A.I. (PG-13) A film directed by Steven Spielberg based on a long-gestating idea by Stanley Kubrick, A.I. tells us of a little robot boy (Haley Joel Osment) who has troubles adjusting to the human world (and vice versa.) Individual moments in the movie are striking, but A.I. doesn't really hold together, and it never comes to grips with what it really is: a tragedy of epic proportions.
American Outlaws (PG-13) A new comedic twist to an old classic tale of Jesse James and his gang, this time with a cast of young hotties. At least this one might have enough slapstick humor to get you through it.
American Pie 2 (R) You can see the gags coming from Saginaw. The characters are as thin as rice paper, the acting is either terminally bland or hopelessly over the top, and — what's more — AP2 is stingy on the T&A shots. The gang of wacky dudes is back, this time spending summer break at a beach house. Guess what? There are all sorts of sexual hijinks. For real. Jim confuses the lube and the super glue and, y'know, cements his hand to his jimmy 'cause, like, he's strokin' it. Really. Why waste celluloid on this when they could be showing some ass?
America's Sweethearts (PG-13) America's Sweethearts, co-written by and co-starring Billy Crystal, collects an array of funny, sorta-funny and not-particularly-funny vignettes, but never quite congeals into a cohesive story. The laughs come in an ad hoc fashion (provided mostly by Crystal one-liners), not as the byproduct of a cohesive vision. John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones play an estranged married couple whose teaming on hit movies is about to end with one last sci-fi flick. Also stars Julia Roberts.
Atlantis (PG) Disney's latest animated feature is a Jules Verne-ish looking adventure about a group of explorers who discover a civilization beneath the sea. Michael J. Fox, who seems to enjoy this sort of thing, supplies the hero's voice.
Baby Boy (R) Ten years after Boyz N the Hood, director John Singleton revisits his old South Central stomping grounds with less than satisfying results. Singleton's title character is Jody (Tyrese Gibson), a likable but aimless 20-year-old arrested adolescent with no job, commitment issues, two small children by different women, who still lives at home sponging off his mama.
Boys to Men (NR) This latest collection of short, gay-theme films, a la Boy's Life, is a decidedly mixed bag, ranging from the very good to the barely there. The first short, Crush, is a cute little tale about a 12-year-old girl who discovers her 16-year-old boy pal is gay. The second entry, The Mountain King, is a sexually explicit and basically pointless skit about a male hustler seducing a nominally straight guy. The best and most moving of the lot is The Confession, in which an aging man dying of AIDS attempts to make his peace with the Church while not alienating his partner. Not exactly the most earth-shaking stuff you'll ever see, but certainly of the bravest moving pictures appearing on any movie screen in the Bay area this week. At Channelside Cinemas. Call theater to confirm.
Brother (R) For the uninitiated, Takeshi Beat Kitano is not only one of the most popular media personalities and performers in his native Japan, he's also one of the more interesting filmmakers to emerge from that country in years. Brother, Kitano's latest film (and his first made outside of Japan), is not necessarily the best place to begin, though, if you're looking to get a sense of what makes this director so special. This story of a Japanese gangster transplanted in L.A. is filled with Kitano's signature moves — an austere, understated, almost laconic style punctuated by brief, intense flashes of ultra-violence; loads of inscrutable tough guys; and, beneath it all, a tender, visibly beating human heart — but this time out, almost everything (both the violence and the sentimentality) is exaggerated to the point of overkill, the script isn't particularly strong, and the non-English speaking Kitano doesn't seem to have a clue as to how to direct his American actors (at least a few of whom offer up some embarrassing line readings that wouldn't be out of place in an Ed Wood Jr. movie). The film does contain its fair share of pleasures, both visual and narrative, but we expect much more from this filmmaker. Kitano also stars, along with Omar Epps and Claude Maki. Opens Aug. 24 at local theaters.
Bubble Boy(PG-13) A boy who suffers from an immune-deficiency disorder and must live in a germ-free plastic bubble travels cross-country by hook or by crook to get the girl. What begins as a lighthearted comedy with a slightly subversive twist (Jesus-fish cookies and altars to Reagan?) quickly turns to the formula so prevalent in modern screwball comedy — offend everyone so no one can complain. Some real laughs come at the expense of a hit list that includes (but is not limited to) Christians, the physically handicapped, Jews, Hindus, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, senior citizens and rednecks, not to mention those people who actually suffer from juvenile immune deficiency (the parents of the real Bubble Boy, who died at age 12, are calling for a boycott of this movie). The lowbrow humor is nearly forgivable whenever the overly earnest Bubble Boy and his spunky girlfriend flash their baby blues at each other. In all, you're left feeling that, considering how cruel the genre can be, this flick's bark is worse than its bite. Also features several bizarre cameos, including Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from Austin Powers), Fabio and Aretha Franklin.