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)
The Amata Opera
Like a ship in a bottle, the Amato Opera performs the grand and epic themes of opera in a Bowery space barely big enough to swing a cat. A touching story about one couple's love affair with the Verdi and Mozart masters of opera, and their efforts to place jumbo-sized performances in a bite-size theater--the smallest opera house in the world.
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!
Better Than Sex
Not to set the bar too high, but this Australian film is a whole lot better than Friends. About a one-night stand complicated by some pesky emotions, this film plays like a clunky episode of NBC's long-running sitcom. So why is it better? It's the sex, stupid. He goes down on her, she goes down on him, he fucks her doggy style, she rides him like a pony. If the script were half as convincing as the sex, well, this would be a pretty damn good movie. It's not, though, not by a longshot. But, hey, nice tits. (Dan Savage )
Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live
Unlike many musicians who soar into stardom and then quickly arc back downward, Jimi Hendrix only improved and continued challenging his own self-invented genres. Obsessive about his skills, he reportedly carried a guitar everywhere with him, practicing about eight hours a day. This film captures the guitarist at the apex of his career--because it was filmed 18 days before his death. New footage and re-mastered sound fill out some of the empty spots from the original version.
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)
* Dementia 13
Louise's husband John dies, but she won't get any of the inheritence if he's dead. She forges a letter saying he's been called to New York and goes to visit his insane family in order to try and scam the dough. A horror flick directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
* The Devil's Backbone
An allegory to the Spanish Civil War, a horror film about a young orphan who discovers the orphanage's dark past. See review this issue.
A documentary of our new favorite tragic failure of a sea voyage, Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 quest for Antarctica, which wound up, as we all know, with an icebound vessel full of starving crewmen reduced to smoking penguin feathers. Lucky for this documentary that they had a camera crew with 'em....
This movie is directed by, written by, and stars a local actor named Chris Claridge. The story is about some idiot guys who share a house and get thrown out. Also, a dude who's in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is in this movie.
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)
As his follow-up to Big Night, writer/director/star Stanley Tucci has come up with a throwback to screwball farce. Two down and out actors in the '30s run from a barroom brawl with a pretentious British star and wind up as unintentional stowaways on a luxury liner. On the way to the happy ending, they have to outrun the ship's crew, match up a few true loves, foil a pair of murderous con artists, and outwit a terrorist bomber.
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.
Sex is categorically stripped of its erotic value in this cold, harsh film about two Brits (Kerry Fox and Mark Rylance) who meet once a week for wordless, anonymous sex. We learn more about them as the man becomes intrigued enough by his partner (about whom he knows almost literally nothing) to begin stalking her around London. Writer Hanif Kurieshi bestows the "lovers'" entanglement with an aura of menace and dark revelation, but the film distinguishes itself by the very mundaneness of the characters' respective dilemmas. Thus, we are spared the existential superheroism (and misogyny) that today makes Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris feel like a truncheon of laughable overwrought self-importance. Instead, we get a French director's (Patrice Chereau) vision of the emotional life of the English. It's a rich and complex film, but you might want to bring an extra sweater. Brr.... (Sean Nelson)
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
This digital claymation for the under-10 set concerns a young man who likes to invent things like rocket-powered toothbrushes and what not, but whom everyone thinks is a dork. Until the aliens invade, that is. Then, come the wet-ass hour, he's everybody's fucking daddy. Well fuck you, world! FUCK YOU!
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)
A dysfunctional family in Argentina sits by the dirty pool and ignores their problems, such as alcoholism, lonliness, and mistreatment of each other. I could not relate to any of the characters in this film, had no idea where the story was going, and was super relieved when it was over. (Katie Shimer)
Lilith on Top
As if Lilith Fair was not torture enough, it has now been commemorated in a glossy rockumentary. This is a starry-eyed, hairy armpit groupie's view of the music of feminism. If you have testicles or think that music should be more challenging than a Hallmark card, this movie will be a version of hell. Even the great Chrissie Hynde cannot redeem 100 minutes of lollipop music from Sarah "McAffirm-Me" McLachlan and, ugh, the Indigo Dorks.
* 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 Man Who Wasn't There
The Coen Brothers have their heads stuck firmly inside their own asses--but at least they do a nice job of it. Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is a bored barber who finds an opportunity to invest in a dry cleaning partnership, but he must come up with $10,000 he doesn't have. So, he concocts a plot to blackmail the wealthy lover of his wife (Frances McDormand). Naturally, a litany of Coen brothers-style complications ensue, including death, thinly veiled pedophilia, and a trip to the electric chair. Unlike most classic film noir, which clips along at a breakneck, suspenseful pace, The Man Who Wasn't There stumbles along like a lame horse. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top Scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright--and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. In Monsters, Inc., this includes a truly uncomfortable fetishizing of the sleeping American child, and the assumption of a world benevolently owned and operated by a private corporation. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (Evan Sult )
David Lynch doing his usual contorted mystery.
Steve Martin stars as a dentist who becomes embroiled in a murder fiasco straight out of Pulp Fiction in this charming, if self-satisfied noir update. Martin and his girlfriend (the hyperbolically fastidious Laura Dern) live a sanitary existence, until saucy little junkie Helena Bonham Carter and her incestuous brother (Scott Caan) enter their lives by force, demanding such things as medical cocaine and sex in the dentist chair. Soon, someone is dead, and someone is blamed, and someone has to fight to clear his name. This would be a fully smug and frustrating exercise in genre resuscitation if it weren't peopled by a game cast of excellent actors. The presence of pros like Martin and Carter (and Elias Koteas in a glorified cameo) elevates matters considerably. (Sean Nelson)
* Oceans 11
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)
One Thousand and One Voices
An exploration of the Islamic musical science of Sufism. Through chanting, trances, and dancing to unconciousness, people gain unity with God.
* Rebel Music: Bob Marley Story
Although the camera is sometimes too wide-eyed in its stoner's delight of the reggae star, the film works best when it leapfrogs from one sober moment to the next--of which, there are plenty. Interviews of CIA agents who admit to pulling strings for the political activist's assassination are particularly chilling. This posthumous tribute plays down the rasta-pasta image and fleshes out the political activist.
* Royal Tenenbaums
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)
Sidewalks of New York
A great movie for the relationship-obsessed. Stanley Tucci is a big horny ho that sleeps with any chick who'll let him, despite the fact that he's married to hotty-licious Heather Graham. Edward Burns (so cute) is unlucky in love, but searching for a woman to settle down with. Young people break up and fall in love again--even though they never thought it was possible. A lot of relationship stereotypes play out stereotypically: For those of you who need to be reassured, alas, there is hope of finding "the one." (Katie Shimer)
Strange Fruit w/ Legend of Teddy Edwards
A study of the impact of the anti-lynching protest song, "Strange Fruit." Written by Abel Meeropol, a free-thinking Jewish school teacher, in the 1930s, the song was covered by Billie Holiday and many others.,
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, he realizes he's in the lothario's worst nightmare. After ripping him a new asshole for being such a jerk, Julie promptly drives them both off a bridge. Okay, this film has some plot twists--around 500 of them. This movie is pretty, well acted, and sloooooooooow. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Flamenco dancing and revenge.
* 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.
Warren Miller's Cold Fusion: The Power of Snow
One of those skiing stunt movies that are so popular with the young boys.