Suffering from a breakup, Josh Hartnett vows to remain celibate for 40 days, but during that time discovers the love of his life and, is therefore unable to bone her. And that's the complete plot. However, there are a few surprises along the way. For example, all the women in the movie are shameless sluts, who wear extremely short skirts and fishnet hose to work, and have nothing on their minds except demonstrating their power over men via screwing. That's fairly surprising (unless of course, you're a misogynist pig). It's also surprising that, in an attempt to seduce Josh, Shannyn Sossamon bites her lower lip 27 more times than Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. Equally surprising is the utter joy the characters exhibit while shaking their fists in that extremely clever way of denoting masturbation. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
In 17th Century West Africa, King Adanggaman wages war against neighboring tribes, killing the elderly and selling men into slavery. Ossei escapes and joins forces with warrior Naka in an effort to save his mother.
All About the Benjamins
Here's what Ice Cube said about being "all about the Benjamins" in 1991's "A Bird In the Hand," from the album Death Certificate: "Do I have to sell me a whole lot of crack/for decent shelter, and clothes on my back?/Or should I just wait for help from Bush/or Jessie Jackson, and Operation Push/If you ask me the whole thing needs a douche/a massengill/what the hell/the cracker sell/in the neighborhood." This entire song is a brilliant weave of comedy and socio-economic drama (even in a single gesture he can do this, with an additional pop-art spin: in one line he raps, "Welcome to MacDonald's, can I take your order please?"). This film won't be quite the same, but that's okay, because Ice Cube is always fun to watch. Mike Epps co-stars. (Brian Goedde)
* Beijing Bicycle
Damn, Chinese people are really, really into their bikes. Beijing Bicycle opens with soft-spoken Guei, who has landed a job in the city as a bike courier, a plum position that comes with a tricked-out bicycle. The deal is that once he earns 600 yuan, the bike's his. Just before the payment is complete, though, the bike gets lifted; Guei is crestfallen and vows to find it. Jian, meanwhile, is a schoolboy who longs for a bike to prove his suave to his posse, so he buys Guei's bike at a flea market and suddenly, ladies love cool Jian. But while ritually combing the city, Guei happens across Jian and the bike, and the two boys spend the next hour violently stealing it back and forth. (Meg Van Huygen)
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.
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)
Kids tape their lives for a week and pass the video camera to someone else. See how messy their rooms are. See review this issue.
* City of lost children
A hyper-color visual treasure about a scientist who kidnaps children to steal their dreams.
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. What makes Collateral Damage truly weird is watching Arnold Schwarzenegger grow sick of the bloodlust which used to make him whole. It also makes the film worth seeing.
* 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.
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 "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)
Fellini juxtaposes the time of his arrival in Rome, during the reign of Mussolini, against the city in modern times (that being, 1972).
Film Noir Educationals
Three films exposing the depression and dysfunction behind the feigned optimism of the Post WWII era. The Long Way Home shows a depressed latchkey kid and a mother who ignores him. Ulcer at Work is about a man who can't handle stress because of too much coddling from his mother, and Assembly Line is a haunting depiction of the loneliness of a factory worker when he spends a night on the town.
It wasn't until the court martial scene that I realized how stupid this otherwise attractive, thoroughly modernist WWII flick. 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)
* 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' ex-husband 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 "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 )
The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. The story, flips back and forth between past and present, evidently mimicking the erratic thread that memory becomes in the hands of the disease. Watching it is not without its comforts; it's exactly the kind of thing I love to stumble across on Sunday nights on public television. What turns this film into something more suited to the small screen is relentless sentimentalization and lack of ambition, in a story about an ambitious woman without a sentimental bone in her body. (Emily Hall)
* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences--coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (Bret Fetzer)
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)
Kandahar tells the story of Nafas, a female Afghan expatriate, now living in Canada and working as a journalist. Her sister is still trapped in the title city, maimed by a land mine and unable to tolerate the subhuman conditions for women, which are enforced under Taliban rule. When the sister writes of her intention to commit suicide, Nafas decides to return to Kandahar and intervene. The beauty of this film is confusing, even sinister, because of the implicit suffering that it generates, but painfully worth seeing. (Sean Nelson)
* 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)
Felons and soccer. Oh my. See Review this issue.
* Monsoon Wedding
India modernizes while the tradition of arranged marriage hangs on. 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 and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry), 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. 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)
Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish in the creepy tale of a deranged preacher who latches onto a lonely widow and her two children, in order to discover the whereabouts of her late husband's ill-gotten fortune.
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 innefectual mess of bureaucracy! The film's comments on society grows 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. (Karen Green)
This 1985 film stars Jennifer Connelly as a girl with the strange ability to communicate with insects. When she goes off to a Swiss boarding school, a string of murders take place, and her sixth sense might help them get solved.
An unfocused documentary of Ron Jeremy that tells us about his good and bad traits, instead of showing us. Footage of '80s porn is intriguing however, as are the idiotic cast of interviewees (including Ron himself). (Katie Shimer)
An assasin takes on orphaned Natalie Portman (when she was just beginning to give men boners), protecting her from deliciously despicable Gary Oldman.
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 Queen of the vampires, and the extreme MTV goth filming gets old. Kind of like on MTV.
* 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)
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)
The Time Machine
An inventor tries to change the past with time travel, but instead is hurtled into the future. See review this issue.
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. (Bradley Steinbacher)
We Were Soldiers
Scrawny little bastard Mel Gibson stars in this jingoistic turd of a Vietnam War film about 400 American soldiers in an elite combat divison who get blasted to bits by the Viet Cong. They try and save themselves and each other, their heroism is unparalleled, blah blah blah.
* What time is it there
This Taiwanese film tells the story of Hsiao-kang, whose father has just passed away. Hsiao-kang sells watches and has to pee in plastic bags and bottles so as not to disturb his father's soul by using the toilet. His mother is a devout Buddhist whose obsession with the preparations for her husband's reincarnation fragment into a neurotic psychosis. Shiang-chyi is a young woman on her way to Paris, who briefly interacts with Hsiao-kang when she buys the watch off his wrist. This leads to an amusing obsession in which Hsiao-kang compulsively rearranges the time on any clocks he sees to Parisian time. These three characters reach a climactic unity in a moment of sexual synchronicity that has Hsiao-kang banging a hooker in his car, mommy getting all dressed up and boozy to jack off at home, and Shiang-chyi making a tentative lesbian connection. (Marjorie Skinner)