Perhaps one of the most horrific (but under-reported) tragedies of the last century was the slaughter of millions of Tutsi in Rwandan by their fellow countrymen, the Hutu. Enraged by decades of repression, but lacking access to more "merciful" weapons like guns, thousands of Hutu hacked apart some million-plus Tutsi with machetes. Based on a true story (look it up: this all happened in 1994) and filmed in the site of an actual massacre, 100 Days tells the brutal story of one woman whose family takes refuge in a church, only to have the (you've got it, Hutu) priest betray them. (Phil Busse)
* 2 Fast 2 Furious
In 2 Fast 2 Furious, Aryan hottie Paul Walker returns as disgraced former cop turned street racer, Brian. Now living in Miami, Brian is summoned by the pigs to infiltrate a money laundering cartel, but he refuses to do so without the help of his ol' racing buddy Roman (Tyrese). While 2 Fast's predecessor made an attempt to show the inner-workings of the street racing elite, director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) concentrates on the gravy--sweet pieces of ass squeezing into Daisy Dukes, and white-knuckle race scenes that literally have you digging fingernails into your theater seat. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Bend it Like Beckham
Not exactly a masterpiece, this film is a lighthearted, cute escape best suited for parents and teens. An adolescent, soccer-playing daughter struggles against her Hindu parents, who would rather gear her interests towards cooking and otherwise preparing herself to be a proper Indian bride. (Marjorie Skinner)
* Blue Car
As the young outcast Meg does her whole gifted-but-troubled young writer thing and scrawls away in her notebook, she catches the eye of her teacher, Mr. Auster (David Strathairn). Recognizing her gift for writing (and, of course, her barely legal bod), Auster offers to help Meg with her poetry after class. Cue Auster spouting a whole lot of Writing 101 tripe. He encourages Meg to enter one of her poems into a national contest, and Meg finally finds someone in whom she can confide. They grow closer and yeah, three guesses as to how the relationship develops. (Erik Henrikson)
* Blue Velvet
"Heineken, fuck that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!" Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, and Laura Dern star in David Lynch's demented Twin Peaks-esque feature film.
Jim Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, your typical angry newsguy that Bill Murray played with far greater success in Groundhog Day. After one particularly shitty day, Bruce snaps while on-air and gets tossed out on his can. He curses God for his woes in a most extreme manner, and God (Morgan Freeman) appears to chide Bruce and imbue him with His powers to prove to him that His job ain't as easy as it looks. As a fan of physical comedy, I've always given Carrey a long leash, but holy mother of Christ is this a pile of crap. The writers were obviously banking on Carrey's rubber-faced antics to turn this chicken shit into chicken salad, but unfortunately for everyone (especially the audience), Carrey ain't God. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
City of Ghosts
This film follows Jimmy (Dillon), a con man involved in an insurance scam--but when the Feds crack down, he heads to Cambodia to track down the ringleader of the whole thing, Marvin (James Caan). Aside from some dark, almost hallucinogenic cinematography and the exotic locale, there's really not much else to say about this characterless, convoluted exercise in neo-noir. Then again, there is a midget pimp in the movie, which is just about the raddest thing ever. (Erik Henriksen)
The problem with most films/books/art that are "ahead of their time" is that by the time their "time" catches up to them, they are behind the times. Crazy and wild and shocking for 1966 Czechoslovakia, Daisies follows two wild-n-crazy women as they exploit, skewer, and mock males (it is, as you can imagine, a larger comment about bucking the patriarchal society; yawn!). (Phil Busse)
In the face of increasing misery, one can always count on Arabs and Jews to laugh fatalistically. This laughter, an embrace of the inherent absurdity of life on Earth, is the chief element of Divine Intervention, a film told in seemingly random, nearly silent vignettes of Middle Eastern bizarreness.
* Down With Love
With its retro setting and references, Down With Love manages to not only pay direct tribute to the kind of sex comedy Doris Day and Rock Hudson made memorable with Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, but it proves to be the most satisfying romantic comedy I've seen in, well, decades.
Dumb and Dumberer
Let's look at the facts for a second, folks: the Farrelly Brothers had too much dignity to involve themselves with this debacle. Read that again. THE FARRELLY BROTHERS. I'm just sayin'.
Fellini: I'm A Born Liar
As if Fellini didn't overindulge his ego enough in his own films, now we have to suffer 105 minutes of film clips and interviews (with him and countless minions) in this 2002 version of a cinematic biography (read: cinematic handjob).
See My What a Busy Week.
* Finding Nemo
A ridiculously gorgeous film, Finding Nemo proves yet again Pixar's current chokehold on big-screen animation. From the facial expressions of the fish and background shots of gently swaying sea grass, to expansive harbor shots of Sydney and the continual mist of plankton wisping by, every frame has been so detailed and obsessed over that the film stuns. Add in Pixar's gift for scripting, a gift that always makes their films tolerable for adults, and the end product is a flower of a movie, exceedingly well-imagined, that is more than worth the multiplex gouging. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* The Flats
What is it about being brothers that makes for such great film producers? Brothers Kelly and Tyler Requa host (yes, that means they will be there) the Portland premier of their debut film. Mostly filmed in Skagit Valley, already The Flats has rocked the Seattle and New York film festivals. Like a Bruce Springstein song coming to life, this is the story of two best friends, one who is returning to his hometown to settle legal matters and sow some final wild oats. It all gets even more complicated when you throw in the best friend's girlfriend. (Phil Busse)
Fruits of Paradise
Any film billed as cutting edge avant-garde (that is, cutting-1969 Czechoslovakia-edge) and as a film that "defies interpretations" can be interpreted simply as D-U-M-B. In what must've seemed like a stroke of genius only to the director, a married Czech man is tempted to sin by a sultry woman and--yes--in the most overripe metaphor in history, an apple.
* Hello Video!
Local video makers show, you guessed it, videos, while you guzzle beer and coffee. Go to hello-video.com to find out how to submit your own video. Music by Schicky Gnarowitz, Finesse, and Invisible.
Louis Sachar adapted his own book for the film version of Holes, and it shows. With the help of Fugitive director, Andrew Davis, the film is a shimmering web of story threads, perfectly woven together. The film shows us Stanley Yelnats, who is sent to Camp Green Lake, a hellhole in the middle of the desert, for stealing a pair of shoes he didn't steal. There, he is forced by the camp's psychotic director (Sigourney Weaver) to dig large holes in the sand, under the burning sun, as correctional therapy. (Justin Sanders)
See review this issue.
House of 1000 Corpses
Written and directed by Rob Zombie, this is the story of a group of kids whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They take refuge in an old house with a psychotic family neck deep in Satanism, cannibalism, witchcraft, and dreadlocks.
If you're versed in the art of cheesy horror flicks, you'll recognize every cinematic element of Identity, the new film from director James Mangold. There's the dramatically presented psychological profile of the cold-blooded murderer, complete with files and audio-taped statement. There are the stereotypical characters (John Cusack plays a cop on leave), there's the rainy night, the motel conveniently located on an Indian burial ground, and the lack of phones and electricity. All of the elements are familiar. However, Mangold is a feisty bastard with a slightly twisted sense of humor and does all he can to make Identity a dark film within the mainstream cinema idiom. (Julianne Shepherd)
* Independent Exposure
Thirteen short films from national and international artists selected by the Microcinema International group. Wednesday, June 18 at the Newspace, 1632 SE 10th, 8 pm.
Albert Brooks slums along with Michael Douglas in this wickedly unnecessary remake of the classic 1979 Alan Arkin-Peter Falk kvetch-a-thon. The thing, however, is that I watched the original a week ago with an eye towards explaining why the remake is practically sacrilegious, and was dismayed to discover that it has aged about as well as mayonnaise on a countertop. Aside from Arkin's unstoppable brilliance and Falk's natural ease, there's little to recommend the film, which now feels slow, blocky, and obvious. (Sean Nelson)
* The Italian Job
Taking the name (and not much else) from the '60s Michael Caine Cockney classic, The Italian Job remains true enough to the heist formula to end up surprisingly gratifying. The set-up is thus: After the successful completion of the patented One Last Job in Venice, a close-knit team of supercrooks (led by idea man Mark Wahlberg, actually managing to convince that he has the proper number of synapses firing for the task) gets violently bilked from within (via the porn-mustachioed Edward Norton, whose public dissatisfaction with the project translates to an amusingly pissy onscreen turn). Revenge is plotted; cars are raced; property is destroyed; the audience is occasionally hoodwinked. What more does one need? (Andrew Wright)
* L'Auberge Espagnole
In Barcelona the New Europe is assembled in a shared student apartment, where the residents can hardly escape embodying their national stereotypes. The question that is deftly asked with frequently charming result is one of identity and youth-how hard do you hold on to either of them? This film proves that a sweet movie can come complete with depth. (Emily Hall )
* Laurel Canyon
An outwardly airtight, upwardly propelled couple (Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale) reluctantly relocate to the crumbling, groupie-haunted manse of his rock producing, partying mother (Francis McDormand). Romantic entanglements, Oedipal spit-takes, identity crises, and Kip Wingeresque excess swiftly follow. (Andrew Wright)
* Lost in La Mancha
Terry Gilliam, director of the critically acclaimed films Brazil, and 12 Monkeys and the financial and commercial flop, The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, is a perfectionist when it comes to filmmaking. Because creating his unique vision comes before all else, he is referred to by his peers as "Captain Chaos," and in the film industry, has been branded as hard to work with and unable to stick to a budget. Because of this reputation, Gilliam has a hard time finding funding for his projects. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was no exception. Gilliam had been mulling over the screenplay and direction of the film for ten years, and Lost in La Mancha documents his long-awaited attempt to bring it to life. As you might expect, during shooting, many disasters occur which makes for an entertaining, if not totally engrossing film. (Katie Shimer)
Man on the Train
Director Patrice Leconte brings us this oft-told tale of two aging men from vastly different backgrounds coming to understand and--yes--even like each other. One is a retired poetry teacher, the other a bank robber preparing for his last heist. Despite the unbelievable premise, the acting is fine, the story is sweet, and there's nothing much else to it. Hey, I like "sweet" as much as the next guy, but c'mon. I'm kinda busy here. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* Matrix Reloaded
With the incredibly interesting concept of the Matrix laid out in the first film, Matrix Reloaded is forced to focus on a much more banal subject: war. Turns out that along with the crew of the first film, there's a whole underground city of human rebels (the City of Zion) all working towards freeing their enslaved brethren from the machines. Unfortunately, Zion is small and the machines are big, and Neo and his crew find themselves in a race against time, trying to find and destroy the Source of the Matrix before the machines destroy Zion. (Justin Sanders)
My Little Eye
A scripted film meant to seem like a reality show, about five people whose lives are broadcast on the internet. Pretty soon, however, the subjects figure out there's more to living on the internet than they imagined. Oh, the plot twists. On the whole, the film is pretty good, definitely more entertaining than the late-era Real Worlds.
* Nowhere in Africa
Nowhere in Africa follows a rich Jewish family that leaves Germany in 1938 and moves to Africa. There they can avoid the Nazis, but have to deal with some other issues like, oh, the lack of water. Naturally, the characters all experience guilt (you just can't have a Holocaust movie without guilt), but there are also things here you never see in any movie, such as the scene in which a swarm of locusts plunder a field of maize. The hazards of humanity and the hazards of nature are not dissimilar, this movie argues, though (at two-and-a-half hours long) not very succinctly. Thankfully, the actor Merab Ninidze, who's very sexy, is in almost every scene. (Christopher Frizzelle)
See review this issue.
* Raising Victor Vargas
Victor lives on the Lower East Side and has no worldly ambitions; all he has to speak of is a crush on Juicy Judy, who wears hoop earrings and too much makeup and thinks all guys are "dogs." Neither one of them has a phone at home, which suggests a rather improbable courtship, though they manage to run into each other enough times on neighborhood rooftops and at public swimming pools, and to the surprise of no one in the audience it all works out--each character (even among the overbearing and richly caricatured families) comes to a sensitive, deeper understanding of one another's longings and insecurities, which is a clean, comforting way to end a movie, but it's never how things turn out in life. (Christopher Frizzelle)
Rugrats Go Wild
In Bruce Willis' triumphant return to voice-over, Nickelodeon gets the bright idea to mingle their franchises in a big-screen cash cow sure to break heavy ground in the field of animation franchises.
* The Shape of Things
The latest film by Neil LaBute, the laureate of sexual embarrassment, flips the script somewhat by arguing that women are just as capable of being complete pricks as men are. LaBute's climax retroactively changes the entire film, causing the troubling theatrical conceits that have gone before (Adam and Evelyn--get it?) to seem like intentional diversions, and forcing the audience to decide whether or not what it has just seen was a filmed play or some kind of Skinner box. (Sean Nelson)
Spellbound is a documentary that follows eight pre-teenage contenders in the 1999 National Spelling Bee finals. The documentary's winning angle is in showcasing the kids in their element. Insecure as they may be, here they are adored and supported. They're all pretty slow-moving targets for bullying, but within this arena they are championed, celebrated, and popular. It caters best to an audience with some degree of dork affiliation, since half the fun is trying (and failing) to spell the words yourself and there's just something pure about getting your ass kicked by eighth grade dweebs. (Marjorie Skinner)
See review this issue.
* Whale Rider
See review this issue.
Well, now I know what they did during the Cold War! The Eastern Bloc seems to have spent their decades behind the wall pining and, when they had a chance, mimicking everything American, including our teenage slasher films. A 1985 Czech film about a dozen teenagers jacked up on hormones and stranded at a ski resort. All's good until, well, you know how the plot goes... just add a dash of distinctly Communist repression and bad European haircuts. (Phil Busse)
Like Deliverance with breast implants, this horror flick follows six nubile teens as they flee from cannibalistic mountain men in the woods of West Virginia.
* X2: X-Men United
The screenplay, by Michael Dougherty and Daniel Harris, is great; it would have been disastrous for the filmmakers not to rely on it. Forgoing excessive sweaty violence for richly imaginative narrative, X2's world is brought to life even more spectacularly than the first X-Men film, with very human elements of persecution, morality, and acceptance. (Julianne Shepherd)
* Zus & Zo
A Dutch comedy about three sisters who would rather die than let their soon to be sister-in-law get her hands on their spectacular summer home in Portugal. A foreign language Oscar nominee.