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Film Shorts

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A.I.
Professor Hobby (William Hurt) dreams up a money-making idea for his cybertronic manufacturing company; building life-like children for the average barren couple. It's often downright creepy and dark. All the performances are up to snuff (especially Jude Law as a cybernetic gigolo who serves as David's spirit guide of sorts), but Spielberg outdoes himself by taking us on an exhausting journey of a world that teeters on the brink of logic, sci-fi, and fairy tale. WSH

* Amores Perros
Amores Perros begins at a screaming dead run and maintains one kind of intensity or another over the next two-and-a-half hours. Pungently translated as Love's a Bitch, Amores Perros comprises three stories of life, love, and aggressively twisted fate in the most polluted metropolis on the planet. Alejandro Gonzàlez Iñàrritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga have enrolled in the Tarantino school of storytelling, but Gonzàlez Iñàrritu's own style and vision is so distinctive and assured in this directorial debut that no one should dwell on that point. This is a breakthrough work for Mexican cinema.

The Animal
Rob Schneider stars as a man about whom nothing is funny, especially when he pretends to be a dolphin or a monkey or a dog. Jesus, world, have we really sunk so low? At least Colleen from Survivor is in it. The day is saved!

Anniversary Party
Inspired by her back-to-basics experience making the Dogma film The King is Alive, Jennifer Jason Leigh called up her pal Alan Cumming and said something like "Hey, do you have a digital video camera? Cuz I know how we could make our own movie with just us and all our friends and it would be sooo cool! You do?! Well, come over!" Then Jennifer and Alan made a sort of Cassavettes-lite tale where they play a recently reconciled couple--she's a actress past her industry-dictated prime; he's a predictably androgynous novelist who's about to direct a film of his most recent book. The guests at the titular get-together at their sumptuous Hollywood Hills home are played by folks like Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Beals, and Gwyneth Paltrow as the starlet who's stealing Leigh's thunder. She also provides the Ecstasy that pushes the emotional dysfunction and repressed insecurities of the partygoers into the open. Eventually, it all devolves into a fairly self-indulgent barrage of screaming, swimming, and sobbing that made me feel not a bit of sympathy for these pampered souls. (Marc Mohan)

Atlantis
The myth of the city of Atlantis is super cool, even to a humorless person like myself. The movie, however, is not. A slow-then-fast and extremely contorted plot are to blame, as is the annoying voice of Michael J. Fox. (Katie Shimer)

Baby Boy
John Singleton's companion film to Boyz in the Hood follows a single male character, Jody, through his struggle to become a real man. That's the plot. Beyond that, it gets kind of confusing. Everyone acts like babies--thumb sucking, whining, acting out--because the people in this hood (the same as in Boyz but 10 years later with different characters) are trying to figure out how to be responsible for themselves and their children.

Baise-Moi
A prostitute and a porn actress get back at men for being such total pigs. Sex and skull-smashing ensue as the two women kill their way across France. See review this issue.

Blow
Blow is Hollywood all the way to the bank. But despite all its predictability--a young man (Johnny Depp) rises to the top of the international drug trade and then falls to the bottom of the prison system--its portrayal of Mexicans, Central Americans, and middle America is unexpectedly sympathetic.

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Gary Oldman is so hot in this movie that I just want to die. Keanu isn't that hot, and Winona is her usual skinny, forlorn self. The traditional Dracula story revisited.

Bride of the Wind
What could have been a remarkable film is instead the cinematic equivalent of a date with a dumb blond. The plot focuses on Alma Mahler. Little more than a footnote in early twentieth century European history, Mahler was a captivating beauty who managed to marry, divorce, inspire, and ruin three giants of turn-of-the-century European arts: composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and novelist Franz Werfel. Unfortunately, the film never goes beneath the skin depth of her beauty and has less plot tension than a Coors Lite beer ad. (Phil Busse)

Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget Jones is a cow. She desires a boyfriend, so she sets her sights on the office cad (Hugh Grant), and then moans when he dumps her. Why do we keep coming back to these romantic comedies? Is it that we secretly hope the Jerk will change into a Good Guy so we can justify our bad choices in life? Is the office cad actually a misunderstood prince? Does this ever happen in real life? Fuck no. And I've got a long line of sisters who can back me up on that: the very same sisters who'll be standing next to me in the ticket line when the next romantic comedy comes along. (Kathleen Wilson)

Cats & Dogs
Freaky looking digital pets go paw to paw in this sterling monument to commerce. One word: woof.

Chinese Ghost Story
A comedy about a lovesick man who falls in love with a ghost, who is being hunted by ghost busters. Jesus, not that plot again!

Chocolat
Today I'm not weak. The film critic in me has control over my emotions; it can and will repress my wolflike desire to fill this review with hungry words that praise the celestial beauty of Juliette Binoche. That said, the movie itself is unremarkable, and has absolutely nothing new to offer. (Charles Mudede)

* Chopper
While this film is based on the memoirs of a true seriel killer, it ends up being a study of one strong willed, yet insecure dude. You love Chopper, despite his short temper, and often, actually feel as though his victims deserved to be rubbed out. The only flaw is that the film is a little slow--but it still feels totally worth it to have seen it. Eric Bana, as Chopper, is kick ass. (Katie Shimer)

* Crazy/Beautiful
Kirsten Dunst has finally reached maximum potential, and it's a beautiful thing. She's shed her Bring it on pom poms, and emerged heroin chic: the fucked-up, suicidal, and stoned high-school outsider. The plot: Kirsten meets Carlos (super, super hot Jay Hernandez) who is an overachieving Latino super-star; he rides the bus two hours each way just to get to the rich, white-kid school, where he's studying to become a pilot. He and Kirsten fall in love and Carlos takes it upon himself to straighten Kirsten out, who's been on self-destruct mode ever since her mother committed suicide. It's kind of like a contemporary fairy tale, except there's actually a lot of worthwhile character development as well as some touching, somewhat non-cliched exploration of issues of race and class. I cried in this movie: I NEVER cry in movies. (Katia Dunn)

* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Legendary warrior Chow Yun Fat can never declare his love for fellow martial-arts expert Michelle Yeoh. Instead, he entrusts her with Green Destiny, his nearly magical sword. But in the dark of night a hooded thief steals it, which leads to a fight held mostly in midair. An attempt to wed emotionally reticent drama with the exhilarating freedom of Hong Kong-genre filmmaking, but director Ang Lee can't quite pull off the combination; for too long a time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's shifting gears only jam. The film finds its rhythm and earns the accolades it received once it leaves the stars behind and gives its heart over to the young and engaging Zhang Ziyi, as the aristocratic daughter of privilege who opts instead for the dangerous yet thrilling occupation of thief. (Bruce Reid)

Dear Diary
Zipping around Rome on his Vespa, actor/director Nanni Moretti takes us on one of his many semi-autobiographical, observational film trips. This one, winner of the Best Director prize at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and the first of Moretti's films to achieve stateside exposure, unfolds in three sections. First, our bearded host muses on American movies, including Flashdance, which he loves. He even gets to meet a bemused Jennifer Beals. Then Moretti visits a woman in Sicily who has never watched television, but soon becomes addicted to soap operas. The third and final scene gets more philosophical, as Moretti discovers that his persistent skin rash is actually a potentially lethal cancer. Throughout, the actor/director/subject/narrator maintains the civilized, enthusiastic, sometimes morbid demeanor that has earned him comparisons with Woody Allen. (Marc Mohan)

Dr. Doolittle 2
The doctor who talks to animals is back, and this time he is attmepting to save a forest from loggers by teaching a bear how to get laid. This film is just as bad as you would expect the sequel to a bad movie to be. Although the idea of seeing animals talk may be hard to resist, you are better off tuning in to Discovery to watch them do what they do best: eat each other. Now THAT'S funny. (Russell Cowan)

Evolution
This David Duchovny movie is so confused, banal, and cinematically retarded, I'm not sure where to begin. So fuck it, I won't. (Turkey McGoldenstein)

The Fast and the Furious
Burning rubber is the order of the day in this fuel-injected, testosterone-pumped fluff piece from director Rob Cohen. Paul Walker is a SEXY undercover cop sent to infiltrate a gang of street racers (including the aptly named Vin Diesel) who he suspects of hijacking trucks, but what's this? He actually learns to love the big lugs, as well as the adrenaline rush of street racing. While the plot holes are big enough to drive two hijacked trucks through, and the story is an almost scene-by-scene ripoff of Point Break, everyone in the movie is H.O.T. HOT, and the cars are beautiful. But be sure to watch the papers, because this flick will surely inspire a nation of jar-head kids to begin racing and killing themselves at a record pace. For example, as soon as I left the theater I saw a kid in a Grand Torino peel out of the parking lot, lose control, and smash into the parking median. He might not have been fast... but he was FURIOUS!

Freddy Got Fingered
The scene where Tom Green's paralyzed-from-the-waist-down girlfriend started to orgasm from being whacked in the shins with a bamboo cane made me realize Freddy Got Fingered, Tom Green's directorial debut, was so offensive on every level that it is either dangerous or important. The Sex Pistols' "Problems" blasts through the first scene like a mission statement: "The problem is YOU!" Green's undergirding punk morality comes from a recognition that not being allowed to say things is the ultimate crassness. He isn't mocking molested children or handicapped people; he's hocking loogies at the culture of pious, dehumanizing condescension. Freddy Got Fingered isn't all-the-way great. Green's impulse to go too far sometimes leads scenes astray, still, it works far more often than it doesn't. (Sean Nelson)

The Golden Bowl
The Golden Bowl is, in part, a drama of manners, and Merchant Ivory's production moves neatly upon the joints and hinges of a repressed society. But the filmmakers seem to think that a well-appointed costume drama with the weight of Henry James behind it doesn't need any creative help to succeed, so the neatness is plodding. People enter rooms, whisper to one another, make out passionately behind closed doors while holding lit candles, and glare portentously at photographs--but the movie remains too damp to make a spark.

* The House of Mirth
British director Terence Davies' The House of Mirth, starring Gillian Anderson and Dan Aykroyd, adapts Edith Wharton's 1905 novel about New York high society--the tragic story of a beautiful young woman looking to marry a rich husband. Consequently, she finds herself torn between her need for financial security and her desire for personal integrity.

Kiss of the Dragon
Remember when Bridget Fonda actually had a promising career? What did she do to deserve this? Playing a North Dakotan-turned-Parisian hooker, Fonda fulfills the role of tonic to the high-octane Chinese chopsuey acrobat Jet Li. Fonda is, we learn, in the City of Lights trying to kick a heroin habit and longing her orphaned daughter. Jet Li is there dodging grenades and trying to bring down a corrupt police chief who runs a prostitute ring and (for reasons as obscure as an ancient Chinese secret) has killed an Asian diplomat. Would it kill them to hobble together a plot? (Phil Busse)

A Knight's Tale
Closer in spirit to the video game Joust than to the Chaucer book from which it takes its name, this Heath Ledger vehicle makes ample use of '70s anthem rock and other anachronisms to create a really long, boring teenager movie.

The Man Who Cried
Christina Ricci is a young Jewish singer, who meets Cate Blanchett and together they sing their way through Paris.

* Memento
Memento has a lot of starch in it; the film sticks with you for days as you rehearse it over and over in your mind. It's also a movie so good that you almost fear a critical backlash against it. You come out of it feeling almost resentful at how good it is, and given that almost everyone is an aspiring filmmaker these days, this resentment is unvarnished jealousy. But this reviewer is pure of spirit, or at least spite: I may have seen a better film so far this year than Memento, but if I have, I've forgotten it. (D.K. Holm)

Moulin Rouge
You may remember Baz Luhrmann as the director of the absolutely dreamy William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. Unfortunately, Moulin Rouge does not fare nearly as well. The film is filled with clever contrivances: Dizzying choreography and sets, visual tips of the hat to the early cinematography of Vincent Whitman (A Trip to the Moon, 1914), a script loosely based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, and co-mingling modern songs by Madonna, Elton John, Nat King Cole, and even Nirvana. All extremely clever ideas--however, it's these same contrivances that turn Moulin Rouge into an overwhelming visual mess.

The Mummy Returns
The first 30 minutes of this film are excruciating; the rest is better, thanks mostly to the appearance of John Hannah, but writer/director Stephen Sommers gets trumped by a ceaseless parade of god-awful digital effects. Digital mummy, digital scarabs, digital scorpions, digital armies, digital waterfall, digital river, digital drigible... even the city of London is digital.

Mystery of Picasso
Picasso actually paints on a transparet surface in front of the camera in this totally unconventional art film.

* O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Set in depression-era Mississippi, George Clooney stars as Everett Ulysses McGill, a suave and well-groomed petty criminal doing hard time on a chain gang. Shackled to Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), he convinces them to join him in escaping by promising to split a fortune in buried treasure with them. (Andy Spletzer)

Our Son's Room
A small town family attempts to pull it together after the death of their son.

Pearl Harbor
Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor--and that's really what it should be called (like Fellini's Roma or the George Foreman Grill, the vision expressed could only belong to one man)--is everything the preview led you to believe: overlong, overlit, overwrought, and overpaid. It's nationalism porn, delivering all the basest flag-waving heroism with none of the meat and mettle of actual history or conflict. And as with real porn, your blood surges in the heat of the moment--with digital bombing raids over phallic turrets standing in for cum shots--and then, the second it's over, you feel dirty for having let yourself watch. (Sean Nelson)

* Pick Axe
A bit one-sided, this film seesaws between propaganda and documentary; taking on the on-going debates over environmental conservation, it is perhaps the most significant reality tv around. In 1996, a sort of confused-but seemingly well-intended-arsonist burned down 9000 acres in Oregon in order to protect a sprawling swath of old-growth forest at Warner Creek. This action set in motion all-out trench warfare between loggers and environmentalists. The characters in the film are archetypes, and the debates easily applicable to a number of similar, on-going debates over conservation. Culled from footage shot from more than two dozen activists, the film stitches together a far-reaching and emotionally laden tapestry of the lives, attitudes and struggles of the modern day environmental movement. (Phil Busse)

Poltergeist
A new print of the 1982 horror classic about a daughter abducted by evil spirits through the television.

Pootie Tang
New Chris Rock movie has a funny name.

Scary Movie
Though I can't say Scary Movie was particularly witty, or even clever, the cast performs their over-the-top slapstick with such good-natured intentions, it's hard not to be swept up in the fun. Sure, there are the requisite off-color jokes directed at gays, potheads, teen sex, and the mentally challenged, but unlike the Farrelly brothers (Something About Mary, Kingpin), Wayans delivers punchlines as a nudge in the ribs rather than a slap across the face. (Wm. Steven Humprey)

Scary Movie 2
If you thought the first one was funny... you were wrong.

Score your own Super 8 Film
Bring in your Super 8 shorts and score them with your own instrument, you big ham.

* Sexy Beast
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired gangster, living high on a hill in the Costa del Sol, enjoying a lethargic existence. But he is as out of place here as the heart-shaped ceramic tiles on the floor of his pool. Bad news arrives in the shape of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, so great), there to coax Gal back to England for a job. Gal resists, but Don won't take no for an answer, setting in motion a verbal boxing match so artful and intense it turns the sprawling Spanish vista into a pressure cooker in which Gal is forced to reckon for his ill-had comforts. A voice buried deep within Gal tells him and us that this can't last. Don is that voice, given brutal, relentless human form. In the fallout of their confrontation lies one of the finest films in recent memory.

Shrek
With fart and poop jokes aplenty, this computer animation flick is like a little boy's dream come true. Mike Myers puts on his Irish accent as the misunderstood Ogre Shrek, and Eddie Murphy ceaselessly yaks as his over-zealous, donkey sidekick. The most horrible actress in the world, Cameron Diaz, succeeds in making her character an inflamed, bloody ear sore that one would rather see squished than find true love and happiness. I found this movie kinda cute, but pretty annoying, while my boyfriend was doubled over in hysterics. Dads, take your sons, but be prepared for a lot of tooting and snickering afterwards. (Katie Shimer)

* Startup.com
Two web enterpreneurs (former day-traders) start up their own internet business, and realize they've captured lightning in a bottle. They make tons of moolah, and hob-nob with the rich and famous...until everything goes to shit. Will their friendship survive? Though this documentary could've done a better job at fleshing out the characters and the business, Startup.com provides an interesting time capsule and explores how people are too often forced to choose between money and friendship.

Swordfish
File this one under male adolescent fantasy: Bank heists, explosions, sleek cars, breasts falling slo-mo out of sparkly dresses. John Travolta plays a smug man's man with a horrifically embarrassing goatee. As an ultra-sleek, heartless-yet-patriotic terrorist, Travolta tries to rekindle the Tarantino magic, but every postmodern attempt to cross-pollinate the bad guys with good morals is little more than a transparent sheen. (Phil Busse)

The Tailor of Panama
Brit superspy Andy Oxnard (Pierce Brosnan) has been banished to Panama for overindulging his appetites. He sizes up the tense, complicated international scene at the Canal and finds himself a hapless ex-pat British tailor (Geoffrey Rush) to squeeze for information. Boorman's film is far too awkward and self-conscious to allow the audience to sink into spy fantasia; as a result, Brosnan's absurdly dashing spy becomes utterly grotesque, even sickening. (Evan Sult)

* The Circle
Judging from this film, Iranian women are obsessed with smoking cigarettes. Then again, according to The Circle, they've got reason to crave a taste of stress-reducing, unfiltered tobacco, a pleasure which, like so many, is denied them by their government and culture. The third feature from director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Mirror), The Circle opens with the pained sounds of childbirth over a dark screen, followed by the first line of dialogue: "It's a girl." These three words can doom a person to second-class citizenry even in today's relatively moderate Iran, and Panahi demonstrates this with a series of connected vignettes. A couple of women on leave from prison for an unspecified crime try to arrange for travel from Teheran to an idyllic rural hometown, but they're not allowed to travel unaccompanied by men. Another ex-prisoner, this one an escapee, returns home only to face her family's wrath. Each woman's tale is connected to the others by a brief encounter, à la Max Ophuls' classic film La Ronde. But the cycle here is one of fear and injustice, not love. Panahi's film, banned from public screenings in Iran, is a potent indictment of a society that still has a long way to come. (Marc Mohan)

* The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance guy who delves too deep into a case. He is obsessive, demented, and yet detached. A Frances Ford Coppola film heralded as a must-see.

* The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Hands down, Clint Eastwood's finest western. Without all the high-handed good guys wearing white hat morality bullshit, an elegant--if not overly long--western that's so languid it flirts with being (gasp) an art film. Three dirt bags seem to endlessly skitter around the hard-scrambled wastelands of the Civil War in search of a cache of buried Confederate treasure. Pure gold! (Phil Busse)

* The Outsiders
Ralph Macchio and Rob Lowe make a sex video together, but it turns out Ralph is under age and Rob has to go to jail for statutory rape.

* Time and Tide
So you won't know what the hell's going on in two-thirds of the film and the dialogue switches from Chinese to Spanish to English faster than the frenzied subtitles can flash by. Who cares? A bodyguard unwittingly teams up with a mercenary, a pregnant heiress squeezes off shots as her baby's head crowns, and blood and bullets spray in all directions as action filmmaker Tsui Hark's Time and Tide provides a thrilling ride through Hong Kong's underworld. If you figure out who the Cockroach was and what the fuck champagne has to do with anything, feel free to let me in on it. (Kathleen Wilson)

Tomb Raider
The masturbation fantasy of a billion preteens is made flesh as Angelina Jolie (the masturbation fantasy of a billion post-teens, ahem) gives corporeal dimension to the video game heroine whose outrageous measurements and minimal garment cover do not deter her from running through ancient temples, kicking evil robots in the "face," and blowing a bunch of shit up. Bla-DOW!

Trixy Sweetvittle's Wild and Wooley Festival of Animation
Charming and campy homemade animation shorts that will warm your heart and your mind. See review this issue.

* With a Friend Like Harry
This Hitchcockian thriller took France by storm last year, winning several Cesar awards (France's version of the Oscar). The blackest hue of comedy tints the tale of Harry (Sergi Lopez), a wealthy bon vivant with an unshakable affinity for Michel (Laurent Lucas). Harry, firm in his belief that Michel's child-strewn, moneyless life could be made more easy, begins to use his influence--and cash--to remove various obstacles to Michel's happiness. A new car here and a case of Champagne there escalates to a predictably absurd degree. The film is plain in comparison to its obvious inspiration, Hitchcock's oeuvre. But a deft French wit, and that oh-so-well-done trick of Euro-allegory (this film is about the difficulty of making art) rise like cream to the top of this film: The first taste is awfully sweet, even if it doesn't linger long. (Jamie Hook)

* You Can Count on Me
This is the sort of well-crafted, nutritious drama that gets critics burned out on adrenalized hoopla all tied up in knots. It's fine work, featuring Laura Linney's best performance since Congo (or maybe even before) as a single mom in the quaint burg of Scottsville. Her pothead drifter of a brother, also well played by Mark Ruffalo, shows up, spurring an eventual, earnest realization of the importance of family. Matthew Broderick has an amusing role as Linney's new boss, who says things like "I like paperwork." The latest product of the Culkin Family Factory Farm for Cuteness, Rory, plays the precocious eight-year-old. Playwright Kenneth Lonergan has, for his first film, created a movie for grown-ups that hardly ever surprises, but somehow that's okay. (Marc Mohan)

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