Recent Reviews

Casa de Los Babys
Dir. & writ. John Sayles; feat. Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden,  Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno, Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhall, Susan  Lynch (R)
Director John Sayles latest film is the story of six North American  women who go south to acquire abandoned babies. While enduring the  ordeal of official approval, they stay in the same hotel, Casa de Los  Babys. During the single day on which the film is focused, one would-be  mother has already been waiting more than two months, and her  application for a child seems no closer to endorsement than when she  arrived. The supplicants pass their anxious time sightseeing and  backbiting. SGK

Intolerable Cruelty
Dir. Joel Coen; writ. Joel & Ethan Coen, Robert Ramsey, Matthew  Stone; feat. George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush,  Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Paul Adelstein, Billy Bob  Thornton (PG-13)
Clooney's Miles Massey is the big shark in divorce-attorney waters,  a Dapper Dan able to sell the most ludicrous settlements. In the course  of raking Mrs. Rexroth (Zeta-Jones) through the coals in court, he  falls for her hard and proceeds to make a fool of himself. While film  history suggests that the Coens will eventually make a bad movie or  two, it won't be this year: Cruelty hits the nail on the head. JD

Kill Bill
Dir. & writ. Quentin Tarantino; feat. Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu,  Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, David  Carradine (R)
The movie follows a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassin  Squad who was left for dead by treacherous colleagues, and makes it her  mission to eliminate each of them. It's a movie soaked in blood, picked  up and wrung out, then tossed back again into the carnage; and while it  is not simply one long fight, it will hold little appeal for moviegoers  who can't thrill to decapitations and epic duels. The director relishes  the beautifully choreographed action and the bits of style - the long,  high whine of an unsheathed sword, the geyser of blood produced by a  de-limbed torso - that make cinematic violence a visual feast. JD

Lost in Translation
Dir. & writ. Sofia Coppola; feat. Bill Murray, Scarlett  Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, Akiko Takeshita (R)
Bill Murray plays a movie star who has come to Tokyo to make a  quick $2 million for endorsing a whiskey. Scarlett Johansson plays the  wife of a self-absorbed commercial photographer who goes with him on a  business trip and spends her days alone while he works. The two are  staying in the same hotel; neither is sleeping well, and during their  insomniac strolls, they cross paths enough times that they strike up a  friendship. Both individuals are wrestling with their lives in ways  that make them hungry for meaningful interaction. They are stranded in  a country whose language and pop culture are baffling, but that's just  a signpost for the alientation they suffer among those who supposedly  speak their language. JD

Matchstick Men
Dir. Ridley Scott; writ. Nicholas Griffin, Ted Griffin, based on  a novel by Eric Garcia; feat. Nicholas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison  Lohman, Bruce McGill (PG-13)
Attempting to reestablish contact with his former wife, Roy is told  that though she has no wish to see him, the teenage daughter he never  met does. A finicky bachelor, he becomes host to a boisterous stranger  who disrupts his existence. Chamber work for flamboyant director Ridley  Scott, the film offers stings within schemes within scams. But the  brightest fire in Matchstick Men illuminates a dysfunctional life  humanized by the ancient fictions of fatherhood. SGK

Mystic River
Dir. Clint Eastwood; writ. Brian Helgeland, based on a novel by  Dennis Lehane; feat. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence  Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney (R)
Repressed memories of abuse propel the action and compel calamity  in Mystic River. Never trust a stranger, according to the unspoken code  that governs lusterless life beside the Mystic River, where everyone  becomes a stranger. The recurrent motif of someone getting into a car  driven by another is a visual reminder that danger lurks in letting go.  Despite a few unnecessary digressions and a bothersome, redundant final  scene, director Clint Eastwood's understated style parallels the  silences that insulate, isolate, and destroy his characters. They  inhabit a world in which laconic men are in control, or at least prove  their masculinity by acting as if they - and not the force of Nemesis -  could hold control. SGK

Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Dir. & writ. Robert Rodriguez; feat. Antonio Banderas, Salma  Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique  Iglesias, Marco Leonardi, Cheech Marin, Rubén Blades, Willem Dafoe,  Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (R)
Robert Rodriguez  falls short of delivering on the promise of an  epic film. Even his trademark cinematic flourishes seem reined in.  Depp's Agent Sands dominates - pushing even the iconic Mariachi to the  sides. As appealing as parts of the film are to a sense of cultural  pride, it ultimately leaves viewers wondering whether it is  entertainment as empowerment - or exploitation. AP

Runaway Jury
Dir. Gary Fleder; writ. Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick  Cleveland, Matthew Chapman, based on a novel by John Grisham; feat.  John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz (PG-13)
The film focuses on a civil proceeding in which the widow of a  stockbroker murdered by a psychopath charges Vicksburg Firearms with  culpable liability. "Trials are too important to be left to juries,"  says Rankin Fitch (Hackman), a veteran specialist in jury management,  who demands $30 million to guarantee Vicksburg immunity from legal  judgment. Runaway Jury runs away from the intricacies of Second  Amendment law and corporate responsibility toward a layered thriller.  SGK School of Rock
Dir. Richard Linklater; writ. Mike White; feat. Jack Black, Joan  Cusack, Joey Gaydos, Maryam Hassan, Kevin Clark, Rebecca Brown, Robert  Tsai, Miranda Cosgrove (PG-13)
Dumped by his bandmates and way behind on the rent, would-be rawk  star Dewey Finn stumbles into a temporary gig as the substitute teacher  for a class of fifth-grade overachievers. After discovering that his  class harbors a few talented musicians, he plans to use them to win a  battle of the bands contest for $20,000. But first he must teach them  how to rock. JD

Secondhand Lions
Dir. & writ. Tim McCanlies; feat. Michael Caine, Robert Duvall,  Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick, Emmanuelle Vaugier (PG)
Grown-up Walter will never forget the summer of his 14th year,  spent with his great uncles Garth and Hub, two mangy old coots who  taught a fatherless youngster how to roar. It's hard to believe in  Secondhand Lions as something more than a menagerie of quirks and other  sweet but tired creatures. SGK

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Dir. Marcus Nispel; writ. Tobe Hooper, Kim Henkel (original),  Scott Kosar; feat. Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Eric Balfour, R. Lee  Ermey, Terrence Evans (R)
Although details have changed, the basic plot elements remain. A  handful of road-tripping youngsters pick up a hitchhiker who is bad  news. Shortly thereafter, they meet a family whose pride and joy enjoys  attacking strangers with power tools and sewing patches of their skin  together to wear over his own. Jessica Biel is so perfect for this kind  of work that the female leads of other recent slasher flicks should  hang their generic little heads in shame. No movie called The Texas  Chainsaw Massacre should be expected to have much respect for the dead.  But this one has an awful lot of jump-in-your-seat fun at their  expense. JD

Dir. Len Wiseman; writ. Kevin Grevioux, et al.; feat. Kate  Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly  (R)
The unimaginative decaying urban set could be a war-torn communist  block city, and Beckinsale's lovely visage does not compensate for the  disappointing realization that every last one of her action scenes is a  paler version of Trinity's escapades; except for one move ripped  straight from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. EW

Dir. James Cox; writ. Cox, Captain Maurzner; feat. Val Kilmer,  Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Eric Bogosian (R)
This ain't Boogie Nights. Wonderland begins long after the fun  stopped for porn star John Holmes (Kilmer), when the prodigiously  penised actor was a drug-addicted lowlife caught up in a murder  mystery. The filmmakers don't know any more about the case than what is  in the press record, so they turn their tale into a raunchy Rashomon,  pitting Holmes' account of a revenge killing against that of another  junkie crook. Kilmer has redeemed troubled films before, but can't do  much here. Again: If we had seen Holmes in a broader context, Kilmer  might have had a better chance to make us care about him. As it is, the  down-and-out porn star is a one-trick pony - whose trick stays firmly  tucked in his trousers throughout the film. JD

Films reviewed by:
GB:   Gregg Barrios
JD:   John DeFore
SGK:  Steven G. Kellman
AP:   Alejandro  Pérez
EW:   Elaine  Wolff


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