Daily Archives: May 9, 2003

Todo El Poder

Fernando Sarinana’s slick and show-offy Mexican comedy (1999, 102 min.) starts out as fun, but the laughs have drained away by the end. A recently divorced filmmaker (Demian Bichir) making a documentary about urban crime borrows his ex-wife’s car while she’s on holiday, then he and his young daughter are robbed by a masked gang who make off with the car. The ensuing mystery-thriller plot features a goofy crook who appears to be playing Nicolas Cage playing Elvis (Luis Felipe Tovar), a love interest (Cecilia Suarez), and an attack on police corruption; it all adds up to more than the movie can handle, especially when much of the cinematography looks like it was printed on sandpaper. In Spanish with subtitles. (JR) Read more

The Matrix Reloaded

The first of two sequels to The Matrix released in 2003, courtesy of the original writer-directors, the Wachowski brothers, who have amplified the camp elements of the originalincluding the ultrasolemn performances of Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Mosswhile retreading the same metaphysical conceits. Lines like We’re all here to do what we’re here to do reverberate more than long enough for us to ponder their full profundity, and the martial arts choreography is neither graceful nor excitingit’s worthy of a video game. Only after cars, trucks, and a motorcycle join the actioneasily outclassing all the actorsdoes the movie take on a modicum of vitality. But if you’re 14 or younger in age or sensibility, you may giggle at some of the bons mots. 138 min. (JR) Read more

Lilya 4-ever

The 16-year-old title heroine (Oksana Akinshina), living in the former Soviet Union, is abandoned when her mother leaves for the States, befriended by an equally desperate 14-year-old boy, and ultimately forced into white slavery in Sweden after being promised a job and furnished with a fake passport. For all the social realism of this 2002 feature, it still seems rather dubious; writer-director Lukas Moodysson lays on the misery and the tear-jerking dream sequences (complete with angel feathers), not to mention the techno tunes, seldom bothering with character nuance or social analysis. The production company was the one behind Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, and one finds here a similar kind of sadism posing as humanism, albeit without von Trier’s flair for melodrama. The result is grimly effective, but it made me long for Hollywood junk. In Russian and Swedish with subtitles. 109 min. (JR) Read more

Almost Salinas

This first feature by writer-director Terry Green begins a bit archly and ends with numerous loose ends tied in Hollywood bows, but in the middle section, when what we know about the central characters isn’t nailed down, I was moved by the economy of the writing and ensemble playing and the sweet mysteries they generated. Near the spot where James Dean had his fatal road accident, a remote diner gets taken over for a few days by a movie crew shooting a Dean biopic, and all the localsthe owner (John Mahoney), the cook (Ian Gomez), a couple of waitresses (Virginia Madsen and Amanda Pitera), and a tourist guide (Nathan Davis)are affected. Lindsay Crouse has a wonderful cameo as the owner’s ex-wife, and Linda Emond isn’t bad as a visiting journalist. 94 min. (JR) Read more

City of Ghosts

Matt Dillon’s directing debut (2002) has been getting a bad rep among some critics, but it kept me intrigued and entertained. Cowritten by Dillon and noir novelist Barry Gifford, it’s a sort of bargain-basement Graham Greene story about an insurance scam artist (Dillon) who travels to Cambodia in search of his seedy mentor (James Caan), and the players–among them Stellan Skarsgard, Natascha McElhone, and Gerard Depardieu at his hammiest–keep things bubbling. This is very much the work of a cinephile, calling to mind such middle-period Orson Welles jumbles as The Lady From Shanghai and Mr. Arkadin as well as dozens of other movies I only half remember, a familiarity that’s essential to its charm. 117 min. Century 12 and CineArts6, Landmark’s Century Centre, Water Tower. Read more