THE BATTLE OF THE SACRED TREE
DOUBLE DISCO NIGHT
F FOR FAKE
THE FABULOUS FILMS OF MIKE & GEORGE KUCHAR
THE GENIUS OF W.C. FIELDS
THE SUNDAY FUNNIES COME TO LIFE
MOVIES & EVENTS
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Once upon a time, a badly-drawn cartoon dependent upon pained sarcasm was shown upon national television. This was, clearly, a horrible idea, appealing only to the least ambitious adults and most awkward chidren, and it was quickly pulled. 30 some years later, Robert De Niro thought differently. He wanted to make a movie. Somewhere along the line, he apparently wanted to make a successful movie, implanting a desperately cute gal whose inner child (literally) cries out for indulgence. In the process, mangling together a bitterly knowing narration with third generation Disney schmaltz they managed to make a film for nobody --confusing the tots and irritating the cultish faithful. Moose and squirrel wander through, company men, never once questioning the pace. (Jay Horton)
The Battle of the Sacred Tree
Part of the Guild's "Out of Africa" series. In a Kikuyi village, live revolves around a sacred tree with very unusual powers. Naturally, this threatens the local missionaries whose zeal leads them to chop it down.
Big Momma's House
Martin Lawrence is back, and he's got a big old prosthetic ass. Where do I sign?
Boys and Girls
A completely generic title for an utterly insipid, totally unoriginal wet noodle of a movie. It's always sad when a film references the classic it wants to be, like when the characters in this travesty head out to see Sixteen Candles. The best part of the whole experience was when my girlfriend won a soundtrack CD at the screening for knowing that Freddie Prinze, Jr. was raised in Albequerque, New Mexico. (Marc Mohan)
Chicken Run is about chickens trying to escape. It is very funny and exciting; each chicken has a great sense of humor and is weird. Mel Gibson is the voice of Rocky, and Julia Sawalha (from Absolutely Fabulous) is Ginger. It all starts when Rocky the Chicken comes blasting over the fence and everybody thinks he can fly. The chickens ask him to teach them to fly but they don't make any progress. Something fishy is going on--Mrs. Tweedy (the farmer's wife) has a machine that lets the chickens go in and pies come out. They do whatever they can to resist becoming pies. (Sam Lachow & Maggie Brown, Age 9)
On a double-bill with The Battle of the Sacred Tree, Isidore is an African living in Paris who has a very mysterious secret to share with his visiting fiancee.
Mike Hodges' 1998 masterpiece Croupier makes a convincing case that a sleazy and specialized profession--in this case, the guy who rolls the ball and collects the chips at a roulette table--is a perfect metaphor for existential malaise. Jack (the very beautiful Clive Owen), is a wannabe London novelist with nothing to write, and no money coming in. He reluctantly takes a job as a croupier/dealer at a casino, and almost instantly becomes addicted-not to gambling, but to watching people lose. Like nearly all great films, Croupier is great specifically because of its genre trappings. It's the inevitability factor, that gives the movie the power to be more than it seems. (Sean Nelson)
A heroic muddle of prehistory, computer animation, and talking monkeys, this entertaining flicker posits that dinosaurs might have survived if only they'd learned to work together. If you're the kind of person who wished Jurassic Park had dispensed with all that plot and character crap and just made with the giant reptiles, this might be the one for you.
Double Disco Night
The famous Dennis Nyback has dug up some delicious TV shows from the disco era.
East is East
This decent little movie is set in the early '70s, in an English town called Salford. The great Om Puri plays a fanatical father married to a British woman (Linda Basset). They own a small chip shop and a small house, which is packed with seven rebellious kids. With the exception of one boy, all the children are headed one way (toward total assimilation of British culture), and the father the other (preservation of Pakistani values); all that's left is a big showdown in the end. A rather ordinary story, you will agree. But Puri saves the day by doing what he does best: deepening and extending his character's emotional and psychological range. (Charles Mudede)
John Boorman's overwrought, yet beautiful adaptation of the legend of King Arthur. Plus lots of sex and gory stuff!
F For Fake
This seldom seen film by Orson Welles is a exploration of famous hoaxes, including forgeries of paintings by Picasso and Matisse, Clifford Irving's biography of Howard Hughes, and Welles' own War of the Worlds radio broadcast.
Fabulous Films of Mike & George Kuchar
I'm sure these films were more fun to make than they are to watch. The best element is the costuming, which looks straight out of Goodwill: wigs, robes, jewels and five inches of fake eyelashes. It's old, 16 mm footage with sound layered over the top and simple, porn-style story lines with none of the skin. The Sins of the Fleshapoids depicts a world where every human desire is fulfilled by human-like robots. It's a sensualist's dream, except desire amounts only to lounging, dancing and having plastic fruit poured over one's head. In The Craven Sluck, a housewife gets in a bath fully clothed with the idea of suicide by drowning. Another film, Color Me Shameless, offers a short glimpse of Edie Sedgewick. These films inspired John Waters, and I can see how they'd be inspiring, suggesting that anybody with a camera, a few friends and a half-baked plot can put something together. (Monica Drake)
An updated version of Walt Disney's cartoons set to classical music. Though it includes one original short (Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice), this version relies more on picturesque visuals than drug-induced psychedelia. Yawn.
Here's the story: a boy has a vision in which the plane he's about to take crashes in a big, fiery ball. He freaks out and gets kicked off the plane, along with several other people. Then the plane crashes. Spooky, yes. But you can't cheat death, so we're told. One by one, the survivors start dying. That's the point of the movie. It never gets any more clever or complex than that. If you must cheat, then sneak into a screening without paying. That'll show 'em. (Andy Spletzer)
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas
Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty: the early years. Yabba dabba don't bother.
A hodgepodge about time travel, ham-radio enthusiasm, the hazards of firefighting, baseball, mother love, and a father-son tag-team tracking down a nurse-butchering psychopath. This utterly confused film is a perfect example of Hollywood's shameless tendency to pillage the graveyard for the spare parts of its own schmaltzy genre. The result is a Frankenstein monster that bumbles and stumbles across the thin, emotional terrain of an Americanized (and therefore totally false) idea of nostalgia and redemption. (Rick Levin)
The Genius of W.C. Fields
Called the greatest comedian of this century, W.C. Fields is featured in this 100 minute program of shorts including The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.
Director Ridley Scott tramps through the standard gladiator movie plot like a tipsy party host, embracing each and every clichè like a dear old friend. War hero General Maximus (Russell Crowe) is stripped of his position by a scheming, new Caesar (Joaquin Phoenix). Escaping too late to save his family, Maximus falls into the hands of a slaver (the late Oliver Reed), and with the help of a former love and his rough-but-likable gladiator pals, seeks his revenge by finding glory within the Coliseum. Scott then uses all the technical advantages of modern film making to make the details as lavish as possible. (Tom Spurgeon)
Gone in 60 Seconds
You've seen the trailer, now see the remake of this obscure car-thief movie, which has been revamped and given the full Bruckheimer treatment (shame a bunch of good actors with massive paychecks so your crappy film has the patina of class). Big, red, fast, and loud--Kids'll love it!
The characters are good, the writing is terrible, and the acting so much worse. But magically, like taking a little pill, the movie makes you wonder--what if you had fallen into the rave life?--and you catch yourself picking out your DJ moniker? The movie also lets you comfortably writhe in embarrassment and smirk at this silly culture. Writer/director Greg Harrison makes raves seductive with great music, romantically empty warehouses, and good drugs. He laughs pretty hard at the PLUR scene, though, knowing exactly how falsely fulfilling it is with its glitter, lollipops, and new VW Bugs.
"To be or not to be...dude." That's what you half-expect to come out of stocking-capped, goateed Ethan Hawke's mug in the latest contemporary re-imagining of a Shakespearean standard. Actually, it's a fairly passable update, turning Denmark into a corporation and brooding prince Hamlet into a video artiste. Apart from the unconscionable product placement of a monologue set in a Blockbuster Video, director Michael Almereyda (Nadja) earns points for originality, especially in casting choices like Bill Murray as Polonius and Steve Zahn as Rosencrantz (or is it Guildenstern?). And Hawke makes at least as good a Hamlet as Mel Gibson ever did. (Marc Mohan)
A romantic comedy for guys. John Cusack plays the cynically introspective Rob Gordon, the owner of a small record store. For various reasons, he has shit luck with women. He's a jerk, basically, but he's not altogether clueless about his jerkiness. He struggles and obsesses and makes lists that he thinks define his life, but he's no closer to understanding women than he was in the fifth grade--which happens to be when he got dumped for the first time. Based on the popular novel of the same name. (Kathleen Wilson)
It's a fookin' classic! Dead Scottish guy keeps being resurrected to fight his arch-enemy through the centuries. It's like Groundhog Day except with heads being lopped off.
Sterling adaptation of the 1992 story collection by Denis Johnson. The 1970's drug culture is the setting for Maclean's second feature (after "Crush," with Marcia Gay Harden). Billy Crudup is the tirelessly sweet-hearted and soft-headed "FH" (for Fuckhead), a well-meaning junkie who wide-eye puppy-dogs his way through life, and love with a lost soul named Michelle (Samantha Morton), both angel and very mortal woman; and his increasingly bizarre encounters with a menagerie of lost souls, all of whom soon agree he's earned his nickname. With Denis Leary, Dennis Hopper, and Holly Hunter. See review this issue. (Ray Pride)
Rivka is deeply in love but has no children, so she has her rabbi tell her husband he should remarry. Her sister Malka, meanwhile, is resisting an arranged marriage. Kadosh explores the conflicts of living in an ultra-orthodox community in Jerusalem.
Bruce Willis stars with the most annoyng, ugly, little kid in the world.
L'Humanite follows a slow-moving, small town police investigator, Pharaon De Winter, through his investigation of a brutal rape and murder of a child in a tiny hamlet on the bleak northern coast of France. It's a supremely affecting work whose power comes almost entirely from what is missing, from what it refuses to tell, from what it doesn't seem able to explain. See review this issue. (Jamie Hook)
Me, Myself and Irene
When is Jim Carrey going to grow up and be a man? One of the best movie comedians when he's in the right project, Carrey is in danger of succumbing to Robin Williams Syndrome. For those without a Merck Manual nearby, that's a severe case of reality dissociation. This sickness describes a comic unable or unwilling to appear real. Constantly shielded by the gauzy mask of "goofiness," said comedian is trapped in a realm of total artificiality, in which he can't even say hello without a blend of caustic irony and grim mugging. This dire state of his health is relevant to Me, Myself & Irene. It's Fight Club lite, with all the dangerous ideas reduced to revenge comedy, and its radical rage homogenized. Carrey, who is a great physical actor and occasionally very funny in this movie, succumbs to the temptation to rely on the ghastliness of his face rather than the sincerity of his feelings. If he continues to insist on appearing in such roles without bothering to learn how to act them, between him and me, it's splitsville. (D.K. Holm)
I loved this movie. I loved the vertiginous helicopter swoops as Tom Cruise scales an impossibly sheer cliff to receive his impossible mission. I loved the profligate back flips in the fight choreography as he takes out villain after glass-jawed villain. I loved the preposterous motorcycle chase/joust. I loved the human touches, too: the love triangle set against the backdrop of global intrigue; the lascivious slo-mo close-ups of Thandie Newton; the villain's Scots accent. But most of all, I loved the giddy sense of hyperbole and spectacle that coarsed through the whole enterprise. It may not last too long after the credits roll, but pleasures like this aren't meant to. Otherwise, they wouldn't need to make part three. (Sean Nelson)
My Dog Skip
The movie that had Good Morning America's Joel Siegel "sitting up and begging for more." Based on the late Willie Morris' coming-of-age memoir in a sleepy Mississippi town during World War II.
Okay, remember that episode of The Simpsons where Mel Gibson remade Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and ended up impaling the President on a flagpole or some such silliness? Well, now he's gone and made a three-hour movie that's just like that, but without the irony or humor. It's set in a colonial America where slaves and owners get along pretty darn well, the British are a bunch of baby-killing, dog-kicking hooligans, and the one French guy around makes Gerard Depardieu sound like Peter Jennings (don't worry, there's no sign of the Native Americans in this heartwarming saga). Did I mention that the movie justifies killing wounded soldiers and teaching your kids to fight in war, as long as it's for something you really believe in? And have I gotten around the sheer pomposity and lack of anything resembling subtlety in the film? And another thing--hey, leggo, I'm not done yet! There's this part where Mel--(Marc Mohan)
A Perfect Storm
Plot: Fishermen fight storm in hopes of getting home to some pussy. Protagonists: Marky Mark, Dr. Ross, Happy's competitor in Happy Gilmore, a few guys who are in every other movie, some no-names. Villains: Hurricane Grace, backed by two other vengeful storms, and money-grubbing boat owner. Perks: Awesome special effects--50--foot sea swells, water rescues, hurricane clouds etc. Downers: Canned dialogue, excessive machismo, totally stupid ending. Recommendation: If you're looking for a marijuana freak-out, smoke some and head to this flick. If you're looking for an Academy Award Nominee--forget it. (Katie Shimer)
Road Trip takes the 15-minute road-trip sequence from Animal House and expands it to feature length. In this case, "University of Ithaca" college student Josh (Breckin Meyer) accidentally mails his long-distance girlfriend Tiffany a videotape of him having sex with another woman, forcing him and a trio of college buddies to drive 1,800 miles to recover the tape and save his relationship. Relating the tale of this Odyssean quartet is Benny (Tom Green), the first unreliable narrator figure in what must be the first humanist teen sex comedy. Why "humanist"? This genre of comedy is generally predicated on fear and repulsion toward "the other." This movie parades a sea of creepy or scary archetypes past its travelers (the only one missing is a predatory homosexual)-and then allows them nuanced responses. The foot-fetishist and food molester are just creepy, but the large, horny black woman is allowed a dose of humanity, as is the likable, boner-bearing Grandpa. Josh's sidekick E. L. (Seann William Scott) discovers the joys of prostate stimulation, while dorky Kyle (DJ Qualls) wins over an all-black frat house with his dancing before bedding the aforementioned BBW. Repulsion executes a complicated dance with attraction, and we (and by we, I mean over sexed, underaged boys) emerge from the movie theater better people for it. (Eric Fredericksen)
Though I can't say Scary Movie was particularly witty, or even clever, the cast performs their over-the-top slapstick with such good-natured intentions, it's hard not to be swept up in the fun. Sure, there are the requisite off-color jokes directed at gays, potheads, teen sex and the mentally challenged, but unlike the Farrelly brothers (Something About Mary, Kingpin), Wayans delivers punchlines as a nudge in the ribs rather than a slap across the face. (Wm. Steven Humprey)
Set Me Free (Emporte Moi)
Inspired by the character of Nana from Jean-Luc Godard's Vivra Sa Vie, 13-year-old Hanna yearns to exert absolute freedom and responsibility. Balancing her newfound freedom, her difficult family, and her secret adoration for a girlfriend, Hanna lives a poetic and beguiling life.
Who's the black private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks? SHAFT! You damn right. Who is the man who would risk his neck for a brother-man? SHAFT! Right on. He's a complicated man, but no one understands him like his wooooo-man. JOHN SHAFT! Can you dig it?
Even the presence of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson can't save this revisionist Western action comedy from the musty odor of the second-rate. Its plot unfolds like a fifth-generation Xerox. Some princess has to be saved from some clumpy, labor-driven railroad/mining concern, and the male leads must shed their current roles and embrace new, dimly-conceived identities. Wilson and his co-star are to be credited for occasionally rising above the material, but there are much better ways to spend a summer afternoon. (Tom Spurgeon)
Small Time Crooks
Woody Allen's 2000 entry is one of his unambitious, hoping--only--to-amuse movies. Too bad it's unoriginal, not very amusing, and a near waste of some of this world's greatest comic talent: Tracey Ullman, Elaine May, and Jon Lovitz. Allen casts himself against type as Ray, a poor dopey szchlub married to an equally dim former exotic dancer, Frenchie (Ullman). He plans an ambitious bank heist-he and some buddies will buy a storefront two doors down from a bank and run a cookie shop as a front while tunneling underground to reach the bank vault. The heist is a flop, but Frenchie's amazing cookies turn the front operation into a multimillion dollar business. At this point, a series of tired theme, money can't buy happiness or sophistication or taste, you know--clamp down on the movie, the plot conveys some typical twists, and the movie ends. (Eric Fredericksen)
*The Sunday Funnies
Come to Life
Early (and very rare!) animated shorts of Sunday comic strips, including Little Nemo in Slumberland, Gertie the Dinosaur, Krazy Kat, Mutt and Jeff, Barney Google, Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Popeye, and the German expressionism of Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons!
What says "sunshine" more perfectly than the history of Hungarian Jews in the 20th century? And who says "sunshine" more beautifully than Ralph Fiennes? The irrepressible Fiennes vieux takes on three sequential roles in this epic (that's one hour per role) account of one poor family's travails through three generations of Europe's now famous anti-Semitic hijinx. A total downer.
A new animated feature from the Bluth studios. The Earth has been blown to shit, and it's up to a cocky, smart-mouthed teenager to find a spaceship filled with survivors and lead them to a new Earth (presumably one that doesn't have fuck-wit cartoons like this one). Voice characterizations by Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore and...Tone Loc?!? Waitasecond, we take it all back!
One of the most important turning points in World War II was the Allied capture of the German code machine Enigma. U-571 is an attempt to show us modern folks what this dramatic event must have been like. The only thing not historically accurate is the damn story. A British destroyer was responsible for capturing the machine, not Matthew McConaughey! Better you should watch Das Boot. (Juan-Carlos Rodriguez)
The Virgin Suicides
The most consistent element of The Virgin Suicides is a steady stream of images that echo the feminine-hygiene commercials of the 1970s. Considering the material--five teenage sisters growing up in a repressive home and headed for funerals rather than graduations, the lightness of touch is surprising. But to juxtapose suicide with buoyant innocence might be uniquely appropriate; if the film has a message, it seems to be that a mythologized purity of youth can't survive into adulthood. (Monica Drake)
Where the Heart Is
Attention Wal-Mart shoppers! Natalie Portman is giving birth on aisle three!