[AA-AM] [AN-AZ] [BA-BM] [BN-BZ] [CA-CM] [CN-CZ] [DA-DM] [DN-DZ] [EA-EM] [EN-EZ] [FA-FM] [FN-FZ] [GA-GM] [GN-GZ] [HA-HM] [HN-HZ] [IA-IM] [IN-IZ] [JA-JM] [JN-JZ] [KA-KM] [KN-KZ] [LA-LM] [LN-LZ] [MA-MM] [MN-MZ] [NA-NM] [NN-NZ] [OA-OM] [ON-OZ] [PA-PM] [PN-PZ] [Q] [RA-RM] [RN-RZ] [SA-SZ] [SN-SZ] [TA-TM] [TN-TZ] [UA-UM] [UN-UZ] [VA-VM] [VN-VZ] [WA-WM] [WN-WZ] [X] [YA-YM] [YN-YZ] [Z]
(1942) Ernst Lubitsch's best work: matters of life and death give it a slight edge over The Shop Around the Corner, Lubitsch's brilliant comedy of the working week. The Shakespearean Joseph Tura, "that great Polish actor" (Jack Benny), should have followed Iago's advice, "Look to your wife." His own spouse (Carol Lombard) is being courted by a callow pilot (Robert Stack) when war intervenes, and the ham turns patriot. Felix Bressart recites Shylock's speech to the court; and Sig Ruman plays the man they call "Concentration Camp Erhardt."
(1939/1942) Ernst Lubitsch's best work. The Shakespearean Joseph Tura, "that great Polish actor" (Jack Benny), should have followed Iago's advice, "Look to your wife." His own spouse (Carole Lombard) is being courted by a callow pilot (Robert Stack), but this becomes less important when the Nazis invade, and the ham turns patriot. Felix Bressart recites Shylock's speech to the court; Sig Ruman plays the man they call "Concentration Camp Erhardt." BILLED WITH Midnight. A broke and unaccompanied woman (Claudette Colbert) arrives in Paris determined to net a rich husband; meanwhile, she's hired by a roué to lure away his wife's lover. This sophisticated comedy stars John Barrymore in his last good film and Don Ameche as a humble but unbowed cabbie. (RvB)
(1933/1942) To Be or Not to Be is Ernst Lubitsch's great comedy about the Nazi occupation of Poland, in which occupation and collaboration are symbolized by the cuckolding of an actorthe Polish ham Joseph Tura, played by Jack Benny. Carole Lombard plays the deceiving wife in one of the most affectionate treatments of an adulterous woman in Hollywood movie history. BILLED WITH Trouble in Paradise, which some critics place higher than To Be or Not to Be. Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins play society jewel thieves who move in on an heiress; business turns personal when the male member of the team falls in love with the lady. (RvB)
(1955) Cary Grant in the full powers of his primea visual promise that middle age can be more than just random infuriations, searing regret, desperate recollections of youth and the realization that serious illness and death are just around the bend. The promise may be false"Even I want to be Cary Grant," Grant once saidyet it's made flesh in this film. To Catch a Thief is your ultimate French Riviera jewel-thief movie, with Grant wrongly suspected of having restarted his former career as a cat burglar known as, naturally, as "The Cat." Grace Kelly plays an heiress desired either for herself or for her jewels. The film features fine supporting work by the pert gamine Juliette Greco and by John Williams as the stalwart copper. Alfred Hitchcock's famous routines here include the use of fireworks to represent a love scene, and a double-entendre picnic where it's not quite clear what exactly is on the menu. (RvB)
(1955/1957) Cary Grant in the full powers of his primea visual promise that middle age can be more than just random infuriations, searing regret, desperate recollections of youth and the realization that serious illness and death are just around the bend. The promise may be false"Even I want to be Cary Grant," Grant once saidyet it's made flesh in these two films. To Catch a Thief is your ultimate French Riviera jewel-thief movie, with Grant wrongly suspected of having restarted his former career as a cat burglar known as, naturally, as "The Cat." Grace Kelly plays an heiress desired either for herself or for her jewels. The film features fine supporting work by the pert gamine Juliette Greco and by John Williams as the stalwart copper. Alfred Hitchcock's famous routines here include the use of fireworks to represent a love scene and a famous double-entendre picnic, where it's not clear what exactly is on the menu. The VistaVision photography by Robert Burks makes this the most azure movie ever about the Cote d'Azur. BILLED WITH An Affair to Remember. The film's powers as a weeper are joked about in the dumb Sleepless in Seattle, which sourced this and sourced it hard. Sleepless in Seattle is to An Affair to Remember what Tom Hanks is to Cary Grant. Director/writer Nora Ephron may propose that films are either guy-flicks or chick-flicks. However, note that the manly Delmer Daves, who composed many a bullet-filled Western, co-wrote the film. The emotional wallop is not in the sex of the viewer but in the presence, poise and splendid underplaying of Grant. He's a career bachelor"a big-dame hunter"tamed by a shy woman (Deborah Kerr) with whom he connects on an emotional wavelength during a sea voyage. The implication is that what draws them together is an unspoken but tenderly hinted at religious faith. And then the two are separated by the most manipulative writing Hollywood could wreak. This film is like a beautiful woman with a wart on her nose. There's a musical sequence of singing underprivileged kids doing a number called "The Little Scout Inside"; it's pure ipecac. Having said that, the titanism and loneliness of New York are tangible in the photography here, and director Leo McCarey's exquisite use of CinemaScope, color and composition create a mood that's hard to shake off. Note the arresting innovation of having the first kiss partially offscreen, as something too beautiful for the audience to be allowed to witness. (RvB)
(1955/1935) Cary Grant in the full powers of his primea visual promise that middle age can be more than just random infuriations, searing regret, desperate recollections of youth and the realization that serious illness and death are just around the bend. The promise may be false"Even I want to be Cary Grant," Grant once saidyet it's made flesh in this film. To Catch a Thief is your ultimate French Riviera jewel-thief movie, with Grant wrongly suspected of having restarted his former career as a cat burglar known as, naturally, as "The Cat." Grace Kelly plays an heiress desired either for herself or for her jewels. The film features fine supporting work by the pert gamine Juliette Greco and by John Williams as the stalwart copper. Alfred Hitchcock's famous routines here include the use of fireworks to represent a love scene and a famous double-entendre picnic, where it's not clear what exactly is on the menu. The VistaVision photography by Robert Burks makes this the most azure movie ever about the Cote d'Azur. BILLED WITH The 39 Steps, featuring the earliest and perhaps the purest version of a recurrent Hitchcock theme: an innocent man pursued across the map by both the police and a shadowy mob of spies. Robert Donat plays a flippant Canadian. Not the sort of person to get tangled up in all of this cloak-and-dagger stuff, Donat ends up in the prime suspect in a murder, committed by The 39 Steps, a group of espionage artists. With Madeleine Carroll as the unwilling girl dragged across Scotland with Donat, Godfrey Tearle as the Professor, the young Peggy Ashcroft in the poignant episode about the farmer's wife and Wylie Watson appropriately unforgettable as the ill-fated but dutiful Mr. Memory. (Plays Apr 1-3 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)
(R; 100 min.) Director Gus Van Sant's latest is an excellent black comedy about a small-town gal, Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman), whose fervent desire to become a famous TV news personality proves deadly for those who get in her way. Armed with a pastel wardrobe and perky personalitybelying her mercurial coreSuzanne claws her way up from coffee girl to weather person at the local TV station. She decides to make a documentary about teens and enlists three misguided youths, ultimately seducing them into carrying out a wicked plot to advance her career. Kidman gives a wonderful performance, delivering lines such as "You aren't really anybody in America if you're not on TV" with just the right mixture of sincerity and sarcasm. Buck Henry's (The Graduate, Catch-22) clever screenplay and stong performances by Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix (River's brother), and newcomer Alison Folland make To Die For an entertaining and pointed satire on our obsession with media and celebrity. (MD)
(PG-13; 93 min.) David (Peter Gallagher) still consorts with the ghost of his dead wife, Gillian (Michelle Pfeiffer). On what would have been Gillian's 37th birthday, her sister, Esther (Kathy Baker), and David's daughter, Rachel (Claire Danes), watch him with dismay. Baker plays her rough-hewn part with composure, but Gallagher, a fine, reliable snake in so many movies, is ludicrous as a tormented hero. Director Michael Pressman tries to squeeze your emotions but doesn't prepare you in the way of mood; watching the film is like enduring psychic surgery at the hands of one of those mysterious Filipino doctors who can crack your chest without even unbuttoning your shirt. James Horner's music here comes in two flavors: Golden Epiphany (perfect for the Grand Opening of a supermarket in Heaven) and Wistful (so nerveless as to make Erik Satie sound like John Philip Sousa). (RvB)
(1945) A popular tale of gun running in the Caribbean, with Warner Bros.' typically atmospheric adventure-movie sets. Bogart stars as an individualist made to see the big wartime picture, with the help of Lauren Bacall to stiffen his backbone. This is prime romantic stuff made from an inferior Hemingway novel, which director Howard Hawks claimed was filmed because of a bet with Hemingway ("He interested me. Strange guy," Hawks told critic author Joseph McBride). (RvB)
(1945/1948) A popular tale of gunrunning in the Caribbean, with Warner Bros.' typically atmospheric adventure-movie sets. Humphrey Bogart stars as an individualist made to see the big wartime picture, with the help of Lauren Bacall to stiffen his backbone. This is prime romantic stuff made from an inferior Hemingway novel, which director Howard Hawks claimed was filmed because of a bet with Hemingway ("He interested me. Strange guy," Hawks told author Joseph McBride). BILLED WITH Key Largo. Holed up in a storm-battered hotel in the middle of nowhere in Florida, an ex-Army major (Bogart) who "fights nobody's battles but his own" comes to the rescue of a crippled old man (Lionel Barrymore) and his daughter (Lauren Bacall). The pair are cornered by a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) and his four bodyguards (including Thomas Gomez, from Force of Evil). Talky and studio-bound, but uncannily atmospheric, thanks to Karl Freund's photography; the fascist gangster Johnny Rocco is a later version of Robinson's character in Public Enemy, gorged on blood and rich living; he has a memorable scene looking "like a crustacean without his shell" in a bathtub. (Plays Sep 16-17 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)
(1962/1955) The Stanford Theater in Palo Alto reopens for the summer with a repertory program of classic films. Gregory Peck copped an Oscar for his performance in To Kill a Mockingbird as a lawyer (and single father of two) in the South defending a black man (Brock Peters) accused of rape; Robert Duvall made his debut as the soft-witted Boo Radley. BILLED WITH The Night of the Hunter, that great American nightmare. It's set in the Depression. A Judas preacher is on the trail of a pair of orphans who know the whereabouts of some stashed money their father was hanged for stealing. Robert Mitchum plays the buttery-voiced Preacher, a hater of whores (and, as far as he's concerned, all women are whores). Preacher's prison-tattooed fingers show us the play of Good and Evil, but he's so powerful and seductive that you think Good wouldn't have a chance. Director Charles Laughton and screenwriter James Agee make the battle interesting by showing us the way the maternal good and patriarchal evil harmonize (literally, I mean) in the scene in which Preacher, hidden in the dark, starts singing "Bringing in the Sheaves," and Lillian Gish (as the woman who saves the children) takes up the chorus, sitting in her rocking chair, shotgun on her lap. (RvB)
(1998) An impotent gunmanhe always misses his human targetsis stalked by a detective, whose sister thinks she understands the odd criminal. Directed by Jean-Pierre Limosin. (RvB)
(Unrated; 87 min.) Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: Iron Man) directs a story about a frustrated salaryman (Tsukamoto himself) who turns to boxing when a professional fighter starts to put the moves on his wife. The meek businessman soon finds himself pumped up with the adrenaline of violence, and the erotic charge sends everyone into an orgy of graphic self-destruction.
(R; 92 min.) As funny as chewing on a cancerous testicle, its centerpiece gag, Tomcats gives submoronic misogyny a bad name. The low-concept plot hinges on a bet between seven bachelors. The last one to marry wins a substantial collection of stocks and bonds, or "last man standing gets the kitty"a tagline rejected by film distributors as too racy. Tomcats is a cheap and desperate rip-off of the cheap and desperate American Pie. The film is noxious enough to qualify as the county's latest Superfund site. (DH)
(PG; 92 min.) The world needs another interpretation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer like it needs an asteroid collision with New York City. Fortunately, even a remake of a book that has already been remade several thousand times can manage to be interestingexcept when it's ... BORING! Blame it on the mentality of the soundbite generation, but Tom and Huck is far too slow to qualify as entertainment, especially for families with small children. Most movie-goers who remember Mark Twain from their junior-high-school reading list will recognize the story: a tale of two trouble-prone boys who sneak around a lot in an effort to prove the innocence of a friend who has been accused of murder. The problem is, the two are so stealthy that you might not even notice they are supposed to be part of a plot. Nevertheless, the acting is not terrible and the premise of the story is decentif not particularly PC. It's too bad that the most memorable element in the entire film isn't the action itself but the villain's nasty set of teeth. (BB)
(1963) Albert Finney dashes through director Tony Richardson's adaptation of Henry Fielding's novel with the greatest of gusto. Also stars Susannah York, Hugh Griffith and Edith Evans. (RvB)
(1975) A grotty and overbearing adaptation of Pete Townshend's musical love letter to the mute Muslim messiah Meyer Baba. (Baba's the same personage who bears indirect responsibility for that "Don't Worry, Be Happy" tune you could not escape during Bush I. Despite the efforts of Bobby McFerrin and the Who, no Sufi-inspired tune has yet surpassed "She's the Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish" by the Hoosier Hot-Shots.) The film is the typical creation of the Bad Taste Decade, though Ann-Margret (as Tommy's heartless mom) unaccountably got an Oscar nomination for enduring a tidal wave of baked beans. These legumes were director Ken Russell's typically trenchant way of symbolizing the flood of commercials that inundate us all, though all the scene really calls to mind is a British skinhead "poem" I heard on the anthology Strength Through Oi!: "I like beans/I like sauce/I like sexual/intercourse." If the beans don't send you, perhaps one would prefer the sight of Elton John massacring "Pinball Wizard" while wearing size 600 combat boots. Or Tina Turner singing "Acid Queen" up one side of the block and down the other. Or pampered rock star Roger Daltrey miming martyred innocence. Actually, Keith Moon's music-hall tune "Uncle Ernie" is pretty screw-up-proof. Remake this sucker, with half the budget! (RvB)
(PG-13; 101 min.) Pretty boy Paul Walker (Keanu Reeves for the Y generation) plays ex-cop Brian O'Conner. Moping about his failed relationship with Vin Diesel, Brian ends up working undercover for the DEA and Miami Police helping to ensnare an evil importer/exporter (no, not Art Vandelay, but Cole Hauser, who was in Pitch Black, which is as close as this sequel gets to original breakout star Diesel). Lending a hand is Brian's old-school Barstow buddy Roman (Tyrese) and another undercover agent, Monica (played by Gina Gershon's impersonator Eva Mendes). Together, they do what any good sequel should do: emphasize the look and the stunts and ditch the plot and any residual character development. The street-racing scenes zip along righteously, but the male bonding between Walker and Tyrese gets so thick (even unto a wrestling match that looks like a girl fight) that viewers are left to wonder: How much do these two want each other? (MSG)
(1997/1995) Director Wai Ka-Fai's Too Many Ways to Be Number One out Tarantinos Tarantino with its multiple narratives and restless camerawork. Lau Ching-Wan and Francis Ng star. BILLED WITH High Risk, in which Jacky Cheung plays an action star with a drinking problem. (AR)
(1982) A memorable comedy about the mad urge to be an actor. Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is so intense that he scares off directors. Out of desperation, he applies for a soap opera part in drag and becomes the Southern-accented, queenly Dorothy Michaels, who's like an uncanny Delta Burke. The role of woman is finally challenging enough to satisfy Dorsey, but it interferes with his personal life. Co-stars Bill Murray and Teri Garrdon't you wish more movies did? (RvB)
(1986) There were arguments that the original negative for this one ought to have been stashed in Reagan's coffin, so that the Gipper could escort it to Valhalla. Here it is again, probably because of the thunderous flying sequences scored to '80s cock-rock. If you have the irony reserves of Quentin Tarantino, you can argue that the subtextual romance between the male pilots is just as interesting as the coupling of Tom Cruise and I-don't-even-want-to-know-where-she-is-now starlet Kelly McGillis. With all due respect to the Wizard of Redondo Beach, I'd rather crunch good movies. Finding meat in this one is like filleting a sparrow for supper. Just as the characters are all code-named "Maverick" and "Tomcat," most of the fan base for this Tony Scott white elephant could have been addressed with atomic-bomb nicknames: Fat Man and Little Boy. (RvB)
(1935/1936) The one where Fred is in heaven, dancing cheek to cheek. Ginger Rogers believes Astaire to be a gigolo affianced to shrewd Helen Broderick; the fussing of Edward Everett Horton fails to clear matters up. Songs include "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" and "No Strings." BILLED WITH My Man Godfrey. William Powell plays a former blueblood currently living in a homeless encampment; he's found as the prize in a scavenger hunt and comes to work as a servant for a family of wealthy clowns. As for the scavenger hunt itself: "A scavenger hunt is just like a treasure hunt, except in a treasure hunt you find something you want and in a scavenger hunt you find things you don't want and the one who wins gets a prize, it's just the honor of winning, because all the money goes to charity if there's any money left over, but there never is."Carole Lombard's one-sentence summing up of upper-class twittery is transcribed by Pauline Kael. Lombard was always the most streamlined of dumb blondes. (RvB)
(1935/1936) Ginger Rogers skips out for Europe trying to avoid the advances of a married (or so she thinks) dancer (Fred Astaire). Songs include "Cheek to Cheek," "Isn't This a Lovely Day" and "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails." BILLED WITH Swing Time. Astaire plays dancer/gambler "Lucky" Garnett, who has to avoid earning money so that he doesn't have to marry a girl (Betty Furness) he likes considerably less than a new flame: the dance instructor Ginger Rogers. The plot's not much, but the songs are classics: "Never Gonna Dance," the ironical "A Fine Romance," "Pick Yourself Up," "The Way You Look Tonight" and the "Bojangles of Harlem" number in which Astaire dances (in blackface, sadly) with three 30-foot-high shadows. (RvB)
(PG-13; 81 min.) Ice Cube plays the leader of the toughest motorcycle gang in the country, who's out to get a biker he thinks killed his brother. He may have to use his AK. (Capsule preview by SP)
(R; 92 min.) Director María Ripoll's Tortilla Soup offers a pleasant remake of Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman, focusing on the ups and downs of a Latino family living in Los Angeles. Hector Elizondo plays Martin, the patriarch, a gourmet chef who's lost his senses of taste and smell, an impairment that seems to stem from his wife's death 15 years earlier. Martin has channeled his mourning into nurturing overdrive for his three grown daughters, who still live at home. Although Martin is a true "father hen," clucking over his daughters' laundry and over sumptuous Sunday meals, Elizondo plays him with a likable low-key charm and keeps the chemistry among a solid ensemble bubbling vigorously. Martin's daughters have been equally well-cast: Elizabeth Peña, in particular, brings depth to the eldest, Leticia, who could have seemed just a sour old maid. Of course, the film's foodscapes will tempt most viewers to the nearest Mexican restaurant, but even more appealingly, the film has a mischievous, tongue-in-cheek qualityin particular, with the casting of '60s bombshell Raquel Welch in a role that turns out to be anything but what one would expect. (HZ)
Full text review.
The romance and eventual quarrel between the symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the elder lyric poet Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis). It's a French thing, and British screenwriter Christopher Hampton, dripping acid, fails to convince that the two poets were more than just noisy poseurs with a penchant for inflicting wounds on each other. The film turns especially sentimental in the last reel, when it envisions Rimbaud's notorious sojourn as a gunrunner as something pure and shamanistic. (RvB)
(1990) The most amusing film version of that conundrum about whether a man is dreaming of being a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming of being a man. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an ordinary working stiff who has a lavish other life as a revolutionary on the corrupt planet Marsthough these dreams may have all been downloaded by a vacation company. The nonstop action merges smoothly with some of Phillip K. Dick's questions about the nature of memory. (RvB)
(R; 97 min.) A con man (Christopher Walken) and a militant altar boy (Tom Arnold) lock horns over how best to exploit Juvenal (Skeet Ulrich), a stigmatic ex-missionary with healing hands. It's part off-beat religious satire in a John Waters vein and part lightweight spiritual quest, edgy enough to be interesting but neither terribly funny nor profound. Writer/director Paul Schrader, who studied for the Calvinist seminary, handles Juvenal's struggleto reconcile his love of God with his ambivalence toward the Churchwith grace and wisdom. Arnold is the only real problem with the movie; his uncomplicated repulsiveness drags things to a slow grind whenever he's onscreen. Everybody else is terrific, especially Bridget Fonda as the modern Mary Magdalene who eases Juvenal into a worldly paradise of love, peace and understanding. (BC)
(1991) Gérard Depardieu and Anne Brochet star in a costume drama about a composer in the era of Louis XIV.
(2000) A long-missing father (Michel Piccoli) reappears into his daughters' lives with subsequent disruption.
(R) Clearly there is an acceptable dollar amount worth bending over for in Hollywood, but bending over and looking incredibly foolish while doing so? Leave the money by the bedside, baby! Town and Country, starring Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Garry Shandling, is a distasteful, fatuous, nonsensical film which disastrously attempts to reveal the peculiarities of the opposite sex. Porter and Ellie Stoddard (Beatty and Keaton) have been married for 25 happy and successful years, minus a recent affair on Porter's part with a gorgeous cellist. Their two best friends, Mona and Griffin (Hawn and Shandling), however, have just hit a hard place as Mona discovers that her husband is having an affair and has decided to file for divorce. Insipid infidelity, in combination with a desultory plot, leaves these four people entangled in a ludicrous web as they try to reclaim their lives, friendships, and marriages. Reclaiming their dignity as actors, however, may be even more unlikely than this catastrophic film staying in theaters for more than a week. (LB)
(PG-13; 108 min.) Forget diamonds. Drag queens become a girl's best friends in this road-trip comedy about three New York City drag divas who get stranded in a small, Midwestern town when their car breaks down. If that plot sounds like this year's The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, well, it is, but our three heroines, Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze), Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) and ChiChi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) are all distinctive enough characters to end the similarities between this film and last year's Australian hit at the plot line. In fact, it's really the characters that make this film worth watching. Although the temptation to revel in the movie's putting three Hollywood hunks in dresses is sometimes indulged, what more often comes through is the appealing and very individual personalities of Vida, Noxeema and ChiChi. Particularly interesting are the relationships that the trio strike up with the women of desolate Syndersville, including Vida's befriending a battered wife (Stockard Channing). (HZ)
(G; 87 min.) A funny, enchanting and refreshingly low-key animated feature about a bedroom full of talking toys. Woody, a cowboy doll, is displaced by a vainglorious space-explorer action figure named Buzz Lightyear, who's under the delusion that he's actually marooned on a hostile planet. The characterizations are as fussed over as the adventures; there is an ingenious chase sequence; and the repartee among the toys is quite amusing. The all-Pixar animation strips the grisliness out of the concept of talking toysuntil it's brought back as a fine joke for the punch line/moral. (RvB)
(R; 120 min.) Much of Training Day was shot in the old, hilly neighborhoods of L.A. These hills, photographed through long lenses, give the sense of dizzying rises and falls; the day's work becomes a literal roller-coaster ride for the rookie LAPD officer Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), who is apprenticed to a kind of madman. Denzel Washington is irresistible as a meglomaniac cop worthy of the golden age of film noir. We're used to this tale, but we don't expect the crooked cop to be crooked enough to be a real menace, and that's the big surprise here: the film goes back before Dirty Harry and The French Connection, to the notion that police corruption isn't justified by the liberal courts and the pampered criminals. (RvB)
(R; 94 min.) At last, a youth movie that's a good time, full of beguiling acting, speed and exuberance. The film takes its cue from the joyous yawp of Iggy Pop's voice on the soundtrack, and that same speedy rhythm propels all of antihero Renton's (Ewan McGregor) many misadventures. The film, which is based on the bestseller by novelist Irvine Welsh, looks at junkie life in Edinburgh, Scotland, in an unself-consciously cheerful way. Director Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave) ultimately deplores the habit while giving the junkies credit; they're having a high time in every sense of the word, and they overflow with the full charm of losers. The film consists of a series of blackouts and fade-outs, full of such mishaps as the progress of Renton's friend Tommy (Kevin McKidd), who evolves, with the help of needle drugs, from a health fanatic to an invalid, and Renton's short-lived love affair with underaged Diane (Kelly Macdonald). But the real romance is between the junkie and his junk. The body of the film traces the arc of Renton's early, unsuccessful attempt to clean up, his overdose and his eventual success at kicking the habit. He actually reforms, after a fashionhe becomes mean and sober. The ending has the same cynical tartness as Alec the Droog's last line in A Clockwork Orange: "I was cured, all right." (RvB)
(R; 103 min.) This on-again, off-again road-trip dramedy succeeds mostly because of the vigorous and funny acting by Felicity Huffman. The Desperate Housewives vet is, as the saying goes, more man than we'll ever be, and more woman then we'll ever have. She plays Bree, a male-to-female transsexual who is ordered by her psychiatrist (why?) to bond with a son from a brief heterosexual relationship. She and the delinquent son, Toby (Kevin Zegers), head across the country to Los Angeles in a car, bonding with every mile. It's a sweet movie, aiming with sentiment to defuse the potentially explosive subject matter. And that subject is more detailed than is customary; both Huffman and novice director Duncan Tucker did their homework, informing the audience of the pain and hard work needed to accommodate a female spirit in a reluctant male body. Thanks to Huffman's subtle embodying of a woman in the making, her performance is a lot more polished than the movie it adorns. Zingy, bitchy lines enliven the action now and again; of the supporting cast, Graham Greene steals the show as a courtly Native American who gives the girl-in-training a little delicate flattery. (RvB)
(PG-13; 92 min.) Not a Star Trek movie. Hong Kong action vet Corey Yuen's tale of an emotionless driver, Frank Martin (Jason Statham of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), who transports contraband from Nice to Marseilles. On one routine trip, he discovers he's taking a tied-up woman (Shu Qi) in a bag. When he decides to let her out for a pee break, his employers try to kill him for breaking their contract. The last 45 minutes are the most like the good old days in Hong Kong, with a truck-convoy chase and a fight scene at a bus-repair yard (nothing can defeat a greased Cockney, to paraphrase groundskeeper Willie). Otherwise, the film is rigid, misogynist and often dulland it's seriously undervillained. As the Chinese girl's father, Ric Young (who was excellent as Mao in Oliver Stone's Nixon) doesn't get a chance to creep out the audience by suggesting that he loves the daughter he's trying to kill. And Matt Schulze, as a tittering evil American named "Wall Street," seems like someone kicked upstairs from the marketing department to chair the international evil organization. (RvB)
(PG-13; 88 min.) The great thing about this movie is that on two separate occasions while watching the trailer someone has leaned over and whispered something to the effect of: "Was there really a Transporter 1?" You bet your sweet Jason Statham there was! Who could forget Statham as the ass-kicking delivery man in that 2002 Franco-American action flick? Everyone, apparently! And yet, this sequel did not go straight to video, which is interestingperhaps because it was again scripted by Luc Besson and backed by Canal Plus. In any case, Statham returns as Frank Martin to shoot more stuff, kick more stuff and jump out of the way of more stuff that's blowing up. Need I remind you that he's "the best in the business?" I think not. (Barely related trivia bit: There actually was at least one film that pretended to be a sequel to a non-existent original: Surf 2 opened in 1984, despite the fact that there was never a Surf.) (Capsule preview by SP)
One of the most enjoyably cheesy action movies of all time gets a well-deserved sequel reuniting the star, writers and directors for a fun-filled romp that throws plausibility out the window. Jason Statham returns as ex-Special Forces operative Frank Martin, a retired getaway driver who now makes a living in Miami driving a politician's son around town. But when the boy is abducted, it's up to Martin to strap on his ass-kicking boots and do things no human ever could in his quest to retrieve the missing tyke. The most fun you'll have at the movies since the governator single-handedly wiped out a Russian mafia stronghold in Raw Deal. (JL)
(R; 99 min.) In a crime thriller, Kevin Bacon and Courtney Love kidnap Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend.
(R; 96 min.) Traps is set in Vietnam around 1950. Our guides are a spineless Anglo-Australian journalist, Michael (Robert Reynolds), and his disenchanted wife, Louise (Saskia Reeves), who have descended on a rubber baron (Sami Frey) and his strange teenage daughter (Jacqueline McKenzie). Insurgents lurk in the darkness, but Traps is obviously no mere tale of white devilry. The sexual troubles of the stressed couple, bravely left unresolved, balance the badly tuned script. Director Pauline Chan is a sturdy storyteller, as level-headed in the tropics as John Huston was. (RvB)
Full text review.
(R; 101 min.) Evocative locations and authentic performances highlight Traveller, a story about Irish-extracted Gypsies roaming the American South directed by Jack Green, Clint Eastwood's usual cinematographer. Bill Paxton, who co-produced the film, plays Bokky, a trader in aluminum trailers and a part-time scam artist. Bokky decides to adopt Pat (Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg), the son of a relative and teach him the trade. Various picaresque adventures end with a standard action-movie climax involving Bokky's love for a woman he'd previously scammed). The script by Jim McGlynn has authentic little details, and Paxton has the ease of an old pro, but Traveller fails in the same way that the Eastwood films Green quotes fail. As in Eastwood's handmade films, it's hard to exorcise the sense that the actors are playing the parts of poor people; nothing's as gritty as it should be. (RvB)
A feature about a rural man in Bhutan who wants to move to America. Directed by Khyentse Norbu, and reputed to be the first feature made in the Himalayan country.
(1999) A drama written and directed by Scott King that explores the sexual and gendered politics of racism in the United States during World War II. The film follows the tale of two cryptographers who are given the mission of planting encoded letters on a corpse which will be used to fool the Japanese into believing that a U.S. invasion is imminent. Sponsored by Another Scene.
(1945/1948) In the oil port of Tampico, unemployed roughneck Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), "an American down on his luck," hears of a gold mine in the Mexican mountains; for a time, he gets his hands on a treasure that the wind will bear away. One of the first Hollywood movies filmed outside the United States, according to Bogart's biographer Jeffrey Meyers; the author also suggests that B. Traven's original story dates back to Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale. Both the bandito Goldtooth (Alfonso Bedoya), who refuses to trust in "stinking badges" and "the Mexican standoff" (later worked to death by John Woo) became part of the stereotypical imagery of Mexico. Also stars Walter Huston and Tim Holt. BILLED WITH To Have and Have Not. A popular tale of gun running in the Caribbean set against Warner Bros.' typically atmospheric backlot. Bogart stars as an individualist made to see the big wartime picture, with the help of Lauren Bacall to stiffen his backbone. Prime romantic stuff, with two leads passionately in love, it was all derived from an inferior Hemingway novel. (Of Hemingway, Hawks commented, "He interested me. Strange guy"according to author Joseph McBride.) (RvB)
(1945/1935) Peggy Ann Garner stars in the film version of Betty Smith's celebrated novel about growing up in Brooklyn 1900, with an unsuccessful dreamer of a father (James Dunn) and a strong-willed mother (Dorothy McGuire). Joan Blondell co-stars as the girl's raffish aunt. It was an early success for Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront). BILLED WITH Curly Top. The peninsula's own Shirley Temple sings "Animal Crackers in My Soup" for those whose nerves can stand no stronger stimulation. The plot is your basic Temple: spunky little orphan reforms a playboy (the exact opposite of the kind of story preferred by most of us reprobates.) (Plays Jul 24-25 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.) (RvB)
(R; 95 min.) This dry comedy, written and directed by Steve Buscemi, explores the life of a champion loser, a man of such haplessness that he can't even hold down a job driving an ice cream truck. Tommy (Buscemi) handles his woes like a proby drinking too much at a grimy neighborhood bar and compounding his troubles with a hopeless fling with his own niece. (In a movie full of the ill-favored, Chloe Sevigny's Debbie is all the more irresistible.) Trees Lounge, like its hero, doesn't have much drive, but it possesses plenty of ambiance of the low-class life: bad bar-rock, coke-snorting, botched one-night stands. (RvB)
(PG-13; 84 min.) Roger Nygard's documentaryscreened in an early form at Cinequest 1998observes the sometimes preposterous obsessions of Star Trek fans. At moments, you'll wonder if it's literally possible to die of embarrassment. Still, everyone's obsessed over somethinglox, clocks, or argyle socksand Nygard is compassionate about his subjects. They include a brave woman named Barbara Adams who works at a copy shop to which she rides the bus every day in Little Rock, Ark., dressed in her Federation uniform and demanding to be addressed as "Lieutenant Commander." Dr. Denis Bourguignon, a Florida dentist, has done his office over in a Star Trek theme, and there's also a man interviewed here who has translated Hamlet into Klingon. (Wouldn't the Klingons have preferred Titus Andronicus?) Interviewees also include Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Majel Barret Roddenberry, Denise Crosby (who co-executive produced), Brent Spiner (very witty) and James Doohan. Doohan always seemed like nothing more than a lovably corny vaudevillian Scots joke on the original Star Trek. He has the best moment in the movie, telling a moving story about his correspondence with one desperate fan. (RvB)
(Unrated; 94 min.) A documentary about ultraorthodox and Hasidic gays and lesbians.
(PG-13; 98 min.) Michael "Cosmo Kramer" Richards proves that homely actors enjoy the same advantage as fat singersthey didn't get where they are because of their looks. Kramer, I mean Richards, starts the film off with a remarkable physical bit, a theatrical audition during which he is beaten up by a pack of invisible mobsters. Unfortunately, the premise replicates director Jonathan Lynn's last hit, My Cousin Vinny. Jeff Daniels, the Bob Cummings of 1997, is a young lawyer about to marry his boss' daughter. Per his new father-in-law's request, Daniels drives to a tiny Nevada town to testify in a mail-fraud case (Rip Torn plays the untrustworthy defendant). Daniels' pal, the struggling actor Richards, follows Daniels to the desert to throw him a last-minute bachelor party; Daniels gets incapacitated, and Richards must pose as a lawyer to finish the case. If it weren't for the reaction shots of the peerless Austin Pendleton as the bitter, sarcastic judge, the film would disintegrate. The impossibly understanding dream girl (Charlize Theron) who frees Daniels from his awful marriage plans is named "Billie," drives a Jeep, carries a shotgun and lives in the desert. So many heroines in movies are named Alex, Charlie, Patso many movie dream girls would actually seem to be guys. (RvB)
(R; 93 min.) Annie (Elisabeth Shue) and Matthew (Kyle MacLachan) find their lives radically changed when the lights go out, and Joe (Dermot Mulroney), an old chum of Annie and Matthew's, shows up out of nowhere. Joe, who is more street smart than the white-collar Matthew, persuades him to go gun shopping. Later, after Matthew accidentally participates in the killing of a looter, they all decide to head to the mountains. The Trigger Effect isn't preachy, and it intelligently mulls over the side effects of the societal breakdown brought on by the dimming lights. The problems of The Trigger Effect aren't due to the directing but to the writing. The vagueness of what causes the monumental outage is perfectly acceptable; the ambiguous hints about Annie's past aren't. The underwriting keeps Shue from getting grip on her character. She's a housewife going mad in one scene and a contented mommy in the next. Matthew's relationship with Joe is less comprehensible, and thus the script starts to fall apart faster than the fabric of society. (RvB)
(R; 92 min.) Starring an all-grown-up Deon Richmond, who played Rudy's whiny friend Kenny on The Cosby Show, director David Hubbard's Trippin' is a goofy glimpse into the life of Gregory Reed, a high school senior with an extremely active imagination. A legend in his own mind known only as "G," Reed's trying to figure out how to score the classy threads, the fly car and the hot date for the prom, but his minimum wage salary won't cut it. He tries to get his parents to shell out for what he considers the most important night of his life, but they won't even talk prom until he's taken care of his college applications. Conveniently ignoring that major setback, he gets up the nerve to approach Cinny (played by the lovely Maia Campbell), whom he's had a crush on for years, and finds he can get close to her by asking her to help him plan his educational future. Gradually, he grows up a little and learns it's better to be grounded in reality than to live in an unattainable fantasy world. The extended daydreaming sequences, slacker goofball characters and illiterate thugs are good fun, and the movie's definitely amusing, but don't expect any side-splitting belly laughs. (SQ)
(1970) April Fool's Day with Luis Buñuel. "If you want to keep a woman honest, break her leg and keep her at home." Apparently, this is a real Spanish proverb, the text for Buñuel's minor but forceful piece about his disgust with machismo. Tristana is about a case of quasi incest in a conservative Spanish city sometime before the Civil War in the 1930s. The dapper old goat Don Lope (Fernando Rey) adopts an innocent young ward Tristana (Catherine Deneuve, speaking Spanish with a fetching Castillian lisp); like Lolita she rebels against a man who acts as both father and lover, but in the end she's caught and kept. Filming in France, Buñuel yet gave nostalgic touches in the film portraying Spain as he remembered it: the church bells, the street life and the harrumphing of the elderly men at their clubs and café tables. Rey, that vastly amusing satirist of the aging Latin dandy, is as always a delight (he curls his mustaches with some sort of chin-snood at night). Despite this presciently feminist satire, Buñuel apparently also kept his wife in a sort of purdah, according to San Francisco film critic B. Ruby Rich, who interviewed Buñuel's widow for the British film magazine Sight and Soundalways that gap between what an artist practices and preaches. (RvB)
Full text review.
(PG-13; 125 min.) Through happenstance, the son of a Cornish lord in Dark Ages England falls in love with his liege's wife. A Tristan who needs Dristan; that's Palo Alto's James Franco, conducting himself like an actor who's been told he looks like James Dean one too many times. Sophia Myles plays the unfortunate Isolde: the Kate Hudson of the Dark Ages. The toneless script is by Dean Georgaris. The musical effect is Wyndham Hill rather than Wagner; the many battle scenes are, as always with director Kevin Reynolds, blind scrimmages punctuated with the amplified sounds of watermelons being squashed. (RvB)
(1932/1930) Two films by Ernst Lubitsch. In Trouble in Paradise, a good partnership between society jewel thieves (Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins) is broken up by Kay Francis, their comely victim. BILLED WITH Monte Carlo, in which a count disguises himself as a hairdresser on the Cote d'Azure. Starring Jack Buchanan, Jeanette MacDonald (who sings "Beyond the Blue Horizon") and Santa Cruz's own ZaSu Pitts. (RvB)
Full text review.
(R; 163 min.) Wolfgang Peterson's huge but smart epic pits persecuted true lovers vs. a murderous king of kings, Agamemnon (Brian Cox). There is much that is exciting here, satisfying in the full-bodied tradition of epic making. Unfortunately, Peterson has made the same mistake director Robert Wise did in 1955's Helen of Troy: casting a modestly talented "new face" (Diane Kruger) as Helen. Kruger and Saffron Burrows, who plays Hector's wife, Andromache, share a laughable reaction shot during the showdown between the invader Achilles and the defender Hector. As in the day of studio epics, the roles seem perfectly engineered for the stars. As Helen-stealing Paris, Orlando Bloom provides the hearts and flowers. Strangely, Bloom never really looks like a movie star until you give him a bow and arrow, as finally happens after the Trojans accept their gift horse. Sean Bean makes a guileful Odysseus. The casting of Cox and Brendan Gleeson (as King Menelaus) as brothers is equally inspired: shaggy, barrel-chested and half-psychotic, the Atreus brothers are more ruthless than the Weinsteins. Finally, Brad Pitt as Achilles is just right, in the same way the similarly arrogant Charlton Heston was always just right in his hero roles. Pitt was born to play a man who sulks in his tent. (RvB)
(R; 127 min.) The title is a misnomer; the film serves up the same cheap fiction as always. Clint Eastwood, who produced, directed and stars, plays Steve Everett, an Oakland Tribune reporter laboring under a sky full of clouds. (Surprisingly, one of the clouds isn't the fact that he works at the Tribune, a paper infamous for money problems and layoffs.) Fighting an alcohol problem, an extramarital affair with his boss's wife, a smoking problem and the plain and undeniable ravages of age, Everett has but 12 hours to free a man sentenced to die at San Quentin at midnight. Since the prisoner is Isaiah Washington, so beautiful, so bland, photographed in the way that most filmmakers photograph the Statue of Liberty, we know that the convict is innocent; it's just a matter of time before Everett saves the day. In his more deep-dish films (Tightrope and High Plains Drifter especially), Eastwood's persona is a mixture of frailties. He's been amply praised for exhibiting them, just as he bravely shows off his frail-looking, shirtless body here, but if the story doesn't have any more resonance than this, it's hard to take Eastwood more seriously than any other aging action hero. (Check out the ending: a phone call would suffice, but we needed a car chase.) Eastwood's turtlelike acting is especially dull in scenes with James Woods, as the managing editor; Eastwood hasn't been this outmatched in a duet since he recorded with Ray Charles. (RvB)
(1998/1993) Wong Jing directs Andy Lau in the gangster epic A True Mob Story. BILLED WITH The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk II, starring Jet Li as a 19th-century martial arts expert. (AR)
(1993) Quentin Tarantino's highly enjoyable pastiche of girl and gun movies; an early example of the kind of the cinema-drenched writing that made his fame. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette (as a hooker named "Alabama") are Detroit lamsters with a parcel of stolen coke heading for L.A. As they flee, Elvis (Val Kilmer) gives fatherly advice from the next world. Dennis Hopper is superb in his bit, rejoicing in a nugget of prime fake Hemingway. The villains include a riotously horrible Gary Oldman. Tony Scott never directed a flashier, more perfectly facile script. (RvB)
(PG-13; 97 min.) This icky romantic comedy stars a misused Uma Thurman and TV-sized comedienne Janeane Garofalo of The Larry Sanders Show. The title warns you what you're up against, but a few minutes of Garofalo are all that's really necessary to understand just how grisly The Truth About Cats and Dogs isdid the world really need another Rosie O'Donnell? Garofalo plays Dr. Abby Barnes, a radio veterinarian who disposes advice about pet care. Smitten by her voice, Brian (Ben Chaplin) asks Abby out, but her three years of celibacy make her nervous, and she sends her beautiful neighbor Noelle (Thurman) instead. Brian falls for Noelle, convinced she is Abby. The two women carry out the fakery for the rest of the movie, almost. Director Michael Lehmann (Heathers) goes through the paces unimaginatively and rather slowly. For the most part, the film emphasizes Garofalo's almost Sally Fields-like dismaying wryness. She's sort of a human garden gnome, and to ram home her plainness, she's given a bad haircut and dressed in a thrift-shop's worth of unflattering jammies and T-shirts. The typical ugly-duckling romance shows you the sparkle under a plain-person's carapace; The Truth About Cats and Dogs urges you to accept ugly at face value. (RvB)
(PG; 88 min.) Natalie Babbitt's book is adapted for the screen with Alexis Bledel and Jonathan Jackson as young lovers. Also starts William ("I'll be in anything") Hurt, Sissy ("Whatever happened to ...) Spacek and Ben ("If you think Hurt will be in anything ...") Kingsley.
Full text review.
(Unrated; 157 min.) A compelling, commie-bashing thriller of the old school, Roland Suso Richter's The Tunnel has modest assets. There is a determined hero. There is a big-eyed heroine (Alexandra Maria Lara, quite the babe when she doesn't pull her hair back). And there is an evil Red trying to stop the flow of refugees to the West shortly after the Berlin Wall goes up. Harry Melchior (Heino Ferch) is a swimmer for East Germany. His best friend, Matthias Hiller (Sabastian Koch), made it to the West through the sewers. Hiller's wife is captured, though, and Hiller vows to bring her to the West. Melchior sneaks through the wall, disguised as a Swiss businessman. But his own pleasure in the new freedom is compromised. The swimmer left behind his beloved sister Charlotte, called Lotte (played by Lara). The two decide to organize a group of volunteers to dig a tunnel under the wall into the East. As it wanders past its second hour, The Tunnel shows serious signs of evolving into a miniseries before your eyes. At worst, I started to wonder if anyone was digging a tunnel into a different theater. (RvB)
(R; 90 min.) It appears the world isn't ready to let Tupac Shakur's bullet-gutted body rest in peace just yet. Every year, more posthumous music is released, unleashing a new round of rumors, alleged sightings and slapdash videos attesting to the man's influence and staying power (comic D.L. Hughley quips that Osama bin Laden has more new videos than Tupac). The latest film treatment on the fallen rapper's life and times (see Biggie & Tupac for another look) is a motley collection of news reports, MTV and BET interviews, rare images, rehearsal tapes and music stitched together, seemingly narrated by the man himself thanks to the magic of cut-and-paste. Some interesting facts about Shakur come out. He attended arts academies and loved Shakespeare, Kate Bush and Tony Danza. Then comes the rest of the story: growing up poor, his mom's history with the Black Panther party, his rise to fame and the subsequent push to lionize Shakur as a new black leader, the sex abuse charges, the beef with Bad Boy Records, Death Row, cheating death once before dying on the Las Vegas strip. The movie runs like an overly long MTV news special, which it basically is. Is it worth the price of first-run admission? Not if you have basic cable. Tupac: Resurrection is like the majority of releases put out after his death: for completists only. (TI)
(Unrated) A documentary by Allan Miller about the ambitious collaboration between conductor Zubin Mehta and director Zhang Yimou to mount a new production of Puccini's opera in Italyand eventually in the Forbidden City in Beijing.
(PG; 101 min.) Equipped with new "turbo" powers for their second movie, the Power Rangers must save a gentle alien who has been kidnapped by an evil space pirate.
(R; 103 min.) On his way back to death row, a dimple-cheeked sex-murderer (Ray Liotta) gets loose on a 747, killing or locking up everyone on board except a feisty flight attendant (Lauren Holly of Dumb and Dumber). A series of clever improbabilitiessuch as a jumbo jet flying nearly without passengers on the day before Christmasestablish early on that this is a universe where almost anything can happen, which helps take the edge off of some bothersome questions. Can a plane with the glide pattern of a rock do barrel rolls? You bet! Can a lost landing gear spontaneously regenerate itself? Sure! Can a brilliant performance by Liotta turn this unrelenting exercise in unpleasantness into a movie worth watching? Well ... no. (BC)
(R; 89 min.) Stranded in Brazil, a group of American and British backpackers discover a beach bar/dance club paradise that turns into a nightmare, in this latest example of the trendy "torture" subgenre of horror films (Hostel, The Ordeal, etc.). Director John Stockwell (Blue Crush, Into the Blue) crafts the first half as one of his cult-of-the-beautiful-body experiences, ruminating on the pretty travelers in all their physical glory and weaving them into surprisingly credible situations. But he has no head for the horror that engulfs the second half. The disappointing villains range from an inconsistent mastermind to his brain-dead underlings. And a chase scene set in underwater caves could have been spectacular, but instead it is rushed, cluttered and confusing. Josh Duhamel, Melissa George and Olivia Wilde co-star. (JMA)
(R; 83 min.) Pras Ja Rule and Vondie Curtis-Hall star in a drama about a hip-hop musician trying to escape life on the streets and break into the music industry.
Full text review.
(Unrated; 95 min.) Cryptic but impressive feature by Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses). It's the first fictional feature film to come out of Iraq since the war began. In a refugee camp on the Turkish border, Soran, nicknamed "Satellite" (Soran Ehabrim) makes a living as a fixer of satellite dishes. He's looking forward to the war, not just as a Kurd who hates Saddam, but also as a rabid Americanaphile. Since Satellite is prosperous, he's also dreaming about getting married. The girl he follows around bears a name that's more Middle-Earth than Middle Eastern: she is called Agrin (Avaz Latif). A solemn, lovely wraith haunting the camp, she tends a crossed-eyed toddler who seems to be her little brother. The film is a kind of post-apocalyptic "Our Gang" comedy, set on a literal blasted heath. In the fog and drizzle, crippled children wander through what's left of their childhoods, untroubled by adult supervision. The cast is non-professional, and there's a sense of play and liveliness in the children, despite the horrors around them. Even with puzzling bits, Turtles Can Fly is brave, shocking and easy to comprehendor, rather, as easy to comprehend as war ever is. (RvB)
(PG-13; 99 min.) One trailer for this movie makes it look craptastic; another makes it look like another brilliant, shining moment for Jackie Chan. We'll seeit does have Chan's trademark stuntwork and Jennifer Love Hewitt, all in the service of a story about an unlikely secret agent who becomes a spy stud when he puts on a $2 billion tuxedo.
[email protected] at least one day prior to the event. Alcohol will not be served. (Plays Oct 19 at 7:30pm in San Jose at Camera 12.) (RvB)(2006) Free premiere of Kevin Lojewski's short film about the problems of cleaving to the couch, with George Crowley as "The Announcer." Lojewski, an ex-SJSU film student and founding member of the San Jose Professional Media Network, previously made the music video "Survivor" for the local rock group Chaser. Seating is limited. Tickets are available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis or by contacting
(R; 125 min.) Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night provides a welcome alternative to the "relevant" Shakespeare. Helena Bonham Carter stars as Olivia, the poor deluded countess who has banished men from her sight. At her court arrives a comely young soldier named Cesarioactually Viola (Imogen Stubbs), a young woman in disguise. Comic relief comes in the form of Olivia's sourpuss servant, Malvolio (Nigel Hawthorne). Nunn trims the verbiage masterfully; nothing seems left out, and nothing seems extraneous, either. Only the key casting of Ben Kingsley as the melancholy Feste is problematic. That, however, is my only cavil with this exquisite adaptation that demonstrates the eternal qualities of these writings that late-20th-century marketing strategies will be unable to corrupt. (RvB)
(R; 130 min.) Chris Marker's 24-minute French film, the 1964 La Jeteea slide show about a time traveller from beyond the aftermath of World War IIIis the source of the new Terry Gilliam film; Marker's poetry is translated into the prose of a big action film with Bruce Willis. (Also Gilliam switches location, from Marker's future Paris in ruins, an idea that can give one pause, into a ruined Philadelphia. Somehow the tragedy is diminished.) 12 Monkeys is about a mission from the future to avert a bacteriological holocaust, but here's no exhilaration in the time machine, no delight in the safe arrival of the past. (Willis' secret agent from the future goes directly into a loony bin and stays there with all of the maniacs who are, you know, saner that the folk outside) Even demonstrating Willis' character Cole is sickened by violence is part of shorting the film of pleasure; 12 Monkeys is anhedonic to the extreme. Gilliam is a great visionary, and he can construct a future so frighteningly cold that the chill goes into you, but the rambling, improbable, cheating script and the egregious Brad Pitt, hamming it up as a wise loon, begins to make the viewer think about his future outside the theater. (RvB)
(R; 92 min.) A film like 20 Dates, which purports to be both a real-life romantic comedy and about the perils of dating in L.A., depends on our sympathy for the protagonistwe have to want him to get the girl. In this case, though, the guy, Myles Berkowitz, is so obnoxious, whiny, passive-aggressive and self-aggrandizing that one is tempted to scream "run, girl, run!" each time he embarks on one of the 20 outings that give the movie its title. The premise is cleverdesperate for both a girlfriend and a career, Berkowitz sets out to make a movie about his search for true love by recording 20 dates with 20 different women. He immediately runs into pitfalls, including a vulgar producer and lawsuits from some of the women. He also falls in love before his project is over, and his new paramour grows infuriated when he keeps picking up other women to finish his film. Throughout, we hear from Berkowitz's friends (none of whom, unsurprisingly, think particularly highly of him), an old film professor, even his ex-wife (a meeting that escalates into a screaming fight, giving us some indication of what life with Myles must be like). Despite Berkowitz's intentions, 20 Dates isn't a movie about the hazards of looking for love in the '90s. Instead, it's a film about the hazards of dating men like Myles, a losing proposition in any decade. (RvB)
(PG-13; 107 min.) Katherine Heigl and James Marsden bring out each other's best, coaxing a joyous, rambunctious spontaneity from one another. Sadly, the lazy, stagnant script shackles them; the stodgy, slavishly obeyed rules of romantic comedy require them to be apart—or fighting—for most of the movie. Jane (Heigl) moons about having been a bridesmaid 27 times without getting her own wedding. Her crush on her boss (Edward Burns) is thwarted when her supermodel sister (Malin Akerman) turns up, and a happy-go-lucky newspaperman (Marsden), stuck in the "taffeta ghetto" of the Style section, annoys her. Judy Greer plays the wisecracking best friend. Aline Brosh McKenna wrote the script; all the edge of her previous work, The Devil Wears Prada, is dulled. (JMA)
(PG-13; 103 min.) At last, a movie puts the wit into alcohol withdrawal! How a woman spends 28 days in a posh drug-rehabilitation clinic is a shaky premise for a comedy, but Sandra Bullock's charm and a string of wisecracks add some color to a pallid plot. Bullock plays a writer who's also "a drinkerthat's what writers do." After ruining her sister's wedding, she chooses a stay in a month-long "spin-dry" program over a drunk-driving jail sentence. At the clinic, she very reluctantly meets some twitchy individuals, a battle-worn counselor (Steve Buscemi) and a ballplayer addicted to sex and cocaine. ("What are you going to do, snort me?" she asks.) Loudon Wainwright III plays an incidental bard wandering through the clinic with his guitar. The film is yet another narrow victory for engaging performers over a cliché-ridden story; the gentle mocking of 12-step programs owes more to Stuart Saves His Family than to Days of Wine and Roses. (DH)
(R; 99 min.) The zombie version of Awesome, I F*cking Shot That, in which the raging ravenous zombs are apparently all given cameras and set loose to make their point-of-view film of what it's like to seek raw meat. Dung-colored, visually illegible and thoroughly depressing, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's sequel is set mostly in London's Canary Wharf, a recently thrown-up ring zone of concrete skyscrapers with all the charm of a light industrial park. About five months after the initial outbreak, England is dead save for a Green Zone occupied by moronic, leering and trigger-happy Yankee troops trying to keep peace, despite the fraying, always ready-to-explode metaphor in which they serve. Either the Americans are worse than ravenous zombs, or the ravenous zombs are frothing Iraqis—either way the movie doesn't approach the situation with what you'd call intelligence. Some interest stirs during the beginning when a besieged group of survivors tries to have a candle-lit dinner, which is interrupted by drastically hungry guests. As one of the guests who saves his yellow-bellied self, Robbie Carlyle gives the eye something to follow. Then the movie gets stuck in power-failure-land through one long dim-out, and a pair of dull kids try to survive as all around them are gobbled or shot. If it's brains they're after, these zombs are going to starve; no one shows any, and 28 Weeks Later doesn't even have the base, low-down energy of nihilism. If it's not the end of the line, it sure looks like it. (RvB)
(1942) An over-the-top comedy about a Broadway director (John Barrymore) and his beautiful but fickle protégé (Carole Lombard). Much of the screwball action takes place on the luxurious art-deco Twentieth Century Ltd. train that ferried the glitterati across country in the 1930s. Directed by Howard Hawks. (RvB)
(R; 105 min.) The rustiness of Robert Benton and Richard Russo's screenplay is, strangely enough, an asset. Paul Newman's retired detective Harry Ross is slower than he once was, according to everyone who knows him. The missed clues, easily solved enigmas and even the borrowed (from Raymond Chandler) bit of bringing a man with a gun into the room whenever the action is stalematedall are justified by the repeated notion that no one in Twilight is what he used to be. (Though there's no excuse for Giancarlo Esposito's awful dialect turn as Ross' unwanted sidekick.) Ross is a sort of house boy/companion at the mansion of dying ex-film star Gene Hackman and his wife Susan Sarandon; a routine errand involves the reluctant detective in a case of blackmail and murder. Twilight's greatest pleasure is its sunset glimpse at a lot of old stars. They look like crumbling monuments, but they have peevish, weak, guilty sidesunlike the cranky old legend Newman played in his last collaboration with Russo and Benton, Nobody's Fool. The supporting cast includes Stockard Channing, James Garner and Liev Schreiber. (RvB)
(Unrated; 129 min.) Winner of the Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture and for good reason. Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a low-ranking samurai taking care of two kids and a senile mother. He is under scrutiny because of his unkempt appearance, low wages, foul smell and regular habit of disappearing at work's end (hence the teasing nickname "Tasogare Seibei," or "Twilight Samurai") to be with his family. As a freshly divorced childhood friend, Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), re-enters Iguchi's world, her high-ranking samurai ex appears in a drunken rage and smacks her around. Iguchi defends her honor, and the single father easily disposes of the cad with just a wooden sword, sparking a romance between Tomoe and Iguchi. It also sparks Iguchi's reputation as news of the upset gets to clan leaders. Iguchi is summoned against his wishes to settle another disputetake out a master swordsman rival. He risks two lives: the new one he's creating with Tomoe and his mortal own. Sanada portrays the samurai as a rare combination of dutiful father, businesslike assassin and sensitive nice guy just getting in touch with his feelings. The samurai prototype is of hard, cold, dignified men who live and die by the sword; Twilight Samurai removes the protective chest plate and shows the heart is the strongest muscle in the body. Is there such a thing as a Samurai chick flick? Twilight Samurai comes close. (TI)
(PG-13; 89 min.) Capitalizing on Jackie Chan's rising star in the states, Dimension Films is releasing this 1992 Hong Kong comic actioner co-directed by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam. Fortunately, even mediocre dubbing can't spoil the tongue-in-cheek fun of Twin Dragons, which, originally made as a fundraiser for the Hong Kong Director's Guild, includes fight scenes choreographed by a number of different directors, and capably showcases Chan's unique talent for combining martial arts skill with nimble sight gags. The action scenes are harrowing enough, but the tone is purely slapstick in this tale of mistaken identity that stars Chan as twins separated at birth: Boomer, a streetwise martial arts expert, and John Ma, a renowned musician. The pair's paths cross in Hong Kong when Boomer's ill-advised deal with the mob goes wrong, and gangsters and girlfriends alike mistake Boomer and the visiting John Ma for each other. Twin Dragons has its fair share of gaps in logic, and possibly one of the most annoying sidekick characters ever, but its action scenes generally compensate, particularly a chaotic kung fu showdown in an automobile testing plant. (HZ)
(R; 97 min.) Bread-and-butter thriller by Philip Kaufman (Unbearable Lightness of Being), who directed the last great feature film shot in San Francisco (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978). As a decades-long citizen of the city, Kaufman knows enough of the nooks and crannies there to provide some ambience. And he injects menace into familiar vistas. Take, for example, the outstanding title sequence showing a Golden Gate Bridge with no visible means of support, thanks to the thickness of the fog; and a quartet of helicopter-sized pelicans reflected in the eye of a woman with a knife to her throat. Later, when a body is found floating in McCovey Cove during a Giants night game, PacBell Park is an unearthly spectacle in the background, lit up like one of the flying saucers in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. All of Kaufman's sensual, sinister style is lavished on one of those movies about the cop who doesn't know if she's a serial killer or nota script reminiscent of the handiwork of that other Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman's brother in Adaptation. Ashley Judd stars as Jessica, a newly made homicide investigator who's been doing some blackout drinking on the successive nights when her former trysts are turning up beaten to death. In bed, Jessica favors roughhousing that leads the canny viewer to discern: Ah, unhealed issues from the violent deaths of her parents. Judd doesn't seem like a girl with depths, and any dirt she had on her in Ruby in Paradise has long since been washed off. Now, it's like looking for Mary Tyler Moore's angsty side. The movie correctly posits that half of San Francisco goes to bed nightly, drunk and with people they don't know that well, and such behavior wouldn't get an officer in too much trouble with the SFPD. That said, spotting the murderer is easy, spotting his method is easier, and you can't believe no one thinks to stake out the house of a serial-killing suspect. And can we get rid of the adult-thriller gaff that seemingly everyone has access to the menaced girl's apartment? Whatever happened to deadbolts? Still, the movie has its moments: Andy Garcia, looking lively and dashing again, as the potential good guy (who could also be the killer); Samuel L. Jackson playing a rigid police officer who drinks too much but is too authoritative for anyone to tell him he drinks too much; and David Strathairn as an unsettling shrink. I guess they're going to keep making this movie again and again until the end of cinema. (RvB)
(PG-13; 117 min.) (PG-13; 117 min.) Twister shows the tragedy of an arranged marriagethe poetry of beautiful computer animation forced into bed with a proudly stupid screenplay. We start with a bunch of students formerly led by Bill Harding (Bill Paxton), who left tornado watching to become a weatherman. When Bill shows up unexpectedly to get some divorce papers signed by his ex, Jo (Helen Hunt), the biggest pack of storm cells in 30 years starts up unexpectedly and off they go. To provide some underpowered villainy, there's a competing team of scientists led by Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes) in a fleet of identical black vans bought, Bill grumbles, by "corporate sponsorship" (Hissss.) The characters face a whirlwind of clichés, shouting them over the noise, and it coarsens the whole film, robbing the big moments of their suspense. (RvB)
(PG; 104 min.) Like The Notebook, only with brothers instead of lovers. And the brothers are tigers. And they get captured by Guy Pearce and are forced to fight each other. Other than that, it's exactly the same. Maybe Nick Cassavetes should have done this movie instead, 'cause only big meanies don't like family films starring animals. (Capsule preview by SP)
(R; 90 min.) A woman (Vivica A. Fox) gives her cheating boyfriend a taste of his own medicine. Also starring Morris Chestnut and Mo'Nique.
(R; 105 min.) The new independent film 2 Days in the Valley should appeal mainly to people who wished Pulp Fiction had more reaction shots of quizzical dogs. Director/writer John Herzfeld's fractured narrativeassorted San Fernando Valley characters are linked by a killing and a car bombingflies from point to point, but the modish structure and hip ensemble casting can't make up for an essential lack of center. Herzfeld tries to disguise the film's hollow core with a thick layer of sheer mawkishness. And so, a shooting in the guy is balanced with scenes in which the violins are turned up. Paul Mazursky, for instance, plays a has-been director on the verge of commit suicide. The only real fun comes when 2 Days in the Valley channels the look of B-movie spies of the '60s with James Spader wearing Michael Caine's thick-rimmed glasses from The Ipcress File. The movie doesn't have anything to say for itself besides the obvious "There's no business but show business." It's been shaped and smoothed for success, with excess sentiment, lots of blood and the close-ups of the dogs (Mazursky carries around a Yorkshire terrier named Bogieyet another reference to the long-lost days when movies supposedly had integrity). 2 Days in the Valley is a nice try, but it's also a failure, a classic example of a movie that tries to be something for everyone and will probably end up pleasing no one. (RvB)
(1941) Greta Garbo's last film was a sort of screwball comedy; she plays a demure wife who concocts a wild twin sister. Constance Bennett, Ruth Gordon, Melvyn Douglas and Roland Young co-star. (RvB)
(R; 116 min.) A sports-gambling drama with Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey.
(R; 97 min.) Set in New York City on New Year's Eve 1981, this well-scripted comedy follows the paths of a variety of interesting characters as they slowly make their way to a party hosted by Monica (Martha Plimpton, in fine neurotic form), who is convinced that only losers will show up, if anyone. The film opens with Kevin (Paul Rudd) and Lucy (Courtney Love) in a taxi driven by a disco-crazed cabbie (Dave Chappelle), whose narrative ties the story together as he shuttles the various characters to their destinations. 200 Cigarettes boasts an impressive ensemble cast, including Ben Affleck as a studly bartender, Christina Ricci as a sassy Long Island teenager, Kate Hudson as a clumsy innocent who lost her virginity the night before to sleazy Jack (Jay Mohr) and Janeane Garafalo as Kevin's angry ex-girlfriend. With amusing dialogue and nicely developed characters, the film explores how feelings of friendship, romance, expectation and desire can intensify during the holiday season. (SQ)
(R; 95 min.) Although known for their uncanny ability to transform mediocre scripts into delightfully funny and touching films (While You Were Sleeping, The Ref), even Sandra Bullock and Dennis Leary can't turn this painfully slow and humorless story into anything worth the time or money. Frank (Leary) and Roz (Bullock) are on the run from the police after stealing a $4 million Matisse, dropping major clues and bickering all the way. They hide out in a multimillion-dollar mansion, where Roz meets Evan Marsh (Stephen Dillane), bachelor extraordinare. With the help of Frank's bumbling immaturity and apparent disrespect for her, Roz comes to her senses and realizes she wants out of the dead-end relationship. Too bad Leary and Bullock didn't come to their own senses sooner and get out of this dead-end movie. (NP)
(PG-13; 100 min.) The excess implied in the title is right on the mark: too much bad slapstick humor and too far-fetched a storyline serve as reminders that in the case of the formerly talented Antonio Banderas, we've seen too much of a good thing. When con artist Art Dodge (Banderas) meets bird-brained Betty (Melanie Griffith), she is smitten and immediately announces their engagement. But Art, who runs a gallery and in his soulful little heart is really a painter (Art. Get it?) is drawn to Betty's sister, Liz (Daryl Hannah), a sensitive art history professor. As he tries desperately to weasel out of marrying Betty, Art invents Bart, an artsy twin brother, so that he can woo Liz. Conveniently, the two sisters share a substantial house with long hallways and many doors suitable for concealing the two-timing lover and, just to heighten the "comedy," several pools for the would-be Mr. Wonderful to pratfall into. (HZ)
(PG-13; 100 min.) Basic, all too basic, comedy, produced by and starring Sandra Bullock. She plays Lucy Kelson, a working-class Harvard lawyer hired on by a wealthy and heartless developer, George Wade (Hugh Grant). The plutocrat drives her crazy, but underneath, the two are attracted to each other. And then a manipulative young lawyer (Alicia Witt) enters the picture, as Lucy's rival in work and love. It's better looking than movies at this level usually are, thanks to cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs. But the formula of Bullock as brilliant klutz wears thin. There's no clicking to speak of between the two leads, with Grant seeming a little impatient at the pace and the second-rate material. Director/writer Marc Lawrence (Miss Congeniality) demonstrates why a sequence of swapped putdowns just looks like television, with jagged stops and starts. A real screwball comedy rolls crooked, but it ought to roll. Bullock's faraway eyes and her air of unpretentious intelligence still demand the viewer's attention from time to time, but she's spinning her wheels here. About the time of the diarrhea joke, I walked out without giving two weeks' notice. (RvB)
Full text review.
(R; 129 min.) Wong Kar-wai's 2046 is an astoundingly beautiful masterpiece that builds on the director's In the Mood for Love. Tony Leung stars as Chow Mo-Wan, a pulp writer, circa the late 1960s. After bumping into an old flame, Lulu (Carina Lau Ka Ling), he returns several days later only to find that she has disappeared. Since her room is not yet available, he checks into 2047 and proceeds to have a series of encounters and relationships with the several women who move in next door, to 2046. We meet Chow's various women, each with her own unique dynamic, including Faye Wong, Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li. It's endlessly impressive how much Wong compresses into this epic poem. 2046 is a culmination and an expansion of everything he has done before, with all of the lost loves and missed connections, crammed and scattered into one gorgeously detailed, richly textured film. (JMA)