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Ooey and Gooey

Considering the possibilities of K-PAX and My First Mister, plus 13 Ghosts.


In the planet K-PAX, there are two suns and several purple moons. The light, according to K-PAX's hero and alien, Prot (Kevin Spacey), is twilight soft. Here on Earth, however, the cast of the sun is a good deal harsher, and quality of life depends largely on the angle from which you view it. The same can be said of the quality of K-PAX.

Prot just appears one day at New York's Grand Central Terminal. Unable to explain himself satisfactorily (he has no luggage), Prot gets tossed into a mental hospital and into the care of Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges). Prot is clearly delusional, though there are things he says that make sense and some other things that are truths yet to be discovered.

If it sounds corny, it is. The whole idea behind K-PAX is that of letting go of the understood and being open to the impossible. Mental-patient Prot is the noble creature here, free of society's gobbledygook and tuned into the real nitty-gritty so he can give us the lesson of the day: Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate. What's more, Prot may just be that alien he claims to be. He can cure the sick and talk to dogs and work out complicated astronomical problems. For someone to bring about this wealth of goodwill and wonder he just can't be human, can he?

Whether you like K-PAX or not depends largely on your willingness to be led on this parade of hope. If you buy it, then the curve the film takes is that much more meaningful. If you don't, then you can blame it on Spacey's spaced-out performance. The burden of belief is all on him, and, boy, does he work it. His movements suggest he's a tourist on this planet: His steps are shy and careful, as if testing the ground for stability, and his head swivels to check out everything. Later on, he runs through different ages: He's a scared young boy, then an overconfident teen, and finally a man with a family. It may come off as Oscar-winning acting, or it could just be a hell of a lot of overemoting. -- Susan Ellis

It's a damn-near tragedy, really. Here she is, multiple piercings, heavy liner and heavier attitude, surrounded by a bunch of girls happily named Ashley. The real humiliation is that her name is the equally peppy Jennifer.

It's just one of the many indignities that 17-year-old Jennifer (Leelee Sobieski) -- call her "J" -- suffers through in the ultra-light, super-awful My First Mister before she realizes what's really important.

The path to that revelation is through a high-end clothing store, where she's hired by Randall (Albert Brooks) to work in the stockroom. While J uses her goth look to intimidate, Randall's merely curious. She goads him about his belly; he questions her about her nose ring. By not backing away from J's hostility, Randall becomes something different entirely. He, this square, 49-year-old man, is dark teen's friend.

The first quarter of My First Mister is promising. Sobieski's scowl and Brooks' gentle sarcasm mix well. She buys him a Hawaiian shirt; she takes him to get tattooed. He loans her money and makes sure she doesn't rent a ground-floor apartment. They bond over music. She forces him to have fun, while he tears down her defenses a little.

And while everything between them is officially chaste, J wants to be Randall's lover. She likes the way the word "lover" rolls over her tongue. It's absurd. But that absurdity is dropped in favor of an ooey-gooey storyline that's beyond cloying and beneath everyone involved -- the actors and the audience alike. Is that paper airplane in the film really floating to heaven with a note to a departed loved one? Yes, sadly, it is. -- SE

As far as scary movies go, I do not watch them. Well, if you count the slivers of screen visible between my fingers, then I watch "parts" of them.

13 Ghosts is different. It was actually quite good, in a ghoulish, not gross, sort of way. A remake of the 1960 William Castle film -- this time directed by music video and commercial vet Steve Beck -- 13 Ghosts revolves around the Kriticos family, which has seen its share of hard knocks. The mother (Kathryn Anderson) has recently died in the house fire that destroyed all their possessions; and the dad, Arthur (Tony Shalhoub), is just getting by. So, all the responsibility falls to Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth), the trustworthy daughter.

Just when they think all is lost, Arthur inherits a house from his estranged Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham), who has mysteriously passed away. The family gets to the house, which is made completely of glass, and loves it. They figure: put up some curtains and everything will be okay, right? Wrong. Soon Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), the tortured psychic, shows up and makes them see that their house really isn't a house and good ole Uncle Cyrus really isn't good. In fact, the house is a machine ruled by the devil and Cyrus is a collector of spirits.

Of course, the ghosts are conveniently located in the basement. In the original film, Castle lured theatergoers by promoting the "Illusion-O!" viewing glasses which allowed audiences to see on-screen spirits that were invisible to the naked eye. Although glasses aren't passed out for the remake, the gimmick infuses in the movie. The actors cannot see the tortured souls without donning special glasses. And once they put them on, see the souls, and are attacked by the souls, they finally realize that "it's time to get out." Had any thinking person walked up to an all-glass house which contained a massive gear-shift contraption inside, they would have immediately known it was "time to get out." But this is the movies and intelligence isn't always in this script.

Either way, the family, Rafkin, and babysitter Maggie (played by female rapper Rah Digga of the Flipmode Squad) continue to battle the ghosts and finally Uncle Cyrus while simultaneously freeing all the trapped souls.

The film does a good job of scene-setting by having most of the action take place in the house. The ghosts look real but aren't too scary and don't yell mindless threats of death and destruction. It is clear that they, too, are victims of crazy Uncle Cyrus. Also, the film avoids the typical horror-film scenes of people running through the woods, ax murderers chasing teenagers through abandoned homes, and the continuous flow of victims' blood.

Take your hands away from your face. This scary movie is worth watching. -- Janel Davis

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