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New in Theaters for the Weekend of
October 12 - 14, 2001


Bandits is a good example of what is wrong with Hollywood. Instead of being led by visionaries, studios are run by nerd accountants who should be running insurance companies instead of entertainment industries. It may sound like a tired cry, but these people care more about the quarterly stock performance of their multi-national conglomerates than any well-written script or up-and-coming supporting player. The result is watered down films that try too hard to broaden their appeal instead of letting creative people make good movies without too much concern for wide audience appeal.

Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton star as Joe and Terry - two convicts who improbably escape from jail in Oregon and go on a bank-robbing spree that makes them into folk heroes. However, they aren't tough guys who get by on threats and physical intimidation. Instead, Joe and Terry are nice guys who kidnap the bank's president, spend the night at his or her house, and then rob the bank in the morning using all the security information they can get from their hostage. By the time they are done, most of the victims feel like they have made two good friends in Joe and Terry instead of getting robbed. Things are going along fine as this modern day Butch and Sundance continue to amass the money they need to escape the country, that is, until they get associated with Kate (Cate Blanchett) - a lonely housewife who gets wrapped up in the excitement of robbing banks and becomes part of the gang.

Will Kate come between Joe and Terry? Will they get caught?

Bandits rolls along as a great comedy until writer Harley Peyton and director Barry Levinson decide to throw Kate into the mix and inappropriately turn this into a strange, love-triangle-driven drama. Cate Blanchett is easy on the eyes, but her character is death for this movie's pacing and premise. Bandits is a great caper movie with two likable rogues at the center of it all, but the relationship between them (in my opinion, the reason the movie is enjoyable) is unnecessarily challenged and strained by the addition of a love interest. The love story angle feels forced on the audience in a misguided attempt to appeal to women and, supposedly, broaden the movie's appeal, but it fails horribly.

Peyton deserves huge kudos for fabulous dialogue between Joe and Terry. Their one liners feel exactly like the ones best pals would throw around in a playful manner. Thornton creates one of the funniest characters on screen in the past year with the hypochondriac Terry. At times the brilliant and confidant brains of the organization, Thornton also reduces him to a laughable fool who thinks he is getting every disease known to man. Willis knows when to pull back and let scenes develop instead of trying to be the star although, I think his character should have been nuttier to match up better with Terry.

Bandits is a low key film with biting, funny, quick  dialogue and hilarious costumes (disguises used by Terry and Joe) that, unfortunately, falls victim to a predictable ending and a poor attempt to appeal to women. It's worth seeing, but it won't be the best movie you have ever seen. Grade: B-

Corky Romano

Do you really need to read this review to know if you should go see this movie? Face it. The world is broken into two groups of people - those with a 12-year old boy's mentality, and those who grew up. If you think Corky Romano looks like a possible weekend entertainment choice, then get help immediately because you fall into the 12-year old category, and you should know better.

Saturday Night Live's Chris Kattan stars as Corky Romano - a dorky assistant veterinarian in Florida whose sense of style is stuck in the 1980's. It turns out that his father, Pops Romano (Peter Falk), is a major mafia kingpin on the verge of getting sent up the river. Someone in the organization has turned state's evidence (went stool pigeon; sang like a canary; squealed; you get the picture), so Pops decides that Corky, the only member of the Romano family not in the crime syndicate, should go undercover, join the FBI and destroy any evidence they have against him before he goes to trial. Yeah, that's going to work.

How will Corky screw this one up?

If you have any ounce of maturity in your body, it's a sure bet that you will hate Corky Romano. It's yet another in a string on juvenile films that insults the audience's intelligence by assuming that we can't get enough potty humor. It's all in here. Fart jokes, homosexual jokes, sex jokes, phallic symbol jokes, everything that makes me cringe. Sadly, some decent actors are dragged into the gutter along with the comedy.

Peter Falk sleepwalks through this one like he's only doing it for the money, Peter Berg and Chris Penn embarrass themselves as Corky's dumb brothers who are too stupid to be crime-lords-in-training, and Kattan proves why no one over the age of 18 can watch Saturday Night Live for more than 15 minutes these days. Subtlety is thrown out the window as every joke is overdone, every character is one-dimensional and the plot plods along in predictable fashion.

In the last half hour, Corky Romano either becomes a silly farce mainly free of all the potty humor, or I just realized that it was so bad that I had an out of body experience which caused me to start laughing at anything and everything no matter how silly it was. Still not sure. Touchstone (owned by Disney which owns, I mean employs me, so all the other critics were making fun of me) is desperately hoping that America is looking for a silly joke movie to help escape our dire times, but they won't find comedic gold with Corky Romano.
Grade: D-

New in Theaters for the Weekend of
October 5 - 7, 2001

Training Day

You have to love an actor who can transcend bad material. We had a chance to see that with Michael Douglas in last week's Don't Say A Word, and this week with Denzel Washington in Training Day.

Denzel (he's one of those big stars who can go by his first name only) stars as Alonzo - the tough, cocky, street-smart leader of an elite Los Angeles Police Department narcotics unit. They are known as the best of the best and serving in the unit is a ticket to bigger things, so young cop Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is eager to join up. On his first day, the training day (get it, Waffle said sarcastically), Alonzo puts him through the paces and tries to convince Hoyt that this unit is like no other.

Alonzo's methods are questionable, and possibly unethical, but the kid is drawn to the chance to "make a difference." He's busting heads, getting drugs off the street and making rough neighborhoods safer, but, as the day progresses, Hoyt starts to realize that something is amiss.

Is Alonzo all he claims to be? What's the big secret?

Training Day's first hour is a very good character study, but director Antoine Fuqua and writer David Ayer have trouble coming up with an entertaining way to end the film. After starting out as a good "buddy" picture, where the naïve young cop is getting a reality check from the streetwise vet, Fuqua and Ayer take the film in a very unsatisfying direction that isn't true to the characters that we have grown to know and like.

Washington is fantastic as Alonzo and gives the film its energy. The crowd gets wrapped up in his attitude and, even though he may be skating on thin ethical ice, we root for him to do what needs to be done to get drugs off the street. Alonzo is drawn from the same mold as Dirty Harry, and we can't get enough. Denzel is as bombastic as Pacino and as tough as DeNiro, which makes his performance leap off the screen. He is able to find nobility in the character and convince the audience that his goal is a good one even if the means of getting there are not. As for the rest of the cast, they can't match the Oscar winner. Hawke is fine, and the supporting cast doesn't get much to do.

The story is quite familiar to anyone who likes movies. We have seen the rookie/vet pairing many times before in films like 15 Minutes or Colors (starring Robert Duvall and Sean Penn). Washington makes it worth your time, but the ending is too melodramatic and driven by an improbable, telegraphed plot twist. If you love Denzel, see it. However, if you can wait for video, that might be the best bet.
Grade: C-

Joy Ride

Sometimes, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. A better reviewer would avoid the obvious pun, but I am not that talented. I have to rely on lame retorts like, "I didn't get any joy out of this ride". Or, "It was more like a slightly entertaining ride". OK, it's not that bad, but it's not that good either.

Paul Walker, The Fast and the Furious's blonde-haired and blue-eyed pretty boy without much going on upstairs (the porch light is on, but no one is home), stars as Lewis - a college kid with the hots for his gal pal Venna (Leelee Sobieski). They are "just friends", but they can only resist their young, flaming hormones for so long. Venna (what kind of name is that?) needs a ride home from college, and Lewis is just the sap to go out, buy a used car, and pick her up in Colorado, so he can chauffeur her back to New Jersey in his love machine. He's hoping that nature will take its course and she will fall madly in love with him, however, the trip gets sidetracked.

Lewis learns that his good-for-nothing, always-in-trouble older brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), wants to go home and he has been arrested just a few miles from Venna's college. Lewis bails out Fuller, but "boys will be boys", and they get themselves in some "hot water". They install a CB radio in the car and start to crank call different truckers. One fateful night, Lewis and Fuller pretend to be a lonely lady looking for a good time with a burly trucker. One driver with the handle Rusty Nail takes the bait and agrees to meet the fantasy lady at a roadside motel. Lewis and Fuller think they are going to have a good laugh, but the prank goes horribly wrong when Rusty Nail turns out to be a psycho and, after discovering who they are, decides to get revenge!

Will Rusty Nail find and kill Lewis and Fuller? Is Venna safe? At this point, will you root for the three annoying children who deserve their comeuppance?

While the first half of Joy Ride, which focuses on Fuller and Lewis, moves at a good pace and actually works well, the movie becomes bogged down with the introduction of the love interest, Venna. Director John Dahl and writers Clay Tarver and Jeffrey Abrams confuse the story as Lewis and Fuller seem to engage in a battle for Venna's affection and she becomes central to the danger. It's as if Dahl and company know they have one hour's worth of material and need to stretch it out to make a full-length movie. Just Fuller and Lewis in danger would have made for an interesting film.

Steve Zahn, normally very entertaining, seems to be trying too hard to be likable. He is great at playing the lovable, smart aleck, funny guy, but this character has too much evil in his heart for that approach to work. While Fuller should come off as a misfit, his criminal record suggests something much worse and less likable. Walker is just fine as the pretty, yet dumb guy who is willing to go along with his brother's misadventures. Frankly, he is window dressing in this flick. Sobieski's character shouldn't have been created and she doesn't give any reason to make me think otherwise. Her performance is run of the mill, damsel-in-distress material. As far as the writing goes, there isn't much special going on here.

It's not the worst film you could see this weekend, and there are some good, tense, thrilling scenes, but it's not one to rush out and see. Grade: D+

New in Theaters for the Weekend of
September 28 - 30, 2001

Don't Say A Word

When I grow up, I want to be Michael Douglas. The guy is something like 150 years old, yet, he always gets teamed with hot, young babes who portray his wives/girlfriends in movies. Demi Moore in Disclosure, Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Annette Benning in The American President and, now, Famke Janssen in Don't Say a Word. Sure, it's just a movie, but, in real life, he is married to Catherine Zeta Jones!!!!!! It was those movies gave him the credibility needed to land a hot starlet like Jones. Michael Douglas is my hero.

Unfortunately, his new movie, Don't Say A Word, isn't very good. It's a flick that has potential, but wastes an opportunity to be great. The story focuses on a group of bad guys who, in 1991, steal a rare, supposedly valuable gem. During the getaway, one member of the group double crosses them and takes the gem for himself. Flash forward 10 years, and we find psychiatrist Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) facing a horrible dilemma.

On Thanksgiving Day, his 8-year old daughter is kidnapped by the bad guys who have been searching for that rare gem since the infamous double cross. It turns out that one of Nathan's patients, a severely disturbed 18-year old girl, Elisabeth (Brittany Murphy), knows a 6-digit code that is the key to finding the rare gem. The bad guys tell Nathan that he has until 5 PM that day to get the 6-digit code, or they will kill his daughter. And, by the way, Nathan can't call the cops (bad guys always throw in that caveat).

Can Nathan do it? Is Elisabeth insane?

Don't Say a Word is a bad cross between Ransom and Rear Window. Like Mel Gibson's character, Nathan tries to change the dynamics of the challenge and take charge, but that puts his kid at further risk. Like Jimmy Stewart's character, Nathan's wife Aggie (Famke Jannsen) is stuck in bed with a broken leg, which makes her a sitting duck if the bad guys want to do her harm. Unfortunately, Don't Say a Word lacks the thrills and mental stimulation that made those two films great. For a thriller, it just isn't very thrilling.

Don't Say a Word falls short due to a convoluted plot, lack of chemistry, no substantive interaction between the main characters and subplots that only get in the way instead of enhancing the film. Murphy and Douglas rarely engage in the types of mental sparring that is hinted at early in the movie, which is disappointing. After going through great pains to set up a battle of the minds, writers Patrick Smith Kelly and Anthony Peckam along with director Gary Fleder never explore that road. Nathan also doesn't interact much with the bad guys, which would have been another interesting battle of the minds. His exchanges with them are little more than pleas to speak to his daughter mixed with a request for more time. While that's realistic, this is a movie and we need more.

Also, we never get much background on the gem these bad guys have spent 10 years chasing. What is it? How much is it worth? Why pursue it for 10 years? What makes these bad guys so bad? Are they super smart or greedy? Without explaining their motivation and failing to give them a believable backstory, the bad guys aren't interesting and the audience isn't drawn into the story. Only Nathan and Elisabeth have sufficient motivation for us to understand their actions.

Finally, Fleder throws in a subplot where a young NY Detective, Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito), stumbles across the case. Always a step behind, the audience is left wondering why we care about her. Of course, most audience members can figure out how the character will show up at "just the right time", but we couldn't care less once that time arrives.

Overall, Don't Say A Word is a dud. Grade: D

New in Theaters for the Weekend of  
September 7 - 9, 2001

Rock Star

It's a great concept when you think about it. Imagine that you, a regular working Joe or Jane, get the chance of a lifetime to become a superstar. Do you really think you could do it? Would it be all that you dreamed of?

In Rock Star, Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris Cole - a copier repairman by day, and a wannabe rock star by night. He is the lead singer of Blood Poison - a tribute/cover band dedicated to fictional rock legends Steel Dragon, and Chris has it all down. He's got the look, the hair, the make up (it's 1985 and heavy metal hair bands used to wear makeup, it's kinda silly, but you had to be there), but most of all, the voice. His brother may think he is a loser, but Chris has the perfect voice and attitude to lead a heavy metal rock band.

One fateful day, Steel Dragon comes to Chris's hometown, Pittsburgh, for a concert and he gets his chance. The band's lead singer is fed up and leaves the band. Of course, Steel Dragon needs to keep the fans happy by performing the old standards, so they can't rock the boat too much. After hearing him sing, they decide to make Chris their new lead singer.

Can he handle the rock star life? Will his dream become a nightmare? Can his relationship with Emily (Jennifer Aniston) continue under the stresses of his new job?

You might think that this could never really happen, but Rock Star is based on the true story of Ripper Owens - an office supply salesman who, in 1996, replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest. Even if you don't know that going in, it's easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy this fun movie because it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Mark Wahlberg has great charisma and easily pulls off the wide-eyed innocence of his character along with the rock star bravado needed to be a metal god. He becomes a regular guy who is amazed at his luck and overwhelmed by reality. In many ways, he is like a Star Trek fanatic who can name what the lead singer had for breakfast on the day they recorded the album, but, of course, they are in band, so they are much cooler than Trekkies. Writers Callie Khouri and John Stockwell create some great and realistic dialogue for Chris, which makes the audience believe that he is reacting the same way we would under the circumstances.

While the movie is fun during it's comedic moments, Rock Star drags when it tries to become serious and focus on "the love story". Wahlberg and Anniston don't share any great chemistry and don't click. They seem to be reading the lines rather than living them. Timothy Spall is hilarious as Chris's confidant and tour manager, while the rest of the guys in the band fit the stereotype and one-dimensional construction of their characters.

Additionally, Rock Star seems to tread on the same cliched themes that we have seen in several other movies - the dream not matching reality; the rock star life; the challenges and temptations of the road; and how hard it is to be adored by millions, make millions of dollars and have hot women beg to have sex with you. You know, all that stuff that I really want to try out so I can see if it really is a drag.

It's not special, but it's a good night out. Grade: B-

New in Theaters for the Weekend of  
August 17 - 19, 2001

 Rat Race 

This movie may be the biggest waste of talent in the history of Hollywood. Put yourself in director Jerry Zucker's shoes. You have Oscar winners Cuba Gooding, Jr., Kathy Bates and Whoopi Goldberg. Plus, you have legends of comedy like Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese. Do you make a great film or one that plunges the depths of toilet humor? Unfortunately, Zucker goes for the toilet.

John Cleese stars as Donald Sinclair - the head of a Las Vegas casino that caters to high rollers looking for some special action. They are tired of the usual blackjack, roulette and slot machines, so Sinclair has set up a high stakes game that can't be controlled by the casino. He has invited 7 misfits to engage in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad road trip. They are told that the first one to get to a small town in New Mexico and retrieve a bunch of money placed in a train station locker gets to keep it. Meanwhile, the high rollers are betting on who can get their first.

Who will get to the money?

I can't think of one reason to see this movie. Each character is horribly subjected to unfathomable and disgusting situations that churn my stomach instead of inducing belly laughs. I don't care if any of them get the money and that's where the movie fails. It desperately wants to be It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. A farce works best when you like some of the characters and want to see them overcome the silly situations, but Rat Race's characters don't have one redeeming bone in their body. The silliness feels forced and reduces each character to imbecilic levels. Atkinson, Lovitz and Cleese don't come close to any of the brilliant comedy they have shown they are capable of, while Goldberg and Gooding ought to be doing better movies instead of slumming it for a good paycheck.

Unless flying cows, Nazis, Lucille Ball impersonators and bad haircuts make you laugh uncontrollably, avoid Rat Race at all costs. The ending, if you can make it all the way through, is an insult that you deserve if you lay out money to see this piece of trash. Grade: F

 Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Why is Penelope Cruz the IT girl of the moment? Usually, such status is afforded to those who have success, but Penelope can't point to much of that in her U.S. career. Woman on Top was a disaster, All the Pretty Horses was a bigger bomb and, now, she is unimpressive in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. So, why is she the IT girl? Because she is beautiful. Unfortunately, that's not enough to get me to love Captain Correlli's Mandolin (even though she does flash some skin).

Cruz stars as Pelagia - a doctor's daughter (and aspiring doctor in her own right) living in Greece during World War II. The innocent country is quickly pulled into the war when Italy attacks Albania and starts to make its way towards Greece. The Italians are repelled in legendary fashion, however, the Germans provide enough muscle to conquer Albania and Greece in their quest to rule the world.

When the Italians come to town to takeover, one man stands out and tries to form a bond with the conquered townspeople. Captain Corelli (Nic Cage), a good-natured character with a love for music (he carries a mandolin, GET IT!) is housed by Pelagia's father in return for medical supplies. Slowly, Corelli falls for Pelagia, but she hates him and all Italians for taking over their town.

Will Pelagia fall for Corelli? How long can the town stay peaceful? Where do the Italians' loyalties lie?

It looks like Disney has tried to corner the market on World War II epics. First, Touchstone (a Disney subsidiary) releases Pearl Harbor. Now, Miramax (another Disney subsidiary) is tackling The War with Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Unfortunately Captain Corelli's Mandolin, like Pearl Harbor, is an uneven piece that is brilliant when it is working well, but bad when it is bad.

The film starts off as a horrible comedy as we watch buffoonish Italian soldiers enter and take over the Greek town filled with wild, fun loving characters. I realize that director John Madden wants the audience to see that these Italian soldiers are lovers not fighters and the Greeks are innocent and naive, but he could have portrayed their struggle with more dignity. The soldiers could have been portrayed as reluctant warriors who slowly open their hearts to the Greeks, instead of appearing to be college boys on spring break. If this was done, I think the first half of the movie could have lived up to the brilliant second half.

Once the focus of Captain Corelli's Mandolin shifts to the war and the approaching German troops, it is a fantastic drama that emotionally draws in the audience and amazes the senses with heroic battle scenes. However, don't think that this is a special effects show. It is a story about people facing the worst possible of circumstances. Each individual character's struggle and choices are fascinating, which evokes great compassion from the audience. Even the lukewarm love affair between Pelagia and Corelli heats up to a point just shy of believability.

Yeah, Cage and Cruz just don't cut it for me. I never felt the two connected and the plot moves too quickly. In a cliched story line, Pelagia hates Corelli, but that hate quickly turns to love (that never happens to me. women who hate me just end up loathing me, not discovering that this hate is only masking love and desire). Unfortunately, the hate turns to love too quickly. One day, she is screaming at Corelli. The next, they are rolling around in the woods and making it. Yet, Cruz seems to be displaying the same emotion! Cage tries his best, but his character starts off as a bad impression of Chico Marx until the film turns serious and he finds his stride.

The highlight of the film is Christian Bale as Mandras - Pelagia's fiancée. His journey from innocent, light-hearted boy into a man driven by hate and revenge is one of the best performances of the year. He is believable and likable during each phase of the character's growth. Along with John Hurt, who plays Pelagia's father, the two put in the best performances in the movie. They are consistent, on message and stunning in both quiet and explosive moments.

If you can make it through the first half of the film, Captain Corelli's Mandolin becomes a fantastic, moving, emotional drama. As I walked out of the theater, I realized that women LOVED this movie, while guys were lukewarm, so, this week, the grades will be adjusted according to gender. Grade for Guys:B-, Grade for the
Ladies: B+

New in Theaters for the Weekend of  
August 10 - 12, 2001

Osmosis Jones

I have to admit, the Farelly brothers are going down hill. There's Something About Mary was hilarious. Then, Outside Providence was OK. Then, Me, Myself and Irene only had a few chuckles. Finally, Say It Isn't So seemed to sound the death knell for them and their brand of gross out comedy. In Osmosis Jones, the brothers move away from that genre (although it is still present) and create a film that was better than I thought it would be, but not enough to make you rush out to see it.

Bill Murray stars as Frank - a widowed zoo worker who lives a life of gluttony. This guy is in horrible shape. He doesn't exercise, eats all the wrong foods and refuses to change, even though his young daughter wants him to live a cleaner, healthier life. One day, Frank ingests a horrible virus (Lawrence Fishburne) intent on killing him in 48 hours. Frank's only hope is a plucky white blood cell, Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), and a cold tablet, Drix (David Hyde Pierce) who are charged with the task of saving Frank from the virus.

Can Osmosis Jones and Drix save the day?

The film, a mix of animation and live action, takes the audience on a journey inside every human being. The Farrellys create a new world within Frank, where the body is a city unto itself. The brain is City Hall, complete with a scheming Mayor (William Shatner) fighting for re-election, the bowel area (I warned you that the brothers have not abandoned the gross out factor) is "the wrong side of the tracks", a zit is a dance club, etc. Also, within this society, each cell has responsibilities. For example, white blood cells are the cops trying to fight off germs. It is an interesting premise, but it slightly fails in execution.

The mixture of animation and live action doesn't have a purpose and comes off as the Farelly brothers' attempt to prove that they can do it, instead of wondering if it should be done at all. While Bill Murray is hilarious, he could have easily voiced an animated character and fulfilled the same purpose. Also, Rock and Pierce do not have the type of chemistry that helps a buddy picture succeed.

I felt as if Pierce and Rock weren't even performing their voiceovers at the same time. The interplay between the two is virtually non-existent and forced when they attempt it. Their performances won't be mistaken for Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour or Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. Rock does a good job playing the cop with a bad history (you'll learn about it at a crucial point in the movie) and gives the character the right attitude to entertain the audience, but Pierce sounds dreadfully bored (which makes the character boring). Lucky for us, the supporting characters save the film.

William Shatner is hilarious as the scheming Mayor who makes Frank's predicament worse. He fills the character with Shatnerian bombast reminiscent of a thousand Shatner parodies. Murray draws upon his usually silly demeanor to entertain and Fishburne is a frightening nemesis for Osmosis Jones. Also, listen for a super surprise voice cameo. Just listen closely when Tom Colonic, the Mayor's opponent, speaks.

Overall, Osmosis Jones is a mildly entertaining film that might be best on video or DVD. Grade: C

The Others

The Others is faced with a double-edged publicity sword. Starring Nicole Kidman and produced by her now ex-husband Tom Cruise, The Others had the misfortunate (or good fortune) of being released the same week that their divorce has become final. Just so you better understand the close timing, the movie had its Hollywood premiere, complete with thousands of press people from around the world, just hours before the divorce legally took effect. Unfortunately, all of the salacious details of Cruise's possible infidelity, Kidman's miscarriage and earlier rumors of her own infidelity are overshadowing the film's merit. It's a great summer ghost story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and clinging to the one you love.

Nicole Kidman stars as Grace - a war widow in 1945 who has been hiding out in a deserted mansion on the Jersey Isle just off the British coast. Although she lost her husband in the war, Grace continues to take care of her two sickly children, who have a rare allergy to sunlight. Because of this, they can't leave the house and must keep the curtains drawn at all times (also, it makes it scary as all get out for us in the audience because we are sitting in a dark theater, watching a dark film and freaking out at every little bump in the night).

Mysteriously, her servants all decided to leave suddenly, but three former servants - Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and Anne (Alakina Mann) - have shown up looking to take their jobs. Well, they are all happy until the two children start to see ghosts who want to take over the house, and Grace starts to go mad trying to figure out if the ghosts really exist.

Are the children seeing things, or do ghosts really want to take over the house?

The Others is a traditional ghost story that thrills, chills and surprises you. It is scarier than The Sixth Sense and truly makes director/writer/score composer Alejandro Amenabar a major player in Hollywood.

After success in Spain with films like Open Your Eyes (being remade in America with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz as Vanilla Sky), Amenabar finally has a chance to reach a large American audience with a film that they will enjoy. Like a great Hitchcock thriller, he leans heavily on the anticipation of danger to fuel the thrills. What might be around the corner provides many more scares in this film than the gratuitous shot you see in the trailers. Also, the best plot twist has been kept secret and will surely make you realize that this film is much better than most stuff in the cineplex this summer (although, I did see the plot twist coming).

Nicole Kidman is very good swinging between cold- hearted boss, loving but tough mother and woman on the edge. Consistently, she has proven herself to be one of the best actresses working today, but I think some of the Oscar nomination buzz being floated by the studio is premature and overstating it a bit. While Kidman is solid and keeps the audience engulfed in the film, it is not the type of performance that is greater than what you would expect in a ghost story. Her chance at an Oscar relies on a weak field of potential nominees. Without knowing about potential opposition, I wouldn't go out on a ledge and say she has a chance. Luckily, Kidman is well supported by Fionnula Flanagan, who brings her character a matronly image that masks her true motives until we are let in on the secret.

The Others is your best bet for a fun, scary, entertaining film this weekend. It was so scary I only saw the top half of the screen through most of the film because I kept putting my hand over my eyes. I was sitting in a theater with just 2 other critics, so I was jumping out of my seat every time something went bump in the projection room. I have to take off points for a major inconsistency (I can't tell you what it is without ruining the film) and The Others drags a little bit in the middle, but I urge you to see this on as soon as possible. Grade: A-

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