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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995-2002 by, Chuck Schwartz. Articles and interviews by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2002 Paul Fischer. All Rights Reserved. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of and ©, ®, ™ their respective studios. Used by permission. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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Seen and Not Reviewed: these are usually limited releases, documentaries or foreign films that we normally may not cover (though, given our deteriorating physical capability, some releases in the December or Summer gluts are here, too). We've been getting enough eMail inquiries that we'll be keeping the paragraph summaries in one place, here, linked from the Archives pages

Take Creation and Apocalypse myths, wrap 'em in metaphors and a love story that spans three lifetimes, a thousand years and add a huge steamin' shot of visual symbolism on top of all of it and you've got Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The visuals are so stunning that, maybe if you're stoned, you'll come away with something more than this lightweight waste of time.

Running with Scissors is, without doubt, the strangest move we've seen all year. Scientologists will pack the LA theaters, if only to reaffirm their belief that psychiatry is the root of all evil. This true story, about a kidlet (Joseph Cross) placed by his self-absorbed mom (Annette Bening) into the care of her psychiatrist (Brian Cox), adds Alec Baldwin in a bit role as the kidlet's dad. This film is beyond strange folks, and strictly for those that adore art house offerings at the expense of all else.

Flags of our Fathers/ Flags of Iwo Jima is Clint Eastwood's retelling of the battle from both sides of the flag raising.

The Prestige stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as turn of the last century magicians locked in a deadly competition of love and on-stage skills at the turn of the last century. Like a magic trick, it presents a setup, a surprise and a wow! finale. Two out of three is all you get. Given his success with surprise in Memento, you'd think co-writer/ director Christopher Nolan would have it down pat. No. The big surprise ending has become an albatross around Nolan's neck. Nolan stuffs so many flashbacks into the first act that we could barely hold on to the overall story. We saw the finale coming about an hour before it arrived and, judging by their lack of reaction, so did our audience. David Bowie co-stars.

Employee of the Month stars Dane Cook, Andy Dick and Jessica Simpson. A perfectly fine dateflick -- meaning a big, pleasant surprise since no one in the screening room had any desire to see Jessica Simpson's trademark stupidity. Wisely, Simpson is way in the background, as the pretty young thing two warehouse-market type employees battle over. The film is consistently amusing with at least three or four belly laughs and Andy Dick carefully placed for the occasional comedy surprise. It's not Simpson's movie, it's Cook's and he carries it well. If you have a date and feel like a comedy instead of thriller or gore, this is recommended.

All the Kings Men stars a whole messa stars (Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Anthony Hopkins and more) and didn't screen until the Thursday night before the Friday release. Cranky says: "Everyone who knows what that kind of delay means, raise your hand!" Good readers! In this case it also means the Southern accents -- this being a tale of politics and corruption and class warfare of a sort -- are so thick that, by the time our ears oriented, we lost any connection to the characters or their motivations.

Confetti is, once you get past the Brit accents, a very funny movie about 3 about to be wed couples competing to win a new house, put up by the fictional Confetti magazine. One couple loves old MGM musicals. One is run by a verbally abusive yuppie and the third are "naturalists," meaning they prefer to be naked all day. How's the bride gonna wear white? Find it and see it. Recommended

Sidekick which is making its way from city to city will be appreciated by comic book fanboys and those who root for no-budget indie films. It's an OK story of a computer geek/ fanboy who discovers and trains a metahuman with telekinetic powers. If you know who Martin Goodman was, you're really the fan for this film.

What can we say about writer/director Kevin Smith's Clerks 2? We say two words: Daredevil Bullseye. When we get what we want, Smith gets his review. (Though we would have gone if an invite had been issued.) Y'all did hear about the A-list teevee critic who stomped out of the one press screening muttering about this film's donkey sex scene and depravity, right?

You, Me and Dupree stars Owen Wilson who mooches off newly married friends Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon while the latter tries desperately to impress his new father-in-law (Michael Douglas). Two hours of rarely funny, usually painful would be comedy with a romantic twist. Pay at your own peril. You are warned.

A Scanner Darkly stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder. For those that have passed through the drug taking years, the first fifteen minutes are incredibly funny. The next 85 are as painful as the worst bad trip you could take. Don't ask us to explain it -- we don't wish to reexperience the rotten trip.

The Lake House reunites Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves (remember Speed?) in a chick flick romance that plods along until it's done. The gimmick? He's in one time period. She lives twenty years later and only a magic mailbox can bring these lovebirds together. Uber chick flick

Mission Impossible 3 returns Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames to the roles you know so well. High Point is Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the bad guy. As we said last week, "Only those predisposed to hate this thing could hate it. It is the best action film of the year." The message boards proved us right. Still, it's a perfect $10/10 in our book

We knew that In Her Shoes, starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine was going to be a heavy duty chick flick. We are pleased to report that director Curtis Hanson (he did LA Confidential) stuffed the film to the gills with some very funny jokes and situations (two sisters wind up sharing space with the grandma in a Florida retirement community) that, had the film ended fifteen minutes before it finally did, we would be trumpeting things like best of and major delight. That failure to wrap up or, perhaps, do some major cutting early on, is deadly. Take a date to this one.

The Interpreter stars Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. She, a UN interpreter who overhears a death threat to a soon to visit African despot (ruler of her home country -- a reverse of South Africa at its worst) and he, the secret service agent who aids with UN security. Both stars shine though director Sydney Pollack's film is a wee bit clunky with an ending which didn't leave our crowd cheering. There are enough moments that the past-dating crowd can settle in here.

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