Changing Lanes -- Roger Michell, the director of Notting Hill, shows another side to his sensibility with this rich, masterful story of two men -- cocky lawyer Ben Affleck and weary insurance salesman and alcoholic Samuel L. Jackson -- who collide on a New York expressway and proceed to try destroying each other over the course a day. While plotted and directed with the vitality of a Hollywood high-concept picture, the real concerns of Changing Lanes hark back to a more European kind of cinema. Each image, each scene, reinforces what chaos may come if we choose to violate our social covenants -- ranging from marriage to law to simple politeness. It comes within a whisper of greatness. (RP) RATED R
Frailty -- A resolutely old-fashioned fright-show about a father's madness being passed on to his sons, with a few axe murders along the way, Frailty is a worthy directorial debut by actor Bill Paxton. The picture also succeeds with immaculate casting down to the smallest roles and a richly grimy look that's too Texas for words, courtesy of master cinematographer Bill Butler. (RP) RATED R
Kandahar -- Gorgeous, surreal but all-too-real, Kandahar is the story of an Afghan woman's return to her homeland while the Taliban are still in power. Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is one of the great contemporary Iranian filmmakers, and this desert-set road movie is filled with the starkness of documentary and the troubling beauty of dreams. (RP) Not Rated. Three nights only at the Met, April 16-18.
Kissing Jessica Stein -- Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) just can't find Mr. Right, and very much wants -- needs -- to. Helen (Heather Jurgensen) has plenty of men, but suddenly has a yen to try women. So begins this breezy, funny story of experiments in lesbianism. But the film's message is a mixed one, and it's hard to tell whether the writers (who are also the leads) approve, disapprove or have no opinions about the lifestyle. There are also some deliberately raunchy moments that really stick out uncomfortably, but the jazz vocal soundtrack is a keeper. Buy the CD. (ES) RATED: R
The Other Side of Heaven -- The Other Side of Heaven chronicles the real life story of John H. Groberg (Christopher Gorham), a young man from Idaho Falls who takes an assignment as a missionary to the remote Tongan Islands in the South Pacific. In doing so he leaves behind everything familiar, including his family and his childhood sweetheart (Anne Hathaway). RATED: PG
The Sweetest Thing -- Director Roger Kumble fumbles this one. After the amusing sleaze of Cruel Intentions, Kumble, a protege of the Farrelly Brothers, wades into their territory with this San Francisco-set bit of cynicism about the dating scene. This film manages to make Cameron Diaz unlikable, to waste Selma Blair and to find only a truly grown-up Christina Applegate emerging from the wreckage. (RP) RATED R
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted.
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