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Full text review.
The premise is that Jack (Robin Williams) has a special condition that causes him to grow at four times the rate of an ordinary child, so that he is 40 on the outside and 10 on the inside. His parents have previously sheltered him from the outside world. They decide on the advice of pediatrician (a disgusted looking Bill Cosby) to plunk him down in a schoolyard. The general reaction to the abomniable preview to this among most movie fans is to comment how low Coppola has sunk. Coppola may yet rescue himself; he does keep this high concept low key, and Jack is nowhere near as bad as the Zoe sequence in New York Stories. It's Robin Williams I'm really worried about. What if he gets an Oscar for this horrifying schmaltz? He'll be playing parts like this for the rest of his life. Schmaltz is a word that isn't defined often; it's a Yiddish word meaning "chicken fat" and, by extension, grease or oil; you can feel like you've been soaked with it watching Robin Williams pretending to be a little kid. It was during the farting contest in a kid's tree house that I walked out. I can't handle the mixture of the sweet and the gross; the two together affect the palate like chocolate-covered sloppy joes. (RvB)

The Jackal
(R; 124 min.) Apparently weary of battling Die Hard terrorists—at least for the moment—Bruce Willis takes to villainy himself for this "update" of Fred Zinnemann's 1973 The Day of the Jackal. Willis plays a vicious mercenary assassin, the Jackal, who has eluded world governments for years and is now suspected to be after a top U.S. official, under contract by the Russian mafia. Despite his purchased allegiance, however, the Jackal is an all-American killer straight out of the Cold War era, blowing away homosexuals and uppity women with conservative-backlash relish. Perhaps this aspect is overly apparent because Willis seems a bit lost as an all-out villain, getting little help from director Michael Caton-Jones. Willis' Jackal frowns when scheming and smirks when killing ... and that's about it. Richard Gere fares somewhat better as a sensitive IRA terrorist imprisoned in the U.S. who gets a laughable free rein from the FBI when they enlist his expertise and personal animosity to track down the Jackal. Sydney Poitier brings some balance to this formulaic thriller with practiced coolness as the head of the FBI team in charge of stopping the killer. (HZ)

Jackass: The Movie
(R; 80 min.) There are two kinds of people—those who get Jackass and those who think that eating a urine snow cone = not funny. Those in the latter group are in the minority to the opening-weekend tune of $22.7 million. Johnny Knoxville and his band of skate-punk henchmen (no women, natch) stick things where they don't belong, pull bone breaking stunts and pranks, and film the results. Jackass is advertised as having sequences you'd never see on TV, and you wonder whether it's because of crudeness or because the ideas are flops. The infliction of pain induces the most hilarity. The only time I averted my eyes was during the paper-cut sequence. Knoxville takes a manila envelope cut in between his toes and fingers. Absolutely revolting. The cameraman pukes while filming, and I can relate. (TI)

Jackass Number Two
(R; 95 min.) I didn't make it through more then 20 minutes, so this doesn't count as a review, but that's OK, because Jackass Number Two doesn't count as a movie. An observation, based on a core sample: the Pampalona-style stampede at the beginning, with the crew running out of the paths of charging bulls, is not bad, but I used to live in Oklahoma and I've seen some champion rodeo clowns at work, so my standards are probably too high. Snake bite on the pecker: better in Snakes on a Plane. The mechanical fist: funny once, not funny thrice, especially not funnier because the insane masochistic crew was sitting around cackling at how great the gag was. (This is essential to the Jackass routine—conscious interference with the "flywheel effect" of laughter, causing them to have to restart every laugh from scratch.) Bicentennial BMX: marvelous. Pennyfarthing bicycle crashes are elemental comedy, like cops slipping on a banana peel. Finally: Bam Margera getting branded on the ass, and the mandatory sitz bath afterward in the cattle trough, was a disappointment, and a deal breaker. Where was the huge cloud of steam? Once again, the Three Stooges prove that art beats life any day. (RvB)

The Jacket
(R; 103 min.) Adrien Brody stars as a Gulf War veteran who, due to a gunshot, is stripped of his memory. Shipped stateside, he ends up in the wrong place, where he is accused of murder and ordered to a mental institution. There, a handwhisk-faced doctor (Kris Kristofferson) subdues him with meds, a straightjacket and a morgue drawer. The bizarre treatment allows the vet to see into the future—including a trashy girl (Keira Knightly) who can possibly save them both from uncertain future. It's billed as a thriller, but experienced thriller seekers will spot the plot arcs coming while the less cogent ones (like me) are left scratching cranium. Note: Keira Knightly shows skin; Jennifer Jason Leigh does not. Draw your own conclusions. (TI)

Jack Frost
(PG; 96 min.) Despite its ludicrous premise (Dad dies and comes back as a snowman), director Troy Miller's Jack Frost is a heartwarming film. Joseph Cross stars as young Charlie, a boy who idolizes his cool musician father, Jack Frost (Michael Keaton). Starving for his dad's attention, Charlie is constantly disappointed when Jack's career comes before him and his mother (Kelly Preston). Just when Jack realizes how important it is to spend Christmas at home, rather than at an audition, he dies in a car accident. A year passes, and Charlie is bitter about his father's absence. Like he and Jack did the previous winter, Charlie builds a snowman and tops it off with Jack's hat and scarf. Magic takes its course and the snowman comes to life. What makes this film is the cool kids. They've got a lot of heart and give the film personality. Henry Rollins as a Type-A hockey coach and Mark Addy as Frost's best friend also contribute to the fun. Ignore the fact that the snowman looks like Ghostbusters' Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. This holiday film has its sap factor, but it tugs at the heartstrings in a very human way. (SQ)

Jackie Brown
Full text review.
(R; 154 min.) Samuel L. Jackson famously used the word "nigger" more than a few times, causing outrage on both the black and the white ends of the race spectrum. That alone does not explain the longevity of this film, which has previously been described in the pages of this newspaper as "a talky Tarantino love letter to famed blaxploitation icon of the 1970s Pam Grier." Underrated when it first came out, Tarantino's stylish adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch shocked audiences, thanks to a slower pace compared to the breakneck violent speed of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. More cool than shocking, the film's excellent casting gives this tale of a flight attendant, Jackie Brown, who gets caught smuggling her boss' gun money on the airline she works for, enduring class. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Jackie isn't the only one to come up with a plan to keep her freedom and and walk off with their money. But she can't do it alone. (SJP)

Jackie Chan's First Strike
(PG-13; 88 min.) "Now I'm 007!" declares Jackie Chan, after being issued an attaché case full of weapons; our hero nurses his spy fever even to the point of wearing a David McCallum-style turtleneck. Chan, working for the CIA, goes to the Ukraine to track down atomic-bomb thieves. Set pieces, and there aren't enough of them, include a battle in Sydney's Chinatown, where Chan learns that stilts don't keep him from kick boxing, and a fight in a million-gallon aquarium (the water slows down Jackie's moves for study), during which he fends off some real sharks (as well as one rubber shark that has a smirk like Juliette Lewis'). Chan, by far the most human of action stars, can sometimes overdo his humanity—he seems almost peevish when he's showing how cold he is in preparation for a fine snowboard and snowmobile chase in homage to the ski chase in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. At the same time, it's charming to see Chan's version of the de rigueur scenes in a spy movie: the briefing (during which he stumbles over the pronunciation of the Russian names), the sarcastic reluctance and the limo ride to the airport. The boy's-story Victorian adventure underneath the 20th-century gloss can be seen in Chan's triumph at the end. On the deck of the Russian submarine, he looks up for approval at Bill Tung, the crusty actor who has played Chan's commanding officer and uncle in so many of Chan's movies. You can't avoid the feeling that Jackie's saved the world just to please his old uncle. (RvB)

Full text review.

(R; 100 min.) Linda Fiorentino dominates the camera the way no other current actress dares even to attempt. She not only has no fear of the camera, she seems to make it wince and blush. Unfortunately, Jade wastes her talents. The film is a standard late-'40s thriller—a powerful man is killed, the beautiful wife (Fiorentino) of a prominent attorney (Chazz Palminteri) is implicated, the authorities (David Caruso) are looking for a mysterious hooker named Jade—pumped up with '90s sex and violence. It is directed in such an overheated, frenetic style by William Friedkin that you'll forget the plot while you're watching it. At least Andrzej Bartkowiak's cinematography highlighting the handsome shades and tones of the San Francisco-area landscape—I haven't seen so many beautifully lighted brown and black interiors since The Godfather—and James Horner's score makes effective use of Irish singer Loreena McKennitt's atmospheric singing. (AB)

Jakob the Liar
(PG-13; 114 min.) It's not the schmaltz fest that it could have been, but not far from it, either. Robin Williams stars as a Polish Jew of an unnamed ghetto, during the winter of 1944. One evening, Jakob (Williams) accidentally gets caught after curfew. While detained in a Nazi's office awaiting punishment, Jakob overhears on the radio that the Red Army is only a few hundred kilometers away. When he brings this good news back to his friends, they all decide that Jakob is in possession of a clandestine radio. Jakob, the lowly potato-pancake baker, becomes an important man overnight. This misunderstanding isn't sturdy enough to be the backbone of a full-length film. And Williams insists on doing the part with an accent, which makes Jakob the Liar too cute, too close to dialect comedy. A subplot (taken from Chaplin's The Kid) in which the shabby Jakob adopts a homeless urchin (Hannah Taylor Gordon)—doesn't strengthen the material. Though Jakob the Liar is darker and more restrained than the usual Williams vehicle, it's still uses the same plot from Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams—an entertainer misunderstood and persecuted. We first hear Williams in voice-over, telling a very old joke (out of Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, if memory serves). And we first see Williams in spotlight, heckled by a big voice like that of a stage manager, heard but unseen behind the light. And we last see him on a stage, bloody but unbowed. Williams' telling of the performer's anxiety in ever more terrible surroundings—Vietnam, a cancer ward and now the Holocaust—suggests that he is equating his own stage fright with increasingly terrible 20th-century horrors. What's next, Hiroshima? (RvB)

Jalsaghar (The Music Room)/Top Hat
(1958/1935) A declining aristocrat (Chhabi Biswas), a once-renown patron of music, bestirs himself to one final, ruinous concert to impress his tasteless nouveau riche neighbor. The music is by Vilayat Khan. More about this next week. BILLED WITH Top Hat. Ginger Rogers skips out for Europe trying to avoid the advances of a married (or so she thinks) dancer (Fred Astaire). Songs include "Cheek to Cheek," "Isn't This a Lovely Day?" and "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails." (RvB)

James and the Giant Peach
Full text review.
(PG; 80 min.) Orphan James Henry Trotter is bullied by his ugly aunts, Spiker and Sponge, until he finally makes his escape with the help of a magic giant peach and some unusual creatures. The stop-motion animated film (co-produced by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick), based on Roald Dahl's book, is, for the most part, unimpeachable. Compared to the relative cuteness of The Nightmare Before Christmas, the characterizations in James and the Giant Peach are beautifully bizarre. The brash centipede (voiced, relentlessly, by Richard Dreyfuss) tends to chase out any reflective moments, however; the critter is at his best during the peach-eating orgy number, with the original Dahl lyrics. (RvB)

James' Journey to Jerusalem
Full text review.

Jana Aranya/Double Indemnity
(1974/1944) In Jana Aranya (The Middle Man), a young man (Pradip Mukherjee), cheated out of academic honors, decides to go on the make, getting involved with a group of colorful but unscrupulous businessmen—even pimping—when the occasion arises. BILLED WITH Double Indemnity. The deathless film version of James M. Cain's steel-trap mystery novel in which a hustling insurance salesman outsmarts himself, a heartless blonde loses an unwanted husband and a worn, fatherly little troll almost figures the scam out. It's an unusually graceful tale of murder directed by Billy Wilder with Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson. Stanwyck—the most versatile of Hollywood studio leading ladies—excels in everything the role requires, from the harsh chemical allure to the salty dialogue and the serious-as-cancer underpinnings. Fred MacMurray is the perfect sucker who narrates the story from the edge of the grave; Edward G. Robinson plays his smart, sad boss, who gives him a light for his last cigarette. (RvB)

Jane Eyre
(Unrated; 120 min.) Charlotte Bronte's 150-year-old novel offers so much to women; who among the female sex hasn't wanted to be the spunky but plain ex-orphan who extracts the fangs of a brooding member of the gentry—except for those other women, and there are a few of them, who would have preferred to take the place of the first Mrs. Rochester, to dwell in an attic and cry, "Wahoo!" (as in Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea). In a too authentic bonnet that looks like the shade of a Luxo lamp, a sorely miscast Charlotte Gainsbourgh plays the adult Jane against William Hurt's original interpretation of Rochester, who is less a raging tyrant than an abstracted, lost, petulant, middle-aged boy. If only the supporting cast could have taken over the leads; there isn't enough of either Joan Plowright (all Victorian gravity as Mrs. Fairfax) or Anne Root (Persuasion), who plays Mrs. Temple and really ought to have played Jane. Director Franco Zeffirelli plods along as if he'd read all of the lines without reading between them; the first third, for instance, slogs through the cruelties of Jane's youth (Anna Paquin plays the young Jane) without making them function as drama. This Jane Eyre is picturesque without being powerful—a clean and untroubled reading of a book with strong currents underneath its surface. (RvB)

Full text review.

Jason and the Argonauts/The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
(1963/1953) I guess you have to see the great myths Disneyfied for a few decades to really appreciate a serious-minded adaptation of them. The gravely underrated Jason and the Argonauts tells the story first recorded in by Apollonius of Rhodes in The Argonautica about the quest of the usurped king Jason (Todd Armstrong) for the Golden Fleece at the edge of the world. Setting aside the still-delightful effects for a moment, it's especially compelling to see the political side of Olympus treated in this erstwhile fantasy. "The gods want their entertainment," as Jason says. Jason's journey is helped and hindered by the Olympians. Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore in Goldfinger) plays Hera, Jason's patron, interceding against Niall MacGinnis' blood-sport-loving Zeus. But most people are happy just to remember Ray Harryhausen's Super-Dynamation effects. Harryhausen judged this the best of the films he worked on, and you can see why in the sequence (not in the poem, naturally) depicting an attack by the molten-blooded bronze colossus Talos; the hideous thing is certainly much more alive than Godzilla. Gorgeous Mediterranean locations help, too; the scene of the harpies was actually filmed at Paestum, a 5th-century BCE Temple of Neptune. Bernard Herrmann did the compelling score. BILLED WITH The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. This inspired live-action Dr. Seuss-written musical features some characteristically deranged songs and sets. The witty Hans Conried—the Christopher Lloyd of his day—stars as Dr. Terwilliker, a megalomaniac piano teacher who enslaves children. (RvB)

Jason and the Argonauts/The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
(1963/1958) Two by a living legend in cinema: Ray Harryhausen. He learned his craft from Willis O'Brien, animator of the 1933 King Kong. He brought drama to the art of stop-motion animation, drama heightened by musical scores composed by Bernard Herrmann. His films hold up even in the era when digital graphics made stop-motion extinct; there's a sense of dimension and color to these creations that computer animation of today often lacks. And Harryhausen was concerned with the aesthetics of lighting, which often isn't the case in much digital animation. At a recent appearance at the Raphael Film Center, for example, Harryhausen claimed that he modeled Medusa's cave in Clash of the Titans on Mildred Pierce's mansion, as lit by Sol Polito. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad has our hero (Kerwin Mathews) in search of a spell to rescue an enchanted princess. Doing so requires matching wits with the sorcerer Torin Thatcher, a Cyclops, a Roc (or "rukh" as they say in Iraq, where Sinbad's from), a dragon and the first of Harryhausen's skeleton warriors. Jason and the Argonauts has the hero (Todd Armstrong) as a pawn of the gods dueling with a hydra, hag-headed harpies and a skeleton army. "How do you defeat death itself?" Harryhausen asked the audience last June. Making movies like these is certainly one way. (RvB)

(R; 87 min.) Rose McGowan complained recently that her new film, Jawbreaker, has netted bad reviews "because 50-year-old male critics didn't understand it." Yet all the 50-year-old male critics I know completely understand the appeal of Rose McGowan—sigh, all that pulchritude wasted on a man with no genitals. McGowan is smarter than the average starlet; she knows enough about the movies to say that her performance as Courtney in Jawbreaker is modeled on Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven. But she's going to need to find something sturdier to help her graduate out of supporting roles. I haven't seen McGowan in anything that wasn't a knockoff yet—neither Scream, a knockoff of '80s horror, nor The Doom Generation, a knockoff of '50s exploitationers. Jawbreaker, Darren Stein's dumb knockoff of Heathers, stars McGowan as the meanest and most glamorous student at Reagan High School. When a prank goes awry, she and her ladies in waiting, Julie and Foxy, have to cover up a murder. The footage is padded out by a senior prom finale (with lots of nods to Carrie) featuring a live appearance by the Donnas. Like McGowan, that band needs to learn that there's more to rebellion than wearing tight clothes. (RvB)

Jay and Silent Bob-a-Thon
Ultimate cult event honoring Dogma director Kevin Smith, including screenings of his other movies, Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy, as well as contest interludes and exhibits of Jay and Silent Bob action figures and comic books.

The Jay and Silent Bob-athon 2006
They're all here: Clerks (1994), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Dogma (1999) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). This is the original Del Mar Midnight Movie marathon, and by far the most popular, so get your tickets now. Meanwhile, here's a little secret I'm going to impart about these films: The only way to really understand the subtleties of Jason Mewes' character Jay is to watch all of the movies in a row. Then you can see for certain that he has no subtleties whatsoever. (SP)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
(R) Jay and Silent Bob, of Clerks/ Mallrats/ Chasing Amy/ Dogma fame, return for no apparent reason except to wallow in self-referential, semi-inside jokes that take aim primarily at Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The plot is predicated on the making of the "Bluntman and Chronic" film, based on comic book characters who are based on Jay and Silent Bob—and the duo travels to L.A. to demand their royalties. In between fart jokes, oral sex jokes, gay jokes and monkey jokes, somehow, inexplicably, the characters become likable.

Jeepers Creepers
(R; 100 min.) A thriller about two teens who unwittingly unleash powers of unspeakable evil.

Jeepers Creepers 2
(R; 103 min.) The original Jeepers Creepers surprised everyone by being good for the first hour or so (though not as good as the other kids-being-pursued-by-someone-evil-in-a-truck movie from that year, Joy Ride). Unfortunately, it all went to hell (and not in the scary way) when director Victor Salva fell in love with the movie's monster costume and ruined the second half by lingering on it. "The Creeper" was scary as a series of quick shots, a faceless bundle of ratty clothes, and even a shadowy monster with Edgar Winter hair and a crazy hat—but not as a latex suit. Hopefully, Salva learned his lesson for this sequel—which features a new group of kids being preyed on by Creepsy—but considering how he was still raving about the damned suit on the DVD for the first film, I doubt it. (Capsule preview by SP)

Full text review.
Based on the noted play, this hilarious series of sketches follows the travails of a hero who has, out of terror of AIDS, given up on all of this sex business. As with every other celibate in recorded history, his love life immediately blossoms. Steve (Michael T. Weiss), whom Jeffrey meets at the gym, is very cute, very available and very HIV-positive. Jeffrey is fearful, but has the example of his chum Sterling (Patrick Stewart), who is himself carrying on an affair with an HIV-positive man. Stewart is very funny, but he has to take a back seat to Sigourney Weaver, who has ten minutes of ballsy farce here as a "New Age Evangelist." (RvB)

Jenin, Jenin
A documentary about the conditions in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in the wake of an April 2002 attack by the Israeli army. Khalil Barhoum, who was born in Palestine and is now a professor at Stanford, speaks.

Jerry Maguire
Full text review.
(R; 135 min.) What we're all been waiting for: a movie about the dark night of a sports agent's soul. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise doesn't have enough depth for a soul. The movie never gets around to answering the question why Jerry is a sports agent in the first place. Watching him with the young son of the secretary he falls for (Renee Zellweger), it looks as if his real career calling is camp counselor. It's an agent's job to be cold-blooded and ruthless. Cruise, of course, cannot play someone like that. So, about 20 minutes into the film, we stop getting the inside stuff about money, power and sports politics, and start getting a touchy-feely movie about a decent guy who just wants to settle down with his family and his favorite client (Cuba Gooding Jr.). (AB)

Jersey Girl
Full text review.

Jesus' Son
Full text review.

Jet Lag
(R; 91 min.) The French answer to Neil Simon, or is it Nora Ephron? Juliette Binoche plays Rose, a woman who's just walked out on the man she loves; stuck at Charles De Gaulle Airport during a strike, she encounters Félix (Jean Reno), an expatriate Frenchman who lives in the United States and who is back in France on vacation. The prickly pair end up sharing a hotel room. Directed by Daniele Thomson; unseen by our reviewers.

Jeux Interdit
(1952) The easy way to look at this classic (a.k.a. Forbidden Games) is as an antiwar film, since it takes place during the fall of France in June 1940. We see a line of refugees escaping Paris on a narrow road, fighting among themselves in their desperation, harried by Nazi fighter planes. A child is orphaned before our eyes. The sequence is quick, brutal and indelible. But the heart of Forbidden Games isn't a protest against warfare. The film is really about a child's discovery of death. We see our rituals anew, through a child's eyes, and we discover anew how pitifully little we can do to comfort ourselves when facing mortality. The story is about a farmer's boy named Michel Dolle (Georges Poujouly) and a girl only known as Paulette (the unforgettable Brigitte Fossey), the 5-year-old refugee who is more upset by the death of her dog than of her parents. Michel, who discovers the girl alone in the woods, decides to help her bury her pet. Feeling that the animal will be lonely in the ground by itself, the two children start a private cemetery for the insects, rats and baby chicks in the area—their funeral services are the forbidden games referred to in the title. Director Rene Clement (who did Purple Noon, the good version of The Talented Mr. Ripley) has a bugs-and-all view of these farmers' lives; it's a kind of dire rural comedy rarely seen onscreen. The film isn't morbid, however. See Clement's sympathies for the coarse adult lovers in the movie—a foolish deserter and the Dolles' trullish daughter, rutting like the proverbial two peasants in a haystack. Note also Michel's last line to a living pet owl, whom he believes will live a century, when he gives it a present at the end of the film: "Keep this for a hundred years." Clement shows no faith in the resurrection and the life to come. He does, however, show us a life of vividness that's some condolence for our pain and loss. The director's faith in the uncomprehending, gross spirit of life leavens even Forbidden Games' ending of complete tragedy. This movie about death makes you feel lucky to be alive. In French with subtitles. (RvB)

Jewish Film Festival 1998
Full text review.

Jewish Film Festival
Full text review.
The festival includes features, documentaries and shorts. A Healthy Baby Girl (Jul 28; 8:45pm) is Judith Helfand's own story of her bout with cancer caused by the prescription of a fertility drug to her mother. Blacks and Jews (Jul 28; 6:30pm) is a deep, smart, highly recommended documentary about the troubled relationships between these two groups. The pithy French documentary The Abraham File (Jul 29; 6:30pm) charts the conflict between Arabs and Israelis into historical roots that grow more vague the more they're analyzed. A more individual, if less informative, documentary look at the Holy Land is Chronicle of a Disappearance (Jul 29, 9pm). Other films include the Argentinian import Autumn Sun (Jul 31; 9pm); Greta Ferusic/Survival in Sarajevo (Jul 31; 6:30pm), a pair of documentaries about the troubles there; and A Life Apart (Jul 30; 6:30pm), a documentary about the Hassids, the most traditional of all Jews. (RvB)

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
(G; 77 min.) Computer-generated fun for the younger set.

(R; 123 min.) Gabriel Byrne plays one of four fishermen who discover a dead body at their favorite, remote fishing spot. Instead of reporting it, they go about enjoying their weekend. Stewart's wife (Laura Linney) can't understand what he was thinking. Robert Altman already incorporated Raymond Carver's great short story "So Much Water, So Close to Home" into his 1993 masterpiece Short Cuts. With Jindabyne, Australian director Ray Lawrence (Lantana) and writer Beatrix Christian have the luxury of more time to explore it, but instead they merely add several external, superficial elements that misunderstand and circumvent the story's center. They throw in new characters, unwanted pregnancies, near-drownings, a leering serial killer, racism and hate crimes, new "dramatic" dialogue as well as a bizarre, "happy" ending. What a waste. (JMA)

Jingle All the Way
(PG; 89 min.) This comic vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger is unusually candid about the commercialism of the holidays, but so what? At its best, Jingle All the Way is only occasionally funny—mostly thanks to a smarmy supporting role by Phil Hartman. Schwarzenegger portrays Hollywood's favorite new brand of Grinch—the workaholic parent. In a last attempt to be a good father, he sets out on Christmas Eve to purchase a Turbo Man doll, a popular toy which his son desperately wants. Inevitably, there's not a Turbo Man left in any store, a distressing shortage that is compounded for Schwarzenegger by a belligerent postal-worker dad (Sinbad) on the same quest. Although the hellish hunt for a certain toy is likely something parents can relate to, few will appreciate the film's implication that unless the desired plaything is procured, your parenting skills are suspect. The final blow to the would-be humor of the film is a sinking feeling that its slick Turbo Man doll might just appear on toy-store shelves next Christmas. (HZ)

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Full text review.

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