A THOUSAND ACRES - L.A. CONFIDENTIAL - U-TURN
SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET - KISS THE GIRLS

A THOUSAND ACRES

"A Thousand Acres," directed by Australian Jocelyn Moorhouse ("Proof," "How to Make an American Quilt") is taken from the pulitzer prize-winning novel by Jane Smiley. Larry Cook (Jason Robards) is the most prosperous and respected farmer in the area and rules his kingdom of one thousand acres with bullheaded authority. His two eldest daughters, Ginny (Jessica Lange) and Rose (Michelle Pfeiffer) live on separate farmhouses within the compound with their husbands (Keith Carradine and Kevin Anderson) who also farm Larry Cook's land. Youngest sibling Caroline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has escaped rural life to become a lawyer in Des Moines.

The patriarch makes a startling announcement one day at a neighbor's party - in a Lear-like move he wishes to split his farm into a corporation equally among the three girls to avoid inheritance taxes. Caroline voices caution and is promptly disinheritted. From this moment on, the Cook family and its wealth is doomed by family secrets and resentments.

Laura LAURA:
"A Thousand Acres" features two tour de force performances from its lead actresses and three good performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jason Robards and Keith Carradine. Unfortunately the film is underrealized by the inability of Colin Firth and Kevin Anderson to more fully flesh out two very important characters in the story - Jess Clark, a man returning from draft evasion after 13 years away who has affairs with both sisters and Peter Lewis, Rose's misunderstood husband. It's also somewhat undermined by the luridness of the incest story which, instead of coming to light gradually is instead broadcast fairly early on.

Fans of the book (and I am one) will find that although the story is fairly adapted, save one rather major element between the two sisters, it reads better than plays on the screen. The filmmakers chose to soften the conflict that grows between Ginny and Rose (Ginny tries to poison Rose in the book) in order to present the two sisters as a united front, giving the film a more 'uplifting' ending. This choice seems to have made the conflicts that do remain come across heavy handedly. The film also doesn't reflect the importance of the land to the characters in their multi-generational differences, most notably Jess Clark.

That said, "A Thousand Acres" is still a worthwhile film that can stand on its own. It's a pretty powerful analysis of an extended family (where lifelong friends in farming are integral to the well being of a community) shot apart by power and greed.

B-


L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

"L.A. Confidential," co-scripted and directed by Curtis Hanson ("The River Wild," "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle"), is adapted from the complex crime novel by James Ellroy. Based in 1950's Los Angeles, the story deals with corruption in paradise as seen through the eyes of three L.A. cops - the idealistic Ed Exley (Guy Pearce, "The Adentures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"), a young man both ambitious and honest; Bud White (Russell Crowe, "Virtuosity," "The Quick and the Dead"), a working-class detective with a strong sense of honor and justice; and, Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey, "The Usual Suspects"), a celebrity cop with a cushy job as technical advisor on a hit TV crime series. These three policemen, each with his own agenda, form an unlikely alliance as they delve into the rot that has reached the highest ranks of the LAPD, involving drug-dealing, prostitution and murder.

Robin ROBIN:
Director Hanson, with co-scripter/producer Brian Helgeland, has put together an extremely slick production with a talented and varied ensemble cast led by Academy Award-winner Spacey and Australian imports, Crowe and Pearce. Supporting the three principles are a veteran cast, including James Cromwell ("Babe"), Danny Devito, David Strathairn and Kim Basinger. "L.A. Confidential" gives a gritty look into a 50's L.A. on the verge of its economic and population boom. The undercurrent of old corruption in the police department gives the film its focus - the LAPD must put the old ways behind and take to heart the motto "To Protect and Serve." Exley, White and Vincennes are just the cops to start the housecleaning.

Of the three leads, Russell Crowe's Bud White is the most complex character. Bud isn't the smartest of cops, but, what he lacks in gray matter, he makes up for with his self-imposed role as protector of the underdog, especially women. (We find out that Bud, as a boy, tried to stop a fight between his parents. His father, after immobilizing the boy, beat his mother to death before the youngster's eyes. So ingrained is Bud's need to protect the weak that when, in anger, Bud strikes Lynn (Basinger), he is awash in turmoil, from his seething anger at being betrayed to the utter despair and sadness for his violent deed.) Bud also has a way of getting the job done, even if it means extracting a confession from a suspect by sticking a gun down his throat.

Guy Pearce, best known in the U.S. as one of the drag queens in "Priscilla...," has the hard task of playing a focused, career-oriented, no-nonsense individual who has spent all his adult life getting ahead. Ed Exley is a humorless automaton who understands the letter of the law, but misses its spirit. His desire to do the right thing and tow the line for the "new" LAPD is met with derision and hate from his colleagues. He is looked upon as an ambitious traitor who is "truly despised by the department." For Pearce, this is a lot of heavy baggage for an actor to carry. There is no depth given to Exley, aside from his stridency, that the actor can grab onto, so Ed never rises above his two-dimensional being.

Top-billed Kevin Spacey has the most fun with his character and is the most relaxed presence on the screen. Jack Vincennes is a glamour-mongering Hollywood cop who uses his celebrity contacts to help tabloid publisher/reporter Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito) get tawdry scoops and make a fifty in the process. One problem I have with the character, Jack, is that his glamourous, almost pastel, edge is out of place with the gritty demeanor of the rest of the film. Spacey, being the terrific actor that he is, wedges Jack into the ensemble, making him fit, in an odd way.

Kim Basinger, as high-priced call girl Lynn Bracken, is a real surprise in "L.A. Confidential." At first, her performance seemed to verge on awful, but, as the story progresses, Basinger's character sheds the Veronica Lake image and brings the woman to life. Lynn is an ambitious young woman who uses her physical assets to their best advantage. She's also intelligent enough to know the risks she's taking. The occasional beating by an overzealous client is all part of the game. This is the best acting that Basinger has ever done. .

The rest of the cast - Cromwell, DeVito and Strathairn - are all serviceable in their roles without bringing anything new to their characters. They're not given enough to do beyond portray a caricature of their characters. Cromwell's involvement in the intrigues of the story is apparent early on, as is the inherent corruption of the venal District Attorney, Ellis Lowe (Ron Rifkin) - he's obviously corrupt, he's gay! DeVito is almost cartoonish in his portrayal as the inventor of tabloid press with a gossip mag called "Hush-hush." David Strathairn is wasted in a cardboard cutout role as the suave, but sleazy, badguy, Pierce Patchett, a high level pimp.

The script, by Hansen and Helgeland, is very complex, with many paths being traveled. The itineraries of the three leads are quite divergent as the film begins. Exley is focused on his career and advancement, without consideration of his impact on the men beneath him. Bud White is so working class, he is almost an innocent, getting mired in the new political reality of L.A - Bud is a dinosaur whose honor and integrity represent a thing of the distant past. Jack Vincennes is so celeb-cop, he has a hard time, ultimately, seeing his colleagues as bad guys - to fatal consequence. As the story progresses, these men's lives intertwine with each other, as well as with the rest of the players. Hansen and Helgeland keep the many plots moving and focused, so, by the end, it's a pretty neatly tied up package.

I've heard comparisons of "L.A. Confidential" to the classic, "Chinatown." Instead, I think it owes more to "Two Jakes" or "The Usual Suspects." It's a solid effort with good turns by Crowe and Basinger and I give it a B.

Laura LAURA:
Underneath the gloss of 1950's Hollywood lives decadence and corruption unlike anything an ordinary citizen would imagine. Three vastly different Los Angeles cops, the intensely honest Ed Exley (Guy Pearce, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"), the brutal protector of women Bud White (Russell Crowe, "The Quick and the Dead") and the slick television cop show advisor Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey, "The Usual Suspects," "Seven") find their previously divergent paths crossing as they all pursue the truth behind the closed case of the 'Night Owl Slayings.'

"LA Confidential" tries for a "Chinatown"-like twistiness of story and fails. What it accomplishes instead is to create a collection of character studies amidst an appropriately noir atmosphere.

Russell Crowe is the type of cop who'll plant evidence or shoot down a suspect if he believes himself to be right. He's also tormented by having seen his father beat his mother to death and having to control an inheritted capability to let his rage go violently out of control. (In one seen, as Exley interrogates a witness who believes a woman may have been killed, Crowe explodes into the room screaming 'Where is the girl?' and jams a pistol into the terrified suspect's mouth.) Crowe's Bud White falls for Lynn Bracken (Kim Bassinger, never better!), a high class call girl who's part of millionaire Pierce Patchett's (David Strathairn) stable of movie star lookalikes (she's a not very convincing Veronica Lake). Bracken's also desired by Guy Pearce's Ed Exley, a cop who's so straight arrow that he quickly becomes hated by the force, although his keen intelligence is highly admired by the wise and fatherly Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell, "Babe"). Kevin Spacey's always a joy to watch and he's a hoot here as the cop who's major motivation is to stay in the limelight. His friendship with the sleezy owner of the Hush Hush tabloid, Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito, recalling Joe Pesci casting in "The Public Eye"), ensures that. Spacey gets the best scene in the movie as he murmurs 'Rollo Tomassi,' the name of a mythical figure (shades of "The Usual Suspect's" Keyser Sose!) that will reveal the truth (which I'm sure most of the audience will guess well beforehand).

Director Curt Hanson ("The Hand That Rocks the Cradle") has done a yeoman's job creating a modern day noir and assembling a stellar cast (it took gumption to cast three of the leads with Australian actors!). Technically the film couldn't be better, from Dante Spinotti's dark-but-still-brightly-colored cinematography to Jerry Goldsmith's jazzy score which evokes movies from the time when they really used to make movies. The art direction and costume are perfect. The film's feel of time and place are further grounded by the amusing use of 'characters' such as Lana Turner and her mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato and the recreation of such haunts as the Cafe Formosa. All this razzle dazzle almost distracted me enough to believe that the story was as complex as the filmmakers would have us believe.

B


U-TURN

Oliver Stone gets away from his usual political arena with "U-Turn," an audacious neo-noir starring Sean Penn as Bobby Cooper, a man who's about to have the worst day of his life.

Bobby's on his way to deliver $30,000 dollars he owes to the Russian mob when his radiator hose gives out in the Arizona desert. The town of Superior beckons with its relatively short distance from the highway. Bobby's about to get embroiled in the town's history of crooked deals, cheating spouses, incest, jealousy, murder and an alcoholic sheriff.

Laura LAURA:
Oliver Stone kicks up his heals and has a whole lot of fun delivering this wacky tale with an outstanding cast and admirable technical filmmaking ability. Stone's fingerprints are all over "U-Turn," with his penchant for varying filmstocks, flashbacks and Indian shamans (Jon Voigt), but he's never seemed so light hearted.

Sean Penn once again reaffirms his standing as one of our best actors. He gives an Oscar nomination worthy performance as Bobby, a guy who's clearly no good (when he attempts to borrow $150 via a string of phone calls, even his own mother hangs up on him), but who has the audience's sympathy throughout. Bobby doesn't know whether to laugh, cry or scream at the course of events and Penn makes us feel his confusion, frustration and bewilderment.

Jennifer Lopez ("Selena") establishes herself as a real femme fatale as Grace McKenna, the woman who seduces Bobby before he discovers she's married to the richest guy in town. He's Jake McKenna, played by Nick Nolte with a dental appliance that makes him look like the late John Huston. Claire Danes ("William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet") is the local flake who comes on to every man in town to arouse the rage of her boyfriend TNT (Joaquim Phoenix of "To Die For") who's fond of telling anyone who'll listen that when 'something sets him off he explodes.' Billy Bob Thornton ("Slingblade") is Darrell the idiot mechanic who has a talent for genius when it comes to torturing Bobby Cooper. Jon Voigt's the town's blind Indian with a dead dog who dispenses words of wisdom to Bobby. They're all terrific as is Julie Haggerty ("Airplane") in a smaller role as a waitress with an amazing wink.

The story itself is strongly reminiscent of "Red Rock West," where Nicolas Cage had similar problems getting out of a town where a husband wanted him to kill his wife and vice versa. "U-Turn" still manages to be an original, though, with its incredibly offbeat characterizations, myriad plot twists, dialogue riffs and cheeky humor. The script is sharply adapted by John Ridley (from his book "Stray Dogs"), richly photographed by Robert Richardson and snappily editted by Hank Corwin and Thomas J. Nordberg.

The film is fairly bloody and violent (we see Bobby lose two fingers via garden sheers in a flashback as well as a particularly gruesome murder), although not of the level of "Natural Born Killers." However, if you're not faint of heart, the sheer panache and exhuberance of "U-Turn" is a joy for the film lover - I had a blast!

A

Robin ROBIN:
"U-Turn" is director Oliver Stone's first foray into the neo-modernist American western. Bobby Cooper (Penn) is the stranger-with-a-past winding up in a one horse town with a profusion of varied and weird characters displaying a diversity of quirks both lusty and sinister. Bobby's troubles begin while on his way to Las Vegas to pay off a gambling debt that has already cost him two fingers. His treasured 1964 and 1/2 Ford Mustang blows a radiator hose on the outskirts of Superior, Arizona, a portal into his soon-to-be nightmare depraved town that is to be Bobby's world.

Bobby's entry point into Superior, and the beginning of his nightmare, is via Harlin's Garage, where its denizen, Darrell (Thornton), a mechanic who gives the term inbreeding a whole new meaning, is called upon to repair the precious vehicle. Darrell keeps the Mustang, and Bobby's escape from Superior, in hock for a paltry $200, while Bobby's life hangs in the balance for sums far greater.

Things start to go downhill rapidly for our anti-hero when he walks into town to get himself a drink. He meets a crazy, blind Indian (Voight), who becomes Bobby's abusive Muse. Then, the bottom really falls out for Bobby when he meet the sultry seductress, Grace (Lopez). She is so hot, she could melt lead, and Bobby welcomes the attractive distraction. That is, until Grace's jealous, crazed husband, Jake (Nolte), catches them near in flagrante delecto. The plot thickens considerably more later on when Bobby's payoff money is blown to bits in an aborted convenience store robbery and he is forced into a pact for murder.

Acting chops on all levels are first-rate on up. Penn plays Bobby as a classical tragic figure - a man who thinks he finally has it made, but who has, in fact, entered a phantasm of double cross, triple cross and quadruple cross involving, literally, everybody in the subversive little town. The former movie bad boy is maturing into a complex character player exhibiting depth of emotions, especially a wry humor, that goes beyond his previous efforts - especially his horrible performance in "She's So Lovely."

The cast supporting Penn is an embarrassment of acting riches. Jennifer Lopez, with her portrayal of Grace, has given her career a real boost. She is incredibly sexy and self assured and is one to watch in the future. Nick Nolte gets a great opportunity to chew scenery as the incestful husband/father, Jake. As does Jon Voight, who is making a career of playing oddball characters with outrageous accents (see his perf in "Anaconda" for one of his best and funniest). Billy Bob Thornton tops them all with his over-the-top portrayal of greasemonkey Darrell. Also, adding consistent comic relief throughout the film are Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes as Toby N. Tucker (they call him TNT because if he gets mad, he explodes) and his flirty girlfriend, Jenny. Watch also for several cameo appearances through the film.

The script, by John Ridley (adapted from his novel, "Stray Dogs"), is both funny and dramatic, giving a humorous edge that is more overt than in Stones other works, even "Natural Born Killers." The running gags are carried through nicely - particularly TNT and Jenny. On the dramatic side, the script draws Bobby's descent into hellish nightmare with a manic pace and frenzy that makes you sympathetic toward his plight. The utter irony of the film's bad day's end perfectly punctuates Bobby.

Oliver Stone attained new heights in film experimentation with "Natural Born Killers," utilizing avant-garde editing and camera techniques to convey the brutality of the lead characters. In "U Turn," Stone uses many of the same methods and techniques, but with a more subdued sensibility. His actors, led by Penn, carry the story and tensions through - the fancy editing and camera are used for style, rather than substance. A deft job by a talented director in creating a symmetrically balanced work.

"U-Turn" is one of Stone's best narrative, and thought-provoking, efforts to date and I give it an A-.


SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET

It's the autumn of 1939 and the famous (and egocentric) Austrian mountain climber, Heinrich Harrer, is out to conquer one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, Nanga Parbat. Leaving his very pregnant wife, Harrer joins a climbing team led by fellow countryman, Peter Aufschnaiter, but with his own agenda of fame and glory. The expedition takes an entirely unexpected turn as the men are defeated by the elements, interned as prisoners-of-war by the British, and, after escaping, take a fantastic two year journey though the Himalayas to the mysterious Tibetan city of Lhasa - the spiritual home of the Dalai Lama.

"Seven Years in Tibet," by director Jean-Jacques Annaud ("Quest For Fire") and starring Brad Pitt as Harrer, with David Thewlis ("Naked"), is the epic telling of the story of one man who, through his experience and trials, is transformed from a self-possessed, ambitious and unfeeling young man into a spiritually enlightened being who both teaches and learns from the young Dalai Lama.

Robin ROBIN:
With "Seven Years in Tibet," Annaud, adapting Harrer's memoirs, has taken a physically difficult and exciting story and brings it to the big screen with a great deal of talent involved in the effort. Annaud's controlled direction, with magnificent locations, beautiful photography (by Robert Fraisse) capturing the alluring scenery, opulent costume and majestic sets, all combine to give the film a sound visual basis. The Andes Mountains in Argentina stand in for the Himalayas, mainly due to logistical and political problems in Asia, and work surprisingly well. The palace location is stunning, making me believe I'd like to see this place - until Laura explained that Lhasa isn't depicted quite like it is now the film. I understand they even have a disco, now. Ah, well.

Brad Pitt gives the most convincing performance of his career, although his Austrian accent did wink out a few times, but not too badly. His portrayal as the selfish and petulant Harrer sets the stage for his metamorphosis into the kinder and gentler being that the man becomes by film's end.

David Thewlis, as Harrer's reluctant friend Aufschnaiter, acts as an anchor for the supporting cast made up, primarily, of non-actors, particularly the 100 or so Buddhist monks ferried from monasteries in India to the wilds of Argentenia's mountains. The most pleasant surprise in the film is Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk as the 14-year-old Dalai Lama. This young son of a diplomat has the regal quality and natural air to be both convincing and effective as the leader of a people. He is a real presence on the screen.

Annaud really made terrific use of local populous on many levels. Except for D.B. Wong and the venerable Mako, I can pretty much guarantee that the rest of the cast are not members of the Screen Actors' Guild. This use of non-actors gives the film an organic feel that lends to the natural overall quality of "Seven Years in Tibet."

The mountain climbing sequences provide some good, sweaty palms excitement, but this tension is relegated to the first half of the movie. As Harrer enters the realm of the Dalai Lama, a gentleness takes over as the influence of the young religious leader works its spell on Harrer. His political and personal ambitions dissolve into nothingness as the spirit of Buddha takes over the man. This spirituality dominates the film's second half, making the ending more personal and less epic. The very ending, with Harrer bonding with his estranged son, is trite and takes some of the film's edge away.

Annaud is renowned for his ability to put brilliant visual images on the big screen. He does this beautifully, coupling an interesting story with the imagery. I recommend it even to non-fans of Brad Pitt and give "Seven Years in Tibet" a B+.

Laura LAURA:
The first of this year's twin Tibetan themed films (Martin Scorcese's "Kundun" arrives in December), Jean-Jacques Annaud's ("The Bear," "Quest for Fire") "Seven Years in Tibet" was a troublesome shoot - first the filmmaker was denied access to shoot in India near the Tibetan border and had to recreate Tibet and it's holy city of Llasa in the Argentinian Andes. Then, the month before the film's release, it was revealed that the film's hero, Heinrich Harrer, had been a member of the Nazi SS (although he was responsible for no war atrocities, he joined for personal gain and favor, a major character trait of Harrer's).

Brad Pitt seemed an odd choice to me to play the egotistical adventurer Harrer (Ralph Fiennes more easily sprang to mind), but he actually does a credible, if not outstanding, job. Pitt certainly looks the part of an Aryan adventurer with his blond mop and steely blue eyes.

David Thewlis is dignified and understated as Harrer's partner Peter Aufschnaiter, a man who's teamed with an individual he doesn't particularly like out of necessity.

The outstanding discovery is Jamyang Jamtscho Wangchuk as the 12-year old Dalai Lama. The son of a Bhutan diplomat, Wangchuk has a natural grace, life-affirming humor and eyes which radiate curiousity and intelligence. We can believe that a young boy could influence Harrer as dramatically as he does. Also terrific is Lhakpa Tsamchoe as Pema, the Tibetan tailor who Harrer and Aufschnaiter both woo, but Aufschnaiter wins. She's the second individual who is responsible for Harrer's gradual character development as she wryly notes his imperious behavior is nothing like the spiritual Tibetans'.

B.D. Wong is surprisingly fine as Ngawang Jigme, an uncharacteristically ambitious Tibetan court secretary and Academy award nominated Mako is strong in his gentleness a Kungo Tsarong who is tapped to lead the small Tibetan Army against the overpowering force of the Chinese. In a casting coup, the Dalai Lama's sister, Jetsun Pema, plays the Great Mother.

The film is engrossing, but suffers slightly because its structure and shift in tone almost makes it seem like two different films. The opening hour is all adventure - Harrer is established as a cold and selfish young Austrian who leaves his pregnant wife to become the first man to successfully scale Nanga Parbet. The team is not successful and is taken as prisoners of war by the British upon their descent as war has broken out. For several years in a POW camp, Harrer tries to escape time and time again but is only successful when he follows a plan laid out by Aufschnaiter. Harrer goes his own way, but meets up with Aufschnaiter again and repays the help he receives by withholding his material goods from Aufschnaiter when Aufschnaiter sells his own watch to provide for the two. They endure an arduous two year journey to Tibet and manage to become two of the only foreigners to ever enter the country and its Holy City.

At this point the film turns inward as we witness the spiritual growth of Harrer. Upon meeting the young Dalia Lama (in an amusing scene where he runs his hands through Harrer's hair and pronounces him "Yellowhead!"), Harrer is requested to build him a movie theater. The Dalai Lama wishes to learn of the outside world and is now assured of daily visits. It's Harrer who learns more and it's clear he regards the young boy as the son he's never seen and who's rejected his letters.

Eventually, however, the paradise that is Llasa cannot continue as we see the country of Tibet invaded by the Chinese. Hopefully this film will give a huge boost of awareness to the plight of the unique Tibetan culture's peril in the hands of the Chinese. The final ending coda is a sacharine reunion of Harrer and his son reaching an Alpian peak together to erect a Tibetan flag, which should have been dropped.

The production design and costuming are striking. John Williams' provides a suitable score and Yo Yo Ma provides cello solos.

B


KISS THE GIRLS

Morgan Freeman is Dr. Alex Cross, a DC police forensic psychologist who insinuates himself into a North Carolina serial killer investigation when his niece Naomi, a college student, is reported missing in "Kiss the Girls."

Cassanova, as the killer IDs himself, only chooses exceptional women, and Naomi's famous uncle could have been a tantalizing factor on her resume. When Cassanova's most recent abductee, Kate Mctiernan (Ashley Judd), escapes from his house of horrors, she teams up with Dr. Cross to nail the madman. The two end up on a cross country investigation when they discover that either Cassanova has a dual identity as the west coast's Gentleman Caller, or even worse, is in a deadly competition with another serial killer.

Laura LAURA:
"Kiss the Girls" starts off well enough. The always classy Morgan Freeman is convincing as an empathetic forensics psychologist and Ashley Judd is solid as an independent medical student with a talent for kick boxing. Aaron Schneider provides effectively creepy photography which provides the film with a real sense of dread. Unfortunately (and inexplicably), James Patterson has made a mincemeat of adapting his own best selling novel, which, although not great, is certainly several notches above this film.

The concept of dual serial killers has been explored much more effectively in the classic "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Copycat." The casting of Morgan Freeman as an intelligent investigator who turns to literature to help analyze a killer's motives has already been done better in "Seven" (which also obviously inspired the credit title sequence here).

"Kiss the Girls" becomes somewhat incoherent from its midsection on. The 'twinning' concept of the killers is never explained well, nor is the relationship really established. The stable of girls in peril doesn't get our sympathy because only Judd's character is fleshed out - the rest are just window dressing. Most critically, the introduction of a false suspect (a pornography loving college professor) is handled laughably (at least in the book it's explained that he was set up as a suspect by the real killers) and the movie features a groan inducing, cliched ending. Who could do anything but cry with laughter when Kate Mctiernan, alone in he kitchen with the real killer (unbeknownst to her), asks for 'that really big knife' to peel some carrots?

C-

Robin ROBIN:
Usually, when I come out of the theater after seeing the average Hollywood movie, I can say I like it or don't right away. Leaving the theater after seeing "Kiss The Girls," I could only think, "Huh? What the heck was that?" And, I didn't like it, either!

Normally, Morgan Freeman's name over the title of a movie means that you'll see a great, dignified actor perform - and, maybe, have a story to complement the man. But, he has met his match in "Kiss The Girls," and could do absolutely nothing to save this turkey. Based on the novel by James Patterson (which, though better than the movie, isn't all that good), the film is a blatant rip-off of "Silence of the Lambs" (and other films) in both art direction and story. In the book, the kidnap victims are kept in an old underground railroad hideout for escaping slaves - an interesting visual image. The film, instead, over-accessorizes its sets in an attempt to outdo "Silence...," creating a visually interesting, but totally inappropriate and garish, look to the film. Derivative is the nature of this film.

Comparing the story to "Silence of the Lambs," if the kidnap and torture of one women at a time, as in "...Lambs," is good, then having seven or eight stockpiled must be an great idea. There is also the concept of a coast-to-coast serial killer introduced, then dropped, to be replaced by twin serial killers in competition with each other. I guess one of anything is just not enough in this story.

Finally, the film, even more than the book, shamelessly tries to deceive the audience from the true identity of the number one killer with blatant McGuffins strewn in the viewers path. I hanged my head over the plot holes, inconsistencies, and false leads.

Freeman does give his character, Dr. Alex Cross, the expected dignity and stature, and, Judd is solid as the stalwart Dr. Kate Mctiernan. Neither could do anything to save "Kiss The Girls." The story requires a suspension of disbelief akin to brain death, and the gaudy attempts to stylize the art direction, are too much to overcome. Supporting cast is given little to do besides take up screen space as they all wander thrpough the proceeds trying to get to the end. I felt the same way.

"Kiss The Girls" is the kind of Hollywood hack film that is an insult to my intelligence. It's a shame it wasted the talent of Morgan Freeman. It's in focus and you can hear it, and I give it a D+.


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