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Recess Goes to the Movies



"I know it's hard to love me," Kirsten Dunst's character, Nicole, tells her father at the end of crazy/beautiful, "but please try."

My sentiments exactly.

Crazy/beautiful is the type of movie you go into wanting to hate. It's a love story about teens from opposite sides of the tracks, and it hits upon every theme in the teen genre: sex, drugs, wild parties, suicide and forbidden love.

But what sets this film apart from others are the performances.

Jay Her-nandez is no Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Dunst is no, well, Kirsten Dunst in every other one of her teen flicks.

These are stirring and career-changing performances. Dunst's wild and troubled Nicole and Hernandez's hard-working and love-stricken Carlos are superb characters, albeit set in a familiar story.

--By Alex Garinger


With "dot-com" and "e-commerce" firmly entrenched in the millennial vernacular, Hollywood was bound to dig deeper than You've Got Mail. uncovers the real-life genesis of Internet venture Tracing the fledgling firm through funding rounds and power struggles, the dot-com documentary captures the essence of the IPO craze from an intimate perspective.

Directors Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim craft an expert portrayal of the human interplay behind the startup phenomenon. GovWorks proprietors Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman are ready-made character foils, and the mounting tension between the two twenty-somethings frames intriguing plot developments.

On the downside, Isaza Tuzman plays to the camera with rehearsed speeches and diplomatic restraint. Hegedus and Noujaim gloss over climactic developments, leaving the film with an unsatisfying and abbreviated denouement.

A textbook documentary, thrives on novelty, but this trip down Silicon Alley is still worth taking.

--By Tim Perzyk

Sexy Beast


There's been a struggle going on in the post-Tarantino world of film crime, between the mugging, testosterone-gorging style of genre pieces like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the nimble, almost-laid-back cool style with which Stephen Soderbergh has proven himself in Out of Sight. Existing on opposite extremes of a good Elmore Leonard novel, the former can be mindless fun, but the real surprises, like Sexy Beast, are found in the breezy shade of the latter.

Beast's plot is broadly sketched--in its entirety it could probably fit within five minutes of Snatch's frenetic pacing--to allow a refreshing amount of air for its characters to breathe. The happily fat and ruddy lifestyle of ex-gangster Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is threatened when a violently implacable associate from his past (Ben Kingsley) intrudes into his secluded paradise with an offer that the plumped retiree tries his hardest to refuse.

At first, the mental reconfiguration required to transform Mahatma Ghandi into this bulldog of a cockney is jarring--an astonishing performance on Kingsley's behalf. But Gal is the real gem here, a fully-fleshed character that would be relegated to the margins in a busier film. Despite vague forays into the homoerotic undercurrents of organized crime (the climaxing heist goes down in--ahem--a Turkish bath, robbers fully Speedoed), first-time director Jonathan Glazer wisely takes his time in finding the affecting fear and vulnerability of a man desperate to escape the hungry jaws of the beastly crime world.

--By Greg Bloom

Nico and Dani


Great films resemble either heavy drugs or pornography--they stimulate a dreamy cognitive tingling or they sizzle on the retinas, embedded just deep enough to become an honest piece of fantastic reality.

Nico and Dani, director Cesc Gay's take on growing up confused, matches the latter. While some might understandably dub it porn, (teenage sex, mutual masturbation) Nico and Dani is even more naked in its emotional revelations.

The story of Nico, straight, and Dani, gay, seems at first to transplant Beautiful Thing to sun-drenched Spain. While his parents are away, Dani is home alone and Nico, his best schoolmate, is visiting from Barcelona. Two neighborhood girls, Berta and Elena, are tuning up for their songs of experience as well.

But rather than trod familiar territory, Nico and Dani is wholly realistic and original. In ninety minutes, Gay creates a number of twists and dodges every sanitary and cynical American projection. By the end you'll feel as if these boys are quite real and that you could not have asked for a more apt and beautiful reverie of youth.

--By Jason Wagner

Scary Movie 2


It's not scarier than the original, but Scary Movie 2 is certainly staler. While there's some hand-wringling humor from a butler named Hanson (Chris Elliott) and smoked-up laughs from Shorty (Marlon Wayans) in this parody of horror films, the parrot is the only truly funny part.

--By Kevin Lees

Baby Boy


John Singleton's Baby Boy is a straightforward look at how the black community treats its young men. Specifically, Singleton accuses communities of babying young black men, creating a climate that inhibits the emotional and societal development.

It's familiar territory for Singleton, the writer and director of the stunning Boyz N the Hood. Boyz examined identity in poverty-stricken South Central Los Angeles. Baby Boy takes place in a relatively safer South Central, but the disturbing pattern of government neglect and inherent societal discrimination is even more troubling than the gritty realism of the earlier film's gang violence. South Central didn't share in the longest peacetime expansion in American history.

Tyrese Gibson, whom you probably recognize from his underwear modeling and music career, gives an even performance as the protagonist, Jody. As the black community changes, realistic cinematic film portrayals of that community need to adapt too. Baby Boy resets the standard for this genre of films.

--By Martin Barna

The Anniversary Party


With an amazing cast--Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Cumming, Sissey Spacek, John C. Riley, Jennifer Beals and Gywneth Paltrow to name a few--The Anniversary Party looked promising. However, the opening credits reveal that some of these actors have been listening to their agents and not their muses. The movie was written, directed and produced by Cumming and Leigh; it also stars the pair. Sadly, this otherwise talented team had no one to tell them their movie sucked.

Cumming's and Leigh's marriage is based on deceit. The film's setting is their sixth anniversary party. The movie's crimes exceed simply failing to be funny, entertaining, meaningful or moving. Without sufficient pretext or subsequent prescription, it says horrible things about the nature of love and relationships. In this broken mirror image of the real world, man can be an adulterer and wife a liar yet share a sacred bond nonetheless. Art exists to view life in its entirety and can portray marriage in all of its shades. But this film does not have quite so noble a purpose, and with each passing frame it reveals itself to be not honest exposition but rather cheap exploitation.

--By Cary Hughes

Cats and Dogs


In this family film, the cats, led by the evil Mr. Tinkles, are the enemy--scheming to enslave humankind. The heroes are the pups and Jeff Goldblum, a scientist who has perfected a cure for people allergic to dogs. This battle for supremacy contains all the elements of the typical children's flick and is highly entertaining.

--By Meg Lawson

Kiss of the Dragon


Someday, Jet Li will make a kickass American action movie. Kiss of the Dragon isn't it, but with recent action movies becoming more guilty and less pleasurable, it is fun to see one that doesn't buckle under the weight of oversized stars and unnecessary plotting.

It's essentially Jet Li vs. France; the French, to their credit, put up more of a fight here than in WWII. A subplot involving Bridget Fonda--a hooker that literally wears a heart of gold locket--distracts from the badass-ocity. The choreography and cinematography dishonor Li, but his character does have some needles that can paralyze people and, like, make them hemorrhage out of their face.

--By Greg Bloom

Pootie Tang


Ever wanted to be one of those beloved celebrities who combines morality, sex appeal and unintelligible babble? Try Pootie Tang, the latest brainchild of Chris Rock. Think of it as Austin Powers meets Dolemite.

Then think about low budget, no plot and the soon-to-remain-anonymous Lance Crouther in the title role. His half-ebonics, half-jibberish speech can be fairly amusing--Sepatown! The film does have some redeeming moments--look for the gorilla attacking a steel mill.

--By Dave Ingram


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