Originally created 02/28/04

At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films



Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Broken Lizard's Club Dread" - What a perfect title. This splatter-genre spoof is so dreadful you want to bash its disagreeably unfunny characters with a club. The movie's a surprising slide for the five-man comedy troupe Broken Lizard, which wrote and starred in the amusing 2002 cop farce "Super Troopers." Aiming for a medley of humor and horror, the Lizard boys achieve neither, spinning a loud, boorish, cheesy tale about a machete madman slicing up the randy staff at a tropical resort. How Broken Lizard got Bill Paxton to debase himself with an embarrassing role as a Jimmy Buffett-style one-hit wonder is the biggest puzzler. R for violence/gore, sexual content, language and drug use. 103 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, Associated Press

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"Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" - Nobody puts Baby in the corner in this prequel to "Dirty Dancing." For that, you can be thankful. But you probably won't have the time of your life. And from their stilted dialogue, mediocre dancing ability and total lack of chemistry, it doesn't look like stars Diego Luna and Romola Garai are having the time of their lives, either. Garai plays a prim, bookish American who moves to Havana in 1958 with her parents (Sela Ward and John Slattery) and little sister (Mika Boorem). There she falls for a waiter at her upscale hotel (Luna from "Y Tu Mama Tambien"), who teaches her to "just feel the music." The best thing about the movie is Patrick Swayze, reprising his role as a dance instructor from the 1987 original - but it's also a reminder of how substandard this second "Dirty Dancing" is by comparison. PG-13 for sensuality. 86 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, Associated Press

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"The Passion of the Christ" - The frightened speculation from religious leaders and frantic banter from 24-hour cable news pundits can end now: Mel Gibson's epic about Christ's Crucifixion has arrived. And the film is frightening - not for its dogma, but for the relentlessness of its brutality. Gibson, as director, producer and co-writer, is fetishistic in his depiction of the pain Jesus suffered during the last 12 hours of his life. The beating and whipping and ripping of skin become so repetitive, they'll leave the audience emotionally drained and stunned. As for the widely reported criticisms that the film might foster anti-Semitism, let's just say nearly everyone ends up looking responsible for the death of Jesus (a lean and intense Jim Caviezel). Despite its gruesome content, "The Passion" is beautifully photographed - and it's a huge, meticulously detailed film. R for sequences of graphic violence. In Latin and Aramaic with English subtitles. 127 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, Associated Press

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"Twisted" - This had the potential to be more than just another crime thriller starring Ashley Judd, which has become a genre all its own following "Kiss the Girls," "Double Jeopardy" and "High Crimes." Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff," "Henry & June," "Quills") is the director, so you'd hope his fearlessness would elevate the film beyond the usual conventions. For a while he's successful. Judd's character, a self-destructive homicide detective who's suspected of being a serial killer, would be a walking cliche if she were a man. But the script spirals wildly out of control as "Twisted" approaches its climactic twist (which you'll probably be able to figure out about a half-hour into the movie). Andy Garcia plays Judd's partner; Samuel L. Jackson (in the role Morgan Freeman usually plays) co-stars as the police commissioner. R for violence, language and sexuality. 97 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, Associated Press