All the performances in A.I. are up to snuff (especially Jude Law as a cybernetic gigolo who serves as David's spirit guide of sorts), but Spielberg outdoes himself by taking us on an exhausting journey of a world that teeters on the brink of logic, sci-fi, and fairy tale. It's as if some futuristic scientist took Spielberg and Kubrick's brains out of their formaldehyde-drenched jars and shmooshed them together to create a film that strives to be nihilistic as well as kinda cute. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
I just have a question: Isn't Billy Crystal famous for having a razor-sharp wit? Why then does his script for this latest Hollywood schlock-fest resort to the lowest levels of comedy, including a man getting hit in the head with a golf ball, and another man getting his balls licked by a doberman? (Justin Sanders)
Every generation needs a Young Guns, but this one, featuring twentysomething hunk slabs Scott Caan (who looks about as old West as a Volkswagen Bug), Will McCormack, Gabriel Macht, and Colin Farrell as the James-Younger gang, looks particularly shabby. Also featuring Ali Larter, Timothy Dalton, and Ronny Cox.
American Pie 2
The original American Pie was a surprise not because it was good, exactly, but because it wasn't as screamingly awful as you assumed it had to be. The story managed to sneak a few poignant observations about friendship in among the poo jokes, and offered a number of actually funny lines. This sequel seems destined to try and have it both ways again, milking the gratuitous nudity for adolescent boners and repeating variations on the famous jokes of part one, while waxing nostalgic about growing up and so forth.
An American Rhapsody
We've all done it: You're sneaking across the heavily-guarded border of Communist Hungary on your way to refuge in America, and in the heat of flight you suddenly notice something's missing--whoops!--I thought you brought the baby. Young Suzanne grows up Hungarian, while her family basks in the full glow of '60s capitalism before retrieving her a few years later. But Budapest beckons her back, despite the lure of TV, hula-hoops, and Coca-Cola. Stars Nastassja Kinski, Tony Goldwyn, and Scarlett (Ghost World) Johannson.
* Apocalypse Now Redux
Now, at long last, we have an officially sanctioned "director's cut" of Apocalypse Now, title appended with the ridiculous "Redux." Nearly a full hour of footage has been restored under Coppola's watchful eye, perhaps in an attempt to avoid taking jobs like Jack or The Rainmaker to fund his winery. (If so, more power to you, Francis.) So what was restored? Well, as is often the case with newly untruncated editions, there's generally a reason this stuff was cut in the first place. That doesn't mean it's worthless or uninteresting, but it does mean that Apocalypse Now isn't necessarily improved by the reinstatement of this footage.
This ninth film by Takeshi Kitano--his fourth in the gangster genre--is an awkward tale of brotherhood, real and/or symbolic. Beat Takeshi must flee Tokyo when his ruthlessness and impassivity begin to creep out his yakuza clan. He joins his half-brother in L.A. and quickly turns little sib's small-time drug operation into a pan-gang turf war, forcing the naîfs to bond in the face of all the trouble that soon rains down on them. Sluggish pacing and an oppressive piano soundtrack tip the scales toward a rating of dull. (Sarah Sternau)
The one prodcutive thing about this film is that it begged me to ask the question, "do people really live in bubbles?" I mean besides on Seinfeld or Northern Exposure. Anyway, the story is that the famous bubble boy, David, had SCIDS and was in a bubble until he was 12. At 12 years old the docs tried a bone marrow transplant to stimulate the growth of his immune system, but it didn't work. The marrow was tainted with the Epstein-Barr virus, which gave him cancer and he died. Anyway, if you want to see this film, don't, read about some rare diseases online instead.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Nick Cage stars as a war-time hero on a Greek island, and...I'm sorry but what is UP with that accent?!?
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. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Curse of Jade Scorpion
Curse of the Jade Scorpion isn't nearly as entertaining as it wants to be. Allen plays his usual riff on his 60-year-old neurotic, womanizing self, this time as C.W. Briggs, a claims investigator for a large insurance agency. We quickly learn that Briggs is feeling especially neurotic because his agency has hired an efficiency expert named Ms. Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), who has been making changes around the office that don't mesh with Briggs' old-fashioned style. The two hate each other, and many less than funny insults are exchanged between them throughout the movie.
The Dark side of dr. seuss
Racist WWII propaganda films written by Dr. Seuss (what a dick), and racist advertisements drawn by Dr. Seuss (double dick), backed up by extremely comprehensive narration.
* The Deep End
Though it comes dressed in the icy blue clothes of a suspense thriller, The Deep End is a far more interesting creature. Using its intricate plot as shrewd camouflage, the film serves as an examination of the evolving relationship between a lonely mother and her gifted teenage son, whose sexuality (homo) is such an impenetrable subject that Mom (the ineffable Tilda Swinton) would rather navigate a murder cover-up, blackmail, and death threats than talk to the lad directly. (Sean Nelson)
* Ghost World
Fans of Daniel Clowes' epochal comic novel about the listless inner teen life have been awaiting this adaptation by Crumb director Terry Zwigoff for years now, and the film delivers, though not in the direct way you might have anticipated. Clowes' super-detached geek queens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have graduated from high school, and, bored, they answer a personals ad placed by über-dork vinyl junkie Seymour (an R. Crumb surrogate played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi) responds. As an experiment, Enid decides to educate Seymour in the ways of love, and her world begins to crumble. (Sean Nelson)
* Ghosts of Mars
Though it seems there is not much need for logic on the planet Mars, and it's sometimes impossible to decipher whether John Carpenter is being ironic or just stupid, he sure does know how to make a good B-movie. And while Ghosts is not on the same caliber as Escape from New York or Halloween, it's far better than his lesser efforts, Vampires and Escape from L.A. And the decapitations are Saaaa-weet!
This is a bland British comedy about a bunch of murderers and thieves who become gardeners in prison. They get so good at planning and planting gardens that, in the end, they get to have tea with the queen. All told, it's a pretty good reflection of the confused state of mainstream British cinema--predictable, cloying, and non-funny in every way. Even Helen Mirren is bad in it. The one thing Greenfingers has going for it is Clive Owen, star of last year's brilliant Croupier, who plays the lead thug horticulturalist. Owen is so good, so convinced and convincing in certain scenes, that you can only assume he thought he was in a different movie than the rest of the cast. He thought he was in the movie that didn't blow. (Sean Nelson)
* Hedwig and the Angry Inch
John Cameron Mitchell wrote, directed, and starred in this Rocky Horror-cum-Velvet Goldmine-esque opus about a big-haired megalomaniac singing his/her way across the US. With 40-plus costume changes and songs that you will be singing for days, this is pure rock and roll candy which should be see on a big screen with big audio. (Michael Svoboda )
A country singer leaves behind his wife and kid to go on tour, hitting a bunch of bleak little western towns. Were they trying to make a country song into a movie? Something tells me yes.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Kevin Smith is the cinematic equivalent to the Comic Book Store Guy on The Simpsons (or vice versa). He's managed to take his own particular brand of juvenile, dick-and-fart humor (mixed with a dose of ironic self-awareness and a dollop of grandiose delusions) and become an actual auteur of sorts. His movies never look like much, and they're not consistently funny, but when they hit the spot they're goddamn hilarious. This latest (and reportedly last) entry in the Jersey-based Jay and Bob mythos finds our pot-dealing, Quick Stop-loitering, Laurel-and-Hardy-esque duo on a trip across the continent to stop a movie based on the comic book based on their (fictional) selves.
A girl and her brother are road--tripping home from college when shit... they encounter an indestructible force that desperately wants to chomp them. Unfortunately, this is about a girl and her brother, so we can't expect those great scenes where coitus is interrupted by the indestructible force, or ewww, maybe we can.
* Legally Blonde
In Legally Blonde, Witherspoon plays a Southern California Barbie doll named Elle Woods. When her boyfriend dumps her (she's "not serious enough"), 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. And justifiably: No other actress of her generation could make Elle seem genuine, and none of them could take so much cinematic dross and spin it into silk. The fire of Witherspoon's talents should make them cower in fear.
Walking out of Made, I tried to conjure the perfect phonetic sound to properly describe it. The winner: "nyeh," as in "whatever." Here is a film that exists for no other reason than to revisit the "magic" between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, and your admiration for Made may depend on just how brilliant you found Swingers, their first project. If you thought it was great, then by all means, go. But, if like me, you found it vastly overrated, only marginally entertaining, and more than occasionally annoying (especially that Vaughn fucker), you'd be better served elsewhere. That said, it's a comedy about the mob, and there are some good moments. (Brad Steinbacher)
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. It's also a movie so good, you fear a critical backlash against it. 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. But this reviewer is pure of spirit, or at least spite: I may have seen a better film so far this year than Memento, but if I have, I've forgotten it. (D.K. Holm)
A modern day, teenage reniactment of Shakespeare's Othello. Starring total dog Julia Stiles and two babes that would never go out with her in real life: Mekhi Phifer and Josh Hartnett.
The Farrelly Brothers, avatars of le cinema d'ordure, return with this half-animated tale of the biological denizens that dwell inside the comedically abused corpus of one Bill Murray. Chris Rock provides the voice of the cartoon hero, whose job it is to fight disease and, one assumes, navigate the onslaught of fart jokes the script hurls his way. The picture looks to land somewhere between Innerspace and The Incredible Mr. Limpet.
A well-executed, gothic, horror film in a Jamesian vein, starring Nicole Kidman as a post-war mom on a tiny British isle, desperate not to let the new servants (including the great Fionnula Flanagan) expose her "photosensitive" children to daylight. The claustrophobic tension of the incredible house (the film's only set, and its true star) mounts through the eerie film as the truth, like the characters' lives, unfurls methodically in this truly frightening endeavor from Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar. As an added bonus, the always-gripping Christopher Eccleston (Jude, Elizabeth) has a supporting role. (Sean Nelson)
Our Lady of the Assassins
A bedraggled, soul-sick writer proves that you can go home again, but that if your home is murderous Medellin, you better expect some heavy existential catharsis... especially if you have a torrid affair with a young cartel soldier while you're seeking your redemption.
Planet of the Apes
As promised, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is upon us and it stinks like feet. If you like spaceships (first 10 minutes) and screeching apes, this film has 'em, but that's about it. Throw in a bland and predictable ending, and you have the most anticipated letdown of the summer. Sounds like a three-pronged blockbuster to me.
* The Princess and the Warrior
The second collaboration between director Tom Twyker and the stunningly beautiful German actress Franka Potente. This time around, though, the pair has replaced the frenetic Nintendo plot of Run Lola Run with a carefully paced romance. No, we're not talking about a fawning Julia Roberts running around with her estrogen hanging out, but an eerie and tragic fairytale where castles are replaced by an insane asylum, and Prince Charming by a stoic street punk.
An almost-crazy 16-year-old discovers that she's actually a princess in a small European country. ohmigod?! WHAT SHOULD SHE DO? Stay in San Francisco or move to Europe?!
A concert promoter in Spain is using and abusing, but might be saved by love. Appearances by Come, Stereolab, and Will Oldham.
A Vegas hotshot starts a race for money, so he can make some his damn self.
Whoa. It'a like a dream come true. Marky Mark is in a cover band, and omigod, then gets to be the singer for the band he's covering. Gawd. I hope that happens to Helles Belles. See review this issue.
* 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. A voice buried deep within Gal tells him--and us--that this can't last. Don is that voice, given brutal, relentless human form. In the fallout of their confrontation lies one of the finest films in recent memory.
No, not a story of hot, generation Y fishmongers... this is a baseball movie starring the acharismatic Freddie Prinze Jr. as a minor league pitcher who dreams of the majors while trying to get laid with trashy townies (or richies). Redemption, love, and teenage feel-ups ensue.
This action flick based on the Dumas' novel stars, wait a second you're going to gravy yourself, a Calvin Klein fragrance model. Watch for shots of his package, there's lots of action and sex. See review this issue.
* Tiny Picture Club: Fairy Tales
Super 8 filmmakers interpret fairy tales. Films are scored by kick-ass local rockers. See review this issue.
Two Can Play that Game
Shante Smith's boyfriend Keith is stepping out with that chick Conny. Oh hell no. She won't be standing for that shit, she needs to get her man back. What I don't understand, however, is why she wants that cheating fool back in her bed, but you know, I guess Two Can Play that Game.
* Under the Sand
While on holiday at their summer home in western France, Jean vanishes during a swim, leaving his wife Marie, played by the indefatigably beautiful Charlotte Rampling, to be ravished by loneliness. Upon her return to Paris she is encouraged to begin dating again, but can't shake the feeling that Jean is still alive, refusing to come to terms with the "closure" her friends demand of her.