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(R; 124 min.) A stranger has a profound impact on a small farming community. Stars Ashley Judd, Kate Capshaw and Vince Vaughn.
(1927/1925) The matinee idol Ivor Novello stars as the new tenant in a Victorian boarding house whose late hours and suspicious behavior inflame the curiosity of the neighborhood. Is he Jack the Ripper? "It was the first time I exercised my style," said director Alfred Hitchcock. "You could say that The Lodger was my first movie." BILLED WITH The Pleasure Garden, Hitchcock's first completed film, made in Munich. It's a story about the melodramatic love lives of a pair of chorus girls (Carmelita Geraghty and Virginia Valli) who are bedeviled by infidelity, madness and murder. "It got a very good press," Hitchcock recalled later. "The London Daily Express ran a headline describing me as 'the young man with a mastermind.' " Silent; Jim Riggs at the organ. (RvB)
(R; 137 min.) John Sayles wrote, directed and edited this story of a small Texas town's secrets coming to light with the finding of the skull of a dead sheriff (played, in flashback, by a startlingly malign Kris Kristofferson). When the new sheriff (Chris Cooper), son of a local hero, decides to find out who was responsible for the killing, his forensic work turns over the myths the townand, by extension, Texas and even the whole countryhas lived by. Sayles handles the ensemble cast deftly, fleshing out the story with intelligent subplotting; it's smart film, full of ideas that are elevated without the use of a soapbox. (RvB)
(1962) Long (three hours) epic about the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces on June 6, 1944. Stars John Wayne, Rod Steiger, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum and just about every male star in Hollywood of the time.
(1997/1998) Tony Leung Chiu-Wai stars in The Longest Nite, a Macau-set gangster thriller. BILLED WITH Hitman, with Jet Li as an "uncle" (mainland greenhorn newly arrived in Hong Kong) trying to make a living as a gangster's torpedo. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 114 min.) Burt Reynolds and Ed Lauter are the only two actors from the original 1974 film to appear in this story of a revered football superstar (Adam Sandler) who has faded into obscurity, until a drunk driving incident lands him in jail. Assigned the job of putting together a team of convicts to square off in a game against sadistic guards, Crewe prepares for what looks like will be a crude, humorous and violent game. (Capsule preview by SJP)
(R; 120 min.) An amnesiac New Jersey housewife (Geena Davis) turns out to be a Femme Nikita-style assassin. With the help of a detective (Samuel L. Jackson), she finds out what happened to her and reconciles being a top-notch secret agent with being a mommy. In the hands of director Renny Harlin and writer Shane Black, the film is an unpleasant, brutish piece of work. It's a noisy movie, with semiautomatic fire, explosions and an Alan Silvestri score that would give a taiko drummer a headache. Sometimes the grubbiness hits the right chord, as when Henessey tells a pretty good joke to Larry King at the end of the movie. But the joke makes you laugh not because of the relief of tension but because the finale (a fire fight next to a bomb-laden oil tanker) is so little fun by comparison. (RvB)
This film documents South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation hearings. For two years, Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman focused on four cases that came before South Africa's post-apartheid commission as it sought to heal the wounds inflicted by decades of violence and deceit. Clearly Reid and Hoffman hit the mark: the film has been nominated for an Academy Award and won the Sundance 2000 Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Hoffman says she has thought about the film, in which forgiveness and reconciliation do occur, a lot since the terrible events of Sept. 11. "The film gives me hope that something good can come even out of all this," she says. Tickets are $5-$25 sliding scale, co-sponsored by Signature Theatres, the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union and the Resource Center for Nonviolence. (SP)
The Academy Award-winning documentary about the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the struggle to create a Jewish homeland following the atrocities of World War II.
Coolies, Sailors and Settlers: Voyage to the New World/Chinese and the Frontier West: An American Story. Filmmaker Loni Ding, this year's UCSC Alumni Visiting Distinguished Professor, hosts the first two parts of a projected trilogy on the immigration experiences of Chinese who came to America. Following the two films is a panel discussion by Ding, professors Dilip Basu, Judy Yung and Sandy Lydon. Lydon wrote Chinese Gold, a history of Northern California. For more information, call 459-5836.
(PG-13; 110 min.) Agnés Jaoui's new film ends with a hymn to the muses, "O Celestial Art." This moment of grace occurs after much acrid lampooning of Parisian life. The center of a wheel of ambition is the writer-publisher Étienne (Jean-Pierre Bacri), who has fame, money and a trophy wife, Karine. The irritable Étienne also has a pair of new friends: the unsuccessful yet critically beloved writer Pierre (Laurent Grevill), and Pierre's wife, Sylvia (played by Jaoui). Trying to get a word in edgewise is Lolita, Étienne's daughter. Jaoui is an ace at the machinery of dry farce, touching on such comic nuisances as country weekends, TV chat shows and cell phones. The best part of this is Marilou Berry's Lolita, the girl who has the most honest motives. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 110 min.) Albert Brooks playing a good-hearted but oblivious comedian, invited by the State Department to visit some of the 150 million Muslims in India to test their views on comedy. Brooks, as always, works the comedy of embarrassment, and not everyone is going to understand his humor, his rhythms or his aims. But there are lovely outlandish moments, including Brooks' staging of the world's worst "suggest a topic" improv act (he ends up trying to wring laughs from an improvised "poor German turnip farmer with 5 kids." There are also many flat moments, but the idea of the film is ticklish, and it's aimed directly at the heart of our own national ignorance and arrogance. (RvB) (Click here for a full-length interview with Brooks.)
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(PG-13; 119 min.) In this aggravating vanity production, Al Pacino takes us backstage during a production of Richard III. But Looking for Richard is not an investigation of what is perhaps Shakespeare's most accessible play; it's a vehicle for a slumming star. It's not that Pacino fails in the rolethough for the most part he does. What makes Looking for Richard such a pain is that he never gives anyone else (including Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey) a chance, stepping on the rest of the cast in his play within a play, just as he pushes around anyone who disagrees with him during the rehearsal stage. (RvB)
(PG; 90 min.) Almost all the right moves are made in this live-action/animated feature, beginning with Jerry Goldsmith's redo of Carl Stalling's exuberant music. Director Joe Dante (Gremlins) demonstrates an ardent love for cartoons, and it's immediately clear this is not going to be Space Jam 2. The movie starts with a montage of new variations on the evergreen comic theme of Elmer "I Am the NRA" Fudd shooting Daffy's mouth off, stuff that age cannot wither nor custom stale. After this mood setter, we learn of a diamond with world-conquering powers, spotted by secret agent Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton), whose cover is that he's a mere actor who plays spies in the movies. Drake's son, a studio security guard (Brendan Fraser), is recruited to help his dad; with him come Bugs and Daffy, followed by a humorless Warner Bros. suit (Jenna Elfman, who never should have been kicked upstairs from TV). The head (Steve Martin) of the evil, child-labor-exploiting Acme Corporation craves the diamond and has employed all the usual suspectsthe Tasmanian Devil, the Coyote, Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martianto snatch the gem first. The cameos are a cornucopia for the Psychotronic film fan: the cast includes Mary Woronov, Vernon Wells from The Road Warrior (and Dante's shot-in-Sunnyvale Innerspace), Roger Corman, the Robot Monster, the Fiend Without a Face, the Mutant from This Island Earth, "Owl Jolson" from the 1936 cartoon "I Love to Sing-a," as heard on TV's South Park. Though Fraser is showing the strain from too much stooging for cartoon characters (from The Mummy to Monkeybone), Looney Tunes: Back in Action all hangs together well. One scene I'd swap all of Finding Nemo for: Elmer chasing Daffy and Bugs through the paintings in the Louvre, all three assuming the styles of Dali, Munch and Seurat as they slip in and out of the art. So what if these three paintings are actually in the United States? A slightly less excusable moment is a Wal-Mart product-placement gagjoked about (smartly) and apologized for. Better still if those Bentonville tyrants didn't get some beloved cartoon faces to hide behind. Better still if the damned thing wasn't there in the first place. Still, as Speedy Gonzales says sadly, it's tough to be politically correct. (RvB)
(R; 109 minutes) In Clive Barker's latest film, Lord of Illusions, private detective Harry D'Amour (Scott Bakula) is hired onto a supernatural case involving a famous magician (Kevin J. O'Connor), his beautiful wife (Famke Janssen) and a vicious killer (Daniel Von Bargen). Having a detective in a horror plot is a clever way of handling the problem of strained credulity; the detective voices all of the crowd's skepticism. Still, Lord of Illusions would have been more fun if D'Amour were slightly mystical and ready to meet supernatural evil halfway. Bakula, a monotonous, born B-movie actor, weighs the film down, and the Antichrist-like villain, Nix, isn't diabolical enough to levitate the picture. (RvB)
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(R; 122 min.) A failed attempt at black comedy. The movie's arresting poster and useful theme disguise a story that ends up bathing in the wrong kind of cynicism. Nicolas Cage plays Yuri Orlov, who sells illicit guns. As his deals grow grander, Orlov is all the more like the gangster from every other gangster movie. The checklist is in place: weakling brother (Jared Leto), beautiful-but-no-good wife (Bridget Moynahan), older gangster (Ian Holm) who snubbed him on the way upand, lastly, the cop (Ethan Hawke) who corners the criminal and makes him face himself. The escapades of a gun runner come across as real, but except for a rough airplane landing and some meetings with a madman African dictator (Eamonn Walker), they are not dramatized with any tension. Director and writer Andrew Niccol is a former commercial maker who debuted with the script for The Truman Show and went on to Gattaca and Simone. Niccol tackles a huge subject: the greed that turned Africa into a continent of the dead and the dying. In making a comedy on this subject, redemption might not be necessary, but a punch line is. Finally, all Lord of War does is comment, Yeah, that's man for you, evil yet banal. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 105 min.) Stacy Peralta is a uniter, not a divider. At the West Coast premiere for his documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, you could find all the pioneer skaters sitting just a few rows down from hip actors like Sean Penn and aging alternative icons like Henry Rollins and the Red Hot Chili Peppersall of whom had idolized Peralta's clique of renegade surfers-turned-extreme-boarders. And why not? That documentary was a giant alt-culture lovefest, celebrating true rebels who combined traits we can all appreciate: athletic skill, bad-boy cred, a fearless devotion to their craft and a love of breaking the law. Only a true Captain Bringdown would deny its ample charms. At that premiere, Peralta mentioned he was writing a script for a fictionalized version of the story, and four years later, here's the finished project. The idea, I guess, would be to find a larger audience for this larger-than-life story, but more than likely it'll turn out to be a lesson for Peralta about the harsh realities of Hollywood filmmaking: in the end, his script was rewritten, several directors (including David Fincher!) fell by the wayside and he probably feels lucky to get it released at all. (Capsule preview by SP)
(85 min.) Director/writer Kirk Harris' film begins with a gun-shot hero lying on the sidewalk, contemplating the hole in his stomach (a navel of sorts) as he remembers the last 36 hours of his life. James Dean Ray, as Harris' character is called (his dad is named "Nick," after Nicholas, movie buffs), beats up an English guy and goes to visits a few friends who tell him that he's really squandering his intellectprobably on the basis of what he has to say: "TV told us what to do ... 170 channels on this, and you can't get shit ... MTV generation ... what the fuck is 'generation' anyway." What indeed? As Duke Ellington said, what's important in art isn't generation, but regeneration. Jimmy goes to his old girlfriend's house, only to discover that she's gone lesbian on him, even after he apologized for slapping her around previously. He tries to hold up a liquor store. Minor-key guitar dirges slosh around as he misses his dead mom. "I guess it was lack of a mother's hand," he says, that made him go bad. He imagines his own blood on a cross. Cinematographer Kent Wakeford also photographed Mean Streets and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. This tidbit is better proof of what a cruel world it is than anything in this dull, mawkish and indescribably amateurish pretender to the throne of Rebel Without a Cause. (RvB)
(PG-13; 98 min.) How did they ever get a title like Loser past the marketing people? Strange, too, that for some reason, the film doesn't have the Beck anthem on the soundtrack. Loser is a sort of Harold Lloyd story, in which a likable bumpkin from the country comes to New York to go to college, only to be received with the iciest of cold shoulders. Paul (Jason Biggs) of American Pie even has the big, loose, dopey face of Lloyd, and he walks through the movie crowned with a comedy hata fleecy hunter's cap with ear flaps. Paul takes a tumble down the stairs on his way into his most difficult class, a lit class taught by a snide Professor Alcott (Greg Kinnear). The only one who comes to the boy's aid is a pretty student, Dora Diamond (Mena Suvari, much better than she was in American Beauty). Up until the last third, writer/director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) makes her film a real breeze, a real delight. She shows us New York discovered by a pair who we know will end up as lovers, living the bohemian life. It's been some time since we've had a New York movie that made the city look fresh, romantic and intoxicating, and Heckerling also shows the city's tougher side. Loser's villains are a treat, too. Kinnear seems authentic enoughyou hear of second- and third-generation academics who have that kind of snobbery, though you wish the movie gave him a line or two explaining why this nihilist has faith, at least, in academic rigor. Professor Alcott only seems to be a tough grader because he's a sadist. Kinnear isn't as much fun as Paul's roommates, a trio of rich wastrels who behave like male versions of Cinderella's step- sisters as they push Paul around. If only the third act of Loser were as sturdy as the first two: it seems like Heckerling misjudged the running time and found herself at the ending with moments to spare, and decided on some last-minute method to get the girl and the boy together. Still, the movie lives up to a title with integrity, sympathizing with those who are losing and have lost, as the movies once were supposed to do. (RvB)
The festival opens with a free screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Saturday's program includes screenings of Beyond the Summit (documentary of a climbing expedition to clean up Mount Everest, narrated by Sharon Stone); My Life as a House (starring Kevin Kline as a dying man who decides to rebuild his familyand his house) and Mulholland Drive (David Lynch's latest, about an aspiring actress and an amnesiac femme fatale).
A three-day affair highlighting the town's relationship to the silver screen. On Aug 22, a program titled Reel Beginners will showcase 14 shorts by Los Gatos filmmakers (3-6pm at the Los Gatos Cinema). Aug 23 features a free screening outdoors at Oak Meadow Park (at 8pm) of E.T. The festival concludes on Aug 24 with the premiere of three feature films at the Los Gatos Cinema. The features are Nine, a documentary about breast cancer survivors who participated in the Charles Regatta, a rowing competition (11am); Mother Ghost, a comedy/drama starring Kevin Pollak, Charles Durning, Dana Delaney and Joe Mantegna (1:30pm); One Hour Photo, the newest Robin Williams thriller (4:30pm). There will be a prescreening brunch at 9:30am at Willow Street Piazza ($15), and an evening party (7-10pm) at the Toll House Hotel with entertainment and refreshments ($35).
an April 10 article in Metro). Levityarguably Billy Bob Thornton's best movieis the story of an solitary ex-convict trying to make amends with the person whose life he impacted. Solomon will be on hand to answer questions. At 5pm on Saturday, Oscar-winning producer Dan Jinks (American Beauty, Down With Love) does a Q and A at the Los Gatos Theater, and the fest winds down a comfortable 24 hours after it started with a party at Campo di Bocce, 565 University Ave., with a wrap party, 7-10pm. Tickets are $10 per film on Saturday; the party is $35. Tickets for the event are available at the door or through the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, 349 N. Santa Cruz Ave. For more information, call 408.354.9300. (RvB)Really quite a delightful balance of comedy and tragedy in this short but to-the-point festival. It commences Sept. 12 at dusk with a free screening of 1939's The Wizard of Oz, projected outside at Oak Meadow Park. The next day at the Los Gatos Cinema features two well-received independent movies. At 11am, Dopamine, the San Francisco-set festival hit about the chemical that causes love, gets its local premiere with director Mark Decena and writer and producer Tim Breitbach in attendance. The film won the Alfred P. Sloane feature Film Award for independent films about science and technology at Sundance this year, and Decena and Breitbach are both valley products. The recently released Levity (2pm), is the work of former area man Ed Solomon (subject of
This year's community event takes place Saturday (Sep 25) and includes the CineCats Showcase of local short films (11am); Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, a documentary by Robert Stone (1:30pm); and L.A. Twister, a satire about Hollwood by Sven Pape (4pm). A trap party follows at 6pm at Cafe Rouge. (Plays Sep 25 at the Los Gatos Cinema.)
(1987) A missed opportunity, mostly notable as the point where director Joel Schumacher really began to betray his earlier promise as a director, leading to the wretched excesses of the last two Batman pictures. Shot in Santa Cruz, it's the story of a tribe of Goth vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland. The tone wobbles from horrora good thought, that, since Santa Cruz can be very Transylvanian when the fog hits itto sappy, tiresome comedy. A classic example of the gutlessness of '80s studio moviemaking. (RvB)
(Unrated; 100 min.) A drama about a romance between two private-school girls (Piper Perabo and Jessica Pare).
(PG-13; 105 min.) An L.A. restaurateur (David Spade) woos a beautiful French cellist (Sophie Marceau) by stealing her dog. It's mean, it's gross, it's juvenile. Sometimes it's funny, too, but not very often. Mostly it's icky, despite being freshened up somewhat by a few strategic cameos, notably Jon Lovitz as a "dog whisperer" and that old warhorse Martin Sheen as a banker. (BC)
Part I: Mayan Dream Time in the Sun (54 min., directed by Sergei Eisenstein). Recut footage, left over from the butchery of Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico, which could be called a double victim of communism and capitalism. The famous Russian filmmaker went to Mexico in 1930 armed with $25,000 of Upton Sinclair's money. Cost overruns and the long arm of Stalin ensured that the movie would never be completed, but what's left over certainly looks like Eisenstein's hand. While almost anyone could make Mexico in 1930 look picturesque, the passages at the end of a funeral sequence are as exceptionally vivid. Also showing: Maya Are People (1951, 22 min., directed by Les Mitchel). The filmmaker visits Palenque, meeting Obregon K'in (of Agua Azul Village). The evening is a collaboration between MACLA and Geoff Alexander of the much-missed ciné16 seances. (Plays Jul 27 at 7pm in San Jose at MACLA, 510 S. First St; $3, free for MACLA members; www.maclaarte.org.) (RvB)
(R; 135 min.) Though it looks superficially as if David Lynch's new film has two halves, Lost Highway is not just about amnesia, or double identity, but about complete dislocationof being expelled from one's own identity. At the center of the puzzle is a figure that Lynch calls "The Mystery Man," but this isn't a tale of ordinary demonic possession. Lynch's demons feed off of pain and suffering. We are perhaps kin to them; we watch the pain and suffering of others, using them for our own purposes. Lost Highway is a horror film thinly disguised as a crime drama. The complicated topology of the plot leads a man to double back into his past to warnhopelesslyof trouble ahead. The central character of the first half is Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), who lives in a spacious blonde-wood casket of a place. When he makes love with his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette), she is so aloof that he turns flaccid. Madison's situation is worsened by his meeting with the Mystery Manwho is a demon; who may be Satan himself. Later, Madison literally disappears. The story changes, but the mood doesn't break. An auto mechanic with a criminal record, Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), ends up in a dangerous tryst with Alice Wakefield (Arquette again), and the Mystery Man reappears. The intense situations are unlinked to narrative and are brought to boil through a sort of cinematic shorthandthe quickest route to an intensity rare even for Lynch. He is the last director left who is willing to present horror as horror, willing to baffle us, willing to wound us. (RvB)
(1937/1939) Frank Capra adapts James Hilton's famous novel about the lost Tibetan kingdom of Shangri-La, where the wise rule and lives can last centuries. To this paradise comes a great British politician (Ronald Colman) sickened by the prospect of the upcoming WWII. Perhaps this film is most valuable as an early example of New Age art, because it was the Celestine Prophecy of its day: here we see the usual vagueness, the disquieting imperialist undertones, the implicit threat underneath the offer of spiritual awakening and longevity. Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton and Sam Jaffe co-star. BILLED WITH Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In Capra's political fantasy, an idealistic scoutmaster named Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is appointed by his governor to take over a Senate seat vacated by the death of the junior senator. When he arrives, he's shocked and sickened by the corruption he discovers, especially in his idol, the so-called Silver Knight, Sen. Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). The first hour is a well-detailed fantasy of what it would be like to suddenly awake and find yourself a senator. And never did a movie hero face such a litter of swag-bellied fat cats: Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee and Eugene Pallette. As Smith's secretary and love interest, Jean Arthur has a fine drunk scene with that brilliant character actor Thomas Mitchell. Stewart is authentic and touchinghow many actors could carry the burden of this much naivete? If anyone but Stewart had been cast as Smith, the filibuster climax would have looked like the last hours of a Jerry Lewis telethon. But the ending slams into this overlong story, which is wrapped up fast with melodrama elements. And Arthur's line "I wonder if it isn't a curse to go through life wised-up" is an insult to the intelligence. It's our patriotic duty to be wised up, to face the compromises that run a democracywithout the stars (and stripes) in our eyes. (RvB)
(1937/1942) Frank Capra adapted James Hilton's famous novel about the lost Tibetan kingdom of Shangri-La, where the wise rule, and lives can last centuries. To this paradise comes a great British politician (Ronald Colman) sickened by the prospect of upcoming war. Perhaps this film is most valuable as an early example of New Age art, as it was the Celestine Prophecy of its day: here we see the usual vagueness, the disquieting imperialist undertones, the implicit threat underneath the offer of spiritual awakening and longevity. Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton and Sam Jaffe co-star. BILLED WITH Random Harvest. Greer Garson and Ronald Colman star in a drama of an amnesiac soldier's return and his love for a music-hall singer who's so hard to remember and so easy to forget. A popular upper-lip stiffener. (RvB)
(R; 102 min.) The title must also refer to the misguided filmmakers behind this leaden, witless supernatural thriller, which reportedly sat on New Line Cinema's shelf for more than a year. The directorial debut of latter-day Steven Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan), Lost Souls carries an interesting premisewhat would you do if you found out one day you were destined to become the Devil?and never runs with it. Winona Ryder plays an exorcist's assistant (and one-time victim of demonic possession) who discovers a Satanist plot to use the body of a famed true-crime author (Ben Chaplin) to unleash Beezlebub on Earth. The choppy Lost Souls feels like yet another one of those long-shelved films that have been through more touch-ups than Barbara Hershey's face. Cinematographer Mauro Fiore, who's also responsible for similarly monochromatic cinematography in the Get Carter remake, rips off the washed-out photography of bleak-chic cinematographers like Darius Khondji (Se7en) and Newton Thomas Sigel (Fallen, Three Kings). Lost Souls takes itself so damn seriously that to keep myself entertained, I kept muttering under my breath lines from Richard Pryor's old routine about how The Exorcist would have been a different movie with black priests ("God, could you exorcise this muthafucka to Cleveland or someplace?"). (JA)
(1945/1951) Stories of addiction are a dime a dozen today, but Billy Wilder's version of Charles R. Jackson's autobiographical novel of alcoholism was a risky enough topic to earn Wilder and star Ray Milland their share of trouble. Paramount was frightened of the film and held it back from release for a year, whileso the story goesthe liquor industry sent bagmen to try to purchase the negatives. Photographer John Seitz used actual hidden-camera locations at the pawn-shop row on Third Avenue in New York. He also shot in Bellevue, the public mental hospital and drying-out facility (which allowed location filming because of a phony script that Wilder gave them). BILLED WITH Ace in the Hole (a.k.a. The Big Carnival). In the desert, a rotten newspaper reporter (Kirk Douglas) hypes up a story of a man caught in a cave; at his side is Jan Sterling, a girl as bad as he is ("I don't praykneeling bags my nylons"). Similarly rich film noir dialogue ornaments this rattlesnakely tale, based on the case of Floyd Collins, stuck in a hole in the ground in Cave City, Ky., who became a national celebrity in spring of 1925. The actual reporterWilliam "Skeets" Miller of the Louisville Courier-Journalwas a far more heroic and sensitive writer than Douglas' fascinating heel. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 134 min.) Steven Spielberg's latest monster film is not as full of sentimental foolishness as its predecessor. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, more like Santa Claus than ever) sends a reluctant chaos expert, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), to investigate the other island where the reconstituted dinos are nesting; Malcolm's girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), who just happens to be the world's leading dino specialist, is already there. The thunder lizards are, needless to say, are on a rampage. There are flashes of a more mature Spielberg in the use of overlapping dialogue, and the usual three climaxes are all impressive, particularly a scene featuring a tyrannosaurus' understandable outrage at being shipped to suburban San Diego (the spirit of Lester Bangs has its revenge). The Lost World doesn't stint on the thrill-ride excitement, but the scenes without the dinos are as slow as molasses and as organic as Twinkies. The movie doesn't have any cohesion, sense or poetry, even cheap movie poetry. (RvB)
(PG-13; 107 min.) This Ashton Kutcher/Amanda Peet romantic-comedy may indeed reflect something a lot like love, but the way it's being marketed, it looks a lot like mediocre Hollywood crap. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1975/1972) Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn co-star, for the only time, in Love Among the Ruins, a prestigious made-for-TV movie about an aged actress being sued for breach of promise shortly after she dumped her younger fiancé (a gigolo); her defense lawyer (Olivier) is her former lover, discarded many years ago. BILLED WITH Travels With My Aunt. George Cukor's adaptation of Graham Greene's picaresque novel, starring Maggie Smith as the eccentric English aunt and Alec McCowen as her bank-clerk nephew. Robert Stephens, Lou Gossett and Cindy Williams co-star. (RvB)
(PG-13; 124) Filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood's first feature, a basketball drama told from a feminine point of view, scores points for avoiding Lifetime movie-of-the-week sentiment, as well as the bombast and cartoonishness that marred her producer Spike Lee's own basketball film, He Got Game. The low-key, realistic Love and Basketball traces the on-and-off-and-on-again romance between hot-tempered but hard-working female hoopster Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and NBA-bound hotshot Quincy (Omar Epps), from their childhood days as next-door neighbors to their years in the pro leagues. Balancing a relationship with basketball isn't all that's on the minds of Monica and Quincy. Monica has to struggle with both the skepticism of her old-fashioned homemaker mother (Alfre Woodard) and the pressures of being a female athlete, while Quincy must cope with the sins of his philandering pro-ballplayer father (Dennis Haysbert). Haysbert's credo-spouting character's hypocrisy is like a joke on Laurence Fishburne's speechifying in Boyz N the Hood. In her first lead role, Lathan (The Best Man) makes the most of her volatile-on-the-court, shy-off-the-court tomboy character, even during such unoriginal moments as a verbal confrontation with Woodard that's a retread of One True Thing. (JA)
(R; 82 min.) Since romantic couples are an endangered species in this region, one shouldn't expect more from romantic comedies. But Love and Sex is a disservice to both. The components of a funny sex film are here: attractive model/actress (X-Men's Famke Janssen) in her first light comedy, a loveable schlub reprising a role from an indie classic (Swingers' Jon Favreau) and a first-time woman writer/director (Valerie Breiman). Yet like some Frankensteinian experiment gone awry, the assembled parts are painfully awkward and not quite human. This distaff Annie Hall rip-off reeks of its L.A. setting: false laughter, tenderness sentimentalized, and not sex, but power exchange. (DH)
(1927/1935) Greta Garbo stars in the silent version of the Tolstoy novel. Check the famous still photograph in which she is playing with a toy train-is that poignant harbinger in the book?) BILLED WITH Clarence Brown's better-known sound version with Frederic March as Vronsky, that praiseworthy child actor Freddie Bartholomew as Anna's son, Basil Rathbone as the bitter, cuckolded count and Garbo, again, as the reckless Russian woman. (RvB)
(PG-13; 110 min.) It would be so great if this was an Addams Family spinoff in which Thing falls in love, possibly with one of the those hand mannequins you see at jewelry stores. However, the executives at Warner Bros. continue to ignore the obvious blockbuster potential of my ideas, so they made this remake of the 1987 Patrick Dempsey film Can't Buy Me Love instead. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1957/1939) Unfortunately, Love in the Afternoon is not as elegant as its title. It's an awkward farce about a Parisian private detective (Maurice Chevalier) whose music-student daughter is courting an infamous seducer (Gary Cooper). From the opening sequence, a parody of TV's Dragnet ("This is the city, Paris"), it's plain that director Billy Wilder wasn't responding to the Paris of the time, despite the extensive location work. The film is a pastiche of the movie-studio Paris of Wilder's early Paramount works of the 1930s, which is why the film has an intolerable airlessness. Worst, Wilder's star, a dying Cooper, is also trying to reach back into his past: clad in a tuxedo, and smoking the cigarettes that were killing him, he tries to recall the ritzy handsomeness and sophistication that director Frank Capra rubbed off him irrevocably. Lighted to spare his age and his gauntness, Cooper looks like a ghost. It's a good thing that Audrey Hepburn is aboard to give this feeble film some beauty and energy. She sports a loose coiffure that's more youthful, even, than the gamine cut she made famous. The well-known bal musette tune "Fascination" was popularized by this movie. BILLED WITH Midnight. Much more like it. Mitchell Leisen's film features a sophisticated triangle: a penniless chorus girl (Claudette Colbert), a Parisian tax driver (Don Ameche) and a wealthy rogue (John Barrymore) who hires the girl to lure away his own wife's lover. If you don't count Twentieth Century, this is the movie that gives the best idea of what audiences of 80 years ago saw in Barrymore. Co-stars include the late Francis Ledererthe sinister manservant in Jean Renoir's version of Diary of a Chambermaid, and also a good Dracula, onceMary Astor and Hedda Hopper. (RvB)
(1957/1939) An aging playboy in Paris (Gary Cooper) hires a detective played by Maurice Chevalier to investigate a young music student in Love in the Afternoon. What he doesn't know is that the student (Audrey Hepburn) is the detective's daughter. Billy Wilder directs. BILLED WITH Ninotchka. In Greta Garbo's penultimate film, she stars as a humorless Stalinist commissar sent to fetch back three defectors (Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart and Alexander Granach) seduced by the Parisian life. Co-stars Melvyn Douglas, San Francisco's Ina Claire and Bela Lugosi. (RvB)
(1937/1935) Rich girl Loretta Young marries reporter Tyrone Power as an object lesson on what a pain it can be to end up in the newspapers. BILLED WITH The Ghost Goes West. Rene Clair's first film is archaic but sometimes charming. Robert Donat stars in a double role as the ghost of a mischievous, unwarlike Scotsman of the 1700s, as well as his cashless descendant of the 1930s; both are involved when a wealthy parvenu (Eugene Pallette) buys up the ancestral manor and ships it, stone by stone, to Florida. (RvB)
(1937/1932) In Love Is News, another turn at the reporter/heiress romance, Tyrone Power plays the newshound and Loretta Young is the financier's daughter. This fast (72 minutes) screwball comedy also features Don Ameche, Elisha Cook Jr. and Stepin Fetchit (recently lambasted by Spike Lee in Bamboozled). Shown in a nitrate print from the UCLA archives. BILLED WITH Taxi! James Cagney stars in a top-notch story of a taxi drivers' strike; Loretta Young co-stars as the girl who has to try to warn Cagney against his rashness. The part was turned down by three other actresses, but the film was a well-deserved hit. Supposedly Cagney had to learn to drive for the part. (RvB)
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(R; 105 min.) A romantic comedy about a writer and a photographer who repeatedly try to have a relationship.
(PG-13; 88 min.) Undoubtedly, it's ironicand meant to bethat frosty Helen MacFarquhar (Kate Capshaw) is the protagonist of this romantic comedy, which is based on a book by Cathleen Schine. When a tender love letter, unaddressed and unsigned, falls into Helen's hands, her long-dormant emotions stir as she tries to identify the author of the letter among the inhabitants of her small New England hometown. The missive's passionate language leads her into an affair with an attractive younger man, Johnny (the hunky Tom Everett Scott), and also makes her re-examine a relationship with her long-suffering old friend George (Tom Selleck). Helen makes for a decidedly unlikable heroine, which is alternately refreshing and grating; she's nursing wounds from strained relations with her mother and a long-past divorce, but the abuse she heaps on her friends gets tiresome to watch after a while. The best and most charming aspect of The Love Letter is how, like Helen, other townspeople find themselves touchedand sometimes hopefulwhen they encounter the letter. Leading the pack in true puppy-dog affection are Scott and Ellen DeGeneres (more winning here than wacky as Helen's friend Janet, who harbors a not-so-secret crush on George). A surprise ending makes sitting through some of Helen's more irritating shenanigans well worth it. (HZ)
(Both 1932) Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald star in a story of a dashing tailor mistaken for a count. Rouben Mamoulian's direction is so frothy that it "makes the famed Lubitsch touch fall like a dull thud," writes Mamoulian partisan Tom Milne. The cast includes Myrna Loy as the man-hungry niece and C. Aubrey Smith as a harrumphing old bridge-playing bore of a duke (a game, as Raymond Chandler said of chess, that's the most severe waste of intelligence this side of an advertising agency). Tunes include "Lover," "Mimi" and "Isn't It Romantic?" BILLED WITH One Hour With You. Sore temptation for Chevalier when his wife's best friend arrives. MacDonald and Genevieve Tobin co-star in a film based on the same play co-director Ernst Lubitsch had filmed as The Marriage Circle. Seven songs, too, of which the title tune (a favorite of Daffy Duck's) was the only noted one. (RvB)
(Both 1929) Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald star in a frothy operetta about romancing royals in the mythical land of Sylvania. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Includes the song "Dream Lover." BILLED WITH Applause, Rouben Mamoulian's melodrama about a burlesque stripper (Helen Morgan) confronting the end of her career and a scheming boyfriend. (AR)
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(R; 119 min.) Sentiment for New Orleans flourishes like kudzu in A Love Song for Bobby Long. John Travolta hits the hush-puppy accent hard, playing a Southern drinker with a writing problem. Bobby Long is a defrocked lit professor who spends his days sipping in a splintery riverside house that belonged to his dear departed friend Lorraine. Bobby's sidekick is his ex-student Lawson (Gabriel Macht). Into this trouble-free life comes Lorraine's daughter, PurslanePursyplayed by Scarlett Johansson. Settling in like the odd trio, they make room for one another. Johansson, who is usually more cloudy than fair and warmer, is mellowed by the Louisiana humidity. Certainly, there's a sense here of the vast skies, the heavy air, the rusty wrought iron, the gravel paths atop the levees, the forlorn Irish brick churches of New Orleans. The film could have been wiser if it let the weather speak for itself and cut back the dialogue and poetic narration. Lawson's affair with the waitress is plainly a red herring, and squabble soon turns into affectionate squabble and then into situation comedy shtick. (RvB)
(R; 93 min.) This anti-date movie gives gold-digging, boundary-stomping dames and whining, middle-aged boys a bad name. French Stewart plays a put-upon L.A. sitcom producer who hooks up with an interior decorator (Bridgette Wilson) with her biological time bomb ticking. She first redecorates his bachelor pad with a nursery and buys him a puppy. That's one of the few funny gags. Then Wilson jealously turns into a relentless psychoBetty. By comparison, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction is a model of discretion. Stewart looks constipated in his first and probably last starring role. The jokes are tired; the characters are mean-spirited and unlikable, even by '90s standards. (DH)
(1970) In answer to the question: "What can you say about a girl who is dead?": "I say bury her before she starts to stink!"Bart Simpson. Love among the Ivy League: poor Italian scholarship girl meets stodgy WASP, but Hollywood Movie Disease intervenes. Despite young Bart's sensible take on the matter, the stench was nosable even in the day, whenas Pauline Kael notedErich Segal's "book" became the first movie novelization to hit the New York Times bestseller list. Five million copies were printed. These volumes insulate the nation's thrift shops to this day, saving untold thousands in energy costs. As a movie that made $100 million, the Big Weep was a fiendish mixture of old-studio bathos and youth appeal, matching two nice kids: Ryan O'Neal (now a beefy actor who plays crooked aldermen) and Ali MacGraw, then-spouse of Paramount's head of production, Robert Evans. Whether Love Story will wring a modern audience in the tripesthat's the real question. Unlike "What can you say about a girl that is dead," it's a question I'm kind of worried about. (Plays Jun 24 at sundown in Campbell, behind the Orchard Coffee Roasting Company; see www.casadeculturamexica.org; free.) (RvB)
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(R; 115 min.) The film preserves (rigidly) the three-act structure of Terrance McNally's play, which takes place over three summer weekends: Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. A group of gay men gather to relax, chat and face their mortality. Their hosts are the choreographer Gregory (Stephen Bogardus) and his blind-from-birth lover, Bobby (Justin Kirk). The guests include John Glover as John Jeckyll, a nasty but unfunny pianist from England, who brings with him his slutty lover, Ramon (Randy Becker), a dancer. The ensemble, predictably, also features the very-married pair of Arthur and Perry (John Benjamin Hickey and Stephen Spinella) and the comic relief of Buzz (Jason Alexander). Neither director Joe Mantello or McNally develops the unwieldy castsurely one character representing brave optimism in the face of the grave would have been enough? (RvB)
(R; 85 min.) A romantic comedy about a man who keeps falling for women who are already attached.
IMAGE, the nonprofit independent filmmaker's collective, hosts two local indie filmmakers who produced films on a tiny budget. Guest Sarah Jacobson directed Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore with her own money, taking the print on a national road trip to nightclubs, screening rooms and convention centers. It's the story of woman in the months between high school graduation and her freshman year in college. Having begun the summer with an awful deflowering in a graveyard, Mary Jane lands a job with some partying kids who work, a little, at a movie theater (it's the Victoria Theater in San Francisco's Mission District). The film achieves its purpose, set out in Jacobson's director's statement: "Most girls have never seen a movie that portrays first sexual experience for both men and women as often awkward." No doubt, Jacobson avoided many of the pitfalls of the neophyte: she didn't imitate, and she didn't wrap the film in coolness, trendiness or fake cynicism. The photography and acting are far beyond the usual level of shoestring filmmaking. Beth Ramona Allen, of the ukulele duo Pineapple Princess, is believable and likable as Mary Jane's blunt-spoken pal Erica. In the title role, Lisa Gerstein is droll and appealing. Also speaking at the IMAGE gathering is Joe Carnahan of Sacramento, whose $7,000 thriller Blood Guts Bullets and Octane is slated for national distribution. (RvB)
(R; 105 min.) John Travolta plays a TV weatherman who schemes with his girlfriend (Lisa Kudrow), hostess of the lottery show, to rig the lottery drawing. When the plan succeeds, their newfound wealth brings the couple more than they bargained for.
(PG-13; 124 min.) Curtis Hanson's movies are always better than they look; in his hands, the most wretched sow's ears become silk purses. The story behind Lucky You is as run-of-the-mill as they come; dueling father/son poker players (Robert Duvall and Eric Bana) butt heads, while the patient love interest (Drew Barrymore) helps sort things out. Everything comes down to the big Las Vegas Texas Hold 'Em tournament, or the World Series of poker. Hanson spreads his movie out like a deck of new cards, considering everything from atmosphere, location and character to other organic details. Within this large, luxurious space, his actors tend to breathe deeply and shine through. Some celebrity players appear as themselves, but Robert Downey Jr. stands out in one brilliantly frantic scene. (JMA)
A movie about four professional Latina friends discussing their careers, families and love lives. The film, scheduled to be released on Cinco de Mayo, will be presented in a preview screening that will benefit the Mexican Heritage Corporation.
(PG-13; 121 min.) Having played one key figure in the history of human progress, Shakespeare, Joseph Fiennes assays the role of Martin Luther. Under Eric Till's direction, Fiennes plays him gentle, soulful and often like St. Francis, instead of the ornery, fleshy and often violently reactionary cleric he was. Luther is a lavish production, with ermine robes and castles, a burning at the stake and the peasants in an uproar; the action sequence is the peasant rebellion in 1525, which had a body count dwarfed only by the Thirty Years' War. By the way, a hint of that ghastly war of religion might undercut the upbeat ending here, which cites Luther's accomplishments: giving the German language its Bible, pioneering religious freedom, uniting the millions of Lutherans still practicing today and making possible the macaroni salad at Minnesota church bazaars. As Prince Frederick of Saxony, Peter Ustinov demonstrates the kind of retrograde hamminess that would have been considered appalling even in 1520. Alfred Molina provides some fun as a papal-indulgence salesman: "Learned monks are standing by," he says, like a pitchman advertising a Thighmaster on late-night TV, reminding us of the salespeople waiting to take our credit cards. Luther gives a fairly good outline of the corruption of the Catholic Church at the time the great man took it on. The movie even follows the money a little. This is the first film I've ever seen that mentioned the Fugger family, the World Bank of their day. Still the devil made my mind wander during this show, and there I was without an inkwell to throw at him. Too bad the scriptwriter had access to an inkwell when they came up with lines like "You can burn his books but you can't burn his ideas!" (RvB)