2003 April

 

(1 Apr) Party Girl (1995, Daisy von Scherler Mayer) 12
[ Cheap-looking, dull, witless flick about an obnoxious bimbo (Parker Posey) who gets a job as a librarian and romances a Falafel street vendor. Hilarity DOESN’T ensue. ]

(2 Apr) Stardom (2000, Denys Arcand) 37
[ This satire of our media-addicted society and of the cult of youth and beauty is notable for its clever use of various film and TV styles to tell the story of a hockey player turned model turned trophy wife (played by the astonishingly gorgeous Jessica Paré) but, quite ironically, it’s generally as superficial and inconsequential as its subject. ]

(4 Apr) Falling Down (1993, Joel Schumacher) 44
[ D-Fens (Michael Douglas in one of his strongest performances) has had enough. Enough of traffic jams, overpriced grocery products, street gangs, visiting rights (or lack thereof), beggars, fast food restaurants that won’t serve you breakfast after 11, neo-Nazis, rich old men playing golf all day… And so he stalks through Los Angeles, primed to go off at anyone crossing him. “Falling Down” is an oddball flick, uneasily juggling black humor and blacker social commentary. Interesting ideas are approached but they give way to cheap thrills and by-the-numbers hogwash about a cop (Robert Duvall) one day away from retirement tracking the vigilante. Schumacher doesn’t have the deft touch of a Scorsese (whose “Taxi Driver” this vaguely resembles) and the screenplay lacks depth and subtlety. It’s loud, but it’s not saying all that much. ]

(7 Apr) Roger Dodger (2002, Dylan Kidd) [ review ] 93

(8 Apr) Phone Booth (2003, Joel Schumacher) [ review ] 72

(10 Apr) Leaving Metropolis (2003, Brad Fraser) [ review ] 31

(10 Apr) Emmanuelle l’antivierge (1975, Francis Giacobetti) 52
[ “Emmanuelle the Anti-Virgin”! Priceless. Otherwise this sequel to the “classic” French softcore flick is more of the same: images pretty in a cheesy postcard way, dialogue that amusingly balances naiveté and pretentiousness and of course Sylvia Kristel, still an irresistible creature. ]

(11 Apr) Anger Management (2003, Peter Segal) [ review ] 65

(11 Apr) Le Déclin de l’Empire Américain (1986, Denys Arcand) 43
[ The film opens with a university teacher telling his students that History is all about numbers, i.e. South Africans can overcome yet African-Americans never will. “History is not a moral science.” Interesting. Then we have the Head of the History Department talking to a reporter about how “the expectation of receiving instant gratification in daily life constitutes the normative parameter of existence.” Bleh, not so interesting anymore. This is a pretentious filmmaker setting loose pretentious characters to make pretentious audiences nod in recognition, “Aren’t we sophisticated and erudite?” But the filmmaker/characters don’t want to seem pretentious, of course, so they start talking about and having sex. And there’s your “Déclin”, a wildly overrated film alternating a few actual insights with a lot of tedious intellectual grandstanding and genitals-gazing. ]

(12 Apr) The Truman Show (1998, Peter Weir) [ review ] 95

(12 Apr) Thir13en Ghosts (2001, Steve Beck) 30
[ You take “The Frighteners” (already an overblown B-movie) and you remove all the wit and style Peter Jackson brought to it, then you replace the always charming Michael J. Fox by the ever obnoxious Matthew Lillard and you make sure that the resulting flick is as idiotic, vile and pointless as possible and ta-daa! “13 Ghosts”. The art direction and the make-up effects are pretty good, but don’t expect any scares or thrills. ]

(15 Apr) Les Invasions Barbares (2003, Denys Arcand) [ review ] 88

(17 Apr) Bulletproof Monk (2003, Paul Hunter) [ review ] 33

(17 Apr) Under Hellgate Bridge (2001, Michael Sergio) 29
[ Gangster movies have run their course, it seems. The tough talk in Italian accents, the double-crossings, the drugs, the miserable wives, the religious echoes, the vendettas… An inspired filmmaker can still jazz these clichés into something interesting, but Michael Sergio is not that filmmaker. ]

(18 Apr) Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002, Tuck Tucker)
[Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 52

(19 Apr) Schindler’s List (1993, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 95

(22 Apr) Amores Perros (2001, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) 91
[ It opens with a stunningly shot car chase that culminates in a brutal accident. The narrative then shifts around back and forth in time following the various people involved in the car crash. There’s Octavio, a young man who puts his Rotweiler into dog fights to raise money to get away with the abused wife of his no-good brother; Valeria, a supermodel crippled in the accident who takes out her frustrations on her lover; and El Chivo, a shaggy hitman who hasn’t talked to his daughter for twenty years. The title translates as “love’s a bitch” and it sure is, for these characters at least. The film is often violent and emotionally ambiguous, amoral even, but that’s because it’s an honest (and intense like a mofo!) look at how cruel life can be. The cast is great (especially the rivetingly charismatic Gael Garcia Bernal) and the cinematography, score and editing are all top notch. This is a tremendous debut for Inarritu. ]

(22 Apr) Breakdown (1997, Jonathan Mostow) 86
[ Kurt Russell’s looking for his wife. There’s the desert, the highway, the redneck assholes, and that’s it. This is the simplest of stories, but Mostow takes this and wrings unbearable suspense out of it. This is one damn effective thriller, and an awesome calling card for the filmmaker, who’s next challenge is to close the “Terminator” trilogy. If “Rise of the Machines” is as well crafted and action-packed as this, James Cameron won’t be missed! ]

(23 Apr) Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore) [ review ] 79

(24 Apr) George Washington (2000, David Gordon Green) 92
[ A smalltown wasteland, crushed by the Deep South heat. An interracial group of kids (their common poverty seems to make skin color irrelevant), not too bright but with their hearts in the right place. No clear plot, but much contemplation, much lyricism and an unlikely super-hero. Add great Cinemascope cinematography, a haunting score and casually philosophical narration, and you can’t help but think of Terrence Malick’s oeuvre, but a series of quirky flourishes and the sometimes clumsy but always natural actors make Gordon’s heartbreakingly beautiful first film into its own beast. ]

(24 Apr) Pillow Talk (1959, Michael Gordon) 75
[ This film uses a dated premise (party lines?), cheesy visuals and a cartoonish score, but these aren’t necessarily bad things. I actually liked the campiness of it all, with the colorful clothes and sets, the use of split-screen and the gratuitous musical numbers. And while I’m not sure it was Oscar-worthy, the playful sex banter between Rock Hudson and Doris Day is certainly amusing. ]

(25 Apr) Identity (2003, James Mangold) [ review ] 48

(25 Apr) Gerry (2003, Gus Van Sant) [ review ] 60

(27 Apr) X-Men (2000, Bryan Singer) [ review ] 90

(29 Apr) Nid de Guêpes (2002, Florent-Emilio Siri) 29
[ On the 14th of July (the French national holiday), a SWAT unit transporting a vivious Albanian Mafioso is attacked by thugs trying to break their leader free and they are forced to hide in a nearby warehouse. The place is being robbed by a group of unlucky French dudes, but when it becomes clear that the Albanian mobsters surrounding the building are ready to kill them all, cops and robbers must band together to fight for their lives. In other words, this is a blatant rip-off of “Assault on Precinct 13”, but with uninteresting stock characters and desperately generic action scenes. A noisy bore. ]

(29 Apr) Filles Perdues Cheveux Gras (2002, Claude Duty) 76
[ A cheapie but lively contemporary musical about three depressed young women looking for themselves. The electro-pop songs are beyond campy (but catchy as hell) and the blend of melodrama and silliness doesn’t always work, but the actresses are amusing, especially the adorable Marina Foïs as an alcoholic hairdresser mourning her cat. This is clearly not for all tastes but I loved the stupid thing. ]

(30 Apr) Tuck Everlasting (2002, Jay Russell) 33
[ A cute but rather dull fairy tale about a literally and figuratively corseted 15 year old (the infinitely beautiful Alexis Bledel) who falls in love with a 104 year old man (who looks like 20 year old Jonathan Jackson) whose family has discovered the secret to eternal life. The film has that Disney glow, supporting parts by William Hurt, Sissy Spacek and Ben Kingsley (as the Man in the Yellow Suit!), and it presents a nice message (“You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live”), but I still had trouble staying awake. Your mileage may vary. ]

March / May