Basic -- An Army training session in a hurricane-swept Panama jungle goes terribly awry. People are dead, missing, refusing to talk, etc. Ex-Army Ranger John Travolta is called in to figure out what happened, but his new partnership with by-the-books lieutenant Connie Nielsen gets in the way. As do the twisting, turning revelations of events from many different perspectives. The film is fun to try to figure out, even if the final answer doesn't quite satisfy. (ES) Rated R
The Core -- The Earth is in trouble again, this time because its core has stopped spinning, resulting in firestorms, international landmarks toppling and pigeons flying amok. The solution is to jump-start it by tunneling down to its core and setting off explosions. The film is sort of old-fashioned, kind of idiotic, complemented by visual effects that look like visual effects. Also starring Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart. (ES) Rated PG-13
Head of State -- You'd think Chris Rock had never seen a movie, let alone a political satire. Many comics say their lives changed, their perspective on the possibility of comedy, after Rock shed the SNL curse and crafted his politicized persona. Rock blows just about every hope you'd have for him as he plays the first African-American to run for president. Nothing is plausible about the politics in the script, which makes the satire go flat. Underbudgeted, badly lit, sloppily edited and deeply unfunny, it almost seems like a conspiracy to derail his career. With Bernie Mac and, in a truly cruel running gag, Robin Givens. (RP) Rated: PG-13
Lost in La Mancha -- Freak floods. High winds. Fighter jets. Prostate inflammation. What more can stop the making of Terry Gilliam's long-in-the-works vision of Cervantes' Don Quixote? Insurance adjusters, it turns out. Lost in La Mancha is Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's thrilling, damn entertaining quixotic tragicomedy of a Gilliam film that goes straight to hell in its first week of production. Fulton and Pepe were on hand as the $30 million project detonated under the weight of most every nightmare a filmmaker could dream up. Neatly structured, it captures Gilliam's great enthusiasm, willingness to be shown in any circumstance, and the years of dreaming over a film he still hopes to make. (RP) Rated: R. Showing at the Met Cinema on Tuesday, April 1, Wednesday, April 2, and Thursday, April 3.
Spirited Away -- Spirited Away is the year's best film. When her parents are transformed into swine, Chihiro is trapped in a mystical bathhouse where the spirits of things like radishes and rivers come to cleanse themselves of their encounters with humans. The visuals may be the greatest ever committed to film, and Chihiro is heart-rendingly credible. This is not a children's film that adults will also enjoy -- everyone will be transported. In English. Rated: PG (Marty Demarest)
& lt;i & Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted. & lt;/i &
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Publication date: 03/27/03