THE DANCER UPSTAIRS: Directed by John Malkovich. Written by Nicholas Shakespeare, based on his novel. Produced by Andres Vicente Gomez and John Malkovich. Executive producers, Lianne Halfon and Russ Smith. Cinematography, Jose Luis Alcaine. Original music, Alberto Iglesias. Editor, Mario Battistel. Production design, Pierre-Francois Limbosh. Costumes, Bina Daigeler. Starring Javier Bardem and Laura Morante. With Marie-Anne Berganza. Juan Diego Botto, Elvira Minguez, Alexandra Lencastre, Oliver Cotton, Luis Miguel Cintra and Abel Folk. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2003. R. 128 minutes.
John Malkovich directs The Dancer Upstairs with the same dedication and focus that he brings to his best work as an actor. For instance, he's deliberate in his portrayal of an android learning to act human in Susan Seidelman's 1986 comedy, Making Mr. Right. Although darker and not as playful, Dancer also draws on the minimalist art of doing nothing and doing it well. It's a thoughtful, serious film that tackles the roots of terrorism, its appeal to oppressed people and its ruthless disregard for culture and innocence in pursuit of political goals. It opposes a corrupt military government that also ignores and brutalizes its people.
A sad love story is layered over and laced throughout the terrorist theme. A lonely, idealistic lawyer turned police captain, Agustin Rejas (Javier Bardem) falls in love with his daughter's dance teacher, Yolanda (Laura Morante), in the midst of a massive man hunt for a murderous Maoist folk hero named Ezequiel (Abel Folk).
The film is set in an unidentified Latin American country during an unspecified time, but it's based on some of the facts surrounding the capture of Abimael Guzman, the leader of the 1980-1992 insurrection in Peru called Sendero Luminoso or The Shining Path. For authenticity, the cast is made up of uniformly excellent Latin actors — Bardem (Spain), Morante (Italy) and Juan Diego Botto (Argentina), who plays Sucre, Rejas' partner.
The film opens as a truck grinds its way up and over an empty mountain highway in the dark, blasting its way through a poorly manned government checkpoint. Later, the truck approaches another crosspoint with two armed guards. The guard on duty, Agustin Rejas (Bardem), asks the driver to come inside, makes congenial conversation, takes notes, types an application and snaps a Polaroid. The driver gets back in the truck and speeds off into the night.
Five years later, the guard is now a police detective in the capital. Captain Rejas and Sucre find dead dogs rigged with dynamite hanging from lamp posts, along with crude, hand-lettered signs in support of "President Ezequiel." The terrorists grow bolder, executing officials and using children as suicide bombers. Rejas gets hold of a video of the brutal execution of a Catholic priest by a child.
So he slips out of the city and into the countryside, where he talks to ordinary people. No one opposes Ezequiel, he learns. The farmers hate the way they're treated by the government, and Ezequiel speaks for them. Rejas has an informative meeting with an old colleague and returns to the city disturbed by what he has heard and seen. Rejas and his squad begin to put together pieces of the Ezequiel puzzle.
Meanwhile, Rejas has complications at home. He adores his daughter, Laura (Marie-Anne Berganza), but his wife, Sylvina (Alexandra Lencastre), loves her social life and has no idea, it seems, about the world her husband lives and works in.
These characters are on a collision course with history, and nothing Rejas can do will change that fact. He will survive, but his ideals may not. Bardem plays this principled, professional man with restraint, showing emotion only to Yolanda and Laura. Malkovich lets the camera linger on him. An unconventional thriller, The Dancer Upstairs challenges the viewer to slow down and pay attention, and it rewards those who do. The score by Alberto Iglesias (Talk to Her) is sublimeThe film opens at the Bijou Friday, June 20. Highly recommended.
HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE: Directed by Ron Shelton. Written by Robert Souza and Shelton. Produced by Lou Pitt and Shelton. Executive producers David Lester, Joe Roth. Production design, Jim Bissell. Editor, Paul Seydor. Music, Alex Wuman. Music supervisor, Dawn Soler, Kathy Nelson. Costumes, Bernie Pollack. Starring Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, with Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Isaiah Washington, Lolita Davidovich. Also Keith David, Master P, Gladys Knight, Lou Diamond Philips. Cameos: Dwight Yoakam, Martin Landau, Smokey Robinson. Revolution Studios. Columbia Pictures, 2003. PG-13. 111 minutes.
Hollywood Homicide is a Ron Shelton picture. That might be enough said for movie fans who know to expect a man's man-type with a simpler buddy and a woman who bends with the breeze. Once again the writer, director, producer doesn't quite believe he's really got the movie he wants, so he tarts it up with cute cameos, old and new music stars playing straight, and subplots up the kazoo. I was bored almost immediately.
Zero chemistry between the buddies leaves the viewer with no place to go. Seasoned detective Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and hotshot rookie K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) are cliches, the "new" twist being that Joe is also a real estate agent in financial trouble up to his neck, while K.C. teaches yoga classes at home, eats bean sprouts, wants to be an actor and knows every pretty girl in the valley. Shelton unwisely assumes their differences will amuse viewers, but in fact their relationship never catches fire and is tiresome.
Everyone quips clever, which is hardly ever the way real life goes down. Ruby (Lena Olin) is a radio psychic and Joe's girlfriend. I hope Olin got a lot of money for playing this woo-woo queen, because it makes me sad to see her here. Cleo (Lolita Davidovich) fares no better as a cartoon madam who needs Joe's help. Bruce Greenwood plays a police internal affairs guy who hates Gavilan and is out to get him. Isaiah Washington plays a wealthy music entrepreneur, a morally corrupt criminal.
Most of the film wants to be funny. It isn't. Some of the film wants to be something else, especially the opening scene in a club. Guys wearing ski masks spray the band and dancers with bullets. It's bloody, brutal and made irrelevant by the immediate actions of Gavilan and Calden, who order lunch right after they arrive on the scene.
This sloppy mess of a film may satisfy some viewers, but I've seen some really good movies lately — Rivers and Tides, The Man on the Train, The Good Thief, the upcoming Man Without a Past — and I'm not happy wasting time watching drivel. Also, I am really tired of car chases, and the long chase at the end of the film is gratuitous. If you want to see a good car chase, catch The Italian Job. Shelton can't play in that league.
Hollywood Homicide is now playing at Cinema World and Cinemark. You're on your own.
Alex & Emma: Rob Reiner directs Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson in a comedy romance based on a short story by Dostoyevsky. Wilson plays a writer who has to finish a book on deadline or deal with gambling debts to the mob. Hudson is a secretary with ideas about his book. Also stars, Sophie Marceau, Cloris Leachman and David Paymer. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Confidence: Ed Burns plays a grifter who swindles a bundle from the wrong guy in James Foley's double-crossing drama. Also stars Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Paul Giamatti, Luis Guzman. An underrated, well-drawn suspense heist movie. Recommended. R. Movies 12.
Dancer Upstairs, The: John Malkovich's directorial debut based on the book written by Nicholas Shakespeare is a love story set in a Latin American capital in the middle of a massive manhunt for a terrorist named Ezequiel. Javier Bardem stars as a police detective who falls in love with his daughter's dance teacher, played by Laura Morante. The Maoist terrorist is based on the leader of Peru's Shining Path guerrillas, Abimael Guzman. Serious film, excellent performances. Highly recommended. R. Bijou. See review this issue.
From Justin to Kelly: "American Idol" stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini in a beach party mood. PG. Cinemark. Cinema World.
Hulk, The: Director Ang Lee's action-adventure adaptation of the Marvel Comics series hits darker notes than the usual superhero comics. Scientist's (Eric Bana) inner demons change him after a catastrophic experiment. Written by James Schamus, it also stars Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Josh Lucas and Sam Elliott. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Animated tale of an inventive 10-year old boy and his robot dog who live in a world where wishes come true. Jimmy wishes his parents would disappear. When all the parents disappear, Jimmy and his pals have to bring them back. G. At 10 am 6/24. 50 cents. Movies 12.
Levity: Despite its stellar cast, NY Times critic A.O. Scott writes: "Mr. Thornton's ostentatious restraint and his bottomless melancholy cry out for a mask and cape." Ed Solomon directs, and other actors include Kirsten Dunst, Morgan Freeman and Holly Hunter. R. Bijou.
Regret to Inform: Special showings of award-winning documentary film about American and Vietnamese widows speaking for peace features local resident, Xuan Ngoc Nguyen, who creates custom wedding dresses. Xuan and her husband, Ed Reiman, are seeking funds to set up a small sewing and design school in Vietnam to give young prostitutes a way out of the sex industry and into honorable work. She will be present at the screenings. The film is a moving testament to the scars of war. The New Day Project accepts donations at both live screenings or through: The E-5 Association (a 501-3C non-profit), PO Bo 22308, Eugene, OR 97402. The film will be shown at 7 pm on 6/22 at First Christian Church and at 7 pm on 6/25 in United Lutheran Church. It will also be shown on public access channel 29 or 22 on 6/22 at 9 pm, repeated at 10 am Monday 6/23 and Thursday, 6/26.
Bringing Down the House: Domestic comedy starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifa is directed by Adam Shankman. PG-13. Movies 12.
Bruce Almighty: Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Aniston star in this tale of a at TV reporter, who has a really bad day, rages against God and receives more than he expected. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Core, The: Jon Amiel directs this adventure to the center of the earth. Scientists played by Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Bruce Greenwood journey deep into the earth to detonate a device to reactivate the planet's core. An unintentional comedy, it's a great break from reality. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.
Daddy Day Care: Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin lose their jobs and can't afford day care for their sons, so they open their own facility. Comedy directed by Steve Carr also stars Anjelica Huston, Steve Zahn and Regina King. PG. Cinemark.
Down With Love: Peyton Reed re-invents the look and feel of a 1962-era Doris Day, Rock Hudson musical with Renee Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor. Also stars David Hyde Pierce, Tony Randall and Sarah Paulson. Entertaining froth. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.
Dumb and Dumberer: Prequel is subtitled When Harry Met Lloyd and stars Derek Richardson and Eric Christian Olsen as the 1994 Dumb and Dumber duo in high school. Directed by Troy Miller, with Eugene Levy, Cheri Oteri and Luis Guzmán. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Finding Nemo: Pixar (Toy Story) presents this computer-animated fantasy of two Clownfish, Marlin and his son Nemo, who get separated in the Great Barrier Reef. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton (A Bug's Life), with voices by Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush, Allison Janney. Very highly recommended. G. Cinema World. Cinemark. Online archives.
Frida: Salma Hayak plays Frida Kahlo, the feminist painter and wife of Mexico's great muralist and painter Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) and lover of Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush). Directed by Julie Taymor. 2002 Academy Awards to the late Elliot Goldenthal for original score; also, makeup. Underrated film is one of the most visually lush films of 2002. R. Movies 12. Online archives.
Gangs of New York: Martin Scorsese's bloody epic set in mid-1800s N.Y. stars Leonard DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis as rival gang leaders. Co-stars Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly and Jim Broadbent. One of 2002's great films, with many Academy Award nominations. Very highest recommendations. R. Movies 12. Online archives.
Hollywood Homicide: Fast-paced action comedy directed by Ron Shelton stars Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as cops, with Isaiah Washington, Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Master P., Lolita Davidovich, Dwight Yoakum, Keith David and Martin Landau. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World. See review this issue.
How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days: Magazine columnist Kate Hudson and ad agency professional Matthew McConaughey try to get the other to fall in love, but things go awry. High-energy romantic comedy. PG-13. Movies 12.
Italian Job, The: Mark Wahlberg leads a heist that's double-crossed by one of his crew. Charlize Theron plays a safecracker in this cool revenge movie. Also stars Edward Norton, Mos Def and Donald Sutherland. Highly recommended for its pure entertainment value. PG-13. Cinemark. Online archives.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Directed and re-imagined by Peter Jackson, part two of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy continues. New characters, a surprise return and great battles. Director Peter Jackson's second masterpiece. Very highest recommendations. 2002 Academy Awards for sound editing, visual effects. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.
Malibu's Most Wanted: Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson in an urban comedy about hip-hop culture. PG-13. Movies 12.
Man on the Train: Patrice Leconte's excellent character-driven film stars French icons Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort as men with nothing in common, who meet in a small town and almost exchange identities. Film gives us a glimpse into that private place where our secret dreams live. Very highest recommendations. R. Bijou. Online archives.
Matrix Reloaded: Second chapter brings Neo (Keanu Reeve), Trinity (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) closer to solving the enigma but also puts them in greater danger. Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, it also stars Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith and Gloria Foster. R. Cinemark. Cinema World. Online archives.
Old School: From Road Trip, Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn try to recapture the fun of their college years by starting their own off-campus frat house. R. Movies 12.
Rugrats Go Wild: Nickelodeon's animated diaper set meets up wit the Wild Thornberrys after being washed ashore to a desert island from a storm-wracked cruise ship. Directed by Norton Virgien and John Eng. Bruce Willis voices Spike the dog. PG. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Shanghai Knights: Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson are out to settle a score in Victorian London in this comedy directed by David Dobkin. PG-13. Movies 12.
Spun: Eugene premiere of film co-written by former UO student Creighton Vero and former Eugene resident, William De Los Santos. Stars Jason Schwartzman, who plays a meth freak, and Mickey Rourke, who plays a meth dealer. Other stars include John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, Patrick Fugit and more. NR. LateNite Bijou.
Two Fast, Two Furious: John Singleton directs this sequel action adventure about street racing. Stars Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Cole Hauser, Eva Mendes. PG-13. Cinemark.
Vampire Hunters: Action-adventure horror film set in 17th century China has style, martial arts, a comic-book simplicity, decomposing zombies and powerful vampires that inhale a victim's blood at 30 paces. Heroes Rain, Lightning, Thunder and Wind dispatch maggot-ridden corpses and sucking vamps. Directed by Wellson Chin, written and produced by Tsui Hark. R. LateNite Bijou.
Wrong Turn: Jeremy Sisto, Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington and Emmanuelle Chriqui are trapped in the West Virginia wilderness and pursued by cannibalistic mountain men. Help! R. Movies 12..
X-Men 2: The next link in the evolutionary chain? Directed by Bryan Singer, stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and more, lots more. PG-13. Cinemark.
RELEASES ON VIDEO
Cowboy Bebop: Dubbed English version of animated tale of four bounty hunters from Bebop on the trail of a terrorist in the Martian city of Alba City in 2071. R. Online archives.
Dark Blue: Detective yarn directed by Ron Shelton stars Kurt Russell as the veteran and Scott Speedman as the rookie, with Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele, Lolita Davidovich and Ving Rhames. R. Online archives.
Hours, The: Complex, critically acclaimed film directed by Stephen Daldry stars Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep. Based on Virginia Woolf's life, her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, and Michael Cunningham's novel. Inner lives, daily experiences of three strong women. Also stars Ed Harris, Stephen Dillane, Claire Danes, Miranda Richardson and John C. Reilly. Very highest recommendations. 2002 Academy Award to Kidman, but nine other nominations. PG 13. Online archives.
Intacto (Spain, 2003): "First-time director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has an original vision of an extreme underground of lunatic gamblers and their utterly bizarre rites," Village Voice critic Michael Atkinson writes. But Atkinson also says Fresnadillo's futuristic gaming society lapses into cruelty and his vision founders on the shoals of real life.
Kangaroo Jack: Taking mob money to Australia, two New York doofuses loose it to a kangaroo. Stars Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Christopher Walken and Dyan Cannon. David McNally directs. PG.
King of the Hill: TV animated show's first season on a 3-DVD disc set; all 13 episodes plus lots of extras.
Last Images of the Shipwreck (Argentina, 1985): Eliseo Subiela directs this picture about "the force of dreams and imagination," according to Facets Video. Subiela (Man Facing Southeast) is a gifted fabulist. NR.
Nanny, The (Italy, 1995): Directed by Marco Bellocchio, this is a shocker about family ties. Characters are a professor, his wife who cannot love the child, an illiterate country girl who becomes the child's nanny. Inspired by a Luigi Pirandello story. Accent Cinema; Facets Video.
Punch-Drunk Love: Paul Thomas Anderson's comedy about an LA businessman (Adam Sandler) who blindly follows a woman he loves (Emily Watson) to Hawaii has received great advance kudos. Also stars Luis Guzman and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Highly recommended for excellent performances. R. Movies 12. Online archives.
Warm Water Under a Red Bridge: Japanese director Shohei Imamura (The Eel) latest film fable stars the great Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance?) as a downsized salary-man who leaves the city for a remote fishing village. As Ella Taylor of L.A. Weekly notes of the rural eccentrics who people the film, "the more fallen the angels, the more they rise up to become improbable heroes of free will and dissent." Never played Eugene.
Next week: The Chaplin Collection, Gangs of New York, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, La Femme Nikita, Never on Sunday (1960), Night of the Shooting Stars (1982), Party Girl, Prisoner of the Mountains, Rhapsody in August (Japan, 1991) and Wings of Desire (1987).