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Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

The Mag: Movie Spread

September 6, 2001

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HHH Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Anniversary Party

Unless a movie set in Hollywood is as good as "Sunset Boulevard," it's hard not to wish the filmmakers had chosen a more imaginative locale. The new Tinseltown comedy "The Anniversary Party" sometimes falls into that trap, although there are several moments when the filmmakers' temptation to stay at home seems justified. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming wrote, directed and star in this showbiz-set tale of a previously estranged couple (Leigh and Cumming) who are about to celebrate their sixth anniversary. The party turns out to be more about business dealings, avoiding lawsuits and facing previously neglected responsibilities. "The Anniversary Party" is at its best when it lightly skewers standard Hollywood behavior (Jane Adams is a riot as an actress who has become a basket case over recent motherhood). When it starts to get somber, it nearly falls apart because the characters aren't deep enough to elicit concern. (R) -- DL

HH Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Kevin Smith finishes up his New Jersey saga by giving a whole movie to Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), the slacker duo who have drifted in and out of all his films to date. As the guys travel to Hollywood to stop production on a movie about them, Smith gets a chance to poke fun at the film industry, whiny Internet geeks and, ultimately, himself. "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" has something to offend just about everyone and continues Smith's tradition of sneaking in interesting ideas and sharp satire underneath all the scatological humor. The whole movie is a virtual love letter to the filmmaker's loyal fans, and nobody else is likely to understand it or even care. It spends most of its running time simply referencing other films (including Smith's own) and throwing in constant in-jokes, some of which work better than others. That's not the strongest narrative foundation for a movie, but Smith and his cameo-riddled cast (which includes everyone from Ben Affleck to Chris Rock to Mark Hamill) are funny enough to more than make up for the slow spots. (R) -- LL

HH1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Jeepers Creepers

If you haven't seen a movie in 30 years, "Jeepers Creepers" might seem original, and even a bit scary. However, anyone who knows the rules of bad horror films will probably find themselves counting the idiotic cliches just to make the time go faster, and they'll have plenty to keep them busy. Victor Salva ("Powder") wrote and directed this unpleasant experience, about a brother and sister (Justin Long and Gina Philips) who encounter a demonic killer in rural Florida, and he certainly knows how it's done -- the characters are stupid, the violence is disgusting and every moment of real creepiness is undone by Salva's dedication to insulting his audience. Even the ending, which is arguably better than the rest of the film, is stomach-turning and predictable. It's usually fun to ridicule movies like this, and there is some definite camp value here, especially as the story reaches its absurd climax. But it's hard to enjoy the work of a director whose only real talent is being inept and derivative, and who takes such evident pride in his work. (R) -- LL

H Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Made

At some point, everyone has come across that one irksome guy who doesn't know when to shut up. This poses a huge problem if that person is your best friend -- and your career involves organized crime. Such is the case for Bobby (Jon Favreau), an amateur boxer who supplements his income as a low-rent bodyguard. When the mob offers to bring Bobby further into the fold by asking him to perform an "errand" in New York, the aspiring henchman agrees, provided his obnoxious childhood buddy Ricky (Vince Vaughn) can tag along. Favreau (who also wrote the screenplay) makes his directorial debut with "Made." Obviously, there's a not-so-subtle attempt at rekindling the charisma he and Vaughn showed in "Swingers." While their characters are somewhat different from the lounge-loving hipsters of the 1996 sleeper, the rapport is the same, and certain scenes mimic the verbal sparring and rat-a-tat pacing of Favreau's previous screenplay. But there's also a meandering quality to the whole affair that is hard to defend. The film often comes across as a series of set pieces rather than a coordinated narrative -- especially noticeable in a lackluster ending that shifts focus away from the leads to a third party. "Made" doesn't entirely hold together, but it capitalizes on a naturally funny situation that is magnified by the true chemistry between its leads. (R) -- JN

HHH Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

O

This teen-age updating of Shakespeare's "Othello" curiously misses the mark by following the Bard's storyline just a little too closely. While it may be set in a contemporary private high school in the South, the narrative seems to bend over backwards to match Shakespeare's template, negating the tension that should be inherent in a story involving racism, drugs and sex. This lack of spontaneity is only heightened by Jeff Dana's oppressive score, in which strings blare on cue right before moments of portent. As Odin, the movie's version of the Moor, Mekhi Phifer is more than credible, but Josh Hartnett ("Pearl Harbor") ably steals the film as ably as his Iago, or this case, Hugo hoodwinks the big "O." As a basketball teammate who is homicidally jealous of Odin's popularity, Hartnett effortlessly switches gears from pure vindictiveness to eerily convincing fake kindness. In its attempts to contemporize the play, "O" winds up being more stiff and pompous than the most old-school adaptation could be. (R) -- DL

HH Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Others

The old dark house movie makes a comeback with this creepy ghost story, thanks to writer-director Alejandro Amenabar's gift for creating subtle chills and loads of atmosphere. Set on a remote, fog-enshrouded English estate during World War II, "The Others" gives its star, Nicole Kidman, a virtual one-woman show, as a mother trying to protect her children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) from all manner of threats, both natural and supernatural. The audience is treated to an unusually intelligent ghost story, where discussions of religion, loneliness and familial devotion are comfortably intertwined with the things that go bump in the night. Kidman's performance is as layered and unnerving as the rest of the film, which moves slowly, but delivers its jolts by making viewers use their imaginations. In this era of shallow, noisy spectacles passing themselves off as horror films, that's a rare gift indeed. (PG-13) -- LL

HHH1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Princess Diaries

Garry Marshall does it again, turning a virtual unknown into a real movie star in less than 2 hours. In 1990, it was Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." This time, it's Anne Hathaway in a fluffy fairy tale about a teen-ager who discovers she's the heir to a European throne. Hathaway's character learns to be regal from her grandmother, played by Julie Andrews, who could give lessons in class and elegance to anyone by simply standing in the same room. Hathaway is a quick study, and she's charming enough to carry the film without too much help. This is a perfect confection for its target preteen audience, who haven't had many movies made for them, let alone one as likable as this. (G) -- LL

HH1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Rat Race

Back in the '60s, there were several stunt-filled comedies where a bunch of big stars ran around like lunatics for three hours. Someone at Paramount decided it would be a good idea to revive the genre, and they came up with this noisy, grating film about a group of people racing to retrieve $2 million. Director Jerry Zucker reminds us just how long it's been since his "Airplane!" days, having apparently lost his gift for light absurdity. There are some funny gags in "Rat Race," but they drag on forever and are surrounded by overblown banality and shameless hamming by the movie's veteran cast (including John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg and Rowan Atkinson). The last 30 seconds of the film are great -- the cast gets to dive into the mosh pit at a rock concert -- but no audience should have to wait that long for the good stuff. (PG-13) -- LL

HH Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Road Home

Chinese director Zhang Yimou's powerful earlier flicks like "To Live" and "Raise the Red Lantern" were banned in his homeland. With "The Road Home," Yimou comes across as more of a romantic than an agitator. The 1999 film stars Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") as a young, illiterate peasant who woos a handsome out-of-town teacher (Honglei Sun). The actress proves she's more than a pretty face with some wicked martial arts moves, and she's sincere enough to make us believe she's in love instead of psychotically possessive. The storyline, which has some hints of Yimou's dissatisfaction with the status quo, is thinner than in most of his movies and is sometimes redundant. Still, the movie looks great, with contemporary scenes shot in black-and-white and the courtship sequences in rich color (Yimou used to be a cameraman). Yimou may not be trying to right injustice with this one, but "The Road Home" offers a good sampling of the filmmaking skill that makes Chinese authorities nervous. (G) -- DL

HHH Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.

Rush Hour 2

The pairing of veteran Hong Kong star Jackie Chan with loudmouth comic Chris Tucker isn't quite as novel with "Rush Hour 2," but there is enough of Chan's comic acrobatics to compensate for some of Tucker's less charming moments (what exactly IS he doing in Hong Kong besides making a jerk of himself?). This time around, Chief Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective Carter (Tucker) try to take out a murderous gang of counterfeiters. The new film has a stronger villain. Zhang Ziyi from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" may be pint-sized but she's all cold menace -- not bad for someone who doesn't speak a word of English on-screen. Chan gets to put a wastebasket to novel use, and Tucker has a couple of bits (one where he demolishes a Michael Jackson song and another at a craps table) where he demonstrates some chops we haven't seen before. The story's thin and a bit flat, but there's enough action to feed the rush. (PG-13) -- DL

HH1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

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