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"Pokey" for short. An especially cute Disney feature tells the story of the Native American girl who saved Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) from execution. It was a weak moment on her part, but the film's real problem is its almost all-human cast; realistic all-human animation almost never works. The songs range from Hallmark-card bland to New Age risible: "You think I'm an ig-nor-rant savage." Though sturdily made, and inoffensive for children, Pocahontas lacks a lead; the princess herself, an Indian Barbie, is as two-dimensional and distressingly clean as the razor-sharp line of her jaw. (RvB)
(Unrated; 1967; 92 min.) Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, John Vernon and Carroll O'Connor star in John Boorman's cult-classic neo-noir crime thriller. This wildly fragmented revenge story (which could be a series of flashbacks, or perhaps a dying man's hallucination) boasts some superbly brutal moments and a healthy dose of late-'60s paranoia. It's shown in Panavision as part of Nickelodeon's Widescreen Festival.
(G; 77 min.) An animated feature based on the popular franchise.
(G; 80 min.) The animated favorites return.
(G; 89 min.) The ominous title says it all. Pokémon: The First Movie warns that this is the first of as many movies as Warner Brothers can repackage for American consumption before it sells the Pokémon franchise into the ground. And you know the good ol' WB will: the tremendously popular children's cartoon grew from a Japanese video game into a worldwide merchandise machine that includes a trading-card game. Some parents fear these cards teach kids to gamblewould this witless animated movie were half that interesting. Pokémon trainers Ash, Misty and Brock and their pokémon must face off against a powerful genetically engineered pokémon, Mewtwo, whose anger at his human-manufactured origins has become a hunger for world domination. There's not as much action here as you might think, which leaves the film relying on the grating cuteness of its little monsters and tottering on a mighty thin moral about the evils of violenceunless it's for fun, of course. But the real moral of the story is that kids will buy anything if it's marketed right. (HZ)
(G; 84 min.) In the sequel to Pokémon: The First Movie, trainer Ash and his pokémon must save the Earth and the pokémon universe from a greedy collector who wants the three most powerful pokémon for his own.
(G; 93 min.) Pikachu proves his staying power with this third installment of the Pokémon film franchise in which the pokémon and their trainers try to rescue friends and relatives held captive in a tower by a new, unknown Pokémon.
(G; 92 min.) Tom Hanks voices a remarkable six roles in this story of a boy who is whisked away to the North Pole to have his faith in Santa Claus restored. How did Robert Zemeckis turn a rather short kid's book into a full-length animated feature? I don't know, but there's $150 million worth of something in there. For some reason, the marketing seems to be focusing on the visuals all of that money produced, rather than the fact that this film reunites Hanks with Bosom Buddies co-star Peter Scolari. That's box-office gold, baby! (Capsule preview by SP)
Sometime in the 1950s, a boy who doubts Santa is whisked away to the North Pole on a vintage steam engine. On the way, it transforms from passenger train to polar-coaster and finally to a funicular. The North Pole village is like a Mont St. Michel rising from the ice, as if designed by red-brick-crazed Victorians. A gruff ghost hobo who plays the hurdy-gurdy is the darkest part of the story, supplying the scary quality necessary to all Christmas stories. Robert Zemeckis' startling computer-animated technique fails occasionally, with instances of vacant, unfocused eyes or plastic-looking skin. Despite some of the direr predictions ("This technique will be able to replace actors completely!") this kid-friendly film never transcends its purpose as holiday kids' stuff. Zemeckis' usual star Tom Hanks does the voices for the various adults. (RvB)
(1982) As recently as a few months ago, Warner Bros. was planning a new DVD release for this 1982 suburban-horror classic. But now it's been ixnayed completely, and rumor has it that it was Spielberg's people who put the kibosh on it. And even more juicy is the theory that it has something to do with not wanting to stir up again all that now-almost-forgotten controversy over who really directed this movie. Hollywood legend has it that writer-producer Steven Spielberg bullied director Tobe Hooper to the point of taking away almost all creative control, but I don't completely buy itfans of Hooper's best films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Eaten Alive will find his fingerprints all over this film if they look closely enough. In any case, this one is ironically a zillion times better than the movie it was basically ripping off, 1979's inexplicable hit The Amityville Horror. (SP)
(1981) Francine Fishpaw (Divine) faces life in upper-class Baltimorea life that includes the following unpleasantries: a marriage to a crass, cheating pornographer; a son whose violent foot fetish has led police to call him "The Baltimore Stomper"; and a mother who unabashedly hates her guts. Finally, Prince Charming arrives, in the form of Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter), a cultured drive-in-theater owner, who beguiles patrons with an oyster bar and dusk-till-dawn Marguerite Duras festivals. Does Todd have the key to free Francine from her marriage ... or is he just another bitter disappointment for the hefty but sensitive lady? Originally filmed in Odorama, but the scratcher cards may be long gone; still, even in its environmentally sensitive version, this satire is a typical bad-taste delight by director John Waters. (RvB)
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(Unrated; 92 min.) Ponette (Victoire Thivisol), a child barely past the toddler stage, has just learned of her mother's death. Jacques Doillon's movie displays plenty of integrity, even if it isn't very interesting. In fact, it reminds the viewer that people are customarily paid money to watch groups of children. Until the emotional sucker punch of a fantasy ending, the movie is tough-minded. The children around our heroine are sometimes cruel, and the few adults present confuse Ponette with conflicting views of the afterlife. (RvB)
(G; 68 min.) Winnie the Pooh and his pal pursue the Heffalump in an animated feature. (Fun Fact: Did you know that the Pooh franchise brings in about $6 billion a year to Disney?)
(1936/1937) The wee daughter of a soap manufacturer gets lost, hooks up with a pair of Broadway hoofers (Alice Faye and Jack Haley) and through her new-found fame is hooked back up with her father. A Shirley Temple film that has its star's salient feature: shortness (72 minutes). BILLED WITH On the Avenue. Much more like it. Roy del Ruth was an ex-Mack Sennett director and gag man: a great one, Sennett allowed in his memoirs, though the king of silent comedy claimed Del Lord (later the shepherd of the Three Stooges) was by far the best director who worked for him. Del Ruth went on to Warner Bros. for such pictures as Blessed Event and Taxi and evolved into a director of the Broadway Melody revues for MGM. This musical has the tang of the berserk old 1930s Warner Bros. class-conflict showcases. Madeline Carroll plays an heiress impugned by a Broadway show; she sues for damages but falls for the lead (Dick Powell); Powell's current date, singer/dancer Alice Faye throws up some interference. Songs include "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," "The Girl on the Police Gazette" and "He Ain't Got Rhythm." Bracing low comedy is provided by the Ritz Brothers. (RvB)
(PG-13) A comedy written and directed by Louis C.K. about a clean-living, crime-fighting recording artist (Lance Crouther) and his battle against an evil, greedy CEO (Robert Vaughn) who makes his living selling kids on smoking and drinking. Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes also star.
A semi-precious gemstone found only in the Morgan Hill region, Poppy Jasper is configured with orange circlets that look like poppies. Gemsmith Bill Tykol and geologist Peter Anderson heave heard about a large specimen of scarce poppy jasper, and are trying to raise funds for purchase and display in Morgan Hill. The three-day-long Poppy Jasper Film Festival includes workshops on filmmaking and film selling, a showcase on electronic cinematography sponsored by Panasonic. Other programs include a day of student films, and a selection of shorts, in particular The Disappeared Ones (Nov 13, at 4:10) by local artist, filmmaker and ex-SJSU professor Bob Friemark, profiled in Metro. The Disappeared Ones concerns Friemarks journey to Argentina to meet with those who lost loved ones Dirty War, as well as a military officer who justifies the fascist death squads. (Plays Nov 11-14 at the Granada Theater, with some programs at Gavilan College. www.poppyjasperfilmfestival.com.) (RvB)
Morgan Hill's annual long weekend of several dozen short films—all under a half hour in length—includes an appearance by Chris Squires. Squires is a longtime assistant to ace cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond, Haskell Wexler and Caleb Deschanel; as steadicam operator he worked on Fight Club and other films; when you see him, ask about his work on an underrated cult picture, Steve De Jarnett's 1988 Miracle Mile. Squires headlines on Nov 10 at 7pm. Also worthwhile is a women-in-film panel, Nov 10 at 1pm: guests include Fran Lozano, dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Gavilan College; Anne Goursaud, who is both a director (Another 9/12 Weeks) and a Francis Ford Coppola editor (of Bram Stoker's Dracula and One From the Heart); actress Fiona Gubelmann; animation-sequence supervisor Marjo Silva (Magnolia, Pirates of the Caribbean); director Laurie Agard (Frog and Wombat); and Susan Cartsonis, executive producer of No Reservations, producer of Aquamarine and one of the execs who greenlit the original film of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Plays Nov 9-11 in Morgan Hill at various locations. www.poppyjasperfilmfest.org.) (RvB)
(1998/1993) Portland Street Blues is Raymond Yip's policier about a bisexual triad boss (Sandra Ng) and the events that toughened her. Hsu Chui plays a scarred bride who gets revenge on the man who marked her. BILLED WITH The Last Hero in China, a light alternative to the above by the typically wacky Wong Jing. In this period comedy, Jet Li plays a monkish teacher who accidentally opens his kung-fu academy next to a whorehouse. (RvB)
(PG-13; 150 min.) By turns wistfully lyrical, brilliantly original and downright daft, Jane Campion's version of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady winds up marooned between Campion's reverence for James' stately, cerebral passion and her mutinous desire to dot his i's with perversity. A bright, warm, navel-gazing young woman, Nicole Kidman's Isabel Archer also gushes buckets (poor thing) every time a besotted rich swain (wimpy Richard E. Grant, sulky Viggo Mortensen, yearning Ralph Touchett and sleazeball John Malkovich) swears undying love. Campion, with her radar for evil, focuses on the malevolent magnetism of Malkovich's man of "taste" who collects fine China and bullies women on the side. Campion's visual genius makes her the least credible translator of James, for her Isabel is all exterior. She has no inner life, and inner life is what Henry James is all about. (ET)
(Unrated; 93 min.) A young survivor of terrible familial abuse heads out into gay manhood, where he isafter a stint as a Times Square male hustlerin turn abused by various people who pick him up hitchhiking in the desert. This unrelentingly grim story, begun with "the nonexistent hugs and kisses of Mom and Dad" and a howl of despair, does have its happier moments, but God forbid we should be able to enjoy them; they're duly buried, especially a scene of a Person With Aids outraging a family picnic with his spoken-aloud desire "to die with a big dick in my mouth" (where's the Make-A-Wish Foundation when this man needs them?). But this moment, like the meaningless, anonymous sex that we don't even get to look at, is also played for tragedy. Michael Ringer overacts egregiously as the King Kong-like father; the moment of Hallmark-card romanticism that winds up the action exposes its pretenses. Stay home and read John Rechy instead. (RvB)
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Massimo Troisi, an Italian farceur, makes his American debut in a posthumous starring role. He plays a dirt-poor fisherman who, because of his bicycle, is hired to handle the mail of the exiled poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret). At first, Troisi's Mario is like the pickpocket in the adage who only sees a saint's pockets, but he and Neruda become temporary friends. It's a very pragmatic film about poetry. Troisi, who died of heart disease during filming, gives a fine, wounded performance, caught by British director Michael Radford (White Mischief). (RvB)
(PG-13; 111 min.) With this film's serenely sullen title character, sometimes it seems more like Pouter. But you'd probably sulk a bit, too, if you could use 100 percent of your brain but the only people who bother to notice your extraordinary abilities are a stereotypically nutty science teacher (Jeff Goldblum) and a condescending group-home counselor (Mary Steenburgen). Powder (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a young man living in rural Texas who is the human embodiment of pure energy. This unusual hero's super-sensitivity to all life forms offers many provocative moments, such as in a deer-hunting scene that, if it were actually possible, would put the NRA out of business forever. In fact, Powder's overall concept is original enough and, for once, allows for a film about a young adult that's not entirely a coming-of-age tale. Unfortunately, it seems that no character except Powder has matured, least of all the quartet of authority figures around himGoldblum's and Steenburgen's characters, a heart-of-gold sheriff (Lance Henriksen) and his trigger-happy deputy (Brandon Smith)whose relationships with Powder are left disappointingly unexplored. (HZ)
John Junkerman's documentary about the scholar and political activist. Includes footage from a recent appearance by Chomsky in Palo Alto. This showing, hosted by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, also includes a discussion with the filmmaker. (RvB)
(2004) Here we are, spiraling downward through divinely inspired chaossubjects to the demands of both W's God and bin Laden's. This important BBC documentary exposes the myth that teems in the administration's brain: that an organized group of terrorists plans a globe-girdling Islamic caliphate between the Pillars of Hercules and Djakarta. In fact, the actual threat comes from our spendthrift government forecasting a state of eternal war, as predicted in Orwell, that will keep the populace terrified and obedient. This documentary, which never got a local release, argues that Bush's war was in the planning stages years before 9/11. Their motto: "Everybody wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Damascus." (Plays Oct 14 at 7:30pm in Palo Alto at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 505 E. Charleston; www.peaceandjustice.org.) (RvB)
(PG; 84 min.) How to explain this big-screen prequel to the animated series? Perhaps we can just say that its PG rating is for "nonstop frenetic action." Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup are lab-engineered cartoon supergirls, and this is how they got their start. A monkey named Jojo is also involved.
(PG-13; 105 min.) This disappointing romantic comedy has a promising castSandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play sisters who, along with their aunts, Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest, are modern-day witches practicing white magic (love spells and the like), much to the overdone puritanical horror of their small New England community. But with a bland, meandering script, the slinky stars and their fantastically garbed elders become so much decoration for the film's appealing, warmly gothic scenery. Practical Magic alternately toys with a mystic tale, a romance and a murder mystery that never gel into one convincing story, and it squanders the cast on one-note characters: Bullock is the shy homebody, Kidman, the flashy slut, and worst, Channing and Wiest are wasted completely as sugary eccentrics. (HZ)
(PG; 121 min.) Whitney Houston acquits herself capably in an old-fashioned heart-warmer that literally gives the pop star a stage on which to perform her hitsshe plays Julia Biggs, a gospel singer who just so happens to rehearse a lot in her spare time. Title aside, this is actually the familiar story of the preacher's wife's husband, Henry (Courtney B. Vance). Forced to ask God for help, he's rewarded with Dudley (Denzel Washington), an anachronistically kind angel. The basic plot comes from 1947's The Bishop's Wife (1947), but to its credit, the 1997 version aspires to a higher power than the very dated and stagy original, aiming to heal us of extramarital temptation, community apathy and loss of faith. (RN)
(PG-13; 106 min.) This bio of long-distance runner Steve "Pre" Prefontaine is the first out of the starting blocks (there's another due later this year from Robert Towne), but it finishes as disappointingly as Pre did at the 1972 Olympics. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and co-writer Eugene Corr (ditto) have assembled a kind of clip-art film with all the depth and insight of a scrapbook. Some of the races are exciting (not easy to do with the 5,000 meter), and Jared Leto (My So-Called Life) as Pre does a lot with the material he's given. The cheapness of the production is actually a plusit looks like it was shot on video tape, then transferred to vintage '70s film stock, which gives it a certain visual authenticity. R. Lee Ermey is a pleasure as Bill Bowerman, Pre's coach and co-founder of the Nike shoe company. (BC)
(1978) Bertrand Blier (who is overdue for a retrospective) directs a unique, wistful farce in which a driving instructor (Gerard Depardieu) decides to make a sacrifice to please his fretting wife (Carole Laure): he agrees to bring her lovers in the hope that she'll cheer up. Pauline Kael wrote, "A Sleeping Beauty fable but told from the point of view of a man's erotic fears." It's known in the U.S. as Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. (RvB)
(1986) From the bowels of the Reagan age comes this John Hughes hit, featuring Molly Ringwald as the poor but striving girl seeking country-clubber Andrew McCarthy (whose career has been mistakenly revived in the upcoming Anything but Love). Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer (as the Jughead, called "Duckie") and the Psychedelic Furs soundtrack seem to have kept this around past its expiration date. (RvB)
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(Unrated; 104 min.) Evan Rachel Wood stars as Kimberly, a student at a Beverly Hills high school. When Randa (Adi Schnall), a Middle Eastern student, arrives, Kimberly takes her under her wing. Before long, Kimberly enlists both Randa and her other best friend, dimwitted blonde Brittany (Elisabeth Harnois), in a scheme to nail one of their teachers (Ron Livingston) on pedophilia charges. Writer Skander Halim and director Marcos Siega want Kimberly to be pure evil, but they also want to make her appealing; and so they justify her with an unnecessary backstory and rotten parents. We meet her volatile, mad-dog dad (James Woods) and we learn about her busy, aloof mother. Most of the problem behind this misshapen lump of a movie is that the director Siega comes from a long line of music-video and TV directors who can't comprehend how to sustain a feature film. (JMA)
(PG-13; 118 min.) Jimmy Smits stars as a has-been middleweight boxing champ who relives his dreams in training his son to box. Jon Seda, Ernesto Hernandez and Paul Rodriguez also star.
(PG; 127 min.) During the stampede of 1990s Jane Austen movie adaptations, Pride & Prejudice was left out, mostly because of the unmatchable 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth. Making his feature debut, director Joe Wright tries to throw in his belated 2 cents with this mixed bag that casts a delightful Keira Knightleywho apparently can do no wrongas Elizabeth Bennet, but also a bland Matthew MacFadyen (The Reckoning) as Darcy. Darcy is supposed to brood and smolder, but MacFadyen only looks glum. Wright muffles the humor and drama and creates long, draggy stretches, while other cast members flounder about in the wings, but Knightley forces certain scenes to spring back to life, and Donald Sutherland matches her as the wise yet bemused Bennet patriarch. (JMA)
(Both 1957) Imagine an impressionable young boy of a certain age first exposed to Sophia Loren in a low-cut peasant blouse, and you'll have a sense of why said boy has never forgotten The Pride and the Passion, even if he only saw it in the early 1960s on a small black-and-white TV. In 19th-century Spain, a British office (Gary Grant) captures a giant cannon (Freudians take note) and drags it over hill and dale for some revolutionary purpose with the help of Loren at her most VistaVisioned voluptuousness and, of all people, Frank Sinatra. BILLED WITH Kiss Them for Me. Seldom-seen comedy with Grant and Ray Walston as sailors on the town in San Francisco during World War II who rent the top of the Mark Hopkins for a wild party. Grant is a decorated Navy pilot, the leader of the gang. He encounters both a chilly rich girl (Suzy Parker) and an intellectually challenged blonde, played by Jayne Mansfield. (MSG/RvB)
(R; 126 min.) The wealthy and powerful Archbishop of Chicago is found stabbed 78 times. Into what promises to be a very aromatic murder trial comes famed defense lawyer Martin Vail (Richard Gere); leading the prosecution is Janet Venable (Laura Linney), an embittered veteran of Vail's charms. It's a basic courtroom drama, but the fine cast provides even a dull director like Greg Hoblit with a wide range of actors with which to relay shades of human weakness and hidden strengths. Primal Fear is highlighted by actors like Alfre Woodard, Frances McDormand and Edward Norton, in a career-making performance as the defendant. (RvB)
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(PG-13; 82 min.) If I ♥ Huckabees and its evil twin What the #$*! Do We Know!? interpret the new physics as the idea that the universe is warm and wants to give us a group hug, Shane Carruth's prize-winning indie film Primer is far more hard-headed. To it, the ultimate question isn't "Who are we?" or "Where are we going?" but "Who can we sell this to?" And just as the film Office Space's cult is due to the way it picks up on the ennui of the light-industrial park, this movie gets into the toxic essence of working high tech. It's set in a no-name small city (Austin) where no building is older than 1970, and it's shot through an amber filter that makes every person, place and thing look like a feature of a dry and cold future. Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Carruth)two engineers with barely a personality between themwork on inventions in their spare time. They're both on the make in the corporate world; even during off-hours they're never without suits and ties that a Mormon missionary would reject as too drab. Horsing around a low-energy refrigeration technique, and using a Weeble toy as a marker in the experiment, they discover unexpected results. Without ever using the phrase "time machine," both realize what they've got on their hands is the ultimate invention. Carruth does without establishing shots, and uses flash-forwards right at the perfect time to strand the viewer. But the $7,000 budget is the least interesting thing about Primer. It's one of the fastest-paced movies of the year, at 80 minutes long, and it presumes you know what it's saying. I don't pretend I understand all of it, but I intend to keep rewatching it until I do. (RvB)
(PG; 100 min.) First, read the official plot summary of this film: "A fairy tale love-story about a pre-med student who falls in love with a Danish Prince who refused to follow the traditions of his parents and has come to the U.S. to quench his thirst for rebellion. Paige (Julia Stiles) and Chris (Luke Mably) come from two different worlds, but there's and undeniable attraction between them." Then replace "a Danish Prince" and "Chris (Luke Mably)" with "sex-god pop star Prince." I'm just saying that would have been pretty cool. Come to think of it, it kind of sounds like Purple Rain. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1944/1950) The quintessential funny-pirate movie. The vaudeville artist Sylvester the Great, "man of seven faces" (Bob Hope), is on his way across the sea: "My act is known all over Europe; that's why I'm going to America." What every bad actor fears arrives, the hook: specifically, a pirate known as Hook (an impressively fierce and bristling Victor McLaglen) raids Sylvester's ship, helping himself to a princess (Virginia Mayo, as bland as the condiment itself). Using his very poor power of disguise, Sylvester escapes. Escapes, that is, into the clutches of a cracked old geezer named Featherhead (Walter Brennan, marvelously weird), who makes him the bearer of a treasure map. Maybe the secret of a pirate comedyand, Lord knows, there have been a lot of bad onesis to make a serious pirate tale, with cutlasses and sea battles and threats like "You'll dance the devil's hornpipe at the end of the mainyard!" and then add the comedy to it, rather than presuming that pirates are just naturally hilarious. Critic David Thomson has suggested that Hope's lightness as a light comedian is due to the fact that he never hints at the sadness of making people laugh. However, the imminence of a messy and painful deathon the minds of a lot of the audience in 1944is very much part of the humor here, grounding the comedy in this, one of Hope's best. It was a huge hit, due to the glowing Technicolor, the Goldwyn Girls traipsing through it, sleazy Walter Slezak as a debauched colonial governor and a fine turn by pioneer indie filmmaker Hugo Haas as the owner of a tavern called the Bucket of Blood. BILLED WITH Fancy Pants. The fourth remake of Ruggles of Red Gap: Hope (in the Charles Laughton role) stars as an actor who poses as a British butler; he's hired to give a girl of the Old West (Lucille Ball) lessons in deportment. (RvB)
(PG; 98 min.) Despite Christopher Guest and his Castillian accentand it's quite an accent, used for uproarious effect on the Folksmen track "Skeletons of Quinto" on the A Mighty Wind soundtrack. Despite Andre the Giant and his posse, despite the way my brothers and sister (die-hard Renaissance Faire fans all four) adore this. And despite even Peter Falk's warmth in the framing sequences. Despite it all, this movie has always seemed to me about as genuine as Billy Crystal, as deep as Rob Reiner, as unaffectedly natural as Mandy Patinkin and as original as the talent of William "The Recycler" Goldman, the man who wrote it. Hate mail can be directed to the usual address, but this isn't a movie for fans of the writer Angela Carter or the actor Errol Flynn, and director Peter Jackson has twice demonstrated how this kind of fairy tale can be told with respect for its essential power, instead of buttering it up with schmaltz. (RvB)
(G; 121 min.) Clamped down inside every powersuit-wearing woman is a frothy-skirted ballerina waiting to pop up and twirl to the tinny strains of "Music Box Dancer." Or so Hollywood would have us believe. How else to explain the tenacious, theoretically outdated deluge of "makeover" films, in which academic Lois Lane types are, amidst rehashed I Love Lucy shenanigans, ushered into Betty Boopdom? The Princess Diaries is the latest of these ho-downsoops, did I forget a vowel?in which an older mentor (Julie Andrews, where is thy dignity?) appears, bent on exercising her failed ambitions on the blank slate of blushing naiveté. Anne Hathaway is the wallflower plucked from congenial obscurity, carefully trained in the use of silverware, who resists glamorization untilsurprise!she finds herself in love. By the director of Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride, but really only appropriate for the 14-year-old in all of us. (TV)
(G; 120 min.) Anne Hathaway is ready to be a full-fledged member of the oppressor class when Julie Andrews tells her that she's got to get married and rule Genovia all at the same time. Wasn't this why the guillotine was invented? (Capsule preview by MSG)
(1937/1934) In the tiny imaginary country of Zenda, an Englishman (Ronald Colman) is induced to impersonate a king. The Prisoner of Zenda is a classic swashbuckler, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as the pleasant but lethal Rupert of Hentzau and Madeleine Carroll as the princess. Also starring C. Aubrey Smith in one of the most dangerous of his colonel parts, David Niven and Mary Astor. BILLED WITH The Merry Widow. Bankrupt Prince Danilo (Maurice Chevalier) has to court a wealthy widow (Jeanette MacDonald) to save his country's finances. The operetta plotsatirized in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soupis boosted with some Lorenz Hart and Gus Kahn tunes. (RvB)
(R; 108 min.) Eh, the book was better. The biopic of radio jock Howard Stern is like Breaking Away except with lesbians, fart jokes, huge breasts and a kielbasa swallower. The film is mostly a tailored account of Stern's rise to fame stitched with some of his more scandalous moments. Howard comes off as a genuinely likable guy whose only joy is in challenging the boundaries of broadcasting and good taste. He also loves his insufferable wife, played by Mary McCormack. Most of the all, Private Parts is disarming enough to bring together hard-core Howard haters and his misguided followers. Both will see that underneath the hair and glasses, the guy has a heart. Private Parts is a good goof ball movie, but definitely not for the kids. Stern is going to have the last laugh, yet again. Deal with it. (TSI)
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(PG-13; 99 min.) Julianne Moore stars in a comedy-drama based on Terry Ryan's memoir of her enormous Catholic family, raised near Toledo, Ohio. Evelyn Ryan (Moore) is a housewife juggling 10 children who has an avocation to write jingles and contest entries. She's so good at it that she her husband, Kelly (Woody Harrelson), begins to feel threatened as a man. Ryan's book paints a saintly portrait of a mother who always keeps her calm. By contrast, Moore knows that she is acting in the story of a masked woman; she never lets her feelings out except for one flash of disgust, when she's covered with her own blood. As the drunken father, Harrelson also seems inorganic, but he is doing more of a shtick than Moore is. The episodes are connected with magical-realist interludes, reflecting the often bizarrely pixieish television commercials of the era. It's like a load of chalky nondairy creamer dumped into some strong hot coffee. (RvB)
An unsavory theatrical producer named Bialystock (Zero Mostel) thinks up an ingenious plan: if he sells more than hundreds of percentage points of a play and it flops, he'll never have to return the investments. Bialystock gets a partner (Gene Wilder) and sets out to find the most loathsome musical possible, settling upon the unproducable Springtime for Hitler: "a happy romp with Eva and Adolf at the Berchsgarten." Unfortunately, Bialystock underestimates the public's appetite for the despicable. The play itself is the thing in this sometimes gross farce. The "Overture for Springtime for Hitler" is a jewel of sick comedy. Dick Shawn, who plays Der Führer, sings a number ("Love Power") that skewers the worst of psychedelia. I once saw a comedian sing the lyrics of "Love Power" to the tune of the Doors' overwrought "When the Music's Over"a perfect fit! Imagine Morrison roaring on the chorus of "When the Music's Over": "I give my flowers to the garbage man/He takes them and puts them in the garbage can/He throws them in the sewer with the yeccch! running through'er/ [break] Hey, world, you stink! Yeah! It's later than you think!" (RvB)
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(PG-13; 134 min.) The Producers is nearly a 40-year-old sick joke. The musical remake is almost a scene-for-scene retelling of Mel Brook's 1967 farrago. Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) and his trembling accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) stumble across the idea that overproducing a flop could result in profits. Using sheer brashness, The Producers tries to top current levels of sick humor. Broderick is justly damp, wielding a security blanket like Linus in the funny papers. Gary Beach's Roger de Bris does have star quality. The Producers is directed by the Broadway director/choreographer Susan Stroman, with the proscenium arch solidly in place. The happiest part of the film is the lavish re-creation of Arthur Freed-era musicals: chorus girls dripping with pearls, the bijou-size theatrical marquees and the stagiest of stage spectaculars. The main "Springtime for Hitler" number is an elderly joke. (RvB)
(PG-13; 103 min.) Following in the path of Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) delivers this high-art kung fu epic, the most expensive film in Chinese history. The well-worn story follows a beautiful woman (Cecilia Cheung) with a curse, the slave who loves her (Jang Dong-Gun) and a case of mistaken identity. Chen's skill with lengthy costume dramas does not translate well to kung fu; he employs similar cartoony CGI effects used in Stephen Chow's energetic Shoalin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, thereby rendering the proceedings inadvertently comical. Shortened by some 20 minutes from its Chinese release, the film's pace ranges from snappy to sluggish. The only thing The Promise has going for it, unlike Chen's previous films, is a refreshing lack of pretentiousness. (JMA)
(1994) Jean Reno stars as a hired assassin who hooks up with a young girl (Natalie Portman) after her parents are killed. Also stars Gary Oldman as a very, very bad cop. Directed with cold efficiency by Luc Besson.
(PG-13; 99 min.) The third movie based on the life of John Howard Nash, and like the other two (Pi and A Beautiful Mind), Proof stints the floridness of the madman/mathlete's imaginary world. Based on David Auburn's popular play, Proof has a Schrödinger's cat dilemma. The last writings of a mathematician (Anthony Hopkins) turn out to be a work of genius: Were they authored by the professor during a lucid interval in his madness? Or was it his daughter who was responsible? Gwyneth Paltrow plays Catherine, the irresolute, eccentric daughter. Jake Gyllenhaal is the grad student who has long nursed a crush on her and has to take it on faith that Catherine has written an epochal "proof." From what's onscreen, it's hard to understand what made this play such a success, although it is a fiesta for actorsparticularly Paltrow, who gets to bray out her hurt feelings to the world in the good old Elizabeth Taylor style. (And it's like watching someone use a quill pen to write a Mamet play.) In opening the play up, John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) decompresses the material. Without the pressure building during a live performance, it's clear that all that's at stake in Proof is either the reputation of a man of such achievement that his madness hardly counts, or else the need of his princessy daughter to be taken seriously, despite the fact that she's got a razor tongue and a paper-thin hide. (RvB)
(R; 109 min.) Thirty-year-old Thai martial artist Tony Jaa has an appealing boyish quality and moves with incredible speed, but he lacks the sheer cinematic command and physical poetry of his peers Jet Li or Jackie Chan. The ridiculous Protector contains more holes than plot: as a warrior trained to protect royal elephants, Jaa must travel to Sydney, Australia, to retrieve two stolen beasts. These noble animals make it OK for Jaa to maim hundreds of opponents. As directed by Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior), the resulting fights range from choppy, grainy garbage to a truly spectacular centerpiece, shot in one unbroken take, set in the spacious back room of a restaurant, complete with winding staircases, balconies and lots of vases and chairs to throw and jump over. (JMA)
(1960) Lonely Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a sensitive soul who loves birds and classical music, runs a motel in the San Joaquin Valley. One day, his solitude is disturbed by the sudden arrival of an embezzler named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). In order to calm his beloved nervous mother, Bates is forced to evict Marion. A barebones, black-and-white production, shot by Alfred Hitchcock with only a string quartet for a musical soundtrack, this sensitive Sundancian drama has disturbing moments. Rest assured that the hero of the drama wouldn't hurt a fly, and despite her sometimes-irritable side, Mother Bates has a smile for everyone. (Plays Jun 29 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square; www.cinequest.org; free.) (RvB)
Radio station KFJC presents a screening of Earth vs. the Spider, a 1968 Bert I. Gordon low-budget sci-fi classic featuring a very large, not-so-mobile arachnid from outer space terrorizing the locals teenagers. Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will remember the very drawn-out finale in the cave where the spider has holed up. Shorts and cartoons will also be shown. (AR)
A riot of filmic oddities, including clips from John Barrymore's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1921), in which one can enjoy the cog-dis of the world-famous toper's ghastly horror at the prospect of drinking a glass ofGood Lord, choke!alcohol. Also featured are two pre-Code two-reelers"Help Wanted, Female," starring Edgar Kennedy, and "Ultraman #25"and the main feature: The Slime People, about sewer dwellers attacking Los Angeles and finding it marginally preferable to their subterranean home. This effort was made, say varying accounts, in 1962 and 1964; the only name members of the cast are Les "the poor man's Lyle Talbot" Tremayne and Tom Laughlin. Yes, Tom Laughlin, better known as that implacable avenging Native American one-man kill force Billy Jack. If you think kids today are growing up without goals or morals, maybe the reason is that they got no Billy Jack movies to go to, unlike us, the more favored. Admission is $5 benefiting KFJC, 89.7FM; bring $2 in quarters to feed the parking meters, which are unaccountably enforced on Foothill College's campus even on Saturday night by the parking patrol, who, one evening, decided to ticket a yellow pickup truck with a fine coat of red dust over its primer-colored spots, Arizona plates and a bumper sticker reading "Custer Had It Coming"yes, the very ride of Billy Jack himself, who discovered the patrolers in the act of writing him a parking ticket and said, "I want you to know that I try. When Jean and the kids tell me I'm supposed to control my violent temper and be passive and nonviolent, I try. I try to be peaceful, I really do. But when I see this truck of such beautiful spirit degraded, and I think of the number of years I'm going to have to carry around the memory of this idiotic moment of yours ... I ... GO ... BERSERK!" (RvB)
The typical assortment of stuff and nonsense, including some very strange pre-music videos called "Scope a Tones," which used to play on specially devised jukeboxes. Also: reels of the usual hallucinatory 50-year-old TV commercials and the final episode of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, an almost Samuel Beckett-like approach to the traditional Japanese subject of giant robots controlled by little boys in shorts. (RvB)
The usual nifty cornucopia of TV commercials, coming attractions, Dutch rubs and Scopotones (the pre-MTV music videos). Your host: the one and only Robert Emmett, the silver-tongued voice of The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack show and frequent commentator on NPR. Emmett's scholarly rejoinder to Cokie Roberts' probing"I know you are, but what am I?"led not only to the Cokesters's tearful resignation but also a week's worth of essays by Roger Rosenblatt on the subject of the America we seem to have lost somewhere: What happened to it? Is it under the sink? Did we leave it in the glove compartment? All followed by yet another self-important chorus of the Jim Lehrer trumpet salute, a.k.a. Fanfare for the Common Pundit. If that's not worth $5, you can gown me in haute couture and call me Pamela. (RvB)
KFJC-FM (89.7), Earth's greatest radio stationa Helm's Deep, as it were, surrounded by Saruman's hordes from Clear Channel, raises a little money, does the meet-and-greet thang, broadcasts an invitation to all and sundry to hang out and watch an attic-load of collector's items, floor sweepings, oddities and (say rumors) a séance of The Horror of Party Beach (1964). It's a hard-hitting exposé of the Long Island Sound surf scene, filmed entirely on location in Stamford, Conn. The Nutmeg State decadence features bikers, bikinis and the Del-Aires doing the fatalistic "That's the Way It's Gotta Be." Awakened by the music, a rubber monster rises. Looking like the vernacular statuary at a miniature golf course, he comes hungry for human chum in this, "the first horror monster musical." (Oh, but was it? Which came first, this or The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies, which was also released in '64?) Hosted by Robert Emmett, of The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Hour. (RvB)
We'll be returning to our fundraiser for the cynosure of college radio stations KFJC but first a preview from Ken Burns's upcoming 28-part docudrama Thomas Edison. Mrs. Edison (Dolly Parton): "Tom Edison, you're nothing but a crackpot. And that consarn Time Machineoscope idea of your'n won't go nowhere." "Bosh! I will assay it once more. I will set the dials to Dec. 6, 7pm Pacific Time, to the vicinity of Los Altos Hills, Calif. I propose to peer through the isinglass screen and see the future of my invention, the cinema. At last, I'm getting a picture, it's still kind of fuzzy. Why, if that don't tear the rag off the bush! I work my fingers to the bone to invent a cinema machine, and those scalawags of the future use it to slap up tall tales about rubber aliens and advertisements with talking boxes of cereal. A little Japanese boy controlling a giant robot that unaccountably looks like a 100-foot-tall Egyptian sphinx! Cavemen smoking cigarettes! Demented bushwa all about monsters who all seem to live in the same cave in Bronson Canyon. This is the straw that breaks the camel's back. I'm going to burn my laboratory for the insurance money and go back to farming rutabagas." Sad Appalachian fiddle music plays as Edison (Ed Harris) stares dejectedly off into the sun setting over East Orange, N.J. Fortunately, this dramatic reconstruction of a key crisis in the great inventor's life is just badly written fictionso far. However, it may still take place in some parallel dimensionare you willing to take the chance? Seven dollars says you'd better prove to Mr. Edison that this kind of stuff can SELL. (RvB)
Notes for supervillains for upcoming film The Crimson Chastizer. I want Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or, ideally, Michael Pare. 1.) The Jostler. Supercriminal who jostles people on crowded busses, corridors. "Excuse ME?! Why should I excuse myself when there's no excuse for you! Hoo hah!" 2.) The Castigator. Tears down without building up, forgets important lesson that it's easy to criticize, hard to say anything constructive. "This is all wrong, and it finds disfavor in the eyes ofthe Castigator! Hoo hah!" 3.) The Whelp! Half-man, half-dog; behind his friendly eyes and floppy ears lurks the soul of a case-hardened miscreant! Whence Wandersthe Whelp! "I take a bite INTO crime, for I am ...the Whelp! Hoo hah!" 4.) Sexy Nice Girl in Her Summer Underthings. Name says it all; sort of a vamp/Catwoman character, can't tell if she's good or bad. "Why, it's the Crimson Chastizer, and here I am with nothing on but my summer underthings. Why don't you set a spell, Red? Hoo hah!" My 800-page screenplay is viewable at www.Crimsonchastizeranamericanheroforaneweon.com, all rights reserved, and I pray that some day that the completed $400 million budgeted film will be seen alongside the visual debris that turn up at the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festivalold commercials, cartoons, George Bernard Shaw's Man and Ultraman. See preserved shadows of the dead, dancing and singing for your amusement! Faustus had to sell his soul to Satan to see the parade of arcane images you may view for a miserable $5 bill. All at the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festsa benefit for KFJC, monarch of the ionosphere, the station we trust to contact the extraterrestrials first. With great power comes great strength! This motto is the saying ofthe Crimson Chastizer!! (RvB)
A riot. Quentin Tarantino's follow-up to his Reservoir Dogs is a brilliantly written, multilayered tale of crime paying, but not paying much. Two black-suited advance men for the mortician, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, are out retrieving a very important briefcase for their boss (Ving Rhames); while on the assignment they encounter, together and separately, such characters as a bad-news moll (Uma Thurman), hard-luck robbers (Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth), a punch-drunk boxer (Bruce Willis) and the utterly suave Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel). Horror and comedy have the same ancestral relationship that snakes have to birds; in this magnificently confident film, Tarantino stages a sort of family reunion between them. He seems to have taken the gangster film as far as it will go. (RvB)
(Unrated; 110 min.) A.k.a. Kairo. A mysterious website allows the dead to claim the world of the living; and the only one who seems to understand what's causing it all is a technophobic college student (Kato Haruhiko). Kiyoshi Kurosawa's modish horror film is considered a classic in some circles for its use of alienation instead of the startling pop-up scare effects. It has an idea, which is almost teased out, that can chill city dwellers if they think about it: Someday, someone is going to take your hard-won space; someday, your city will be empty of everyone you know. Tantalizing imagery, like the ghosts with the bagged heads or the suicide taking place behind a distracted woman's back, add to the film's weight. Kurosawa is one of the few directors to understand the innovation of David Lynch's ideas and to build upon themsuch as the electrically out-of-phase ghosts (from Fire Walk With Me) or the growing shadows that swallow human beings (Lost Highway).The ideas are one thing; the technique is another: Pulse switches, in long and medium shots, from one minor character to another, and we are supposed to mourn for the characters' stolen humanity before we really even know if they have any. (RvB)
(PG-13; 86 min.) Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo may have been the scariest movie in 10 years, but the 2006 American remake is a soulless imitation, set in a ruddy blue-gray world with grimy bathrooms and poorly lit libraries. Kurosawa's concept, having to do with loneliness and isolation due to technology, is now distilled into a plot in which evil ghosts use the Internet and cell phones to attack the living. For his wretched scare scenes, director Jim Sonzero substitutes chilling, dreamlike imagery for loud noises and sudden, jerky movements. Charismatic Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) eases the pain as a college student who discovers what's going on. The great, twitchy, rat-faced actor Brad Dourif has a small role as a doomsayer. Of all people, Wes Craven co-wrote the screenplay. (JMA)
(G; 20 min.) Danny Glover narrates George Levenson's epic saga of the life, death and rebirth of a backyard pumpkin patch.
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(R) Didn't they already make a movie based on the comic book about the vigilante assassin who's already taking down crime bosses? Dolph Lundgren fans know the answer is yesin 1989, His Dolphness played Frank Castle in a $10 million-budgeted indie flick. This version featuring Thomas Jane in the lead role has three times the budget, and John Travolta as villain Howard Saint. (Capsule preview by SP)
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(PG-13; 118 min.) The re-release of French director René Clément's 1960 thriller Purple Noon is the cinematic equivalent of the tantalizing mystery paperback. Alain Delon plays Tom Ripley, a stylish, sponging, amoral hustler who has hooked up with wealthy Phillippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) and his lovely, spoiled art-student girlfriend, Marge (Marie Laforet). Ripley's relationship with Phillippe, whom he physically resembles, is left to the imagination, although the script suggests that the two may have once been more than chums. After enduring a nasty practical joke, Ripley conspires to get his hands on Phillippe's money, his boat and his girl. Purple Noon is a fetchingly amoral, urbanely malevolent film, and Delon's basking cobra makes a memorable villain. (RvB)
(1984) Prince on film in a tale loosely based on his life.
(100 min.) The first of director Ang Lee's "father knows best" trilogy began with this low-key tale released in 1991 (Eat Drink Man Woman and The Wedding Banquet were the other two). Shinhung Lung, Lee's favorite actor, plays a tai-chi expert who moves in with his son and his wife in New York. Predictably, the well-meaning father cramps the family's style and drama ensues. Part Rain Man, part The Wash, Pushing Hands is a familiar drama of crosscultural/generational discontent. The film doesn't compare to Lee's wildly entertaining follow-ups, and the couple tends to go overboard on exasperation at times, but Pushing Hands is a smart, confident film that remains one of the first big-budget Asian American-themed movies. (TSI)