Barry Levinson does what he does best: Grown-up themes of love and life dreams acted out by characters with the sense of five-year old boys. Billy Bob Thorton and Bruce Willis, both with extremely bad haircuts, play two escaped inmates (from the Oregon State Penitiery none-the-less). On the run, the two invent a playful game of kidnapping bank managers and pleasantly robbing vaults. As a hypochondriac and self-declared genius, Thorton adds a verve of wry humor to the film.
Bob Le Flambeur
A pimp-daddy gangster/safe-cracker hits some hard luck and decides to go for the big gamble--robbing the Deauville Casino. Made in 1955 and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.
* Cemetery Cinema
Portland's chapter of the Cacophony Society hosts this ghoulish affair: Three videos screened at their favorite local graveyard. For directions, you need to call 232-3504. (This number, however, does not accept calls from narcs, cops or gravediggers!) In Color Me Blood Red a struggling artist stumbles across the ingredients for that just-right shade of red, and Dead Alive is a stylish horror flick amazingly made possible by a generous grant from the New Zealand government. Bring your own blankets; headstones provided.
Why oh why does Hollywood always want to involve comedians with animals. It's kind of getting old, and it's kind of getting sick. Corkey's a loser/vet who has to go undercover for the FBI as a bestiality ring leader.
* The Deep End
Though it comes dressed in the icy blue clothes of a suspense thriller, The Deep End is a far more interesting creature. Using its intricate plot as shrewd camouflage, the film serves as an examination of the evolving relationship between a lonely mother and her gifted teenage son, whose sexuality (homo) is such an impenetrable subject that Mom (the ineffable Tilda Swinton) would rather navigate a murder cover-up, blackmail, and death threats than talk to the lad directly. (Sean Nelson)
Don't Say A Word
Michael Douglas plays a New York shrink whose daughter is kidnapped by evil men who want only one thing: the six-number code locked away in the fashionably distressed head of Brittany Murphy, who is one of Douglas' patients. Oh what I wouldn't give to be a number in Brittany Murphy's head.
Fear of Fiction
A writer goes cross-country to cure her writer's block. Director Chalie Ahearn in attendance.
You're a naughty one, saucy Jack. A Jack the Ripper tale from the brothers responsible for such crap as Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, Allen and Albert Hughes. Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star.
* Funny Girl
Babs Streisand belts it out as turn-o'-the-century comedian Fanny Brice, whose rise to stardom is screwed up by that huggable louse of a man she loves, Omar Sharif.
* Ghost World
Fans of Daniel Clowes' epochal comic novel about the listless inner teen life have been awaiting this adaptation by Crumb director Terry Zwigoff for years now, and the film delivers, though not in the direct way you might have anticipated. Clowes' super-detached geek queens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have graduated from high school, and, bored, they answer a personals ad placed by über-dork vinyl junkie Seymour (an R. Crumb surrogate played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi) responds. As an experiment, Enid decides to educate Seymour in the ways of love, and her world begins to crumble. (Sean Nelson)
Going to see Mariah's movie, Glitter, is like being invited to a crazy booby rainbow train wreck. Set in early '80s NYC, this movie rips off heavily from Purple Rain, A Star is Born, and many other rags to riches movies. If anything, it should have been a campy romp with bubble gum music, but instead, Miss Thing tries to act and (big surprise) fails miserably. Sorry Mariah, but leave the acting to J-Lo, and honey, prepare your frail mental state for the onslaught of much meaner reviews than this! (M. Lon Free)
Although Steve Buscemi would have made this version of Black News Bears particularly poignant, news flash: Keanu Reeves can actually act! Although he doesn't sustain the edgy character of a hard-on-his-luck gambling loser in every scene, he does manage a rather heart-tugging job as the coach for a little league team of foul mouthed (but, of course, delightfully loveable) housing project babies. In spite of an awkward, abrupt, and predictable ending, like the main character, the movie has some redeemable qualities--a believable underdog baseball team, thumping rap soundtrack, and stylized ebonics. (Phil Busse)
Hearts in Atlantis
Anthony Hopkins comes to live in a boarding house with 11-year-old Bobby Garfield. The old guy teaches the kid about life, love, and being a psychic when he should be giving acting lessons (I know it's mean, but child actor Anton Yelchin is awful!). Putting the capstone on the whole "Wonder Years" feel is that this screenplay (from Oscar-winner William Goldman, fer Christ's sake!) actually includes the line "That summer was the last of my childhood." Crikey! (Marc Mohan)
* HP Lovecraft Film Fest at the Hollywood
The three-day indie festival--suitably held this year behind Hollywood Theater's gothic facade--offers five saliva-curdling international feature films and twenty-two soul jerking shorts. Re-animating the cadaverous specter of H.P. Lovecraft's work into film is a difficult task, but in the hands of the loyal, the results can be chilling and darkly humorous. Festival director Andrew Migliore's eye-candy pick of the event is The Attic Expeditions, starring Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) & Seth Green (Austin Powers, Buffy). This disturbing, brain-poking feature is a care package from hell for horror/sci-fi/thriller buffs. Tongue-through-cheek Attic, seven years in the making, is guaranteed to rattle the senses and satisfy the darkest phantasmagorical demands. The puppet scene alone is worth the price of admission. (John Dooley)
* Iron Monkey
Rooftop acrobatics and martial-arts beauty dignify this feature, directed by the man who choreographed The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Kevin Smith is the cinematic equivalent to the Comic Book Store Guy on The Simpsons (or vice versa). He's managed to take his own particular brand of juvenile, dick-and-fart humor (mixed with a dose of ironic self-awareness and a dollop of grandiose delusions) and become an actual auteur of sorts. His movies never look like much, and they're not consistently funny, but when they hit the spot they're goddamn hilarious. This latest (and reportedly last) entry in the Jersey-based Jay and Bob mythos finds our pot-dealing, Quick Stop-loitering, Laurel-and-Hardy-esque duo on a trip across the continent to stop a movie based on the comic book based on their (fictional) selves. (Marc Mohan)
* Joy Ride
A taut, smart thriller directed by John Dahl, the potboiler-switcheroo auteur responsible for such gems as Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, and the very underrated Unforgettable. Steve Zahn (yay) and Paul Walker (zzz) star as two brothers on a road trip who mess around with a CB radio and unintentionally arouse the murderous ire of a psycho truck driver. By the time they pick up Leelee Sobieski (rrr), there's a cross-country chase afoot. Thanks to the gut-churning suspense factor that is Dahl's specialty, the picture seems to be building up to some barely plausible twist. But just when you're trying to figure out who's duping who, the pure modernistic thrill of seeing a big old semi bearing down on some unsuspecting youngsters kicks into high gear. Pure pulpy pleasure.
* Jung: In the Land of the Mujaheddin
A surgeon and a war correspondent start a hospital in Afghanistan. Disheartened by the strict rule of the Taliban, the innocent victims of land mines and the army, and the inhuman treatment of women--the two try not to give up. A relevant perspective on modern day Afghanistan.
A film of images, music, and ideas, but no plot or actors. Weird. Scored by Philip Glass.
L.I.E. (Long Island Expressway) is focused on a teenage boy named Howie, his best friend Gary, and "Big John," a pervy, wealthy ex-marine. The film navigates themes of adolescent apathy and petty crime as well as the sensual side of pedophilia, somehow without demonizing its characters. The dangerous mire of teen disenchantment is captured in Howie and his friends, who rob houses, fuck their little sisters, and prostitute themselves to old men. The plot consists of Howie losing people: his mother is dead, his father is oblivious, and his friend runs away, not to mention the fact that this kid spends most of the movie with at least one black eye. What he gains in exchange is a surprising relationship with Big John (it's not what you think), and a hard-won maturity that isn't candy-colored enough to make it a happy ending. (Marjorie Skinner)
La Belle et La Bete
A surreal and ornate version of the classic fairy tale the Beauty and the Beast, scored by Philip Glass.
The Last Castle
A court-martialed general, put in jail wrongfully, rallies the inmates for a revolt.
A humorous and gripping period piece that skewers all that jolly old England would later come to admire: alcoholism, unemployment, and working-class laddism. The titular Liverpudlian suffers through the depression, confronting intolerance and a prideful, bigoted father, without ever losing the glow in his apple cheeks.
Max Keeble's Big Move
When Max learns that his family is moving in a week, he takes the opportunity to wreak havoc on all the bullies that make his junior high a living hell. Then he finds out his family isn't moving after all, goes Zen, and prepares to die. Though it's a Disney movie aimed at kids, the subject matter strikes a deep chord in the hearts of all bully victims, past and future. (Sean Nelson)
* Mulholland Drive
David Lynch being a wackjob. See review this issue.
My First Mister
A teenage goth drama queen (Leelee Sobieski) finds an unlikely soulmate in Randall, a be-mustached men's store manager nearly three times her age (Albert Brooks). Though the movie's stylistic and thematic trajectory points to the curious middle distance between the MTV and Lifetime networks, and the script relies rather heavily on a shopping mall understanding of youth culture (which might actually be prescient, come to think of it, since American youth culture is more or less defined by shopping malls), a great many good, tender, and true moments peek up out of what could have been a rankly sentimental sinkhole. One might attribute this to the stellar performances of Sobieski (who crafts a credibly in-progress teenager, sidestepping archetypes with stealth and humor) and the inestimably great Brooks. (Sean Nelson)
A well-executed, gothic, horror film in a Jamesian vein, starring Nicole Kidman as a post-war mom on a tiny British isle desperate not to let the new servants (including the great Fionnula Flanagan) expose her "photosensitive" children to daylight. The claustrophobic tension of the incredible house (the film's only set, and its true star) mounts through the eerie film as the truth, like the characters' lives, unfurls methodically in this truly frightening endeavor from Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar. As an added bonus, the always-gripping Christopher Eccleston (Jude, Elizabeth) has a supporting role. (Sean Nelson)
Filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg returns to Jerusalem and interviews seven children, Palestinians and Israelis, about war and growing up in the Middle East conflict.
Puppet Films of Ladislaw Starewicz w/ the Tin Hat Trio
Puppets tackle adult issues, such as infidelity, while backed up by adult folk-jazz.
Rebels with a Cause
This documentary chronicles the rise and fall of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) during the politically tumultuous 1960's. SDS, made up of activists like Tom Hayden, set out, in their own words, to change the world, initially battling for civil rights and organizing the poor, then demonstrating against the Vietnam war and university programs funded by the "war machine." Garvy's film is too static at times; with over 25 people interviewed, Rebels is too often a near-interminable series of talking heads. But the interviewees idealism is touching; once upon a time, people actually believed the government didn't lie to them. (Gillian G. Gaar)
Riding in Cars with Boys
Drew Barrymore plays the same role she always plays--innocent, dumb, and cute, but somehow also resilient. In this particular Barrymore special, she's the 15-year-old mother who decides to make something of herself.
Serendipity This film is hokey, as expected, relying on over-dramatized coincidences. You know: John Cusack comes out of an elevator just as the doors are closing behind Kate Beckinsale in another one, she loses her jacket and he just happens to find it, etc. Oh, isn't love magical! How serendipitous! And so on. I sometimes embarrass myself by getting teary-eyed over this type of crap, but not once did I so much as bite my lip or chew my nails during this film. The plot was too obvious, the characters selfish. Molly Shannon's sorta cute in the chunky friend slot, Jeremy Piven is pretty funny as Cusack's best friend and if you like Eugene Levy, that spazz with huge eyebrows, he's in it too. But it's not enough to make it the cinematic comfort food that romantic comedies should be. (Marjorie Skinner)
This much delayed teen horror flick starring Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Eliza Dushku, Luke Wilson, and Melissa Sagemiller is sort of like Jacob's Ladder crossed with a whole bunch of other semi-coherent "psychological" horror movies, with a bit of vague sensuality (courtesy of Dushku's cleavage) thrown in for adolescent hormones. The story, about a girl tormented by the death of her boyfriend in a car crash, is pretty hard to follow, but the ending is actually kind of good. And Wes Bentley is a fox! Weird side note: the film takes place in Boston, but the opening of the movie features a medley of songs by Seattle bands. Curious. (Randy Octogenarian)
The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein
Three people in Santa Fe are affected by their memories of the Persian Gulf War. Fernanda Hussein is a victim of violence because of her loaded last name, a teenager propegating social change is shunned by his family and ends up on the streets, and a Vet is haunted by memories of first hand experience.
Denzel is the sage old cop, and Ethan Hawke is the scrappy rookie cop who wants to be just like Denzel. The movie is shot over the course of just one day, and a lot of stuff happens--Denzel and Ethan smoke some pot laced with PCP, Denzel kicks the ass of some crackheads, and Ethan saves a poor, 14-year-old girl who's about to get raped. Then the shit really starts to go down, and I won't give the rest away. The point of this movie is to try to figure out if Denzel is a good cop employing his own form of justice, or if he's a corrupt cop, beating people up just for fun. That question alone, and the fact that it takes you until the end of the movie to answer it, makes the film above average. Beyond that though, there's not much depth.
Focusing on a three day protest of the Vietnam War in 1971, the film documents stories and opinions on the arduous, losing battle.
* Vertical Ray of the Sun
Tran Anh Hung shows a serene dream life for three sisters painted against a difficult and undiscussed real life of infidelity, and in one sister's case, a near incestuous relationship with her brother. A visual stimulant with a pretty good story.
The seminal hiphop film. Director Chalie Ahearn in attendance. See review this issue.
* Wisconsin Death Trip
Based on the macabre and hilarious book by the same name, director James Marsh explores a 10-year period in turn of the century Wisconsin where a lot of really weird shit happens, including, but not limited to, murder, suicide, infanticide, arson, and coke-addled school marms. Yowza!
Ben Stiller plays a supermodel in what looks like an Austin Powers knockoff. If it were anyone other than Stiller (and his brilliant co-star, Owen Wilson), this would seem like very bad news. Since it is Stiller, it shall--no, must--be funny.