Daily Archives: June 16, 2006

The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift

The MPAA rating of this underground car-racing sequel could be used in the ads: PG-13 for reckless and illegal behavior involving teens, violence, language, and sexual content. The way these combine is of course part of the fantasy: babes are the prizes for winning races, and cars get compared like dicks in a locker room. Fleeing to Tokyo to avoid jail, the smiling hero (Lucas Black) picks up enough Japanese to attend high school the very next morning. But despite all the silliness the drift races are gripping, and director Justin Lin captures Tokyo’s energy and glitter far better than Sofia Coppola. With Bow Wow, Brian Tee, Nathalie Kelley, and a cameo by Sonny Chiba as a head yakuza. 104 min. (JR) Read more

The Young In Heart

A family of con artists working the European continent (Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Billie Burke, Roland Young) are caught and deported to London, where they try to go straight and get taken in by a wealthy, sweet-tempered widow (Minnie Dupree). Like many of the characters, this halfhearted screwball comedy (1938) from producer David O. Selznick can’t decide whether to be soft or cynical and upstages the actors with puppies and penguins. The offbeat cast includes a feisty Paulette Goddard and Richard Carlson in his screen debut, affecting a heavy Scottish burr and wearing trousers that go up to his armpits. Richard Wallace directed. 90 min. (JR) Read more


Can a film be too brilliant for its own good? I wouldn’t think so, but something about the interweaving of disparate lives in this 2005 urban thriller detached me from it, almost as much as the lonely characters seem detached from their New York surroundings. Like writer-director Vladan Nikolic, some of them are refugees from the Balkan warsa hit man (Sergei Trifunovic), a German doctor (Geno Lechner)and whether their actions are deemed criminal or humanitarian seems more a trick of fate than a matter of personal morality. Others seem sad by vocation, like an aging drag queen (Didier Flamand) and a cop who’s dating the doctor (Peter Gevisser). Nikolic assembles all the pieces with dispassionate skill. 93 min. (JR) Read more

Servants’ Entrance

Scripted by Samson Raphaelson (Trouble in Paradise), this 1934 remake of a Swedish film takes the odd tack of retaining the Swedish settings in what otherwise looks like a typical Depression-era comedy. Janet Gaynor stars as a debutante who starts working as a maid after her father (Walter Connolly) loses much of his fortune. Some fine if typical gags about the haplessness of the idle rich eventually give way to dull romance once she becomes involved with a chauffeur (Lew Ayres). Frank Lloyd directed, and Walt Disney contributed an animated dream sequence in which Gaynor is serenaded by an egg and various kitchen gadgets. 88 min. (JR) Read more

Small Town Girl

Bored out of her wits, the title heroine (Janet Gaynor) forsakes her devoted boyfriend (James Stewart) to elope with a drunken playboy (Robert Taylor) who’s forgotten he has a fiancee (Binnie Barnes). The newlyweds keep up a loveless marriage for the sake of appearances, though Gaynor still yearns for her husband’s affection. William A. Wellman directed this MGM soap opera (1936), and while he’s funny ridiculing the banality of small-town life, he seems to lose interest once the action shifts to upper-crust Boston and Taylor’s woodenness asserts itself. With Lewis Stone, Andy Devine, and Edgar Kennedy. 90 min. (JR) Read more

Daniel Wong

A tall Eurasian man in Chicago’s Chinatown is glimpsed by a lonely Asian-American woman (Angela Chan) and a gay man preparing to return to Hong Kong (Isaac Leung); both immediately develop crushes on him, though none of the three ever meet. This DV feature by Chicago artist Keith Dukavicius (I Am James Mason) favors bittersweet reverie over story; I was struck by its visual textures, feeling for the characters, and musical interplay of images. My only misgiving is that Dukavicius, who also shot the film and composed the music, gives such prominence to the score, asking it to carry more narrative weight than it can bear. In English and subtitled Cantonese and Mandarin. 73 min. (JR) Read more

The King

Documentarian James Marsh (Wisconsin Death Trip) makes his dramatic feature debut with this ambitiously sordid tale about a young man (Gael Garcia Bernal), born in the U.S. to a Mexican prostitute, who travels to Corpus Christi, Texas, in search of his father. Now a born-again Baptist preacher with a wife and two teenagers, the father (William Hurt) cautiously rebuffs the young man, who hires on at a pizzeria and starts a secret affair with the man’s teenage daughter (Pell James). Marsh and cowriter Milo Addica (Monster’s Ball) strive for gothic tragedy as they unbuckle the Bible Belt, but despite some credible performances (Hurt is especially interesting) the effort feels willful. R, 105 min. (JR) Read more