‘Kill Bill’ is really super

April 23, 2004
Quentin Tarantino’s latest ship, “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” has docked. Inside there lies the booty, super booty. In fact, the showing falls under the heading of “super,” in every way possible. The ticket price hardly quantifies the experience. I would have paid $20 to see it. (Well, thanks, Harvey Weinstein, I just did. And by »

‘Leland,’ a killer film, but not good

April 16, 2004
Who is Leland P. Fitzgerald? No one knows … least of all the filmmakers. The point of “The United States of Leland” is to gain an understanding of why a normal (although slightly autistic) teenager would kill an innocent, mentally retarded kid. The opening scene delves into the immediate post-crime environment: the camera hovers over »

Reconstructing East Germany

April 9, 2004
Alex (Daniel Bruhl) has a sweet face, preserved through an adolescence of high demand and low supply. He grew up in a small flat, in East Berlin, in the company of his sister Ariane (Maria Simon). Their mother, Christiane (Katrin Sass), has kept her halved family — the father escaped Berlin’s Wall when Alex and »

Be good to the nice lady

April 2, 2004
What do you get from a good Coen Brothers movie (as if there were any other kind)? Quirky characters, memorable dialogue, hilarious situations, engaging visuals? Yes, but there’s something else too — you also get a sense of comfort, a feeling that you’re in the sure hands of master storytellers and craftsmen, and that they »

Student film pulls out big guns

April 2, 2004
“Be not deceived; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) This first quote informs the entire effort behind “The Davis Sisters,” a short, 32 minute undergraduate picture — adapted from Edward Allen Baker’s play “Dolores.” This short wears all the gloss of a “good movie” — the compliment given to »

Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine’ is ‘Spotless’

March 26, 2004
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” starts slow, and with too much dialogue, but have faith in its script-handlers. By the middle of the movie, the beginning has become the end — but not the very end, of course. The very end too ends very well. As screenwriter Kaufman says in “Adaptation,” a good movie »

Jesus’ ‘Passion’ becomes Mel’s

March 5, 2004
Mel Gibson’s latest, The Passion of Christ, meets controversy with paradox. Many have accused the film as contributing to anti-Semitic feeling. Its characterization of the Jewish rabbis and Roman guards alike are villainous and voluminous. Only a flat interpretation would fail to see that Jesus’ own people condemned him. The movie does not fail to »

Kahn looks for father, finds a genius instead

February 27, 2004
Nathaniel Kahn’s film about his deceased, estranged and world famous father, Louis Kahn, straddles the line between personal and historical documentary. Since Nathaniel Kahn never knew his father well when his father was alive — having brief but memorable interactions with him on occasional weekends — Nathaniel Kahn uses “My Architect” as a means to »

French kids get naked in ’68 Paris

February 20, 2004
For what it could have been, “The Dreamers” does not carry the burden of bad sentimentality. The plot references a much-romanticized era in time: Paris, spring of 1968. Gilbert Adair adapts his memoir, “The Holy Innocents,” about menage a trois and cinephilia, for the 63-year-old director Bernardo Bertolucci (“The Conformist,” “Last Tango in Paris”). Perhaps »

‘Barbershop 2’ avoids pitfall

February 13, 2004
The eagerly anticipated sequel “Barbershop 2” sidesteps many of the pitfalls that frequently plague sequels. Overly dramatic plot developments, complication of character motivation, and lack of innovation all too often cause follow-up films to fall short of their predecessors. Sequels tend to rely on familiarity with the original movie to excuse sloppy storytelling, and they »

Through the Fog, 11 points on War

February 6, 2004
He has 11 points, but pressures one lesson above all: try to learn. This outstanding demand sets the tone for the well-credentialed documentary “Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” It presents the 85-year-old McNamara as interviewed by the voice behind the camera — director and producer Errol Morris, of »

Macy can’t save ‘The Cooler’

January 30, 2004
What’s not as cool as being ice cold? The Cooler. In his recent foray into leading-man-hood, William H. Macy plays Bernie Lootz, a guy with the worst luck ever. He uses this karmic abnormality to turn a profit as a “cooler,” someone employed by old-school casinos to put gamblers’ winning streaks “on ice,” so to »