The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Peter Jackson. Opens Wednesday, December 18, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Personal Velocity. Rebecca Miller. Each of the three beautifully made vignettes in writer/director Miller's second feature film, which made its local debut at the recent St. Louis International Film Festival, glimpses a young woman caught at a crossroads, about to experience one of those rare dilations of vision that can change an entire life. Kyra Sedgwick's Delia is a battered mother who escapes a nightmarish trailer-park marriage, Parker Posey's Greta a self-absorbed Manhattan book editor who resents her philandering lawyer father, exotic-looking Fairuza Balk a streetwise runaway who can't face her pregnancy until a chance meeting with an abused teenager. This might be standard "chick flick" fare were it not for three fine performances and for Miller (the daughter of renowned playwright Arthur Miller), who proves unfailingly literate and unmistakably original as she reveals a vivid and sympathetic spirit at work in the fields of womanhood. Opens Friday, December 20, at the Plaza Frontenac. (BG)
Two Weeks Notice. Marc Lawrence II. It was only a matter of time before Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant would be paired onscreen: America's sweetheart and the utterly charming Brit. As predictable as Miss Congeniality and almost as broad, this romantic comedy from first-time director Marc Lawrence (who has written three vehicles for Bullock, including this one) is an undemanding, by-the-numbers affair that is made bearable only by the presence of its two ingratiating stars. Bullock plays liberal lawyer and social activist Lucy, who reluctantly takes a job with a giant real-estate-development firm that has no regard for the environment or the little guy. Polar opposites (natch), Lucy and the firm's co-owner, George (Grant), are made for each other but don't recognize it (double natch). The formulaic storyline and predictable array of drunken pratfalls and comic routines by Bullock are a bore, but both stars engender enormous goodwill by being basically their normal screen personas. Opens Friday, December 20, at multiple locations. (JO)
The Wild Thornberrys Movie. Cathy Malkasian, Jeff McGrath II. Based on the popular Nickelodeon animated TV series, this family-oriented picture is particularly appropriate for young viewers already familiar with the movie's heroine. With her braces, eyeglasses, freckles and pigtails, Eliza Thornberry is a geeky-looking kid with whom most twelve-year-olds can identify. The daughter of globe-trotting nature documentary filmmakers (which explains the film's African setting), she is an empathetic, nature-loving independent thinker who can talk to animals and, in her first feature film, is determined to protect a herd of elephants from a gang of poachers. A product of Klasky-Csupo (which is also responsible for Rugrats), the film has no violence -- only the threat, given that the poachers plan to kill the elephants -- but the plot is set in motion by a leopard cub's being abducted from its mother, which may frighten small children. Needless to say, Eliza saves the cub and reunites him with his mother. Oh yes, she saves the elephants, too. Opens Friday, December 20, at multiple locations. (JO)