James Keith La Croix

243 results
    • She Hate Me

        A young corporate exec blows the whistle on his unethical employer (a pharmaceutical firm working on an AIDS vaccine, no less), finds himself pink-slipped and discovers a new line of work as a stud for lesbians (beginning with his ex-girlfriend, no less). Does this sound like director Spike Lee once again packing a film with too many ideas (and polemics) for its own good? It is. Does his visual panache — not to mention a Terrence Blanchard score — help balance his excesses? They do.
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    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

        The third episode of the Harry Potter saga suffers from a bit of sequel-itus, attempting to substitute new-and-improved, bigger-and-better effects into a rather familiar plot. But while the zooming, soaring and whipping about pleased the Chuck E. Cheese crowd, it left some of us adults snoozing in our seats for a butt-numbing two hours plus. Then, to make matters worse, a rapid-fire series of plot twists near the end will confuse many.
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    • Baadasssss!

        This indie biopic tells the tale of Melvin Van Peebles and the making of his groundbreaking, controversial and most famous movie, Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song — considered the first Blaxploitation film. Baadasssss! is written, directed and stars Van Peebles’ son, Mario. The film often strays into stereotype but the underlying tale is about people coming together.
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    • Kill Bill Vol. 2

        Thurman’s cool, lily-white Bride seems the photographic negative of Grier’s hot, full-bodied mamas in iconic blaxploitation flicks. But Tarantino is an ironist who juxtaposes, twists and expands stock characters and plots into something unique. Plugging his pale bride into a blaxploitation-esque plot is this year’s model of his genius.
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    • Man on Fire

        In Mexico, Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a man attempting to drown his demons and his traumatic past in alcohol. Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hire him to bodyguard Ramos’ young daughter. When she’s abducted, he leaves a trail of righteous destruction behind him.
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    • The Punisher

        Compared to X-Men, the Hulk and Spiderman, the Punisher is a lesser god in the Marvel Comics pantheon. No powers, no fascinating psychological issues, just an ex-law enforcement type done wrong (real wrong) and out for blood. A stock translation of a skin-deep comic character. With Tom Jane in the title role, John Travolta as the villain and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as the stock could-be girlfriend.
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    • Jersey Girl

        If Kevin Smith wasn’t behind Jersey Girl, I wouldn’t have been interested. A decade ago, Smith slipped through the movie industry’s backdoor with Clerks. Made with little more than $27,000, Clerks became a cult classic. Smith’s hallmarks can be found in Jersey Girl, but they’re softer. In the end, Jersey Girl simply can’t escape its Tinsel Town sweetness.
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    • Secret Window

        Johnny Depp’s big-screen charisma and a typically macabre Stephen King yarn can’t quite fill out this lazily directed thriller about a dysfunctional writer (Depp) who finds himself accused of stealing one of his stories. The plagiarized author (John Turturro) starts a campaign of homespun terrorism and ups the criminal ante to arson and murder. Screenwriter-director David Koepp’s thriller seems workmanlike, lacking the nimble juggling act between horror, black comedy and irony that many better thrillers demonstrate.
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    • Against the Ropes

        The story of groundbreaking Detroit boxing promoter Jackie Kallen falls short of being the next Norma Rae or Erin Brockovich. Starring Meg Ryan as Kallen, Omar Epps as boxer Luther Shaw and substituting Cleveland for Detroit, this is a mostly flat and problematic drama with a few moments of comedy, romance and interracial tension.
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    • Tokyo Godfathers

        Three Men and a Baby meets Japanese anime, but with subtlety and substance. A motley trio of Tokyo’s homeless watch a nativity play, then stumble on what one of them calls "a Christmas present from God," an abandoned infant girl wrapped in swaddling clothes. Tokyo Godfathers becomes a clever and well-written parody of Christ’s nativity, a mix of treacle and wry humor that winds up jerking out a tear or two, thanks to the affecting theme: the promise of redemption that comes from a family’s love for a child.
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    • Taking Sides

        As in his subsequent screenplay, The Pianist (2002), screenwriter Ronald Harwood distills a tragedy from the life of an actual classical musician who survives Nazi Germany in Taking Sides (2001). Here, Harwood features not a Jew, but a German, Dr. Wilhelm Furtwängler (Stellan Skarsgåard), an eminent 20th century conductor. Despite some dialogue that betrays its stageplay origin, Taking Sides is an intelligent film that skillfully avoids what its title suggests, by not taking sides.
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    • The Human Stain

        This film’s most conspicuous imperfection is the casting of a porcelain-perfect Nicole Kidman as a chain-smoking cleaning woman. The Human Stain explores issues of race, sexuality, assimilation and American society. Anthony Hopkins plays a black man who’s spent decades posing as a Jew.
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    • Alien: The Director’s Cut

        The razzle-dazzle of the special effects has dimmed with time, sometimes laughably so. But as a whole, director Ridley Scott’s genre-bending breakthrough stands up well — horribly well. Some scenes left on the cutting room floor the first time are restored, including one that foreshadows what’s in store for the sequels.
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    • Civil Brand

        Screenwriter Preston A. Whitmore II, a Detroit native, casts the for-profit prison industry as a modern-day plantation. Though a few women get armed and murderous, the prison sewing factory is more a sexually abusive sweatshop than a plantation. Civil Brand should have been found guilty of being a bad B-movie and sent straight to quick video release.
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    • Tarantino tantalizes, taunts

      Kill Bill recomposes cinema history in tongue-in-cheek thriller.
        Director Quentin Tarantino alloys decades of pop culture in Kill Bill: Volume 1, the beautiful weapon of an auteur’s vision, thrust through our adrenaline glands and into the dark marrow of our funny bones. Kill Bill is Tarantino’s almost impossibly omnivorous cinematic pop culture collage, a stew of audiovisual references placed delicately onscreen in the form of a violently moving graphic novel. And it’s bloody good fun.
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    • School of Rock

        With Mike White as screenwriter and one of Quentin Tarantino’s film-geek buddies, Richard Linklater, directing, Jack Black’s newest comedy had potential it didn’t live up to. The plot is cribbed, characters are cliché, and it’s beyond comprehension why a director with Slacker and Waking Life on his résumé would churn out such moldy fare. Nevertheless, School of Rock somehow manages to entertain.
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    • Mambo Italiano

        Mambo Italiano serves up Montreal’s Little Italy, its inhabitants and the comic tribulations of Angelo Barberini (Luke Kirby), a gay, second-generation Italian-Canadian. Here, the impediment to true love is "coming out." This movie is lighter than a cannoli. It’s amusing, but rarely laugh-out-loud.

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    • Demonlover

        All seems to be fair in love and corporate war in Demonlover. The film drifts into murderous corporate espionage with an aloof MacBeth and undertones of a Hitchcock thriller. But shallow characters dissipate the potential voltage of Demonlover and its futile attempt at suspense and tragedy.
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    • Decasia

        Decasia is an avant-garde film that boils away narrative, concrete images and even sound to create pure and often abstract art from the moving image onscreen. The effect is intoxicating, hypnotic and soporific by turns.
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    • Cold Creek Manor

        The title alone summons the gothic tradition. Cold Creek Manor parodies the genre — at times with wry humor. It’s an intelligent thriller with tense moments of suspense that seems to paraphrase and sometimes parody thrillers from Hitchcock classics to Silence of the Lambs.
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    • Matchstick Men

        Ridley Scott directs a feel-good crime film where friendship, family and love manage to transcend the main characters’ occupational choices. As partners in con, Nicholas Cage and Sam Rockwell are Felix and Oscar of The Odd Couple gone bad. Throw in Alison Lohman as the elder con man’s teenage daughter, and watch Matchstick Men light up the screen.
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    • The Holy Land

        The characters include a jaded ex-journalist from the States, a radical Zionist, a shady Arab real estate broker and a hooker transplanted from Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, writer-director Eitan Gorlin’s yarn falls victim to a plot almost as distracted and ineffectual as the distracted rabbinical student who is its protagonist.
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    • Thirteen

        A quasi-documentary style and vivid performances elevate what could have been another teen clique film. Thirteen is about love lasting and eventually triumphing through and over mundane adversity and dysfunction. Holly Hunter shines.
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    • O, Fantasma

        If you like cute puppies and graphic gay S&M, this grim and outrageous exposition into the extremes of human desire is right up your alley.
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    • Camp

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