Monthly Archives: August 2000

The Opportunists

An ex-con in Queens (Christopher Walken), struggling to survive as an auto mechanic, agrees to pull off one last heist, enlisting the services of a youth (Peter McDonald) who claims to be a distant relative. One way or another, you’ve probably seen everything in this picture before, but writer-director Myles Connell reconfigures the various pieces with a fair amount of grit and charm; with Cyndi Lauper (especially good), John Ortiz, and Tom Noonan. 89 min. (JR)… Read more »

Wonderland

The Internet Movie Database lists five theatrical features with this title that have been made since 1982, four of them since 1996, at least three of which have made it to Chicago. Michael Winterbottom, an English director so versatile (Welcome to Sarajevo, Jude, Butterfly Kiss) that he seems anonymous, directed this one, based on a Laurence Coriat script that follows the initially disconnected lives of a mother (Kika Markham) and her four children (Enzo Cilenti, Shirley Henderson, Gina McKee, and Molly Parker) over a London weekend. As an interweave of crosscut miniplots, this isn’t nearly as interesting or as pleasurable as Jeremy Podeswa’s recent The Five Senses, but fans of English kitchen-sink realism at its most depressing may relish the opportunities given the cast memberswho also include Jack Shepherd, Peter Marfleet, Ian Hart, Stuart Townsend, and John Simmto strut their stuff. 108 min. (JR)… Read more »

Jail Bait

Leonard Maltin (or one of his movie-guide staffers) finds this Edward D. Wood Jr. thriller about crime and plastic surgery (1954, 70 min.) less inept and therefore less funny than his better-known features. If memory serves, it has Wood’s inimitable clunky dialogue, but his visuals are too pedestrian to be recognizable, unless you count actors like Timothy Farrell, Dolores Fuller, Lyle Talbot, and Steve Reeves (the latter two playing cops). If you’re looking for a bad movie, there’s plenty to choose from — some of them first-run. (JR)… Read more »

Sex: The Annabel Chong Story

This 1999 documentary by Gough Lewis (pronounced guff?), which seems to be showing across the globe more for its exploitation value than any other merits, is vacuous filmmaking of a very familiar kind. It deals with University of Southern California gender studies major Grace Quekbetter known as porn star Annabel Chongwho decided to have sex with 251 men over ten hours, apparently in order to prove that women can be deranged show-offs just like guys. She didn’t receive any money for doing this and didn’t contract AIDS, but the film isn’t very clear about what’s supposed to make her interesting or exemplary or pathetic or noble or some combination thereof. Like so many undernourished features nowadays, fiction and nonfiction alike, it proceeds from the principle that if you shoot a lot of varied and seemingly contradictory material and then cut it all together, the truth will somehow emerge from the colliding sound bites. Maybe it did in this case, but if so I was too bored and alienated to notice. The material includes Quek/Chong happily and cheerfully defending her activities in feminist terms, desperately cutting her arm with a knife, visiting her family in Singapore (who don’t know she’s a porn star), sitting on the toilet, and quittingand then returning tothe porn industry; Lewis also presents men in the industry saying and doing various things, most of them fairly doltish but not especially funny.… Read more »

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

A bewildering blend of self-promotion, ridicule, hagiography, camp, and character study (2000), put together with blotchy video dubs as if producer-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato couldn’t tell the difference between these contradictory approaches. Jim Bakker and Jerry Falwell remain relatively shadowy and mysterious figures in the story insofar as they’re defined only in relation to the colorful title heroinewhose various adventures are introduced by puppets reciting chapter headings with mulish regularitywhich ultimately means that this made-for-cable opus, halfway between documentary and docudrama, is willing to try anything and everything except for a consistent relationship to its material. RuPaul Charles intones the narration, and we learn a lot about eye makeup. 79 min. (JR)… Read more »

Cecil B. Demented

Evoking without matching such early provocations as Desperate Living, John Waters, triumphantly remaining (as always) in Baltimore, pays tribute to his origins as an independent rebel. By recounting how a bitchy Hollywood diva (Melanie Griffith) comes into her own after being kidnapped by the title director (Stephen Dorff) and his gang of terrorist misfits and ordered to star in their outlaw opus, he makes an obvious reference to Patty Hearst, who’s around for a cameo. Funnier than Pecker but a far cry from the best of Waters’s Divine movies (i.e., Female Trouble and Hairspray), this substitutes a string of escalating outrages for a plot that goes anywhere. There’s an overall thinness despite a lot of good-natured fun. With Alicia Witt, Adrian Grenier, Larry Gilliard Jr., and Maggie Gyllenhaal. 88 min. (JR)… Read more »