* About a Boy
Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz (of American Pie infamy), this tale of male mid-life angst centers around Hugh Grant's Will, an idler of hilarious proportions whose life is measured out in increments of time spent performing important tasks such as shopping for high-end electronic gadgets and gourmet snacks, and going to the hair salon. Living off a fortune earned and perpetuated by his one-hit-wonder musician father, Will has no idea his life is meaningless until he meets a 12-year-old boy whose depressed mother (Toni Collette) forces Will to provide guidance, except that the kid is far more mature than his begrudging father figure. Will can't conceive that his life is unfulfilled, and whenever anyone tries to inform him of what's missing, he digs in his heels and fights to stay a bastard, making his inevitable transformation all the more authentic. (Kathleen Wilson)
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.
A Beautiful Mind
In the case of John Nash (Russell Crowe), the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, it is ironic that a man of quantitative genius could lose all control of quantitative reality. With a deft directorial touch, the paradox of Nash's world could really come to life. But that would take more of a talent than Ron Howard, whose interest is to make an uplifting movie, and to provide an easily digestible tale of overcoming adversity--as if insanity was something you just get through, like a bad hair day. (Michael Shilling)
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)
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are involved in a fender-bender rendering Jackson immobile. Affleck speeds off, unknowingly leaving behind an extremely important document; a bitter Jackson misses an important custody hearing, and a grand old feud is born. So Affleck, from atop New York's twin-towers-less skyline, attacks Jackson's financial credibility, while down on the streets below Jackson prepares an old-fashioned smackdown. Who wins? You won't care. It has to be noted that there's a declining marginal utility to disaster in the movies; way too many things just happen to go wrong in this film, and it wears upon its feasibility. (Kudzai Mudede)
* Count of Monte Cristo
Kevin Reynolds' rendition of The Count of Monte Cristo is a zippy little piece of entertainment masquerading as a mini-epic. Of course, Alexander Dumas' timeless potboiler does most of the work here; the story of a virtuous man betrayed by his best friend, consigned to an island prison, delivered by fate, and resolved to revenge remains one of the great pulp yarns of all time. What Reynolds (The Beast, Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves... yeesh!) brings to the table is a knack for big action, and more importantly, a facility with the shorthand of male intimacy.
* Dogtown and Z Boys
A documentary on surfers turned skateboarders who started the boarding craze and meanwhile got famous. A tad self-referential, but still worth seeing for the life-threatening guerilla surfing and skating, and the boy's divergent reactions to fame. (Katie Shimer)
Dole/Dollar w/ A Close Up on Bintou
Dole/Dollar chronicles a young boy Mougler and his teenage friends plot to rob the new sort of lottery stand for the cash. When Mougler's mother becomes increasingly ill, he decides to go ahead with the plan, despite the large risk. A Close Up on Bintou shows an African mother who wants to send her daughter to school, but finds resistance from her husband, who says there is only enough money to educate the boys. Bintou is determined and starts her own millet-sprouting business to raise the money, which makes her husband insecure, and comically, he tries to sabotage her business.
E.T. (20th Anniversary)
Check out Drew Barrymore at the height of her drug use and alcoholism. She can hardly remember her lines.
A bunch of British math geniuses whose sole purpose was to crack German code spent the war sitting in a London mansion (Bletchley Park) and deciphering Shark, the most sophisticated type of cipher, sent from U boats. Rife with intrigue, Bletchley Park is the natural setting for the film Enigma. Dougray Scott plays Tom Jericho, the man who cracked Shark and subsequently had a nervous breakdown. Of course, his nervous breakdown isn't due to the pressure of having to save thousands of lives just by stringing numbers together--no, Jericho has a nervous breakdown because he got dumped by the woman he loved. (Julianne Shepherd)
Jennifer Lopez has had just about enough of her abusive husband so she learns how to murder him! You go, girl! Too cheap to go to the theater? Not a big JLo fan? Rent Sleeping With the Enemy instead. See review this issue.
Japanese anime about a suicidal young girl who is haunted by visions she had as a young child of a man in a medieval suit of armor. One day, she is transported to another land where she discovers she is the Wing Godess, and the only person capable of constructing a magical and sought-after suit of armor--and therefore she is responsible for saving the world.
A 1932 film about the tangled dramas of sideshow freaks, featuring lots of sideshow freaks. If you enjoy gaping at car accidents or watching Autopsy on HBO, see this film.
Set in 1932, Gosford Park is an exhausted murder mystery. It takes a toxic narrative, the sort that was exploited to death by Agatha Christie, and emphasizes things Christie wouldn't emphasize (like class antagonisms, power structures within sexual relationships), and de-emphasizes things she would emphasize (like the murder, the mystery, and its solution). In a word, Gosford Park is a meta-mystery, meaning the setting, figures, and tropes of a murder mystery form the frame for the real concerns: class and gender rivalries; the rise of mass entertainment; and the dark history of the industrial revolution and British imperialism. In Gosford Park, all of these meta-elements seem to be rushing toward the point of revelation, but they never arrive at the terminal point of truth. (Charles Mudede)
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)
* Heavenly Creatures
Young New Zealand girls Pauline and Juliet are friends who are obsessively infatuated with each other, eventually morphing into one personality. They spend more and more time retreating into their techno-color dream kingdom, until they completely lose grip of reality. When Pauline's mom gets wise to the compulsive nature of the relationship, the girls club her to death with a rock. Stars Kate Winslet as Juliet, who is based on real life mystery writer, Anne Perry. (Katie Shimer)
Val Waxman (Woody Allen), a film director, has fallen out of favor since his heyday in the '70s and '80s and has been reduced to directing TV commercials. Finally, however, he gets an offer to direct a big budget film, but goes blind from the stress. He and his counterparts disguise his disability and attempt to direct the film anyway.
Ice Age takes over where films like Shrek and Monsters Inc. left off last year. Pleasant and funny, it is littered with enough sophisticated jokes to entertain the adults, but is really nothing more than a fast-paced, shimmering toy for kids. Which is just the way it should be. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* In the Bedroom
This langorous, beautifully acted film about erotic and familial entanglements in a small Maine fishing town one summer builds up to three moments of utter emotional brutality so severe that the long moments in between them thrum like high tension wires. A college boy having a fling with a townie single mother (Marisa Tomei), the boy's parents (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson), and the mistress' ex-husband form the locus of Todd Field's insidiously gripping adaptation of Andre Dubus' deeply moral short story. (Sean Nelson)
Despite Robin Williams, Insomnia is a high-suspense, well-acted drama from the director of Memento. See review this issue.
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. This film turns into something more suited to the small screen, however, because of the 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)
John Q is a problem film. Not in the race conflict sense, but in the class warfare sense. The movie represents Hollywood's first attempt to address the failure of the healthcare system. Denzel Washington plays the American worker, and Anne Heche plays Enron. Enron in this instance takes the form of a healthcare corporation, with its expensive drugs and operations, and its affluent doctors and administrators. The film, of course, is timely. The layoffs and deepening recession in the real world are expressed by the part-time factory worker's frustration with the system. Though I agree with John Q's politics, it's dull and tendentious. (Charles Mudede)
* 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 it 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)
* 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. (Julianne Shepherd)
* 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)
Murder By Numbers
Sandra Bullock plays her usual cheesecake self. She becomes a cop after being a victim of domestic violence. Luckily, Michael Pitt saves this bad acting fest by playing a pretty convincing teenage killer.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A frumpy diamond in the rough (Nia Vardalos) goes against the wishes of her lovingly oppressive family and falls for a hunky WASP (John Corbett, coasting on his Sex & The City vibe) in this intermittently amusing Grecian yarn. The refreshingly unconventional Vardalos adapted from her one-woman play, and the best material springs from her sporadic narration, goofing gently on such eccentricities as her dad's Windex fetish and the many permutations of cousins named Nick. Unfortunately, her presence and a sharp supporting cast (including the ever-prickly Andrea Martin) can't wholly mitigate the myriad of memorexed gags, well-trod life lessons, and director Joel Zwick's flat, sitcomish presentation. There's precious little here that hasn't been seen a gazillion times before, but Vardalos' earthy charisma and a few stray bits of off-kilter wit make for an amiable saunter into the matrimonial breech. N'Syncher Joey Fatone cameos as a bearded guy. (Andrew Wright)
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)
The New Guy
Why is the obnoxious-dweeb-turned-obnoxious-chick-magnet plot still selling? Why, in this advanced age, are people still laughing at fat jokes and transvestites and dwarves getting beaten up? Why did the guy in the front row howl like he was giving birth for the entire duration of this movie? Also, why would a beautiful 21-year-old actress with a decent résumé willfully dress up like some big-booty ho outta Lynnwood and perform a raunchy striptease on camera? Without a shred of irony? Why is this POS all-but-guaranteed to make millions at the box office, despite the fact that its only asset is the scene where a teenage nymphet addresses Vanilla Ice as "Pukeface?" Why do people pay money for this shit? Why? (Meg Van Huygen)
Here are some of the wimpiest con men you'll ever see. Their cons include finagling more change than they had coming at coffee shops and tricking old ladies into helping them out when their imaginary car breaks down. The "Big Score"--a mandatory part of any con game film--involves selling some rare stamps. Surprisingly, this material is interesting for a while--it's softness is oddly original, and even kind of sweet, but it also results in a severe lack of suspense in the film that becomes more and more apparent as the characters become less and less interesting. (Justin Sanders)
* North by Northwest
Hitchcock's most inspired entertainment is also considered as an artistic lightweight by some of our more overeducated cineastes, who are forever arguing the greater merits of Vertigo or Strangers on a Train. Oh well... sucks to be them, 'cause North by Northwest is flat-out fantastic. The master never again reached a peak so high as the Mount Rushmore finale here. Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, an ad-man mistaken for a nonexistent espionage agent and framed for a murder. Chased from New York to South Dakota--by way of Chicago, where the funniest auction scene in the history of cinema occurs--Thornhill stays one confused step ahead of his pursuers, and one forlorn step behind the lovely FBI Agent, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie-Saint). Thrilling, hilarious, romantic, and just plain brilliant frame-by-frame. (Jamie Hook)
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.
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)
The Scorpion King
Who cares if this movie is any good, you get to stare at the most intelligent, gorgeous beefcake in Hollywood--The Rock.
Sing-a-long Sound of Music
Have you ever seen or read Sartre's play No Exit? Well it's about Hell and how Hell to one person can be being stuck in a hotel room with two other people that annoy the living crap out of them. My version of Hell would be being stuck in the Sing-a-long Sound of Music for the rest of eternity, forced to jauntily sing My Favorite Things and wear some jaunty Julie Andrews frock. (Katie Shimer)
Can't afford the million dollar price tag to ride the Russian's MIR Space Station? Finally, IMAX used for worthwhile purposes: Feel like you're floating in outer space! An IMAX documentary about the in-orbit assembly of the International Space Station. See rocket launches, pans of the universe and zero-gravity astronaut shower scenes in 3-D (nothing sags in zero-gravity!). Narrated by (not gay) Tom Cruise. Replete with retro-pop soundtrack and goofy astronaut jokes. (Anna Simon)
Though Spider-Man boasts tons of computer-generated action, in actuality, this is a teen romance about dealing with adult feelings and responsibilities. And while I generally despise Kirsten Dunst, the sparks literally fly off the screen whenever she and Tobey are together. Sure, this flick has all the trappings of a kid's comic: sappy dialogue, over-the-top action, and a scenery chewing performance by Dafoe--but it's fun, it's innocent, and it works. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
This is a cartoon about horses, which means that, like many animated features, there seems to be a perverted undercurrent just below the surface. This one's is manifested in the scary horsey-speak neighing sounds the protagonists make when speaking to each other. The first scene, in which the title stallion is born, is particularly rife with scary, provocative horsey noises. It goes on like this, following a traditional mythological cycle of events, but there is one special added dose of amusement: The soundtrack is all Bryan Adams all the time, who makes no attempt to conform to the historical setting of the film, the Wild West, and proceeds with his usual soft-rocking dramatics. You don't need to see this if you don't have kids. (Marjorie Skinner)
Star Wars: Episode II
Anakin Skywalker (Future Darth Vader and present Jedi-in-training) and teacher Obi-Wan are embroiled in a Blade Runner-style mystery to find out who's trying to snuff the Nabooian princess, Padmè Amidala. When Obi-Wan flies off to investigate, Anakin starts showing off his boner to Padmè in an effort to kindle the romance hinted at in Episode I. While the hot and horny teens are mooning over each other, Obi-Wan discovers a political conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the Republic--that's where the army of clones comes in. And while there are the occasional fun moments in this film, the problem comes down to a lack of interesting characters (i.e. Luke, Hans, Chewbacca). But as it stands now, Lucas' script has all the emotional underpinning of a Dick & Jane primer and doesn't have a prayer of being rescued by Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, and especially that wholly untalented hunk-of-beef Hayden Christensen (Anakin). As usual, Lucas has built a glorious façade of a mansion--but there's no way I'd wanna live in it. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* Time Out
Apparently, even the French have mind-bendingly boring suburban lives. Vincent is a hapless but likeable consultant who can't quite get in the rat race grove. After being canned at his job, he fails to tell his family, filling his days instead with driving aimlessly. Aurelien Recoing, who plays Vincent, has the same soft everyman features of Kevin Spacey. But this film puts American Beauty to shame; not relying on the crutch of sexual urges, instead Vincent struggles with a much more profound and elusive quality: self-worth. As Vincent tries to uphold his illusions, the film is surprisingly tense, remotely funny, and deeply stirring. (Phil Busse)
A spry suburban housewife falls for the erotic charge of a sexy young Frenchman, neglecting her responsibilities as a wife and mother. Richard Gere plays the annoyingly fawning husband, who immediately notices the change in his wife and hires a private investigator. His discoveries result in tragedy... which also results in a previously fun and sexy film taking a tragic Hollywood nosedive. Why so much morality I ask, why not more hot screwing? (Katie Shimer)
* The Way We Laughed
The title of this film refers to the way two parasitic brothers laugh--only when really messed up stuff happens. A darkly filmed psychological thriller that explores codependency and manipulation. See review this issue.
We Were Soldiers
Scrawny little bastard Mel Gibson stars in this jingoistic turd of a Vietnam War film about 400 American soldiers in an elite combat divison, who get blasted to bits by the Viet Cong. They try and save themselves and each other, their heroism is unparalleled, blah blah blah.
* Y Tu Mamá También
Y Tu Mamà También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones--even the title comes from a tossed-off bit of banter. It explores how any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but how the accumulation of moments have a devastating scope. (Bret Fetzer)