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Wong Kar-Wai's
2046
Sony Pictures Classics
In Limited Release

Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai; Li Gong; Takuya Kimura; Faye Wong;
Ziyi Zhang; Bai Ling; Carina Lau; Chen Chang; Wang Sum; Ping Lam Siu;
Maggie Cheung; Thongchai McIntyre; Jie Dong.

Reviewed by Evan Sung

The danger for the fetishist is that he/she becomes trapped in the cage of their own endless, reiterative desires. Wong Kar-Wai, in his deliciously kaleidoscopic film, 2046 teeters perilously on the brink of his own creative implosion. But like his hero Chow Mo-Wan (a dashing, brilliantined, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), Wong succeeds in escaping the pull of his own irretrievable past. 2046 is a sort-of sequel to his lavish, langorous In the Mood for Love. Larger in cast, scope, and story, 2046 is also a haunted film: haunted by the success of In the Mood for Love and the heavy absence of Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk who reappears here only in cameo), Chow Mo-Wan’s almost-lover from the first film.

Wong Kar-Wai is the rare contemporary director who evokes the glory days of International Art House cinema when the next Bergman or Godard film was reason for celebration . 2046 has been long-awaited by fans of WKW, as he’s known in shorthand, and the notoriously ‘improvisational’ Wong reworked the film up to the very last. Originally conceived as a science-fiction project completely separate from In the Mood for Love, Wong filmed both at the same time, and eventually the two films seemed to merge for him. The version of 2046 screened at last year’s Cannes festival arrived only three hours before its scheduled premier because of last minute edits. Wong has reworked it since, and only now does it exist in something close to definitive version.

As always, Wong’s fetish for nostalgia drives the narrative with powerful, hyper-romantic force. In 2046, Chow Mo-Wan returns from Singapore a changed man, a rakish womanizer with a Clark Gable, pencil-thin moustache, and twinkling, mischievous eyes. Looking up an old flame at the Oriental Hotel, he finds her missing, and tries to take her room, Room 2046 (the same hotel room number as the room he shared with Su Lizhen in In the Mood for Love). The landlord tells him its unavailable but gives Chow Room 2047 instead. Still a writer, Chow now writes lurid newspaper gossip and parties like a man trying hard to escape his past. Along the way, he shares a fling with the new neighbor in Room 2046, Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi). She’s a fellow libertine on a downward spiral, and her eventual dissolution is a counterpoint to the redemption that Chow will find. Gong Li is a powerful presence as the mysterious black-gloved gambler known only as the Black Spider. But when he meets Jingwen, the hotel landlord’s lovelorn daughter (Hong Kong pop superstar, Faye Wong), he is inspired to work on a futuristic novel entitled 2047. The novel becomes Chow’s means of escape, a means of putting the legacy of Hotel Room 2046 behind him, the haunted past of a lost love that he cannot forget.

As in In the Mood for Love, wardrobe and set design are practically characters in their own right. Wong’s fetish for pattern and texture rule the day in his idealized version of Hong Kong circa 1967. And as before, Wong films his actors with care and attention, every styled, costume-designed square inch of them. They may be dying of heartbreak, but at least they’re dying in style. Lost love is everywhere in 2046, and longing and regret and heartache permeate every frame of the film. Labrythine and elusive, 2046 is cinematic opium, hazy and erotic and a profound pleasure for the senses.


 






The Dirtiest Joke Ever Told:
Penn Jilette and Paul Provenza’s
The Aristocrats
Opens July 29, 2005


In this joke there’s the set up:
“Guy walks into an agent’s office…”
And the punch line:
“I call it 'The Aristocrats!'”

Reviewed by Ilise S. Carter

But it’s what comes in-between that’s really the stuff of showbiz legend. More than just a dirty joke, The Aristocrats is a foul-mouthed heirloom that’s been handed down from generation-to-generation of comics, since the days of vaudeville. It’s also the subject of Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette’s new documentary.

This secret fraternity handshake of the comedy world is, in point of fact, not a particularly funny or original joke. Nor is it a crowd favorite (actually, it’s never really supposed to be told on stage). Instead, the fun lies in ability of the teller to weave the longest, filthiest, most elaborate yarn his peers have ever heard. There are, however, no hard and fast rules on just how to do that either – the direction of the story is determined only by the twisted imagination of the raconteur. Some of the possibilities examined in the documentary include incest, bestiality, “Hitler in crotch-less panties,” and a host of other scenarios that the editorial policy of this publication prohibits even alluding to.

While the shock value is great and plentiful, that isn’t what makes this homespun little film so fun to watch. It’s the “behind the scenes” quality that makes it worth sitting through infinite versions of the very same joke. Shot with handheld cameras and edited on a Mac, Jillette and Provenza have given The Aristocrats a home movie feeling. This atmosphere gives viewers the sense that they are literally being let in on an inside joke by bringing the audience into a world that was previously only accessible to those privileged enough to sit in on the after-hours sessions that take place in the backrooms of comedy clubs and casinos.

The film includes interviews with over a hundred professional comics, writers, magicians, and entertainers, comprising several generations and a wide range of styles. Some of the most outrageous versions actually come from comedians who’ve made their fortune providing wholesome family entertainment (e.g., Bob Sagat even manages a mention of his former co-stars, the Olsen Twins, in his tale), while other veterans are surprisingly modest (such as Phyllis Diller, who insists she actually fainted from shock the first time she heard the joke.) In addition, there are reminiscences about legendary tellings (“…an hour and a half and then he messed up the punch line!”) and the most inappropriate times it was told (at a post-9/11 Friars’ Club Roast of Hugh Hefner) and other such delightful oddities surrounding the long and sordid history of The Aristocrats. Which, in the end, is really the funniest part of the whole joke.


 

468C




Tennyson Bardwell's
DORIAN BLUES
Release Date: September 23rd


Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Like the amazing Junebug, Dorian Blues is a jewel in the 2005 indie crown. It’s a refreshingly offbeat, surprisingly original, quirky coming out story...of sorts...

Impressively directed by Tennyson Bardwell, DB chronicles the travails of a gay teen living a small New York town. His sexual orientation realization forces Dorian (Michael McMillian) to admit his secret to members of his oddball family, including his conservative father who throws him out, prompting his move to New York City. The story unfold as a series of funny, poignant and honest vignettes.

Dorian Blues is filled with rich rewarding performances beginning with McMillian as the tortured title character. Lea Coco, in particular, is an absolute find as Dorian’s protective brother Nicky. Coco can be compellingly comedic yet intensely dramatic in the same moment.

The script may be a bit too precious at times, but it is filled with wonderful, magical moments including a hilarious scene where Nicky takes his brother to see a female stripper so he can lose his virginity. The way Dorian ends up bonding with her is priceless. The stripper is played by the gifted, scene-stealing Ryan Kelly (who recently graced the off-Broadway stage in Joy).

This truly charming gem needs to find an audience. It would be a shame if it got lost in the all-too-predictable-coming-out-queer-flick clutter when it’s so much more!




John Singleton's
Four Brothers
Opens August 12th

Tagline: They came home to bury mom... and her killer.


Starring: Mark Wahlberg; Tyrese; Angel Mercer; André 3000; Garrett Hedlund; Terrence Dashon Howard; Josh Charles; Sofía Vergara; Fionnula Flanagan; Chiwetel Ejiofor; Taraji P. Henson; Barry Shabaka Henley; Jernard Burks; Kenneth Welsh; Tony Nappo; Shawn Singleton.


Reviewed by Caroline Smith


Tough. Just what you’d expect from a Wahlberg. Despite broken bodies, broken hearts, and broken trust, this film’s plot surprisingly held up. Instead, the gunshots mocked my low expectations and I couldn’t help but drown myself in the brotherly love.

Director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious) did little in developing the chemistry between his four men: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund. He threw them on the ice rink and just said, “Play hockey.” The bond formed naturally. Beneath their tough exteriors, their loyalty was unbreakable.

The adopted sons reunite because their ‘angel of a mother’, Evelyn Mercer, (Fionnula Flanagan) is murdered in a convenience store. They rush home to Detroit and… well, you’d think you knew the rest. O.K. you’re almost right, with the exception of a few potholes. As it’s no surprise, the boys get involved with their mother’s killer but quickly realize that the world of crime has changed drastically since their days of delinquency.

Bobby, (Wahlberg) the ringleader, has the role down sharp, like his greasy, slicked locks. His constant badgering of Jack, (Hedlund) the youngest Mercer, will put a smile on your face. In fact, the laughs are as plentiful as the gunshots in this movie. Even the smaller roles like Sofi, Angel’s (Gibson) insane “la vida loca” girlfriend, and the mink-coated mafia man, Victor Sweet, give this film a little extra than let’s just say the normal serving of blood, guts, and violence.

However, in the midst of the notorious Singleton car chasings and shootings, I had to ask myself if I really believed that “the town’s sweetest lady, Evelyn Mercer,” would have been proud of her sons. After all, she adopted these delinquents with the ‘Mother Theresa’ hope of turning them around. But boys will be boys. They avenge Mom’s death, whether she likes it or not.

Singleton creates early maudlin scenes so that the violence is justifiable in the end. In other words, the boys grieve first so they can kill later. Yes, this film skates on some pretty predictable ice but there are just enough nicks there to keep it from seeming too contrived. And no, Outkast’s Andre “3000” Benjamin does not break out in a rumble scene singing, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.” Though I do think he’s better off doing that than the film thing.

Fight to see this one. It’s a lot of fun.


www.FourBrothersMovie.com





Fernando Meirelles'
The Constant Gardener
Opening August 31, 2005



Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston, Archie Panjabi,
Bill Nighy

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

The trailer for The Constant Gardener filled me with fear. John le Carre’ is an amazing writer, but when was the last time one of his novel’s was adapted into a great film? (I am personally partial to The Little Drummer Girl) This particular trailer was filled with the visual cross-cutting cacophony we’ve learned to expect from the annoying summer action-flick. Had Ralph Fiennes sold out? Did Fernando Meirelles ‘go Hollywood’? Didn’t The Mummy Part 13 teach Rachel Weisz anything?

I breathed a tremendous sign of relief as the first few frames of The Constant Gardener flickered and by the time the credits rolled, I was blown away by how against-the-typical-Hollywood-grain-great this film actually was.

The gifted Fernando Meirelles (City of God), along with crackerjack screenwriter Jeffrey Caine and their fantastic cast and crew have completely reinvented the summer action-thriller mostly by giving it a healthy dose of two things it hasn’t contained since the seventies: realism and intelligence. Imagine a smart film that provides action and suspense. Now imagine that film is actually about something... something important. And imagine the scares coming from the realities of the unjust world we live in. That’s right-- no comic book villains, no overblown effects, no gimmicky twist ending and no one in tights!

Set (and exquisitely shot) in Northern Kenya, The Constant Gardener unfolds after the brutal murder of Tessa Quayle (Weisz), wife of British diplomat Justin Quayle (Fiennes). The death is made to look like a crime of passion and the usually indifferent Justin begins stumbling upon evidence to the contrary. So begins his startling and terrifying journey as he discovers taboo truths about the pharmaceutical industry in Africa and the British High Commission’s involvement. Along the the road to his dangerous enlightenment, he also finds out more about his wife than he ever knew when she was alive.

At the heart of The Constant Gardener is the most refreshingly unconventional love story since Lost in Translation. Through flashbacks, we gain keen insight into the lives of Justin and Tessa. Their meeting and subsequent marriage is one of physical attraction-meets-convenience. It isn’t until after Tessa’s murder that Justin falls deeply in love with her.

Ralph Fiennes, in a remarkably brave, daring and painfully romantic performance, proves he’s the leading man for the new millennium. This is a richly nuanced turn that may deservedly bring him his third Academy Award nomination.

Rachel Weisz emblazes the screen with Tessa, brilliantly conveying the woman’s passions --political and otherwise, yet enabling the audience to glimpse her gentler side as well.

There are stellar supporting performances by Danny Huston & Pete Postlethwaite as well as a brief but dynamic turn by the ubiquitous Bill Nighy who has film’s funniest line.

One of the unsung stars of The Constant Gardner is Kenya. Thanks to Meirelles and his production team the audience spends a few hours in an astonishingly beautiful country that the west seems to have abandoned to famine and disease.

Never a polemic, the film does voice a very urgent message about the power the pharmaceutical industry has over most of the world. It’s a terrifying reality we should all be aware of. Kudos to Mereilles for bringing home the message with such diligence and artistry and simultaneously crafting a riveting, genre-blasting piece of cinema.

The perfect summer movie is finally here!





Lutz Hachmeister & Michael Kloft
THE Goebbels Experiment
Opens August 12, 2005
Quad Cinema

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

No one person living in the 20th Century mastered and manipulated propaganda for the most evil of purposes with the greatest of success than Joseph Goebbels.

One of Hitler’s inner circle flunkies, Goebbels devoted his life to showing the world the power of the Nazi party. Yet, out of the spotlight, Goebbels led a complex, manic-depressive inner life.

This paradoxic figure is explored in The Goebbels Experiment, a gripping new documentary by Lutz Hachmeister & Michael Kloft. The film probes personal passages from a diary Goebbels kept from 1924 until right before his death in the bunker in 1945 and features rare newsreel footage and film clips from the period. All this material makes for a frightening, fascinating portrait.

Movies that probe the mind of a psycho are always interesting, like that train wreck you MUST stop and study. But here we also get a depiction of a people on the cusp of facilitating one of the worst atrocities mankind has ever known. And Goebbels himself seems aware of his own growing place in history.

Poor, young, suicidal Goebbels apparently felt “lost in the universe” and quite paranoid about everything and everyone around him. This anxiety would follow him throughout his life, although the public Goebbels appeared confident and assured. As he excelled in his position Goebbels arrogantly discussed his detractors by proudly proclaiming: “we frighten them.” The war years propelled Goebbels’ propaganda machine to it’s most horrifying zenith, but his grisly fate (and that of his family) proved inevitable.

One of the more unusual aspects of Goebbels personality explored is his fascination with films. He felt that what Germany lacked and desperately needed was talented Aryan actors the world would embrace.

In one of the many examples of his duplicitous personality, the film shows images of him happily shmoozing Leni Riefenstahl while the voice-over diary entry exclaims, “There is no way I can work with a lunatic like her.”

Expertly narrated by Kenneth Branagh, The Goebbels Experiment is an intriguing and chilling historical study as well as a timely warning about the terrifying place a controlled media can lead a needy and desperate people.

Quad Cinema 34 West 13th Street







Photo Giles Keyte

Lexi Alexanders's
Hooligans
Opens September 9, 2005

Reviewed by Evan Sung at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival


From Hobbits to Hooligans, Elijah Wood finds himself a new fellowship in the sometimes brutal, consistently fascinating first time feature by director Lexi Alexander. Hooligans premiered in the US at Austin’s SXSW festival, where it garnered the award for Best Narrative Feature, and now makes an encore appearance at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. Set in the tightly-knit milieu of impassioned and just as tightly-wound loyal followers of local soccer…ahem…football teams in England known as Hooligans, the film gives viewers a largely honest insight into the conflicted psychology and the destructive effects of such tightly bound, clannish alliances.

Elijah Wood plays Matt Buckley, a gifted, bookish Harvard journalism student wrongly expelled two months before graduation. When the cocaine belonging to his roommate, the wealthy and smug son of a Senator, is found in Matt’s affairs, Matt buckles under the pressure and political influence of his roommate and takes the fall. Matt leaves Harvard for London, to seek refuge with his sister Shannon (Claire Forlani) and her husband Steve and reevaluate his future. Almost immediately, Matt falls in with Steve’s younger brother Pete, the fast-talking alpha dog of the Green Street Elite, one of West Ham United Football’s toughest firms. Just before Pete introduces Matt to the rest of his pals, he warns Matt that “firms” – the name for these organized hooligan gangs – hate two things above all, Americans and journalists. Matt passes himself off as a history student, but in spite of his Yank roots, finds an easy acceptance among the other GSE. Only Bovver, Pete’s right hand in the GSE (played with inscrutable scuzziness by Leo Gregory), finds Matt’s presence in the group an intolerable offense. As Matt becomes closer to Pete and his band of merry, violent hooligans, he learns about fraternity, sticking up for one’s self and one’s friends, and its spiraling, escalating consequences.

Alexander opens the film subtly, striking just the right chord of dread, of impending cataclysm. In an empty tube station, a lone passenger waits for the next train when a gently crescendoing chorus of voices floats up from the vacant stairwell. The rising voices are enough to suggest a carousing band of drunken boors, and it’s not a far leap to imagine ourselves as that lone passenger trapped on that tube platform along with them. Our thoughts spin out the worst of possibilities. Where Hooligans is most successful is in playing with our preconceptions of the world of hooligans, at times challenging them, at other times showing us that we haven’t even begun to imagine the reality.
Elijah Wood seems, at first, an incongruous choice for a hardened hooligan, with his delicate, sometimes feminine demeanor. And when Pete decides suddenly that instead of beating the living shit out of Matt he’ll take him under his wing, its hard not to guffaw at the implausibility. But to Wood’s credit, the disbelief lasts only a moment, and when Matt takes his first real punch to the face, his beatific smile of release and liberation is funny and credible.

Yes, there are moments that don’t ring quite true. Why, for example, does Pete have perfect teeth? (English AND a hooligan? By all rights, he shouldn’t have any at all.) And the story of Matt and Shannon’s emotionally absent father seems clichéd. But the quasi-documentary realism with which hooliganism is treated makes up for these minor infractions. And Charlie Hunnam’s fireball performance as Pete is both engaging and tragic, and truly takes us into the emotional world of these men. Alexander also skillfully manages to involve the viewer while never sanctioning or sensationalizing the violence depicted. The film, ultimately, is thought-provoking, magnetic and repelling, in its sympathetic authenticity.

Hooligans will be released in the UK and Europe in August. At press time, the film was still searching for its US distributor, but judging from the critical and audience response both at Tribeca and SXSW, it won’t be long before the hooligans are invading your local cinema.


 



Craig Brewer’s
Hustle & Flow
Opens July 22nd., 2005


Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Trolling for johns on the backstreets of Memphis, DJay (Terrence Howard) is the king of his small world. With a silver tongue to match the spinning chrome wheels of his "hooptie" (his beat-up old ride), DJay cajoles his girls--his whore Nola (played by Taryn Manning); his whore-on-maternity-leave Shug (played by Taraji P. Henson); his "dancer" Lexus (played by Paula Jai Parker) - and he corrals their tricks (who are nameless, but then, aren't they always?). But this pimp wants more and somewhere deep inside him, he knows there is more and that there is something inside him that needs to come out.

And then one day there is a little serendipity. A crazed old man sells DJay a child’s keyboard in exchange for a bit of marijuana (DJay’s side business) and he runs into an old school friend, Key (played by Anthony Anderson). Key has a middle- class life, complete with his middle-class wife, Yvette (played by Elise Neal). Key also has a middle-class business, producing music for churches. But Key has a dream, too; he always wanted to be more. But as he tells DJay, there are two kinds of guys - the ones who talk the talk and the ones who walk the walk. And according to Key, DJay is a talker and he, Key, is a walker.

I used to live in Memphis and I can’t talk about this story without talking about how hot it is in the summer (this movie is set in June). Memphis also has an incredibly poor and uneducated black underclass. I moved to Memphis from Dallas in 1979 and it was like moving back thirty years in time in terms of race relations (Dallas was no paragon of racial harmony back then, either), and my friends tell me things have not changed much since then. Memphis is the true Old South with its symbolic big foot stomping down on guys like DJay. Plus, like I said, it is incredibly hot. And this mix of heat and poverty that gave birth to the blues has now “birthed” another form of music - Crank, Memphis-born Southern hip hop.

And Crank is what DJay wants. He knows he has something inside him that just has to get out, but he has no clue as to how he can make it happen. He supposedly knew Skinny Black (played by Ludacris), a wildly successful Memphis-born rapper, who has gone on to a Hollywood style of fame. Skinny is coming back to Memphis on the Fourth of July to have a party at a bar owned by Arnell (Isaac Hayes). DJay has an “in” with Arnel and he collars the job of supplying Skinny’s weed. DJay then uses his “connection” with Skinny and his silver tongue to hustle Key into helping him produce a track to harness DJay’s hustle into flow (his rap).

So, the race is on. Key comes to DJay’s house (a beat up old “shotgun” in the worse part of town) and with the help of borrowed and improvised equipment (stapled egg cartons on the walls for insulation), they get started. They are soon joined by the incredibly charismatic Shelby (played by DJ Qualls), who makes his living playing for churches, but who also knows a few things about putting down a track.

Hustle and Flow is a great story, told by great characters, and it has the one vital element that all great stories share - redemption. And it is so very real. I left the theater feeling like I knew those guys and their girls (this story is definitely not politically correct), and why they were the way they were. And I got a glimpse of the thing that was inside all of them that just had to come out. The plot itself has Shakespearean overtones – there is so much at stake and such a small window of escape from this Memphis world of sizzling heat and crushing poverty. And there wasn’t a bad actor in this film. They all shone.

Craig Brewer, the writer and director, is a master storyteller and producer John Singleton is to be commended for having the genius to recognize Brewer's talent and for putting up his own money (according to the press release) to produce this movie. And kudos to co-producer Stephanie Allain, who had the vision to shepherd this story through the many years it took to get it made.

Hustle and Flow was the closing night film at the 2005 Urbanworld Film Festival.





Erik Van Looy's
The Memory Of A Killer
In Flemish and French with English subtitles.
Open Nationwide

Starring: Jan Decleir; Koen De Bouw; Werner De Smedt.

Reviewed by Christina M. Hinke


In the Belgium film, The Memory of a Killer, the lead character has a problem. Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir) is a hired assassin who forgets who he’s knocked-off, who is on his hit list and even what his room number is. The sixty-something year old suffers Alzheimer’s disease and writes numbers, names and tasks on his forearm.

Though the memory loss angle may be evocative of Christopher Nolan’s Memento, it works well to create sympathy for the hired hit man. The story transports the viewer inside Ledda’s mind, feeling his torment as his memory fades. But what really keeps the audience glued to their seats is Erik Van Looy’s directorial approach. He uses jumpy camera techniques to create pulse-quickening effects during the fast moving action scenes, but then he slows down the action to a cool pace, letting the story evolve into a stylish crime thriller.


Adapted for the screen from a detective novel by Jef Geeraerts, the story begins in 1995 Belgium when detectives Vincke (Koen De Bouw) and Verstuyft (Werner De Smedt) of the Antwerp police department investigate a series of murders in which all fingers point to a political big wig. Assassin Angelo Ledda breaks his contract when he discovers that one of his targets is a twelve-year old girl. Ledda then decides to leak clues to the cops about the web of people behind the shootings (just in case he forgets the facts himself), but he also stays two steps ahead of the law and kills off each perpetrator - one by one.

The lead actors are all well-known, good-looking European film stars. De Bouw’s dark and moody portrayal of Vincke is dead-on. The curly redhead De Smedt adds a much needed touch of humor to the otherwise serious action thriller. Decleir is captivating as Ledda; his demeanor can flip instantly from gentlemanly to that of a deadly killer, showing a brute strength that is both shocking and exciting. That Ledda is losing his memory makes this character even more compelling. His ultra-hip sunglasses complete his cool-killer persona. I would like to see a Decleir-Tarantino collaboration as Decleir also has the ability to bring to life the twisted and complex characters that are a Tarantino standard.

In scenes when Ledda’s memory flickers, the screen flashes with brightly colored images of past or present (I’m not sure which) making it difficult to comprehend what is actually going on. I suppose it is to let the audience know that his Alzheimer’s symptoms are kicking in.

Otherwise, this action suspense thriller is a “must see” for all you thrill seekers out there. The Memory Of A Killer won five Belgian Oscars and it could certainly find acclaim in the eyes of American viewers with its Hollywood-style fast-moving action and superb acting.

Sony Pictures Classics. R. 120 minutes. Rated R.





Stephen Vittoria’s
One Bright Shining Moment:
The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern

Opened September 16, 2005
Quad Cinema



Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Stephen Vittoria has created a true “blast from the past” in his documentary film about Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for President. Yes, Senator McGovern, the candidate who captured the hearts and minds of young America and then went on to be defeated by Richard Nixon of Watergate fame.

The film asks the question, “What would America be like today if McGovern had won?” Well, we certainly would have never had to live through Watergate but would have been sent off on such a different Y in the road that we would not today be embroiled in Iraq?

The film covers McGovern’s campaign but it also covers the history of the war in Vietnam and the radicalization of the public in response to that senseless loss of life. It is all there: the music; the film footage from the war and the conventions; Gloria Steinem; Dick Gregory; Gore Vidal; Gloria Steinem; Warren Beatty; and Howard Zinn. It is a must see for anyone who believes that the political process can make a change for the better and for all students of history. The film is narrated by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman.

See: http://www.firstrunfeatures.com/cs_onebrightshiningmoment.html and be sure to read my interview with Senator McGovern in the September 2005 issue of www.newyorkcool.com.

,
Quad Cinema 34 West 13th Street NY, NY www.quadcinema.com


 



John Madden's
Proof
Opens September 16, 2005
Sony Lincoln Square
City Cinemas 1,2,3
Loews 19th Street East
The Angelika Film Center


Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow; Anthony Hopkins; Jake Gyllenhaal; Hope Davis; Gary Houston; Anne Wittman; Daniel Hatkoff; John Keefe; Colin Stinton; Leigh Zimmerman.

Damning Proof

Reviewed by Adam Ritter

Of genius and madness, there is said to be only a fine line of separation, and this is a main theme explored in Proof opening nationwide September 16th, 2005.

Based on David Auburn's play of the same name, Proof is the story of Catherine (moodily portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow), daughter to noted mathematician Robert (a blustery Anthony Hopkins) whose great achievements, though long past, are legendary to paste-eaters everywhere.

In the waning years of his life, Robert desperately wants one final, sterling achievement, a proof. That is to say, he labors to cobble together a mathematical formula, the verity of which has been demonstrated to be accurate. Robert wrote several monumental proofs before he was twenty-three, the threshold at which a phantom curtain imposes its will, marking the decline of a person's creative productivity. To accomplish the impossible, Robert needs a coherence and sanity that have long eluded him.

Indeed, from the moment we meet him, you just know that Robert is a graphomaniacal schizophrenic. The Lucasian Chair rests safely.

For five years past, Catherine put life on hold to care for her ailing father, who each day slipped further into the abyss of mental impairment despite promising moments of lucidity. When he is gone, we reflect on and are awash in familial interludes from that time together. This allows you to share in the disorientation of the characters in a style reminiscent of the genre heavyweight, Memento.

As Catherine celebrates her twenty-seventh birthday, she is torn apart by grief for her father, anger over alone having watched him deteriorate and fear for what she may have inherited; his condition. But which part? Genius or madness? Or are the two so intertwined as to be indistinguishable?

Complicating matters are the arrival of Claire (Hope Davis), Catherine's list-writing super-efficient sibling who takes a business approach to all of life's details from shampoo ingredients to slow painful deaths. There is also Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), a promising former student of their father. Hal has rigorously devoted himself to dual objectives; searching through mountains of Robert's notebooks in search of one lost proof, and romancing a vulnerable Catherine, for whom he has long held a torch. Alas, which is his true motivation?

There are some contortions along the way which invigorate the storyline in unexpected ways. Clever scene progression leaves mysteries to linger, though you will be in a constant state of arranging puzzle pieces.

Despite the shroud, Proof examines some genuinely thought-provoking ideas all the while anchored by a precision-timing devotion to the Kubler-Ross grief cycle. Hints of theatricality bleed through in aloof and demonstrative performances, a dendritic echo of the film's origin.

Of achievement, Catherine advises Hal, "It's not about big ideas. It's work. You have to chip away." Agreed. Sometimes though, instead of a chisel, you're wistful for a jack hammer.


468C 




Jonathan Jakubowicz's
Secuestro Express
Spanish with English Subtitles
Opens August 5, 2005

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Starring: Mía Maestro; Carlos Julia Molena; Rubén Blades; Pedro Perez; Carlos Madera; Jean Paul Leroux.

“Get in the car or I’ll blow your fucking head off!“ These words symbolize the terror that is faced every day by the rich of Latin America. Their lives are permeated with the gut-wrenching fear that just around any corner will be a gang of predators, drug-crazed thugs who will 'jack them and try to turn them into their next "paycheck."

Here is a quote from the press release of Miramax’s Secuestro Express: “Every sixty minutes a person is abducted in Latin America. 70% of the victims do not survive. Secuestro Express is the frightening story of one young couple's ordeal as they careen through the underbelly of Caracas, Venezuela in the hands of three thugs who've made them their latest payday.

"Carla (Maestro) and Martin (Leroux) are a young upper-class couple fresh off of a night of dancing and partying when they cross paths with Trece (Molina), Budu (Perez) and Niga (Madera), three men who make their living by kidnapping unwitting young adults to extort quick money from their wealthy parents.

"Carla and Martin become their next victims and are sent on a terrifying overnight journey through Caracas as they wait for Carla's father Sergio (Blades) to hand over twenty thousand dollars - a small amount for a rich Caraqueno, but the equivalent of almost five years of the Venezuelan minimum wage.”

Secuestro was filmed with hand-held video cameras and the jerky reality of video gives the movie a documentary feel, adding to the unrelenting terror of the scenes. Video brings an immediacy to a movie, allowing each scene to escalate to hysterical levels. The audience is totally there with the characters - taking every harrowing breath together as one.

And the actors are completely believable, every one of them. I felt the panic of Carla (Mía Maestro) and Martin (Jean Paul Leroux) as they were confronted with such monstrous thugs as Trece (Carlos Molina), Budu (Pedro Perez) and Niga (Carlos Madera). It must be truly horrific to live in such a place and to know there is no one to help you - that you're held helpless in a country where even the police are in on the kidnapping game.

Secuestro Express rises to new heights of in-your-face gory violence. So, if you ever wanted to know exactly what it feels like to ride the world’s highest roller coaster or be kidnapped by a group of drug-crazed thugs, this is the film for you - a chance to enjoy the thrill of being utterly terrorized from the comfort of a multiplex movie seat.

Secuestro Express is rated R (for strong violence, drug use, sexuality and language).

Official Website: Miramax.com/SecuestroExpress

The night I saw the movie, the Venezuelan author/director, Jonathan Jakubowicz, was there for Q & A. He spoke to us about how happy he was to have been able to create a Venezuelan movie that is going to have such huge international distribution. Then he told us he had made the movie with a social purpose in mind and that this goal was to portray the rich and poor of Venezuela, to show how the other side lives and thinks. He also said he felt the people of Venezuela needed to come together and solve their own problems through social change - and that Latin American governments have never been able to solve anything and he was very pleased to be a “catalyst” for this change. Oh!

These were very lofty ambitions for this film, but was I surprised to hear them from this director. Before Jakubowicz spoke, I had been saying to myself, “Wow, this movie is going to make a shit-load of money. It is the most politically incorrect film I have ever seen - Scarface pales in comparison.” And, “Hmm, I wonder if the ‘good’ thugs in Venezuela are going to picket the movie, outraged at the way they were portrayed?”

But after he spoke, I had another thought: Things must be really bad in Venezuela for the filmmakers to be so inured to the overwhelming effect of the violence in this film. And sure enough, Jakubowicz, the writer/director, had once been kidnapped himself - and he just mentioned this in passing, as if it were a trivial, everyday matter. So, I guess Jakubowicz is right. The people of Venezuela definitely do need to talk, and talk a lot - and perhaps we do too.




Raymond De Felitta's
The Thing About My Folks
Opens September 16, 2005


Starring: Paul Reise; Peter Falk; Elizabeth Perkins; and Olympia Dukakis.

Reviewed by Armistead Johnson

No one has invented the word for the male equivalent of the “chic-flick.” I’m not talking about the guy’s guy’s movies where crap is blown up and women run around helplessly looking for their clothes the entire movie…I’m talking about the sort of movie that deals with issues of manhood as it relates to being a son, father and husband. Such are the issues presented in The Thing About My Folks, written by and staring Paul Reiser (Diner; televisions Mad About You.)

As Ben and Rachel Kleinman (Reiser and Elizabeth Perkins) are getting their daughters ready for bed, Ben’s father Sam (Peter Falk) pays an unexpected, solo visit to their Manhattan apartment. It turns out that Sam’s wife Muriel (Olympia Dukakis) has left him after 47 years of marriage, leaving him at his son’s doorstep looking for answers. The next day, Ben and Sam drive to look at a house in upstate New York, where Ben is thinking of relocating his family. But what begins as a trip to look at real estate soon becomes a very different kind of journey.

The Thing About My Folks is primarily a road trip movie, with Sam and Ben driving for days, stopping frequently for fishing, drinking, a local ballgame…all of the “things” fathers and son’s are “supposed” to do together. In the process, Ben discovers that as embarrassing and infuriating as his father may be, he has a lot more in common than he realizes, and that he has the unique opportunity to learn from his fathers mistakes and examine his own life as a husband, father and son.

While Reiser’s outstanding script is full of his characteristic humor, the consistent laughs are simply an extra bonus in a mostly touching, somewhat sentimental film. And while Reiser’s performance looks vaguely familiar to his other work, the film belongs to Peter Faulk whose performance is an outstanding mix of stubborn invincibility and childlike vulnerability that will keep you hanging on his every word. The opening shot of Peter Faulk stepping out of the shower in slow motion and proudly dousing his entire body in baby powder is worth the ticket price alone.

I just hope that their marketing directors have made sure that this film will be available for purchase by Father’s Day of next year. If not…someone needs to join Mike Brown for an extended vacation.

The Thing About My Folks is a Picturehouse production,a Time Warner Company.





Opens August 17, 2005
Film Forum

Reviewed by Armistead Johnson

There seems to be two types of racism prevalent today. There’s the obvious, in your face, “Get to the back of the bus Ms. Parks!” racism and then there’s the second kind…the kind that involves “active forgetting.” This sort of racism, while maybe not as violent, is however, potentially more dangerous. It’s the kind that ends up on Larry King or the nightly news in a suit, saying things like, “Why do we have to dwell on the past,” or “can’t we just move on?”

The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till is a courageous example of a filmmaker who is determined not to let the buried, unfinished past be forgotten.

The murder of Emmett Louis Till, a fourteen-year-old African American in Money Mississippi and the sham of a trial that followed helped spark Americas Civil rights movement. For Allegedly whistling at a white woman in public, Till was tortured, beaten beyond recognition and thrown into the Tallahatchie River.

Against the advice of friends, family and her preacher, Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley decided to have an open casket despite the fact that her son had been beaten beyond recognition. She defended her decision by stating, “I want the world to see what they did to my son.” Emmett’s bludgeoned face lying in his casket was soon on the cover of newspapers everywhere, sparking the Black Resistance of the South which later became known as the Civil Rights Movement.

The film, which includes remarkable testimony from Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley (who died in 2003), also includes interviews from eyewitnesses whose stories have never been told and discovers potentially guilty parties still living and liable for prosecution. Granted, most of them are in adult diapers by now, but that seems to be the filmmakers point: we will not forget you Emmett…no matter how much time goes by.

On May 10th, 2004 the United States Justice Department reopened the investigation into the murder of Emmett Till, citing the film The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till as the main impetus and starting point for their investigation.

The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till is now playing at the Film Forum, West Houston Street (West of 6th avenue.) Call for show times.

Film Forum| 209 West Houston Street| New York


 

 

 

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