Okay, so this guy (Josh Hartnett) makes a bet to give up all sex (including masturbation) for 40 days and 40 nights. What a wuss! I gave all that stuff up for four years, and no one's making a movie about me!
* African Film Fest: Portland Community College
PCC's film fest continues. This week: A Door to the Sky is about a Moroccan woman who becomes friends with a Muslim woman and starts a hospice for needy women; The Season of Men chronicles the stressful time when the working men return to the island of Djerba and the women are pressured to get pregnant; Naked Spaces; Living is Round, a documentary about the traditional living spaces of West Africa. Finally, for the last day of the fest, Diamonds, Guns, and Rice: Sierra Leone and the Women's Peace Movement, a documentary about the plight and efforts of women in refugee camps along the border of Sierra Leone.
Spike Lee's most ambitious race film yet, and, as a consequence, his worst film to date--is about a 21st-Century minstrel show that becomes a huge hit for a small upstart TV network. The film is terrible at every level--monological instead of democratic, preachy instead of complex, and, worst of all, it dances to the ring of the cash register. (Charles Mudede)
A Beautiful Mind
In the case of John Nash (Russell Crowe), the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, it is ironic that a man of 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, like a bad hair day. (Michael Shilling)
Big Fat Liar
Kid writes essay. Big fat movie exec steals it for a movie. Kid takes revenge. Even the presence of the great Paul Giammati (in the title role) can't excuse this pile of poo.
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)
* Chasing Sleep
An excellent psychological suspenser starring Jeff Daniels as an academic whose wife is missing for reasons he may not be letting himself remember. (Sean Nelson)
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger 4
The sewage faced New Jersey hero tries to clean up waste dumps, one at a time, but is held up by his arch enemy, Noxious Offender.
The new Arnold Schwarzenegger film starts off in a familiar way: Bad guys want to hurt America, and good guys want to save it. The bad guys blow up a building, killing Arnold's wife and son. He screams for retribution and charges into righteousness. He turns into Ahh-nold. But that's when the movie veers off course. The big man wants revenge, but seems weary. He breaks people's necks and fires off large handheld missiles, but looks disgusted with himself. And then it hits him: This whole God-and-Country thing is bullshit. "Where are the terrorists?!" he screams at a CIA operative deep in the Columbian jungle, as an entire village goes up in flames. "These are all women and children! Children!" Everyone tries to reason with him--the FBI, the CIA, the bad guys--but they get nowhere with the new we-are-the-world Arnold. What makes Collateral Damage truly weird is watching Arnold Schwarzenegger grow completely sick of the bloodlust which used to make him whole. It also makes the film worth seeing. (Michael Shilling)
* 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. (Sean Nelson)
This bubblegum pseudo-drama is a cross between Thelma & Louise and To Sir With Love. Unfortunately, the "girl power" early-'90s politics of the former get short-circuited by Britney Spears' weird Donna Reed-in-lowriders shtick. The latter comparison is harder to explain, but suffice it to say, Britney stands in as both Sidney Poitier's moral compass and Lulu's coming-of-age songstress. Not quite as hard-hitting as the tough and topical after school specials from the '70s this film is modeled after, Crossroads tackles absentee parents, rape, and teenage runaways with a cautious and meaningless hand. There's a palpable nod-and-wink quality to the movie (Britney reads poetry over a campfire!), but the film's irony--fully appreciated by the teen audience on hand at the sneak preview I attended--seemed altogether lost on Britney Spears. (Josh Feit)
A Dark Blue World
A love-in-the-midst-of-war deal by Jan Sverak (Oscar-winning director of Kolya), Dark Blue World is the kind of movie that wants desperately to touch your heart and won't take no for an answer. It's the story of Franta and Karel, two randy young fighter pilots from Czechoslovakia who are sent to England to help the Brits fight the Nazis. They become fast friends, and soon fall for the same "beautiful" British ice princess. Karel goes ballistic when he learns that his comrade's been shutting her, so they hate each other, and then one of them dies. This film has been called witty, which is additionally disappointing because the only humor to be found is strictly slapstick (e.g. variations on the "Guy Falling Down" string). I guess it's nice to see WWII from a European perspective for once, and it's got lots of havoc and dogfights and digital explosions, so maybe you like that stuff. But the film as a whole? Don't bother. You've seen it all before. (Meg Van Huygen)
A "supernatural thriller" that recedes from memory faster than Kevin Costner's hairline. The story (such as it is): After Costner's wife is killed, she begins to haunt him through various "creepy" (and often unintentionally hilarious) means. Why is she trying to contact him him? What secret does he need to unravel? The answer is: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Directed by Tom Shadyac (of Patch Adams fame), Dragonfly commits the biggest sin of all as a major motion picture: It forces you not to care. (Bradley Steinbacher)* Forbidden Planet
A '50s sci-fi cult classic, Forbidden Planet is the story of astronauts investigating the demise of an Earth colony and finding a cool-as-shit robot and Anne Francis prancing around in a miniskirt. Rrrrowwrr, rrrowwrr!
A young male hustler attempts to frame one of his johns for the death of a 12-year-old runaway.
It wasn't until the court martial scene that I realized how stupid this otherwise attractive, thoroughly modernist WWII flick is. When a black officer is accused of killing a white soldier (they're both in a POW camp) to avenge the death of the only other Tuskeegee airman in the camp, a lying witness is asked if he'd ever made an idle threat before. The response is, "Yeah... but I'm not colored. I can control myself." Objection overruled. Elsewhere, this visually energetic picture is encumbered mostly by a lack of focus. Bruce Willis phones in a stiff performance as the complicated colonel, and everyone else is just okay. The whole thing, while not terrible, is a bit more Hogan's Heroes than Stalag 17, I'm afraid. (Sean Nelson)
Hope Along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay
A documentary about the life of Harry Hay: labor organizer, Marxist teacher, and founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations in the U.S.
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. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* 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 (Nick Stahl; never liked him before, but he's great here) having a fling with a townie single mother (Marisa Tomei, back from the dead and in excellent form), the boy's parents (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, who carry the picture with a realistic melancholy gravitas), and the mistress' ex-husband (William Mapother, who is related to Tom Cruise, but a fine actor nonetheless; he recalls Eric Roberts in Star 80, the creepiest creep in movie history) form the locus of Todd Field's insidiously gripping adaptation of Andre Dubus' deeply moral short story. (Sean Nelson)
* The Independent
Morty Fineman's lifelong work consists of making 427 movies with cheesy T&A, explosives, and titles like "Tora! Tora! Toga!" and "Twelve Angry Men and a Baby." Jerry Stiller and Janeane Garafalo portray a fairly believable father-daughter business team, who only barely manage to keep Fineman Films afloat, even after being offered the insulting $6/lb. for Morty's entire catalogue. Filled with cameos by filmmakers (Ron Howard) and pop icons (Johnny Rotten, perfectly cast as a snotty film director for the town of Chapparal, NV), "The Independent" is an entertaining B-movie mockumentary. Some of the jokes were trite, and the acting was ehhh, but regardless, you'll laugh out loud more than once. The complete Fineman filmography listed during the ending credits alone is worth the price of admission. (Kate Mercier )
England's greatest woman of 20th century letters is given a sentimental rubdown by alt-Hollywood. Starring Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent.
It: The Terror from Beyond Space
The first manned expedition to Mars is destroyed by an unknown life form that stows itself on the ship.
John Q is a problem film. Not in the race conflict sense but in the class warfare sense. The movie represents Hollywood's first attempt to address the failure of the healthcare system. Denzel Washington plays the American worker, and Anne Heche plays Enron. Enron in this instance takes the form of a healthcare corporation, with its expensive drugs and operations, and its affluent doctors and administrators. The film, of course, is timely. The layoffs and deepening recession in the real world are expressed by the part-time factory worker's frustration with the system. Though I agree with John Q's politics, it's dull and tendentious. (Charles Mudede)
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)
The Man Who Envied Women
This feminist flick, made in 1985, is tailored for literary theory nerds and other academic, esoteric feminist thinking. Pretty good, if you're into that stuff. See review this issue.
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Thornton, perfect), son of a retired racist prison guard (Peter Boyle, who doesn't even try an accent), and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger, who tries his hardest) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. Also, Hank executed her husband (Sean Combs, Puffy). Hank's dad says "nigger" and "porch monkey," and Hank fires a shotgun at some black kids, so we know that the film is about breaking the cycle of bigotry. A few nice notes are struck, but too many coincidences motorize this melodrama; its morality is tinny and safe. Via their affair, Hank is cured of racism, and Leticia is cured of grief. She even gets a truck! "I thank we're gone be all right," Hank says at the end. I thank I'm gone puke. (Sean Nelson)
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? (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
David Lynch doing his usual contorted mystery.
* No Man's Land
Set during the Bosnian-Herzogovnian war, No Man's Land is a good-but-not-great movie with three statements. 1) War is mad! This point is Illustrated by reducing down the abstract idea of war to the strained interactions between a pair of opposing soldiers. 2) The press covering wars is sensationalist! 3) The UN is an ineffectual mess of bureaucracy! The film's comments on society grow thin at times, but all the holes are adequately filled with a putty of effective humor. Aw, heck, just go see it--it's good. (Aaron Beam)
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. Director Brad Beasley in attendance.
On Hostile Ground
A geologist tries to keep New Orleans from being sucked into the sea. Lots of New Orleans-style stereotypes run away with their boobies flopping around.
Watch Ron Jeremy prove that despite being able to get a lot of booty, he's a complete loser. See review this issue.
Queen of the Damned
At last! The sequel to Interview With the Vampire, starring the late Aaliyah, who actually isn't in the film very much, so don't get your hopes up. It always says something when the main character, in this case Tom Cruise as Lestat, will have nothing to do with the sequel, and in fact, the studio has to get a total no-name to do it. Yep. You're right, it says, "this film is no good." The plot is ridiculous, Lestat starts a rock band and wakes up the angry Queen of the vampires and the extreme MTV goth filming gets old. Kind of like MTV.
* Royal Tennenbaums
This movie is great, go see it. A family of geniuses reunite from their separate, 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)
Dumb, dumb, dumb, but kind of funny. The first film by the Broken Lizard troupe is bizarre, sophomoric, and well, stupid. But I think that's the point. A group of state patrol officers in Vermont are on the verge of losing their station, so they need to shape up or get shut down. But being as that they are cops, they just can't shake their crazy antics. My advice, wait until video. (M. Lon Free)
A Walk to Remember
A Walk to Remember is 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 after school special, and as family-oriented fare it makes the horrendous mistake of assuming the average 13-year-old is a complete dolt.
* The War of the Worlds
Based more on Orson Welles radio broadcast than the book by H.G. Wells, Martians (in really cool spaceships!) come down to incinerate California in this technicolor sci-fi gem from 1953.
We Were Soldiers
Scrawny little bastard Mel Gibson stars in this jingoistic turd of a Vietnam War film.