The Summer’s Hottest Movies

(The Daily Texan Online)

Amidst the clashing of light sabers and the slight hush of web swinging, a wonderful little movie made its mark in the early summer going. About A Boy, the second adaptation of a Nick Hornby book that far outclassed its print companion, delighted much of the movie-going public and continued the revitalization of Hugh Grant’s career.

About a Boy is a story of a single man in his late 30s who learns that his perfect life of gadgets, DVDs, cars and womanizing is missing something when an 11-year-old boy befriends him. It is rare to find a film that is both heartwarming and completely funny at the same time. The chemistry between Grant’s Will and Nicholas Hoult’s Marcus was probably the best pairing of the summer and the most memorable. Underscored by a brilliant soundtrack composed by British folkie Badly Drawn Boy, that should be around during Oscar time, About a Boy rose above the tedium of the summer movie popcornfest.

-Ashok Chandra

As a film critic, there’s always an urge to cite a “meaningful film” as the No. 1 pick on your “Best of” list – I mean, God forbid the black-clad, latte-drinking, goatee-sporting cineaste snobs of the world accuse you of slumming it. And it just so happens that there’s plenty to pick from this year; from Lovely and Amazing to The Fast Runner, the steamier months have certainly shouldered their fair share of arthouse-chic filmmaking. Personally, I say save those snoozers for Oscar season: The entertaining epitome of summer movie mania is none other than Goldmember, a no-holds-barred laugh riot sprung from the mind of Mike Myers, the ultimate cinematic Anglophile.

If the first two Austin Powers films can be described as postmodern, then Goldmember is post-postmodern, a slightly dumbed-down younger brother of The Simpsons. Perhaps this is why the film is so darn funny – it nudges us after every one of its perfectly executed in-jokes.

Of course, it’s more likely that Goldmember is funny because it perpetrates almost every joke in the book; perhaps they don’t always work, but you’ve got to admire a film willing to take that risk. But have no fear Powers enthusiasts: When the hijinks hit their high point, I guarantee no movie will make you giggle more ferociously.

– Erin Steele

These days, we can’t escape the reminders of the pounds we’ve packed on lately or what color our hair should be this season. Is it any wonder that people believe in these ubiquitous images of perfection? But, moping about our imperfections blinds us to the humor and comfort that lie in recognizing and celebrating it. Lovely and Amazing calls attention to and forgives our uneven breasts, our lack of artistic success, our kinky hair and wrinkled skin.

Notable performances by Catherine Keener and the young Raven Goodwin lend sass, depth and believability to an amusingly odd storyline. Unlike many plots, the women in this film never get what they want, if they knew what they wanted in the first place. Worse, none of them is very attractive, intelligent or talented, and seemingly nothing works out because of it. As these women consistently fail, it becomes logical for them to fall in love with the wrong men – even those 19 years their junior – and to use a liposuction procedure as a method to seduce.

These women are imperfect by any measure, yet in the end they – and we – are still laughing. In its unglorified, unpretentious simplicity Lovely and Amazing is this summer’s best bet.

-Cindy Kim

The Kid Stays in the Picture is a voyeuristic look into the seamy and glamourous life of infamous Hollywood producer Robert Evans known for screen credits like Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story and The Godfather. Old photos straight from Evans’ annals come to life as special digital after-effects technology make the photos almost 3-D. The film resembles a VH1 Behind the Music as Evans himself narrates his own rise, fall and redemption.

Found poolside by Norma Shearer, the wife of film mogul Irving Thalberg, to play her husband in the 1957 Man of a Thousand Faces, Evans began his career as a B-rate actor. Later, Evans was chosen as the role of bullfighter Pedro Romero in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. When everyone, including Hemingway, wanted Evans out of the film, Producer Darryl Zanuck said, “The kid stays in the picture.” From then on, Evans wanted to be the guy who got to make those decisions.

Plagued with the “D” word, the film defies typical documentary style with its glitzy presentation that emulates Evans’ larger-than-life persona. Forget about any semblance of objectivity as most documentaries strive for (an Evans quote prefaces the movie and explains there are three sides of the story), The Kid Stays in the Picture presents Evans’ side, which is definitely the most entertaining.

-Jennifer Prestigiacomo

Road to Perdition can be summed up in three words: Oscar, Oscar, Oscar! Between a three-generation cast of Oscar sweethearts – Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law – and American Beauty Oscar- winning director Sam Mendes, it would have been extremely difficult for these A-listers to have made a film anything less than superb.

Amongst the trite, frivolous slop that was flung onto screens throughout the summer of 2002, (Scooby-Doo and Juwanna Mann C’mon!), Perdition, with its delicate, concise script and tragic, Godfather-esque, shoot-em-out scenes, was precisely the elegant, gritty, heartfelt drama for which I had been longing.

Aside from Hanks’ highly believable, conflicted turn as violent hit man Michael Sullivan and Newman’s fiery performance as Mob boss John Rooney, Law plays killer/crime photographer Harlen Maguire, to a deliciously slimy perfection. Incredibly captivating, Law’s evil, Oswald-like performance of the bounty hunter is one, among many Perdition nominations, sure to be on Oscar ballots.

If you only see one movie from the summer 2002, Road to Perdition absolutely must be your first choice.

-Jennifer Barron

Not many people go to the movies these days wanting to get the bejeezus scared out of them, myself included, but that didn’t stop me from loving every minute of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. From the onset of the movie the audience is greeted with the screaming of a little child. While I’ll tell you that this is the first of many gasps and screams, I dare not tell you more. Indeed, the less you know about the movie before seeing it the better off you are. Signs borrows from many genres, most notably science fiction and horror, but despite the obviously strong science fiction elements, most strongly resembles the latter.

Shyamalan has perfect timing in Signs; he knows when to make us tense, when to break the tension with a laugh, and when to make us jump up and spill our $5 buckets of popcorn.

While some have criticized the ending for leaving questions unanswered or for being overly preachy, I find the majority of these criticisms to be true testaments to the film. After all, when was the last time a horror movie actually had the potential to make you think? To those of you worried that Shyamalan is running out of steam, don’t lose any sleep over it. Following The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable with something of this quality is one of the sure “signs” that Shyamalan will continue reinventing, innovating and just generally telling great stories.

-Justin Webb

In 1986, Unfaithful would have been a dream project because it was something besides what it stood for today. At the time, Adrian Lyne was a director who could entertainingly uninhibit American audiences with films like Flashdance and 9 1/2 Weeks. Richard Gere was one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood, and Diane Lane was one of the most talented. But in 2002, their promise had faded along with their careers, as Lyne drifted into oblivion with a straight-to-cable remake of Lolita, Gere was booed at last year’s Concert for New York after trying to apply his Tibetan beliefs to the aftermath of Sept. 11, and Lane made several bad decisions before making a mild comeback in 2000’s The Perfect Storm. Unfaithful was supposed to be a lot of things, and as it is, it stands as one of this summer’s very best films.

Based on the French suspense master Claude Chabrol’s 1968 La Femme Infidele, Unfaithful, which is about a bored housewife’s affair horribly gone awry, benefited from Lyne’s ability to make things as steamy onscreen as they were outside in the summer heat. Yet Lane, who gave the performance of the year so far in the film as the conflicted housewife Connie, is the primary reason why the film smolders.

Though the film’s refreshingly ambivalent climax and well-written script by Bill Broyles and Alvin Sargent were reasons enough to see the film, the brunt of Unfaithful rests on Lane’s shoulders and she pulls off a truly magnificent performance in a truly magnificent, unexpectedly so, film.

-Stephen Saito

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