The Big Kahuna - * * *

John Swanbeck directs this 16mm film starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli as a trio of salesmen at an industrial lubricans convention in Wichita. Roger Rueff adapted his comic play. Previously titled Hospitality Suite.

Capsule Review: Very obviously a play adapted for the screen (The Big Kahuna takes place almost exclusively on one set), but this one has good enough dialogue that you don’t care. A somewhat allegorical tale comparing Christian beliefs to the business world, this is one story that will have you ruminating for quite a while after the credits roll. All three actors deliver meaty performances (and the youthful Peter Facinelli manages to hold his own against veterans Spacey and DeVito). This is definitely one film that doesn’t want you to turn your brain off at the door.

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The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas - *

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas

Yep, it’s a prequel to The Flintstones. Young newlyweds Fred (Mark Addy) and Wilma (Kristen Johnson) leave their puppy Dino with friends Barney (Stephen Baldwin) and Betty (Jane Krakowski) to go on a trip to Rock Vegas. Joan Collins will play Wilma’s mother, Pearl Slaghoople, and Harvey Korman will play her husband. Thomas Gibson will play Chip Rockefeller, the richest man in Rock Vegas, who has an eye on Wilma. Alan Cummings will play The Gret Gazoo. Brian Levant directs.

Capsule Review: Does anyone really think we needed a prequel to the live-action Flintstones movie? This is a film based on a film based on a cartoon show based on a television skit. You know what they say about a copy of a copy? It holds true here, and what we’re left with is a fuzzy, indistinct plot with little merit. Jane Krakowski is the only improvement from the previous film, delivering a spot-on performance as Betty. The special effects are somewhat grander, but at it’s core, this movie is much more hollow than a cartoon.

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Where the Heart Is - * *

Matt Williams directs Natalie Portman as a pregnant teen abandoned by her boyfriend in an Oklahoma Wal-Mart store. Dylan Bruno, Stockard Channing, Joan Cusack and Ashley Judd will also star. Sally Field will have a cameo. Based on Billie Letts’ novel. Previously titled Where the Heart Is.

Capsule Review: An overly packed melodrama, Where the Heart Is should have jettisoned a good chunk of its subplots. Still, the film is not all bad. A strong central performance from Natalie Portman holds this one together…but barely.

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Frequency - * * 1/2*

Gregory Hoblit directs this thriller about a fireman (Dennis Quaid) in 1969 who mysteriously communicates over a ham radio with his son (Jim Caviezel), a homicide cop thirty years in the future. During a deadly blaze, his son tries to warn him of his own death. Elizabeth Mitchell, Andre Braugher, Jordan Bridges, Michael Cera, Noah Emmerich, and Frank McAnulty also star.

Capsule Review: Touching, but flawed, Frequency is a crowd-pleasing movie that never makes much sense. For a movie like this to work, it has to set certain ground rules…but Frequency plays by ear, and the result is a discordant symphony. Still, good performances by Quaid and Caviezel will pluck the father-son heartstrings in the audience.

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U-571 - * 1/2*

Jonathan Mostow directs this WWII-set action thriller about a U.S. attempt to steal a top-secret encryption device hidden aboard a U-Boat. Matthew McConaughey will play the Navy captain sent on the mission. Bill Paxton, Jake Weber, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Noseworthy, Will Estes, Matthew Settle, and David Keith will also star. Mostow and David Ayer wrote the screenplay.

Capsule Review: U-571 doesn’t hold a candle to most other submarine flicks. Even Down Periscope managed to create a more plausible sense of claustrophobia than this film. Some of the special effects are well made…but the action sequences are poorly cut. It becomes difficult to tell the characters apart (particularly when their flat personalities are virtually identical), and as a result, we don’t care about their fates. This is one sub that deserves to sink.

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American Psycho - * 1/2*

Mary Harron will direct this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel about a wall street yuppie (Christian Bale) who moonlights as a serial killer. Jared Leto, Chloe Sevigny, Guinevere Turner, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Bill Sage, Willem Dafoe, Steve Zahn, Justin Theroux and Matt Ross will also star. The script was written by Harron and Guinevere Turner.

Capsule Review: A brilliant performance by Christian Bale can’t quite keep this soulless movie afloat. He captures the hollowness of Patrick Bateman, a yuppie serial killer whose mask of sanity has a few cracks. It’s too bad the film’s message (which never gets beyond equating senseless materialism with senseless violence) isn’t as layered as Bale’s performance. American Psycho ends up not violent enough for the book’s hardcore fans, and not meaningful enough for anyone else.

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Rules of Engagement - * * 1/2*

William Friedkin directs this military drama. Tommy Lee Jones will play a lawyer who once dreamed of being a career soldier, but whose dreams were dashed when he was wounded in combat. Samuel L. Jackson was the soldier who saved his life, and now needs legal defense against court martial. Ben Kingsley will portray the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, and Anne Archer will play his wife. Guy Pearce, Kim Delaney, Bruce Greenwood, and Philip Baker Hall will also star. Based upon James Webb’s screenplay.

Capsule Review: Two solid leads (Jackson and Jones) are able to redeem Rules of Engagement from a pathetic script. The film is seriously hampered by a cartoonish villain (Greenwood), who seems out of place in the otherwise grounded proceedings. All that’s missing is the moustache for him to twirl. But, if intensity is all you desire, Jackson and Jones deliver, and the film is able to overcome many of its flaws.

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Ready to Rumble - 1/2*

Brian Robbins directs this wrestling comedy from Steven Brill’s script. Two fans (David Arquette and Scott Caan) travel to the WCW headquarters to help restore their favorite wrestler (Oliver Platt) to the championship. Rose McGowan, Chris Owens, Joe Pantoliano and Martin Landau also star.

Capsule Review: You know a movie about professional wrestling is likely to be rather stupid going in…and Ready to Rumble lives down to all those expectations. Arquette and Caan aren’t a very funny comic duo, and even some talented supporting actors (Platt, Landau and Pantoliano) can’t make sense of this movie. Heck, it’s not even worth it to watch the wrestling cameos. This is one movie that deserves to be pile-driven.

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Keeping the Faith - * * *

Edward Norton directs this romantic comedy in which a Catholic priest (Norton) and a rabbi (Ben Stiller), best friends, fall for the same woman (Jenna Elfman) (whom they’ve known since childhood), but neither can marry her. Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach, Rena Sofer, Milos Forman, Ron Rifkin, and Holland Taylor also star.

Capsule Review: Surprisingly clever, for a movie that seems to be based on one of those old priest-rabbi jokes. A little heavy on the slapstick to start, the film manages to take a serious look at issues of the heart and the soul without ever losing a light comic touch. The lead trio are all wonderful in their roles, with the downside that you feel bad that one will be disappointed in the end. At over two hours, Keeping the Faith is overlong for a romantic comedy, but its charms are rarely spread thin.

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The Road to El Dorado - * * 1/2*

Animated film set during Spanish conquistador Cortez’s quest for the legendary golden city of El Dorado. Two stable hands (Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline) stow away on a ship bound for the new world, and stumble upon the legendary City of Gold. Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos and Rosie Perez also provide voices, and Elton John and Tim Rice provide the music. Directed by Bibo Bergeron and Will Finn.

Capsule Review: An entertaining cartoon…but not very memorable. The adventure is a feel-good adaptation of The Man Who Would Be King, with the typical animated shenanigans mixed in. None of the characters here feel like a strong lead, however…they’re all character actors in search of a leading man. The film’s a little scary for the youngest tykes, but older youngsters (and many adults) will find the film a mild diversion.

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