Equally disappointing is the lack of hip humor and exuberance from director Doug Liman ("Swingers" and "Go"). What it lacks in oomph, this "Bourne"-again thriller makes up for with gorgeous scenery and a car chase reminiscent of the one in "The French Connection." An efficient, '60s-style thriller, "Bourne Identity" is more than adequate summer entertainment. ***
Another film about WWII codes, this British import by famed filmmaker Michael Apted isn't nearly as gripping or involving as it should be. And if you're looking for historical accuracy about how the Bletchly Park crew cracked the Nazi's Enigma code, look elsewhere. All the WWII drama and intrigue serve merely as a tantalizing backdrop for a more conventional romantic thriller. Starring Dougray Scott as a codebreaker whose girlfriend (Saffron Burrows) has gone missing and Kate Winslet as her former roommate Hester who helps him solve the mystery, the two offer top-notch performances. Its Tom Stoppard's bottom-heavy script with too many twists and turns and last-minute revelations requiring lengthy, boring spoken explanations that keeps the movie from sustaining our interest. ***
Nicolas Cage is effectively and surprisingly understated throughout this WWII drama about Navajo Americans recruited to serve as code talkers during combat in the Pacific theater. Equally impressive is Adam Beach as the windtalker Cage must protect, even kill should the naive Navajo end up in enemy hands and compromise the integrity of the code.
Directed by actionmeister John Woo, "Windtalkers" mixes graphic brutal battle scenes (the Battle of Saipan) with the heartfelt cliches of the combat genre. And while I would have liked the movie even more if it had chosen to keep the Navajo characters at the center rather than Cage, I still found myself caught up in the action and the well-acted, though predictable culture clash between Cage and Beach. As far as Hollywoodized war movies go, "Windtalkers" almost dodges the hackneyed patriotic bullet, opting instead for a film full of firepower and emotional impact. ****
If you can't remember the last time you laughed so hard you cried and in a movie theater, no less then you need to catch Malcolm D. Lee 's "Undercover Brother." A deftly clever bit of film-genre reconstruction, the movie not only parodies the Mo' fo dolomite delights of '70s blaxploitation flicks but its flip side, the super agent macho hogwash of James Bond. Eddie Griffin plays Anton Jackson (aka. Undercover Brother), a black Austin Powers-type sent to fight The Man after an African-American army general (Billy Dee Williams) drops his bid for the presidency in favor of opening up his own chain of fried chicken shacks. Unreeling like a series of comedy skits instead of a linear narrative, "Undercover Brother" gets to mine an amazing number of laughs and biting social commentary, all without resorting to flatulence or bodily fluids for a cheap laugh.
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