Each week Mike McGranaghan, film critic for Gamut Magazine will give you brief reviews of films currently playing in the Central Susquehanna Valley....from WKOK/WQKX.


Anaconda is a throwback to those cheesy old horror movies of the 50's and 60's. A film crew traveling down a jungle river is attacked by a 40-foot supersnake and kidnapped by a bizarre snake hunter (played with chutzpah by Jon Voight). Voight is intent on capturing the snake, but he is not successful; people start getting eaten left and right. The creature in the film never looks real. In close-ups, you can see it's just a big piece of rubber. In long shots, you can easily tell it's computer generated. Yet, oddly enough, that's part of the fun. Anaconda is meant to be a little silly, a little off-the-wall. The fact that the beast is fakey while still being gross somehow works in the movie's favor. Also, there is one moment of sheer cinematic brilliance (which I won't reveal). It marks the last time we see Voight in the film, and what happens sent the audience into an ecstatic roar of approval. Believe me when I say that this scene alone is worth the admission price. Anaconda is not necessarily a good movie, but it is certainly an entertaining movie, as long as you approach it with a sense of humor. (3 stars)

The Saint

The Saint is a misfire of epic proportions, an early candidate for my list of the year's worst films. Val Kilmer plays Simon Templar, an international thief who dons numerous disguises and fake voices, yet always looks and sounds unmistakably like Val Kilmer. He is hired by the Russian mafia to steal the formula for cold fusion from an American scientist (Elisabeth Shue), but after going to bed with her, he experiences a temporary crisis of conscience. Should he forego the big paycheck and stay with her, or rip her off and risk never sleeping with her again? He opts for the latter, which leads to a ridiculous scene later on where Shue says she'd have given him the formula if he'd only asked. Yeah, right. So much of The Saint is bogged down by double-dealings, hazy characters, and incomprehensible bits of foreign intrigue. None of it is the least bit entertaining. The film has been poorly directed by Philip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger), who commits the ultimate sin for an action movie: he makes it boring. The writing and acting are also bad, with Kilmer in particular giving a smug performance. He appears to find his costumes and accents endlessly amusing, when in fact, they are repetitive and dull. The only thing that makes The Saint watchable is its own badness: there are times when it lapses into the area of unintentional comedy. But don't mistake that for a recommendation. This Saint is a sinner indeed. (1 1/2 stars)

The Return of the Jedi: Special Edition

The third and final installment in the Star Wars trilogy is also the weakest, often falling into the realm of the too-cutesy. Fortunately, there are plenty of spectacular action sequences to compensate for that weakness. It is in this film that we learn the truth about Darth Vader's relation to Luke Skywalker, as good and evil stage their last thrilling battle. The enhanced visual effects are impressive, especially a post-victory flight through Cloud City. The Return of the Jedi may not have the originality of Star Wars or the dark drama of The Empire Strikes Back, but it remains an entertaining and satisfying conclusion to a movie masterpiece. (3 1/2 stars)

Liar Liar

After the disappointment of last summer's (underrated) The Cable Guy, Jim Carrey returns to the kind of manic off-the-wall slapstick he does best in Liar Liar. He plays Fletcher Reede, a sleazy attorney who can endlessly manipulate the truth to succeed in court. He is also a divorced dad whose 5-year old son constantly feels let down by Reede's broken promises. On his birthday, the boy makes a wish that - for one day - his father would not be able to tell a lie. The wish comes true, and Fletcher finds himself unable to prevent the truth from leaving his mouth. Carrey has a lot of fun with the role, saying the most unbelievably inappropriate things to people (when someone breaks wind in a crowded elevator, he uncontrollably confesses, "It was me!"). The character, appalled by his inability to lie, then begins physically beating himself up in an effort to revert back to his lying self. The script of Liar Liar isn't much, and Jim Carrey is probably the only person who could make this work. But work it does, thanks to Carrey's hilarious gifts for physical and verbal comedy. (3 stars)

Additional and in depth reviews of current films by Mike McGranaghan may be found at Gamut