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(R; 93 min.) Cuba Gooding Jr. and Horatio Sanz play two dim straight guys who end up on a gay cruise. Imagine the many hilarious homosexual-panic jokes that will follow.
(PG) This movie about golf legend Bobby Jones stars Jim Caviezel, and the tagline is "His passion made him a legend." Get it? His passion made him a legend. It's official: those guys who do movie ads have no shame. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1955) "As told in Montmarte, this curious tale ..." Lots of films try to be existentialist, but this one is. It's the story of the knightly Bob Montagneplayed by the silver-haired Roger Duchesne. His decency is such that even the cops love him. He's a professional gambler who, after 20 years of the straight-and-narrow life, plots to heist the big casino at Deauville, Normandy. Unfortunately, when Bob's young protégé Paolo (Daniel Cachy) breaks the old film-noir rule "Never tell a dame anything," it seems that the grand old man is on his way to a life behind bars, or worse. Director Jean-Pierre Melville directs this extremely good-looking and influential heist picture as an excuse to tour the Place Pigalle, the Tenderloin of Paris. Few films have been so good at zeroing in on this particular night-town and its jazz clubs and clip joints (in one bar, the b-girls are so bored, they're reduced to dancing with one another). Though Bob le Flambeur has documentary-style locations, it's still a romance, thanks to some rich images, such as one vibrant show of a nightclub having the only lights on in the City of Lights. The cast includes Isabelle Corey as a fresh-faced, blasé girl named Anne, with an unstoppable ambition to become a harlot. As she lounges in bed, her boyfriend blurts out that he loves her. Anne replies coolly, "No one is forcing you to." Essential viewing for people who loved Croupier. (RvB)
(1992) Tim Robbins wrote, directed and stars in this mean and funny satire of politics and show business. His title character is an ultraright neoconservative millionaire who augments his campaign for public office with music videos. Gore Vidal plays his opponent, a liberal senator unable to crush the serpent's egg. The ending (with Giancarlo Esposito uncomfortably cast as a martyr) reeks of the soapbox a bit much, but most of Robbins' work shows him to be as great and innovative a director as he is a comic. (RvB)
(Both 1999) Cheng Wai-Yee plays a police detective raped on her wedding night who goes undercover to get revenge. BILLED WITH The HK Triad. Clarence Fok directs this story of two palsone a cop, one a gangsterand their rivalry over a girl. (RvB)
(PG; 115 min.) Bogus is a cinematic fairy tale, punctuated by slight-of-hand magic tricks, a storybook plot and an over-abundance of high and low angles. Haley Joel Osment plays Albert Franklin, a 7-year-old who has grown up around the circus, inspired by magic and illusion. When his mother dies, Albert is shipped off to angular, urban Newark to live with his all-business godmother, Harriet (Whoopi Goldberg). Albert's new life with the cold, unmaternal Harriet is a stark contrast to his former life with his mother and the fantastical circus. To cope with the changes, Albert creates Bogus (Gerard Depardieu), his French imaginary friend. Bogus' intentions and French accent are so endearing that he charms even the too-realistic Harriet, who learns to see the importance of imagination. The film is quick to distinguish the difference between the real and imaginary, though it avoids reality itself, fast-forwarding past the gory car crash that kills Albert's mother and even Albert's reaction to the death. Like every good fairy tale, the film has a sappy, happy ending, though Bogus does manage to make us realize that sometimes, what we believe is more important than what we see with our own eyes. (BY)
(R; 120 min.) (R; 120 min.) First-time writer/director Ben Younger pitches Boiler Room at the adrenaline pace of his New York day traders' cold calls. Before we realize we've been had, the film ends breathlessly. Queens College dropout Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) runs a casino in his apartment until an Armani-draped stock broker recruits him to solicit trades: not from a Wall Street brokerage house but from a Long Island office park. The brokerage firm puts profits before SEC protocols. Yes, Boiler Room is a streamlined Wall Streetthe young brokers memorize passages from the ponderous Oliver Stone film. Ben Affleck does a brief star turn as the firm's recruiter, who quotes Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. But the film overwhelms its lack of originality with Younger's wannabe gangster banter (Queens is the borough that introduced white-boy rappers House of Pain, after all) and rapid-fire editing. At its best, this film's tabloid moralizing echoes 1930s Warner Brothers gangster films. (DH)
(R; 118 min.) A quadriplegic forensics investigator (Denzel Washington) becomes intrigued by a series of gothic murders and sets his suicide plans aside. Nobody in the audience will be similarly affected. This nasty, tedious little titillation has no joys and few surprises, except in the identity of the killerwhich comes as a surprise only because director Phillip Noyce (Sliver, Patriot Games) doesn't bother providing any clues. If that old cinema huckster William Castle were promoting The Bone Collector, he'd be passing out paper bags afterward for people to wear over their heads in shame. (BC)
(R; 77 min.) Two buds (Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson of TV's In Living Color) discover that there's more to sex than bumping uglies when they try to get close to a pair of lookers (Vivica A. Fox and Tamala Jones). Foxx and Davidson paint with a broad brush, and the jokes are bawdy when they're not downright crude, but this decidedly unromantic comedy is usually witty and often quite funny. An extended exploration of the ins and outs of safe sex is particularly rich. (BC)
(R; 87 min.) This second film by the makers of Tales From the Crypt easily lives up to the TV series' penchant for raunchiness. But what else would you expect from a camp thriller about a brothel inhabited by vampire prostitutes? True to the series, the movie does not disappoint when it comes to both sex and gore, with a largely topless cast and free-flowing blood and guts. Probably what's most frightening about Bordello of Blood is that it's more or less entertaining, particularly thanks to Dennis Miller who stars as a two-bit detective hired by a fundamentalist (Erika Eleniak) to find her missing brother. Miller holds up the comic end of the movie with his usual smart-aleck quips. As the lost brother, Corey Feldmannow playing grownup versions of his previous snotty teen rolesproves once and for all that his career is as cold as the Rubenesque corpses prized by the film's resident necrophiliac mortician. (That bit of gore and sex is mercifully only hinted ateven this film has its limits.) (HZ)
(Both 1931) A boy-meets-girl story, featuring a pair of grifters: James Cagney (a bellboy with big plans) and that weary-eyed but easygoing Joan Blondell. BILLED WITH Taxi! Cagney stars as an independent cab driver fighting a big corrupt union. Loretta Young co-stars as the woman who tries to tame him. This modest, brief (a mere 68 minutes) domestic drama is a very sweet, touching slice of New York life, rendered without condescension toward the working-class characters. Young was never lovelier or more appealing. (RvB)
(1934) Born to Be Bad is often as good as its title, though it winds up as a pocket-sized version of Stella Dallas. Loretta Young, later a model of dull probity, is impressively tough as Letty, an unrepentant single mother ("Honor and decency? That's a lot of hash!" she sneers). Under her indulgence, her son is becoming a young hellion. One day, the boy is injured by the truck of the head of Amalgamated Dairies, Malcolm Trevor (Grant). Letty and her son conspire to soak the honorable, decent milk tycoon for all the money they can get. Director by Lowell Sherman, best known in the silent era for his cynical villain parts, Born to Be Bad is never ruthless enough to be a successful weeper. Despite its finger-wagging (in a pair of scenes with the tedious Henry Travers), it can easily be read backward as a sympathetic treatment of an amoral woman who makes her own rules. (RvB)
(PG; 83 min.) Generally excellent special effects are an important asset in The Borrowers, but they never outshine the human stars of this charming children's film, which was adapted from Mary Norton's popular series of books about tiny people who live under the floorboards of houses and borrow small odds and ends from humans to run their miniature households. The Clocks, a family of Borrowers residing beneath the Lenders' home, must face down full-sized adversary Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman), a vicious lawyer who plans to demolish the Lenders' house. Children will enjoy the Clocks' clever antics as they outwit Potter, but enjoyable performances all around and the film's whimsical, slightly modernized fairy-tale look give The Borrowers appeal enough for all ages. (HZ)
Two days of food, movies and music. Pop star Dino Merlin of the rock band Merlin, will make a personal appearance shortly before his show at the Edge on Oct 18. Also in attendance: director Ademir Kenovic, professor at the Cinema and Theater Academy of Sarajevo. On view this weekend is Kenovic's 1989 Kuduz, based on the story of a man known as "the last Bosnian outlaw," Junuz Keco. Also playing: Remake (2003), the debut film by Dino Mustafic, a three-part story of a Bosnian Moslem in Paris in 1993, the outbreak of World War II in Sarajevo, and Sarajevo's occupation in 1992. Mizra Idrizovic's The Scent of Quince (1982); Summer in Golden Valley (2003) by Srdan Vuletic; and Firestarter (2003), the first film by Pjer Zalicaa kind of comedy about the muddling preparations in a Bosnian town for a visit by President Clinton. A reception honoring these guests, with ethnic music, foods and exhibits, will be held at the Lucie Stern Community Center on Oct 19 at 7pm. Tickets for the reception are $10 and are available at the door. (RvB)
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(R; 95 min.) This dry comedy follows a crew of wannabe criminals on the road to a heistall hopeless suburbanites with only a vague idea of how such things are done: the self-mythologizing young loon Dignan (Owen C. Wilson); Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave) the wealthy but put-upon driver; and the hero, Anthony (Luke Wilson), fresh from a minor breakdown that has left him with a certain suggestible qualityhe generally does what he's told. After the job, the three lam it out to a remote motel with the police in cold pursuit. The appearance of James Caan in the last third gives the comedy a point. Caan satirizes the new-wave crime bossespecially Richard Bohringer's supercool criminal in Divain the same way that the Wilsons satirize gangsta boys. Caan provides a link to the equally shaggy-dog crime comedies of the 1970s like Slither, and director Wes Anderson, with his pauses, digressions and fits, shows that he has seen those movies, too (although he's given them a visual shuffling to keep younger people hooked.) It's hard not to like a movie with such cheerful aimlessness. Even the downbeat ending is strangely upbeatyou feel Anderson could follow the lives of the three scroungers for decades and still find something entertaining and hopeful to say about them. (RvB)
(1932; unrated; 81 min.) A very bourgeois French family finds its home life disrupted when they rescue a bum from the Seine. The libidinal new house guest (Michel Simon) brings a dose of the unrepressed to all the women in sight. Directed by Jean Renoir and remade (and relocated) as Down and Out in Beverly Hills. (MSG)
(PG-13; 106 min.) In creating the plot of Bounce, writer/director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) must have felt he'd wrought a yarn that would redden more eyes than conjunctivitis. Bounce tells of the redemption of rotten ad exec Buddy Amaral (Ben Affleck) who trades in his seat on a soon-to-be doomed plane with a stranger he meets at the airport bar. The plane crashes, taking the stranger, Greg (Tony Goldwyn), with it. Greg, an aspiring writer, is what's called in the Jewish religion a "kaporah"a sacrificial chicken that dies, taking your sins with it. I saw how bad Greg's radar is in dealing with Amaral (pronounced, no doubt, "amoral") ... and if he couldn't realize this bogus Buddy was scoffing at him, there wasn't much hope for his prose, anyway. Blame Roos' rudimentary directionthere is only one possible interpretation of every scenefor how little real malice these early airport scenes carry. It's a tragic thing when someone embarks on the Billy Wilder-style heel-drama without Wilder's sarcasm. After the crash, guilt sends Buddy into a Scotch-fueled bender, and then a nine-day spin-dry at a private desert clinic. Now with a newfound purpose, Buddy decides to meet the woman he, in a sense, widowed. And here enters the widow Abby played by Gwyneth Paltrowis "Gwyneth" the Welsh word for "sufferer?" The permanent lump in this woman's throat may need medical attention. The film would be over quick if Buddy told the truth about how he accidentally sent Greg to his death. There's many a misunderstandingand the materialization of a lost videotapebefore the finale, where our hero is screwed into telling the truth in court. Affleck is in the witness box and is told he's excused. "Am I? Excused?" he says, a bitter smile playing on his lips. He's been made to confess, but we know Amaral's redemption won't be complete until he's quit advertising, picked up his neglected desire to become a writer, and cranked out something like this repulsively sappy picture. Bounce is as visually monotonous as it is morally simplistic; the photography depicts L.A. as chilly as Winnipegmore shades of blue and gray than you'd see in a Civil War picture. (RvB)
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(R; 108 min.) 'Lesbian is very good right now," says Goldie Hawn in The First Wives Club. Maybe she had heard about Bound, a handsome, cool thriller by Larry and Andy Wachowski. Gina Gershon (Showgirls) plays Corky, a freelance handyperson with a leather jacket and untidy hair who falls for the kept woman, Violet (Jennifer Tilly), of a Mafia bagman. From Violet and Corky's first cruise in an elevator to Corky's trussing-up, the aura of decades of doomed lesbian popular romance fitslike a key in a lockthe familiar mood of film noir. Bound will be the first movie at which some members of the audience will truly forget the sexes of the lovers, since the archetypes have courses of their own strong enough to carry the story. The breathy-voiced little harlot Violet is the kind of trouble the protagonist can't keep out of despite better judgment, and the jail-hardened hero doesn't have to tell us that s/he won't be going back to the big house. The Wachowski brothers their heroine with her bloody smile, her labrys tattoo and her lock-pick earrings. Men made Bound, but the intention is more to thrill with a crime story than to titillate. Bound turns neatly on Ceasar's line when he discovers that Corky has stolen his money and his girl: "Your kind can't be trusted." There's the essence of the appeal of noirat least for a couple of hours, everyone, lesbian or straight, wants to feel like the kind who can't be trusted. (RvB)
(PG-13; 133 min.) This good basic spy film is highlighted by Franka Potente, who plays the adventurous girl who decides to go along with a male stranger currently being hunted by Europe's best assassins. Matt Damon is "Jason Bourne" (no relation to James Bond), an amnesiac who can only recall his own conditioned reflexes for survival. A filmmaker can't go wrong filling up the screen with Paris, and director Doug Liman gives up a four-star car chase through the city. Liman is addicted to flashy editing, but he also has a masterful sense of rhythms, as in the one love scene between Damon and Potente, which give the film intimacy. Damon's a stiff, as usual, but the spy-movie machinery brings him along. The Bourne Identity won't work for realism hounds, but it will please fans of swiftness and swashbuckling. Even the good bad old spy-movie dialogue keeps one grinning: "You have a black-ops agent who left the reservation!" Off the reservation is where you want themthose reserved Jack Ryan-style agents were getting to wear thin. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 108 min.) The amnesiac agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) heads from India to Berlin to Moscow to track down the agents trying to rub him out. Meanwhile, a CIA investigator (Joan Allen) tries to find out who the real culprit is. Could the villain be Brian Cox, who looks like all seven deadly sins wrapped into one man? Director Paul Greengrass previously directed a classic of neodocumentary Bloody Sunday; this sequel to The Bourne Identity has plenty of velocity, so much so that the action sequences seem to be played at double time. It's effectively realistica Lonely Planet spy vs. 007's Michelin Guide agent. Still, the movie is so whirly you wish they would hand out Dramamine at the box office. (RvB)
(PG-13; 97 min.) When small-time movie producer Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) comes across an adventure script with the hottest tagline since "Hasta la vista, baby," he scrapes a crew together by promising them they will work with action hero Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). And they dofilming on the sly, because Ramsey doesn't know he's in the movie. Martin (who wrote the screenplay) is particularly good at stitching wide patches of silliness together with clever and subtle threads of tragedy, and he's in top form here. Murphy is used to broader strokes, but he shows admirable self-restraint in his two support roles (he also plays a sweet-natured gofer who happens to look a lot like Ramsey). Martin's digs at the influence of Scientology on Hollywood, on the other hand, are more bitter than bitingsome things are just too vile to be made light of. (BC)
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(R; 107 min.) Director Tom DiCillo's contradictory feelings about the American heartland cause Box of Moonlight to vacillate between overly sweet magical realism and a rant about Crackpotus Americanus. Al Fountain (John Turturro) is an unlovable martinet. Circumstances force Fountain to stay in the country with a young guy named the Kid (Sam Rockwell), but what begins as happenstance ends with Fountain rediscovering spontaneity with the Kid and his quirky acquaintances. I agree with DiCillo's conclusion that lack of spontaneity is poison, but Box of Moonlight feels stuck in the middle of nowhere. The pleasures of a road-trip movie come from glancing at eccentric charactersnot staring at them for more than an hour. (RvB)
(PG-13; 89 min.) A band of boarding-school brats in rural Maryland find a woman (Winona Ryder, adorable as ever but she still can't act) lying in a field, having fallen from her horse. As she doesn't want a doctorshe must be in some kind of troubletop boy Baker (Lukas Haas) stows her in his room. She staggers around and lies to him, so he falls in love with her. He quits school and proposes marriage at the county fair; needless to say this startles her, but she quickly bounces back and they go off into the bushes to hump al fresco. Except for the modern cars, the movie looks and feels like it was meant to take place 20 years ago, and bears a suspicious resemblance to some preppy's high school creative writing project. Except for two harmless youngsters, everyone in this movie is a creep. Who are they, and why do they do what they do? These are mysteries, known only to writer/director Stacy Cochran. And she isn't telling. (BC)
(R; 86 min.) A ne'er-do-well son wreaks havoc with his family after returning home from a year in prison in this 1997 drama starring David Wenham and Toni Collette.
(PG-13; 86 min.) By subtraction, each new teen romance adds to my yearning for '80s John Hughes comedies. Not that Boys and Girls is an awful film; it's an improvement over Freddy Prinze Jr.'s heartstring-yanker earlier this year, Down to You. The oddball college friendship between a structural engineering geek (Prinze) and a free-spirited Latin major (Claire Forlani), like an Oldsmobile diesel, takes too long to warm up. Their roommates, the over-psychoanylized Amanda Detmer (Final Destination) and chronic lily-gilder Jason Biggs (American Pie), provide gentle comic relief. But the film is more talk than action, like an unbad relationship where a couple spend more time discussing and process their feelings than doing anything: it's more fun to do than it is to watch. (DH)
(R; 84 min.) A documentary that follows a quarter of inner-city boys sent from Baltimore to Kenya.
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(R; 107 min.) Director/writer Mark Herman's comic tragedy about downsizing in a British coal-mining town has the off-handed wit of an Ealing/Alec Guinness romp. Unfortunately, it slips in the finish, turning dead earnest. Pete Postlethwaite stars as Danny, the conductor of the local brass band. Danny's son, Phil (Stephen Tompkinson), has a broken trombone, a mess of children and bills, and a criminal record. The sudden appearance of the lovely Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) seems like some small consolation for the impending troubles. Her youth and beauty inspire the band to hang together during the negotiations over the fate of the mine. The parallel between the historic band and the historic way of life is strengthened through highly intelligent use of montage over the scenes of protest, election and the band hitting the road. (RvB)
Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace (Mel Gibson) leads the clans against English oppression early in the 14th century. Gibson's sophomore directorial effort is an epic in the grand Hollywood traditionhuge, violent and displaying a blithe disregard for inconvenient facts, the most obvious being that the death of King Edward I is hastened so Wallace can outlive him. The hamfisted Christ imagery is a cheap shot, and there are some unintentionally Monty Pythonish moments. But Gibson delivers major body-count, with battles so bloody that even the camera gets spattered with gore; Patrick McGoohan makes a particularly satisfying villain as Edward I; and David O'Hara squeezes every drop of juice out of his role as a mad Irishman. (BC)
(1985) Terry Gilliam's rich, inspired dystopic black comedy reflects, like most British punk rock, on the terrors of the late 1970s in England (though a happy samba by Xavier Cugat holds the film together). In a low-tech future dictatorship, the death of a bug changes the destiny of an insignificant clerk named Buttle (Jonathan Pryce, sort of the grandson of the dreamy mooncalves Alec Guinness used to play in the Ealing comedies). Pryce is mistaken for a notorious terrorist and pursued by the inept fury of the government; the real terrorist (Robert De Niro) appears for a moment and disappears like Batman while Buttle seeks the aid of a pretty passing motorist (Kim Griest). Michael Palin is memorableand accurateplaying the kind of man roped into being a government inquisitor. (As studies of the Nazis indicate, it doesn't take loads of sadism to be a torturer; it just takes loads of self-pity.) Perhaps a little heavy on the pessimism about the future, but probably not, as we shall see. (RvB)
(PG-13; 110 min.) Following his directorial debut, Shattered Glass, writer/director Billy Ray delivers an equally compelling piece of fictional journalism, blending real elements and storytelling with a rare finesse. In February 2001, a young FBI agent, Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe), is assigned as a glorified assistant for a gruff veteran Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). His contact (Laura Linney) gives him deliberately vague information, but he slowly warms up to the fact that Hanssen is actually the biggest spy in FBI history. Ray keeps the two intelligent adversaries at the same level so that neither can easily obtain an upper hand; neither one does anything dumb. The director also manages a shifty governmental atmosphere full of contradictions and juvenile behavior. Caroline Dhavernas and Dennis Haysbert co-star. (JMA)
(R; 96 min.) In the middle of the desert, a suburban couple (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan) accidentally lock horns with a homicidal gang of hick kidnappers (led by J.T. Walsh). The mutual distrust between city slicker and resentful rube is as ancient as agriculture, but this reworking of the old story by new director Jonathan Mostow (who also co-scripted) is a hoot. There are no subplots, no postmodern angst, no yuppie whiningjust a souped-up, stripped-down action-thriller featuring guns, trucks and heaping handfuls of suspense. (BC)
(1961) Beloved film about an outpost of scroungers in Manhattan during the Kennedy era. Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, your jet-age courtesan, elfin enough to eclipse the more troubling memories of the film: Mickey Rooney done up as Japanese and George Peppard in the Truman Capote part, heterosexualized and bland as mayonnaise. (RvB)
(1961/1963) Sort of a double bill of Henry Mancini, isn't it? Blake Edwards and Stanley Donen got the best out of the master film composer. The song "Moon River" sums up Breakfast at Tiffany's, a film about an outpost of scroungers in Manhattan during the Kennedy era, when (wrote John Cheever) there was a Benny Goodman quartet playing on the radio of every stationery store and the city was filled with river light. Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, your jet-age courtesan, elfin enough to eclipse the more troubling memories of the film: Mickey Rooney done up as a Japanese and George Peppard, bland as mayonnaise itself. BILLED WITH Charade, featuring a great theme song for a spun-sugar film. Hepburn, a recent widow, finds herself besieged by homicidal creeps in search of a certain mystery. It is a rich entertainment with deluxe European locations and the constant surprise of seeing Cary Grant making the pairing of a 20ish girl and a 60ish man look like grace instead of, like, gross. (It worked well only one other time I can remember: Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer in the neglected The Russia House.) Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy co-star. (RvB)
(1961/1967) Like the cat she carries on her shoulders, the jet-age courtesan Holly Golightly seeks shelter without work, and love without responsibility. The song "Moon River" sums up Breakfast at Tiffany's, a film about an outpost of scroungers in Manhattan during the Kennedy era. As Golightly, Audrey Hepburn is elfin enough to eclipse the more troubling memories of the film: Mickey Rooney done up as a Japanese and George Peppard, bland as mayonnaise itself. BILLED WITH Two for the Road. Something more on the sour-sweet side, and pretty much Stanley Donen's reaction to Antonioni's dramas of marital tension. A married couple, on their annual road trip through Europe are seen during the course of the years, back and forth in time during the course of their marriage; Albert Finney is the often-gruff husband, Audrey Hepburn plays the sweet and long-suffering wife; Eleanor Bron (from Donen's Bedazzled) plays a dumb Yankee. (RvB)
(1985) Five students at an affluent suburban Chicago high school endure weekend detention. They include Molly Ringwald as the alpha-female, a jock (Emilio Estevez), alterna-boy Judd Nelson, a geek (Anthony Michael Hall) and the odd girl (Ally Sheedy). The fantasy is, basically, of a high school where the students of all different cliques learn to bond together against their common enemy, the school administration. That fantasy must be what's kept this film alive, along with the soundtrack of on-the-nose 1980s hits. But doesn't this once-lauded teen movie sum up the Reagan years? Banding together, the five realize that big government (the school administration) is preventing them from realizing their essential need to conform to each other. The unforgivable scene of Sheedy's make-over forecast director John Hughes' future as a creator of spineless movies (the Home Alone trilogy, Baby's Day Out). (RvB)
(R; 110 min.) Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Nick Nolte and Barbara Hershey star in a movie inspired by a Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novel.
(PG-13; 85 min.) Any Given Sunday and Ali are the only movies Jamie Foxx have been in that deserved him. This movie, in which he plays a guy who publishes a breakup book, is not likely to change that. (Capsule preview by SP)
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(R; 159 min.) In Lars Von Trier's (Zentropa) newest film, a malignant fate awaits two existential lovers. Bess (Emily Watson) inhabits a tiny, remote Scottish town that has taken religious guilt to a parodistic extreme. When she marries Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), an off-shore oil worker, martial love is a discovery that makes her nearly half mad. After an accident, the paralyzed Jan demands that Bess tryst with other men. Despite her nausea at the idea, she complies, eventually sacrificing herself, because she has agape (love of God) and eros (love of sex) irretrievably confused. In summary, Breaking the Waves sounds repellent, but Watson is a raw and convincing performer, and the film isn't meant as an erotic tale. (RvB)
(PG-13, 106 min.) What looks like a raucous frat-boy comedy is really a surprisingly canny depiction of a stagnant relationship. Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) won't say what she wants, while Gary (Vince Vaughn) does exactly as he pleases, and together they own a valuable Chicago condo. The clever director Peyton Reed (Down With Love) sustains a string of remarkable conversations, arguments and desperate ploys, while upsetting the expected rom-com formula. The humor instead seeps from the many crafty character roles; Judy Davis, Vincent D'Onofrio and Jon Favreau really shine, but Aniston and Vaughn break into entirely new territory. The movie could have used more build-up and a stronger female presence, but it's a brave, subversive look at the ugly, needy side of Hollywood romance. Vaughn co-wrote the story and produced. (JMA)
(1960) A movie-loving car thief (Jean-Paul Belmondo) picks up an calculatingly indifferent American girl (Jean Seberg) and heads off on the lam until he's dealt with by the police. In this simple framework, Jean-Luc Godard created one of the breakthrough films of the French New Wave, a loose, witty pastiche of the American gangster movies he'd been soaking up like blotter paper. In playing all the tropes back, Godard added aphorisms, wit and protest of the terminally hidebound society he lived in. Breathless is only a crime story in the sense that Candide is only a story about gardening. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 111 min.) The famed Aishwarya Rai stars in an adaptation of one of the most-filmed of English novels. The newest film by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) shifts the scene to India. This Bollywood/Hollywood musical follows Lalita (Rai), the eldest of a quartet of daughters under heavy parental pressure to marry. The somewhat exasperating girl meets the somewhat condescending Will Darcy (Martin Henderson)and keeps remeeting him. Meanwhile, a charming but untrustworthy barrister named Wickham (Daniel Gillies) fascinates Lalita. The rhapsodic international quality is the best thing about Bride & Prejudice, from Darcy and Lalita dining with mariachis in Los Angeles to the riot of color on the polychrome city streets in India in dance sequences choreographed by Saroj Khan. (Click here for a full-length interview with Chadha.) (RvB)
(R; 95 min.) You know the drill. The soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray inhabits a talking doll voiced by Brad Dourif; though mangled, the doll is revived with a copy of Voodoo for Dummies, this time by an ex-girlfriend, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), looking for a commitment. Sometimes actors are liberated by being transformed into animated characters or puppetsas Robin Williams was in Aladdinbut that isn't the case for the baby-voiced Tilly, who is much less interesting in doll version. Dourif pushes his old character along like a trooper. The cast of dull victims just get in the way, especially the sub-Tori Spelling Katherine Heigl. Even the sympathetic gay male character, David (Gordon Michael Woolvett), ends up as so much hamburger. Director Ronny Yu mishandles the romance of the two evil toys, making them passionate lovers one minute and squabbling insult comedians the next. Clips from Bride of Frankensteinshow this up for the schlock it is. (RvB)
(1935/1934) Bride of Frankenstein is a masterpiece of wild and innovative horror, sometimes serio-comic, sometimes gorgeously strange. Our hero, the fugitive monster (the uncanny Boris Karloff) becomes the pawn in a psychological game between the reluctant Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his former mentor (Ernest Thesiger). There's not so much homosexual subtext here as supertext. The flamboyant Thesiger, luring the mad doctor away from his marriage bed back to the subterranean practices he renounced, seems to anticipate the temptations facing the ex-gay ministers of today. Does this movie's title refer to Dr. Frankenstein's neglected bride, Elizabeth, or to the unforgettable female creature, played by Elsa Lanchester? BILLED WITH The Black Cat. Karloff stars as an Aleister Crowley surrogate who has built a profane temple on a WWI battleground; Bela Lugosi plays a husband on a mission of revenge. It's as lean65 minutesas it is serious. Director Edgar Ulmer shapes this payback story as a bizarre and fantastic threnody, with the music of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony evoking the pity of the Great War. (RvB)
(Unrated; 111 min.) When last working from a Ruth Rendell novel, French New Wave veteran Claude Chabrol came up with one of his best films, La Ceremonie (1995). Now he has done so again with The Bridesmaid, a brilliantly crafty and surprisingly sexy suspense/murder tale. Chabrol takes his time, cleverly setting up all his minor story threads and characters, including hardworking, handsome Philippe (Benoît Magimel), his two sisters and his beloved, slightly dotty single mother (Aurore Clément). Eventually, these threads come together as Philippe meets the alluring yet peculiar bridesmaid Senta (Laura Smet) at his sister's wedding. Chabrol can sometimes ignore plot details in favor of his trademark creeping dread, but this time the entire package comes together with a satisfying snap. In French with English subtitles. (JMA)
Clint Eastwood strays from his usual tough-guy role to play Robert Kincaid, a photographer on assignment to shoot the bridges of Madison County, Iowa. Kincaid meets housewife Francesca (Meryl Streep) and immediately sparks start to fly. Within four days their impassioned attraction develops into a rare love. Once one gets past Eastwood's sappy lines, one can stop grimacing and enjoy the film. Rather than jumping from scene to scene, The Bridges of Madison County takes a different approach to film production, lingering through each scene, drawing the audience into the couple's intense love affair and their anguish over the reality that they must live without each other. (CB)
(R; 105 min.) Meant to be the story of what happens after happily ever after, this sequel picks up four weeks after the ending of the first film, as Bridget and Mark discover reality bites (not the film, although I'm confident they would rent it). Renée Zellweger got a lot of publicity again for putting on the pounds a la Raging Bull, but what no one admits is that when you look at how great she is as Bridget, as opposed to how her acting sucks when she's too skinny, you can only conclude that hunger is the No. 1 threat to her career. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1945) Brief Encounter is a rather devastatingly underplayed tearjerker about a housewife (Celia Johnson) who falls for a doctor (Trevor Howard). The film is based on Noel Coward's play Still Life. David Lean's direction, with use of authentically glum railway stations and cafes, paved the way for the kitchen-sink films in Englandeven though the spirit of the story was old-fashioned even then (and filmmakers since have gone nuts trying to retrieve it). (RvB)
(1934/1938) Shirley Temple's breakout film, in which she plays a singing orphan. We're under continuous siege from talented children these days, from the inescapable Dakota Fanning to Raquel Castro, currently humanizing Ben Affleckcan it be done? Should it be done? But none has that particular deathless appeal of Shirley Temple against which the gods rage in vain. BILLED WITH Everybody Sing. Scenes from the class struggle on Broadway: a family of stage legends (Reginald Owen, Billie Burke) are shocked to discover their servants (Allan Jones, Fanny Brice) are planning to put on a musical revue with the connivance of the stage legends' daughter, Judy Garland. (RvB)
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(R; 106 min.) London between World Wars I and II: An expatriate novelist named Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) has returned from Paris bearing his lost-generation novel, impenetrably disguised under the pen name "Sue de Nimes." British customs confiscates the manuscript as pornography. Now Symes is unemployed and in debt to the blustering publisher of the Daily Excess, Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd), the Rupert Murdoch of his day. The press baron's current gossip columnist, "Mr. Chatterbox," is about to crack under the strain of all those parties. Adam can never seem to get the money together to marry Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer), the girl he loves. When the mantle of Chatterbox descends on Symes' shoulders, his already desperate life turns surreal. Under pressure, he does what many a journalist has done: makes stuff up. Considering director Stephen Fry's inexpert camera style during the party scenes, Bright Young Things is a fine and funny adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, with superb help by Peter O'Toole, playing his most decrepit aristocrat yet. (RvB)
(PG-13; 105 min.) The uncomfortable coupling of a black street-talking convict and a white stick-up-the-ass tax attorney makes for much hilarity. The movie doesn't start rolling until Queen Latifah enters a few minutes in. And ultimately, despite Steve Martin's top billing, it's Latifah's perfect comic timingand the fabulous Eugene Levy, who plays "some kind of freak"that makes this charming bubble-gum slapstick movie rock. At times during the preview, the audience, whom the press check-in lady referred to as "the beasts," laughed so loudly it was easy to miss gag-trailing lines. Highlights include Martin's dance scene and Latifah's altercation with an over-Tae-Bo'd white woman. While Martin's character isn't as fresh as it was on Saturday Night Live or in The Jerk or All of Me, it's still a laugh riot with Latifah to mix it up. (AG)
(1938) Howard Hawks' screwball about a harried paleontologist (Cary Grant) and the sweet but desperately addled heiress (Katharine Hepburn) who has a bone to pick with him. (RvB)
(PG-13; 110 min.) In the enjoyably catty cheerleading satire Bring It On, director Peyton Reed (HBO's much-missed Mr. Show) and Spin hip-hop reporter-turned-screenwriter Jessica Bendinger pull off the tricky feat of making a high school movie that's exuberant without being corny, biting without turning unpleasant and smug. Kirsten Dunst, who's maturing into a skilled comic actress, plays the optimistic but in-over-her-head new captain of a championship-winning football cheerleading squad at an affluent San Diego high school. When she discovers the squad's previous captain stole their current moves from a rival inner-city squad from Compton, Dunst must come up with a new routine in time for the national championships, with the unlikely help of a cynical, rebellious transfer student (Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Eliza Dushku) who reluctantly joined the squad because of her gymnastic skills but slowly develops a fondness for cheering. Bring It On doesn't quite approach the satirical heights reached by Election and Rushmore, but Bendinger adds some amusing twists to her screenplayfor instance, everyone goes to the games to see the cheerleaders, not the underachieving teamand she has an ear for witty dialogue, as in the film's funniest sequence, in which Upright Citizens Brigade member Ian Roberts nearly steals the movie as a pushy, pretentious, Bob Fosse-like choreographer who browbeats Dunst and her squad ("Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded!"). Even the romance is full of novel touches. In a great wordless moment, Dunst and punk-rocker love interest Jesse Bradford flirt with each other while brushing their teeth. This must be the first movie to have its romantic leads bond while spitting toothpaste in the sink. (JA)
(Unrated; 111 min.) A documentary about the history of New York theater.
(Both 1929) All talking! All singing! All dancing! The Broadway Melodywinner of the Best Picture Oscar for 1929tells of a sister act (Anita Page, Bessie Love) broken up by a songwriter (Charles King). MGM's first all-talking picture has another technological innovation that makes it a landmark in musical history: When Irving Thalberg was worried about how dead the big "Wedding of the Painted Doll" number looked, sound technician Douglas Shearer invented post-syncing on the spot, thus giving the musical its kinetic quality ever since. BILLED WITH Hollywood Car Cultureue of 1929. Seventeen songs, skits and squibs featuring Buster Keaton, Lionel Barrymore, Marion Davies, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford. The best scene in this grab bag is Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards debuting the tune "Singin' in the Rain." It's excerpted in the opening scene of That's Entertainment as an example of the primitive musical, but there's nothing primitive about Ukelele Ike. The Vintage Recordings of Cliff Edwards (Take Two Records) is one of my desert island disks. That man rocks! If you can't get misted up over "(I'm Crying 'Cause I Know I'm) Losing You," you must be one of those heartless wonders they keep in formaldehyde in a bell jar at the science lab. OK, Edwards ended up as a trembling alky serving time on the Mickey Mouse Club, but see if you can snap the strings like he does on "That's My Weakness Now" (the highlight of Rhino Records Legends of Ukulele compilation). (RvB)
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(R; 118 min.) The second American film (after Hard Target) by the great Hong Kong action director John Woo is a competent but underwhelming entry in the "loony terrorist vs. harried hero on (check one) plane, train, bus or ship" genre. The stunts are explosive, the stakes high (two purloined nuclear missiles), and the body count higher, but nothing in this battle royal between a renegade bomber pilot (John Travolta) and his earnest co-pilot (Christian Slater) would convince a neophyte moviegoer that Woo is one of cinema's great choreographers of mass mayhem. Working on a relatively small canvasTravolta and his crew arrayed against Slater and his reluctant helpmate, a park ranger (Samantha Mathis)Woo sacrifices the stuntmen-of-thousands set pieces that make The Killer and Hard Boiled so breathtaking. Travolta, relishing the villain's freedom to steal scenes, enlivens matters considerably when he's on screen. Too bad that his every quip has been overexposed in the massive publicity campaign. On the plus side: Four, count 'em four, helicopters go up (or is that "down"?) in flamesblowed up real good. You won't see that in Bed of Roses. (MSG)
(1950/1939) In Arizona territory, Civil War vet James Stewart becomes caught between the lines when he marries an Apache (Debra Paget). Jeff Chandler co-stars as Cochise, and while it's easy to deride Caucasians playing Indians, Delmer Daves' film was a breakthrough in presenting Indians as wronged by the Westerners. "Though the picture never won any Academy Awards or brotherhood awards, it has probably done more to soften the hearts of racists than most movies designed to instruct, indict and inspire. ... Part of the pleasure of the film is that its treatment of the Indians-vs.-settlers theme doesn't violate the conventions of the genre."Pauline Kael. BILLED WITH Another Thin Man. The sleuths (Myrna Loy, William Powell) have a baby (William Anthony Poulsen); and the trio, along with Asta, look for a murderer. The cast includes C. Aubrey Smith, Otto Kruger, and Marjorie Main. (RvB)
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(NC-17; 90 min.) In Gregor Nicholas' debut film, Nina (Aleksandra Vujcic), a Croatian girl with New Zealand citizenship, falls for a Maori named Eddie (Julian Arahanga), which angers her very old-fashioned father, Ivan (Rade Serbedzija). Nina figures that the fastest way out is by marrying a Chinese immigrant for money. Eddie accepts the situation and moves in with the unconsummating newlyweds. Antipodeal Erskine Caldwell, in short: sordid, engrossing, but light and with a mostly happy ending. If he leans toward sketch humor, Nicholas at least has enough honor to make sure that Ivan's rigidity doesn't crack. This is a blessing, because the conclusion doesn't patronize Ivan's character. (RvB)
(R; 104 min.) These are the same guys who did Super Troopers, one of the most perfect cult movies so far this century. Super Troopers didn't catch on until it hit video, but the Broken Lizard crew is undoubtedly hoping to ride the momentum from that stoner classic into a more successful theatrical run for this horror-themed comedy. (Capsule preview by SP)
(R; 114 min.) You can take the Yakuza out of Japan, but you can't change the man's true heart. Yamamoto (Beat Takeshi) flees his Tokyo home and sets up shop with his younger brother and his small-town pusher friends in Los Angeles, building a little gangland of his own. Takeshi's charmingly twitchy, inscrutable face fronts a brutal criminal mindhe holds no bars in building a small empire of unlikely gangsters, including Omar Epps and Susumu Terajima, unbeatable until they come up against those brutal Italians. Carefully shot, if erratically plotted, this is the kind of gangster movie that you don't see very often, amply brutal but still intelligent. (DB)
(G; 85 min.). High technical quality but indifferent storytelling sum up Brother Bear. Upon reaching manhood, a native Canadian named Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) is given a bear token by the female shaman of his tribe, Tanana (Joan Copeland), the wise woman. The token animal represents "love" and is shaped like a bear. When Kenai's brother is slain by a bear, he kills the animal and is punished by the spirits by being turned into a bear. In his new form, Kenai is guided by a talkative orphan bear cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez, much more entertaining as the nephew on The Bernie Mac Show). Koda teaches Kenai the lore of the bear, leading him to a frolic of male bears in a salmon stream, while a couple of female bears, apparently there just for purposes of procreation, stand off by themselves. Some comic relief is provided by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, re-creating their deathless characters, those icons of Canadian nationalism, Bob and Doug McKenzie; their jokes aren't much, but it is grand to have them back even in the form of a pair of cartoon moose. Calmer heads than mine have debated Brother Bear's soundtrack at philcollinsmustdiehorribly.com; one lyric, "There's no way out of this dark place," may refer to the theater. The full-length cartoon is pocked with the usual array of buddy songs, apology songs and sharing songs, as well as lines like "A woman's virtue is patience, a man's virtue is courage." Not only does this casual sexism describe the lack of women characters in the movie, but it also describes the kind of virtue needed if one takes the kids to see it. (RvB)
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(R; 127 min.) This German film about a musical genius named Elias Johannes Alder (André Eisermann) is, in many ways, a typical portrait of the artist as a tortured wretch. The style, however, is something else. Intense surrealism bumps against the cruel details of 19th-century village life; the plot twists are accentuated by almost-comic dialogue. Although Alder enjoys a brief period of musical renown, Brother of Sleep makes it clear that this prodigy is fated to suffer fear and prejudice. Director Joseph Vilsmaier's (Stalingrad) majestic wide-screen images evince a cosmic irony: The hills are alive with the sound and fury of predestination. (RN)
(R; 106 min.) Gary Hardwick's The Brothers turns the tables on Terry McMillan's man-bashing/man-yearning tales about black women looking for a little respect and a little lovin', taking a look at the sex and commitment dance from a male point of view. It follows four friendsan unhappy husband, a commitment-phobe, a sucker for love, and a bitter bacheloras they deal with women, family, and each other. Bill Bellamy, Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley and Shemar Moore play their parts to near perfection, and the lines inspire some truly doubled-over laughter. If you have a high tolerance for flashes of melodrama and schmaltz, check it out. (DG)
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(R; 97 min.) The McMullens are three Irish-American Catholic New York suburban brothers. Jack (Jack Mulcahy), the eldest, is very married and is under pressure to produce a child. During this reproductive crisis, he is luredno, pulledinto an affair. Middle brother Barry (director Edward Burns) is having troubles too. He is facing possible marriage with his girlfriend, who is urgingno, pulling againhim to go to work for her dad. Needlessly to say, with examples like Jack and Barry around, youngest Patrick (Mike McGlone) doesn't trust women. The film may be meant only as a character study and not an issues movie, but the lead characters have precious few inflections, and the women even fewer. It's wan, from the heart. (RvB)
(PG; 108 min.) Magic Johnson was the executive producer for this harmless date movie about a pair of best friends who grew up with hip-hop music. Reporter and writer Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) is working on a book about her love affair with old-school hip-hop while simultaneously editing XXL magazine. Her childhood friend (and the only man in the world for her) Dre (Taye Diggs) is chafing at a record company that has sold out for gimmicks. A blind child in the audience could tell that they're meant for each other. So, naturally, in the most ancient and deadly traditions of the romantic comedy, they both have to get involved with unsuitable people first. Dre marries Reese (Nicole Ari Parker), a lawyer. Sidney starts dating a too-nice basketball player (Boris Kodjoe)and the movie drags while we wait for these two predestined lovers to get together, already. This way-too-long film is livened by a running gag about a pair of terrible modern MCs who call themselves Ren and Ten, the Dalmatians of Hip-Hop (they wear spotted dog-skin coats representing black and white together, man; in the studio they collaborate on a Puffy Combs-style remake of "The Girl Is Mine" titled "The Ho Is Mine"). Interestingly, for a film that celebrates hip-hop, the street-level roots of the music are represented by the supporting cast, not the leads: Mos Def, whose cool, wily humor steals this show, and the queenly Queen Latifah as Sidney's chum. Though this film talks (a lot) about how hip-hop isn't what it was, the way the people live here is pretty far removed from the kind of conditions Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five described on "The Message." (RvB)
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In 1979, a totally bizarre film called Phantasm offered audiences what can only be called a hallucinogenic vision of what a low-budget horror flick could be. Still one of the weirdest scary movies to ever be a mainstream hit (earning its $300,000 budget back 40 times over), it made a name for 25-year-old writer-director Don Coscarelli and became a cult favorite. In the time since, Coscarelli has made almost nothing but Phantasm sequelsexcept for this. In Bubba Ho-tep, which is every bit as weird as Phantasm despite being less a horror film and more a twisted character study, Bruce Campbell plays a 70-year-old Elvis Presley, stuck in a rest home because his attempt to escape his fame by switching places with an Elvis impersonator went horribly, horribly wrong. Through circumstances I can't even begin to go into here, he and an African American man who thinks he's JFK (played by Ossie Davis) wind up battling an Egyptian mummy. It wasn't the underground hit it was expected to be when it was released in 2002at least partly because the preview led audiences to expect it was going to be an action-packed Evil Dead-type film with Elvis and a mummy in place of Ash and the Deadites. Which it ain't. Whether a following of true believers can appreciate what it actually isa deeply flawed but surprisingly sincere horror think piece about aging, death and, of course, undeathremains to be seen. (SP)
(PG-13) A comedy/romance about a young man (Jake Gyllenhaal) with a severely impaired immune system who travels cross-country to stop the love of his life from marrying another.
(PG; 83 min.) Buddy is based on the true story of Gertrude "Trudy" Lintz (Rene Russo), an eccentric 1930s socialite with an amazing affinity for animals. In addition to raising prize-winning horses and dogs, Trudy acquires a gorilla named Buddy from the zoo when he is just a baby and, along with her pediatrician husband (Robbie Coltrane), saves the animal from dying of pneumonia. The film chronicles Buddy's struggle between his natural brute strength and Trudy's attempt to "civilize" him. Animal-rights issues aside, the clash between animal instinct and human progress proves comicaland frightening, especially for small children and jumpy adults. In the end, Trudy's anthropomorphic approach fails; Buddy refuses to obediently scrub the kitchen floor or sit in his chair like a gentleman. But Trudy's intentions are sincere, and the film is honest in its portrayal of her strange practice. (BY)
(R) Joaquin Phoenix plays an updated version of Milo Minderbinder, skimming from the supply depot at a U.S. military base in Germany in the late '80s. Scott Glenn plays a sergeant who interferes with the big scam. Also stars Anna Paquin, Ed Harris and Dean Stockwell.
(R; 102 min.) Filmmaker William Friedkin once again ventures close to the horror that made The Exorcist a huge hit, but Bug is an entirely different experience. Agnes (Ashley Judd) lives a sad, solitary life in a remote motel when she meets Peter (Michael Shannon), a former soldier with sinister secrets. Peter begins to see bugs burrowing under his skin, and Agnes believes him. Friedkin's films are usually rooted in heavy research and a dose of reality, but Bug is deliberately evasive, talking in the rattling, inconclusive language of conspiracies and paranoia, neither proving nor disproving anything. It is a crazy, intense creepster of a movie, masterfully directed in great sinking movements. Harry Connick Jr. and Lynn Collins co-star. Tracy Letts adapted his own Off-Broadway play. (JMA)
(G) This computer-animated feature from the makers of Toy Story has the misfortune of coming out right on the heels of a superficially similar Antz. But it has the fortune of being a much better film. Antz was more straight political allegory, a story of ants acting like humansand because they acted like people, the ants didn't really act like ants. The bug agendas in A Bug's Life are more idiosyncratic and crawly. John Lasseter and his team at Pixar worked from images of nature, and the Northern California models of blackberry brambles, bluffs and oaks would delight anyone who loves living here. The story is simple, a bug version of The Seven Samurai. Gadget-loving ant Flik (voiced by David Foley, late of The Kids in the Hall) is trying to help the colony with its most severe problem. The ants are forced to gather food to pay tribute to a vicious gang of grasshoppers that look something like John Tenniel's illustrations of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwock. (Their leader, Hopper, who has a clouded eye like a monocle, is voiced by Kevin Spacey.) Looking for mercenary warriors, Flik mistakenly gathers the performers at an unsuccessful flea circus. These include a porky, babyish caterpillar, a friendly black widow, an iridescent beetle and a grave, orotund praying mantis (voiced, delightfully, by Jonathan Harris of TV's Lost in Space). Blessedly, A Bug's Life is free of those horrible show tunes that are the blight of the animated movie. The action sequences are stunners. One especially is an instant classic: a bug's-eye view of a very pretty, very hungry goldfinch. You'll never want to turn your back on a bird again. (RvB)
(R; 95 min.) "I'm falling in love with you all over again," says Adam Sandler's Archie Moses to Damon Wayans' Rock Keats, and this honest declaration is the one rare moment in which the romance between the two heroes is allowed to speak its name. When Wayans and Sandler go in for the obligatory titty-bar scene, they spend less time looking at the dancers than they do at each other. This romantic comedy is about two, uh, friends, one a criminal (Sandler), the other an undercover cop. When a misunderstanding leaves the former arrested and the latter shot, the, uh, friendship, between the two leads is strained. The cop must escort his prisoner back to LA, where corrupt police and burned drug dealers are waiting to shoot him. A long lover's quarrel it is, too, interrupted by one uninspired, boring action sequence after another, with the innuendo flying around like hot lead. Moses sings "I Honestly Love You" and tells Keats, "I'd hug you if I didn't have handcuffs on." Moses really suffers for his love, getting screwed with a gun barrel and chained to a toilet before he's forgiven and the two are reunited in Mexico under the gaze of Sandler's mom. Not even a clinch, after all of the teasing. (RvB)
(PG-13; 104 min.) Chow Yun-Fat tutors Seann William Scott in the ancient martial arts necessary to protect a mysterious scroll. Also stars Jaime King and Karel Roden.
(1956) In Phoenix, Ariz., cowboy Don Murray falls for a barely talented small-town chanteuse named Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), who dreams of arriving at Hollywood and Vine. (RvB)
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(Unrated; 88 min.) When is this cycle of serial-killer romances going to end? Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia, The Doom Generation, Frisk and now Butterfly Kiss. That good old cracker-barrel notion"Serial killers aren't sick; society is sick"has been underscored dozens of times on screen, and the idea is now about as transgressive as jaywalking. We're in North England this time. Amanda Plummer plays Eunice ("Eu" = "You"get it?), a grubby thrill killer who picks up Miriam (Saskia Reeves) at the gas station where she works. Miriam is lured by the wacky way Eunice hoses herself down with gasoline from the pump. Eunice knows her Old Testament and is searching for a mysterious "Judith" (the Biblical decapitator); the two of them motor around in a stolen car that has 666 on the license plates. I don't know about you, but when I see those three digits together on screen, I kneel on that sticky theater floor and pray to my Jesus. We know where this deadly journey is headed, because the director thoughtfully provides us with black-and-white interview footage of Miriam in custody. Thus even such rudimentary suspense as might be built by their fate is unhinged. (RvB)
(1963) It's based on the furor that erupted when Elvis went into the army. This sometimes flat but always engaging musical concerns the drafting of teen-idol Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson)the joke's taken from the name of popular rockabilly star Conway Twitty. Birdie's songwriter (Dick Van Dyke) fears the cancellation of his meal ticket, as well as his chance to make enough money to escape his domineering mom (Maureen Stapleton). What most people remember is the title and finale number by Kim (Ann-Margret), Birdie's No. 1 fan, taking girl power to school as she wriggles through the title song. (RvB)