... Does anyone still pay attention to reports out of Kosovo ? ... about the murders of Serbs who decided to stay, after the Albanians took over ... about the joyful arson ... about the remaining members of the Kosovo "liberation" Army ... about the billions the U.S. military spent on the bombings of Belgrade and its civilian industries (not to mention the Chinese Embassy) ... only to have a new set of murderers take over from the previous killer-residents. Why did we do that ? Why did Britain so enthusiastically support the Yugoslavian NATO bombings ? Why did we get involved ? Why are our military units still there ? Could there be economic and natural resources reasons ? Now that would make SOME sense and provide rationale, for our treading in that putrid Balkan mud ....


TOY STORY 2: Believe everything you've read, seen and heard about this wonderful Disney/Pixar production. (At the theater in Palo Alto, where I saw the film, they also showed a long clip from next year's Disney/Pixar "DINOSAUR" ... which looks and sounds even more sensational ... I can hardly wait !) On the 1-10 Franklin Scale, 10 being best - TOY STORY 2 gets a 10+.

END OF DAYS: Schwarzenegger's latest comeback effort is diametrically opposed to the above ... a vile, putrid, disgusting, vomit-arousing, anti-Catholic, waste of film. As expected, it did not do so well in its opening weekend ... this "story" about an ex-cop with a heavy Austrian accent, inducing erectile dysfunction in the Devil, who's trying to schtup a pre-destined young women at exactly midnight, 31 Dec/1Jan. Coming from the Palo Alto audience: lots of giggles during the serious parts .... On the Franklin Scale: minus 5.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH: The usual Bond stuff. Nothing new or startling or even very entertaining. This time the villains are Hollywood's current Bad Guy favorites: the Russian mafia. Things are blown up. Submarines sink. Women betray. Men torture. Boats race. At the end, Bond is screwing (again). The acting (especially the woman portraying the "good"/sexy scientist) and the writing are awful. The cinematography is mostly in focus and the camera operators selected the correct f-stops. On the Franklin Scale, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH gets a .007 (point-oh-oh-seven or 7/1000).

LIBERTY HEIGHTS: Barry Levinson's latest (over-hyped) Baltimore story ... about a group of Jewish kids, who venture into the turf of the affluent goyim ... one of them falls hard for a Christian version of a J.A.P. - a horse-riding young woman with a drinking problem ... another of the Hebraics falls in lust with a very bright, very pretty, black girl, who lives palatially and is the daughter of a prominent surgeon. The good African-American physician - a character drawn with extreme shallowness in this film - is as appalled by this rather moist (accidentally), interracial puppy love ... as is the family of the boy. Unfortunately, despite some good scenes, the movie suffers from the slows. On the Franklin Scale: a 7. 

THE MESSENGER (Joan of Arc): The often-told story of the Maid of Orleans, a teen-aged religious fanatic, during the 15th Century, who managed to rile up the people enough to convince the French Dauphin, later Charles VII, to let her lead armies against the invading and occupying Brits. After a brutal and bloody battle, the French win. The British, chafing under the intolerable humiliation of having been defeated by a gurrll, are understandably bitter ... and react with ruthless cruelty. Joan ends up burned at the stake. A terrific film, handled with European élan and superb acting, from the likes of John Malkovich and Faye Dunaway. You leave the movie, glad that you didn't have to live among the 15th century murderers, crazies, peasants and traitors - and that, instead, you can enjoy life amid the Howard Sterns, the Mike Tysons, the racists and anti-Semites, the O.J. Simpsons and Uzi-wielding school kids of today. THE MESSENGER, on the Franklin Scale, a 10.

THE INSIDER: This Michael Mann-directed film is what great movie making is all about. By now, everyone surely knows the (mostly true) story: about TV's "60 Minutes" and Mike Wallace and his producer's) and a CBS, about to be sold to Westinghouse, worried about the legal consequences arising out of airing an interview with a tobacco industry whistle bower. One would think that these are dull subjects, ill suited for a theatrical film ... but, then, one would be wrong! A terrific and gripping film, which should give Mike Wallace some thought about a well-earned retirement. And, perhaps, some of the other West 57th Street ancients, too. On the Franklin Scale, THE INSIDER gets a don't-miss 10-plus.

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH: I didn't understand it, found it incomprehensible ... something about a bunch of people entering Malkovich's mind and/or body (the actor is in the film, too) ... and to get there they have to go to the 7-1/2's floor of an office building where the ceilings are so low people have to walk stooped ... I bow with humility to those superior intellects who understand this alleged movie. As for the Franklin Scale, it fails to register.

THE LEGEND OF 1900: An abandoned new-born infant is found by a stoker, aboard an ocean liner, at the turn of the century. The child grows up and remains on the ship, as it plows back and forth across the Atlantic, for the rest of his life. As a boy, he discovers the ship's dance band piano, and becomes a jazz genius. It's an adult, remarkable, unique and moving fable. On the Franklin Scale, a 9.

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD: A stupefying two hours, watching an ambulance attendant (Nicolas Cage) deal with an unending flood of blood, vomit, pain, insanity, illness, drugs, suicide and crime ... and turning this central character into one of his own basket cases. You don't want to miss the delightful scene in which a guy flies out of a window, impales himself on an iron fence - and has to be cut free by the cops with acetylene torches ... making the spike very, very hot. If you're entertained by such stuff, be my guest. On the 1-10 Franklin Scale - 10 being best - a 3.

PRINCESS MONONOKE: Superb animation from Japan ... and it's not child stuff. Some violence, no sex ... but just about the best hand-drawn animation I've ever seen. It's about gods and demons in an ancient forest, dominated by a powerful creature, called The Forest Spirit. There's also a monstrous wild boar - entangles in a growth of worm-like appendages. English voices include Minnie Driver and Billy Bob Thornton. In Japan, biggest box office ever, just below TITANIC. On the F-Scale: a 9.

THE BEST MAN: One of those Spike Lee-type movies (his company, but not his direction ... and it shows!) ... about a Big Chill-type bunch of matured college students and a reunion, connected to a book about them, that one of them has written. Everybody calls everybody else "nigger" in this stupid film - which is supposed to be OK when speaker and listener are sepia toned. Also endless amount of m-f'ing. Probably will make most intelligent blacks wince ... and white audiences laugh with derision. I walked out before it was over. On the Franklin Scale of 1-10, 10 being best - a very generous 2.

GUINEVERE: A rich, very bright San Francisco girl, named Harper (Sarah Polley), instead of going to Harvard to become a lawyer, meets a photographer - and lives with the much older man (Stephen Rae), an alcoholic prick with artistic pretensions and with the ability to seduce and discard a whole string of very young women. Of course all this goes over great with the girls' parents. A good, well-performed movie that should appeal to the intelligent young, as well as the cynical mature. An 8.

RANDOM HEARTS: Once you get past that silly 1940's title, you've got almost 2-1/2 hours ahead of you, of which the first 40 minutes are interesting, and the remaining time is just plain boring. Harrison Ford mumbles his way through a role as a police detective whose wife dies in a plane crash next to the husband of a congresswoman. Turns out, the bodies have been screwing each other for a while. The Congresswoman is willing to say, he daid ... good riddance ... but the betrayed dick turns into an obsessive nutcase ... and, of course, the two merge ... and ... ah, what the hell. A 4.

THE LIMEY: good film making; about a British career criminal and ex-con (Terence Stamp) who flies to Los Angeles to avenge the death of his model-daughter. He's a killer, this guy, and the Americans find out quickly that you don't want to mess with him, if you don't want to be made dead. Also in the fine cast: Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman and Peter Fonda. An 8.

MYSTERY ALASKA: good little sports movie ... about a small town in glacierland, way up north, that has developed generation after generation of great hockey players. The TV folks hear about it, and create a huge TV special, in which the professional New York Rangers fly up to Alaska (actually, it was filmed in Canada) to play against these amateurs in a vicious exhibition game. Very entertaining. On the Franklin Scale of 1-10, 10 being best - an 8.

THREE KINGS: Mindless "action" movie about three U.S. Army guys, at the end of Gulf War - discovering a treasure map in the buttocks of an Iraqi POW, the map leading to gold stolen from Kuwait. They try to re-steal the gold, get sentimental/sappy about some Iraq rebels and the plan falls apart. Nonsense designed to delight gullible and undemanding audiences, to whom Iraq, Iran and Idaho are all the same. A 4.

MUMFORD: a delightful new film from one of Hollywood's best, writer/director/producer, Larry Kasdan. About a psychotherapist - a likable and quite successful imposter - who straightens out the bent people of a small town, before he's caught. Among the more delicious elements, an inter-racial romance between a young Silicon Valley-type multi-billionaire and a coffee shop owner (Alfre Woodard). A light, amusing, intelligent, entertaining film.  9-plus.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY: Tommy Lee Jones in another one of those "Fugitive" things. This time, in keeping with the era of Strong and Vengeful Women in the Movies, the escapee is Ashley Judd who goes to the slammer for having killed her bad husband, who's not really dead. Throughout the chase, through thick and thin, Ms Judd looks beautiful. Routine film-making for undemanding audiences. A generous 7.

ELMO IN GROUCHLAND: The Henson folks are at it again. The very red Elmo has lost his blanket - and we (the audience) help him find it. Nice music. Fun stuff. Too bad there isn't more with Kermit the Frog. Great for kids under eight. Great for adults who like to watch the faces of their kids at a movie. On the Franklin Scale of 1-10, 10 being best - an 8 for the young'uns, less for their elders.

AMERICAN BEAUTY: Kevin Spacey and a terrific cast, well directed, in a very dark comedy about a dysfunctional suburban family. Excellent. A 10.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME: Kevin Costner as an over-the-Jim-Hill pitcher for the Detroits, playing, what is probably his last painful game. As usual, Costner is very good. But film is troubled by a long, sappy love story. A 7.

6TH SENSE: about a little boy who says he can see, and talk with, the dead. Bruce Willis plays a psychologist, who has serious problems of his own. Great surprise ending. A 10.

THE MUSE: a comedy about the children who populate the offices of Hollywood's hierarchy and a writer (Albert Brooks), who seeks out a "muse", an alleged descendant of the God Zeus and who inspires creativity...so that he can recapture his "edge". Cute. Inside. An 8.

MICKEY BLUE EYES: New York art auctioneer (Hugh Grant) about to marry the daughter of a crime boss and thus move in an entirely new social stratum. Lots of fun with murderous thugs and their victims. Ugh. A 4.

THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE: incomprehensible, sophomoric nonsense about an astronaut who impregnates his wife with the kind of fetii that are so dear to the Art Bell audiences. Stupid time at the movies. A 3.

BOWFINGER: Steve Martin as a down-on-his-luck film producer making a movie on a shoestring, with a stolen camera and a from-hunger cast. Eddie Murphy plays two roles. Has moments, but .... A generous 5.

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR: not as good as the 1970's version with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. They steal Renoirs and Monets instead of bank money this time. Schmucky Hollywood ending. A 6.

EYES WIDE SHUT: the late Stanley Kubrick's final joke on Hollywood. (Two top Warner executives resigned day before the pic's opening). Tom Cruise as a horny doctor at an orgy. Nicole Kidman is the wife, in one long, long, talky bedroom scene, she looking as if she's just stepped out of an LA TIMES panty ad. A 4.

RUNAWAY BRIDE: Julia Roberts as a nutcase who ruins men's lives by abandoning them at the altar. Richard Gere is a reporter. Guess what happens. A 3.

THE RED VIOLIN: about a musical instrument - and wait till you find out why it is red ! - from the time of its construction in Italy, several hundred years ago, through its life with musical geniuses and gypsies, through the Red (!) Guard revolution in China - ending with a mysterious, multi-million dollar, tension-filled auction in Manhattan. Probably best movie of the year. A 10.

TARZAN: Good Disney. Forgettable music track. A 7.

SUMMER OF SAM: Spike Lee. About a bunch of Italian-American street thugs in the New York of the 1970's, when a serial killer was running amok. Pointless. Badly written. More dreck. A 2.

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