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February 22, 2024

  • Danez Smith at AWP
    Richard Saker/Contour by Getty Images As we end Black History Month, here is one of my favorite poets, Danez Smith, who writes on intersectionality between their Black and Queer identities. At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Kansas City, MO, I had the opportunity to personally meet Smith, and they are […]
  • Lying in Memoir
    Lauren Slater crafts diligent, depictive metaphors in narrative, and I hate her writing, simultaneously. Should there be lying in memoir? In her book, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir (2000), Slater crafts lies from epilepsy to nunneries to doctor visits and proposed peer reviewed theses to AA meetings. However, within these lies, she allows us to question […]
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Film Clips

(RATINGS: The movies listed below are rated according to the following key: 4 stars — excellent; 3 stars — good; 2 stars — fair; 1 star — poor.)

(M.C. — Mark Caro; M.W. — Michael Wilmington; J.P. — John Petrakis; L.C. — Lou Carlozo; M.R. — Maureen Ryan; R.K. — Rick Kogan; M.E. — Monica Eng; B.S. — Barbara Shulgasser; A.J. — Allan Johnson; V.E. — Vicky Edwards; R.E. — Robert K. Elder.)

ALMOST FAMOUS. Cameron Crowe’s rapturously entertaining picture, based on recollections of his own experience, centers on a nerdy high school senior who lands an unbelievably cool job as a rock journalist in 1973 and goes on a cross-country tour with a band. It is packed with music and laced with heart-piercing wit and romanticism. R (language, drug use, sensuality). 2:00. 4 stars. — M.W.

BAMBOOZLED. This deliberately outrageous Spike Lee movie is a shock-comedy about the evils of African-American media stereotypes. Starring Damon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson, this film takes you from uproarious laughter to discomfort to stunned silence. Stay until the credits are done because the end-title sequence is a marvel of wit, rage and tenderness. R (strong language and some violence). 2:15. 3-1/2 stars. — M.W.

BARENAKED IN AMERICA. A lighthearted rockumentary about the Barenaked Ladies band that showcases their talent and includes backstage and on the road footage. Directed by Jason Priestly. No MPAA rating (some nudity). 1:30. 3 stars. — J.P.

BEAUTIFUL. Sally Fields’ directorial debut about a self-absorbed woman (Minnie Driver) who will cross anyone to win beauty pageants. This confusing film sends mixed messages and has utterly unlikable characters. PG-13 (language, thematic elements). 1:53. One star. — M.C.

BEDAZZLED. A poor remake of the neglected 1967 classic about a man (this time around, Brendan Fraser) who makes a deal with the devil (yikes, Elizabeth Hurley) in which he gets seven wishes in exchange for his soul. PG-13 (sex-related humor, language and some drug content). 1:33. 2-1/2 stars.– M.W.

BEST IN SHOW. Dog shows are a potentially rich but largely untapped vein of cinematic humor. Another of Guest’s ensemble improvisatory comedies, like his 1997 sleeper hit ‘Waiting for Guffman’ — and starring many of the same hilariously gifted actors — this movie mines dog shows for every laugh they can reasonably provide, steeping us in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, champion-doggie style. PG-13. 2-1/2 stars.

BILLY ELLIOT. The plot description for this British film sounds cutesy: An 11-year-old boy begins skipping his boxing lessons to take instruction in ballet. (Billy’s mother is dead, and his father and brother are striking miners. The boxing lessons presumably will toughen up Billy for the fights to come but he’s not terribly skilled or inspired.) The movie earns its sentiment by vividly reconstructing the conflicts of a specific time and place while showing the artistic birth of someone raised in that environment. R. 3-1/2 stars.

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIN WITH 2. The sequel to ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ this one isn’t as scary and, unlike the first one, is just another bloody exploitation flick centered on tourists obsessed with the Blair Witch ‘town’ who go into the famous woods and find surprises of their own. R (violence, language, sexuality, drug use). 1:30. One star. — M.C.

THE CONTENDER. This is a smart, tense political drama about presidential politics and sexual scandals. And, though it has large flaws and several unbuyable plot points, there’s something salutary about the attempt. R. 2-1/2 stars.

CYBERWORLD 3D. A smorgasbord of animated vignettes that get a virtual reality make-over. Included are a ‘Simpson’s Halloween special,’ ‘Dreamworks’ Antz’ and ‘KraKKen: Adventure of Future Ocean.’ This peek into the future of movie special effects requires guests to wear special goggles and a wrap-around helmet. No MPAA rating (family). 0:48. 2-1/2 stars. — R.E.

DIGIMON. The debut of the animated Japanese TV series that brought us Pokemon and Shmokemon. The dialogue is uninspired and peppered with bad jokes kids won’t get and adults won’t find amusing. While the graphics are often interesting, the fighting monster scenes grow old quickly. The plot at times is unintelligible, but the kids don’t seem to mind. This is a film that Digimon fans will enjoy, but adults may feel brain dead by the end. PG (action violence). 1-1/2 stars. 1:30.

DR. T AND THE WOMEN. Moviemaker Robert Altman, who grew up among the upper classes of Kansas City, Mo., knows the rich murderously well, and he’s able to skewer them again in ‘Dr. T ‘ the Women,’ a comedy-drama about Dallas society gynecologist Dr. Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere), a man who loves his job and his women. It’s a joy. Altman does Dallas the way he did Nashville in ‘Nashville’ or Hollywood in ‘The Player’; he presents the real city and people, filtered through fantasies. R. 4 stars.

DUETS. A shallow film about the karaoke subculture where people compete for cash prizes. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as the illegitimate daughter of a karaoke hustler (Huey Lewis), if ever there was such a thing. The joys of singing give the movie a hook, but when ‘Duets’ aims for lyricism, it’s got a tin ear. R (language, some sexuality). 1:53. 2 stars. — M.C.

GET CARTER. A remake of Mike Hodges’ 1971 ‘Croupier.’ Sylvester Stallone plays a Las Vegas mobster out for revenge for his brother’s death. Also stars Michael Caine. Director Stephen Kay and cinematographer Mauro Fiore make the movie look as ugly as it feels; not even Seattle is as gloomy and murky as this. R (violence, language, some sexuality and drug content). One star. 1:42.

GIRLFIGHT. A raw, gritty, fine little movie about a Latino girl boxer (Michelle Rodriguez) in Los Angeles. Romantic and one of the best Indies of the year. The ending doesn’t quite work, but it’s still a crowd-pleaser. R (language). 1:53. 3 stars. — M.W.

HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME. The Highlander series seems as immortal as the characters it portrays. ‘Highlander: Endgame,’ the fourth of the Highlander movies, unites Connor MacLeod from the films with Duncan MacLeod from the spinoff television series, resulting in a story that has to explain itself through so much of the film that there’s just not much film left. R. (violence, sexuality) 2 stars.

HOLLOW MAN. Director Paul Verhoeven’s unimaginative thriller about a scientist (Kevin Bacon), turned invisible, on a psychotic rampage. Also stars Elisabeth Shue and Josh Brolin. R (nudity, sexuality, language, gory violence). 1:54. 1-1/2 stars. — M.C.

INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS. Britain’s Kindertransport program rescued more than 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia in the nine months preceding World War II. Mark Jonathan Harris, the writer-director of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Long Way Home,’ and producer Deborah Oppenheimer, whose late mother was saved by the Kindertransport, have recounted this massive rescue mission by presenting a panoramic oral history. ‘Into the Arms of Strangers’ was made in conjunction with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It preserves and presents the memories while making the stories live — triumphantly — for current and future generations. 3 stars. PG.

THE LITTLE VAMPIRE. A cutesy-poo vampire movie for the whole family. Based on the story of Dracula, this film produces a cross between ‘E.T.’ and ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost,’ but it’s mostly lifeless. PG (some mild peril). 1:34. 1-1/2 stars. — M.W.

LUCKY NUMBER. A comedy with many punchy and irritatingly glib moments. Russ (John Travolta) is a clueless TV weatherman who tries to rig the lottery by having his clueless girlfriend (Lisa Kudrow), a Lotto Ball selector, cheat. Nora Ephron directs. R (language, sexuality, some drug use and brief violence). 1:48. 2-1/2 stars. — M.W.

MEET THE PARENTS. An exhausting nightmare comedy about a guy (Ben Stiller) who meets his fiancee’s (Teri Polo) parents (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) and makes all the wrong moves. Directed by Jay Roach of the ‘Austin Powers’ movies, this comedy scores almost all of its laughs out of extreme anxiety and embarrassment. PG-13 (sexual content, drug references and language). 1:48. 3 stars. — M.W.

NURSE BETTY. This comedy centers on a nutty waitress (Renee Zellweger) who embarks on a zany cross country chase when her husband is killed and the murderers chase her to do her in as well. Also stars Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear. R (language, violence and sensuality). 1:48. 3-1/2 stars. — M.W.

ONE IN THE LIFE. A hustler named 20/20 Mike (Laurence Fishburne), who has never hit the big time, has an innate ability to see trouble before it happens. Set on the streets of New York, this film has an effective balance between humor and anxiety. R (pervasive language, strong violence and some drug content). 1:50. 2-1/2 stars.– M.W.

PAY IT FORWARD. A drama about a teacher (Kevin Spacey) who gives his students a homework assignment to help fix the world, and it changes many lives. Also stars Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr and Jon Bon Jovi. PG-13 (mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language and brief violence). 2:04. 2 stars. — M.C.

REMEMBER THE TITANS. A good true-life sports movie about a high-school football team at a newly racially integrated school and their determined and successful effort to beat the odds. This totally absorbing film starring Denzel Washington makes it all the way to paydirt and glory. PG (thematic elements and some language). 1:53. 3-1/2 stars. — M.W.

SPACE COWBOYS. A charming comedy about four aging ex-test pilots (Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones) who as young men had been ousted from the space program but who get a second chance to prove themselves during a crisis. PG-13 (some language). 2:03. 3-1/2 stars. — M.W.

THE YARDS. A coming-of-age story about an ex-con (Mark Wahlberg) in the world of crime and urban families who gets caught up in a whirlpool of gang wars and scandal when his first job results in a death by his friend, Willie (Joaquin Phoenix). R (language, violence and a scene of sexuality). 1:55. 3 stars. — M.W.

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