I had a pleasant time with this comedy about light witchery and even lighter bitchery. If you like Nicole Kidman, you might enjoy her here (she reminded me of Tuesday Weld), and even if you usually find Will Ferrell obnoxious, you might appreciate him hyping rather than trying to minimize his boorishness. Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine are a bit less at ease, but the special effects, for once, are witty rather than overblown, and director Nora Ephron, writing with her sister Delia, handles the material with grace and confidence. PG-13, 100 min. (JR)
From the Chicago Reader (June 24, 2005). — J.R.
Steven Spielberg’s shamelessly hokey version of the 1898 H.G. Wells yarn about murderous invaders from outer space starts off as a nimble scare show like Jaws. The special effects are good, and Tom Cruise isn’t bad as an alienated father fleeing with his kids. But such virtues are overtaken by a surfeit of narrow escapes and meaningful reflections about people’s behavior in war, complete with allusions to 9/11 and the Holocaust. Spielberg’s calculations turn out to be more prominent than any effects they could possibly produce, and the less pretentious 1953 version by producer George Pal emerges as more likable. With Tim Robbins, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, and Morgan Freeman in the offscreen James Earl Jones ”This is CNN” role. PG-13, 118 min. (JR)
Head transplants, etc. Victor Trivas directed this dubbed 1959 German horror item, originally known as Die Nackte und der Satan. With Horst Frank, Karin Kernkew, andwhat’s he doing here?the great Swiss actor Michel Simon. 97 min. (JR)
Also known as Samaria, this 2004 feature by Korean cult director Kim Ki-duk comes across like a grotesque parody, but there are signs that Kim means us to take it seriously. Two teenage girls (Seo Min-jeong and Kwak Ji-min), who enjoy soaping each another in a photogenic bathhouse, take up prostitution to earn air tickets to Europe. Kwak, who pimps for her friend, is distressed when the girl seems to enjoy her work; after Seo dies in a tragic accident, Kwak begins having sex with all their former clients in order to capture her friend’s bliss, meanwhile paying back all the money. Needless to say, there’s also violence and redemption galore. In Korean with subtitles. R, 95 min. (JR)