June 19, 2002


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film

San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

The 26th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival runs through June 30. Venues are Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, S.F.; Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, S.F.; San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin, S.F.; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, S.F. For tickets, a full schedule, and information call (925) 866-9559 or go to www.frameline.org/festival. For commentary see Script Doctor, page 36, or last week's Bay Guardian. All times p.m. unless otherwise indicated.

 

Wed/19


Castro Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask and The Darker Side of Black 1. Queens Don't Lie 4. Food of Love 6:30. Markova: Comfort Gay 9:30.

Herbst Group 6:30. Sister Smile 9.

 

Thurs/20


Castro "Foreign Tongues: International Gay Shorts" (shorts program) 7:30. "Not for Adults" (shorts program) 3:45. Karmen Geï 6:30. Wu Yen 9.

YBC "I Want My Gay TV" (panel discussion) 8. "Straightsploitation" (shorts program) 9.

 

Fri/21


Castro Speak Up! and Out in the Cold 11a. Sister Smile 1. The Devil in the Holy Water 3:30. The Lawless Heart 6. All the Queen's Men 8:30. Whether You Like It or Not 11.

YBC Sugar Sweet 6:30. Please Don't Stop: Lesbian Tips for Givin' and Gettin' It 9.

 

Sat/22


Castro Friends in High Places 11a. "Pups and Pussies" (shorts program) 1. Days 3:30. A Family Affair 6. Revolutionary Girl Utena 8:45. "Cartoons Can Also Be Sad" (shorts program) 11.

YBC True Hearted Vixens and Body 1. Novela, Novela 4. Sir: Just a Normal Guy 6:30. Tricia's Wedding and Elevator Girls in Bondage 9.

 

Sun/23


Castro "Come Out, Come Out" (shorts program) 11a. "Little Women" (shorts program) 1:30. Incidental Journey and I Am Not What You Want 3:45. The Heart's Root 6:15. The Politics of Fur 9.

Herbst "Harold's Historic Homo Home Movies" 12:30. "Instructions Enclosed" 3. Ke Kulana He Mahu: Remembering a Sense of Place 6. Bungee Jumping of Their Own 9.

 

Mon/24


Castro Sugar Sweet 1. Tom 3:45. Lianna 6. "It's a Woman's World" 9.

Herbst Looking for Langston 6:30. "Thank You Kate Bornstein" (shorts program) 9.


Tues/25


Castro The Man I Love 1. A Family Affair 3:30. The Business of Fancydancing 6:30. Young Soul Rebels 9.

Herbst "Shut Up White Boy" 6:30. Skeleton Woman 9.

Opening

*Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner See "Hit and Myth," page 36. (2:52) Bridge.

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys Amid the scandals and accusations surrounding the Catholic church, the title of Peter Care's directorial debut will most certainly catch your attention. Beyond that, there is nothing particularly eyebrow raising about this overambitious coming-of-age drama, which follows the mischievous adventures of a pair of fresh-faced Catholic high schoolers. Like most boys growing up, Francis (Emile Hirsch) and Tim (Kieran Culkin) read comic books, get into trouble, and thoroughly despise their demanding superiors. After a class trip to the zoo, the boys hatch a plan to scare their teacher, Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster), by kidnapping a cougar and setting it loose in her office. While the host of young actors give wonderful performances (most notably Jena Malone's turn as abused young girl whose confusion about her mistreatment turns to self-loathing), the film ultimately tries to tackle too much material in too little time and gets bogged down by a number of animated daydream sequences that intrude on its tone. (1:50) Embarcadero, Rafael. (Wadenius)

The Flip Side Rod Pulido's first feature is rough-hewn on a lot of levels, but its satirical portrait of one SoCal Filipino American family drowning in the "melting pot" still scores some giddy points. Each member of the Delacruz clan has his or her own take on assimilation and how to attain it. The immigrant parents (Ester Pulido, Abe Pagtama) are quite content with their business success and material comfort. Mid-20s daughter Marivic (Ronalee Par), on the other hand, is desperately seeking otherness: she talks like a Valley Girl, grabs the first white guy available, and yearns to surgically erase all traces of ethnicity. Teenager Davis (Jose Saenz) fancies himself a b-boy, dreaming of NBA glory and rapping "wild style." Stubborn Tagalog speaker Grandpa (Manong Peping Baclig) just wants to go home, i.e., back to the homeland. All are thrown into a tizzy when elder son Darius (Verwin Gatpandan) returns from his first year at college, bursting with newly discovered cultural pride. Adopting a traditional loincloth for dress, urging everyone to get roots-conscious, he meets with embarrassed denial and hostility from everyone, save gramps. Seldom developing its many funny ideas past first impact, The Flip Side runs out of steam after an hour, and Saenz and Par give the only inspired performances. But there's a wry freshness that's pleasing even when the seams show. (1:20) Century 20, Four Star. (Harvey)

*Home Movie The latest revel by Chris Smith (American Movie, American Job) in all-American eccentricity focuses on five highly customized homes and the variously rugged, tree-hugging, and pussy-whipped individuals who reside there. One Kansas couple has converted an abandoned underground cold-war missile-launch complex, hoping to "heal the space" through sheer force of New Ageyness. A creepier California duo live in a virtual cathouse – designed so feline-friendly you wonder why the pets don't just shove their keepers into the garage. The wackiest abode is Illinois inventor Ben Skora's split-level, an experimental lab for his Seussian/'60s-spy-flick "gadgets." But the most engaging personality here belongs to Cajun alligator farmer Bill Tregle, whose houseboat is less compelling than his gumbo-thick, love-mojo-on-the-bayou charm. Home Movie itself is more a Whitman's Sampler than a filling square meal, as documentaries go. But that doesn't mean it's not tasty. Added bonus: the hour-long film plays with Jeff Krulik and John Heyn's cult classic Judas Priest fan-umentary, "Heavy Metal Parking Lot." (1:15) Lumiere. (Harvey)

Juwanna Mann After being kicked off his pro team, a troublemaking basketball player (Miguel A. Nuñez Jr.) cross-dresses his way into the WNBA. (1:31) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London.

*Lilo and Stitch See Movie Clock. (1:25) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Orinda.

*Minority Report It's hard to believe Minority Report marks the first time Steven Spielberg has directed Tom Cruise – but it's not hard to believe that the pairing of two such uberstars, both coming off so-so projects (A.I., Vanilla Sky), makes for such entertaining results. As troubled chief John Anderton – head of D.C.'s elite "Pre-Crime" division, which uses a trio of clairvoyants to suss out murderers before they strike – Cruise is in his element; the role involves not only muscular ass-kicking, but a meaty back story that concerns Anderton's murdered son, plus a twisty mystery that sends the tightly-wound cop all over the city trying to clear his name when he's pegged as a future killer. Spielberg comes through with his most enjoyable film in years, mixing futuristic but still strangely logical visuals (vertical highways, interactive advertisements, animated cereal boxes) with quick pacing and several tense, disturbing scenes. Though the king of sentimentality still can't resist a tidy, no-stone-left-unturned ending, by the time the wave of exposition hits you, Minority Report has already carried you, breathlessly, almost to the end. (2:25) Century Plaza, Century 20, Empire, Grand Lake, Jack London, Presidio, Orinda. (Eddy)

Ongoing

About a Boy (1:45) Century 20, Four Star, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Amélie (1:55) Balboa.

Bad Company "Bad" doesn't begin to describe this unoriginal, unfunny would-be thriller from director Joel Schumacher and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. As a buddy movie, it fails: Chris Rock (as a New Jersey ne'er-do-well whose twin brother, a CIA operative, is killed while working a top-secret case) and Anthony Hopkins (as a no-nonsense agent who trains Rock to complete his brother's assignment) display some of the worst chemistry ever committed to the screen. Worst of all, the movie's (inadvertently unfortunate) central plot point – American-hating terrorists armed with a nuke, loose in NYC – seems all the ickier when mixed with lame-ass "Shaq attack" jokes. (1:47) Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

*Bartleby Bartleby, an absurdist update of Herman Melville's novella Bartleby the Scrivener, is brimming with enough vintage CGI (Crispin Glover incantations) to make Glover fans rejoice. You'd swear he was born to play Melville's existentially conflicted hero, a clerk dedicated to his job filing records who suddenly decides that he'd "prefer not to" work, infuriating his coworkers and confounding his concerned boss (David Paymer). First-time director Jonathan Parker willfully changes story elements and substitutes deadpan apocalyptic chic for Melville's dreary tone, but he's smart enough to keep an undercurrent of dread humming throughout that keeps the film's literary source recognizably present. (1:22) Lumiere, Rafael. (Fear)

Beijing Bicycle (1:53) Rafael.

*The Believer Henry Bean's controversial directorial debut concerns Daniel Balint (Ryan Gosling), an Orthodox Jew turned Nazi skinhead, but it is not a simple case of Jewish History X. The Tom-and-Jerry view of Jewish life that the film's detractors espouse leaves little room for the discomfiting images that Daniel makes us deal with: a skinhead wearing a talis and davening on Rosh Hashanah, a Nazi in a sieg heil salute singing Hebrew songs. Daniel's inner struggles with his faith and his utter devotion to the Torah make it something significantly more than a film about anti-Semitism. It not only grapples with volatile paradoxes of Jewish self-hatred but also throws itself headfirst into the long history of interpretive struggle over the Torah in order to arrive at a clearer sense of Jewish meaning and Jewish values. (1:40) Opera Plaza. (Josh Kun)

The Bourne Identity A man (Matt Damon) with no memory retraces his steps in search of his identity. Like most cinematic victims of amnesia, it turns out he's a trained assassin for a CIA spook organization and is targeted for termination. Once our hero reappears on the intelligence grid, he and his hapless MacGuffin-of-circumstance (Franke Potente) dodge agency cleanup men and international-espionage chess games while reconstructing his past. Based on pulp-spy literati Robert Ludlum's page-turner, Bourne's plot mechanisms are basic paranoia 101 spiced with Hitchcockian hoo-ha, but director Doug Liman (Go) has a way with chase scenes and fight choreography, blending '70s grit and '90s delirium with surprising deliciousness. Damon's grace-under-pressure performance establishes that he can embody an action hero minus much meaty posturing, even if the third act's clenched jaws and pat denouements skitter away earlier, savvier moments. Still, for a big-budget thriller, Bourne's erotic underpinnings and eschewing of cookie-cutter turns makes for a class-act, minor-chord thrill ride. (1:53) Century Plaza, Century 20, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)

CQ In the 1960s, horndoggery, cold war machismo, mod fashion, and the nouveau concept of camp all found their most fruitful mutual expression in the Bondian spy flick, a genre that sired as many bastard offspring as fictional James might've. One suspects Roman Coppola knows every mylar nook and fun-fur cranny of such films firsthand, as his debut feature, CQ, is both endearing and frustrating as slavish homage to this epoch. Paris, 1969: an American editor (Jeremy Davies) is day-jobbing on Dragonfly, a softcore sci fi-spy flick à la Barbarella. When Dragonfly's director is sacked, insecure Paul finds himself expected to take over. The films CQ flatters and parodies are 100 percent style, so it's no backhanded compliment to say Coppola gets all the peripherals right. But CQ needs more than retro-design cred and psychotronic affection to hang on. As is, this sweet but very soft flashback impacts rather like a Bondian freeze-ray gun. The immediate effect is striking, but once it's over you can't remember anything happening at all. (1:40) Lumiere. (Harvey)

*The Cat's Meow (1:47) Balboa.

*Cherish In Finn Taylor's San Francisco drama, Zoe (Robin Tunney) is an off-kilter animator who runs her life with clueless abandon: annoying her coworkers by listening to the greatest hits of yesteryear and meeting men and losing them at the speed of light. She quickly moves from being a prisoner of her own habits to just being a prisoner, after she's forced at gunpoint to mow down a bicycle cop. While she waits for a trial, she's put on the "bracelet" program, which allows her to remain outside a real prison as long as she wears an electronic ankle bracelet. When the bracelet-program coordinator (Tim Blake Nelson) comes by to adjust the shackles on his kooky indoor-roller skating, love song-obsessed charge, a whole new plotline ensues. Cherish's comedy goes down better than its thrills, mostly because of a cast that includes unheralded geniuses like Nelson, who carries off his nervous warden character with clammy charm. (1:52) Embarcadero. (Gerhard)

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes, Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Practical Magic, and Where the Heart Is – a.k.a., chicks – are clearly the intended audience for this sweet pic based on the bestseller by Rebecca Wells and directed by Thelma and Louise scripter Callie Khouri. Manhattan playwright Sidda (Sandra Bullock, back in "lovable" mode after her dour Murder by Numbers turn) is continually confounded by the antics of her unpredictable, cocktail-swilling Southern mama, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn, played as a young woman by Ashley Judd). When a giant row threatens to drive the two apart forever, Vivi's lifelong pals – the "Ya Yas" (Maggie Smith, Fionnula Flanagan, and Shirley Knight, who get all the film's best lines) – stage a flashback-heavy intervention that sheds light on Vivi's troubled past. The story has some holes (the causes of Vivi's violent breakdown could have been further explored), and the fact that Burstyn and Judd look nothing alike makes the film's time shifts somewhat disjointing. Still, fans of you-go-girl entertainment – and/or anyone with enough fortitude to take an unbridled overload of estrogen – will have a good time with this one. (1:56) Grand Lake, Jack London, Metreon, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda. (Eddy)

*Enigma It's 1943, and English intelligence agents must break a new Nazi code days before an imminent attack at sea. The only man who can do it is ace brainiac Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott), a neurotic code-cracker who cracked himself into a breakdown over a fellow agent (Saffron Burrows) now gone missing. Her disappearance, however, may be the key to the puzzle, if only Tom and his objet d'amour's housemate (Kate Winslet) can solve the mystery in time. Enigma was scripted hyperintelligently by playwright Tom Stoppard, a writer fluent in the expert coding and deciphering of language, and the emphasis on words occasionally clashes with The World Is Not Enough director Michael Apted's need for giving modern audiences kinetic "speed." Still, Enigma's ability to turn cerebral talk into action currency very nearly renders the film's faults completely forgivable. (1:57) Clay, Rafael. (Fear)

Enough (1:45) Century 20, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1:40) Opera Plaza.

*Insomnia When a high school girl turns up dead in rustic Nightmute, Alaska, the local brass bring LAPD-detective-under-fire Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and his partner, Hap (Martin Donovan), up from the lower 48 to help with the case. Dormer digs into the search for the killer with the kind of smarts that have made him a legend to cops everywhere, including fresh-faced go-getter Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank). But even before Insomnia – a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name – starts feeling too Silence of the Lambs-ish, a twist makes Dormer and his top suspect, detective novelist Walter Finch (a very low-key Robin Williams), unlikely allies. Mind games ensue, and what's worse, it's summer in Nightmute, and 24 hours of daylight have dragged Dormer's biological clock to the point of no return. Director Christopher Nolan does fine work here – though Insomnia is nowhere near as stylistically inventive as his Memento, scenes like a guns-drawn chase through a foggy forest show he's no one-trick pony – but it's Pacino, as a beleaguered soul who reaches a point where he'd just as soon catch 40 winks as catch a killer, who makes Insomnia worth watching. (1:55) Century Plaza, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

*Italian for Beginners (1:39) Balboa.

Late Marriage (1:40) Oaks, Rafael.

*Monsoon Wedding Director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!) returns to contemporary India but shifts her focus to the tribulations of upper-middle-class Punjabis. At the center of Monsoon Wedding is a multiday, traditional Indian marriage ceremony that gathers family and friends for feasting, celebration, and rituals. The film's sprawling, multicharacter story adroitly weaves together numerous intersecting lives: the bride, who is really in love with an already married man; the father, who is terrified his son is gay; the cousin, who must confront the childhood trauma of sexual abuse by her uncle; and the wedding planner, who is falling in love with the family maid. By compressing so much drama and conflict into three days, Nair treads dangerously close to soap opera, but she's saved by some intense, honest performances and a style that captures the poetry and lyricism of real life. (1:54) Embarcadero. (Summers Henderson)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2:01) Century 20.

*Nine Queens (1:54) Four Star.

*The Piano Teacher (2:10) Opera Plaza.

*Promises A profoundly moving documentary by American filmmakers B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro, and Carlos Bolado, Promises explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of children in the midst of it. We see Israeli kids riding the bus to school on the lookout for possible bombers and Palestinian kids surrounded by armed Israeli soldiers. The children speak in revealing interviews, showing themselves to be smart, funny, and precocious but also deeply convinced of the righteousness of their side and strongly impacted by their culture's beliefs. Ultimately it is up to the viewer to decide if this is an optimistic account of the possibility of reconciliation or a document of the deep and abiding chasm that separates one side from the other. (1:46) Opera Plaza. (Henderson)

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (1:33) Rafael.

Scooby-Doo Like the billboards say, be afraid. Unless you're accompanying a pint-size fan who'll be entertained by bright colors, peppy music, and an extended farting contest (and isn't easily freaked by a few scary-for-kids moments) – or you're a Matthew Lillard-Freddie Prinze Jr. buddy movie completist – best to give this garish fumble a wide berth. Much like another recent Hanna-Barbera big-screen debacle, Josie and the Pussycats, Scooby-Doo is unable to transform a generally amusing half-hour cartoon into a full-length, live-action adventure; similarly, it's unclear who the film targets: the Spy Kids set or teens (who'll appreciate the pot jokes and Sarah Michelle Gellar's slinky costumes but not the predictable "mystery" about a spooky amusement park). Lillard makes for a dead-on Shaggy, but his valiant efforts to save the movie are tempered by the fact that he shares nearly every scene with a certain so-CG'd-it-hurts canine. (1:27) Century Plaza, Century 20, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

*The Sleepy Time Gal The Hours and Times director Christopher Munch's abstract essay on the introspective remembrance accompanying a life in twilight shuffles its main character, a middle-age woman (Jacqueline Bisset) stricken with cancer, off the mortal coil in such a distant yet deep-felt manner that you almost need to decipher its code of grief. Realizing that she is dying, the titular character (the moniker of her late-night radio show) deals with her feelings regarding her past, her mother, her photographer son (Nick Stahl), and her former lover (Seymour Cassel) as she slowly loses control of her body. Unbeknownst to her, a younger woman (Martha Plimpton) looking for her long-lost parents seems headed for her trajectory as well. Munch's handling of a television-movie staple substitutes muted tones of sorrowful poetry over sentimentality, bypassing inherent elements of spectacle or treacle almost entirely; it's the rare film that succeeds in capturing a personal reflection prior to going gently into the night. (1:34) Roxie. (Fear)

Space Station 3D (:47) Metreon Imax.

Spider-Man (1:51) Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

*Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron This surprisingly subversive DreamWorks film counters the snappy, po-mo, self-reflexive tone of zany 3Ders Shrek, Monsters, Inc., and Toy Story(s) with an earnest, (mainly) traditionally animated tale that upends American frontier formulae. Spirit, the horse of the title, is the leader of a herd of wild mustangs who, for once, don't speak English but roam a majestic landscape that remains unnamed (which is good, since they appear to run from Yosemite to Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon in a matter of minutes). Captured by a group of scouts from the U.S. Cavalry, Spirit's brought back to their fort to be assimilated into the worker-horse life – until a Lakota Indian named Little Creek stages a daring escape. Culminating in an ending happy enough for a six-year-old and sad enough for those who understand what the words "manifest destiny" actually mean and marred only by Bryan Adams's soundtrack misfires, the film picks up street cred with American Indian Daniel Studi as Little Creek and PETA member James "Farmer Hogget" Cromwell as the Colonel. (1:22) Century Plaza, Century 20, Grand Lake, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Doug Young)

*Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2:22) Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

The Sum of All Fears Tom Clancy's intellectual man of mystery, Jack Ryan – a character who's already changed hands once, from Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford – gets another face-lift in Phil Alden Robinson's The Sum of All Fears, transforming from a married, fortysomething husband and father into a single, twentysomething young turk played by Ben Affleck. The suddenly youthful Central Intelligence Agency analyst must confront a grab bag of stock action-espionage villains (cold war-era Russians, hawkish American generals, terrorist organizations, neo-Nazis) and figure out who plans to wreak havoc with a rogue nuclear bomb. What's basically a run-of-the-mill nail-biter is helped by a good supporting cast, notably Liev Schreiber and Morgan Freeman, and a third-act set piece designed to drop jaws. (2:04) Century Plaza, Century 20, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)

*Sunday Thirty years after British paratroopers opened fire on civil rights marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 13, the debate around "Bloody Sunday" still rages, as new testimonies and assessments of blame continue to appear. British television has marked the anniversary with two big-budget docudramas, one of which is making its U.S. debut here. Writer Jimmy McGovern spent three years researching a script that cleaves hard to the historical record yet makes no bones about where the real blame lies. Sunday is a well-told and powerful story whose irresistible comparison with the Israel-Palestine conflict underlines the daring of British television in airing it. (1:30) United Irish Cultural Center. (Avila)

*13 Conversations about One Thing Making a big leap from her OK but modest office-comedy debut, Clockwatchers, director Jill Sprecher has crafted an unusually depthed ensemble piece about disparate lives intersecting – or not – in contemporary NYC. Matthew McConaughey plays a smug prosecutor whose involvement in a hit-and-run accident destroys his assurance of purpose. Alan Arkin is a divorced insurance-company manager pained by the good fortune he sees inevitably going to other, less deserving people. John Turturro is a mathematics professor who leaves his wife (Amy Irving) for a tenuous new life involved with a married woman (Barbara Sukowa). Clea DuVall's timid young housecleaner finds her faith in life's ultimate just rewards badly shaken by cruel happenstance. Sprecher's script (cowritten with sibling Karen Sprecher) is platitudinous at times, and "chapter"-separating intertitles that repeat those platitudes don't help. (Nor does the rather pretentious title.) Still, this is a rare American feature with genuine ambition, credible real-world narrative detail, philosophical weight, and a complex structure that never seems overschematic. (1:42) Embarcadero. (Harvey)

*Y tu mamá también (1:45) Embarcadero.

Ultimate X (:39) Metreon Imax.

Undercover Brother Aspiring to be a black Austin Powers, spoofing both James Bond-style spy thrillers and 1970s-era blaxploitation films, this attempt lacks the cleverness of the Mike Myers franchise. A weak story about an organization of black heroes fighting a white, evil overlord links together a series of heavy-handed gags, and gives Eddie Griffin ample chance to prove he's no leading man. Most of those gags, like the "caucasiovision" device that brainwashes Undercover Brother with white culture, should be hilarious but aren't. Director Malcom D. Lee has no sense of comic timing, and his pedestrian visuals prove he's no Spike (that's his cousin). If the audience around you is laughing, it's perhaps because people respond hysterically to the uncomfortable issue of race (not because it's really funny). Or maybe they're reacting to the potential humor of pushing the already extreme blaxploitation style even further, though the filmmakers show little appreciation of the genre's true appeal. (1:26) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Henderson)

Unfaithful (1:21) Balboa, Century 20, Metreon.

Windtalkers Supersize, camo-clad John Woo with military surplus at his disposal equals superlative movie carnage on the scale of Sam Peckinpah's WWII tale Cross of Iron – and Woo makes it a blast to watch, probably in no small part because the downtime in Windtalkers is so unstimulating by comparison. There's a solid premise ("inspired by actual events"): a group of Navajo code talkers, including Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), come under the protection of bitter and emotionally ravaged Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) during the battle of Saipan. But instead of examining larger issues (like maybe the ambivalence Native Americans might have felt in defending a country and a government that hadn't treated them all that well), the film is quickly taken over by every tired war-movie cliché in the book. It is only near the end that Windtalkers finally seems to come together. In the heat of combat, Woo-ness dictates that nothing matters except male bonding with bullets. War, as well as the talky bits in Windtalkers, may be hell, but the hot-blooded spirit of Hong Kong action film still makes for a thrilling theater of operations. (2:14) Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Macias)

Rep picks

*Fountain of Youth See Critic's Choice. (:30) Fine Arts Cinema.*'Kung Fu Kult Klassics' and 'Saturday Midnites for Maniacs' This week's Kult Klassic double feature is Ronny Yu's Bride With White Hair and David Wu's Bride with White Hair 2. Calling all maniacs: Saturday's show is the 1983 women-in-prison trash classic Chained Heat. (1:26) Four Star.