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Freddy Gets the Finger

(04/30/01 4:00am)

When I was nine years old, I slammed the keyboard cover of my grandfather's Steinway onto my exposed penis. As I beheld the flushed member pinned against the ivories like the snakeling in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, I immediately feared my urinating days were over. Precocious Catholic that I was, I wondered what sort of God could thus afflict what my parents in their infinite conservatism called "your bathroom thing." (As in, "What kind of idiot closes the piano on his bathroom thing?")

Film Finale

(04/20/01 4:00am)

After last year was so memorable-perhaps the best in decades-this Recess season seemed a little anticlimactic. In fact, it pretty much sucked, and we didn't pretend to hide it. For our readers' sake, we hope we sat through more of the intolerable stuff than anyone else. After all, it's our job.


(03/02/01 5:00am)

Trying, for utter lack of anything better to do, to codify Monkeybone as an equation, I deduce a fearsome formula including such variables as Cool World, Beetlejuice, Jumanji and Jim Carrey's recent Grinch. I have invented a new math: long derision.

Romance, Recess Style

(02/16/01 5:00am)

"Now, that was when people knew how to be in love," Meg Ryan sighs in Sleepless In Seattle, referencing 1957's saccharine Cary Grant tearjerker An Affair to Remember (itself a remake of 1939's even more lachrymose Love Affair). Plainly, she's right: Tracking firm ConsumerData ranks all three films as top Valentine's rentals this year. And don't discount the glut of mid-February froth currently playing in theaters: The Wedding Planner, in which Jennifer Lopez relieves an Adonis statue of its penis; Hannibal, with its Beauty-and-the-Beast-on-chianti vision of romance; and the horror entry Valentine, featuring a crazed slasher and Denise Richards getting nailed-literally-in a hot tub. See, Meg? Romance ain't dead!

Hackneyed Hannibal

(02/16/01 5:00am)

The many insurmountable problems of Hannibal begin with its title: Hannibal Lecter is more interesting as a threat than a reality. The Silence of the Lambs, the movie's much-loved prequel, based on another novel of the series by author Thomas Harris, confined Anthony Hopkins to both jail cell and supporting status for 90 minutes. He stalked his cage like a tiger-but what, we wondered, would happen if the tiger were unleashed?

Kung-Fu Folklore

(02/09/01 5:00am)

"It's like Lawrence of Arabia meets The Matrix," my friend effused as we left Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee's astonishing new martial arts fantasia. As analogies go, that one is imperfect-Tiger trumps its predecessors in both narrative clarity and dramatic range. But the comparison does express the film's enormous stylistic latitude: Lee has fashioned a chop-socky action epic charged with breathless romance and metaphysical gravity. It's the first movie to target both Merchant-Ivory devotees and Mortal Kombat buffs.

Shadow of a Classic

(02/02/01 5:00am)

Shadow of the Vampire, a handsomely mounted, mordantly comic, impeccably acted period thriller, reimagines the filming of F. W. Murnau's seminal 1922 classic Nosferatu, in which German actor Max Schreck established himself as an iconic Dracul prototype (though his creature is hardly the romantic specter of the Bram Stoker's variety). The conceit of this new film, directed by Elias Merhige, is that Schreck himself was in fact a bloodsucker, and his performance not an act, but a scripted reality.

Ghostly Gift

(01/26/01 5:00am)

Brixton, Georgia, is a land of languid drawls and ragged willow trees, of pillared mansions that border gardens of good and evil, and of clapboard houses flanked by sagging screen porches. And in one such house, the recently-widowed Annie Wilson reads cards for patrons of the paranormal.

Don't Trust It

(01/19/01 5:00am)

Antitrust is almost as exciting a title as Trade Commission! or Collusive Oligopolies or Tort: The Movie, though not without its irony, since the film itself is sort of cinematic antimatter. A crude exploitation of Microsoft's current legal imbroglio-which represents an important and fascinating exercise in monopoly litigation-this uninspired little fantasy aims no higher than to pit Ryan Phillippe against an ominous Bill Gates replica played by Tim Robbins. I have seen muskrat fights with more at stake.

Count On It

(01/12/01 5:00am)

Sammy (Laura Linney) shuttles between clerical work at the local bank and her tidy childhood home in upstate New York, where she now raises her own son. Hers seems a perfectly placid life, fraught with minor troubles and heartaches-the negligent ex-husband, the insufferable new mid-level manager at work (Matthew Broderick).


(12/01/00 5:00am)

Quills is a heaving bosom of a movie, as sensuous, breathless and salaciously giddy as the nubile French virgins who parade through the dank halls of Charenton, the Gothic mental asylum wherein dwells the odious Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush). De Sade, of course, was the eighteenth-century lech whose sensationalist novels augured the latter-day trash paperback phenomenon. And though Quills, directed by Philip Kaufman, purports to address the equally contemporary issue of censorship, it's the film's timeless preoccupation with all things libidinous that will entrance moviegoers.

Box Office Wonder?

(11/17/00 5:00am)

n what appears to be a holiday season more loaded with big-budget gimmickry than serious cinema-even moreso now that Baz Luhrmann's buzz-heavy Moulin Rouge has been bumped to next year, while Merchant-Ivory's latest offering The Golden Bowl has failed to secure a distributor-Paramount has re-launched its campus dramedy Wonder Boys, an adaptation of Michael Chabon's 1995 feel-somewhat-good novel. Directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and starring a well-nourished Michael Douglas, the film was initially released in the commercial dead zone of February, when its precious ad campaign and obscure premise-portly Pittsburgh English professor engages in wintry weekend of sex, drugs and dog slaying-portended a mediocre box office take of $24.5 million.

Nightmare Before Christmas

(11/03/00 5:00am)

Re-released for the holiday season, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas hasn't aged a day since its initial launch in 1993. This stop-motion gem, a triumph of 3D animation, is more than just a Playskool rendering of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It's an elegant, melancholy fable teeming with macabre wit, sophisticated imagination and nimble musical numbers by the Gershwin of the weird, Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice).

Lost Cause

(10/20/00 4:00am)

For all the Satanic emissaries and possessed psychopaths who parade through Lost Souls, the movie's title, I suspect, refers to those unfortunate moviegoers who wander into the multiplex seeking thrills or entertainment or even coherence, all of which are more likely to be found on an acid trip. Lost Souls is merely the latest in the series of Catholic subversives-in the footsteps of Stigmata, End of Days and Bless the Child-that likely prompted the rerelease of The Exorcist, which is Hollywood's way of claiming temporary sanity.

Parents Just Don't Understand

(10/06/00 4:00am)

With its economical title and gag-laden opening credits, Meet the Parents doesn't promise to be an acceptable invitation. Jay Roach's new film is another in the recently discontinued succession of high-gloss, marriage-minded bourgeois fluff like Father of the Bride and Betsy's Wedding. Here, though, the bride-and-groom dynamic is preempted by the prenuptial friction between the in-laws-to-be. My Best Friend's Wedding explored this avenue modestly enough in 1997-too modestly, in fact, for Roach, director of the Austin Powers pictures and a connoisseur of overkill.

Class of the WB

(09/15/00 4:00am)

Is Amanda Peet ready for her close-up? The toothsome star of The WB's Jack & Jill just tossed her hat into the leading-lady ring, headlining last week's urban sex comedy Whipped, which debuted outside the commercial top 10 and got hailed by Newsday as "Ugly. And unpleasant."

Painful to Watch

(09/15/00 4:00am)

In this flimsy would-be shocker, Keanu Reeves poses stoically as Griffin, a Los Angeles serial killer notorious for "watching" his victims-to-be; such tacit voyeurism has earned him the chilling sobriquet "The Watcher," which sounds better than more accurate epithets like "The Gawker" or "The Ogler." Surveying one's marks doesn't seem too exceptional a quirk for a mass murderer, but I suppose it distinguishes Griffin from those maniacs who cast about for their prey with their eyes closed.