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(PG-13; 93 min.) Two guys who dream of opening their own recording studio enter a street-dancing competition that pits them against the toughest crews in the city, while... look, it's Bring It On for street-dancing, OK? Without the jokes. Or the cheerleading outfits. Waah. (Capsule preview by SP)
(R; 92 min.) As for the matter of The Sopranos, after the first bafflement, one remembers a line that a movie fan like Tony would have known, from Out of the Past. It's Kirk Douglas pronouncing banishment and a death threat on Jane Greer: "You won't be able to open a door or answer the phone without thinking, 'This is it.'" Such were the circumstances of Tony's life, whether it ended or not. You Kill Me is another exercise in post-Sopranos mob entertainment, John Dahl's comedy/drama concerns a drunken Buffalo hit man (Ben Kinglsey) sent to San Francisco to dry out. He meets the typical loyal, rough-around-the-edges girl who understands that there's a decent human being underneath the killer's job. As the girl in question, Téa Leoni has maybe never been better. Her once uncomfortably sharp jaw line has been softened by age; she looks luscious. You Kill Me is not a great movie, but it's solid. Everything it knows about hit men comes from other movies; everything it says about recovery from alcoholism seems a little more hard-earned and personal. There are many witty and shrewd observations about the Program in it; leading Kingsley through the recovery process is Luke Wilson, who is something like the ideal sponsor: easygoing, rueful and watchful. As the family's boss, Philip Baker Hall gets to say of a rival, "That Irish bastard is closing his fist!" a line that deserves its own small part in some gangster hall of fame. (RvB)
(PG-13; 108 min.) A lovable misfit (Owen Wilson) crashes on the couch of newlyweds Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson, makes their lives a living hell and then proceeds to fix their wobbly marriage. Wilson is in his element, playing his effortlessly nutty brand of confident, passionate slacker. If only the movie could have centered on him, but he is shunted to the side for Dillon's hopeless portrayal of Carl, a man henpecked by his boss/father-in-law (Michael Douglas). Carl's entire job is to fuss and worry, without ever—heaven forbid—talking to his wife about his troubles. Instead of building from the awkwardness, the so-called comedy exhibits itself in external slapstick (a bike crash, a skateboard wreck, etc.). Anthony and Joe Russo directed. (JMA)
(1937) Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda, after an attempt to do the right thing, find themselves running one step ahead of the law. This intimate, emotionally powerful crime film was directed by Fritz Lang.
(1942) Fred Astaire stars as a gambler with designs on the South American beauty Hayworth, whose father (Adolphe Menjou) is determined that his daughters shall be married in order of age, an idea he probably picked up from The Taming of the Shrew. Featuring Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra: a once popular band strangely unremarked about today. No real fans of exoticaLes Baxter, Martin Denny and the likeshould pass up Cugat. (RvB)
(G; 45 min.) A horse drama on the really big screen.
(1974) "Tonight, we shall hurl the gauntlet of science into the frightful face of death itself. Tonight, we shall ascend into the heavens. We shall mock the earthquake. We shall command the thunders, and penetrate into the very womb of impervious nature herself!" Clearly, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder had read Mary Shelley's overwrought prose. Wilder and Brooks' understated dialogue from Young Frankenstein proves that verisimilitude is the mother of parody. Director Brooks recycled designs by Kenneth Strickfaden, the original Frankenstein's production designer, copying the instruments Colin Clive used to jump-start Boris Karloff. Wilder's fraught delivery is based on Basil Rathbone's title performance in 1939's Son of Frankenstein. There also, is the scene where the doctor gets the monster's trust by going up against him unarmed. (It worked in the original.) The "Abby Normal" brain routine is from Ygor's fiendish brain-switch in 1942's Ghost of Frankenstein. That underpraised dialect comedian Cloris Leachman does a lovely Ilona Massey in 1943's Frankenstein Meets the Wolfmanas Frau Blucher, a spinster so curdled by evil that horses whinny at the very sound of her name. Brooks had a brace of beautiful comediennes: Teri Garr as the adorably pouty German peasant girl and Madeline Kahn as the fiancee abducted by the monster (Peter Boyle). It is gratifying to see Wilder back in the public eye again. This popular and particularly acute comic actor of the 1970s was akin to the fidgety Woody Allen, but Wilder had a cornered-rat fury in him that contrasted with his plump harmless features. Wilder's most comic moments are ones of denial, always denial: Willy Wonka looking right through the bad things that happen to his guests; the doctor concealing his affair with a sheep in Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex ...; the aristocrat fuming when the deadness of his hunting falcon is pointed out in Start the Car Cultureolution Without Me. Best of all is Wilder here, smelling a slur and icily correcting the mispronunciation of his family name: "That's Fraun-kensteen." Brooks' master stroke in Young Frankenstein comes toward the end of the film. Just as The Aristocrats demonstrates the wrath in the belly of the professional joke-teller, Brooks' skill was in demonstrating the impact of a flop show. Years of working on live TV must have come back to haunt him. Remember that awful silence in The Producers as the curtain comes down on the first act of "Springtime for Hitler"? Brooks tops this moment of showbiz disaster with the image of Dr. Frankenstein unveiling an unready "sophisticated man about town" to skeptical villagers. Boyle's autistic styling of the Irving Berlin tune "Puttin' on the Ritz" is golden bad taste. The song transcends every crowd's love of seeing a heroic brain-damage casethat "perennial audience pleaser and vainglorious actor's showcase staple," as novelist Bruce Wagner describes such emoting. What could be as rare as Wilder, bathed in flop sweat, clapping his hands, trying to get his stagefright-struck hoofer back in rhythm: "Five, six, seven, eight! C'mon!!" Marcia Tanner, guest curator of the San Jose Museum of Art's "Brides of Frankenstein" show, claims that this version is her favorite Frankenstein movie, because of the reconciliation between the Modern Prometheus and his troubled creation. It's a father-and-son squeeze that gets viewers in the brisket, whether they have an abnormal brain or not. (RvB)
(1966) A restored print of Jacques Demy's musical Cinemascopic follow-up to his lovely The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléacreal-life sisters, united on screen this one time onlyare small-town girls who long to go to Paris. Jacques Perrin, playing an artist, and Gene Kelly, as a composer, are waiting for them. Demy transforms the town of Rochefort into a Technicolor dream. He recreated the shock that the first color films had on the French audience by painting the town in primary colors and dyeing the local waters blue. The songs are by Michel Legrand. (RvB)
Full text review.
(R; 99 min.) A zesty and stylish little horror-comedy, The Young Poisoner's Handbook emphasizes the horror rather than the comedy. It's based (unreliably) on the career of Graham Young, a suburban English murderer who never lost his manners even after putting nearly a dozen people into the hospital or the grave. Young (Hugh O'Conor) realizes early on that he has a genius for untraceable poisons, but our sympathies are with him all the way. The fluorescent, candy-colored powders in his chemistry set are some of the prettiest things in the movie; his victims, by contrast, all richly deserve a dollop of poison in their tea. (RvB)
(R; 124 min.) Francis Ford Coppola's first film in years is unfortunately not as intoxicating as his clarets. This lacy peculiarity with its antique symbolism—red roses and reincarnation—is bound to be for a cult audience. It's based on a novella by Mircea Eliade. The fantasy is almost crazy enough to work, but it's sunk by miscasting. Tim Roth plays Dominic, an elderly Balkan professor hit by lightning and mysteriously rejuvenated. He becomes master of the world's knowledge but soon grows a diabolical double who tempts him into more forbidden arenas. The Nazis plan to study Dominic at gunpoint; the miracle man heads to Switzerland to escape them. Years later, this mystical Frankenstein finds a lightning-struck mate (Alexandra Maria Lara), who begins to regress in all the world's tongues. Ancient Egyptian and Tibetan elements come in, as well as the possibility of nuclear apocalypse. Roth—as moist and as nutty as a fruitcake—may not have been the right man for the job. As for Lara, she goes in where the great director takes her, speaking in tongues and wandering on the rocks in a wet nightgown. It's lunatic, but without some simple emotional pull that would make one want to succumb to such madness. (RvB)
(PG; 90 min.) Big-screen version of the Pokemon-like anime TV series imported from Japan. Look, I wrote that as if I have a fucking clue what I'm talking about! Nope! I barely understand what Pokemon is. But if you do, this could be the movie for you. (Capsule preview by SP)
(1996/1991) A pair of Category 3 (adults-only) Hong Kong films. Yu Piu Tsuen is one in a series of parodies of a Chinese classic about a police inspector searching for a deadly aphrodisiac; Lin Jai follows the story of a romance between a rejected married man and a pair of ghosts. (RvB)