Film Openings

Week of November 21, 2001

Black Knight. Gil Junger. An employee (Martin Lawrence) at a medieval theme park in South Central LA finds himself transported to the corrupt 14th-century court of King Leo (Kevin Conway), where he must use his street smarts to help a beautiful chambermaid (Marsha Thomason) and her underground band of rebels overthrow the usurper and restore the throne to the true monarch. This is yet another twist, albeit an uncredited one, on Mark Twain's oft-filmed A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, one of the original fish-out-of-water stories. It's not clear why Lawrence, director Junger and screenwriters Darryl J. Quarles, Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow have replaced Camelot and its well-known history with King Leo's court and its intrigues, other than to set up the hackneyed rebellion plot. The film goes by relatively swiftly and painlessly, but there is not an inspired moment in it. You don't need the powers of Merlin to see nearly every plot development and every joke from miles away. Now playing at multiple locations. (AK)

Out Cold. Brendan and Emmett Malloy. A Hot Dog for a new generation; instead of skis, we get snowboards -- and an avalanche of fancy tricks performed by some of the sport's top athletes. Out Cold is a teen/college movie about partying way hard, scoring hot babes and doing it to the extreme; when The Man threatens to harsh the mellow by snatching up a choice Alaskan slope, it's up to the dudes and dudettes to protect their little plot of heaven. Starring Jason London, Zach Galifianakis and Flex Alexander. Now playing at multiple locations. NR

Spy Game. Tony Scott. Granted, it's tough to get worked up about a thriller in which the CIA's most heinous crime is being annoying, and the only thing at stake is Brad Pitt's life, but Spy Game, though incredibly scattershot, is not without its kicks. The top draw is Robert Redford, in fine form as a senior operative, no hoarse whisperer but rather a spry and vital presence. Here he's steeped in director Scott's encyclopedia of swoops, slo-mos, undercranks, reverse dolly counter-zooms, polychromatic tints and whip pans, and an enjoyable kineticism arises. No one will confuse this slick ride with Three Days of the Condor -- consider it a kissing cousin to Scott's Enemy of the State -- but it works as a groovy coda to Redford's CIA misadventures. Set in 1991 and flashing back through 1975 by way of Vietnam, Berlin and Beruit, Redford recounts mentoring spy protégé Pitt, while in the present struggling to save him from assassination in China as a political prisoner. As the elder actor passes the baton to his pretty blond successor, Catherine McCormack shows up to screw up the covert male bonding. It's a rousing mess, with ample humor and action to satisfy the discerning dullard within. Now playing at multiple locations. (GW)

Time of Favor. Joseph Cedar. Time of Favor tells the story of a religious army officer who is accused of planning to bomb a mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There's a rabbi to look up to, a rabbi's daughter to woo and a reputation to salvage in this drama, which won six Israeli Academy Awards. Atmospheric and complex, the movie approaches its volatile subject matter with intelligence and intrigue. Plays at 7 p.m. Nov. 23-24 at Webster University. NR

Waking Life. Richard Linklater. An almost perfect "desert island" movie, bursting with humanity and philosophy, obnoxious enough to remind you why you abandoned the mainland in the first place. The inevitable comparison is to director Linklater's 1991 debut, Slacker, of which this is essentially a remake and a revision. Once again we find ourselves loitering with intent around the director's native Austin (with detours through New York and San Antonio), encountering audacious and breathlessly talkative souls who inhabit the same world only as a formality. Actors and nonactors (among them, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) from Linklater's previous films show up, sort of like a much less amusing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back for art-house purists and pseudo-intellectuals. Shot and edited on video, then painstakingly animated by more than 30 artists under art director Bob Sabiston, with Austin's wonderful Tosca Tango Orchestra delivering Glover Gill's haunting score as a dreamy trip in its own right. Somewhat lovely. Now playing at the Tivoli. (GW)

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