Bob Fosse stars as the Serpent and Gene Wilder as the Fox in this little known musical.
Wallowing in Britain's trademark murky grayness, A.K.A. follows a troubled youth as he flees from his sexually abusive working class father to shack up with some aristocratic dandy prats. It's a fairly intriguing story, muddled by confusing dialogue and lifeless pacing. The real star of this show is a technical gimmick: it's split into three simultaneous frames. Every moment of the film arrives from two different angles, with a third angle showing a different, but related scene. For example, we get two different shots of the boy getting harassed by his dad in his bedroom, and a third shot of his mother calmly doing dishes downstairs. The potential for intriguing juxtaposition this device offers is enormous, assuming your brain can accustom to the surprisingly difficult task of watching three screens at once. (Justin Wescoat Sanders)
* American Splendor
The team of Jonze and Kaufman no longer own the meta-film genre. This Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner is an ingeniously structured biopic on the sublimely ordinary life of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar. As an examination of the self-loathing artist, it's arguably a better film than Adaptation, thanks to the auto-on-autobiographical nature of the material and the on-the-nose performances by Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, combined with disarmingly deadpan voice-overs and interview interstitials with Pekar himself. (Shanon Gee)
* Ape Canyon
Oddly enough, when I was reading the synopsis of Ape Canyon on filmthreat.com, I was thinking to myself, this sounds like a movie Jim Goad would like. Then seconds later I came across this quote: "Seriously, this is the funniest Sasquatch movie ever made. Even Jim Answer Me! Goad likes it, and that guy hates everything." While the film, about a Sasquatch who rapes women in the woods, only to have them come back begging for more, is decidedly sexist, chauvinist, and immature, it sounds as if dudes who like fart jokes, pornography, and campy movies will like it. The Sasquatch wears a gorilla suit that's tattered to shreds, steals porn mags from nearby houses, and drinks beer with the locals... after he rapes their wives of course. (Katie Shimer)
* Body Beautiful
Short films about queer body image.
* Bubba Ho-tep
Bubba Ho-Tep has an ingenious premise: Elvis (Bruce Campbell)--who didn't die, but instead swapped places with an Elvis impersonator--is stuck in a dilapidated rest home, spending his days desperately trying to convince nurses and visitors that he's The King. Unfortunately, the only person who'll believe Elvis' claims is another rest home resident: JFK (Ossie Davis), who insists that he survived his assassination, was dyed black, then stuck in the retirement home thanks to a Lyndon Johnson-led conspiracy. Elvis and JFK soon notice their geriatric compatriots are dying off even more often than usual. After some investigation, they discover that the culprit is an evil, soul-sucking mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep. So, as only two American mega-icons can, the two combine forces to kick some undead Egyptian ass. (Erik Henriksen)
The Canterbury Tales
Director Paolo Pasolini plays Chaucer, luring a band of actors into a medieval carnival of sex and debauchery overseen by the devil himself.
* Casa de los Babys
Adoption is as much as a crapshoot for the adoptive parent as it is for the adopted baby--neither entity has yet to take form. And that is the heart of Casa de los Babys. Most of the central characters in the film don't matter--there are mothers all over the film, either wanting, relinquishing, or enduring children. In the end the audience is left to wonder what will happen, and I guess that's the point John Sayles is trying to make: It's a crapshoot. (Kathleen Wilson)
Seedy characters. Back room deals. Plots tucked secretly within plots. Roman Polanski sets the standard for noir films. Jack Nicholson is at his best as a private eye caught in an Orange County water scandal. (Phil Busse)
* Cops of the World, DIY Dumpstering 101 & 102, other videos
Instructional videos on how to get your groceries out of the dumpster, plus videos interviewing people who've had their children "kidnapped" by Child Protective Services.
Director Paolo Pasolini based this film loosely on Giovanni Boccaccio's novel, which took place during the Black Plague. A painter is working on a religious fresco, while overwhelmed by erotic thoughts. A comical exploration of man's evil nature.
* Divine Politics: The Films of Betzy Bromberg
This mini festival includes a selection from experimental filmmaker Betzy Bromberg's 20+-year career. Body Politic (god melts bad meat), made in 1988, tackles the politics of genetic sciences and the human body as a battlefield for moral, spiritual, and sexual conflict. It careens in and out of operating rooms, laboratories, a family picnic, and body building competitions, weaving together divergent perspectives towards body and cultivation. It's a beautifully made film, although much of it is uncomfortable to watch. But if you can stomach the bits of gore that Bromberg infuses in her craftsmanship, you'll enjoy a mesmeric, politically charged experience. Other films included are the female-centric Petit Mal, the grisly, sexual Ciao Bella (all previously mentioned films play on the 17th at Cinema Project), and the longer Divinity Gratis (October 18), which studies the evolution of human civilization. (Marjorie Skinner)
* El Paso Wrecking Corp.
It's the man on man porno you've been waiting for. When one man is fired from a trucking company for drunken violence, he and his "buddy" set off to find new jobs. Thankfully there are plenty of men with giant boners along their path. See Destination Fun pg 55.
From the director of Chocolat, a romance about a woman who is about to move in with her boyfriend only to find a way better boyfriend knocking on the window of her car.
Set in the usual Spielbergian corner of suburbia, the film follows a lonely pre-teen (Liam Aiken) whose lifelong wish is granted when he stumbles across a dog wandering around a mysterious crater. Thanks to a malfunctioning interstellar communication thingy, he soon discovers that his new pooch is actually a hyper-intelligent alien (from Sirius, naturally) sent to Earth to teach the local population how to cast off their choke chains and overthrow The Man. This high-concept melding of E.T. , Dr. Doolittle, and Roots is goofy enough to intrigue, and the casting of such unlikely celeb voices as Vanessa Redgrave and Cheech Marin only adds to the surreal results. (Andrew Wright)
* The Holy Land
Set against the violent political background of modern-day Israel, The Holy Land tells the story of Mendy, a yeshiva student who falls for a Russian prostitute named Sasha and becomes torn between his strict religious background and his overactive libido. Once Mendy is entrenched in his newly scandalous lifestyle, though, his world becomes more complicated--and depressing--the more he tries to figure it out, and his new friends only confuse things by blurring the line between needing his friendship and making him feel used. (Jennifer Maerz)
House of the Dead
Another in the wave of teen horror movies. This time a group of perky breasted teens arrive on an island for a rave, only to discover it's been taken over by zombies. House of the Dead begs the question: what kills an ecstasy buzz faster than a gaggle of zombies trying to rip your arms and legs off?
George Clooney is charming playing a caricature of a rich divorce lawyer who is bored with winning cases and making buckets of money. Enter Catherine Zeta, a gold-digging man hater, who is just clever enough to perk Clooney's interest. A battle of the sexes ensues, between two of the most selfish, loveless human beings on the planet. The Coen brother's give us a pleasant comedy with Intolerable Cruelty, which is worth seeing for Clooney's performance alone, but the film doesn't breach any new territory, and certainly doesn't measure up to Fargo or Miller's Crossing. (Katie Shimer)
* Kill Bill: Volume 1
Unlike the meandering plots of Tarantino's previous films, Kill Bill is dead-on simple: Uma Thurman stars as "The Bride"--an assassin who's shot in the noggin on her wedding day by a band of killers sent out by her former boss, Bill. Unfortunately for the prop masters who had to come up with a kajillion gallons of fake blood, The Bride didn't die--and after snapping out of a coma, she commissions a samurai blade from a venerable sword-maker (Sonny Chiba) and sets off to slice and dice everyone who dared ruin her perfect day of wedded bliss. And what a bloodbath it is! Revenge is transferred by blood and eventually through blood--a pretty thoughtful theme for a Tarantino movie. And one that makes me excited as hell for Kill Bill: Volume 2. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* Lost in Translation
In less delicate hands, Lost in Translation could easily have been a dull, pretentious disaster, but Sofia Coppola has two cards tucked up her sleeve. One is the city of Tokyo itself, which has never looked so mysterious and engaging in an American film, and the other is Bill Murray, the bulk of whose part comes across as having been improvised. Why someone has not thought of dropping Murray among the citizens of a strange foreign city before remains a mystery, but without him--and despite the fine work of Coppola and Scarlett Johansson--Lost in Translation would surely fail. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Merci Docteur Rey
Ever since Dianne Wiest took over the role as the adviser to the lawyers on Law & Order, I cannot stand her. The sight of that over-inflected, saccharine sincere face just makes me want to punch it. It's too bad then that she had to pepper this mediocre, not-very-gay movie about murder, confusion, and heterosexual love. The excessively forlorn Stanislas Merhar plays Weist's son, and God, I got sick of that mopey face, too. Merci Docteur Ray doesn't offer up enough meat, or character exposition to keep you involved, nor does it fall back on any man-on-man action to keep you looking at the screen. In short: a snoozer. (Katie Shimer)
Another in the Film Center's tribute to Alain Delon. It is 1942 in Europe and not the best time to be confused for a Jew. But that's exactly what happens to Paris-based art dealer Robert Klein (Delon). He finds that his Catholic identity has been swiped by a Jewish man with the same name, leaving Delon struggling to stay free of prejudices and persecutions.
* My Life on Ice
Etienne gets a digital camera from his grandma for his 16th birthday and becomes obsessed with filming himself and all aspects of his daily life.
Mystic River See Review This Issue.
* Nightmare Alley
Edmund Goulding's dark tale examines the trials and tribulations of a desperate carny (Tyrone Power) faced with the challenges of surviving in a seedy business. Based on the pulp novel by William Gresham.
Out of Time
Denzel Washington gets set up again, this time as a respected police chief, who must cover his tracks before being pinned with a murder.
* Party Monster
Macaulay Culkin stars in this based-on-a-true story about Midwestern kid Michael Alig, who became one of New York City's top party promoters only to spiral downward into drugs and tragedy.
* Prey for Rock and Roll
Gina Gershon stars as a rocker who fears her age will end her career. A delicious exploration of the rocker lifestyle, including sex games, ex cons, and critiques of "the industry."
The original 1960 Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley, played by Alian Delon, is sent to Rome by a wealthy magnate to retrieve his playboy son. When Ripley arrives, however, he is charmed and soon fawning over the young playboy. That is, until his affection is rebuffed.
Teenage lust is tough enough, but when you have the entire brunt of Middle-Eastern politics and culture breathing down your neck, it is almost unbearable. An adorable Palestinian teen, Rana is given an ultimatum by her dad: Choose a husband from a list of men he has pre-selected, or else. With the clock ticking, Rana sneaks out of her house into the hornet's nest of occupied Jerusalem. There, she must avoid real-life barriers like checkpoints and more metaphysical ones, like her fear, and the desire to run her own life. A charming love story played out amongst global politics.
* Runaway Jury See Review This Issue.
The Rock and Stifler from American Pie star in this entertaining action/adventure flick about a bounty hunter (The Rock) who has to track down his employer's son (Stifler) in the jungles of Brazil. Beautiful scenery and great fight scenes make up for a formulaic plot and terrible Brazilian accents. (Katie Shimer)
* Ruthie & Connie
A documentary about two 1950s New York housewives who bucked convention, left their husbands, became lovers, and eventually fought the New York City Board of Education for domestic partner benefits, and ended up winning them for all city employees.
Alain Delon plays a levelheaded, detail orientated contract killer. Clean and efficient, he never messes up. That is, until he meets a hottie lounge singer and can't seem to keep his mind on the job. A charming 1967 noir film.
School of Rock
While I am passionate about rocking, The School of Rock, starring Jack Black, employs every cliché imaginable, from Kindergarten Cop to Spinal Tap, while promoting a sickly Gen-X nostalgia and not being funny, to boot. If the film is about the generation gap and the power of rock to span the ages, it's unfortunate that its power stinks like a rotten corpse. (Julianne Shepherd)
* The Station Agent See Review This Issue.
What happens when two tough street lesbians kidnap an overweight straight girl, and take her on a cross-country road trip to sexual discovery? In this plodding black and white feature from Argentina, not a hell of a lot. The beginning of Suddenly is filled with promise; Mao (Carla Crespo) is 100 percent heat as she seduces the lonely Marcia (Tatiana Saphir) with promises of love mixed with barely suppressed violence. However, when the girls visit Lenin's (Veronica Hassan) aging aunt, the sharp angles of this crime caper disappear, turning into another overly introspective entry into queer cinema. Self-discovery is great, but not at the expense of ruining an engaging plot. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
A mousy, frigid English woman (Sarah) who writes popular mysteries retreats to her publisher's mansion in the south of France. Then his illegitimate daughter Julie shows up unexpectedly, a slutty, bratty French vagina--I mean, character. The film follows the women as they eventually become friendly, and the uptight Brit mellows out with weed, swimming, and sex. Suddenly, a thriller element enters the film, shifting it from stereotypical Odd Couple stuff to highly improbable, anemic drama. By the end of the film, it's revealed why things have became so cardboard and predictable. But it's an extremely flimsy excuse for mediocrity. On the other hand, Julie shows a ton of skin and has sex with a succession of nasty older men, which is fun to watch. (Marjorie Skinner)
* Texas Chainsaw Massacre See Review This Issue.
Older people tend to address this film in an alarmist tone, while the younger set thinks it's crappy. (Except for the excellent tight jeans, slit shirts, and hoop earrings.) It tackles a lot of very real issues about maturity, but it takes on too much at once, to no effect. The lead protagonist is a smart, well-behaved child--until the hottest, brassiest, most popular girl in school criticizes her socks. Then it's like she slipped on a banana peel and became the embodiment of parental paranoia: Drugs! Tongue piercings! Boys! Shoplifting! (Marjorie Skinner)
Here is a decent film that could have been so much better. Taking its title from an opportunistic columnist, the movie tells the true story about a writer who helped to unravel the heroin drug trade in Dublin. Cate Blanchett plays the title role. Following leads and flirting her way into dangerous places, Guerin truly did bring about justice with the use of her pen. But largely leaving out how Guerin scarified her family life and minimizing how she used her sex appeal to lure in leads turns the story into a paint-by-numbers morality tale. Director Jerry Bruckheimer oversimplifies the true humanity and overlooks many of the struggles that she faced. (Phil Busse)
Wonderland See Review This Issue.
* The Year of Living Dangerously
While this movie initially felt gimmick-laden, with Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver's love story playing out against the 1965 Indonesian revolution, it has aged superbly well as both a political thriller and passionate romance. The acting is excellent, and the film never loses sight of how the dramatic background fades in and out of the consciousness of the characters.