Reviled by most critics, Brian De Palma's latest display of style-as- substance - hugely flawed though it may be - easily ranks among the most virtuosic and formally fascinating of recent Hollywood movies. The film opens with an uninterrupted 20-minute Steadicam shot that follows Nicolas Cage's smarmy, corrupt cop as he wheels and deals his way into an Atlantic City casino for a boxing match, where (at the end of this astonishing single take) the US Secretary of Defense is assassinated. From that point on, flashbacks from different perspectives flesh out the story, which, admittedly, isn't particularly plausible or interesting or even suspenseful. Still, De Palma keeps the tone enjoyably over-the-top, and Cage, madly overacting, is perfectly cast - he may be the only actor around who's capable of holding his own amidst this degree of sheer hysteria.
DreamWorks' first animated feature (like Disney's Toy Story, entirely computer-generated) is a film of small, transient pleasures. Z, the innocently rebellious worker ant who sparks a colony-wide revolt, is distinctively voiced by Woody Allen, and the filmmakers signal their intent to run the casting coup/gimmick into the ground by opening with Z on a couch talking to his shrink about abandonment issues. Sharon Stone provides the voice of the love interest, and Gene Hackman is the villain. Matching their superbly expressive computer-generated counterparts, the actors are all suitably hammy, but the real star of the movie is the art direction, a marvel of teeming detail that's in fact wittier and more sophisticated than the script.
A Perfect Murder (18)
In Andrew Davis's swanky retread of Dial M for Murder (a stage play by Frederick Knott, turned into a film by Hitchcock), Michael Douglas, cast to type, plays an evil Wall Street broker who pays his wife's lover (Viggo Mortensen) to kill her so he can inherit her fortune. Gwyneth Paltrow, as the adulterous spouse is aloof, bland and blank. Slick and calculating, the film is proficient enough but never especially compelling.
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