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The Atomic Trinity
Bad boys challenge fate.
BY LOIS WADSWORTH

THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS: Directed by Peter Care. Written by Jeff Stockwell, based on a novel by Chris Fuhrman. Produced by Jodie Foster, Meg LeFauve and Jay Shapiro. Executive producers Graham King, David A. Jones, John Watson, Pen Densham. Cinematography, Lance Acord. Animation by Todd McFarlane. Editor, Chris Peppe. Music, Marco Beltrami. Production design, Gideon Ponte. Costumes, Marie France. Starring Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone, Emile Hirsch, Vincent D'Onofrio and Jodie Foster. ThinkFilm, 2002. R. 105 minutes.

This peculiar, moving film grapples with the absurd, anguished phenomenon blithely dismissed as "coming of age" by critics safely removed from their own disturbed youth (or hoping to forget it). Surprisingly, the film communicates a rare appreciation of the awkward emotional territory its main characters inhabit. And don't underestimate this achievement just because former music video director Peter Care uses interwoven animated segments by comic book luminary Todd McFarlane (Spawn) to express the violence of these conflicted inner feelings.

MARGIE (JENA MALONE), FRANCIS (EMILE HIRSCH) AND TIM (KIERAN CULKIN) PAUSE AT THE COUGAR DEN.

A trio of extraordinary young actors give lovely performances here. Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch) is a burgeoning comic book artist, and Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) is his best friend. Tim instigates pranks, and Francis follows, willingly. Tim involves several other boys as well, and all contribute to the ongoing comic book project Francis manages. When Francis becomes interested in Margie (Jena Malone), a vulnerable beauty, his relationship with Tim falters, then recovers. Margie has tried to take her own life over serious issues that she confides to Francis. His response: uncertainty and confusion. Their impasse is as mysterious to him as it is to her.

These are the emotional bones on which a series of comic and tragic misadventures play. The kids all attend Blessed Heart Catholic High School in the 1970s, where the boys' least favorite teacher is Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster). Burdened with the long black robes and white wimple not yet abandoned by her order, Assumpta purses her lips, prays for her young charges and tries to influence their lives for the better. But the boys see her as the Wicked Witch of the West, and Francis draws her as Nunzilla, a motorcycle-riding hellion who cavorts lasciviously with Father Casey (Vincent D'Onofrio), the school's kindly, easy-going principal.

Francis's comic book drawings evolve into brilliantly executed animated fantasies he daydreams. Along with the escalating danger of the pranks Tim cooks up, they give Francis a way to escape from his perceived-as-boring life. Tim's most elaborate trick involves removing the statue of the saint displayed above the school door, hiding it and hoping eventually to ransom it. The second stage of the prank is even more daring: to capture the live cougar at a local zoo and put it in Sister Assumpta's room.

During their more ordinary moments, the boys ride their bicycles, read comics, smoke tobacco and drink vile alcoholic concoctions culled from the open bottles in the liquor cabinet at home. Francis and Margie explore love cautiously. Tim is an unrepentant bad boy who knows he doesn't fit in — "too smart for his own good," the older generation might put it. His parents' constant bickering makes home a place to avoid.

Based on the late Chris Fuhrman's semi-autobiographical novel, Dangerous Lives is the first film I've seen since Don Roos's engaging 1998 comedy, The Opposite of Sex, that lights up new ways to look at the upheavals of adolescence. It's a very good film, thanks especially to Hirsch, who lets Francis's feelings show in a natural, luminous performance that reminds me of the late River Phoenix. Like Phoenix, Hirsch's star quality is visible in his feature film debut.

Highly recommended, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is now playing at the Bijou in its new late night program. Don't say there's nothing to do after 10 o'clock . You can see first-run films. It beats getting arrested.



OPENING OR RETURNING:
Films open the Friday following date of EW publication unless otherwise noted. See archived reviews at www.eugeneweekly.com.

Ascent, The (Russia, 1972): Larisa Shepitko's WWII tale of two Soviet partisans who fall into German hands. Subtitles. At 7:45 pm on 10/16 in 115 Pacific Hall, UO. Free.

Battle Royale (Japan): Contemporary Japanese film, with English subtitles. At 7 pm on 10/12 in 214 McKenzie Hall, UO. Free.

Brown Sugar: Beautiful childhood friends Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan must now choose others or each other. Rick Famuyiwa directs. Queen Latifah and Mos Def co-star. PG-13. Cinemark.

Fast Runner, The (Atanarjuat, 2002): Zacharias Kunuk directs the first feature film in 80 years about the Inuit people of northern Canada. The New York Times called it "a masterpiece," noting: "You are so completely caught up in the codes and rituals of a nomadic, tribal society governed by complex ideas of honor and loyalty that it is easy to overlook the artistry that has put them before you." It's based on a traditional Inuit folk epic. R. Bijou.

King of Hearts (France, 1967): Phillipe de Broca's light-hearted comedy about the patients from a nearby asylum who are running a French city at the end of WWII. Stars Alan Bates as the Scottish soldier who discovers them. Powerful, funny, anti-war film. At 7 pm on 10/16 in 110 Fenton. Free.

Knockaround Guys: Four wannabe Mafiosas — Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Barry Pepper and Andrew Davoli — sort of follow instructions from Uncle Teddy (John Malkovich) and Benny Chains (Dennis Hopper) to buy the silence of a Montana sheriff but manage to find lots of trouble on their own. "The Sopranos" probably does it better. R. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Lilo and Stitch: Animated Disney comedy about Lilo, a lonely Hawaiian girl, and her small, ugly dog named Stitch. The dog is an alien experiment that's crashed to earth. Six by Elvis on the soundtrack. PG. Movies 12.

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat: New routines by the Bad Boy of Comedy include personal anecdotes as well as social commentary. R. Movies 12.

Master of Disguise: Dana Carvey plays Pistachio Disguisey, a waiter who turns into whatever he thinks of next - a cherry pie, a rockstar, a sports hero. PG. Cinemark.

Once Were Warriors (New Zealand, 1994): Lee Tamahori directs this drama about a Maori family struggling with domestic violence and urban ghetto life. Unbelievably good performances by Rena Owen, Temuera Morrison and the Maori teen actors who play their children. Emotionally difficult to watch, but fascinating, beautiful and moving. R. At 7:30 on 10/15 in 122 Pacific, UO. Free.

Pumpkin: Christina Ricci stars as a sorority girl who falls for a student with disabilities she is supposed to be helping. Critics say the film is confused but memorable. R. Late night Bijou.

Ring, The: Gore Verbinski finds a solid cast in Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), Chris Cooper and Brian Cox for this remake of Hideo Nakata's 1998 Japanese horror film. Sneak at 7:30 pm on 10/12. Cinema World.

Rules of Attraction: Roger Avary writes and directs James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder and Jessica Biel in what The New York Times calls "a high-octane adaptation" of Bret Easton Ellis's novel. R. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Transporter, The: Corey Yuen directs, Luc Bresson produces and co-writes this crime thriller starring Asian star Shu Qi and Jason Statham. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

White Oleander: Peter Kosminsky directs the film adaptation of this best-seller about a young girl (Alison Lohman) who moves through several foster home after her mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) goes to prison. Also stars Renée Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, Billy Connolly, Patrick Fugit and Noah Wyle. R. Cinemark.

 

CONTINUING:
Austin Powers in Goldmember: Third time is charmed as Mike Myers comes back in multiple roles as Austin Powers. Michael Caine plays his secret-agent dad and Beyoncé Knowles is Foxxy Cleopatra. Directed by Jay Roach. Mini-Me takes the cake! PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Banger Sisters, The: Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn play 1960s-era rock star groupies who get reacquainted in Bob Dolman's comedy. With Geoffrey Rush and Eva Amurri. Highly recommended. R. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Barbershop: Sweet-natured comedy about a day in the life of a south side Chicago barbershop stars Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity, Eve. This movie makes you feel good. Recommended. PG-13. Cinemark. Online archives.

Blood Work: Clint Eastwood's film adaptation of a sensational crime novel by Michael Connelly stars Eastwood as a retired FBI agent with a heart condition who chases down a serial killer. Connelly's book lends itself to the Eastwood treatment. Also stars Anjelica Huston, Jeff Daniels, Wanda De Jesus, Paul Rodriguez. R. Movies 12. Online archives.

Blue Crush: Directed by John Stockwell, this romantic surfer adventure stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) and Matthew Davis. PG-13. Movies 12.

Bourne Identity, The: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen and Brian Cox star in Doug Liman's character-based spy thriller based on Robert Ludlum's best seller. A man with amnesia tries to discover who he is and why everyone wants to kill him. A subtle skewing of the genre, it's highly recommended. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Country Bears, The: An 11-year old bear decides to reunite his favorite bear rock ban for a benefit concert. Musical performances or appearances by Don Henley, John Hiatt, Elton John, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson,. Bonnie Raitt and Brian Setzer. G. Movies 12.

Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, The: Set in 1974 in a North Carolina Catholic school, the long-awaited film by British music-video director Peter Care arrives. Stars Emile Hirsch, Kieran Culkin, Jena Malone and Jodie Foster as the unholy trinity and the nun who takes the heat for their anti-adult anger. Based on the late Chris Fuhrman's cult-hit novel. R. Late night Bijou. See review this issue.

Eight Legged Freaks: Stars David Arquette, Scarlett Johansson and others in this campy sci-fi movie about really big, poisonous, mutating spiders. "Let the squashing begin!" PG-13. Movies 12.

Four Feathers, The: Surely the only reason to remake this old racist chestnut about the imperialistic Brits in the Sudan, 1898, is to give Hollywood hunk Heath Ledger something to do. Kate Hudson may help, as well as casting Wes Bentley and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth). PG-13. Cinemark.

Jonah: A Veggietales Movie: Christian-themed direct-to-video franchise goes big screen in this version of Jonah and the Whale. Biblical figures are played by talking vegetables. Directed by Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer. G. Cinemark.

Men in Black 2: Jay (Will Smith) drags a reluctant Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) back into the agency with the mission of "Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe." Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, it also stars Lara Flynn Boyle as Serleena, an alien masquerading as a Victoria's Secret model. With Rosario Dawson, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub and Rip Torn. PG-13. Cinemark. Online archives.

Minority Report: Steven Spielberg directs Tom Cruise in this sci-fi where killers are arrested and convicted before they commit murder. In 2054, Cruise heads the Pre-Crime unit until he's accused of the murder of a man he hasn't yet met. Based on a short story by the genre's master, Philip K. Dick. One of Spielberg and Cruise's best. Highest recommendations. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Mostly Martha: Martina Gedeck, Maxime Foerste and Sergio Castellitto star in Sandra Nettlebeck's delightful romance, comedy, drama about the kitchen life and home life of a great chef. Highly recommended. G. Bijou. Online archives.

Mr. Deeds: Adam Sandler plays an ordinary guy who inherits $40 billion in this remake of Frank Capra's 1936 comedy, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Also stars Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher, Steve Buscemi, Jared Harris and John Turturro. PG-13. Movies 12.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Based on Nia Vardalos's one-woman stage show, it's about the 30-year old, unmarried daughter (Vardalos) in an engaging, passionate but demanding Greek family in New York. She meets the man she wants to marry (John Corbett), and he isn't Greek. Yikes! Another humorous reminder that weddings are also a family and community affair, this sweet romantic comedy entertains. Recommended. PG. Cinema World. Cinemark. Online archives.

One-Hour Photo: The New York Times calls writer/director Mark Romanek's debut film "gripping but not wholly successful psychodrama." Focused performance by Robin Williams, who's a photo shop employee without a life of his own. When he falls in love with the "perfect family," he really needs them to be perfect. Chilling. Also stars Connie Nielson, Eric La Salle. R. Bijou.

Red Dragon: The first literary appearance of Hannibal Lector was in Thomas Harris's 1981 novel, Red Dragon; his film debut was in Michael Mann's 1986 Manhunter. Now we have Anthony Hopkins returning as the cannibal, serial killer made famous by Jonathan Demmme's 1991 blockbuster, Silence of the Lambs. Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman flesh out the cast. Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour). R. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Scooby Doo: TV's 1969 Great Dane, Scooby, returns as a computer-generated detective dog in this comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Matthew Lillard. PG. Movies 12.

Signs: Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, this supernatural thriller about crop circles looks like a box-office bonanza. Also stars Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin. PG-13. Cinemark. Online archives.

Spider Man: Tobey Maguire stars in Sam Raimi's film and makes Spidey a comic book superhero we can all appreciate. Also stars Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, Kirsten Dunst as the girl, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris and J.K. Simmons. Highly recommended. Double feature with Men in Black II. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: George Lucas' second of three Star Wars' prequels comes to the screen with Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Samuel Jackson doing all the heavy lifting. PG. Movies 12. Online archives.

Sweet Home Alabama: Andy Tennant directs the fabulous Reese Witherspoon in this comedy about a hot fashion designer who returns to the South to get a divorce from scruffy hubby #1 (Josh Lucas) so she can marry rich Patrick Dempsey. PG-13. Cinemark Cinema World.

Tuxedo, The: PG-13. Jackie Chan's a limo driver who borrows his boss' tux only to discover that it's a high-tech killing machine. With Jennifer Love Hewitt and Peter Stormare. PG-13. Cinema World

MOVIE THEATERS
Use the links provided below for specific show times.

Bijou Art Cinemas
Bijou Theater 686-2458 | 492 E. 13th

Regal Cinemas
Cinema World 342-6536 | Valley River Center
Springfield Quad 726-9073 |

Cinemark Theaters
Movies 12 741-1231 | Gateway Mall
Movies before 12:30 are Sat. Sun. only. $1.50 all shows all days.
Cinemark 17 741-1231 | Gateway Mall

 



New Releases on Video
Releases subject to change. Available the Tuesday following date of EW publication, sometimes sooner. See archived movie reviews at www.eugeneweekly.com


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