The Cat's Meow, Jason X, Life, or Something Like It, Nine Queens, Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, Time Out
Reviewed this issue. Milos Forman's classic returns, with 20 extra minutes and digital sound. Some say the added bits constitute "too many notes," but those people are dicks.
* Behind the Sun
Broiling in the Brazilian badlands, a diminishing family carries out a generations-old blood feud to its logical extreme: extinction. The Breves are landowners bound to the sugarcane monoculture, with work as relentless and ceaseless as the sun beating down on the blanched earth. Their economic lifeblood, raw sugar, dwindles in value with the advent of steam-powered machinery and the abolition of slavery, just as their family members diminish because of a tit-for-tat killing feud with their neighbors and enemies, the Ferreiras. No lush tropical Brazil of g-strings and raw sexuality here: Gaunt women dressed for mourning bitterly uphold vengeance as unyoked oxen circle the sugarcane crusher. Blood-stained shirts, hung as reminders of dead men, yellow in the sun. This fable of violence plays itself out as the brutal landscape burns, branding its scrawled epic into the older, harsher sun and dust of land-more powerful, vast, and cruel than any human story, more ordained and encompassing than archetype. (RACHEL KESSLER)
An aging, unlucky-in-love school headmistress in an English village (improbably played by horsey cracker Andie MacDowell) finds comfort in the cackling company of her two similarly desperate girlfriends. Until their weekly bitchfest is complicated by the arrival of her true love in the age-inappropriate form of a 25-year-old hottie. Okay, this is a perfectly acceptable set-up for nice little comedy. So why the shocking lurch into Stella Got Her Groove Back and Then It Got Hit by a Truck more than 3/4 of the way through the movie? Whoa! What is this crap? No Weddings and the Funeral of the Lovable Male Lead? Pick a lane and stay in it, people, you're giving me a headache. (TAMARA PARIS)
The 1929 silent film in which John Barrymore plays a Swiss villager resisting French occupancy in the early 1800s. Grand Illusion
* JACQUES DEMY DOUBLE BILL
Two works from the formidable French director Jacques Demy: Lola, a troubling agony about romantic obsession with a (seemingly) indifferent beloved (the great Anouk Aimée), who is obsessed meanwhile with an indifferent beloved of her own; and Bay of Angels, a story of a gambler and the high stakes woman (Jeanne Moreau; sigh) who comes with his winnings. (SEAN NELSON) Seattle Art Museum
* The Last Waltz
Reviewed this issue. Martin Scosese captures the final show of one of the most contradictory rock bands of the '70s. (SEAN NELSON)
From the director of The Full Monty comes this whimsical tale of a smalltime crook who fucks up a bank robbery and lands his ass in jail where he stages a musical as part of an escape plan. Zany.
Murder By Numbers
Movie by numbers. Director Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune) works very hard to give psychological nuance to yet another retread of the Leopold and Loeb case; in this case, it's two high-school students, a "cool" kid and a geeky "smart" kid, who kill a woman to demonstrate their existential freedom and moral superiority. Sandra Bullock tries to toughen her image by playing a messed-up homicide cop; the cop part isn't convincing, but the messed-up part is surprisingly layered and engaging. All to no avail; there's hardly a moment's suspense in the whole formulaic thing. (BRET FETZER)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
This romantic comedy is based on the one-woman show of Second City alumna Nia Vardalos, who also directs. It tells the story of 30-year-old Toula who searches for love and self-realization.
The Scorpion King
Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, brings his ham-fisted acting and perfectly sculpted eyebrows to the big screen for this adventure flick.
A crazed vaudevillian murders and impersonates a mad scientist in this 1934 short film.
The Shop Around the Corner
Jimmy Stewart stars in this sweet 1940 romantic comedy, which was butchered, then raped, then pissed on, then murdered under the aegis of being "remade" as You've Got Mail. Grand Illusion
The Triumph of Love
Mira Sorvino is cute as a bug playing a princess trying to return the rightful heir to her throne. But the movie doesn't make much of an effort to translate this play (by 18th-century French writer Marivaux) from the stage to the screen; the result is both stiff and flimsy. (BRET FETZER)
40 Days & 40 Nights
Josh Hartnett may be a hunk, but said hunkiness is not nearly enough to save 40 Days & 40 Nights, the latest example from director Michael Lehmann to prove that, Heathers aside, he is a complete hack. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A Beautiful Mind
Stories about the insane are an inherent paradox. Because for a story to be compelling, it has to have rules, and an inner logic, whereas mental illness doesn't have rules, and treats logic as just another way of seeing. John Nash (Russell Crowe) plays the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia. With a deft directorial touch, the paradox of Nash's world could really come to life. But that would take more of a talent than Ron Howard. (MICHAEL SHILLING)
Based on "humorist" Dave Barry's novel, Big Trouble tells the story of how a mysterious suitcase brings together and changes the lives of a motley-ass group of people played by a motley-ass ensemble cast.
Black Hawk Down
As a filmmaker, Ridley Scott is an ad man forever in search of a product to sell. In Black Hawk Down, there are several competing products, including Military Hypocrisy, Uncommon Valor, and African Savagery, but in the end the bill of goods boils down to the hoariest chestnut of all: War is Hell. Like any good shill, this director can't be bothered to let messy details like politics, reason, or history overcomplicate his pitch. (SEAN NELSON)
Blade II: Bloodhunt
This sequel to the 1998 original stars Wesley Snipes as human/vampire warrior Blade, based on the Marvel Comics character. It's not the particulars or the plot that matters of course. (NATE LIPPENS)
This adaptation of Brendan Behan's watershed memoir, while nationalistically devout (up the Republic!) and morally liberal, has a little too much dew in its eyes to do full justice to the late poet/playwright. (Sean Nelson)
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are involved in a fender-bender rendering Jackson immobile. Affleck speeds off, unknowingly leaving behind an extremely important document; a bitter Jackson misses an important custody hearing, and a grand old feud is born. (KUDZAI MUDEDE)
The Cherry Orchard
Ah, Chekhov! A great play, some great actors (Alan Bates, Charlotte Rampling), but a weak movie. (TAMARA PARIS)
A teenager accidentally activates a machine that enables him to make time stand still. So did the director when he picked up a camera.
Death to Smoochy
Driven by adults' universal aversion to pervy, purple, children's TV characters, Danny DeVito's dark comedy is adequately raunchy, but ultimately forgettable. (HANNAH LEVIN)
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
A wacked-out queer film set in Sodom Flats, Texas about a conspiracy to make the entire planet gay.
E.T. (20th Anniversary)
Childhood is never quite as magical when you revisit it. Case in point: the 20th anniversary re-release of E.T. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Bill Paxton hears God's voice, and it tells him to cut people up with an ax! It's nice to know I'm not alone in the Lord's kingdom.
* Gosford Park
Set in 1932, Gosford Park is a meta-mystery, meaning the setting, figures, and tropes of a murder mystery form the frame for the real concern (or concerns): class and gender rivalries; the rise of mass entertainment; and the dark history of the industrial revolution and British imperialism. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
This bad film is directed by the great Carl Franklin, who directed Devil in A Blue Dress. The movie (which stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd) is not horrible, just too professional and conventional. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* Human Nature
The latest absurdist/nihilist comedy from the savagely funny pen of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), starring Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, and the great Rhys Ifans. Directed by music video avatar Michel Gondry.
The recent boom in computer animation bodes well for the next generation, as their childhoods will hopefully not be squandered on lame-ass 2-D Disney musicals. Pleasant and funny, this movie is littered with enough sophisticated jokes to entertain the adults, but is really nothing more than a fast-paced, shimmering toy for kids. Which is just the way it should be. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* In the Bedroom
This languorous, beautifully acted film about erotic and familial entanglements in a small Maine fishing town one summer builds up to three moments of utter emotional brutality so severe that the long moments in between them thrum like high tension wires. (SEAN NELSON)
The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. (EMILY HALL)
* Italian for Beginners
The characters of Italian for Beginners begin in a state of despair. This being a romantic comedy, their lives begin to intersect through a series of coincidences-coincidences that could feel contrived, but due to the rough integrity of the script, performances, and direction (shaped in part by the monastic rigors of the Dogme 95 ethic), they feel like the organic waywardness of life. (BRET FETZER)
Kissing Jessica Stein
Three things are readily apparent within the first 10 minutes of Kissing Jessica Stein: Though the film ostensibly is about two straight women who decide to go lesbo and fall in love, Jessica Stein will end up with the guy she currently despises. Also, despite both women taking a freshman crack at the girl-girl thing, one is clearly more invested in the concept than the other. Finally, the too-close camera shots, the emphasis on fast, witty banter, and the overacting will be a niggling annoyance throughout the film. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
At first, it seems like Mira Nair is just doing family drama. The film is stylish, brisk, witty, and beautifully filmed. But within the patchwork of marriage melodrama, Monsoon Wedding presents a subversive argument about the insidiousness of progress and its fluid relationship with tradition. (SEAN NELSON)
Monstrous Balls is more like it. Hank is a racist prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton, perfect), son of a retired racist prison guard (Peter Boyle, who doesn't even try an accent), and father of a young, non-racist prison guard (Heath Ledger, who tries his hardest) in a Georgia State Penitentiary death row. Hank falls into a desperate affair with Leticia (Halle Berry, semi-plausible), a black woman, after both of their sons die. (SEAN NELSON)
National Lampoon's Van Wilder
A zany college romp that tries to be Animal House for a new generation, this film lacks both the zaniness and the wit that made the Delta Brothers' movie so entertaining. Stay away. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
New Best Friend
Yet another film about eye-rolling, overprivileged students who spend all of their time partying, fucking, being bulimic, and vying for Daddy's love when they should be studying, and the scheming poor girl who breaks into their clique. (KATHLEEN WILSON)
* No Man's Land
War is-guess what?-hell in this story of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, circa 1993. Surrounded by UN "peacekeepers," clumsy media vultures, and their warring rival factions, two soldiers cross into the zone between the bullets and clash about the war's origins and costs. (SEAN NELSON)
The Panic Room
The clever and tightly orchestrated twists and turns never rise above thriller formulas driven by utter clichés. (BRET FETZER)
In The Rookie, Dennis Quaid and Disney bring to the screen the real-life story of a baseball player-turned Texas high-school science teacher-turned baseball player. (SONIA RUIZ)
Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro star in this unlikely-buddy-cop film that satirizes reality cop shows on TV. (SEAN NELSON)
* Son of the Bride
It's no coincidence that, in your basic midlife crisis movie, a heart attack brings on epiphany. Of course you would re-examine your life after a failure of the heart. In the worst of the genre, the discovery of the heart (however flawed) is the last missing piece in a life that's come undone, and sanctity usually follows. In Son of the Bride, by Argentine director Juan José Campanella, epiphany is not the end but the beginning. (EMILY HALL)
* The Son's Room
Directed by and starring Nanni Moretti, this film tells the story of Giovanni, an Italian psychiatrist, and his family, as they struggle in the wake of a horrible tragedy. It's a heart-wrenching drama that focuses on the finely tuned performances of Moretti and his wife, played by Laura Morante. (EMILY HALL)
The Sweetest Thing
Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, together at last! Also, as my friend Michael is fond of saying: Someone get that Selma Blair a steak! The film is some kind of romantic comedy bullshit from the director of Cruel Intentions.
* Trembling before G-d
A thoughtful documentary on gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews. (NATE LIPPENS)
* Y Tu Mamá También
Y Tu Mamá También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones-even the title comes from a tossed-off bit of banter. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing-but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope.