This is one of those movies that shows the lives of its characters intersecting in the most brief and coincidental ways, à la Short Cuts. We have Matthew McConaughey as a hotshot lawyer, Clea DuVall as a housecleaner, John Turturro as a physics teacher, etc., and all of them employ different philosophies on life and fate. (Most of them are existentialists, however, because their lives suck shit.) For the first half of the film, everyone runs around contemplating the hands they've been dealt, and the script verges on sophomoric, but very endearing. Then, Alan Arkin shows up in the middle of the movie and kicks ass all over it. He plays a divorced middle manager for an insurance company, whose son is a junkie, and his view on of fate is accordingly grim. But Alan Arkin is a great actor; he saves the film from its fate as yet another "arty," low-budge, postmodern interpretation of existentialism. Instead, 13 Conversations is charming and even sweet in its cynicism. (Julianne Shepherd)
* Austin Powers: Goldmember
Austin is ready for the jelly when he gets to shag Beyonce Knowles from Destiny's motherfucking Child. See review this issue.
A Jewish student in New York City struggles to understand Judiasm.
The Country Bears
Disney's flawless live-action legacy continues, in this moving adaptation of everyone's favorite former Disneyland animatronic attraction. (I'm still holding out for a theatrical release of Captain EO). Featuring Christopher Walken, Toby Huss, and the voice of "I see dead people."
The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course
Steve Irwin has somehow managed to volley his agonizing nature show into what promises to be an equally excruciating action-adventure film. The premise goes something like this: Steve wrestles a croc ("crikey!"), Steve involves himself in a wacky mix-up ("crikey!"), Steve is bitten by things ("crikey!"), Steve creates hilarity ("crikey!"), Steve gets a pink slip ("crikey!"), Steve receives and eviction notice ("crikey!").
* Doggie Film Day
Alright doggie dorks, put your doggie sweaters and doggie booties on your doggies and throw on your "I love my retriever" T-Shirt and go watch doggie movies while you simultaneously pet your doggie and pull on that little doggie in your pants with excitement for how much you love doggies.
* Dogtown and Z Boys
A documentary on surfers turned skateboarders who started the boarding craze and meanwhile got famous. A tad self-referential, but still worth seeing for the life threatening guerilla surfing and skating and the boys divergent reactions to fame. (Katie Shimer)
Eight Legged Freaks
A messy mish-mash of '50s paranoid propaganda films, but instead of the Commies, it's the Iraqi menace, get it? Spiders, Arachnids, Arac Attack. Ug!! The film rips off all the good elements of classic scare films such as Dawn of the Dead, Gremlins and Them, and pieces them together with boring computer animation and insipid dialogue I wouldn't let my grandma write. So save your hard-earned unemployment check and wait until this one is on the UPN Saturday Matinee, that way you can fall asleep in the comfort of your own home. (Brian Brait)
The Emperor's New Clothes
It's 1828 and Napoleon's in trouble! He's got to get off the island of St. Helena! He escapes by trading places with a lookalike deckhand on a ship bound for France. But the ship may not make it. What's worse, everyone thinks the lookalike is the real emperor, and the lookalike digs it! Our hero is forced to carry on with the knowledge that an imposter is lying in his bed and wearing his little costumes.
Hang on a second... this is ANOTHER Halloween film? That makes eight. Jamie Lee Curtis is in it, too, along with Busta Rhymes. The last one (Halloween H20 was garbage, as were the rest. So, the fact that this one deals with reality TV bodes what? Ill!
The Happiness of the Katakuris
With spoofs of The Sound of Music and tons of naked sumo wrestlers, director Takashi Miike establishes himself as the John Waters of Japan. A story about an odd family that opens a B&B, only to have bad, horrible, mangling luck befall their guests. But, the story is beside the point. The tastelessness is the centerpiece.
Hey, it's the ever-pervasive "situation comedy." Among the pleasures this Chinese incarnation of the form promises you, beloved viewer, are: an abandoned and refurbished bus, lovestruck couples, and frustrated desires.
A cartoon movie about a cartoon TV show. It's about time, too! I'm guessing Arnold is a nerd who outsmarts some greedy capitalists.
Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a hotshot homicide cop from L.A., who travels to a small town in Alaska to help solve the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl. However, as it turns out, the real reason for his arrival is to escape a murky internal investigation back in Los Angeles. When Dormer's partner is accidentally killed while chasing after the murderer, Dormer is then drawn into an unholy alliance with the suspect (Robin Williams), who has developed a convincing scheme that will make both of their problems go away. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
K-19: The Widowmaker
This workable Cold War intrigue plot--a Soviet nuke-sub commander is forced to risk the lives of his men rather than seek help from Americans--is long to begin with, but the moral tensions of the story might have been enough to carry it through... if the film weren't completely submarined by the casting of Harrison Ford in the lead role. I mean, Liam Neeson as a Russian is bad enough. We've all seen Schindler's List. We all know Neeson can't do accents. He's a known quantity. But Ford's pitiful patois makes Neeson look like Meryl Streep. It's embarrassing on a Kevin Costner scale; on a Sofia Coppola in Godfather III scale. I mean, what the fuck? Did he think we wouldn't notice? Jesus, what a botch. (Sean Nelson)
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
It's 1893 and the people of Champagne are destitute because the rains never came and thus, they have no crops. They are praying that the evil Brits will excuse them from the land tax (lagaan) because they have no money. Instead, however, British commander, Capt. Russell, doubles the tax because the local Raja--a strict vegetarian--will not eat meat with him. Later, the short-whimed Russell agrees to waive the tax for three years if the villagers can beat his officers at cricket--but will triple it if they can't. A comical adventure ensues.
Zaza is a 31-year-old man, getting his doctorate in philosophy. His parents keep hounding him to get married and set up multiple meetings with young virgins--keeping with their tradition. Zaza, however, is in love with a Moroccan woman with a daughter, and keeping his parents at bay is a continual struggle.
The good news: Crispin Glover is in the film, playing the Fagin-like head of a "group home" for racially diverse orphans; this means the filmmakers aren't completely callous morons. The bad news: the movie, which concerns a kid who climbs up on power lines to retrieve some magic Nikes that make him a pro basketball star, is every bit as mediocre and irresponsible as the trailer suggests.
lilo & stitch
An animated film about a Hawaiian girl, who adopts a dog, who falls to earth near her island home (and who is really an alien genetic experiment). She embraces her new pet and teaches him "ohana"-the "Hawaiian concept of family." Good thing the dog wasn't a white tourist...
* Lovely and Amazing
This follow-up to the similarly graceful Walking and Talking is a shrewdly respectful character study of a fractured family of women trying to ride herd on their raging neuroses. Fantastic acting and sensitive writing underscore the simple DV directorial approach. (Sean Nelson)
* The Magnificent Welles
A dramatization of Orson Welles attempt to get control of his second film project The Magnificent Ambersons and how his battle with the studio led to his ruin.
* Master of the Flying Guillotine
In Master of the Flying Guillotine (1974), the One Armed Boxer (OAB) returns to battle an opponent who refuses to have his beans refried. While Flying Guillotine may look like just another old blind coot, in actuality, he's a high-kickin' get-up-and-go grampa who has a flying hat he uses to chop off his enemy's heads! So after receiving news that two of his disciples have been done in by OAB, he gets madder than a poodle in a pigpen and storms off to get revenge.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise team up for this well-made futuristic thriller, based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, and featuring several special effects that are identical to ones used in Attack of the Clones. Complex in good ways, simple in others, the film marks Spielberg's second attempt at allegorical Kubrick paean.
Adam Sandler is always cute, and his gross physical humor is funny, but Mr. Deeds is bad. A cliche plot and a crappy remake to boot, Sandler seems to be doing it for the dough. John Turturro, however, is awesome and sort of makes up for the overall crappiness of the film, but then Winona goes and fucks it up by being the worst actress ever. (Katie Shimer)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A frumpy diamond in the rough (Nia Vardalos) goes against the wishes of her lovingly oppressive family and falls for a hunky WASP (John Corbett, coasting on his Sex & The City vibe) in this intermittently amusing Grecian yarn.
One of the most seminal dance choreographers (you're not nicknamed "God of the Dance" for nothing!) but crazy as a jaybird, Vaslav Nijinski molds modern ballet with his passion. With performers and images from the Russian and Australian ballets, the film is a beautiful and haunting biography.
* Poona the Fuckdog
Described as bedtime stories for grown-ups, Poona the Fuckdog and Other Plays for Children is that and so much more. It is an X-rated morality play that touches upon every evil of American society: sexuality reduced to commodity, rampant consumerism, slavery to mass media, the desensitization of children through animated violence, consequence-free murder, nuclear holocaust, racism, classism, and all that other fun junk. And it does this without ever reducing itself to wagging its finger in your face. Poona reinvents every social cliché as if it were a naughty and very funny joke told by an intelligent kindergartner. It is smart, bold, and insightful, poignant without being preachy, and meaningful without being sappy. Not to mention shit-yourself hysterical. (Adrian Ryan)
The Powerpuff Girls
This movie sets out to explain the suspicious circumstances by which Professor X (the Puff Daddy) came to give room and board to three female preschoolers for whom he carries not so much as a birth certificate or a even a receipt--somewhat unsettling in these times of high-profile kidnapped white girls.
At first, I thought this Christina Ricci vehicle about the consequences that occur when an uptight sorority girl falls in love with a "challenged athlete" was a savage parody of those "Something About a Half-Wit" films that grind the butts of the mentally retarded for cheap laughs from audiences who should know better. By the time I was in the ladies room, I'd revised my opinion to include the possibility that this was actually sophisticated spoof of those ubiquitous Channel for Weeping Women films that seek to beatify retarded people simply for being born. It wasn't until I was sitting in my car that the possibility occurred to me that it was neither. What if it was just a bunch of retard jokes hiding behind a cloaking device of intellectualized irony? Does that mean I'm going to hell for laughing my head off? (Tamara Paris)
* Red Rock West
The ultimate shaggy-dog story: Just released from prison, Nicolas Cage tries to jump start his life. But he is quickly hoodwinked into a plan to murder a beautiful woman's overbearing (but stinking rich) husband. Dennis Hopper weighs in with a foaming-at-the-mouth, over-the-top performance as a freewheeling hitman. The film was originally released straight to video, but after a San Francisco movie house screened the film to sold-out crowds, it was picked up by a major distributor and given a second life. A nearly lost gem!
Reign of Fire
This is one useless movie. It's the year 2020, and instead of picking flowers and falling on their butts, a brood of flying dragons have burnt most of the human population to a bunch of crispy bits. Christian Bale (American Psycho) stars as a limey wuss who hides out in a castle along with a bunch of other limey wusses, until an AMERICAN comes along (McConaughey) and teaches them how to FIGHT. And hat's pretty much it. The good points: The cinematography is okay, there are a couple of laughs, and McConaughey is built like a brick shithouse. The bad points: EVERYTHING ELSE. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Rendam: Quartet for Two
Part of NW Film Center's love affair this summer with Japanese films, Rendam proves that, yes, Japanese nuclear families can meltdown just as easily as American ones. If John Hughes were to have directed a Japanese double feature: A comic, musical, and heart-tugging story all hand-rolled into one big cinematic sashami. With her husband distracted too much by his work, a stunning wife gets busy with a co-worker. As mom and dad's marriage falls apart, the kids worry about custody of their beloved pianos!
* Road to Perdition
Starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jude Law--a ridiculously stellar ensemble--Road to Perdition tells a rather simple tale, and it tells it nearly perfectly. A hit man (Tom Hanks) sees his family slaughtered, save for his oldest son. Father and son hit the road to exact revenge. Perdition transcends every revenge film currently documented within my brain. Mendes, working once again with Conrad Hall has fashioned a heartfelt, exquisite, and above all, patient revenge epic. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl
If you like Tarantino films, you'll like this Japanese fashion and color action explosion. Girl meets boy, guns are fired, fucked up sex stuff ensues, people kill other people and laugh, there's a heist, chases, escapes, lust, hotties galore, and of course, as I may have mentioned, smoking Japanese fashion. The film is quite humorous in a grim Hemingway sense and supercool to watch. (Katie Shimer)
* Some Body
A relationship movie where men act like the whiney dicks they really are. Yep, that was supposed to be sexist. See review this issue.
Behind the scenes at the national junior high spelling bee... the laughter, the tears, and if their lucky, the hopes and dreams of young kids dashed at an early age, thus protecting them from a life of false hope. See review this issue.
The taped version of David Schmader's one man play that attacks homo-conversion therapy and makes you laugh like a little girl.
Stuart Little 2
Stuart Little is a cute little cartoon mouse with Parkinson's... wait, didn't we use that joke already? Anyway, cats and CGI mice channel the voices of Nathan Lane, Michael J. Fox, and Steve Zahn.
The Sum of all Fears
Despite all appearances, there are two good things about the new Tom Clancy movie with Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan. One is a bold plot twist that comes so suddenly that it reconfigures the whole experience in an instant and almost tricks you into thinking the film is better than it is. The other good thing, almost a great thing, is the casting of Liev Scrheiber in the role of John Clark, CIA spook, and all-around spy genius.
* Sunshine State
This cinematic soap opera of familial and neighborly drama centers around a small stretch of Florida coastline. Employing writer/director Sayles' benchmark standards for dialogue and acting, the film uses a tug of war over prime resort real estate to showcase prime human flaws and insecurities.
Like most 15-year-old boys who acquire Sigourney Weaver as their stepmom, Oscar wants to doink his new mom. But for the sake of efficacy and realism, he's willing to consider her friend Bebe Neuwirth as a fall-back.
* Video Slam
Show your own, and watch four minute amateur videos made after May 15 of this year. Call 242-1047 to pre-register and ask questions.
Vinyl is one notch above awful. Although the idea of spotlighting vinyl obsessives is a great idea, the film never really stays on task, with director Alan Zwieg more concerned with his own painfully boring, unfunny neuroses (he spends most of the extremely long film talking to himself in a mirror) than with the ins and outs of collectors. (Julianne Shepherd)