News & Features » Miscellany

"Reindeer Games," "Holy Smoke," "My Dog Skip," "Double Jeopardy," "Joe the King"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Reindeer Games"
!B! "Holy Smoke"
!B! "My Dog Skip"

Now on video:!B! "Double Jeopardy"
!B! "Joe the King"

"Reindeer Games" — Blame this one on Claus and effect. If you're wondering at the holiday setting and the integral Santa disguises in this illogical thriller, the answer is simple: The movie was originally intended for release last winter. And when a movie gets pulled from a big moneymaking season it means only one thing — it's bad.

That movieism remains true here. Ben Affleck is a reformed ex-con who lusts after three things once he gets out on parole: a cup of hot chocolate, a piece of pecan pie and Charlize Theron. See, she was the pen pal of his cellmate. So when Affleck's character is paroled, he decides to fool her into believing he was her pen pal. Enter Gary Sinise as Theron's scummy older brother, who knows the real pen pal used to work at a casino he plans to rob.

Sinise continues his winning evil ways here, and Affleck makes a believable Everyman pushed to the edge. But the movie's plot is so illogical and tiring, loading plot twist upon plot twist, that it becomes laughable. After a while, the inexplicable but numerous chase scenes are the only diversion.

"Holy Smoke" - Despite a fierce, in-your-face performance from Kate Winslet, this latest from "The Piano's" Jane Campion misses the mark. When Campion and her co-screenwriting sister, Ann, keep to the story about Winslet and her mother, or the other oddball characters in this dysfunctional muddle-class Aussie family, the movie has an entertaining, insightful rhythm. But then along comes Harvey Keitel and the movie takes a drastic turn, becoming a sexual struggle between man and woman. Keitel has been hired to try and bring Winslet away from the guru and inner peace she's attained in India. Her family thinks she's been manipulated by a cult.

From a visual standpoint, "Holy Smoke" is gorgeous, capturing both the vibrant-hued jumble of the streets of India and the wide-open sky and arid surroundings of the Outback. Unfortunately, the actors get in they way of this beautiful scenery.

"My Dog Skip" — Dog lovers as well as fans of Southern writers should find this sweet and simple retelling of Willie Morris' memoir "My Dog Skip" a happy treat. Starring "Malcolm in the Middle's" Frankie Muniz (he's terrific) as the young Morris, there's nothing much unexpected in this tale of how another creature can often change us. Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane are Morris' parents and a sprightly Jack Russell terrier is Skip.

Set in Yazoo, Miss., during World War II, the movie looks to be about Morris, but it's really about Skip and how much smarter animals may be when it comes to recognizing the good and bad in mankind. When the movie veers off of Willie and Skip, it loses is footing. An attempt to deal with racial matters of the time seems somehow condescending.

Now on video:
"Double Jeopardy" — Tommy Lee Jones' pit-bullish parole officer and Ashley Judd's wronged mother on the run make this stylish though ordinary thriller an entertaining watch. (Especially from the confines of your comfy couch.) Convicted of killing her husband, Judd's character discovers that it was all a dirty setup by her double-dealing man.

Once paroled, she's off to seek revenge and reclaim her son. The premise here is that since she's already been tried, convicted and punished for killing her hubby, she can now shoot him with impunity. Jones tries to track her down and save her.

"Joe the King" — This movie starts off badly with Camryn Manheim going way over the top as a vicious school teacher, but give it time. "Joe the King" eventually grows into a poignant, graceful film about a teen-ager growing up poor in a small New York town. Much like Truffaut's "400 Blows," actor Frank Whaley's directing debut leads you through this miserable childhood without sentimentality or relief. Keeping us deliberately on edge, Whaley makes us worry and wonder what's next for Joe. When the movie does come to a close, we understand. All of Joe's suffering begins to mean something.

Add a comment