In 2 Fast 2 Furious, Aryan hottie Paul Walker returns as disgraced former cop turned street racer, Brian. Now living in Miami, Brian is summoned by the pigs to infiltrate a money laundering cartel, but he refuses to do so without the help of his ol' racing buddy Roman (Tyrese). While its predecessor made an attempt to show the inner workings of the street racing elite, director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) concentrates on the gravy--sweet pieces of ass squeezing into Daisy Dukes, and white-knuckle race scenes that have you digging fingernails into your theater seat. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Alex & Emma
Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson star in a rom-com by director Rob Reiner--the story of an inordinately handsome author with 30 days to finish a book and the inordinately beautiful stenographer he hires to play his love interest.
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)
The Bread, My Sweet
Starring our old pal Scott Baio, from Charles in Charge, a film about a man who meets a woman and proposes to her the same day. Let's hope he's got a bucketload of cash!
* Bronx Babies
When two young boys in an eastern Africa shantytown accidentally murder someone, they scurry off to take refuge in a gang modeled after a gang from the Bronx. A fascinating look at the impact that American "ideology" has around the world, and a compelling story about friendship to boot! (Phil Busse)
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. Holy mother of Christ is this a pile of crap. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
A film about filmgoers. This amusing documentary delves into the lives of obsessive movie-watchers in NYC, seemingly normal people who compulsively and incessantly go out to movies, so much so that it's more religion than recreation. (Phil Busse)
City of Ghosts
City of Ghosts follows Jimmy, a con man involved in an insurance scam--but when the feds crack down, he heads to Cambodia to track down the ringleader of the whole thing, Marvin (James Caan). Aside from some dark, almost hallucinogenic cinematography and the exotic locale, there's really not much else to say about this characterless, convoluted exercise in neo-noir. Then again, there is a midget pimp in the movie, which is just about the raddest thing I've ever seen. (Erik Henriksen)
In the face of increasing misery, one can always count on Arabs and Jews to laugh fatalistically. This laughter, an embrace of the inherent absurdity of life on Earth, is the chief element of Divine Intervention, a film told in seemingly random, nearly silent vignettes of Middle Eastern bizarreness.
* 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 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, Catcher begins to pursue Barbara romantically, but only to poke a gaping hole in her resolve. (Kathleen Wilson)
Dumb and Dumberer
This movie is stupid. You'd only expect as much considering this film is about how Dumb and Dumber stars Harry and Lloyd came to be best friends during their high school years. Its saving grace is that it's the kind of stupid that the majority of Americans like--every joke is about farting, poo, and short buses. Or it's making some sort of sexual innuendo that would make any 15-year-old boy piss his pants with laughter. And if that's not enough to get you to crack a smile (you know, because maybe you're over the age of 17), you get to hear Bob Saget yell "shit" over and over again. Who's not gonna laugh at that? (Megan Seling)
* Finding Nemo
A ridiculously gorgeous film, Finding Nemo proves yet again Pixar's current chokehold on big-screen animation. From the facial expressions of the fish and background shots of gently swaying sea grass, to expansive harbor shots of Sydney and the continual mist of plankton wisping by, every frame has been so detailed and obsessed over that the film stuns. Add in Pixar's gift for scripting, a gift that always makes their films tolerable for adults, and the end product is a flower of a movie, exceedingly well-imagined. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* From Justin to Kelly
Justin Guarini (from American Idol) is a college student who goes on spring break, becomes trapped in a musical, and falls for Kelly Clarkson (from American Idol). They spend a blissful week feasting on Taco Bell together and getting shit-faced on Smirnoff Ice.
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)
If the director of Hollywood Homicide had been clever enough to push the camp antics of a Hollywood movie about two Hollywood cops solving Hollywood crimes to the hilt, it would have been pretty good. As it is, however, the film is just another generic, confused Tango and Cash/Lethal Weapon/Bad Boys/insert buddy cop movie here piece of crap starring Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, who illustrate all the charisma of a couple of graham crackers. (Katie Shimer)
* The Hulk
See review this issue.
* The Italian Job
Taking the name (and not much else) from the '60s Michael Caine Cockney classic, The Italian Job remains true enough to the heist formula to end up surprisingly gratifying. The set-up is thus: After the successful completion of the patented One Last Job in Venice, a close-knit team of supercrooks (led by idea man Mark Wahlberg, actually managing to convince that he has the proper number of synapses firing for the task) gets violently bilked from within (via the porn-mustachioed Edward Norton, whose public dissatisfaction with the project translates to an amusingly pissy onscreen turn). Revenge is plotted; cars are raced; property is destroyed; the audience is occasionally hoodwinked. What more does one need? (Andrew Wright)
* L'Auberge Espagnole
In Barcelona, the New Europe is assembled in a shared student apartment, where the residents can hardly escape embodying their national stereotypes. The question that is deftly asked with frequently charming result is one of identity and youth--how hard do you hold on to either of them? This film proves that a sweet movie can come complete with depth. (Emily Hall)
* 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)
* Lawrence of Arabia
A restored director's cut of David Lean's sweeping epic about a lone British soldier who helps the Arab Bedouins fight against the Turks during WWI. With Peter O'Toole and Sir Alec Guinness, in 70 mm. NO PRISONERS! TAKE NO PRISONERS!
* Lost in La Mancha
Terry Gilliam, director of the critically acclaimed films Brazil, and 12 Monkeys and the financial and commercial flop The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, is a perfectionist when it comes to filmmaking. Because creating his unique vision comes before all else, he is referred to by his peers as "Captain Chaos," and in the film industry, has been branded as hard to work with and unable to stick to a budget. Because of this reputation, Gilliam has a hard time finding funding for his projects. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was no exception. Lost in La Mancha documents his long-awaited attempt to bring it to life. As you might expect, during shooting, many disasters occur which makes for an entertaining, if not totally engrossing film. (Katie Shimer)
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)
* 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
In Christopher Guest's latest mockumentary, A Mighty Wind, the cast ruin their folk music-obsessed characters by trying to hard to act like dumb hippies. (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. 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)
* Oscar Shorts
Nine charming, clever, and funny short (okay, one is 29 minutes long) films. All have been nominated for Oscars.
An overwhelmingly Canadian portrait of one sweaty bank manager's gambling addiction, and the enormous fraud he perpetrates to sustain it. The film is portentous and humorless. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor, but the only crucial difference between this performance and other recent ones (e.g. Love Liza) seems to be the moustache on his lip. (Sean Nelson)
Bureaucracy is never that interesting, but Czech director Vera Chytilova makes a noble attempt at humanizing the blunders and ineptitude of Eastern bloc government in this 1979 film. A giant, blocky, never-to-be-completed apartment building serves as the canvas on which Chytilova paints her story about work men caught between wanting to build a sound building and not wanting to rankle the authorities. (Phil Busse)
* 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." (Christopher Frizzelle)
Baltasar Kormàkur, the director of 101 Reykjavík, trades slacker dysfunction for a full-on family meltdown. An aging father in a depressed Icelandic fishing village gathers his three children to tell them what's left of the family fortune. Opening with a bloody guy pouring gasoline in the fish-processing factory and burning it down, along with other scenes of mayhem and collapse, the movie flashes back a mere couple of days to show how things fall apart so completely. (Andy Spletzer)
* Shock Treatment (1981)
On the trail of Rocky Horror, this film takes place many years later in a town that has been turned into a television station. Everyone in the town is a character or viewer in a giant sitcom, including Brad and Janet Majors, a recently unhappy married couple. In order to deal with their marital problems, Brad goes on the local show Dentonvale (which actually means he's imprisoned in the mental institution), and Janet becomes a big star, leaving Brad in the dust.
Spellbound is a documentary that follows eight pre-teenage contenders in the 1999 National Spelling Bee finals. The cast includes an inner-city girl from D.C. who looks like she's going to barf every time she steps up to the microphone. Another is a hyperactive spaz from New Jersey who fidgets nonstop, firing off stupid jokes in weird robot voices. One boy is a gangly, monolithic genius. Some are second-generation immigrants whose parents speak limited English. Most of them have enormous spectacles and braces, or both. Their mannerisms and facial expressions, as they writhe under the pressure, are worth about a trillion bucks a pop. The documentary's winning angle is in showcasing the kids in their element. (Marjorie Skinner)
Catering toward the high school guidance counselor demographic, a film about three young Czechs who are bored stupid in their careers, but boiling over with hormones and energy. To compensate, they spend their off-hours goofing off and jacking off... until one ends up with AIDS. Like an emergency break on a speeding car, the diagnosis kills the party as they brood about their wasted lives. If you feel pretty darn good about your hedonistic lifestyle, this cautionary tale is a good one to steer clear of. (Phil Busse)
The conflicts at play in Chen Kaige's Together are less overtly historical and political than his past films (The Emperor and the Assassin, Yellow Earth), but like his most well-known film in the U.S., Farewell My Concubine, Together puts a talented artist--here a violin prodigy rather than a Chinese opera star--at the center of a changing world. Instead of civil war or the Cultural Revolution, however, the battle this time is growing up in modern China. (Shannon Gee)
Under a Shipwrecked Moon
Using Finnish legends of ancestral shamanism as a jumping point, Under A Shipwrecked Moon is a psychedelic daytrip into gothic bizarro world. The visual artistry of writer, director, and producer, Antero Alli, is astounding, and at least half of the film takes place in a waking dream that's conveyed in smudged tones and hallucinatory playacts. Beyond aesthetics, the film is not without problems. Much of the acting is distractingly piss-poor, an unsubtle flaw in a film that relies on heavy earnestness and theatrical melodrama. The plot is very strange, in which gambling crow-people are pitted against non-gambling hedgehog kings. Yeah, what the fuck is right. The fullest explanation to be offered is that many of the characters are dead, in comas, or stoned. (Marjorie Skinner)
See review this issue.
* Waking Life
Richard Linklater's monologue-heavy, beautifully animated opus about the quest for lucid dreaming and active living is one of the coolest, most interesting movies you'll ever see. Or you might hate it and think it's talky and pretentious. (Sean Nelson)
* Whale Rider
Audiences at Toronto and Sundance loved this film and so will you if you like triumphant tales of charismatic youngsters who defy the stoic immobility of old-fashioned patriarchs.
* 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)