Oh, shit, does this mean that the holiday-with their feel-good, ain't it good to be alive movies--are right around the corner? With an amazing turn away from the cynicism of Delicatessen, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes no bones about being sweet and charming. A quick-moving narrative about a shy, sexy, and dreamy Parisian who helps friends and strangers fulfill their fantasies while shying away from her own. Cute as a button. Really, you'll love it.
* Band of Outsiders
Jean-Luc Godard directs this story of two petty thieves and a botched robbery, dissecting and metamorphosing the crime film genre along the way. See review this issue.
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 Thornton and Bruce Willis, both with extremely bad haircuts, play two escaped inmates (from the 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, Thornton adds a verve of wry humor to the film.
Behind Enemy Lines
If CNN and Time magazine aren't giving you enough daily dosages of rah rah patriotism, Gene Hackman saddles up the Marines to rescue a downed Navy pilot (Owen Wilson) in Serbia--all at the risk of fracturing world peace. If you can't cheer on Hackman and the dopey-but-dreamy Wilson as he outsmarts an evil Serbian sniper, then perhaps it is time to move to Canada.
This masterpiece of the British new wave stars a young Tom Courtenay as a young man whose life is so drab, he opts to live in elaborate fantasies until all his lies converge and paint him into the corner of growing up.
Martin Lawrence plays Jamal Walker, a brother who toils all day at a decrepit ghetto theme park known as Medieval World. In an exercise of isolating exactly just what the world wasn't waiting for, Black Knight picks us up just where other "fish out of water" classics such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles in Time left us: tunneling out of the theatre with a spoon. (Kudzai Mudede)
Bloodlust: Vampire Hunter D
Look, I hate anime as much as you do, and I feel a very deep-seated shame for admitting this, but... like... some of the artwork in this thing is pretty cool. The plot and the dialogue (vampires, zombies, hot chicks with impossibly huge guns) are nothing less than mortifying, of course--don't get me wrong. The detail in the backgrounds, though? All the cliffs and foliage and architecture? You can't help but be impressed. I dunno. Maybe you can pay off the projectionist to kill the sound or something. (Meg Van Huygen)
Business of Strangers
Stockard Channing, hey, is that you, I feel like I haven't seen you since Grease? Still as slutty as she was in 1978, Stockard mindfucks some guy (with the aid of super-dog Julia Stiles) while stuck in an airport hotel.
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? At times funny, eerie, and intense, Donnie Darko could be the cinematic square peg you've been looking for. (Marc Mohan)
Two brothers that are opposites stay in a Japanese Zen monastery. Adventures ensue.
Everything Put Together
A woman loses her newborn to SIDS and deals with the subsequent horror. It's very boring.
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
The film covers Harry's first year at Hogwarts, and though it would be impossible for any film version to replicate the density of the book, it seems as if director Chris Columbus has focused on setting up a franchise, rather than an entertaining movie for kids and adults. When Harry Potter finds himself in serious danger, it almost appears secondary to introducing characters and exposition. The result is a fairly tedious Cliff Notes version of Harry Potter, in which we lose a lot of the fun, the darkness, and forward momentum found in the book. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Andreas and Claire were once young lovers in post-WWII Belgium. Now, half a century later, they find themselves neighbors in Melbourne, where Andreas has been a widower for 30 years, and Claire is in an agreeable, though passionless marriage. Unable to resist the tug of nostalgia, they resume their tempestuous affair, much to the chagrin of their loved ones. A big hit at Cannes and SIFF alike.
* Iron Monkey
The recently re-released Iron Monkey features almost a 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)
* The Journey
Nineteen chapters on the effects of war, focusing on the arms race and how it affects hunger, gender inequities, and the media throughout the world. Personal antecdotes from Hiroshima and Hamburg surviors from WWII as well.
Cliche plot about a (crazy) person (or is he an alien?) who has a wonderful effect on the patients around him. See also, Powder or Patch Adams.
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Coen Brothers have their heads stuck firmly inside their own asses--but at least they do a nice job of it. Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is a bored barber who finds an opportunity to invest in a dry cleaning partnership, but he must come up with $10,000 he doesn't have. So, he concocts a plot to blackmail the wealthy lover of his wife (Frances McDormand). Naturally, a litany of Coen brothers-style complications ensue, including death, thinly veiled pedophilia, and a trip to the electric chair. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright-and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. In Monsters, Inc. this includes a truly uncomfortable fetishizing of the sleeping American child and the assumption of a world benevolently owned and operated by a private corporation. (Evan Sult)
A young boy is sent by his dying mother to stay with her former lover, who just happens to be the gang leader of a group of smugglers. A friendship develops between the two against a gothic film-noir backdrop. Directed by Fritz Lang.
David Lynch doing his usual contorted mystery.
No Man's Land
Set in Bosnia, 1993, two soldiers accidentally wander into "No Man's Land" and almost get the shit blasted out of them.
Steve Martin stars as a dentist who becomes embroiled in a murder fiasco straight out of pulp fiction in this charming, if self-satisfied noir update. Martin and his girlfriend (the hyperbolically fastidious Laura Dern) live a sanitary existence, until saucy little junkie Helena Bonham Carter and her incestuous brother (Scott Caan) enter their lives by force, demanding such things as medical cocaine and sex in the dentist chair. Soon, someone is dead, and someone is blamed, and someone has to fight to clear his name. (Sean Nelson)
A gangster rounds up 11 other gangsters to rob three Las Vegas casinos during a major boxing event (you know, while everyone's distracted. Obviously crafty gangsters.) See review this issue.
* The One
Needless to say, this "Terminator Lite" packs every minute with terrific special effects, groan-inducing shots of people getting smashed by thrown motorcycles, and fights, fights, FIGHTS. However, that's not to say The One is simple splash 'n' dash comic book fun. It's also clever, and manages to always keep the audience one step behind the plot. Ah, Jet Li. I wish there were 100 more just like him-and happily, in this movie, there are.
Stoner/snowboarding movie about bad guy Lee Majors trying to buy the snowboarding frat boys favorite mountain and oh no, put a Starbucks on it. The assheads think about saving their fav. resort from corporate domination, but forget everytime a pair of tits walks by.
A comedy/commentary on the Nazi prison camps. An italian soldier is relentless in his will to survivie his stay at one of the German camps, going so far as to seduce the evil female commandant.
* 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. (Sean Nelson)
A warning for dense women out there who believe a skunk can change his stripe: It's not going to happen. The Farrelly Brothers have handed out a new load of horseshit in the form of Hal (Jack Black), a chubby jackass who dates only physically flawless women. After a chance encounter with a motivational guru, Hal begins seeing inner beauty as outer beauty and falls in love with a 300-pound Peace Corps volunteer he thinks looks like Gwyneth Paltrow with falsies. Hal soon loses his new goggles, but does he go back to the way he was? Of course not, so all the heartbreaking fat gags and shameless burn victim makeup is acceptable, right? Because we all got enlightened? Horseshit.
Sidewalks of New York
A great movie for the relationship-obsessed. Stanley Tucci is a big horny ho that sleeps with any chick who'll let him, despite the fact that he's married to hotty-licious Heather Graham. Edward Burns (so cute) is unlucky in love, but searching for a woman to settle down with. Young people break up and fall in love again (even though they never thought it was possible.) A lot of relationship stereotypes play out stereotypically. For those of you who need to be reassured, alas, there is hope of finding "the one." (Katie Shimer)
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)
Robert Redford is hard up for cash-obviously, since he's in every movie opening this season. Redford must save Brad Pitt, who is being held for espionage in China. On his journey, the last before his retirement, he reflects back on his training of a younger, more studly Pitt who at that time had rounder and softer ass cheeks.
Richard Linklater bats two for two with this nervy character study that indicts all three of its subjects (played by Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, and Uma Thurman) by way of exploring questions of memory, friendship, and truth. Highly recommended.
Based upon the true story of the forming of the Texas Rangers. James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) and Usher (You got it, you got it bad, when your on the phone, hang up, and you call right back) dress up in cowboy clothes, throw dirt on their faces, and act like tough guys.
* This Is What Democracy Looks Like
This documentary fills the void left by both major media vessels and underground, activist film/zine testimonials in their coverage of the 1999 WTO protests. Well-edited from footage by 15 filmmakers, it profiles people who know exactly what they were protesting and lets the film speak for itself, as opposed to sweeping over the issue or bleating reactionarily. (Julianne Shepherd)
Train of Life
An Eastern European town discovers that they're on the path of Nazi destruction. To avoid this fate they attempt to fake their deportation by having some of the villagers dress as Nazis, and building a train to take them to Palestine. As they get closer to freedom, the train becomes a vehicle of physical, political, and mental revelation.
Director Jaques Rivette examines love and the theater as couples with all sorts of issues switch partners, drudge up old problems, and create new ones. Oh, and they do some acting.
* Vertical Ray of the Sun
Tran Anh Hung shows a serene dream-ife 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.
Richard Linklater's monologue-heavy, beautifully animated opus about the quest for lucid dreaming and active living is one of the coolest, most interesting movies you'll ever see. Or you might hate it and think it's talky and pretentious. If you liked Slacker, however--wait, not if you liked it... if you GOT Slacker--and have been waiting for Linklater to return to philosophical quandary mode, don't wait another second. Go see Waking Life. (Sean Nelson)
Just as the laughs from Next Friday had begun to subside from the collective belly ("Damn, I can't believe such a big poo came out of such a little dog!"), now comes the new comedy from writer DJ Pooh. Pooh makes his directorial debut with this vehicle for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who play a couple of hoodied miscreants who get a job at a car wash (hmm... ) to pay the rent. And that's when all hell breaks loose! I haven't seen the film, but I have a hunch that the wise words of Ice Cube (one of America's best movie stars) will prove prophetic: "Uh, yo Dre, stick to proDUCIN'!"
* Werckmeister Harmonies
A depressed Hungarian village eagerly awaits the arrival of the circus and its giant whale and mystical prince. The circus, however, does not live up to the expectations of the people, and this, another disappointment in a string of many, brings on a day of reckoning. See review this issue.
A Wet Hot American Summer
The people behind The State are responsible for this Meatballs-to-the-wall lampoon of the pubescent summer-camp comedy. It seems hard to imagine anyone doing it better than that Mr. Show sketch about the Tibetan Monks and the rich fat kids, though. I'm just saying. Cast includes Janeane Garofalo. (Sean Nelson)
If this film starred anyone other than Stiller (and his brilliant co-star, Owen Wilson), this would be very bad news. But the two are so adorable (they really look like supermodels) and the script so ridiculous, that it works perfectly as an afternoon stoner flick. (Katie Shimer)