, Nicole Kidman
, Sydney Pollack, Alan Cumming
It's no trouble keeping your eyes wide open through Eyes Wide Shut, not with the constant sex talk and parade of naked bodies, but you will wonder if the film needs to be this long (2 hours, 39 minutes) and this slow. It's a movie you should see a second time to appreciate fully its themes of love and lust and trust and truth, but the idea of sitting through it again anytime soon may be about as alluring as eating a hairball.
Eyes Wide Shut, for those just back from Mars, is an erotic drama starring real-life marrieds Cruise and Kidman. It was the last film directed by Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket), who died in March at age 70. Cruise plays a well-to-do Manhattan doctor, and Kidman is his wife, a former art-gallery manager who now stays home with their young daughter. One night, following a party at which both flirt with others, Kidman tells Cruise that once during their marriage she lusted in her heart after a handsome Navy officer. This provides motivation enough to send Cruise off into an extramarital tailspin, even popping by an orgy at which the naked guests all wear masks. The orgy, and a subsequent scene in which Kidman tells Cruise about a sex dream she had, dive deeply into—and splash awkwardly about—the Jungian dream pool.
Kidman is the draw here. She shows off more skin, swings wider emotionally and offers finely nuanced line readings. Cruise, after his winningly loosey-goosey display in Jerry Maguire, disappoints in Eyes, relying on gestures—drawing his palm down across his face to denote suffering—instead of emotions.
What exactly is the point of Eyes? Kubrick, who based the film on Traumnovelle, a 1926 novella by Arthur Schnitzler, seems to be saying that there is good and bad in everyone and that one has to explore one's bad side to appreciate the good. Just pack a compass. (R)
Bottom Line: Marriage gets tested, and so do viewers
Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard
Don't go see The Blair Witch Project alone; it's too scary to sit through without company. Thrillingly, nauseatingly so. We're not talking the cheap, jokey scares of a masked maniac swinging a knife in Scream or Halloween. Rather, Blair Witch, an independent horror film made on the cheap (less than $50,000) and starring unknowns, proves that the horror that isn't shown can be far more frightening. Despite obviously limited resources, codirectors and writers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez show unlimited ingenuity.
Blair Witch purports to be the found film footage of three young documentarians who disappeared in 1994 while making a movie in the Maryland woods about a legendary child killer called the Blair Witch. As the three head deeper into the woods, filming every step, ever spookier stuff happens, and they grow increasingly frightened. With good reason. So will you. (R)
Bottom Line: Prepare to be a quivering mess
Jeffrey Tambor, Andie MacDowell
Miss Piggy, as always, steals the show—this time as a tyro TV reporter working on a big story. Rushing home before a taping, she says breathlessly, "I've got to change into something that says journalistic integrity! " Journalistic integrity requires that we reveal that Muppets from Space isn't Miss Piggy's movie. The porcine princess is only a supporting player, propping up Muppet costar Gonzo as he searches for his alien kin. She appears plenty, though, and Gonzo and other Muppets are lively enough to make Space jolly fun for small fry and chaperons. Human actors include Tambor as a baddie, MacDowell, David Arquette and Ray Liotta. (G)
Bottom Line: Fun encounter of the fuzzy kind
Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Betty White
There's a cartoon character on the Nickelodeon cable channel called CatDog. It has a dog's head at one end of its body and a cat's head at the other and can therefore never decide which of its opposing natural instincts to follow. The same problem afflicts Lake Placid, a hybrid comedy-horror film that vacillates uneasily between being funny and scary without fully achieving either.
Much of Placid is indeed amusing, which comes as no surprise, since it is written by David E. Kelley, creator of TV's Ally McBeal. And much of it is scary, given that it's about a 30-foot crocodile, fond of chomping on human heads, that has found its way to a lake in Maine. But the end result is as mealy as fish food.
Fonda, playing a paleontologist, and Pullman, as a game warden, work up minimal chemistry. Betty White, appearing as a smut-mouthed old lady—is there any other kind in movies today?—earns Placid's biggest guffaw when she sweet-talks the crocodile, urging it to "come and get it." (R)
Bottom Line: Too many ingredients in this croc pot