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)
24 Hour Party People
Founder of hipster label Factory Records and the super-hipster Hacienda Night Club, Tony Wilson is the type of guy who put Manchester on the map. Well not a real map per se, but at least on the map in a world of music dorks with bad haircuts. But, as anyone who has ever seen Scarface knows, once you get rich and famous, it's best not to let your ego and coke habit get out of hand. That said, egos and coke were plentiful, and soon enough both the record label and club were no more. The end. Now let's look at the real problem with this movie: it's not interesting. As a subject, as a film, and as a time period--nothing about 24 Hour Party People screams "Make me into a movie!" Instead, it's just one of many small explosions of good music from bad towns that have occurred over the past couple decades. (Ezra Caraeff)
Austin Powers: Goldmember
There are two things that aren't funny in this movie, and they are Beyoncè Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra, and Myers' newest villain from Holland, Goldmember. And the reason why they aren't funny is because people from Holland are never funny, and neither is Beyoncè Knowles. Another thing that isn't funny are all the jokes from the first two Austin Powers movies--which happily, are nowhere to be seen. Wait that's not true. The bad jokes are in the movie, but they've been improved upon to the point where they actually are funny. Especially the poop and pee jokes.
This film deals with the relationship between Afghanistan and Iran. Lateef, a 17-year-old, works with illegal Afghans at a construction site. Director Majidi examines friendship among Iranians and Afghans despite their country's disputes.
Blood Work is a total bore. I was hoping this would be Clint Eastwood's swan song to a life of vigilantism, a retrospective of themes that have run through his work. But that's wishful thinking. The plot is thin, the characters aren't believable, the pacing and lighting are totally Matlock, and the performances are tired. Except for Anjelica Huston, who is not so much good but just never bad. As for the old firebrand himself, Eastwood acts constipated and ill tempered, like there's some annoying key grip just off-camera holding up a sign that says, "Go ahead, make my day." It's just too bad that someone talked the Great Warrior into this. (Michael Schilling)
So, you're getting sick of Portland's back-and-forth summer? Sure, the calendar says it's August, but what the hell's up with the weather? It's time for a goddamn vacation, to someplace warm and sunny. Maybe somewhere with a beach, where girls wear bikinis all day, and guys are shirtless. How about Hawaii? If you can't afford a plane ticket, you could go see Blue Crush instead. The plot's trite and cheesy--girl from Hawaii kicks ass at surfing, meets boy from the mainland, almost gives up surfing, until a crucial competition arises and he rallies behind her--but the surf scenes are awesome. Hawaii's gorgeous, as are the surfer chicks and their male counterparts. It's like a two hour vacation, especially for the part of your brain that does the thinking. (Amy Jennings)
City by the Sea
A dull and labored film soon to be clogging video store shelves everywhere. See review this issue.
A fictionalized account of the life of cannibal, lobotomizer, killer, and chocolate factory worker Jeffrey Dahmer. See Review this Issue
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
An insufferably Lifetime adaptation of the insufferable Oprah novel about an intergenerational cabal of insufferable quasi-Southern Gothic ladies. Chock full of hugging, burnished flashbacks to the "Greatest Generation," English grand dames choking on Cajun dialects, the bugbear of "repressed memories," hugging, the enduring power of female friendships, curmudgeonly but loveable colored servants, hugging, stoic men in pleated slacks, and Sandra Bullock growing leathery and irrelevant before our very eyes. (Tamara Paris)
It is a dark film. And by "dark," I don't mean brooding and gloomy--I mean the movie is poorly lit. And the inscrutable lighting is just one of many hellacious gaffes that makes you wonder how this movie ever made it past editors, producers, directors, and any bevy of Hollywood execs onto the screen. Other major problems include: the plot, the acting (including a faux Jack Nicholson playing a bad Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter-excruciating), and the script, a sort of D-minus David Cronenberg rip off. FearDot.Com dabbles in bondage voyeurism and psychedelic dream/internet imagery that devolves into laughable unintentional parody. (Josh Feit)
Full Frontal catalogues the difficulty of maintaining a monogamous relationship when you're a Hollywood starlet, boo hoo. It shows how fucked up and stupid actors are in regards to sex and love, because they're never 100 percent invested in either. The film jokes about how Julia Roberts falls in love with any old lighting guy that kisses her ass, which is true, but funny, and I guess we're supposed to be charmed that Hollywood can poke fun at itself, even though those rich dicks are really like that. On top of the Hollywood spoofing, director Soderbergh makes a film within a film within a film, a gimmick that has no clear purpose, but is nonetheless, entertaining. On the whole, Full Frontal is pretty good, but not great, and loses big points for no sex. (Katie Shimer)
The Good Girl
Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) works at the Retail Rodeo. She has worked there for many many years, her husband and his buddy paint houses for a living and smoke a lot of pot. Justine is sad, bored, and unhappy, until... a weird young guy calling himself Holden (Jake Gyllenhall) befriends her. From there, it's all down hill. I had heard tons of hype about this film before screening it, "Jennifer Aniston plays against type... " and all that. Well, Jennifer does play against type, but isn't that what acting is all about? Given the directing and writing credits of director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White who brought us the deliciously uncomfortable Chuck and Buck, I guess I expected a more ominous and darker tone, but The Good Girl seems more screwball than drama. This works on some levels, but overall it just feels melodramatic. (Brian Brait)
The Humming Bee Project
A video on the art collective Jon Hammer (yes, a collective, not a person) and their Humming Bee Project, where they encourage folks to create an artistic humming bee and spin it round their heads.
A three-hour French epic about the life-long romantic travails between turn-of-the-century porcelain and cognac manufacturers, based on a multi-volume novel. Before you start running for the exits or mainlining the No-Doze, consider the vital thrum that director Olivier Assayas brings to this staggeringly ambitious, potentially creaky relic. To his credit, Assayas refuses to kowtow to the conventional molasses reverence of the period piece, relying instead on welcome bursts of nervously prowling camera work and a thrillingly fractured take on the source material. (Decades drop between frames.) The plot could perhaps have benefited from a tad less compression, but the director, aided by marvelous performances from Emmanuelle Beart and Isabelle Huppert, manages to free the historical epic from its traditional stately dullness, and lends it rawness and life. (Andrew Wright)
There is a sinister undercurrent running just below the surface of this limp ode to Salt Lake City suburbia, and it gives the movie's after-school special themes a certain morbid interest. Emily (Evan Rachel Wood) is a fourteen year-old Type-A violinist who runs a neighborhood stand hawking "secret keeping" rather than lemonade. Kids pay to confess their minor misdeeds and receive her sage advice, while she suffers silently under the burden of a mammoth secret of her own. Half-convinced the screenwriter's penchant for melodrama would infect the wholesome kiddie crimes, I dreaded each new confession. Would bland cat-napping admissions yield to revelations of child molestation, glue-sniffing, and anorexia? Well, no. But that fact doesn't make Little Secrets any less frightening and strange. (Annie Wagner)
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)
This costume drama, which is set in 16th Century, is about a mad woman who claims to have been the queen of Spain. Before watching this film, please read Gogol's Diary of a Madman, which is about a madman who claims to be the king of Spain.
Master of Disguise
A brief overview should demonstrate what a miserable, puny affair this Dana Carvey vehicle is. The men in a certain Italian-American family possess a genetic predisposition toward disguising themselves as other people (and turtles, and piles of poo). Their family name: "Disguisey." The imagination that went into developing this magical universe is truly astounding: the term for this mimetic talent, for example, is "energico," and it involves the use of a device called the "Disguising Ball of Knowledge." There is a running gag that dictates that whenever the villain tries to cackle, he farts. And to top it all off, somebody had the brilliant idea of putting a pedophilia joke in a kid's movie. I can't believe this didn't go straight to video. (Annie Wagner)
A movie about two old persons who have a sexual reawakening together.
One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo is an armchair psychologist's wet dream. And, like most pop psych and self-help programs, it's sorta cliché, sorta predictable, and not exactly snooze-inducing--but not riveting or illuminating either. The premise: Robin Williams plays Sy the Photo Guy, a balding control freak who manages a one-hour photo shop. Sy's longtime customers, The Yorkins--Will, Nina, and little Jake--are this picture-perfect, hottie yuppie family. He is utterly obsessed with the Yorkins; Nina and Jake in particular. Through processing their photos, he's followed their seemingly happy lives; and, because he's so lonely, he also pasted copies of nine years' worth of their photos to his wall in unabashed stalker fashion. Creepy. Like any stalker story, the film's fate lies in the hands of the director. And Mark Romanek does a good job setting up and unfolding the story. Unfortunately, as Romanek is also the scriptwriter, he only has himself to blame for the slow pace of the dialogue. (Julianne Shepherd)
No director in the universe (with the possible exception of John Waters) could save a bad novel like Possession, which was authored by A.S. Byatt. It's the one novel Hollywood should have left in its original condition: a bad book. Now it has a second life as a bad movie. (Charles Mudede)
In an attempt to make a money-losing musical, failed producers Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel come up with a sure-fire Broadway flop: Springtime for Hitler. A hilarious parody of Broadway, commerce, and of course, those dirty stinking rat Nazis.
Read My Lips
Anyone who has ever enjoyed hiring power at a job where everybody hates their guts will sympathize with secretary Carla's potentially Christopher Makepeace-style choice to hire a newly-minted ex-con as her assistant. Everyone else will find something to relate to in the cycle of petty revenge-taking and blackmail that starts with some harmless lip-reading, but eventually spirals out of control.
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 hitman (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)
Chandler and Hugh Grant's girlfriend unite for a rollicking, Vicodin-fueled road adventure that has something to do with a million dollars, divorce papers, purple cowboy hats. A warning: it sucks.
In M. Night Shyamalan's most recent masterpieces, his obsessions with Philadelphia and the presence of God shine through, making the movie not only a thriller about crop circles and ohhh aliens, but also an interesting meditation on some deep stuff.
A film director loses his lead actress halfway through production and, desperate to finish his "masterwork," decides to create his own actress via computer. This is the plot to Andrew Niccol's Simone--a bland, unfortunate Hollywood satire that aims to skewer the cult of celebrity, but instead manages to shoot itself in the foot. As a comedy, Simone manages a few well-placed shots (the bulk of which come courtesy of the always brilliant Catherine Keener), but as satire, it fails miserably due to the sheer unbelievability of the storyline's various twists and turns. (Bradley Steinbacher)
The Spice Girls are to Sleater-Kinney as Blue Crush is to this film. Oh sure, there are still the hard-toned bods, but there is no annoyance of, say, a sappy plot! Just surfing and real surfers. Unflinching surfing footage makes it seem like the surf is right there, pounding on your head.
Fatal Attraction in a speedo.
Like most 15-year-old boys who acquire Sigourney Weaver as their stepmom, Oscar wants to doink her. But for the sake of efficacy and realism, he's willing to consider his stepmom's friend Bebe Neuwirth as a fall-back.
Undisputed is great because Ving Rhames is great. He plays a world heavyweight champion who, like Mike Tyson, is convicted for raping a woman. Unlike Mike Tyson, but much like Muhammad Ali, Ving Rhames is articulate. He is not just a slugging machine, but someone who understands his situation (his limits, his value) and able to express it with a deep and convincing voice. While in the maximum security prison, Rhames is confronted by the boxing champ of the underworld, Wesley Snipes. Prisoners from all over America have tried and failed to claim a victory from Snipes, a convicted murderer. So now the king of the overworld must battle the king of the underworld, and whoever wins is the master the universe--a title Rhames already holds. (Charles Mudede)
Warm Water Under a Red Bridge
This film initially lives up to it's boring title, following an unemployed business man who's chummy with a loopy fisherman who sends him to find a supposed treasure. Not having much else to do, he goes. Oh, you know, then he meets this woman who is really anxious to screw and--oh my god. She squirts out gallons and gallons of water when she orgasms. Literally. They flood the house. It's kinda sexy, but ew! Warm Water Under A... you tricked me! That's not quaint! It's gross and weird! Right, so she like "fills up" and has to "vent" (i.e. squirt like blow hole) by doing something wicked, like fuck or shoplift. The business man is, naturally, vehemently opposed to her shoplifting but generously offers to fuck her every time she "fills up," until she can sort out the ancestral, symbolic properties of her condition. (Marjorie Skinner)
Who is Cletus Tout?
Told through amusing flashbacks, this is a silly, whimsical farce revolving around a funny/mean, movie-obsessed hitman (Allen), an escaped convict (Slater), his newfound true love (Portia di Rossi), her magician father (Richard Dreyfus), and a box of diamonds. Film noir and screwball sensibilities unevenly collide with modern, Pulp Fiction-like violence. It's not terrible, not great, but it could just save our economy. (Brian Brait)
Just how bad is XXX? Worse than you've imagined. Seriously. I would rather be catheterized by a Parkinson's-afflicted nurse than sit through it again. It's that bad. Don't believe me? Then go see it. Flop down the $10 at your neighborhood multiplex and slouch your way through the picture. You'll see-and afterward you'll say, "Shit, man, I wish I'd listened to that chump from the Mercury." (Bradley Steinbacher)