Believe it or not, there are movies besides Episode III

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Looking for a film that doesnt involve Jedi knights or Wookies? Here is a trio of films still in theaters that might be worth a look this holiday weekend.

Unleashed (B-, playing at Great Escape 12) As thrilling as it is goofy, Unleashed tells the tale of Danny (Jet Li) a man raised as an attack dog by a ruthless criminal named Bart (Bob Hoskins).

When an ambush leaves Bart in a coma, Danny seeks refuge with a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) and his carefree stepdaughter (Kerry Condon). The pair open Dannys eyes to a world he has never known, but eventually that world is threatened by his past.

Screenwriter Luc Besson has already established himself as someone capable of constructing an action film with a decent script, and he does it again with a film that mixes some intense action sequences with an over-the-top

melodrama.

The scenes between Danny and the family border on absurd, but thankfully Unleashed features several great action sequences and a great villainous turn by Hoskins who practically chews up the scenery every time hes on screen.

Kicking and Screaming (B-, playing at Great Escape 12) Will Ferrell continues to display his comedic talents with this surprisingly agreeable family comedy.

Ferrell plays Phil, a family man who has always been the whipping boy of his very competitive father (Robert Duvall). When Phil decides to coach his sons soccer team, the family competition heats up.

It would be easy to see this as another Lady Bugs, the really bad soccer comedy with Rodney Dangerfield and Jackee, but there is a bit of heart in Kicking and Screaming, with Ferrell and Duvall both giving nice performances.

Ferrell is capable of getting laughs even in bad films, but he gets some help here in an unlikely extended cameo by former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who was a good enough sport to playfully poke fun at his tough guy image.

Sure Kicking and Screaming is filled with obvious clichs, but director Jesse Dylan keeps the film moving along at a brisk enough pace that the flaws dont really matter.

Monster-In-Law (B-, playing at Greenwood Mall 10) This Jennifer Lopez-Jane Fonda comedy has taken a lot of harsh criticism, but if you go in with low expectations (like I did), you might be pleasantly surprised.

Lopez plays Charlie, a free-spirit who gets engaged to a successful doctor (Michael Vartan), much to the dismay of his mother, Viola (Fonda).

Viola is intent on doing whatever it takes to prevent the marriage. Eventually Charlie has enough of Violas interference and decides to fight back.

If you are looking for a film with depth and character development, Monster-In-Law is probably not the film for you. Still, I couldnt help but enjoy most of the slapstick situations.

Fonda, in her first film in 15 years, and Lopez play well off each other. There is also a very funny supporting performance from Wanda Sykes as Fondas longtime assistant. When Sykes is on the screen, Monster-In-Law really soars, but even when she isnt, the film proves to be more enjoyable than it should have been.

Discount dud of the week

This weeks discount dud is Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (D) a pointless sequel that nearly negates all the good will Sandra Bullock built up with her performance in Crash.

Bullock returns as the tomboyish FBI agent Gracie, who has been reassigned as the face of the new FBI. Its not long before Gracie finds herself back in the field, trying to find out who kidnapped a couple of her friends from the first film.

There really isnt much more to Congeniality 2, which is one of the biggest problems with the film. The first movie was OK at best, but it didnt exactly have more of a story to tell.

Most of the time this brain-dead comedy just goes in circles, with Gracie splitting time fighting an FBI investigator (Treat Williams) and a fellow agent (Regina King) assigned to protect her.

The movie really wants to turn King and Bullock into one of those buddy duos that worked in movies like 48 Hours, but their chemistry feels forced and never clicks.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous opens Friday at the Plaza 6, where all movies are $1.50.

Sportswriter/ movie reviewer Micheal Compton plans to spend the holiday weekend the only way he knows how in a movie theater, of course. If you want to tell him to get a life, or perhaps donate to his Milk Duds fund, drop him an e-mail at mcompton@bgdailynews.com

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