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 Oregon State Penitiery, nonetheless). On the run, the two invent a playful game of kidnapping bank managers and pleasantly robbing vaults. As a hypochondric and self-declared genius, Thorton adds a verve of wry humor to the film.
* Big Eden
Henry Hart returns to Big Eden, Montana to take care of his sick grandpappy. Once there, he runs into his boyhood crush and causes the local store owner, Pike Dexter, to have a big crush on him.
Snoop Dogg stars in a crappy horror film while still managing to make women hot. See review this issue.
The Closed Doors
An Egyptian teenage boy lives with his loving mother and grapples with his longings for her. When she starts dating a teacher of his, he turns fundamentalist to cope with his confusion. Set during the Gulf War.
A cartoonist gets the pleasure of seeing his strip come to life through the advances of technology--but it's not all good since his characters can be quite maniacal. Starring Gabiral Byrne and Brad Pitt.
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.
Diary of a Chambermaid
A satire about a woman who becomes a chambermaid for a family ridden with eccentric problems. The master is making advances, the mistress is a religious freak, the father has a foot fetish, and the groundskeeper may be a murderer. Directed by Luis Bunuel. Made in 1964.
Don't Say A Word
Don't say a word about how fucking lame this movie is? How lurid, ludicrous, and exploitative (hmm, let's see... how can we get Famke Janssen to spend an hour in her underwear... )? How mannered and profligate (how you gonna waste Oliver Platt AGAIN, Hollywood?) and preposterous, verging on the obscene? Okay, I won't. It's about head-shrinker Michael Douglas, his crazy girl patient (Brittany Murphy, who must be just tiny), his laid-up wife (Janssen), their daughter, and the bank robber terrorists who kidnap her. (Sean Nelson)
* Donnie Darko
It's October 1988, and the era-defining campaign between George Bush I and Michael Dukakis is entering the stretch run. Meanwhile, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is quite possibly going insane. The teenaged son of a functional but unpleasant upper middle class family, Donnie starts having visions of a six-foot-tall demonic-looking bunny named Frank, who warns him of an impending apocalypse. Is Donnie's medication simply not working, or is there something else going on? Can Donnie's English teacher (Drew Barrymore, who also produced the flick) help? Can Donnie's science teacher (Noah Wyle, who didn't produce) help? What about his new girlfriend Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone) or local motivational guru Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze, showing some spunk)? And then there's the little old lady who lives down the lane, who happens to have written a book called The Philosophy of Time Travel. First-time director Richard Kelly has a sure visual sense and concocts an ending that, remarkably, doesn't cop out. At times funny, eerie, and intense, "Donnie Darko" could be the cinematic square peg you've been looking for. (Marc Mohan)
Down from the Mountain
Footage of the two day music fest that created the soundtrack to the Coen Brother's O Brother Where Art Thou. And I thought that movie was boring.
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.
* 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)
* Glass House
A fairly predictable horror flick with some great near escape scenes and super evil villians. Ruby's parents die in a car crash and she goes to live in a big freaky house with the Glasses. Unfortunately for her though, they're totally psychotic. (Katie Shimer)
Going to see Mariah's movie, Glitter, is like being invited to a crazy booby rainbow train wreck. 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. (M. Lon Free)
Hearts in Atlantis
Stephen King needs to return to the stuff that made him great, like Christine and Maximum Overdrive. This sappy concoction plays like a potpourri of all his non-horror stuff: There's the wistful evocation of childhood's lost innocence (Stand By Me), the misunderstood outsider character with special powers (The Green Mile), the potentially perverse relationship between a young boy and a older man (Apt Pupil); you get the picture. Here, it's Anthony Hopkins who 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)
* Iron Monkey
The recently rereleased Iron Monkey features an almost two-to-one ratio of awesome fight scenes vs. people standing around blabbing. This includes tons of director Ping's famous "wire fu" antics, where heroes and villains alike fly over rooftops and smash through walls. And while the comedy is broad--to say the least!--the mechanics of the martial arts scenes are thrillingly precise, and often gasp inducing. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
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, 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)
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.
Universal Pictures has requested that the Mercury not review this film, which stars Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. And who are we to cross Universal Pictures? I saw the trailer though, and it didn't look very promising. Sort of like Cocoon meets Phenomenon. I'd rather eat my own shit for a year than see either of those monstrosities again.
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)
The Last Castle
A court-martialed general, put in jail wrongfully, rallies the inmates for a revolt.
* 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. 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.
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. (Sean Nelson)
* Mulholland Drive
David Lynch being a wackjob and predictibly confusing in this tribute to noir, based on a pilot for an ABC TV series.
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. (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)
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?!
Filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg returns to Jerusalem and interviews seven children, Palestinians and Israelis, about war and growing up in the Middle East conflict.
Ralph Bunche: An American Oddyssey
A film about the life of the first Nobel Peace Prize winner (in 1950) Ralph Bunche, including his negotiations with the Isralies and Arabs.
Riding in Cars with Boys
A film for 40-year-olds of all ages. Drew Barrymore plays a Connecticut townie bad girl who gets knocked up at age 15, then spends the rest of her lapsed Catholic life negotiating the disappointments and joys of a life lived in service to an accidental baby. Because the film is directed by Penny Marshall, it is very very bad, indeed painfully so. The lovely Drew Barrymore (whom a lot of people seem to hate, but I just can't help loving) tries very hard, and turns in what counts for her as a strong performance. But the movie is mawkish and cloying, full of screenwriter homilies and syrupy strings, so all her efforts are in the service of the devil. It does have one saving grace, however: The great Steve Zahn, proving once again that he is to contemporary film what Robert Downey Jr. was to '80s film--the very best and often only good thing in a series of truly awful movies, capable of elevating even the flimsiest, underwritten roles into scene-stealing gems of naturalism and invention. (Sean Nelson)
Whoa. It'a like a dream come true. Marky Mark is in a cover band, and omigod, then gets to be the singer for the band he's covering. Gawd. I hope that happens to Helles Belles.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Jesus Christ, can you just shut up? I'm trying to watch a fucking movie here! This is not the Life of Brian, people.
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.
* Slaughterhouse Five
Billy Pilgrim lives three simultaneous lives as an American POW, a zoo resident on another planet, and an optomotrist. Based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
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! (Randy Octogenarian)
It seems like every new anime feature that shows up on these shores is "from the creator of Akira and Ghost in the Shell." Unfortunately, not very many of them are as good as those two mind-blowing classics. Take Spriggan. It's your basic teenaged boy super-secret agent story, where our hero must save the world after Noah's Ark (yes, The Noah) is discovered and a mentally enhanced evil little boy wants to use it to destroy Earth. This is all accomplished in the typically noisy, gunfire-laden way of much anime, and also suffers from too much narrative detail packed into a 90-minute flick. (Marc Mohan)
Denzel is the sage old cop, and Ethan Hawke is the scrappy rooky cop who wants to be just like Denzel. 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.
* 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.
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 ends up being totally funny and completely weird.