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  • Issue of
  • Dec 31, 2003 - Jan 6, 2004
  • Vol. 24, No. 12

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • Mona Lisa Smile

    Set in 1953, Julia Roberts is Katherine Watson, the new free-willed art teacher at Wellesley College who has her work cut out for her. But Roberts doesn’t come close to capturing the audience with her role as Robin Williams did in Dead Poets Society. The performances by the other actors are just above mediocre and characters almost unbelievable to start with develop too fast and too drastically. The only standout performances are from actors in the small supporting roles.
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  • The Scene
  • Cheaper by the Dozen

    A family with 12 kids comes off even wackier than it did in 1950, the first time this film was made. The Bakers are a loving, easy-going couple packing up their country herd and moving to the big city for dad’s dream job. What you get is a fast-food film that goes through the motions of a plot with milk-and-cupcake dialogue that leaves you dry and crusty. Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and Ashton Kutcher star in this faceless and tasteless kid-geared film with an addiction to messy catastrophes.
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  • The Scene
  • Paycheck

    Jimmy Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart) is the sharply dressed, neatly coifed owner of Allcom, and boss of Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck), an engineer/inventor who must perfect the company’s see-the-future-and-take-over-the-world machine. All of director John Woo’s trademark moves are present and accounted for, including the "Mexican standoff," which makes a half-dozen appearances. What’s missing is the palpable tension and drama of Woo’s brilliant 1997 offering Face/Off or the over-the-top thrills of his 1989 masterpiece The Killer (1989).
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  • The Scene
  • Autumn Spring

    In this modest Czech film, Fanda is an old codger who spends his days acting out harmless pranks. His wife Emilie is the exact opposite, a party-pooping scold. We get yet another film positing that a life of fantasy makes you happy while those who focus on reality become petty and uptight. What keeps all this from being cloying is a streak of pessimistic resignation running just beneath the droll surface. Despite a much-too-cuddly ending, this humorous story of perseverance has a continual tug of seriousness, which prevents the narrative from floating into whimsy.
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  • The Scene
  • House of Sand and Fog

    Behrani (Ben Kingsley) was a colonel back in his homeland on the Caspian Sea, but in America he’s reduced to selling cigarettes behind the counter of a gas station. He buys a bargain of a house, unaware that just days before, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) was wrongfully evicted from the it. Desperation causes fingers to point at obvious differences — like race — and the assumptions fly. Unfortunately, what starts out as a "powerful drama" degenerates into an "eye-rolling melodrama."
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