By Stephanie Zacharek
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
GO CLERKS II See film feature.
THE CELESTINE PROPHECY MOVIE Opening with sweeping vistas of the Peruvian wild, accompanied by a soundtrack that vaguely recalls Enigma, The Celestine Prophecy Movie never transcends either the look or the feel of a cult recruitment film crossed with a Christian-network infomercial. Based on the hugely successful novel by James Redfield (who co-wrote the screenplay with Barnet Bain) and directed by Armand Mastroianni, the film taps the same spiritual thirst and anxiety that has made cultural phenomena of The Da Vinci Code and the Left Behind series. And it’s just as cheesy. When John (Matthew Settle) loses his teaching job at a progressive American junior high school, a series of divine coincidences leads him to a sprawling ranch in Peru. There, researchers and native folk alike are excited by the discovery of an ancient Christian scroll that prophesies modern-day strife but also the ways in which that violence will spark a shift in human consciousness that will in turn change the world. Flashbacks, dream sequences, low-grade CGI and New Age–inflected dialogue follow, as do the corrupt priests and shady Latin American military and political figures who all have their own devious reasons for wanting to suppress the prophecy. There are neither cinematic nor spiritual/theological insights offered here, though you may leave the theater bummed at the fact that this is what Annabeth Gish’s career has come to. (Regent Showcase; One Colorado; Town Center 5) (Ernest Hardy)
THE GREAT NEW WONDERFUL The month is September, we’re told — via white letters against black — the place, New York City. Uh-oh! But the year, we are quickly assured, is 2002. This may seem cause for relief, but for five sets of New Yorkers struggling through life as the film unfolds, that grace of an extra year beyond 9/11 is the cause of fraught exchanges. For two youthful parents (Tom McCarthy and Judy Greer), days twist in knots around their hyperactive, possibly psychotic preadolescent son. For Sandie (Jim Gaffigan), a mild-mannered but tightly wound survivor of an unnamed calamity the year before (9/11 goes unmentioned for most of the film), things would be fine except for the goading of a dotty therapist (Tony Shalhoub) his employers have forced him to consult. (These scenes, with their madly inverted humor, are some of the weirdest and best comedy you’ll find in any film out right now.) Finally, Emme (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a brilliant, ambitious cake designer, floats through life. The events of 9/11 have not directly touched her, though they eat at the soul of her bitterest rival (Edie Falco). Writer Sam Catlin and director Danny Leiner have fashioned an alert, shrewdly observed portrait of a moment in time. Harlan Bosmajian’s fine cinematography and Robert Frazen’s impeccable editing are especially crucial. In character study after character study, which successfully interweave and revolve with carousel force, formulaic story tensions do not and need not apply. Will such intensities make as much sense later, say, when this film is viewed in 2026? Would this film make anywhere near as much sense now if there had been no 9/11? No one can say. Grief — and that sense of living with consequences of events we did not invite — applies not just to the characters here, but to the rest of us. (Music Hall) (F.X. Feeney)
HEADING SOUTH It’s no stretch to see what drew director Laurent Cantet to Dany Laferrière’s short stories about sexual tourism in the writer’s native Haiti. Though less compelling than his masterful social dramas Time Out and Human Resources, Heading South is an absorbing extension of Cantet’s abiding obsession with the seeding of political inequality in intimate relations. Set in steamy Port-au-Prince in the 1970s, the movie turns on emotional and sexual encounters between two very different species of deluded lost souls who believe they coexist in an idyllic bubble that shelters them from the miseries of their outside lives: affluent, middle-aged Western women and the smooth-bodied young Haitian gigolos with whom they soothe their libidinous discontents. Charlotte Rampling is terrific as Ellen, a Wellesley professor whose knowing sneer conceals a deep hunger for the teenage Legba (played by gorgeous nonprofessional Ménothy Cesar), for whose favors she competes with a childlike American neurotic (Karen Young). Commendably anxious to avoid condescending to either party, Cantet nonetheless seems ill at ease with his material, and the movie feels uncharacteristically stilted and overexposed, with the women awkwardly telling their stories to the camera, presumably to generate sympathy for their ennui even as they exploit the young men they claim to love. The gambit works well enough for Heading South to have become something of a hit with older New York women starved for a cinema of mature female sexuality, but it leaves room for a jarring misappropriation of a film clearly meant to be a full-court tragedy. (Playhouse 7; Royal; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)
THE LADY IN THE WATER See film feature.
GO PICK MONSTER HOUSE The best of the summer’s animated offerings is also, and perhaps not coincidentally, the only one in which most of the major characters are not critters but actual human beings. What an idea! Set on Halloween in a picture-perfect suburban enclave, it’s about a trio of pubescent tykes — best buddies DJ and Chowder, plus the prim-and-proper Jenny — who run afoul of the grumpy old man (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who lives down the lane in his old, dark house, which just happens to be possessed by someone or something. Venture too close and a runner carpet turns into a great, writhing tongue, a door into a mouth, and windows into fiery, angry eyes. Of course, there wouldn’t be a movie if our plucky heroes didn’t end up inside, and when they do, Monster House becomes one of those wonderfully weird adventure stories beloved of children who don’t mind getting a good old-fashioned case of the heebie-jeebies. It’s kind of a blast for adults too. The movie was directed by 2002 UCLA film-school graduate Gil Kenan, who was hand-picked for the assignment by executive producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, and at its best, it has the jubilant, one-thing-after-another inventiveness of the movies Spielberg, Zemeckis, and associates like Joe Dante and Chris Columbus specialized in throughout the 1980s. I was but a kid back then myself, and watching Monster House, I felt like one all over again. (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)
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