Welcome to the future, where Professor Hobby (William Hurt) dreams up a money-making idea for his cybertronic manufacturing company; building life-like children for the average barren couple. He constructs a prototype, David (Haley Joel Osment), and sends him home with an employee whose own son is on the brink of death. Though the mother is in no mood for a "replacement son," she eventually warms up to the idea, especially after learning that David has been programmed to love her completely. It's often downright creepy and dark. (William Steven Humphrey)
* Adults Only Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror kids are apparently bored with the same old schtick, and have decided to throw a new wrench into the works--NUDISM!
* Amores Perros
Amores Perros begins at a screaming dead run and maintains one kind of intensity or another over the next two-and-a-half hours. Pungently translated as Love's a Bitch, Amores Perros comprises three stories of life, love, and aggressively twisted fate in the most polluted metropolis on the planet. This is a breakthrough work for Mexican cinema.
Inspired by her back-to-basics experience making the Dogma film The King is Alive, Jennifer Jason Leigh and her pal Alan Cumming made a sort of Cassavettes-lite tale where they play a recently reconciled couple--she's a actress past her industry-dictated prime; he's a predictably androgynous novelist who's about to direct a film of his most recent book. (Marc Mohan)
Filmmaker Nanni Moretti turns the camera on his own life during the month of April. His son is about to be born, while the Italian government also experiences a rebirth--possilbly becoming a left-wing country. Moretti uses humor and metaphor to portray this turbulent period.
The myth of the city of Atlantis is super cool, even to a humorless person like myself. The movie, however, is not. A slow-then-fast and extremely contorted plot are to blame, as is the annoying voice of Michael J. Fox. (Katie Shimer)
Baby Boy, John Singleton's companion film to Boyz N the Hood, follows a single male character, Jody (played by the sexy-ass model Tyrese Gibson), through his struggle to grow up and become A Real Man. That's the plot. Beyond that, it gets kind of confusing.
Most people are calling Baise-Moi a feminist milestone. After all, it's a movie in which women are finally allowed to go apeshit onscreen! They're fucking, then murdering! Wahoo! However, I think this movie's message is very far from "pro-woman."Even with the supposed female-empowerment undertones, the whole thing seems like a stereotypical male fantasy--two hot chicks with guns--and falls into the tired trap of women finding empowerment by assuming stereotypically male characteristics. (Julianne Shepherd)
Blow is Hollywood all the way to the bank. But despite all its predictability--a young man (Johnny Depp) rises to the top of the international drug trade and then falls to the bottom of the prison system--its portrayal of Mexicans, Central Americans, and middle America is unexpectedly sympathetic.
Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget Jones desires a boyfriend, so she sets her sights on the office cad (Hugh Grant), and then moans when he dumps her. Why do we keep coming back to these romantic comedies? Is it that we secretly hope the Jerk will change into a Good Guy so we can justify our bad choices in life? Fuck no. And I've got a long line of sisters who can back me up on that: the very same sisters who'll be standing next to me in the ticket line when the next romantic comedy comes along. (Kathleen Wilson)
* By Love Possessed
In this 1961 soapster, love-hungry Lana Turner gets DOWN with Efram Zimbalist Jr. after discovering hubby Jason Robards is (gasp!) IMPOTENT.
* The Circle
Judging from this film, Iranian women are obsessed with smoking cigarettes. Then again, according to The Circle, they've got reason to crave a taste of stress-reducing, unfiltered tobacco, a pleasure which, like so many, is denied them by their government and culture. The third feature from director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Mirror), The Circle opens with the pained sounds of childbirth over a dark screen, followed by the first line of dialogue: "It's a girl." These three words can doom a person to second-class citizenry even in today's relatively moderate Iran, and Panahi demonstrates this with a series of connected vignettes. (Marc Mohan)
An accountant at a condom factory realizes he's about to be fired. Divorced, alienated from his 17-year-old son, he contemplates suicide, but is instead given some rather odd advice from his neighbor, a retired psychiatrist: Announce that you are gay at work, and the powers that be will be too frightened to fire you, lest they get slapped with a nasty lawsuit. The accountant takes his neighbor's advice, and, well, hilarity ensues. Or, if not hilarity, at least a few laughs here and there. Actually, how well you like The Closet may in fact depend on just how high Three's Company ranked on your laugh-o-meter. If the answer is 10, then by all means, rush out and see it. If, on the other hand, the number is five (or four, or three), you might want to stay home. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Kirsten Dunst has finally reached maximum potential, and it's a beautiful thing. She's emerged heroin chic: the fucked-up, suicidal, and stoned high-school outsider. The plot: Kirsten meets Carlos (super, super hot Jay Hernandez) who is an overachieving Latino super-star; he rides the bus two hours each way just to get to the rich, white-kid school, where he's studying to become a pilot. He and Kirsten fall in love and Carlos takes it upon himself to straighten Kirsten out, who's been on self-destruct mode ever since her mother committed suicide. There's actually a lot of worthwhile character development as well as some touching, somewhat non-cliched exploration of issues of race and class. I cried in this movie: I NEVER cry in movies. (Katia Dunn)
* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Legendary warrior Chow Yun Fat can never declare his love for fellow martial arts expert Michelle Yeoh. Instead, he entrusts her with Green Destiny, his nearly magical sword. An attempt to wed emotionally reticent drama with the exhilarating freedom of Hong Kong-genre filmmaking, but director Ang Lee can't quite pull off the combination; for too long a time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's shifting gears only jam. The film finds its rhythm and earns the accolades it received once it leaves the stars behind and gives its heart over to the young and engaging Zhang Ziyi, as the aristocratic daughter of privilege who opts instead for the dangerous yet thrilling occupation of thief. (Bruce Reid)
Dr. Doolittle 2
The doctor who talks to animals is back, and this time he is attmepting to save a forest from loggers by teaching a bear how to get laid. This film is just as bad as you would expect the sequel to a bad movie to be. (Russell Cowan)
This is the Hippies Bible, Torah, and Koran all rolled into one. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper roam the country to find America--and sell some drugs.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Sam Raimi's horrific, funny sequel to the story of campers who get slaughtered on a trip into the wilderness. The group's only survivor returns to the campsite, and the madness continues....
This David Duchovny movie is so confused, banal, and cinematically retarded, I'm not sure where to begin. So fuck it, I won't. (Turkey McGoldenstein)
The Fast and the Furious
Burning rubber is the order of the day in this fuel-injected, testosterone-pumped fluff piece from director Rob Cohen. Paul Walker is a SEXY undercover cop sent to infiltrate a gang of street racers (including the aptly named Vin Diesel) who he suspects of hijacking trucks, but what's this? He actually learns to love the big lugs, as well as the adrenaline rush of street racing. While the plot holes are big enough to drive two hijacked trucks through, everyone in the movie is H.O.T. HOT, and the cars are beautiful. But be sure to watch the papers, because this flick will surely inspire a nation of jar-head kids to begin racing and killing themselves at a record pace.
East vs. West in this super realistic anime film. See review this issue.
The Golden Bowl
The Golden Bowl is, in part, a drama of manners, and Merchant Ivory's production moves neatly upon the joints and hinges of a repressed society. But the filmmakers seem to think that a well-appointed costume drama with the weight of Henry James behind it doesn't need any creative help to succeed, so the neatness is plodding, and the movie remains too damp to make a spark.
* Hedwig and the Angry Inch
With an alternately raucous and poignant story that would make trannie-rocker Jayne County proud, John Cameron Mitchell brings his acclaimed off-Broadway rock musical to the screen. Hedwig offers up the psychodrama of her life: her origins as East Berliner Hansel, who dreamed of rock and roll stardom but ended up stranded in America after a botched sex-change operation. Hence the "angry inch," and one of the most inventive musicals ever.
* In the Mood for Love
Tired of Meg Ryan damsel-in-distress love stories? Directed by Wong Kar-wai (Fallen Angels), an achingly beautiful film about two neighbors in 1960s Hong Kong whose spouses are having affairs with each other. Like cinematic Kama Sutra, the scenes unfold slowly but with mesmerizing charm.
Kiss of the Dragon
Remember when Bridget Fonda actually had a promising career? What did she do to deserve this? Playing a North Dakotan-turned-Parisian hooker, Fonda fulfills the role of tonic to the high-octane Chinese chopsuey acrobat Jet Li. Fonda is in the City of Lights trying to kick a heroin habit and longing her orphaned daughter. Jet Li is there dodging grenades and trying to bring down a corrupt police chief who runs a prostitute ring. Would it kill them to hobble together a plot? (Phil Busse)
* Legally Blond
In Legally Blonde, Witherspoon plays a Southern California Barbie doll. When her boyfriend dumps her, she decides to win him back by attending Harvard Law School, getting in even though her brain operates--with the savantish exception of matters of fashion--at the level of a 10-year-old. Legally Blonde is Witherspoon's show. She's committed and bizarre and fantastic, elevating the film's mediocrity into an enjoyably breezy farce without apparent effort. Her performance is a taunt to her contemporaries. The fire of Witherspoon's talents should make them cower in fear.
* Long Night's Journey Into Day
This sobering documentary examines four cases presented to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission--a group headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu to offer amnesty to those who committed crimes during the decades of apartheid and brutal race wars. Essentially a story about forgiveness, the film is an absorbing look into why forgiveness is asked for and, more interestingly, why it's given or denied.
The Man Who Cried
Christina Ricci is a young Jewish singer, who meets Cate Blanchet. Together, they sing their way through Paris.
Memento has a lot of starch in it; the film sticks with you for days as you rehearse it over and over in your mind. You come out of it feeling almost resentful at how good it is, and given that almost everyone is an aspiring filmmaker these days, this resentment is unvarnished jealousy. I may have seen a better film so far this year than Memento, but if I have, I've forgotten it. (D.K. Holm)
You may remember Baz Luhrmann as the director of the absolutely dreamy William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. Unfortunately, Moulin Rouge does not fare nearly as well. The film is filled with clever contrivances: Dizzying choreography and sets, visual tips of the hat to the early cinematography of Vincent Whitman (A Trip to the Moon, 1914), a script loosely based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, and co-mingling modern songs by Madonna, Elton John, Nat King Cole, and even Nirvana. All extremely clever ideas--however, it's these same contrivances that turn Moulin Rouge into an overwhelming visual mess.
The Mummy Returns
The first 30 minutes of this film are excruciating; the rest are better, thanks mostly to the appearance of John Hannah, but writer/director Stephen Sommers gets trumped by a ceaseless parade of god-awful digital effects.
* O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Set in depression-era Mississippi, George Clooney stars as Everett Ulysses McGill, a suave and well-groomed petty criminal doing hard time on a chain gang. Shackled to Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), he convinces them to join him in escaping by promising to split a fortune in buried treasure with them. (Andy Spletzer)
A Communist Party official experiences amnesia after a car accident. He attempts to piece his life together while confronting pressing issues, political and otherwise. Filmmaker and protaganist Nanni Moretti (as Michele) examines heavy issues with accesible humor.
Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor--and that's really what it should be called (like Fellini's Roma or the George Foreman Grill, the vision expressed could only belong to one man)--is everything the preview led you to believe: overlong, overlit, overwrought, and overpaid.
Pop idol Mima attempts to become a serious actress, but something ominous stands in her way. Go, and find out what it is.
Cooky shorts made with a Fisher Price Pixel Camera--an indie commodity. By the way, I've been looking for one of these cameras for years, so if you wanna sell yours, please contact Wm. Steven Humphrey at the Mercury. But don't try to rip me off, or by GOD, I'll kick ya right in the nuts. See review this issue.
Look. The new Chris Rock movie has a funny name. And it's all about this black superhero who talks funny. Wow. That sounds funny all right.
* The Road Home
Yusheng's mother Di has called him home with an ancient request: He must gather a party of villagers to walk the body of his dead father home. Over the snowy mountains and all the way to their remote village, the bearers must tell the dead Mr. Luo, "This is the road home," so that he will always know. Some love stories could have happened anywhere. Others, like The Road Home, belong to their settings like the view from a particular hillside. (Evan Sult)
Scary Movie 2
If you thought the first one was funny... you were wrong. Maybe you were high. A lot of people I know smoked dope before they saw the first one and laughed their fool heads off. Regardless, there's not enough dope in the world to save this one.
Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, and Edward Norton play a bunch of crooks double and triple crossing one another. Like many a multi-star gumbo before it, this film (which was given no advance screening) bears the odor of too many cooks. Hopefully, it'll at least deliver on star power.
* Sexy Beast
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired gangster, living high on a hill in the Costa del Sol, enjoying a lethargic existence. But he is as out of place here as the heart-shaped ceramic tiles on the floor of his pool. Bad news arrives in the shape of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, so great), there to coax Gal back to England for a job. Gal resists, but Don won't take no for an answer, setting in motion a verbal boxing match so artful and intense it turns the sprawling Spanish vista into a pressure cooker in which Gal is forced to reckon for his ill-had comforts. In the fallout of their confrontation lies one of the finest films in recent memory.
Janet McTeer stars as Dr. Lily Penleric, an early 20th-century musicologist trapped as an associate professor in a man's university. Passed over for professorship, she retreats to the foothills of Appalachia, where her sister (Jane Adams, always great) runs a progressive remedial school with her Gertrude-Steinesque mentor. Within minutes, Dr. Lily discovers that the hillbillies can not only sing, but have a vast catalog of pure English folk songs in their repetoire. The film verges a bit towards the Hallmark Hall of Fame, but a few narrative wrinkles rescue it from the land of cloy. Plus, the music is so great (Iris DeMent and Taj Mahal both appear as musicians), you can't help but sit back and revel. (Sean Nelson)
Two web enterpreneurs (former day-traders) start up their own internet business, and realize they've captured lightning in a bottle. They make tons of moolah, and hob-nob with the rich and famous...until everything goes to shit. Though this documentary could've done a better job at fleshing out the characters and the business, Startup.com provides an interesting time capsule and explores how people are too often forced to choose between money and friendship.
File this one under male adolescent fantasy: Bank heists, explosions, sleek cars, breasts falling slo-mo out of sparkly dresses. John Travolta plays a smug man's man with a horrifically embarrassing goatee. As an ultra-sleek, heartless-yet patriotic terrorist, Travolta tries to rekindle the Tarantino magic, but every postmodern attempt to cross-pollinate the bad guys with good morals is little more than a transparent sheen.
Given his flaccidity in love and his sinewy vigor with the sword, Matsuda doesn't just have a penis, he is a penis. And as bewitchingly handsome young recruit, he wreaks havoc among his fellows and his commanders; even the lieutenant who serves as Nagisa Oshima's stand-in questions his own ability to withstand Matsuda's spell. What's taboo in this movie is not love between men--Oshima and all the characters in the movie are utterly matter-of-fact about homosexual preferences--but rather the disorder that results from love. (Barley Blair)
The Tailor of Panama
Brit superspy Andy Oxnard (Pierce Brosnan) has been banished to Panama for overindulging his appetites. He sizes up the tense, complicated international scene at the Canal and finds himself a hapless ex-pat British tailor (Geoffrey Rush) to squeeze for information. Boorman's film is far too awkward and self-conscious to allow the audience to sink into spy fantasia; as a result, Brosnan's absurdly dashing spy becomes utterly grotesque, even sickening. (Evan Sult)
* The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance guy who delves too deep into a case. He is obsessive, demented, and yet detached. A Frances Ford Coppola film heralded as a must-see, especially if you think your boss has been spying on you and reading your email. Goddammit! I hate that guy!
* The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Hands down, Clint Eastwood's finest western. Without all the high-handed good guys wear white hat morality bullshit, an elegant--if not overly long--western that's so languid it flirts with being (gasp) an art film. Three dirt bags seem to endlessly skitter around the hard-scrambled wastelands of the Civil War in search of a cache of buried Confederate treasure. Pure gold! (Phil Busse)
An insider look at the failure of the Communist Party, this film documents conversations and meetings. A humorous, yet revealing look at the Commie culture of 1990s Italy and beyond.
Tiny Picture Club
Check out this shit. The Pragmatics, an experimental, local band, will score the films that the audience submits. Bring your Super-8s, give it to the projectionist, and watch as art is created.
* Wedding Banquet
For the cost of one of his stunts in his latest films, Ang Lee made this dramedy about a gay China man. Sort of like a fortune cookie version of Green Card , naturalized American Wai Tung (Winston Chao) takes on a sweet-faced "wife" to camouflage the fact that he lives with his gay lover from his strictly traditional Chinese parents. Nominated for best foreign film, both by the Academy and the Golden Globes, the film launched Lee and Chao. (Phil Busse)
* With a Friend Like Harry
The blackest hue of comedy tints the tale of Harry (Sergi Lopez), a wealthy bon vivant with an unshakable affinity for Michel (Laurent Lucas). Harry, firm in his belief that Michel's child-strewn, moneyless life could be made more easy, begins to use his influence--and cash--to remove various obstacles to Michel's happiness. A new car here and a case of Champagne there escalates to a predictably absurd degree. The film is plain in comparison to its obvious inspiration, Hitchcock's oeuvre. But a deft French wit, and that oh-so-well-done trick of Euro-allegory (this film is about the difficulty of making art) rise like cream to the top of this film: The first taste is awfully sweet, even if it doesn't linger long. (Jamie Hook)