"The Shipping News"; "Orange County"; "Beauty and The Beast"; "Impostor"
"The Shipping News" This adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is always watchable and often moving. But something vital has gone missing. Lasse Hallstrom's meticulous direction, while reverent, slowly wears the viewer down. More than merely chilly, the movie feels cold-blooded. Considering the number of walking wounded that make up the bulk of Proulx's characters, keeping us at arm's length seems an odd choice. Even the incredibly talented Kevin Spacey can't quite pull us in. As the pasty, bewildered-looking Quoyle, Spacey intrigues without quite connecting. The actresses fare better: Cate Blanchett is ferocious as the amoral Petal; Julianne Moore subtly charms as Quoyle's possible salvation; and Judi Dench quietly impresses as no-nonsense Aunt Agnis, who has dark secrets of her own.
"Orange County" Harmless and intermittently funny, this oddly hobbled hodgepodge of a handful of movie genres has little to recommend it other than Jack Black as the older slacker-brother of the "teen" (Colin Hanks, son of Tom) at the plot's center. As the "teen's" girlfriend, Schuyler Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek) escapes unscathed from this poorly written MTV production, ironically about a wannabe writer's struggles. The movie is directed by Jake Kasdan, yes, son of director Lawrence Kasdan.
"Beauty and The Beast" When first released in 1991, this lovely mix of Disney animation and imagination made history. Not only the first animated feature to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, it also was the first of its kind to earn more than $100 million on its first release. Now, 11 years later, the fairy-tale story remains the same through the power of love a young woman transforms a beast into the prince he once was. But the look is decidedly different. Digitally recreated for the huge IMAX screen, its lines are a little softer, its scenery more impressionistic and its 3-D backgrounds more striking. And there's an added bonus: a delightful new tune, "Human Again," in which Cogsworth, Lumiere and Mrs. Potts muse about being released from their own spells. In any form, "Beauty and the Beast" is a movie to be treasured. The IMAX format magnifies those charms.
"Impostor" When it comes to playing villains on screen, nobody does it better than Gary Sinise. This marvelous actor only gets into trouble when he tries to be the good guy. Which is what happens here. Set in 2079, Sinise plays a government scientist who's invented a weapon that may save the world. But special agent Vincent D'Onofrio accuses Sinise of being an alien replicant with a bomb in his body. Now Sinise is on the run and trying to prove his innocence. Think "The Fugitive" by way of "Total Recall" and "Blade Runner," except with low production values, uninspired direction and stinky