This is one of those movies that shows the lives of its characters intersecting in the most brief and coincidental ways, à la Short Cuts. We have Matthew McConaughey as a hotshot lawyer, Clea DuVall as a housecleaner, John Turturro as a physics teacher, etc., and all of them employ different philosophies on life and fate. (Most of them are existentialists, however, because their lives suck shit.) For the first half of the film, everyone runs around contemplating the hands they've been dealt, and the script verges on sophomoric, but very endearing. Then, Alan Arkin shows up in the middle of the movie and kicks ass all over it. He plays a divorced middle manager for an insurance company, whose son is a junkie, and his view on of fate is accordingly grim. But Alan Arkin is a great actor; he saves the film from its fate as yet another "arty," low-budge, postmodern interpretation of existentialism. Instead, 13 Conversations is charming and even sweet in its cynicism. (Julianne Shepherd)
* 26th Annual Young People's Film & Video Festival
Film, video, animation, and dramas; all by kids in grades K-12! This sort of thing is always a hoot, and probably better than half the films showing at Regal Cinemas. When the princess is shrunken by an evil wizard, Sinbad must infiltrate a monster island to find a cure and prevent a war.
Amadeus: Director's Cut
Milos Forman's classic returns, with 20 extra minutes and digital sound. Some say the added bits constitute "too many notes," but those people are dicks.
At the end of the 20th century, meteorites obsessed our cinematic nightmares (see Deep Impact, Armageddon). At the start of the 21st century, these "extinction level" meteorites have been replaced by nuclear bombs. But the nukes that spook our age are not the organized arsenal of the Cold War (Dr. Strangelove to War Games), but small, user-friendly gadgets that can fit comfortably into a laptop case. Also, these nuclear bombs are not managed by big governments, but bought and sold on the open market, like used cars. This is the interesting part of Bad Company: it magnifies the most popular nightmare of the day. Outside of that, the film offers nothing but deep boredom. (Charles Mudede)
* Bay of Angels
Reasons to like old movies: everyone looks sexier in black and white, the cars and clothes are a constant source of envy, they're not jacked up with all kinds of gadgety special effects that are cool, but make movie making seem like an increasingly computerized product. Common complaints: boring, bad acting, trite plotlines, lack of believability. Bay Of Angels starts out as nondescript and dry. Unengaging. Some crap about gambling. Then Jeanne Moreau shows up and you are absolutely enraptured. The rest of the movie exists to showcase her character, a high-stakes roulette addict who lives in four star hotels one day and has to scrounge for change to buy booze the next. She makes you want to start smoking again and believe that she was born with blow-dried hair and false eyelashes that never come off or get bent. The plot is not, in fact, very complicated, but it's slow and cool, following the ups and downs of winning and losing vast fortunes, living religiously by the whims of fate. Then they ran out of tape or something, because the film ends humorously and melodramatically abruptly. (Marjorie Skinner )
Beau Von Hinklywinkle Presents Short Films
In alliance with the Portland Zine Symposium, local art guy Beau Von Hinklywinkle shows films by Kenneth Anger, Jan Svankmajer, Iggy Scam, Bill Daniels, and, hold onto your shorts my friends, vintage chimpanzee films. It's a wet dream come true, at least for Wm. Steven Humphrey.
A Jewish student struggles to understand Judaism. Hmmnn.
The Bourne Identity
Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne, or does he? The audience is in doubt because as the film opens, Bourne is being fished out of the ocean, stricken with the creakiest of Hollywood cliches--AMNESIA. He's then dropped in Switzerland, where he discovers a security box filled with fake passports, a pantsload of money, and a gun. As he stares at it, he wonders, "What is all this stuff and who am I?" Well, you could be a secret agent, you dumbshit! Bourne then hooks up with the requisite hot 'n' sexy accomplice (Franka Potente from Run Lola Run), and leads the CIA on a merry, cliché-ridden car chase through Paris. (By the way, if you ever direct a movie? Never shoot a car chase in Paris. Those Matchbox cars they drive look ridiculous.) Anyway, blah-blah-blah, Bourne and accomplice fall in love, blah-blah-blah, Bourne gets his memory back, and blah-blah-blah, you leave the theater with an ass that's half-asleep. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
BURNING MAN-THE BURNING SENSATION
As if it wasn't enough that they go to the desert to spill their seeds and dance naked, must the hippies bring their cultural irrelevance within the confines of our fair city? Isn't it enough that we ALLOW them to host the County Fair every year? Like watching a stranger's home movies (in a patchoulie-stanked room), this is a movie made for the enjoyment and self-glorification of the people starring in the movie. Billed as a documentary but essentially a puff-puff propaganda piece from the Hippie Chamber of Commerce, the Burning Sensation lacks the essential documentary quality of questioning its subjects or showing any signs of intelligence. I'd rather suffer a burning case of gonorrhea than sit through the 75 minutes of hippie kumbaya. (Phil Busse)
* Cinema Paradiso
If Fellini were to have directed Disney movies, we would have had this decades earlier. Director Giuseppe Tomatore spins his own cleaned up and emotionally skin-deep autobiography about life in post-WW II Italy. An endearing young boy constantly bothers a dottering old movie house projectionist until the elderly man relents and shows the young imp the trick of the trade. Director's cut. Silver Screen Club members only.
The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course
Steve Irwin has somehow managed to volley his agonizing nature show into what promises to be an equally excruciating action-adventure film. The premise goes something like this: Steve wrestles a croc ("crikey!"), Steve involves himself in a wacky mix-up ("crikey!"), Steve is bitten by things ("crikey!"), Steve creates hilarity ("crikey!"), Steve gets a pink slip ("crikey!"), Steve receives an eviction notice ("crikey!").
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
How do you make a movie that mixes comic book animation with film, but still allows Jodie Foster to play a terrifying nun? Start by adapting a script from a novel about a '70s Catholic school, where boys read a whole lot of comic books. Add Todd MacFarlane (of "Spawn" fame) to handle the cartoon end. Finally, choose a title that will attract tons of crowds who expect to see ravenous priests working their magic. Serve chilled.
DIY Or Die: How to Survive as an Independent Artist
Michael Dean's documentary examines the indie impulse in a series of interviews with the stolid likes of Ian MacKaye, Lydia Lunch, Mike Watt, Jim Rose, Ron Asheton (Stooges), Dave Brockie (GWAR), all of whom have made a point of doing their art their own way, and many of whom have prospered.
The Emperor's New Clothes
It's 1828 and Napoleon's in trouble! He's got to get off the island of St. Helena! He escapes by trading places with a lookalike deckhand on a ship bound for France. But the ship may not make it. What's worse, everyone thinks the lookalike is the real emperor, and the lookalike digs it! Our hero is forced to carry on with the knowledge that an imposter is lying in his bed and wearing his little costumes.
A bunch of British math geniuses, whose sole purpose was to crack German code, spent the war sitting in a London mansion (Bletchley Park) and deciphering Shark, the most sophisticated type of cipher, sent from U boats. Rife with intrigue, Bletchley Park is the natural setting for the film Enigma. Dougray Scott plays Tom Jericho, the man who cracked Shark and subsequently had a nervous breakdown. Of course, his nervous breakdown isn't due to the pressure of having to save thousands of lives just by stringing numbers together--no, Jericho has a nervous breakdown because he got dumped by the woman he loved. (Julianne Shepherd)
Masako life is fucked up, and her happiness a slippery commodity. Her past encounters with men have been defined by rape, humiliation, and extortion. When her emotional dam finally breaks, in a fit of rage, she murders her sister and flees to a tiny town. Sound like a tired old Biblical storyline of guilt and redemption? Actually, with patient storytelling and surprising turns, this new Japanese film manages to breathe fresh air into an old plot. Winner of the Japanese Academy Award for Best Director.
Oh those crazy goonies. Always setting up booby traps, making out in wishing wells, discovering lost treasure, saving lives, making friends... at least we can dream of a world so magical. Actually, maybe if we get drunk enough we can visit one. Oh, and you really shouldn't miss this screening because Arts Editrix Julianne Shepherd will be tap dancing to that Cyndi Lauper song beforehand. Ha ha ha. What a goonie-wannabe.
Hang on a second... this is ANOTHER Halloween film? That makes five. Jamie Lee Curtis is in it, too, along with Busta Rhymes. The last one (Halloween H20-get it, 'cause 20 years?) was garbage, as were numbers two and three. So, the fact that this one deals with reality TV bodes what? Ill!
A cartoon movie about a cartoon TV show. It's about time, too! I'm guessing Arnold is a nerd who outsmarts some greedy capitalists.
I Went to the Ball
An exploration of the intermingled histories of French Cajun music and Zydeco. Performances by Queen Ida, Marc and Anne Savoy, etc.
Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a hotshot homicide cop from L.A. who travels to a small town in Alaska to help solve the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl. However, as it turns out, the real reason for his arrival is to escape a murky internal investigation back in Los Angeles. When Dormer's partner is accidentally killed while chasing after the murderer, Dormer is then drawn into an unholy alliance with the suspect (Robin Williams), who has developed a convincing scheme that will make both of their problems go away. Insomnia plays like a pot-boiling page-turner you can't put down, and this is largely due to the talents of director Christopher Nolan (Memento). When Dormer's character develops insomnia (due to Alaska's perpetual daylight, as well as his own guilt), Nolan uses the surrealistic side effects of the condition to fuel the cinematography; the atmosphere is constantly charged with the feeling of claustrophobia and dread. Meanwhile, the script wisely reveals its many secrets slowly, keeping the audience on seat's edge while pulling them easily from scene to scene. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* 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)
I just had a dream the other night that I was in the ocean and Jaws was trying to eat my debit card. I think it was more about poor money management than fear of sharks.
I dunno. Juwanna punchinthenose? But seriously folks.... This is a movie about a black man who gets thrown out of the NBA for his bad attitude and whose humbling comeuppance is playing with girls.
* Kissing Jessica Stein
With the dumb title and no name actors, you wouldn't think this would be a good film, but it is. Sex-fiend Helen places ad in the paper because she wants to try getting her lesbian freak on, and uptight girl Jessica is so taken by the ad that she decides to give it a chance. The gals end up trying it out together for a while, and Jessica overcomes a lot of issues, including, whether she's gay or not. The peripheral characters are hysterical, and the relationship between Jessica and Helen makes you question how easy it would be to go gay or to be gay without realizing it or to be unhappy without seeing the solution. (Katie Shimer)
Zaza is a 31-year-old man, getting his doctorate in philosophy. His parents keep hounding him to get married and set up multiple meetings with young virgins--keeping with their tradition. Zaza, however, is in love with a Moroccan woman with a daughter, and keeping his parents at bay is a continual struggle.
The good news: Crispin Glover is in the film, playing the Fagin-like head of a "group home" for racially diverse orphans; this means the filmmakers aren't completely callous morons. The bad news: the movie, which concerns a kid who climbs up on power lines to retrieve some magic Nikes that make him a pro basketball star, is every bit as mediocre and irresponsible as the trailer suggests. It's insulting to kids, indefensible to parents, and abominable to everyone else. At one point fairly early on, I stopped taking notes on the film and just started noting the corporate logos I saw on screen. Here's the list: Nike, Krispy Kreme, Staples, Gatorade, AT&T, TNT, NBC, Jansport, Minute Maid, Coke, Sprite, Sheraton, Crystal Geyser, Mars, Spalding, ESPN, Sharp, Rite Aid, Vicks, USA Today, Washington Mutual, Phat Farm, Scrabble, Yahoo, Independence Day (the movie). I may have missed a few... (Sean Nelson)
Lilo & Stitch
An animated film about a Hawaiian girl who adopts a dog who falls to earth near her island home (and who is really an alien genetic experiment). She embraces her new pet and teaches him "ohana"--the "Hawaiian concept of family." Good thing the dog wasn't a white tourist...
* Master of the Flying Guillotine
In Master of the Flying Guillotine (1974), the One Armed Boxer (OAB) returns to battle an opponent who refuses to have his beans refried. While Flying Guillotine may look like just another old blind coot, in actuality, he's a high-kickin' get-up-and-go grampa who has a flying hat he uses to chop off his enemy's heads! So after receiving news that two of his disciples have been done in by OAB, he gets madder than a poodle in a pigpen and storms off to get revenge. See review this issue.
Men in Black II
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith revisit their lucrative schtick (Jones' is being gravelly and severe; Smith's is ripping off everything Eddie Murphy ever did) in this multi-platform, fully cross-promotionalized sequel.
A charming, spunky, and fun Japanese film about a young woman who falls into the fast lane of Tokyo bike messengers after tumbling from her well-heeled job as a press agent.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise team up for this well-made futuristic thriller, based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, and featuring several special effects that are identical to ones used in Attack of the Clones. Report works best when Tom Cruise is actually running--he's a future crimes cop being set up to commit murder--and when the maddeningly glorious Samantha Morton is actually freaking out. Complex in good ways, simple in others, the film marks Spielberg's second attempt at allegorical Kubrick paean (check the allusions to Clockwork Orange) that ends with a cop-out. Still, a worthy effort, and much more intriguing than most sci-fi.
Adam Sandler is always cute and his gross physical humor is funny, but Mr. Deeds is bad. A cliche plot and a crappy remake to boot, Sandler seems to be doing it for the dough. John Turturro, however, is awesome and sort of makes up for the overall crappiness of the film, but then Winona goes and fucks it up by being the worst actress ever. Expect nothing and you might be slightly pleased, but don't expect any Billy Madison or (one of the best movies of all time, especially under the influence of marijuana) Happy Gilmore. Those days are gone. (Katie Shimer)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A frumpy diamond in the rough (Nia Vardalos) goes against the wishes of her lovingly oppressive family and falls for a hunky WASP (John Corbett, coasting on his Sex & The City vibe) in this intermittently amusing Grecian yarn. The refreshingly unconventional Vardalos adapted from her one-woman play, and the best material springs from her sporadic narration, goofing gently on such eccentricities as her dad's Windex fetish and the many permutations of cousins named Nick. Unfortunately, her presence and a sharp supporting cast (including the ever-prickly Andrea Martin) can't wholly mitigate the myriad of memorexed gags, well-trod life lessons, and director Joel Zwick's flat, sitcomish presentation. There's precious little here that hasn't been seen a gazillion times before, but Vardalos' earthy charisma and a few stray bits of off-kilter wit make for an amiable saunter into the matrimonial breech. N'Syncher Joey Fatone cameos as a bearded guy. (Andrew Wright)
* The Powerpuff Girls
This movie sets out to explain the suspicious circumstances by which Professor X (the Puff Daddy) came to give room and board to three female preschoolers for whom he carries not so much as a birth certificate or a even a receipt--somewhat unsettling in these times of high-profile kidnapped white girls.
Reign of Fire
Probably the nerdiest movie ever known to mankind, about flying monsters who live in futuristic London. See review this issue.
An extreme sports, rock climbing video, right before your very eyes. Experience the danger, extreme sports movie nerds!!!!
* Road to Perdition
Tom Hanks is a hit man with a heart... of stone. After his family gets slaughtered, Hanks and his one surviving son alight on a murder spree. Also starring Paul Newman and Jude Law. See review this issue.
Dennis Quaid's hopes of being a major league baseball player were dashed by shoulder injuries and now, he's a high school baseball coach. After the heal up of his final shoulder surgery, however, he realizes he can pitch better than ever before. He makes a bargain with his team that if they'll try and win the next two games, he'll try out for the majors again. Yipee!
* Royal Tenenbaums
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)
The story is that the Mystery Inc. gang has been reunited and recruited to investigate Spooky Island, a Halloween/Mardi-Gras theme park that's inhabited by demons who steal people's souls. They're commissioned by Rowan Atkinson, who poses as a concerned proprietor but is actually evil instead. He and his demons need a completely pure soul to sacrifice for some voodoo thing, so they lured the kids there to abduct Scooby. There's a midget and a Mexican lucha libre wrestler who go around assaulting the gang. Then everybody's at a beach party, and Fred and Daphne have this sexual undercurrent, Shaggy and Scooby have a fart contest, and Velma gets drunk with some dude. It's not even non-sequitur in a funny way. It's cheap and desperate. There's no place for demonic repossession and Busta Rhymes in a Hanna-Barbera production. It's a goddamned shame is what it is. (Meg Van Huygen)
Can't afford the million dollar price tag to ride the Russian's MIR Space Station? Finally, IMAX used for worthwhile purposes: Feel like you're floating in outer space! An IMAX documentary about the in-orbit assembly of the International Space Station. See rocket launches, pans of the universe, and zero-gravity astronaut shower scenes in 3-D (nothing sags in zero-gravity!). Narrated by (not gay) Tom Cruise. Replete with retro-pop soundtrack and goofy astronaut jokes. (Anna Simon)
Though Spider-Man boasts tons of computer-generated action, in actuality, this is a teen romance about dealing with adult feelings and responsibilities. And while I generally despise Kirsten Dunst, the sparks literally fly off the screen whenever she and Tobey are together. Sure, this flick has all the trappings of a kid's comic: sappy dialogue, over-the-top action, and a scenery chewing performance by Dafoe--but it's fun, it's innocent, and it works. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
This is a cartoon about horses, which means that, like many animated features, there seems to be a perverted undercurrent just below the surface. This one is manifested in the scary horsey-speak neighing sounds the protagonists make when speaking to each other. The first scene, in which the title stallion is born, is particularly rife with scary, provocative horsey noises. It goes on like this, following a traditional mythological cycle of events, but there is one special added dose of amusement: The soundtrack is all Bryan Adams all the time, who makes no attempt to conform to the historical setting of the film--the Wild West--and proceeds with his usual soft-rocking dramatics. You don't need to see this if you don't have kids. (Marjorie Skinner)
Star Wars: Episode II
Anakin Skywalker (Future Darth Vader and present Jedi-in-training) and teacher Obi-Wan, are embroiled in a Blade pRunner-style mystery to find out who's trying to snuff the Nabooian princess, Padmè Amidala. When Obi-Wan flies off to investigate, Anakin starts showing off his boner to Padmè in an effort to kindle the romance hinted at in Episode I. While the hot and horny teens are mooning over each other, Obi-Wan discovers a political conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the Republic--that's where the army of clones comes in. And while there are the occasional fun moments in this film, the problem comes down to a lack of interesting characters (i.e. Luke, Hans, Chewbacca). But as it stands now, Lucas' script has all the emotional underpinning of a Dick & Jane primer, and doesn't have a prayer of being rescued by Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, and especially that wholly untalented hunk-of-beef, Hayden Christensen (Anakin). As usual, Lucas has built a glorious façade of a mansion--but there's no way I'd wanna live in it. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
The Sum of all Fears
Despite all appearances, there are two good things about the new Tom Clancy movie with Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan. One is a bold plot twist that comes so suddenly that it reconfigures the whole experience in an instant, and almost tricks you into thinking the film is better than it is. The other good thing, almost a great thing, is the casting of Liev Scrheiber in the role of John Clark, CIA spook, and all-around spy genius. Clark is the grease in the gears, the genius-hero who speaks a dozen languages and can garrote a guard while hacking into a mainframe without ever being seen or heard. Schreiber came to Seattle to discuss his role, saying that his research revealed that most CIA guys are language students who get rooked into service, but whose real ambitions lie behind desks. Asked how he felt about representing this big Hollywood action picture to the press, Schreiber said, "Well, I like it. I think they did a good job. But I have to confess that the real reason has more to do with my belief that the real story lies with Clark. I think there's a lot more to that character that could-and might-be explored in a sequel. So, yes... I may have ulterior motives." (Sean Nelson)
A Thing of Wonder
Local documentary makers (remember their short film on Lucky Buster?) train their unblinking camera eye on an 84-year old magician, inventor, and dreamer. Like spending an evening with a very energetic and imaginative grandfather, the film balances sensations of awe and woe for the old man as he offers his tricks, opinions, and treaties on reality. Shown with Drowning Boy, an animated adaptation of Zak Margolis' comic strip about an aquaphobic young man working through his post-graduate woes.
Standard WW2 flag-flying and derring-do, blessed with a master's touch. Nicolas Cage uncorks his patented undead intensity as a combat-shocked life entrusted to a young Navajo codemaster (Smoke Signals' Adam Beach, bringing a few welcome burrs to the usual shaman/saint portrayal) with extreme prejudice. Explosions of all shapes and sizes follow. Director John Woo blows up the desert and lops off heads as well as you'd expect, but, as always, his greatest interest and success lies in the shifting relationships of heavily armed men under extreme pressure. (He still can't deal with females, however, as an achingly dopey subplot proves.) Windtalkers is irritatingly formulaic at worst and unerringly schematic at best, but Woo's guileless sincerity propels it above the rah-rah norm again and again. What other living director could pull off a soldier with a harmonica? (Andrew Wright)
* Y Tu Mamá También
As two Mexican teenagers frantically fuck, the boy, Tenoch (Diego Luna), pleads/demands that the girl not screw any Italians on her impending European trip with her best friend. Meanwhile, that best friend is having rushed pre-departure sex with her boyfriend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is also Tenoch's best friend. When the girls have left, we settle down to watch these two boys spend an aimless summer. Everything gets thrown sideways when they meet a sexy older woman (that is to say, in her 20s) named Luisa. Y Tu Mamà También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones--even the title comes from a tossed-off bit of banter. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope. (Bret Fetzer)