It is odd that a narrative can emerge from randomly linked together footage. Elegant footage from cathedrals in Rome to canals in Venice. A voyeuristic dream: Languid people (and building) watching. Filmed by Jon Jost.
As an actor, Eminem is just not present. Even when he's in his element at the MC battles, his eyes barely flicker. And this is where the real problem with 8 Mile lies. Eminem is an amazing rapper, and we don't really get to see him strut his stuff until the climax of the film. By then, we're so uninterested in whether the character succeeds or not, we're robbed of the emotional high that comes with the ending of, say, The Karate Kid. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
American Mullet is a documentary chronicling many across-the-country conversations with the unspeakably coiffed. For those interested, it leaves no stone unturned. American Mullet asks the question everyone wants to ask; "Why?" In heart wrenching detail, the viewer is satiated. With responses ranging from "sexual identity" to "it feels good flying around in back when I play soccer," this movie attempts to do for the mulleted what The Elephant Man did for those suffering with encephalitis. (Lance Chess)
The Bad Sleep Well
Billed as "Enron meets Hamlet", this clever and paranoid tale is about a seemingly meek government worker who marries into a rich and powerful family in order to avenge his father's death. Another in the series of Kurosawa films at Northwest Film Center.
I'm not sure what to say about The Château. The premise is certainly retarded: Two brothers, one white and one black, inherit a château, then fly to France to sell it and try to fuck the maid. Still, it has a few strange merits. Paul Rudd and Romany Malco lend expert performances to the hideous plot. (Meg Van Huygen)
Chuck and Buck
Chuck, a profoundly eccentric adult, tracks down his childhood friend in order to woo him away from his fiancée.
The Cucumber Incident
It's a little hard to take the title of this documentary seriously, but we probably should because it's about one family's struggle for justice in the wake of the discovery that their five-year-old daughter is getting molested by her stepfather. Things get crazy when the child's grandmother teams up with her sister-in-law and her daughters to take vengeance on the stepfather. Amazingly, the all-female militia is ultimately charged with kidnapping and rape.
Die Another Day See review this issue.
This is a film buff's movie. The first pairing of director Kurosawa and his lead actor Mifune. The two would go on to shape contemporary Japanese film, but this movie is like watching a first, very promising date.
Kevin Kline plays Mr. Hundert, an erudite historian teaching Western Civ to an elite, all-male New England boarding school. The kids in his class are docile, and devoted to their rigorous studies and show no signs of rebellion. But rebellion comes with the arrival of a Senator's son. We've seen the conflict between upright teacher and wayward pupil before, but in The Emperor's Club, it becomes an elemental metaphor for the passing of the old way. A subject that normally becomes laughable in the hands of Hollywood receives a rich and mournful autopsy. (Sean Nelson)
Far From Heaven
From the lavish font of the main titles and the sweet sweeping strains of Elmer Bernstein, we are clued in that this is a major transport piece--one that will remind us of movies no longer produced. Todd Haynes has reinvented the melodrama, yet infused it with a new life that is subtle, touching, and entertaining. Returning to the home-as-prison theme he mastered in Safe, our femme du jour (Julianne Moore) smiles her way through domestic disturbance, racial tension, and personal crisis. (Brian Brait)
For the Kahlo purist, the lack of lip hair is one of the slight ways Frida Hollywood-izes Frida. Another is that her husband Diego's abuse is only portrayed through his obsessive womanizing. Frida's painful, painkiller-addicted death (a possible suicide) is merely alluded to; rather, she delicately croaks, saint-like, in Diego's arms, freed from her long life of physical suffering. But this is Julie Taymor's film, the images she paints across the screen are an enthusiastic, vivid homage to Frida's art and spirit. (Julianne Shepherd)
Friday After Next
What's the next one going to be called, Third Friday in July, TGI Friday, or how about Friday Forever. Who cares? You know what this is all about, Ice Cube, doobage, drinking 40-ouncers on the porch, ladies in hot pants, low riders (cars or bicycles), and making money on the same old jokes.
Half Past Dead
At the bloated age of 51, tired Zen action hero Steven Seagal (a.k.a. "Last Ponytail Standing") plays an FBI agent on the hunt for a high-tech criminal genius.
Harry Potter 2
The delightful saga of a boy and his wand continues. Attendance is mandatory. Thankfully, this second milking of J.K. Rowling's cash cow is significantly more relaxed and less helplessly reverent this time around, although the 160-plus minute running time really pushes the outer limits of magical enchantment. The returning cast is in tip-top form, but newcomer Kenneth Branagh commits effortless theft as a hilariously poncy warlock. Still no substitute for the imagination of the deservedly beloved book, but leagues better than the standard demo-pandering blockbuster. (Andrew Wright)
Horns and Halos See review this issue.
I Live in Fear
Now that several generations have grown up in the shadow of a mushroom cloud, it is perhaps difficult to fully comprehend the novelty and neurosis that sprang from the beginning of the atomic age. This Kurosawa film remarkably conveys that anxiety--enough so to send even the most emotionally stable running home to build a bomb shelter.
In Praise of Love
A Parisian director is all set to shoot a film about love, as seen by three couples spanning the generations. When he discovers that his leading lady has killed herself, he spirals down the via dolorosa and takes all of cinema with him.
Interview with the Assassin
It's always a lot of fun when a fake documentary fools you into wondering whether its real or not. Alas, this dopey, sub-X-Files conspiracy pseudo-thriller, concerning a man who claims to have really pulled the trigger on JFK, never hooks you, even for a second. (Sean Nelson)
Avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren was an oddball; influential--arguably the "mother" of underground video--but still odd. Invocation is like a much-needed owner's manual; a documentary about Deren, narrated by Helen Mirren.
This costume drama, set in 16th century, is about a mad woman who claims to have been the queen of Spain. Before watching this film, read Gogol's Diary of a Madman, about a madman who claims to be the king of Spain.
Custom built for Adam Sandler, an odd and enchanting film that only works because Sandler has been adorable in past roles. In this role, as the lonely owner of a customized toilet plunger company, Sandler is short on slapstick and long on subtlety. He has anger management problems, which make him, as a character, about as easy to handle as nitro glycerin. But, because it is the familiar heart-of-gold Sandler, you give this guy the time of day. And it is worth it! A postmodern romp through an unconventional love story.
Roger Dodger is a catalog of the change that takes place in fast talking, womanizing ad exec Roger, when his 16-year-old nephew comes to town. While reluctant at first, Roger takes on the job of teaching his nephew Nick about the ladies, dragging him from bar to bar and bombarding him with advice. At one point late in the evening, the two reach a catharsis together, which eventually causes them to become friends. (Katie Shimer)
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
There is nothing wrong with Standing In The Shadows of Motown. It tells the story about the Funk Brothers, the unheralded but extremely talented studio musicians for Motown. But the filmmakers never go beyond that discovery; they marvel at the musicians with their mouths agape like they have found some rare, lost gem. But never with any examination for flaws. For a film about shadows, there is too much focus on the sunshine moments. Oh well, incredible contemporary performances by Bootsy Collins and Me'shell Ndegeocello playing Motown hits with the Funk Brothers. (Phil Busse)