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(PG-13; 141 min.) The four Fukushima children have just moved into a new apartment. But only two of them really get to see it happen. Concealed in separate suitcases are the rambunctious boychild Shigetu (Hie Kimura) and the baby of the family, Yuki (Momoko Shimizu). They're hidden to outwit a landlord who never would have rented to a fatherless family of that size. And later, after dark, the eldest girl, Kyoko (Ayu Kitaura), smuggles herself into the apartment. The mom deputizes her 12-year-old son, Akira (Yûya Yagira), to keep an eye on his brothers and sisters and to make sure they never attract the attention of the outside world by leaving the house. And at this point, the mother herself leaves the premises for good. Because of its great intelligence, it's not easy to choose an aspect of Nobody Knows to praise first. To start with, the actress named You, who plays the mother, is absolutely brilliant. She's a malign kitten, with hennaed hair and a scratchiness in her throaty, affectedly cute voice. While her narcissism is pure evil, you understand the dreadful charm she has to her children. Nobody Knows has an acute eye for the passing of seasons in the urban counterfeits of the countrysidethe bend of a concrete-embanked river, a small, cherry-tree-filled park from where the children haul water after the water company disconnects them. There's not a forced, mawkish, badly acted or talked-down moment in this drama. (RvB)
(R; 96 min.) Edward Burns wrote, directed and stars in this story about a young waitress living in a small town whose life is changed by the return of her ex-boyfriend.
No Name Anime hosts monthly screenings of subtitled Japanese animation.
(1944) Memorable as Cary Grant's most serious film. He plays a cockney who can't escape from the London slums because of loyalty to his mother (Ethel Barrymore). Clifford Odets was the director, and the film remains an example of how Grant could be as at home in tragedy as in comedy. (RvB)
(R) Comedy-drama about a small-town bodybuilding champion with a genius IQ. Not a true story, by the way. Anyhoo, he travels to Los Angeles to fulfill his dream of winning a major competition without using steroids. Did I mention this is not a true story? (Capsule preview by SP)
(PG-13; 110 min.) Eddie Murphy's Norbit rolls out all the usual, tried-and-true fat jokes, fart jokes and other stale chestnuts, but despite its many obvious crudities and failures, the film is also appealing in an absurd, out-of-touch way. Murphy plays three roles: sweet, passive Norbit, his monstrous, plus-size wife Rasputia and wise old father figure Mr. Wong who runs the orphanage that raised Norbit. Murphy concentrates on his makeup, costumes, fat suits and visual effects, and downplays the fact that he has transformed himself into Freud's three sections of the psyche (Id, Ego and Superego). In this way the very guarded Oscar-nominee actually reveals some very interesting personal quirks not on display in the more celebrated Dreamgirls. Thandie Newton co-stars. (JMA)
(PG, 105 min.) The 2001 German film Mostly Martha was already shallow and formulaic, and the new American retread, from Oscar nominee Scott Hicks, only magnifies these qualities. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays an uptight New York chef who unexpectedly becomes the legal guardian of her niece (Abigail Breslin). Fortunately, a happy-go-lucky sous-chef (Aaron Eckhart)—who flounces about to opera as he works—happens along to help her loosen up. Hicks (Shine) directs with polite seriousness, using too many montages and too much bland dialogue. A chirpy score by Philip Glass only makes things worse. Eckhart somehow provides a sense of weight and history for his character, but Zeta-Jones and Breslin cannot do the same. The whole concoction is like an entree with no spices. (JMA)
(1959) The grandfather of the James Bond adventures, with ever-traveling hero, gentlemanly villain and untrustworthy womanand smashing set pieces scored to ominous music (Bernard Herrmann, here), music that's like a whole separate layer of the film. When an ad man stands up at the wrong moment at the Plaza Hotel, he's mistaken for one Irving Kaplan, an American superagent; from this point on he's pursued by agents of the spymaster Van Damm (James Mason at his silkiest). The movie summed up Alfred Hitchcock's American films, according to the director. Those sniffing around the subtext of Hitch can find some meat in the Taming of the Squire sequences, in which the suave ad man, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), gets treated by Eva Marie Saint like a trick who won't leave. But mostly, the film is a surreal version of the pioneer's American journey, full of frontier tall-tale elements: from the Temperance fantasy of the city villains who force you to drink to the perilous train trip to the prairies, where a single biplane symbolizes thousands of locusts. (RvB)
(PG-13; 94 min.) In 1955, the government is about to inundate the town of Northfork, Mont., as part of a hydroelectric project; six sinister government agents (who may be angels) round up the prairie stragglers who have refused to leave their homes. Meanwhile, a feverish dying child imagines four angels of his ownquirky, surreal figures. The general idea here isn't bad. Some very picturesque towns and countryside have been left underwater as a result of the fever to dam the West's rivers; the marvelous opening scenes of the beflooded village in Neil Jordan's In Dreams shows how serious the idea could be. However, Northfork was filmed on the vast, featureless Montana plains, so the question is, was moving the town about five miles to the west really going to kill anybody's spirit? This deeply precious art film is like a stew of David Lynch and Terrence Malick; it drew a name cast (Anthony Edwards, Daryl Hannah, Nick Nolte) who probably figured that, since they couldn't understand it, it must be profound. Northfork's directors are twins (the brothers Mark and Michael Polish); this vague film seems to be told in a private language between them. What's here is simultaneously existential and twittery. Expect a few critics to praise it with the same kind of compliments a 5-year-old's drawings getas if unshaped imaginativeness were the same thing as fully realizing a work of art. (RvB)
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(1922) F.W. Murnau's influential silent film (an unauthorized but faithful borrowing of Bram Stoker's Dracula) makes your flesh crawl, not quiver. Murnau wanted to make the story of the Count "Orlok" strange and disturbing, and it's still one of the most fearful and innovative of vampire films. The bald-headed Max Schreck, who plays the title vampire, is about as romantic as the Spirit of Syphilishe's an irresistible, blood-sucking rat that needs killing. (RvB)
(1922) The original and still starkest of all vampire films, directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck as the big-eared ghoul. Just in time for Halloween, Phil Collins of Santa Cruz's New Music Works has composed a new score to be performed by a local ensemble as an accompaniment to the silent film. The score is full of acoustic and electronic sounds that mirror and highlight the horrors of the classic story. The evening also features a pair of Betty Boop cartoons: Minnie the Moocher and Betty in Blunderland.
(1979) The troubled partnership of Orlok (Willem Dafoe as Max Shreck) and Murnau (John Malkovich as the great Expressionist) in Shadow of the Vampire seems to have been based not so much on the original Nosferatu so much as on this sound remake with music by Popol Vuh. This version stars the maniacal actor Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu; it's directed by his friend, collaborator and nemesis Werner Herzog. (Murnau's strange rants in Shadow of The Vampire were the kind of Herzogian tantrums recorded in Les Blanc's documentary Burden of Dreams.)Isabelle Adjani co-stars with Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire). In German with subtitles, though a demotic English version was also shot and supposedly never released. (RvB)
(1947) Pedro Infante stars as a carpenter falsely accused of murder, whose daughter and neighbors help to free him.
(R; 90 min.) All the clichés are reworked for laughs. Stars no one in particular.
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(PG-13; 112 min.) In Nick Cassavetes' saccharine new film, based on a terrible Nicholas Sparks novel, James Garner plays Noah, the visitor of an aged woman, Allie (Gena Rowlands), at an old-folks' home; his faithful task is to read to her from a book that contains a boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl tale. We soon realize (choke) that this is the tale of their own love, lost in the lady's memory because of dementia. The back story is the killer. Rachel McAdams is often accidentally funny as the young Allie, the fiery rich girl drawn to young Southern working-class Whitman quoter Noah (Ryan Gosling), a coupling opposed by frustrated rich mom Joan Allen. It's a story distilled from 1,000 bad movies into a gelatinous concentrate. (RvB)
(1947) Nothing but the Truth is the Bob Hope model for Liar, Liar: a stockbroker (Hope) bets a then-hefty $10,000 that he can go 24 hours without telling one fib. Co-stars Edward Arnold and Paulette Goddard. BILLED WITH The Road to Rio. More straightforward than the other films in the series. Hope and Bing Crosby are on their way to South America after being falsely accused of arson. On the ocean liner, Dorothy Lamour turns up, acting strangely. Could it have anything to do with her evil aunt Gale Sondergaard? (RvB)
(R; 97 min.) Believing that his wife is having it off with his boss, an ad exec (Tim Robbins) hatches a scheme for revenge with a computer engineer turned ghetto gunman (Martin Lawrence). Things get sticky when a pair of really bad guys (Giancarlo Esposito and John C. McGinley) first take a dislike to them and then decide to follow them around and shoot at them (which is solely for the convenience of the gag writers, and has nothing to do with the story). It's not a particularly inventive or wildly funny movie, but the story lurches right along, with a few pauses for out-of-the-blue sight gags and a couple of throwaway scenes that are goofy and likable. There's a message tagged on to the end that's not quite as smarmy as, say, Jerry Lewis at his most "sincere," but it's pretty squirmy all the same. (BC)
(1946) In Notorious, one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films, Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia, a woman wholike Bogart in Casablancadoesn't care about the war and is made to care, forcibly, by the pressure of a highly authentic secret agent, Devlin (Cary Grant). Against her will, Alicia becomes an agent, too, insinuating her way into a lethal circle of unreconstructed Nazis in Rio de Janeiro. It's a devious, sophisticated pre-S&M adventure with the handsome, dark undertones common to Hitchcock's first-rank work. Moreover it's full of pathos earned by Claude Rains, as the man unlucky enough to fall in love with Alicia. (RvB)
(1946/1937) In Notorious, one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films, Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia, a woman wholike Bogart in Casablancadoesn't care about the war and is made to care, forcibly, by the pressure of a highly authentic secret agent, Devlin (Cary Grant). Against her will, Alicia becomes an agent, too, insinuating her way into a lethal circle of unreconstructed Nazis in Rio de Janeiro. It's a devious, sophisticated pre-S&M adventure with the handsome, dark undertones common to Hitchcock's first-rank work. Moreover it's full of pathos earned by Claude Rains, as the man unlucky enough to fall in love with Alicia. BILLED WITH Young and Innocent (a.k.a The Girl Was Young). Gogol's The Overcoat borrowed for a mystery plot. A film actress turns up dead on an English beach, throttled with the sash of a raincoat; the main suspect (Derrick De Marney) and a constable's daughter (the appealing Nova Pilbeam) head out to find the real killer and the coat in question. Plenty of quaint English countryside locales; the finalea tracking shot across a crowded tea-dance, to zero in on a drummer's trembling eyesis one of Hitchcock's most memorable gimmicks. (Plays Apr 22-24 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)
(1962) Margery Sharp wrote this tale of a London landlady (Kim Novak) under suspicion of murdering her husband; Lemmon plays an American in the diplomatic corps who rents a room from her. Fred Astaire co-stars; the script was co-written by Larry Gelbart and Blake Edwards, with direction by Richard Quine (Bell, Book and Candle). (RvB)
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(Unrated; 80 min.) Ten minutes of hell, about 10 minutes of heaven, nearly an hour in purgatory. In Jean-Luc Godard's latest, Notre Musique, notre maitre uses his own cinematic essay-style to pose the question of why mankind ignites its holocausts. In hell, Godard assembles a wordless montage that's more jagged than the (Chuck) Workman-like snippets on the Oscars. Bits of battle scenes from Alexander Nevsky collide with Zulu and the Robert Wise Helen of Troy. The heaven scene is just as troubling, though more limpid. On a river bank, a newly dead girl can't communicate with her fellow spirits. In a razory joke, Godard includes cyclone fences and armed U.S. soldiers in his paradise. Purgatory has Godard visiting Sarajevo, which still has the boot prints of war over it. While lounging in cafes and recording conversations, Godard also visits the scene of the Serbian war's great cultural atrocity, the demolition of the 450-year old Mostar bridge. The film dances from the lucid epigram to the muffled imagea dumb-show pantomime at a ruined library is particularly baffling. Still, he makes a nobly touching film about the fate of Sarajevo, and the Sarajevos to come. Trusting neither hell nor paradise, Godard notes: "The world is now split in two, between those who live on to voice their misery, and those for whom the public display provides a daily dose of moral comfort to their dominion." (RvB)
(PG-13; 123 min.) After Hollywood's poor attempt to pacify moviegoers with lackluster romantic comedies (like the disappointingly dim You've Got Mail), writer and producer Richard Curtis' (Four Weddings and a Funeral) Notting Hill is particularly refreshing. This reverse Cinderella story stars Hugh Grant as William Thacker, a struggling small-time London bookstore owner whose life changes when famous film star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks through his shop door. Falling for his adorably clumsy charm, she cautiously initiates a relationship with him and an unlikely, often topsy-turvy romance develops. While the characters aren't a stretch for either actor, Grant and Roberts are certainly at their best. The well-scripted, well-cast film boasts a good storyline and engaging, often extremely funny dialogue. The supporting cast also shines with well-developed, genuine characters. Rhys Ifans gives an especially winning performance as Thacker's slovenly disaster of a housemate, Spike. (SQ)
(1977) Sequel to the popular farce in which four aging male chums talk over their fantasies. (RvB)
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(R; 73 min.) Courteney Cox is condemned to revisit one particular fateful day. Director Greg Harrison assembles three versions of the day. All three incidents turn on a fatal trip to a liquor store, and Sophie must make sense of the strange recycling. The viewer asks, What am I seeing? Did this really happenor is it just a dream or a hallucination? Is this all a parallel universe? Is everybody in the movie a ghost? Harrison adds a few graphic innovations on the theme of irreality: a sudden spray of blood on a bare light bulb when Sophie tries to staunch the flow of blood from her pain-wracked brain with a Q-tip in her ear hole. The film's indie papers are in order, but I find it hard to summon up the patience even for November's modest running time of 73 minutes. Cox shoulders most of the blame. Watching her in close-up is like looking for nuances in the famous drawing of the polar bear drinking milk in a snowstorm. (RvB)
(PG-13; 102 min.) Look out, Demi's at it again. And this time Hollywood's champion of women co-produces and acts in an irritatingly prepackaged version of sisterhood. Now and Then is a comedy about four women and the lasting friendships they formed during their coming-of-age summer as 12-year-olds in 1970. The film's most interesting concept is that each of the four characters is played by a young actress and an older counterpart, pairing Christina Ricci with Rosie O'Donnell, Thora Birch with Melanie Griffith, Ashleigh Aston Moore with Rita Wilson and Gaby Hoffmann with Demi Moore. But such clever casting backfires, demonstrating that Now and Then would be a lot more entertaining if it were just left to Then and the talents of Ricci, Birch, Aston Moore and Hoffmann, who act circles around their seniors in this film. The four elder actresses do little more than gush over their characters' enduring bonds and show extra teeth for that last grinning close-up. (HZ)
(R; 85 min.) The third installment of director Gregg Araki's (The Doom Generation, Totally F***ed Up) trilogy about tormented L.A. club kids.
(Unrated; 138 min.) Though it won the Oscar for best foreign film, it wasn't. However, Caroline Link's adaptation of Stefanie Zweig's novel ismost of the timea sturdy tale of a colonialist family in Kenya. The overlong story is held together by the intriguing anti-heroine, Jettel (Julianne Kölher from Aimee and Jaguar), a serially unfaithful German-Jewish mother whose sense of dissatisfaction is more troublesome than the local lions. This fancy, well-brought-up woman and her daughter, Regine (who narrates), escaped from Nazi Germany in the nick of time; she's shocked to find out she's meant to live as a straw boss's wife, first at a cattle ranch, then at a corn farm. Fortunately, both she and her husbandWalter, a lawyer in the old country, played by Merab Ninidzeare kept alive because of a faithful servant named Owuor (the impressive Sidede Onyulo), who gets them through everything from water shortages to a locust attack. Glimpses of the village life show us faces and attitudes that Link might well have explored. This is strictly a white memsahib's story; the attempt to introduce a little incipient Mau Mau activity at the very end is too little, too late. But as a story of desire under the flame trees it's more compelling than Out of Africa, to which the title so obviously refers. Nice scenery, of course. (RvB)
(PG-13; 105 min.) The first interesting version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in probably 50 years. The movie is a chance for Murphy to both mock and atone for the repellently macho qualities that made audiences abandon him. Dr. Seymour Clump (Jerry Lewis' part in the 1963 original) is one of the eight roles for Murphy. Clump is a morbidly obese genetics professor who can change the DNA of the overweight; the side effect is the emergence of a new, evil personality. Where Lewis' Buddy Love was a clubland heel, Murphy's version is a coked-up, too-handsome creephe's very magnetic, but he has a bad smell that increases as you get to know him. Of course, the pure-hearted girl (Jada Pinkett) detects it from the beginning. The Nutty Professor is well-timed, with a notable amount of dramatic tension. Murphy has always been funniest in costume and makeup, and one of the irresistibly coarse highlights a Godzilla dream sequence topped with a fart joke of rare explosiveness. What makes The Nutty Professor outstanding, though, is the easily read subtext. African American culture is one in which there was, at least once upon a time, lots of room for fat people. (There isn't going to be a white act called the Fat Boys on MTV very soon.) Clump's ten-ton family (all played by Murphy) porking out represents a vision of unassimilated funk, contrasted with the cruel pressure on Clump himself to conform to a slighterand dare we say, whiter?ideal. Murphy's Clump, binge-eating and weeping alone over the TV images in which he has no part, is too uncomfortably close to the heart of things to be maudlin; this movie owes as much to Ralph Ellison as it does to Jerry Lewis. (RvB)
(PG-13; 110 min.) Dr. Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) is in the last stages of perfecting a youth formula, but he starts to have episodes in which the voice of his former alter-ego, Buddy Love, mocks him. Therapy doesn't help, and the professor tries to separate Love from his DNA. A bad mistakeLove, free from Klump, comes alive and runs amok. Once again, the trailers deliver all of the best gags, including the sight of Larry Miller as the snide Dean Richmond, pedicated by a humongous hamster. This sequel has the same subtext as Murphy's first Nutty Professor, about the pressures on a black man to assimilate into a world dominated by whites. How else can you read a film about an earnest African American professional like Dr. Sherman Klump tormented by the caricatured pimping, jiving, slick criminal that is Buddy Love? I mean, Murphy is in unusually deep waters in these two films; unfortunately, this sequel isn't as worked out in theme as the first film was. The Klumps tries to top the first but ends up as a crude hodgepodge, without a central character. Buddy Love has no good scenes (he's a cackling shell of his former diabolical stuff). And there are too few scenes of the Klumps, Sherman's gross family, a five-part acting feat comprising Murphy's characterizations and Rick Baker's makeup. The movie tells us that Buddy Love represents Klump's intelligence, which gradually vanishes, a la Flowers for Algernon, once the two personalities are separated. I didn't buy itdoesn't Love have more to do with Klump's mojo than brain power? To demonstrate Sherman's fleeting intelligence, the film keeps cutting to a "Brain Meter" that shows how much IQ Klump is losing, and the meter seems to be trained on the movie. (RvB)