Sunday, January 1 1995
As the Blair Witch has her way with the group one by one, 'BW2' turns partly cheesy and nonsensical like a slasher film and partly, like 'BW1', emotional and visceral, with disquieting depictions of grisly violence.
'Who are these guys?' a voice asks, as the screen is filled with successive images of men, some bloody and all wearing tights, beating one another senseless.
As the charismatic protagonist in Kimberly Peirce's Boys Don't Cry, Brandon embodies the ongoing dilemma of masculine identity. This dilemma is exacerbated by the fact that, when you see him riding that pickup truck, some fifteen minutes into the film, you already know that 18-year-old Brandon's efforts to act like a boy are complicated by the fact that he is, biologically speaking, a girl, born Teena Brandon.
Jose Luis Cuerda's film, Butterfly, mourns the Spain destroyed by civil conflict by remembering it through the enchanted eyes of a small boy.
High school movies tend to end with graduation. It's at the prom that the primary couple finally achieves their much-anticipated clinch (with camera circling and trendy pop song resounding) while their adversaries - treacherous teachers, jealous fellow students, ridiculous parents - back off or smile approvingly, showing that they have indeed learned whatever lessons they're supposed to have learned.
[In 'Bride of the Wind',] Alma agrees to marry Mahler even when he demands that she give up her own piddly composing and adopt his music as 'our music.' This suggests he's a jealous, possessive, and petty fellow, but that is for us to surmise and for her to deal with in later scenes.
The Bone Collector assumes you know the drill, the serial-killer-movie drill. It gives you most everything you need to know during the first four minutes, half of which take up the credits sequence (the credits themselves are, of course, hyper-scratchy and slashy-looking, very post-Seven stylish).
But of course, all this genderfuck is just warm-up for Malcolm/Big Momma's dilemmas when it comes to sex.
The fact that all of Elliot's hopes and dreams are pinned on winning Allison supplies the film's most provocative gender twist -- a man refashioning himself to please a woman.
Martin Lawrence's signature punchline is all about survival. Typically delivered with exuberance and not a little self-satisfaction, the line reflects his thrill at getting over. It reflects his fans' thrill as well: they're happy to see their boy survive and, even better, succeed.
It is not, as I've heard it called, a 'Scottish Thelma & Louise,' as this soundbite doesn't do justice to the ambitious, if not exactly realized, aspirations of 'Beautiful Creatures'. For one thing, it's less glossy and celebratory than Ridley Scott's anthemic movie, and for another, there's no road trip in it.
John Singleton's 'Baby Boy' begins with a bang. But it's not the sort of bang you'd expect from the guy whose first film was the earnest 'Boyz N the Hood' (1991), or whose last, the explosive 'Shaft' (2000), had its Armani-clad protagonist declaring, 'It's Giuliani time!' as he stalked off to blow away a few bad cops.
As its title promises, Robert Iscove's romantic comedy features a number of boys and girls. Or rather, it features a number of character sketches standing in as boys and girls, rendered by actors whom you'd expect to be more careful about selecting projects.
The Business of Strangers' basic premise -- the meanness of the business of strangers -- is worn-out.
With 'Brother', his first English language film, Takeshi Kitano again examines the violent intimacy of the yakuza 'brotherhood.'"
'Blow' is all about how reality and money get mixed up.
The question I am left with, in relation to all these other characters, is what, if anything, are they satirizing?"
Someone I know organized an opening weekend group to go see The Best Man. As he reasons in the invitation he sent out to several friends, Hollywood pays attention to opening weekend box office receipts, and he'd like to ensure that this film's receipts make an impression on the powers that be. You don't see this kind of effort made for just any movie.
An action movie dressed up like an art film, 'Black Hawk Down' is not about betrayal or anger, but heroism and patriotic fervor.
Leo's much anticipated follow up to the record smashing Titanic has finally arrived, and it is, perhaps not so surprisingly, considering the hype to be lived up to -- an unmitigated flop.
We stop short of congratulating Bridget Jones with a hearty 'you've come a long way, baby.' After all, 'Bridget Jones's Diary', like 'Pride and Prejudice', is preoccupied with marriage.
Though it looks like it might have been fun to make, 'Bandits' never becomes subversive or screwball.
Of course, ambition, talent, good luck, and effort can only take you so far. The film addresses racism in the business by underlining the tour's lack of 'incidents.'"
In the end, the story of Brandon Teena is no less shocking and reprehensible for not being told particularly well. But 'The Brandon Teena Story' makes it hard to get a sense of the real person behind the blurry photos and sometimes suspiciously convenient anecdotes.
American consumers need to get on with the slam-bang business of (mediated) life.
In language, the gulf between seeing and knowing gapes. The phlegmatic British attempts to be polite and their ardent struggle to keep conversation going, however meaningless its content, become a powerful vehicle for both the pusillanimity of language and the soothing power of its white noise.
The Beast makes the systemic abuses of the time literal, as well as sensational and legendary.
A faithful filmic adaptation of Arenas' memoir could easily take six hours and still not capture the full impact of the book. Painter-turned-director Julian Schnabel ('Basquiat') consciously diverges from the traditional school of literary adaptation.
Bounce is straight in the sense that it stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, and does not include Opposite of Sex-style bitchiness, much less wily jokes about masturbation, Hollywood morality, and the Planet Maturia.
Hey, it doesn't hurt that Johnny Depp makes a leisure suit look good.
Though shot on a shoestring budget by first-time feature filmmakers, the movie encapsulates all that has come to typify the Coen brothers' style: engaging narrative, inventive direction, and the juxtaposition of grim violence with moments of sublime, sometimes surreal, human behavior.
The film's most effective balancing act comes in the form of Foxx's terrific performance: throughout, he's quirky, subtle, and thankfully able to keep up with the movie's lurching tone-and-genre shifts, from comedy to action to almost-arty to melodrama.
Cody's special in a very particular way -- in a second-coming kind of way -- which, in movie-logic, makes her the prime target for a slew of Satan's minions.
'I'm a kid in America, I can do whatever I want.' Jutting her chin at the camera, New York City high schooler Charlie (Bijou Phillips) mouths off to her stuffy-suit dad, who's been pestering her about where she goes after school.
'There are some naysayers,' one Blair Witch fanatic enthuses, 'who come and they say nay.' Not the sharpest wooden stake in the breastbone, this guy.
The cultural systems that condone more subtle forms of homophobia are left unexamined. This allows viewers to forget the important fact that homophobia and strict either-or gendering practices do prevail in today's 'civilized' cultures, liberal and tolerant as they may seem to those who don't have to worry about such things.
Robots: we either love 'em or hate 'em. Movies have given us friendly Star Wars droids like R2-D2 and C-3PO and sadistic mechanical henchmen like Maximilian in The Black Hole. Science fiction television has shown both Buck Rogers' loyal sidekick Twiggy and the destructive Cylons of Battlestar Galactica.
Beowulf saves the girl and carries her to the stronghold, where she immediately breaks away again and allows herself to be killed. Evidently there's 'something' inside the castle worse than death -- the rest of the movie.
Behind a triumphant tale of self-discovery is a subtext of anxiety that ultimately enhances what might have been a pretty ordinary film.
Though behaving like proper girls and boys has little effect on Megan and the other patients, they still pretend that they are actually heading down the path to heterosexuality.
Interestingly, in one of 'A.I.''s inconsistencies, we are shown a society obsessive about controlling consumption and the conservation of resources, which nevertheless is still steadfastly consumer-driven: the answer to all our problems can be found in the perfect product, in this case a robotic child.
Just prior to All About My Mother's closing credit sequence, there is an effusive dedication - To all actresses who have played actresses, to all women who act, to men who act and become women, to all the people who want to be mothers...to my mother.
If 'All Over the Guy' is any indication of what Hollywood has in store for gay relationships, it looks like gay men and lesbians will be receiving the same shallow treatment as their heterosexual counterparts.
'Apocalypse Now' -- 'Redux' or regular -- is well worth seeing for just such insights, its flashes of brilliance, failures, and virtuous intentions. In both versions, it's that rare movie that looks hard at the culture that produced it.
And yet, for a rock 'n' roll film set in the '70s, Almost Famous has surprisingly little sex and drugs on screen (though both are much discussed). Even when two or three of the 'band-aids' decide to deflower William, mainly to alleviate their boredom, it comes off more like a slumber party game than an act of real sexuality.
Morgan Freeman's sober mien and formidable presence make you wish that the rest of the movie would keep up.
Snow. Wind. Emptiness. The first images in Affliction are white and desolate. They show late October in small town New Hampshire, and Halloween is descending on frigid, early evening streets.
It's grand, being so proficient at killing, and it's pretty darn All American too.
...plays like a Hollywood version of 'The Real World', neatly edited and set in a striking but sterile home, but with few surprises.
'Apocalypse Now Redux', ultimately, allows us to celebrate a film that has become indelibly ingrained into American popular consciousness while, at the same time, forcing us to question the violence and inhumanity that characterize the troubling past of this same culture.
There are no songs in the latest Disney animated feature, 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire', but there are lots of explosions.
Aimée and Jaguar shows honest emotion between two women who are focused on survival, desperate for happiness in a time of grave repression, and genuinely in love.
The story of Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut of Siam has gone through multiple mutations in 150-plus years. First, there were the diaries of Indian-born British citizen Leonowens (known to be creative, to say the least, about many aspects of her life and story, even her name), recounting her experiences as teacher to the royal children of the King of Siam in the mid-19th century.
It really sucks to be poor and of no social consequence, especially once you have had a taste of nobility and luxury.
Whatever's on Juliette Binoche's mind, gazing at that face can definitely get you thinking.
Playing a social outcast capable of helping others but incapable of helping herself, Jennifer Lopez still comes off as too much of a star she is, and not enough of the lonely beat cop she's supposed to be.
Everyone in the film can see that pairing a 48-year-old womanizer with a 22-year-old girl dying from a sketchy illness 'of the heart' is lame, not to mention derivative, unpleasant, and pathetic.
For a man who has no identity, Shaw (Wesley Snipes) sure has plenty of attitude.
Maybe in the deceptive world of fame (or almost-fame), this is the best version of intimacy available, although it's easier to attribute it to the characters' superficiality, and maybe a certain starry-eyed idealism on Cameron Crowe's part.
Back in 1990, some years after Prizzi's Honor won Anjelica Huston all kinds of accolades and publicity, I saw her for a minute, in person. I was standing on line at an American Express office in Cannes, during the Film Festival for which she was serving as an official jury member"
There are no songs in the latest Disney animated feature, 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire', but there are lots of explosions.
American Movie avoids the dishonesty and self-importance of most traditional documentaries by selecting a subject so genuine, specific, and original - and so flawed - that no matter what segment of the whole we're seeing, it seems very real and very very human.
What distinguishes Across 110th Street's bloodletting from that in other Hollywood films of the time is its unsparing inescapability and its matter-of-factness -- these qualities give the work its moral charge.
Oliver Stone's movies usually seem more complicated than they are. Partly this comes from his evolving style, from the curiously romantic realism of Platoon, to the assaultive ding-battiness of Natural Born Killers, to the debased lunacy of U-Turn. But mostly it comes from his obsession with a single theme: brutality. Or more precisely, how brutality becomes morality.
Ground control to potential audiences of the The American Astronaut: be prepared for a series of impenetrable in-jokes, ridiculous special effects, and grating outbreaks into song.
The nuclear family has never looked so perverse.
'All the Pretty Horses'... offers Penelope Cruz as the repeatedly slow-motioned, flowing-haired object of desire for would-be riders. As Alejandra, Cruz is less a character than an irresistible image, the Marlboro Man's wet dream -- she rides horses, swims naked, and pouts adorably when she's mad at her daddy.
Perhaps more importantly, it offers a welcome antidote to Hollywoody visions of Mexico, revealing an urban Mexico that is neither sanitized nor demonized: for all the death in it, this place feels utterly immediate and alive.
Iñárritu's film has a badly broken heart sputtering beneath all the style, which is something Tarantino hasn't really had the guts to go for yet.
Whatever you think about Oliver Stone as a director, you can't deny his firm grasp on this country's interests. From Vietnam to JFK to serial killers, Stone's pictures have always depicted major subjects of national fascination. With his latest release, Any Given Sunday, Stone looks to go his previous films one better by focusing on the most popular sport in America.
For most of Adrenaline Drive's 90-odd minutes, you're not aware of time passing or the fact that your shoes do not fit as well as they could.
All unruly hair, puny limbs, and wide eyes, Marvin's another one of Rob Schneider's pathetic, unmanly bumblers, lacking the 'animal' instinct that apparently makes a real man.
Truly, Julia Roberts leads a charmed life.
Saturday, December 31 1994
Mysterious, haunting, and deeply spiritual—or frenzied, energetic and explosive, this is perhaps the richest music that I’ve heard in quite some time.
There are times these days where I absolutely hate Stephin Merritt, where I’m overwhelmingly infuriated by his latest work with the Magnetic Fields, the meandering yet singularly-purposed three-disc master opus.
Gerald Levert returns with his second offering since a brief liaison with the R&B supergroup LSG (Johnny Gill & Keith Sweat).