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 92, and Movie Clock, page 93, for theater information.
San Francisco International
The 45th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 18-May 2. Venues are the Kabuki 8 Theatres, 1881 Post, SF; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; New PFA Theater, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Park Theatre, 1275 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Tickets may be purchased at www.sffs.org or by calling (925) 275-9490. Commentary begins on page 32. All times are pm unless otherwise noted.
Castro: Thirteen Conversations about One Thing 7.
Castro: One Fine Spring Day 4. The Trespasser 7. Sound of Brazil 10.
Kabuki: Sisters 5. A Hospital Remembers 6:45. Pier Paolo Pasolini 7. Time Out 7:15. Last Wedding 9:15. Elling 9:30. Veloma 9:45. The Last Kiss 10. Ichi the Killer midnight.
New PFA Theater: A Taxi for Three 7. Millennium Mambo 9:15.
Castro: My Voyage to Italy 11a. The Journey to Kafiristan 4. Spirited Away 6:30. Waterboys 10.
Kabuki: "Digital and New Technologies" (seminar) 11a. "They Came from the Bay" (shorts program) 1:30. Last Wedding 2. To the Left of the Father 3:30. "Canyon Cinema's Village of Visionaries" (shorts program) 4. The Last Kiss 4:45. Ravi Shankar: Between Two Worlds 6:45. A Taxi for Three 7. The Lady and the Duke 7:15. Cet amour-là 9:30. El Bola 9:45. Pistol Opera 10. May midnight.
New PFA Theater: A Hospital Remembers 3. Oporto of My Childhood 5:15. Inch'Allah Sunday 7. Distance 9.
Castro: Spirited Away 11a. Read My Lips 3. Teorema 6:30. Nights of Constantinople 9:30.
Kabuki: Millennium Mambo noon. The Green Cold and The Mirror of the Soul 12:30. Hope along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay and Thoth 12:45. Inch'Allah Sunday 1:30. Elling 2:45. Secret Ballot 3:45. Veloma 4. Decasia 5. News from a Personal War 6:15. One Fine Spring Day 6:30. Journeys with George 6:45. I Love Beijing 7:15. "By the Light of the Silvery Toon" (shorts program) 8:45. Musa the Warrior 9:15. Sound of Brazil 9:30. The Wild Bees 9:45.
New PFA Theater: My Voyage to Italy 2. The Inner Tour 7. Go for Broke 9:30.
Castro: Waterboys 4. Daddy and Papa 6:30. Far Away 9:15.
Kabuki: El Bola 10a. Sisters 1. To the Left of the Father 3. The Lady and the Duke 4. Pistol Opera 4:15. Photos to Send 6:15. Distance 6:30. Teknolust 6:45. Inch'Allah Sunday 7. A Taxi for Three 9. Millennium Mambo 9:15. The Trespasser 9:30. Streeters 10.
New PFA Theater: News from a Personal War 7. Spirited Away 9.
Castro: A Page of Madness 7. Sisters 9:30.
Kabuki: Daughter from Danang 10a. Daddy and Papa 1. La spagnola 2. Distance 3. The Safety of Objects 4. I Love Beijing 4:15. The Inner Tour 6. A House with a View of the Sea 6:45. The Triumph of Love 7. I'm Going Home 7:15. The Green Cold and The Mirror of the Soul 9. Oporto of My Childhood 9:15. Karmen Geï 9:30. The Journey to Kafiristan 10.
New PFA Theater: El Bola 7. Sound of Brazil 9:15.
Kabuki: News from a Personal War 1. Streeters 1:30. The Inner Tour 4. The Wild Bees 4. Musa the Warrior 4:15. 25 Watts 6:30. Good Husband, Dear Son 7. "Kevin Space: Peter J. Owens Award": Swimming with Sharks 7. Daughter from Danang 7:15. Last Marriage 9:15. Decasia 9:30. Bulworth 9:45. Vivante 10.
New PFA Theater: The Trespasser 7. I Love Beijing 9:15.
Kabuki: The Inner Tour 10a. The Waterboys 1. Oporto of My Childhood 2. Late Marriage 3. Karmen Geï 4. Cet amour-là 4:15. Vivante 5. Stalin: Red God 5:15. Go for Broke 6:30. The Safety of Objects 6:45. Secret Ballot 7:15. They Came from the Bay 7:15. Fatma 9:15. Hope along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay and Thoth 9:30. A House with a View of the Sea 9:45. Far Away 10.
New PFA Theater: Brief Crossing 7. Nights of Constantinople 9:15.
Kabuki: "It's a Small World After All" (shorts program) 10a. Musa the Warrior 1. "By the Light of the Silvery Toon" (shorts program) 1:15. 25 Watts 2. On the Edge of Time: Male Domains in the Caucasus 4. Ichi the Killer 4:15. I'm Going Home 4:30. Cherish 6:45. "Warren Beatty: Akira Kurosawa Award": Reds 7. July Rhapsody 7:15. War and Peace 7:30. Warm Water under a Red Bridge 9:30. Smokers Only 10. The Princess Blade midnight.
New PFA Theater: Daddy and Papa 4:30. In Praise of Love 7. The Ruination of Men 9:15.
Kabuki: "It's a Small World After All" 11a. "Filmmaking in a Hostile World" (seminar) 11a. War and Peace 11:30a. Asoka noon. Warm Water under a Red Bridge 1. Fulltime Killer 2. What These Ashes Wanted 3:30. Smokers Only 4. Tribute 4:15. All about Lily Chou-Chou 6. Happy Times 6. Me Without You 6:45. Uncle Frank 7. CQ 9. Derrida 9:30. My Brother the Vampire (a.k.a. Getting My Brother Laid) 9:45. Van Van, Let's Party 9:45. Dogtown and Z-Boys midnight.
New PFA Theater: Good Husband, Dear Son 2:30. Truly Human 4:45. L'Afrance 7. 25 Watts 9:15.
Kabuki: What These Ashes Wanted 11a. CQ noon. Fatma 12:15. Happy Times 12:15. Rivers and Tides 1:30. "Fernando Birri: Persistence of Vision Award": Los inundados 3. All about Lily Chou-Chou 3:15. The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky 3:30. Derrida 4:30. Failan 6:15. Dance of a Dream 6:30. May 7. Hell House 7:15. In Praise of Love 9:15. Fulltime Killer 9:30. The Ruination of Men 9:30. Stalin: Red God 9:45.
New PFA Theater: War and Peace 2:30. The Price of Forgiveness 7. Ravi Shankar: Between Two Worlds 9:15.
Park Go for Broke 1:15. Pier Paolo Pasolini 3:45. Cet amour-là 6:30. Read My Lips 8:45.
Kabuki: Van Van, Let's Party 10a. Photos to Send 12:30. China 21 1. Rain 1:30. Brief Crossing 3:30. July Rhapsody 3:45. L'Afrance 4. A Chronicle of Corpses 4:30. Asoka 6. The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky 6:30. The Pinochet Case 6:45. La Spagnola 7. "Shorts in a Feature Length World" (shorts program) 9:15. Failan 9:30. Somewhere on Earth 9:30. Truly Human 9:45.
New PFA Theater: Face 7. My Brother the Vampire (a.k.a. Getting My Brother Laid) 9:15.
Park The Milk of Human Kindness 7. The Princess Blade 9:15.
Kabuki: L'Afrance 10a. Hell House 1. Daughter from Danang 1:30. Me Without You 3:45. Photos to Send 4. Bastards in Paradise 4:15. Van Van, Let's Party 4:15. The Pinochet Case 6:30. Brief Crossing 6:45. China 21 6:45. The Price of Forgiveness 7. A Chronicle of Corpses 9:15. Go 9:30. One Take Only 9:45. Tribute 9:45.
New PFA Theater: "Memory Arcade" (shorts program) 7. Karmen Geï 9:45.
Park The Ruination of Men 7. Teknolust 9:15.
Castro: "David Francis: Mel Novikoff Award": Where Are My Children? 6:30. Delbaran 9:15.
Kabuki: Face 10a. Dogtown and Z-Boys 1. China 21 3:45. The Milk of Human Kindness 4. Dance of a Dream 4:15. Cherish 4:30. On the Edge of Time: Male Domains in the Caucasus 6:15. Bastards in Paradise 6:45. My Wife Is an Actress 7. "Memory Arcade" (shorts program) 9:15. Rain 9:30. Dogtown and Z-Boys 9:45. Hell House 10.
New PFA Theater: I'm Going Home 7. The Pinochet Case 9:15.
Park Truly Human 7. La spagnola 9:15.
Castro: Hollywood Ending 7.
Kabuki: "Youth or Consequences" (shorts program) 1. Somewhere on Earth 4:45. Uncle Frank 5. One Take Only 7. The Milk of Human Kindness 7:15. My Wife Is an Actress 7:15. Rivers and Tides 7.
New PFA Theater: Delbaran 7. Go 9:15.
Behind the Sun Filmmaker Walter Salles (Central Station) presents a tale of blood feuds in 1910 Brazil, loosely inspired by Ismail Kandaré's novel. This impressive drama tells the story of Tonio, a young man who avenges the death of his older brother, all the while knowing he is next in line to die. When Tonio's younger brother Pacu convinces him to go see the traveling circus, both become enamored of Clara, a fire-breathing acrobat. Featuring stunning vistas of the Brazilian badlands and multiple candlelit scenes, Behind the Sun is an exquisite visual experience. Though the film sticks fairly close to a familiar formula of love, desire, death, and sacrifice, it's also an intriguing imagination of Brazilian history, with a little bit of the circus arts thrown in for fun. (1:34) Lumiere. (Henderson)
Crush Perhaps more accurately titled Three Friends, Two Weddings, and a Funeral, this comfortably charming British romantic comedy looks into the lives of three upper-middle-class, single, fortyish women: a school headmaster (Andie MacDowell), a doctor (Anna Chancellor), and a police chief (Imelda Staunton). When the headmaster falls in love with a man who's 15 years younger, the story centers not so much on the romance as on the women's strained bonds of friendship, and it achieves a good deal of emotional resonance, with sharp dialogue and a well-placed Nick Drake song. Everything is handled with a light touch of British comedy (though not Ab-Fab over-the-top), and the film shows a good feel for the lives of aging women, despite the fact that it was written and directed by a thirtyish man. Andie MacDowell, usually the female Keanu Reeves (nice to look at, just please don't speak), plays her part acceptably well, and the ensemble acting around her is perfectly top-notch. (1:51) Galaxy, Shattuck, Vogue. (Henderson)
The Independent A veteran minimogul exploiter of social trends and bikini-waxed talent, Monty Fineman (Jerry Stiller) is the subject of this fictive salute to such real-world schlockmeisters as Roger Corman and Dave Friedman. After five decades or more, Fineman's career has hit a seeming debt-riddled endpoint, yet he can't stop hustling new projects and prospective financiers. By far the most inspired material in Stephen Kessler's mockumentary are the brief "excerpts" from such past Morty triumphs as The Foxy Cheerleader Robot and Cheerleader Camp Massacre. The majority of the film is good-natured but just mildly funny, however, especially as it increasingly leans on the "dysfunctional family" rift betwixt the lead character and his long-suffering daughter (Janeane Garofalo). The Independent will amuse psychronic movie fans albeit not half so well as its own hilarious web site (www.finemanfilms.com), which offers the full filmography of Fineman titles, including Tantric or Treat, Laughing til I Hurt You, Heil Titler!, LSD-Day, Esperanto Girls, and Fistula. (1:25) Lumiere. (Harvey)
Lucky Break This gentle British comedy doesn't pack the full emotional wallop of director Peter Cattaneo's previous effort, The Full Monty, but it mines similar territory, aiming to be infectiously upbeat despite some darker story undertones. Inept bank robber Jimmy Hands (James Nesbitt) plans to stage a prison break as the inmates perform Nelson: The Musical, a pet project of the institution's governor, Graham Mortimer (a batty Christopher Plummer). Falling in love with his musical costar, Annabel Sweep (Olivia Williams), head of the prison support unit, adds a complication to Hands's plans. The film is packed to the gills with strong support performances, notably by Lennie James, Timothy Spall, and Bill Nighy. Stick around as the titles roll for vignettes about the characters' futures as reggae star Prince Buster sings, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think." (1:49) 1000 Van Ness. (China Martens)
Murder by Numbers See Movie Clock. (2:01) Alexandria, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Grand Lake, Orinda, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding A shrinking wallflower raised amid over-the-top extroverts, Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) awakens from her 30-year funk after one look at lanky hunk Ian (John Corbett). She gives herself a makeover and a new career and duly snares Mr. Right. Trouble is, his family is as WASPy as they come, while hers well, suffice it to say that parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) are so ethnocentric that their suburban house is outfitted to look like the Parthenon. Wacky culture-clashing ensues. Adapting Vardalos's autobiographical stage monologue for the screen, director Joel Zwick (a TV veteran all the way back to Laverne and Shirley) doesn't do much to elevate the material above elongated-sitcom status though if the howling response from a largely Greek American audience at a preview screening is any indication, this agreeable, predictable comedy has at least one demographic in its pocket. (2:01) Colma, Galaxy, Jack London. (Harvey)
The Scorpion King The Rock kicks much ancient Egyptian booty in this "spin-off" of the Mummy movies. (1:32) Century Plaza, Coronet, Emery Bay, Empire, UA Berkeley.
Space Station 3D Tom Cruise narrates this new Imax film that documents life on the international space station. (run time not available) Metreon Imax.
*Amadeus, the Director's Cut (3:08) Act I and II, Bridge, Grand Lake.
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 (1:25) Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
*Blade 2 (1:48) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
Borstal Boy (1:31) Opera Plaza.
Changing Lanes British director Roger Michell has a way of exceeding expectations. As he proved with 1999's Notting Hill, clever writing and innovative editing can raise even the most clichéd story to the level of something original. So imagine what he does with an edgy and compelling script, a cowritten effort by first-timer Chap Taylor and veteran Michael Tolkin (The Player) that digs unmercifully into the moral fabric of a corporate-driven America. With the help of unconventional D.P. Salvatore Totino (Any Given Sunday), Michell deftly weaves two polar stories those of high-powered lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and recovering alcoholic Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson) into an unforgiving and eye-opening whole. Though the film avoids predictability, its true Hollywood nature does eventually rear its ugly head as too many loose strings tie themselves into a neat little bow just in time for the closing credits. (1:35) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck. (Cohen)
Clockstoppers (1:33) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon.
Death to Smoochy (1:49) Balboa, Grand Lake, Metreon, Oaks.
*E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (2:00) 1000 Van Ness.
*Festival in Cannes (1:39) Opera Plaza.
*Frailty This thriller touches on some controversial areas (religious extremism and children committing violence) and achieves moments of genuine creepiness in its story of a small-town Texas father (Bill Paxton, making his feature directing debut) who believes he has received a life-changing vision from God. He is given a list of seemingly innocent victims, and he ropes his two young sons into the task of killing these "demons." The movie begins with a contemporary frame story in which one of the sons (Matthew McConaughey) confesses to an FBI agent that his brother is an infamous serial killer. In explanation, he narrates an extended flashback to 1979, when the two brothers have conflicting responses to the religious mania of their otherwise kind father. The young actors carry the film, with Matthew O'Leary as Fenton, who is dazed by his father's gruesome task, and Jeremy Sumpter as his younger brother, Adam, who believes in the Christian righteousness of it all. The plot gets weighed down a bit by the heavy-handed baroque imagery, and there are several predictable developments, but the story ends with a satisfying surprise twist. (1:40) Century Plaza, Jack London, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Henderson)*Gosford Park (2:17) Balboa, 1000 Van Ness.
High Crimes (1:55) Colma, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Presidio, UA Berkeley.
*Human Nature Noted Björk video director Michel Gondry makes his feature debut with Human Nature, a film starring Patricia Arquette as Lila Jute, a woman whose hormones cause her to sprout hair where hair is usually not there. Human Nature's comedic quest for embarrassment is effectively painful when love forces Lila to shave off her full-body locks, pluck and paint her face, and bury herself beneath a wig. Human Nature's screenplay is by Charlie Kaufman, and traces of Being John Malkovich have spilled from that film's portal into Kaufman's follow-up. Much like Malkovich, Human Nature is a roundelay of misfired desires in which the least cunning identity thieves can't get no satisfaction. Kaufman doesn't provide blazing insights, or even pick sides, in the battle between nature and culture. Instead he uses the conflict to expose neurotic fault lines and compose a mini-encyclopedia of insecurities. Kaufman on an off day out-I.Q.s his comic screenwriting contemporaries, and while Gondry doesn't extend the technical innovation of his videos, he still has a signature style of picture-making and motion. (1:36) Colma, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Huston)
Ice Age (1:24) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.
In the Bedroom (2:26) Four Star.
*Iris (1:30) Four Star, Shattuck.
*Italian for Beginners (1:39) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.
Kissing Jessica Stein (1:47) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck.
Lantana (2:00) Balboa, UC Berkeley.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Grand Lake, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.
*Monsoon Wedding (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero.
*Monster's Ball (1:48) Lumiere, Shattuck.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder (1:35) Colma, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
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) Kabuki. (Eddy)
*No Man's Land (1:37) Four Star.
The Other Side of Heaven (1:53) Colma.
Panic Room In this techno-thriller 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, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Metro, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Harvey)
*Queen of the Damned Midnight show with audience participation and live cast. (1:41) Four Star.
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (1:33) Rafael.
Resident Evil (1:40) Metreon.
The Rookie (2:09) Century Plaza, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.
*The Royal Tenenbaums (2:25) Balboa.
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (:50) Metreon Imax.
*Son of the Bride Oscar nominee Son of the Bride is a midlife crisis movie that's somehow anti-Kevin Costner where it counts. The main wellspring is Ricardo Darín, who plays a character who's all about soul realizing he's misplaced it, finding it, expanding it to benefit those who've suffered its lack. His Rafael Belvedere is a high-end restaurateur consumed by the daily staying-afloat of an Italian eatery his father, Nino (Héctor Alterio), opened decades ago with wife Norma (Norma Aleandro). Rafael's workaholism eventually cost him his marriage to a visibly bitter ex (Claudia Fontán) and isn't doing him any favors with the young daughter (Gimena Nóbile) or perfect, younger live-in girlfriend (Natalia Verbeke) he can barely make time for. The wake-up-and-smell crisis arrives via a heart attack just serious enough to prompt a requisite cosmic "whoa." Not much "happens" in Son of the Bride, but director-cowriter (with Fernando Castets) Juan José Campanella makes sure the pileup of small corrective incidents feels important enough. Darín's restraint feels so completely thought through that nothing else here needs to matter. He's a contained actor who excels at the hardest thing: making stillness and reflection seem vivid. (2:04) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)
*The Son's Room (1:39) Rafael.
Sorority Boys (1:34) 1000 Van Ness.
The Sweetest Thing From the pen of South Park vet Nancy M. Pimental comes this chick-powered flick (directed by a guy, though: Cruel Intentions helmer Roger Kumble) that lands someplace between Sex and the City and Girls Gone Wild. After sassy man magnet Christina (Cameron Diaz, working her best hair since The Mask) briefly meets and lets escape from her clutches a guy (Thomas Jane) who just might be the One, best pals Courtney (Christina Applegate) and Jane (Selma Blair, the target of more than her share of the film's gross-out jokes) convince her to track him down. The story is featherlight, the tasteless humor so 1999, but this breakneck-paced flick manages to get by on Diaz's famous grin, the inside jokesy rapport between Diaz and Applegate, and Applegate herself, a scene-stealing second banana who gets many of the film's biggest laughs. (1:27) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Orinda, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)
The Time Machine (1:36) Balboa.
*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.
*'Kung Fu Kult Classics' This week's Kult Klassics double feature is David Chung Chi-Man's 1986 Royal Warriors, starring Michelle Yeoh, and Lee Tso Nam's 1980 Invincible Kung Fu Legs (see Tiger on Beat). Four Star.
*The Last Waltz (1:57) 1000 Van Ness*Lola (1:30) Opera Plaza.
*The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein Shot piecemeal over several years, Boston based writer-helmer John Gianvito's indie feature emerges an unusually ambitious, quietly involving drama about the Gulf War's impact on three very different New Mexico residents. Divided into three sections, though the stories eventually cross paths, the pic begins as Mexican American single mother Fernanda Hussein (Thia Gonzales) panics over the disappearance of her two children whose bodies we've already seen dumped by unknown assailants into the Rio Grande. Though her husband returned to his native Egypt some time ago, Fernanda has been the target of harassment as vitriol crests against her namesake-by-marriage, Iraq dictator Saddam. Handsome young Carlos (actual Gulf War Marine Corps vet Robert Perrea, a charismatic acting natural) gets a hero's welcome after his Middle Eastern tour of duty, but he's unable to readjust to civilian life, soon losing himself in drink, drugs, and sex-for-hire. In Mad Song's final chapter a teen (Dustin Scott) alienates his well-to-do parents by vigorously opposing U.S. actions in the Persian Gulf. Eschewing excess melodrama and overt preachiness, Mad Songs makes no secret of its dismay at this chapter in American history: the war is viewed as a needless military farrago that wreaked environmental and human havoc and brought out the worst kind of jingoistic "patriotism" from an overwhelming U.S. majority. This slow-moving, photographically rich docudrama sports a thematic ambition and character generosity that render the film's nearly three-hour length well worth the patience demanded. Gianvito will answer questions in person at the screening. (2:48) Rafael. (Harvey)
*'Saturday Midnites for Maniacs': Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie This is it: you better haul ass to the Four Star on Saturday night, because you will not get another chance to see Topps Trading Cards's finest hour on the big screen. Probably ever. This 1987 shoulda-been cult classic, based on characters born of Cabbage Patch Kids backlash, stars a Facts of Life-era Mackenzie Austin as the scrappy Dodger, a kid who works in a curiosity shop owned by Cap'n Manzini (Anthony Newley, spouting rhymes and sporting knickers) and spends much of his free time evading the neighborhood gang of ne'er do wells, led by the blazer-wearing Juice and Dodger's secret crush, the big-haired Tangerine. One day a mysterious garbage pail in the Cap'n's back room overturns, unleashing the Kids a squadron of little people covered by terrifying, animatronic costumes into the world. What unfolds involves a fashion show of nightmarish '80s proportions, a harrowing escape from the State Home for the Ugly, a Pee-wee's Big Adventure-style biker bar adventure, a musical number, and a pretty important lesson for everyone to learn about beauty being only skin-deep. Among the Kids, the jive-talking Ali Gator emerges as the most charismatic, but the ever-fartin' Windy Winston certainly has his moments. (1:36) Four Star. (Eddy)
'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, Rafael. (Eddy)