Arts + Life

Arts + Life

Be prepared for an unusual, unsettling, and unforgettable movie.

If you are planning to have children, don't see this film. It is so depressingly effective you might decide against children rather than attempt to deal with a 13-year-old daughter. So difficult is Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), who is a former good girl under the influence of a worldly slut Evie (Nikki Reed, also co-writer), that she is painful to watch as she descends into the pit of drugs, sex, and adult bashing.

Rodriguez has fashioned a romance without compromising his satire.

Two Westerns this year have me in revisionist heaven: Kevin Costner's "Open Range" is a faithful rendition of the old formula with modern sensibilities; Robert Rodriguez's "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is a surrealistic Sergio-Leone turn on revolution, heroes, violence, revenge, and redemption.

This is the right movie for anyone who loves comic books, eccentrics, and the splendor of American diversity.

I rank writer/director Peter Mullan's "Magdalene Sisters" the most violent film of 2003.

I rank writer/director Peter Mullan's "Magdalene Sisters" the most violent film of 2003. Is it my Catholic upbringing that makes me so sure? You bet! Not since seeing "Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" have I lost this much sleep about my tumultuous affair with the Pope's world.

"Dirty Pretty Things" is an example of excellent filmmaking art without artifice.

"Dirty Pretty Things" is a thriller interrupted by a love story. The immigrant Brit working class is sometimes depicted by this film's director Stephen Frears ("My Beautiful Laundrette"); the native Brits are often championed by Mike Leigh ("Secrets and Lies"). In both cases, the kitchen sink realism does not fail to wake up middle-class Anglophiles like me.

The off-stage drama has the feel of a high-school play while on-stage performance is professional and delightful.

In this "Camp" the summertime learning is supposedly about performing in musicals. A regimen of one show every 2 weeks ("Follies," "Dreamgirls," and "Promises, Promises," for example) should have schooled even the best slacker, but the shenanigans outside of rehearsal unfortunately are the more important learning focus for most of the film.

Merchant and Ivory have done much better before.

Costner evokes the visual images and conventions of the genre so perfectly it seems I saw a half dozen classics at that screening.

The men may lose her, but she finds herself.

Writers are driving me crazy: In "Adaptation" Nicolas Cage was barely sane struggling with his inspiration and incendiary companions, true or otherwise; in "Swimming Pool," Charlotte Rampling created a plausible fiction of a dangerous female border and Rampling's desire to make real the murders she wrote.

It's second-rate romantic comedy drivel.

Light and airy, director/co-writer Daniele Thompson's "Jet Lag" tells of a famous beautician (Juliette Binoche, "English Patient") meeting a renowned chef (Jean Reno, "La Femme Nikita") at Charles de Gaulle International Airport when all flights except this fanciful film have been canceled.

It sure is fun to see how David-Lynch wanabees actually give the weirdmeister a run for his blue velvet.

There may be weird movies out there recently, but I can't think of any weirder than Mark Polish's "Northfork." A small Montana town in 1955 will be obliterated by a new dam. James Woods (an executive producer of the film), Peter Coyote, and some other dark-suited corporate types are responsible for moving the residents out before the deluge.

See "Seabiscuit" if you want to see the best American movie this summer.

Jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) quotes Shakespeare to describe his 1938 "Horse of the Year": "Though she be but little, she is fierce." Such is also the quality of a relatively "little" film, released in mid summer after larger disappointing films like "Hulk".

Rampling is proof that still waters run deep.

Not since "The Graduate" has a swimming pool carried as much motif heft as it does Francois Ozon's "Swimming Pool."

Not since the recent "Adaptation" has the art and craft of writing been so carefully and dramatically depicted as in Ozon's film.

A true brownout of comedic crap.

On the dung heap of comedy, we should throw another corpse called "Johnny English," starring Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson.

I use the coprific metaphor because more than once some inept spy has to climb through a dunny to emerge covered with sewage. Such is the level of writing and the depth of imagery--a true brownout of comedic crap.

You thought you knew about migratory birds and the limits of photography.

Winged Migration

If you thought you knew about migratory birds and the limits of photography, then listen up because Jacques Perrin's ("Microcosmos") "Winged Migration" lets you into a world of flight no museum or even on-sight observation could match.

Matey, we have the coolest pirate film of the summer!

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Jade"

"Shiver me timbers!"

"League" is a mess.

When Moriarity, Sherlock Holmes's elusive enemy, shows up in director Stephen Norrington's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," I remember why I like that 19th century detective Holmes so much--he uses his brain. In this film, blow-em-up, not brains, is the operative idea, even if it is a rude but emerging munitions world in 1899.

"T3" outpaces the narrow genetics of "Hulk," the impersonality of "Xmen," and the inscrutable plot of "The Matrix."

Jonathan Mostow's ("U-571") "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" effectively predicts the near-decimation of the human race by machines through their invincible weapon, computer software.

Andrew Jarecki's "Capturing the Friedmans" is as real as hidden family dysfunction could be on film.

It is a gold standard for audience choices at film festivals.

What is a most popular film at both Sundance and Toronto like? It will always be like 2002's "Whale Rider," a New Zealand tale of a 12-year-old Pai's struggle to become chief of her Maori people in the face of daunting sexism and tradition, largely upheld by her grandfather. It is a gold standard for audience choices at festivals.

\"Nick, About that hair . . . .\"

This film should be green with envy of "Spiderman."

Don't even hope Ang Lee's adaptation of the Hulk comic book will be as remotely entertaining or humanistic as "Crouching Tiger." It is not. If my 15-year-old grandson, Cody, gives it a C+, and he goes into the film with the most positive attitude, then you know something is wrong.

All a filmmaker needs to do is done in "Raising Victor Vargas."

There is more humanity in Peter Sollett's "Raising Victor Vargas" than most Hollywood films this year. This small slice of Lower East Side Latino life concentrates on people by shooting primarily close-ups, right down to the oily pores of teenage skin.

The best horror/zombie film since George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," and maybe better.

If you like character studies in essentially a two-handed narrative, you'll not get better than this.

"Man on the Train" was my favorite film at the 2002 Toronto film festival. It has characteristic French sensibility (friendship of 2 middle-aged men) and ironic world-weariness (a bank robbery is just a job)

This film redefines American sports energy.

Jeff Blitz's youthful and positive documentary, "Spellbound," shows eight contestants in the 1999 National Spelling Bee in and outside of competition. The remarkable characteristic of this film is that the young contenders are almost without care about being eliminated (from thousands down to one). Tears, yes, but bitterness and despair are almost absent.

I am happy the Wachowski brothers think enough of us to challenge our Philosophy 101 memories.

As a "re-interpretation" of the 1969 Michael Caine caper film, it stands up well with fast pace, fashion consciousness, and unique score.

This is the best slow movie you will see all year.

The film is alive with change.


"X2" is about as perfect a science fiction feast made from comic-book ingredients as I could have hoped for.