Do we need to say anything more than, it stars the kid from "Malcolm in the Middle." Oh yeah, it's a spy movie... starring that kid.
With responses ranging from "individuality" to "sexual identity" and "it feels good flying around in back when I play soccer," this movie attempts to do for the mulleted what The Elephant Man did for those suffering with encephalitis. (Lance Chess)
Novelistic in scope and effortless in its ability to balance many plot intricacies, Ararat is Egoyan's most ambitious, provocative film to date. At the center is Raffi (David Alpay), a young Armenian man conflicted by a knotty familial dynamic: his mother Ani (Arsinee Khanjian), a leading scholar of the real Armenian painter Arshile Gorky; his father, who was killed attempting an assassination of a Turkish official; and his stepsister, who blames Ani for her own father's death. If that's not enough, Raffi and his stepsister sometimes fuck and get high--and that's just the half of it.
As White As Snow
Sort of like a Swedish version of Top Gun told from the woman's perspective. The true-life story about Elsa Andersson, who became Sweden's first aviator. As a daredevil wing jumper and barn-burning romancer, Andersson blew apart the Nordic farmer-girl mold at the turn-of-last-century. As White As Snow won "Goldburgs" (Sweden's equivalent of an Oscar) for Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography.
Sort of like the Danish version of Leaving Las Vegas, a middle-aged alcoholic determines to drink himself to death, until his long lost daughter, on the run from an abusive husband, rents an apartment next door to him.
Ever hear the one about the Swede who went ice fishing and returned with 20 pounds of ice? No, seriously folks. This is a serious film about Sweden's best known and most serious actor, Thommy Berggren. A whole film about him.
Bringing Down the House
Plot: Steve Martin is a hard up workaholic lawyer. He gets in an internet chat room with a bunch of other lawyers. Queen Latifah is in the chat room looking for a sucker. Steve is the sucker. Queen pretends to be a horny blonde and comes over to his house for drinks. When she shows up, she's not blonde, and she's just escaped from prison. Queen needs Steve's lawyer help to clear her name, and she's not leaving until she gets it. Moral of the story: black people are equal... sometimes; Even though black people speak slang, they are not necessarily stupid; and white people can learn things from black people, just like Steve learned to enjoy life more from Queen. Conclusion: This film is not worth wasting the gas it will take to drive to the theater. (Katie Shimer)
City of God
City of God chronicles gang warfare in one of the most impoverished and depraved slums in Rio de Janeiro. It revolves around a young man named Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) as he struggles to get high, get laid, and finally get a real job in photography so he can get out of the slums. He narrates the film in a dazed, almost aloof tone as waves of drugs, guns, and murder swirl around him. Lush mounds of twisting story lines and visual treats pile up, your eyes greedily devouring them like candy, but never seeming to quite get full. (Justin Sanders)
Cradle 2 the Grave
Here's what you can expect from the first five minutes of Cradle 2 the Grave: a dope Eminem track, a diamond heist involving missiles, various close calls with an underground train, tits, Jet Li scaling a building, and DMX looking hella hot. Really, what more can you ask for from an action flick? (Katie Shimer)
The first quarter of Daredevil is crap, but once the initial melodrama trails off, the script relaxes and lets some of the fine supporting actors take over, including Jon Favreau as Matt Damon's partner, and Joe Pantoliano as a snoopy reporter. Even the normally oily Ben Affleck keeps the believability of his character in check, while Colin Farrell chews the scenery in hilarious abandon. But be warned! As in Spider-Man, some of the special effects are laughably bad. Nevertheless, the dark tone of Daredevil sets it apart from its web-spinning competition, making it an acceptable diversion that's not as handicapped as it is handi-capable. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
In the hours before the riot-inspiring Rodney King verdict, a grizzled L.A. cop and his idealistic young partner negotiate a day of increasingly dark and twisted crime-fighting, digging up dirty LAPD secrets (extortion, murder, racism) while confronting their own demons, until... in this case, until the Los Angeles jury acquits the officers responsible for beating Rodney King, and ka-BOOM. Sadly, director Ron Shelton (White Men Can't Jump) stumbles repeatedly en route to his explosive conclusion. He goes for the mainstream jugular with a jarring mix of gritty crime and hyperactive action, laced with perfunctory nods to deeper issues; the few times the car chases stop to make way for character development, the resulting revelations are so baldly soliloquized, the attending characters should be given magazines. (David Schmader)
Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, and Heather Graham knock over drugstores and glamorize addiction in this cuddly film by Gus Van Sant.
Gods and Generals
The story of civil war hero Stonewall Jackson. The prequel to the 1993 "hit" Gettysburg. And it's three and a half hours long.
A dance teacher comes from India to live with his 'rich' cousin. When he finds out his cousin isn't rich, he tries to get a job in acting, and while he lands one, he soon finds out it's in a porno film with Heather Graham. Heather eloquently urges him to do the film even though he's wary of on-camera penetration, but he won't. Her words of encouragement, however, come in handy when he recites them to others and pretends to be a sex guru.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
The unrealistic circumstances in this film involve Kate Hudson as a woman's magazine columnist whose assignment is to fetch a man, then employ every cliched "dating don't" to drive him away in ten days. Matthew McConaughey is in advertising, competing with his lady co-workers for a huge diamond account. It's convoluted, but he makes a deal with his boss to win the account, if he can make a woman fall in love with him within ten days and bring her as proof to the big diamond gala. The film's attempts throughout to be simultaneously over-the-top and real cancel each other out, leaving it neither funny nor touching. (Marjorie Skinner)
The Hunted See review this issue.
Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Is it because Southerners act so dignified that their manipulations and moral decadence seem so rueful? Trying to drive her cousin (Bette Davis) nuts, a Gothic Southern belle reopens the murder case on her cousin's lover's murder 37 years later. Spooky, creepy, and absolutely spellbinding. Nominated in 1965 for too many Golden Globes and Academy Awards to mention.
The Life of David Gale
The Life of David Gale is like watching an episode of Scooby Doo unfold--heavy-handed non-villains, meddling kids and all. It's a shame, as the premise--a look at capital punishment and redemption--could have allowed for something of an interesting exercise. With lead-balloon pacing and embarrassingly slack-jawed cinematography, however--not to mention another impossibly smug Kevin Spacey performance--David Gale has all the subtle artistry of a Twinkie. Without all the suspense. (Zac Pennington)
Lost in La Mancha See review this issue.
Before Gus Van Sant became obsessed with, well... himself, he produced tender and moody films. Rarely shown, Mala Noche tells one of the many stories of sex, lust, and manipulation that unfold nightly in Portland's brooding winter. Rebuffed by a winsome illegal Mexican immigrant, a gay liquor store clerk tries to turns his attention away and towards another, less attractive prize. Preceded by several shorts from Van Sant.
Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
Two movies tonight: First, The World As We Know It. Like a shot of tequila, this short (four minute) film packs a punch. With footage from World War I to September 11, the director tries to distill the "essence" of conflicts. A Wedding in Ramallah uses a family portrait, an arranged marriage, and ethnic strife to provide a candid glimpse into life in the West Bank.
My Own Private Idaho
There are so many wonderments about this film, like: Why would anyone have chosen Keanu Reeves to do this film after his previous blockbuster romp, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and how is this the same director--here giddy with originality and an agile sense of beauty-- who decided to waste his time recreating Psycho scene by scene? Regardless of the actors and director's other "accomplishments," Private Idaho is a haunting, gay remake of "Henry IV" set, of course, right here in Portland.
The premise of Old School is funny enough: Luke Wilson splits with his girl, moves to a house right near his old college campus, and starts up a riff raff frat house. Wilson's two best buddies, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, are hilarious characters, too, but still--the movie kind of sucks. (Katie Shimer)
Charlton Heston and his hottie concubine take on post-apocalyptic luddites with pyrotechnics, some tight pants, and his astonishingly big wooden teeth. See review this issue.
A handsome young couple get engaged, the next day the boy is hit by a car and paralyzed, and the girl ends up having an affair with one of his doctors-a doctor whose wife happened to be driving the car that hit the boy. It sounds like a trite, melodramatic story, but filmmaker Susanne Bier uses Dogme 95 to her advantage by making every last character pitiful and charming at the same time-like real folks who've gotten caught up in bizarre circumstances. (Amy Jennings )
Despite appearances to the contrary, the film is not about the indomitable spirit of a survivor. It's about how low a human being can sink in order to live, and the depths of abasement a race is capable of withstanding in order to avoid extinction. There's no heroism in the picture, and all redemption is tempered by the knowledge of what's coming next. It's here, in the deeply Eastern European black comedy of this knowledge, that the film and its maker mark their territory most boldly. (Reassuring the Poles that "the Russians will be here soon" is a classic Polanski irony.) For all the possible autobiography of the story, The Pianist is most personal when it stares into the abyss of the Holocaust and finds nothing looking back. (Sean Nelson)
Quartermass and the Pit
One of the original sci-fi cult heroes, professor Quartermass battled blobs, zombies, and extraterrestrials for several years on Brit TV. Here, he protects London after a Martian spacecraft is found by subway workers.
The Quiet American
Michael Caine deserves all the praise he's received for his role as Fowler, while Brendan Fraser slightly overplays the wide-eyed idealism that inspired America's misguided involvement in Vietnam. The metaphor of the love triangle doesn't work here nearly as well as the more overt politics, but the movie is worth seeing if only because it shows how America can do the wrong thing with the best of intentions. (Andy Spletzer)
The most striking aspect of Rabbit-Proof Fence is its simplicity; its bald setting in Western Australia's bush, its story, and its characters. It relates the true tale of Molly, a 14-year-old Aborigine, her sister, and their cousin. Part of the Stolen Generation, they were forcibly seized and placed in a racial assimilation compound. Their escape and journey back home is heroic, but the impassive representation of it undermines a fulfilling sense of sympathy. (Marjorie Skinner)
Rivers and Tides
Rivers and Tides chronicles the life and work of Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish sculptor who makes temporary contraptions out of leaves, wood, mud, and whatever grub the earth gives him. The lives of his pieces are shorter than a snow drift in the desert, as the wind blows them away or they melt. That's the beauty of this film: It captures these ethereal pieces--and the process to make them--before they return to the earth. A look at permanence and impermanence, and nature's inherent metamorphosis. (Phil Busse)
There's no denying that Russian Ark's considerable buzz quotient depends solely on one dilly of a stunt; namely, a single 96-minute Steadicam shot. Whether this amounts to anything more than an empty high-wire act is open to personal interpretation; however, its technical bravura is impossible to deny. Requiring a cast of thousands and seven months of rehearsal time, the film chronicles a lucid dreamer's ghostly waltz through St. Petersburg's opulent Hermitage Museum, previously a palace to the Czars. The faceless, perplexed narrator soon meets up with an overbearing 19th Century French nobleman in the same helplessly voyeuristic boat. The unlikely duo then proceeds to trade national philosophies and personal musings for the remainder of the running time, as history becomes increasingly unstuck around them. (Andrew Wright)
Safety of Objects
The distraught lives of weird suburban parents and the parents' weirder kids are intertwined through divorce, backseat teenage sex, yoga, and most importantly, a tragic auto accident that leaves a young man in a coma, in this deeply unsatisfying drama. The fractured lives, furtive affairs, creepy kids, and stunted sexuality of the suburban set is not new terrain, and this flick gives the genre a bad reading. A spiraling lawyer finds redemption as a 24-hour personal trainer for a woman in a "hands on a hardbody" SUV contest at the local mall. A pre-pubescent boy is literally having an affair with his sister's Barbie doll. The whole movie is stuff like that. However, one subplot--a darkly realistic child abduction involving the neighborhood handyman and the neighborhood tomboy--is well scripted and acted, giving an otherwise soupy movie some stock. Just not nearly enough to warrant a recommendation. (Josh Feit)
One of the last remaining directors of animation to truly capture the strange, subtly contented spirit of childhood (and, for that matter, one of the only directors of animation with any sense of singular recognition), Princess Mononoke director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service) follows his 1997 masterpiece with his latest--an Alice in Wonderland-inspired fable about a little girl whose parents are transformed into pigs.
Talk to Her
Talk to Her, Spain's camp bad boy Pedro Almodovar's latest film, contains no drugs or sex, and I didn't even notice until it was over. That's because Almodovar has always trafficked in extreme emotions and the actions that spring from them. Actions and craziness often overshadow feelings in his earlier films, but with Talk to Her, Almodovar gives us the most mature and deeply felt of his movies. It's the story of two comatose women (one a female bullfighter and the other a ballerina), the two men who care for them (Benigno, a male nurse, and Marco, a writer), and the friendships that grow between them. The two men deal differently with their sleeping beauties: Marco retreats into silence and Benigno, who cared for his mother before becoming a nurse, talks and carries on as if Alicia were awake and responsive. The movie unfolds with grace, and still manages to shock while being funny, strange, morally complex, and moving. (Nate Lippens)
Tears of the Sun
The plot of Tears, which combines The Magnificent Seven with any number of Chuck Norris military films, should be a gimme: Rough and tumble officer (Bruce Willis) saves sexy white lady and her native pals from evil rebels with good ol' fashioned military know-how. The problem lies in the inclusion of "ethnic cleansing"--which is a wrong move for a cheesy flick like this. Putting piles of burning bodies and rape scenes on top of such a hackneyed plot is manipulative, and cheapens the plight of war-torn African nations. And while there are suspenseful moments and some nice cinematography, by the end my eyes were rolling so much I wanted a real band of rebel guerrillas to storm the theater and put me out of my misery. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
The Trials of Henry Kissinger
Like Christopher Hitchens' book The Trial of Henry Kissinger, the film makes the case for bringing Kissinger to trial for his war crimes--and he's already been subpoenaed in five separate countries. By using old footage, declassified documents, and interviews with peers, scholars, and Hitchens himself, the directors attempt to prove Kissinger's guilt (both direct and by association) for the massacre of millions of civilians--in Cambodia, Vietnam, East Timor, Chile. Like a closing deposition from a prosecuting attorney, the film unfolds within the framework of a character profile (Kissinger was charming, and beloved even by those who hated him). And not only does it shed light on Kissinger's actions, but illustrates 20 years of immoral, genocidal, and secretive action on the part of the United States Government. It's very BBC, but still fascinating. At this point, unfortunately, Kissinger must answer only to his conscience.
Willard See review this issue.