* About a Boy
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.
Five Filipino best friends look for love in New York City with an Eat Drink Man Woman overtone.
Ann Arbor Film Festival Tour
The best of this year's winners at the highly regarded, experimental film fest. See review this issue.
At the end of the 20th Century, meteorites obsessed our cinematic nightmares (see Deep Impact, Armageddon). At the start of the 21st Century, these "extinction level" meteorites have been replaced by nuclear bombs. But the nukes that spook our age are not the organized arsenal of the Cold War (Dr. Strangelove to War Games), but small, user-friendly gadgets that can fit comfortably into a laptop case. Also, these nuclear bombs are not managed by big governments, but bought and sold on the open market, like used cars. This is the interesting part of Bad Company: it magnifies the most popular nightmare of the day. Outside of that, the film offers nothing but deep boredom.(Charles Mudede)
The Bourne Identity
Matt Damon is washed up... on a beach and can't remember his identity. His body is riddled with bullets and there's evidence he has had plastic surgery (his character, not Damon). The lost identity dude-in-distress genre gets a shot in the hip right next to the implanted microfilm with the numbers to a Swiss bank account. Ugh. See review this issue.
* Catching Out
Catching Out is a documentary which chronicles the story of three different trainhopping parties, and it's made by Seattle indie filmmaker, Sarah George. It's an introspective look at a subculture that exists only in the trainhopping underworld, and it's only showing once in Portland, so don't miss it.
A family of German steel tycoons are torn apart by personal struggle, power struggle, and political differences, as the Nazis tighten their hold on Germany. Filmed in 1969 and directed by Luchino Viscnti.
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
An insufferable Lifetime adaptation of the insufferable Oprah novel about an intergenerational cabal of insufferable quasi-Southern Gothic ladies. Chock full of hugging, burnished flashbacks to the "Greatest Generation," English grand dames choking on Cajun dialects, the bugbear of "repressed memories," hugging, the enduring power of female friendships, curmudgeonly but loveable colored servants, hugging, stoic men in pleated slacks, and Sandra Bullock growing leathery and irrelevant before our very eyes. (Tamara Paris)
* 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 boys divergent reactions to fame. (Katie Shimer)
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)
J.LO is a waitress; poor, beautiful, but still tough. She doesn't take any crap from any customers. That is, not until she meets the rich and charming Mitch (Bill Campbell), who whisks her off her feet, buys her an enormous house, and immediately impregnates her. Shortly after, he begins sleeping with other women. Then he starts beating J.Lo up. But will J.Lo stand for this? Of course not. She begins training in martial arts, and learns how to beat Mitch up herself. Because this movie is made strictly for the J.Lo lover, the writer and director scrap any notion of building suspense or a surprise ending, and simply give us shot after blissful shot of J.Lo. The sequence of scenes in which she is training are beautiful (plenty of spandexed booty), and the ending fight scene is awesome. In short, for the J.Lo lover, this movie is better than her last few. For the non-J.Lo lover, don't bother. You'll hate it. (Katia Dunn)
The Importance of Being Earnest
Rupert Everett looks terrible--his face appears to be sliding off his skull, and he's as neckless as a football player. And he should simply stop playing straight men, because he's the most unconvincing lover this side of Passions. Southerner Reese Witherspoon is far too California-girl to play an English lass, with her "I studied with the same voice coach as Gwyneth" accent. Even these quibbles aside, this new adaptation is revolting, too arch by half and with Everett and Colin Firth (who plays Jack Worthing as a kind of stuttering Hugh Grant-type) swallowing all of Oscar Wilde's best lines. You lose everything by method-acting Wilde; his charm lies in all the stagy absurdity of drawing-room social intercourse. Thank God for Judi Dench, steamrolling her way through a terrible situation. (Emily Hall)
Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a hotshot homicide cop from L.A. who travels to a small town in Alaska to help solve the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl. However, as it turns out, the real reason for his arrival is to escape a murky internal investigation back in Los Angeles. When Dormer's partner is accidentally killed while chasing after the murderer, Dormer is then drawn into an unholy alliance with the suspect (Robin Williams), who has developed a convincing scheme that will make both of their problems go away. Insomnia plays like a pot-boiling page-turner you can't put down, and this is largely due to the talents of director Christopher Nolan (Memento). When Dormer's character develops insomnia (due to Alaska's perpetual daylight, as well as his own guilt), Nolan uses the surrealistic side effects of the condition to fuel the cinematography; the atmosphere is constantly charged with the feeling of claustrophobia and dread. Meanwhile, the script wisely reveals its many secrets slowly, keeping the audience on seat's edge while pulling them easily from scene to scene.(Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Karma Got Friendly
Joe gets busted for a bad, bad crime and his buddy Friendly is called in to help reconstruct the events leading up to it. Filmed in Portland and made by local dude, Josh Bovinette. Not very good.
* 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)
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.
The New Guy
Why is the obnoxious-dweeb-turned-obnoxious-chick-magnet plot still selling? Why, in this 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 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)
Okie Noodling w/ The Flaming Lips Have Landed
A film detailing a skill we city folk should all have if we're spending any time in the wilderness--fishing for catfish with your hands. Also showing, The Flaming Lips Have Landed, a documentary on the Lips from their 1983 inception to their Soft Bulletin tour.
New Zealand directors seem to have excellent relationships with their cinematographers. Their movies are beautiful to look at. The drawback is that sometimes it seems more energy was put into the image than the plot. Such is the case with Christine Jeffs' Rain, a darn good-lookin' film that captures the feel of summer in 1970s New Zealand. The story is about a transitional time in an adolescent girl's life when her alcoholic mother starts drifting away from her father, with the implication that she may eventually follow in her footsteps, but the reason to see it is to let the images wash over you. (Andy Spletzer)
Rebel Without a Cause
The 1955 classic (and one of James Dean's only three films) about three teenagers (Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo) who hate their parents, school, and everything else. Some things never change.
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.
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, Han, 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)
The Sum of all Fears
Despite all appearances, there are two good things about the new Tom Clancy movie with Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan. One is a bold plot twist that comes so suddenly that it reconfigures the whole experience in an instant and almost tricks you into thinking the film is better than it is. The other good thing, almost a great thing, is the casting of Liev Schreiber in the role of John Clark, CIA spook, and all-around spy genius. Clark is the grease in the gears, the genius-hero who speaks a dozen languages and can garrote a guard while hacking into a mainframe without ever being seen or heard. Schreiber came to Seattle to discuss his role, saying that his research revealed that most CIA guys are language students who get rooked into service, but whose real ambitions lie behind desks. Asked how he felt about representing this big Hollywood action picture to the press, Schreiber said, "Well, I like it. I think they did a good job. But I have to confess that the real reason has more to do with my belief that the real story lies with Clark. I think there's a lot more to that character that could-and might-be explored in a sequel. So, yes... I may have ulterior motives." (Sean Nelson)
* 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)
* Tiny Picture Club
The Tiny Picture Club is back, and they're more tiny than ever. Camp abounds in the latest collection, Heroes and Villains. Films are scored by kick-ass local rockers. See review this issue.
UB has a few funny jokes and some relevant racial commentary, but attempts to do way too much in too short a time. A love story, a critique on racial stereotyping in cinema and beyond, commentary on how white people gank black culture, white people being stereotyped, black people being stereotyped, a wide-reaching conspiracy plot on how 'The Man' keeps black people down, spying, a mystery, explosions, brainwashing, etc. etc. Oh, and Denise Richards is fucking repugnant. (Katie Shimer)
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)
Ever had sex with your father? Whatever the answer, I'm sure this film will intrigue you, as there are people in it who are having sex with their fathers. Eww. 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 division who get blasted to bits by the Viet Cong. They try and save themselves and each other, their heroism is unparalleled, blah blah blah.
Standard WW2 flag-flying and derring-do, blessed with a master's touch. Nicolas Cage uncorks his patented undead intensity as a combat-shocked lifer entrusted to nursemaid a young Navajo codemaster (Smoke Signals' Adam Beach, bringing a few welcome burrs to the usual shaman/saint portrayal) with extreme prejudice. Explosions of all shapes and sizes follow. Director John Woo blows up the desert and lops off heads as well as you'd expect, but, as always, his greatest interest and success lies in the shifting relationships of heavily armed men under extreme pressure. (He still can't deal with females, however, as an achingly dopey subplot proves.) Windtalkers is irritatingly formulaic at worst and unerringly schematic at best, but Woo's guileless sincerity propels it above the rah-rah norm again and again. What other living director could pull off a soldier with a harmonica? (Andrew Wright)