Adaptation is about a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman who is struggling to adapt a book on orchids by a writer for the New Yorker named Susan Orlean. As it happens, the film itself is written by a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman — whose previous forays into the bizarre and self-referential include the little-seen Human Nature and the inspired, if over-rated, Being John Malkovich — and parts of this new film are based on a book on orchids by a real-life writer for the New Yorker named Susan Orlean. As the character Kaufman himself admits, after he has written himself into the screenplay, his script is self-indulgent, narcissistic, and solipsistic. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun.
Harry Potter and his friends may soar through the air on broomsticks and dangle from flying cars in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the latest chapter in J.K. Rowling’s ongoing saga about a young orphan at a boarding school for witches and wizards, but the film never takes flight the way it ought to. Despite the abundance of special effects that flood nearly every frame, director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves have their feet planted firmly on the ground, and they bring the same pedestrian sensibility to this story that they brought to the first installment. Instead of making great cinema or great drama out of Rowling’s book, they faithfully cram as many of the book’s plot twists as possible into their two-and-a-half-hour running time. In doing so, they unintentionally sacrifice much of the story’s personality and charm.
Wendy Crewson may not be a household name, but you’ve probably seen one of her movies. Over the past two decades, the Hamilton-born actress — who grew up in Winnipeg, Montreal, and points in-between — has played the supportive wife opposite Sam Neill (Bicentennial Man), Judge Reinhold (The Santa Clause), Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Sixth Day) and Harrison Ford (Air Force One). She also had a hilarious turn as a sexually frustrated woman who finds unexpected ecstasy through her lesbian daughter’s sex toys in Anne Wheeler’s hit comedy Better Than Chocolate.
But you can only play someone else’s wife or mother so many times before you begin to crave bigger roles, so Crewson jumped at the chance to play Jackie York, a sharp-tongued, self-destructive author who has an affair with a man barely half her age, in Wheeler’s newest film, Suddenly Naked.
It’s been eight years since Harrison Ford last played Jack Ryan, but the spirit of Tom Clancy haunts him still. His most successful role since then was that of the kick-ass plane-defending president in Air Force One. In his latest film, K-19: The Widowmaker — which marks a return to form after the disappointments of What Lies Beneath, Random Hearts and Six Days Seven Nights — he plays a Russian submarine commander, who takes the Soviet navy’s newest flagship on its maiden voyage, but is then suspected by his superiors of wanting to defect, and of wanting to take the ship with him. The film even features The Hunt for Red October’s Joss Ackland in yet another bit part as a Russian official.
Steven Spielberg hasn’t got Stanley Kubrick out of his system yet. In some respects, Minority Report is the sort of futuristic sci-fi chase movie that makes popcorn vendors smile. It’s also the sort of spectacular summer flick you expect a crowd-pleaser like Spielberg to excel at. But it also reflects the bleak, dystopic vision of things to come that made A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Spielberg’s realization of a project Kubrick spent years developing, so chilling and unfamiliar. Minority Report also stars Tom Cruise, who earned a place in the Kubrick canon with Eyes Wide Shut, and it puts him in a situation that calls to mind one of the more freakish and uncomfortable moments in A Clockwork Orange.
John Woo movies may be famous for their over-the-top action sequences, but what really makes them work is the way he focuses on the intense personal rivalry between his main characters. In films as varied as the Hong Kong classic The Killer and the Hollywood hit Face/Off, it’s the battle of wills between cop and criminal, and the spiritual struggle within the protagonists, that drives the gun battles and the slow-motion pyrotechnics. Like those other films, Windtalkers — a World War II movie about Navajo code talkers and their uneasy relationship with their fellow marines — is also about a conflicted friendship and a man who wrestles with his conscience. But this time, the violence takes place on such a grand scale that it dwarfs the characters, who are, after all, just cogs in a larger military machine.