Will Smith must have taken steroids. See review this issue.
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.
An American in Paris
Jerry is an American painter living in Paris. He falls in love with Lise, a young French lass, who's... ooops, already engaged to somone else. Oh no.
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 dosage 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.
Martin Lawrence plays Jamal Walker, a brother who toils all day at a decrepit ghetto theme park known as Medieval World. While cleaning Medieval World's polluted moats he happens upon a medallion that transports him back in time to eighteenth century England. The locals don't really know what to make of Lawrence's clothes, language, or mannerisms. And well, anyway, 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)
* Breakfast at Tiffany's
Based on the book by Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, and pretty much sets the standard for any actor who ever wanted to be tragic, whimsical, endearing, and classy all at once. It's a love story that includes champagne and a lot of really great outfits.
Business of Strangers
Stockard "Stockyard" Channing and Julia Stiles star in this reverse gender corporate revenge drama, cut from the same cloth as In the Company of Men. Though Channing's performance is excellent, the filmmaker's desire to lay bare a female variant on the archetypal male fantasy seems to expose something intrinsically male, nonetheless.
Christmas in July
A chronic contest enterer gets a telegram saying he's won 10G. He buys a bunch of shit and asks his girlfriend to marry him, but then finds out the telegram is a fake.
A Christmas Story
Little Ralphie's epic struggle to get a Red Ryder B-B gun is hilariously depicted in this Christmas classic based on the book by Jean Shepherd. And btw, it's Darren McGavin's greatest role besides.
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) help? 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)
In this docudrama, form has total precedence over content. Set in Ethiopia, the movie's about the life of the great long-distance runner Haile Gebrselasie, who broke a world record for 10,000 meters in the 1996 Olympics. Despite its stilted European structure, the photography of the film manages to capture an authentic image of the African landscape; an African landscape with people, with huts, with crops, and not with hoards of animals doing that "cycle of life" thing. (Charles Mudede)
This super-engaging story of two German brothers waylaid in Tokyo on their way to a Japanese Zen monastery is a study in unclassifiability: elements of farce (their travel fiasco lands them in lederhosen before long) mingle with serious human drama and an abiding desire for spiritual credence, though the hapless brothers are basically foolish, a Teutonic Laurel and Hardy. The video photography gives the film a guileless quality, not unlike a demo recording, that lends immediacy to the proceedings which, in hands less skilled than those of director Doris Dörrie, might have grown tendentious. Hurry to see it. (Sean Nelson)
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)
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)
* 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 see on a big screen with big audio. (M. Lon Free)
Much like in The Spanish Prisoner, playwright and filmmaker David Mamet explores "the long con," in which Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, and Danny Devito entangle themselves in a plan to hijack a shipment of gold. With thinly veiled nods to The Maltese Falcon, the script is loaded with clever, repeatable lines and a twisty-turny plot in which no one can be trusted. While it's never easy to identify with any of the characters, the story clips along at a nice speed and is involving for at least three-quarters of the picture. Alas, as is often the case, Mamet spins such a tangled web that by the end he loses grasp of the plot, and the denoument is somewhat less than satisfying. Regardless, Heist is still lots of fun for the thinking person who hates having to think too much. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
I have not yet seen the film that stars the talented emcees Method Man and Redman, so I'm only able to look to the lyrics from the big hit song they wrote together, called "How High," for some insight. First, a piece of Method Man: "'Scuse me as I kiss the sky/Sing a song of six pence, a pocket full a rye/Who the fuck wanna die for their culture/Stalk the dead body like a vulture." Then Redman: "While the planets and the stars and the moons collapse/When I raise my trigga finga all y'all niggaz hit the decks!/...Plus, the Bombazee got me wild/ Fuckin' with us is a straight suicide." Then the chorus: "Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane/It's the funk doctor Spock smokin' buddha on a train/How High? So high that I can kiss the sky/How Sick? So sick that you can suck my dick." I anticipate the movie to be nothing like this, though it would be utterly marvelous to try to put those images and emotions in a narrative film somehow. Oh well. (Brian Goedde)
In the Bedroom
Matt and Ruth are an older married couple living in Maine. He's a doctor, she's a music teacher, life is perfect, right? Wrong. Home trots their son from college for the summer who promplty jumps in the sack with a single mom and gets gossiped about right and left. Tragedy ensues.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
This digital claymation film for the under-10 set concerns a young man who likes to invent things like rocket-powered toothbrushes, but whom everyone thinks is a dork... until the aliens invade. Then, come the whup-ass hour, he's everyone's fucking daddy. Well, fuck you, world. Fuck you.
Instead of re-creating the minor success he had with director John Pasquin (The Santa Clause), Tim Allen has produced one of the most undercooked everyman sketches I've ever seen. More benign than bad, the film follows the predictable journey of a freshly divorced office drone (Allen), who is casually bitch-slapped by his uber-male colleague in the company parking lot. The public shame is also witnessed by his daughter (Hayden Panetiere, appearing way too winsome for a child of divorce), a context which spurns Joe to go on a loosely structured self-improvement bonanza, complete with martial arts training by the requisite comic sidekick (Jim Belushi) and romantic dalliance with his perky blonde officemate (a thoroughly forgettable Julie Bowen). You'll find more creative vigor in the average infommercial. (Hannah Levin)
Kate and Leopold
Meg Ryan plays a "career woman" in New York City. In Hollywood shorthand that means she's a bitter, frustrated spinster. Luckily, a strapping, sexy nobleman from 1876 falls through a "rip in the time-space continuum" and sweeps her off her sensible shoes. Oh, for fuck's sake, I simply cannot go on. Except maybe to say that America's Sweetheart now resembles America's Plastic Surgery and Anorexia Disaster. The poor thing looks like some mad doctor grafted Melanie Griffith's big, weird squishy mouth onto a piece of fried chicken and left it to dry on a windowsill for about two years. God, I hated this insulting piece of shit. It was like Crocodile Dundee crossed with Sleepless in Seattle, if your mind can wrap itself around that horror. (Tamara Paris)
A 1931 film concerned with the plight of the Montmartre (France) working class. Laced with the comedic genius of Michel Simon and directed by Jean Renoir.
The Lady Eve
Charles meets lady con-artist Jean on a ship coming back from a year in the Amazon. They get together, but then split on bad terms after a misunderstanding. Jean then disguises herself and comes to England to torment him.
Life as a House
Kevin Kline has cancer, but he hasn't told his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who's too busy letting herself be an emotional doormat, or his son (Hayden Christensen), who's too busy huffing Scotchguard, wearing makeup, and masturbating with a rope around his neck. Rather than come clean, he decides to fix everything by making his dysfunctional son help him build his dream house. In the process--surprise of surprises!--he does fix everything: The son wipes away the mascara and stops giving head to rich men for cash (hooking up with a nubile hottie in the process), the wife realizes she's still in love with her ex, and Kline gets to die the heroic death of a saintly drop-out. Histrionic folderol aside, this film is a guilty kind of good. (Sean Nelson)
* Lord of the Rings
Remarkably true to the epic book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Though enhanced by computer animation, and certainly made in the post-Xena/Beastmaster era, this first installment promises to launch Lord of the Rings into the Star Wars strata. In a way, it's like playing the Final Fantasy VII role-playing game, only you probably already know the story and you don't have any controllers. And Sean Astin is in it. Aside from the early-on, too-fast editing that slows down as the movie unfolds, there's only one really cheesy part, graphics-wise. You are now an adventure dork. Make plans to see it twice. See review this issue. (Julianne Shepherd)
It wasn't long ago that Jim Carrey burst onto the screen with the unpredictable and vaguely menacing charisma of a true trickster. But like ultimate antihero Jack Nicholson and the fantastically misguided Kevin Spacey before him, he's turned his back on difficult or even unlikeable characters in favor of a one-way ticket to Sapville. Smear the lens with Vaseline! Hire a fawning, anonymous blond actress! Trot out the weather-beaten character actors! Let the string section swell! Mr. "Where's my fucking Oscar?" Carrey is ready for his close-up! What I'm trying to tell you is that sitting through this movie was like watching a four-hour long Coke commercial or eating a pound of frosting roses or submitting to a high-fructose corn syrup enema... which is why I crept quietly out of the theater before I expired of glucose shock. It's too bad. Carrey could have been something special. But at least we still have Christopher Walken. (Tamara Paris)
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. Unlike most classic film noir, which clips along at a breakneck, suspenseful pace, The Man Who Wasn't There stumbles along like a lame horse. (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. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (Evan Sult )
David Lynch doing his usual contorted mystery.
Not Another Teen Movie
A spoof is typically the unofficial signal that studios will stop churning out films of a particular genre, but Not Another Teen Movie may simply provide studio execs with more reasons to carry on with the likes of She's All That, Varsity Blues, and anything that requires Freddy Prinze Jr. to say something idiotic and remove his shirt. The parody palette here is historically broad, lampooning everything from Bring It On and Cruel Intentions to almost every movie John Hughes made, and, most bizarrely, Grease. While little of it is effective (save for a cheerleader with Tourette's syndrome and some clever set design touches), the sheer volume of comedic ground plowed proves teens will always find themselves bemused by homophobia, slutty girls and hapless individuals being doused in human feces. Yes it is another teen movie. (Hannah Levin )
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. This would be a fully smug and frustrating exercise in genre resuscitation if it weren't peopled by a game cast of excellent actors. The presence of pros like Martin and Carter (and Elias Koteas in a glorified cameo) elevates matters considerably. (Sean Nelson)
Hollywood may finally be redeemed! The savior? Director Steven Soderbergh. After last year's two fisted grip on America's consciousness ( Traffic and Erin Brockvich), the calm and confident hand of Soderbergh delivers a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift (George Clooney and Brad Pitt on the screen together; I could almost faint). In a feat more remarkable than the movie's $160 million bank heist, Soderbergh manages to keep the egos of the blockbuster actors under their hats and lets the plot tell its own story. As a velvety tongued bank robber, Clooney quarterbacks a near impossible heist of a Vegas-casino vault. With the help of eleven well-trained pickpockets, explosive experts and circus acrobats, the robbery races along with the intricacy and spellbinding accuracy of a Swiss watch. (Phil Busse)
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 walk by.
Rat Race should not be considered an actual chase comedy, but a clone of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Cannonball Run I and II, and Million Dollar Mystery, brought to you by a movie industry so short on ideas it's now peddling third-generation photocopies of itself to an audience raised on replicas (apologies to D.C. Berman). (Jason Pagano)
The Return of Frank James
A western directed by Fritz Lang about a man attempting to avenge his brother's death.
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. 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. (Sean Nelson)
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.
* Royal Tennenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their seperate, but equally fucked up lives. Once they get under the same roof, their individual and combined issues resurface--and they do their best to work them out. Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson are amazing, the story is depressing with moments of hilarity, and the pace of the film is similar to Rushmore--slow moving, but worth every minute. See review this issue. (Katie Shimer)
A bank clerk falls in love with a whore and robs to help keep up her lifestyle. Unfortunately, however, he eventually discovers she's in love with her pimp. I hate when that happens.
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. (Marjorie Skinner)
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, Jack Black--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.
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)
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)
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.
Denzel is the sage old cop, and Ethan Hawke is the scrappy rooky 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.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
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)
Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz star in Cameron Crowe's remake of Alejandro Amenàbar's Abre los Ojos. Rumor has it that the marketing team for the film tried to convince the director to change his name to Cameron Crews, so that the film might get a bit more press, but Cameron just didn't bite.
* 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.
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)
A Western Union operative battles Easterners and Native Americans in his quest to build a telegraph system across the U.S. Directed by Fritz Lang.
You and Me
Star-crossed lovers work in a department store that hires ex-cons. A film ascibing to the morals of crime not paying and not being able to get something for nothing.
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)