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(R; 111 min.) There's a shred of substance in The Object of My Affection, but it's hardly worth enduring nearly two hours of "meet cute" couplings and annoying stereotypes in order to find it. The film is a kind of gender-inverted Chasing Amy set among struggling professionals in downtown Brooklyn. Jennifer Aniston, the poor man's Meg Ryan, stars as Nina Borowski, a social worker in love with her inconveniently gay roommate George. When Nina finds herself pregnant by her overbearing labor lawyer boyfriend, Vince, she suggests to George, a child-loving elementary-school teacher, that they become a family and raise her baby together. Happily, the script, written by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, doesn't make the mistake of treating George's sexual orientation as a surmountable obstacle. Instead, The Object of My Affection, is about sexual compromisea rarity among Hollywood films. The most poignant moment comes when Nina says to her half-sister, "Doesn't it all turn into friendship anyway?" Wasserstein is adept at mining the pathos of middle-class white girl life, but here she falls back on easy sitcom-style plot devices. When the script falters, the film's sweetness becomes saccharine and Nina feels about as real as Ally McBeal. (MG)
(PG-13; 122 min.) Steven Soderbergh's third entry in his Las Vegas heist series moves even further away from the 1960 Rat Pack original but significantly improves over the self-involved second entry. Reuben (Elliot Gould) becomes bed-ridden after getting shafted in a hotel deal with Willy Bank (Al Pacino). So Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his cohorts (Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, et al.) cook up a scheme to clean out Bank and ruin his hotel's rating. The sleek script makes gleeful use of expository dialogue, building ludicrous situations and winding its way out again. In-between, Soderbergh capitalizes on the unspoken male bond between his crafty scoundrels, listening in on hilarious, half-snatches of conversation. The luxurious cinematography and cool musical score help smooth things out. (JMA)
Full text review.
(PG-13; 130 min.) There was a plot in here somewhere. Steven Soderbergh's nonmovie follows up the easygoing hit with a couple of heists in Amsterdam and Italy. The former robbery uses hydraulic jacks, but I'd just seen a more dramatic use of them to raise a barn on TV's This Old House; the second was the heist of a Fabergé egg that everyone had seemed to lose track of by the end of the movie. The guiding principle here seemed to be that it would be better to skip the movie and go straight to the junket. The film is essentially about a group of actors hanging out, fretting about their ages and neglecting to comb their hair. The film's so low key it can't really be said to exist. Perhaps the actors were all clever holograms designed by the Eddie Izzard character? (RvB)
(PG; 100 min.) (PG; 108 min.) This yarn about Homer Hickham Jr. (Jake Gyllenhaal) and three of his friends, who used rocketry as their route out of the West Virginia coal mines in the post-Sputnik 1950s, is sort of a true story. Because the focus is almost entirely on Homer, who wrote the book, we learn next to nothing about his fellow rocketeers. Worse, the conflict between him and his dad (Chris Cooper of Lone Star) is tedious and contrivedyou get the feeling the producers would have married him to a hillbilly harpy if he'd been old enough ("Homer, yew quit messin' with them rockets an' git yew a real job!"). Still, this is a charming movie overall, and it's nice to see eggheads presented as heroes for once. (BC)
(1968) The late Jack Lemmon stars in one of his most memorable roles, as the newly (and justly) divorced Felix Unger, who moves in as a housemate on slobby, card-playing sportswriter Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau). Anyone tortured by a clean-freak roommate will find something to laugh at here. Lemmon's fuss-budget traits never cross the line into the unendurable (unlike the behavior of real-life aggrieved housemates). Neal Hefti's minor-key theme music elegizes New York right on the brink of its serious decline in the 1970s. Writer Neil Simon composed more screenplays about Manhattan rot, just as Lemmon traveled on the strength of his partnership with Matthau. Still, neither Simon or Lemmon ever really recaptured the freshness of that first meeting here. (RvB)
(PG-13; 97 min.) Forget about cigarette packages and liquor bottlesthis movie is what needs a warning label. Watching The Odd Couple 2 may cause nausea, dizziness and a noticeable feeling of uneasiness. The jokes are bad, the storyline inane, and it's embarrassing to see Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reduced to appearing in a Police Academy for the geriatric set. Everything quirky and endearing about the Oscar and Felix of old becomes irritating, and the comedy-of-errors (and that's using the term "comedy" very loosely) plot is like sitting through a marathon of the worst sitcom pilots ever aired. (KR)
(R) With Office Space, Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge proves that his talent translates beautifully with flesh-and-blood actors. In this tale of dissatisfied office workers, writer/director Judge focuses his penchant for detail on the petty minutiae of the white-collar underling's plight, much as Beavis might gleefully fry an ant under a magnifying glass. Caught in the blazing death ray of corporate America, the cubicle dwellers at Initech scurry with fear. One employee, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), grows increasingly discontent until he decides to blow off work altogether. When Initech begins downsizing and his friends are laid off, Peter hatches an "early retirement" scheme for himself and his co-workers. Peter's measures of workplace revenge range from the enjoyable to the hilarious (watching Peter and his friends pummel a fax machine with a baseball bat could almost qualify as therapy for some of us), but where the film really shines is in the nagging little annoyances that Judge recreates so faithfully: from the smarmy VP's condescending tone to "casual day," a depressing and meaningless office concession when virutally commanded by the boss. With its vivid illustration of how short-sighted corporate policies can backfire, Office Space may have a bit more of a message than Judge's animated works, but like his cartoons, what the film mostly offers is a funny, sometimes satirical, slice of life, which in this case might provide some managers with spectacular nightmares and workers with beautiful fantasies. (HZ; 1999)
In retrospect it's clear that Mike Judge's cult film is more relevant to valley life than any other Hollywood film ever made. Judge, the animator responsible for King of the Hill, sums up the monotony of tip-up buildings, the tedium of light industrial parks, the forced jollity of the so-called "flair restaurant" and the inanity of middle management. Gary Cole will probably be typecast for life following his terrific performance as an insufferable but never actually impolite boss. The film's flawsa disintegrating third act and the casting of Jennifer Anistonfade on a midnight viewing. (RvB; 2004)
(1934/1936) Starring Bette Davis in her first big performance. She plays Mildred, the mean little whore who kicks around a striving, clubfooted medical student (Leslie Howard) in this sexy, pre-Code adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's magnum opus. Davis does Cockney, which is slightly risible, but she's sensationally anti-heroic and lascivious. And the crueler part of one's heart agrees with her that the young student needs to wise up. BILLED WITH These Three. The heterosexualized version of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, with the girl-school rumors of Sapphic involvement replaced by rumors of an affair. Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea are the three flanges of the triangle. (RvB)
In anticipation of Opera San Jose's upcoming stage version of John Steinbeck's famous story, there will be a screening of the 1939 film adaptation starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. (Oct 30 at 7pm at the Center for Steinbeck Studies, Wahlquist North, Room 316, SJSU). The event includes a tour of the center and a talk by center director Susan Shillinglas. The screening will be followed by two days of talks (Nov 1-2 at Opera San Jose and the Montgomery Theater) about the upcoming opera (call 408/437-4455 for details).
This fourth-annual event features short films by local independent filmmakers.
Full text review.
A documentary about the dangers of drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
(1955) No chalk, however long, could be a long enough chalk to show the distance in quality between this rousing film version of Rogers and Hammerstien's stage success and all the others that followed, particularly the corn-ball The Sound of Music. In addition to being a rapturous musical, it's also a well told and dark Western. The cast includes the limber dancer Charlotte Greenwood, captivating as the kind of tough old women one meets out there; Gloria Grahame as the somewhat less iron-willed Ado Annie, a girl who cain't say "no"; Eddie Albert very amusing in a dialect bit as a Persian peddler; Rod Steiger, haunting as the bad-man Judd; the debuting Shirley Jones, very sweet as the pert and a mite stuck-up heroine, and Gordon MacRae as her cowboy swain. A much-needed jolt of Americana during frightening times, but loved overseas, also, as heard in the Kinks' moving tribute to the film, "Oklahoma USA." (RvB)
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(R; 120 min.) Park Chan-wook's bold addition to the annals of savage cinema. One night Korean salaryman Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik) is abducted and held in a private jail for 15 years. The dungeon is a cross between a David Fincher-decorated Best Western motel and that seaside village Patrick McGoohan could never get out of in The Prisoner. By building up his muscles and his knuckles, he becomes a killing machine. Released as mysteriously as he was captured, Oh zeroes in on a sushi bar where Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong) is working. The girlprobably attracted by the way Oh geeks a live octopusadopts him and takes him home. It's all too sweet, and Oh rightly smells a rat. Choi's rubbery pale face and bag-lined red eyes look like Vincent Price in his mask as Dr. Phibes. Oldboy's superior editing and brave use of split-screen is a true charge. One sequence, which must have been a real bastard to film, is a 2 1/2 minute long, one-take hallway fight: Oh, armed with his trusty clawhammer, punishes a stick-wielding mob. At the exact opposite of the balletic, smash-cut fight scene, this is so old it's new, and more vicious than anything in Sin City. (RvB)
(R; 90 min.) Stereo salesman Vince Vaughn troubleshoots Luke Wilson's suddenly single life by establishing a fraternity in Wilson's new rental located on university property, much to the consternation of an evil dean (Jeremy Piven). Wilson wants his sudden celebrity status erased while his homey Frank (Will Ferrell) wants to relive his golden years as frat-boy lightning rod. This comedy is thoroughly star-packed; Juliette Lewis, Andy Dick, Artie Lange, Snoop Dogg, Leah Remini, Sara Tanaka, Craig Kilborn and Ellen Pompeo all repay some outstanding debt owed to director Todd Phillips (Road Trip). The real star is Ferrell, who plays Frank the Tank as an "Instant Nudist: Just Add Alcohol" type of guy who jams Whitesnake and shoots a tranquilizer dart into his neck. There's not much to Old School but a handful of genuine yucks. Come for the laughs and leave the brain at home. (TI)
The San Jose Public Library hosts a benefit featuring films from the early part of the century, including San Jose Surrounding Towns of the Santa Clara Valley, a documentary filmed in 1922; The Last of the Dirigibles, showing the construction of Moffett Field and the arrival of the Macon and Akron airships in the early '30; and A Charlie Chaplin Surprise, a comedy from the early days of film. An intermission buffet will be available after the first two films and historian Leonard McKay will introduce and comment on the movies.
(G; 73 min.) Oliver is an abandoned kitten (voice by Joey Lawrence) adopted first by a pack of thieves and then by a little rich girl (Natalie Gregory) who looks like a big-eyed waif from a Margaret Keane painting. Neither Dodger (Billy Joel), the leader of the pack, nor Oliver is strong enough to stand up to the villain, Sykes (Robert Loggia). Enter deus ex machina in the form of a subway train. Cheech Marin is sometimes funny as the humorous-ethnic-stereotype character. This flimsy version of Dickens' Oliver Twist has an inferior, homemade look next to its fellow 1988 release from the same studio, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and compared to most animation nowadays, it's a mutt. The lines are sketchy, and the backgrounds are staticit resembles a coloring book, and a cheap one at that. (RvB)
Full text review.
(PG-13; 135 min.) "More? You want more?!" OK, it's pretty hard to imagine anyone topping David Lean's profoundly moody 1951 take on the Dickens classic, but director Roman Polanski is sufficiently brilliant and strange to warrant the effort. Advance reviews suggest that his vision of orphans running amok in Victorian London may be the one to redefine the Artful Dodger, Fagin and young Oliver for a new generation of filmgoersall without resorting to that Milos Forman Mozart-as-Johnny Rotten shtick. Anarchy in the U.K., indeed. (Capsule preview by BF)
Roman Polanski has made a perfectly agreeable new film adaptation of Oliver Twist, full of beautiful art and costume design. The story, with its poor orphan going through psychological torments on the streets of a corrupt London, seems to be perfect fodder for Polanski, but the film errs on the gentle side; even David Lean's version is scarier. Polanski's Oliver (Barney Clark) is passive and muted, and it's difficult to crawl into his tattered shoes. Perhaps Polanski's worst stumble, however, is the film's pace. At 135 minutes, it tends to lag during the final quarter, when the Bill Sykes character (Jamie Foreman) becomes the focus. Sykes is evil, no question, but Polanski can't find the character's center and paints him simply as a one-dimensional, moustache-twisting baddie. (JMA)
(1992) Agnieska Holland's disturbing fact-based tale of a family turned inside out when a teenager appears claiming to be their long-lost son. The film appears as part of the Museum of Art and History's film series "Women Behind the Camera: Five Renowned Filmmakers." Shelley Stamp Lindsey, curator of the series and a professor of film and video at UC-Santa Cruz, introduces the film. An informal discussion follows the screening.
The Omega Code is neither worse nor more sanctimonious than some other Christian-themed horrors of the past few years, including the Omen trilogy, The Seventh Sign and Stigmata. Viewers expecting Jack Chick-style eschatology are going to be disappointed. Where are the mobile guillotines, the suburbs in uproar, the numerals 666 branded on the forehead with red-hot irons? Even with the endorsement of evangelist Hal Lindseywho has been threatening the planet longer than choleraThe Omega Code's vision of the end times doesn't have the courage of its vindictive convictions. Director Rob Macarelli makes this Trinity Broadcasting Network-produced effort a bland suspense tale of Stone Alexander, a Ted Turner-style Antichrist (Michael York). In his basement, he uses magnetic-tape-fed computers to crunch the numbers in the Bible. Apparently, some cabalistic code within it can predict all current events includingshudderthe death of Princess Di. The code pops out predictions of Nostradamian crypticness ("Wild Siblings Tame the Beast"), facilitating Alexander's ascension. For some reason, this diabolically inspired millionaire takes as his assistant a New Age secular humanist professor, Casper Van Dien. Like the frankfurter he is, Van Dien tries to sabotage the picture (at a peace conference for the Arabs and Israelis: "Gentlemen, let's not get hung up on negatives!"). Van Dien just succeeds in looking like a worse fool next to York, who is often delightful. "Reprobates," York spits, at two angels of the lord. As John Carradine did long ago in many a forgotten horror pic, York extemporizes Shakespeare to show off his chops, trotting out a few stanzas of Julius Caesar to make up for the low-rentness of the apocalypse. As always, the evangelists who made this try to show their compassionate side, while threatening you, the viewer, with fire. The Omega Code chugs to a halt to remind us all to be good to our mates ("The worth of a real man will show in the countenance of his wife's face") and not to abandon our children to go scoot off to Rome and be the Antichrist's butt-boy. (RvB)