An alcoholic is asked by his dying wife to enter rehab and bring their daughter to see her before she dies. The daughter is a yuppie lawyer with a cocaine problem and the two are a volatile combination. An unsympathetic portrayal of alcoholism and drug use with a twinge of optimism.
In this biopic of the life of Muhammed Ali, Will Smith plays the quick-witted boxer and activist as if he's always had Parkinson's. While Jon Voight is a dream as Howard Cosell, and Jamie Foxx shines as Ali's cornerman, Drew "Bundini" Brown, Smith lumbers through the film with a dead-eyed glaze, unable to capture the spark needed to portray "the Greatest." Oh, and the fight scenes suck. For a truly eye-opening look at Muhammed Ali, rent When We Were Kings, still the best film on the subject. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
With an amazing turn away from the cynicism of Delicatessen, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes no bones about being sweet and charming. A quick-moving narrative about a shy, sexy, and dreamy Parisian who helps friends and strangers fulfill their fantasies while shying away from her own. Cute as a button. Really, you'll love it.
A Beautiful Mind
Hunky Russell Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr., a paranoid-schizophrenic who wins the Nobel prize. Yeah, we thought it was bullshit, too... until we learned it's based on a true story!
Business of Strangers
Stockard "Stockyard" Channing and Julia Stiles star in this reverse gender corporate revenge drama, cut from the same cloth as In the Company of Men. Though Channing's performance is excellent, the filmmaker's desire to lay bare a female variant on the archetypal male fantasy seems to expose something intrinsically male, nonetheless. (Sean Nelson)
The Devil's Accordion
Pacho Rada, the world's best accordion player, fashioned Colombian salsa with a vengeance. Follow the backroad tales through this rollicking mystery about whether the King of The Grinder sold his soul to the Diablo.
* The Endurance
Original film documents the plight of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance whose ship was trapped in an ice pack at the South Pole.
It seems every film that Catherine Breillat has ever made is about naughty sex, which might explain why she seems to have run dry on interesting approaches with her latest one. Titled à ma soeur! in France (which does not translate to "Fat Girl"), it's about Anaîs, a phlegmatic 12-year-old fat girl with a foxy older sister, Elena. This film exists only to underscore those facts, so you keep thinking maybe it's building up to some point or revelation... but you keep being wrong. Save for a tense, tortured, Nabokovian sex scene between teenaged Elena and her law-student boyfriend (while Anaîs watches in plain view), the story never offers any real reward.
* Go Tigers!
Like Breakfast Club detailed the simple honesty of high school years--the ideas that we have about who we are and who we want to be, the insipidly titled but remarkably constructed documentary Go Tigers! cuts to the heart of matters, like ambitions and the honor and stupidity that it can inspire. Ostensibly a film that follows a high achieving high school football team in Ohio. But the film's beauty--on par with Hoop Dreams--is derived from its ability to strip ambition naked so that it is no longer about football or being a teenager. (Phil Busse)
Robert Altman's latest is an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery set in the posh environs of a late 19th-century English mansion, where the swells and scousers surmount class boundaries to answer the question "Whodunnit?" Recent Altman work (that's Short Cuts onward, inclusive) has declined in sharp, inverse proportion to his ability to attract big-name movie stars-a.k.a the Woody Allen syndrome-but this one is apparently a lot better than the last few howling dogs he has unleashed. Starring Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Watson.
* Hazel Dickens: Its Hard To Tell The Singer From The Song
Featured with Fiddling With Bob Douglas: 100 Years Old-Ain't Done Yet . The combination of these two documentaries as a double feature flesh out the interplay between the redemption of music and the scrambled lives of blue collar workers.
Hitchcock: The 39 Steps
Robert Donat is wrongly accused and on the run--and unfortunately for Madeline Carroll, she's handcuffed to him.
I have not yet seen the film that stars the talented emcees Method Man and Redman, so I'm only able to look to the lyrics from the big hit song they wrote together, called "How High," for some insight. First, a piece of Method Man: "'Scuse me as I kiss the sky/Sing a song of six pence, a pocket full a rye/Who the fuck wanna die for their culture/Stalk the dead body like a vulture." Then Redman: "While the planets and the stars and the moons collapse/When I raise my trigga finga all y'all niggaz hit the decks!/...Plus, the Bombazee got me wild/ Fuckin' with us is a straight suicide." Then the chorus: "Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane/It's the funk doctor Spock smokin' buddha on a train/How High? So high that I can kiss the sky/How Sick? So sick that you can suck my dick." I anticipate the movie to be nothing like this, though it would be utterly marvelous to try to put those images and emotions in a narrative film somehow. Oh well. (Brian Goedde)
* Hy Hirsh & The Fifties
Hy Hirsh made computer films long before George Lucas bastardized digital imaging, but Hy set his to an explosive bouquet of Afro-Cuban music. Get out your salsa shoes! Also accompanied by vintage films by Jordan Belson, Harry Smith, Patricia Marx, Robert Breer, Shirley Clark, John Whitney Sr., and James Whitney. Experience the least explored and most interesting mediums of the Beat Generation.
* Igor Stravinsky b/w Death for Five Voices
See Igor Stravinsky, German director Janos Darvas' tribute to the great modern composer, and Werner Herzog's Death for Five Voices, about Don Carlos Gesualdo, who was a 16th Century composer of madrigals... and a murdering nymphomaniac!
Gary Fleder directs Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe in this sci-fi thriller (about aliens and mistaken identity and so forth), the release of which has been delayed since last year. That must mean it's pretty good! See Review pg 23
In the Bedroom
Matt and Ruth are an older married couple living in Maine. He's a doctor, she's a music teacher, life is perfect, right? Wrong. Their son trots home from college for the summer and promptly jumps in the sack with a single mom and gets gossiped about right and left. Tragedy ensues.
* Inside Out in the Open w/ Dewey Time (double feature)
A documentation of the free jazz improvisational movement of the early '60s focusing on Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, and others. Marion Brown, Roswel Rudd, and others speak. Extensive performance footage included as well. Followed by footage/discussion of saxophonist Dewey Redman.
Instead of re-creating the minor success he had with director John Pasquin (The Santa Clause), Tim Allen has produced one of the most undercooked everyman sketches I've ever seen. More benign than bad, the film follows the predictable journey of a freshly divorced office drone (Allen) who is casually bitch-slapped by his uber-male colleague in the company parking lot. The public shame is also witnessed by his daughter (Hayden Panetiere, appearing way too winsome for a child of divorce), a context which spurns Joe to go on a loosely structured self-improvement bonanza, complete with martial arts training by the requisite comic sidekick (Jim Belushi) and romantic dalliance with his perky blonde officemate (a thoroughly forgettable Julie Bowen). You'll find more creative vigor in the average infommercial. (Hannah Levin)
* Jung: In the Land of the Mujaheddin
A surgeon and a war correspondent start a hospital in Afghanistan. Disheartened by the strict rule of the Taliban, the innocent victims of land mines and the army, and the inhuman treatment of women--the two try not to give up. A relevant perspective on modern-day Aghanistan.
Kate and Leopold
Meg Ryan plays a "career woman" in New York City. In Hollywood shorthand that means she's a bitter, frustrated spinster. Luckily, a strapping, sexy nobleman from 1876 falls through a "rip in the time-space continuum" and sweeps her off her sensible shoes. Oh, for fuck's sake, I simply cannot go on. Except maybe to say that America's Sweetheart now resembles America's Plastic Surgery and Anorexia Disaster. The poor thing looks like some mad doctor grafted Melanie Griffith's big, weird squishy mouth onto a piece of fried chicken and left it to dry on a windowsill for about two years. God, I hated this insulting piece of shit. It was like Crocodile Dundee crossed with Sleepless in Seattle, if your mind can wrap itself around that horror. (Tamara Paris)
* Lord of the Rings
Remarkably true to the epic book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Though enhanced by computer animation, and certainly made in the post-Xena/Beastmaster era, this first installment promises to launch Lord of the Rings into the Star Wars strata. In a way, it's like playing the Final Fantasy VII role-playing game, only you probably already know the story and you don't have any controllers. And Sean Astin is in it. Aside from the early-on, too-fast editing that slows down as the movie unfolds, there's only one really cheesy part, graphics-wise. You are now an adventure dork. Make plans to see it twice. (Julianne Shepherd)
It wasn't long ago that Jim Carrey burst onto the screen with the unpredictable and vaguely menacing charisma of a true trickster. But like ultimate antihero Jack Nicholson and the fantastically misguided Kevin Spacey before him, he's turned his back on difficult or even unlikeable characters in favor of a one-way ticket to Sapville. Smear the lens with Vaseline! Hire a fawning, anonymous blond actress! Trot out the weather-beaten character actors! Let the string section swell! Mr. "Where's my fucking Oscar?" Carrey is ready for his close-up! What I'm trying to tell you is that sitting through this movie was like watching a four-hour long Coke commercial or eating a pound of frosting roses or submitting to a high-fructose corn syrup enema... which is why I crept quietly out of the theater before I expired of glucose shock. It's too bad. Carrey could have been something special. But at least we still have Christopher Walken. (Tamara Paris)
The Miles Davis Story
Bouncing back from heroin addiction and fighting racism, Mile Davis shaped jazz like a meteoroid striking the planet. Largely reclusive off-stage, this documentary pulls together rare interviews and stage performances from more than four decades (as well as on-camera interviews with dozens of friends, lovers and fellow musicians) to provide probably the most complete picture of jazz's most influential trumpeter.
The Natural History of the Chicken (double feature)
Double feature with The Panama Deception, a timely feature about President Bush Sr and his making and unmaking of Panama, Noriega and a high-level drug ring. Natural History of the Chicken is a hilarious documentary about pet chickens! What could be funnier? Okay, well, dog owners. But what else could be funnier?
Not Another Teen Movie
A spoof is typically the unofficial signal that studios will stop churning out films of a particular genre, but Not Another Teen Movie may simply provide studio execs with more reasons to carry on with the likes of She's All That, Varsity Blues, and anything that requires Freddy Prinze Jr. to say something idiotic and remove his shirt. The parody palette here is historically broad, lampooning everything from Bring It On and Cruel Intentions to almost every movie John Hughes made, and, most bizarrely, Grease. While little of it is effective (save for a cheerleader with Tourette's syndrome and some clever set design touches), the sheer volume of comedic ground plowed proves teens will always find themselves bemused by homophobia, slutty girls and hapless individuals being doused in human feces. Yes it is another teen movie. (Hannah Levin )
Hollywood may finally be redeemed! The savior? Director Steven Soderbergh. After last year's two fisted grip on America's consciousness ( Traffic and Erin Brockvich), the calm and confident hand of Soderbergh delivers a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift (George Clooney and Brad Pitt on the screen together; I could almost faint). In a feat more remarkable than the movie's $160 million bank heist, Soderbergh manages to keep the egos of the blockbuster actors under their hats and lets the plot tell its own story. As a velvety tongued bank robber, Clooney quarterbacks a near impossible heist of a Vegas-casino vault. With the help of eleven well-trained pickpockets, explosive experts and circus acrobats, the robbery races along with the intricacy and spellbinding accuracy of a Swiss watch. (Phil Busse)
* Royal Tennenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their seperate, but equally fucked up lives. Once they get under the same roof, their individual and combined issues resurface--and they do their best to work them out. Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson are amazing, the story is depressing with moments of hilarity, and the pace of the film is similar to Rushmore-slow moving, but worth every minute. (Katie Shimer)
The Shipping News
This movie takes place in the mediocre land of contemporary American fiction, a land where people have names like Tert and Wavey and Nutbeem and Petal and Skronk and no one bats an eyelash when they introduce themselves. It's also a land where houses magically contain the dark history of their inhabitants, and where every woman was either raped, beaten, or tricked into incest. Additionally, all the men in this land are either affectless near-retards, or delightfully quirky eccentrics. The film is full of shit on every level-every word it says is a lie. It should be avoided like fruitcake. PS: Whoever it was that told Kevin Spacey to stop playing charismatic bastards and to start playing cosmic naifs should be dipped in tar. (Sean Nelson)
Though it takes its time getting there, this sweet little film about a Scots crooner with a bad perm and an even worse case of self-loathing ambition ends up in a very charming corner of the "what price, stardom?" genre. Ian Hart plays Tony (or, as the Brits insist on spelling it, "Toni") Cocozza, a Sinatra purist with dreams of stardom who catches the eye of the local mob in his hometown of Glasgow. Though it's unclear if Tony has any actual talent (a minor point, really), the mobsters take a shine to him and immediately put him to work as a bag man. Sweet-natured Tony relents (much to the chagrin of his likewise sweet cronies, including cutie pie Kelly MacDonald from Trainspotting), hoping it will lead, however circuitously, to the big time. Though the story is a little maudlin, and the filmmaking wobbly, the actors-especially Hart and the great Brian Cox as the main mobster-make Strictly Sinatra a koo koo swinger. (Sean Nelson)
Tom Cruise plays David Aames, a hotshot 33-year-old who inherited a publishing company from his pop and has the world by the nuts. David skitters through life refusing to accept any real responsibility--especially when it comes to his casual lover, Julie (Cameron Diaz). However, when he meets the cute-as-a-bug Sofia (Penelope Cruz), he gets his first glimpse at the possibility of true love, which drives the jealous Julie bonkers. When David is seduced into Julie's car, she promptly drives them both off a bridge. Okay, this film has some plot twists--around 500 of them. To be honest, the one secret I know producers would not like to have revealed, is that this movie is pretty, well acted, and sloooooooooow. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Flamenco dancing and revenge. See review this issue.
* Vertical Ray of the Sun
Tran Anh Hung shows a serene dream-life for three sisters painted against a difficult and undiscussed real life of infidelity and in one sister's case, a near incestuous relationship with her brother. A visual stimulant with a pretty good story.
Richard Linklater's monologue-heavy, beautifully animated opus about the quest for lucid dreaming and active living is one of the coolest, most interesting movies you'll ever see. Or you might hate it and think it's talky and pretentious. If you liked Slacker, however--wait, not if you liked it... if you GOT Slacker--and have been waiting for Linklater to return to philosophical quandary mode, don't wait another second. Go see Waking Life. (Sean Nelson)
* We Sold Our Souls To Rock and Roll
A concert "rockumentary" of Ozzfest. Check out real life metal nerds and egomaniac performers--a guarantee on this big name, big label, pile of crap tour. If you didn't get to watch five hours of VH1 per day at your parent's house over the holidays, this is a great substitute. See review this issue.