I just have some questions: Isn't Billy Crystal famous for having a razor-sharp wit? Why then, does his script for this latest Hollywood schlock-fest resort to the lowest levels of comedy, including a man getting hit in the head with a golf ball, and another man getting his balls licked by a doberman? And why is uber celebrity, Julia Roberts, cast in the role of the Ugly Duckling? Why has Catherine Zeta-Jones played a despicable bitch in every movie she's been in? Type-cast, perhaps...? Why are bad movies that make fun of movies still getting made when the genre is as stale as old bread? And why, for God's sake, is John Cusak in this bad, bad movie? Why are tender doves aflight invariably brought back to Earth, burned down by the fires of capitalist whorishness? Why, why, why? (Justin Sanders)
* Amores Perros
Amores Perros begins at a screaming dead run and maintains one kind of intensity or another over the next two-and-a-half hours. Pungently translated as Love's a Bitch, Amores Perros comprises three stories of life, love, and aggressively twisted fate in the most polluted metropolis on the planet. Alejandro Gonzàlez Iñàrritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga have enrolled in the Tarantino school of storytelling, but Gonzàlez Iñàrritu's own style and vision is so distinctive and assured in this directorial debut that no one should dwell on that point. This is a breakthrough work for Mexican cinema.
Inspired by her back-to-basics experience making the Dogma film The King is Alive, Jennifer Jason Leigh called up her pal Alan Cumming and said something like "Hey, do you have a digital video camera? Cuz I know how we could make our own movie with just us and all our friends and it would be sooo cool! You do?! Well, come over!" Then Jennifer and Alan made a sort of Cassavettes-lite tale where they play a recently reconciled couple--she's an actress past her industry-dictated prime; he's a predictably androgynous novelist who's about to direct a film of his most recent book. The guests at the titular get-together at their sumptuous Hollywood Hills home are played by folks like Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Beals, and Gwyneth Paltrow as the starlet who's stealing Leigh's thunder. She also provides the Ecstasy that pushes the emotional dysfunction and repressed insecurities of the party-goers into the open. Eventually, it all devolves into a fairly self-indulgent barrage of screaming, swimming, and sobbing that made me feel not a bit of sympathy for these pampered souls. (Marc Mohan)
Baby Boy, John Singleton's companion film to Boyz N the Hood, follows a single, male character, Jody (played by the sexy-ass model Tyrese Gibson), through his struggle to grow up and become A Real Man. That's the plot. Beyond that, it gets kind of confusing. There's all this weird imagery through the whole movie, like the grown-up Jody writhing around in amniotic fluid and this nasty fake womb that looks like the leftover water from my eighth grade sea monkeys. And everyone acts like babies--thumb-sucking, whining, acting out--because the people in this hood (the same one from Boyz N the Hood, but ten years later and with different characters) are trying to figure out how to be responsible for themselves and their children.
Blow is Hollywood all the way to the bank. But despite all its predictability--a young man (Johnny Depp) rises to the top of the international drug trade and then falls to the bottom of the prison system--its portrayal of Mexicans, Central Americans, and middle America is unexpectedly sympathetic.
Larry Clark's (Kids) third film is a true story in which a group of children murder the school bully. It's good, if you like incredibly disturbing, completely unrealistic films about American suburbia. No really, if you liked Kids, I'm sure you'll like this film, but expect to leave the theater feeling like you just saw your mom in a porn. See review this issue.
Today I'm not weak. The film critic in me has control over my emotions; it can and will repress my wolf-like desire to fill this review with hungry words that praise the celestial beauty of Juliette Binoche. That said, the movie itself is unremarkable, and has absolutely nothing new to offer. (Charles Mudede)
An accountant at a condom factory realizes he's about to be fired. Divorced, alienated from his 17-year-old son, he contemplates suicide, but is instead given some rather odd advice from his neighbor, a retired psychiatrist: Announce that you are gay at work, and the powers that be will be too frightened to fire you, lest they get slapped with a nasty lawsuit. The accountant takes his neighbor's advice, and, well, hilarity ensues. Or, if not hilarity, at least a few laughs here and there. Actually, how well you like The Closet may in fact depend on just how high Three's Company ranked on your laugh-o-meter. If the answer is 10, then by all means, rush out and see it. If, on the other hand, the number is five (or four, or three), you might want to stay home. (Bradley Steinbacher)
A creepy collection of five shorts, written by Stephen King. In one, a beast lives under the stairs, in another cockroaches gobble up a businessman. You've probably seen it before, but have you seen it after a couple gravity bongs? (Katie Shimer)
Divided We Fall
A Czech couple harbor a concentration camp escapee from the Nazis.
Dr. Doolittle 2
The doctor who talks to animals is back, and this time he is attmepting to save a forest from loggers by teaching a bear how to get laid. This film is just as bad as you would expect the sequel to a bad movie to be. Although the idea of seeing animals talk may be hard to resist, you are better off tuning in to Discovery to watch them do what they do best: eat each other. Now THAT'S funny. (Russell Cowan)
Erotic Tales 1
Not getting any at home? The Erotic Tales series will definitely satisfy. This collection features The Dutch Master--about a woman whose enters the fantasy world of a painting in search of the depicted hottie; Vroom, Vroom, Vroom (no, not an annoying Mazda commercial) by Melvin Van Peebles, the story of a young horny boy who is granted two wishes by a witch; and Wet, a comedy about a woman who needs to try out a hottub with a store salesman before she buys.
Erotic Tales 2
The Cloud Door is about a princess in a palace laced with secret passages who finds men too. In The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch, a young writer fantasizes about an older woman. The final film, Touch Me, chronicles a young girl's sexual discovery with another woman.
The Fast and the Furious
Burning rubber is the order of the day in this fuel-injected, testosterone-pumped fluff piece from director Rob Cohen. Paul Walker is a SEXY undercover cop sent to infiltrate a gang of street racers (including the aptly named Vin Diesel) who he suspects of hijacking trucks, but what's this? He actually learns to love the big lugs, as well as the adrenaline rush of street racing. While the plot holes are big enough to drive two hijacked trucks through, and the story is an almost scene-by-scene ripoff of Point Break, everyone in the movie is H-O-T. HOT, and the cars are beautiful. But be sure to watch the papers, because this flick will surely inspire a nation of jar-head kids to begin racing and killing themselves at a record pace. For example, as soon as I left the theater I saw a kid in a Grand Torino peel out of the parking lot, lose control, and smash into the parking median. He might not have been fast...but he was FURIOUS! (WSH)
Basically, you should go into Final Fantasy with the notion that you're about to be slapped on the forehead with a big slice of cheese. If you're already prepared for bad jokes, a convoluted plot, yet very cool special effects, and a fairly standard anime storyline (peaceful Eastern philosophy vs. destructive Western decadence), Final Fantasy is going to be a decent way to spend two hours. But if you never actually enjoyed an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, it's time to dust off that Godard collection and forget you ever read any of this. (Julianne Shepherd)
The Golden Bowl
The Golden Bowl is, in part, a drama of manners, and Merchant Ivory's production moves neatly upon the joints and hinges of a repressed society. But the filmmakers seem to think that a well-appointed costume drama with the weight of Henry James behind it doesn't need any creative help to succeed, so the neatness is plodding. People enter rooms, whisper to one another, make out passionately behind closed doors while holding lit candles, and glare portentously at photographs--but the movie remains too damp to make a spark.
* Hedwig and the Angry Inch
John Cameron Mitchell wrote, directed, and starred in this Rocky Horror-cum-Velvet Goldmine-esque opus about a big-haired megalomaniac singing his/her way across the US. With 40 plus costume changes and songs that you will be singing for days, this is pure rock and roll candy, which should be seen on a big screen with big audio. (Michael Svoboda)
This ostensibly charming indie romantic comedy has all the gentle eccentricity, crisp symmetry, and head-bobbing goofiness of a Volkswagen commercial-and just as much substance. George, a Nigerian-born dorkus who looks and sounds like the soulless black men Eddie Murphy used to imitate on SNL, is arranged to marry a childhood friend he hasn't seen in years. Three days before, though, he meets a spunky Spanish beauty. Together with his lovesick French companion, he sets out to pry the senorita away from her annoying British beau. Characters who have nationalities instead of personalities are a big hindrance to any movie that expects you to sympathize, and this is no exception. (Marc Mohan)
Jurassic Park 3
Sam Neill returns as Dr. Alan Grant who, along with a hunky assistant, is tricked into returning to dinosaur island to search for the missing son of William H. Macy and Tea Leoni. A few mercenaries (read: lawyer chum) come along for the ride and are quickly bitten and stomped within the first 20 minutes. That means our heroes have 50 minutes left to run around the island, avoid the bite-bite and the stomp-stomp, and somehow keep our interest with a script that's thinner than Charleton Heston's hairpiece. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Kiss of the Dragon
Remember when Bridget Fonda actually had a promising career? What did she do to deserve this? Playing a North Dakotan-turned-Parisian hooker, Fonda fulfills the role of tonic to the high-octane Chinese chopsuey acrobat Jet Li. Fonda is, we learn, in the City of Lights trying to kick a heroin habit and longing for her orphaned daughter. Jet Li is there dodging grenades and trying to bring down a corrupt police chief who runs a prostitute ring and (for reasons as obscure as an ancient Chinese secret) has killed an Asian diplomat. Would it kill them to hobble together a plot? (Phil Busse)
* Legally Blonde
In Legally Blonde, Witherspoon plays a Southern California Barbie doll named Elle Woods. When her boyfriend dumps her (she's "not serious enough"), she decides to win him back by attending Harvard Law School, getting in even though her brain operates, with the savantish exception of matters of fashion, at the level of a 10-year-old. Legally Blonde is Witherspoon's show. She's committed and bizarre and fantastic, elevating the film's mediocrity into an enjoyably breezy farce without apparent effort. Her performance is a taunt to her contemporaries. And justifiably: No other actress of her generation could make Elle seem genuine, and none of them could take so much cinematic dross and spin it into silk. The fire of Witherspoon's talents should make them cower in fear.
Lost and Delirious
Features three lovely, lonely, and confused prep-school girls played by actresses who each captivate at moments, with Piper Perabo improving immeasurably on her horrendous Coyote Ugly performance. The characters are kissing, laughing, and smoking rebelliously, and this film is promising in its sympathetic and non-patronizing treatment of same-sex love. Unfortunately, the film's unrelenting attempts at poignancy do their best to reduce a reasonable script and good acting to melodrama. Multiple themes and motifs are offered, then disappointingly never mentioned again. This film can't decide which character to focus on or which audience to cater to--nude lady love scenes clash with heavy-handed juvenile trauma. This movie is one of the "new generation of teen movies" (i.e. crazy/beautiful) that features less fluff, more intensity, and more sex. However, despite sweet 'n hot moments provided by the two winsome lovers, the high-voltage studio
sheen and calculated pulling of heart strings douse any real empathy with the characters. (Tamara Larson)
Puffy, I mean... P. Diddy, gets mixed up with two wanna be boxers who start a crime ring.
* Meat Rack
Once upon a time, gay films could be campy and sincere without resorting to histrionics and over-the-top caricatures. Such is the case with 1968's The Meat Rack, which, due to its limited budget and amateur actors, perfectly captures the tone of an Afterschool Special, albeit one with gay sex and self-hating homosexuals. Our hero, J.C., grew up in a broken home, then ran away and started turning tricks. That's all you need to know about the story. You should also know that there are bits and pieces that come out of nowhere, like the two gun-wielding drag queen pornographers who force him to have sex with a girl on camera. Yes, this is one strange piece of soft-core gay porn, indeed. (David Manning)
Memento has a lot of starch in it; the film sticks with you for days as you rehearse it over and over in your mind. It's also a movie so good, you fear a critical backlash against it. You come out of it feeling almost resentful at how good it is, and given that almost everyone is an aspiring filmmaker these days, this resentment is unvarnished jealousy. But this reviewer is pure of spirit, or at least spite: I may have seen a better film so far this year than Memento, but if I have, I've forgotten it. (D.K. Holm)
* O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Set in depression-era Mississippi, George Clooney stars as Everett Ulysses McGill, a suave and well-groomed petty criminal doing hard time on a chain gang. Shackled to Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), he convinces them to join him in escaping by promising to split a fortune in buried treasure with them. (Andy Spletzer)
Once Upon a Time in China
Jet Li plays Chinese martial arts hero, Wong Fei-Hung, who defends China against invaders. Plenty of ass gets kicked in this newly cut and freshly subtitled version of the film--and master Li still looks hot.
Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie act in this soft porn, I mean... thrilling drama, about what happens when Antonio and Angelina betray their countries by having really graphic sex in front of the camera, I mean... forsaking their countries by having an affair.
A documentary on the art scene in New York from 1940-1970. The film includes interviews with influential artists, dealers, critics, collectors, and curators of the time.
Planet of the Apes
As promised, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is upon us and it stinks like feet. If you like spaceships (first 10 minutes) and screeching apes, this film has 'em, but that's about it. Throw in a bland and predictable ending, and you have the most anticipated letdown of the summer. Sounds like a three-pronged blockbuster to me.
* The Princess and the Warrior
The second collaboration between director Tom Twyker and the stunning beautiful German actress Franka Potente. This time around, though, the pair has replaced the frenetic Nintendo plot of Run Lola Run with a carefully paced romance. No, we're not talking about a fawning Julia Roberts running around with her estrogen hanging out, but an eerie and tragic fairytale where castles are replaced by an insane asylum, and Prince Charming by a stoic street punk.
An almost-crazy 16-year-old discovers that she's actually a princess in a small European country. ohmigod?! WHAT SHOULD SHE DO? Stay in San Francisco or move to Europe?!
* The Road Home
Yusheng's mother, Di, has called him home with an ancient request: He must gather a party of villagers to walk the body of his dead father home. Over the snowy mountains and all the way to their remote village, the bearers must tell the dead Mr. Luo, "This is the road home," so that he will always know. Some love stories could have happened anywhere. Others, like The Road Home, belong to their settings like the view from a particular hillside. The story of Di and Luo is communal territory, like the schoolhouse, and as necessary to the life of the village. Where director Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern was sweeping, The Road Home is tiny--and it's still completely overwhelming, especially when staring into Zhang Ziyi's doe eyes. (Evan Sult)
Rush Hour 2
Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan reteam as a black cop and a Chinese cop, their racially charged antics infuriate multiculturalists on two continents. This sequel to the occasionally funny original (beware: the trailer offers exactly zero laughs) features the very attractive Zhang Ziyi, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Scary Movie 2
If you thought the first one was funny... you were wrong. Unless of course, you were stoned, then it's okay to be wrong.
* The Score
This is a fully functional, if-perfunctory heist film that benefits greatly from its attention to the procedure of safe cracking and breaking and entering, to say nothing of the utterly relaxed brilliance of its three lead actors, Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, and best of all, Marlon Brando. It feels like these three pros took one look at the script and threw it away, realizing it was derivative trash (DeNiro plays a master thief who agrees to "one last job"--it's kind of like Ronin lite--in cahoots with fence Brando, and young buck Norton), but then realizing they could pull it off with the improvisational ease of a master acting class exercise. Though it's legitimately sad to see Brando (who now makes Sydney Greenstreet look like Kate Moss) as enormous as he is, the comic grace with which he glides through this otherwise inferior work--and again, it's totally watchable and entertaining--makes you remember that he really is the best of all time. (Sean Nelson)
* Sexy Beast
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired gangster, living high on a hill in the Costa del Sol, enjoying a lethargic existence. But he is as out of place here as the heart-shaped ceramic tiles on the floor of his pool. Bad news arrives in the shape of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, so great), there to coax Gal back to England for a job. Gal resists, but Don won't take no for an answer, setting in motion a verbal boxing match so artful and intense, it turns the sprawling Spanish vista into a pressure cooker in which Gal is forced to reckon for his ill-had comforts. A voice buried deep within Gal tells him--and us--that this can't last. Don is that voice, given brutal, relentless human form. In the fallout of their confrontation lies one of the finest films in recent memory.
With fart and poop jokes aplenty, this computer animation flick is like a little boy's dream come true. Mike Myers puts on his Irish accent as the misunderstood Ogre Shrek, and Eddie Murphy ceaselessly yaks as his over-zealous, donkey sidekick. The most horrible actress in the world, Cameron Diaz, succeeds in making her character an inflamed, bloody ear sore that one would rather see squished than find true love and happiness. I found this movie kinda cute, but pretty annoying, while my boyfriend was doubled over in hysterics. Dads, take your sons, but be prepared for a lot of tooting and snickering afterwards. (Katie Shimer)
Spirits of the Dead
Directed by Federico Fellino, this psychological horror film is based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe. With stars like Jane and Peter Fonda, Bridget Bardot, and Terence Stamp--the acting is too legit to quit, and the story is of course SPOOKY.
The Last Picture Show
Two boys in small town Texas decide whether to dump small town life, or move on to the bigcity Directed by Peter Bogdonovich and starring Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepherd.
* Total Recall
Der Tuhminator goes on a virtual reality vacation to Mars, but things go painfully awry. Arnie must battle against himself--and his present reality--to keep the red planet supplied with oxygen, and figure out who, and where, he is. Plus there's a really funny scene where he pulls this big honking tracking device out of his nose.
* With a Friend Like Harry
This Hitchcockian thriller took France by storm last year, winning several Cesar awards (France's version of the Oscar). The blackest hue of comedy tints the tale of Harry (Sergi Lopez), a wealthy bon vivant with an unshakable affinity for Michel (Laurent Lucas). Harry, firm in his belief that Michel's child-strewn, moneyless life could be made more easy, begins to use his influence--and cash--to remove various obstacles to Michel's happiness. A new car here and a case of champagne there escalates to a predictably absurd degree. The film is plain in comparison to its obvious inspiration, Hitchcock's oeuvre. But a deft French wit, and that oh-so-well-done trick of Euro-allegory (this film is about the difficulty of making art) rise like cream to the top of this film: The first taste is awfully sweet, even if it doesn't linger long. (Jamie Hook)