In space, where no one can hear you scream, Clint Eastwood knows how to make himself heard—even if his voice these days is no louder than steam hissing from a radiator. There's something absurd yet impressive about the sight of this lean, tight-lipped icon, now 70, suited up as an astronaut and floating by with the stars as backdrop. Peering out through his helmet, does he show awe? Fear? No, it's the classic Clint squint, as focused as a laser. He's mulling over his next move while his patience, like a shuttle countdown, ticks toward zero.
Eastwood produced, directed and stars in this leisurely, touching space epic about four old coots sent up to repair a crippled Russian satellite. (The others are Jones, Sutherland and Garner.) Has there ever been a leisurely, touching space epic—let alone one with senior-citizen heroes?
Back in the '50s, the guys were cream-of-the-crop Air Force pilots who thought they were destined to become astronauts. When the space program moved to the newly formed NASA, they found themselves stranded—and their careers earth-bound. Now, as the satellite goes on the blink, Eastwood, who went on to become an engineer, is the only man who knows how to fix it. (It's based on his design.) He tells NASA he wants to do the job himself, along with the rest of his gang. Backed up by two younger astronauts (Vance and Dean), they go through training, dodge the machinations of a NASA bigwig (James Cromwell) and confront a major health crisis before finally blasting off.
The story, even the do-or-die space segments, moves forward with no more urgency than a toy boat launched across a pond. In Clint's cosmos, everyone's energy level ratchets down a few notches. His costars—particularly Sutherland as the randiest of the bunch—have a great time relaxing in their roles and showing off their wrinkles. They could just as easily be having drinks at the clubhouse after a round of golf. That's the movie's joke and its charm. They may be slowed by age, but they don't need warp speed. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Ride 'em, cowboys
Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin
Ah, but there's more to turning invisible than just fading into thin air. As illustrated by Hollow Man's excellent special effects, it's a progressive process. The body vanishes layer by layer. The skin goes, then cartilage, then organs. So peels the human onion, until the bones themselves dissolve into air. Viewers may feel the same about the movie: Like, where'd it go?
Bacon heads a research team that perfects an invisibility serum. The problem, as he realizes after volunteering himself as guinea pig, is that the serum to restore full visibility still has some kinks. Stuck in a transparent state, he gives in to raging, homicidal megalomania.
Director Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers), whose best work has an edgy, coldly amoral perversity, seems to be taking this old story into unsettling new psychological territory, especially when the invisible man rapes a neighbor. Bacon next decides to eliminate his colleagues, including ex-girlfriend Shue, and the movie becomes a blood-soaked game of hide-and-seek in a high-tech lab. You can see the subsequent twists coming from a mile off. (R)
Bottom Line: Not outta sight Leah Rozen is on vacation.
>Chuck & Buck As an alternative to dumb, big-budget summer films, try this creepy, disquieting drama about a lollipop-sucking misfit (Mike White, the movie's writer) who stalks his childhood best friend (Chris Weitz).(R)
Coyote Ugly Trying to make it in New York City, a girl singer-songwriter (Piper Perabo) works nights at a female-run watering hole where the bartenders dress like killer vixens and dance on the counter. Their choreography falls somewhere between Flashdance and Riverdance. The movie is so unabashedly air-headed you come out with a mildly pleasant buzz. (PG-13)
Loser Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari play campus misfits, but it's the movie (directed by Amy Heckerling) that seems truly clueless about modern college life. (PG-13)
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps When it comes to Eddie Murphy, the more the merrier. Playing six different characters in an uneven sequel to his 1996 comedy hit, he practically steals the movie from himself. (PG-13)
The Perfect Storm Great waves, weak characters and story. Stars George Clooney
and Mark Wahlberg as fishermen too far out in the North Atlantic. (PG-13)
Thomas and the Magic Railroad The spunky blue steam engine, already familiar to young TV audiences, helps Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin) and searches for a missing locomotive. Strictly for the 5-and-under crowd. (G)
What Lies Beneath Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford play a seemingly happily married couple in a glossy thriller. Begins promisingly but deteriorates into clichéd, made-you-jump fare. (PG-13)
X-Men Good and evil mutants battle in a gloomy, overblown sci-fi fantasy. With each superhero showing off his or her special power, it feels like vaudeville of the gods. (PG-13)
Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Donald Sutherland, Courtney B. Vance, Loren Dean