Published: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 10:45 p.m.
STARS: Samuel L. Jackson, Debbi Morgan, Ashanti
THEATERS: Opens Friday at Butler Plaza, Cinema 90 (Lake City)
While it's a reflex to roll your eyes at the thought of another inspirational sports movie, there are two reasons to see "Coach Carter."
First is Samuel L. Jackson in the title role, channeling University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summit (reportedly his inspiration) with spit, fire, integrity and determination as he teaches his high-school players about the game of life.
Second is the story itself, which shows that at least one adult in this sports-obsessed culture has his head screwed on straight.
Director Thomas Carter ("Save the Last Dance"), no relation to the coach, makes the court action exciting. But, even better, he respects Coach Carter's mission by making the pursuit of education seem like an exciting goal.
Scripps Howard News Service
STARS: Voices of Frankie Muniz, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Foxworthy
THEATERS: Opens Friday at Gator Cinemas, Cinema 90 (Lake City), Florida Twin Theatre (Starke)
Dismissing "Racing Stripes" as a paltry retread of "Babe" would be mean, and it's hard to be mean to a movie that's so well-intentioned. The similarities are awfully hard to miss, though - as are the differences.
Whereas the talking little piggie of "Babe" wanted to be a sheepherding dog a decade ago, the talking zebra of "Racing Stripes" wants to be a racehorse.
Like Babe, Stripes (Frankie Muniz) is surrounded by a menagerie of computer-enhanced creatures who crack wise. Whoopi Goldberg provides the voice of Franny the goat. Jeff Foxworthy voices Reggie the rooster. Snoop Dogg growls lazily a couple of times as a bloodhound.
But the best of all is Dustin Hoffman as a cranky Shetland pony named Tucker.
What "Racing Stripes" offers in star power, though, it lacks in heart. This film is strangely distant, with its superficial platitudes about tolerance.
It's ideal for kids, though, and its heart is in the right place - which almost makes it a winner.
The Associated Press
THEATERS: Opens Friday Royal Park
In 1997 Troy Duffy, a bartender in Los Angeles, became a minor celebrity when Miramax offered him $1 million for a screenplay. It was heartwarming Hollywood success story.
That was how Duffy saw it, according to "Overnight," a documentary directed by Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana. The filmmakers were associates of Duffy and were eyewitnesses to the train wreck his career quickly became. Like just about everyone else who came into contact with him, Smith and Montana were subjected to Duffy's bullying, arrogant tirades - and their film's objectivity is compromised by an intimation of payback.
Duffy comes across as an arrogant blowhard.
The lessons for "Overnight": The big guys know best, and the little guys are jerks, whiners and amateurs who receive their comeuppance when their movie projects go into turnaround.
Any movie that makes you root against the underdog, though, is cause for suspicion, and Smith and Montana try belatedly to restore Duffy's status as a victim. But their equivocation comes too late. We have already had our laugh at his expense, and this laughter conveniently enables us to forget about all of the other artists, with greater talent and better manners, who are chewed up by an entertainment industry that could hardly care less about what they do.
- The New York Times
STARS: Christian Bale
THEATERS: Opens Friday at Royal Park
The gimmick almost overwhelms the content of "The Machinist."
The fact that Christian Bale lost 63 pounds to play a guy who hasn't slept for a year makes us worry as much about the actor as we do about his troubled, delirious character.
"Machinist" works the tried-and-true "Memento" formula of a guy trying to figure out strange occurrences without the full benefit of his own memory.
Bale plays Trevor Reznik. Yes, he works in a machine shop, where the foreman is on his spacey case and a screw-up on his part ends up costing a colleague his arm.
But Reznik does have other things on his mind. Someone is creeping into his cruddy apartment and leaving alarming notes on the refrigerator.
Bale throws himself into Reznik's tortured existence with all his spirit and ability. If he can get half of this film's masochistic mania into next summer's Batman film, it should finally be the film that does justice to the comic books.
For "The Machinist," though, it can't help but seem like too much commitment to a "Twilight Zone" concept that Rod Serling and many more have exploited.
- Los Angeles Daily News
In Good Company
STARS: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson
THEATERS: Opens Friday at Butler Plaza
This gently revisionist fairy tale about good versus evil is set on the battlefield of contemporary corporate culture, a site of our leading blood sport. Mostly, though, the movie is about men.
The two men at the story's engaging center are Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a young executive who has been promoted beyond his abilities to run the advertising department of a magazine. The man whom Carter is meant to make redundant is the 51-year-old Dan Foreman, a ruggedly appealing adult who brings out the best in everyone.
Dan has a picture-perfect family and is the kind of unabashedly old-fashioned masculine type Dennis Quaid has been slow-cooking to perfection over the years and which, on American screens at least, has lately gone missing.
- Manohla Dargis
The New York Times
House of Flying Daggers
STARS: Zhang Ziyi
THEATERS: Opens Friday at Butler Plaza
In the latest chapter of Zhang Yimou's triumphant reinvention as an action filmmaker, Zhang Ziyi plays Mei, a blind courtesan who turns out to be a member of the Flying Daggers, a shadowy squad of assassins waging a guerrilla insurgency against the corrupt government.
She is pursued by two government deputies, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), whose loyalties come into question as the chase turns into a love triangle. Everyone is engaged in several layers of deceit, and some of the third-act revelations are more likely to provoke laughter than gasps. But realism is as irrelevant a criterion here as it would be in an Italian opera. The movie is about color, kineticism and the kind of heavy-breathing, decorous sensuality that went out of American movies when sexual candor came in.
Though it is in constant, breathtaking motion, the picture is not especially moving. Unlike the greatest operas (in whatever medium), it inspires you to gasp, but not to weep.
- A.O. Scott
The New York Times
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