabine Singh, Richard Black (Directed by Jordan Susaman; Freedonia Productions) A pack of would-be revolutionaries deep in the heart of Texas gets a jolt when a man who is a genuine rebel with a cause joins the group. Good to see John Savage, who showed such enormous promise in "The Deer Hunter," "Hair" and "The Onion Field," back in action--it's never too late to deliver. Now Playing

BAD BOYS II: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Gabrielle Union, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, Tom Hillmann, Gino Salvano, Peter Stormare, Henry Rollins, Jordi Molla, Bubba Baker (Directed by Michael Bay; Columbia) From the director of "Pearl Harbor" comes what might well be another bomb with the critics but an automatic hit with the millions of young males who made the original action-comedy a mega-smash. Lawrence and Smith are back as a pair of Miami detectives, this time stirring up a bloody revolution in Cuba. Gabrielle Union plays an undercover agent who is tempted to go under covers with Smith. Now Playing

DIRTY PRETTY THINGS: Chjwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong, Sotigui Kouyate, Abi Gouhad, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Jeffery Kissoon, Darrell D'Silva (Directed by Stephen Frears; Miramax) Here's an intriguing trio, each of whom is employed, more or less gainfully, in a luxury London hotel: a night porter on illegal leave from his native Nigeria, a Turkish chambermaid, and a Chinese prostitute. Three strikingly attractive sleuths in sudden pursuit of the cad responsible for the macabre murder of what may or may not have been a famous surgeon. Sounds like Frears is back in his "Grifters" mode. Let's hope so. Now Playing

THE EMBALMER: Ernesto Mahieux,Valerio Foglia Manzillo, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Lina Bernardi, Pietro Biondi, Bernardino Terracciano, Marcella Granito (Directed by Matteo Garrone; First Run Features) A short but high-strung taxidermist meets the man of his dreams and instantly hires him as an assistant. Before he can turn his employee into his boy toy, however, the hunk takes a lover of the opposite sex. And that sends the taxidermist into a huge hissy. Now Playing

GARAGE DAYS: Kick Gurry, Maya strange, Pia Miranda, Russell Dykstra, Brett Stiller, Chris Sadrinna, Andy Anderson (Directed by Alex Proyas; Fox Searchlight) A bunch of gravely frustrated Australian youths pool their resources and form a rock band. Frustration, alas, is not always the only required fuel to carry you to the top of the rock. It takes talent, too. Now Playing

HOW TO DEAL: Mandy Moore, Allison Janney, Alexandra Holden, Peter Gallagher, Trent Ford, Dylan Baker, Mackenzie Astin, Mary Catherine Garrison, Connie Ray, Nina Foch (Directed by Clare Kilner; Universal/Focus) A plucky teenager (that's our Mandy!) has suffered through so many rocky relationships that she becomes convinced that there is no such thing as true love. We think she simply hasn't met Mr. Right yet and should come to her senses and start hitting the clubs. Or maybe get some dating advice from dear old Grandma, who's played by Nina Foch, 1954 Oscar nominee for "Executive Suite." Now Playing

JOHNNY ENGLISH: Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, Natalie Imbruglia, Ben Miller, Radha Mitchell, Douglas McFerran, Tim Pigott-Smith, Kevin McNally (Directed by Peter Howitt; Universal) Sublimely inept diplomat Rowan Atkinson can’t figure out why he’s suddenly being taken seriously by first-tier British officials. That’s because he doesn’t realize they think he’s a sly, Bond-like secret agent. Nor does he have a clue that fiendish French businessman John Malkovich is bent on beating him at a spy game he doesn’t even know he’s playing. Now Playing

THE SEA IS WATCHING: Hidetaka Yoshioka, Nagiko Tono, Misa Shimizu, Masatoshi Nagase, Eiji Okuda, Renji Ishibashi (Directed by Kei Kumai; Sony/TriStar) In a 19th-century brothel not far from Tokyo, a prostitute breaks the cardinal rule of her profession by falling in love with a client, a handsome young samurai who is hiding from men who’ve sworn to kill him. The screenplay is the last one written by master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Now Playing

MASKED & ANONYMOUS: Bob Dylan, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Steven Bauer, Michael Paul Chan, Bruce Dern, Laura Elena Harring, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Cheech Marin, Chris Penn, Giovanni Ribisi, Mickey Rourke, Richard Sarafian, Christian Slater, Susan Tyrrell, Fred Ward, Robert Wisdom. (Directed by Larry Charles; Sony Pictures Classics) When a musician from the U.S. is sprung from a prison in a Latin American country in order to whip together a benefit concert, he is helped and/or hindered by a huge assortment of eccentrics. A movie that gives screen time to Bob Dylan, Bruce Dern, Cheech Marin and Mickey Rourke can't be all bad. Or can it? Here's what Variety critic Todd McCarthy said when "Masked & Anonymous" played Sundance: "A vanity project in which everyone looks bad, this wannabe sociopolitical-musical provocation comes off instead as hipster upchuck." Now Playing

BUFFALO SOLDIERS: Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dean Stockwell, Elizabeth McGovern, Gabriel Mann, Leon, Shiek Mahmud-Bey, Michael Pena, Glenn Fitzgerald (Directed by Gregor Jordan; Miramax) Is this poster torn from today's headlines or what? Surely, there's no way Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein could have anticipated the recent sticky-fingered conduct of a handful of G.I.'s in Baghdad museums when he picked up this comedy about thieving, drugging Yanks in Germany. Nor could he have imagined the enormous yawn the movie received at Sundance earlier this year or the capsule reviews volunteered by Alec Baldwin and his business partner Jon Cornick after a recent screening. "I don't see how they can release that," said Cornick, according to The New York Times. Baldwin seemed disappointed, too. "I thought it was supposed to be controversial for political reasons," he said. "But the only controversy is that it says the Army is a bunch of hopheads." Now Playing

CAMP: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Letterle, Chris Spain, Dn Dixon, Sasha Allen, Tiffany Taylor, Alana Allen, Egle Petraityte, Stephen Sondheim (Directed by Todd Graff; IFC Films) A songwriter whose career is on the skids is reduced to taking a job at a summer camp for Broadway wannabes. And, as fast as you can say Mickey and Judy, they're all putting on the best show ever. The Sundance crowd loved this one. Now Playing

HOTEL: Salma Hayek, John Malkovich, Lucy Liu, David Schwimmer, Saffron Burrows, Danny Huston, Chiara Mastroianni, Burt Reynolds, Valeria Golino, Jason Isaacs, Laura Morante, Rhys Ifans, Ornella Muti, Julian Sands (Directed by Mike Figgis; Moonstone Entertainment) In "Time Code," British writer-director Mike Figgis managed to please critics and turn off audiences by splitting his screen into four parts and telling several stories simultaneously. Apparently, he's done something similar on this occasion, setting his stories during the Venice Carnival and flitting from a filming of Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi" to the making of a documentary about that project to a tricky murder scheme to some grotesque activities in the basement of a swank hotel. This tells me all I need to know about the movie--except, when is check-out time? Now Playing

LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Chris Barrie, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Til Schweiger, Djimon Hounsou, Simon Yam, Terence Yin, Ronan Vibert (Directed by Jan de Bont; Paramount) Buffed but restless archaeologist Lara Croft takes a big dip and happens upon not only a sunken temple, but Pandora’s Box as well. But then a Chinese scamp steals the box from under Lara and threatens to use it as a doomsday weapon. We don't need a team of U.N. inspectors rooting out Weapons of Mass Destruction to tell us that we're in for big trouble. Now Playing

LUCIA LUCIA: Cecilia Roth, Kuno Becker, Carlos Alvarez (Directed by Antonio Serrano; Fox Searchlight) When a spirited Mexican's husband has gone missing, she doesn't sit around waiting for him to show up. She goes looking for him--and when she does, she's apt to stumble on some painful secrets. Now Playing

MONDAYS IN THE SUN: Javier Bardem, Lis Tosar, Jose Angel Egido, Nieve de Medina, Enrique Villen, Ceslo Bugallo, Joaquin Climent, Aida Folch (Directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa; Lions Gate) Unemployment in the early part of the 21st century is no joke, but writer-director Fernando Leon de Aranoa reportedly has managed to inject at least a little humor into this drama about the residents of a coastal town in the north of Spain who are dealt a heavy blow when a shipyard shuts down. Javier Bardem is said to give yet another superb performance. Now Playing

SEABISCUIT: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, William H. Macy, Gary Stevens, Sam Bottoms, Ed Lauter (Directed by Gary Ross; Universal) An ex-boxer (Tobey Maguire) and a tough mustang-tamer get hold of an almost puny horse owned by a strong-willed millionaire (Bridges) and turn the beast into the Horse of the Year in 1938. But will this movie, based on Laura Hillenbrand's best seller, be a champ? If not, search the shelves of Blockbuster for "The Story of Seabiscuit," a nothing-but-the-truth 1949 biopic starring Shirley Temple, Lon McCallister and Barry Fitzgerald. Now Playing

SPY KIDS 3-D: GAME OVER: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara (Directed by Robert Rodriguez; Dimension) The snoopy-spooky twins are at it again. This time, one of the intrepid juves is trapped in a virtual reality game (it was bound to happen eventually), and the other must rush to the rescue. With luck, this game really will be over. Now Playing