Film Openings

Openings for the week of October 31, 2001

Diamond Men. Dan Cohen. Robert Forster and ex-New Kid/Mark's brother Donnie Wahlberg star in this thriller about small-time diamond salesmen. When Eddie Miller (Forster) has a massive heart attack that threatens to leave him uninsurable, he's forced to either train an apprentice or lose his income. Bobby Walker (Wahlberg) is the man for the job, and the resulting partnership benefits both of them. Opens Nov. 2 at the Plaza Frontenac. NR

Domestic Disturbance. Harold Becker. John Travolta, as shipbuilder and "noble failure" Frank Morrison, gives a remarkable performance in a contemptible film. At 88 minutes, this is less a film than a summary of one as it hurries through the story as though ashamed of it. For a little while, it's sober, meaty stuff: Frank's ex-wife, Susan (Meet the Parents' Teri Polo), is about to marry local businessman Rick Barnes (Vince Vaughn), to the chagrin of Frank and Susan's 12-year-old son, Danny (Matthew O'Leary). Danny longs for his folks to reunite, to the point of getting in trouble with the cops just to force them to be in the same room; he also takes Rick for a creep, because he is. But this isn't titled Domestic Drama, and the movie falls apart when Rick kills a man (Steve Buscemi) as Danny bears witness; no one except Frank believes him, and the boy suffers Rick's threats and, ultimately, violence at the hands of his stepfather -- all in the name of rousing entertainment. By film's end, what's meant to be frightening -- the sight of an adult beating a child's head, repeatedly, against the side of a car -- is merely appalling, a cheap trick without point or purpose -- kind of like the whole movie. Opens Nov. 2 at multiple locations. (RW)

Grateful Dawg. Gillian Grisman. Ace mandolin player David Grisman and Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia met as young folk-roots fan/musicians attending a Bill Monroe concert in 1964. They played together on the Dead's fifth (and arguably greatest) studio album, American Beauty; toured on and off for about a year in the early '70s (together with bassist John Kahn, guitarist Peter Rowan and fiddler Vassar Clements) as Old & in the Way, a bluegrass-inflected hybrid; and, from the late '80s until Garcia's death in 1995, frequently recorded together. At a certain point, Grisman's daughter Gillian and Justin Kreutzmann (son of the Dead's Bill Kreutzmann) began to videotape the sessions, providing the material from which Gillian has assembled this documentary. "Objectivity" is a futile goal in any documentary, but one has to be extra suspicious of a film directed by the daughter of one of its central characters. Although Grisman is (perhaps accurately) portrayed as a perfectly nice fellow, Garcia seems altogether whitewashed. Consider this: Grateful Dawg primarily deals with the last five or six years of Garcia's life, and there is not one mention of drugs anywhere. Drugs -- a major factor in Garcia's death -- are the giant paisley elephant that the film keeps asking you not to think about. With no aspects of the personalities represented outside their music, Grateful Dawg ends up feeling dry and incomplete. Its two subjects, stripped of all other characteristics, come across as, well, talented but not very interesting guys. Opens Nov. 2 at the Tivoli. (AK)

Life as a House. Irwin Winkler. Kevin Kline puts in a cloying, mawkish performance -- all quiet self-sacrifice and synthetic nobility, mixed with the odd wisecrack -- as one George Monroe, a downtrodden architect's assistant who's dying of cancer but pledges to build his dream house on the edge of a cliff and reclaim his alienated son's love before he checks out. Director Winkler (better knows as the producer of Rocky and Raging Bull) lays on the sap, and screenwriter Mark Andrus puts all of us poor popcorn-munchers on heightened symbolism alert from the instant the first nail is pounded to the time that every formerly contentious family member and crotchety neighbor joins in St. George's quest for redemption. With Kristin Scott Thomas and Hayden Christensen. Opens Nov. 2 at multiple locations. (BG)

Monsters, Inc.. Pete Docter. Opens Nov. 2 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

The One. James Wong. A handful of Star Trek episodes (among them the one in which Kirk squares off against Kirk and the one in which Spock sports a beard) cobbled together with 1992's Double Dragon, in which Jackie Chan took on Jackie Chan, commingled with every high-wire-stop-motion-wowee trick used in The Matrix -- in other words, a wearying kick in the head. The story's so high-concept it's lowbrow, a video game in "demo" mode: Baddie Yulaw (Jet Li) travels through some 123 universes to kill, well, himself in order to grow stronger; when Yulaw's the last version of himself standing, he'll either become a god or destroy the universe (we never find out which, dang it). There's but one version left: Gabe (Li, again), a Los Angeles Sheriff's Department officer. Eventually they'll duke it out in a dilapidated chemical factory (of course), but not before a few clashes with the, ahem, multiverse agents (Delroy Lindo and Snatch's Jason Statham, who talks as though his mouth is full of broken glass) who've been chasing Yulaw across the multiverse (it sounds idiotic just typing it). Director and co-writer Wong wants it both ways: slight and slighter. The handful of jokes work (Al Gore's the president in one universe; American Movie's Mark Borchardt pops in to fall down), but they're merely a tease in a film bereft of emotion, characters and words with more than two syllables. Opens Nov. 2 at multiple locations. (RW)

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