Below you'll find Movie News, Gossip, Reviews of Films Out In Theaters Now, Film Fests and Art House Screenings. Don't forget to check the Update page for reviews made after this issue came out!

Movie News

Coming this summer is Spiderman. And, this must be two for one year, as Mel Gibson, Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson are all coming out in two movies by this summer! In fact Affleck and Jackson star in one together and it doesn't look all that good. It's about a mix-up of documents that occurs with two real jerks (played by Affleck and Jackson). Neither Affleck movie looks very good, but the other Samuel L. Jackson film seems like it has potential. That one is about terrorists blowing up an A-Bomb near the White House. The terrorists get the bomb by stealing parts from Russia, making it look like Russia was involved. This looks like a very good B+ action movie or a decent A minus movie. Jackson plays a CIA guy in this movie. Don't expect this movie to be as good as Blade II but it seems like a neat action film...!

The Obscure, Underground and Noteworthy

Leni Riefenstahl plans to release a documentary on scuba diving this August entitled Underwater Impressions. The 45 minute film is compiled from dives made by her in the Indian Ocean over the last 25 years. The release date will be on her 100th birthday.

For many decades Riefenstahl was virtually the only woman filmmaker talked about in the various cinema history courses taught around the world at universities and colleges, as while there have been a few other women working (such as Dorothy Arzner, who made studio B movies between 1930 and 1960), Riefenstahl's five star documentary work has been considered one of the most impressive and eloquent ever made, placing her at the top of the heap with docu-filmmakers Joris Ivens, Robert Grierson and Basil Wright. To date few women filmmakers have made any of the 'critical lists' allowing them to stand toe to toe with male 'auteurs' such as Steven Speilberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman or Stanely Kubrick (one such woman who could make this list would be Penny Marshall whose films such as Big starring Tom Hanks, are considered meritorious but still short of five star quality).

Riefenstahl's two crowning glories are: Olympia a nearly four hour striking documentary of the 1936 Olympic Games held in Munich, Germany (released in 1938) and the propaganda film Triumph of the Will made as show-piece for the German Nazi party that was just coming into major power. 'Will' is generally show in virtually every film class at the major universities as an example of effective propaganda! Because of her work for the Nazi government Riefenstahl was blacklisted by the film industry (even though the French Government cleared her of any war crimes or collaboration with the enemy).

Since that time she has concentrated mostly on still photography, shooting some Olympic pictures for Time magazine and other publications. She became scuba diver and shot an amazing amount of footage underwater during her dives.

Her career began as an actor in the pulp-film genre known in Germany as the 'mountain films' written and directed by Arnold Fanck. These were a kind of action-adventure film series along the lines of the recent movie starring Sylvester Stallone, Cliffhanger, with treks up mountain cliffs and lots of skiing. Riefenstahl obtained financing and put a film crew together and directed her own 'clones' of these mountain films, the best known of which is The Blue Light which is quite a good film for a low budget action movie by anyone's standards.

When the Nazi's came to power all filmmakers were unable to obtain film or processing in Germany, hence when government officials approached her to make a film for them she agreed so she could make movie -- at that time, 1934, no one in the world knew what the Nazi's held in store for humanity other than their apparent ultra-right wing approach to government.

Riefenstahl made a recent appearance in Los Angeles at the Cinecon convention a few years back, where she drew in big crowds of autograph hounds as well as protestors.

Because of the length and nature of this film, it will probably only be shown in the so-called 'art house' cinemas and on cable or PBS television, but based on her impressive history it could end up being nominated from some international awards...


Reviews of Movies in Theaters Now...

A Beautiful Mind

Another movie that got me! I wasn’t expecting the fact that some of the characters were not real. I have never heard of John Forbes Nash Jr. so I went to see this movie ala virgin.

‘A beautiful Mind’ is a must see. Based on the actual life of the mathematical genius with Ron Howard’s usual great direction, Russell Crowe’s performance was, as usual, excellent. Filled with emotion and sorrow as a man realizes that he does, after all, have a problem. Resolved to fix it himself with the love of his wife and friends, John Forbes Nash Jr. proves that the human spirit is strong and courageous even in the face of possible insurmountable problems.

With his dream driven for one truly original idea that he never lost sight of, John was able to make his dream reality and gain the recognition that he desired. He changed the world with his genius and inspired the many people he touched through the years with his courage to go on even with the tragedy in his life.

Based in part on the biography A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar, Russell Crowe plays the eccentric, socially awkward, and extremely competitive man who finally finds the inspiration for his innovative work on game theory.

Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman takes the Nash story and manages to dramatize both Nash's mathematical brilliance and schizophrenia. This movie is excellent and a must see. Bring some tissue though, just in case.

-- Lance Vermont

Queen Of The Damned

I recommend this movie to anyone who is an Anne Rice fan. This movie is much better than the other move “Interview With A Vampire” though that was a good flick in itself.

With Aaliyah as Akasha the mother of all vampires the movie is set. Stuart Townsend is Lestat, the rock and roll vampire who calls out to the hiding vampires, “Come out, come out, where ever you are!” in his hottest songs and boy, do they ever come out.

The visual effects are amazing and the plot, of course, superb. Based on the book by Anne Rice, who has redefined the myth and Michael Rymer directing the movie, the actors were excellent.

He called and she came. To destroy! Aaliyah, the young R & B singer (She died August 25, 2001 in a plane crash. She finished the movie before her death but her brother had to do some voice-overs in a few spots. But you won’t know where.) proved to be a good actress as well as a great singer. As the queen she woke from her centuries old nap to destroy and conquer. Lestat’s song was the alarm clock that woke the beautiful yet very dangerous vampire.

You have to see the movie yourself to see what happened when a few vampires decide to take on the queen and kill her before she kills them. I recommend you hang on to your seat because it is a very exciting film.

Oh yes, there is a love story in the middle but you have to find it yourself. Enjoy!

In memory of Aaliyah Haughton (16 January 1979-25 August 2001)

-- Lance Vermont

Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers

Helicopters are us....

Since I saw both of these excellent movies back to back a review comparing and contrasting them is in order...

We Were Soldiers is about a older period of time - 1964 to be exact. When President Johnson was escalating our involvement in Viet Nam from that of advisors to participants. This movie, which stars Mel Gibson as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, Sam Elliott as his Sgt.-Major, Madeleine Stowe as his wife, Greg Kinnear as ‘Snake Shit’ the crack Air Cavalry pilot and Barry Pepper as the UPI photo-journalist.

I grew up with that war. As a kid in Chicago I used to see the news reports on the Viet Nam fighting but I didn’t pay real attention until my draft number came up as 52 and I was put into the medical core training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas at the Brooke Army Hospital. The point being they really caught the flavor of the living area adjacent to my company back at Fort Sam and that’s where the officers lived. Dinky little houses on a quiet street with troops in training all around them.

This is the story about the first real battle between the U.S. troops and the North Vietnamese Regular Army (NVRA). This battle was not to save some city, town, dam, transportation center or farm community. It was just a show of force that took place on some mountain near the border of Cambodia. A place that meant nothing real to no one except the two groups of soldiers sent there to kick butt!

Lt. Colonel Moore is assigned to train the first group of Air Cavalry officers who are sent to Nam to fight for a piece of land that they can’t possibly win! In the process of doing this Moore analyzes the massacres of Custer at Little Big Horns and the French in Viet Nam. His studies pay off as Moore (with the aid of the Air Cavalry) turns disadvantage into triumph!

One nice thing about this movie is that is lacks the “undercranking” of the camera. Motion picture film, as you remember from our technical and historical pieces, is normally run at 24 frames per second. When they undercrank the camera they shoot the film at 23, 22, 21 or even 20 frames and project it at 24. The result is slight faster action, used a lot for karate films and since Saving Private Ryan war movies. Black Hawk Down used this concept also, but not this movie! All the action was done in real time at real speeds and the actions was tense, gritty and realistic!

We Were Soldiers also has more humor and laughs, mostly from Sam Elliot who plays Moore’s right arm man. The Gibson character also seems larger than life and a lot like General Patton from World War II -- and this character is a real person. We see him standing a lot in battle and just shooting from the hip.

On the home front Moore’s wife takes on the distasteful job of notifying all the wives when their husbands are killed in action, something that happened far too often throughout the Viet Nam war!

Black Hawk Down on the other hand is a more contemporary military action. One that is probably somewhat similar to what is going on today in Afghanistan.

This movie centers around one action in a major city in Somalia during a civil war. Our Rangers and Air Cavalry troops are send in to seize a building being used by militia leaders and to take captive their leadership, bring them back to U.S. control center for interrogation.

We quickly learn that the un-official militia has a very efficient network (similar to that used by the Vietnamese - for some reason American never has such good intelligence) of children and private citizens who use cell phones and burning tires to advise the militia soldiers that the Americans are on the move.

Also these people always have better weapons than the Americans. We never have missiles and they always have these! We just have little rifles and machine guns. Well, they use one of these mortar type missiles to shoot down one of our Black Hawk helicopters that is flying support. Rangers are sent in to help get the pilots and crew back out. These rangers get pinned down and outnumbered by the local militia.

The music and hair is more modern than the oldies and crew cuts of the Mel Gibson movie. The action sequences, which are well done, are shot by cranking down the camera (which makes them more high speed in playback).

The direction, writing, acting, special effects and actions shots in both movies is first rate, however Black Hawk has a small edge over Soldiers, which is a lower keyed, smaller, but excellent movie. Black Hawk has a little more glitz and pizzazz! Soldiers is not really an Oscar contender, it’s just a really good Mel Gibson film that finally does justice to the Vietnam War - more so than Platoon.

Your $8 is well spent on either movie!

-- E.R.D.


The Time Machine

Let’s go a little native...

I went expecting to dislike this movie and it isn’t that bad of a film. It’s a nice little B movie from an A studio (Dreamworks).

The original Time Machine was probably the best film ever produced by George Pal, who was an animator who made Puppetoons in Eastern Europe for Phillips Radio and then came to America and produced them for Paramount. He got into live action films and produced Destination Moon and War Of The Worlds both respected, credible science fiction movies in an era of Godzilla and Queen of Outer Space.

The Time Machine was one of the first movies shot in England by M-G-M for economy reasons. It was also one of the cornerstones of the special effects company (Effects Unlimited, made up of Tim Baer Wah Chang and Gene Warren ) who would go on to do most of the effects for television’s the Outer Limits in the 1960s. It starred Rod Taylor, one of the rugged he-man types from the 1960s and Yvette Mimieux as Weena the young Eloi who befriends our time traveler (he was, as I recall, unnamed in the book by Wells, but given the name George in the 1960 movie). The plot was a major concern to H.G. Wells - war. The movie dealt with World War I, II and the mythical A-bomb war III which put an end to most life above the Earth, forcing man into the fall out shelters.

In this new version it’s about the concept of “What If...?!” What if I go back in time and change something, which can’t be done. Our hero (Alexander Hartdegen in this version, played by Guy Pearce) tries to go back in time to save the life of his girl friend, Emma, but she is doomed to death in any time-line. So he goes forward to find out more about time and why it can’t be changed from his 19th Century era into later in our 21st Century when we are about the colonize the moon. They detonated A-bombs to clear underground areas for colonization and in the process caused a break up of the moon, showering debris to the Earth, forcing man underground.

Accidentally going way into the future (he was knocked unconscious from a piece of moon rock) the Earth is made all lush and green again. The “Eloi” are indigenous Indians like those dwelling on cliffs in South America, except this is New York city.

A woman (Samantha Mumba) named Mara and her young brother take the injured time traveler in after his machine slows to a halt. The Morlocks in this version come out during daylight hours, climb very well, fight very well, have no real aversion to sunlight. They still herd the “Eloi” and take them underground as a source of food (cannibalism) and Mara is taken just like Weena in the original. The younger brother takes him to a place that leads to the underground world. At this place he finds a computerized library reference center that he had first seen back in the 21st century before the moon exploded. This holodeck program that talks to you like a virtual librarian in some Britannica CD disk offering, tells him how to find the way down. He goes down, finds a civilizations of various castes including hunters, workers and thinkers.

I was unable to anticipate anything in this movie, which is unusually as I can usually figure out what will happen next. So this makes for a nice movie when I can't tell the ending in the first ten minutes! This is not a great movie, but it’s not a bad movie either. It’s a solid 2 and ¾ star movie. More worth my $8.50 than Swordfish or Ghosts of Mars and possibly a tad better than Tomb Raider. Well made, decent writing, good effects, a very interesting time machine with brass gears and wheels that look like they were indeed made in the late 19th century by artisan clock makers. Also features a cameo by Alan Young, who played Filby in the 1960 version (he's a flower shop clerk in this version). H.G. Wells grandson, an animation producer, worked on this film in a major capacity...


Speaking of Time and Clocks and Time Machines I saw a preview of Clock Stoppers which is kind of a semi-kids movie aimed at a teeny market and something akin to that TV show called Sliders. The effects look good. The film seems cute and with a few jokes, especially the dog and the meter maid scene! If you’re looking for a silly date movie this might be it! Akin to Legally Blonde or Scarey Movie.

Coming Soon

Blade II Wesley Snipes (who is a real Karate guy with a real black belt -- he's never made a super big thing out of this unlike some movie guys) returns to kick butt and chop heads!

Jodie Foster stars in The Panic Room which also opens real soon!

Neither film is in preview, which isn't a good sign. It's either a lack of confidence of the film or an indication that both films are better than we might think. I hesitate to say how I lean, but a lack of trailer support makes me think neither film may be up to snuff, still I like both Snipes and Foster. Blade II couldn't be any worst than any other Karate film out in recent times and Snipes is always good on screen, so I'd go see it at least at the low cost noon hour slot!

Tom Cruise stars in a new Steven Spielberg film that comes out this summer called Minority Report that deals with the concept of stopping crime by arresting criminals before the crime actually happens! A concept done excellently by television's Outer Limits a few years ago as a time traveller executes crimials long before they do their crimes.

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