On the surface, jealousy is the combative common ground this film's eight women share in the home of a murdered man who is a husband, a father, a brother, a son-in-law, and a philanderer in relation to the various characters. The women candidly sing and dance to their inner feelings, while hiding away their jealousies or hurling bold suspicions at one another. Costume adjustments--buttons coming undone as emotions burst forth, layers stripping to reveal softer underpinnings--speak as loudly as the women do, becoming a narrator for the film and demonstrating once more the silent language that bonds the eight very different personalities as they rage and roil, desperate to prove their innocence. (Kathleen Wilson)
Katie Holmes stretches her enormous talent once again by playing a young, nubile college student who has to deal with the mysterious disappearance of her boyfriend. Benjamin Bratt plays a detective.
Greg Kinnear plays Bob Crane, the former star of Hogan's Heroes, who descends into sex addiction. See review this issue.
Bloody Sunday is a faux-documentary account of January 30, 1972, when British troops fired on Northern Irish civilians, killing 13 people and wounding 14 others. Propaganda, as a valid art form, can be wicked fun, but this film's determined drabness is no fun at all. With its gag-making handheld camera and its austerely non-acting Irish actors, Bloody Sunday tries to suggest that it's a serious moral inquiry. How can we tell it's not? Because one side is all good and the other is Eeee-vil (George W. Bush please take note). (Barley Blair)
Bowling for Columbine
A film about a huge subject, desperately grasping for a thesis. For a while, Moore seems on to something--a culture of fear endemic to our country--but in the end, he shortchanges the psychological complexity in favor of cheap shots. It's too bad, because the movie and the director have so much momentum; Moore, for all his pomposity, is the only man alive who could get a film like this made and seen. He clearly cares, and considering his influence with lockstep liberals, he had the opportunity to say something great here. He almost does, but ultimately doesn't. Can't, maybe. Because he isn't really a social critic, he's a demagogue. His art is being a self-righteous smartass, which makes it all the more frustrating when you agree with him. (Sean Nelson)
See review this issue
In his fourth unconscionably shitty film released in the last year (and yes, that includes that Yoda bullshit), Samuel L Jackson stars as Elmo McElroy, a kilt-wearing chemist (!?) who stumbles upon the recipe for a new and exciting illegal substance--the titular formula. Traveling to Liverpool in hopes to hawk his creation in the heart of the city's rave scene, McElroy's "one last score" goes (surprise!) horribly awry. Featuring token Brits Robert Carlyle and Rhys Ifans.
The Four Feathers
After turning tail at the brink of war, a branded Brit coward goes deep undercover in the Sudan hoping to save his friends and regain his honor.
A haunted old 1953 cruiseliner in the Bering Sea is the setting for this gory horror flick. Opening with a graphic scene that involves a dance floor full of people getting cut in half (all at once!), the film never gets easier to watch. Ghosts, carnage, and surprise twists keep you on the edge of your seat in this plot-weak but effects-heavy supernatural thriller. (Amy Jennings)
You can practically see visions of Oscars dancing in these people's heads. Heaven follows the story of a young woman who has attempted to bomb a man who she is certain heads the heroin ring that penetrates the school where she teaches. Cate Blanchett gives a polished performance, but her character lacks believability. Giovanni Ribisi plays a prison guard and translator who falls in love with her while she is undergoing questioning. There would be more chemistry involved if he humped a chunk of wood. Basically, this film is short on intrigue and long on carefully filmed, pretentiously slow-mo'd moments. They're filmed like they're intended to be highly significant, but the story lacks the grounding of a good foundation before getting into the ethereal shit. (Marjorie Skinner)
It is almost impossible to believe that 15 years ago, Eddie Murphy was one of the most promising comic actors (Trading Places, Bevelry Hills Cop). But now? His stilted, wooden humor clunks across the screen. His only talent seems to be an ability to suck all the oxygen from the screen. Steve Martin was his victim in Bowfinger, now it's the charismatic Owen Wilson. In this re-make of the TV series, Wilson is a super-agent who teams up with an arrogant boxing champ played by Murphy. Together they have to find a super secret war plane that was stolen. Wilson trades in his nuanced performances to play a punching bag for Murphy's lame, dithering insults. I'm absolutely embarrassed for Owen Wilson. (Phil Busse)
Igby Goes Down
A melancholic comedy that captures the privileged heartbreak of Salinger far better than The Royal Tenenbaums ever could. Igby, a preppie with a punk streak, gets kicked out of his last boarding school and takes to Manhattan, where he squats purposelessly, has sex with junkies and JAPs, and basically seethes until life more or less insists that he make a move. A sharply-observed film down to the upturned collars and half-Windsor knots, Igby gets to the heart of its characters without either indicting or apologizing for its cultural framework. (Sean Nelson)
Jackass: The Movie
Your girlfriend secretly wants to see this movie. See review this issue.
Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior
Who wouldn't want to be a 16th Century Japanese warlord for a day or two? After being rescued from execution because of the resemblance he bears to a warlord, a wily thief is asked to stand in as the warlord. It sounds like the perfect setup for a comedy of errors send-up. Instead Kurosawa takes the dignified path through moral awakenings and beautiful understated action scenes. Would it have killed him to put in at least one joke?
The Knockaround Guys
Matty (Barry Pepper) is the son of high-ranking mob boss Dennis Hopper, who's having trouble convincing the old man he's ready to step up and take a larger role in the organization. After a great deal of whining, Matty convinces Benny's second-in-command (John Malkovich) to give him a chance by making a cross-country money pickup. Matty hires cokehead Seth Green to fly out and retrieve the half-mill, but trouble ensues when Green lands to get gas in a podunk Montana town, and the money is stolen. While this flick sure as shit ain't no Sopranos, it's nonetheless engaging in a trifling way. As Matty, Pepper has the dead-eye charm of a young Chris Walken, and Vin Diesel is convincing as the thuggish pal. However, believing Malkovich and Hopper as mob bosses? Give me a fuggin' break. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Did you hear the one about the Yiddish man who was mistaken for an Amish? No? I'm sure that Pasach Burnstein will tell you the punchline. The funniest of the funny Yiddish comedians. A documentary about him and his family. Even if he isn't sidesplitting funny, he sure talks goofy! Oy vey!
The Lady from Shanghai
A new 35mm print of this Orson Welles/Rita Hayworth classic thriller, featuring a spooky shootout in a hall of mirrors.
Message from Space
Leave it to the Japanese to produce one of the better spoofs of Star Wars, a wacky chop-socky space romp.
All right, what am I going to say about this movie? Sappy, kinda pointless, stars one of those Rene Zell-whatever look-alike chicks that does zany things like kiss old men on the cheek. Jake Gyllenhaal (aka Donnie Darko) is in it and does a pretty good job, despite the molasses script. He's pretty cute, too, especially when his eyes are welling up with tears. Jake is living with his fiancée Diana's parents, played by Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman. He gets along with them well; trouble is, his fiancée is dead. Uh oh, though. Five minutes after Diana's corpse cools off, Jake runs into Bertie McCuterson at the post office while trying to reclaim his now-expired wedding invitations. He shouldn't really be dating so soon, but he's lonely, she's cute, and the cosmic force of destiny is at work. (Katie Shimer)
People who have maids deserve to get murdered, right? See review this issue.
Experimental films like this are like dreaming set to an operatic soundtrack. Director Godfrey Reggio, composer Philip Glass and producer Steven Soderbergh have created a stimulating combination of sound and images with enough contrast to carry its 1.5-hour running time. Footage of soldiers singing, atom bombs, and frenzied stockbrokers are spliced with images of the natural phenomena and streams of numerical data running against a black screen. The music is carried along well with the film, giving it a more graceful pace than might otherwise be affected by the more frantic sequences. (Marjorie Skinner)
A chronicle of Jim Morrison's only film student project, First Love. Director Pittman adds a soundtrack by The Incredible String Band and Eric Matthews.
Described as an "anti-epic" (which really doesn't make much sense when you think about it, but it sounds pretty smart), this Russian film is about farmers who go on a vengeful odyssey to find and kill the authorities who sold their land to oil companies.
The final poke!
Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Punch-Drunk Love is a confused story--not confusing to the audience, but confused within itself. Paul Thomas Anderson seems to have so much to say, so many bizarre scenarios to explore and see through to the end, that the film as a whole suffers. So much is happening that very little registers. Still, this doesn't mean Punch-Drunk Love is unworthy of your peepers; it's not. But if you expect to remain entranced once you've started your car after the show, you'll have to look elsewhere. (Bradley Steinbacher)
The plot of The Ring has the dreamily simplistic hook of the best campfire stories or fever dreams: A Seattle-based single mother/reporter (Mulholland Drive's Naomi Watts), begins investigating a quick-sprouting urban legend about a mysterious videotape reputed to kill its foolhardy watcher exactly seven days after viewing. Suffice it to say that the "Play" button soon gets a workout, with mountingly surreal, increasingly seat-moistening results. (Andrew Wright)
Rules of Attraction
Rules of Attraction centers around a fucked-up love triangle between devil-in-the-flesh Sean Bateman (the Beek), the bewitching Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), and svelte pretty-boy Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who are all students at upper-crust Camden College, somewhere in New England. Love triangles are tricky things anyway, but throw in the influences of director Roger Avery (writer of Pulp Fiction) and novelist Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero, American Psycho), upon whose 1987 novel the film is based, and the triangle gets very messy indeed. We watch the characters fuck, drink, lust, puke, bleed, and do drugs. Which sounds like fun, right? And it might have been, but the satire gets lost in the glam. I was left either wanting a full-on fuck party or a requiem for college angst, but what you get is an uneven movie with good performances, a tacked-on '80s soundtrack, and a lot of blood and vomit. (Brian Brait )
Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has just been released from a mental institution; she's a cutter, slicing up her skin and neatly placing Band-Aids over the wounds. To integrate herself back into society (and to escape from her flawed home life), she decides to look for a job. Luckily, anal-retentive lawyer E. Edward Gray (James Spader) is hiring. He needs a secretary; judging from the permanent help wanted sign outside his office, he has pretty tough time keeping them around. Lee can type and is not pregnant or trying to get pregnant (three of Gray's requirements for employment), so she gets the job. Everything goes along beautifully--until she makes a typo and, as punishment, Gray bends her over his desk and spanks her silly. (Julianne Shepherd)
Kurosawa's masterpiece tells the story of a small village at the mercy of bandits.
Short Works by Hollis Frampton
The artsy farty farts will gaslight themselves into euphoria tonight: Not one, not two, but three shorts from Hollis Frampton, one of the most successful translators of mortgage poetry from the T.S. Eliot inspired page to the big screen. Still photos, footage of goldfish, found footage, overheard rants from telephone conversations. Only small-minded people need a cohesive narrative.
One of the last remaining directors of animation to truly capture the strange, subtly contented spirit of childhood (and, for that matter, one of the only directors of animation with any sense of singular recognition), Princess Mononoke director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service) follows his 1997 masterpiece with his latest--an Alice in Wonderland-inspired fable about a little girl whose parents are transformed into pigs.
A super-stud driver-for-hire mangles a vast assortment of skeevy Eurotrash in order to protect his incessantly shrieking, Lolita-esque Chinese hostage. Many things explode. Not quite smart enough to qualify as acceptably mindless, this multinational, heavily accented testosterone Big Gulp baldly aims to combine the worlds of J. Woo and G.Q. with sputtering, cortex-croggling results. Occasionally rousing, with a smattering of ace chop-socky (particularly a delirious mega-fight marinated in Texas Crude), but ultimately torpedoed by writer/producer Luc (The Professional) Besson's patented brand of synth-poppy fromage. (Andrew Wright)
The Truth about Charile
This new film from Jonathan Demme is a remake of Stanley Donen's Charade, a wafer-thin '60s comedy that has only stood the test of time thanks to the presence of Cary Grant and crappy old Audrey Hepburn. Grant's rakish update is Marky Mark Wahlberg, a travesty, though the part (and the story) has been updated (and improved) to keep pace with Grant's absence. Thandie Newton (also known as the most beautiful woman on Earth) stands in for Hepburn as a widow who discovers that her late husband was into some pretty dastardly business by finding herself at the center of a web of international intrigue. The film, like its predecessor, is a smart kind of dumb; a romp with a love of movies, faces, and all things Francophile at the center. (Sean Nelson)
Disney has gotten its hands on the award-winning young person's book by Natalie Babbitt with gorgeous but creepy results. Set in 1915, the story concerns Winnie, a tightly corseted girl quivering on the cusp of maturity (played by luscious crumpet Alexis Bledel). When her parents threaten to send her to a "School for Young Ladies," she tears off into the forest and right into the arms of Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson), a strapping young lad slurping straight from the Fountain of Youth. In fact, his whole family done drunk from it, more than 80 years before!
Waking Up in Reno
The plot of this vapid and uninspired film concerns two mush-headed redneck couples (including Billy Boy Thornton playing against type) packing up the RV and heading to a fabled monster-truck gala in the city, pausing for such tried-and-true conventions as a mammoth steak eat, armadillo speedbumps, and the occasional burst of honeywagon humor. Padding out the film is a bushel of sub-Foxworthy yokel gags and labored misunderstandings that wouldn't pass even during the Don Knotts era of Three's Company, culminating with a tipping-the-bellhop gag that first appeared in cave paintings. Tony Orlando sings a tune. (Andrew Wright)
After a decade when Ken Burns simplified the details of the Civil War and USA Today has reduced world politics to colorful pie charts, War Photographer is unflinchingly honest--no frills, no judgements; just the naked facts. Following Jim Nachtwey, a renowned war correspondent, the film tells the story about Kosovo, Somalia and South Africa through a viewfinder. With little editing--basically just a movie camera peering over Nchtwey's shoulder--the film has a stark and languid charm that offsets the brutal images. (Phil Busse)
If I were a woman, I would be deeply offended by a movie like White Oleander, which posits that female strength is necessarily tied to violence, control freakery, and frigid sexuality, and furthers the insulting notion that being an artist means being an inscrutable, pretentious hypocrite. Since I am not a woman, however, I will say that Oleander is a waste of talent (Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger may not be great actresses, but they're better than this movie lets them be) as well as time. When the main character (a teenage girl whose artist mother goes to jail for murdering her boyfriend) is adopted by white-trash Christians, the film comes momentarily alive, but only to stereotypes that can't outstretch the cast's valiant efforts to transcend them. (Sean Nelson)