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 At the start of the 21st century, these "extinction level" meteorites have been replaced by nuclear bombs.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 plays Jason Bourne, or does he? The audience is in doubt because as the film opens, Bourne is being fished out of the ocean, stricken with the creakiest of Hollywood cliches--AMNESIA. He's then dropped in Switzerland, where he discovers a security box filled with fake passports, a pantsload of money, and a gun. As he stares at it, he wonders, "What is all this stuff and who am I?" Well, you could be a secret agent, you dumbshit! Bourne then hooks up with the requisite hot 'n' sexy accomplice (Franka Potente from Run Lola Run), and leads the CIA on a merry, cliché-ridden car chase through Paris. (By the way, if you ever direct a movie? Never shoot a car chase in Paris. Those Matchbox cars they drive look ridiculous.) Anyway, blah-blah-blah, Bourne and accomplice fall in love, blah-blah-blah, Bourne gets his memory back, and blah-blah-blah, you leave the theater with an ass that's half-asleep. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Robin Tunney is one of those hot young actresses who probably doesn't get enough credit for her acting because she's so darned hot and has such dreamy eyes. Of course, showing up in dreck like Supernova, Vertical Limit, and this attempted comedy doesn't help. Tunney's considerable charm is all Cherish has going for it. She plays a dowdy computer geek who's unjustly accused of the vehicular manslaughter of a San Francisco cop and sentenced to house arrest while awaiting trial. While confined, she straightens her hair, becomes hot, and develops warm feelings for the schlep (Tim Blake Nelson) who maintains her court-ordered ankle bracelet. Oh yeah, she also eventually tracks down the real killer. Robin's gal pal Liz Phair plays her bitchy boss, and Jason Preistley is a smarmy co-worker. If ever a movie needed more Jason Priestley, this is that movie. (Marc Mohan)
The feature debut from this video genius is rich with style and substance. Set in Paris, 1969, the film is like a visual hybrid of Barbarella, Weekend, and David Holzman's Diary, but its narrative texture is far more human than any of these arch influences would indicate. Davies is a would-be filmmaker caught between theory and inexperience, and a job making a trashy sci-fi movie affords him the ironic opportunity to become an artist. Dean Stockwell has a touching cameo as Davie's father. (Sean Nelson)
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
An insufferably Lifetime adaptation of the insufferable Oprah novel about an intergenerational cabal of insufferable quasi-Southern Gothic ladies. (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. 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.
* Hot Skin
Disco Dolls fall victim to the long, sharp sword of pornstar John Homes... and it's all in 3-D. The body hair looks so real, you could reach out and touch it. Filmed in 1978.
The Importance of Being Earnest
This new adaptation is revolting, with Rupert Everett and Colin Firth 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.
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)
* Kissing Jessica Stein
Sex-fiend Helen places an 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. (Katie Shimer)
* The Lady and the Duke
French director Eric Rohmer is best known for his movies about attractive young French people sitting around in picturesque locations discussing the meaning of love and fretting over matters of little consequence to their perfectly French lives. His latest conforms to this description, except that it's set during the nasty years of the French revolution instead of on the beaches of Cannes. Based on the memoirs of an attractive English woman who lived and loved in 1790s Paris, it's also notable for the way the octogenarian director jumps feet-first into digital filmmaking. Instead of building sets or filming in some antique neighborhood, he used technical mumbo-jumbo to insert his filmed actors into painted backdrops, which gives the whole film the feeling of a museum piece brought charmingly to life. (Marc Mohan)
Lilo & Stitch
An animated film about a Hawaiian girl who adopts a dog who falls to earth near her island home (and who is really an alien genetic experiment). She embraces her new pet and teaches him "ohana"--the "Hawaiian concept of family." Good thing the dog wasn't a white tourist...
* Minority Report
Based on the Philip K. Dick novel, Tom Cruise is part of a special division that catches criminals before they commit crimes. When he himself is accused of murder, he eludes the squad in order to prove his innocence. See review this issue.
* Monsoon Wedding
The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed. But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. (Sean Nelson)
* Muleskinner Blues
A documentary on Beanie Andrew, who tries to drum up some cash using the typical quick fix: the old make a horror film that makes tons of money solution. See review this issue.
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. (Andrew Wright)
The Mystic Masseur
The Mystic Masseur is set at the very end of the British period, the 1940s to '50s, on the island of Trinidad. The director of the film, Ismail Merchant, is Indian; it stars the great Om Puri, who is also Indian; the script is written by Caryl Phillips, who is black and was born in St. Kitts, West Indies and educated in England. Phillip's script is based on a novel by V.S. Naipaul, who is a Trinidadian Indian. The result of this colonial stew is a fascinating film that demonstrates, at every level, how fucked up the British Empire was. (Charles Muedede)
The Japanese have their Greatest Generation too, even if the cause they championed isn't remembered quite as fondly as ol' FDR. This somewhat schizophrenic melodrama draws attention to the plight of three World War II vets: a restaurateur whose wife has terminal cancer, a devil-may-care Casanova type, and a harmonica-playing loner. They help each other through the travails of old age, until the ungrateful current generation (in the form of the evil Utopia Corporation) tries to take advantage of them. It all leads to a rather inappropriate finale that's just as manipulative as anything Tom Brokaw or Steven Spielberg could cook up. (Marc Mohan)
* The Princess Blade
500 years from now, in a world where lengthy exposition is required before even the most simplistic action films, there lives a clan of assassins-for-hire called the Takemikazuchi. Their job is to root out the terroristic rebels threatening the region's monarchical rulers, but fellow assassin Princess Yuki discovers that her fellow sword-wielding killers aren't the nicest folks in the forest. All this narrative is merely an excuse for some genuinely ass-kicking battles, choreographed by Hong Kong fight master Donnie Yen. Yumiko Shaku, apparently making her movie debut, is charismatic as Yuki, and her final confrontation with the evil assassin will bring a smile to the face of action-movie fans. Formulaic, but in a good way. (Marc Mohan)
The story is that the Mystery Inc. gang has been reunited and recruited to investigate Spooky Island, a Halloween/Mardi-Gras theme park that's inhabited by demons who steal people's souls. They're commissioned by Rowan Atkinson, who poses as a concerned proprietor but is actually evil instead. He and his demons need a completely pure soul to sacrifice for some voodoo thing, so they lured the kids there to abduct Scooby. There's a midget and a Mexican lucha libre wrestler who go around assaulting the gang. Then everybody's at a beach party, and Fred and Daphne have this sexual undercurrent, Shaggy and Scooby have a fart contest, and Velma gets drunk with some dude. It's not even non sequitur in a funny way. It's cheap and desperate. (Meg Van Huygen)
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)
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). (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 Scrheiber 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 of Favor
In the remote hills of Israel, Rabbi Meltzer, with the help of Orthodox army officer Menachem, has created a militia from his small group of students. When the Rabbi's daughter, Michal, falls for Menachem instead of another man her father has chosen, a string of events lead to a plot to regain control of the Arab holy sights on the Temple Mount in the middle of Jerusalem. Winner of six Israeli Academy Awards and submitted as the Israeli entrant for Best Foreign Film Oscar.
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)
Standard WW2 flag-flying and derring-do, blessed with a master's touch. Nicolas Cage uncorks his patented undead intensity as a combat-shocked life 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)
* Y Tu Mamá También
As two Mexican teenagers frantically fuck, the boy, Tenoch (Diego Luna), pleads/demands that the girl not screw any Italians on her impending European trip with her best friend. 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. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope. (Bret Fetzer)
Israeli filmmaker Arik Kaplun chronicles the sordid, heartbreaking, and silly misadventures of a disheveled batch of Russian immigrants who live in a tenement house in Tel Aviv. The overlapping storylines--which include a drunk theramin player and a tyrannical husband who forces his invalid father-in-law to beg in the streets--mostly revolve around the beautiful Yana. Yana's smarmy con-artist husband leaves the country shortly after the couple arrives, stealing their government immigrant subsidy to start a business back in Moscow. Yana is stuck, broke, and pregnant to fend for herself. She's also stuck fending off Eli, the slacker filmmaker playboy who shares the flat and films Yana on the sly. I think his footage is supposed to be some sort of metaphor, as is the Persian Gulf War, which has Iraqi missiles raining down on Tel Aviv nightly while Yana and Eli get it on. (Josh Feit)