Courteney Cox Arquette
, Christian Slater
Elvis would be appalled. Although no one would claim that the King's 31-movie oeuvre boasts an over-abundance of uplifting visions of humanity (except perhaps 1969's Change of Habit), even Presley would have problems with the slick but sick 3000 Miles to Graceland. Trailers and TV ads make the movie look like a lighthearted crime caper in which a bunch of laugh-happy thieves dress up as jumpsuited, caped Elvi to rob a Las Vegas casino. Wrong. In fact, Graceland is a dark, gratuitously violent movie in which cowriter-director Demian Lichtenstein's extravagantly choreographed scenes of gunplay make the climactic shootout in Bonnie and Clyde look like a harmless game of cops and robbers.
Violence has a place in movies if it makes a point. Beyond the banal—bad guys will be bad guys and there's no honor among thieves—there is no point to Graceland.
The baddest guy here is Murphy (Costner), a muttonchop-wearing psycho who teams up with his exprison cellmate Michael (Russell) and three other sleazeballs (Slater, David Arquette and Bokeem Woodbine) to rob the Riviera casino during an Elvis impersonators' convention. After a whole lotta convoluted plotting and geographic peregrinations, the movie ultimately pits Murphy against Michael, with Michael serving as the reluctant protector of a sexy single mom (Cox) and her young son.
Costner narrows his eyes and smiles meanly, but he was more convincing—not to mention more complex—as an escaped con in 1993's underappreciated A Perfect World. Russell is passable as the putative hero, but comes truly alive only when, during the final credits, he swivels his way through an Elvis song (revisiting one of his best roles, as the rock icon in Elvis, a 1979 TV movie). Cox overacts, making cow eyes at Russell that would put Elsie to shame. (R)
Bottom Line: Hunka, hunka burnin' trash
Chris Rock, Regina King, Mark Addy, Eugene Levy, Chazz Palminteri
This genial, relaxed comedy isn't a great movie, but it shows great promise for the film future of stand-up comic Chris Rock, who previously took on smaller roles in films like Dogma and Nurse Betty. In Down to Earth, a remake of 1978's Heaven Can Wait (itself a remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan), he essentially plays himself: a sharp, funny guy who doesn't mince words. "White people," he says, "like their black people the way they like their seasonings—just a dash."
Rock's role (he co-wrote the script) is that of an unsuccessful comic who, having been mistakenly whisked off to heaven after a bicycle crash, returns to earth in the body of an older, white business mogul, giving a double edge to Rock's riffs about race, riches and romance. A strong supporting cast adds to the fun. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Rock on
Dina Korzun, Paddy Considine
In this delicate drama about the bleak lives of refugees, Tanya (Korzun) arrives in England from Moscow with her 10-year-old son to reunite with the British fiancé she met in Russia. When he fails to show up at the airport (and doesn't return her calls), she requests asylum. She and her son are packed off to a holding center in a shabby seaside resort town where, eventually desperate, she becomes a porn model.
Bad things keep threatening to happen, and do, in Resort, but so do good ones, including a friendship with a helpful local man (Considine). Polish-born director Pawel Pawlikowski has made a memorable movie about trying to put shattered lives back together, even when the pieces won't fit. (Not rated)
Bottom Line: Makes a lasting impression
Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica
Debate over the death penalty is nothing new, as The Widow of Saint-Pierre, a beautifully shot, affecting historical drama, reminds us. It is based on a true story from 1850, when the residents of a remote French island off the Canadian coast questioned the wisdom of beheading a murderer (Kusturica) who had repented and sincerely reformed. During the long months between his sentencing and the arrival of a guillotine on a ship from France, the man willingly performs numerous good deeds for townsfolk, and his case is championed by the altruistic wife (Binoche) of the local military commander (Auteuil). Without straining hard, director Patrice Leconte (Ridicule) makes his case for mercy. (R)
Bottom Line: A capital tale
>Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon It may be in Mandarin with subtitles, but this heady mix of martial arts and romance is pure movie magic. (PG-13)
Hannibal Indigestible. FBI agent Clarice Starling (now Julianne Moore) hunts down a still-famished Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, who's having a blast) in this gruesome sequel to Silence of the Lambs. (R)
Pollock Ed Harris directed and stars in a labor of love, an admirably restarined biopic about painter Jackson Pollock. He and Marcia Gay Harden, as Pollock's wife, are terrific. (R)
Sweet November A Bohemian babe (Charlize Theron
) invites a workaholic ad man (Keanu Reeves
) to move in with her for a month in this pea-brained tearjerker. (PG-13)
The Taste of Others Flavorful French romantic comedy follows the parallel romances of an exec and his bodyguard. (Not rated)
Traffic Superior ensemble drama about the war on drugs. (R)
Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner,