A film designed to win its star an Oscar if there ever was one, Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich sets up Julia Roberts as a working-class single-mom heroine for the oppressed, legally battling corporate giant Pacific Gas and Electric on behalf of the scores of poor locals who have endured decades of tumors and other illnesses thanks to the illegal use and dumping of poisonous chemicals. Filthy with character details and robust righteousness, the film is also notable for its dismissal of love and even parenthood in favor of doing justice, fighting the good fight, and working your ass off at something you believe in.
A girls’ club natural, Out of Sight is better watched once the chatter fades, because there’s not a iota of novelist Elmore Leonard’s snappy banter you can afford to miss. A great, comical neo-noir on one hand, this Steven Soderbergh gift also proves the theory that sex starts in the brain. The pas de deux here, amid a cast of supporting eccentrics, is between Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal and inveterate bank robber George Clooney; Clooney’s fast-thinking, humane crook knows what he wants from the get-go, but Lopez’s savvy fed—the pop-culture star’s best role by far—struggles mightily between her cop instincts to catch him and haul him back to prison and her desire to ride him like a pony (a yearning every woman in the room will be sharing). Absolutely the best sotto voce flirt talk heard in a movie since, well, maybe ever, and that’s what counts for grown-ups.