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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spring Thaw Sets in on the Big Screen

Here is a selection of the latest Hollywood releases.


Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Every body movement and facial tic of Jim Carrey (of "In Living Color" fame) is so broadly exaggerated here, he makes goofy Jim Varney look like stoic Charles Bronson by comparison. A movie centered around as manic a presence as Carrey's sounds like it could be hell, but his starring debut proves surprisingly capable of provoking unexpected giggle fits. The movie is uneven, but his cartoonish inhumanness is nearly heroic.


Beethoven's 2nd. It's just as funny and appealing as "Beethoven" the First. This time the messy St. Bernard falls in love, which potentially means more dogs to rile Charles Grodin's nice but fussy family man. George Newton, who has just gotten used to Beethoven. Debi Mazar is hilarious as the nasty owner of Missy, the object of Beethoven's desires. A family film that can actually be enjoyed by the entire family.


Cool Runnings. Blithe, infectious comedy with serious underpinnings about a Jamaican bobsledding team competing in the Olympics and coached by John Candy. A beautifully crafted film for all ages. With Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis and Malik Yoba.


Death Wish V: The Face of Death. Charles "Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth the Bored" Bronson -- now in his 70s -- returns, more absurdly stoic than ever, for this snoozer 20th-anniversary sequel. Once again, bad things happen to good Bronson mates, though this time his fiancee (Lesley-Anne Down) is the victim of a crime lord (Michael Parks), causing the hero to rack down and eliminate the New York mafia, all six of 'em.


Geronimo: An American Legend. A handsome and respectful Western that wants to echo and modernize the myths of the past, the latest film from director Walter Hill is most impressive as a physical piece of filmmaking but it is difficult to warm up to on an emotional level. Wes Studi is especially fierce as the legendary Apache war chief who hated to be fenced in and forced the Army to chase him all over the Southwest.


The Getaway. Roger Donaldson does a respectable job directing the shootouts, but the best reason to see this remake of the Sam Peckinpah film are Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger standing in for Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw as partners in crime. Featuring romantic scenes that will make interesting viewing for future grandchildren, these two have a chemistry that brings a pleasant buzz to the proceedings.


Heaven and Earth. In his third film on Vietnam, Oliver Stone's point of view (that of nearly four decades of cataclysmic life experience for a Vietnamese woman) is different, but his overwrought storytelling style remains unchanged. Though the passion and verve Stone brings to filmmaking are enviable, one wishes his hectoring style left more room for trusting the audience.


I'll Do Anything. Part romantic comedy, part skewering of Hollywood, part tribute to actors and part prickly father-daughter relationship, the first film by writer-director James L. Brooks in seven years is too many parts in search of a whole. Funny, well-acted (especially by Nick Nolte, Albert Brooks and newcomer Whittni Wright) and filled with laugh-out-loud moments though it is, it is a triumph of individual parts that falls short of overall satisfaction.


My Father, the Hero. Gerard Depardieu is enjoyable trying to get his mouth around the English language in this otherwise tepid farce about a 14-year-old on vacation with her dad (Depardieu) who pretends he's her lover to get a boy jealous. Smarmy premise.


My Girl 2. Only for those who really enjoyed "My Girl." Anna Chlumsky is once again the adorable malcontent who, in this sequel, goes in search of the Mother She Never Knew.


My Life. Written and directed by "Ghost" screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin and attempting to deal with big picture issues like life and death in a tale of an L.A. adman (Michael Keaton) who is dying of cancer as his wife (Nicole Kidman) prepares for the birth of their first child. If this sounds glib, manipulative and sappy, you have no idea.


The Pelican Brief. Although it's taken from a thriller by John Grisham and stars Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, this story of the aftermath of a pair of Supreme Court assassinations is never more than sporadically exciting. Especially when compared to the better-acted version of Grisham's "The Firm," this is more fizzle than sizzle.


Reality Bites. The most appealing film yet about the nameless post-collegiate generation, this romantic comedy starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller (who makes his directing debut) is cheerful, edgy and alive. A traditional triangle detailing the rivalry for one woman's affection, it is turned by Helen Childress' clever and clear-eyed script and Stiller's direction into a natural and assured piece of business.


Schindler's List. A most unlikely director, Steven Spielberg, tells the quietly devastating story of the most unlikely of Holocaust heroes, Oskar Schindler, a sensualist, gambler and war profiteer who rescued 1,100 Jews and ended up the only Nazi Party member to be buried in Jerusalem's Mount Zion cemetery. Put together with care, emotion and restraint, this is as good a fiction film on the Holocaust as we are likely to get.


Shadowlands. Anthony Hopkins is excellent in this adaptation of William Nicholson's play about the love affair between C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, played here by Debra Winger. It's a high-class weepie that doesn't do justice to Gresham's life so much as it canonizes Lewis', so Winger seems constrained. She's playing the sacrificial angel, but she has some power anyway.


Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Given the success of the first film, it was inevitable that Whoopi Goldberg and those darn nuns would come back again, but the thrill is definitely gone. More warm-hearted than funny, the sequel details how Sister Mary Clarence turns a bunch of kids into a passionate choir.


The Three Musketeers. The Brat Pack does it to Dumas. Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, plus Charlie O'Donnell and Oliver Platt star in this inane reworking of the old warhorse about All For One and One For All. Lots of horseplay and posturing but the only sharp moments come from Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu. He wipes everyone else off the screen.