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January 26, 2002


Roger Ebert, Katrina Onstad, Barrett Hooper, Jeet Heer, National Post, Christopher Kelly, The New York Times, Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
National Post; The New York Times; The Hollywood Reporter; Los Angeles Times
Dagmara Dominczyk and Jim Caviezel in The Count of Monte Cristo.


Restored and refurbished to a dazzling splendour, the 1991 Disney classic is being released in a giant-screen IMAX version. Added this time, a newly-animated sequence featuring the song Human Again, which was written by songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken for the original movie, never used, and then added to the Broadway stage show. This version is so vibrant it's like experiencing the film anew. Rating four

Roger Ebert


Todd Field's directing debut only slowly reveals its real subject, and looks more deeply than we could have guessed into the lives of its characters. It opens in sunshine, with Frank (Nick Stahl) in love with an older woman (Marisa Tomei) who has two children and an abusive, estranged husband. Then something happens, and it changes all our expectations. A character-driven movie in which each performance has perfect tone. Rating four

Roger Ebert


Though free of furry-footed hobbits, this is a fantasy of sorts, a beautiful, inventive comedy about a family of fallen geniuses. Richie (Luke Wilson), a former tennis pro, is obsessed with his adopted sister, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), a former playwright. Business mogul Chas (Ben Stiller) is obsessed with hating his father, a long-absent scalawag named Royal (Gene Hackman) who returns, feigning a fatal illness. Hilarious and genuinely moving; a tapestry of visual puns. Directed by Wes Anderson (Rushmore), something of a prodigy himself. Rating four

Katrina Onstad


A red-blooded adventure movie, gruesome and sublime. Daniel Radcliffe is Harry, an apprentice sorcerer at Hogwarts School who makes friends and enemies while negotiating the eccentricities of the faculty. The effects don't spoil the magic with super realism, but look like illustrations from an exciting book; the game of Quidditch and other sequences are much as this reader envisioned them. Director Chris Columbus seems to have created a classic, just scary enough, with a who's who of British actors. Rating four

Roger Ebert


A web of emotional hope and betrayal, linked by unexpected connections. We meet a cop (Anthony LaPaglia), his worried wife (Kerry Armstrong), a psychiatrist (Barbara Hershey), her alienated husband (Geoffrey Rush), a housewife (Rachael Blake), and others, all linked when one disappears and two of the others become suspects. But Ray Lawrence's film only seems to be a murder mystery. Its real subject is the everyday lives of these characters -- their worries, their sorrows, the way they're locked into solitary sadness. Subtle, touching. Rating three 1/2

Roger Ebert


China is threatening to execute youthful spy Tom Bishop within 24 hours. Tom's CIA mentor, Nathan Muir -- on the very day of his retirement -- is determined to save him. The retiring agent pulled back into active duty is a tired shtick, but Spy Game makes it work. Ingeniously scripted, and exhilaratingly directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun), this is one of the few truly intelligent and daring Hollywood movies this year. Leading men Robert Redford and Brad Pitt are both superb. Rating three 1/2

Christopher Kelly, The New York Times


A delicious pastry of a movie -- a lighthearted fantasy with a winsome heroine who overcomes a sad childhood and brings cheer to the needful and joy to herself. Audrey Tautou stars, as a sad waitress in a Paris café who accidentally finds out how to make people happy, and renews herself in the process. Mathieu Kassovitz is the young man who makes her dissolve (literally) with love. Winner of the audience awards at the Edinburgh, Toronto and Chicago film festivals; a magical charmer. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Rating three 1/2

Roger Ebert


A love story so sweet, sincere and positive that sneaks past our ironic defences. Mandy Moore stars as a high school outsider; Shane West is a popular boy who begins to fall in love with her. But, no, this isn't another dumb movie about who will take the class nerd to the prom. Instead, it looks closely, pays attention, sees that not all teenagers are as cretinous as Hollywood portrays them. And tells a quietly touching story of a love based on values and respect. Rating three

Roger Ebert


It may sound like a Saturday morning cartoon but Cyberman is actually a fascinating and often funny documentary about Steve Mann, scientist, inventor, social activist, performance artist and the world's first cyborg. The ultimate techno-geek, he sports sunglasses equipped with cameras and a wearable computer linked to the Internet. His goal is to have people not only see his world, but live it with him. Directed by Peter Lynch (Project Grizzly), the film reveals Mann as not only a genius who prefers to live life through his filtered cyber-world, but also a sweetly innocent man-child. Rating three

Barrett Hooper


Jim Caviezel stars as Edmund Dantes, a low-born 18th-century adventurer betrayed by his friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce). Condemned to solitary confinement on the prison island of Château d'If, he meets a fellow prisoner (Richard Harris) who tutors him in the martial and philosophical arts, and enlists him in digging a tunnel. Based on the Alexandre Dumas classic, it's the kind of adventure picture the studios churned out in the Golden Age -- so traditional it almost feels new. Rating three

Roger Ebert


Stockard Channing is a road warrior for a software company, and Julia Stiles is her young A/V person. Stranded in a hotel, they dislike each other, start drinking, become friendly, and gang up on an executive headhunter (Frederick Weller). The details of high-powered business life are so well-observed we almost regret it when melodrama enters the plot, but the movie works and Channing and Stiles zero in on each other like heat-seeking missiles. Rating three

Roger Ebert


A frenzied, detailed account of a disastrous American military mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 where 18 Americans and hundreds of Somalians died. Directed by Ridley Scott (Hannibal) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun), the movie's simple-minded philosophy is summed up in one soldier's line: "Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics and all that s--- just goes out the window." Fortunately, the bullets are bloody effective; Black Hawk Down reverberates with panic. Exciting, relevant and dangerously hollow. With Josh Hartnett and Sam Shepard. Rating three

Katrina Onstad


Preposterous, entertaining romance in which the Third Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman) leaves the New York of 1876 and arrives in the New York of Meg Ryan. Not really about time travel but about elegant British manners vs. American slobbiness. Meg Ryan does this sort of thing about as well as it can be done, playing the heroine who seems about to miss out on the love of her life. With Liev Schreiber as her boyfriend -- until he brings the Duke to the present and true love blooms. Best not to think about the possibility that Meg may be her own great-great-grandmother. Rating three

Roger Ebert


Robert Altman's best film since The Player includes many of his well-known touches -- overlapping dialogue and two cameras to catch the actors' improvisational exchanges -- while remaining authentically in Britain in 1932, with all the collapsing class systems that implies. The scene is a country manor where a large party has gathered for a hunt, maids and valets in tow. Murder ensues. The huge cast includes Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. Rating three

Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter


Tolkien's masterpiece becomes a modern sword-and-sorcery epic, heavy on action and effects, at the cost of the book's guileless vision. The hobbits become supporting characters while wizards, elves, men and monsters steal their thunder. The film is an impressive achievement; director Peter Jackson has mounted a state-of-the-art action fantasy. What he has not done is capture the peculiar magic of Tolkien -- the novel's songs and poems are missing, along with its whimsy and comfortability. Rating three

Roger Ebert


The adventures of a boy inventor who launches a satellite before breakfast. When aliens abduct all the parents in town, he leads a space expedition to save them -- and their travel looks lovely, since he converts amusement park rides into intergalactic vessels. Funny and high-spirited, aimed at grade-schoolers. Rating three

Roger Ebert


Sam (Sean Penn) has the IQ of a seven-year-old but is trying to raise the daughter (Dakota Fanning) he fathered with a homeless woman. Sensible social workers want to take her away and place her with an adoptive family. A high-powered Beverly Hills attorney (Michelle Pfeiffer) takes Sam's case; it becomes a way for her to recover her humanity. The problem is, it will take more than love for the child-like Sam to see Lucy through adolescence and out into the world. Logic and emotion are at war, and we can't accept the basic premise. Rating two

Roger Ebert


Richard Gere plays a Washington Post reporter whose life takes a turn toward the twilight zone. Driving to Virginia, he finds himself hundreds of miles away in West Virginia, enmeshed in a bizarre series of events involving a legendary moth-like creature. Atmospheric, with good scenes involving Gere and a local cop (Laura Linney), but the Mothman is annoyingly ill-defined, and the climax really settles nothing. Rating two

Roger Ebert


Va Savoir is a slow-paced but substantial look at how six people in Paris fall in and out of love. While touring with a theatre company, actress Cammille (Jeanne Balibar) returns to Paris, haunt of her old boyfriend Pierre (Jacques Bonnaffé). As the two are tempted to hook up again, Camille's current boyfriend, Ugo (Sergio Castellitto), and Pierre's new partner, Sonia (Marianne Basler), are enticed by new young partners. For those willing to test their patience, Va Savoir is a rewarding character study. Rating two

Jeet Heer


When a working-class Texan matriach dies a bizarre death, fireworks are set off within her dysfunctional family, which includes a gay drag queen son (Leslie Jordan) who has been in a mental institution for 23 years and a gay Hollywood actor grandson (Kirk Geiger) who decides to come out for the funeral. Del Shores adapted, as well as directed, this version of one of his hit plays, and sadly his mix of broad humour, affectionate satire and shameless heart-tugging fall flat on the screen. The occasional winning scenes get lost amid stretches of artificial-seeming shenanigans. Rating two

Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times


After his wife and two daughters are killed in a botched terrorist hijacking, British magazine editor Jack Elgin (Jeremy Irons) seeks to avenge their deaths, since the authorities seem incapable of bringing those responsible to justice. Rogue spies entangle Elgin in their own agenda and he has to choose to trust either a smooth CIA man, Davidson (Jason Priestly), or a brusque FBI agent, Bernard (Forest Whitaker). This promising thriller falls apart because Irons is far too aloof an actor to play a man bent on revenge. Rating one

Jeet Heer

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