Arts and Entertainment
Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Robert Avila, 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 80, and Movie Clock, page 81, for theater information.
Borstal Boy In this uneven but decent enough Brit period piece drawn from Irish playwright Brendan Behan's memoirs, Shawn Hatosy plays a 16-year-old staunch Irish Republican Army booster. He's thrown into a rural English reform school after being caught with dynamite strapped to his legs (destined for a Royal Navy battleship) in 1940 Liverpool. Directed by Peter Sheridan, Borstal Boy has some wobbly set pieces, modest narrative drive, and a duff performance by Michael York as the institution's strict-but-fair warden. But the younger actors are good, and the atmosphere of youthful bullheadedness forced toward maturity by World War II's escalating clamor lends this drama an offbeat intrigue. (1:31) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)
Changing Lanes A fender bender sparks a raging feud between total strangers Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck. (1:35) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Shattuck.
*Festival in Cannes Director Henry Jaglom crashes the party, and his guerrilla filmmaking style has never been more well suited to a scene. The story and there really is one this time follows Greta Scacchi playing an actor turned director under the spell of a hairy huckster played by Zack Norman who's inserted himself into the "development" process to cause untold chaos in Cannes. Part fable of the filmmaking process, part critique of Hollywood's handling of older women (with Scacchi, bravely beautiful at 20-plus pounds over her usual sexy screen weight and Anouk Aimée, still gorgeous while theoretically "past her prime"), Jaglom's film is not stillborn with topical concerns. Plus, this time, the celebrity cameos are killer: Maximilian Schell running into a bubbling William Shatner at a party, getting the big bear hug of reunion, then walking four steps to the camera, and saying, "Who was that guy?" Go to www.sfbg.com for an interview with Jaglom. (1:39) Opera Plaza. (Gerhard)
*Frailty See Movie Clock, page 81. (1:40) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.*Human Nature See "Follicle Follies," page 37. (1:36) Colma, Shattuck, Vogue.
New Best Friend At a small, ritzy Southern college, rich bitch Hadley (Meredith Monroe, last seen having a psychotic breakdown on Dawson's Creek) adopts poor, pallid Alicia (Mia Kirshner, a cross between Jennifer Connelly and Rose McGowan) into her decadent world. Hadley's pals adore Alicia, Alicia adores them and their boyfriends and their hard-partyin' lifestyle. Too bad girls are such ruthless, competitive creatures who crack wide open when the stakes get too high. Young director Zoe Clark-Williams aims for Heathers by way of Clueless with a little Cruel Intentions thrown in, but the material here spontaneous lesbian affairs, free-flowing nose candy, back-stabbing, cat-fighting begs for less self-important direction. A tone more along the lines of Wild Things could've launched New Best Friend out of low-brow Lifetime territory and into camp greatness. (1:31) 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
The Other Side of Heaven A farmer's son from Idaho becomes a missionary in the Tonga in this adventure-romance. (1:53) Galaxy.
*Son of the Bride See "Son, Down," page 37. (2:04) Lumiere.
The Sweetest Thing It's Thelma and Louise in reverse when Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate take to the road in search of the perfect guy. (1:27) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Orinda, UA Berkeley.
*Amadeus, the Director's Cut (3:08) Act I and II, Bridge, Grand Lake, Orinda.
Amélie (1:55) Albany, Clay, Piedmont.
A Beautiful Mind (2:09) Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.
Beauty and the Beast: The Large Format Cinema Special Edition (1:30) Metreon Imax.
Big Trouble Hey, remember the '90s, when ensemble pictures about guns, goofy criminals, and pop culture detritus were all the rage? Anybody who's nostalgic for those heady days of 1996 might want to seek out this likable enough take on Elmore Leonard-lite cinema. A mysterious suitcase floating around Miami brings together a crazed hired gun (Dennis Farina), an ad executive (Tim Allen), a frustrated housewife (Rene Russo), her foot-fetishist husband, dopey cops, dopier thugs, Russian arms dealers, FBI agents, et al in a wacky misadventure. The combination of Russo, Farina, director Barry Sonnenfeld, and lounge lizard Florida locales might cause some to think they've stumbled into a less hip Get Shorty, but a bric-a-brac cast (Tom Sizemore, Jackass's Johnny Knoxville, and Heavy D!) and a breezy touch keep everything moving along like gangbusters. Compared with the genre's heyday films, Big Trouble might appear slight; compared with today's piss-poor excuses for entertainment, however, this lesser entry seems practically heaven-sent. (1:25) Colma, Emery Bay, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)
*Blade 2 (1:48) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
Clockstoppers (1:33) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon.
Death to Smoochy (1:49) Galaxy, Grand Lake, Metreon, Oaks.
*E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (2:00) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
The Fluffer (1:45) Lumiere.
*Gosford Park (2:17) 1000 Van Ness.
High Crimes Director Carl Franklin shepherds the reteaming of Kiss the Girls costars Ashley Judd (as a high-powered San Francisco lawyer) and Morgan Freeman (as a motorcyclin', sometimes-on-the-wagon lawyer). The dynamic duo join forces to defend Judd's hubby (Jim Caviezel) when he's accused of a war crime he says he didn't commit. Cue standard-issue popcorn thriller tropes (threatening intruders! high-up cover-ups! people who aren't what they seem!) But even numerous plot holes, an ending that won't surprise anyone, and a distracting, annoying performance by Amanda Peet (as Judd's "hippie" sister) can't overshadow the appeal of the leads: Freeman is great as always, and Judd, to her credit, lets a little vulnerability into her ass-kicking, Double Jeopardy-honed persona. (1:55) Colma, Emery Bay, Empire, Galaxy, Kabuki, Metreon, Presidio, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)
Ice Age (1:24) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
*Iris (1:30) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.
*Italian for Beginners (1:39) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.
Kissing Jessica Stein (1:47) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck.
Lantana (2:00) UC Berkeley.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Coronet, Grand Lake, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
*Monsoon Wedding (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero.
*Monster's Ball (1:48) Lumiere, Shattuck.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder In the past, National Lampoon movies starring the likes of Chevy Chase and John Belushi used to be smart, funny, and satirical. Boy, have things changed. Director Walter Becker's Van Wilder is an assault of dull jokes, vulgar high jinks, and overacting. Ryan Reynolds (remembered best for his role in the Canadian teen soap opera Fifteen) is Van Wilder, a beloved seven-year college student whose character smacks of Ferris Bueller and Rushmore's Max Fischer; with his two assistants, Taj (Kal Penn) and Hutch (Teck Holmes of Real World Hawaii fame), he runs the school, organizing everything from parties to fundraisers. He loves college and doesn't want to leave ever. That is, until his father cuts him off and campus reporter Gwen (a horribly tanned and unnaturally skinny Tara Reid) urges him to get on with his life. At best, Van Wilder comes across as Animal House's degenerate second cousin. (1:35) Colma, Emery Bay, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Anhoni Patel)
*No Man's Land (1:37) Rafael.
Panic Room In this technothriller from Fight Club director David Fincher, recent divorcée Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) move into a new house equipped with a secret chamber-fortress. Wouldn't you just know that on the Altmans' very first night in the town house, three variously malevolent burglars (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) break in. Panicked, mom and daughter bunker down. Unfortunately, the unwelcome guests know about the room and what they're after is located guess where. Ever so impressively designed and shot, Panic Room gives a good ride but there's a popcorn triviality to this material that even Fincher, a gifted filmmaker, can't overcome. (1:52) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Kabuki, Metreon, Metro, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda, Shattuck. (Harvey)
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (1:33) Rafael.
Resident Evil (1:40) Colma, Kabuki, Metreon.
The Rookie The Rookie tells the true story of unlikely hero Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid), a baseball pitcher who was injured before he made it to the big leagues. Coach Morris makes a deal with his small-town West Texas high school team: if they become district champs, he'll try out again. To everyone's surprise, Morris pitches better than ever and once again has the chance to get called up. This heartwarming drama is just the sort of story G.W. Bush would love, especially since it associates professional baseball with all that's right with America. Still, it's hard to dislike this film, in which the earnest Quaid comes across as a genuinely decent family man who's finally pursuing his dream. Incredibly, The Rookie gets around the usual fault of movies like this by not indulging in sappiness. At its best it gives the feel of real life in contemporary America. At worst, it's a pleasant fantasy that avoids exposing our most embarrassing faults. (2:09) Century Plaza, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Henderson)
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (:50) Metreon Imax.
Showtime (1:35) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
*The Son's Room (1:39) Rafael.
Sorority Boys (1:34) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
Teddy Bear's Picnic (1:20) Galaxy.
The Time Machine (1:36) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
*Y tu mamá también Alfonso Cuarón, the latest director to owe a stylistic debt to Godard, is less concerned with praising love per se than its physical manifestation, be it in onanistic, coupled, or ménage à trois variations. Handheld camera work shakes and snakes around corners à la Raoul Coutard. Sound drops out occasionally so a narrator can digress into characters' past, present, and future. People sprout manifestos full of dogmatic statements like "Truth is cool but unattainable" and "Pop beats poetry." Of course, one of those statements is "Whacking off rules!," which I can't remember ever hearing in any of Godard's films. Welcome to someone else's glorious masterpiece. Tenoch (Diego Luna) and his best friend, Julio (Amores perros's Gael García Bernal) have the bond of being raging hormone collections trapped in the form of teenage boys on the hunt. Spotting a beautiful Spanish woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú) at a lavish wedding reception, the two would-be Lotharios invite her on a road trip to the beach. The trio hits the road in search of paradise. What they get instead is a series of sexual rocket blasts, some painful doses of maturity, and Mexico in all its permutations. (1:45) Act I and II, Century Plaza, Embarcadero, Piedmont. (Fear)
*Bay of Angels (1:19) Rafael.
*Chelsea Girls See Critics' Choice. (3:30) Castro.
*Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story This engaging documentary begins with a minor news story about a San Diego man, Shawn Nelson, who steals an army tank and goes on a car-crushing rampage, but this isn't America's Wildest Police Chases. Instead, documentarian Garrett Scott provides extensive context by exploring both the larger story of a working-class community in decline, and the background story of Nelson's life. Scott shows a superb use of mixed media sources, including police helicopter footage of the mayhem, TV news reporters covering the story, interviews with police and academics, and corny promos of 1950's San Diego. We see the history of crumbling suburbs following the post-Cold War decline of the defense industry, and a community of working-class whites ravaged by methamphetamine abuse. We also see Nelson's friends and family explain the personal impact of these larger social forces in candidly revealing interviews. As Scott gets deeper into the story, the tone goes from morbid humor about this assortment of misguided characters, to real tragedy over the ultimate end of a confused and desperate Shawn Nelson. (:55) Artists' Television Access. (Henderson)
*'Kung Fu Kult Classics' and 'Saturday Midnites for Maniacs' This week's Kult Klassics double feature is Chang Cheh's 1978 Return of the Five Deadly Venoms (see Tiger on Beat) and Yuen Woo-ping's 1981 Dreadnaught. Maniacs should not miss 1984's Taoism Drunkard, Yuen Cheung-yan's rip-roaring feast of chop socky madness. Four Star.
*The Last Waltz Though time has unfairly relegated the Band to a '60s rock footnote (oh, they were the electrified "Judas" Dylan's backing band, right?), their supple fables of Americana landscapes and sonic archaeology of folk, country rock, and traditional sounds made them a force to be reckoned with back in the day. So when Band leader Robbie Robertson decided to celebrate 16 years on the road with one last Thanksgiving shindig at San Francisco's Winterland in 1976, he invited a few high-profile friends, director Martin Scorsese, and a camera crew to join the party. The missing link between twin concert-film hallmarks Woodstock and Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz is more than just a testament to a historic night of music; Scorsese's deft, rhythmic editing and the stylized performance pieces (the minimalist power of "The Weight," shot post-concert in an abandoned hall, blows today's bloated production numbers on MTV right out of the water) make this a near-perfect melding of sight and sound. (1:57) Castro, UA Berkeley. (Fear)
*Lola Jacques Demy's first feature is the heart of a romanticism that's optimistic and fatalistic a vivid black-and-white romanticism that goes on to spout 1964's bleak primary-colorful Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in which the director literally paints the town red. (And 1967's pastel Young Girls of Rochefort, in which the story of Anouk Aimée's Lola reaches a severe resolution, offscreen.) Faithfulness in the Demy universe isn't defined by sexual fidelity so much as steadfast anticipation of love's return: Lola's gracefully connected familial situations include Lola's seven-year (albeit highly eventful) wait for the father of her son and another mother's decade of self-enforced estrangement. In the history of iconic movie Lolas, Demy's vision, embodied by Aimée, is a rare figure of hope, though Lola only appears to have a happy ending in fact, its conclusion begins a series of diminishing romantic returns. (1:30) Lumiere, Rafael. (Huston)
'Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation Best of the Fest' The veteran animation fest celebrates 25 years of bringing short films to the masses with a special "best of" collection. There are many proven winners here, both audience pleasers ("Bambi Meets Godzilla") and Oscar nabbers (Pixar's "Tin Toy," Chris Wedge's "Bunny," Nick Park's "Creature Comforts"), as well as newly minted 2002 Oscar winner "For the Birds" (also Pixar, as seen before showings of Monsters Inc.). All delightful stuff for first-timers, though these oft-screened works may be too familiar to attract perennial Spike and Mike fans. Oaks. (Eddy)