Film Openings

Week of April 14, 2004

Connie and Carla Michael Lembeck. (PG-13) Writer/actress Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) returns with a penny-dreadful imitation of one of Hollywood's most inimitable comedies, Billy Wilder's great sex farce Some Like It Hot. In this atrocity, the showbiz fugitives are a pair of dinner-theater singers (Vardalos and Toni Collette) who escape the clutches of an angry Chicago drug dealer via Los Angeles, where they disguise themselves as drag queens in a gay nightclub. Along with a flood of lame hidden-identity jokes and a lot of reheated psychobabble about gender-bending and social acceptance, Vardalos and Collette indulge any impulse that occurs to them, no matter how florid or garish. Their unbridled caterwauling (dialogue as well as assorted show tunes) calls not for an overdose of Prozac but a shop rag soaked in chloroform, then smartly clamped over their noses. Unfortunate accessories to the crime include David Duchovny as a bewildered straight guy whose brother (Stephen Spinella) has vanished into the drag scene. Wilder and Jack Lemmon must be spinning in their graves. Opens Friday, April 16, at multiple locations. (Bill Gallo)

Dogville Lars von Trier. (R) Lars von Trier's latest thingamabob is a rethinking of Our Town with a twist of Brecht, the shtick this time being that Trier (the "von" is fake) has created his doomed fantasy of provincial America on a large soundstage, using chalk outlines in place of sets, sound effects to substitute for atmosphere and idiotic jump-cuts in lieu of thoughtful direction. On the lam from mobsters including the ever-amusing Udo Kier and boring old James Caan, glammy moll Nicole Kidman flees up the "mountain road" to the "town" of Dogville, where she is protected by deluded, self-appointed ethicist Paul Bettany until the townsfolk turn nasty and a boring revenge is enacted. There's some good character work in this protracted grab-bag, but frankly, Dogville is dullsville, and you can learn much more about America -- and Colorado in particular -- from watching the significantly more creative and enjoyable South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Or, if you prefer your hardscrabble mountain sagas dramatic, try The Claim from Michael Winterbottom, who is a real director. Opens Friday, April 16, at the Tivoli. (Gregory Weinkauf)

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 Quentin Tarantino. (R) Opens Friday, April 16, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip George Hickenlooper. (R) Opens Friday, April 16, at the Tivoli. For more on the film, please see "Taking Office" by Gregory Weinkauf. Mayor is preceded by the short film this is JOHN, the tale of one man's struggles with perfecting his answering machine message.

The Punisher Jonathan Hensleigh. (R) Here's a subject with which no one should ever have to grapple: Is this new version of The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane as the comic-book assassin, better than the 1989 adaptation with Dolph Lundgren? They both offer slight variations on a tale first told in a 1974 Spider-Man comic, where the Punisher was introduced as a villain, then again a year later, when Marvel Comics decided to give him a sympathetic back story and make him a marketable, franchise-able hero. They both feature relative unknowns in the role of Frank Castle, a former crime fighter who witnesses the death of his family and transforms into a vigilante killer. Lundgren had appeared in only two films prior to suiting up as Castle, while Jane is best known, if at all, for playing Mickey Mantle in Billy Crystal's HBO movie 61*. Both versions feature actors once invited to the Oscars: Lou Gossett Jr. played Castle's partner in the 1989 film, while John Travolta is cast as crime lord Howard Saint in director Jonathan Hensleigh's redo. And both are equally awful. Opens Friday, April 16, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)

The Statement Norman Jewison. (R) Based on a popular suspense novel by Brian Moore, which in turn was based on the true story of a French Nazi war criminal, The Statement would seem on paper to be a winner. Make any movie that involves the Holocaust in some way, put Michael Caine in it, and you're guaranteed some of that elusive "Oscar buzz," if only for a few fleeting moments before anyone actually sees the thing and realizes it's really boring. Caine's Pierre Brossard is being pursued by some unknown vigilantes as well as a judge (Tilda Swinton) and a colonel (Jeremy Northam) who hope to prosecute him. Perhaps this could have been exciting, but mostly we're left to follow the movements of the none-too-lively Brossard as he prays (hypocritically), has heart attacks, takes pills and moves on. Even Charlotte Rampling, as the ex-Mrs. Brossard, can't liven things up. It feels like having South Park's guidance counselor, Mr. Mackey, standing over your shoulder going, "Nazis are bad, m'kay?" Opens Friday, April 16, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Luke Y. Thompson)

 
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