"Before Night Falls," "See Spot Run," "3,000 Miles to Graceland," "Monkeybone," and on video, "Meet the Parents" 

Quick Flicks

!B! "Before Night Falls"!B! "See Spot Run"!B! "3,000 Miles To Graceland" !B! "Monkeybone"!B! Now On Video: "Meet the Parents"

"Before Night Falls" — Despite its two-hours-plus running time, this look at Cuban poet-novelist Reinaldo Arenas seems sketchy on the politics, history and relationships of its subject. Instead, what artist-turned-filmmaker Julian Schnabel gives us is a feverish dream of a biopic, overflowing with images from the poet's impoverished childhood, his coming-out-adventures, his emigration from Cuba and finally, his battle with AIDS.

Although the narrative is too soft-edged for a biography, there are no complaints about Javier Bardem's portrayal of the persecuted poet. Bardem delivers a startling, believable performance. "Before Night Falls" may be a flawed obituary, but it remains a satisfyingly poetic one.

"See Spot Run" — As if the idea of making a "mob comedy" for kids weren't bad enough, this celebration of doggie doo adds insult to injury by failing to be even remotely funny. David Arquette mugs at the camera incessantly as an irresponsible postman who thinks single mom Leslie Bibb is hot. So he offers to take care of her 6-year-old son (Angus Jones) while she's away on business. That's when "Spot" — a bull mastiff with a past — enters their lives. Seems he's a former FBI sniffing-dog in hiding because mob boss Paul Sorvino wants him killed. Why, you might ask? Because the dog has bitten off one of his testicles. Which we witness. Need I say more? Avoid this rabid mess.

"3,000 Miles To Graceland" — This latest from Kevin Costner does nothing to restore his tarnished image. Gratuitously ultraviolent, degrading to women, uneven and ultimately pointless — and those are the movie's good points — this thriller feels like a bad flashback to the days of B-movie drive-ins.

Joined by Kurt Russell, Christian Slater, Bokeem Woodbine and David Arquette, Costner masterminds a bloody holdup of a Vegas casino. But there's trouble in paradise: Russell's ex-con character has a semisoft spot for a kid and his trailer-trash momma. But before the FBI starts shooting the gang, they take aim at each other.

"Monkeybone" — This is loosely based on the comic book "Dark Town." Brendan Fraser stars in this tale about a cartoonist trapped in a comatose state peopled with his own nightmares. Fraser is Stu Miley, our mild-mannered hero, whose comic alter ego, Monkeybone, is the simian expression of his uh, hmmm, shall we say "onanist," fantasies. When a car crash puts Stu in ICU, Monkeybone escapes Stu's subconscious, takes over his body and wreaks general havoc and confusion. Frankly uncomfortable and uneven, "Monkeybone" also brilliantly mixes lewdness with astonishing creativity. Not for the faint of heart.

Now On Video:
"Meet the Parents" — Ben Stiller is the sincere suitor; Robert De Niro, the future father-in-law. What more do I need to say? The affable Stiller squirms and prevaricates with the best of them, responding to De Niro's chilly disapproval by launching into elaborate tall tales. De Niro, as a former CIA operative and protective father, plays it perfectly straight. Anyone who's ever dreaded the make-or-break reality of meeting the parents will enjoy watching as this comedy of errors escalates.


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