Daily Archives: May 6, 2005

Monster-in-law

Jane Fonda stars as the title beast, a former TV star recovering from a breakdown who’s so miffed at the idea of her only son (Michael Vartan) marrying a temp (Jennifer Lopez) that she conspires to scare the young woman off. It’s nervy of Fonda to play such an unsympathetic, self-absorbed characterand one who looks her agebut this comedy surrounds her with so many predigested characters and sitcom cliches that it seldom takes off, despite the presence of Lopez and Wanda Sykes and a cameo by Elaine Stritch. Robert Luketic directed a script by Anya Kochoff. PG-13, 95 min. (JR)… Read more »

House Of Wax

Formulaic but fairly well-done, this scare show for teenagers is only nominally a remake of the old Vincent Price movieit’s more a combination of Psycho, The Blair Witch Project, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (with some additional cribs from Brian De Palma’s Sisters). The setting has been changed from Victorian London to present-day rural America, with a heavy dose of TCM’s antihillbilly paranoia, and the murders are even more gruesome than in the original. Paris Hilton, in her first extended big-screen role, isn’t required to act so much as scream and strip. Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis coproduced, and Jaume Collet-Serra directed; with Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, and Brian Van Holt. R, 88 min. (JR)… Read more »

Hell Comes To Frogtown

Wrestler Roddy Piper plays the only remaining fertile male on earth, who sets out to rescue women held captive by froglike mutants. R.J. Kizer and Donald G. Jackson codirected this 1987 feature, which, believe it or not, had a sequelcalled not Heaven Comes to Frogtown but the more prosaic Return to Frogtown. R, 88 min. (JR)… Read more »

Long Farewells

Kira Muratova’s justly celebrated 1971 feature tells the story of a divorced technical translator (Zinaida Sharko) who’s reluctant to let go of her grown son even as she avoids an opportunity to pursue a serious romantic relationship. A potent provincial melodrama (Muratova’s term) with striking black-and-white cinematography, this isn’t as obviously transgressive as her later films, though it was banned in the Soviet Union (apparently because the characters are so unhappy) and Muratova didn’t work again for seven years. One of her outstanding traits that shines through here is her ability to direct both professional and nonprofessional actors. In Russian with subtitles. 95 min. (JR)… Read more »

Dog Day Afternoon

One of Sidney Lumet’s best jobs of directing (1975) and one of Al Pacino’s best performances (as a bisexual bank robber) come together in a populist thriller with lots of New York juice. Its details are stronger than its structurethe film loses some of its energy before the endbut it’s an astonishing fusion of suspense and character, powered by superior ensemble acting. With John Cazale, Charles Durning, Sully Boyar, James Broderick, Chris Sarandon, and Carol Kane. R, 124 min. (JR)… Read more »

Major Dundee

From the Chicago Reader (May 6, 2005). Twilight Time has recently [in 2013] brought out a two-disc Blu-Ray of both versions of the film. — J.R.

major-dundee

Director Sam Peckinpah went over budget during production of this 1965 epic western and was fired, so this restoration, based on a scholarly assessment of his intentions, can’t really be considered a director’s cut. But it’s 12 minutes longer, its story is easier to follow, and its score is closer to what Peckinpah had in mind. Still as flawed as its title hero and a bit out of control, it’s a powerful and provocative account of a disgraced Union officer (Charlton Heston) reluctantly joining forces with Confederate prisoners (including Richard Harris) to kill or capture an Apache who led a massacre in New Mexico. It may not approach The Wild Bunch, but after the soldiers cross into Mexico the film takes on weight and flavor that suggest major Peckinpah, and both Harris and Heston (who gamely gave up his salary to keep Peckinpah on board, at least for a while) contribute some of their finest work. With Senta Berger, James Coburn, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson. PG-13, 136 min. Music Box.

majordundeeRead more »

Crash

Not to be confused with David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), this ensemble drama is the directorial debut of Paul Haggis, who wrote Million Dollar Baby. It’s annoying to see titles recycled so quickly, but Haggis and cowriter Bobby Moresco use the metaphor of collision as well as the earlier film did: their script, a complex of interfacing story lines set in Los Angeles, pivots on the characters’ racism and xenophobia, playing tricks with our own biases and ultimately justifying an extravagant array of coincidences and surprises. The actors, especially Chris Bridges (aka rapper Ludacris), Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Michael Pena, and Larenz Tate, are adroit at conveying Haggis’s candid observations about the crazy ways we live and think. With Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, and Thandie Newton. R, 100 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Chatham 14, Crown Village 18, Davis, Ford City, Gardens 7-13, Lake, Lawndale, Pipers Alley, River East 21, 62nd & Western.… Read more »