Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Although Helen Mirren's Academy Award-winning performance as Elizabeth II is reason enough to see the tasteful modern-history play The Queen (Miramax), the rest of the movie is equally good in the way it uses Princess Diana's death as the framework for a study of royalty and public service in contemporary Great Britain. From the intricate protocol surrounding the royal family—and their confusion about how to handle an emotion like grief in that context—to the contrast between their lives and the life of Tony Blair (well-played by Michael Sheen), The Queen deals smartly with why we need icons, and why we need to knock them down…

As a general rule, the more ludicrous a Jerry Bruckheimer movie is on its face, the more guiltily enjoyable it turns out to be. After all, why not just be upfront about insulting the audience's intelligence? By that standard, Déjà Vu (Buena Vista) counts as one of Bruckheimer's most entertaining productions, a crazy thriller about a surveillance system so sophisticated that it bends the space-time continuum like a soft pretzel. A chase scene through two temporal places is particularly silly/exhilarating…

It's hard to believe that a Jumanji knockoff as strained and uninspired as Night At The Museum (Fox) could become such an enormous hit, but the combination of Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, CGI, and a family-friendly PG-rating proved too much for holiday audiences to resist. The idea of a natural-history museum that comes to life after hours is creatively fruitful, but the lame slapstick and anachronistic gags never approach the whimsical charm of similar films like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure


Morgan Freeman's uncharacteristically goofy, self-deprecating performance as a Morgan Freeman-like superstar is the best/only reason to check out Brad Silberling's 10 Items Or Less (First Look), an amusing but strained, unconvincing trifle about Freeman's unlikely friendship with sassy working-class striver Paz Vega…

The ill-advised and frankly inexplicable vehicle Code Name: The Cleaner (New Line) gives Cedric The Entertainer a reasonably decent hook, casting him as an amnesiac janitor who wakes up believing he's an 007-like super-agent. Problem is, the movie is so busy working out its needlessly complicated plot that it can't find many spare moments for comic hijinks. It's a Z-grade action movie first, and a comedy a distant second.

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