About the only purpose this DC Comics adaptation serves is to answer that age-old question: What would an Ed Wood movie look like had the hack auteur ever been handed a sizable studio budget? The answer is that he probably would have spent all the money and yet still produced something as cheap-looking -- and as unintentionally funny -- as Catwoman. Only time will tell if this dud will become a camp classic on the order of Myra Breckinridge or Showgirls or Woods own Plan 9 From Outer Space, but for now, it will have to content itself with being the best bad movie of the summer. Halle Berry stars as mousy Patience Phillips, whos murdered after she discovers that a new facial cream about to hit the streets is actually hazardous to ones health. But she soon finds herself resurrected as Catwoman, a leather-clad, whip-wielding dominatrix who looks like the star attraction on an S&M website. Once Berry suits up, the movie enters MST3K territory and never looks back. In any event, cat lovers will be horrified by this film -- does PETA handle defamation suits?
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY **1/2
Even more than 2002s The Bourne Identity, this second installment (based on the Robert Ludlum bestseller) slips into a worn groove as familiar as the repetitive template for, say, the Friday the 13th series (slice, dice, wince, repeat). So by the umpteenth time I watched Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) evade his pursuers by stealing a car or climbing onto a rooftop or rigging some makeshift electronic device, I felt like the needle had gotten permanently stuck in that groove. Thats not to say I didnt enjoy many parts of the film, but it doesnt strike me as being much more than an adequate piece of workmanship; its the same reaction I had to its predecessor, a movie that admittedly everyone else liked more than me. Here, Damons ex-CIA assassin is even more tight-lipped than before; without girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente, former co-star reduced to cameo player) to bounce off, hes a rather one-dimensional figure, going through the motions as he tries to find out whos framing him for murder and theft. The movie culminates with a sloppily edited car chase that goes on for so long that I had to be reminded: Was Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne or Sheriff Buford T. Justice?
LITTLE BLACK BOOK **
Is it possible for an actress to out-twinkle Meg Ryan? In movie after movie, Ryan too often falls back on those mannerisms that once endeared her to Middle America: that lopsided grin, that crinkling of the nose, that squinting of the eyes. Brittany Murphy has apparently not only learned from the champ but has also supplanted her: This rising actress trots out so many adorable tics during the course of this film that she ends up making Ryan in Sleepless In Seattle seem as dour as Anne Ramsey in Throw Momma From the Train. Shes a cutie for sure, but 90 minutes of watching her declare her fabulousness is ultimately as exhausting as jogging to Nashville and back. Its better to focus on the excellent performances by Holly Hunter and Julianne Nicholson, the primary reasons that this mean-spirited comedy can be tolerated at all.
> THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE ***
The sooner some realities regarding this remake are accepted by fans of the 1962 version, the sooner they can settle down and enjoy the film. This isnt a masterpiece like the 62 edition, which still reigns as one of the finest thrillers ever made. Meryl Streep, while quite good, cant touch Angela Lansburys bone-chilling portrayal of evil disguised as matronly concern; likewise, solid Liev Schreiber doesnt quite match Lawrence Harveys multilayered performance as her tortured son. And a newly added plot twist will have audience members choking on their popcorn, but it leads to a disappointing conclusion that doesnt make sense no matter how its dissected. But in most other respects, this new Candidate is that rare remake that paves its own way without exploiting or cheapening its predecessor.
THE VILLAGE **
M. Night Shyamalan, whos absurdly been compared to Alfred Hitchcock more than once, would do well to learn from The Master. As a director, Shyamalan has a distinct visual style, and there are scenes in The Village that shimmer with an eerie beauty. But as a writer, hes becoming a parody of himself: Eager to top the climactic twist of The Sixth Sense, he has masterminded three subsequent movies in which (unlike Sense) the "gotcha!" endings seem to be the only reason for their existence. The Village isnt really much worse than Unbreakable or the silly Signs, but Shyamalans carny act already feels like its decades old -- its a shame, because some good ideas are squandered in a muddled thriller that ends up duping itself. William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and promising newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard (Rons daughter) are among those playing the residents of a 19th century burg thats surrounded by woods containing fearsome monsters. As long as the townspeople stay put, theres no danger, but one inquisitive citizen (Joaquin Phoenix) toys with the idea of overstepping the boundaries.