GET ON THE BUS. A road movie from Spike Lee about a disparate group of African American men traveling from Los Angeles to Washington D.C to attend Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. Lee's filmmaking style is innovative and fascinating, but it doesn't seem quite right for this static, issue-oriented movie. Get on the Bus presents an assortment of political types, crams them together on a bus, and lets them argue about issues of African American masculinity. Though some of the discussions and characters are lively and moving, others have a tinny, pedantic feel; sometimes this movie feels more like a lecture than a Spike Lee Joint.
THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT. Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson star in what starts out as a promising action thriller about a 30-something amnesiac (Samantha Caine) who was "born eight years ago, naked, on a beach in New Jersey." The first 45 minutes delve into some interesting character development as Caine's former personality starts to resurface and reclaim her rightful place. Disappointingly, the directors seemed to feel 45 minutes was plenty for the American movie-going demographic: The remaining 135 minutes are filled with the requisite campy one-liners, saccharine sentimentality, plot holes large enough for a flaming semi to careen through and bad guys (as well as heroes) who insist on dying at least twice, as if this is somehow surprising. Davis is nonetheless superb as the kick-ass, psycho-spy soccer mom. Elements of James Bond, Pulp Fiction and Xena: Warrior Princess make Long Kiss thoroughly enjoyable mindless entertainment.
MICHAEL COLLINS. A film that presents Neil Jordan's version of the controversial life and death of Michael Collins, a charismatic freedom fighter who led the IRA against the British in the early part of the century. Jordan, who also made The Crying Game and Mona Lisa, focuses on a much broader series of events here, giving us a wide, sweeping narrative that resembles nothing less than an old-fashioned war movie. The violence is graphic, and it's hard at times to sympathize with our hero, Michael Collins, appealingly played as he is by Liam Neeson, because his special gift in life seems to be terrorism. The British aren't any better, but those of us who aren't especially involved in the issues of Irish independence may find ourselves wishing that Jordan had brought the stakes and history of the fighting a little more to the fore. There's a silly love story with Julia Roberts thrown in for good measure, and lots of explosions, if you get bored of the male bonding.
PAPERBACK ROMANCE. A loopy, endearing little romantic comedy from down under, Paperback Romance has, um, interesting production values and not a familiar face in the cast. There's nothing very weighty here, but the story of a pretty, handicapped romance writer (she conveniently composes her smutty stories aloud) who pretends to have been injured in a skiing accident in order to nab Prince Charming has a ridiculous but undeniable charm. Like While You Were Sleeping or even Funny Face, Paperback Romance does a fine job of conflating absurdity with romance. Bring a date.
SLEEPERS. Director Barry Levinson overshoots the mark in Sleepers, a long, overly dramatic movie emphatically about the loss of innocence. Though the first part of the film, about a group of mischievous friends growing up in Hell's Kitchen, has some of the neighborhood charm of Levinson's Diner, the story unravels in the second half into an annoying series of flashbacks that are basically all the same. The plot concerns a group of boys who pull a prank that gets out of hand; as a result they're sent away to a Draconian boy's prison where the guards torture and abuse them. Fifteen years later the boys (haunted by black and white flashbacks), take their revenge on the guards. Though the plot gains some power through the fact that it's based on a true story, the tension never feels genuine, and the boys never seem as real as adults as they did as happy children.
SWINGERS. Picture Woody Allen in Los Angeles in the 1990s pretending to be a hipster from the 1940s who's just been dumped by his girlfriend from college and you have Swingers, a funny, imaginative independent film with serious era confusion. The story concerns a neurotic guy named Mike who's too heartbroken after leaving his old girlfriend to get out and enjoy the nightlife of L.A. with his buddies. His buddies, who share an unquenchable yearning for the golf-putting, swing-dancing, highball-swilling days of Sammy and Sinatra, want nothing more than to see Mike on his feet again and spend endless amounts of energy to this end. The guys call each other Daddy, refer to women as "babies," sleep until one in the afternoon, then cruise the bars in sharkskin suits. This movie is pretty lightweight, but it pokes fun at L.A. and the slacker aesthetic with ruthless accuracy.
WALLACE AND GROMIT. Aardman Animations, that U.K. studio where claymation cracker jacks Peter Lord and Nick Park break the mold, has packed this series of shorts made for British TV and sent them over the waters to prove that British television is woefully superior to much of American cinema. This 90-minute compilation is a mixed bag of fairy tales, a fable of the urban labyrinth, misadventures with "Rex the Runt" and "Pib and Pog," "Creature Comforts" commercial spots and, of course, Wallace and Gromit's "A Close Shave." The more you watch, the funnier they get; and the animation is first-rate. Go if only to see the subversively hilarious zoo mocumentary.
HOUSE OF HORRORS. The 1933 Island of Lost Souls plays this weekend at The Screening Room as well as Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre. Island of Lost Souls is considered by some to be one of the best horror films ever made and concerns the recently resurrected Dr. Moreau, a mad scientist who surgically transforms animals into disgusting beastmen. Nosferatu is a visually stunning adaptation of the Dracula legend starring the ever-creepy Klaus Kinski as a needy, junkie-like vampire who spreads pestilence throughout the land. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Then call 622-2262 for show times.
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