Thank God for Jack Nicholson, who has more fascinating layers of repressed angst in one pinky than Adam Sandler has in his whole squat little body. Nicholson has explosive tendencies, but they're of the cunning variety. You can predict when Sandler is going to blow a gasket, and what he's going to do when he does: he's going to pick up a golf club and smash something. When Nicholson gets mad, you have no idea what he's going to do, and so you're gripped. Not to say the movie is gripping, because the script overwhelmingly falls flat, but at least Nicholson is there to pick it up and move it around like a puppet.
Bend it Like Beckham
Not exactly a masterpiece, this film is a lighthearted, cute escape best suited for parents and teens. An adolescent, soccer-playing daughter struggles against her Hindu parents, who would rather gear her interests towards cooking and otherwise preparing herself to be a proper Indian bride. (Marjorie Skinner)
See review this issue.
Bringing Down the House
Plot: Steve Martin is a hard-up workaholic lawyer. He gets in an internet chat room with a bunch of other lawyers. Queen Latifah is in the chat room looking for a sucker. Steve is the sucker. Queen pretends to be a horny blonde and comes over to his house for drinks. When she shows up, she's not blonde, and she's just escaped from prison. Queen needs Steve's lawyer help to clear her name, and she's not leaving until she gets it. Moral of the story: black people are equal... sometimes. Even though black people speak slang, they are not necessarily stupid. White people can learn things from black people, just like Steve learned to enjoy life more from Queen. Conclusion: This film is not worth wasting the gas it will take to drive to the theater. (Katie Shimer)
Jim Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, your typical angry newsguy that Bill Murray played with far greater success in Groundhog Day. After one particularly shitty day, Bruce snaps while on-air and gets tossed out on his can. He curses God for his woes in a most extreme manner, and God (Morgan Freeman) appears to chide Bruce and imbue him with His powers to prove to him that His job ain't as easy as it looks. As a fan of physical comedy, I've always given Carrey a long leash, but holy mother of Christ is this a pile of crap. The writers were obviously banking on Carrey's rubber-faced antics to turn this chicken shit into chicken salad, but unfortunately for everyone (especially the audience), Carrey ain't God. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
When a bloodied Algerian whore pursued by thugs slams up against their car, begging for sanctuary, a yuppie couple quickly lock up and drive on. But primal chaos has infected their clockwork existence: the conscience-stricken wife gets radicalized, turning fierce ally of the smart, sexy, but horribly abused outsider. Racism and sexism are targeted in this intelligent satire, as nasty revenge is loosed on a movie full of male creeps and predators. (Kathleen Murphy)
Directed by Im Kwon-Taek, allegedly South Korea's most famous filmmaker. This movie, considered his masterpiece, profiles the wildly indulgent 19th-century painter "Ohwon" Jang Seung-Up.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Based on a popular Cartoon Network series of the same name, Cowboy Bebop is a beautifully drawn, brightly colored, candy-coated piece of shit. It's an R-rated action-adventure cartoon that somehow manages to be appallingly weak on action (it drags on with boring, pensive scenes in which the literally two-dimensional cartoon characters say boring, pensive things like, "Of the days I've lived, only the ones spent with you seem real") and completely absent of unquestionably the best thing about every R-rated movie ever made: sex. (Christopher Frizzelle)
Daddy Day Care
Is Eddie Murphy just too busy counting his money to read scripts? Or perhaps they're all just printed on hundred dollar bills. The once-great man hits us with yet another piece of middling excrement in the form of a Mr. Mom knock-off.
* Down With Love
With its retro setting and references, Down With Love manages to not only pay direct tribute to the kind of sex comedy Doris Day and Rock Hudson made memorable with Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, but it proves to be the most satisfying romantic comedy I've seen in, well, decades. Ewan McGregor is Catcher Block, the unapologetic playboy with the swinging bachelor pad (in Down With Love, every apartment is stunning, and everyone dresses in the height of fashion) and a reputation as a hard-hitting journalist. Renee Zellweger is Barbara Novak, the beautiful author whose new book instructs women to forget about love and enjoy sexual pleasure as any man would. When her book becomes a revolution the world over (and he finally sees that she's not the hunchbacked old crone he assumed her to be), Catcher begins to pursue Barbara romantically, but only to poke a gaping hole in her resolve. (Kathleen Wilson)
A heady film (read: low on the sex, skin and va-voom) about a hottie 17-year-old girl who is forced to marry a droll mid-level aristocrat. Would it have killed Fassbinder to step out of the cerebral for a second and put a little boom-boom into this film?
From the folks who brought you Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and a bunch of other stellar animated films, comes this undersea tale about a clownfish on the search for Nemo, his kidnapped son.
Flicker Super-8 & 16mm Film Festival
Calling all film geeks! In its fourth year, the Flicker Film Club is a chance for teens to meet-and-greet filmmakers, and chat all-geek-like about films.
* Fulltime Killer
From one angle, Fulltime Killer is a violent cowboy romp through south Asia. Two top-notch assassins bounce from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, offing gangsters and undisclosed men in fancy suits. But from another angle, the film is a shy, romantic story about two business men; each wants the gorgeous Chin to fall in love with him, but must also figure out how to balance professional and personal matters. When you're an assassin, apparently it's tricky to be stonehearted one moment and tender the next. (Phil Busse)
* The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
There are some words you can never go wrong when describing one of Bollywood's blockbusters: Spectacular action scenes, charmingly absurd musical numbers, gooey romantic scenes, monumentally saccharine. No place in the world produces eye-popping comedy-action-love stories as well as India! Sunny Deol is India's James Bond. Sent to save the world from a brewing nuclear war on the Pakistani border, Deol falls in love with an orphaned shepherd but, egads, may be forced to marry a beautiful, powerful woman to avert World War III. If you can't enjoy this, you are truly jaded. Proceed directly to the Sandy Hut!
Louis Sachar adapted his own book for the film version of Holes, and it shows. With the help of Fugitive director Andrew Davis, the film is a shimmering web of story threads, perfectly woven together. The film shows us Stanley Yelnats, who is sent to Camp Green Lake, a hellhole in the middle of the desert, for stealing a pair of shoes he didn't steal. There, he is forced by the camp's psychotic director (Sigourney Weaver) to dig large holes in the sand, under the burning sun, as correctional therapy. (Justin Sanders)
* House of Fools
Every night the mental patients gather to watch the Bryan Adams train pass by. Yep, you read that right. A train strung with lights which carries the Canadian rocker. If only the movie could have maintained that level of surrealism. Instead it's a predictable story which compares the insanity of war with every insane asylum stereotype you can think of. Making a bad situation worse, the only Adams song they could afford is one of his new ones. (Andy Spletzer)
If you're versed in the art of cheesy horror flicks, you'll recognize every cinematic element of Identity, the new film from director James Mangold. There's the dramatically presented psychological profile of the cold-blooded murderer, complete with files and audio-taped statement. There are the stereotypical characters (John Cusack plays a cop on leave), there's the rainy night, the motel conveniently located on an Indian burial ground, and the lack of phones and electricity. All of the elements are familiar. Thankfully, however, Mangold is a feisty bastard with a slightly twisted sense of humor and does all he can to make Identity a dark film within the mainstream cinema idiom. (Julianne Shepherd)
Albert Brooks slums along with Michael Douglas in this wickedly unnecessary remake of the classic 1979 Alan Arkin-Peter Falk kvetch-a-thon. The thing, however, is that I watched the original a week ago with an eye towards explaining why the remake is practically sacrilegious, and was dismayed to discover that it has aged about as well as mayonnaise on a countertop. Aside from Arkin's unstoppable brilliance and Falk's natural ease, there's little to recommend the film, which now feels slow, blocky, and obvious. (Sean Nelson)
* The Italian Job
See review this issue.
* L'Auberge Espagnole
See review this issue.
* Laurel Canyon
An outwardly airtight, upwardly propelled couple (Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale) reluctantly relocate to the crumbling, groupie-haunted manse of his rock producing, partying mother (Francis McDormand). Romantic entanglements, Oedipal spit-takes, identity crises, and Kip Wingeresque excess swiftly follow. (Andrew Wright)
* The Lawless Heart
While watching this film I said to myself, "This was undoubtedly shown at the Portland International Film Festival." You know what I'm talking about. It's a film about sadness, the difficulty of life, and the complexity of emotion. There are no explosions. A young gay man dies suddenly and his family, friends, and live-in lover react with confusion and immaturity. There is some Memento-style rewinding, and the story is compelling; the dead guy's sister and the dead guy's lover are great friends driven apart and then back together by the death. (Katie Shimer)
Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
The last film by the late, great French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Cercle Rouge is a sort of existential crime thriller with the requisite pimps, thieves, and nightclub owners. John Woo spearheaded the revival of this flick, a restored color print.
This small, quiet film, starring Billy Bob, Morgan Freeman, and Kirsten Dunst is chock full of beautifully frigid cinematography by Roger Deakins, and may not be remarkable, but it can affect you nonetheless. None of the characters in Levity achieves complete closure, and probably none of them will ever find true happiness. In the end, however, all they can hope is for the burden of their violent pasts to be lifted from their shoulders. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* Lili Marleen
Even during a war as complete and demoralizing as World War II, it is necessary to carry on with life's little chores, like shopping for milk, falling in love and, yes, pursuing an American Idol dream to become a singer. But the Nazis can complicated matters so much. Director Fassbinder tells the story of Wilkie, a nightclub singer who is separated from her life's love, Robert. When he is arrested by the Gestapo and she is chased from his side, will their relationship ever be the same? Curses, those Nazis make me angry!
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Disney's impeccable live-action legacy continues with a big-screen version of the impossibly saccharine children's television series. It's sort of like watching television--but you know, real big. AND you get to pay for it!
Man on the Train
Director Patrice Leconte brings us this oft-told tale of two aging men from vastly different backgrounds coming to understand and--yes--even like each other. One is a retired poetry teacher, the other a bank robber preparing for his last heist. Despite the unbelievable premise, the acting is fine, the story is sweet, and there's nothing much else to it. Hey, I like "sweet" as much as the next guy, but c'mon. I'm kinda busy here. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* Man Without a Past (Finland)
The second installment of director Aki Kaurismaki's "Finland" trilogy, Man Without A Past is striking in its quiet intelligence. Those who revel in action, emoting, quick dialogue or hot actors will fill their shoes with drool by the film's end, so be forewarned. But if you're feeling patient and contemplative, the simplicity and oddness of it is like being cinematically cuddled. The story follows a man in Helsinki who, after getting beaten severely and robbed, loses his memory. The man begins his life anew, with nary an angst over the whole loss of life and memory. The lack of moaning and hair-pulling suggests the freedom in starting from scratch, a fantastic simplicity that shapes the entire film. (Marjorie Skinner)
Though any movie with Don Cheadle in it should be seen, this one strains the recommendatory muscles, as he plays a shrink in a juvie psych ward charged with tending to the loony ravings of a bunch of underfed teen actors.
* Matrix Reloaded
With the incredibly interesting concept of the Matrix laid out in the first film, Matrix Reloaded is forced to focus on a much more banal subject: war. Turns out that along with the crew of the first film, there's a whole underground city of human rebels (the City of Zion) all working towards freeing their enslaved brethren from the machines. Unfortunately, Zion is small and the machines are big, and Neo and his crew find themselves in a race against time, trying to find and destroy the Source of the Matrix before the machines destroy Zion. The directors behind the film, the Wachowskis, work hard for as much intrigue and mayhem as the original Matrix. Make no mistake--there are discoveries to be made here; feats of technical virtuosity that will thrill and delight. The Wachowskis remain the most exciting big-budget filmmakers in the world, and Matrix Reloaded only disappoints when compared to the original. (Justin Sanders)
A Mighty Wind
Actors are no good at playing real people. When they're pretending to really talk on the phone to someone, they pause too much, they intentionally trip on their words, they look too intense, their movements are contrived, and they're always working up to the punch line. It's a weird thing that actors can't pretend to be real people, but they can't. In Christopher Guest's latest mockumentary, A Mighty Wind, the cast ruin their folk music-obsessed characters in that very fashion, and the result is a completely unfunny film. (Katie Shimer)
* Nowhere in Africa
Nowhere in Africa follows a rich Jewish family that leaves Germany in 1938 and moves to Africa. There they can avoid the Nazis, but have to deal with some other issues like, oh, the lack of water. Naturally, the characters all experience guilt (you just can't have a Holocaust movie without guilt), but there are also things here you never see in any movie, such as the scene in which a swarm of locusts plunder a field of maize. The hazards of humanity and the hazards of nature are not dissimilar, this movie argues, though (at two-and-a-half hours long) not very succinctly. Thankfully, the actor Merab Ninidze, who's very sexy, is in almost every scene. (Christopher Frizzelle)
The Quiet American
Michael Caine deserves all the praise he's received for his role as Fowler, while Brendan Fraser slightly overplays the wide-eyed idealism that inspired America's misguided involvement in Vietnam. The metaphor of the love triangle doesn't work here nearly as well as the more overt politics, but the movie is worth seeing if only because it shows how America can do the wrong thing with the best of intentions. (Andy Spletzer)
* Raising Victor Vargas
Victor Vargas is a sexy fucker and he knows it: The opening shot of this movie (in which the lithe, crass, and beguiling 18-year-old begins undressing as he prepares to fuck a fat girl who has promised not to tell anyone) is not unlike those Antonio Sabato Jr. underwear ads from the '90s. Victor lives on the Lower East Side and has no worldly ambitions; all he has to speak of is a crush on Juicy Judy, who wears hoop earrings and too much makeup and thinks all guys are "dogs." Neither one of them has a phone at home, which suggests a rather improbable courtship, though they manage to run into each other enough times on neighborhood rooftops and at public swimming pools, and to the surprise of no one in the audience it all works out. (Christopher Frizzelle)
* The Shape of Things
The latest film by Neil LaBute, the laureate of sexual embarrassment, flips the script somewhat by arguing that women are just as capable of being complete pricks as men are. LaBute's climax retroactively changes the entire film, causing the troubling theatrical conceits that have gone before (Adam and Evelyn--get it?) to seem like intentional diversions, and forcing the audience to decide whether or not what it has just seen was a filmed play or some kind of Skinner box. (Sean Nelson)
Like Deliverance with breast implants, this horror flick follows six nubile teens as they flee from cannibalistic mountain men in the woods of West Virginia.
* X2: X-Men United
The screenplay, by Michael Dougherty and Daniel Harris, is great; it would have been disastrous for the filmmakers not to rely on it. Forgoing excessive sweaty violence for richly imaginative narrative, X2's world is brought to life even more spectacularly than the first X-Men film, with very human elements of persecution, morality, and acceptance. (Julianne Shepherd)