About Schmidt stars an exhausted Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt, an Omaha actuary facing the nothingness of retirement. At the end of his last day at the insurance agency, all of Schmidt's lifework is packed into blank boxes, the office is empty, and he has nowhere to go. When he awakes the following morning next to his wife, who bores him immensely, he finds himself at the top of the slope of slow time that leads down to an ordinary death. Overall, an entertaining film, whose comedy alone sustains the entire picture. (Charles Mudede)
Crafting a follow-up to Being John Malkovich, 1999's head-tripping deconstruction of identity, desire, and fame, would be difficult job for anyone. For Charlie Kaufman--writer of Malkovich, co-writer and lead character of Adaptation--it's a virtual impossibility. Thankfully, Kaufman and Spike Jonze have created a rich entertainment out of this impossibility, stuffing it with enough meta-plot twists to fuel half a dozen lesser movies, and bringing it to the screen with brilliant performances by Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep. Still, not even Kaufman and Jonze can overcome the unfortunate fact that listening to a writer whine about how hard it is to write is always annoying. (David Schmader)
Novelistic in scope and effortless in its ability to balance many plot intricacies, Ararat is Egoyan's most ambitious, provocative film to date. At the center is Raffi (David Alpay), a young Armenian man conflicted by a knotty familial dynamic: his mother Ani (Arsinee Khanjian), a leading scholar of the real Armenian painter Arshile Gorky; his father, who was killed attempting an assassination of a Turkish official; and his stepsister, who blames Ani for her own father's death. If that's not enough, Raffi and his stepsister sometimes fuck and get high--and that's just the half of it. (Jonathan Mahalak)
The Ballad of the Bering Strait
Real-life version of From Russia With Bluegrass Love, documentary-maker Nina Seabee traces the arc of seven musicians who grow up together in Obninsk, Russian; dreamed about being a unique bluegrass band; and then did so by moving to Nashville.
Australian film about a computer genius who invents a computer program which is able to predict which stocks are going to be winners. An evil CEO gets hold of it and wants to use it for his own greedy purposes, rather than to help out the everyday man. See the struggle of big corporate guy versus little genius.
This movie is what's known in cinephile circles as a "tone poem." All that means is there's no plot, no characters, and no literal meanings. What you get instead are some of the most beautiful images ever rendered for the screen--a sort of sensual omnibus that strives successfully to give an overwhelming inkling of the vast panoply of human and natural interaction that is life in this modern world. Directed by the guy who shot the immortal Koyaanisqatsi. You have got to see this on a big screen, because a TV can't contain it. (Sean Nelson)
A shit-eating redux of that golden cinematic nugget known as The Fast & the Furious, Biker Boyz puts our urban heroes atop whining Hondas in a film that will no doubt make more money in its opening weekend than I will in my entire life.
The Grey Fox Festival is the Woodstock of bluegrass music. And this is the movie version. With performances by The Del McCoury Band, Peter Rowan and Nickel Creek. Yee-haw.
Fellini film about a libertine who specializes in seductions and sexual conquests. Stars the incredibly sexy Donald Sutherland as Giacomo Cassanova. If you're lucky, you might get a peek at Donnie-Boy's ass.
Charlie "Bird" Parker-1920-1955
It is not clear why it took a Norwegian to produce the definitive documentary about the life of this jazz great, but here it is: Three hours of heroin addict and sax blower Charlie Parker. That's right, three hours! If your idea of good jazz is Norah Jones, this is probably one you can skip.
Basically, the last hour of Chicago is a mess. In addition to not trusting his material, the director doesn't appear to trust either of the two movie-musical solutions he picks. Nevertheless, I recommend Chicago. If you didn't get to see the Broadway revival, you should catch it. You'll have to endure Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, of course, but it's a small price to pay to watch the Fosse-inspired choreography and Catherine Zeta-Jones' star-turn as Velma Kelly. (Dan Savage)
City of God
See review this issue.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Confessions is framed by scenes of aging television producer Chuck Berris standing naked in front of a TV screen, reflecting on his life and how it came to be such a big pile of crap. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Crop Circles: Quest for Truth
Director Gazecki interviews specialists in various fields, including biophysics, mathematics, biology, and history. Rather than presenting an explanation of the origin of crop circles and then attempting to create a film that conforms to the original thesis, he selects the soundest factual evidence. At no point does the film claim to know who or what causes the formations. Aside from its educational aspects, Crop Circles includes spectacular footage of the circles. Mostly found in England, they provide striking, enormous patterns against lush, pastoral backdrops. The soundtrack is majestic and expansive, complimenting the awesomeness of the massive, geometrically perfect images. It also reflects the lack of fear with which the circles are approached. (Marjorie Skinner)
Two friends, living amidst the war in Chad in the 1970s, join the rebel army after their village is destroyed. While at first they believe they are fighting for justice, their opinions of the war diverge and they come to separate opinions about surviving in their country.
Darkness Falls may lack the relentless, resonating shiver quality that marks an indelible horror classic, but it provides for more than acceptable campfire fare (although at under 80 minutes, it lasts less than most Duralogs), with occasional moments of genuine visceral fright. You may forget about it as soon as the theater lights come up, but it ain't stingy with the heebie-jeebies. (Andrew Wright)
Deliver Us From Eva
It may be LL's movie, but he matters for shit in this story of sisterly love. A tragic loss of parents left oldest sibling Eva the boss of her sisters, and now that they've grown up, the men in the sister's romantic scope want Eva to get her own guy so she'll butt out. Enter LL Cool J, or just ignore him and enjoy the film for what it is: another chick flick where the bonding is done at the beauty salon.
Final Destination 2
No, Final Destination 2 does not have good acting, nor a compelling plot. It does not blur the lines of reality or explore the dark reaches of the director's mind. All it has to offer you is awesome killing. Four cardboard characters are heading for spring break in a brand-new Chevy Tahoe when the blonde chick sees a vision of a horrendous crash. The girl stops the cars in her vision from entering the freeway, and thus stops the accident. Heroic, yes, but also problematic, for death was expecting those lives, and death always gets what death expects... (Katie Shimer)
This film packs a wallop: James Longley catalogued 75 hours of footage of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the violence that erupted after Ariel Sharon was elected Israeli Prime Minister. He has distilled that footage into one poignant hour that, for better or worse, will make you feel like you were there.
Hillbillies in Hollywood
Local film archivist Dennis Nyback hits a gusher of thigh-slapping, hee-haw, straw-chewing fun: HILLBILLIES!! Rare musical moment from Johnny Cash to Hank Williams to toothless banjo players.
The Hours is a nice package of arts and literature: a film based on a book that's based on a book. Michael Cunningham wrote The Hours, offering various reinterpretations of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, one of which features Woolf as she's writing the book and approaching suicide. Director Stephen Daldry does a remarkable job of translating the Woolfian tone into cinema. In both mediums, elaborate symbolic value is found in the minute, meaningless details of ordinary life. To some, this is enrapturing, although some people find it tedious. The film occupies itself with splicing together the activities of depressed sorta-lesbians played by Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore, all of whom are preparing some type of get-together. Kidman pensively awaits the visit of her sister, bored and under-stimulated by her life in the country. Streep is a modern go-getter, dashing around planning a party for her dying friend, and Moore is hypnotic as a listless housewife trying to make her husband a birthday cake. (Marjorie Skinner)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
See review this issue.
I'm Going Home
See review this issue.
it (independent thursdays)
The very cool Nocturnal continues to bat a thousand with this monthly event, at which budding filmmakers can show off their wares. This month's theme is Science Fiction. All are welcome to show films; just call a few days in advance. Or just come and see the films and drink. That's fine, too!
Even though this movie is awful, Ashton Kutcher will still give you a hard-on.
The kick-off for this year's African Film Festival: Based on the opera Carmen, this film adaptation stars a black Karmen, takes place in Senegal, and is set in the world of underground smuggling. The very sexually liberated Karmen seduces the warden of the jail where she is imprisoned and returns, with a vengeance, to her world of crime.
Land of Silence and Darkness
Werner Herzog follows a deaf and blind woman in a documentary about the woman's (Fini Straubinger) quest to help others in similar situations. She meets another woman who has been sent to a home for the mentally disabled, when it is her sight and hearing that are impaired. She also encounters Heinrich, a farmer who has taken to living with the animals in order to avoid people. Footage is interspersed with text written by Fini or Herzog himself, which attempt to convey the feeling of being unable to see or hear.
Le Camp de Thiaroye
One of the least-told stories of World War II is that indeed, it was a world war, and that soldiers from Africa (ironically) joined their colonial nations to defend peace, liberty and justice. But after being released from a concentration camp, one group of Senegalese soldiers were not given any of the very freedoms or equality that they fought for. This film tells the story of how the Senegalese battled with the French after World War II for back pay and simple recognition.
1963 Luchino Visconti flick starring Burt Lancaster as a disgruntled Sicilian prince.
Douglas McGrath's adaptation of Charles Dickens' 800-page novel is simply entertaining. This is the substance of the film: It has funny moments, dramatic moments, Victorian costumes, and convincing street scenes of bustling 19th-century London; the English is often proper and lyrical; there are jocular people, loathsome people, and loving people, and their world is filled to the brim with pleasant music. As I've never read the book (and don't intend to), I can't determine what was removed and what was preserved in this adaptation, or know how such changes affected the original content or purpose of the story. Nevertheless, at times the film does feel a bit rushed. (Charles Mudede)
Despite appearances to the contrary, the film is not about the indomitable spirit of a survivor. It's about how low a human being can sink in order to live, and the depths of abasement a race is capable of withstanding in order to avoid extinction. There's no heroism in the picture, and all redemption is tempered by the knowledge of what's coming next. It's here, in the deeply Eastern European black comedy of this knowledge, that the film and its maker mark their territory most boldly. (Reassuring the Poles that "the Russians will be here soon" is a classic Polanski irony.) For all the possible autobiography of the story, The Pianist is most personal when it stares into the abyss of the Holocaust and finds nothing looking back. (Sean Nelson)
Power And Terror: Noam Chomsky In Our Times
At 74 years old, Chomsky just keeps on ticking, deconstructing American political systems like a man possessed. This documentary splices together a series of interviews and lectures he gave in response to the 9/11 attacks.
The most striking aspect of Rabbit-Proof Fence is its simplicity; its bald setting in Western Australia's bush, its story, and its characters. It relates the true tale of Molly, a 14-year-old Aborigine, her sister, and their cousin. Part of the Stolen Generation, they were forcibly seized and placed in a racial assimilation compound. Their escape and journey back home is heroic, but the impassive representation of it undermines a fulfilling sense of sympathy. (Marjorie Skinner)
Colin Farrell stars as a tech whiz (James Clayton) who gets picked out of the crowd by CIA recruiter Al Pacino. James has a natural aptitude for the job, and it's only a matter of time before he's given a super-secret special mission loaded with predictable plot twists and hammy acting.
Sort of like Kate & Leopold, except not as romantic or cutesy. A stunningly beautiful model in Ghana is transported back in time and place by a witch doctor. She enters this new location as a slave in America's colonial times. Her transportation becomes a vehicle for examining the criss-crossed lines of African refugees history and struggles.
While there are plenty of old news reels of Jews fleeing Europe in the 1930s, who knew that Shanghai became home to 20,000 Jewish refugees? A fascinating and painful chapter in the re-shaping of Jewish culture.
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson reprise their roles as zany martial artist and smart-ass sidekick (respectively) in this sequel to the surprisingly entertaining Shanghai Noon. Chan's fighting style and acting ability got old years ago, but it's still hard to imagine Wilson not being tremendously entertaining.
Sing Along Wizard of Oz
Dress up as your favorite character and sing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" like you know you can.
Talk to Her
Talk to Her, Spain's camp bad boy Pedro Almodovar's latest film, contains no drugs or sex, and I didn't even notice until it was over. That's because Almodovar has always trafficked in extreme emotions and the actions that spring from them. Actions and craziness often overshadow feelings in his earlier films, but with Talk to Her, Almodovar gives us the most mature and deeply felt of his movies. It's the story of two comatose women (one a female bullfighter and the other a ballerina), the two men who care for them (Benigno, a male nurse, and Marco, a writer), and the friendships that grow between them. The two men deal differently with their sleeping beauties: Marco retreats into silence and Benigno, who cared for his mother before becoming a nurse, talks and carries on as if Alicia were awake and responsive. The movie unfolds with grace and still manages to shock while being funny, strange, morally complex, and moving. (Nate Lippens)
Two Weeks Notice
Sandra Bullock plays a sharp-as-a-tack lawyer and Hugh Grant is her boss. When she calls it quits, he realizes he might just like women with upper lip hair.
Todd Haynes draws on the stories of real-life glamsters and spins them into his own glittering fantasy. Obviously inspired by the careers of David "Ziggy Stardust" Bowie and Iggy Pop, it is NOT a rip-off biography. No, instead it is an overstated, over-rated opulent quasi-mystery.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
It's your standard story: Boy meets Chocolate Baron, Boy offends Chocolate Baron, Boy inherits Chocolate Factory. But there's also the part where the Chocolate Baron systematically murders a group of ill-mannered children. And there's also the songs! This Friday at 10 pm, join the Mercury when we present Sing-Along Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Lyric sheets, beer, chili and Everlasting Gobstoppers will be served.