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Eugene Weekly : Movies : 04.28.05


Dictatorship vs. Idealism

Safe international saga disappoints


THE INTERPRETER: Directed by Sydney Pollack. Written by Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, Steven Zaillian, based on a story by Martin Stellman and Brian Ward. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kevin Misher. Executive producers Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, G. Mac Brown. Cinematography, Darius Khondji. Production design, Jon Hutman. Editor, William Steinkamp. Costume design, Sarah Edwards. Music, James Newton Howard. Starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, with Catherine Keener. Also, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron. Universal Pictures, 2005. PG-13. 123 minutes.

Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) and Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) meet to say good-bye.

Sydney Pollack's new political thriller is a smart-looking production, shot outside and within the grand modernist United Nations building in New York — as elegant and idealistic as intrerpreter Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) herself. Born in the fictional Africa nation of Matobo to English farmers but educated in Europe, Silvia is of two minds. She bears the intellectual burden of understanding what has happened to her native country but hopes for justice within the international community, much like writer Nadine Gordimer in apartheid South Africa, for example. But Silvia has also suffered from the criminal madness of the former liberator turned despotic ruler for life, Dr. Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), and those experiences are real and recent.

One evening after a forced evacuation of the U.N. building, Silvia returns to retrieve her African flutes from her booth perched above the General Assembly. In the dark, she accidentally overhears a whispered conversation that sounds suspiciously like a death threat against Zuwanie, who is coming to address the U.N. in a few days. Compounding her fear, Silvia is observed by unseen others.

Enter Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), a Secret Service agent assigned to Silvia's case, and his partner, Agent Dot Woods (Catherine Keener). His split is to find out everything about Silvia while simultaneously building her trust. Nursing his own recent loss, Tobin is both tough and tender with Silvia, while Dot gets off the sardonic witticisms that suit her personality.

The film's weakness is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The script was concocted from the efforts of five writers, only two with worthy screen credentials. The story idea belongs to Martin Stellman and Brian Ward, whose previous joint effort was an adventure fantasy TV series for kids called "Shoebox Zoo." Screenwriter Charles Randolph claims The Life of David Gale, which was a despicable piece of work. But Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian each have credits. Frank's clever "Karen Sisco" deserved more seasons than it got; big screen scores include Minority Report, Get Shorty, Out of Sight. Zaillian claims Gangs of New York, Schindler's List and Searching for Bobby Fischer.

The sinkhole created by the script bomb probably wasn't fixable, because director, producer Sydney Pollack intended to make a commercially successful film. So there is a simmering attraction between Silvia and Tobin, a break-in at Silvia's by an African mask-wearing intruder, sentimental moments of looking at photos from the past, and lots of heady discourse about language. As an interpreter, Silvia believes in the power of words, while Tobin doesn't see the difference between "gone" and "dead" for example and uses them interchangeably.

So where's the live-wire internal conflict that the U.N. is racked with on almost every ethical question of any merit? The dithering in the face of national catastrophes such as ethnic cleansing in the Balkans? Its refusal to intervene in blatant African genocide such as Rwanda? Our country's parsimony — diplomatic blackmail — about paying our dues unless we get our way? The likely selection of a U.N.-hater to be the spokesperson to the world body for you and me? Not here.

The inspired co-starring of Kidman and Penn bears fruit, but their early scenes promise more punch than is delivered. The film would have been cheapened by a romantic tumble in the hay, but more spirited exchanges between them need not have been physical. The film's best moments come on an action-packed bus ride, during which Silvia cheekily confronts one of Zuwanie's rivals (George Harris), a businessman.

While the film is a disappointment, I don't actively dislike it. Pollack is too good a craftsman to make a really bad film. Kidman and Penn deliver nuanced, intelligent line readings, and it's a pleasure to watch professional actors doing their best to raise the level of the work. Now playing at Cinemark and Cinema World, the film is helped by their performances.




His own private Idaho


MILLIONS: Directed by Danny Boyle. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Produced by Andrew Hauptman, Graham Broadbent, Damian Jones. Co-producer Tracey Seaward. Executive producers, Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken, Duncan Reid, David M. Thompson. Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle. Production design, Mark Tildesley. Editor, Chris Gill. Music, John Murphy. Costume design, Susannah Buxton. Starring James Nesbitt, Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, Daisy Donovan and Christopher Fulford. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2005. PG. 97 minutes.

The ethereal but genuine Damian (Alex Etel).

A sweet story about two young British brothers from the North whose mother has recently died, Millions follows the lads and their father as they move into a new house and start attending a new school. At 7, Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) is a regular boy who plays video games, watches soccer, rides his bike, and hangs out with other boys. Damian (Alex Etel) at 9 doesn't have any close friends but is a dreamy boy with a mystical bent who enjoys playing alone. Damian often sees and talks with saints, and once his mother (Jane Hogarth) visits him.

Their dad, Ronnie (James Nesbitt), has moved himself and the boys into a new house to help them all get used to the changes in their lives. Ronnie tries to be both mum and dad to the kids, but juggling work and home is a difficult for him as it is for any single mother or father. Life looks up for Ronnie after he meets Dorothy (Daisy Donovan) through a school-sponsored charity, and they hit it off.

Damian takes the largest packing boxes from the recent move out to a field near the railroad tracks, where he makes a creative playhouse for himself. This is the place where the saints visit him, and thank goodness they are good tempered and have a sense of humor. The funniest visitation is by a cigarette-smoking Clare of Assissi (Catherine Pogson), who speaks the way Calamity Jane from HBO's "Deadwood" series might if she weren't the town drunk and a magnificent spouter of casual, constant profanity.

One day in his playhouse, Damian is startled, or maybe stunned, by a large, airborne parcel, which lands square on him. It's full of money. Showing pragmatic good sense, Damian seeks out his brother's advice. "Do you see it, too?" he earnestly asks.

If you're with me so far, nothing in the rest of the film will bother the logical you. If not, this magical event is only the beginning of apparently guiltless spending and giving away of a million pounds sterling in bills that will be worthless in a few days when Britain joins the European Market and her economy switches to Euros.

I sense a disconnect between the boys' divergent methods of disposing of the goods and the philosophical questions the film raises about money. However, the film remains a spirited fantasy with no serious consequences for the good folks involved, even though I might have liked a sharper focus.

Before and after the three Friday night April 29 showings of Millions, people can buy $1 or $2 raffle tickets to win prizes and benefit WaterAid, an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world's poorest people. The Bijou and Fox Searchlight Films are sponsoring the raffle to raise awareness about world water issues.

Additionally, the Bijou and Youth Visions presents a program of short, winning videos from local high-school competitors. The videos show prior to the Bijou's feature film beginning this week. The first video by Matt Barnhart (Sheldon H.S.), "Find a Penny, Pick It Up," is about the impact of small decisions. Beginning May 6, the video will be Scott Scriven's (South Eugene H.S.) documentary about the dancing video game, "Dance Dance Revolution." Starting May 13 is a love-story-with-a-twist by Michael Moccassin (former Sheldon student) is set to the music of Bobby Vinton's "Only You, My Love," and the love interest is skateboarding.




Films open the Friday following date of EW publication unless otherwise noted. See archived movie reviews.

Constantine: Stars Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou and Peter Stormare. An epic set in a world of demons and angels. Hmmm. Based on comic, Hellblazer. R. Movies 12.

Girl With the Pearl Earring: Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth give consummate performances in this underrated, lovely film about Vermeer and the model for his famous, mysterious painting. Very highest recommendations. 2003 Academy Award noms for cinematography, art direction, costume design. PG-13. At 7:30 pm on 5/3 in 177 Lawrence, UO campus. Free. Online archives.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe: Irreverent sci-fi comedy based on the late Douglas Adams' cult novel follows the adventures in space of the most ordinary man in the world, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman). Dent and his best friend (Mos Def) barely make it off the planet before it is demolished to make way for a hyperspace freeway. Directed by Garth Jennings, film also stars Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, John Malkovich, Warwick Davis, Helen Mirren, Thomas Lennon, Anna Chancellor, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy; with Stephen Fry as the narrator. PG. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Millions: Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, this enjoyable fantasy about two brothers who discover a satchel full of money, then find different ways of spending it. Premiere benefits WaterAid. Also, local video shorts. PG-13. Bijou. See review this issue.

Outskirts, The (Russia, 1998): In the new Russia, the farmland of villagers has been stolen and sold. The hunt for the thieves takes them to Moscow. Directed by Petr Lutsik. At 7 pm on 5/3 in 115 Pacific, UO campus. Free.

Pizza Girl, The: Local film written and directed by Brian S. Murphy follows a pizza delivery driver (Amy Wray) as she establishes relationships with people on the outside of our overly mediated culture of consumption. Entirely produced by local residents. LateNite Bijou.

Return2Sender: Star Timmy O'Neill and director Peter Mortimer present for screening at 7 pm on 5/5 in 177 Lawrence. $9 general public/$7 UO students.

Soylent Green (1973): A very dark view of human nature in the 21st century permeates this cult hit directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston. Videohound notes it's sadly the last film by great character actor Edward G. Robinson. At 7 pm on 5/4 in 180 PLC, UO campus. Free.

Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song: Melvin Van Peebles' notorious 1971 film ignited a fierce debate within the black community on both coasts about images of blacks in film. Van Peebles made a lot of money on the salacious movie, kick-starting what came to be known as the blaxploitation era in movies. X-rated. At 6 pm on 5/1 in DIVA. Free.

Tale of Two Sisters, A: Korean psycho-thriller in the mode of The Ring series, this reportedly beautiful film is based on a folk tale about two sisters sent away by their father. They return to find their wicked stepmother resuming her evil ways. LateNite Bijou, weekend only.

XXX: State of the Union: Samuel L. Jackson takes on the role of the agent who needs a new face (Ice Cube) he calls XXX to track a military splinter group led by Willem Dafoe. The group's planning to overthrow the government. Directed by Lee Tamahori. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Films open the Friday following EW publication date unless otherwise noted. See archived reviews at www.eugeneweekly.com



A Lot Like Love: Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet are opposites who keep running into each other over the years after an initial disaster. Are they friends or is this love? Directed by Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls). PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Amityville Horror, The: Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George star in this psychological horror about a family's dream home turned nightmare. A remake of the 1979 blockbuster and based on a true story, this suspenseful film directed by Andrew Douglas is sure to chill you. R. Cinemark.

Are We There Yet?: In Brian Levant's new movie, Ice Cube takes his recently divorced girlfriend Nia Long's two kids on a road trip from Portland to Vancouver, BC, on New Year's Eve. Jay Mohr plays his best friend. PG. Movies 12.

Aviator, The: Martin Scorsese's 169-minute film about lover, aviation pioneer and eccentric billionaire industrialist Howard Hughes stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes, with Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Alan Alda, Frances Conroy and Ian Holm. DiCaprio and Blanchett are brilliant, and Scorsese makes the film his own. Very highest recommendations. 2004 Academy Awards to Blanchett; Robert Richardson, cinematography; Sandy Powell, costumes; Thelma Schoonmaker, editor. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Be Cool: Picks up where Get Shorty leaves off. Chili Palmer (John Travolta) quits the movie industry to try the music industry and woos a music exec's widow (Uma Thurman) on the way. PG13. Movies 12.

Beauty Shop: Hair stylist Queen Latifah leaves a posh salon with shampoo girl Alicia Silverstone to open her own shop. Also stars Alfre Woodard, Mena Suvari, Andie MacDowell and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Billy Woodruff. PG-13. Movies 12.

Boogeyman: Horror, terror and violence await you as Barry Watson, Emily Deschanel and others confront the boogeyman. PG-13. Movies 12.

Downfall (Germany, 2004): 2004 Academy Award nominee best foreign language film. Oliver Hirshbiegel and Bernd Eichinger's memorable, claustrophobic impression of events in Adolf Hitler's bunker 60 feet below the German Chancellery in Berlin, 1945, is set during the last days when Russia's Red Army approached the city center. Stars Bruno Ganz as Hitler, wiith Alexandra Maria Lara, Juliane Kohler. Complex, morally complicated and riveting film. Highest recommendations. R. Bijou. Online archives.

Fever Pitch: The Farrelly brothers direct a Lowell Ganz screenplay based on a Nick Hornby novel about a fanatic Red Sox fan (Jimmy Fallon) who may have to choose between the team and a woman (Drew Barrymore) he loves. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Guess Who: Bernie Mac stars as the father of Zoe Saldana, who brings her boyfriend, Ashton Kutcher, home, and he's white! Comic retake on the 1967 Sidney Poitier movie. PG-13. Cinemark.

Hitch: Will Smith stars in this romantic comedy as a New York "date doctor" who helps hapless men woo the women of the their dreams. Costars Kevin James, Amber Valletta, Eva Mendes, Michael Rappaport and Adam Arkin. Directed by Andy Tennant. PG-13. Cinemark.

Hotel Rwanda: During the Rwandan massacres of 1994, a hotel manager named Paul Rusesabagina offered refuge to more than 1,000 Tutsis fleeing rampaging Hutus. Directed by Terry George, film stars Don Cheadle, with co-stars Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte. Three 2004 Academy Award nominations: Cheadle, best actor; Okendo, supporting actress; original screenplay. Very highest recommendations. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Interpreter, The: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, and Catherine Keener star in Sydney Pollack's assassination-threat film set inside the actual United Nations building in New York. Kidman is a UN interpreter; Penn's a Secret Service agent. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World. See review this issue.

King's Ransom: Multiple cockeyed kidnapping schemes run through this crazy comedy, which stars Anthony Anderson, Joy Mohr, Kellita Smith, Nicole Parker, Regina Hall. PG-13. Cinemark.

Kung-Fu Hustle: In pre-revolutionary China, a small-time thief aspires to belong to an underworld gang. Stephen Chow's satiric send-up of kung-fu movies has garnered positive reviews. LA Weekly calls it a "slapstick martial-arts masterpiece." R. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events: The misadventures of three orphans who fall into the hands of an evil count are popular with children and adults. Jim Carrey stars, with many co-stars. Directed by Brad Silberling. PG. Movies 12.

Magic Kitchen (Hong Kong, 2004): Romantic comedy dir by Lee Chi Ngai about a chef (Sammi Cheng) who celebrates Chinese New Year by creating her "food of love." Andy Lau, Jerry Yan love her, and Maggie Q, Nicola Cheung are her girlfriends. At 4 pm on 4/21 in 115 Pacific, UO. Free.

Man of the House: Tommy Lee Jones stars as a Texas Ranger whose job is to protect cheerleaders who witnessed a murder. Action comedy directed by Stephen Herek. PG-13. Movies 12.

Meet the Fockers: Jay Roach follows Meet the Parents (2000) with Ben Stiller's bride and in-laws to-be Teri Polo, Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner meeting his rather eccentric parents, Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand. Culture clash writ small. PG-13. Movies 12.

Melinda and Melinda (2005): Parallel stories about Melinda (Radha Mitchell) and her adventures in alternate New York City adventures. Ensemble comedy by Woody Allen also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Will Ferrell, Jonny Lee Miller, Amanda Peet, Chloë Sevigny and Wallace Shawn. Highly recommended. PG-13. Bijou. Online archives.

National Treasure: Directed by Jon Turteltub and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, adventure stars Nicolas Cage searching for treasure George Washington hid during the Revolutionary War. Sean Bean plays his British rival who's anxious to score the treasure first. PG. Movies 12.

Pacifier, The: Disgraced Navy SEAL Shane Wolf (Vin Diesel) is given a new assignment to protect 5 kids from enemies of their recently deceased father – a government scientist whose top secret experiment is still in the house. Thriller? Drama? Tear-jerker? Nope, it's a comedy. PG. Cinemark.

Phantom of the Opera, The: The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is brought to the screen by Joel Schumacher, starring Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler and Patrick Wilson. Under Schumacher's insipid direction, kitsch dominates. If you already love the work, you may enjoy the film, but its way too-sweet for me. 2004 Academy Award nominations for original song, art direction and John Mathieson cinematography. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Pooh's Heffalump Movie: Pooh, Piglet and Tigger set out to capture a Heffalump in the Hundred Acre Wood. Voices by Jim Cummings and Brenda Blethyn. G. Movies 12.

Racing Stripes: A farmer (Bruce Greenwood) and his daughter (Hayden Panettiere raise a baby zebra to become a champion racer. Live action, computer animation. Voices: Frankie Muniz, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, Snoop Dogg. PG. Movies 12.

Robots: Animator Chris Wedge's (Ice Age) amusing tale of a robot lad who dreams of being an inventor. This creative world of mechanical beings is never dull because these endearing, pieced-together, talking tin cans convey comfort and safety. Voices by Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Robin Williams, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, Greg Kinnear. Not preachy, but a good teaching tale about differences. Warmly recommended. PG. Cinemark. Cinema World. Online archives.

Sahara: Penelope Cruz, Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn team up to look for a long-lost Civil War battleship that protects a secret cargo. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Sideways: Alexander Payne's social comedy follows two guys on a bachelor week in California wine country. Great performances by Paul Giamatti (American Splendor) and Thomas Haden Church ("Wings") sweetens the tale, as do Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. One of the best films of the year. Don't miss. 2004 Academy Award to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for adapted screenplay. R. Movies 12. Online archives.

Sin City: Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and directed by Miller, Robert Rodriguez (and "special guest director" Quentin Tarantino), film stars a host of players including Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen and Josh Hartnett. R. Cinema World. Cinemark. Online archives.



Use the links provided below for specific show times.

Bijou Art Cinemas

Bijou Theater 686-2458 | 492 E. 13th

Regal Cinemas

Cinema World 342-6536 | Valley River Center

Springfield Quad 726-9073 |

Cinemark Theaters

Movies 12 741-1231 | Gateway Mall

Cinemark 17 741-1231 | Gateway Mall