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"Shower," "The Yards," "Bamboozled," "Lucky Numbers" and "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Shower"!B! "The Yards"!B! "Bamboozled"!B! "Lucky Numbers"!B! "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2"

"Shower" — Zhang Yang's refreshing film not only explores the dynamics of a father-son relationship, it also works as a metaphor for the current social changes underway in mainland China. Yes, I said China, which means subtitles. But unlike many foreign films, the subtitles are almost unnecessary. The wonderfully nuanced performances of Zhang's cast give us everything we need to know and feel. It is set in a provincial bathhouse that's about to be torn down in the name of progress and redevelopment, and we watch as the prodigal son returns and finally comes to see the beauty and dignity in the life he so desperately wanted to escape. "The Yards" — Evoking the visual spirit of "The Godfather," James Gray's "The Yards" only appears to be another crime-family epic. It's really a dark thriller of urban corruption and what happens when two friends no longer share the same convictions: Ex-con Leo (Mark Wahlberg) never wants to return to prison. His long-time best bud, Willie (Joaquin Phoenix), is more willing to take a chance on serious crime in the subway rail yards of Queens. When Leo accompanies Willie on a job for Uncle Frank (James Caan in a terrific performance), things get crazy, and Leo is caught in a trap that could bring down the entire corrupt family business and send him back to jail. Intense and involving, "The Yards" is at its best when dealing with relationships. Interestingly, it only falters when detailing the crimes. "Bamboozled" — Once again, Spike Lee pushes the envelope with this ferocious satire on racial stereotypes. Set within the contemporary "black" entertainment business, Harvard-educated Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) is the sole African-American writer at a struggling UPN-style network. When his idea for a gentle "Cosby"-type comedy fails, he channels his anger into a variety-show project based on the old "minstrel shows." Except instead of white folks in blackface, it would feature black actors under the greasepaint. Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson play the two penniless street performers so desperate for work they eagerly debase themselves. This scathing and incendiary film is Lee's most outrageous and disturbing offering to date. It will confuse some viewers and anger others. However, it will make everyone think. "Lucky Numbers" - Y2K is not turning out to be a good year for John Travolta. First "Battlefield Earth" and now this stupefyingly unfunny comedy about trying to rig a state lottery. Travolta plays a weatherman living beyond his means; Lisa Kudrow is the ditsy blonde "Lottery Girl" who happens to be his mistress. Were it not for Michael Weston (playing Travolta's eager assistant), Tim Roth as a strip-club owner and a scene involving a semi-truck, director Nora Ephron's "Lucky Numbers" would be an even bigger loser. "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" — Not scary, funny or involving on any level, this cynical follow-up gives sorry credence to the "Curse of the Sequel." In a nutshell, this lame mishmash introduces us to Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan), a recently released mental patient who's cashing in on the Burkittsville phenom by conducting tours of the witch's haunted woods. Bad things happen to one group, but you won't care.

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