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(PG; 107 min.) Amy Adams gives the best performance in a Disney musical since Julie Andrews debuted in Mary Poppins four decades ago. Her guileless optimism, which earned her an Oscar nomination for the little-seen Junebug, suits her role as the cartoon Giselle, betrothed to a handsome prince (James Marsden) until his evil stepmother (Susan Sarandon) dumps her into a well leading to "a place where there are no happily ever afters": New York City, where the film switches from animation to live action. There she is reluctantly rescued by a divorced divorce attorney, Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter. The film's moment of magic occurs when Giselle summons New York's fauna (rats, pigeons and roaches) to clean Robert's apartment while singing a happy work song. Although Enchanted is a send-up of every Disney film from Snow White to Pocahontas, Disney mocking Disney is often little more than gumming the hand that feeds. And the songs are by no means as memorable as the score for Mary Poppins. However, the strong cast and novel situation deliver an often enchanted tweener dream. (DH)
(1945) McGuire teams with Robert Young in a very thick story about a plain woman and a disfigured man who discover a kind of magic the outside world can't touch. (AR)
(PG-13) In the Ecuadorian Amazon basin in the late 1950s, a family of missionaries is murdered by Waodani natives; rather than losing their religion over the incident, the mass martyring confirms it. And Nate Saint (Chad Allen), orphaned by the attack, becomes a friend to the tribe. A bad movie, trying to do good works, but it's not the proselytizing one minds as much as the general ineptitude of the acting, writing and scoring. The red men aren't the only ones who are patronized; the small talk among the missionaries is just as unlikely as the many scenes of the savages tossing spears into one another's gizzards, wrestling with taxidermed panthers and kicking toy vampire bats. It is dismaying enough to see the missionaries getting to play sky god by bribing the locals with food dropped from a Piper Cub. But the lowest point is early on, when a warrior turns back from his murderous pursuit of children because it starts to rain. ("Wait a minute, don't I live in a rain forest?") Makes Audrey Hepburn's turn as Rima the Bird Girl in Green Mansions look as authentic as a National Geographic special. (RvB)
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(R; 122 min.) In the intertwining stories of an action film producer and a surveillance expert, Wim Wenders explores the nature of violence.
(PG; 83 min.) This sweetly grueling docudrama requires as much stamina from the audience as from its indomitable hero, Ethiopian long-distance champion Haile Gebrsellasie. The film opens at the start of the 10,000-meter race during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, then flashes back to Gebrsellasie's hard-scrabble childhood in rural Ethiopia, where he ran barefoot six miles to school daily. Despite the epic arid landscape and Gebrsellasie's affable self-portrayal, the hourlong biographical interlude drags like a 10k race in August. Director Leslie Woodhead subtitles dialogue minimally, relying instead upon title cards that echo a silent-film melodrama. The film kicks to a strong finish when the story returns to Olympic stadium. There, longtime Olympic documentarian Bud Greenspan films Haile's race with a much-needed endorphin rush. (DH)
(Unrated) Sir Ernest Shackleton attempted and failed to reach the South Pole in 1914. His ship The Endurance lies somewhere under the ice off Antarctica, but the mission was a success after all. The inconcievable toughness of Shackleton and his crew were the subject of Frank Hurley's silent documentary, South (recently restored by the British Film Institute, and released through Milestone Films). This new documentary based on Caroline Alexander's book uses material from South while telling the rest of Shackleton's story. Liam Neeson narrates. (RvB)
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(R; 100 min.) After witnessing a freak accident, a London professor named Joe Rose (Daniel Craig, Ted Hughes in Sylvia) is stalked by a mad, redheaded drifter named Jed (Rhys Ifans). What, precisely, Jed wants is at first unclear; he claims seeing Joe was a case of love at first sight, but is it romantic or spiritual love that he means? As the movie goes on, and Ifans gets progressively wetterand not just from standing in the rain outside Joe's flatit's apparent that Jed is not really a character, he's an essay topic. And the question is as follows: Joe is one of those hard-core determinists you see in the movies, who believes that biology is our destiny and that love is just a chemical trick, so how can Joe feel love for his girlfriend Claire (Samantha Morton)? I watched this long, involved argument for moderation with the greatest impatience. On the bright side it's certainly a three-handkerchief movie for stalkers. (RvB)
(R; 127 min.) In this witty thriller by Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer (the Top Gun team), a complacent bourgeois (Will Smith) unknowingly obtains a videotape showing the head of national security (Jon Voight) supervising a domestic assassination. Gene Hackman, in a revision of the worm he played in The Conversation, carries Smith and the script over the rough parts. But what's really intriguing here is that the most despicable bad guys aren't the gunslingers or even their corrupt boss, but the techno-nerds who execute their deadly duties with all the compassion of children playing video games. (BC)
Two English surveyorsReginald (Hugh Grant) and George (Ian McNeice)are sent to a quaint (aren't they all) Welsh village during WWI to measure the height of the "first mountain in Wales," which turns out to be 20 feet short. Led by randy pub owner Morgan the Goat (Colm Meany) and a crotchety clergyman (Kenneth Griffith), the villagers demand a new measurement. You see everything in this film coming a mile away, so it's no surprise that the mild-mannered Reginald falls in love with the sassy Betty (Tara Fitzgerald). As easy to forget as it is easy on the brain, this is a dumbed-down version of Masterpiece Theatre with a big budget. (GY)
(R; 170 min.) Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (based on the book by Michael Ondaatje) loses its way trying to touch all of the corners of a novel that was simultaneously expansive and compact. In Italy in 1945, a Canadian nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), falls in love with a severely burned pilot, Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), whose own tale is told in flashback. He was a desert explorer who, very much against his will, became the lover of the wife (Kirstin Scott Thomas) of a friend. Scott Thomas is one of the few actresses who radiate intelligence and sophistication the way that baser thespians just radiate sex. Her intelligence is a downfall, though; she seems too cerebral to have her life ruined by a grand passion or to inspire sentiments such as "The heart is an organ of fire." And Binoche's Hana is an unplayable character, a construct of the soul in mourning. For a playwright turned movie director, Minghella has developed a strong visual sense. In the crash in which the English patient loses his face, the pilot is silhouetted against cream-colored flames. Like Ondaatje, Minghella succeeds in taking the agony out of the burning, to make the fire a nimbus, a halo. (RvB)
(PG-13; 115 min.) No, more than enough. The film has the dynamic of every lousy rape/revenge movie you've ever seen. Slim (Jennifer Lopez) is supposed to be a streetwise waitress, but her defenses are somehow paralyzed by her rich new husband, Mitch (Bill Campbell, who leaves no impression). Due to Slim's pathological refusal to call the police on this batterer ("He's the father of my child. I'm not going to put him in jail!"), she must flee, first to Seattle, then to Michigan; but the omniscient husband, who has unlimited resources and a private militia of thugs, follows the wife and her child (annoyingly played by Tessa Allen). A thoroughly manipulated audience longs for Slim to get martial arts lessons and finally attack, but it takes about a century. Seemingly no one realized what an essentially passive character Slim is. Moved into action by one bad man, she's rescued by another: her estranged father (Fred Ward), a dotcom millionaire (who is named Jupiter for some reason). It's a case of Zeus ex machina. Let's give Lopez the benefit of the doubt and guess the reason for her poor performance isn't just her limited acting ability, which is certainly there, but the fact that she can't identify with Slim's absurd handling of her situation. Slim's the word; these characters (written by Nicolas Kazan) don't live or breathe, and this laughable battered-woman drama deserves a bit of a slapping around itself. (RvB)
(1973; R; 99 min.) The panther squall that was Bruce Lee echoes through theaters again with the 25th anniversary rerelease of Enter the Dragon. It's a film that's worth a new print; Enter the Dragon is, above all, a very good-looking movie. Even if it boasted a thousand clichés, even if Lee was, at best, a terrible actorthe film presented all of the simpler pleasures of an action movie. Lee plays a martial artist named Lee who is asked by the government to investigate the villainous Han (Kien Shih). If only the movie had a fraction of the wit of the Bond films. The dead seriousness of Enter the Dragon left it ripe for parody. Ultimately Jackie Chana far more exciting screen personality than Leelampooned Lee's scowling, howling and neck-crunching style. Nevertheless, the two Hong Kong martial artists best known in the West share a quality that distinguishes them from the chorus line of kickboxers in American movies. Asked to define his style by a minor character in Enter The Dragon, Lee explains, "It's the art of fighting without fighting." Lee may be depressingly serious, but braggadocio isn't part of his persona. (RvB)
(1935) Cary Grant plays the long-suffering husband of an opera diva (Elissa Landi), who neglects the poor man in favor of her career and a preening crowd of music fanciers. (RvB)
(PG-13; 112 min.) Fairly subtle, slightly complex and very sexy, this stylish action thriller directed by Jon Amiel moves along at a moderate, but by no means explosive pace. Sean Connery stars as the stoic Robert "Mac" MacDougal, art thief extraordinaire, who confines himself to a solitary existence. Catherine Zeta-Jones is Virginia "Gin" Baker, a strong-willed insurance investigator who charms her way into his life with the intent of luring him into a heist for her own gain. Set days before the turn of the millennium, this nimble crime caper keeps the viewer analyzing the characters' true motivations right up to the end. The chemistry between Connery and Zeta-Jones works well enough, due largely to her performance, and vast age difference aside, their romance is tastefully explored through expressive nuances rather than overstated scenes. (SQ)
(PG-13; 99 min.) Ben Stiller is jealous of his friend Jack Black's success with an invention that makes dog shit disappear. That really is the plot, people. I'm noticing that the strategy for Ben Stiller's movie career generally seems to be to pair him with someone else who has a reputation for being funny and have him act like an asshole. The strategy for Jack Black's movie career seems to be to have him take absolutely any movie he's offered. (Capsule preview by SP)
(PG; 104 min.) Somewhere between the kingdoms of the evil Lord Uwe Boll and the domain of the wizard Peter Jackson lies the realm of the dreaded (Stefen) Fangmeier, longtime special effects director now making his debut. Eragon is a typical glamorous and poshly accented farm boy (Edward Speleers, far prettier than leading princess Sienna Guillory). He raises a dragon from the egg stage; he names the creature Saphira. The temperamental blue reptile has a chiding, nursemaid's voice (Rachel Weisz is responsible). Then it is quest time, through a land of spells, weird languages and armies of torch-bearing baldies with tribal tattoos and the most painful-looking contact lenses this side of a rave. (Was one team of evil soldiers really called "Urkels"?). On the sidelines are Djimon Hounsou as a magus or something; Jeremy Irons as a wandering, heart-sick warrior full of the usual aphorisms; and Robert Carlyle as a cackling "Shade." Supervising the assistant villain Carlyle is John Malkovich in the Skeletor part as King Galbatorix. His majesty is most unhappy with the results of the Alagaeisia Study Group and enunciates his displeasure syllable by syllable. While the brats might like it, adults will wish for a magic spell to numb their hindquarters until it's over. (RvB)
(R; 117 min.) As narrative gimmicks go, the copying of computer files makes for a particularly dull McGuffin—the only pointing and clicking I want from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie involves a well-muscled trigger finger. Luckily, Eraser, the dubiously plotted story of John Kruger (Schwarzenegger), a federal agent charged with protecting Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), a computer-company snitch (okay, she's really a patriot turning state's evidence against gun runners), from enemies within and without, features some artful armaments. A futuristic assault weapon sends its victims hurtling through the air like long jumpers viewed on fast reverse. A spinning cannister pops open like a particularly clever mechanical toy before dispersing a star burst of shooting nails, one of which pierces Arnie's hand—he ends up taking more hits than St. Sebastian by the time he's finally collared the crooks. Schwarzenegger's acting remains reliably wooden (not for nothing does one character inquire, "Who's the tree trunk?" when Kruger walks into a room), but James Coburn (looking marvelously fit) and James Caan fill the void with some modulated hamming (and that includes John Cromwell, a.k.a. Farmer Hoggett of Babe fame). When all is said and done, as an editor, I can't say anything bad about a movie whose tag line is: "You've been erased." (MSG)
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(R; 104 min.) A three-part anthology that delivers far less arousal than its title promises. Wong Kar-wai's contributionThe Handis about the 1963 sexual inauguration of a young tailor (Chang Chen) who has come to costume a courtesan (Gong Li). The businesslike incident that occurs between them becomes a mooning, unrequited one-way love affair of the sort that's very, very familiar to those who have seen any of Wong's films. Steven Soderbergh's contribution, Equilibrium, isn't erotic, except in the abstract. In 1953, a distracted ad man (Robert Downey Jr.) has come to a psychiatrist (Alan Arkin). Penrose keeps dreaming of a woman in blue, who is dressing for the day as she's about to leave him. At least, here there is a serious erotic element, represented by a model (Ele Keats) dressed in high 1950s fashion, posed against royal blue walls. Michelangelo Antonioni's episode, The Dangerous Thread of Things, is a sad echo of earlier work. The aged director traffics in the least-classic symbols of passion, including a cluster of proud stampeding stallions, a lone phallic tower, a naked Deadhead dance on the beach and a very slow Maserati. (RvB)
(R; 100 min.) In a religious fundamentalist/p.c. fascist future America, Escape From New York hero Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) must this time infiltrate the quake-ravaged no man's land of Los Angeles to retrieve a doomsday device stolen by the President's daughter, all while battling a rogue's gallery of cops, gangs and plastic surgery freaks. Assembled for the occasion is an eccentric supporting cast seemingly scientifically designed to appeal to every segment of male pop-culture fandom, to judge from the enthusiastic reaction of the preview audience to each of their favorites' on-screen appearances. The Tarantinoids and blaxploitation fans cheered lustily at the sight of Pam Grier and Steve Buscemi, and latter-day hippies applauded ex-Easy Rider Peter Fonda's appearance as an aging, AK-47-toting surfer. But though sequelizing a cult fave like Escape From New York and assembling this offbeat cast may put the fanboys in the palm of his hand, Carpenter proceeds to fritter away their goodwill by giving these actors nothing interesting to do. To paraphrase Anton Chekov, you don't show Steve Buscemi in the first act unless you're going to give him a witty, profane monologue in the third. Even Russell's squinting Clint Eastwood impersonation aren't enough to sustain interest in the face of a clunky script, which continually rehashes its superior ancestor. (ZS)
(1981) So much for futuristic prophecies: the apocalypse was a no-show, andthough some might argue otherwiseManhattan island didn't become a huge godforsaken maximum-security prison back in the late '90s, though the latter is the premise of this John Carpenter-directed actioner starring Kurt Russell.
(PG; 120 min.) Steven Spielberg's famous fantasy about a lovable, wrinkly-skinned alien trying to escape from the hell of America suburbia and the grasping clutches of evil young children (including the demonic Drew Barrymore) gets a heartwarming 20th anniversary rerelease.
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(R; 108 min.) The title comes from Alexander Pope's "Elöisa to Abelard," and the premise is like something out of Philip K. Dick. A pair of crossed and incompatible lovers go, separately, to the Lacuna company, which uses a high-tech brainwashing technique to remove that certain someone from your memory. Eternal Sunshine is a novel, tantalizing film, and it's haunting, with its winterscapes and the use of the Long Island Railroad for symbolic purposes. Oddly, it is closer to Chris Marker's La Jetée than the official remake, Twelve Monkeys. While music-video vet Michel Gondry is innovative scene by scene, the movie has that fitful episodic quality you've come to expect from music-video directors' feature length films. And as good as they often are here, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are playing characters that probably ought to be 10-20 years younger. To prove that, check out the more honest youthful impulsiveness in Kirsten Dunst, who plays a happy/sad secretary at Lacuna. Tom Wilkinson plays Lacuna's founder, who gets the comeuppance all mad scientists deserve. (RvB)
(R) The ads are playing up the fact that several of this film's producers were also behind Road Trip, and are apparently attempting to turn their success into a National Lampoon kind of franchise (without the same characters, but basically the same plot). That's cool, but in all fairness, it should also be noted that the actual writers and director of Eurotrip were the creative team behind last year's The Cat in the Hat, not Road Trip. (Capsule preview by SP)
(PG; 90 min.) Writer Steve Oedekerk and director Tom Shadyac have already littered the cinematic landscape with such unwanted items as Patch Adams and Bruce Almighty, subsequently sending the careers of Robin Williams and Jim Carrey spiraling downward. Now they're back with Evan Almighty, in which God (Morgan Freeman) asks new Congressman Evan (Steve Carell) to build an ark. The film mixes sentimentality with crotch jokes, as well as a few "building" montages accompanied by pop songs. Logic fails when nobody acknowledges the hundreds of pairs of animals that turn up or the fact that Evan grows his beard impossibly fast (a joke already used in the equally unfunny The Santa Clause). Carell plays the uptight character straight, creating anxiety instead of comedy. (JMA)
(PG-13; 129 min.) Entertainments like The Evening Star are the woman's answer to the action film. The invincible heroine triumphs in circumstances that no living human being could possibly make the best of, to the admiration of all, even her enemies. The Evening Star gouges the tear ducts while wisely following the law of the sequel: the same thing, only more this time. The well-off Houston matriarch Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) is now interfering with her grandchildren's lives: Melanie (Juliette Lewis) is in love with a worthless man; Tommy (George Newbern) is in jail. Lewis, having been taken to extremes by Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino, isn't ready for soap opera. MacLaine is scaled just right for TV. (RvB)
(R; 97 min.) A deep-space docking maneuver goes very, very wrong; power is lost; the safety of the crew is jeopardized. Is it the first documentary about the Mir space station? No, it's Event Horizon, an utterly ludicrous and mostly enjoyable "who knows what evil lurks in the hull of men's spaceships?" bit of special-effects fluff. When a vanished space probe suddenly reappears, a crew is sent to find out why the last radio transmission sounded liked a banshee's holiday. Sam Neill (who really shouldn't remove his shirt onscreen againhe has one of those staved-in barrel chests that 1940s movie stars sported in the days before Nautilus equipment and steroids) plays a mad scientist (the best kind) who falls into a black hole to hell and comes back with cross-stitched facial scars straight out of a Clive Barker movie. The multiculti Alien[s]-style crew trying to resist psychological meltdown, roaming fireballs and zero-G body parts includes by-the-book commander Laurence Fishburne, medical officer and absentee mom Kathleen Quinlan, street-jiving space mechanic Richard T. Jones, jug-eared male ingenue Jack Noseworthy and Vanessa Redgrave's daughter, Joely Richardson, as one of those survivors who's probably better off dead. Bonus points for a Night of the Living Dead banquet scene, gratuitous use of Latin and Fishburne in a flame suit. Demerits for some lame computerized weightless goo. (MSG)
(PG-13; 121 min.) Drew Barrymore portrays a rugged Cinderella in this charming retelling of the fairy tale. Here she's tougher than any guy in 16th-century France. Her only obstacles are the ever-formidable Anjelica Huston as the wicked stepmother, and her status as a commoner. The handsome Prince is a bit of a male bimbo, and Leonardo Da Vinci's appearance (perhaps an homage to the Renaissance father of special effects) owes more to a Bill and Ted film than to the Brothers Grimm. However, the cast and locations are handsome, the story gets the tear ducts working, and the feminist script is pro-tomboy and pro-library. (DH)
(PG-13; 86 min.) It's a feature film about a matter that deserves to be examined, the ever-deepening gap between the rich and the poor in America. Moreover, this indie film picked the perfect locationsEverett, Wash.where the fissure between high-tech executives and factory workers is particularly wide. The movie even thanks class-war chronicler Barbara Ehrenreich on the credits. Idealistic as it might be in theme, however, the film itself is minor, with a short film's plot taffy-pulled to reach an hour and a half's length. Director Enid Zentelis' picture concerns a semihomeless high school student named Henrietta (Henri for short, played by Addie Land). She and her wandering, trouble-prone mother, Kate (Cara Seymour), descend on Grandma's leaky house. When Henri starts school, her mother warns her of the rich kids who will pick on her. Instead, Henri develops a fixation on one shallow rich boy called Chat (Noah Fleiss). More properly, it is Chat's luxurious house that beguiles her. Henri does her best to become one of Chat's family while ignoring the tensions between Chat's parents (Bruce Davison and Mary Kay Place). All is resolved with the sturdy, pat dramaturgy of an after-school special. Except in the part of Henri, the characterization is thoroughly one-dimensional. Still, Zentelis' intimate camera style is at its best during a scene of mutual humiliation for Henri and Kate, where the mother is doing a "First Lady" (i.e., Mary Kay) makeover on her angry, stock-still daughter. The hearty actor Gary Farmer, as Kate's on-again, off-again lover, is a relief from the family feuding. And the last shot is very intelligent; it is an aerial view of a cluttered housing development, homes chockablock in a too-small tract of landand it is Kate and Henri's downscaled version of the American dream. (Like the last shot in John Sayles' Matewan, it suggests that a small victory over the forces of the market still means a life of hard work for very little reward.) This movie makes a genuine effort to transcend being the Sundance version of Pretty in Pink. The local AMC theaters are downloading Evergreen via satellite as their first use of the Digital Theater Distribution System; this movie by satellite system is claimed to be the future of cinema exhibition. (RvB)
(1949) I don't think even Molière could overcome a title like that. Cary Grant plays a pediatrician under siege by a persistent salesgirl (Betsy Drake) who's out husband-hunting. (In real life Drake married Grant.) It was a success, though. (RvB)
(R; 110 min.) In the late '90s, only the antique conventions of the Depression-era Hollywood musical could accommodate Woody Allen's trademark concerns with the romantic woes of the rich, beautiful and white residents of New York's Upper East Side. So if Everyone Says I Love You seems horribly dated, insular, and vainhey, that's the genre, and maybe Allen's poking some fun at it, right? Not a chance. Feeling nostalgic for how things used to be (in the city and the movies), the director answers critics of his race politics by including people of color in Everyone's musical numbers. They're the smiley-faced homeless people and service workers twirling brooms and hospital gurneys on the sidelines. Meanwhile, the 61-year-old Allen maintains his ability to cast gorgeous young actresses in leading roles. Of these, Drew Barrymore seems to carry a tune more sweetly than Julia Roberts, whose atonal rendition of "All My Life" is just excruciating. The male actors include Allen (who delivers a hushed, falsely modest version of "I'm Thru With Love"), Tim Roth and Alan Alda, although only Edward Norton (Primal Fear) hits the right notes as a straight-laced nerd in love. (RN)
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(PG-13; 105 min.). It isn't, and that's the trouble. An adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel, in the sense that Adaptation was a version of Susan Orlean's nonfiction book, this is Liev Schreiber's story of a buttoned-up little Pee-wee Herman called "Jonathan Safran Foer" (Elijah Wood). Foer is escorted on his Ukrainian travels by a family of professional Yank-wranglers. Alex (Eugene Hutz) is as friendly a hip-hop-loving Americaphile as ever wore a Kangol beanie. By contrast, his grumpy grandfather (Boris Leskin) doesn't care for much of anything. Bonding ensues. It's like a sketch that won't end, in which the main part of the humor is young Alex's malapropisms. While the dialect humor doesn't bear requoting, Hutz is a find; the tour guide has the loose grin and unflappable good humor we expect from old-time movie cowboys. (RvB)
(Unrated; 110 min.) A "lesbian" Big Chill this has been calledand if you liked that insidious piece of bourgeois nostalgia, the plagiarism of Everything Relative might well annoy. Set in a cabin near North Hampton, NY, Everything Relative portrays the weekend reunion of seven old college friends (six lesbian, one straight) who performed together in a political theater troupe in the '70s. Although some of the friends have sold out or bought in, and the young 20something girlfriend fails to appreciate the price her elders have paid for her freedom, the movie culminates in hugs all around. Writer-director Sharon Pollack proves that a lesbian indie can be just as mainstream as any straight Hollywood one. (RN)
(1972) The title of Woody Allen's early comedy seems a bit iffy in retrospect, but it was a very funny sketch comedy based only loosely on the source book. Stars Louise Lasser, Tony Randall, Gene Wilder and more.
(1987) "Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn! DEAD BY DAWN!" When will you idiots learn not to monkey with the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred's forbidden book, Necronomicon, you mortals who are baffled by the occult mystery of the Fortune-Telling Fish, you fools whose souls are torn by the lurking pale Lovecraftian madness of Harry Potter and the Hormones of Hermoine? Bruce Campbellstern jawed and fatuous, worthy of an old Monocle Studios serialplays the unhappy camper battling gibbering invisible demons that thirst for blood. Each curse is worse! Memorable for early use of the "shakeycam"director Sam (Spider-Man) Raimi's brilliant invention of a camera fastened to a board and used to swoop between trees, while Campbell gets more severe treatment than Jerome "Curly" Howard ever endured. "Who's laughing now!" (RvB)
(PG; 130 min.) Evita is sheer poison, a concentration of the abilities of Oliver Stone, Alan Parker, Tim Rice and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Evita traces the career of the famed courtesan Eva Duarte (Madonna) from her countrified beginnings to her marriage with Argentina's President (Almost) for Life Juan Perón (Jonathan Pryce). The story is commented upon by Ché Guevara himself (Antonio Banderas). Operetta usually has a plot you can follow, too; there's a student prince or a singing bandit or something. Evita is near incoherent; whenever there's a change of scenery, they send in the tanks and the explosions. The wispy little story has been wrapped around director Parker's own show-business view of the crowd: We lie to them, we falsify history, but we give them a loud, flashy spectacle, and the peasants love us for it. (RvB)
(Not rated) Classic surf film featuring Aussie sensation Wayne Lynch pioneering radical moves that touched off the sport's '60s shortboard revolution.
(PG-13) A turd-shaped meteor hits earth, bearing with it fast-acting DNA which evolves from one-celled organisms to primates in the space of a few weeks. Ivan Reitman's tired, choppy and puerile comedy is meantfrom omnipresent three-eyed logo to anti-authoritarian bentto recall his megahit, Ghostbusters. Times have changedto rope in the younger audience, Reitman's going for the butt with anal humor he doesn't really have the appetite for. Like the cheap monster movies of the 1950s, Evolution was filmed in the desert, but the weather wasn't good, and the dreary overcast adds to the sense of failure here. (Michael Chapman, who photographed Taxi Driver, has been reduced to this movie.) David Duchovny, Orlando Jones and Julianne Moore try to relate to one another in between monster attacks, and there are promising glimpses of friendly chemistry between Jones and Duchovny (the latter, as always, terminally underacting; he should have played the goofy incompetent one instead of Jones, as a takeoff on his smooth Fox on The X-Files.) Still, every scene without a rubber critter or an anal probing in it just seems like outtakes; the acting's amatuerish, the film's undertone is misogynist, and the ordinarily graceful Moore can't rehabilitiate it. If she seems a bit cold and disdainful here, who can blame her? (RvB)
(PG-13; 90 min.) Similar to Are We Done Yet?, this insipid comedy pits the idiotic hero, Tom (Zach Braff), against an impossibly perfect villain, the wheelchair-bound "nice guy" Chip (Jason Bateman), who everyone except the hero and the audience thinks is great. As a result, the movie has no intelligent, truthful or sympathetic characters. Losing his job on the day his son is born, Tom compromises by moving to Ohio and taking a job in his father-in-law's company. Chip, a former lover of Tom's wife (Amanda Peet), wants her back and subtly tries to sabotage Tom's career. Donal Logue and Amy Adams provide New Age hippie humor (but what are they doing in Ohio?). As the father-in-law, old pro Charles Grodin gives the only inspired line readings. (JMA)
(PG-13; 98 min.) Poor little rich girl Emily (Alicia Silverstone) fakes her own kidnapping and falls in love with the beautiful loser (Benicio del Toro) who ruins her plan by stealing her car with her in it. It's supposed to be a madcap comedy adventure, but it isn't. The film's most remarkable characteristic is that it's very poorly recorded, rendering del Toro's James Dean impersonation mostly unintelligible. Christopher Walken does a walk-through as his usual scary-guy-in-a-suit character. (BC)
(R; 129 min.) A civilian consultant to the Pentagon (Kurt Russell in a James Bond tuxedo) finds himself helping a Special Forces team disarm a nerve-gas bomb on a jet liner hijacked by Middle Eastern terrorists (lead by David Suchet, as elegantly restrained as he is in his best-known role, TV's Hercule Poirot). Throwing in handfuls of red herrings, switcheroos and wild implausibilities, writers John Thomas and Jim Thomas turn what could have been an off-the-rack actioner into a custom-fitted thriller. They're helped by director Stuart Baird, who seems to have ignited the fuse and stepped out of the way. No doubt the stunts were expensive, but someone was smart enoughor lucky enoughto douse this endearingly dumb fare with that indefinable audaciousness that makes Hong Kong movies such a kick. (BC)
(R; 95 min.) This actioner stars DMX as an honest cop working in a corrupt precinct where his fellow officers deal drugs. He enlists the aid of another cop (Steven Seagal) to help him clean up his precinct.
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(PG-13; 114 min.) My friend Emily, formerly quite the horror-movie fan, has been completely freaked out by them lately. She won't even go see zombie movies. I don't get thatzombies are the kind of realistic threat you'd worry about in everyday life? "Uh oh, better shut the blinds, I don't want any zombies seeing that I'm home and then shambling slowly over here! I'd only have 4 1/2 hours to escape!" Anyway, you can imagine this new movie based on a supposedly real exorcism has probably, like, ruined my chances of getting Emily to a horror movie ever again, what with all those voices eerily chanting "Emily, Emilyyyyyy ..." in the preview. Ironically, this isn't an all-out spookfest; it's set up as a "courtroom horror" in which the question of whether the protagonist was actually possessed by demons is a key issue of debate. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1973) New and improved and with extra added Linda Blair torture. William Friedkin's horror film about a young girl from Georgetown afflicted by the Iraqi demon Pazuzu was phenomenally popular in its day, even though the gross special effects and pop-ups seem to affect those with weak stomachs. In some cases, theater owners spread kitty litter on the theater floor to sop up all the vomit. (One joke at the time was that the people lined up around the block "to see what all the throwing up was about.") Horror in the 1970s was always tons more violent, misogynistic and hard-core than the current crop, and maybe one or two patrons will hork for old time's sake, but to those who keep their lunches while all about are losing theirs, The Exorcist is a relic of "born-again Medievalism" (Peter Biskind) whose power has been leached by dozens of imitatorsimitators even as shabby as the recent Bless the Child. The emphasis on the Catholic Church as the only vehicle that can fight evil is reactionarynote that three Jesuits are listed as technical advisers. The scenes of a pubescent girl sexually punished by supernatural forces are a vicious spectacle that, seen once, was enough. The sound effects have been pumped up for this re-release. The soundtrack always was more effective than the visuals, since what persists in the mind about this film is Mike Oldfield's theme song, "Tubular Bells" (a.k.a. "The Satanic Ice Cream Truck"). One possible silver lining in all this: maybe it means residuals for Linda Blair, who deserves some extra money for one of the most spectacularly painful careers of the Bad Taste Decade. (RvB)
(R; 100 min.) Funny, we don't remember any great clamoring or groundswell of desire for a prequel to The Exorcist. And yet ...
(1998/1995) Simon Yam plays a detective on the trail of a gang of cold-blooded jewel thieves in Expect the Unexpected. Lau Ching-Wan and Ruby Wong co-star. BILLED WITH My Father Is a Hero. A family in humble circumstances doesn't realize that their dad (Jet Li) is a secret agent for the People's Republic of China. This fairly weepy martial-arts drama co-stars Anita Mui and Blackie Ko..(RvB)
(Not rated) Santa Cruz area premiere of new surf video featuring locals Jason "Ratboy" Collins and Jay Moriarty. A benefit showing for Levi Castro, a young local surfer injured at Mitchell's Cove.
(1998/1992) Shojenomichi, the Japanese cult, threatens to bomb Hong Kong with sarin. The Japanese agent Takami (Kenya Sawada) and his partner from the Hong Kong police (Julia Cheung) seek out the religious maniacs. Directed by Bruce Law. BILLED WITH Swordsman II. Highly recommended gender-bender fantasy about the demoness Asia the Invincible (the marvelous Brigitte Lin) and the Wah Mountain martial-arts students who stand opposed to her, led by Ling (Jet Li). (RvB)
(R; 117 min.) A doctor, Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant), treats a homeless patient with a baffling illness; when the patient dies, and his body disappears, Luthan uncovers a grisly corporate scheme. At its best, Extreme Measures is a prime paranoid thrillerhandsome, briskly paced and well-timed to coincide with current news events. It has an attractive human dimension as well: the body-snatching hit men tracking down Luthan are reluctant murderers. At the same time, the film is too long, burdened with a clumsy epilogue and weakened by the casting. Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant demonstrate that they are much more comfortable with light comedy than with thrillers. In the problematic role of the evil doctor, Gene Hackman opts for a trace of irony during the all-important mad-scientist speech; maybe he couldn't take seriously either the speech or (forgivably) the sight of Grant training a gun on him while he recited it. Extreme Measures is never deeper than pulp, but Michael Apted's tough, smart direction shines through. (RvB)
(PG-13; 92 min.) Disconnected snowboard scenes are padded with unconvincing digital avalanches, rolled in gypsum "snow," then sewn together with a plot about a Hollywood crew coming to film a TV commercial in the Austrian Tyrol. Advertisements have deluded viewers into thinking this will be a Gen-X version of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Notwithstanding the mountain aerie and the turtle-necked, bald-headed villain (Serbian war criminals on the lam, in this case), Extreme Ops is hideous sub-MTV Real World material about horny hot dogs at a half-built ski resort trying to get the only two girls around to kiss in the hot tub as a "truth or dare" penalty. They do, just as a young boy kisses an ugly aunt. Then the ensemble stumble into an espionage plot and run for their worthless lives. Cast includes the two girls: Bridgette Wilson as a gold-medaled downhill skier so horsy she practically whinnies, and, as the bad punk-rock girl Kittie, Jana Pallaske. The filmmakers seem to be hoping that Pallaske will be the German Angelina Jolie. Rupert Graves has to play den mother to this bunch, but should console himself with the fact that even the best British villain types end up mired in stinkers like this sometimes. (RvB)
(PG-13; 97 min.) I know what you're thinking: "Why should I even consider the other merits of this horror remake, when Jessica Alba is going to ruin it with her atrocious acting?" Well, having been a fan of the Hong Kong-based Pang brothers' original 2002 film, I was extremely dubious going in myself. But this is one American remake that actually respects the original film and stays very close to it in both plot and execution. Once again, a blind young woman gets a cornea transplant to restore her sight but realizes that donor screening is not what it used to be when she starts seeing dead people. The only thing that's been Hollywoodized is, regrettably, the ending; the rest walks a nice line between re-creating the memorable spooky parts of the original and throwing in a few new and well-executed ideas. Then Jessica Alba ruins it with her atrocious acting. (SP)
(R; 101 min.) After her teenage daughter's rapist/murderer escapes through a loophole in that pesky old Constitution, a concerned mother (Sally Field) prepares herself for a showdown. Buying a Saturday-night special and taking self-defense classes renew her self-confidence, especially when she mistakenly beats up an innocent man in a parking garage. A good castespecially Ed Harris as her stalwart husband and a properly menacing Kiefer Sutherland as the villaindo a good job with so-so material. Like a slick lawyer, this "B" psychothriller is adept, moving and shamelessly manipulative, the kind of thing that elicits whoops from the audience when the bad guy gets what's coming to him. (BC)
(R; 90 min.) Martha Plimpton and Hal Holbrook star in this story of a vulnerable young woman who learns independence through marriage to an ex-convict.
(R; 109 min.) A British surveillance agent (Ewan McGregor) stationed in America wigs out. He is overcome with paternal feeling for a black-widow killer named Joanna (Ashley Judd). She: brilliant murderess with a dozen identities who avenges her sex by killing anyone who dares to proposition her. She, also: frightened wittle girl who blubbers "Merry Christmas, Daddy" after stabbing a male victim to death. She's two gynophobic clichés for the price of one. The English-as-a-second-language script includes such bons mots as "See that fox in the mink? Cool as a cucumber," which would make you think this was a comedy, but writer/director Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) thinks not. Neither does Ashley Judd, who plays this as if it were Ibsen. The film borders on exploitation as it shows off Judd in lingeriebut Judd is, and probably always will be, the practical, flat-voiced, Sally Field, girl-next-door type, not a Circe in lace. The only other raison d'etre for this film is as a demonstration of how cost-efficient Canada can be used to dupe all corners of the United States; the substitution of Quebec City for San Francisco locations is especially novel. You'll have plenty of time to study the geographical bait-and-switch through the holes in the plot. A few minutes with the old lioness Genevieve Bujold isn't enough to add a lick of sense to this "psychological thriller" that'll be stinking up the shelves of Blockbuster in jig time. (RvB)