Molly Ringwald, Jake Ryan, Long Duck Dong, and a pair of underpants give fabulous performances in this unlikely story of a small breasted dork getting the attention of the hottest/nicest/richest guy in school. Part of the fun-tastic Mercury Movie Megathon. See My What a Busy Week pg 19.
* 9/11: Where are We Now? A Middle-Eastern Perspective
Short films exploring how 9/11 and the aftermath are affecting Middle Eastern and Muslim people in American and around the globe. Featuring the world premiere of Marlin Darrah and Greg Ritchie's film In the Shadow of Bin Laden, shot on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The filmmakers enter the village of Jhanda and examine the lives of people living on the border. Tues Sept 2, films include 9/11 Redux and War Cons, two experimental films produced by the Guerilla News Network about 9/11. Also, Born in the USA, a 30-minute film that examines Muslim-American life and addresses stereotypes, and Jenin, Jenin, which exposes testimonies of residents of Jenin after the Israeli army's Defensive Wall operation. Wed Sept 3, and Thurs Sept 4, In the Shadow of Bin Laden will show along with Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11 by the Guerilla News Network, and Brothers and Others a documentary on the impact of 9/11 on Muslims and Arabs in America.
* American Splendor See review this issue.
If you're finishing a trilogy about boners, boning, blow jobs, motherfuckers, call girls, and gay dudes, who needs a plot? The answer to your real question: pretty funny, although this third piece of the American Pie trilogy doesn't measure up to the first. And American Wedding definitely belongs to Stifler, who learns that in order to be the star of a Hollywood comedy, you're gonna have to eat shit from time to time. Just please promise this is the last one. (Jennifer Maerz)
And Now Ladies and Gentlemen
A strange, wandering film about a romance between two people inflicted with the same neurological disorder that causes them to black out without warning. He's a thief and sailor, who conks out and drifts his boat to Morocco. He meets her there, a lounge singer who blacks out mid-performance, walking out into the street with her microphone. The story is spiced up with his clever crime scenes, especially when he doesn't remember whether or not he's guilty. But mostly this film is syrupy slow, studying the relationship between two people who are coming from failed romances, aging, scared, and unsure of whether or not they're dying. Sweet, elegant, but not amazing. (Marjorie Skinner)
* Buffalo Soldiers
From Dr. Strangelove's Cold War wheelies to Heathers' bulimic teenage wasteland, the best satire has always worked without a net. Completed just before 9/11 and finally released, much of the taboo status surrounding the matte-black comedy Buffalo Soldiers may have come from unexpected world events, but its combination of jaded cynicism and artful cool would pass muster in any era. Based on Robert O'Connor's novel, the film chronicles the rising fall of Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix), a Berlin-based Army file clerk who delights in selling everything from Mr. Clean to bathtub meth to his numbed compatriots, all directly under the radar of his dunderheaded commander (Ed Harris). Stakes are raised with the simultaneous arrival of some illicit heavy artillery and a granite-nosed new sergeant (Scott Glenn) determined to best Elwood by any means necessary. (Andrew Wright)
* Charlotte Sometimes
A psychological romance story that isn't delivered in a neat package. A lonely auto-mechanic, Michael, rents an apartment in his inherited house to a pretty actress, Lori. Even though she's screwing another guy, she consistently turns to Michael for companionship. But when Michael meets another woman out at the bar, shit gets all crazy and emotions erupt. (Katie Shimer)
Dirty Pretty Things
An African illegal immigrant works as a cab driver by day and a hotel desk clerk by night, despite his training as a doctor. When he does sleep, it's on the couch of a Turkish illegal immigrant (Tautou from Amelie). He soon discovers an illicit kidney-selling scheme that is praying on fellow immigrants. Frears' London is engaging in that it is a place where corruption is taken for granted, but unfortunately the plot resolves itself mechanically. Tautou, however, remains feisty and adorable throughout. (Andy Spletzer)
Despite the generally amiable Jamie Lee Curtis and the overwhelming presence of feigned teen rock band sequences (the greatest joy that the pubescent live-action genre affords), the new Freaky Friday movie is not the old Freaky Friday movie. Absent: Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris, Boss Hogg, and (in the most unfortunate oversight) the earth-shattering car-chase/water-skiing/hang-gliding finale. Present: an uninvested Jamie Lee, obligatory modernizations, and (most inexplicably) something called "Asian voodoo." (Zac Pennington)
* Freddy vs. Jason
After more than 15 years of rumors and planning, Freddy vs. Jason has finally been realized, and it is exactly what fans want it to be: a fairly campy, fairly gory, barely CGI flick that's at times, gnarley as shit. (Julianne Shepherd)
Take a bunch of companies--SoBe, Pepsi, Butterfinger, Independent, and Slap, to name a few--and write a storyline around their huge banners and products that uses lots of fart and shit jokes, and chicks with big tits in little bikinis, and four dudes with some of those Simple Dreams of making it big. Voila! A product perfect for kids too stupid to know the difference between a terrible movie and a terrible movie about skateboarding. (Jennifer Maerz)
* The Housekeeper
In The Housekeeper, a 51-year-old sound engineer (Jean-Pierre Bacri) has a brief romance with his 21-year-old housekeeper (Emilie Dequenne). As the singer Peggy Lee once put it, that's all there is. You'll find nothing below or above, behind or beyond that scenario. The Housekeeper is simply and perfectly about a 51-year-old sound engineer who has a brief romance with his 21-year-old housekeeper. The young woman seduces the old man; the couple then takes a vacation by the sea. The movie is perfect. (Charles Mudede)
Jeepers Creepers 2 See review this issue.
Lara Croft: Cradle of Life
Lara Croft: Cradle of Life takes you all over the world, making time for fighting on land, sky, water, underground, in urban settings and pastoral settings. And because Croft spares us the zingy feminist one-liners, it's impossible to hate her. After all, with a life so action packed, she's more than earned herself the smoking bod. Tomb Raider is fantastically expensive and weak on logic, like any binge should be. And best of all, it's instantaneously forgettable. (Marjorie Skinner)
This movie is unflichingly atrocious, and not in a fun, campy way. Here's how it COULD have been fun: American-turned-Parisian Naomi Watts gets divorced just in time to receive a visit from her less attractive sister, Kate Hudson. Of course Hudson's a wild, nubile little thing, and it's only a matter of time before she busts Watts out of her depression and the two go frolicking about town. But no... alas, this flick has more ambitious pretensions. It wants Watts' divorce to change her and her sister's lives forever. It wants Hudson to sleep with everyone under the sun, but then fall in love with an ultra-sleazy, twice-her-age, politician and have her heart broken when he (surprise!) ditches her for a new waify 20-something. It wants to show endless, agonizing amounts of footage of rich, white people eating fancy food and talking about how much money they're going to make off their rare painting. It wants to be a... suspense thriller with a Hitchcockian ending atop the Eiffel Tower!!? It wants to be a lot of things, but what it ends up being is the dullest, most muddled big-budget star vehicle you'll see all year. It does, however, manage to bestow Hudson with the single worst haircut ever, which is entertaining. (Justin Sanders)
The Magdalene Sisters
Serious as a heart attack, this unabashedly enraged lapel-grabber focuses on a trio of young women unjustly confined to an Irish convent/slave labor camp. Director Peter Mullan gives absolutely no quarter, placing shivery moments of genuine power and beauty within long stretches of cranked to eleven Legion of Doom-villainy. Provocative to a fault, helplessly moving, and a definite conversation piece for those with the fortitude to ride it out. Based on true events, and condemned by the Vatican. (Andrew Wright)
In her long-awaited return to starring role-status (her first since the underrated masterpiece that was Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion), Lisa Kudrow stars as the heir to a successful hardcore hiphop label who must clean up the hardest of the hard, played unconvincingly by Damon Wayans.
* The Medallion
It's official: Jackie Chan is getting old. Save for a few grace moments of past glories, his latest film wallows in the CGI wirework that made The Tuxedo such a disheartening experience. Jackie plays a Hong Kong cop who protects a magical kid from a Eurotrash villain named Snakehead, then goes to Dublin with a Jim Carrey-ish partner, and then gets brought back from the dead and has super powers and then... hell, I don't know. Seemingly stitched together from at least 8 different flicks, the badly dubbed results are almost schizophrenic enough to be entertaining. What more can be said about a Golden Child rip-off that can't even live up to the original? (Andrew Wright)
My Boss's Daughter
Ashton Kutcher spends an hour and a half desperately trying to fuck another trashy Hollywood blonde (in this case Tara Reid)--to little avail.
In 1955, the small heartland of Northfork is about to disappear, a casualty of a newly constructed hydroelectric dam. In an attempt to move every resident out, an evacuation committee has been assembled. These men make their way through the eerie and near-empty area, trying to coax the few remaining holdouts from their land. Meanwhile, a sickly orphan, confined to bed and afflicted with feverish dreams, lies under the care of a local pastor (Nick Nolte). The inhabitants of the boy's dreams: a pack of mangy angels who may or may not be searching for him. Northfork moves at a deliberate pace, holding your attention by only offering explanations when they are absolutely needed; the cards are kept close to chest here, which is a cinematic skill long on the rim of extinction. From the opening shot, of a dark lake that is curiously sprouting coffins from beneath its surface, the Polish Brothers have crafted a film that is gorgeous, confusing, and occasionally sad. A film that does what all the best films do: inspire argument. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* 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)
There are certain sentences one never expects to write. Case in point: The new Kevin Costner picture is not long enough. Am I high? That depends on just when you're reading this, but as I write this review the answer is no--Kevin Costner's new Western, Open Range (which he directed, mind you), is indeed not long enough. Still, this doesn't mean that the picture is a good one (it's not)--just that one notices while watching it that Costner, after the three-hour debacle that was The Postman, is a little gun-shy when it comes to opus length this time around. Hence Open Range's 110-minute span--a span that is certainly reasonable, but here, given what Costner wishes to show us, comes up rather meager. Part standard Western, part attempted romantic epic, Open Range starts patiently and solidly, but ends up rushing through its climax; the romance, such as it is, takes it in the teeth, and what was meant to be big and important is instead messy and clumsy. Which is too bad, because it has one of the best shootouts in years. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* A Revenger's Tragedy
See My What a Busy Week pg 19
* Robin Hood
After a summer of cliché-filled blockbusters, it's nice to go back to 1938, when the clichés were not only new but done properly. Sword fights on stone staircases, swinging from vines, daring rescues against all odds, shooting the weapon out of a villain's hand, goofy comic relief from character actors--yep, all here. Errol Flynn in the title role is charismatic in spite of the *worst* fake laugh in cinema history. Other great performances include Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marion; Claude Rains as the very campy Prince John; Basil Rathbone as the eeeevil Sir Guy; and Chico, California as Sherwood Forest. Digitally restored from the original three strip Technicolor negatives and presented in a new 35mm print. (Dan Howland)
A super-elite S.W.A.T. team is to transport a French drug kingpin to prison, but things get screwy when Frenchie offers "wan-hondred-meeeeeelion-dollors" to anyone willing to bust him out of the pokey. The S.W.A.T. team--comprised of Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriquez, LL Cool J, etc. --must then use every ounce of testosterone to prevent the drug lord's escape. The film gets points for explosions, but lacks any whiff of character development, which makes team movies like these really work. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Before being discovered by an oddball trainer in the 1930s, Seabiscuit was a lazy lie-around horse with a goofy gait. He was unruly, abused, and could barely keep pace in minor-league country fair races. But coupled with a nearly blind and down-on-his-luck jockey, Seabiscuit stormed into the top tier of horseracing and, for a stretch of three years or so, became the most written-about celebrity in America. The moral, as the new film version of the horse's life crams down our gullet, is "you don't throw a whole life away because it's banged up a little." Yet in spite of this spirited true-life story, Dreamworks does the story complete injustice by kicking Seabiscuit's corpse for the sake of a summer blockbuster. It's unclear why Dreamworks bothered to work with a true story. The film version deletes and adds major facts at will. In a classic Disney turn of events, they omit Seabiscuit's follies and loses, and clean and sober up Seabiscuit's primary jockey, Red (played by Tobey Maguire), who was endlessly profane and often drunk in real life. (Phil Busse)
* The Secret Lives of Dentists
Nothing to do with those anti-dentist activists on Broadway. The laughing gas gets turned way up when a dentist (Scott) suspects his wife of having an affair and his maniacally misogynist patient (Leary) encourages him to drill down to the root of the problem. Based on Jane Smiley's novella The Age Of Grief.
* Spy Kids 3D
Set inside a world-threatening virtual reality video game, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over retains the homemade virtues that made the earlier installments such an unselfconscious delight: pleasingly clunky visuals, arch-villains (here, Sylvester Stallone, loose as a goose and filled with self-mockery) who end up seeing the light instead of getting blasted into atoms, and family friendly morals that don't stick in the craw. Adding to the wow factor is Rodriguez's decision to shoot in 3-D, which results in an awesome variety of objects gleefully flung directly towards the audience's eyeballs.
* Step into Liquid See review this issue.
* Stone Reader
Throughout his wonderful documentary, Stone Reader, filmmaker Mark Moskowitz's camera lingers lovingly over shelves and stacks of books. He carries boxes of books with him everywhere he goes, touching them, flipping through them, and moving them back and forth like a child with his favorite set of Tinker Toys. He is obsessed with books; so much so that when he becomes enamoured with a long out-of-print, tome-like novel called The Stones of Summer, he embarks on a two-year search for its creator, Dow Mossman, who seems to have literally disappeared in the 30 years since its publication. It's a fascinating premise for a documentary, and it pays off probably beyond even Moskowitz's expectations. Mossman turns out to be excruciatingly difficult to track down, and Moskowitz gets to play private investigator, interviewing nearly everyone he can think of who had even a remote chance of coming into contact with the reclusive novelist. (Justin Sanders)
Brittany Murphy plays the trust fund daughter of a rock icon who died when she was a little girl. Left with his legend and his royalties, Murphy reprises her typical spoiled girl role without a charming effect. Life goes swimmingly for Murphy--she lives in a penthouse and allegedly has the male world wrapped around her pinkie--until her trustor splits for South America (with all of her money). From here, what could have been a charming trading places story instead is an unbearable and uneven tale. There are shining moments--both of sly comedy and tear-jerking sentimentality--but mostly the movie hopscotches between adult drama and gooey pre-teen fairytale. (Phil Busse)
See My What a Busy Week pg 19
* 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. I like it because it captures traditional Maori ceremonies and songs on film while also showing that New Zealand is not just a backdrop for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Shannon Gee)