Arts and Entertainment
Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Meryl Cohen, David Fear, Dina Gachman, Susan Gerhard, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Patrick Macias, and Chuck Stephens. Film intern is Summers Henderson. See Rep Clock, page 87, and Movie Clock, page 88, for theater information.
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
The 20th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival takes place March 7-17. Local venues are the AMC Kabuki 8, 1881 Post, SF; New PFA Theater, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Locus 1640 Post, 1640 Post, SF; Justice League, 628 Divisadero, SF; and Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. For tickets call (415) 478-2277 or go to www.naatanet.org/festival. All times are pm. A&E commentary begins on page 39.
Kabuki Better Luck Tomorrow 7.
Kabuki "Parental Guidance Not Suggested" (shorts program) 4:15. Daughters of the Cloth with "Delivery Day" 4:30. "Khichdi: South Asian Shorts from the US, UK, and Subcontinent" (shorts program) 6:45. The Art of Woo 7. Harmful Insect 9. Lolo's Child 9:30. "Drink My Pocari Sweat" (shorts program) 9:45.
New PFA Theater Obachan's Garden 7. Conjugation 9:30.
Kabuki A Passage to Ottawa 12:15. Japanese Devils 12:30. My Journey, My Islam 2. Demons 2:45. Ke Kulala He Mahu: Remembering a Sense of Place 4. "415/510: Local Calls" (shorts program) 4:15. Nabi the Butterfly 5. America So Beautiful 6:45. Hit It or Quit It 7. Betelnut Beauty 9:30. "24-Hour Fitless" (shorts program) 9:45.
Justice League "Directions in Sound: Justice League" (shorts program and live performance) 8:30.
Locus 1640 Post "Seminar One Better Look Tomorrow: Strategies for Asian American Feature Film Success" 2.
New PFA Theater Daughters of the Cloth 7 with "Delivery Day." e-dreams 9:20.
Café du Nord "Directions in Sound: Café du Nord" (live performance) 8.
Castro "I Know Karate" (shorts program) noon. Presumed Guilty 2:45. Flower Drum Song 6. e-dreams 9:15.
Kabuki Obachan's Garden 1. Daughters of the Cloth with "Delivery Day" 1:15. "In Time Sounds" (shorts program) 3:45. Harmful Insect 4. "Through the Looking Glass" (shorts program) 6:15. Conjugation 7. "All Amateur Ecstasy" (shorts program) 9. Demons 9:30.
Locus 1640 "Seminar Two Everyday Voices: What Is Community-Based Media?" 1.
New PFA Theater Chan Is Missing 3. Japanese Devils 5:30.
Kabuki Obachan's Garden 1. TBA 6:30. "Salaam Mira! The Short Films of Mira Nair" (shorts program) 6:45. The Floating World: Masami Teraoka and His Art 7. Conjugation 8:45. Nabi the Butterfly 9. Lolo's Child 9:15. "First Steps, Experimentally Speaking" (shorts program) 9:30.
Kabuki "415/510: Local Calls" (shorts program) 1. "Take this Tablet" (shorts program) 6:30. Daughter from Danang 6:45. Jan Dara 7. "Drink My Pocari Sweat" (shorts program) 8:45. The Art of Woo 9. "Short Stories, Narrative Beginnings" (shorts program) 9:15. America So Beautiful 9:30.
All about the Benjamins Ice Cube and Mike Epps star as a bounty hunter and a bail jumper who join forces when they stumble on the heist of a lifetime. (1:30) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Shattuck.
*Monsoon Wedding See Movie Clock, page 88. (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero.
*Scratch See Critic's Choice. (1:31) Lumiere.
The Time Machine H.G. Wells's sci-fi classic comes to life thanks to Memento's Guy Pearce and a lotta CGI fx. (1:36) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Grand Lake, Jack London, Orinda, UA Berkeley.
Amélie (1:55) Albany, Clay, Orinda, Piedmont.
A Beautiful Mind (2:09) Alexandria, Balboa, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
Beauty and the Beast: The Large Format Cinema Special Edition (1:30) Metreon Imax.
Big Fat Liar (1:28) Century Plaza, Jack London, 1000 Van Ness.
Black Hawk Down Detailing the true story of a routine Special Forces mission that resulted in two helicopters being felled, 18 soldiers dying, and a FUBAR (military speak for, ahem, a less than ideal situation) of monumental proportions, Black Hawk Down hits the ground like a somber but standard-issue action flick, less concerned with narrative coherence than with reaching its peak moments of flight as soon as possible. The viewer is thrust into two hours of gritty, grueling battle scenes designed to re-create the historical horrors of one day. The problem is, by downplaying the who and why, the film strands its audience in a shrapnel-filled vacuum that values mayhem and stimulation over reason and emotion; all this Dolby-ready carnage feels stylistically sound but strangely empty. The temptation is to point at director Ridley Scott, who has always valued imagery over storytelling. But it's the agenda of the real auteur behind Black Hawk Down legendary über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer that infects every frame like an adrenal-seeking virus. (2:23) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)
Collateral Damage (1:55) Metreon.
*The Count of Monte Cristo (1:58) Colma, Galaxy, Kabuki, Metreon.
Crossroads (1:34) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
Dragonfly Six months after his wife's death, Dr. Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner) still can't seem to move on. His friends worry when his work starts to slip but when he claims that she has been trying to contact him through the near-death experiences of her former patients, they think he's losing his mind. Dragonfly is billed as a supernatural thriller, which is unfamiliar territory for director Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Patch Adams), and his fresh perspective lends itself well to this untraditional story. After all, how many thrillers feature heroes who actually seek out the ghosts who are haunting them? However, the strength of such an unusual premise is lost as the film veers sharply toward an unrealistic resolution, driven (weakly) by the mushy spirituality of a nun who tells Joe that if he believes it, it will be. Needless to say, it's a far cry from "if you build it, he will come." (1:55) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Cohen)
Escaflowne It seems like audiences have two kinds of anime movies to choose from: there are high-quality original works made especially for the cinema (Perfect Blue, Jin-Roh), and then there are less-impressive products made primarily for fans who have already consumed the TV show, the manga comics, the toys, and lord knows what else. A halfhearted retread of a much better 1996 television series, Escaflowne sadly belongs to this "for fans only" camp. A bored high school girl finds herself whisked from her mundane life in Tokyo to a war-torn parallel world called Gaia. Turns out the girl is the fabled Wing Goddess of prophecy and gets to pilot a robotlike giant suit of living armor called Escaflowne. There are some serious talents behind the scenes (creator Shoji Kawamori, composer Yoko Kanno), but the whole thing feels lackluster, and aside from a striking opening action sequence, the animation seldom impresses. Be you a fan or a newbie to the world of anime and Escaflowne, much depends on how you feel about dialogue like "Rise, dragon armor!" (1:36) Galaxy. (Macias)
Fat Choi Spirit (1:40) Four Star.
40 Days and 40 Nights Remember when you were in junior high, and the mere mention of the word "sex" incited giggles from all within earshot? Well, director Michael Lehmann (Airheads, Heathers) attempts to build a whole feature film around that one comedic principle. His latest foray into low-brow humor is the story of a troubled young man named Matt (Josh Hartnett), whose tireless attempts to get over a coldhearted ex by sleeping with every girl he meets just aren't working. The solution? What any good Christian boy would do: pledge to give up sex, foreplay, and even (gasp!) masturbation, for all 40 days of Lent. Clearly such a premise opened the door to a world of adolescent gags, including the use of a prosthetic boner, which will no doubt drive theaters full of pubescent boys to rousing self-conscious hysterics. (1:33) Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Metro, 1000 Van Ness, Stonestown, UA Berkeley. (Cohen)
*Gosford Park Robert Altman's best movie in ages negotiates a middle path between his usual catch-all meandering and the scrubbed orderliness of Merchant Ivory terrain, arriving at something greater than either. An English country estate presided over by Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his much younger wife, Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), is the destination on a 1932 autumn weekend for a large roster of relatives, in-laws, and hangers-on, most of whom have a considerable, parasitic stake in staying on the wealthy host's good side. An even larger army of servants attends them, their hierarchies and hidden agendas just as complex as those of the "masters." Midway through these 48 hours of tortured politeness, a murder occurs, and indeed, this time the butler might really have done it, though there's hardly a shortage of suspects. Tethered to an exceptionally good screenplay by Julian Fellowes, and hugely benefiting from the expertise of a remarkable cast, the film gets deeper into its archaic milieu than any Altman project since (at least) The Player with less condescension or performance showboating to boot. (2:17) Colma, Emery Bay, Four Star, Metreon, Orinda, Piedmont, Shattuck, Vogue. (Harvey)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2:32) Oaks.
Hart's War (2:03) Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness.
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog Canadian director-scenarist Michael Kalesniko's comedy has been sitting on the shelf for a couple years something that's happened to a lot of release-worthy movies. Unfortunately, this isn't one of them. Kenneth Branagh how many nails in the career coffin does it take, Ken? plays a successful but cranky L.A. playwright obsessed with the endlessly barking dog next door that keeps him up nights. Of course this is just a way of avoiding deeper conflicts involving the biological alarm clock of his wife (Robin Wright Penn), mid-career creative dry-up, all-around midlife crisis, etc. Jared Harris, Johnathon Schaech, Lynn Redgrave, Peter Riegert, and Lucinda Jenney are among the supporting actors wasted in a movie that's bland yet oddly sullen and barely attention-holding no matter how low your expectations. (1:47) Galaxy. (Harvey)
I Am Sam Jessie Nelson's I Am Sam follows the mentally challenged Sam Dawson (Sean Penn) as he creates a loving alternative family for his daughter, Lucy Diamond. It's only on the eve of her eighth birthday, when Lucy begins to surpass her father in intellectual abilities, that their precarious arrangement is threatened. What follows is a heart-tugging examination of what it means to be a good parent and a unique glimpse into the world of those for whom everyday life is a constant challenge. Though at times the story teeters on the brink of overwhelming sentimentality, a number of sensational performances and a clever tribute to everything Beatles serve as saving graces. (2:13) Balboa, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness. (Cohen)
In the Bedroom Fusing TV movie with art film, Todd Field's debut feature seems to be made with Academy Awards in mind; an ensemble of actors navigate the icy, stormy psychology of its Maine-set screenplay (adapted from a novel by Andre Dubus), which traces the effects of a murder on a select few of the characters. Married couple Matt (Tom Wilkinson) and Ruth (Sissy Spacek) Fowler are troubled their college-age son Frank (Nick Stahl of Bully, cementing his position as 2001's top cinematic sitting duck) is in a relationship with Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei): she's older, she has kids, she hasn't gotten a divorce from abusive brewery-brat Richard Strout (William Mapother), and she's clouding Frank's vision of a wealthy future. Actually, Frank's dad takes a certain vicarious pleasure from his son's new romance; his mom, however, is unhappy that he might choose lobstering over architecture and her concern is soon eradicated in the worst possible way. Spacek and Wilkinson are excellent, especially when the script calls on them to deliver Bergman Americana, but In the Bedroom's narrative matches ellipses with heavy-handed symbolism, and the results are too often numbing. (2:26) Act I and II, Embarcadero. (Harvey)
*Iris The late novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch was regarded as one of the most brilliant women of her generation, and so it was especially tragic when Alzheimer's disease stole her capacity for expression. Richard Eyre's film seeks to depict the uncommon love between Iris and her husband, John Bayley, but it succeeds more in exposing the devastating effects of her disease. The actors who portray Iris, the enchanting Kate Winslet and legendary Judi Dench, deftly convey the vitality and wit that made her so widely loved in her prime. But as her condition worsens, we are subjected to continual cuts between past and present, which are intended to provide a backdrop for John's devotion but feel mostly like an eerie glimpse into Iris's own mental regression. Her deterioration is quite painful to watch, but Eyre does manage to reveal enough of Murdoch's unique philosophy to intrigue those unfamiliar with her work. (1:30) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Cohen)
*Italian for Beginners An ensemble of lonely misfit adults a pastor being badgered by his bitter predecessor, a beautician who seems to break down frequently during haircuts, a baker who can't help dropping the goods, and a few expected others flicker around the flame of a night-school Italian class. When the teacher dies of a heart attack early on, one of the students, a brutish soccer fan-failed restaurateur happily takes over in this first Dogme movie by a woman, director Lone Scherfig. The waning movement could use the sweetness and light that this romantic comedy provides. Its cast of characters may be a little cute, but by the time they get together for a well-earned metaphorical big group hug in the form of an Italian-class field trip, you'll forget your fear of handheld camera. (1:39) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Gerhard)
John Q Director Nick Cassavetes clumsily guides a mostly uninvolved cast through this story of one man standing up to the system. John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington) is the father whose HMO won't cover his son's heart transplant and who has to take the E.R. hostage in order to squeeze a lifesaving operation (by a simpering James Woods) out of the stingy hospital administrator (a bitchy Anne Heche). Outside, the crotchety old police lieutenant (a twitching Robert Duvall) tries to hold back the gun-happy, publicity-seeking police chief (a slavering Ray Liotta), while inside, a roundtable of Hollywood character types somehow find time to discuss national medical policy. John Q wants to be the clarion call to health care reform, but the film is so dominated by exploitation, tearjerking, and good old-fashioned TV-movie-of-the-week melodrama that it's unlikely to lead to political intervention. Still, Denzel Washington is a captivating screen presence, and he brings real heart and soul to the role of the honest, working-class everyman who passionately loves his son. (1:58) Colma, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Henderson)
Lantana Starting with a view of a body facedown in some dense shrubbery, this Australian drama looks set to become a murder mystery, but Andrew Bovell's sharp screenplay is more interested in the impulses toward infidelity and doubt that trouble several interconnected relationships. Police detective Leon (Anthony LaPaglia) guiltily cheats on a wife (Kerry Armstrong) who senses that the commitment's gone out of their marriage; she sees a psychiatrist (Barbara Hershey) whose own husband (Geoffrey Rush) seems to be drifting away. Several other well-defined characters figure notably in Ray Lawrence's tightly wound film, which builds considerable tension despite some implausible plot connections and a final sequence that strains a bit to deliver its closing flourish. (2:00) Balboa, Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)
*Last Orders Based on an excellent novel by Graham Swift, Last Orders was adapted and directed by Australian Fred Schepisi (Six Degrees of Separation), and while there's nothing groundbreaking, let alone remotely hip, about the film, it's a well-crafted piece of work. The death of "master butcher" Jack Dodds (Michael Caine) has pulled together his old drinking buddies for a long day's traveling pub crawl and coastal ash-scattering. His adopted son, Vince (Ray Winstone), is along as designated driver, alongside divorced bookie Lucky (Bob Hoskins), undertaker Vic (Tom Courtenay), and failed boxer Lenny (David Hemmings), all Jack's mates from way back. Last Orders is one of those films in which "nothing happens" in a chugging-narrative-engine, cathartic-explosion sense, yet everything is revealed or perhaps just enough to leave you wanting more, wishing the characters might stick around for another round or three. Better still, the movie has a generosity toward ordinary lives' accumulative errata that considers some quiet desperation as a given but refuses to admit that tragedy or transcendent uplift must then result. (1:49) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Colma, Coronet, Grand Lake, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
*Metropolis The best thing about Metropolis, aside from its considerable pedigree it's based on a 1949 comic by Osamu "God of Manga" Tezuka, with a script by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) and direction by the ingenious Rintaro (X) is its startling anachronism and defiance of trend. A technically brilliant, wide-eyed-innocent, jazz-age vision of what makes cities and the love for technology tick, the film makes it seem as if Blade Runner had never happened, let alone Fritz Lang's Metropolis or even Otomo's own Akira. Someone is conducting strange experiments in the megacity of Metropolis, and a detective and his son are sent in to unravel the crime. Saddled with a robot detective, the pair gets mixed up in the machinations of the rich and powerful as well as some Che Guevara-worshiping revolutionaries and a strange, amnesiac robot girl who is wanted by all. While the story stays all-ages simple, the visuals come with fantastic ambition, and in the end Metropolis offers a vital retro-future perfect for equal amounts of contemplation and escape. (1:44) Four Star. (Macias)
*Monster's Ball Marc Forster's Monster's Ball is a small-town melodrama sobered by a pervasive pall of meaning; it communicates so much thorny pain around such genuinely discomfiting issues that the hard-won modest uplift at the end feels utterly genuine. In a contemporary Southern state where racial power divisions haven't changed much at all, death row guard Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) crosses paths with the Leticia (Halle Berry, the widow of a former prisoner. Both Hank and Leticia are in desperate straits, each bottomlessly needy without the faintest idea of how or where to start getting help. The impulse toward mutual kindness is so unexpected and foreign, particularly as it stretches over near-impassable racial-economic lines, that neither one really knows what to do with the other for some time. The movie's eventual narrative gist is rife with tabloid TV-movie contrivance (Racist Prison Guard Gets Nice by Going Steady with Dead Inmate's Old Lady). But it works because the script and direction are so painfully attuned to the hurdles that inarticulate people driven (or frozen) by clenched rage must overcome before a happy ending is even remotely possible. (1:48) Act I and II, Bridge, Century Plaza, Jack London. (Harvey)
Moulin Rouge (2:06) Balboa.
*Mulholland Drive (2:36) Rafael.
*No Man's Land This absurdist anti-war "comedy" from Bosnia starts slashing with a serrated edge from the get-go and never lets up. Two soldiers, one Serbian (Rene Bitorajac) and one Croatian (Branko Djuric), are stranded together in a trench between their respective armies' strongholds with nothing but hatred, a common homeland, and a booby-trapped comrade to keep them company. What starts out as an accident of combat escalates into a full-blown incident once the military brass, a UN observation patrol, and an English TV reporter (Katrin Cartlidge) began wading into the fray. Director Denis Tanovic's tenure filming war atrocities on the Sarajevo front lends an air of elegiac realism to the film's Beckett-like flak-black humor, painting a portrait of life during wartime that's equal parts horror and ridiculousness. (1:37) Rafael. (Fear)
Piñero (1:35) Opera Plaza.
*Queen of the Damned "Joy-eeen me or die!" might not have quite the same ring as "Geef me that Coparah chewel!," but Jack Smith would be overjoyed to know that the late Aaliyah's final performance is worth mentioning in the same breath as Maria Montez. The glamorous rapture of Aaliyah's scenes in Queen of the Damned are matched only by Hype Williams's video for "Rock the Boat." Arnold, Mel, Bruce, and Josh may be stinking up the multiplexes with their patriotic muscle-straining he-man sweaty odor, but at least in America, Aaliyah could believe she was the queen of the damned. Aaliyah was remarkable for the gracefulness of her gestures and movement. This gracefulness was a real process of moviemaking. Those who see a "bad actress" miss the magic. Too bad their loss. Don't slander her beautiful womanliness or whatever in her that turned cheap CGI sets to beauty. Her eye saw not just beauty but incredible, delirious, druglike hallucinatory beauty. (1:41) Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Huston)
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace In 1997, at age 65, New Age icon and Be Here Now author Dass had a near-fatal stroke that left him partly paralyzed and afflicted by speech-impairing aphasia. His physical recovery was (and continues to be) slow, but what troubled him most was his surprising loss of faith in the secular humanist-cum-Eastern mystic spiritual beliefs he'd espoused for decades. Ultimately, however, these ordeals both humbled and strengthened him, as well as providing a new teaching focus on coping with the body's unpredictable aging processes. This new documentary by Mickey Lemle (Compassion in Exile: The Story of the 14th Dalai Lama) is more an appreciation of Dass's current against-the-odds status as elder statesman of nondenominational soul matters than it is a complete introduction to his life and ideas. That's too bad in certain respects, since some of the present-day material is plodding, while the brisk biographical back chapters which chronicle the path of Dass (né Richard Alpert) from a prominent Boston Jewish family to a Harvard professorship, his controversial psychedelic research with Timothy Leary, his transforming '67 trip to India and subsequent U.S. makeover as a higher-consciousness guru are fascinating. If you're looking for a critical perspective on Dass's popular but often derided career, look elsewhere. Nonetheless, within its limitations the film offers suitably engaging, gentle insight into a still-questing visionary mind-set. (1:33) Rafael, Roxie. (Harvey)
*Return to Never Land (1:12) Century Plaza, Galaxy, Jack London, Kabuki, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness.
*The Royal Tenenbaums (2:25) Alexandria, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Piedmont, Shattuck.
Sex with Strangers Allegedly an evenhanded look at "swingers" culture, Sex with Strangers is disappointing on all fronts: incoherent and hateful, the film offers weirdly asynchronous glimpses into the sex lives of three couples whose nonmonogamous relationships are neither good examples of swinging nor even decent examples of relationships. The recent documentary The Lifestyle offered a more realistic portrait of swingers, who are by and large a rather staid, comfortably married bunch. Sex with Strangers plunges us into a creepy, dysfunctional world of manipulative men and neurotic women whose willingness to bare their bodies and emotions to the cameras initially is a kind of pleasant shock but later becomes shockingly repulsive. While directors Joe and Harry Gantz's well-regarded HBO series Taxicab Confessions offered bizarre but sympathetic glimpses into people's private lives, Sex with Strangers is a classic exploitation documentary, complete with naive, exhibitionistic subjects who clearly don't understand the implications of sharing so much. (1:45) Lumiere. (Annalee Newitz)
*The Son's Room Nanni Moretti has made his name as a self-conscious, self-reflexively comic character in films often about himself, but fans of his international hit Caro diario should be warned that the frothy layer has been removed from this ale. Read no further if you don't want the spoiler: Moretti plays Giovanni, the well-adjusted father of a comfortable family whose son unexpectedly dies in a scuba-diving accident. Comparisons to In the Bedroom, frequent as they are, are actually appropriate, but where that film displayed its red-white-and-blues by grafting revenge and violence onto its story, The Son's Room manages to chip away at the icy grieving process without the heavy-handed plot maneuvers. Its metaphors are simple and central: Giovanni is a psychiatrist attending to the kooky, sometimes touching neuroses of his wayward middle-class patients. So the balance and slightly comic tone dramatically shifts when Giovanni experiences his own drama. But in true Moretti style, the director can't quite let go of his optimism: Moretti cares enough about the characters to follow them to what might not be a bitter end. (1:39) Lumiere. (Gerhard)
Storytelling Todd Solondz's new film has two chapters, "Fiction" and "Non-fiction." "Fiction," as you might expect, deals with truth a college fiction-writing class's stories, which are, for the most part, literal translations of what's happening in the students' lives. "Non-fiction" is, of course, riddled with lies sliding itself down a slippery slope of reality-"shaping" in documentary filmmaking. Solondz, who reinvented the "rude" in Welcome to the Dollhouse and exposed the "nice" in Happiness, toys with the "correct" here. Fiction may turn victimhood into bad art, but the presence of American Movie's Mike Schank in the "Non-fiction" segment reminds us that nonfiction turns its very subjects into victims in the process. Which exploiters are worse? Solondz has chosen sides. But he's built a film with so many layers, positions, retellings, and substories that it's impossible to unravel their purposes on first viewing. Only one thing is clear: his anger feels just as two-dimensional as the characters in each of his gorgeously antisocial films. (1:27) Opera Plaza. (Gerhard)
*Super Troopers (1:40) Metreon.
*Time of Favor An army officer (Aki Avni) runs a unit of Orthodox soldiers composed of West Bank yeshiva students. Taken under the wing of the demure but dangerous demagogue Rabbi Meltzer (Assi Dayan), he finds himself caught between the military brass and his mentor, who follows a faith-based militia ideology. Throw in the rabbi's rebellious daughter (Tinkerbell) as a romantic interest, a spurned suitor/vengeful comrade-in-arms (Edan Alterman), and a plan to bomb the symbolic Dome of the Rock, and the powder keg's fuse is lit. Director Joseph Cedar's take on tensions surrounding Israel's ground zero has garnered a slew of awards and popular success in its homeland, thanks in no small part to having two leads able to put a photogenic face to the story's frisson. One wishes that the film's subject wasn't so thoroughly filtered through the prisms of romantic melodrama and political thriller, but Favor still resonates, thanks to being torn not from today's headlines but from the same decades-long cycles of righteousness and hostility that continue to stain its sacred ground. (1:40) Rafael. (Fear)
Training Day On his first day in the narcotics unit of the Los Angeles Police Department, young Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is quickly clued in on the tricks of the trade by his new superior officer, Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). "My nigga," Harris commends before forcing PCP onto the wide-eyed Hoyt. Director Antoine Fuqua shifts the visuals to a blurry psychedelic green tint because the two rogue lawmen are high, and hell, he wants you to think you are too. Adding to the hallucinations are cameos by pop stars Macy Gray, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre, the latter a thugged-out cop eager to pull a 187 on Hawke's ass. Meanwhile Washington (nattily dressed in a striking black turtleneck borrowed from New Jack City's Nino Brown) works his love handles with an enthusiasm not seen since Ricochet, swiveling and spouting axioms like "You've got to decide whether you're a wolf or a sheep" proving that the only thing more dangerous than a trashy cop flick is the Academy Award-winning actor who's willing to make one. (2:02) Galaxy. (Mosi Reeves)
*Trembling Before G-d Religious fundamentalism, regardless of faith, concerns itself with the most unbendable rules. And they are rules that don't often work well in a globalized culture where gray areas abound. The interview subjects of Sandi Simcha DuBowski's handsome, sometimes stirring documentary are all people who have faced a fundamental conflict between their sexual identity as gays and lesbians and their religious affiliation as Orthodox Jews. It's a poignant struggle to be sure, but only as poignant as the person facing down the dilemma of wholesale rejection by family and community and/or creating a workable alternative. In Trembling there's a range some ultimately address the painful issue with humor, spunk, and creativity, while others truly tremble, repeatedly hurling themselves against a monolithic belief, and hurting themselves every time. Depending on your own perspective, such brave documentary moments generate a sense of annoyance, pity, or empathy. (1:34) Castro. (Glen Helfand)
We Were Soldiers (2:29) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, UA Berkeley.
*'Eurotika!' The BBC-produced Eurotika! is a series of half-hour programs spotlighting various trends and trendmongers from the roughly two-decade period before hardcore porn, home video, disappearing drive-ins, and skittish financiers dealt Eurosploitation its final death blows. Among the nine episodes Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is showing as its daytime film program this spring, the best spotlight filmmakers whose output was singular/limited enough to suit this short-format scrutiny. Gallic "sexy vampire" specialist Jean Rollin, Moroccan-born comic-book artist turned erotic-horror maximalist José Larraz, dead-at-26 Brit wunderkind Michael Reeves (Witchfinder General), and baroque softcore eye-candy purveyors Max Pecas and Jose Benazeraf are all given due attention here. Less successful are the overcompressed overviews of Italian and Spanish genre horror (the latter focuses so much on werewolf maestro Paul Naschy that it should have simply profiled him), and the range of Jess Franco's 200-plus feature oeuvre gets shortchanged. Somewhat repetitious in thematic focus you'll come away thinking 60 percent of the era's movies were naked-lesbian-bloodsucker sagas and in use of clips (no doubt due to print and legal-availability issues), Eurotika! is nonetheless a hip package of interviews, excerpts, and historical trivia. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Harvey)
*'Double Vision: Two-Channel Videoworks' Cecilia Dougherty's newest video, 2000's Gone, presents characteristically droll double trouble. A re-creation of an episode from PBS's pioneering "reality TV" series, 1974's An American Family, Gone uses split-screen projection to illustrate the distances and differences between mother Pat Loud (Amy Sillman) and gay son Lance (Laurie Weeks). The video's casting and Dougherty's direction reveal the past's present-day manifestations and disguises. Editing dialogue so that conversation overlaps, Dougherty like Jennifer Payne, whose Hollywood Inferno makes up the other half of "Double Vision" 's double bill emphasizes mutual disengagement. Sillman, a New York-based painter, brings an irritated semi-exhaustion to suburban California mom Pat ("It was not a great flight, there were a lot of children on the plane"), and there's wry and righteous humor in the casting of Weeks -- whose name was removed from the credits of Boys Don't Cry by Kimberly Pierce, with whom Weeks initially coauthored the screenplay -- as Lance Loud, perhaps the first "out" presence on national television. New PFA Theater. (Huston)*'A Radiant Abyss: Early Films by Barbet Schroeder' See "Wrapped in an Enigma," page 44. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Punk Rock/Heavy Metal Karaoke: The Movie Do you love karaoke but wish you could ask the KJ to play the Sex Pistols and Black Sabbath instead of Hank Williams and Pat Benatar? How about being backed by a live band instead of some dorky laser disc? If you're banging your head or moshing with delight right now, then Sonny Aronson's new documentary is just what you need. It's the story of a popular weekly event at New York bar Arlene's Grocery, where a band of record-industry losers play the music from favorite punk and heavy metal songs as backup for would-be superstars who have always wanted to take the stage and scream, "I am Ironman!" Probably the best parts of the documentary aside from weird montages of the karaoke night itself are revealing interviews with participants in this underground phenom: corporate lawyers don wigs and sing metal hits; a lame local band with a Kiss obsession tests its mettle in front of the discerning crowd; a publicist for rock stars reveals surprise! that she's always wanted to be a rock star. It's all part of the wacky world explored here, clearly a music sensation whose time has come. (1:10) Artists' Television Access. (Newitz)