The shiny, multi-million dollar sequel to the 1989 independent favorite "El Mariachi" is easily one of the most pointless films of the year with its story of a mariachi with an arsenal who kills everyone who comes between him and his foe, a powerful druglord. The film is an uninspired collection of elements leftover from Quentin Tarantino films and flamboyant, slow-motion violence plagarized from directors like Sam Peckinpah and John Woo. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has substituted all of the irony and charm of "El Mariachi" with predictable formulas and insulting visual gloss. It plays like a blood-soaked Taco Bell commercial. D.C.


Director Larry Clark has created a portrait of modern day youth that bursts off of the screen with realism. Full of street smart saavy and dialogue, Clark's kids roam the crowded streets of New York leaving their self-bent destruction in their wake. Though the film has a tendency to wallow in some of its more sensationalistic scenes, it rises above to become one of 1995's most exciting films, and certainly one of the more important films of this generation. N.L.


Director Wayne Wang's meditation on the soul, the emotional thread running through family estrangement and the cathartic power of friendships is a thought provoking and reflective movie. Based on a story by Paul Auster, the film takes place in contemporary New York and follows five main characters as they interact and find unexpected inspiration for their damaged souls. The movie boasts subtle and heartfelt performances by William Hurt, Harvey Keitel and newcomer Harold Perrineau Jr. D.C.


At its heart, this movie, about a determined high school teacher (Michelle Pfeiffer) who fights the educational system and inspires her tough inner-city pupils, has a laudable message, but the movie is too determined to deliver its message to a youthful audience. Its rap soundtrack and quick editing grow tiresome after a while and it glorifies the rebellious ringleaders it supposedly decries. The movie is too self-confident and quick to offer simple answers to difficult problems and ultimately never seems much more relevant than an AfterSchool special. D.C.

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