A chronicle of the rise to fame of 1898 Navy hero Admiral George Dewey, who was able to defeat a Spanish fleet in a matter of hours.
* african film festival
A month long film fest starting Fri Feb 1. This week: T.G.V.--a train ride from Paris to Marseilles goes awry when they encounter rebels. BOPHA!--Danny Glover plays a South African police sergeant who is forced to face apartheid when his son joins an anti-apartheid group. Boseman and Lena--A screen adaptation of Athol Fugardo's play about poverty and oppression in Africa, starring Danny Glover and Angela Bassett. Lumumba--A chronicle of the short reign of the humanitarian Congo leader, taken down by the CIA, colonialists, and multi-nationalists. Thunderbolt--Showing the conflict that arises between a romantic couple when traditional values are compromised. Steve Bantu Biko: Beacon of Hope--The story of Biko, leader of the South African Black Conciousness who was assassinated by police in 1977. Directed by his son.
An Afternoon with William Wegman
Hey, you know that guy that takes all the pictures of Weimaraners (the dogs) on bikes and frying eggs and stuff. He's dedicating his commissioned statue in Portland, titled "Portland's Dog Bowl." He'll also be screening his dog-filled flick, The Hardy Boys in Hardly Gold.
In this biopic of the life of Muhammed Ali, Will Smith plays the quick-witted boxer and activist as if he's always had Parkinson's. While Jon Voight is a dream as Howard Cosell, and Jamie Foxx shines as Ali's cornerman, Drew "Bundini" Brown, Smith lumbers through the film with a dead-eyed glaze, unable to capture the spark needed to portray "the Greatest." Oh, and the fight scenes suck. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
The Art of Amalia
Amala Rodrigues is a rad dancer who invented/made famous a kind of dancing called, "Fado," a Portugese dance. See the story of her life as she goes from growing up poor in Lisbon, to dying in 1999.
* Atlas Moth w/A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake
A double feature loosely tying together the theme of undiscovered genius. Atlas Moth is a sequel to last year's grin-and-bear-it film about a depressed and obsessed midwest delivery driver trying to grab the brass ring of metal headbanger fame. Even without seeing the first film, this sequel stands up, exploring Dan's continued quest and fleshes out his equally odd and strangely entertaining band members. The second film pieces together as much information as possible about a lost rock star, Nick Drake, who was a complete flop when he lived. Alone and penniless, Drake died in 1974 when he was 25. But two years ago, when his song "Pink Moon" was resurrected in a VW commercial, Drake posthumously was launched into stardom. Sort of a VH-1 Behind the Tombstone.
A Beautiful Mind
In the case of John Nash (Russell Crowe), the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, there is the irony that a 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. (Michael Shilling)
* birthday girl
Limey banker purchases Russian mail-order bride and manages to get a handjob in the first ten minutes of the film. See Review this issue.
Black Hawk Down
This controversial war film is the new effort from Ridley Scott, an artist who has made a career out of not saying a damn thing, ever, except, "Look how pretty this shiny sidewalk is." The movie tells the story of the ill-fated 1993 American military intervention in Mogadishu, Somalia, and makes a point of offering no context, political or social, for the conflict. Hell, network news coverage could've done that! (Sean Nelson)
Brotherhood of the Wolf
It's not just that the plot (about a superwolf laying waste to the French countryside in the 1700s and a scientist with amazing fighting prowess sent to track it down) grows less and less sensible; not just that the lead actor is a second-rate Christopher Lambert; not just that the sex scenes are lurid and yet untitillating; not just that everyone (including a transplanted Iroquois and scuzzy French mercenaries) knows kung fu--Brotherhood of the Wolf is all of this and more, a special French fusion of the pretentious and the inane. Were it not so long, this would be camp fun. But it is long. So very long. So very, very, very long. (Bret Fetzer)
Business of Strangers
Stockard "Stockyard" Channing and Julia Stiles star in this reverse gender, corporate revenge drama, cut from the same cloth as In the Company of Men. Though Channing's performance is excellent, the filmmaker's desire to lay bare a female variant on the archetypal male fantasy seems to expose something intrinsically male, nonetheless. (Sean Nelson)
* Charlotte Gray
Just when you thought Cate Blanchett couldn't get any sexier, she goes and joins the French Resistance! Blanchett plays Charlotte as a willing naif, whose participation in the war effort arises out of her simple desire to do good, and the less noble desire to be reunited with her soldier lover lost behind enemy lines. Because she speaks fluent French, she's recruited (by some guy she happens to sit next to on a train) into the British SOE spy ring. Of course, Charlotte soon becomes the traditional ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances--and frankly, a bit of a saint--but director Gillian Armstrong is too much of a sensualist to let the proceedings become conventional. (Sean Nelson)
* 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, Alexandre 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.
Artiste Jean Michael Basquait skips around NY trying to sell paintings.
Accidentally mistaking Citizen Cum for Citizen Kane at the video store, an aspiring filmmaker named Sean watches the porn flick and falls head over heels with its star, Johnny Rebel. After finagling his way on to the set, he gains employment as The Fluffer, providing moral (as well as oral) encouragement to Johnny in this skewed gay romantic comedy.
Robert Altman's latest is an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery set in the posh environs of a late 19th-century English mansion, where the swells and scousers surmount class boundaries to answer the question "Whodunnit?" Recent Altman work (that's Short Cuts onward, inclusive) has declined in sharp, inverse proportion to his ability to attract big-name movie stars--aka the Woody Allen syndrome--but this one is apparently a lot better than the last few howling dogs he has unleashed.
I am Sam
I Am Sam is a truly awful title for only a marginally awful movie, which is to say that despite the poor moniker, this latest Hollywood take on the retarded is not a complete disaster. There are two reasons for this: a) Sean Penn is Sean Penn, even when he's playing (and often failing to play) a man with the intelligence of a 7-year-old, and b) Dakota Fanning, perhaps the most adorable girl ever burned onto celluloid.
I'll Sing for You w/ Sacred Steel
Malian guitarist and singer Boubacar Traorre, better known as KarKar, was a symbol of hope to the people of Mali--until he fell into obscurity, but then rose again in the '90s and was rediscovered. Sacred Steel shows the introduction of the electric steel guitar into American gospel.
Based on the novel by Phillip K. Dick... It's a hundred-odd years from now, and Earth has been involved in a prolonged war with aliens from Alpha Centauri, who have decimated most of the planet in their attempt to erase the blight that is the human race. Humanity, in response, has developed into an ultra-paranoid military machine. Spence Olham (Gary Sinese) is a scientist developing a secret super-weapon for use against the bastard Centauris. While seemingly compelling, the movie ends up as boring chase scene after chase scene, with Olham eluding the Feds, trying to find some way to prove himself human. Sigh. (Jacob McMurray )
* 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, the boy's parents, and the mistress's ex-husband form the locus of Todd Field's insidiously gripping adaptation of Andre Dubus' deeply moral short story. (Sean Nelson)
Jazz Women w/ Jazz Scene
Fact: Women get the shaft in music, for many political, social, and economic reasons. Jazz Women shows us a bunch of great women in jazz that should be as famous as their male counterparts, but aren't.
A parallel of the lives of two famous murderers: Ed Gein, the cannibalistic 1950s killer from Wisconsin, and Bernadette Protti, the 15-year-old who stabbed a cheerleader in California in 1984. Filmmaker James Benning portrays the similar isolation of the two killers.
A lantana is a pretty pink flower. Lantana the film is a bud that never blooms. The long, slow film opens with a dead body and ends with a couple dancing, and in between are 120 minutes of middle-aged people living miserably. There is a story, sure--something about infidelity and a possible murder--but the bulk of the film is made up of pure misery, both for the characters and the audience. Then again, Australia is a former penal colony, so perhaps such punishment should be expected. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* 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)
mishima: a life in four chapters
A fragmented biography of a schizophrenic writer named Yukio Mishima.
In this story based on true events (ooh creeeepy), Richard Gere plays John Klein, a Washington Post reporter whose loving wife succumbs to a brain tumor. However, before perishing, she alone sees something strange in her room. Could it be... MOTHMAN? Two years pass, and Klein finds himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia--a town whose chain is being jerked by--you guessed it, MOTHMAN! Klein discovers that... MOTHMAN is calling up people on the phone late at night, making predictions, peeking through windows, disguising himself as Richard Gere, and walking around asking stupid questions. Further investigations reveal that this MOTHMAN thingy shows up all over the world, whenever there's about to be a major catastrophe, but here's the funny thing! MOTHMAN doesn't come right out and simply say there's going to be a catastrophe! HA! HA! Noooo, he just drops incoherent hints about the impending catastrophe, making it impossible for anyone to prevent it! HA! HAAAA!
David Lynch doing his usual contorted mystery.
* Oceans 11
In a feat more remarkable than the movie's $160 million bank heist, Soderbergh manages to keep the egos of the blockbuster actors under their hats and lets the plot tell its own story. (Phil Busse)
Open Your Eyes
A psychological thriller from Spain, very similar to Vanilla Sky. A wealthy man falls for his best friend's girl, gets in a car wreck, wakes up, and thinks everything is okay, but really, the plot twists have just begun.
If you were thinking Orange County might be funny, you were wrong. Jack Black isn't funny as the drunk, drugged out, dumb-movie stereotype. Colin Hanks, Tom's kid, is a major cheese, and is only kind of funny because he's trying to look all heartfelt in a movie where serious emotion doesn't fit at all. (Katie Shimer)
This low-budget, good-natured, first-time outing by writer/director Patrik-Ian Polk has some moments of sheer comedy bliss, but the remaining screen time is a bit of a bore. The story chronicles the "glamorous" lives of four men living all together, but alas, they are all alone. We watch them bitch, dish, and try to mack on every cute guy they meet in a fairytale LA setting. Things get complicated when Marcus (Seth Gilliam) falls for the "is he or isn't he straight" guy next door. It seems that this was an attempt at making a gay male version of Love Jones with a little Waiting to Exhale thrown in for good measure. Not bad... but surely not great. (M. Lon Free)
Red 76: Night of Film
Screenings of Matt McCormick's The Subconcious Art of Grafifiti Removal, Zak Margolis's Flash animation piece, Drowning Boy, scored by Hochenkeit, and work by Txuspo Poyo. Sam Gould's Waiting Underground and daily life slideshow, catchily titled My Sedative Life will also be show along with minimalist work by Eric Johnson. (Katie Shimer)
* Royal Tennenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their seperate, 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)
Short music films from the early '60s that showed on film player/juke boxes in bars and lounges. Sample classic music and retro-chic coutre. See review this issue.
Showbiz is My Life w/ Thoth
A portrait of three women performers from succeeding generations: Julie Wilson from the 1950s; Baby Jane Dexter; and Natalis Gamsu, who came from South Africa to seek fame in New York. Thoth shows street performer S.K. Thoth in Central Park's Angel Tunnel and beyond.
One distinguishing characteristic of this movie is that it is set not in a high school, but in a college. A nerdy narc busts the three title characters cheating on final exams, then agrees to let them off the hook if they get him laid by a supermodel.
Rekindling the highly unsuccessful Hollywood gimmick, David Yonge shows clips of films such as Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, and pumps smells into the theater that correspond with the scenes. Weird.
* Snow Dogs
We are living in an apocalyptic society, and irony is no longer all that funny, because a gross irony already pervades every aspect of our lives. Because our humor is so complex and sophisticated, we must now turn to the painfully ridiculous to make us laugh--things that are so absurd, so mundane, they are only funny when put in context of the ugliness of American society. (Things like "Bush Faints after Choking on Pretzel." Did you see that headline? It was the funniest fucking thing I've ever read.) Enter Snow Dogs, Disney's totally hilarious movie in which a dentist from Miami (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) inherits a bunch of sled dogs and must compete in the Iditarod. The end of Western Civilization is nigh, my friends, and there is nothing funnier than a gaggle of talking dogs. (Julianne Shepherd)
Tom Cruise plays David Aames, a hotshot 33-year-old who inherited a publishing company from his pop and has the world by the nuts. David skitters through life refusing to accept any real responsibility--especially when it comes to his casual lover, Julie (Cameron Diaz). However, when he meets the cute-as-a-bug Sofia (Penelope Cruz), he gets his first glimpse at the possibility of true love, which drives the jealous Julie bonkers. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
A Walk to Remember
A Walk to Remember: an unforgivably sappy teen romance starring Mandy Moore as a Christian girl who, through her kindness and faith, saves a troubled local hottie (Shane West) from the path of sin and ruin. As a film, AWTR barely passes muster above your average afterschool special, and as family-oriented fare it makes the horrendous mistake of assuming the average 13-year-old is a complete dolt.