Based on "humorist" Dave Barry's novel, Big Trouble tells the story of how a mysterious suitcase brings together and changes the lives of a motley-ass group of people played by a motley-ass ensemble cast that features Tim Allen, Janeane Garofalo, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, and many, many more.
Blade II: Bloodhunt
Unfortunately, Blade II sucks so much ass, even Wesley's hottie six-pack won't distract you. Picking up where Blade left off, Blade the Daywalker must save his old sidekick, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), from the big pod of blood in which the vampires have kept him captive for years. He does that in the first ten minutes of the movie so the real plot is that there is a maniacal, vampire-eating monster on the loose, whose mandible comes apart to expose a tongue that resembles a large piece of fried calamari. The tongue carries a virus that turns vampires into vampire eating monsters, which look like a cross between Nosferatu and Batboy from the Weekly World News. (Julianne Shepherd)
A scientist invents a gun that makes time stand still for whomever it hits. The normal cliche science-movie things happen after that. If you can't get into this movie, just rent Flubber instead. You'll never know the difference.
Death to Smoochy
Driven by adults' universal aversion to pervy, purple, children's TV characters, Danny Devito's dark comedy is adequately raunchy, but ultimately forgettable. There's nothing really wrong with the dour turns by Devito, Ed Norton, and Robin Williams (who relishes every expletive and throws himself into violent outburst with decent results), but the script simply isn't deviant or developed enough to hold up, and the idiotic pseudo-conflict tacked on the end is simultaneously forced and boring. Besides, co-star Catherine Keener is far too sharp and sexy to be wasting her time in such underbaked satires. (Hannah Levin )
The Devil's Plaything
Avant-garde cinema beginning with the silent era. These short films begin with a nine minute film, Jack and the Beanstalk from 1902, to the 22 minute 1935 film, Pie in the Sky.
* East of Eden
Starring James Dean and taking place during the first world war, two brothers compete for the love of their father while wrestling with their opinions of the war.
* Farenheit 451
Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury. Firefighter Guy Montag lives in a police state of sorts, where his job is to confiscate and burn books. His wife and most of the general populace are drugged into complacency and receive all their information from giant television screens (not so unreal). Guy eventually meets a woman who hordes books, and begins secretly reading, leading him to question the government's policies and to decide what action to take.
Festival in Cannes
I recently talked to filmmaker Henry Jaglom, whose films have a way of polarizing audiences with their hyperintentional frankness, on the phone for 90 minutes. (I confess I fall on the side that admires his work.) At one point, we got to discussing his oft-touted idea that his films, which consist largely of long takes of actors talking improvisationally to one another about how they're feeling, are trying to reveal some deep emotional truth through verbal (and therefore intellectual) means. "But the subject of that intellectual expression is an emotional subject," Jaglom said. "It is love and feelings and loneliness, and constant striving for, you know, to feel connected. And maybe it's just a reflection of me and my experience in life, but that's the way most of our life is spent: sitting down and talking to somebody. It's not spent in action sequences, you know?" (Sean Nelson)
Not a Cheech & Chong movie, but a thriller starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman directed by Carl Franklin, who did the wonderful Devil in a Blue Dress and the terrible One True Thing. Judd plays a woman whose husband is accused of murdering civilians in El Salvador as a covert military operative; she enlists the help of a "wild card" attorney played by Freeman. Drama ensues.
The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. The story, as constructed by director Richard Eyre, flips back and forth between past and present, evidently mimicking the erratic thread that memory becomes in the hands of the disease. Watching it is not without its comforts; it's exactly the kind of thing I love to stumble across on Sunday nights on public television, a guilty pleasure somewhat elevated by the British accents and quaint diction. What turns this film into something more suited to the small screen is relentless sentimentalization and lack of ambition, in a story about an ambitious woman without a sentimental bone in her body. (Emily Hall)
* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences--coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (Bret Fetzer)
* Kissing Jessica Stein
With the dumb title and no name actors, you wouldn't think this would be a good film, but it is. Sex fiend Helen places ad in the paper because she wants to try getting her lesbian freak on, and uptight girl, Jessica, is so taken by the ad that she decides to give rug-munching a chance. The gals end up trying it out together for a while, and Jessica overcomes a lot of issues, including, whether she's gay or not. The peripheral characters are hysterical, and the relationship between Jessica and Helen makes you question how easy it would be to go gay or to be gay without realizing it or to be unhappy without seeing the solution. (Katie Shimer)
The talents of six of the finest British actors alive (Tom Courtenay, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings, Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, and Ray Winstone) are squandered by this moist little movie about a journey to deliver a dead man's ashes to the seaside. (Sean Nelson)
John Sayles has always been concerned primarily with the depiction of place in his films. Sayles' "place" here is the last physical and emotional outpost of the American spirit: Alaska. Luminous cinematography by Haskell Wexler renders the land as a gilded promise, with golden light glancing in at acute angles, but the characterizations and heavy-handed plot fail to live up to this promise. (Jamie Hook)
Metropolis is a beautiful and stylish hybrid--one of those future worlds imagined from the distant past, where above ground looks like an Ayn Rand dream, below ground is pure Blade Runner, and the characters are retro in the style of Hergé's Tintin. The malicious, but helpless President Boon presides over Metropolis, and the true power lies with the Roarkian Duke Red, builder of the Ziggurat and the muscle behind Tima, a gorgeous android (looking uncannily like Haley Joel Osment) who will someday rule the world. What makes Metropolis--which has a production pedigree that includes much of anime's royalty--feel like something truly new is the animation (combining the most up-to-date CGI with old-fashioned cels and the occasional live-action background), the mood (speakeasy 1920s, complete with Dixieland Jazz and gumshoe detectives), and its refusal to divide the world into absolute good and evil. Mostly, yes, it's eye candy, but everyone's eyes should be so lucky. (Emily Hall )
* Monsoon Wedding
At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed (marigolds are so vibrant they would leave bright orange dust on your fingers if you touched them). But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. Of course, it all comes out right in the end, but in getting to its satisfying resolution, it passes through so many uncomfortable revelations and unthinkable confrontations that it almost feels like watching history unfold. (Sean Nelson)
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Thornton, perfect), son of a retired racist prison guard (Peter Boyle, who doesn't even try an accent), and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger, who tries his hardest) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. Also, Hank executed her husband (Sean Combs, Puffy). Hank's dad says "nigger" and "porch monkey," and Hank fires a shotgun at some black kids, so we know that the film is about breaking the cycle of bigotry. A few nice notes are struck, but too many coincidences motorize this melodrama; its morality is tinny and safe. Via their affair, Hank is cured of racism, and Leticia is cured of grief. She even gets a truck! "I thank we're gone be all right," Hank says at the end. I thank I'm gone puke. (Sean Nelson)
Much Ado About Something
If you're into conspiracy movies, this is a must. This film posits the theory that all of Shakespeare's works were not really written by him, but by a dude named Christopher Marlowe, who was born in the same year, but supposedly died long before all the great stuff was written. You be the judge.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder
And so once again National Lampoon's attempt to reclaim those cinematic "glory days" falls miserably flat. As a comedy, National Lampoon's Van Wilder offers maybe one or two laughs--not the hearty, spazzy laughs, mind you, but slight chuckles, possibly minor snorts. A zany college romp that tries to be Animal House for a new generation, this film lacks both the zaniness and the wit that made the Delta Brothers' movie so entertaining. Stay away. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Oscar Nominated Shorts
Pretty self-explanatory, but please... See review this issue.
Jodie Foster's husband is a rich, cheating prick, so she buys a giant Manhattan brownstone in order to get revenge. The house was previously owned by a dead, paranoid millionaire, and comes complete with a "Panic Room," with video monitors, a phone, a motion sensor door, and food. The son of the millionaire, unscary Jared Leto, knows there's money in a safe inside the Panic Room and gets crazy Raoul, and a security expert (docile and friendly Forrest Whitaker) to help him get rich quick. But herein lies the problem: For some reason, dumbass Leto allows the house to sit empty for two weeks before performing the heist, and before he knows it, Jodie and daughter are all moved in. Instead of waiting until they're not home, Leto and pals debate for an hour about whether to try for the money anyway, and a bunch of implausible events ensue. (Katie Shimer)
Against all odds, Benjamin Bratt manages to shine as the gifted Nuyorican poet, playwright, actor, chicken hawk, and unapologetic asshole Miguel Piñero in this jumpy and jerky biopic. Piñero's dizzying ride from a con scribbling in prison to acclaimed author of a Broadway hit, and then back down to junky loser stealing his friend's television set, is inherently riveting. Inexplicably, director Leon Ichaso has chosen to show Piñero unstuck in time, flashing from present-time to flashback and from B&W to color. The effect is laughably disorienting and serves to shatter any sympathies the audience might have developed for this complicated character. Poor Piñero deserves better. (Tamara Paris )
* Resident Evil
If you're going to be foolish enough to make a movie out of a video game, this here is the way to do it. Of course, it helps that unlike Tomb Raider, Mortal Combat, etc., Resident Evil the game is excessively cinematic-slow, plotting, and more often than not, completely engaging. And while Resident Evil the movie may not live up to its gaming origins, it nonetheless does exactly what it's supposed to do: entertain, disgust, and turn 13-year-old-boys on--hence Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. Plus, it has zombies, a genre that has been woefully overlooked for far too long now. If you're a fan of the game, go see it. If you find yourself ridiculously baked, go see it. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Dennis Quaid's hopes of being a major league baseball player were dashed by shoulder injuries and now, he's a high school baseball coach. After the heal up of his final shoulder surgery, however, he realizes he can pitch better than ever before! He makes a bargain with his team that if they'll try and win the next two games, he'll try out for the majors again. Yipee!
* Royal Tenenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their separate, 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. (Katie Shimer)
This movie is going to sound really stupid: Scotland, PA sets Shakespeare's MacBeth in 1975. When Joe "Mac" McBeth (James LeGros) gets passed over as manager of Duncan's Diner, his wife Pat (Maura Tierney) convinces him to kill Duncan and put in a drive-through window. A trio of hippies give Mac advice with a Magic 8-Ball. The investigating officer is Ernie McDuff (Christopher Walken), a vegetarian who dreams of opening a restaurant of his own. Despite all this, I really enjoyed Scotland, PA. My only quibble is: Why, when doing this kind of adaptation, do filmmakers make obvious and distracting references to source material? Why don't they learn from the smartest literary adaptation of our time, Clueless? (Bret Fetzer)
With the constant struggle between the democratic faction of South Korea vs. the Commies of the North, it's only logical that the most popular film of the region would be a mind-bending blend of brain-splattering violence and unrequited love. Shiri, directed by Kang Je-Gyu, is just that; a Hollywood-style big bang action/romance and Korea's highest grossing film ever. See review this issue. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* SHORT FILMS BY BILL BROWN: CONFEDERATION PARK, HUB CITY, SKATE DEAL
The Four Walls Cinema presents a second program of short films by sinister author/filmmaker Bill Brown. Confederation Park documents Brown's travels in Canada through gorgeous 16mm cinematography and a hilarious, inquisitive voiceover. Hub City is Brown's ode to his home town of Lubbock, Texas and its golden son, Buddy Holly. Skate Deal documents a California shredder in search of the perfect skatepark. Brown's personable and insightful narration is at the heart of his work, which is comparable to Chris Marker's brilliant travelogue Sans Soleil, or a really great issue of Cometbus. Bill Brown will be presenting this program in person, which is worth the admission price on its own. (Owen Ashworth)
Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro star in this unlikely-buddy-cop film that satirizes reality cop shows on TV. Also featuring Rene Russo, William Shatner, and Kadeem "Dwayne Wayne" Hardison. Ker-snooze.
To save money three frat boys go undercover in drag at a sorority, Delta Omicron Gamma (that's D.O.G.), and discover their sensitive side as they walk unsteadily in high heels and struggle with falsetto speaking voices. It's Bosom Buddies with nudity featuring the heartthrob without a pulse from Seventh Heaven.
* The Son's Room
Family dramas tend to strip actors bare of any pretense. Since there are usually no big explosions, no chase scenes, and no glam, then all you have left is acting ability. That's why most family dramas are such cheese-fests, especially when they include Michelle Pfeiffer as a widowed mother or some crap like that. Anyway, The Son's Room is excellent, because the acting is great. It's about a normal Italian family--a father, a mother, two well-adjusted kids--with normal problems until one of the kids up and dies. This film is a study of how a given family deals with problems, in particular, enormous tragedies. And, due to the great acting in this movie, you become really attached to the son before he dies and feel the pain of the family, rather than simply enduring the emotional cop-outs of other family dramas. Plus, since you actually care about the actors, it's enthralling. Be forewarned, however: it's sad. Very, very, very sad. (Katia Dunn)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A young girl tries to overcome the hardships of a poor family life in 1900s Brooklyn. Oscar winning performance by Peggy Ann Garner.
Trembling Before G_d
A portrait of Hasidic Jews living gay lifestyles, and how stinking hard it is. Included are lots of beer guzzling, strip club visiting, masturbating, and crack smoking. No, just kidding. Gay Hasidic Jews try and function, support groups are formed, and other things like that happen.
* Y Tu Mamá También
A sexy Mexican road movie with serious underpinnings. See review this issue.