Film Clips

CHILDREN OF HEAVEN. In spite of the fact that the U.S. sponsored a bloody coup in their country in the 1960s, Iran still sends us much better films than we deserve to watch. This latest from director Majid Majidi is a quintessentially Iranian film, focusing on the small tensions in daily life and giving them a sense of urgency and universality. Young Ali loses his sister Zahra's shoes, and must engage in a difficult series of trade-offs that bring the siblings closer together. Sparse use of music, unnaturally apt acting by the child-stars, and a strong sense of rhythm make this a deeply engaging film. --DiGiovanna

Film Clips COOKIE'S FORTUNE. Director Robert Altman comes back strong in this quiet story about confused relations in a southern town. Charles Dutton turns in a career performance as Willis Richland, who is falsely accused of murder when Camille Orcutt (Glenn Close) rearranges things at the scene of her aunt's suicide. Julianne Moore gives even better than her usual turn as Camille's deranged, thespian sister. Also featuring the ubiquitous Chris O'Donnell (perhaps most tragically known for his role as Robin), the fetching Liv Tyler, the under-appreciated Ned Beatty and the indescribable Lyle Lovett. --DiGiovanna

ED TV. A 34-year-old loser accepts an offer from a failing cable company to have his life broadcast 24-7. Though there are some good jabs at the loss of privacy occasioned by modern media, the plot gets muddied in a trite and sexist romance story. Bonus: Director Richie Cunningham casts his old pal Ralph Malph in a throw-away charity role! Sadly, Potsie and the Fonz couldn't make it. --DiGiovanna

FOOLISH. Sometimes I think it would be fun to go to a movie without knowing anything about it. Sometimes I think it would be fun to slide down banisters made of razor blades. Unfortunately, I opted for the former and was subjected to a form of entertainment that has the potential to cause staggering amounts of pain: standup comedy. I'm still a little hazy after this cinematic ass-kicking, but here's what I remember: an updated JJ Walker, bad acting, underexposed shots and pussy humor. Since this was a fairly low-budget endeavor, it's easy enough to forgive lighting problems. It's more difficult to ignore the stereotypical character of Foolish (Eddie Griffin), a comedian with a weakness for wine and women who's just short of screaming "DYN-O-MITE!" every time he does his act. Foolish is about to hit the bottom of his bottle when his brother Fifty (Master P) organizes a comedy showcase for him to headline. There are odd but interesting moments, such as the scenes in which Foolish gets inspiration from talking feet in bathroom stalls, but these are overshadowed by standup routines centered around lame generalizations about gender difference and race. --Higgins

GO. Go see Go. No, really. I expected this sophomore effort from Swingers director Doug Liman to suck, what with its MTV-ready cast and trendy feel. But guess what? It completely fails to suck. (I hope that gets quoted on an advertisement.) The film tells the same story from three perspectives, repeatedly going back to the same event to restart itself, and each version is very successful. The first tells of a drug deal gone wrong (just once I'd like to see a movie with a drug deal gone right...I've known of quite a few real drug deals, and most of them worked out A-okay); the second is a crime farce set in Las Vegas, and the third and best is the story of two male lovers who star in a TV cop show, and wind up involved with a creepy Amway-dealing police officer and his libidinous wife (played by Ally McBeal's Jane Krakowski). The three stories intersect and the film is tied up as neatly as a Japanese bow. Featuring hot young things Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf. --DiGiovanna

GOODBYE LOVER. For a couple of weeks, various strange people have been asking me if I'm married. No, I'm not married, but only because Patricia Arquette's personal secretary won't give her my letters and phone messages. In Goodbye Lover, Arquette cements her reputation as one of the finest actors of the American theatre by engaging in Nazi leather sex with Don Johnson and a jar of pitted olives. This film about murder, double indemnity and double crosses works as well as any film noir--if you're willing to swallow the few far-fetched plot twists it gives back with lots of sleazy action. A big bonus is Ellen Degeneres, who's hilarious as the cynical police detective investigating a murder and occasionally putting Arquette into a series of aesthetically pleasing bondage poses. And any movie that includes the line "fuck me like a little Republican" deserves our national gratitude. --DiGiovanna

THE HARMONISTS. In the 1920s, six Germans formed The Comedian Harmonists, one of the most successful pop groups in the history of music. Unfortunately, in the 1930s 6 million Germans formed the Nazi party, one of the most successful hate groups in the history of bigotry. The Harmonists tells the story of the confluence of these two historical forces, as the three Jewish members of the singing group try to surf their crest of fame over the coming tidal wave of ignorance and murder. Extremely well acted, shot and written, The Harmonists is an interesting look at how the rise of National Socialism affected life on all levels of German society. --DiGiovanna

IDLE HANDS. The studio decided not to advertise this film's opening in Colorado this week. I guess that after mercilessly teasing two mentally unstable boys and then supplying them with enough firearms to win the presidency of Uganda, the state of Colorado had been through enough and couldn't face another crappy teen slasher film. Idle Hands is the story of a pot-head teenager who finds that his demonically possessed hand is forcing him to kill his parents and get it on with the beautiful girl across the street. Lots of bong jokes, dismembered teens and cruelty to animals enliven this sad commentary on the cultural wasteland that is inland California. --DiGiovanna

LIFE. The Shawshank Redemption meets Stir Crazy in this decades-spanning prison comedy. Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play a couple of buffoons who get framed for murder in the Deep South. Their incarceration carries them from the Prohibition Era into modern times, and director Ted Demme takes the opportunity to mix social observation (it'd be a stretch to call it "commentary") into the story. This includes surprisingly well-shaded views of racism. Mostly, though, Life provides Murphy and Lawrence with scattered opportunities for comic riffing. Murphy does his funniest, most free-spirited work in years, and Lawrence makes a likable straight man. It's a shame the movie is so aimless, but a sloppy Life is worth a dozen tight Dr. Dolittles. --Woodruff

LOST AND FOUND. This David Spade comedy is a mixed bag. On the plus side is David Spade, who delivers a series of cruel and yet self-deprecating one-liners that are almost always funny. On the other is the over-worked story of the guy who engages in stalker-like behavior in order to win a woman whose only appealing characteristic is her extreme beauty. The role of Extreme Beauty is played by Sophie Marceau, who's extremely good at looking beautiful. She won the Cesar Award (the French Oscar) for "Most Looking-Beautiful Woman-Type Creature" (that's a roughly literal translation). She plays the romantic comedy version of the ideal girlfriend: She's hot, she speaks French, and she's willing to date assholes. If the movie was just Sophie Marceau being painfully fly and David Spade being painfully funny it'd be a four-star knock-out, but unfortunately there's also a plot about a missing diamond ring, a pile of dog poop, a struggling businessman who's willing to act zany to get a loan, and, of course, the romantic pleasures of lying, stalking, and felony breaking and entering. --DiGiovanna

THE MATRIX. While watching this I turned to my pal and fellow ex-childhood comic geek Petix and said, "This is the movie we dreamed of when we were young." He nodded rabidly before returning his rapt and drooling visage to the screen. Remember when the original Superman movie came out, and the tag line was You'll Believe a Man Can Fly!? That was a load of crap...anyone could see Superman was supported by strings, and the rest of his superpowers were equally fakey. Well, not here: Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne and some b-listers discover that the world is a computer simulation and that they can reprogram themselves with abilities beyond the ken of normal folk. They dodge bullets, leap across tall buildings and fly through the air and the whole thing looks so cool you'll forget about the plot holes and story-flow problems and just have an eye-candy good time. --DiGiovanna

NEVER BEEN KISSED. What an unexpected Beverly Hills, 90210 reunion! David Arquette (remember Diesel, the girlfriend-beating keyboard player?), Cress Williams (a.k.a. D'Shawn Hardell, token minority/basketball player/fan of Donna Martin), and Jeremy Jordan (teen Vanilla Ice, on the 90210 soundtrack album) team up for Never Been Kissed, 60610: the Chicago years! In the midst of all this fun is the woman once rumored to be Shannen Doherty's replacement, Drew Barrymore. This week's topic has to do with self-love. Poor awkward Josi (Barrymore), a mid-20s copy editor for the Chicago Tribune, gets a writing assignment to go undercover as a high-school senior and find the real scoop on teens. Josi is unable to approach the story objectively because she was tormented throughout her secondary education as the class geek, and she has frequent flashbacks that make her vomit. She confronts her demons with the help of her brother Rob (Arquette), and finally finds self-confidence through the acceptance of the popular kids, including the dreamy Guy (Jordan). --Higgins

THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS. In the half-full auditorium where I watched this dismal comedy, only one viewer really seemed to be enjoying herself. If you're undaunted by those odds, read on. Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn play the Clarks, a middle-aged couple from Ohio who travel to New York City for a job interview. They encounter one problem after another during the course of the wackiest 24 hours of their poorly sketched-out lives; they get mugged on the mean streets, unintentionally solicit an audience while having sex in Central Park (yuck, Steve, close your mouth!) and accidentally take hallucinogenic drugs. Both roles are thinly written, yet narrative interest relies upon spectators actually caring about what happens to them. Like I said, one was the lucky number at my screening. I myself had better things to think about, like how far the walk is to the bathroom at those darn monster-plexes. --Higgins

PUSHING TIN. John Cusack plays a hotshot air-traffic controller whose suburban life couldn't be more blah. You know: tons of friends, quiet children, solid sex life (with Queen Elizabeth!), and a regular table at The Quaintest Italian Restaurant in the World. But when Billy Bob Thornton arrives on the scene as a rugged Southwestern controller who uses the Force and is always accompanied by his own twangy sound, Cusack feels threatened, because he does not have a twangy sound. Plus Billy Bob really has the stuff, which includes not only wife Angelina Jolie (who wears a big neon sign over her head that flashes "Hot, Pouty Sex"), but also the Infinite Mystery of Manhood as only a guy named Billy Bob can personify. Cusack becomes so obsessed, you half-expect him to grow a mustache and buy a leather cap. Instead, Pushing Tin veers into realms of infidelity, guilt, jealousy, demoralization, and somehow arrives back where it started, in the world of air-traffic controllers. It only makes sense in an air-headed sitcom way, but it remains watchable thanks to the four main actors. They're so appealing they could throw hamsters at a wall for two hours and you'd still stay for the credits. --Woodruff

SCHOOL OF FLESH. Contrary to the stereotypes held by certain ignorant Americans, the French are a polite, sweet-smelling and attractive people. On the other hand, they make the most consistently mediocre movies on earth. School of Flesh is no exception; it's a perverted Harold and Maude, with the omnipresent Isabelle Huppert playing sugar momma to a skeevy street hustler. Of course, they fall in love, but their love, she is so powerful, she, how you say?...destroys them. Mais ben oui, eh? --DiGiovanna

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU. There are seven Shakespeare adaptations due to hit the screen this year, three of them starring Julia Stiles. She'll play Ophelia in Hamlet; Desdemona in O (a teen-film reworking of Othello); and Katarina in 10 Things I Hate About You, a high-school romance version of Taming of the Shrew. Ten Things successfully makes a feminist flick out of the Bard's most sexist comedy, and does it while achieving that holy grail of teen movies, intentional humor. While not the best film of the year, 10 Things is amusing and distracting, which is more than you get from most movies. And, of course, no Australians were harmed in the making of this film. --DiGiovanna

VELVET GOLDMINE. A beautiful "fairy" tale, and deep eulogy to shallowness, Velvet Goldmine is a trippy look at the Glam Rock era. Fictionalized versions of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno take center stage in a world spawned by the magical gemstones of Oscar Wilde, where style always wins in the end, and all that glitters is gay. A flamboyant rock star who lived in terror of not being misunderstood is sought by a reporter and ex-fan 10 years after his mysterious disappearance. Director Todd Haynes uses homosexual Barbie dolls, swirling feathers, glowing green aliens and wardrobes that would embarrass Liberace to craft a Brother's Grimm version of the '70s. Starring the shockingly beautiful Johnathon Rhys-Meyers as a David Bowie stand-in, and Ewan McGregor as a guy who doesn't need a light saber. --DiGiovanna

WALK ON THE MOON. I just love New York Jewish culture, and nothing is more N.Y. Jewish than a summer in the Catskills, the low-rent vacation area in up-state New York that brought us "Borsht Belt" humor and tiny lakes with paddle boats for rent. I also love period pieces, if they get the clothes and hair exactly right. And I love actors Liev Shrieber, Viggo Mortensen, and Diane Lane. So I couldn't help but love this story about a family whose vacation in the Catskills in the summer of 1969 brings their conservative, working-class lifestyle into contact with the Woodstock music festival. Every element is perfectly 1969, from the over-sprayed coifs to the stiff, brightly colored blouses and the free-flowing and dirty style of the neighboring hippies. And the acting is, of course, spot-on. And there's a charming and heartbreaking love story. And pretty people getting naked in the woods. And latkes and matzoh and schmaltz. Oh my. --DiGiovanna

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