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(PG; 114 min.) It's truly the rare high school where the seniors feel threatened by the freshmen. Yet that's the strange premise of this third movie about the intrepid juvenile hockey team. Now enrolled on athletic scholarships at an exclusive private high school, the Ducks must suffer the replacement of their beloved Coach Bombay (Emilio Estevez) with a bitter, tough-love coach (Jeffrey Nordling) and face the wrath of the Varsity hockey team, which strikes up an inexplicably hateful rivalry with its new jayvee counterparts. The overblown antagonism of the varsity squad and of the school's stuffy alumni association is the most annoying thing about D3, although a smug Estevez vies for that title. Despite his top billing, Estevez saunters in only at the last minute to save the daywhich actually may improve the film. Laden with clichés as it is, as a second sequel, D3 could have turned out a lot worse. Nevertheless, enough is enough, otherwise someday our grown children may be taking us to see D50: The Mighty Ducks Retire to Florida and Take Up Golf. (HZ)
(PG; 92 min.) Eddie Murphy learns the joys of child rearing in a new comedy with Jeff Garlin and Anjelica Huston.
(1997) The first feature film about homosexuality from sub-Saharan Africa, this film, directed by Mohamed Camara, explores gay life in modern Guinea. In French and Mandikan with English subtitles. Part of College Nine's New African Cinema series.
(Unrated; 104 minutes) Sandra Bernhard is such a witch that casting her as a witch is a redundancy. Bernhard plays Dallas Adair, a noted golf pro who comesto an affluent Australian town to rid the country-club types of theirinhibitions. The devilish androgyne is a homewrecker who proceeds toundo everyone in a repressed Australian family, even the family dog, before the balance is set right in the end. Dallas' special target is Rosalind (Victoria Longley), a timid hausfrau who, in the film's bestscene, is challenged by Dallas to a game of strip miniature golf while Doris Day sings "Move Over, Darling" on the soundtrack. Rosalind is herself a worm you yearn to see turning, but Dallas is a tentative vamp, dampened down and even hesitant. Director/writer Ann Turner takes a weirdly nationalistic turn, finding symbolic value in naming Bernard's character after the most squalid city in America and having a marching band play "Yankee Doodle" while developers despoil the countryside. It's narrow-mindedness in the midst of a broad-minded movie. Dallas Doll is more than just flawed, but Turner's sensibility is interesting; her next picture will be one to watch despite the tentativeness and awkwardness displayed here. (RvB)
(1934) Dames takes another look at the endless problems of financing a musical when the people with money are beefwits who need to be coddled along. Key among these obstructionists is the lecherous plutocrat Guy Kibbee, but the purse strings are also controlled by a pair of old prunes: Santa Cruz's ZaSu Pitts and Hugh Herbert (the latter is a prohibitionist half-crocked on "Dr. Silver's Golden Elixir," 40-proof patent medicine). While Blondell's number "The Girl at the Ironing Board" is a prime bit of pre-Lucille Ball comedy, Dames is mainly memorable for the debut of the song "I Only Have Eyes for You," sung by Dick Powell to little Ruby Keeler aboard the Staten Island Ferry as a jigsaw puzzle of her face is assembled by the chorus. (RvB)
(Both 1937) Fred Astaire plays a hoofer newly arrived in London, trying to make time with an English lady (Joan Fontaine, who tries to keep up with Astaire on the dance floor). Some more typically exhilarating moments are supplied by Burns and Allen, who join Astaire in a fun-house number. Gershwin tunes include "A Foggy Day in London Town" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It." BILLED WITH Shall We Dance. A ballet dancer (Astaire) romances a vaudevillian (Rogers), with a few hitches thrown in by the bedeviled staff writers at RKO. All an excuse for the numbers by the Gershwin Brothers: "They All Laughed," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." (Plays Dec 15-16 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)
(98 min) This is the most astonishing dance film in years. Director Matthew Diamond, an ex-dancer himself, profiles the Paul Taylor Company as it rehearses a performance choreographed to Astor Piazzolla's music. The company's work was interrupted by a trip to India, where the troupe participated in the country's 50th anniversary of independence. Diamond follows the day-to-day struggles of the dancers' grueling rehearsals for low pay (apparently, the dancers' per diem in India is $26). Job security is nonexistent, injury is common and there are always hordes of aspiring dancers ready to take the place of dropouts. (The company's finances have been calamitous for decades; it receives little government funding.) Taylor brings to modern dance the aesthetics of modern art. After leaving his former partner, Martha Graham, early in his career, in 1957, Taylor even staged a completely motionless danceas if in response to composer John Cage's four-minutes-of-silence statement. Dancemaker shows us the remarkable range of Taylor's work, from the delicacy of "Aureole" to the frenetic, violent "Last Look." The mordantly humorous "Cloven Kingdom" features a quartet of male dancers clad in white-tie and tailmonkey-suited for Taylor's barrel-of-monkeys scrambling. The illusion of dance is reflected in Taylor's character: this ice-blooded, maddingly blasé choreographer grew up in a Southern foster home. His work shows effervescence and the exhaltation of the human form; the cost of it is physical stress that grinds down and occasionally cripples the performers. (RvB)
(PG; 126 min.) At an absurdly long two hours and six minutes, Dance With Me is a tepid entry into an already flaccid genre: the dance-contest romance. The gorgeous Vanessa L. Williams stars as Ruby, a former Latin dance champion whose career has declined since she broke up with her cruel, arrogant partner, Julian (Rick Valenzuela). Sultry pretty-boy costar Chayanne, a big music star in Latin America, plays Rafael, a sweet, charismatic Cuban who moves to Texas and takes a job as a handyman at the dance studio where Ruby works. Ruby's uptight American reserve is soon melted away by Rafael's spicy Latin flavain this film, Cuba is a land where carefree sensualists spend their nights salsa-ing in the streets. Though Rafael's never taken a dance lesson in his life, he soon proves to be Ruby's equal, because, as he says, "I'm Cuban! Of course I can dance!" What's worse than the thin, clichéd plot is the mediocre quality of much of the dancing. During the climactic competition scene, we're meant to believe that Williams' stiff, plodding cha-cha beats out the electrifying moves of her competitors. We're also subjected to dance routines by nearly every member of the supporting cast, including an excruciating interpretive ballet by that woman who plays Ally McBeal's annoying secretary. (MG)
(R; 111 min.) This one shouldn't have happened to a doge. In Braveheart, Catherine McCormack wrung more tears out of the Scots than Robert Burns ever did; now, strangely cast in Dangerous Beauty as the courtesan Veronica Franco, she oversees a peculiar mixed bunch of British and American actors (including Fred Ward!) playing 16th-century Venetians. Based on Margaret Rosenthal's The Honest Courtesan, the story follows Franco's training at the hands of her mother (Jacqueline Bisset) and her triumphant career as Canaltown's greatest prostitute. But her heart is set on the man she cannot have, Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell); Veronica's spurned lover (Oliver Platt, steadily worsening) turns into a local Savonarola, siccing the Inquisition on her. Sewell was last seen as Seth, the glowering rural stud in Cold Comfort Farm who was spirited away to Hollywood by the producer Mr. Neck. It's perhaps coincidental, but Dangerous Beauty looks exactly like a movie Mr. Neck would produce. McCormack is weirdly perky instead of mysterious and alluring, and the lines she's given by first-time screenwriter Jeannine Dominy include much bad verse and a scene in which Veronica deep-throats a banana to show the wives of Venice how it's done. Despite the elegant settings, Dangerous Beauty is as coarse as highway salt. It is another film that begins with the sentence "This is a true story" that should have continued "but we added a lot of hooey to it." (RvB)
(R; 92 min.) Ice Cube plays Vusi, a South African exile returning to his homeland to bury his father. The postapartheid country has gone to pot, literally, and Vusi learns that his brother, Steven (Eric Miyeni), is a basehead on the lam from a soccer-obsessed drug dealer (Ving Rhames). Vusi hooks up with a strung-out exotic dancer (Elizabeth Hurley) to help. I don't know what's more implausible: Ice Cube's Cali-accented South African, Hurley's impersonation of a stripper/addict, the tour through futuristic South African clubs with headbangers and hip-hoppers or just the sight of Cube giving Hurley the "okey doke" 90 percent of the time. Choose from a wide selection of only-in-Hollywood inconsistencies wrapped around a thin social statement of self-destruction, and you begin to see how Dangerous Ground is laid out. Vusi's final words reads the audience's mind, "Let's get the fuck outta here." (TSI)
(Rated R; 94 min.) Based on a book by LouAnne Johnson about her experiences teaching "at risk" students, Dangerous Minds manages a solid attempt at surpassing Hollywood's traditional "triumph of the teacher's will" tales designed to give you the warm fuzzies about the failings of our school system. Of course, that element is not absent from the film, thanks to a few reassuring cliches that balance out the discomfort of having to think about teens in crisis. How can we fail to notice that the sun shines more brightly into Johnson's classroom as her pupils begin to slowly "see the light" (a phrase that gets liberally mentioned in case you miss the clue). However, a gifted young cast convincingly portrays the strength and determination of Johnson's pupils and shifts the focus of a film about inner-city educational blight to where it seldom reachesthe students themselves. Although she's sometimes upstaged by her charges, Michelle Pfeiffer as Johnson gives a performance that believably captures the teacher's moments of weakness as well as the proud successes that she shares with her students. (HZ)
(PG-13; 99 min.) Dan in Real Life is an odd title for a movie that hasn't the slightest concept of real life. Clueless newspaper columnist and widower Dan (Steve Carell) heads with his three daughters for a big family weekend in a small fishing town. At a bookshop, he meets and falls for Marie (Juliette Binoche), only to discover that she's dating his brother (the one-note Dane Cook). Dan begins behaving badly, although his self-centered hijinks are more exasperating than funny. Regardless, no one in the big, bland family has any personality anyway; they're always in good moods and they never fight. Director Peter Hedges steals from a dozen family gathering movies, but perhaps he should have stolen from his own, infinitely better Pieces of April. (JMA)
(PG-13; 90 min.) Australian writer/director Jeff Balsmeyer based this comedy on the true story of fellow Aussie Larry Walters, who tied 42 weather balloons to his chair in the hopes of a nice afternoon floating expedition and got himself in a hell of a lot of trouble. The main character's name has obviously been changed to protect the hardly innocent. Or maybe Larry Deckchair just didn't have the same ring. (Capsule preview by SP)
(PG-13; 112 min.) Pierce Brosnan plays a geophysicist who argues with his superiors about a potential eruption of the local volcano, which looks like a 15,000-foot-tall version of Mt. Paramount, even if this is a Universal picture. Naturally, when it blows, the locals have to run for it. Brosnan and the town's mayor (Linda Hamilton, woman on the verge of a migraine) stay behind for the genuinely hellish spectacle. If the acting and scripting were half as fine as the special effects, you'd have nightmares about Dante's Peak for a month. The rivers of flaming mud, clouds of ash and a lake of sulfuric acid are the stuff of real-life horror, but the script is cruel without being shrewd or particularly entertaining. Brosnan's remoteness, which serves him so well when he plays the demigod Bond, looks like festering contempt for the picture. Destruction and pointless death ought to be a better time than this. You have the sense that director Roger Donaldson has filmed the catastrophe just to rub the public's nose in its sordid desire to see such a thing. ("Ruffy" survives without so much as a burnt paw. They say a cat has nine lives, but the Surviving Dog, probably immune to a direct hit from an ICBM, can beat those nine lives to the 10th power.) (RvB)
(1983) Legendary puppeteers Jim Henson and Frank Oz directed this dark fantasy about a quest to recover the missing shard of a powerful crystal, the possession of which will determine whether good or evil will rule the world.
(R; 102 min.) Juame Balagueró's haunted house story, with an impressive cast: Lena Olin, Anna "Rogue" Paquin and Giancarlo Giannini. Unpreviewed for our critics.
(PG-13; 76 min.) An evil force is terrorizing the town of Darkness Falls. Can hero Chaney Kley save his family and friends from the Republicans? (Editor's Note: Just joking around, Mr. Ashcroft. No offense meantreally.)
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(1981; R; 210 min.) Fifteen years (the German film was released in 1982 in the U.S.) can't erase the memory of certain scenes: The crew of the U-96 sits in silence, listening as the sonar gropes for them in the dark; the wait is ended by a tremendous explosion of depth charges that almost rips the sub open. Director Wolfgang Petersen loads the film with visual details; the surfaces of the cramped, swaying sub get danker and greasier as the movie progresses. Unfortunately, Das Boot doesn't move very fast, and the extra hour includes plenty of close-ups of needles on dials going into the red zone. (RvB)
(R; 100 min.) In September 2004, the elusive comedian Dave Chappelle threw a spur-of-the-moment block party in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, featuring musical talents Mos Def, Kanye West, Erykah Badu and a reunited Fugees (with Lauryn Hill). Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) captured the show as well as the behind-the-scenes action. Fortunately, he assembles this footage in a seemingly random order, breaking up the filmed show with Chappelle's improvised riffs. Chappelle interviews and passes out invitations to people from his Ohio hometown and performs rehearsed bits onstage. (Watch for a hilarious routine with the ultracool Mos Def on drums.) Despite the overwhelming talent of the musicians, however, Gondry's visual treatment renders the performances only so-so, but Chappelle's effortless wit had me wiping away hysterical tears. (JMA)
(1935) Charles Dickens' semiautobiographical story of a young Englishman of the 1820s was "his favorite child." Producer David O. Selznick and director George Cukor loved David Copperfield and knew that the characters count for more than the plot. The exciting casting made this the definitive film version of the novel. Edna May Oliver stars as the sharp-clawed puss Aunt Betsey. Basil Rathbone is Murdstone, that nightmare of a Victorian disciplinarian, with his insoluble math problems about the double Gloucester cheeses. Benny Hill look-alike Lennox Pawle, a sort of living Toby jug, plays Mr. Dick, the historian with his hobgoblin about King Charles. Roland Young's shuddery Uriah Heep manifests levels of obsequiousness seen only in the Brits of TV infomercials; one perhaps improvised gag has Copperfield wiping off the residue of Heep's fishlike handshake on his waistcoast. As Copperfield, Freddy Bartholomew shows a sweetness and fragility that never crosses over into preciousness. As Copperfield's friend for life, Micawber, in one of the most felicitous bits of casting in cinema history: W.C. Fields. The part was scripted, and Fields was held to the script. And yet Micawber's invitation to Copperfield to sup on "a tureen of cockaleekie soup" seems like vintage Fields. The film is not set-bound; it's saved from staticness by pieces such as the shipwreck at the end of the film and the montage by the famous editor Slavko Vorkapich, which makes Copperfield's walk from London to Dover look as arduous as it would have been in real life. (RvB)
(R; 105 min.) Sometimes effective but basically heartless remake of George Romero's anti-mall shocker, in which a small cluster of feuding humans are trapped in a Milwaukee shopping mall by an army of walking dead. "Classic" may be the wrong word to use for Romero's trilogy. Unlike Hitchcock's The Birds, a major source for the Living Dead films, it's hard to return again and again to them. Except for the first, Night of the Living Dead, once was definitely enough, and in saying that I'm not denying Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead their massive visceral power, their independence or their lack of bullshit. Tom Savini's unmatchable gore effects were the one-two punch (along with Peter Jackson's Dead Alive) that effectively killed off the splatter film. Trying to take up the trail, first-timer Zack Snyder cast an impressive pair of leads. The immense Ving Rhames plays an ex-Marine turned cop who learns that raw survival is never enough. Sarah Polley, of the Canadian cool and the faraway eyes, plays a nurse who is off bias enough to sometimes get a kick out of being a hostage to flesh-eating rabid zombies. I just wish it were all more fun. The film boasts some bright, sick-humored moments, such as the eschatological fun of the beginning, when the first attack begins; it's staged in a new, fancy suburb, and with its burning skyscrapers in the background, it looks like those folk art paintings of the Rapture that city people bring back as weird souvenirs from the South. And a celebrity look-alike zombie-shooting contest is uproarious. Since Romero's 1978 original, shopping malls have blossomed into real barbaric splendor, and Snyder only touches on this new vastness of wealth (in a choppy montaged sequence of looting). The digitized photography during the escape sequence is too much like Black Hawk Down for comfort. (Oddly, the Paul Lynde-like character, the rich, snide Steve, is played by Ty Burrell, who was in Black Hawk Down.) The America-at-war spirit can be glimpsed here. During the titles, scored to Johnny Cash's dire and evangelical "There's a Man Coming 'Round Taking Names," we see visual spritzes of worshippers bowing at Mecca. A ha, so the living dead are the work of the Arab terroristsis that some kind of cinematic pentimento, explaining the otherwise unexplained epidemic of zombieitis? Considering the Vietnam-hardened anti-military slant of Romero's originals, this may be the biggest affront yet. (RvB)
I recently convinced a friend who isn't so down with horror films to watch George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, in an attempt to prove to her that horror movies can have some value as social critique. (I don't know if it worked.) Watching Dawn again, I was struck by how much Danny Boyle's far slicker, post-ADD 28 Days Later had lifted directly from it. So it's ironic that this Dawn of the Dead remake rips so much from 28 Days Laterexcept for the shopping mall, this is really more a remake of Boyle's film than of Romero's. Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by? Turning Romero's shambling shells of zombiehood into adrenalized, superfast predators makes for a better action film, and it's a hell of a lot scarierthe living dead from the original film would crap their pants (and die of starvation) if they had to go up against these fuckers. What's missing is obvious from the heart-attack-inducing opening all the way throughRomero's original was influenced more by European art films than American exploitation, and its best moments were quietly spooky. (For example, Romero's camera hold on Roger as he dies silently in bed, the tension building as the audience wonders if he can succeed in his stated desire to keep from coming back as a zombie, then cresting in horror and sadness as he slowly, involuntarily lifts his head again.) First-time director Zack Snyder has no time for mood or social context, and yet with the help of good performances all around, he's able to capture the same mix of outrageousness and humanity that Romero nailed in all three of his zombie films. The bottom line is that (like Tom Savini's 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead) this movie works far better than anyone has a right to expect. Plus the use of Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" is one of the best touches in any zombie film ever. One bit of advice that I know you won't consider but you really should: Leave before the ludicrous Cannibal Holocaust/Blair Witch Project "extra ending" that runs through the end credits. (SP)
(PG-13; 109 min.) A truck convoy of explosives blows up in a tunnel linking Manhattan with New Jersey during rush hour; a limo driver, formerly a paramedics chief (Sylvester Stallone), comes to the rescue. Stallone grunts and mumbles when he isn't shouting, but the plot is simple enough that we don't really need to know what anyone's sayingnot that we would want to, as every character is either whiny, pissy or both. Except for Stallone, of course. He's so mild-mannered that he makes Mother Teresa look like a picketing Teamster reasoning with a scab worker. The continuity problems are insulting. There's the flashlight that is able to transport itself through time and space, and let's not even get started on the paramedic-as-demolitions-expert gambit. All that said, director Rob Cohen follows the action-picture maxim: When in doubt, blow something up (he had a lot of doubts, apparently). The bit where Stallone threads his way through a series of giant ventilation fans is entrancing. (BC)
(1962) "They are not long, the days of wine and roses/Out of a misty dream/Our path emerges for a while, then closes/Within a dream."—Ernest Dowson (1867-1900). Jack Lemmon stars as an adman driven to drink with his wife (Lee Remick) as passenger; it was an adaptation of J.P. Miller's TV play and was the first of a long noble line of movies about the 12-step experience. As such it was considered a risky subject in its time. (RvB)
(1951/1956) Science fiction with a message. In The Day the Earth Stood Still, Michael Rennie plays a galactic ambassador who tries to interrupt the Cold War. J. Lockard Martin is his robot bodyguard, Gort. A prestige production in its way, with real-life journalists and commentators taking partan early example of Larry Kingism. BILLED WITH Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Kevin McCarthy (Mary's brother) stars as a small-town doctor who finds himself in the middle of an epidemic of patients with almost psychotic emotionlessness. He discovers that the cause is not of this Earth. Based on Mill Valley writer Jack Finney's Sleep No More, this much-remade film (the Phil Kaufman version is the best) has a marvelously seductive plot about one way hostile aliens might get a foothold on Earth. It's an idea that's more plausible when you consider the clever methods various insect and microbe parasites on our planet have learned to survive. As directed by Don Siegel, it's a powerful horror allegory, full of political pungency. Sam Peckinpah has a small role as a meter reader. (RvB)
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(Unrated; 87 min.) Levity and hopelessness are mixed together in Greg Mottola's small, haunting movie about family values. When Eliza Malone (Hope Davis ) discovers that her husband, Louis (Stanley Tucci), has been having an affair, her mother, Rita Malone (Anne Meara), decides to haul Eliza to New York with Eliza's father (Pat McNamara), her sister (Parker Posey) and her sister's boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) to look for Louis. The danger in Mottola's New York isn't of being knocked over the head or stabbed; the danger is in being snubbed by somebody you respected, bypassed by someone more successful than you or casually betrayed by someone you loved. (RvB)
(R; 132 min.) This sequel to Timur Bekmambetov's 2006 Russian convoluted horror/sci-fi/action import Night Watch offers more of the same. Troublemaking hero Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) returns, suffering because his 12-year-old son, Yegor (Dima Martinov), has sided with the bad guys. Anton is also training a new agent, Svetlana (Maria Poroshina). Yegor and Svetlana are potentially Great Others, and if they meet, all hell breaks loose. Meanwhile, everyone searches for a mystical piece of chalk (!) that can make anything written down come true. Bekmambetov's camera whirls and jiggles, and cinematographer Sergei Trofimov lights everything in dramatic blues and grays. Even the subtitles refuse to stay still. Many more characters and subplots are ladled in; parts can be fun, but ultimately the film is just empty. (JMA)
(R; 100 min.) In director Sergio Arau's barebones allegory, an enormous cloud cuts off California from the rest of the world, causing all Mexicans within the state to vanish into another dimension. After this Rapture, the left-behind cope with their own feelings of guilt and lost love (in one case, a woman's lost her husband, whom she claims to have met when they were both at SJSU.) Mostly, the effect is economic. White people suddenly have to perform menial tasks for themselves, now that their exploited underclass is gone. It's been said that "race is so perfectly meaningless that we overburden it with meaning," and Arau's critically unfunny film is an example of that comment. While he stresses (with justice) that the average American can't tell the difference between, say, Mexicans and Salvadorans, the terms "Latinos" and "Hispanics" get used indiscriminantly here. (I suspect he identified the former Miss Venezuela Maria Concita Alonso as a Mexican, for instance.) This is timely enough as a satireeven academics are refining their race hatred with worries about the "reconquestista" by Mexican immigrants of the states made out of Mexico (in the aftermath of the war with Mexico in the 1840s, the first, but not the last, time America lost its innocence). One wishes the film had more of a point than "be kind to our friends with Z at the end of their names." The sudden disappearance of all the Mexicans in California would mean a hell of a lot more than unpicked fruit and unpainted walls. The chalkboardlike lessons this film underlines are more than patronizing ("There are more than 40 different countries south of the U.S. border. Did you know that Salma Hayek is a Mexican? Placido Domingo, surely you've heard of him? Well ..."). And the slur on Ricardo Montalban as "an actor who never would have got anywhere without his accent" is an obscene misreading of cinema history. Ogie Zulata is a standout, though, as a crackpot scientist who has some theories on how the Mexicans vanished. (RvB)
(1993) During an all-night party in Texas, different high school cliques bump up against each other. A promising football player named Randy "Pink" Floyd (Jason London) has to decide whether to sign a pledge not to take drugs or not, and a crowd of junior high school kids are supposed to be hunted down and hazed. From the opening shot of a Bicentennial mural touched up by a wicked vandal (Uncle Sam given red eyes and a joint) to the finale of a party at dawn, Dazed and Confused is one of the few authentic films about what it meant to be in high school in 1976. That the 1970s were a different country is apparent, but director Richard Linklater (School of Rock) doesn't wallow in nostalgia, swooning over the clothes and the music. It doesn't even use past decadence as a lesson of decorum in the present. As always, Linklater is most fascinated with people and ideas. The movie made stars out of Parker Posey (as the braying cheerleader-to-be who gives the young girls the condiment treatment) and Ben Affleck (as Pink's fellow football player). (RvB)
(1992; R) Beware the Rat Monkey! Unclean descendants of innocent island monkeys ravaged by big, rabid rats, these vicious beasts pack a deadly bite. Don't try to pet them! In New Zealand, sometime during the somnambulant 1950s, a fortuneteller unearths major arcana tarot cards, "Suffering" and "Torment," heralding bad vibes for the Wellington metropolitan area. Visiting the Wellington Zoo, Timothy Balme's mom is infected with rat monkey saliva and goes as off as that piece of cheese you forgot about in the back of your refrigerator. Soon, she's foaled a plague of starving zombies, and Balme must hold the line in New Zealand, lest Antarctica itself be overrun with swarms of flesh eaters. Dead Alive is the movie that made the name of Peter Jackson, the horror/fantasy filmmaker, currently trying to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien, god help him. Though six years old, Dead Alive is still the high-water mark for gross-out, taking the genre about as far as it can go. (RvB)
San Francisco filmmaker Matthew Leutwyler (Road Kill, The Space Between Us) directed this splatter-film about a maniac attack in a backwater town. Unpreviewed.
(R; 127 min.) In 1870, accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) is lured to a frontier hellhole and promptly shot. He is nursed into a walking delirium by a Native American named Nobody (Gary Farmer), who believes that Blake is the poet William Blake come back from the dead to chastise the white man. Jim Jarmusch's film is what happens when a dry-humored urban artist becomes a mystic. An average bad moviemaker just trips over his feet; a visionary plummets off a precipice. Dead Man is no mundane wreck but a beautifully photographed, simpleminded wreck with a lost cast and tossed-off dialogue. (RvB)
(R; 96 min.) This morbid comedy stars Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do!) as a studious college freshman and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved By the Bell) as his party-boy roommate who quickly lures him into a world of bong hits, beer and casual sex. About to get kicked out for bad grades, the two slackers discover an arcane college policy to give any student whose roommate commits suicide straight A's. Thus, the two devise a twisted scheme to move the most likely candidate for suicide on campus into their room. Filled with black humor, this hip MTV-backed film, directed by Alan Cohn (Pirate TV, The Real World), moves at a fast pace that masks its thin plot structure. The outrageous supporting characters give the film a real boost. An impressive soundtrack produced by the Dust Brothers also helps, with acts like Goldfinger, Blur and Elastica, as well as a remake of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You" done by '60s supermodel Twiggy and Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez. (SQ)
New Orleans nun Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) meets Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), a convicted killer at Angola State Prison, sentenced to die by lethal injection. Tim Robbins' new film, Dead Man Walking, based on Prejean's memoir, is the story of the friendship before the midnight execution, and if it sounds like exactly the sort of film you'd like to avoid, it isn't. Robbins' movie is unsentimental, in many respects. The waxy-faced narcissist Poncelet, with his Aryan Brotherhood sympathies, is eminently killable. Yet Robbins makes you realize, with a minimum of manipulation, why Poncelet shouldn't be given the hot shot. Sarandon's performance as Prejean is smooth and unflashy. Her character balances Sean Penn's Poncelet, who doesn't deserve as dignified a term as evil. (Can Penn constrict his pupils at will, like a parrot?) Even if Dead Man Walking wasn't in the kind of shape it's in, it would merit honor for its critique of capital punishment. More damage never makes damage better: This is the lesson of Sister Prejean's memoir, and it has been faithfully transcribed into a deeply moving film. (RvB)
(R; 100 min.) The Hughes Brothers have put together three remarkable movies in one place, with rapid-fire dialog, a fine cast and top-notch camera work. There's the loss-of-innocence movie, in which Anthony (Larenz Tate), a young black man in the Bronx, realizes that he's getting screwed; the political-awakening movie, in which Anthony realizes it's the white man who's screwing him; and the heist-gone-horribly-wrong movie, in which Anthony is involved in some killings and stuff"And, yet, I blame society," as the dying thug said in Repo Man. Any one of the three would have been a story worth telling, but squished together, they get lumpy and confusingand, most unforgivably, too long. (BC)
Short films by former De Anza students Charles Chadwick, Adam Winkle, and Sean McCarthy. McCarthy's shot-in-the-Almaden Valley Raging Cyclist is perfect Halloween fare; a thoroughly enjoyable eldritch comic-horror account of a happy go lucky bicycling jerk (Ephraim Joseph) menaced by a hooded, sword-wielding demon (William Gharapetian"My Lee Van Cleef," says McCarthy). (Plays Oct 29 at 7pm in Cupertino at De Anza College, Advance Technology Center, Room ATC120; free.) (RvB)
A collection of more than 10 short films made by students at De Anza College will be screened at the 19th annual Student Film Festival.
(PG-13; 112 min.) That's exactly what you'll say if you waste your time and money seeing this aborted comedy. Given a choice between jail and honest employment, a two-bit con man (Talk Soup's Greg Kinnear, looking appropriately bleak) opts to serve his sentence with the U.S. Postal Service. Landing in the Dead Letter Office, he is given charge of the letters addressed to Elvis, extraterrestrials, Santa Claus and God. He latches onto the seeds of a new con when he helps a rent striker by accidentally sending her the cash from his first paycheck. (He was supposed to give the money to his loan shark, but that's a subplot that goes nowhere.) His fellow misfits decide to play God by answering His back mail, and an assortment of governmental meanies tries to shut them down. You'd feel sorry for the cast, considering the slim material they're given to work with, if the results weren't so pedestrian. Tim Conway does get off a couple of amusing asides as a carrier demoted for biting a dog. (BC)
(R, 90 min.) Everything goes wrong at a quiet English countryside funeral, but rather than dry, smart humor, the broad jokes include: a foul-mouthed old man having a bowel movement, a character who unexpectedly turns out to be gay and another who mistakenly takes hallucinogenic drugs. Frank Oz directed, and though he has previously specialized in black comedies (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, etc.), he brings perhaps too much American sensibility to this film. Set among the perpetually polite and embarrassed British, the film is at least tolerable, but had it been set in America, the same material would have been unbearable. The talented cast (Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Alan Tudyk and many others) helps stabilize the affair, and Peter Dinklage is the token Yankee. (JMA)
(R; 99 min.) Based on a novel by Brian Garfield, whose work also inspired Death Wish (1974), this revenge fantasy directed by James Wan (Saw) can be irresistible in a primal, physical sense. Kevin Bacon stars as Nick Hume, a comfortable family man. When gang members slay his eldest son in a gas station, and Nick learns that the justice system may not work, he goes for his own revenge. Unfortunately, his actions start a full-on war, invoking the wrath of a vicious gang leader (Garrett Hedlund). Wan stages an exhilarating foot chase and a good shootout, and Bacon lends his consummate skill to a few emotional passages, but the practical side, the details of the plot, run to the ridiculous and dampen the film's more prickly parts. (JMA)
(R; 109 min.) A children's TV host named Rainbow Randolph (a snarling Robin Williams) is stung by the FBI. He loses his power and privilege to a squeaky-clean kiddie entertainer named Smoochy the Rhino and vows a deadly revenge. Smoochy (Edward Norton) is derived from the Cretinous-era dino Barney; the film's high points are Smoochy's kid-friendly tunes like "My stepdad's not mean, he's just adjusting." This infrequently funny satire is played at top volume and in tight close-up; director Danny DeVito is ruthless about the smashing punch line of a slapstick gag, but he has no feel for the setups. Though this looks like a mean comedy, it's not. It's built on the structure of Frank Capra pictures like Meet John Doe and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Smoochy, Gary Cooper in a purple rhino suit, is a decent, naive soul who becomes a celebrity, doesn't understand he's being manipulated and can only be saved by a wisecracking girl (played by Catherine Keener, a welcome sight at any rate). Williams deserves credit for trying to do something savage. Smoochy is asked, "How does it feel to be the most hated man in America?" and replies, "In a country full of Neanderthals, I consider it an honor." Dialogue like that goes some ways toward reparations for Patch Adams; I only wish we could have seen more of Rainbow Randolph at work or that we could have escaped the worst of DeVito's punishing direction. (RvB)
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(Not rated; 94 min.) First-time director Gene Cajayon's The Debut centers on a pivotal night in the life of high-school senior Ben Mercado (Bay Area native Dante Basco, from Hook and But I'm a Cheerleader), who attends his sister's "debut," the Filipino high-society equivalent of a Mexican quinceñera, and falls for Rose (Joy Bisco), a dancer at the party who helps him rediscover his Filipino heritage. At the same time, Ben has to deal with both Rose's jealous thug boyfriend, Augusto (Darion Basco, Dante's brother), and his own pushy father (Tirso Cruz III), who, like so many conservative Filipino dads, wants Ben to attend medical school, while Ben would rather pursue his dream of becoming a comic-book artist. The film's melodramatic moments, especially the arguments between father and son, sometimes play too much like a Pinoy version of "The Proud Pattersons," a great old Saturday Night Live sketch about a black family with a tendency to overemote like the actors in third-rate productions of Raisin' in the Sun. Where The Debut works best is in its scenes between Basco and Biscothey have a nice easygoing chemistryand in comic moments like a bit involving a figure I recognize all too well from my UC-Santa Cruz days: the white upper-class culture-vulture know-it-all. Augusto's white stepfather, clad in a barong tagalog (a see-through dress shirt from the old country), is seen correcting a Filipino couple about the use of the term "Oriental" ("You're not supposed to say 'Oriental' anymore. It's now 'Asian.' "). The Filipino husband's irked reaction is priceless. (JA)
(R; 102 min.) About a carload of salt is required to make it through this very improbable movie. You have to believe that lie detectors never fail (they do) and that they are used as evidence in court (they aren't). Also, it's important to the plot to have you think that the absinthe causes the same sort of insane homicidal rages that marijuana used to ignite in the grind-house movies of the old days. Unfortunately, you don't get any reward for prostituting your reason. In this ordinary but artsy "thriller" by the brothers Josh and Jonas Pate, the conflict between a sarcastic, epileptic rich wastrel (Tim Roth) and two working-class Charleston, S.C., homicide detectives (Michael Rooker and Chris Penn) is a simple switch: first we think Roth's guilty of a trunk murder, and then we think they are. The End. Renee Zellweger is squandered as the victim. Gaudy supporting acting is provided by Ellen Burstyn (as a crime boss) and Michael Parks (channeling Jack Palance and getting bad reception), but neither is quite pungent enough to distract you from the odor of this pooch. Roth's American accent is getting much better, but a film of this low quality isn't going to arrest the lugelike plummet of his career. (RvB)
(PG-13; 109 min.) Not every bestselling novel needs to become a filmeven when the book has, as in the case of Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean, the endorsement of Oprah. Mitchard's novel doesn't lend itself well to screen adaptation (from a purely practical standpoint, it's too long and involved to be condensed neatly.) However, Michelle Pfeiffer imbues the main character, Beth Cappadora, with enough sympathy to make the film watchable. In the summer of 1988, when Beth leaves her children alone briefly in a hotel lobby at her high school reunion, the middle child, 3-year-old Ben, vanishes. As months, and eventually years, pass with no sign of Ben, the Cappadoras try to heal. Beth can't shake a deep sense of mourning that affects her interactions with the two remaining children, particularly with the eldest child, Vincent (Jonathan Jackson). When nine years later, Ben reappears, not only unharmed, but a content child raised by another family, the Cappadoras and Ben (now 12 years old and called Sam) try to cope with the painful consequences of their reunion. Although it has a few strong moments and some good performances, The Deep End of the Ocean is never engrossing; Ulu Grosbard's generally cold direction enhances Pfeiffer's portrayal of a woman isolated by intense grief, but ulitmately, such a distant approach sets the audience adrift. (HZ)
(PG-13; 115 min.) A 550-billion-ton comet heads for Earth. President Morgan Freeman sends the joint Russian/U.S. rocket The Messiah (piloted by stalwart Robert Duvall) to blow it up with peaceful nukes. When this gambit fails, the president orders a lottery of survivors and animals to what he calls "The Ark," limestone caves underneath Missouri. This Dr. Strangelovian scenario (you can just hear the doctor saying, "Animals vill be bred und schlaughtered! ) is supposed to be all for the best. But that's the whole point of the moviethe disaster is a kind of family therapy that reconciles two straying fathers (Maximilian Schell and James Cromwell) to their kin. (It's executive producer Steven Spielberg's touch; in his movies, dad always comes back, like Lassie.) Director Mimi Leder filters the preparations for impact through anchorperson Téa Leoni's broadcasts, giving the sense that you're watching coverage of the disaster on TV all through the movie. (Is it TV censored by the military, perhaps? Martial law is declared, but we don't see any consequences. The suburbsa cheap-looking setget looted, but by whom?) Sensitive garbage is worse than mere garbage somehow, because it afflicts you in the brain and the heart. Leder paces the film well and shows off the fluid camera style she demonstrated on ER, but she worsens what she sweetens. The movie sells you the apocalypse and delivers a lot of cuddling, weeping and declarations of love. The phony-looking climactic tidal wave is the crowning disappointment. (RvB)
(R; 106 min.) The comic-strip-style adventurer Finnegan (Treat Williams) takes a cargo of mercenaries into the South Pacific. The troupe of gruff soldiers plans to raid the luxury liner The Argonautica but arrives to find a ghost ship inhabited by bloody skeletons, a high-breasted jewel thief (Famke Janssen) and a 70-foot-long octopus (large, yes, but that orchid that eats the Carl's Jr. burgers on TV is scarier than what you see here). Stephen Sommers directed and wrote. The visuals are occasionally sharp, and the highlight is a gliding tour through the gargantuan excess of the Argnonautica, cued to a big-band tune by Brian Setzer, that's a broken promise of style to come. (The place is a pan-Pacific extravaganza with torches, pagodas and taiko drummers laying down a back-beat for Hawaiian dancers). Kevin J. O'Connor is a whiny Jerry Lewis to Williams' laid-back Dino, and Djimon Hounsou of Amistad has a small part as an African mercenary. Still Deep Rising isn't berserk enough to recommend. The obvious Titanic tie-in turns out to be Williams' repeating of Kathy Bates' big line in the big movie. (Of course, Titanic would be much better if it had a giant cephalopod attack). (RvB)
(R; 90 min.) Remember Booty Call? This one is this Booty Wack. Damn! MTV host Bill Bellamy stars as Drayton, a guy with more tricks than the Flying Karamazov Brothers. Damn! He moves from episode to episode, trying to show his partners the fine art of the girl juggling. Damn! Meanwhile, his sister, Jenny (Natalie Desselle), tires of his exploits and attempts to expose the fraud by inviting all his unknowing girlfriends to a party. Damn! Chaos ensues. Damn! The premise is thinner than an overheated lambskin condom (damn!) and even less reliable. Bellamy? He's likeable as the smooth player, but his smirk seems more suited for a comedy on the WB. Damn! Oh yeah, the characters say "damn!" so much, I lost count. Damn! (TSI)
(Unrated; 92 min.) A film about a romance between two male Southern Californian college students, one of whom doesn't realize that he's gay.
(2000) Gerardo Torti's story of the desperate lives of Mexico City street urchins.
(1991) Marie-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's breakthrough film is set in a post-apocalyptic hotel (really more like a desert trading post in a bombed-out wasteland) that traffics in human meat. It's a comedy. Dominique Pinon, the cloned hero of the directors' The City of Lost Children, stars as the hapless victim attracted to the head butcher's gentle daughter (played by the pale, Peter Lorre-like Marie-Laure Dougnac). A strain of odd romance runs through this bracingly sick comedy; one of the most memorable scenes is a sort-of dance in which Pinon and Dougnac bounce on bedsprings in syncopation to a Hawaiian song on a battered TV set. (AR)
(Unrated; 102 min.) Tom DiCillo's energetic satire of celeb culture has an enterprising, sweet-natured homeless kid Toby (Michael Pitt) picked up by an aggressive ultra-low-budget paparazzi named Les Galantine (Steve Buscemi). Shown the ropes by the elder man, Toby penetrates deeply into the world of the famous, as his mentor watches in fury from the sidelines. The film is closer to Billy Wilder than DiCillo has gone previously. Still, this antechamber-of-fame subject matter, which has been obsessing DiCillo since Living in Oblivion, is becoming a habit. In any case, he has a very strong cast. After the debacle of Where the Truth Lies, Alison Lohman bounces back as the petulant, world-famous diva "K'harma." Elvis Costello—looking larger and rougher than you would imagine him—plays himself and provides an apt oldie for the closing credits. (When Buscemi and Costello spar over some unauthorized photographs, it is a great moment in the annals of irascibility.) Finally, as a casting director, Toby climbs up and over the extremely luxurious Gina Gershon as the sleekest and hungry-looking cougar we have seen in a long time. (RvB)
(R; 105 min.) Gabrielle Union (Bring It On, Welcome to Collinwood) plays Evangeline, a snappy health inspector by day and protective mother hen for life to her three sisters (Essence Atkins, Meagan Good and Robinne Lee). Eva's meddling ways spur the girls' boyfriends (Mel Jackson, Duane Martin, Dartanyan Edmonds) to hire a ladies man (LL Cool J) to seduce her, which ends up causing even more drama. Director Gary Hardwick, who owns the black romantic comedy genre with The Brothers and Two Can Play That Game under his belt, has a lot of fun with the characters. It's about time LL Cool J got a role that fits his gigolo swagger, and he nails it. Union is a total crackup as a ball buster whose icy exterior gradually melts under Cool J's heat. Some folks are already down on this flick without seeing it (maybe reading too much Boondocks), which is a drag because Eva's cute moments outweigh the inexplicably clunky ending. Deliver Us From Eva is good for a laugh; naysayers can go see The Hours instead. (TI)
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(PG-13; 121 min.) The music in this biography of Cole Porter is, of course, wonderful: "Let's Misbehave," with a Dixieland arrangement, is sung by the unsinkable Elvis Costello, plump, bespectacled, wearing a white dinner jacket and looking pleasingly like Benny Goodman. Diana Krall's acrid "Just One of Those Things" reveals the core of ruthlessness in some of Porter's most insouciant songs. Kevin Kline plays Porter from the point of his arrival in Paris just before the 1920s until his lonely, embittered last days. The real subject is Porter's long marriage to his wife, Linda Lee (Ashley Judd). She was both his lifesaver and his anchor, if that isn't a mixed metaphor. They had an open marriage, since Porter got a kick out of men. De-Lovely proposes that Porter's familiar trick as a songwriter, using the indefinite to suggest the ineffable"It Was Just One of Those Things," "What is This Thing Called Love?"was a way of masking the then-unspeakable kind of romance he preferred. (RvB)
(NC-17; 101 min.) You'd be hard-pressed to find a more pouty mouth than Audie England's. At times, the heroine of Delta of Venus looks positively duck-billed. But even a heroine with a normal-looking mouth couldn't resuscitate this oneit sets soft-core porn back 20 years. Based on the book by Anais Nin, Delta of Venus takes place in 1940s Paris. Elena (England), after having a fast affair with a mysterious writer, is solicited into writing pornographic stories that she acts out in the sinful alleys of the City of Light. An orgy scene is the one sequence that perks up the film, but even in those haunts, Elena can't shake the narration that follows her like the Hound of Hell. (RvB)
(1955) John Parker's only film was way ahead of its time. It tells the disturbing tale of a young woman (Adrienne Barrett) who roams the streets discovering (or imaging) sexual menace from every man she meets. The style runs from psychoanalytic to poverty-row exploitation.
(PG-13; 80 min.) Truly a modern fable, Denise Calls Up explores the plight of the home-office hermit. The film's action takes place almost entirely desk-side in the dwellings of six young professionals whose home offices have relieved them of the uneasy prospect of face-to-face human interaction. Writer and director Hal Salwen makes their absolute isolation plain by allowing the relationships among them to develop only through their phone conversations. It seems almost superfluous when a newcomer is added to this strange dynamic in the person of Denise (Alanna Ubach), whose quirkiness and general enthusiasm for life bring a hint of the outside world to the isolated phone-philes. (RvB)
(R; 107 min.) The word "derailed" is another way of saying "off-track," which is exactly what happens here. Lonely family man Charles Schine (Clive Owen) becomes infatuated with a lovely, helpful stranger on a train, Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston). But on the way to their first hotel tryst, a mugger (Vincent Cassel) ends their fun with a bit of blackmail. As the milquetoast and the ice queen, both Owen and Aniston are woefully miscast. The twist ending doesn't make sense, nor does the blackmail plot; Charles and Lucinda never actually have sex. Making his American debut, Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom applies a chilly, distant glare, failing to get inside the material. Only the RZA contributes anything worthwhile with his likeable supporting turn and the film's lone surprise. (JMA)
(1957) Spencer Tracy plays a computer designer who seems ready to put a reference librarian (Katharine Hepburn) out of business. Gig Young and Joan Blondell co-star in this romantic comedy about the early effects of automation. (Plays Aug 25 at 7pm in Mountain View at the Hahn Auditorium of the Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. $15 general admission, $10 for museum and Cinequest members; http://www.computerhistory.org/.) (RvB)
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(R; 106 minutes) With a small arsenal squirreled away in a guitar case, the modern-day gunslinger El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) dispatches countless tough hombres in almost scholarly slapstick action sequences. Desperado offers the same delirious musician-on-the-warpath story as El Mariachi, only bigger and crazier and with a little bit of a stop-the-violence message. Though Banderas spells out the message believably"Everyone I killed was someone's son, or someone's brother"it does look a little pious, since the rest of the movie dishes out so much mindless fun. Like the best Hong Kong action pictures, Desperado has a sense of eagerness, of flexibility, that's missing from the elephantine Hollywood actioners. (RvB)
(1995/1992) Director Robert Rodriguez made a name for himself with the absurdly low-budget El Mariachi, an engaging Spanish-language shoot-'em-up about a mariachi player taking revenge on the men who wronged him. Three years later, Rodriguez remade the film as Desperado, with bigger explosions and Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the leads. (AR)
(1955) Convicts Humphrey Bogart, Robert Middleton and Charles Bronsonish punk Dewey Martin hold a household of suburbanites hostage. Fredric March co-stars with Martha Scott. (RvB)
(R; 100 min.) Bad man (Michael Keaton) not want to give bone marrow to save life of boy who need transplant. He run around blowing stuff up and shooting people instead. He a lot of fun. But movie so dumb it make head hurt. (BC)
(1943) Cary Grant plays the skipper of the USS Copperfin, a submarine cruising from San Francisco via the Gulf of Alaska to a daring attack on Tokyo harbor. His co-star is John Garfield, as the cocky kid who learns to straighten up and sail right. Directed and co-written by Delmer Daves. (RvB)
(1939/1950) Jimmy Stewart meets Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again, a thrilling yet half-serious Western about the gentle sheriff of Bottleneck. Dietrich sings "See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have." BILLED WITH Harvey, featuring Stewart in a famous part in the play about Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible pal. I loved that anecdote in Monster, by John Gregory Dunne, about how Disney had (perhaps still has) a list of open writing assignments for contract screenwriters; one such project is titled Hop, "a grown man rediscovers his imaginary friend from childhood, a huge rabbit, who accompanies him." (Dunne describes this as "a light-fingered homage to Harvey.") (RvB)
(1942/1946) It's not even 70 minutes long, and it's made of baling wire and duct tape, stock footage, cardboard sets and rear projection. And yet Edgar Ulmer's Detour is rightly remembered as one of the dark jewels of film noir: a lesson in making a virtue of cheapness, of wrenching drama out of nothing more expensive than a mood of anxiety and guilt and some corrosive dialogue. This high-octane, low-class drama features a doomed pianist (the coffee-nerved Tom Neal) who can play Chopin but prefers to pound a beat-up piano for sawbucks at the Break of Dawn club in New York. When he tries to hitchhike out West, he ends up pinned with the murder of a date-raping lowlife and is then held under house arrest by a badly used, probably consumptive tramp named Vera (Ann Savage). Things go from bad to worse to worse. (The walling-up finale reminded me of something a playwright once told me: that he thought the finale of Sid and Nancy was the ultimate horror story, that there was nothing worst than imprisonment at the hands of a former lover.) BILLED WITH The Asphalt Jungle, one of those few movies about what hard work professional crime is and how little honor there is among thieves. "Crime is just a left-handed form of human endeavor," says Louis Calhern's Alonzo. He's a smooth lawyer, as two-timing in his professional life as he is in his love life. The young Marilyn Monroe plays his mistress. The shady lawyer is approached by the affable, just-out-of-the-joint criminal mastermind Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffee), who has a scheme to rob a jewelry store. The plan depends on hiring some muscle: the muscle is played memorably by Sterling Hayden, who's large and humorless and has a face like an angry steer. (He's probably the model for the scowling thug on the Turner Classic Movies logo.) Hayden's Dix Handley turns out to be the last one strong enough (or unimaginative enough?) to withstand the undermining of this scheme. And withstand it he does, for a while. Heavily influenced by neorealist film, John Huston's picture has as much in common with The Wages of Fear as it does with The Usual Suspects. Jean Hagen, the moronic blonde in Singin' in the Rain, is very touching as Dix's tremblingly loyal girlfriend, an off-duty "clip-joint hostess" named Doll. (RvB)
(R; 83 min.) For proof that this Deuce Bigalow sequel will divide fans and haters along exactly the same line as the original, please refer to the tag line: "Same ho. New low." If that reads like lyric verse to you, you just won a trip to Europe with Rob Schneider. (Capsule preview by SP)
(R; 84 min.) Taking toilet humor to a literal extreme, director Mike Mitchell's Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is a ridiculous comedy designed purely for laughsand it gets them. Rob Schneider plays a kindhearted fish-tank cleaner who's spent his whole life as a bottom feeder. When Deuce meets handsome professional gigolo Antoine Laconte (played with pretentious flair by Oded Fehr), his life takes a dramatic change. About to go on one of his first-class "business" excursions, Antoine is desperate to find someone to care for his prized Chinese Tailbar Lionfish (which is on the brink of death), and Deuce is his man. Predictably, Deuce virtually destroys Antoine's luxurious apartment. To get the money to fix everything before Antoine's return, Deuce hawks his wares with a little help from his male madame friend T.J. Hicks (Eddie Griffin), who sets him up with a string of unusual women. Though often in questionable taste, the movie does include some hilarious gags. This role is perfect for Schneider, which is no surprise, since the script was written expressly for him. (SQ)
(1960/1964) Sharmila Tagore stars as a woman taken out of the changing life in India and thrust straight back into superstition in Satyajit Ray's Devi. A landlord in India of the 1860s dreams that his daughter-in-law (Tagore) is actually an incarnation of a goddess. He installs her in a temple until she performs a "miracle"; by then, it's too late for her westernized husband to retrieve her. Devi is one of the best of Ray's films. Its concern with the blunt side of faith resonates in a world where so many are turning to fundamentalist religions. BILLED WITH Charulata (The Lonely Wife). Calcutta, 1880: a publisher solicits his wife to write for his newspaper, with tragic results. Ray described this euphoniously titled film as his best work. Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee co-star. (RvB)
(1932) "Introducing Charles Laughtonthe eminent English character actor in the role of the Commander." Laughton plays a jealous submarine commander, who suspects (justly) his wife, Tallulah Bankhead, of cheating on him with Gary Cooper, so he scuttles the pigboat to teach them all a lesson. Sure beats Das Boot! Again, Grant has a minor part. (RvB)
(R; 102 min.) In Raymond Chandler, as in Walter Mosley, whose novel is the source for Devil in a Blue Dress, prose, ambience and characterization are more important than those complicated sequences of who killed whom that not even God himself could follow. Down-on-his-luck ex-aircraft worker Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is picked up by a white gangster to hunt down a beautiful woman, Daphne (Jennifer Beals), a mistress of the mayoral candidate. Naturally, Rawlins is without a clue. Whenever he comes home, there's a party of armed men helping themselves to his whiskey and waiting to hit him over the head. In fact, the movie is so genre-bound that it picks up urgency only when Easy's pal Mouse (Don Cheadle) turns up to break the impasse with violence. Devil in a Blue Dress' screenwriter and director, Carl Franklin, made the similar, though contemporary-in-setting, One False Move, a tale of love barred by the color line and having its revenge. Here as there, Franklin's competence tends toward slickness. (RvB)
(1935) Proof that the black-and-white cinematography of Hollywood's golden age achieved states of visual consciousness that color simply can't duplicate. The story is negligiblea beautiful temptress (Dietrich) in 19th-century Spain destroys the men who desire her (including Lionel Atwill and Cesar Romero)but the close-ups of von Sternberg's favorite star are unforgettable. Photographed by Lucien Ballard and von Sternberg. (MSG)
(R; 138 min.) Keanu Reeves stars as a man whose career is aided by Satan. Sounds autobiographical, don't you think? The one and only Keanu plays an unscrupulous Florida lawyer recruited to a high-powered Manhattan law firm led by Beelzebub (Al Pacino) himself, this time calling himself John Miltonnudge, wink. This isn't Paradise Lost, though; it's more like Purgatory Found. Crowned by the worst-actress performance of the yearCharlize Theron as Keanu's wife and last handhold upon goodness and decencyThe Devil's Advocate is insufficiently titillating hogwash. Keanu, that helpless puppy, tries on a Southern accent, but it is not enough to ward off Pacino's pomps or to avoid his upstaging by the other actors trapped in this turkey, including Welcome to the Dollhouse's Heather Matarazzo, Jeffrey Jones and Craig T. Nelson. It's a veritable dog pile on the lead actor. The style-free, disconnected direction is by Taylor Hackford. You get damned little Satan for your waitin'. To hell with this movie. (RvB)
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(R; 107 min.) Brad Pitt plays Frankie the Angel, a noted IRA terrorist; gone to America to hide, he ends up at the house of Harrison Ford's Tom O'Meara, a policeman with three daughters and a wife. O'Meara puts up Frankie, a.k.a. Rory, thinking him a harmless laborer, but Frankie has a mission. He's going to buy some Stinger missiles from arms dealer Billy Burke (Treat Williams). The film is a major bore, and it doesn't make a lick of sense. Director Alan J. Pakula dilutes any possible tension with inane scenes meant to plump up Pitt's screen time. The Devil's Own is so thoroughly on O'Meara's side that there's no conflict. There are so many excuses for Frankie that at the final confrontation the characters all but apologize to the audience for the necessity of the gunfight. (RvB)
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(R; 108 min.) Since I'm always having to justify how I could possibly enjoy Rob Zombie's films, how about this: Zombie is the Brian De Palma of gore filmshe takes the best elements of the films he loves and builds a feature-length homage around them. Oh shit, now I have to justify how I could possibly enjoy Brian De Palma's films. That didn't work out very well. Anyway, if Zombie's House of 1000 Corpsesa pastiche that was one power tool short of being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with an ending by Dario Argentowas in the spirit of De Palma's hyper-reconstructive Dressed to Kill, this quasi sequel from Zombie is his Blow Outedgier, grittier and perhaps even more crafty and ambitious in its hero worship (the fact that Zombie added Michael Berryman from The Hills Have Eyes for this one gives you an idea of the more expansive, old-school-Wes-Craven approach he's going for here). Downside: If Zombie gets too caught up in these De Palma parallels, he'll be working on a remake of Bonfire of the Vanities within the next 10 years. (Capsule preview by SP)
The Firefly ganga group of fugitive cannibals, disguised under Groucho Marx pseudonymsevade a vengeful sheriff. The lawman is William Forsythe, looking like a baby-faced Kris Kristofferson. Compared to its model, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, it's mild in the gore department. Still, the casting is diabolically good, with Leslie Easterbrook as the crazy mama, giving a grad course in the art of tongue acting. Bill Moseley, the still-in-Saigon "Chop Top" from TCM2, is credibly vicious, and Sid Haig caps 40 years of grade-A weirdo behavior playing "Capt. Spaulding," a horror clown with algae-colored gums and a polluted beard. The surface of The Devil's Rejects is as greasy as a carny's lunch; no automobile is under 20 years old or has less than 150,000 miles on it. And the musicremastered from the original 8-track tapes?is loaded with '70s earwash. In the shoot-out finale, it's clear that director/writer Rob Zombie is a genuine filmmaker, not a vacationing rock star. The movie kept me smiling with nostalgia; the thrill is still there, even if the threat is gone. (RvB)
(PG-13; 109 min.) Based on Lauren Weisberger's book and directed by David Frankel (Sex and the City), The Devil Wears Prada is nasty and funny for about 30 minutes. It could have been nastier and funnier; instead it turns into one of those diatribes about working less and enjoying life more (see also R.V. and Click). Meryl Streep is superb as the relentless editor of Runway magazine, chromed and with an icy, hard gaze. She correctly underplays the character, knowing that quiet can be just as effective as bombast. Anne Hathaway plays the smart, young assistant who sells her soul and learns humanity, but her Audrey Hepburn-ish charm gets lost within the polarized material. However, Stanley Tucci and English newcomer Emily Blunt turn in surprisingly soulful support. (JMA)
(R; 108 min.) Jeremiah Chechik's new version of Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique involves a demented triangle: the sadistic headmaster (Chazz Palminteri) of the private school is poisoned by his mistress (Sharon Stone) and his wife (Isabelle Adjani), acting in concert. His body is dumped in a fetid swimming pool, but it's missing when the pool is drained. You can outguess the plot, but you can't outguess Clouzot's perversity, which is what's missing in this paint-by-numbers faithful adaptation. All the shadings from the roles have been removed; there aren't enough nooks and crannies for the characters' motivations to hide in. Diabolique boasts strong performances, but it's still a glossed-over remake of a film that didn't need to be remade. (AB)
(1954/1942) In London, a foolproof murder-for-hire plan goes awry, when the victim (Grace Kelly), who is supposed to die quietly, grabs a huge pair of scissors. This Hitchcock thriller is a stagey one, despite the scissors scene. John Williams steals the show as the mustard-keen Inspector Hubbard. Anthony Dawson, as the cashiered captain blackmailed into the plot, is also amusing. Also starring Robert Cummings and Ray Milland, unfortunately. BILLED WITH Saboteur. Aircraft mechanic Robert Cummings is mistaken for a Nazi saboteur; he must head into the fastness for America to find the real culprit (that perennial schwienhundt Otto Kruger). Priscilla Lane plays the underpowered heroine. Essentially a series of sketches for what would be North by Northwest (Hitchcock called the later film "in some respects a remake"). Unfortunately, Hitchcock was overruled on two good ideas. One was a scene suggesting that the villain, Kruger's Charles Tobin, had been responsible for the sabotage of the SS Normandie, a ship popularly supposed to have been damaged by the Nazis. The other idea, even better, was having cowboy actor Harry Carey be the head villain, an all-American Fifth Columnist. Carey rejected the idea as too injurious to all his young fans. The Dorothy Parker-written scene at the freak show stands out. So does the brilliantly composed finale at the torch of the Statue of Libertyas effective here as it would be some 60 years later in X-Men. (Plays Apr 29-May 1 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)
(1982) The Museum of Art & History continues its "Women Behind the Camera" series with Diary for My Children, Marta Meszaros' personal exploration of growing up in Communist Hungary. Shelley Stamp Lindsey, a professor at UC-Santa Cruz and curator of the series, introduces the film.
(1964) Taking as text a novel by Octave Mirbeau, Luis Buñuel derived this harsh parody of traditional romances and other forms of fascinating fascism. The short, worn, but still erotic chambermaid Celestine (Jeanne Moreau) is the first interesting woman in years to arrive in a glum backward French town. Despite the open antagonism of her new employers, she busily starts organizing things to her liking. She catches the eye of the elderly patriarch of the house (Jean Ozenne), a shoe fetishist derisively nicknamed "The Cobbler" by his pompous next-door neighbor. However, the chateau's brutal, nationalist pig of a handyman (Georges Geret) is the one who has the most appeal to the amoral girl. Supposedly, Buñuel never saw Jean Renoir's 1945 film version of the same materialit's a good thing he didn't, because the Renoir version makes many of the same points with more warmth. And Francis Lederer, who died about a month ago, was irreplaceable as the vampirish valet Geret plays here. However, this colder, more malicious take includes such evil delicacies as Moreau's fat little smile of self-satisfaction, Buñuel's brilliant eye for the dusty junk that chokes the bourgeois house like weeds, and an impressively nasty tableau of a dead girl and a spilled basket of snails she had been collecting for dinner. (The shot was censored in the original release; you'll see why.) The ending dissolves into unanswered questions and an in-joke about a political nemesis named Chiappe whom Buñuel hated in the 1920s. Still, the film is a smart alternative to Chocolat, to be sure. (RvB)
(PG-13; 94 min.) A funny drama (or, maybe, a dramatic comedy) taken from Tyler Perry's play about a woman who thinks she is happily married until her husband of 18 years suddenly asks for a divorce. With the help of her friends, the stranded wife regains her bearings. Stars Kimberly Elise and Steve Harris.
(R; 95 min.) George Romero has been making zombie movies for four decades now, each a comment on its era. After Land of the Dead in 2005, we would have had to wait at least until Barack Obama's second term for another installment at his normal pace. But this one is different. Starting over with a new outbreak rather than carrying on any continuity, it's a Blair Witch-inspired attempt to tell a zombie outbreak story in the Internet age, with film students attempting to avoid having their guts munched while they document the phenomenon. Slow to get going and hardly scary, Diary of the Dead nonetheless develops into another intriguing and message-heavy (not a bad thing, despite what some horror fans think) milestone from the king of undead moviemaking. (SP)
(PG-13; 90 min.) Among those cognitive-dissonant aspects of age is listening to commentators recasting the Nixon resignation as a national tragedy. Far from it! For me, the most tragic aspect of the day was getting cuffed by my mom's boyfriend for guffawing at Nixon's resignation speech. As the years go by, Nixonwho was solemnly buried in a casket and not "screwed into the ground," as was predictedhas become a backhanded figure of integrity. Nixon wasn't raised to be a fibber, after all, and whenever he'd start lying in front of a camera, he'd sweat, he'd fidget, his eyes would shift . . .so unlike our current president, a much cooler cucumber. Nixon nostalgia is given a delightful sendup in the comedy Dick. Andrew Fleming's film proposes that the Watergate informant "Deep Throat" was actually Arlene and Betty, a pair of innocent, geeky and half-bright Washington, D.C., teenage girls (winningly played by Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst). The two are recruited as "dog walkers and secret youth advisers" by Dan Hedaya's Nixon. Hedaya does a wicked job with the role, complete with enough superficial charm to beguile young Arlene into a schoolgirl crush. In the most uproarious scene, Nixon enters her authentically '74 gauze-filtered dreams of romance, with white horses, a romantic beach, sand castles and chaste dancing. Fortunately, the discovery of Nixon's ickinesshis antisemitism, his lying and his obscenitiesdrops the scales from the girls' young eyes. Witty casting includes two members of the late-lamented Kids in the Hall: Bruce McCulloch as a dwarfish, inept Carl Bernstein and Dave Foley as Haldeman. Harry Shearer only has a couple of scenes as G. Gordon Liddy, a disappointment, since Shearerthe greatest living radio comediandoesn't quite get Liddy's voice right. A sketchy comedy, Dick, and none too graceful, but the vintage music and costumes sell itas does the finale, in which Arlene and Betty make American-flag resignation-day outfits. The sight of the girls in their red, white and blue wardrobe fans a smoldering patriotism that was certainly flaming on that great day of Nixon's resignation. How does the line go? To be alive was grand enough, but to be young then was heaven. (RvB)
(PG-13; 99 min.) We can all laugh about how crappy Joe Dirt was, but the cold, hard reality is that it made back double its budget even before it hit video. Which means David Spade gets to do another movie. Damn it! This one's about a former child star in his 30s who hires a family to give him the childhood he never had. (Capsule preview by SP)
Hungover cop McClain (Bruce Willis) meets vengeful, migrainous mad-bomber Simon (Jeremy Irons): the good guy and the bad guy get together to give you a headache, too, with the aid of some crushing sound effects. In the post-Rambo action movie, the villains are the only point of reference between explosions. The dramatic conflict is shown by the bickering between Willis and his impromptu sidekick (Samuel L. Jackson). Sequence by sequence, it's impressive but rarely elating: instead of feeling suspense, you're more often distracted by what a logistical nightmare the whole movie must have been to make. (RvB)
(G) Proving that Pokémon aren't the only Saturday-morning cartoon monsters out there who can save the world, a group of kids and their pet monsters, known as Digimon, battle evil forces.
(1933/1932 ) Various characters tie on the feedbag at a dinner party. The production is loaded with talent: script by Frances Marion and Herman Mankiewicz; cinematography by William Daniels; and a cast that included the heavier horses in MGM's stableMarie Dressler, Wallace Beery and the Barrymore brothers. John plays an alcoholic actor at the end of his tethermust have been a real stretch for him. Yet what everyone remembers most is Dressler's expert verbal slapdown of the movie's real star, Jean Harlow. BILLED WITH What Price Hollywood?. The original version of the much remade A Star Is Born, last seen done under the title Up Close and Personal. A waitress (Constance Bennett) at the Brown Derby is transformed into an actress by the machinery of the studioand with the aid of a hard drinking director (Lowell Sherman). (RvB)
(2007) Baudelaire was right: Sex is the lyricism of the masses. Nick Pueher and Joe Pickett of the Found Footage Film Festival profile Laughing Hyena recording artist Larry Pierce. Pierce is a 30-year-plus factory veteran in Indiana, who has made numerous four-track records. Songs like "She Licked My Scrotum" were distributed through truck-stop cassette racks. Surprise: Pierce turns out to be a likable, happily married character. His wife, Sandy, seems deeply devoted to her husband's music. Good luck hits him when a young Minnesota band volunteers its services as backup musicians. With a new, richer sound, Pierce makes it to NYC. We can see the merit of Pierce's music in saluting the unconquerable power of sex, as well as its power to cheer up salt-of-the-earth people who have "a job, of the nature where you cannot advance," as one interviewee puts it. We can see it without the all too many talking heads and music historians trying to provide a context for Pierce. Make a list of the names not dropped here (for starters: Oscar Brand, Patrick Sky, the Hokum Boys), and you can see that there's enough fooling around out there for a Ken Burns leviathan. (Plays Nov 9 at 7 and 9pm in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.) (RvB)
(1971) Film noir with a differenceit's not dark, as it is shot in the hot summery light of San Francisco; and it features a bad cop you're supposed to root for, as opposed to the hippie psycho punk who uses his constitutional rights as a shield to protect himself from justice. Despite how virile Clint Eastwood was as the renegade Harry Callahan, this is a movie that sticks it to the longhairs. And the villain isn't muchAndy Robinson plays the psycho sniper whose strategies are a lot less crafty than those of the Zodiac Killer, from whom he was derived. Dirty Harry shows how far film noir had decayed since Nicholas Ray's brilliant study of the agonies of a violent cop, On Dangerous Ground. This hit was propaganda for the worst paranoid impulses of the Nixon regime, and it foaled four increasingly putrid sequels as well as numberless imitations. (RvB)
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(NC-17; 89 min.) John Waters takes the low road with this NC-17 comedy about Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman), a sexless-by-choice Baltimore housewife who becomes a raging nymphomaniac after she's bopped on the head. (The joke may be lost on people who don't realize this medical condition actually happens in some rare cases.) Sylvia's new lover, a messianic tow-truck driver (Johnny Knoxville), and her topless dancer daughter (Selma Blair, equipped with huge and convincing prosthetics) help Sylvia in her new campaign of degradation. This isn't the funniest movie the Baltimore oracle has made, but it seems timely. All summer long, commentators have worry-warted that too-extreme behavior might spook those jittery swing state voters. The political whoop over gay marriage shows that even quiet monogamy and assimilation are not going to soothe some people's homophobia. Thus this fiesta of deliberately offensive behavior is true comic relief. (RvB)
(PG-13; 81 min.) Years from now, when Norm Macdonald is starring in The Pajama Game at a dinner theater in Saskatoon, some young reporter will nervously broach the subject of Dirty Work, and Macdonald will dismiss the film as beginner's excess, bad advice by his handlers, disfiguring cuts by the producerhell, maybe he'll mention the solar-flare activity during the week the film opened. Or maybe Macdonald will snap his fingers for his publicist and just end the interview right then, furious that someone dared to mention Dirty Work to him. One way or another, he'll be able to shrug this disaster off, glib, self-satisfied comic that he is. What I want to know is, What about the three or four of us who sat through this dog-egg? How do we forget? Macdonald and his half-brother (an appalling comedian named Artie Lange) start up a pranks-for-hire business to get $50,000 for a heart transplant for their dad (Jack Warden). If you want to read something really funny on the subject, check the true-life account Pranks! (ReSearch Press), which provides far more adolescent deviltry for the money than Dirty Work does. (Macdonald's creative dirty tricks usually involve putting dead fish in people's beds.) Women dragged to this film by their boyfriends should be pleased by the fact that almost every woman in the cast gets called a whore. Chevy Chase as a cardiologist with a gambling problem and Adam Sandler as Satan both easily show up Macdonald's near total lack of talent. Bob Saget, the novice director who packaged America's Funniest Home Videos, should stick with the injured toddlers. (RvB)
(NC-17) Talk about a comeback. This 1977 John Holmes porn epic lately has created a midnight-movie sensationthough it's certainly not for the plot (or lack thereof). The appeal, besides the campy fun of a flashback to the height of the disco era, is that the film is possibly the only skin flick filmed in 3D.
(1977) (a.k.a. Blonde Emmanuelle, a.k.a. Hot Skin in 3D). "Norm de Plume" (Stephen Gibson, the director of Black Lolita, Hard Candy and Scoring!) takes on Casablanca. Not for those allergic to sideburns, but the 3-D effects ought to keep fans wishing for raincoats (if they hadn't brought them already). Co-starring the one-named pornartiste Serena, who later became an abstract painter in San Francisco: "canvases with lots of eyeballs on them," claims hearsay evidence. Serena plays "Emmanuelle"the oft-filmed soft-core goddess who really should have been unmasked as the mistress of ceremonies in that ridiculous orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut. ("Yes, Tom Cruiseit is I! The High Priestess of the Open Marriage, here to crush your hard-defended monogamy! Tremble before the feet of Emmanuelle! Ha ha ha ha ha!") Also stars Russ Meyer starlet Uschi Digarda North Dakota-born model who speaks seven languages. (RvB)
(PG; 104 min.) The redemption fantasy Disney's The Kid is such prefabricated pap the title even bears the company name. Bruce Willis plays a self-absorbed, heartless L.A. image consultant who undergoes an image makeover of his own, when he literally encounters his inner child, in the form of his chubby, rowdy 8-year-old self (Spencer Breslin). Willis is solid in his earlier pre-redemption scenes, and there's a wonderfully caustic performance by Lily Tomlin as Willis' overworked personal assistant. But they aren't enough to distract us from the inconsistencies in Audrey Wells' screenplay (Willis is established as introverted and friendless, but in later scenes, he appears to be close friends with a prizefighter client and his relatives) and director Jon Turtletaub's manipulative tone. You keep expecting Roma Downey and Della Reese to drop by in a convertible and tell Willis, "God loves you." (JA)
(PG-13; 104 min.) In a modern reworking of Rear Window, troubled teenager Kale (Shia LaBeouf) blames himself for his father's death; his behavior lands him under house arrest for the summer. Bored, he takes to looking out the windows. He meets cute new neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer) and begins to suspect foul play at the home of Mr. Turner (a silky, sinister David Morse). Though Hitchcock brilliantly used only one architectural viewpoint, Disturbia expands to include all four sides of the house, plus modern technology. Director D.J. Caruso (Taking Lives) patiently builds suspense, but when the killer shows his hand, the film deteriorates into a typical slasher, complete with jerky angles, blurry footage and ridiculous, near-supernatural chases. With Carrie-Anne Moss and Aaron Yoo as a comical Asian sidekick. (JMA)
(R; 85 min.) A meek attempt at a psychological thriller, director David Nutter's Disturbing Behavior is set in the small town of Cradle Bay, where hunky Steve Clark (James Marsden) and his family move after the suicide of his older brother (shown in flashes of Steve's memory as dimpled cutie Ethan Embry). Steve quickly learns that Cradle Bay is being taken over by a growing army of scary honor-roll teens known as the Blue Ribbons. As Steve witnesses students getting sold out to the Blue Ribbons by oblivious parents hoping for straight-A kids, he and ultracool loner Rachel (Katie Holmes of Dawson's Creek) fight against the high-tech conformity. The simplistic plot is too predictable to be stimulating or scary, but the film takes itself too seriously to be funny. It's desperately stylized and has a prominent alternative soundtrack (including Addict's "Monster Side" and Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta") that will date the film before its time. Like many Scream knockoffs starring television's teen of the week, Disturbing Behavior leaves itself too much room for a sequel. (SQ)
(PG-13; 116 min.) I should know better than to see any movie with "Sisterhood" in the title (unless it's preceded by the adjective "Pole-Dancing"), but by not being part of the target audience for Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, perhaps I can offer some tips for any helpless males roped into this as a date flick. !1) Tears will be jerked as a mother and daughter squabble dramatically, rake through the coals of past grievances and then make up. Get over it. (2) Don't even try to keep track of the three generations of friends and family across 60-plus years. Just remember: Ellen Burstyn now = Ashley Judd then; Sandra Bullock is the one caught in the middle. The melting Muppets of the sisterhood include Maggie Smith, Shirley Knight and Fionnula Flanaganeach one has a cute character tic (Smith drags around an oxygen tent like a Deep South version of Dennis Hopper's character in Blue Velvet). (3) Sports footage: None. (4) It takes place in Louisiana, so there will be cringing moments: the wisdom-dispensing old black maid, for instance. (5) The film's motto: The sins of the mother are visited upon the daughteruntil the final reel, when it's all OK. (6) The men (dad James Garner, boyfriend Angus MacFadyen) are long-sufferingjust like you! (MSG)