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The Road Home
Full text review.

Road to Bali
(1950) In Indonesia, it's a Year of Living Dangerously for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Interrupted during their tour of Australia, where they're performing their typical cornball vaudeville routine, they're forced to run for their lives. In the outback, traveling with a herd of poor little lambs who have lost their way, the pair harmonizes with the woolies on the Yale anthem "The Whiffenpoof Song." Later, at a landlocked sheep station, they both get jobs as deep-sea divers. Cut to an island in the Sunda Sea—all plaster-lagoon Mai Tai cocktail splendor. There Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour) sings a prime exotica number titled "Moonflower" and does the multiarmed Hindu goddess dance. Lala, aptly described as "a Balinese pound cake," brings the newly arrived Hope and Crosby bad news: they've been set up. The treasure chest they've been sent to dive for, containing a king's ransom in costume jewelry, is guarded by Bokutan the Giant Squid. The devil-fish is only one of the hazards facing these men of adventure to whom "death is bread and danger is butter" (a joke later filched by Woody Allen for What's Up Tiger Lily?). Among the perils: headhunters, reefs and Nature Channel-style mortal combat between a tiger and a gorilla (Guy Inagorillasuit)—thrilling violence made finally poignant by the lamentations of the ape's wife after her hairy warrior is carried off by the angels to go join Dian Fossey. Lastly, there's a volcano that, like many of our politicians, is driven to bubbling wrath by the sacrilege of men marrying men. Road to Bali does caricature the Pacific Islanders a bit, what with the Balinese masks apparently designed by the late Ed "Big Daddy" Roth; otherwise it's ripe with vintage charm and as funny as the day it was made. (RvB)

The Road to El Dorado
(PG; 83 min.) Locking into crypto-Mesoamerican style was a good move for the DreamWorks animators; the tropical colors in The Road to El Dorado give some energy to a tired buddy-movie plot, weighted down with mayonnaise music by Elton John and Tim Rice. In the 1600s, a pair of confidence men (supposedly on the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby wavelength, played by Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline) stumble onto the fabled Mexican city of gold; unfortunately, it's ruled by a cruel priest (voiced by Armand Assante). The shaky computer animation in the finale looks rushed compared to one interesting yet mishandled attack by a colossal stone jaguar, a scary scene that never has time to build. However, Chel (voice by Rosie Perez), the Dorothy Lamour girl, has a lush mouth and child-bearing hips, as some kind of nod to ethnicity. Even without the usual casaba-melon-sized headlights weighing down the sexy girl in an animated picture, Chel is one painfully seductive 'toon. (RvB)

Road to Morocco
(1942) Shipwreck victims Bing Crosby and Bob Hope end up in a vaguely Arab landscape and are threatened like the infidel dogs they are; flying carpets, talking camels, Anthony Quinn making with the poetic Arabesque insults, Dorothy Lamour in a harem outfit. Irresistible stuff. The film was named as one of the 50 best comedies by the American Film Institute. (RvB)

Road to Morocco/The Ghost Breakers
(1942/1940) Perhaps a little comedy relief from the Iraq crisis—and has the American understanding of the Middle East changed much since this 60-year-old picture debuted? In Road to Morocco, Hope and his reliable foil Bing Crosby are shipwrecked in a vaguely Arab landscape and threatened like the infidel dogs they are. Flying carpets, talking camels, Anthony Quinn making with the poetic Arabesque insults and swishing around a scimitar, while Dorothy Lamour—the Heather Graham of her day—swans about in a harem outfit. The film was named as one of the 50 best comedies by the American Film Institute and deserves the honor. It's an excellent film for children, as well. BILLED WITH The Ghost Breakers. Before there were the Ghostbusters—Hope and Paulette Goddard on their way to a haunted Cuban mansion, full of characters (Paul Lukas; the eye-rolling African American comedian Willie "Sleep 'n' Eat" Best). The film repeats the formula of Hope's 1939 hit The Cat and the Canary, which, like The Ghost Breakers, was based on an antique haunted mansion play. (RvB)

Road to Perdition
Full text review.

Road to Rio
(1947) More straightforward than the others films in the series. Bob 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)

Road to Utopia
(1945) In dull old age Chester (Bob Hope), afflicted with gout and dentures, is preparing for bed at 8pm. Suddenly, a knock on the door disturbs him and his gray-haired wife. It's their old friend Bing Crosby with his two "nieces," coming to regale the oldsters with stories of his and Hope's days as prospectors in Alaska. They were stowaways on the run after their grift in San Francisco panned out. In Skagway, they met Dorothy Lamour, a saucy predecessor to sexy-nice girls like Drew Barrymore and Heather Graham, as seen in her performance of a pleasantly euphemistic Jimmy Van Heusen song about "Personality." In inserts, a perplexed Robert Benchley explains, to the best of his ability, what's going on. The multitude of frame-breaking gags includes Hope in an embrace with Lamour, turning to the camera and saying, "As far as I'm concerned they can end this picture now." (RvB)

Road to Utopia/Louisiana Purchase
(1945/1941) Road to Utopia is one of the most surreal of Hollywood movies; the studio's confidence in the film's success allowed a permanently broken frame in this berserk sourdough comedy. In dull old age, Chester (Bob Hope), afflicted with gout and dentures, is preparing for bed at 8pm. Suddenly, a knock on the door disturbs him and his gray-haired wife (Dorothy Lamour). It's their old friend Bing Crosby with his two "nieces," coming to reminisce with the oldsters with stories of his and Hope's days as prospectors in Alaska. They were stowaways on the run after their grift in San Francisco panned out. In Skagway, they met Lamour, who sings a pleasantly euphemistic Jimmy Van Heusen song about "Personality." In inserts, a perplexed Robert Benchley explains, to the best of his ability, what's going on; during a husky-mushing sequence, he debuts the now old joke "If you're not the lead sled dog, the view never changes." BILLED WITH Louisiana Purchase. A Technicolor Irving Berlin satire of Louisiana politics in the Huey Long era, with Hope as a New Orleans sharpie who frames a crusading senator. Vera Zorina and Irene Bordoni, two stars from the original run of this Broadway hit co-star. (RvB)

Road Trip
(R; 91 min.) Picking up where last year's over-the-top gross-out hit American Pie left off, director Todd Phillips' hilarious lowbrow teen shock comedy boasts a likable ensemble cast of still fairly unknown young actors. Breckin Meyer stars as Josh, a sensible college student who's been maintaining a long-distance romance with his childhood sweetheart, Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard). Fidelity is becoming tougher and tougher, though, with her living in Texas and him in New York. When she stops returning his phone calls at the same time a hot, horny co-ed (Amy Smart) sets her sights on seducing him, his will to be faithful collapses. The result of his steamy encounter is an incriminating videotape that's inadvertently mailed to Tiffany. In an attempt to avert the oncoming disaster, he enlists his two best friends (Seann William Scott and Paulo Costanzo) and the dorm geek (newcomer DJ Qualls) to join him on a whirlwind road trip from Ithaca to Austin. The movie speeds along at a swift pace, careening around plot twists, turns and the occasional road block. This comedy is relentless, tasteless and, like others of its kind, will do absolutely anything for a laugh. The beauty of Road Trip is it's as fun as it is funny. Because the movie is narrated by MTV comedian Tom Green as he leads prospective students around Ithaca College, any staggering embellishments in the story are purposefully attributed to his own fictitious exaggerations. (SQ)

The Road Warrior
(1982) "In the roar of an engine, he lost everything and became a shell of a man—and it was here in this blighted place that he learned to live again." Back for our modern era of oil-shortage panic is George Miller's masterpiece of action cinema; more than 20 years later, The Road Warrior is still highly influential in its punk-future look and painstaking approach to the car chase. After World War III, the former highway patrolman Max (Mel Gibson) comes up against a gang of gasoline hoarders in the midst of the Australian desert; reluctantly, he involves himself with a group of homesteaders heading for the coast. It's a movie that loses nearly everything on the small screen (particularly the effect of 16mm bursting into Panavision in the swooping opening shot); still, it made an international star out of Gibson. (Vernon Wells, as Wez, unfortunately only seems to get work from the ever-loyal Joe Dante.) As for Miller, he abandoned the violence and went in for the best of all talking animal movies, Babe. (RvB)

(1935) An Astaire-Rogers vehicle in which Randolph Scott inherits a Parisian haute-couture studio and fits in kind of like you'd expect Randolph Scott would fit in at a dress-designing firm. Fortunately, his head assistant (Irene Dunne) both wins his heart and saves the day. Songs include "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Lovely to Look at, Delightful to Hold" and "I Won't Dance." (RvB)

Roberta/The Awful Truth
(1935/1937) Randolph Scott stars as the inheritor of a renowned haute-couture firm who needs help from the woman who knows the business: Irene Dunne. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers provide the musical relief with the songs "I Won't Dance" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." BILLED WITH The Awful Truth. Leo McCarey's semi-improvised comedy of manners, in which Dunne and Cary Grant are divorcees trying to get back together while maintaining their pride. They're kept in each other's sight by the dog (Asta), whose custody they share. "Women always win, you know, Peter, they always do in the end. So you might as well just give up and give them what they want; they're going to get it anyway."—Cary Grant to Peter Bogdanovich, quoted in the latter's new book, Who the Hell's in It. With Ralph Bellamy as the "man" Dunne is seeing on the side. (Plays Nov 10-11 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)

(1987) The future of law enforcement is a roboticized police officer (Peter Weller) created to cleanse the streets of the inner city in order to make a new development safe for greedy corporate types. Paul Verhoeven's film works as both an action thriller with plenty of serious gunplay and a social satire on the excesses of the '80s. Also stars Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith (now toiling in the lower bowels of Fox's new series That '70s Show), Ronny Cox and two Twin Peaks favorites: Miguel Ferrer and Ray Wise. (AR)

(PG; 86 min.) Chris Wedge's follow-up to Ice Age, and like its predecessor, a headache-inducer, subsituting brashness for feeling. Some of the cute robots are appealing, but the script is like something hashed out in a sandbox by a pair of kindergardeners. Small-town boy Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan MacGregor, doing a Midwestern voice) goes to the big city to work for his idol Bigweld (Mel Brooks), but when he arrives, Brooks' corporation has been taken over by the pinstripe-suited evil robot Ratchet (Greg Kinnear). The plot is to leave the 'bots of the city without replacement parts. With help of sidekick Fender (Robin Williams, whose desperation is obvious), Rodney triumphs, but the real purpose here isn't characterization, but to stage computer-animated roller-coaster sequences, such as the much vaunted flying-ball-across-town business that's been played to death in the previews. Some of the many Hollywood references stick; far, far more of them miss. Like the equally depressing Shark Tale, it's considered funny enough that we get all the references, not that a witty context has been created for them all. (RvB)

The Rock
(R; 138 min.) Mad general Ed Harris steals some missiles and waves them at the Bay Area from his threshold on Alcatraz. Called in to help are rocket scientist Nicolas Cage and an ex-Alcatraz prisoner "trained by the best, the British Secret Service"—James Bond in all but name, and played by Sean Connery. A few scenes are joyful: Cage in some dirty-joke wailing away at his girlfriend ("Oh, yas, yas, that's very, uh, persuasive") and a few minutes of the crossfire between the two stars. Cage's agent is originally part of the lovable maniac wing of the FBI (see Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Matthew Modine in Married to the Mob), but bent under the pressure of the formula, he dissolves into a brayer and a whiner. The Rock is further encumbered by a long, destructive, boring car chase, and a basic psychopathic viciousness (one villain first gets impaled on a rocket and then on a spike). There are also several cute stereotypes, including an incomprehensible Chinaman, blustering black folk and the first quivering sissy hairdresser in a movie in many years. Connery puts it all in perspective: "Saying 'I did my best' is for losers. Winners get to go home and fuck the homecoming queen." Maybe Don Simpson, his manhood now safe for eternity, should have had that thought inscribed on his tombstone. The late producer is also credited—debited should be the word, to use a Gore Vidal joke—with Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. Simpson died in the service of cinema that evoked the spirit of the alpha baboon. (RvB)

(PG; 93 min.) The new Disney comedy is designed to appeal to the fourth-grade sense of humor that lurks inside us all. Through a series of related mishaps, computer programmer Fred Randall (Harland Williams) gets selected as the replacement astronaut in a crew of three—plus a chimpanzee—on the first manned mission to Mars. When trouble comes, it becomes uncertain whether the crew will make it back to Earth. A cross between John Cusack and Martin Short, newcomer Williams seems familiar and utterly likable. The humor is strong enough to appeal to adults, with a few pokes at NASA that kids probably won't understand. (SQ)

Rock 'n' Roll Frankenstein
(88 min.) In this ghoulish camp-fest, a rock star is pieced together from different dead rockers' body parts and brought to life by a would-be Dr. Frankenstein, his music agent uncle and a drugged-out roadie henchman. But the monster rocker goes on an unexpected rampage when Liberace's genitals, mistakenly grafted on instead of Jim Morrison's, begin to take control of his body.

Rock School
Full text review.

Rock Star
(R; 107 min.) Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is a good boy from a good family; he and his girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston) sing in the church choir. He also worships metal band Steel Dragon (loosely based on Judas Priest); as lead singer for a Steel Dragon tribute band, Cole studies every move of frontman Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng) and his carefully coiffed bandmates. And, when given a chance to be Bobby Beers when a replacement becomes necessary, well, dreams rarely get this close to coming true. Rock Star doesn't capture the zeitgeist of an era like Almost Famous; it doesn't ridicule its participants like Spinal Tap; in fact, Stephen Herek's (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) film alternately mocks and reveres the excess and emptiness of '80s rock, walking a midway line without ever taking a clear stand. (DB)

(1976) Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in this low-key, old-fashioned and popular tale about a no-account Philadelphia boxer who gets a shot at a better time. The film made a star out of Stallone, who was enough like Brando-although not as wily-that his performance seemed more like a heartfelt homage than a rip-off. Unfortunately, Stallone couldn't find anything better to follow his success with than four sequels ranging from tolerable to red-baiting crapola. Our debt to Stallone for discovering the thespian talents of Mr. T (in Rocky III) doesn't make up for the leprous Rambo. (And what was Rambo if not Rocky with war flashbacks?) Still, Rocky was hard to resist at the time it came out. It gave some of the pleasures that people went to old movies for, and it's hard to remember the original without some affection. Talia Shire, who played Michael Corleone's battered sister in The Godfather, is touching as a pet-shop girl who gives Rocky the strength to fight. The Bill Conti score, a disco anthem with trumpet fanfares, has been inevitable at sporting events ever since. (RvB)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Call it what you like: flotsam from the wreckage of the '70s, a piece of the Old World before AIDS, herpes and Reagan, or the ultimate cult musical. The fact remains that someone out there apparently hasn't seen this one yet, so here's hoping it makes a new generation of pre-teens a little more comfortable with their sexuality. Evil, perverted bisexual Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) conducts strange experiments in his Indiana castle to which clean-cut Brad and Janet are forced to bear witness. They are joined by the various glitter-rat denizens of the castle, including Riff Raff (Richard O'Brian, who scripted) and Eddie (Meatloaf). (RvB)

Roger Dodger
Full text review.

Roll Bounce
(PG-13; 112 min.) Pint-sized rapper Bow Wow (don't call him L'il anymore, sucka! He's 18 now!) headlines this '70s skating extravaganza. When X (Bow Wow) and his crew find their local skating rink—where they rule with an iron skate—closed down, they have to suck up their pride and journey to the uptown Sweetwater Roller Rink where they find themselves the little fish in a whole different pond. Soon they find themselves swept up in a skating competition, not to mention a ton of cheesy plot developments, bad hair and worse acting. (JL)

(PG-13; 92 min.) A society of the future worships the rituals and mayhem of a violent sport. Who would have thought that Rollerball would become remake material? Stars Chris Klein, LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.

Roman Holiday
(1953) Audrey Hepburn stars as a Ruritanian princess on the run in Roman Holiday; reporter Gregory Peck is on her trail. This trifle is energized by the location photography of Rome—a great novelty at the time and a feat to pull off during the middle of a heat wave. The film made Hepburn a star. Henri Alekan, the great cinematographer, co-photographed. (RvB)

Full text review.

Romeo Must Die
(R; 119 min.) Despite what the title may promise, Romeo Must Die uses only a smattering of the premise of Romeo and Juliet and is actually the worse for not borrowing more liberally from the classic. Likewise, the movie owes a lot to Hong Kong actioners, but doesn't do the genre as much credit as it could have. Two crime families, the O'Days, who are African American, and the Sings, who are Chinese, vie for control of the waterfront in modern-day Oakland (the film makes only a cursory try to pass off Vancouver as the East Bay—check out those snowcapped mountains in Oakland). Han (Jet Li) comes to Oakland to avenge the murder of his brother, Po. Since Po was the son of crime boss Ch'u Sing (Henry O), the O'Day syndicate is suspected of the killing. Han befriends Trish (Aaliyah), the daughter of O'Day family leader Isaak (Delroy Lindo), and the two, disapproving of their families' "business," investigate a spate of suspicious crimes against both Asian and African American waterfront businesses. Li pulls off some spectacular stunts—in fact, most of the fight scenes offer the fleet-footed choreography and unlikely props of a good Hong Kong action film (where else will you see a half a fire-hose wielded as a lethal weapon?). There's enough kung fu and gun-fighting that it should have kept things lively, but a silly, meandering plot, culminating in an NFL conspiracy, drags the film's momentum to a crawl. It doesn't help that the only way Han and Trish are going to unite their families is with a non-threatening hug: Romeo Must Die has carefully excised the romance so key to Romeo and Juliet, and that cripples the story's drama. (HZ)

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
(R; 91 min.) Like, what totally annoying dialogue this movie has, you know? Fortunately, despite its contrived stroll down '80s memory lane, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion isn't all a bad flashback to the days when Valley Girl was the dialect of choice, although it's definitely yet another movie—marketed at increasingly nostalgic Gen Xers—that relies on a Reagan-era-retro soundtrack for much of its appeal. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow are good for some chuckles as Romy and Michele, best friends whose quirky fashion sense prevented them from garnering the acceptance of the in-crowd in high school. At their 10-year reunion, the pair gets a chance to show up the elite clique and to get reacquainted with the real "A Group" of their class. An entertaining undercurrent of reunion spitefulness and the ingenuousness of Romy and Michele make this latest foray into '80s sentimentality just about as brainlessly fun as its heroines. (HZ)

(R; 121 min.) The National Lampoon once created a one-shot satire titled The Dacron [Ohio] Democrat-Republican, a replica Sunday newspaper complete in every immaculately tedious detail, measuring out at 150 pages from front page to classifieds. In the movie section was an ad for an imaginary thriller called The Enigma Conundrum, starring the all-too-real George Peppard, the Alan Ladd of the 1960s. The tag line was: "I don't know who. I don't know where. I don't know why. And those are the best clues that I have." Maybe it was one of Robert De Niro's lines in Ronin—"No questions, no answers. That's the business we're in"—that made me remember The Enigma Conundrum. Ronin is a fatally mannered thriller about a team of mercenary secret agents in pursuit of a mysterious briefcase. Extensive French locations in Arles, Nice and Paris give Ronin some swankiness. De Niro is suitably Bogartian and convincingly weary as the ex-CIA operative working with a multinational group of spies (subcontractors for SPECTRE or something; vagueness—that's the business we're in). The tenseness of the operation is dissipated by a pair of long, decadent, brutal automobile chases (see a fruit cart gets what's coming to it). Natascha McElhone looks mysterious and says little—good thing, because she's a great beauty but a mediocre actress. Jean Reno, Gauloise hanging from his lower lip, underplays De Niro's equally weary French counterpart. Michael Lonsdale, still alive, praise be, and looking quite fit, explains the film's Japanese title. (It means "masterless samurai.") De Niro pulls a bullet out of himself without anesthetic, using only a mirror and an Exacto knife. Aside from the self-surgery, Ronin is a commendably high-minded attempt to recreate an old-fashioned style of spy film, with no sex and little sadism. It revisits the same terrain as the "realistic" Bond alternatives of the '60s. In other words, it's exactly like the garden-variety sub-007 movies you'd watch, slumping in your seat, during the long hiatus between the real Bonds. The film is a letdown from director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate). (RvB)

The Rookie
(G; 129 min.) From the title, you're assured of a basic baseball opus, which is difficult to recommend to those who aren't fans. It's the Disneyfied true-life inspirational tale of ex-California League southpaw pitcher Jim Morris who, after four shoulder surgeries, finally made it to the Show at the remarkably late debut age of 35 for two seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The fine cast defies John Lee Hancock's sometimes dull pacing and serious tendency toward clichés. Actual Texas locations also lend some fiber. Dennis Quaid gives a touching, easygoing star's performance in the lead (though he's a mite older than the real Morris). Rachel Griffiths makes the most of an underwritten part as Morris' at first dubious, then supportive, wife; finally, Brian Cox suggests depths in his role as Morris' love-withholding father, a Navy lifer with a stalled career. (RvB)

Rope/Charlie Chan at the Opera
(1948/1936) The Leopold and Loeb story, done Hitchcock style, with Jimmy Stewart as the philosophy professor whose lectures on Nietzsche have been misinterpreted by homosexual (and homicidal) pupils John Dahl (of Gun Crazy) and San Jose's own Farley Granger. It's far more earnest than it needs to be. Filmed in a series of 10-minute takes in Technicolor, the film was an experiment that Hitchcock later deemed "a stunt"; if so, it's an unusually aesthetically pleasing stunt, with its bijou New York seen through the picture window, its artificial sky gradually darkening at sunset, its spun-glass clouds traveling across the imitation skyline. BILLED WITH Charlie Chan at the Opera. Chan seeks a killer; the most obvious suspect is an escaped lunatic played by Boris Karloff, but there are other possibilities. Widely considered to be the best of the series. (RvB)

Rory O'Shea Was Here
Full text review.

Rosemary's Baby
(1967) Diabolically funny, elegant and genuinely nasty American Gothic horror film by Roman Polanski. A chic Manhattanite (Mia Farrow) living at the haunted Dakota building is unnerved by the very baby growing in her belly. John Cassavetes plays her husband, an intense actor climbing from one success to another; Ruth Gordon and the arch-ham Maurice Evans are the downstairs neighbors, full of concern and unorthodox herbal remedies. It was produced by the irresistible mountebank William Castle, whose deranged 1960 film 13 Ghosts has just been remade (and promoted with a very distressing poster worthy of Castle). According to Castle's autobiography, Step Right Up! I'm Going to Scare the Pants Off America (required reading for the film scholar), Polanski confronted his producer, tearfully suspicious that the killing of Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate, had been Castle's most audacious and horrible publicity stunt yet. The story is too good to be true, probably—and yet too much in bad taste to be false. (RvB)

Full text review.

Full text review.
(R; 139 min.) Some 70 years ago, white terrorists burned down the all-black town of Rosewood, Fla. Thanks to director John Singleton, Rosewood gives us a glimpse of history that many would just as soon wish away. A married white woman is savagely beaten by her lover, also white. Fearful of her husband's reaction, she blames a "big and black" man, and a gang of whites decide to mete out some justice KKK-style. Rosewood boasts two black men who, although respectful almost to a fault, are no Stepin Fetchits either. Sylvester Carrier (Don Cheadle) carries himself with solemn dignity. Rosewood's black knight is the film's one thoroughly fictionalized character. As Mann, a mysterious stranger, Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) might be considered a bulkier version of Clint Eastwood's high plains drifter. Jon Voight's role is more complex; the only white store owner in Rosewood, he is caught between the good ol' boys bloodlust, his greed and his conscience. (NB)

Rough Magic
Full text review.
(PG-13; 104 min.) A magician's assistant (Bridget Fonda) running away from a loveless marriage and a young reporter (Russell Crowe) find themselves on a spiritual journey through Mexico.

Roujin Z
Full text review.
The full-length Japanese cartoon Roujin Z has the humanity missing from most of high-tech anime. The film focuses primarily on the human beings that operate killer robots, rather than on the killer robots themselves. "Project Z" is a plan to face the problem of "a nation of wrinklies" (as a mean government official calls it): senior citizens who are demanding too much time and treasure in their upkeep. As a result, the government has developed what might be described as an atomic-powered geezer-tender—a computerized bed that ministers to their every physical need. The guinea pig for the first such machine is Takajawa, a near-comatose gapper. His intrepid young nurse Haruko, rightly suspecting trouble, tracks her former patient down, with the help of the other old boys in the nursing home. It turns out the Pentagon is using Project Z as a proto-cybernetics program, and that the innocent-looking computer bed is actually a transformer robot. Elderly dick-wielding guys are a blind spot in my sense of humor, particularly when they're used to reinforce the message of filial piety; the cartoon combines coarseness with sentimentality. Still, Roujin Z has a story to tell, and some attempted emotional weight to it. The coarseness and the all-too-familiar fight scenes are forgivable for the way director Katsuhiro Otomo has come up with even the very basic characterization shown here. (RvB)

Full text review.

The Royal Family of Broadway
(1930) George Kaufman and Edna Ferber's parody of the Barrymore family, with Fredric March recreating his stage role (and landing a Paramount contract). Ina Claire co-stars. (RvB)

The Royal Tenenbaums
(R; 108 min.) Wes Anderson's new film is frequently hilarious and occasionally touching. It is also a real disappointment, coming as it does from the writing-directing team that made the wonderful Rushmore. The movie spends most of its running time introducing us to its bizarre cast of characters, the extended Tenenbaum family (including Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow). The story is so discursive (and so frequently interrupted by narration, intertitles and cute framing devices) that the drama rarely has a chance to develop. As the family patriarch, Gene Hackman manages to rise above the mulish wackiness of the filmmakers. He provides the movie with an emotional core as well as most of its best laughs. (CB)

Royal Wedding/Yolanda and the Thief
(1950/1945) Fred Astaire in London to attend the nuptials of Princess Elizabeth. In the most memorable sequence, Fred takes a little twirl on the ceiling (a revolving set built in a drum is how it was done). Sarah Churchill—Winstons daughter—co-stars, romancing Peter Lawford to tickle the juveniles of the day. Later, Fred asks Jane Powell the musical question "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know Ive Been a Liar All My Life?" BILLED WITH Yolanda and the Thief. A bizarre one, even by the generous standards of the Hollywood musical; the outline sounds as if it anticipated Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera. (He had the gall to steal from Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête, why not Yolanda and the Thief?) A crooked gambler (Astaire) in a studio-built version of South America, hooks up with an innocent convent girl (Lucille Bremer) who believes the conniving Fred is her guardian angel. Based on a story by the noted raconteur and children's-book author Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeleine). It's a cult item; director Vincente Minnelli claimed it contained "the first surrealist ballet used in pictures." Well, except for The Andalusian Dog. Still, the crazed use of golden Brazilian exotica has kept this a one of a kind item. In the end there are so few films that can be called one of a kind. (Plays in Palo Alto Jan 28-30 at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)

Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo
(PG; 90 min.) An American adventurer (Bill Campbell) searches India for a wild boy (Jamie Williams) to put him in the circus. The boy's rich uncle plots to deny him his inheritance, and a pair of "monkeys" (chimpanzees, actually, who must have swung over from central Africa) want to make him king of the monkeys. Or something like that; the plots are stitched together from a pair of Rudyard Kipling stories, with a rancid glop of racial "humor" oozing out from the seams. The animals are appealing, especially the black panther; the actors are not so appealing, especially Roddy McDowell in a minor part. This is a tedious tale that even very small children will dislike. As one junior critic put it near the end of a recent screening, "Mommy, let's go home!" (BC)

Ruggles of Red Gap/True Confessions
(1935/1937) Charles Laughton plays an English butler lost in a frontier poker game; he brings a little civilization to his new employer, a rancher (Charles Ruggles), while he also learns a little about the American tradition (as expounded in the Gettysburg Address, read to the teeth by Laughton). BILLED WITH True Confessions. Carole Lombard stars as a pathological liar married to an all-too-honest lawyer (Fred MacMurray); when she confesses to a murder, the trouble begins. John Barrymore co-stars as a cracked criminologist. (RvB)

Rugrats Go Wild
(PG; 81 min.) The third adventure of the cartoon troublemakers.

Rugrats in Paris: The Movie
(G; 85 min.) In their second animated feature, the characters from Nickelodeon's show Rugrats head off to Paris when Stu Pickles must go to the City of Lights to work on a new amusement park. While touring the city, the children learn lessons about friendship and courage.

The Rugrats Movie
(G; 87 min.) The big-screen version of Nickelodeon's popular animated show is capably scripted to appeal to an audience ranging from very young children to adults. There's a new addition to the Pickles family that has the toddlers (Tommy Pickles and his mischievous friends Chuckie Finster and Phil and Lil DeVille) in turmoil. Frustrated with Tommy's baby brother Dil, who cries and screams all the time, Tommy's friends decide to take him back to the "hopsickle." Setting out in the Reptar Wagon (one of Tommy's dad's crazy inventions), the Rugrats end up on a wild ride that gets them lost in a remote wilderness full of danger and surprises. There are some truly touching moments as Tommy realizes how much he loves his new little brother and the tykes explore the bonds of friendship. The distinctive Rugrats animation is enhanced for the film with digitized backgrounds and multiplaned camera effects, and the soundtrack features No Doubt, Beck, Lisa Loeb, Iggy Pop and a Rugrats version of Blondie's "One Way or Another," making it even more appealing to adults. (SQ)

The Rules of Attraction
Full text review.

Rules of Engagement
(R; 127 min.) William Friedkin's comeback film is a well-cast, well-intentioned, but excruciatingly slow courtroom drama. Two old soldiering buddles from the Vietnam War (Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson) are reunited when Jackson goes in front of a military court for murder. Jackson's offense: firing into a crowd in Yemen, while trying to rescue the U.S. ambassador from a violent demonstration. At first, Rules of Engagement looks as if it's going to delve into fresh material about the difficult role of the U.S. military at the turn of the new century. All too soon, Friedkin turns the drama into a good-versus-evil tale about the smirkingly evil government men trying to frame Jackson. These blackguards include the weak-kneed ambassador (Ben Kingsley) Jackson and his troops saved from a furious mob, and the army's prosecutor (Guy Pearce, of L.A. Confidential, who has a scar on his face so that we can see how evil he is). The teaming of Jones and Jackson isn't enough to energize this torpid film, which slides into numbness after the massacre scenes up front. (RvB)

Rumble in the Bronx
Full text review.
(R; 95 min.) Minor Jackie Chan is still Jackie Chan. In this badly dubbed but sensational actioner, Chan gets tangled up in the diamond-stealing activities of a pair of Bronx gangs (played, in a move that's so off mark it's ingratiating, by some mixed-race Canadians). Vancouver subs for the Bronx, but Chan is the real star: playing chicken on a busy street with a rogue hover craft, being taken for a Nantucket sleigh ride through the harbor, leaping across buildings and running up the sides of walls. (RvB)

Rumor Has It...
(PG-13; 96 min.) Rumor has it that despite everything Rob Reiner has said, he's still considering running for governor. I have to admit I don't want to see that happen. Now, I haven't seen this newest film of his featuring Jennifer Aniston as a woman who learns her family may have been the inspiration for The Graduate (in other words, this is a sort-of attempt at the Graduate sequel whose very existence was considered so absurd it was famously excoriated in The Player). But I loved enough of Reiner's early work to know his talent has been wasted for the last 15 years. Wouldn't that be just like the Democrats to go and find the only person whose Hollywood decline was more horrific than Arnie's? (Capsule preview by SP)

Runaway Bride
Full text review.

Runaway Jury
Full text review.

The Rundown
(PG-13) The Rock and Seann William Scott male-bond in an action comedy, but really, the only reason to go is Christopher Walken in another Oscar-worthy cameo turn. (Capsule preview by MSG)

Run Lola Run
Full text review.

Running Free
(G; 82 min.) The adventure of a wild horse in Africa growing into a magnificent stallion. Narrated by Lukas Haas. (Movie is also known by the title Hoofbeats.)

Running Scared (2006)
(R; 122 min.) I know you're thinking, "Finally! A rerelease of the 1986 Billy Crystal-Gregory Hines buddy cop movie! Maybe a director's cut, even!" Keep dreaming, you insane freak. This is Paul Walker in a mob movie by Wayne Kramer, the man who brought you The Cooler. (Capsule preview by SP)

The Run of the Country
(R; 110 min.) Screenwriter Shane Connaughton (My Left Foot, The Playboys) has taken an old theme—a boy's coming-of-age—and deftly captured the emotional turbulence and harsh realities that often signify the end of innocence and the entrance into adulthood. Set in Ireland's County Cavan, in a village just south of the Northern Irish border, 18-year-old Danny (Matt Keeslar) must contend with the death of his mother, a stern and overbearing father (Albert Finney), a tragic friendship and a painful first love. With a backdrop of verdant hills and rambling pastures, Danny's plight is made all the more complicated as his life is inextricably bound with and devastatingly affected by the political turmoil/violence and strict Catholic beliefs that rule Ireland. The Run of the Country is a compelling, sensitive film that although dealing with heady subject matter doesn't dip into pathos. (MD)

Rush Hour
(PG-13; 95 min.) Vengeful gangsters kidnap the daughter of the Chinese consul to L.A. The consul begs for help from his old friend, the Hong Kong police officer Lee (Jackie Chan); to keep Lee out of their hair, the FBI hires a least-loved LAPD plainclothes detective, James Carter (Chris Tucker), to baby-sit the Hong Kong cop. Chan is almost a guest star in this better-than-average buddy movie, firmly in the Lethal Weapon pattern—and like the Lethal Weapons, it's simultaneously racist and a plea for brotherhood. Chan is royalty, a kind of Ariel, as Kenneth Clark said of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. By contrast, Tucker is just Eddie Murphy on helium. Though to be fair, Tucker has less of the self-love of Murphy and more willingness than Murphy had to be the butt of humor instead of the inflictor of it. There is a memorable fight scene in which Chan tries to ward off two assailants while preserving a teetering antique vase. (RvB)

Rush Hour 2
(PG-13; 98 min.) A globetrotting sequel that bounces cop buddies Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker back and forth between Hong Kong, L.A. and Vegas to track a Triad lady bomber (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi), Rush Hour 2 is a slight improvement over the original. But then again, anything looks like Shakespeare compared to the first Rush Hour, one of Hollywood's many botched attempts at a stateside Chan vehicle. Not even a graceful stunt or two by Chan could salvage the first film, bogged down by indifferently directed, choppy action sequences, a creaky mismatched cops-vs.-Eurotrash villain premise, zero chemistry between Chan and Tucker, and worst of all, the unpleasantness of Tucker's unfunny Asian-bashing shtick. And yet, American moviegoers ate Rush Hour up. In the sequel, director Brett Ratner hasn't really learned anything from working on set pieces with an action legend like Chan. He still shoots action sequences with the same indifference; they're never as clearly shot or as rousing as the fights in Chan's Hong Kong movies. Perhaps sensing that Chan is showing signs of age in his stunt work, Ratner plays up the comedy, which is funnier in this installment, partly because of amusing unbilled cameos by Don Cheadle (as Tucker's L.A. informant) and an ad-libbing Jeremy Piven (as a gay Versace salesman). Another reason for the sequel's superiority is that Chan, miscast as the dour straight man to Tucker and his ten-car-alarms-going-off-at-once voice, is given more to do comedy-wise, and his previously nonexistent chemistry with Tucker (they reportedly didn't get along during filming, and the stiffness of the pairing showed) has grown since the first film. Still, the Rush Hour movies are far from the prime of Chan's Police Story and Armour of God days. They may cost twice as much to make as any one of those Hong Kong actioners, but they're made with half the directorial skill. (JA)

Rush Hour 3
(PG-13) Pop-Eyed Stereotype and Badly-Aged Yet Somehow Still Noble Movie Star are back in action! In L.A., Stereotype (Chris Tucker) feuds with his chief about having arrested some Iranians. Boss (Philip Baker Hall): "They were scientists at UCLA!" Stereotype: "Just because they're scientists doesn't mean they can't blow things up!" After the Chinese ambassador gets shot, the two cops head to Paris in search of a notorious Triad boss. Once there, Police Chief Roman Polanski gives them a cavity search. Then Stereotype holds a "smelly Frenchman" taxi driver at gunpoint and makes him sing the "Star-Spangled Banner." Then there's a minor fight scene between Aged Yet Noble Etc. (Jackie Chan) and Youki Kudoh (a Japanese, not a Chinese actress, best remembered for her part in Mystery Train and billed on the IMDb for this film as "Dragon Lady"). After that, the two leads end up swimming in the Parisian sewers. Who's smelly now, eh? Eh? Brett Ratner's direction is everything suggested by his reputation as a stupendously rewarded producer of toxic waste. Tucker does the lecherous, pugnacious yet cowardly shuck and jive in a way to make one think time had stood still since 1950. (And somehow Tucker got five more points in the movie deal than Chan did. What a world.) Oh, and Max von Sydow is in it; rumors that Bergman saw this and dropped dead are untrue. (RvB)

Full text review.
(1998) Wes Anderson's uneven but likable prep-school story, which seems to have hit young people as hard as J.D. Salinger does; they love the wit and overlook the snobbery. Jason Schwartzman is very appealing as the energetic young student addicted to every extracurricular activity there is (particularly the courting of a willowy teacher, played by Olivia Williams). But life only really opens up for him when he attaches himself to a weary millionaire—Bill Murray, embodying John Cheever's luxury-poisoned protagonists. One moment that's worth the admission price: Murray carrying a cocktail and cig as he watches his lamentable family from the perch of a swimming pool diving board. Love the soundtrack—always a highlight of Anderson's films—particularly the pre-Beggar's Banquet Rolling Stones. (RvB)

Russian Ark
Full text review.

(PG; 98 min.) It raises the question: "If Arthur Miller had included an exploding toilet scene in Death of a Salesman, how much more popular would the play be?" Comedy audiences today are coalitions, between the kids who demand their sewer humor and the adults who prefer the witty aside. Unlike the Meet the Parents franchise, R.V. is a hit no one has to feel bad about, even as it serves both audiences. Robin Williams is not just silly but savagely pusillanimous as Bob Munro, a tragic salary-man dad heading a family of three people staring at different screens. When his boss forces him to cancel a Hawaiian trip so that he can make a business meeting in Colorado, Bob rents an RV instead so he can work at night while driving during the day. The RV (quickly renamed "The Rollin' Turd" by his family) has regular encounters with a busload of singing Christians (Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth and others) for Flanders/Simpsons style conflict. You get the picture. The Munros ought to bond, but they ought not to become clinging bores: "We're not friendly," urges the Munro family's slow-burning mom, played by the fearsomely jawed Cheryl Hines from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also nice and acrid is JoJo Levesque as daughter Cassie Munro, a vicious little 15-year-old with a peekaboo haircut from which one cocked raven-colored eyebrow and one gunslinger's eye is visible. Director Barry Sonnenfeld reminds the audience he was once the cinematographer on Raising Arizona, with well-timed physical comedy and expert comedic use of widescreen in the style of Frank Tashlin. (RvB)

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