opening or returning:
Bait: Jamie Foxx (Any Given Sunday, Booty Call) plays a petty thief caught in a sting in this action thriller comedy directed by Antoine Fuqua. Also stars Doug Hutchison, David Morse, Mike Epps, David Paymer, Tia Texada, Robert Pastorelli and Kimberly Elise. R. Cinemark 17. Cinema World 8. Movieland 6.
Blood Simple: Anniversary re-release of Coen brothers' 1985 writing and directing film debut tells a dark tale of a jealous husband who hires a sleazy detective to kill his wife and his bartender, the wife's lover. Stars Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, Dan Hedaya and John Getz. R. Bijou.
In Crowd, The: Teen thriller with mostly young unknown actors is directed by Mary Lambert (Pet Semetary). PG-13. Late night Bijou.
Scary Movie: Parody of Scream teen horror directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans stars Carmen Electra in the Drew Barrymore role, Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans. Lots of improvisations in this spoof. R. Cinemark 17. Movieland 6.
Shaft: John Singleton's update of Gordon Parks' 1971 blaxploitation smash hit stars Samuel L. Jackson as the nephew of Richard Roundtree's original private detective; also stars Vanessa Williams. Music by Isaac Hayes. R. Movies 12.
Thomas and the Magic Railroad: Based on Britt Allcroft's popular television program, this choo choo is still on the track. G. Movies 12.
Films open the Friday following date of EW publication unless otherwise noted.
Big Momma's House: Martin Lawrence plays an FBI agent assigned to protect a single mom, played by Nia Long. He goes to Georgia dressed as her grandmother, Big Momma. Directed by Raja Gosnell. PG-13. Movies 12.
Bring It On: Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides) is a cheerleader who wants to lead her squad to a national title. Gabrielle Union (She's All That) is head of a rival, inner-city hip-hop squad that has a score to settle with their suburban counterparts. PG-13. Cinemark 17. Cinema World 8. Movieland 6. See review this issue.
Cell, The: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughan and Vincent D'Onofrio star in this science fiction thriller. Lopez is a psychologist who becomes trapped in the mind of a serial killer. R. Cinema World 8. Cinemark 17. Movieland 6.
Center Stage: Director Nicholas Hytner's tale about a young ballerina (Amanda Sethall) from Indiana who comes to the Big Apple to dance and the friends she meets in the city. Also stars the respected NY ballet dancer Ethan Stiefel. Predictable trajectory for plot but there's some wonderful dancing here. PG-13. Movies 12.
Chuck and Buck: Directed by Miguel Arteta (Star Maps) and starring film's screenwriter Mike White and Chris Weitz, this indie film's a stunner about what happens when two men, best friends in childhood and early adolescence, meet again as adults, and one of them is obsessed with the other. Also stars Beth Colt, Lupe Ontiveros and Paul Weitz. Highly recommended. R. Bijou.
Coyote Ugly: Comedy about cocktail waitresses who perform juggling acts with bottles in a rowdy New York bar. Ensemble cast includes Piper Perabo as the new girl, Maria Bello, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Garcia and John Goodman. Directed by David McNally. PG-13. Cinemark 17.
Dinosaur: Disney gets a little risqué with a PG rating, no songs and computer-generated dinos against live-action backgrounds. Otherwise, this film is your classic cuddly Disney. Stars the voices of D.B. Sweeney, Julianna Margulies and Della Reese. PG. Cinemark 17.
Frequency: Sci-fi thriller involves a son (Jim Cavaziel) who time travels to save his father (Dennis Quaid); then both become embroiled in unforeseen consequences. Directed by Gregory Hoblit and script by Toby Emmerich, film also stars Andre Braugher, Noah Emmerich and Elizabeth Mitchell. PG-13. Movies 12.
Gladiator: Ridley Scott's Roman spectacle stars Russell Crowe (The Insider) as Maximus, a famous Roman general now slave gladiator. His enemy, Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), also stars Richard Harris, Oliver Reed and Djimon Hounsou. Highly recommended. R. Movies 12.
Gone in 60 Seconds: Angelina Jolie, Nicolas Cage, Robert Duvall, Delroy Lindo and Giovanni Ribisi star in Dominic Sena's car-thief drama. Cage and Ribisi play siblings. Surprisingly entertaining. R. Cinemark 17.
Highlander: Endgame: It's been 14 years since the first movie in this TV-series-remake and five since the last in the series. So, is this really the last we'll see of the immortals? Stars Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul. R. Cinemark 17.
Hollow Man: Director Paul Verhoeven's (Basic Instinct) latest thriller stars Kevin Bacon as an experimental scientist who becomes invisible and runs amok. With Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin and Kim Dickens. R. Late night Bijou.
Me, Myself and Irene: Jim Carrey plays a man with a split personality disorder who runs into trouble when he runs out of medication. Renee Zellweger plays a woman on the run who falls in love with both of them. R. Movies 12.
Mission Impossible 2: Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames return to this lucrative franchise, based on the 1960s TV series, with John Woo directing and Thandie Newton (Besieged, Beloved) as the love interest. Great action. R. Movies 12.
Nurse Betty: Neil LaBute's (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors) new satire, a comic crime story, concerns a small-town waitress played by Renée Zellweger, who escapes an abusive husband (Aaron Eckhart) for soap opera land. She's followed by two hit men (Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock). LaBute calls the film "quite romantic in a perverse way." R. McDonald. Cinemark 17. See review this issue.
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps: The oversize family Eddie Murphy introduced in Nutty I is back, and they're having a wedding for Sherman aka Buddy Love. Janet Jackson's the bride. PG-13. Cinemark 17.
Perfect Storm, The: Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot) directs this true action adventure based on Sebastian Junger's nonfiction bestseller. Six fishermen out of Gloucester, Mass. run into a killer storm on the high -- 100 foot waves --seas. Stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and William Fichtner. PG-13. Cinemark 17. Cinema World 8.
Pokemon the Movie 2000: Animated sequel about the popular creatures and Ash, their trainer, also introduces new characters. G. Movies 12.
Replacements, The: During an NFL players' strike, coach Gene Hackman brings in a bunch of misfits and hasbeens to take his team to the play-offs. Howard Deutch's comedy stars Keanu Reeves, with Jon Favreau, Brooke Langton and Orlando Jones. PG-13. Cinemark 17.
Road Trip: College partying silliness directed by Todd Phillips stars Breckin Meyer, Tom Green and Amy Smart. R. Movies 12.
Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Adventures of: Mixed live action and animation recreation of the characters Jay Ward popularized on television in the 1960s. Stars Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Robert de Niro and Randy Craig. PG. Movies 12.
Saving Grace: Brenda Blethyn stars as Grace, who is left with major debt after her husband falls (or perhaps jumps) out of an airplane without a parachute. Grace and her soon-to-be-fired gardener hatch a scheme to farm marijuana to pay her debts. Cinema World 8.
Shanghai Noon: Jackie Chan plays a Chinese imperial guard sent to the Old West to rescue a kidnapped princess played by Lucy Liu. Owen Wilson is a thief who becomes Chan's sidekick. Directed by Tom Dey. PG-13. Movies 12.
Shower: Zhang Yang's splashy, elegant Shower is set in an old-fashioned Chinese bathhouse in the heart of a rundown neighborhood in Beijing, but the film opens with a great sequence in a contemporary public shower. Rapid urbanization is changing China, and the three central characters make these losses real, with excellent performances by Pu Cun Xin, Zhu Xu and Jiang Wu. Highly recommended. PG-13. Bijou.
Small Time Crooks: Woody Allen's latest comedy takes place in Manhattan where married couple Allen and Tracey Ullman join a trio of bumbling hoods to rob a bank. Hugh Grant is a smarmy opportunist hired to educate the couple in the ways of the upper-crust. Smart and funny. PG. Movies 12.
Space Cowboys: Director Clint Eastwood attracted Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland to star with him in this outer space adventure flick. They play retired Air Force test pilots who have to defuse a leftover Cold War satellite in space before it hits earth. PG-13. Cinemark 17. Cinema World 8. Movieland 6.
Watcher, The: Psychological thriller about a serial killer (Keanu Reeves) and the exhausted FBI agent (James Spader) pursuing him. Directed by Joe Charbanic, the film also stars Marisa Tomei, Ernie Hudson and Chris Ellis. R. Cinema World 8. Cinemark 17. Movieland 6.
Way of the Gun, The: Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects writer), this twisted crime drama stars Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro as career criminals who kidnap a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis). Also stars James Caan and Taye Diggs. R. Cinemark 17. Cinema World 8.
What Lies Beneath: Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Robert Zemeckis' spooky psychological thriller about a husband who has an affair with a woman who kills herself in their house. PG-13. Cinemark 17.
Whipped: Love and sex satire starring Amanda Peet as the object of their affection, as three old college buddies compete for her attention. Written, directed and produced by newcomer Peter M. Cohen. R. Cinemark 17. Movieland 6.
X-Men: Marvel Comic mutant superheroes are called X-Men regardless of gender. Halle Berry, James Marsden and Famke Janssen help "gifted youngsters" learn to use their powers. Prof. Charles Xavier is played by Patrick Stewart, newcomer Hugh Jackson plays the lead, and Ian McKellan is the evil mutant. PG-13. Movies 12.
Bijou Art Cinemas
High Fidelity: Stephen Frears directs his adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel in this romantic comedy starring John Cusack, with Iben Hjejle, Jack Black and Todd Louiso. A funny, credible romantic comedy with everything going for it, including excellent performances by all four principals. One of the best movies of the 2000 so far. Very highly recommended. R. Movies 12.
Map of the World: Sigourney Weaver was nominated for a '99 Oscar for her performance in this movie about a school nurse and mother of two who is shunned and maligned by the Wisconsin farming community where she lives after a child in her care drowns. David Strathairn plays her husband; Julianne Moore is her best friend and mother of the child. Directorial debut of Scott Elliott. The New York Times review said the film creates "the near chaos of family life with young children and [makes] us feel its stress as well as its joy." Never played Eugene theatrically. R.
Me Myself I: First film by Pip Karmel stars Rachel Griffiths as two women -- a married mother of three and a single career woman -- who inhabit parallel lives. With David Roberts and Sandy Winton. A sweet but predictable domestic comedy that charts no new ground, Me Myself I comes down squarely in favor of the single life -- gourmet dinners by candlelight, fashionable clothes, super job -- over the daily life of a married mother of three. Can't blame Pip Karmel in her first film as writer/director. "Regret is futile," as she says. R.
Passion of Mind: Strange disconnected movie stars Demi Moore as a woman with two lives. In one, she's Marie, lives in France with her two children and loves Stellan Skarsgärd; in the other, she's Marty, a New York career woman who loves William Fichtner. Unconvincingly directed by Alain Berliner from Ron Bass's bad script, the film sinks into a psycho-mystical mishmash from which there is no relief. PG-13.
Ready to Rumble: Brian Robbins directs this wrestling flick, which stars Oliver Platt, David Arquette and Scott Caan. Fans try to influence decision ousting a favorite player. PG-13.
RPM: David Arquette, Famke Janssen and Emmanuelle Seigner.star in this turgid car-thief drama set in France. R.
Twenty-eight Days: Sandra Bullock goes to rehab after she smashes her sister's car while driving drunk. Co stars Steve Buscemi and Viggo Mortenson as counselors, Dianne Ladd, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as fellow alcoholics. PG-13. Movies 12.
Young Girls of Rochefort: This 1967 homage to Hollywood's golden era musicals stars Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly. Directed by Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). G.
Next week: Black and White, The Cup, Final Destination, Intern Fashion, Joe Gould's Secret, Last September, No Alibi, Screw Loose, Screwed Silly, Waking the Dead and Wildflowers.
Nurse Betty: Directed by Neil LaBute. Produced by Gail Mutrux, Steve Golin. Screenplay by John C. Richards and James Flamberg. Cinematography, Jean Yves Escoffier. Production design, Charles Breen. Editors, Joel Plotch, Steven Weisberg. Costumes, Lynette Meyer. Music, Rolfe Kent. Starring Renée Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear, with Aaron Eckhart, Crispin Glover, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Tia Texada and Allison Janney. Gramercy Pictures. USA Films, 2000. R. 112 minutes.
In each new film, Neil LaBute adds a unique twist to his ongoing search for emotional honesty between men and women, a quest that takes him places no one's looked before. And while Nurse Betty's pop-culture subtext skips the misogyny and cruel relationships that characterize his earlier movies, LaBute's still edgy. John C. Richards and James Flamberg wrote the screenplay, but LaBute's fingerprints are all over it.
In his first film, In the Company of Men (1997), two ethically-impaired business men mistreat a vulnerable woman co-worker in a calculated scam. LaBute shows them relate to her the way they perceive being related to in a cut-throat corporate culture where decency, friendship and loyalty are denied expression. Your Friends and Neighbors (1998) focuses on sex as LaBute tracks six contemporary men and women through a series of encounters, looking for the defining moment when someone speaks the truth about himself or herself sexually. From the men's locker room conversations and the women's frank sex talk over lunch, it's apparent these people harbor complex relationships with betrayal.
Nurse Betty takes a lighter approach to the man/woman conundrum, it seems. Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is a sweet, small-town waitress unhappily married to an adulterous jerk, Del (Aaron Eckhart). She falls into fantasy easily, imagining herself to be the real love of Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear) on a soap called "A Reason to Love."
Betty's escape hatch more than compensates for her miserable life, it saves her life one loveless birthday night. She's in the den watching her tape of the day's show when Del returns to the house with Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock). At an especially poignant moment on the little screen, something really unpleasant happens in the other room. And Betty -- torn between Dr. Ravell's yearning eyes and the muffled sounds of murder -- slips through the cracks in her wholeness and ends up in a warped psychological reality where she decides to reconcile with Ravell, whom she jilted six years ago.
In this dubious state of grace, Betty heads for L.A. in a Buick she borrowed from Del's used car lot earlier in the day. And thanks to the bungling of Sheriff Ballard (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and a local newspaper reporter Roy Ostrey (Crispin Glover), Charlie and Wesley read all about Betty's disappearance in the daily rag. She's an eyewitness driving the car they were hired to recover, so they go after her.
Now Nurse Betty becomes a road movie, with a memorable layover at the rim of the Grand Canyon where Charlie, a soft-spoken, literate hit man who's become obsessed with Betty, slips over the psychic edge. Betty's epiphany comes when she performs a medical procedure she's seen on "A Reason to Live" and actually saves a man's life. The man's grateful daughter, Rosa (Tia Texada), offers her a room, and she moves in.
LaBute has lots of fun with the mistaken identity malarkey between Betty and the television actor, George McCord (Kinnear), who plays the doc. The show's producer, Lyla (Allison Janney), gets into it, too. And playing the voice of reason in the unlikeliest of circumstances is the ever-pragmatic Charlie.
After the film was over, I heard two women talking. "It wasn't what I expected," one of them said. "But I liked it." That's the way it can be when a brilliant, maverick filmmaker such as LaBute tames his bite and goes mainstream. Zellweger and Freeman carry the show. Their final moment of truth will stay with you.
Nurse Betty is now playing at the McDonald downtown and Cinemark 17. Highly recommended.
Bring It On: Directed by Peyton Reed. Written by Jessica Bendinger. Produced by Marc Abraham, Thomas A. Bliss and John Ketcham. Cinematography, Shawn Maurer. Production design, Sharon Lomofsky. Editor, Larry Bock. Music, Christophe Beck. Costumes, Mary Jane Fort. Choreographer, Anne Fletcher. Starring Kirsten Dunst, with Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Nicole Bilderback, Richard Hillman, Lindsay Sloane and Blacque (Natina Redd, Shamari Fears and Brandi Williams). Beacon Pictures. Universal, 2000. 95 minutes. PG-13.
A cheerleader movie with a feminist subtext? Maybe. A pom-pom girl in a skimpy costume who's also thoughtful? Yep. A movie that looks at the ridicule heaped on male cheerleaders, too? Definitely. An upbeat film that makes the case for cheerleading as a sport? You bet. A story about the athletic competition between cheerleader squads that also touches on racial and economic inequalities and deals with ethical issues as well? Absolutely.
Wait a minute. Don't get carried away, here. Bring It On is first of all a sports movie and a teen romantic comedy and only peripherally concerned with other issues. And while it does not overtly drool over the youthful beauties in brief costumes, the camera chronicles lots of eye candy shots that come from the squad's exuberant physicality. Basically a genre picture with a twist, Bring It On emphasizes the athleticism of the sport without patronizing cheerleading as an institution. And that's enough to entertain the customers.
The Rancho Carne High School Toros pep squad has won more awards than its football team. Retiring captain Big Red (Lindsay Sloane) wants her coed cheerleaders to keep the national championship at their school. She names Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) cheer captain, much to the consternation of the cattiest girls on the squad, Courtney (Clare Kramer) and Whitney (Nicole Bilderback). Torrance overrules their veto to bring in Missy (Eliza Dushku), a dancer with attitude, to take the place of an injured cheerleader.
But Torrance has to adjust Missy's misconceptions about cheerleaders. We just use the football games as practice time, she confides. The real thing is to come up with the winning routines for the National Cheerleading Association championships in Daytona, Florida. But Missy is furious after watching Torrance lead the squad in a routine she's seen before. When Torrance sees the inner-city East Compton Clovers captained by the irrepressible Isis (Gabrielle Union) perform exactly the same routine the Toros plan to do, she's crushed. The Clovers have never had the funds to travel to the championship competitions, but Torrance knows they would be formidable. And she's sick to realize Big Red stole their routines.
That's the primary set-up for all that follows except for the love interest angle. Torrance's nervy boyfriend Aaron (Richard Hillman) has gone off to college, but Missy's quirky but cute brother Cliff (Jesse Bradford) is available.
Dunst is impressive in every movie, but her gift for comedy got its first real workout in Dick, Andrew Fleming's 1999 political comedy, in which Dunst plays a teeanage bublehead living in 1972 Washington D.C. She and her idiotic girlfriend blunder into a burglary in process at the Watergate complex, go to work at Nixon's White House and eventually are responsible for everything from stopping the Vietnam War to telling their story to Woodward and Bernstein. The broad gags work as well as they do because Dunst is able to project this sweetly innocent persona while piling on the laughs.
Bring It On requires a wider range of emotions from Dunst as well as her strong sense of comic timing. She doesn't miss a beat. My two favorite scenes are when she tells off her insensitive lout of a boyfriend, Aaron, and when she and Cliff end up brushing their teeth in the bathroom at the same time. She plays this simple scene with real subtlety.
Bring It On is now playing at Cinema World 8, Cinemark 17 and Movieland 6. It's a good-hearted, surprisingly reflective teen movie.