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"Battlefield Earth," "Center Stage," "Screwed," "Held Up" and "The Virgin Suicides"

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!B! "Battlefield Earth"!B! "Center Stage"!B! "Screwed"!B! "Held Up"!B! "The Virgin Suicides"






"Battlefield Earth" — Yikes! The scariest thing about this sci-fi tale is not star John Travolta looking like some futuristic Rastafarian Michelin Man. What frightens me most about this film is that plenty of folks will actually buy a ticket to this overblown, third-rate, sci-fi disaster.

I'm not even sure where to begin with this disappointing adaptation of a much-enjoyed (though hardly a classic) science-fiction novel by L. Ron Hubbard. Set in the year 3000, humans have become the slaves of the Psychlos, an alien race of 10-foot-tall, dreadlock- and leather-wearing meanies who lust for wealth. Travolta is Terl, the security officer for the enslaved planet Earth. Barry Pepper is Johnnie Goodboy Tyler, the human race's savior.

The result is just plain bad: bad acting, bad dialogue, bad music, bad effects, bad movie. The only good thing about "Battlefield Earth" is that it's so bad, you can't help but laugh.



"Center Stage" — As awkward as the adolescent audience it targets, "Center Stage" is a chorus line of clichés. Lively and spirited only when the dancers in the cast are in motion, the movie does little more than recycle themes, relationships and roles from every dance-themed movie of the past 30 years. Dance enthusiasts will recognize moves from "The Turning Point," "Fame," and "Flashdance."

It's the usual drivel about an outsider trying to live his or her dream in the competitive world of (insert appropriate career choice here). Along the way, there's jealousy, loss, betrayal and perhaps, true love and friendship. Directed by Nicholas Hynter ("The Madness of King George"), "Center Stage" features earnest, appealing young dancers and actors,but even they can't jump high enough to break free of the mundane plot.



"Screwed" — More of a prediction about the future of the ticket buyer than the plot of the movie, this title says it all. It also must describe how the folks at Universal felt when they saw the finished product. Imagine their surprise — this is, after all, the directing debut of the pair who wrote "Ed Wood," "The People vs. Larry Flint" and "Man on the Moon." Even the casting held promise: Norm MacDonald, Dave Chappelle and Danny DeVito.

Trust me, "crass" doesn't even begin to describe this tale of a botched dognapping by hapless working stiffs who need the help of a creepy mortician to save their tails.

"Held Up" — Here's the first thing you need to know: This movie began production more than three years ago. Which means it got shelved until star Jamie Foxx's terrific turn in last fall's Oliver Stone football film "Any Given Sunday." So now, just before the big guns of summer begin to blow fast and furiously into theaters, this kind of lackluster silliness gets tossed before the unknowing moviegoing masses. Consider it cinema chum.

Foxx plays a businessman who gets dumped by girlfriend Nia Long in the desert, then gets carjacked and then finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation at the Sip & Zip convenience store. Although it has a few laughs, the movie is terribly uneven, groaningly predictable and overly reliant on stereotypes. Worst of all, it wastes the comic talents of its star.



"The Virgin Suicides"— Like its deceptively plot-revealing title, "The Virgin Suicides" leaves nothing — yet somehow everything — to the imagination. Five golden-haired sisters, five teen suicides. That's the story, in painfully plain terms. But in the hands of first-time director Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis Ford Coppola), what we have is a hauntingly off-kilter film that makes you laugh while bringing a lump to your throat.

Instead of inviting us into their heads to understand or explain her subject's actions, Coppola uses the camera to keep us at a distance. In effect, forcing us to become one of the neighborhood boys mooning over the Lisbon sisters, sensing their claustrophobic lives rather than feeling them. The excellent cast includes Kirsten Dunst, James Woods and Kathleen Turner.

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