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The San Diego Union-Tribune

 
Lee Grant's Outtakes

Ravings, rants, quirks and quibbles from a movies maniac.

June 18, 2004

> TRAVEL WARNING

"The Terminal," set at New York's JFK Airport, never takes off.

This manipulative motion picture focuses on a sweet Eastern European traveler stuck indefinitely in the international passenger's lounge after his country is overrun while he's in the air.

Tom Hanks has one of his least convincing roles as a heavily accented (exactly what kind of accent is that?), middle-aged innocent from a made-up country called Krakozhia.

Director Steven Spielberg, Hanks's real-life pal, has done him no favors. The two collaborated on the extraordinary "Saving Private Ryan," but Spielberg can't save Hanks from a messy, incoherent performance, or the film from being crushed by clichés.

There is, however, Catherine Zeta-Jones finding something deeper in her portrayal of a frighteningly lonely, aging flight attendant. Now there's your movie.

> 'WIVES' TALE

Such a terrific actress, Nicole Kidman is – "The Human Stain," "Cold Mountain," an Oscar for "The Hours." In "The Stepford Wives," she's wasted.

Such a terrific entertainer, Bette Midler is – her "Kiss My Brass" tour (that stopped here in February) displaying once again her unique Divine Miss M talent as singer and comedian. In "The Stepford Wives," she's wasted.

This remake about the robotic wives of "Stepford" ("America's community – no crime, no poverty, no pushing") turns Kidman and Midler into robotic actresses. Amid the burgeoning women's movement, the chilling 1975 original had something serious to say about men being threatened. The current film loses the edge and plays it for laughs (often at the expense of a gay couple). It isn't funny.

> 'WORLD' VIEW

"Around the World in 80 Days" is a remake that works – a witty, easygoing, enjoyable trip thanks to Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan.

Coogan, the engaging British actor (his vignette with Alfred Molina in Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes" is one of that unusual movie's best) partners well with Chan who, at 50, still thrills with his own martial arts stunts.

And everywhere you look, there's a recognizable face – Luke and Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates, Rob Schneider, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gov. Arnold in full regalia as a Turkish monarch with a harem of wives ("one for each day of the week") is reason enough to go "Around the World in 80 Days."

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