George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Diane Lane

go, Bobby, I got a bad feeling."

She may not be seeing dead people just yet, but her sixth sense is right on target. Bobby Shatford and his crewmates are about to run straight into a colossal storm—in fact, three colliding colossal storms—that engulfed the East Coast in October 1991, wreaking havoc with anything unlucky enough to be out on the frigid waters of the North Atlantic at the time. The Perfect Storm, based on Sebastian Junger's enthralling 1997 nonfiction bestseller and directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Air Force One), recounts in drenching detail exactly what happened to the Andrea Gail and its six-man crew when nature let loose.

Disappointingly, Storm is far from perfect. The movie's tempest scenes are spectacular, with 100-ft. waves tossing boats like rubber ducks in a bathtub. But when everyone's dry, the movie's all wet. On land, characters and their motivations are so scantily developed that viewers have little reason to care when, late in the film, Andrea Gail captain Billy Tyne (Clooney) and his men recklessly head right into the center of the storm, spurred on by Tyne's rallying cry, "Are you Gloucestermen?" The most dramatically effective scenes, in fact, have nothing to do with the Andrea Gail's crew but rather show brave coastguardsmen risking their lives to rescue a trio of barely introduced characters from a fancy sloop.

Clooney has little to do besides talk tough and literally laugh in the face of danger, letting out maniacal cackles as he muscles his boat through crashing waves. Wahlberg is more affecting, but you know his fate from the moment he promises Lane that this will be his final trip. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Choppy crossing

Emmanuel Schotté, Séverine Caneele

In this glacially paced but weirdly compelling film by French filmmaker Bruno Dumont, a police detective (Schotté) in a rural village investigates the rape and murder of a girl. As he ploddingly works on the case, he also becomes increasingly obsessed with his voluptuous neighbor (Caneele) and her loutish boyfriend (Philippe Tullier). He hangs out with them, even spying on their carnal couplings. But mostly he just looks sad, profoundly and utterly sad. As Humanité's enigmatic final shot hints, he may have ample reason to be. What does it all mean? That the line between civilized behavior and animal instinct is tissue thin, or just that the French overintellectualize everything? (Not rated)

Bottom Line: Exceedingly slow but grows on you

Emily Watson, Nick Nolte, Dermot Mulroney, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy, Lesley Ann Warren

Trixie is pretty much a mess. It's one of those oddball little movies that, if seen on the right day and when one is in a forgiving mood, might charm but will strike most viewers as annoying and inordinately pleased with itself.

Watson plays a private detective at a resort casino who yearns to crack a big case. She's none too bright, chews gum incessantly and spouts a stream of malapropisms, including, "When I get on the trail of somebody, I'm going to find him by hook or by ladder." Soon she stumbles on a murder and zeroes in on her chief suspect, a philandering state senator (Nolte).

Nolte's double-talking pol is the only character of interest here, and that's solely because of a neat trick: His more bombastic speeches are borrowed verbatim from those of actual elected officials. Watson (Angela's Ashes) is clearly having a swell time, but her character makes not a lick of sense. In the supporting cast, a number of talented actors, including Mulroney, Lane and Murphy, get lost in the shuffle. Director-writer Alan Rudolph (Afterglow), whose films tend to be hit or miss, misses here.(R)

Bottom Line: Walk on by

>Chris Cooper

For years, Chris Cooper made a good living playing laconic lawmen types in films like Lone Star and the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove. So what was the problem? "It kind of bugs you," says Cooper, 48, "when people in the industry, after 10 years, don't know who you are."

They know now. Last year he brought Kevin Spacey's homophobic Marine neighbor chillingly to life in American Beauty. He currently co-stars in two big summer flicks, playing a corrupt cop in Me, Myself & Irene and Col. Harry Burwell, Mel Gibson's old friend, in The Patriot. The Revolutionary War epic, he says, was "the most elaborate—I don't know what you call it—monster picture I've been involved in. Those explosions, the dust—it's still with me."

Cooper bonded with Gibson, whom he calls "a sweetheart." They discussed their families—in Cooper's case, wife Marianne, 52, a screenwriter, and son Jesse, 12, who has cerebral palsy. "Jesse's doing really good," says Missouri native Cooper, who now lives in Kingston, Mass. "He has a new computer he's learning to communicate on." Despite being new to Hollywood hoopla, Cooper, whose father had a cattle ranch, was no novice in the saddle. "So many actors claim they ride horses," he says with a laugh. "It's proved in a real short time that they don't know beans about it."

>Boys and Girls Teen dream Freddie Prinze Jr. doing the same old same old: mooning around campus until he finally gets the girl (Claire Forlani). (PG-13)

Chicken Run The yolks keep coming in a delightful comedy about plucky fowl trying to escape from an egg farm. This family film is by the clay-animation geniuses behind Wallace & Gromit. (G)

Croupier At last, a movie for grownups. Intriguing thriller about a novelist (Clive Owen) who learns that real life trumps fiction. (Not rated)

Gladiator Thumbs up. Russell Crowe rules as a heroic Roman in a rousing swords-and-sandals epic. (R)

Gone in 60 Seconds Forgotten even faster. This one is running on empty as Nicolas Cage's car thief has to steal 50 cars in one night. (PG-13)

Hamlet Nifty, contemporary version of the play. Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) delivers his "To be, or not to be" speech in the Action section of a Blockbuster. (R)

Me, Myself & Irene A slapstick farce from the duo behind There's Something About Mary stars Jim Carrey as a cop with two personalities. Like Mary, it's way crude and very funny. (R)

The Patriot Mel Gibson talks softly but carries a big tomahawk in a bloody Revolutionary War epic. Well-paced, intelligent first half, but then it peters out. (R)

Shanghai Noon Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson team in goofy, anything-goes Western. (PG-13)

Titan A.E. Animated sci-fi film is pictorially glorious but the plot is old helmet. (PG)

  • Contributors:
  • Michael Fleeman.