LOVE AND SEX
ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER
SEX: THE ANNABEL CHONG STORY
TURN IT UP
UP, DOWN AND SIDEWAYS
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Once upon a time, a badly-drawn cartoon dependent upon pained sarcasm was shown on national television. This was clearly a horrible idea, appealing only to the least ambitious adults and most awkward children, and it was quickly pulled. Thirty-some years later, Robert De Niro thought differently. He wanted to make a movie. Somewhere along the line, he apparently wanted to make a successful movie, implanting a desperately cute gal whose inner child (literally) cries out for indulgence. In the process, mangling together a bitterly knowing narration with third generation Disney schmaltz, they managed to make a film for nobody-- confusing the tots and irritating the cultish faithful. Moose and squirrel wander through, company men, never once questioning the pace. (Jay Horton)
Alice et Martin
Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Almaric play Alice and Martin, a pair of complicated people in a complicated relationship. Exploring power dynamic through sensuality, age, and class, this 1998 Andre Techine film is beautiful, if a little depressing.
The Art of War
Wesley Snipes stars as the brother with 1000 faces in this yawny espionage thriller.
Autumn in New York
An aging playboy, Richard Gere, falls for the younger and terminally ill Winona Ryder, leaving us terminally ill in the process.
Big Momma's House
Martin Lawrence is back, and he's got a big old prosthetic ass. Where do I sign?
Bless the Child
Why is the fate of the universe always left to adorable six-year-old kids? Director Mace Neufeld's attempt to recapture the chilling ambiance that he produced in the "The Omen" is a tough row to hoe, especially with super-ho' Kim Basinger playing a recovering Catholic who, in the midst of an all-out war between good, evil, the Messiah, and the Devil, has the audacity to question her faith. Why not just worry about your nails, Kim? Still, in spite of Basinger's annoying navel gazing, there are some gripping plot twists and pretty cool special effects to boot.
* Blood Simple
The Coen's best films are all descendants of this moody, geometric, fabulously accomplished first feature. A vulgar tale of small town thieves and liars, Blood Simple is gloriously corrupt, full of iconic small town caricatures including a fantastically baroque M. Emmet Walsh in what is his best screen role to date. The plot twists keep developing, like an infection spreading, to a lurid conclusion. A great first feature, with only a bit of that distracting Coen cleverness that so clutters their later work.
* Bring it On
High school cheerleaders must endure endless practices and bikini waxes to compete in the national championships!
* But I'm a Cheerleader
Director Jamie Babbitt's feature debut may be a bit forced, but Natasha Lyonne as a cheerleader thought to be lesbian, is both believable and charming. Lyonne is sent to a homosexual rehabilitation camp run by RuPaul and Cathy Moriarty, and learns the valuable lesson that sexual orientation isn't as cut and dried as one might think. (Wm. Steven Humprey)
Cecil B. Demented
A lunatic guerilla film maker and his cronies kidnap a Hollywood starlet and force her to act in their movie. Directed by John Waters.
* The Cell
Viewed conceptually, this film is remarkable: an acutley visual journey through a serial killer's mind that is both deranged and ethereal. To achieve this, director Tarsem Duamdwar uses special effects in a unique way, one that relies not only on sophisticated, expensive technology, but also preys on your worst fears of sex, violence, and insanity--all presented in surprisingly beautiful aesthetics; Even when killer D'Onofrio is slowly twirling out the intestines of Vince Vaughn, he does so with delicate scissors in a celestial room adorned with garish, golden decadence. The whole movies smacks of Alice in Wonderland, yet relies on the founding images of Catholicism; at one point Jennifer Lopez appears as Virgin Mary, ready to kill the evil beast with her enormous sword. Unfortunately, Lopez and her co-star Vince Vaughn remain true to the same, paper-thin characters they always play; beautiful, compassionate, out to save the world, blah, blah, blah. But the movie is undoubtedly worth seeing anyway--just think of them as background. (Katia Dunn)
* The Charm Bracelet
An expo of local filmmakers including film, video, Super 8, and animation. See review this issue.
* Chicken Run
Chicken Run is about chickens trying to escape. It is very funny and exciting; Each chicken has a great sense of humor and is weird. Mel Gibson is the voice of Rocky, and Julia Sawalha (from Absolutely Fabulous) is Ginger. It all starts when Rocky the Chicken comes blasting over the fence and everybody thinks he can fly. The chickens ask him to teach them to fly but they don't make any progress. Something fishy is going on--Mrs. Tweedy (the farmer's wife) has a machine that lets the chickens go in and pies come out. They do whatever they can to resist becoming pies. (Sam Lachow & Maggie Brown)
(R)The Color of Paradise
The Color of Paradise has much of the patience, sincerity, and simplicity that have made Iranian films so popular in the past few years. It's also one of the most beautifully photographed movies you'll ever see. Sadly, none of this makes up for the film's tendency to tug at the heartstrings so crudely you'd think it was trying to break them. (Bruce Reid)
Inspired by a 1997 GQ article by Liz Gilbert (who worked and met her husband at the Coyote Ugly Saloon), this Jerry Bruckheimer film replaces Gilbert the writer with Violet Sanford the song writer, and turns her story into a Horatio Alger novel set in a New York bar. Only, the Coyote Ugly Saloon is more than just a bar: It is a bar with attitude, a bar with sass. It is a wild world of ruthless, sexually empowered women bartenders. It is a subculture in itself, and one that lets Violet (Picabo Perabo), the small town girl in the big city, find herself. No surprises, not too much depth, just good, old-fashioned Americana rehashed with flare (and flesh) for the modern world. (Frank Bures)
Four, retired gangsters plan one last heist to raise money for a new colostomy bag.
Mike Hodges' 1998 masterpiece Croupier makes a convincing case that a sleazy and specialized profession--in this case, the guy who rolls the ball and collects the chips at a roulette table--is a perfect metaphor for existential malaise. Jack (the very beautiful Clive Owen), is a wannabe London novelist with nothing to write, and no money coming in. He reluctantly takes a job as a croupier/dealer at a casino, and almost instantly becomes addicted--not to gambling, but to watching people lose. Like nearly all great films, Croupier is great specifically because of its genre trappings. It's the inevitability factor that gives the movie the power to be more than it seems. (Sean Nelson)
Why can't the Greeks just get along? Electra conspires with her brother to take revenge on their mother who killed her father.
Local filmmaker Cynthia Lopez offers this mockumentary centering on the fictional cult of Ding, its charismatic leader, its followers, and their friends. Editing, camera angles, and long-winded ad-libbers expose it as a definite first effort, but the story line is funny enough to keep it interesting. Some of the actors, including Lopez herself, are ingeniously understated; Jim Kinley, as an ex-boyfriend who aspires to be the first modern-day Jewish cowboy, is hilarious. Worth seeing, especially for fans of Waiting for Guffman.
Eyes of Tammy Faye
A documentary on the rise and fall of former evangelist, druggie, and eyeliner addict, Tammy Faye Baker. See review this issue.
The Five Senses
Like trying to separate taste from smell, the characters of this film blend into one, intimate experience. A cake maker, a masseuse, a mother of a missing child, and the freakish teenager who lost the young girl: all of these female characters proceed as an amalgamation. The film is exciting with surprises, a quality that fits nicely with its title. Something is vacant at the very center, though, and I suspect it's the uniting element of the senses: unconsciousness. Then, the story finishes by resolving itself too poignantly. (Paula Gilovich)
Fuck the Republican Party
What is so disturbing about Dennis Nyback's collection of Republican Party propaganda films is that there is a natural instinct to believe what we see. From an exposè outlining how Jimmy Carter's foreign policy has put our western hemisphere at grave danger of communist take-over, back to the Grand Ole Party's 1940 campaign newsreel that convincingly sketches out charts and arguments about why the work-project spending has sent the U.S. into the toilet, it is an alarming montage of images. Nyback is clearly poking fun at the Republican Party and drawing parallels between their absurd and dated arguments--that defense spending must increase--to the current Bush-Cheney rhetoric. The most fun short is a 1974 piece that tries to rally against corporate taxes. It uses a tight-pant hipster dad, a Shaft-like soundtrack and a Twilight Zone plot to explain how these taxes will eventually shut down all business.
Director Ridley Scott tramps through the standard gladiator movie plot like a tipsy party host, embracing each and every clichè like a dear old friend. War hero General Maximus (Russell Crowe) is stripped of his position by a scheming, new Caesar (Joaquin Phoenix). Escaping too late to save his family, Maximus falls into the hands of a slaver (the late Oliver Reed), and with the help of a former love and his rough-but-likable gladiator pals, seeks his revenge by finding glory within the Coliseum. Scott then uses all the technical advantages of modern film making to make the details as lavish as possible. (Tom Spurgeon)
Forget that crappy-ass film with Matthew Broderick! This is the real Japanese-style shit! Godzilla can't get a good millennium's sleep without some asshole monster waking him up. This time a floating rock washes up which contains a UFO which also happens to contain a monster named Gora! Gora gets all in Godzilla's shit, which forces Big G to burn Gora's ass off with his atomic ray. Films don't get much more subtle than this. (Wm. Steven Humprey)
* High Fidelity
A romantic comedy for guys: John Cusack plays the cynically introspective Rob Gordon, the owner of a small record store. For various reasons, he has shit luck with women. Basically, he's a jerk, but he's not altogether clueless about his jerkiness. He struggles and obsesses and makes lists that he thinks define his life, but he's no closer to understanding women than he was in the fifth grade--which happens to be when he got dumped for the first time. Based on the popular novel of the same name. (Kathleen Wilson)
The last chance. The ultimate evil. The final battle. (Hey! That's what they said LAST time!!)
The Hollow Man
Kevin Bacon stars as a scientist who discovers a serum for turning invisible. Which reminds me, a really good question to ask someone when you're just starting to date them is "Would you rather be able to fly, or turn invisible?" If they say "fly," then they're a keeper. People who wanna turn invisible are always sneaking around and getting in your shit. Never trust people who want to be invisible. Especially if it's Kevin Bacon.
Directed by Michael Cacoyannis, this film based on the play by Euripides spotlights the Trojan War and its aftermath. Agamemnon is chomping at the bit to attack Troy after Helen (Queen of Sparta) elopes with Paris. Unable to sail because of lack of wind, Agamemnon seeks the advice of a seer who tells him if he wants to sail he has to sacrifice his daughter. Hilarity does not ensue.
Sterling adaptation of the 1992 story collection by Denis Johnson. The '70s drug culture is the setting for Maclean's second feature. Billy Crudup is the tirelessly sweet-hearted and soft-headed "FH" (for Fuckhead), a well-meaning junkie who wide-eye puppy-dogs his way through life and love with a lost soul named Michelle (Samantha Morton), both angel and very mortal woman; and his increasingly bizarre encounters with a menagerie of lost souls, all of whom soon agree he's earned his nickname. With Denis Leary, Dennis Hopper, and Holly Hunter. (Ray Pride)
It's a good idea to come in about 10 minutes late to this movie. I did, and consequently I held on to a small hope throughout that I missed the beginning part that made sense of Bruce Willis hanging out with a little kid during his power lunches with rock stars in LA. Without this hope, I probably would have left the theater half way through, after the 100th scene of Bruce and the kid bonding over yet another of grandma's chocolate milkshakes, a dog named Chester, and a shared I'm-so-glad-we're-both-from-a-dysfunctional-family sentiment. Unfortunately, the only thing that happened by the end was that a 75-year-old Bruce Willis shows up to tell Bruce the first and Bruce the second not to worry, because he eventually grows up and gets the girl, the plane, and the dog. Too bad he still played a painfully shallow character in a painfully boring movie.
* Love and Sex
A decidedly minor-key comedy, and like many movies, copies last year's Run Lola Run in one entertaining respect--it's just over 80 minutes long. Breiman's lighthearted, witty little cupcake of Californication takes on the lowlights of one young woman's sexual experiences--getting past her unlucky thirteen and hoping Mr. Fourteen is a step above the past. Famke Janssen and Jon Favreau are uncommonly charming in this multiplex tryout. Witty observations about the characters' narcissism abound, including the question, "How many people do you know who can comfortably have sex in public places?" To which she can only reply, "Every guy I've met." After she's made a second feature with a stronger writer, let's look forward to Breiman's third movie. (Ray Pride)
Me, Myself and Irene
Jim Carrey, who is a great physical actor and occasionally very funny in this movie, succumbs to the temptation to rely on the ghastliness of his face rather than the sincerity of his feelings. If he continues to insist on appearing in such roles without bothering to learn how to act them, between him and me, it's splitsville. (D.K.. Holm)
* Mission: Impossible 2
I loved this movie. I loved the vertiginous helicopter swoops as Tom Cruise scales an impossibly sheer cliff to receive his impossible mission. I loved the profligate back flips in the fight choreography as he takes out villain after glass-jawed villain. I loved the preposterous motorcycle chase/joust. I loved the human touches, too: the love triangle set against the backdrop of global intrigue; the lascivious slo-mo close-ups of Thandie Newton; the villain's Scots accent. But most of all, I loved the giddy sense of hyperbole and spectacle that coursed through the whole enterprise. It may not last too long after the credits roll, but pleasures like this aren't meant to. Otherwise, they wouldn't need to make part three. (Sean Nelson)
Betty (Renèe Zellweger), a diner waitress, settles comfortably into a thick confusion after accidentally witnessing her sleazy drug-dealer husband's murder. She instantly blocks out reality, and drives to Los Angeles in pursuit of her favorite soap-opera character, whom she believes is her long-lost true love. On paper, this sounds great--onscreen, it's surprisingly disappointing. After watching these relentless caricatures strut around for 112 minutes, it's difficult to keep caring, and to keep rooting for Betty in earnest. (Min Liao)
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
Eddie Murphy returns (Why? Why? WHY??) as Sherman Klump in this sequel to the remake of the Jerry Lewis classic. This time, the apparently brainwashed Janet Jackson is pulled into the mire as Sherman's scientist girlfriend who helps him defeat his alter ego, the ultra-suave Buddy Love.
* One Day in September
During the 1972 Summer Olympics, eight Palestinian terrorists invaded the Israeli compound, taking nine hostages and killing two athletes. This year's Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature profiles this tragic event and shows how it could have been avoided.
A middling Sundance entry, a too-low-key caper item about a body shop operator (Christopher Walken, Walken-ish as always) who doesn't want to return to his days as a safecracker. Complications ensue when a long-lost Irish cousin (Peter McDonald) turns up, thinking Walken's a high-line criminal. With Cyndi Lauper. Donal Logue, and later in the telling, Tom Noonan shows up as an even more dunderheaded thug.
The Original Kings of Comedy
Another of Spike Lee's so-called "jointz," this one being a documentary which shows stand-up comics Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac in action.
Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Mel Gibson remade Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and ended up impaling the President on a flagpole or some such silliness? Well, now he's gone and made a three-hour movie that's just like that, but without the irony or humor. It's set in a colonial America where slaves and owners get along pretty darn well, the British are a bunch of baby-killing, dog-kicking hooligans, and the one French guy around makes Gerard Depardieu sound like Peter Jennings (don't worry, there's no sign of the Native Americans in this heartwarming saga). Did I mention that the movie justifies killing wounded soldiers and teaching your kids to fight in war, as long as it's for something you really believe in? And have I gotten around the sheer pomposity and lack of anything resembling subtlety in the film? (Marc Mohan)
A Perfect Storm
Plot: Fishermen fight storm in hopes of getting home to some pussy. Protagonists: Marky Mark, Dr. Ross, Happy's competitor in Happy Gilmore, a few guys who are in every other movie, some no-names. Villains: Hurricane Grace, backed by two other vengeful storms. The money-grubbing boat owner. Perks: Awesome special effects: 50-foot sea swells, water rescues, hurricane clouds, etc. Downers: Canned dialogue, excessive machismo, totally stupid ending. Recommendation: If you're looking for a marijuana freak-out, smoke some and head to this flick. If you're looking for an Academy Award Nominee, forget it. (Katie Shimer)
A comedy based on the 1987 pro football strike, starring Keanu Reeves as a scabby (sorry) scab quarterback.
One of the great heist films of all time-filmed in beautiful French-O-Vision!
We've seen this movie before: A British fishing village, a lot of friendly villagers, the local pub, and a big plan that involves flouting the law in a relatively benign way but leads to an extended situation comedy. In Saving Grace, the situation involves a widowed, middle-aged woman who cultivates pot to escape financial ruin. The town turns a blind eye because they love her dearly. She travels to London to sell her stash (phenomenal amounts of high-grade bud) and the plan falls apart. Before it's over, the movie, too, falls apart. This is a cute, light comedy with the humor based on contrast--a nice woman selling drugs, a responsible hippie dealer who has to pick his daughter up at flute lessons before Dungeons and Dragons night, and a career criminal who is nothing but kind. (Monica Drake)
Sex: The Annabel Chong Story
Gough Lewis proves as exploitative as the porno-producers behind Annabel Chong's legendary 251-man gangbang in this poorly made, unsurprising documentary. Still, we get to see Chong outside of the porno realm, which is a pleasure no matter how you cut it. Especially sweet are the numerous scenes with her Singapore family and friends, in which, like most porn stars, Chong emerges against typecasting as loyal, thoughtful, and very much concerned about her "work" being contextualized. Still, the more lurid details of the film tend to overwhelm Chong, and we are left feeling used.
Three old retired Air Force pilots want one last ride into outer space. Christ! Isn't it bad enough that these old farts always get the beautiful young chicks in the movies? And now they want to go into space, too? Forget it, Grandpa! It's off to the nursing home for you!
What says "sunshine" more perfectly than the history of Hungarian Jews in the 20th century? And who says "sunshine" more beautifully than Ralph Fiennes? The irrepressible Fiennes vieux takes on three sequential roles (that's one hour per role) account of one poor family's travails through three generations of Europe's now famous anti-Semitic hi-jinx. A total downer.
The Tao of Steve
The Tao of Steve: 101 ways to bag a babe and keep her coming back for more. Dex, a fat intellectual slob, formulates and follows his plan for sexual success, insisting to his friends that the #1 way too attract women is to ignore them. Through the magic of make-believe, this tactic works. The pot-smoking jelly-belly has a harem of women sending him the booty call. What is his secret? What is the attraction? Could it be the charming afterglow from his morning bong hit? Is it the crushing weight of his huge gut? No one knows or cares, because in real life Dex is just one of the many loser pot-heads that move about in packs, not as couples. (Karrin Ellertson)
A new animated feature from the Bluth studios. The Earth has been blown to shit, and it's up to a cocky, smart-mouthed teenager to find a spaceship filled with survivors and lead them to a new Earth (presumably one that doesn't have fuck-wit cartoons like this one).
The Trojan Women
Another offering in the Michael Cacoyannis series; Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Genevieve Bujold attempt to protect Troy from a military onslaught.
Turn it Up
This movie offers us the struggling rap artist's weltanschauung-worldview. At the center of the universe is the rapper (in this case Pras of Fugees fame) and from that fixed point we look out at the world around him. We see how he experiences capitalism, love, crime, family, friendship, and art. According to Pras, this is order of things: a) music is everything; b) one must always carry two guns cause you never know when you'll have to bail out some "crazy nigga"; c) never give your doll your cell phone number because that is like being put on a leash; d) white men are fucking greedy, and so you have to be greedier. For those who are connoisseurs of hiphop cinema, this will not disappoint you, but if you are just looking for a movie to watch with a black theme or lead, than miss this and watch The Art of War. (Charles Mudede)
Up, Down and Sideways
In one of director Michael Cacoyanis' zanier efforts, a wealthy widow and her gay son are thrown into a world of intrigue, when the son is accused of instigating a bank robbery.
* The Virgin Suicides
The most consistent element of The Virgin Suicides is a steady stream of images that echo the feminine-hygiene commercials of the 1970s. Considering the material--five teenage sisters growing up in a repressive home, and headed for funerals rather than graduations--the lightness of touch is surprising. But to juxtapose suicide with buoyant innocence might be uniquely appropriate; if the film has a message, it seems to be that a mythologized purity of youth can't survive into adulthood. (Monica Drake)
What Lies Beneath
It's official! Director Robert Zemeckis (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) is a washed-up hack. In this latest Sixth Sense ripoff, Zemeckis doesn't even bother trying to come up with any new ideas to bring to the screen, choosing instead to ape what Brian DePalma has been doing for years--aping Alfred Hitchcock. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford sink to new acting lows, and while the film still somehow manages to be occasionally entertaining, the jump-out-and-scare-the-shit-out-of-ya shocks can't make up for the waste of time and money. Pass! (Wm. Steven Humprey)
The Woman Chaser
A not very interesting black-and-white anachronism fest, Woman Chaser takes a decent 1960 Charles Willeford LA noir novel about a 1950s want-to-be film director who loses his mind and makes a spoofy hash of it. Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld's Puddy) gives it his chunky all, but it's not enough to bring life into this drearily scripted and clunkily directed item: dig those bongo drums! The script's called "The Man Who Got Away"; so did Willeford's novel. (Ray Pride)
Winterbottom is one of the most prolific of new directors, and his choices of material and approaches are profligate as well. He's shooting a Gold Rush political adventure right now, and a couple of other features since his alternately savvy and sappy Welcome to Sarajevo has gone straight to video in the US, Wonderland finds Winterbottom working in Super 16mm handheld, slinging the frame around as he follows intriguing actors like Ian Hart, Gina McKee, and Molly Parker through a London-set roundelay of not-that-intriguing, circumstance-befouled yuppie romance. Michael Nyman's insistent score weighs intensely on the general clutter. (Ray Pride)