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quick flicks

Murder By Numbers, The Scorpion King, Festival at Cannes, Other Side of Heaven, Changing Lanes


"The Scorpion King"

Mrs. Johnson's not-so-little boy Dwayne — aka WWF wrestler The Rock — takes a swing at big-screen stardom with this "Conan" derivative. Supposedly the prequel to events highlighted in last summer's "The Mummy Returns," "The Scorpion King" shows just how Mathayus — aka The Scorpion King — came to be, other than steroids, of course. Did I say steroids? I mean "herbal enhancements," of course. One of the last of a long line of assassins, The Rock, I mean The Scorpion King, finds himself battling the evil Memnon (Steven Brand), who's into world domination. But before the final good vs. evil showdown, there's plenty of comic-book violence, flashing swords and muscle-bound sweaty men sporting hair extensions and leather. As for The Rock's acting abilities, well, it's no worse than Arnold's early work. Fun but forgettable, the movie isn't nearly as gosh-awful as you'd expect.

"Festival at Cannes"

At best, the films of Henry Jaglom are talky, fitfully funny, often grating pieces of marginal entertainment. Sadly, this behind-the-scenes look at the most famous, over-hyped film festival of all, is not Jaglom at his best. It may actually be one of his worst. Featuring six significant characters, this ensemble work follows the intertwining of Greta Scacchi as an actress trying to get her screenplay produced; Zack Norman as a con man trying to break into the biz; Anouk Aimee as a film icon Scacchi wants to star in her movie; Ron Silver as a genuine producer also wooing Aimee; Maximilian Schell as Aimee's brooding director-hubby; and Jenny Gabrielle as a new star whose performance in an independent film makes her the toast of the fest. Despite the star power involved, the acting is spotty and rarely involving. The scenery, however, is gorgeous.

"Other Side of Heaven"

Based on the memoirs of Mormon missionary John Groberg, this Church of the Latter Day Saints production comes closer to being a recruitment film than a movie. As directed by Mitch Davis, Groberg's (Christopher Gorham) missionary experience on a South Pacific island unspools like a preachier version of the 1966 epic "Hawaii." Framed as letters home to his sweetheart, the action includes some harrowing brushes with flesh-eating rats, starvation, hurricanes and one very frisky island girl who wants our young hero's "seed." Its intentions are good, but like a school lunch, there's too much corn, not enough meat.

"Changing Lanes"

At first glance, this nervy urban revenge drama appears pedestrian. But buckle up: Stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck have one heck of an ethical, emotional ride for you. Jackson's a working man just trying to get his life back on track; Affleck's a hotshot Big Apple lawyer. When the two meet in a fender-bender, Affleck leaves behind an important document which Jackson finds and keeps, triggering an angry, escalating game of revenge. Scripted and directed with rare intelligence, "Changing Lanes" explores morally murky areas in a way American films have ignored since the '70s. And does so without sacrificing the mounting tension or the talented cast.

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