"Rules of Engagement," "Black and White," "Ready to Rumble" and "Return to Me" 

Quick Flicks

!B! "Rules of Engagement"
!B! "Black and White"
!B! "Ready to Rumble"
!B! "Return to Me"

"Rules of Engagement" — This testosterone-fueled, no-frills military drama wouldn't be worth talking about were it not for the central performances. Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones breathe life into this cut-and-dried script about two aging comrades-in-arms reuniting because of a court martial.

Jackson is a career officer, a Marine's Marine; no wife, no children, just the Corps. Jones is a cynical Vietnam vet, a lawyer, a divorced father of one, and a recovering alcoholic. When Jackson faces a court martial and murder charge for an order he gave during an evacuation assignment in Yemen, he wants his old buddy Jones to represent him.

The trial turns out to be tougher than either buddy imagined. There's a missing videotape that would show whether the crowd fired first or even had weapons, a weasely career diplomat fearful of losing his cushy posting, and a smarmy National Security Advisor looking for a scapegoat. As well as a few seemingly un-Marinelike moves in Jackson's past. Can these few good men win?

"Black and White" — Talky and cliché-ridden, this overwrought and over-improvised melodrama purports to explore why a bunch of upper-class Manhattan white kids would co-opt the traditionally black culture of hip-hop. Writer/director James Toback desperately tries to be edgy, but even its outward gangsta trappings and rap score can't hide the truth. "Black and White" is about as cutting-edge as Top-40 radio. For those with a keen sense of the perverse, "B&W" offers plenty of cringe-worthy performances. The first belonging to Brooke Shields as the dreadlocked documentary filmmaker out to expose this recent phenom. The highlight of the movie? Robert Downey Jr.'s role as her less-than-hetero hubby who gets slapped around by Mike Tyson, playing himself.

"Ready to Rumble" — OK, here's the most surprising thing about this valentine to World Championship Wrestling: It isn't nearly as bad as it could have been, or should have been. Though rude and crude in the vein of "Dumb & Dumber," this spoof of the sport and its fans is also pretty good-natured. The humor is strictly kicks to the groin, followed by a shot or two of potty humor, topped off with another kick to the groin.

David Arquette and Scott Caan are two fans who crash their septic tank pump truck after watching their idol, Jimmy King ( a decidedly unchallenged Oliver Platt) get beaten senseless in the ring. They begin their quest to find their fallen hero and restore him to the glory of the ring. Guess what? Jimmy turns out to be just another beer-swilling bumpkin much like themselves.

"Return to Me" — This sweet but completely predictable love story will leave you smiling, so long as you don't pay too much attention to its premise: Young woman dying from congenital heart failure receives lifesaving heart, only to discover much later that it belonged to the late wife of her new love. Minnie Driver is the woman, David Duchovny is the widower. The two seem destined to be together, but then the truth intervenes.

In between, we are treated to the precious and precocious shenanigans of Driver's extended family: grandpa Carroll O'Connor and his restaurant partner Robert Loggia as well as her no-nonsense cousin Meghan (played by director and co-writer Bonnie Hunt). Looking for a good, satisfying cry? This little heartstring-tugger is just the ticket.


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