3-Iron This odd, dreamy love story steps completely outside the realm of both linear time and normal human interaction. A young man breaks into houses while the owners are away, sleeps in them for a few nights, does the laundry, and leaves. On one such visit, he encounters a beautiful woman who has been badly beaten by her husband. This beautiful and eerie romance challenges and expands conventional notions of perception and human connection. (Alison Hallett)
Akira In a futuristic world of destruction, a young anime boy is captured and subjected to military experiments. He gains psychic powers that he uses against the oppressive forces--but shit! He's out of control! Who can save (or rather destroy) Tokyo? This screening kicks off a series of free anime screenings at Masu, where there'll also be $2 draft Sapporos, and appetizers and sushi starting at $3.
The Amityville Horror 1979's original Amityville suffered from a stupid family that withstood the antics of the terrifying house when anyone else would have ran for the hills within the first week of living there. The new Amityville's characters are equally moronic, but it has better special effects. (Justin Sanders)
Bad Education If Hitchcock's Vertigo collided head-on with a drag queen variety show, the brilliant wreckage would be Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education. (Ryan Dirks)
Being John Malkovich It's the best film of 1999, and it has a monkey in it. Coincidence? We don't think so.
Born Into Brothels Rare is the documentary that feels too short, but this wrenching look at kids growing up within the squalid red-light sector of India begs for a more detailed exploration. The film follows the efforts of co-director/photographer Zana Briski to save the children of Calcutta's sex workers, initially by encouraging their photographic skills, then by navigating through unbelievable levels of bureaucratic quicksand. (Andrew Wright) BrothersSee review this issue.
Cinderella Man See review this issue.
Crash Crash, the directing debut of Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis, certainly doesn't want for hubris, but ultimately it's an exhibit of laudable ambition overwhelming Haggis' still-developing narrative abilities. Although Haggis' would-be epic portrayal of race relations in Los Angeles sports a handful of genuinely searing moments, it's hard to shake the sense of someone constantly rearranging 3 by 5 cards behind the scenes for maximum impact. (Andrew Wright)
Deserted Station A couple who has had two miscarriages is on a pilgrimage from Tehran, Iran to Mashad to pray for the live birth of their third child. On the way, their truck breaks down in a small town where one man acts as the local mechanic, barber, and school teacher. While he is trying to fix their rig, the wife helps out by teaching class, and becomes enamored by the simple town life and the children. A slow-paced and slightly boring Iranian film, but one that will warm your grandma's heart. (Katie Shimer)
Dot the I What hath The Usual Suspects wrought? Dot the I, a highly touted Sundance fave, begins well, yet fatally clevers itself into a hole in its quest to leave the audience gasping at the fade-out. The set-up: On the eve of her wedding to a snotty blueblood, a woman with a mysterious history and a serious temper has a chance romantic encounter with a tech-geeky starving actor (Gael García Bernal). But isn't their bachelorette party meeting maybe just a tad too convenient? And what's with Bernal's fetish for surveillance cameras? To be fair, the initial love triangle/who's stalking whom scenario has a decent amount of open-ended promise, but ultimately dumps it all in favor of an increasingly ridiculous series of third-act twists, culminating in a final whopper that would have even Keyzer Soze and M. Night Shyamalan calling bullshit. (Andrew Wright)
Downfall An epic film taking place in Hitler's Berlin bunker, in the last days before the end of the war and his suicide. Much like taking a short trip into one of the circles of Hell, it's a cement-filled world teeming with Nazis who know they have lost, who are getting drunk, planning their suicides, and painfully watching their Fuhrer descend further into failure, frailty, desperation, and rage. (Marjorie Skinner)
Eating Out Starring ex-American Idol wannabe Jim Verraros and Desperate Housewives' Ryan Carnes, Eating Out is another "playful romp" from gay cinema: A straight man dates a dude so that he can get close to the dude's straight girl roommate. Despite the fact that this film is queer-written and -directed (by Q. Allan Brocka), the gay "themes" seem incidental--the breeders end up deciding the fate of them all. An odd-but-piquing phone sex scene and some snappy gay-speak ("What's the big Kim Deal?") are the only reasons to watch--but soon, even these become, respectively, creepy and forced. (Will Gardner)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room This is more than just a play-by-play look at the rise, fall, and impact of Enron--the film also asks why people act immorally, and (perhaps more damningly) why others allow it to happen. Surprisingly, all of this makes for dark comedy rather than a muckraking expos; instead of pushing its political agenda, Enron simply confronts you with the worst of human nature. (Andrea Chalupa)
Fever Pitch Ben (the incorrigibly grating Jimmy Fallon) is a teacher whose life is dominated by his love for the Red Sox. But when he hooks up with Lindsey (the ineffably angelic Drew Barrymore), things get rough--Lindsey's a baseball neophyte, and justifiably freaked out by Ben's fandom. Pretend you're a Red Sox fan, and think of Fever Pitch as one of the Sox's pre-'04 seasons: You have a bad hunch about how predictably disappointing it'll turn out, but that doesn't necessarily make it any less enjoyable. (Erik Henriksen)
Harold and Maude The 1972 classic in which a death-obsessed 20-year-old kid meets a positive, life-loving 70-year-old. Then they have sex.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy When Earth is destroyed by alien bureaucrats, there's only one survivor: A very perplexed Brit, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), who's suddenly alone in a very bizarre galaxy. Thanks to a breezy (if wildly uneven) script, strong characters, and relentlessly witty visuals from director Garth Jennings, Hitchhiker's isn't as good as the book--but as a film adaptation, it's mostly harmless, succeeding at capturing the manic, hilarious spirit of Adams' work. (Erik Henriksen)
High Tension A brutal slasher flick made in Germany (and thus automatically more terrifying), High Tension was initially slated for an NC-17 release, but has since been tempered down by about a minute for our doughy American consumption. Watch for our film short next week.
House of Wax Everybody knows Paris Hilton's going to die in this, so the real question is if her death is going to be good. It is--and she's wearing red lingerie when she goes. In Ms. Hilton's cinematic death, at least, you won't be disappointed. Which is good, because the rest of House of Wax is pretty lame. (Erik Henriksen)
In The Realms of the Unreal When 81-year-old Henry Darger--a lonely, reclusive janitor--died, his landlords went to clear out his apartment, and they discovered another world, a world that Darger called "The Realms of the Unreal." Shelves and drawers were stuffed with hundreds of paintings and manuscripts. There was an autobiography, notes, sketches, cut outs from magazines, and a 15,000-page novel. While most biographical documentaries yield to a desire to encapsulate the subject's life in a tidy package, Jessica Lu's brilliant documentary, In the Realms of the Unreal, revels in the unknown, lyrically excavating Darger's life without posing easy answers. (Ryan Dirks)
India Song Set in 1930s India, Marguerite Duras' India Song follows a diplomat's wife (Delphine Seyrig) who's "haunted by the spirit of a beggar woman." (Like Casper. But poor.)
The Interpreter Nicole Kidman plays a U.N. translator who accidentally overhears an ominous assassination plot; paranoia perfunctorily sets in, and she's paired with a reluctant FBI agent (Sean Penn). In The Interpreter's best moments, director Sydney Pollack channels the verve and momentum of his excellent Three Days of the Condor--but more often than not, the otherwise excellent Pollack, Kidman, and Penn trust in a tepid, uneven screenplay that's neither fluid nor convincing. (Erik Henriksen)
Kicking & Screaming Unlike its very funny star, Will Ferrell, Kicking & Screaming isn't very funny. Kicking offers family friendly jokes and trite morals--there's hardly ever an excuse for Ferrell to indulge in his madcap, absurdist, self-deprecating comedy. No, here Ferrell has other priorities: Namely, trying to invigorate a tired clich of a plot, which has a coach making a bunch of adorable loser kids into adorable winner kids. (With its bland suburban setting, whitewashed characters, and annoying kids, Kicking was apparently made only so Beaverton's families can take a two-hour break from their real life existences of bland suburbia, whitewashed neighbors, and annoying kids.) (Erik Henriksen)
Kingdom of Heaven Every "epic" film I can remember pits the underdog against an unbeatable enemy, a hero of purity and conviction against a giant blob of brute force. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven monkeys with the formula a little--its enemy is a bit more complicated and compassionate than most--but in the end, the film fits the standard: Big, expensive, theatrically violent, thrilling, sad, and overall, worth the eight bucks. (Katie Shimer)
Kontroll Never leaving the Hungarian metro system, Kontroll navigates a labyrinthine world of farcical comedy, supernatural evil and dark paranoia. Ticket inspector Bulcsu (Sándor Csányi) seems psychologically unable to leave the underground, where he sleeps in the tunnels and wanders between a murder mystery, a romance, a series of gang fights, and the bumbling adventures of his inspection crew. The brooding plot suffers with all this disparate action, but the entertainment factor does not. Given all the shadowy symbolism, it's easy to make Kafkaesque comparisons, but Kontroll is just too fun for that. (Ryan Dirks)
Kung Fu Hustle The latest from Hong Kong's superstar director and star Stephen Chow, Kung Fu Hustle is all over the map: It's part slapstick, part hokey drama, part action extravaganza, and part cartoon--and Chow blends all of these seemingly disparate parts to make a nearly perfect comedy. (Erik Henriksen)
Ladies in Lavender Ladies in Lavender has Judi Dench and Maggie Smith playing two dames sharing a house in lovely Cornwall. One morning, the sisters spy a body splayed out on the rocks. Discovering a young man (Daniel Brühl), they nurse him back to health. The most interesting moments come when Ursula (Dench) reveals her unrequited romantic fascination with the young man, and when snippets of subtext-heavy dialogue result between the sisters. In terms of plot, there's a whole lot of light stroking along these lines, yet the film never quite gets to the soap opera-like climaxes that seem inevitable. (Evan James)
The Last Woman on Earth Roger Corman's 1960 film about--you guessed it--the last woman on earth. Preceded by an episode of the '50s sci-fi serial Radar Men from the Moon!
Layer Cake Neophyte director Matthew Vaughn doesn't steer too far from the neo-British gangster/heist film genre with this one, and considering I'm the only person under the age of 31 who didn't like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, I wasn't expecting to enjoy Layer Cake. But I did. Daniel Craig stars as an unnamed London dope distributor (he's credited as "XXXX") who's hoping to retire. His last assignment, of course, is a snafu waiting to happen, and XXXX soon discovers that you can never leave the business--or if you do, it won't be when or how you decide. What distinguishes Layer Cake is that it avoids making its characters caricatures. As a result, the film escapes becoming a Ritchie--or even a Tarantino--knockoff and is content for what it is: A good crime thriller. (Will Gardner)
The Longest Yard Taking over Burt Reynolds' role from the awesome 1974 original Yard is an increasingly tubby Adam Sandler, playing ex-NFL quarterback Paul Crewe. After a drunk driving escapade, Crewe is sent to a penitentiary where a pigskin lovin' warden forces him to put together a team of inmates to take on his cruel semi-pro guards in a football game. With the help of an aging coach (Reynolds), Crewe wins over the wary inmates, teaching them about teamwork, self-respect, and hitting their captors in the nuts. While not a word-for-word remake, it has all the markings of the original without any of the subtlety, darkness, or political context. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Lords of Dogtown See review this issue.
Madagascar Madagascar is kiddie slop puffed and polished into a Pixar-wannabe sheen. Ben Stiller, unfunny even while animated, stars as a lion named Alex, who's the star attraction at the Central Park Zoo. Content to perform several times a day before his adoring fans, Alex has no desire to leave the cozy confines of the zoo--until his best friend, a zebra named Marty (Chris Rock), hits the road in search of freedom. Joining Alex in his rescue of Marty are two zoo neighbors: Melman (David Schwimmer), a hypochondriac giraffe, and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), a hippo. They give chase, find Marty, end up on a ship, arrive on the shores of Madagascar, and learn lessons about the wild vs. captivity, hunger vs. friendship, and how to build a plush tiki bar without opposable thumbs. Too bad none of it's funny in the least. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Marguerite, A Reflection of Herself Dominque Auvray's biographical sketch of filmmaker/novelist Marguerite Duras. Preceded by Duras' film L'Homme Atlantique.
Melinda and Melinda Woody Allen's latest has a promising premise: Two playwrights (Larry Pine and Wallace Shawn) discuss the situation of Melinda (Radha Mitchell), an unstable, travel-worn woman who unexpectedly arrives at her friends' Upper East Side apartment. One playwright envisions Melinda's background as a tragedy, while the other invents a comedy. Allen looks at both, and the film delineates the playwrights' respective takes, essentially making two films. Since he's been toying with comedies and tragedies for decades, Allen here has the perfect chance to capitalize on his proficiency in both genres. But while Melinda and Melinda is theoretically two Allen films for the price of one, its sum is far less than even one of Allen's past masterpieces. (Will Gardner)
Million Dollar Baby Boxing combines both the romantic idealism of a nobody fighting his way to becoming a somebody, and the gut-churning realism of broken noses, brain damage, and detached retinas. And perhaps better than any boxing movie to date, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby captures this complicated dichotomy. Eastwood stars as former cut-man turned trainer Frankie Dunn--an old-timer looking for one last champion. When his best fighter switches managers, Frankie reluctantly agrees to train upstart Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who's as raw as they come. Their rise to the top, however, is tempered by an event of tragic proportions--one that changes their lives forever. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Millions Danny Boyle's tale of two young brothers (Alexander Nathan Etel and Lewis Owen McGibbon) who find a duffel bag stuffed with cash. Ultimately, Millions becomes less about the money and more about the boys' splintered family; despite a retarded subplot about a criminal looking for the cash and some unforgivably sappy moments, Millions is definitely worthwhile. (Erik Henriksen)
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous Sandra Bullock has made an entire career out of starring in shitty movies. Let's take a moment to scroll through the catalogue: Speed, Speed 2: Cruise Control, While You Were Sleeping, Hope Floats, Practical Magic, Miss Congeniality, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and now Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. And even though all these movies are crap, none are movies I would turn off if I came across them on late night television. Why? Because I'm a sap, and Sandra Bullock is charming. And Miss Congeniality 2 is exactly what you'd expect: Sandy + Movie = Cute, Dumb, Funny, and despite its shortcomings, more than a little bit charming. (Katie Shimer)
Monster-In-Law Jane Fonda is old, and J.Lo is a terrible actress. Despite all that, Monster-In-Law isn't quite as bad as you'd expect. You'd think it's just pure, cheesy, horribly titled garbage, when it's really more like pure, cheesy, horribly titled leftovers than actual garbage. (Katie Shimer)
Mudd and Bones Short Films Portland-based production company Mudd and Bones screens some short films from local indie filmmakers. Plus, there'll be live music. Plus, it's free.
Nathalie Granger Marguerite Duras' drama about two women (Jeanne Moreau and Lucia Bos) who listen to the radio, worry about a violent young girl, and are visited by a traveling washing machine salesman (Grard Dpardieu). Yeah, that's right--it's Grard motherfuckin' Dpardieu, bitches!
Oldboy See review this issue.
Over the Edge Matt Dillon stars in this film from 1979 about a bunch of rebellious kids in a planned community. Following the screening, the art-punk sextet Drats!!! will play a 30-minute rock opera based on the film. The
Pacifier Poor Vin Diesel. There was promise, once upon a time: Pitch Black, Boiler Room, The Fast and the Furious--for a moment, he had a glimmer of hope. Not as an actor, mind you, but as a presence--a meaty, menacing figure whose voice could launch a thousand threats. Now, however, that promise has been devoured by a need to "expand," that dreaded delusion that inflicts many a young bulging stud. Vin Diesel belongs as a villain, not as a Navy Seal who moves in with a suburban family (the specifics are unnecessary; all you need to know is that the plot, such as it is, is utterly idiotic). (Bradley Steinbacher)
Pump Up the Volume Christian Slater plays "DJ Hard Harry," a rebel teen DJ! Yeah! You rock, DJ Hard Harry! (Christian Slater? Not so much.)
Robots It'd be too easy to proclaim that the only mainstream animation that's worthwhile is Pixar's--but if their rivals don't start kicking it up a notch, that statement isn't just going to get easier, it's also going to gain credence. Robots is just lazy; as easily as you can foresee its boring plot, you can predict its characters. (Ewan McGregor voices Rodney Copperbottom, who's a sweet, by-the-numbers mechanical protagonist, while with Robin Williams' Fender, the filmmakers have managed to create a character who's as annoying and unfunny as Williams himself has become.) (Erik Henriksen)
Sahara It's never a good sign when all I can remember about a movie is the leading actor's mustache. But... there you have it. Sahara is one of those wisecracking, adrenaline-pumped thrill rides that Hollywood consistently makes, and consistently makes incorrectly. But ohhh... that mustache. That pervy, prickly, sexy-lookin' mustache. It's why Burt Reynolds works, it's why Tom Selleck works, and now that Matthew McConaughey wears one, we can finally forget about his ceaseless string of awful movies, which naturally includes this one. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Schultze Gets the Blues Gently funny, this film is full of the sort of geriatric humor that ensues from putting a fat old German guy in an unfamiliar environment. (Marjorie Skinner)
Secret Cinema Saturday Cafe Nola shows a secret film. Aaand... that's about all there is to say about that.
She Gods of Shark Reef Hot chicks on a tropical island, sharks, and a "hideous stone god," all circa 1958 and courtesy of Roger Corman. Preceded by an episode of the 1950s detective drama, Dragnet.
Sin City A brilliantly creative, enormously cool piece of pop art; a film that has bigger balls, more fun, and a bigger heart than a year's worth of standard blockbusters. Based on Frank Miller's dark, pulpy, neo-noir graphic novels, and co-directed by Miller and action master Robert Rodriguez, the film isn't flawless (it's unerringly faithful to the comic, and at times, Rodriguez and Miller unintentionally demonstrate that what works in literature doesn't always work in cinema), but what Sin City gets right, it gets really fucking right. (Erik Henriksen)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants See review this issue.
Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith Unquestionably the best of the prequels, Revenge of the Sith is even better than 1983's Return of the Jedi. With the Clone Wars raging across the galaxy, cue two great Jedi generals: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). As Anakin's wife, Padm (Natalie Portman), discovers she's pregnant, Anakin's friendship with Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) takes a sinister twist--Palpatine, it turns out, knows the ways of the dark side, and is more than willing to teach them to Anakin. It's the strong characters and tragic plot that differentiate Sith from its predecessors: Finally, here are the visual nods to the originals, the answers to Lucas' dangling plot threads and a shit-ton of lightsaber fights. Sometimes Sith--mostly in its uneven first act--resorts to the painfully cutesy stuff that alienated many from the prequels, but visually, emotionally, and mythically, this prequel finally feels as epic, as touching, as cool as the original Star Wars films. Better late than never. (Erik Henriksen)
The Sword and the Sorcerer See "My, What A Busy Week!" on page 17.
To Kill A Mockingbird In this 1962 classic, Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch, a man who, in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against a false rape charge.
Trailer Trash Tuesdays Cafe Nola serves up an all-night-long program of vintage movie trailers and ads.
Unleashed Elsewhere in the world, Jet Li's amazing Chinese action epics have made him one of the most famous actors around. To Americans, though, Li's merely that guy in lame-ass flicks like Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave. And of all the many injustices of modern cinema, that's one of the biggest--because Li's a great actor, and he's an even better action star. Unleashed does a kickass job of showing both sides of Li; it's as much a drama as it is a kung fu demo reel. And that ungainly combination is pulled off well enough that it's easy to forgive the film's occasional oversights. (Erik Henriksen)
The Upside of Anger The Upside of Anger makes an all-too-blatant grab for the award-friendly glory road well plowed by the likes of American Beauty and Terms of Endearment, yet is nearly redeemed by a cast that wrings out every last bit of potential from the formula. After being abandoned by her husband, a brittle housewife (Joan Allen) strikes up a boozy relationship with the scruffy ex-jock next door (Kevin Costner). Since you're going to eventually end up seeing it anyway, best to shrug off the flailing stabs at higher meaning and enjoy it for what it gets right: Two fine, yet often neglected, actors teeing off on a series of telegraphed pitches and repeatedly knocking the damned cover off of it. (Andrew Wright)
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen See review this issue.
The Wild Bunch See review this issue.
XXX: State of the Union The ludicrous XXX: State of the Union begins with a tranquil farm scene--and then, before you've even been able to decipher whether or not what you're watching is another preview--it blasts into action as suddenly as the bullet trains, souped-up sports cars, and helicopters that star in the movie. The effect is somewhat like being on a jerky rollercoaster with bad one-liners, clichs, a couple of killer-fast loops--all brought to you by your host, Ice Cube, who pulls off the laugh-out-loud hilarious stunts with the same amount of brow-furrowing most people use to execute a tricky shot in billiards. (Marjorie Skinner)