Christopher Null Reviews:

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion - Fathers' Day - Chasing Amy
A Chef in Love - The Fifth Element - Addicted to Love
Night Falls on Manhattan - Lost World: Jurassic Park

Night Falls on Manhattan
3 stars - Average, Hits and Misses

With Night Falls on Manhattan, Sidney Lumet has created one of the most dedicated issue movies in a long time. As a high-profile, yet righteous, defense attorney (a first in modern film), Richard Dreyfuss's character admits that he took an unwinnable case because he wanted to expose corruption in the NYPD. Lumet seems to have created an unwinnable film for similar reasons.

Lumet has taken a very bare-bones approach with the plot of Night Falls on Manhattan. One minute Andy Garcia's Sean Casey is an assistant DA trainee, the next minute he is the District Attorney of New York. Likewise, the first twenty minutes of the film set up a courtroom drama which Lumet flies through in a series of quick scenes. Unconventional editing techniques, including periodic jump cuts and abrupt truncations of scenes that barely seem to have begun, help push the narrative forward, all of which serves to confuse the audience as to the film's true focus.

Ultimately, it becomes clear that the goal of this hectic structure is to unfold a series of issues for the audience. Lumet confronts us with tough questions at every turn: Who do we blame for police corruption? To whom is a lawyer most responsible, the law or his family? How much can we share with the people we love? Lumet packs it in, and he does so by creating several only-in-Hollywood coincidences. For example, Garcia happens to be in the right place to try the case of the drug dealer that shot his father. The perfect woman for Garcia also just happens to work for a lawyer on the other side.

The issues and questions that Lumet poses are powerful, but his plot manipulation and acceleration for the sake of these issues hurts his bid to satisfy a sophisticated audience. In his need to get in and out of every scene in half the time that it should take to develop, Lumet seems to have resorted to a short-hand form of directing his actors. At every emotional point in the story, one character invariably begins yelling. Lumet is obviously trying to make a point that such issues lead to uniform short-temperedness, but the consistency of these outbursts prevents us from distinguishing the different character's personalities.

With this subject matter, Lumet is obviously trying to make a gritty, un-Hollywood picture. The sets (such as a courtroom modeled after Lance Ito's instead of Perry Mason's) and the overwhelmingly drab color of the film beg us to look at it as a slice of realism. However, the plot twists and flat characters confound this attempt to make an intelligent film. Lena Olin, miscast and unbelievable as Andy Garcia's love interest, portrays the most awkward character. Not until the end of the film does it become clear that her character is actually in love with Garcia's, when the plot resolution tells us so.

An audience looking for a traditional Hollywood courtroom drama will be taken aback by Night Falls on Manhattan. Nevertheless, it brings with it some powerful questions which a thoughtful audience will want addressed. In the end, the film's uncomfortable blend of Hollywood conventions and complex subject matter will have a hard time finding its audience among the main-stream majority of moviegoers that are only looking for answers.

More info about Night Falls on Manhattan at the Internet Movie Database

The Lost World: Jurassic Park
3 stars - Average, Hits and Misses

Well, it ain't Schindler's List.

With his highly anticipated Jurassic Park sequel, Steven Spielberg grubs through the filmmaking archives for every plot device, camera trick, and clichéd scene you can think of, and rolls it into one big mess. Only with dinosaurs. Lots of 'em!

With the low-angle, out-of-focus, washed-out photography, it looks like Spielberg slapped this thing together on his weekends away from DreamWorks. The result is a film that's mostly painful to watch save for a few big action sequences (admittedly impressive) and a finale that other critics are certain to ruin for you.

The Lost World (plot: more dinosaurs) follows the "Action! -- s-l-o-w exposition -- Action! -- s-l-o-w exposition" sequence of events, an exercise which really bogs down the beginning of the film, and combined with just plain goofy plot development (hunters on motorcycles? patching a baby T. Rex's broken leg?) robs the movie of any real terror. Not even Julianne Moore -- probably best known for being my favorite actress -- can help much. So to compensate, Spielberg calls for many, many automobiles to be toppled over.

Throw in your sequel-begging ending (don't do it!) and you've got the makings of a franchise headed the way of Spielberg's first big monster movie -- Jaws. Jurassic Park 3-D, anyone? I didn't think so.

More info about The Lost World: Jurassic Park at the Internet Movie Database

Addicted to Love
Four Stars: Good, Memorable film

The idea of a "revenge comedy" naturally appeals to my dark side, and I've always been a Matthew Broderick fan -- so what could keep me from getting out to this little film? Not much. Not the fact that the first act feels like it was put together while the writer was under anesthetic. Not the fact that the film's editing is better described as butchery. Not the fact that Broderick as a hick astronomer is a bit far-fetched. Not the fact that Kelly Preston is an unbelievable bore to watch.

No, none of this could keep me from laughing at the hysterics of Broderick and Meg Ryan trying to win back and irrevocably destroy their respective lovers. While Addicted to Love has more gaping plot holes than you can shake a stick at, it's still awfully funny when it wants to be, largely carried on the shoulders of Broderick's natural charm and a cast of thousands (of roaches). And Meg Ryan ain't bad, either.

More info about Addicted to Love at the Internet Movie Database

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