July 10, 2002
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
Adam Wadenius. See Rep Clock and Movie Clock for theater information.
*Baran See "Stream of Life," page 39. (1:39) Galaxy.
Breaking the Silence Chinese megastar Gong Li, known around these parts for her spectacular turns in costume dramas like The Emperor and the Assassin, gets gritty for the role of Sun Liying, a working-class single mom who lives only to better the life of her deaf son, Zheng Da. The little family doesn't have it easy Zheng is menaced by neighborhood bullies and breaks his hearing aid in the fray; Liying works multiple, backbreaking jobs and spends every spare moment teaching Zheng to speak more clearly so he can be admitted to school with "normal" kids. Happiness comes in small doses, like the joyous afternoon when Zheng learns to pronounce "flower" and the kindness of Mr. Fang, a teacher who befriends the pair. For all its depressing subject matter, Breaking the Silence has the good fortune not to be a product of, or even influenced by, sappy Hollywood overcoming-adversity movies. Director Sun Zhou's style is strictly realistic, and Gong's performance, heartfelt. (1:31) Four Star. (Eddy)
The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course See "Lizard King," page 39. (1:30) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London.
Dahmer See Movie Clock. (1:42) California, Lumiere.
*Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme Freestyling, or spontaneously rapping whatever comes to mind, is the subject of Kevin Fitzgerald's energetic documentary, which traces the progress of improvisational rhyme as a key historical ingredient in hip-hop music. Largely made up of impromptu rap sessions, the film showcases underground and well-known rap artists as they voice their poetry in unconstrained instances of inspiration, like jazz soloists infused with rhythm. It's fascinating to watch as the words are spit out into coherent lyrics, yet the film moves a step further than simply presenting the world of freestyle rap. Unlike previous hip-hop documentaries like The Show or Rhyme and Reason, the film makes a great effort to explore the roots of freestyling, from the free-form gospel preachers of the '70s to the school yard battles of the 80s on up to the fully sponsored freestyle competitions held today. (1:25) Red Vic. (Wadenius)
Halloween: Resurrection Oh, you didn't think a little thing like being decapitated (at the end of Halloween: H20) would stop a killing machine like Michael Myers, did you? (1:15) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London.
Reign of Fire Dragons come back to life and turn London into a barbecue pit. (1:48) Century Plaza, Century 20, Grand Lake, Shattuck.
Road to Perdition A depression-era gangland psychodrama may not seem like the most natural follow-up to Sam Mendes's debut, American Beauty, but odds are that the handsomely crafted Road to Perdition, which contains some of the most achingly beautiful cinematography in recent memory, will wind up being just as decorated at next year's Oscars. Betrayed hitman Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and his sullen 12-year-old son (Tyler Hoechlin) are on the run from a shutterbug assassin with bad teeth played by Jude Law, not to mention other stooges sired in the camp of paternal big boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). The pulpy story is done up with much poetry and enormous late-era Leone-size brush strokes, yet the subtleties of the performances manage to shine through. Adapted from a graphic novel, itself inspired by the classic samurai manga Lone Wolf and Cub, this entry in the usually silent mythology of fathers and sons is writ very large indeed. The film loses points for chickening out on some of the comic's harder edges (where "the kid was a killer," so to speak) and for the generic DreamWorks SKG sappy ending. Still, those involved probably have their acceptance speeches already written. (1:59) Century Plaza, Century 20, Empire, Grand Lake, Jack London, Oaks, Orinda. (Macias)
Teenage Caveman See "Captain 'Caveman' " page 40.
(1:35) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
About a Boy Unrepentantly shallow lad Will (Hugh Grant) invents his own imaginary one-parent family to gain access to datable single mothers. Complications arise when Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a 12 year-old social misfit with a suicidal mom (Toni Collette), barges into his stratosphere, introducing the idea that maybe there's more to life than sex, haircuts, and objects. Few actors can play callow as charmingly as Grant, and his performance in this adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel almost makes it worth sifting through the more saccharine moments in the mix. Essaying a shallow, bitter version of his usual bumbling Romeo roles, he's almost daring you to question why you liked his persona in the first place. Directors Paul and Chris Weitz (American Pie) prove they can capture the self-deprecating strain of British humor, but Grant's edgy take eventually grates against the sentimentality and "Shake Ya Ass" sing-alongs included to insure mass palatability. (1:45) Four Star, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Fear)
*Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner It's not just the centuries-old source material that makes Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner feel so revelatory and revolutionary. It's the fact that, even as it uses modern forms of no-frills filmmaking, it has managed to boil down cinematic storytelling to its essence. Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk pays tribute to the prodigious way the Inuit have with a classic "hero on a journey" narrative, and also to the still-vibrant culture and environment that fosters that kind of storytelling. Long, nearly silent takes are devoted to capturing the Inuit lifestyle, as they work the frostbitten land in order to survive. Shot in a digital wide-screen format, the Arctic landscapes take on an otherworldly quality custom-built for mythopoetic status, even as the film's realist visual approach and slowed-down pacing ground its context within a patient, philosophical, and ritualistic culture. (2:52) Act I and II, Bridge, Rafael. (Fear)
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) Balboa, Century Plaza, Century 20, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)
*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)
Cinema Paradiso: The New Version Giuseppe Tornatore's syrupy 1989 ode to cinema returns with 51 minutes of unseen footage, making a film that was already too long even longer. After learning about the death of an old friend, famous film director Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) returns to the village of his youth, where he is whisked back into the memories of his childhood, spent mostly at the local cinema house. It is in these early scenes that the film holds most of its charm, as young Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) discovers the wonders of cinema, stealing strips of film from the projection booth and pestering Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the elderly projectionist. Tornatore wisely leaves these scenes intact, and the bulk of the new footage expands on Salvatore's adult life and his missed opportunity with Elena (Agnese Nano). These scenes drag along as Tornatore reveals the answer to the fateful question of Elena's disappearance, tidying up all loose ends and at the same time robbing us of the thrill of imagination the original ending inspired. (2:53) Opera Plaza. (Wadenius)
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) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)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) Balboa, Jack London, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
*Elling This delightful little comedy traces the rehabilitation of a pair of socially timid middle-aged men living in society for the first time. Having spent his entire life sheltered away in his childhood home, Elling (Per Christian Ellefsen) is sent to live in a state house after the death of his overprotective mother. There he shares a room with Kjell Bjarne (Sven Nordin), a sex-obsessed lunkhead. The two become friends and, upon their release from the facility, are placed in a state-funded apartment, where a social worker (Jørgen Langhelle) tells them to act responsibly as normal members of the community. Director Petter Næss and his wonderful cast of characters carefully blend humorous aspects with more poignant scenes, producing a film that is heartwarming and enjoyable without stooping to "feel-good movie" tactics. (1:29) Clay, Rafael, Shattuck. (Wadenius)
*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. Scripted hyperintelligently by playwright Tom Stoppard, a writer fluent in the expert coding and deciphering of language, 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 render the film's faults completely forgivable. (1:57) Opera Plaza, Rafael. (Fear)
*Green Dragon In the days and weeks that followed the fall of Saigon in 1975, the United States took on the role of big brother, housing the mass exodus of immigrants in desert refugee camps across America. This often unseen aspect of the Vietnam War is explored in Timothy Linh Bui's beautifully crafted directorial debut, a careful examination of the struggle of a people leaving behind families and country in search of hope in an unknown land. Through the eyes of young Minh Pham (Trung Nguyen), we are introduced to a host of characters, including his guilt-ridden uncle, Tai Tran (Don Duong), camp sergeant Jim Lance (Patrick Swayze), and a melancholy volunteer cook named Addie (Forest Whitaker). Kramer Morgenthau's hazy cinematography drapes the film in a distinct sense of loss, emphasizing the unknown future of the people depicted. (1:53) Galaxy. (Wadenius)
Hey Arnold! The Movie (1:16) Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
The Importance of Being Earnest Two young gadflies (Rupert Everett, Colin Firth) both invent fictional alter egos named Earnest as a means to ease the social pressure to get married but they end up opening a Pandora's box of Farce 101 tropes in the process. Oscar Wilde's arsenic-laced scone of a play is full of enough deliciously nasty epigrams and barbed wit that it would seem hard to screw up a relatively faithful film adaptation. But there are ways to dull the playwright's sharpened prose: throw in gratuitously anachronistic touches (fantasy sequences, tattoo parlors) that add nothing to the text, couch it in a flat visual palette, and tame the tongue-lashing needed under the characters' stiff upper lips. Director Oliver Parker is no stranger to the Wilde style (he adapted An Ideal Husband for the screen), but his curious fumbling of the material's potential and the period-film stalwart cast here seems more in tune with modern sitcom barking and less with the play's patented bite. (1:40) Balboa. (Fear)
*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) Balboa, Kabuki, Metreon, Shattuck. (Eddy)
Juwanna Mann So there's this ultra-macho gerbil rancher/hot-air balloonist/singing telegram who suffers disgrace/career meltdown/midlife crisis and disguises himself as a woman to get his groove back. He miraculously passes as female right away, only to find confusion as his femme persona gains a life of her own and his female love interest thinks of him/her as a "best friend." Finally he learns the true meaning of sportsmanship/Ramadan/aerodynamics. Yes, the drag comedy has become a formula. Juwanna Mann, the latest and worst cookie-cutter example, proves it. This time, he/she's a basketball player, but it almost doesn't matter. The movie feels generic, with scene after obligatory scene that goes through the motions to keep the plot moving. The movie is at its funniest when it stops trying so hard and just indulges in wacky slapstick, like when rapper caricature Puff Smokey Smoke macks on our hero/heroine. (1:31) Century 20, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Charles Anders)
*Lan Yu The latest film by Stanley Kwan, the greatest Hong Kong filmmaker ever to have happily fallen between the cracks of the former Crown Colony's cinema's staggering international success, is a ballad of sexual dependency set against the backdrop of China's political and economic reversals of fortune during the late '80s. Lan Yu is a film for all audiences, the straight-forward story of fraught but undeniable love between a hard-shell entrepreneur and a soft-centered country boy that will tear your heart apart. Based on an "Internet novel" whose chapters were published sequentially, then unified under the title Beijing Story and signed pseudonymously by one "Beijing Comrade" ("comrade" being Chinese slang for "gay"), Lan Yu concerns the rise-and-fall-and-rise-again relationship between well-off businessman Chen Handong (Hu Jun) and architecture student Lan Yu (newcomer Liu Ye). Set in a series of darkened rooms and developed through a series of devastating ellipses, the film manages everywhere to balance a sense of the intimate and the historically inevitable, as Kwan and editor (and longtime Wong Kar-Wai collaborator) William Chang establish an extraordinarily restrained but ever poignant system of micro-parallels and macro-contradictions throughout. (1:26) Castro, Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Stephens)
Late Marriage (1:40) Four Star, Rafael.
Like Mike After a TV-movie gig as the suffering husband of Mary Tyler Moore's Sante Kimes, the ever-ready Robert Forster shifts to a co-star with better hair: Bow Wow (now sans the Lil'). Forster is just one member of an adult roster that makes Like Mike semi-bearable for adults others include Anne Meara as a nun and Crispin Glover, who needs some sun. Bow Wow plays a wuvvable orphan named Calvin whose magical touched-by-the-toes-of-Jordan sneakers allow him to move so fast across the floor that he's capable of the wackiest basketball high jinks since Flubber. He isn't capable of rescuing scenes that involve Jonathan Lipnicki, however. Morris Chestnut plays Bow Wow's father figure, and NBA star Allen Iverson makes a cameo. (1:40) Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Huston)
*Lilo and Stitch Rascally alien Stitch descends on Hawaii armed with supersmarts and a hardwired desire to wreak havoc on everything in his path. When this anti-E.T. crosses paths with lonely little girl Lilo who heads a "human" cast that's more realistic and modern than is seen in most Disney flicks mayhem, and life lessons, ensues. Using an original story rather than tapping a well-worn classic allows directors Chris Sanders (also the voice of Stitch) and Dean DeBlois considerable creative freedom, and Lilo and Stitch combines elements as diverse as hula and fire dancing, spaceship chases, surfing, intergalactic bounty hunters, and plenty of Elvis hits. At the film's core is a simple message about the importance of family, and while Lilo and Stitch may lack the Broadway-style grandeur of other recent Disney efforts, it's nevertheless a charming tale that boasts winning, memorable characters. (1:25) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, Orinda, Shattuck. (Eddy)
Men in Black II Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and director Barry Sonnenfeld try awfully hard to please, cramming jokes and special effects into every split second of this 88-minute sequel. But something doesn't quite click maybe because the first Men in Black was infused with a goofy, inspired quality that's virtually missing here. This time around the turf is a little too familiar, Lara Flynn Boyle a little too uninteresting as the big-boobed villain, and even Smith's movie tie-in hip-hop track is decidedly less catchy. Still, there's something to be said for Men in Black II's quick pacing, and Smith and Jones haven't lost their prickly chemistry. Plus, it's hard to slam any movie that features an extended cameo by Mr. Show comedian David Cross. (1:28) California, Century Plaza, Century 20, Empire, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
*Minority Report It's hard to believe that 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 überstars, 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, Kabuki, Metreon, Presidio, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda. (Eddy)
*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) Albany, Embarcadero, Piedmont. (Summers Henderson)
Mr. Deeds Meet Deeds (Adam Sandler): pizza shop owner, aspiring greeting-card writer, serial hugger, and Mandrake Falls, N.H.'s most beloved resident. He also happens to be the sole heir to his long-lost uncle's zillion-dollar media company, a fact that puts the mild-mannered (though he packs a mean punch when provoked) Deeds in the crosshairs of his uncle's greedy underbosses. After Little Nicky, Sandler could use a hit, and Mr. Deeds errs on the side of being too cuddly cute imagine all the earnest scenes in The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy smushed into one movie, with none of the gut-busting, off-color humor of Happy Gilmore or The Waterboy. Still, Mr. Deeds has some fun moments, with an enthusiastic (if one-note) supporting turn by John Turturro as Deeds's foot-obsessed valet. As Deeds's love interest, Winona Ryder is far less memorable than the headlines she's currently making in the tabloids. (1:31) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
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) Galaxy, Shattuck. (Harvey)
*Nine Queens Argentina's most successful homegrown feature in years is this clever and accomplished caper movie, which writer-director Fabián Bielinsky pulls off like a less cold-blooded David Mamet or Claude Chabrol. Always looking to milk others for whatever they've got, veteran con artist Marcos (Ricardo Darín of Son of the Bride, also currently in theaters) saves younger, petty swindler Juan (Gastón Pauls) from potential arrest, in return inviting the kid to participate in some larger-stakes schemes. The tentative partnership proves useful when a huge prize falls into their laps: the chance to sell a forged set of extremely rare stamps. As matters proceed, Juan turns out to be not quite as green as he looks, unscrupulous Marcos rather less Teflon-shelled, and the latter's straight-arrow sister Valeria (Leticia Brédice) a not-unwilling collaborator given the right circumstances. Shot in a sleek Buenos Aires of high-end hotels and corporate headquarters, this wryly tricksome tale of power reversals, betrayals, and dangerous bluffs comes complete with the requisite last-lap, 180-degree plot twist. (1:54) Four Star. (Harvey)
*Notorious C.H.O. "Do you know how hard I have to work to put pussy on the table?" Margaret Cho asks at one point during her new concert film. The hard work has paid off: Notorious C.H.O. reaches its comic peak when Cho reveals her own very specific turn-ons and turnoffs, free-associating herself in and out of absurd bedroom scenarios, some imaginary, some hilariously real. Cho doesn't meet doctrinaire definitions of a gay man (though she's one in sensibility) or a lesbian (while attracted to dykes who resemble John Goodman, she admits pussy isn't her first choice). Despite an opening interview that contains words such as "inclusion" and "validated," Cho's new movie trims down the empowerment mantras of her first, I'm the One That I Want. The emphasis is on raunch. Cho is equipped with one-liners, expert turns of phrase, and an arsenal of silly voices, but her secret weapon is physical comedy, a talent ideally suited to sexual stand-up. Lorene Machado's mostly artless direction intuitively hooks up with Cho's pantomimes only once: a crotch-level view as she imitates an ex-boyfriend bellowing, "Why can't you cuuuuum when I fuck you?" (1:35) Lumiere, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Huston)
The Powerpuff Girls Movie While The Powerpuff Girls Movie has plenty of the biff, bang, pow, fight-like-a-girl action you'd expect in, creator Craig McCracken's attempt to move his adorable, animated, bug-eyed trio to the big screen falls flat. Sure, we get to see our beloved Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup sprout from the Professor's lab; wage their first battle with the evil Mojo Jojo and his army of ultra-powerful primates; and become the erstwhile guardians of Townsville. But not even McCracken's fervent retro animation, set seamlessly to a punchy techno score, can make up for the fact that short attention spans begin to wander after the first hour. Even the normally ass-kicking fight scenes seem to drag on. As the cartoon's hallmark zip-zing pacing wanes, the film feels less like a feature debut and more like a TV show that's just too darn long. While it's fine for a family outing or a Sunday matinee, die-hard fans seeking real Powerpuff action should probably just stay home and watch back-to-back episodes. (1:20) Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Sabrina Crawford)
Pumpkin The world of blond-bobbed Carolyn Duffy (Christina Ricci) would be complete if her sorority won the best-house-on-campus award. The honor seems inevitable once her fellow Sigma royalty choose the "Challenged Games" as their pet charity. As Carolyn finds herself romantically drawn to the handicapped "Pumpkin" Romanoff (Hank Harris), however, she jeopardizes not only her relationship with her hunky boyfriend (Sam Ball) but also her entire social status. Even with such obvious targets as Greek systems and suburbia in its crosshairs, Pumpkin's flaccid satire is so preoccupied with the camp aspects of its '50s Sirk-us Maximus melodramatic mores that it can't decide how to properly craft a parody. Essayed by two directors (Adam Larson Broder and Anthony Abrams), the entire affair seems plagued by dualities: too warm 'n' fuzzy to be truly misanthropic, too mean-spirited and kitschy to be sincere, too much and yet far from enough. Marinating in Farrelly-style handicapped humor minus the brothers' sweet-and-sour touch, this schizophrenic affair ends up a pulpy, seedy mess. (1:47) Lumiere. (Fear)
*Rivers and Tides Building elaborate installation pieces out of Mother Nature's flotsam and jetsam in its own "natural" habitat (open fields, seashores, riverbanks), artist Andy Goldsworthy spends hours altering the landscape or working his elemental materials into man-made paths and patterns of harmonious grace. A finished work can last for as long as a few days or as short as a minute before a light breeze or an eddying tide picks it apart like carrion; in Goldsworthy's art, deconstruction is as much a part of his vision as construction. German documentarian Thomas Riedelshiemer's affectionate, awestruck look at the man and his mission to tap into a frequency of symmetrical order in terra firma's chaos is as hypnotically dazzling as his subject's abstract expressionist products. Fluently gliding around Goldsworthy's struggle to complete a fragile twig leitmotiv before it collapses under its own weight or pulling far back to reveal a sidewinder pattern snaking around a forest glen, Riedelshiemer's camera becomes the subject's partner, capturing the artist's attempts to channel the ebb and flow of organic life for posterity in a gorgeous, wide-screen, 35mm time capsule. (1:30) Roxie, Shattuck. (Fear)
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-C.G.'d-it-hurts canine. (1:27) Century Plaza, Century 20, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
Spider-Man The fact that Spider-Man is one of the least openly brain-rotting blockbusters, as well as one of the most faithful comic book adaptations, in recent memory is something to be genuinely thankful for. Sure, Spidey could have used a few more wisecracks, fussed more neurotically over his superhero-caliber "super-problems," and looked less like an escapee from a PlayStation game, but the final product is solid enough to dodge serious disaster even if it also lacks true greatness. After a fantastically engaging first half, wherein Tobey Maguire discovers he can do "whatever a spider can," things take a downturn as Willem Dafoe's less interesting Green Goblin takes center stage. You can feel the studio pressure on director Sam Raimi, who (while hitting all the right notes) sadly holds back on the kind of mad visual invention that made his previous superhero outing, Darkman, such a blast. (1:51) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Macias)
*Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Cons: some unfortunate dialogue made even worse by some unfortunately stiff acting; a detectable lack of that goofy magic that made episodes IV-VI sacred texts for the masses. Pros: some of the most spectacular action sequences ever committed to film; the death sticks-Jedi mind trick exchange; and minimal sightings of a certain Mr. Binks. Worth seeing at least once to mend any festering Phantom Menace wounds; worth seeing twice for the battle between Christopher "Dracula" Lee and the meanest, greenest fighting machine in the galaxy. (2:22) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
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 20, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Fear)
*Sunshine State Florida's past and present play a key role in the topography of John Sayles's latest opus. Marly (Edie Falco) runs the dilapidated motel and restaurant her now-senile dad built up, which sits on primo waterfront property in Delrona Beach. A young architect (Timothy Hutton) hired by developers sparks a feeling in Marly that a way out may lie in selling out. In nearby Lincoln Beach, elders Dr. Lloyd (Bill Cobbs) and Eunice Stokes (Mary Alice) attempt to bring together their fragmented town to keep Lincoln's proud African American past alive. Into the mix walks Eunice's daughter Desiree (Angela Bassett), who has returned to prove to everyone that she turned out OK. Juggling close to a dozen characters and weaving several narrative strands together, Sunshine State's saving grace lies squarely in its maker's affinity for capturing the rhythms of real life. Few directors write dialogue for actors or understand the pace of living as well as Sayles, and even when social agendas threaten to detrimentally breach his films' surfaces, the power of performance always redeems his rhetorical leanings. (2:21) Albany, Embarcadero. (Fear)
*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) Act I and II, Embarcadero. (Harvey)
*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) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Fear)
Ultimate X (:39) Metreon Imax.
Warm Water under a Red Bridge Shohei Imamura's scatalogical sense of humor gets full display in this fable of a mystical seaside baker (Misa Shimizu, from Dr. Akagi, etc.) who unleashes a literal geyser from her loins every time she gets hot. Her eventual paramour (Koji Yakusho, Shall We Dance? stud and Kiyoshi Kurosawa regular) is a man whose first interest in her is the "treasure" supposedly buried somewhere in her vicinity. Many other surprises await him, however. Bring an umbrella: whether you want to elevate her to metaphor and mermaid status or are happy to settle with spectacular female ejaculation, Imamura intends you to leave physically and mentally aroused. (1:59) Galaxy. (Gerhard)
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 a 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) 1000 Van Ness. (Macias)
Yana's Friends (1:30) Galaxy.
The Collector See 8 Days a Week, page 52. (1:59) Rafael.
*Live Nude Girls Unite! This eye-opening documentary chronicles the Lusty Lady's workforce as it unionizes against all odds, fighting egregious working conditions that include the scheduling of dancers based on race and breast size. It features codirector (with Vicky Funari) Julia Query, who's also a local comedian and a rabble-rouser by birthright, as a key player on all fronts: she not only fights on behalf of the union and other unions like it but has to negotiate with her own mother a well-known doctor who's made a name for herself distributing condoms to prostitutes in New York City who, despite her credentials in the field of sex work, can't help being upset by what she calls her daughter's involvement with "smut." Following in the footsteps of Barbara Kopple as it builds tension with late-night sessions in the conference rooms of large corporate office buildings, Live Nude Girls Unite! brings sharp surprises to the world of labor filmmaking. (1:15) SF LGBT Community Center. (Gerhard)
*'Midnight Mass' This week: John Waters's 1981 Polyester with special guest Mink Stole. Bridge.
*'Kung Fu Kult Classics' This week's double feature the last until August is Stanley Tong's 1993 Once a Cop, starring Michelle Yeoh, and Four Star owner Frank Lee's own crazy concoction, Junk Film 2. See Tiger on Beat. Four Star.
'Lucky Bum Film Tour' See 8 Days a Week, page 52. Luggage Store Gallery.
'Seventh Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival' See 8 Days a Week, page 52; see Rep Clock for schedule. Castro.