Suffering from a breakup, Josh Hartnett vows to remain celibate for 40 days, but during that time discovers the love of his life and is therefore, unable to bone her. And that's the complete plot. However, there are a few surprises along the way. For example, all the women in the movie are shameless sluts, who wear extremely short skirts and fishnet hose to work and have nothing on their minds except demonstrating their power over men via screwing. That's fairly surprising (unless of course, you're a misogynist pig). It's also surprising that, in an attempt to seduce Josh, Shannyn Sossamon bites her lower lip 27 more times than Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. Equally surprising is the utter joy the characters exhibit while shaking their fists in that extremely clever way of denoting masturbation. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
In 17th Century West Africa, King Adanggaman wages war against neighboring tribes, killing the elderly and selling men into slavery. Ossei escapes and joins forces with warrior Naka in an effort to save his mother.
All About the Benjamins
Here's what Ice Cube said about being "all about the Benjamins" in 1991's "A Bird In the Hand," from the album Death Certificate: "Do I have to sell me a whole lot of crack/for decent shelter, and clothes on my back?/Or should I just wait for help from Bush/or Jessie Jackson, and Operation Push/If you ask me the whole thing needs a douche/a Massengil/what the hell/the cracker sell/in the neighborhood." This entire song is a brilliant weave of comedy and socio-economic drama (even in a single gesture he can do this, with an additional pop-art spin: in one line he raps, "Welcome to McDonalds's, can I take your order please?"). This film won't be quite the same, but that's okay, because Ice Cube is always fun to watch. Mike Epps co-stars. (Brian Goedde)
Although 32 years has rubbed off some of the more shocking edges, Jane Fonda as a space cowboy nympho is still an energizing fantasy. Dressed--and undressed--in skintight cellophane and glittery go-go boots, Fonda parades her anti-gravity breasts around the galaxy. Fonda flies her orange-shag carpeted space ship, discovers the "old fashion" way of love-making and otherwise gets groovy on an evil scientist's plans to destroy the universe. (Phil Busse)
* Beijing Bicycle
Damn, Chinese people are really, really into their bikes. Beijing Bicycle opens with soft-spoken Guei, who has landed a job in the city as a bike courier, a plum position that comes with a tricked-out bicycle. The deal is that once he earns 600 yuan, the bike's his. Just before the payment is complete, though, the bike gets lifted; Guei is crestfallen and vows to find it. Jian, meanwhile, is a schoolboy who longs for a bike to prove he's suave to his posse, so he buys Guei's bike at a flea market and suddenly, ladies love cool Jian. But while ritually combing the city, Guei happens across Jian and the bike, and the two boys spend the next hour violently stealing it back and forth. Although there are a couple questionable components (a strange little soundtrack, the plot errs on the side of tedium), this is an earnest, hardworking film that's overall recommended. And if nothing else, it's always funny to watch Chinese kids beating the Christ out of each other. (Meg Van Huygen)
If you are a fan of photographer Bruce Weber's hauntingly homoerotic pictures, which have graced countless fashion magazines and galleries, then prepare to forget about being a fan. His new documentary Chop Suey is a mind-crushingly boring tribute to himself and his interests, that contains little to no regard for the people who are paying to watch. In loose, scrapbook fashion, Weber waxes dully on his varied obsessions, which include young hunk/protegee Peter Johnson, singer Frances Faye, Robert Mitchum, and even a Brazilian jujitsu expert. And while this may sound interesting, Weber's never-ceasing monotone drags the flick down into a head-throbbing miasma that just makes you want to scream "Stop it! Stop It! STOP IT!!!!" I'm sorry, but I was in a really good mood before this movie, and now I'm really pissed. Thanks a lot, Weber. You jerk. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* The Commitments
See the bullshit and glory involved in keeping a band together... in Ireland.
* Don't Look Now
A couple who have recently lost their child sojourn in Venice; the husband haunted by fleeting glimpses of what seems to be their late daughter. Nicolas Roeg fully understands their desolation, yet still can't help examining them under a microscope, fascinated by their tawdry squabbles and hypocrisies. Starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. (Bruce Reid)
A "supernatural thriller" that recedes from memory faster than Kevin Costner's hairline. The story (such as it is): After Costner's wife is killed, she begins to haunt him through various "creepy" (and often unintentionally hilarious) means. Why is she trying to contact him him? What secret does he need to unravel? The answer is: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Directed by Tom Shadyac (of Patch Adams fame), Dragonfly commits the biggest sin of all as a major motion picture: It forces you not to care. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Experiments in Terror: The Horror Film and its Spawn
This collection is, unfortunately, not terrifying. Old-timey horror film trailers, Alfred Hitchcock giving a middle-of-the-afternoon tour of the Psycho mansion, few-minute collages of clip art dracula heads, and one decent film done using Barbie and Ken to biography the life of Richard Chase, the vampire killer. Worthwhile if you're not expecting a story and are merely interested in a visual display. (Katie Shimer)
Set in 1932, Gosford Park is an exhausted murder mystery. It takes a toxic narrative, the sort that was exploited to death by Agatha Christie, and emphasizes things Christie wouldn't emphasize (like class antagonisms, power structures within sexual relationships), and de-emphasizes things she would emphasize (like the murder, the mystery, and its solution). In a word, Gosford Park is a meta-mystery, meaning the setting, figures, and tropes of a murder mystery form the frame for the real concerns: class and gender rivalries; the rise of mass entertainment; and the dark history of the industrial revolution and British imperialism. In Gosford Park, all of these meta-elements seem to be rushing toward the point of revelation, but they never arrive at the terminal point of truth. (Charles Mudede)
* Harrison's Flowers
Harrison's Flowers is about a glamorous Newsweek photographer, David Strathairn, who disappears in the heart of white darkness: Ethnic Eastern Europe. His all-American wife, Andie MacDowell, goes after him, stepping over a thousand Yugo corpses to reach and rescue the only man who ever mattered to her. See review this issue.
* Ice Age
The recent boom in computer animation bodes well for the next generation, as their childhood will hopefully not be squandered on lame-ass 2-D Disney musicals. Ice Age takes over where films like Shrek and Monsters Inc. left off last year. Pleasant and funny, it is littered with enough sophisticated jokes to entertain the adults, but is really nothing more than a fast-paced, shimmering toy for kids. Which is just the way it should be. (Bradley Steinbacher)
The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. The story, as constructed by director Richard Eyre, flips back and forth between past and present, evidently mimicking the erratic thread that memory becomes in the hands of the disease. Watching it is not without its comforts; it's exactly the kind of thing I love to stumble across on Sunday nights on public television, a guilty pleasure somewhat elevated by the British accents and quaint diction. What turns this film into something more suited to the small screen is relentless sentimentalization and lack of ambition, in a story about an ambitious woman without a sentimental bone in her body. (Emily Hall)
* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences-coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (Bret Fetzer)
John Q is a problem film. Not in the race conflict sense, but in the class warfare sense. The movie represents Hollywood's first attempt to address the failure of the healthcare system. Denzel Washington plays the American worker, and Anne Heche plays Enron. Enron in this instance takes the form of a healthcare corporation, with its expensive drugs and operations, and its affluent doctors and administrators. The film, of course, is timely. The layoffs and deepening recession in the real world are expressed by the part-time factory worker's frustration with the system. Though I agree with John Q's politics, it's dull and tendentious. (Charles Mudede)
Kandahar tells the story of Nafas, a female Afghan expatriate, now living in Canada and working as a journalist. Her sister is still trapped in the title city, maimed by a land mine and unable to tolerate the subhuman conditions for women, which are enforced under Taliban rule. When the sister writes of her intention to commit suicide, Nafas decides to return to Kandahar and intervene. The beauty of this film is confusing, even sinister, because of the implicit suffering that it generates, but painfully worth seeing. (Sean Nelson)
The talents of six of the finest British actors alive (Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings, Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, and Ray Winstone) are squandered by this moist little movie about a journey to deliver a dead man's ashes to the seaside. (Sean Nelson)
* Life and Debt
A thorough and illuminating documentary about civil unrest and economic strife in Jamaica. Interviews with Jamaican workers, farmers, and government officials (and lots of embarrassing footage of oblivious American tourists) illustrate the deep impact of globalization on a post-colonial, third-world country, whose previous cinematic history seems to begin and end with The Harder They Come. Narration written by Jamaica Kincaid, adapted from her book,"A Small Place". Oh, and guess what? Bob Marley's on the soundtrack. (Owen Ashworth)
* 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.
Luminous Motion: the films of nathaniel dorsky
Remember the dancing plastic bag scene in American Beauty? That's Nathaniel Dorsky. The footage, which originally appears in the San Francisco avant-garde filmmaker's short, "Variations", was bought by the producers of American Beauty, and it is strangely beautiful moments like that one that make up Dorsky's three most recent films (Variations, Arbor Vitae, and Love's Remains). Tiny incidents of fleeting beauty suspended between nature and urbanity--light reflected through a gratified bus window, a cigarette butt on a rainy sidewalk--are silently juxtaposed and presented at a dreamlike 18 frames a second. The effect can be both lulling and ecstatically overwhelming, if you're patient. (Owen Ashworth)
After a drunken assault, former soccer superstar Danny (Snatch's Vinnie Jones) is thrown into jail. His notoriety quickly wins allies and enemies in the Big House--most notably, the warden who has fielded a semi-pro soccer team and wants Danny to coach them to a championship. Instead, Danny begins to train the inmates for a soccer match against the prison guards. However, the low-key slapstick of the film (enough guys were kicked in the nuts that I checked the credits to see if a sports cup company sponsored the film) debilitates any capacity for grown-up emotions. Like guys who believe that deep feelings can be expressed by chucking each other on the shoulder, virtues like camaraderie, loyalty, and pride are not handled with any real head or heart, but as if they're baseball cards to swap and trade. (Phil Busse)
Anime based on Osamu Tezuka'a classic manga. See review this issue.
* Monsoon Wedding
At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed (marigolds are so vibrant they would leave bright orange dust on your fingers if you touched them). But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. Of course, it all comes out right in the end, but in getting to its satisfying resolution, it passes through so many uncomfortable revelations and unthinkable confrontations that it almost feels like watching history unfold. (Sean Nelson)
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Thornton, perfect), son of a retired racist prison guard (Peter Boyle, who doesn't even try an accent), and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger, who tries his hardest) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. Also, Hank executed her husband (Sean Combs, Puffy). Hank's dad says "nigger" and "porch monkey," and Hank fires a shotgun at some black kids, so we know that the film is about breaking the cycle of bigotry. A few nice notes are struck, but too many coincidences motorize this melodrama; its morality is tinny and safe. Via their affair, Hank is cured of racism, and Leticia is cured of grief. She even gets a truck! "I thank we're gone be all right," Hank says at the end. I thank I'm gone puke. (Sean Nelson)
* Oceans 11
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. (Phil Busse)
Paris Was a Woman
A documentary on the female expatriate artists, writers, and photographers living in Paris during the '20s and '30s. Josephine Baker, Sylvia Beach, and Gertrude Stein are featured along with famous painters, Picasso and Matisse.
An unfocused documentary of Ron Jeremy that tells us about his good and bad traits, instead of showing us. Footage of 80s porn is intriguing, however, as are the idiotic cast of interviewees (including Ron himself). (Katie Shimer)
Milla Jovovich stumbles upon a secret government lab where she's forced to kick the asses of several zombie dogs...Matrix style! Reviewed this issue.
Stag Party Special
Having seen as much porno as the next joker, I have a good guess as to why the actors these days are all hairless beefcake and big fake breasts... because watching little, skinny men fuck large, hairy women is stomach turning, especially when the man is alternately fucking her with a live eel. Expect money shots similar to those of today, a lot more flaccid penis, some tame, women-undressing interruptions, and to invest in some therapy to erase the more horrifying images from your mind. Thankfully, I just ate lunch before I saw this compilation and now, it's nearly impossible for me to eat without getting nauseous--far more effective than the Atkins diet. (Katie Shimer)
Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro star in this unlikely-buddy-cop film that satirizes reality cop shows on TV. Also featuring Rene Russo, William Shatner, and Kadeem "Dwayne Wayne" Hardison. Ker-snooze.
The Time Machine
In this remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a science geek and tremendously unsatisfied with his lot in life. However, when his fiancée meets an untimely death, he builds a machine designed to take him back and set things right. That doesn't work. So he travels to the future to answer the age-old question, "Why can't we change the past?" Naturally, when he arrives--800,000 years later--he learns what any grumpy sci-fi author could have told him: humans have fucked everything up and the world is a big shithole. But what makes this particular world a shithole are the "Morlocks," who are a race of well, I don't know what they are, but they look like a cross between Jack Palance and the monsters from The Dark Crystal. Anyway, they're kicking the crap out of peaceful surface dwellers, and Hartdegen must decide to either stay and help, or return to a time when they didn't have indoor toilets. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* Waking Ned Devine
An Irishman dies of shock after winning the Lotto and the townspeople try and collect the dough.
We Were Soldiers
Scrawny little bastard Mel Gibson stars in this jingoistic turd of a Vietnam War film about 400 American soldiers in an elite combast divison who get blasted to bits by the Viet Cong. They try and save themselves and each other, their heroism is unparalleled, blah blah blah.