, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Thomas Jane
The combined weight of the leading ladies (Diaz, Applegate and Blair) in this girls-just-want-to-have-sex comedy seems barely to top 200 lbs. As these scarily skinny Minnies cavort about in their scanties portraying flatmates on the prowl in San Francisco, one wishes they'd take time out from their silliness to dig into a heaping bowl of pasta.
Their corporal thinness extends to The Sweetest Thing
, a blessedly short (84 minutes) series of lewd gross-out gags masquerading as a romantic comedy. Diaz, shaking her booty and behaving like a ditz, is the film's raison d'être, but Applegate, showing an unexpectedly serrated comic edge, steals their scenes together. Thing is intent on proving that women can be just as randy and stupid as men. Point made. (R)
Bottom Line: For this we marched?
, Samuel L. Jackson
Road rage meets its match in Changing Lanes
, a humdinger of a drama about what happens when testosterone runs over common sense. A minor fender bender between Gavin Banek (Affleck), a snotty attorney at a powerful "Wall Street firm, and Doyle Gipson (Jackson), a working-class insurance salesman and recovering alcoholic, rapidly escalates into a brutal battle of wills that leaves both men physically bruised and psychically wounded.
In the context of having the two engage in ever more complicated revenge schemes (fooling with credit records, sabotaging a car), Lanes expertly dissects their characters. Neither is total sinner or saint, and the movie is smart enough to allow each man to recognize his own fallibility.
Lanes skids a little near the end, veering toward resolutions that seem too comfortable, but director Roger Michell (Notting Hill
) keeps the story on track and the combatants in tight focus. Jackson subtly and movingly peels layer after layer off Gipson to reveal a man barely, but tenaciously, holding on. Affleck is best during his yuppie slimeball phase, but goes tapioca soft and lets his lips tremble when near redemption. (R)
Bottom Line: Passes inspection
Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans
Funny or not funny? Two white mice, wired up with electrodes, sit at a dollhouse kitchen table trying to decide which of three tiny forks to use for a salad. Buzzzzz! Wrong fork. An etiquette-challenged rodent rears back as an electric jolt zings through him after a lab-coated scientist presses a button.
If you vote funny, then you're in for a wacky treat. Human Nature
, written by the preternaturally quirky Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich
) and directed with zip by French newcomer Michel Gondry (who honed his chops on videos and ads), takes an askew approach to asking why we do what we do, i.e., fall in love, have sex, betray each other. It focuses on the romantic travails of an excessively hirsute woman (Arquette) who hides her condition from her beau (Robbins), a behavioral psychologist—the fellow playing Miss Manners with the mice. Moving on from the furry creatures, he attempts to civilize a man (Ifans) who grew up in the wild thinking he was an ape. As the plot gets weirder and weirder, Nature
's whimsy stretches thin, but much of this is bizarrely amusing and the game actors are obviously having a blast doing something so different. (R)
Bottom Line: Wild fun
Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey
A man (McConaughey) walks into the FBI office in Dallas and tells an agent that his younger brother is a wanted serial killer. He says it all goes back—cue the flashbacks—to when their widowed father went around hacking up folks with an ax in 1979. Pop (Paxton) claimed he was doing God's work and that his victims were really demons.
So begins Frailty, a small, creepy film with a nasty twist. The story is told from the viewpoint of the older son (played by Matt O'Leary, but with McConaughey providing narration), a frightened 12-year-old who suspects Dad is crazy. As the zealot father, Paxton, all calm conviction, is chillingly effective. Doing double duty as director, he wisely downplays gore in favor of psychological suspense. (R)
Bottom Line: Slight but scary
The Cat's Meow Kirsten Dunst
proves she's ready to play adults in a vivid turn as actress Marion Davies in an absorbing Hollywood whodunit based on the real-life mysterious death in 1924 of film producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes). Peter Bogdanovich directs with an assured hand. (PG-13)
Fine family film about a teacher (Dennis Quaid) who follows his dream to take one last shot at pitching in pro baseball. (G)
Y Tu Mamá También
Sexy but profound Mexican movie tracks a road trip by two youths and an older woman. (Not rated)