Picks and Pans Main: Screen
In the virtuoso opening sequence of director Steven Spielberg’s dazzling futuristic thriller, police chief John Anderton (Cruise) rushes into a bedroom and collars a cuckolded husband milliseconds before the man can plunge scissors into his cheating wife’s chest. Anderton informs the man that he’s being booked for the “future murders” of his wife and her lover.
Welcome to Washington, D.C., in 2054, where Anderton’s highly successful, experimental Pre-Crime unit arrests potential perps for crimes not yet committed. How are the cops able to zero in on soon-to-be-bad guys? By relying on the visions of three oracular figures known as “Pre-Cogs,” who foresee future crimes. When Anderton himself turns up pulling a trigger in a Pre-Cog’s vision, he becomes a wanted man and must flee his own men while trying to figure out if—and why—he’s being framed.
Minority Report makes The Matrix look tame. This is big studio, commercial filmmaking at its best. It’s complex, edgy and hurtles along (though it flags near the end). Based on a 1956 short story by Philip K. Dick, Report combines substantive debate about constitutional rights (Attorney General John Ashcroft and his critics might consider a joint screening) with a satisfyingly twisty hero-on-the-run plot. What makes the film so compelling, though, is the visual flair and technical mastery Spielberg brings to Report‘s seductive, disconcerting vision of the near future. It’s a mix of the familiar and the futuristic: People still fall in love, take their kids to swimming pools and read the daily paper, but there are also flying cars, billboards that greet passersby by name and mechanical spiders that slither under doors to make I.D. checks via retinal scans.
Cruise’s hyperpurposeful approach to acting suits the role of Anderton well, a fellow who’s all grim determination. Farrell, as a rival officer chasing Anderton, seems hesitant in his scenes with Cruise, as if leery of getting into an act-off with the star whose crown some think the Irish-born 26-year-old is destined someday to swipe. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Minority rules
Edie Falco, Angela Bassett, Timothy Hutton, James McDaniel, Mary Alice
The pleasures offered by a film from writer-director John Sayles (Lone Star) are many: fully developed characters, dialogue with snap and conflicts grounded in the real world. All are evident in Sunshine State, Sayles’s uneven but engrossing ensemble drama about land development in adjacent, beachside Florida towns.
His two main, and best, characters are wise-cracking Marly Temple (Falco), who runs a threadbare motel and restaurant owned by her blind father (Ralph Waite), and testy Desiree Perry (Bassett), an actress who has returned home after a long absence to spar with her aging mother (Mary Alice). During a hectic week both women receive offers for their family properties, and each comes to terms with her past and glimpses her future.
Falco, sans her Sopranos accent, touchingly conveys the wary hopefulness of a woman not ready to admit that life has passed her by. As ever, Bassett excels, letting her character’s long-held hurts melt in the sun’s heat. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Let the Sunshine in
Lilo & Stitch
Animated, with voices by Daveigh Chase, Christopher Michael Sanders
At last, a Disney heroine with a realistic figure to which the rest of us can relate. Lilo, the feisty little Hawaiian orphan at the warm heart of this enormously likable cartoon feature, is decidedly pudgy. Nani, Lilo’s older sister and stressed-out guardian, boasts a classic pear shape.
The body types aren’t the only refreshing thing about Lilo & Stitch, in which lonely Lilo (voiced by Chase) adopts Stitch (Sanders), an irascible, snarling space alien, as a pet, under the mistaken impression that he’s a cute mongrel. There are also strong characters, pungent humor, radiant hand-drawn animation and, on the soundtrack, eight Elvis Presley classics. (The Elvis-worshipping Lilo introduces Stitch to the King’s magic.) Not to be downplayed is the picture’s worthy message: Families stick together through good times and bad, even when the definition of family (two sisters and an alien) falls outside our traditional notions. (PG)
Bottom Line: Hula, hula, hooray