GOOD BOY! (PG) Kiddie comedy about a boy and his dog, who turns out to be an alien from the dog star Sirius. The movie's pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get affair, which mostly means lots of precocious, talking animals wreaking havoc in the neighborhood, in between bonding with their humans. The movie has its heart firmly in the right place, and young Liam Aiken is quite good in the lead human role, but don't expect much beyond that. Production values are so-so at best, fart jokes abound, and, with one or two exceptions, the dogs featured in the film aren't exactly the cutest critters on the planet. Worst of all, the actors providing the pooches' voices, beginning with Matthew Broderick, don't provide much personality. Also stars Kevin Nealon and Molly Shannon. 1/2
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (PG-13) Epic (and reportedly nearly word-for-word), three-hour telling of the Gospel of John, in which the adult Jesus meets opposition as he attempts to bring his ministry to the people. Stars Henry Ian Cusick, Richard Lintern and Stephen Russell. (Not Reviewed)
THE HUMAN STAIN (R) Nicole Kidman stars as a troubled bit of white trash having a fling with an older man (Anthony Hopkins) who's got troubles and secrets of his own. None of these secrets are all that surprising, though, and the movie never really establishes a voice or even a coherent narrative, rambling back and forth between clumsy flashbacks and scattershot tidbits about various characters. Kidman and Hopkins are woefully miscast, the movie's rife with hackneyed symbolism, and the Big Secret upon which the whole thing hinges (not divulged until over midway through) is so ludicrous that I'm tempted to give it away, simply because I can. In the end, it's that scariest of all movies you'll see this Halloween — something that's simply horribly, horribly boring. Also stars Gary Sinise. 1/2
IN THE CUT (R) Jane Campion's latest movie is either a thriller passing itself off as an art film, or vice versa, but either way you look at it, it fails. Meg Ryan, trademark perkiness all but obliterated, stars as a seriously neurotic woman hanging out with a variety of creepy men, almost any one of whom might be the serial killer menacing the city. The camera flits about as if suffering from ADD, relentlessly sucking up all the urban garbage in sight, and every frame of the film looks like it's been smeared with Vaseline. There's some major heavy breathing going on here too, but none of it's designed for comfort or pleasure, and director Campion (The Piano, Portrait of a Lady) never manages to make any sort of meaningful or interesting connections between the sex and violence. All that finally surfaces here is a view of human nature that's simply grubby for the sake of being grubby. Generic thriller or faux-art film, In the Cut is the sort of movie that makes you feel dirty watching it, as if you'd accidentally walked in on someone in the bathroom and then stayed a moment too long. Also stars Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (PG-13) A slick divorce lawyer (George Clooney) butts heads with a sexy gold digger (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in the Coen Brothers' attempt at blending their quirky sensibilities with what sounds very much like a mainstream romantic comedy. Also stars Geoffrey Rush. (Not Reviewed)
KILL BILL — VOL. 1 (R) In Tarantino's long-anticipated new movie, the cool influences are no longer merely influences; they're the whole show. Kill Bill is a shrine to movies — a high-octane blend of mostly Japanese and Hong Kong chopsocky, with a little spaghetti western thrown in for good measure — with Uma Thurman as a pissed-off super-assassin killing everyone who's done her wrong. Gone even are the elaborately clever monologues that made Tarantino's reputation. Kill Bill might have been designed with fan boys in mind, but the bulk of this unabashedly bloody, beautifully made film should prove equally eye-popping and/or offensive to everyone. Also stars Lucy Liu, David Carradine and Vivica A. Fox.
LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (PG) A blend of live action and cartoon craziness that, while not up to Who Framed Roger Rabbit standards, is certainly several steps up from Space Jam. The basic scenario here is simply a series of predictably frenetic chases — Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman join Daffy and Bugs in a mad race to locate a valuable diamond — but director Joe Dante infuses the project with more than enough clever pop culture references to keep the boomers happy. The mood wavers between tribute and subversion, and there are nods to everything from cartoon characters past and present, '50s sci-fi monsters, and even a shot-for-shot spoof of the famous shower scene from Psycho. Legendary B-movie king Roger Corman shows up at one point (directing a Batman movie, of all things), and the scene where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs and Daffy through the paintings of the Louvre is a simply glorious display of imagination. The scene only lasts a few minutes, but it's every bit the equal of those classic Looney Tunes of yore. Also stars Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton and Joan Cusak. Opens Nov 14 at local theaters.