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"Any Given Sunday," "The Cider House Rules," and "Man on the Moon"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Any Given Sunday"
!B! "The Cider House Rules"
!B! "Man on the Moon"

"Any Given Sunday" - This big, brash and loud gridiron tale seems to be fueled by pure testosterone — and filmmaker Oliver Stone's trademark frenetic camera work, of course. Although the story is a cliché-ridden sports saga pitting youth and energy against age and experience, I enjoyed the movie as a whole, relishing individual performances, camera shots and its broad-shouldered verve.

"Any Given Sunday" serves up two helpings of the universal battle of wills. First, there's Al Pacino's aging and losing football coach butting heads with the team owner's brash, young daughter Cameron Diaz. Second, there's Dennis Quaid's aging and injured quarterback battling sleeker, faster and more media-savvy heir apparent Jamie Foxx.

While the plot is less than inspired, the performances save the day. (You'll love hating James Woods' turn as the unscrupulous team doctor.)

Stone brings the viewer inside the game, making us feel every tackle, every sack, every adrenaline-pumped physical effort as if we were the one involved. If you could give a fig about football, however, watching "Any Given Sunday" will feel like sudden death because of its unnecessary three-hour running time. But if you love watching boys being boys to the extreme — on the field and behind the camera — "Any Given Sunday" will more than entertain.

"The Cider House Rules" - Over the years, film adaptations of John Irving's sprawling, decades-spanning novels have met with only minor success. But the writer's fans could blame others for the failure since the screenplays were penned by others.

Now, that task has finally been given to the author himself. Anchored by fine performances by Tobey Maguire and Michael Caine, "Cider House Rules" is easily the best Irving-based movie since the first one, 1982's "The World According to Garp." But it's still not perfect.

Set in Maine during World War II, the story deals with the relationship between gentle doctor Caine and Maguire, one of the boys raised at the doctor's orphanage. For his own compassionate reasons, the doctor also performs illegal abortions. Raised as Caine's assistant and surrogate son, Maguire's world is limited. When a soldier (Paul Rudin) arrives with his pregnant fiancee (Charlize Theron) for one of those illegal operations, Maguire decides it's time to see the world and hitches a ride with the couple.

Landing at the soldier's family's apple farm, Maguire soon finds himself working and sharing a dormitory with an African-American crew that includes Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter (Erykah Badu).

Told at an unrushed, contemplative pace, "The Cider House Rules" loses energy once Maguire leaves home and finds himself falling for Theron. What keeps the film together is the unique father/son bond forged between the doctor and the orphan. Caine, sporting a New England accent that would make Meryl Streep envious, gives what may be the performance of his career. And Maguire more than holds his own with this veteran. Even when the two are not on screen together, their relationship is prominent. Despite its flaws, "The Cider House Rules" is thoughtful, heartfelt storytelling.

"Man on the Moon" - This is a tough call that begs the question "Why make a movie about a comedian most didn't get and many don't remember?" The best answer I can give is Jim Carrey. On-screen for most of the movie's two-hour running time, Carrey gives a tour de force performance that's more akin to channeling the spirit of Andy Kaufman than mere acting. Carrey eerily steps into Kaufman's psyche and impersonates the troubled actor/comic/provocateur with uncanny accuracy.

Directed by Milos Forman, this bio-pic would not be worth mentioning were it not for Carrey's deft portrayal. Also in its favor is the fact that the script doesn't ignore Kaufman's flaws. Neither an excuse for his bizarre behavior nor an explanation, "Man On The Moon" works hard to present just the facts, as incredible as they are.

Although both Danny DeVito and Courtney Love are fine in their supporting roles of Kaufman's manager and wife, the movie belongs to Carrey. He's much more the reason for the movie than Kaufman himself.

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