Bowling For Columbine, Comedian, Frida, 8 Mile, Femme Fatale

It starts with the disturbing footage of the Columbine High massacre and moves on through the attacks on the World Trade Center with a side trip or two to the homes of Charleton Heston and James Nichols (brother of OKC bombing conspirator Terry Nichols). Along the way, Moore makes some good points and observations, but provides little in return other than a rambling riff on casualty. Moore may, as always, be shooting from the hip here, but he's taking aim at the same old tired targets, without any enlightening satire or solutions. ***

"Comedian" (Miramax) — This highly watchable and entertaining digital documentary (by Christian Charles and Gary Streiner) follows Jerry Seinfeld as he attempts to return to his comedic roots, doing stand-up routines in nightclubs. In contrast, it also documents the career of Orny Adams, a hardworking funnyman, almost 30, who's spent most of his adult life trying to become famous. Eavesdropping on these two comics hard at work, but on opposite sides of success, makes for an intriguing dynamic. Not surprisingly, Seinfeld's far more interesting, funny and likable than the self-absorbed Adams. Yet, this compare-and-contrast technique is enjoyable as far as it goes. Despite incredible access to Seinfeld backstage, we get only a glimpse or two of Seinfeld the man and bits and pieces of his act. And isn't that why we'd buy a ticket?

"Frida" (Miramax) — The real Frida Kahlo remains a truly fascinating artist and feminist leading light in spite of this often banal biopic that subjugates her art to the far more exploitable romance she shared with painter Diego Rivera. In the title role, Salma Hayek fearlessly attempts to stretch her limited talents to fill Kahlo's shoes, and at times she actually succeeds. But it's Alfred Molina as Frida's tempestuous lover and unfaithful husband who easily steals the show. However, it's the visual flair of stage director turned filmmaker Julie Taymor that makes "Frida" worth watching. Her inspired touches of stop motion, color-tinting, black-and-white sequences and even the use of skeletons, help us sense more of Kahlo's heart and art than most of the dialogue. But still, the film smacks of creative desperation, as if Taymor's doing all she can to make this conventional movie seem less so. ****

"8 Mile" (Universal) — While this won't make a hip-hoppin' believer out of you, it will make you rethink your media-hyped thoughts about its star, Marshall Mathers aka Eminem. Quasi-biographical, "8 Mile" introduces us to Jimmy (Eminem), a gifted Detroit rapper with a temper, a dreary job, a dissolute mom (Kim Basinger) and an adoring little sis (Chloe Greenfield). As in most rags-to-riches tales, Jimmy wants to compete in the local weekly "battle" of amateur rappers, but he's uneasy about trying to rap for an African-American audience. His pal, Future (Mekhi Phifer), who emcees the event, and his other black friends urge him to try. He, of course, chokes the first time out. Although much of "8 Mile" approaches cliché, director Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") fills the movie with genuine grit and emotion. He also gets an amazingly controlled and full-bodied performance from Eminem. Who woulda guessed it possible? ****

"Femme Fatale" (Warner Bros.) — Despite having style to spare and numerous shots of star Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in the all-together, this trite thriller from writer-director Brian De Palma quickly falls victim to too many improbable plot twists and laughably hollow characters. Romijn-Stamos is Laure, a beauty among a gang of thieves pulling off a complex jewel heist. She double-crosses her cohorts and flees to the States. Flash forward seven years, and our statuesque little thief is back in Paris, but she's now the camera-shy wife of the U.S. ambassador (Peter Coyote). Enter Antonio Banderas as a paparazzo assigned to snapping her pic for a tabloid. Of course, when he does, he unwittingly sets all sorts of mayhem and seduction into motion. Don't you unwittingly waste your money. **


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