Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno

Featured Attraction

What's big, gray-green, has scaly skin and is wet all over? Godzilla, that mutant reptile spawned as a result of nuclear testing in the South Pacific, has risen from the ocean yet again to menace folks in a movie equally large and lumbering. This latest and costliest (a reported $130 million) Godzilla, from the hyperventilating Independence Day producer-director team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, may look better than its 22 low-budget Japanese and American predecessors, but it's still nothing more than a dopey monster movie about a really big lizard looking to do lunch at mankind's expense. Hamlet this ain't. Or even King Kong.

At least the oversize gorilla had feelings. In Godzilla the big guy just roams Manhattan stomping on skyscrapers and letting loose an occasional roar. And it's not only the monster who lacks personality. Excepting Broderick as a biologist tracking Godzilla, Reno as a Frenchman also trailing the lizard and Hank Azaria as a TV news cameraman, the casting here is seriously lackluster. You couldn't care less what happens to the movie's flimsy characters. Some audiences, I suspect, will actually root for Reptile Boy to win.

What's left to admire then are the computer-generated special effects, which are plentiful and eye-popping. Particularly impressive is the way Godzilla's massive tail whips about, gouging giant furrows in New York City landmarks, rather like a vandal scraping a car's paint job with keys. Still, although the special effects are more abundant, they aren't anything audiences didn't already see last summer in the equally rainsoaked Jurassic Park: The Lost World. In fact, this Godzilla looks and behaves like an especially glum escapee from Steven Spielberg's amusement park. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Leapin' lizards and nothing more

Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro

If this is your brain on drugs (shot of two eggs frying), then this is your brain (close-up of 10,000 eggs scrambled) after seeing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The film is director Terry Gilliam's (12 Monkeys) stupefyingly unsuccessful attempt to bring to the screen Hunter S. Thompson's hallucinatory rant about Las Vegas, a city Thompson calls the "vortex of the American Dream." His Fear and Loathing book, first published in Rolling Stone in 1971 as a two-part article on his drug-crazed stay in Vegas, was among the seminal pieces in what is now called gonzo journalism, stories in which form is more important than substance. But illegal substance consumption by the writer, at least in Thompson's case, often affects form.

The movie is an unwatchable, pointless mess. As Thompson, Depp, a cigarette holder clenched between his teeth, mumbles and shouts while Del Toro, playing his corpulent pal Dr. Gonzo, belches, bellows and vomits repeatedly. (R)

Bottom Line: Drugs are bad; the movie's worse

Documentary

Setting out to explore the doomed love of grunge god Kurt Cobain and rocker-singer Courtney Love, British director Nick Broomfield (Fetishes) doggedly, blindly pursued every bit of information that came his way—and ended up with this amusing, scandalmongering piece of poppycock. Broomfield, who looks and sounds like a seedier James Mason, interviews a bizarre cast of characters, including two stalkerazzi; a gumshoe who harbors dark, implausible suspicions about Cobain's 1994 suicide; and Love's estranged father, who boasts of having once scared her out of the house with pit bulls. The movie isn't so much about Kurt or Courtney as it is about shabby lives in the shadow of fame. (Not rated)

Bottom Line: Weirdly watchable

>Forest Whitaker

Man in Emotion

With Waiting to Exhale and now Hope Floats, actor-turned-director Forest Whitaker has made two movies featuring more broken relationships than a Bruce Willis film has broken glass. "I wasn't thinking I'm going to do a woman's movie," insists Whitaker, 36, about Hope Floats, in which Sandra Bullock plays a woman who leaves her philandering husband and returns to her hometown; there she encounters a childhood pal (Harry Connick Jr.). The film, Whitaker says, is "about knowing that, no matter what happens, you can still go forward."

Whitaker's career is moving forward too, from acting jobs in Good Morning, Vietnam and The Crying Game to his current directing. "It's a natural progression of me trying to express myself," says Whitaker, who is raising a 19-month-old daughter, Sonnet Noel, with his wife, model Keisha Nash (each parent also has a child from a previous relationship). Expression is taking him in several directions: He's developing three different TV projects and, having sung opera at USC, says he'd love to do a musical. "Wherever storytelling takes me," he says, "I'll go there."

  • Contributors:
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Karen Brailsford.