NEW YORK – "Before Sunset," "De-Lovely" and "The Clearing" attempt to hold their own against "Spider-Man 2" in today's Foxlight.
The man with something up his sleeve that really swings is not only breaking box-office records, he has critics caught in his web. "Spider-Man 2" (search) is being hailed as that rare sequel that out-spins the original. Comic book fans say this one has a real story -- that helps. And the whole thing is perfectly directed by Sam Raimi. Tobey Maguire buffed up nicely after "Seabiscuit" -- but the real muscle will probably be at end of the weekend when experts say it should haul in around $160 million. No arachnophobia for Hollywood here.
Next, Ethan Hawke is in Paris with a little time to kill and bumps into a former lover. Sounds like his personal life, but it's actually the weekend's other sequel -- the follow-up to 1995's "Before Sunrise," called "Before Sunset." (search) Hawke and Julie Delpy reunite, and even jaded critics who hate the word "chemistry" admit this one has a Seine river-load of it.
"De-Lovely" (search) has de-fects, according to most critics, who say Kevin Kline shines as Cole Porter and Ashley Judd is at her best as his, ahem, wife. But the script hardly sings, even with famous cameos from current musicians, they say.
Finally, "The Clearing" (search) is a waste of great talent like Robert Redford and Willem Dafoe, according to most reviews. It's a thriller that just isn't very thrilling. Helen Mirren is terrific as the wife who doesn't know exactly what to do when her husband is kidnapped. Redford should have sent this script to a Sundance workshop for a tune-up.