Daily Archives: July 26, 1999

The Iron Giant

Like many children’s movies these days, this 1999 animated feature by writer-director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) is an E.T. spin-off, but it’s a very likable and imaginative one. Set in a small town in Maine in 1957, it features a nine-year-old hero and his friend, a 50-foot extraterrestrial robot with a big appetite for metal and a peaceful, playful nature that turns threatening only when the paranoia of grown-ups activates its destructive possibilities. Adapted by Tim McCanlies from the book The Iron Man by British poet Ted Hughes, this is enjoyable in part because of its flavorsome period ambience and its lively and satiric charactersespecially a beatnik sculptor and a government agent voiced respectively by Harry Connick Jr. and Christopher McDonaldthough its graphic and dramatic virtues are nothing to sneeze at either. Some of the other voices are furnished by Jennifer Aniston, Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, and M. Emmet Walsh. PG, 86 min. (JR)… Read more »

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

The impressive directorial debut of actress Joan Chen, who’s appeared in everything from Twin Peaks to The Last Emperor to Heaven and Earth. Adapted from the novella Tian Yu by Yan Geling, who collaborated with Chen on the screenplay, and filmed in Tibet, this feature has enraged mainland Chinese government officialsnot only because it was shot without an official permit but apparently also because its tragic plot gives such a dark portrait of the effects of the Cultural Revolution. The young title heroine, who like many others in her generation travels from a city to a remote part of China, winds up working with a horse trainer in Tibet, a solitary and stoic figure whose quiet love for her is the main focus of the story. Desperate after a spell to return to her native Chengdu, Xiu Xiu winds up sleeping with a series of men who she believes have influence on such state decisions. Exquisitely acted, and shot by Zhang Yimou cinematographer Lu Yuean impressive director in his own rightwith a sharp feeling for landscape, this is a powerful piece of filmmaking. (JR)… Read more »

Dick

Two teenage girls (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) touring the White House in the mid-70s stumble upon some secrets of Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya) without realizing what they are, and when things snowball wind up as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Deep Throat informant. This is silly and shameless stuff that made me laugh quite a lot, in part because it provides the perfect antidote to the neo-Stalinist pomposity of Oliver Stone’s Nixon and glib self-importance of Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men. Andrew Fleming (Threesome, The Craft) , who directed from a script he wrote with Sheryl Longin, lacks the polish and pizzazz of Stone and Pakula, but arguably his notions about American politics are healthier and more earthbound than theirs; in his book, Nixon and Kissinger and Woodward and Bernstein are all deserving of ridicule. In some ways this is like Forrest Gump without the neocon trimmings, which for me makes it bracing and energizing, though younger viewers may not catch all the historical references. With Harry Shearer as G. Gordon Liddy, Saul Rubinek as Kissinger, and Teri Garr. (JR)… Read more »