In the case of John Nash (Russell Crowe), the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, it is ironic that a man of quantitative genius could lose all control of quantitative reality. With a deft directorial touch, the paradox of Nash's world could really come to life. But that would take more of a talent than Ron Howard, whose interest is to make an uplifting movie, and to provide an easily digestible tale of overcoming adversity--as if insanity was something you just get through, like a bad hair day. (Michael Shilling)
Big Bad Love
Arliss Howard's film debut is based on the short stories of Mississippi writer Larry Brown. Howard plays Leon Barlow, a Vietnam veteran with a drinking problem, and an aspiring writer. Debra Winger plays his beleaguered ex-wife, Marilyn. The film is overripe with magical-realist whimsy that upends Brown's lean lyricism. (Nate Lippens)
Blade II: Bloodhunt
Unfortunately, Blade II sucks so much ass, even Wesley's hottie six-pack won't distract you. Picking up where Blade left off, Blade the Daywalker must save his old sidekick, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), from the big pod of blood in which the vampires have kept him captive for years. He does that in the first ten minutes of the movie so, the real plot is that there is a maniacal, vampire-eating monster on the loose, whose mandible comes apart to expose a tongue that resembles a large piece of fried calamari. The tongue carries a virus that turns vampires into vampire eating monsters, which look like a cross between Nosferatu and Batboy from the Weekly World News. (Julianne Shepherd)
The Mexican Liberal Party organized the first of many strikes against President Porfirio Diaz, which led to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. This film chronicles the initial revolt and highlights the anarchist struggle.
* The Cat's Meow
Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon takes aim at Hollywood and its talent mill in the 1920s. Like Gosford Park, Robert Altman's excellent who-cares-who-dunnit, The Cat's Meow is less about murder than it is about the social scrimmage and class pecking order of its players. In that sense, this gossipy story of events aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst, is a success. (Nate Lippens)
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are involved in a fender-bender, rendering Jackson immobile. Affleck speeds off, unknowingly leaving behind an extremely important document; a bitter Jackson misses an important custody hearing, and a grand old feud is born. So Affleck, from atop New York's twin-towers-less skyline, attacks Jackson's financial credibility, while down on the streets below Jackson prepares an old-fashioned smackdown. Who wins? You won't care. It has to be noted that there's a declining marginal utility to disaster in the movies; way too many things just happen to go wrong in this film, and it wears upon its feasibility. (Kudzai Mudede)
A scientist invents a gun that makes time stand still for whomever it hits. The normal cliche science-movie things happen after that. If you can't get into this movie, just rent Flubber instead. You'll never know the difference.
These serendipitous films are all the rage these days--although this one was released in 2000, so it's not about the filmmaker trying to explain the tragic events of 9/11 through karma and life cycles. It is however about the random intersection of lives. Anne (Juliette Binoche) bumps into the runaway brother of her boyfriend, who is photographing in Kosovo. She gives him the code to her apartment and he stumbles into an altercation with an Arab woman who is then deported beginning the intertwining of their lives for the remainder of the film.
* Count of Monte Cristo
Kevin Reynolds' rendition of The Count of Monte Cristo is a zippy little piece of entertainment masquerading as a mini-epic. Of course, Alexandre Dumas' timeless potboiler does most of the work here; the story of a virtuous man betrayed by his best friend, consigned to an island prison, delivered by fate, and resolved to revenge remains one of the great pulp yarns of all time. What Reynolds (The Beast, Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves... yeesh!) brings to the table is a knack for big action, and more importantly, a facility with the shorthand of male intimacy.
Death to Smoochy
Driven by adults' universal aversion to pervy, purple, children's TV characters, Danny Devito's dark comedy is adequately raunchy, but ultimately forgettable. There's nothing really wrong with the dour turns by Devito, Ed Norton, and Robin Williams (who relishes every expletive and throws himself into violent outburst with decent results), but the script simply isn't deviant or developed enough to hold up, and the idiotic pseudo-conflict tacked on the end is simultaneously forced and boring. Besides, co-star Catherine Keener is far too sharp and sexy to be wasting her time in such underbaked satires. (Hannah Levin )
Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, and Fairuza Balk star in this tale of two brothers trying to protect their Brooklyn neighborhood from a gang in the summer of 1958.
Eagle with Two Heads
Similiar to Beauty and the Beast, this film is a fairytale about a queen, awakened by her assassin, and the drama that ensues.
* Forbidden Games
René Clément's mournful 1952 tale about a little girl in war-torn France: When her parents and her dog are killed in an air raid, she is befriended by a peasant boy. She finds shelter with his family, and common cause with the boy himself--confronted on all sides by death and horror, the two children contrive to make an animal graveyard. Jeux Interdits is a quiet, beautiful masterpiece of the type the French have always excelled at making: the kind where incredibly cute little waifs must endure life's hardest lessons, and persevere anyway.
Not even bad enough to pass for a cheesy film rife with ironic hilarity, this crapfest follows the horrendous acting of Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Boothe through the most condescendingly stupid plot about a guy who believes God is instructing him to slaughter "demons" (i.e. hairdressers, old men, nurses) on earth. The plot twists are predictable, the script was written by a two-year-old, and if you force yourself through the whole thing like I did, you'll have a little less self-respect after it's over. (Julianne Shepherd)
The Free Voice of Labor: the Jewish Anarchists
This 1980 documentary, filmed at the closing of the hundred-year-old American Jewish Anarchist newspaper, Free Voice of Labor, illuminates the strength of immigrant Jewish anarchist movements at the turn of the last century. With very interesting interviews with elderly anarchists (including survivors of the Haymarket Riot), what really makes this documentary are the clips of old union films, in Hebrew, of organizers comparing strikes to Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt. A soundtrack of old Russian/Hebrew labor songs fill out this moving testimony.
Directed by Michael Haneke, this is the story of a couple who come home with their kid and find some nice, but insane men have taken over their house. Dark and disturbing.
Harold and Maude
The 1971 classic in which a death-obsessed 20-year-old kid meets a positive, life-loving 70-year-old. Then they have sex.
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
The film covers Harry's first year at Hogwarts, and though it would be impossible for any film version to replicate the density of the book, it seems as if director Chris Columbus has focused on setting up a franchise, rather than an entertaining movie for kids and adults. When Harry Potter finds himself in serious danger, it almost appears secondary to introducing characters and exposition. The result is a fairly tedious Cliff Notes version of Harry Potter, in which we lose a lot of the fun, the darkness, and forward momentum found in the book. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
This bad film is directed by the great Carl Franklin, who directed Devil in A Blue Dress. The movie (which stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd) is not horrible, just too professional and conventional. Set in an army court, it lacks sweeping shots of spectacular army helicopters, and, in the court scenes, it fails to sustain and exploit that efficient military speak ("These are the rules of engagement, sir!"). The result is a bland version of Denzel Washington's superb Courage Under Fire, which had lots of helicopters and military speak. (Charles Mudede)
Val Waxman (Woody Allen), a film director, has fallen out of favor since his heyday in the 70s and 80s and has been reduced to directing TV commercials. Finally, however, he gets an offer to direct a big budget film, but goes blind from the stress. He and his counterparts disguise his disability and attempt to direct the film anyway. See review this issue.
Doomed to the life of an outcast, Lila (Patricia Arquette) was born with an abnormal amount of body hair--not just cursed with hairy legs or coot, Lila's golden sheath of fur makes her look like a frigging Golden Retriever. Because of this, she moves into the wilderness to write nature books with titles like Fuck Humanity. Eventually, however, thanks to the yearn in her loins she returns to civilization, where she gets electrolysis. Fur-free, Lila will date anybody--even Nathan, a stuffy scientist whose life dream is to teach proper table manners to mice (played by Tim Robbins). It's a weird movie, to be sure, but it's almost like writer, Charlie Kaufman, was afraid of being too weird, and it held him back. Human Nature is worth seeing for its sheer uniqueness, but unfortunately, it's lacking a little spark. (Julianne Shepherd)
I am Sam
I Am Sam is a truly awful title for only a marginally awful movie, which is to say that despite the poor moniker, this latest Hollywood take on the retarded is not a complete disaster. There are two reasons for this: a) Sean Penn is Sean Penn, even when he's playing (and often failing to play) a man with the intelligence of a 7-year-old, and b) Dakota Fanning, perhaps the most adorable girl ever burned onto celluloid.
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)
* In the Bedroom
This langorous, beautifully acted film about erotic and familial entanglements in a small Maine fishing town one summer builds up to three moments of utter emotional brutality so severe that the long moments in between them thrum like high tension wires. A college boy having a fling with a townie single mother (Marisa Tomei), the boy's parents (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson), and the mistress' ex-husband form the locus of Todd Field's insidiously gripping adaptation of Andre Dubus' deeply moral short story. (Sean Nelson)
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. This film turns into something more suited to the small screen, however, because of the 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)
After a team of government scientists finally figure out that after nine movies you can't just kill the infamous Jason, they throw their hands up and cryogenically freeze his ass until they can think of something better. Naturally, Jason isn't going down alone, so after hack-hack-hacking up everyone else in the facility, he finds himself frozen alongside a sexy, sexy researcher. Next thing you know... Did someone forget to set the alarm? Because it's 450 years later! Lucky Jason wakes up on a spaceship filled with hot 'n' horny teenage scientists--and as we all know, if there's one thing Jason loves more than killing dumb kids who are having premarital sex, it's killing smart kids who are having premarital sex! (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Just a Gigolo
In order to object to his ridiculous arranged marriage, this kid disguises himself as a gigolo and tries to seduce the bride. When the bride then falls in love with the gigolo, everything goes awry. Will he reveal himself?
Directed by Steven Soderberg, Jeremy Irons plays Franz Kafka, torn between anarchy and the law--and at the same time discovering a grotesque social experiment which leaves people lobotomized.
* Kissing Jessica Stein
With the dumb title and no name actors, you wouldn't think this would be a good film, but it is. Sex-fiend Helen places ad in the paper because she wants to try getting her lesbian freak on, and uptight girl, Jessica, is so taken by the ad that she decides to give it a chance. The gals end up trying it out together for a while, and Jessica overcomes a lot of issues, including whether she's gay or not. The peripheral characters are hysterical, and the relationship between Jessica and Helen makes you question how easy it would be to go gay or to be gay without realizing it or to be unhappy without seeing the solution. (Katie Shimer)
A lantana is a pretty pink flower. Lantana the film is a bud that never blooms. The long, slow film opens with a dead body and ends with a couple dancing, and in between are 120 minutes of middle-aged people living miserably. There is a story, sure--something about infidelity and a possible murder--but the bulk of the film is made up of pure misery, both for the characters and the audience. Then again, Australia is a former penal colony, so perhaps such punishment should be expected. (Bradley Steinbacher)
The Last Waltz
Scorsese proves he can RAWK with this loving documentary about The Band's final performance. New 35 mm print.
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.
Life, or Something Like It
Thank God, I saw this movie with a friend, because without someone to listen to my loud annoyed sighs, I would have exploded. Angelina Jolie looks fairly heinous with blonde hair and plays a career obsessed newscaster who thinks she's got it all... until a fortune teller says she'll die next Thursday. Yeah, yeah. So she reprioritizes, gets laid by a nice guy she used to hate (Edward Burns, what are you doing?), does not show any tit, and learns the true meaning of life is getting drunk and screwing. I could have told you that. (Katie Shimer)
The Maltese Falcon
Private detective Sam Spade is harassed by the police after his partner is killed while tailing a man. When Spade confronts the woman who hired her partner, she turns out to be not who she said she was; and is instead, involved in finding a huge gold encrusted statue--the Maltese Falcon. Made in 1941 and starring Humphrey Bogart.
Metropolis is a beautiful and stylish hybrid-one of those future worlds imagined from the distant past, where above ground looks like an Ayn Rand dream, below ground is pure Blade Runner, and the characters are retro in the style of Hergé's Tintin. The malicious but helpless President Boon presides over Metropolis, and the true power lies with the Roarkian Duke Red, builder of the Ziggurat and the muscle behind Tima, a gorgeous android (looking uncannily like Haley Joel Osment) who will someday rule the world. What makes Metropolis--which has a production pedigree that includes much of anime's royalty--feel like something truly new is the animation (combining the most up-to-date CGI with old-fashioned cels and the occasional live-action background), the mood (speakeasy 1920s, complete with Dixieland Jazz and gumshoe detectives), and its refusal to divide the world into absolute good and evil. Mostly, yes, it's eye candy, but everyone's eyes should be so lucky. (Emily Hall)
* A Mirrored Romance
Early to mid 1900s avant garde films.
* 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)
Murder By Numbers
Sandra Bullock plays her usual cheesecake self. She becomes a cop after being a victim of domestic violence. Luckily, Michael Pitt saves this bad acting fest by playing a pretty convincing teenage killer.
Other Side of Heaven
A farm boy from Idaho falls goes to the Tongan Islands in the 1950s, leaving behind his girlfriend. Don't worry though, she lifts his spirits with meaningful letters and the experience teaches him valuable lessons about life and love. A film for freshman girls whose boyfriends have gone off to Cal State.
Jodie Foster's husband is a rich, cheating prick, so she buys a giant Manhattan brownstone in order to get revenge. The house was previously owned by a dead, paranoid millionaire, and comes complete with a "Panic Room" with video camera monitors, a phone, a motion sensor door, and food. The son of the millionaire, unscary Jared Leto, knows there's money in a safe inside the Panic Room and gets crazy Raoul, and a security expert (docile and friendly Forrest Whitaker) to help him get rich quick. But herein lies the problem: For some reason, dumbass Leto allows the house to sit empty for two weeks before performing the heist, and before he knows it, Jodie and daughter are all moved in. Instead of waiting until they're not home, Leto and pals debate for an hour about whether to try for the money anyway, and a bunch of implausible events ensue. (Katie Shimer)
Pauline and Paulette
The story of four sisters, Martha, Cecile, Pauline, and Paulette. Pauline is mentally challenged and lives with Martha, who lovingly cares for her. When Martha dies however, she leaves her money to her sisters, but under the condition that Cecile or Paulette care for Pauline.
The Piano Teacher
A repressed 40-year-old piano teacher, who lives with her controlling mother no less, is seduced by one of her students. Director Haneke explores disturbing pathologies and S&M disaster. Adult. YES.
For those of you who can handle the squirmy Uma Thurman-adrenaline-shot scene and the even squirmier Ving Rhames ass-fucking scene, Quentin Tarantino's genre-inspiring, violence-embracing Pulp Fiction is playing at the Hollywood. Stay away, indie copycat filmmakers.
Rebellion in Patagonia
A 1974 historical drama documenting Argentina in the 1920s; as the military was suppressing an uprising of farmers and the military begins to slowly recognize their mistake--too late.
Dennis Quaid's hopes of being a major league baseball player were dashed by shoulder injuries and now, he's a high school baseball coach. After the heal up of his final shoulder surgery, however, he realizes he can pitch better than ever before. He makes a bargain with his team that if they'll try and win the next two games, he'll try out for the majors again. Yipee!
* Royal Tenenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their separate, 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 Scorpion King
Who cares if this movie is any good, you get to stare at the most intelligent, gorgeous beefcake in Hollywood--The Rock.
While I give this film an okay rating, I definitely shifted around in my chair a lot. This is the perfect kind of film for mischievously messing around with your date, because it has a good soundtrack, but there are lots of boring parts. Filmmaker Doug Pray is just not that good, he gives too much of an overview and never gets into any of the DJs personal stories, nor does he catalog any bumpin' parties, or encounters with hot chicks. It's just a male-centric depiction of DJ's scratching and talking about scratching and scratching in groups and at contests. He focuses on the DJs' hands a lot which is totally cheesy and made me want to barf. Interviews with Qbert, Invisibl skratch Piklz, Rob Swift, The X-ecutioners, DJ Shadow, Steve Dee, Cut Chemist & NuMark, DJ Craze, and the Allies. (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.
Can't afford the million-dollar price tag to ride the Russian's MIR Space Station? Finally, IMAX used for worthwhile purposes: Feel like you're floating in outer space! An IMAX documentary about the in-orbit assembly of the International Space Station. See rocket launches, pans of the universe and zero-gravity astronaut shower scenes in 3-D (nothing sags in zero-gravity!). Narrated by (not gay) Tom Cruise. Replete with retro-pop soundtrack and goofy astronaut jokes. (Anna Simon)
The big action flick has landed with a buffed-up but still sleepy-eyed Toby MacGuire and flame-haired Kirsten Dunst. See review this issue.
The Sweetest Thing
Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, together at last! Also, as my friend Michael is fond of saying: someone get that Selma Blair a steak. The film is some kind of romantic comedy bullshit from the director of Cruel Intentions.
The Time Machine
In this remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) has 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)
* Viva Zapata
Elia Kazan's incredible film about Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary whose name is still invoked in the ongoing Mexican working class liberation movement. With Marlon Brando as Zapata, Kazan captures the feeling of the time with incredible humanity.
* Y Tu Mamá También
As two Mexican teenagers frantically fuck, the boy, Tenoch (Diego Luna), pleads/demands that the girl not screw any Italians on her impending European trip with her best friend. Meanwhile, that best friend is having rushed pre-departure sex with her boyfriend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is also Tenoch's best friend. When the girls have left, we settle down to watch these two boys spend an aimless summer. Everything gets thrown sideways when they meet a sexy older woman (that is to say, in her 20s) named Luisa. Y Tu Mamà También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones--even the title comes from a tossed-off bit of banter. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope. (Bret Fetzer)