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Film Openings

Week of October 9, 2002

Songs From the Second Floor. Roy Andersson. Swedish director Andersson compiles beguiling scene fragments with odd, occasionally disturbing vignettes but abandons linear storytelling to create a jagged vision. Although we haven't seen the film, one review described Second Floor as "unlike anything previously captured on film, and with this kind of experimental genius/madness at work. In one scene, a drunk woman repeatedly tries to climb back on her barstool, only to fail with machine-like regularity; next to her, a man in a tuxedo continually vomits." Elsewhere, a magician makes a tragic error, and a camera gazes for minutes on end at a busy intersection. Plays at 8 p.m. October 11-13 at Webster University. NR

Spirited Away. Hayao Mayazaki. Opens October 11 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

The Transporter. Cory Yuen. Jason Statham plays a preposterously gifted getaway driver, based in France, who gets big bucks as an upscale cabbie for crooks. When his latest delivery turns out to be a sack full of Chinese sexpot (Shu Qi), he has a brief sentimental moment that lands him at war with his clients. This is the one of two films to open in the last month produced and co-written (but not directed) by French wünderkind Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), the other being the superior Wasabi. It was directed by venerable Hong Kong director/action choreographer Yuen, whose talents are only partially exploited. That is, there are a few really terrific hand-to-hand fights, but most of the action consists of big car chases and explosions, not Yuen's strong suit. Nor does the lame script make use of Yuen's wonderful comic talents. In the mindless-action sweepstakes, however, there's enough here to place The Transporter above big-bang gibberish such as xXx. Opens October 11 at multiple locations. (AK)

Tuck Everlasting. Jay Russell. The title has nothing to do with permanent abdominal cosmetic surgery but, rather, references immortality and its consequences. Like a swell two-parter from the old Wonderful World of Disney, this elegant yarn (based on the novel by Natalie Babbitt) takes us back to those dubious good old days when America was white and whimsical. A spunky rich girl (Alexis Bledel, impressive) falls for an eternal pretty boy (Jonathan Jackson, playing the nice person's Eric Draven of The Crow) while her rigid folks (Amy Irving and Victor Garber, starched) and his indestructible family (William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, Scott Bairstow, all superb) struggle to avoid tragedy at the hands of the greedy Man in the Yellow Suit (Ben Kingsley, who seems to have drunk deeply from the Fountain of Rogaine). The movie's as dated and shallow as a Norman Rockwell painting, but director Russell (My Dog Skip) adds some fine shades of sylvan beauty and young-adult heartache to the ol' Disney palette. Opens October 11 at multiple locations. (GW)

White Oleander. Peter Kosminsky. Based on a best-selling novel (an Oprah Book Club selection), this latest Hollywood "chick flick" finds fifteen-year old shy-but-sensitive Astrid (Alison Lohman) being shuttled from foster home to foster home after her strong-willed but impulsive mother Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) murders the lover who done Ingrid wrong. Domineering, unpredictable and seductive, but also loving, Ingrid casts a long shadow over her daughter, who tries to fit into each new foster home but is undone both by her mother's powerful -- and often corrosive -- influence and by destructive conditions at each foster home. Robin Wright Penn stars as foster mom number one, a spandex-clad former stripper turned born-again Christian, and Renée Zellweger is foster mama number two, a sweet-but-fragile woman with a crumbling marriage. Despite restrained direction by Brit Peter Kosminsky and relatively unsentimental performances (Pfeiffer is excellent, as is Cole Hauser as the man in Wright Penn's life), the film can't escape its high gloss, semitrashy, oh-so-life-affirming storyline. Opens October 11 at multiple locations. (JO)

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