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Superman Review


Very Good
Yeah, it was 1978 when Superman first hit theaters in the version most of us remember -- with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Marlon Brando as his disco-inspired pop. Superman is a lovable epic full of quaint nostalgia and incredible mysteries of logic (because if the earth spun the other way round, time would apparently reverse). The story tells the bulk of the Superman legend -- his escape from Krypton, coming to terms with his powers as a youth in Smallville, moving to big old Metropolis and becoming Clark Kent (and falling for crusty Lois Lane), and dealing with a Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, excellently over the top) plan to buy up real estate in Nevada and then destroy most of California, thus making his new coastline worth millions. Watch for Terence Stamp's Zod in the first scene -- he'll be back to rule as one of cinema's great villains in Superman II.

Prime Cut Review


Good
A guy who turns his enemies into hot dogs and dopes up girls to sell as sex slaves?

Sounds far more interesting than it really is, and as the lead villain, Gene Hackman gets far too little screen time. Prime Cut is Lee Marvin's story, the mob enforcer sent from Chicago to collect half a million dollars in debts from Hackman's "Mary Ann," and decides to rescue poor Poppy (Sissy Spacek in her first speaking role) from Mary Ann's clutches.

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Heartbreakers Review


Very Good
The problem with a movie like Heartbreakers is that as hard as you try to concentrate on the notable qualities of the film -- the clever camerawork, the strong ensemble acting, the deft script -- every time Jennifer Love Hewitt walks into a scene, her breasts take over. Even my date noticed the blatant attempts by the filmmakers in drawing all attention to the chests of both Sigourney Weaver and Hewitt. Alas, all those breasts are never fully revealed -- like some bad '80s teen horror film censored by Jerry Falwell.

Despite the massive amounts of boob time in Heartbreakers, the film delivers all the goods of a solid comedic vehicle. Max (Weaver) and Page (Hewitt) are a mother/daughter team who swindle rich guys out of their dollars in a con involving matrimony vows, extramarital trysts, and divorce settlements. Sort of like a cross between Anywhere but Here and The Grifters. With the IRS hot on their proverbial tails, the duo team up for one last job, bilking cigarette tycoon William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman) out of his cash. Alas, during the con job, Page ends up falling in love with a local bar owner (Jason Lee), a dead body ends up in their trunk, Princess Leia shows up as a divorce attorney, and a jilted ex-husband (Ray Liotta) shows up waving a gun and advising group therapy for everyone.

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The Chamber Review


Bad
Goody goody Chris O'Donnell heads down to Mississippi to defend his long lost grandpa, who's about to be executed for a racist hate crime decades earlier. Is it possible to care about this story? Faye Dunaway's puppy dog performance sure doesn't help matters.

Bonnie And Clyde Review


Extraordinary
Faye Dunaway has never looked better than when she wore a hat titled to one side and aimed a gun right at the camera for the poster shot of Bonnie and Clyde. This watershed film from Arthur Penn tells the dreamlike, obviously fictionalized tale of infamous bank robbers Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Dunaway), who plied their trade in the south during the Great Depression. Their famous bullet-ridden end is one of cinema's most famous shootouts. Less has been said (though it should) for Bonnie's expertly written dialogue and impressive performances all around. You'll never root for the bad guys more than you will here.

Twice In A Lifetime Review


OK
Gene Hackman as tender steelworker/father in Seattle? We don't think so either, and this movie's ultimate plotline -- about Hackman's falling out with wife Ellen Burstyn and falling in with local hussie Ann-Margret, just doesn't play well today. It probably didn't play well in 1985, either, which is why you haven't heard of it. Despite a few interesting performances from some of cinema's biggest names, this one still merits a pass.

Under Suspicion Review


Good
It's an interesting box drama, and given its huge stars -- Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman -- it's amazing this is a "First on Max" thriller. Hackman plays a tax attorney in Puerto Rico who discovers a strangled girl's body on his morning run. He is brought in to answer "just a few questions," but soon it becomes clear he is the prime suspect. Or is he being framed? Is his gorgeous wife (Monica Belucci) involved? Maybe the cops?

The use of flashbacks is interesting and unique -- replaying scenes over and over with a different spin. And the film truly keeps you guessing, though it goes out of the way to make Hackman look guilty. But what's up with the nonsense ending?

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The Package Review


Good
A capable and decent thriller, The Package has that familiar old Gene Hackman crusty military character that we've all grown to love. The conspiracy/nuclear disarmament plot is really outdated now, but a little paranoia can go a long way in a flick like this.

Extreme Measures Review


Excellent
It's an old question of what's right and what's wrong: if you could cure a disease by killing one person, would you do it? That's basically the premise which starts up Extreme Measures, an ultra-creepy little medical thriller by prolific filmmaker Michael Apted.

If you can deal with the notion of Hugh Grant as a doctor, you've probably suspended disbelief enough to buy the whole production. Dr. Guy Luthan (Grant) finds a mystery patient in his trauma room at Gramercy Hospital. When the patient dies from a bizarre collection of symptoms, no one seems to care except for the dashing British doc.

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Heist Review


Good
David Mamet is a good director. Mamet's an even better screenwriter and playwright. The guy's authored some of the best film and theatre works in the past decade -- The Verdict, House of Games, Wag the Dog, State and Main, and the guy even won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Glengarry Glen Ross. With that said, it's such a shame that his latest crime caper, Heist, falls apart by employing too many of the well-known devices of a Mamet production -- double-crossing femmes fatale, overtly memorable characters, and deceptive plot lines.

But movies like The Spanish Prisoner, Things Change, and The Winslow Boy display a roundness to Mamet's innate abilities. And it's almost a crime to witness how all of that goes awry in his latest film, Heist.

Continue reading: Heist Review

Superman II Review


Good
Superman's sequel is probably as good as the original, thanks to Terence Stamp's inimitable Zod, released (thanks to Superman himself, the big lunk!) on earth with his posse of goons, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran). This time out, Lois discovers Clark Kent's true nature as the Man of Steel, and his computerized mother convinces Supe to give up his powers in order to marry the gal. Er, great call, Mom. Clark hightails it back to the Fortress to get the powers back, just in time for a duel with the three Zod folks at the end of the movie.

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Night Moves Review


Weak
Hey, I loved Chinatown too. A year after Roman Polanski made his masterpiece, Arthur Penn came along and shat out this dreck in a sad attempt to quickly knock off what made Chinatown great.

We pick up the story with Los Angeles detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), a P.I. who's hired by a wealthy woman to track down her runaway daughter (Melanie Griffith in her first speaking part and already taking off her clothes), who's run off to the Florida Keys. Almost at random, a secondary plot develops, involving a murderous movie stunt coordinator. Meanwhile, Harry's wife is cheating on him, and Harry confronts the guy on at least two different occasions.

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The Mexican Review


Good
Brad and Julia! Julia and Brad!! Together for the first time!!!

Or not. The Mexican has the distinction of being a romance that manages to keep its lovey-dovey costars further apart than any film since Sleepless in Seattle. Not that there was any way around it. Brad Pitt's Jerry is a completely hapless bagman for a shifty mob boss (Bob Balaban), sent from L.A. to Mexico to retrieve the titular objet d'art -- an antique pistol.

Continue reading: The Mexican Review

Scarecrow Review


Good
Hackman and Pacino? You better believe it. And while this odd mix of Of Mice and Men, Midnight Cowboy, and Waiting for Godot has several charming moments, it never really finds its groove. The loose story concerns the pair of drifters who hatch a plan to start their own car wash -- though that idea never really materializes. Instead, the ride the rails and the roads, waiting for life to happen to them. Both leads are fantastic, but the script is weak.

The Firm Review


Good
Run, Tom, run! Mr. Cruise got a workout in this picture, a film that had him on the run from the evil law firm that employed him and whose clients consist only of mobsters, killers, and other crooks. An all-star cast otherwise makes up for a largely uninspired, overly complex, and far too long movie that nonetheless maintains audience interest throughout a 2.5+ hour runtime. Holly Hunter is particularly good as a slutty private eye's assistant -- in fact, she was nominated for an Oscar for the cheeseball role. Hal Holbrook also earns high marks as an appropriately evil and mysterious bossman.

Enemy Of The State Review


OK
It was a disappointing day on many levels. First I show up to the theater and pay $2.75 for a single slice of pizza. I take it into the theater and didn't see the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace preview that I wanted to see. After that, I watch the disappointing movie Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State stars Will Smith as Robert Dean, an attorney who is handed a video tape by an old friend running for his life, who just happened to come across Smith in a lingerie store. The problem? It shows an NSA agent killing a congressman. The mastermind behind that murder and others to come is agent Reynolds (Jon Voight). The NSA has Dean's life under 24-hour surveillance. They have bugs in his pants, his cell phone, his pen, (is this beginning to sound familiar?) Dean's only chance of survival is a man named Brill, an acquaintance he used for some of his cases. Gene Hackman plays Brill, and his character is the guy who is just so darn convenient to have around in the time of crisis.

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The Royal Tenenbaums Review


Very Good

Thick with director Wes Anderson's unique brand of laughing-on-the-inside irony, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is a bittersweet comedy of bourgeoisie dysfunction in a family of failed prodigies.

The Tenenbaum children each excelled so extraordinarily in their youth that life as adults might be disappointing even if being abandoned by their petulant, pejorative father (Gene Hackman at his grumpy greatest as Royal Tenenbaum) hadn't caused them all to crash and burn psychologically.

Pouty, introverted misery junkie Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was an acclaimed playwright in 9th grade. But now in her early 30s, she's moving back home because ennui has taken over her mirthless marriage.

Continue reading: The Royal Tenenbaums Review

Heist Review


Good

One would think there could be no way to freshen up a plot as shopworn as the "one last big heist before retirement." By all rights, this should be the stuff of straight-to-video B movies by now.

But this year has seen three such pictures so intelligent, intricate and resourceful that by their very diversity they prove there's a lot of life left in the genre -- if a movie is in the right hands.

Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando staged a break-in at the Montreal Customs House in thrilling, high-gloss "The Score." Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone faced off as rival cockney toughs working a bank job in the edgy, oily "Sexy Beast." And now comes "Heist" -- a gritty, exhilaratingly tense thriller that benefits from a most elaborate array of rapid-fire twists and the sharp, delicious, cadence of dialogue by writer-director David Mamet.

Continue reading: Heist Review

Runaway Jury Review


OK

There are enough holes in the legal minutia of "Runaway Jury" to keep anyone with a law degree laughing from beginning to end. But for the rest of us, this fast-paced thriller's twist-crescendo-ing plot and sharp performances should at least delay the feeling of being duped until after the credits roll.

Another popcorny courtroom concoction from a John Grisham novel, the movie is a sensationalized peek into jury tampering during a big-money wrongful-death suit filed against an assault-weapon manufacturer after a workplace shooting.

The film wears its politics on its sleeve: the rich, cigar-smoking, unrepentant gun industry honchos have hired an unscrupulous jury consultant (deliciously iniquitous Gene Hackman) with the high-tech means to dig up dirt and create graphic-intensive computer-screen portfolios on everybody who received a jury summons for the case.

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The Replacements Review


Good

Keanu Reeves has finally begun to realize what kinds of roles he's right for: grunt cop in "Speed," computer hacker dude in "The Matrix," and now, a rise-to-the-occasion substitute football hero in "The Replacements."

He's perfect for the quarterback role in this entirely predictable but utterly entertaining gridiron comedy about a mixed bag of working class joes and forgotten college football stars rounded up to play again by an NFL team when their spoiled millionaire players go on strike.

Washed-up collegiate rocket-arm Shane Falco (Reeves) is living on a beat-up houseboat and makes a living scraping barnacles off the bottom of yachts when coach Jimmy McGinty (an ideally-cast Gene Hackman) comes calling, hoping Falco will don shoulder pads and a helmet once again and lead the fictional Washington Sentinels through the last four games of their unfinished season.

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Welcome To Mooseport Review


Bad

"Welcome to Mooseport" is a fusty, rusty, laugh-track-lame comedy about two petty, immature men running for mayor of the same stereotypically idyllic small town and vying for the affections of the same apparently undiscriminating small-town woman.

One of them (an unusually humdrum Gene Hackman) is the newly termed-out President of the United States, who has retired to the little Maine burg and enters the race as a PR stunt that goes awry. The other (torpid TV star Ray Romano) is a plumber who owns the local hardware store and hasn't the backbone to commit to anything -- and yet he's persuaded to run for office. Or so we're told. Even though it's pivotal to the plot, this cajoling takes place off-screen for no good reason.

But the rivals' stations in life hardly matter since, once you get past the screenplay's fresh paint, these two guys are the same stale, odious, infantile jerks that have been pawned off as Everyman heroes in every other ill-conceived comedy from the last 20 years.

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Behind Enemy Lines Review


Weak

Bosnian Muslims are doe-eyed victims, Serbs are scowling, mangy movie heavies, and American soldiers are the most important people in the world in "Behind Enemy Lines," a self-aggrandizing action movie being released earlier than planned to cash in on the current atmosphere of flag-waving.

Vaguely inspired by the shoot-down and rescue of Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady in 1995, the film stars ad-libbing wiseacre extraordinare Owen Wilson ("Shanghai Noon," "Zoolander") as a cocky F/A-18 navigator in a flashy "Top Gun" version of the U.S. Navy.

Downed over the former Yugoslavia while on a reconnaissance mission during a fragile cease-fire, Wilson is on the run from evil Serbs who know he photographed a mass grave of slaughtered Bosnian civilians. Meanwhile, onboard his home aircraft carrier, a barking-dog admiral played by Gene Hackman wants to mount a helicopter rescue, but his hands are tied by those nattering nabobs of the United Nations peacekeeping force, who have the audacity to think that not risking the cease-fire is more important than one American flyboy. How dare they!

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