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12 Angry Men,/b>

Or, as it is also known, The Deseret News Editorial Board. Opens March 29 at Jordan Commons Classics Series. (NR)


[not yet reviewed]

A teenager gets hold of a device that makes time stand still. If he doesn’t use it to go into the girls’ locker room, I won’t believe a second of it. Opens March 29 at theaters valley-wide. (PG)

A Clockwork Orange

You’ll watch this movie if we have to strap you into a chair and pry your eyelids open. At Tower Theater Midnight Movies, March 29-30. (R)

Death to Smoochy

[not yet reviewed]

A deposed kiddie-show host (Robin Williams) takes aim at his Barney-like replacement. The line to help him forms to the left. Opens March 29 at theaters valley-wide. (R)

Panic Room ***.5

See review p. 30. Opens March 29 at theaters valley-wide. (R)

Kandahar **

Made before its title became synonymous with the War on Terrorism, Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar paints a fitfully interesting picture of life in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The narrative follows expatriate Afghan woman Nafas (Niloufar Pazira), who returns to her native land after receiving a letter in which her sister says she will soon commit suicide. Nafas journeys to Kandahar with a series of guides, each one providing perspective on a different aspect of Afghan society. Unfortunately, that makes the film play out primarily as a sociology lesson, and many of its observations are now all too familiar after six months of intensive media scrutiny. Meanwhile, there’s no sense of urgency in Nafas’ mission to save her sister—partly due to the way Makhmalbaf uses her primarily as a passive narrator, partly due to stilted English language performances. Typically arresting Makhmalbaf imagery occasionally shakes things up—women applying lipstick beneath their burkas, or legless victims of mine explosions scrambling after artificial limbs air-dropped into a Red Cross camp. Mostly, however, Kandahar proves to be an awkward blend of the documentary it wants to be and the dramatic story it fails at being. Opens March 29 at the Tower Theater. (NR)—SR

King of Kings

Because it’s, like, Good Friday. Or something. At Organ Loft Silent Films Series, March 28-29. (NR)

The Rookie ***

Stow the cynical knee-jerk antipathy to “feel-good” movies—some of them can make you feel good without making you feel used and/or stupid. This one tells the true story of Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid, relaxed and appealing), a one-time professional baseball prospect coaching a lousy West Texas high school team after injuries cut short his career. He gets a second chance after making a fool’s deal with his players: If they make the playoffs, he’ll try out for the majors one more time. Almost in spite of its too-inspiring-to-be-real premise, The Rookie never wallows in cliché or bathos. Director John Lee Hancock crafts his narrative with respect for baseball, for his small-town characters and, most impressively, for his audience. The film drags on too long at over two hours, and it feels too neatly split into two ready-for-television parts. It’s still simpler, sweeter and smarter than you have any reason to expect, warm and emotional in all the best ways. I feel good. Opens March 29 at theaters valley-wide. (G)—SR


Because you know you’ve always wanted to know about the cinema of Burkina Faso. At University of Utah Film Front Series, March 31, 7:30 p.m. (NR)


Blade II **

See review p. 32.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: 20th Anniversary Special Edition ****

Anybody out there unclear regarding this paper’s editorial opinion on the subject of “special editions” (hint: involves the word “suck”)? Fine, let’s move on: Steven Spielberg’s E. T. remains, a generation after its initial release, one of the most wondrous, purely emotional films ever made. And the performance by then-10-year-old Henry Thomas as Elliott remains one of the best pieces of child acting ever committed to the screen. Clean, often wordless visual storytelling merges with John Williams’ soaring score and Carlo Rambaldi’s remarkable animatronic alien to create a film experience of astonishing innocence and joy. Yeah, it’s jarring to see new scenes with a CGI E. T., and one wishes filmmakers could just let their babies go without tweaking. It’s all moot when Elliott says, “E. T., I love you.” Let the tears flow. (PG)—SR

Sorority Boys *.5

Dammit, I wanted to like it. Three morons get kicked out of their fraternity (Kappa Omicron Kappa, or KOK), but there’s this party they simply have to attend, so they oh-my-god, join a sorority! It’s such a sublimely bad idea for a movie that you’d think something groundbreakingly awful should come of it—but instead, a few good jokes about big dresses and distaff bathrooms get bogged down in a tired morality play and lame, timid performances from Barry Watson and Michael Rosenbaum. Only Harland Williams seems cognizant of the level of hell to which he’ll be assigned for appearing in this film, and only he treats it with the all-out combination of disdain and enthusiasm it deserves. (R)—GB

Piñero **

Writer-director Leon Ichaso stages an apologia biopic of poet, playwright and stickup man Miguel Piñero, who lived a fairly evil life and died young in New York City’s vast Puerto Rican community. Benjamin Bratt’s Vaguely-Ethnic-Ken-Doll good looks are the key to the effective flamboyance of his portrayal of the poet-crook, but the rest of the movie is far too nice to Piñero, whose apparent inability to see the difference between art and crime is treated as a symptom of his genius, instead of a symptom of a really strange guy. In the same way some scholars worship at Beat poet Charles Bukowski’s altar while others call him a talentless fraud, it’s difficult to determine Piñero’s worthiness for admiration, even while Ichaso shouts his opinion in our ear. (R)—GB

No Man’s Land ***

The black-comedy possibilities of war—this time, the Balkan conflict—are revisited in this Oscar-nominated film by first-time feature director Danis Tanovic, an awfully earnest young filmmaker who still understands the delicate nature of absurdist humor. It’s the story of a Bosnian and a Serb who get stranded in a trench between enemy lines. The land mine on which one of our heroes is trapped also happens to be a big old metaphor, but the clever dialogue between the leads—and the cast of supporting characters, from Simon Callow’s UN observer to Katrin Cartlidge’s salivating cable news reporter—paint broad, entertaining strokes of political commentary. A bit Catch-22 and a bit MASH, the film is humorous without being very funny—sort of like wars that go on far too long. (R)—GB

Ice Age **.5

Director Chris Wedge—a computer animation pioneer who worked on Tron back in the day—serves up a familiar rehash of mawkish plot elements for this tale of a mammoth (Ray Romano), a saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and a sloth (John Leguizamo) trying to return a primitive baby to its family. The look of the film is certainly remarkable, and there are plenty of individual giggles in the script. But there’s an overriding sloppiness at work in the storytelling, with weak characterizations and every potential point of resonance smoothed over. This is a family-appeal film that tries to be too many things at once, awkwardly mixing sentimentality with Chuck Jones zaniness and obligatory poop jokes. With all the technological prowess on display, it’s too bad it feels like the script was turned out by a computer as well. (PG)—SR

Resident Evil *.5

It’s a mystery why anybody thought it would be cool to make a live-action version of one of the more overrated, monotonous video games in the history of wasted adolescence. Why anybody would cast Milla Jovovich as an action hero is even more debatable. What’s clear is that writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson has seen Dawn of the Dead way too many times while studying at the John Carpenter school of lazy, plagiaristic filmmaking. His characters are dull, his biohazard-scare plot inexorably thins from a clever setup, and even the big demon Dobermans from the video game aren’t realistic. Instead of watching this, I’d recommend the live-action version of NHL 2002. (R)—GB

Showtime *.5

It’s loud, dumb, hypocritical, incoherently constructed ... oh, what the hell’s the point? Director Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon) knows this story of two mismatched police officers—taciturn veteran Robert DeNiro and preening hot-shot Eddie Murphy—paired for a reality TV cop show is nothing but a formulaic star vehicle, and he doesn’t even pretend to care about anything else. The approach worked much better with Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan, but there’s still occasional amusement value in watching DeNiro’s Midnight Run persona clash with Murphy’s 48 HRS. riffing (plus a wonderfully self-mocking William Shatner as himself). Otherwise, it’s simply one of those cynical film contraptions that tries to get mileage out of both mocking overblown car chases and showing those same overblown car chases. Murphy does the honking laugh, DeNiro does the exasperated scowl and the cash comes rolling in. Sigh. (PG-13)—SR

Harrison’s Flowers **

Hard to say which is the more horrifying atrocity portrayed in Harrison’s Flowers—ethnic cleansing, or Andie MacDowell’s acting. MacDowell plays a woman whose husband, a Newsweek photographer (David Strathairn), disappears while covering the early days of the Yugoslavian civil war in 1991. She then undertakes a personal search-and-rescue operation to Vukovar, hooking up with two other photojournalists (Adrien Brody and Brendan Gleeson) who become infinitely more compelling characters. Eventually the film tries to develop intriguing ideas about the price journalists pay for bringing us the truth, but the relationship that’s supposed to drive the narrative is lost almost entirely in the process. Considering MacDowell’s ghastly emoting, that’s not entirely a bad thing, but Harrison’s Flowers never provides enough focus to justify its sensationalistic wartime images. Occasionally harrowing without ever being truly gripping, it’s just a snapshot photo tour through hell with an ex-model as your talentless tour guide. (R)—SR

The Time Machine *.5

H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine was a grand, simple adventure, but that wasn’t enough for Hollywood—they had to waste an hour trying to set up our hero’s “motivation.” Wells’ unnamed Time Traveler becomes a grief-stricken physicist (Guy Pearce) who only ends up confronting Eloi and Morlocks 800,000 years in the future after wandering all over history for most of the film. That distant future world is spectacularly rendered, but The Time Machine betrays a lack of understanding about what its audience is there to see. When a by-committee script can’t provide any meaningful characterization, it’s hard to understand why we have to sit through so much tedious back story. Wells had the good sense to realize his readers didn’t care about the Time Traveler’s personal demons. The only lesson about time from this version is how much of yours can be wasted. (PG-13)—SR