David Ansen

Stories by David Ansen

  • PUTTING SPIKE ON THE SPOT

    In "She Hate Me," Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), a VP at a pharmaceutical company, is fired after he blows the whistle on his corrupt bosses. Jobless, he accepts an offer from ex-fiancee turned lesbian Fatima (Kerry Washington) to impregnate her and her girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez). Soon Jack's servicing lesbians for $10,000 a pop. Meanwhile he's subpoenaed by the FCC for his role in the corporate scandal.DAVID ANSEN: Your new movie is very ambitious. It takes on an enormous range of subjects. And though it's almost two and a half hours long, I was never bored--partly because I had no idea where it was going to go next. First I'm watching a story of corporate greed and whistle-blowing--with obvious parallels to Enron, etc.--then there's a scene where our hero runs into his ex-girlfriend...SPIKE LEE: Ex-fiancee.... ex-fiancee, sorry, who has become a lesbian. And all of a sudden it's a kind of sex comedy about a guy getting paid to impregnate lesbians.Uh-huh.I wrote down in my...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: MOVIES

    Collateral Directed by Michael MannGetting back to his noir-genre roots, the always stylish Mann casts Tom Cruise as a natty, gray-haired assassin who flies into L.A. with a checklist of five witnesses he must dispose of in one night. His unlucky accomplice is the cabdriver Max (Jamie Foxx)--also a pro at his job--who is forced to drive him on his rounds. Mann vividly captures the nocturnal pulse of East L.A. in this taut, confined game of cat and mouse. In the homestretch the thrills get too generic and farfetched for their own good. But the first two thirds are a knockout.The Corporation Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer AbbottThis smart, informative and lively polemic makes a strong case for viewing the corporation--which enjoys the legal status of an individual--as a psychopath run amok. Chockablock with disturbing tales (Bechtel's attempts to privatize rainwater in Bolivia, for one), this clever screed never hides its leftist politics (Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore are...
  • JOAQUIN AFTER MIDNIGHT

    Director M. Night Shyamalan has made a fine career out of delayed gratification. In "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," "Signs" and his newest sleight of hand, "The Village," he stirs his pot of suspense with slow, steady strokes, keeping the flame low, gambling that audiences weaned on microwave-fast filmmaking can still savor a simmering narrative--and trusting in himself to deliver a full-boil payoff.In "The Village," the deliberate, dialogue-driven Shyamalan style gets transported to a late-19th-century American community, whose natural agrarian rhythms are slow to begin with and where no one uses contractions in his speech, considerably elongating the discourse. In this seemingly innocent village, the main topic is "Those We Do Not Speak Of," the terrifying, mysterious creatures who live in the surrounding forest. For years the townsfolk have maintained a truce with their enemies: the villagers don't enter the woods; the creatures don't cross their borders. But now there have...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: MOVIES

    Zatoichi Directed by Takeshi KitanoThe blind (and blond) swordsman Zatoichi is as legendary a character to Japanese audiences as James Bond is to us. The stone-faced writer-director-star "Beat" Takeshi, a legend himself, resurrects this icon with characteristically quirky zest. Complete with bloody swordplay, unexpected eruptions of slapstick, a cross-dressing geisha bent on revenge and the first 19th-century Japanese tap-dancing sequence I've ever seen, "Zatoichi" is a mix-and-match crowd-pleaser that shouldn't add up, but delightfully does.The Door in the Floor Directed by Tod WilliamsJeff Bridges is extraordinary as Ted Cole, a charming, womanizing author of children's books whose family has collapsed after the death of two sons. His wife (Kim Basinger) has been hollowed out by grief. His 4-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) obsesses over photos of her dead siblings. Based on part of John Irving's "A Widow for One Year," this hothouse tale of grief, sex and betrayal is told with a...
  • REVIEW, SEIZING THE THRONE

    Why, you might well ask, would anyone want to redo John Frankenheimer's great 1962 satirical thriller "The Manchurian Candidate"? Everyone knows it's folly to remake a classic. Well, so much for what everyone knows. Jonathan Demme's new "Manchurian Candidate" is a gourmet-popcorn movie--a hugely entertaining thriller shot through with dark shards of agony and paranoia. It takes nothing away from the original while delivering pleasures all its own.The setting has shifted to the present; the war that haunts our troubled hero, Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), is not Korea but the gulf war, where he and his men were ambushed in a nighttime raid in Kuwait. The survivors were saved by the heroics of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), who has since advanced--with the help of his domineering, powerful senator mother, Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep)--to become a vice presidential candidate. But the official story doesn't jibe with Marco's recurring nightmares of what happened to his patrol-...
  • Making Sweet Music

    "If you're sad and like beer, I'm your lady," purrs Isabella Rossellini as Lady Port-Huntley, a flamboyant Winnipeg beer baroness, double amputee and sponsor of a global competition to determine which country has the world's most melancholy music. "The Saddest Music in the World," which is set in a snowbound, studio-created Winnipeg in the depths of the Great Depression, is itself anything but sad. Hilariously odd and prodigiously inventive, it springs from the eccentric mind of Guy Maddin, whose delirious visions have earned this singular Canadian filmmaker an international cult following.As his latest outrageous melodrama begins, you might think the movie was something found in a trunk circa 1924: the distressed black-and-white images seem to belong in an expressionist silent film. If gritty realism is your thing, the artifice-embracing Maddin is not for you. "The Saddest Music in the World" is suspended somewhere between camp, surrealism and Victorian melodrama. Two of the men...
  • THE IMPORTANCE OF KILLING BILL

    To the delight of some and the disappointment of others, "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" was essentially one show-stopping fight scene after another, as the revenge-minded Bride (Uma Thurman) eliminated the first two members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, not to mention countless guilty bystanders. Now she's got two more to go--Darryl Hannah's Elle Driver and Michael Madsen's Budd--before she reaches Bill himself (David Carradine), but "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" goes about its bloody business in a far more interesting way. It's still a wall-to-wall homage to the '70s spaghetti Westerns and kung fu movies that inspired the young Quentin Tarantino, and those who dismiss him for only making movies about movies will have all the ammunition they need. But the verbal virtuoso of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" is back. This is the Tarantino who isn't afraid to bring the action to a full halt and luxuriate in tall tales that take their sweet time getting to the point."Vol. 2" fills in the...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT

    Starsky & HutchDirected by Todd PhillipsThis spoof of the 1970s buddy-cop TV show is the movie equivalent of a Barcalounger: it's not about working hard. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have become a bankable comic duo, with the breezy Wilson serving as a nice foil for the kvetchy Stiller, and director Phillips ("Old School") plays the same card here. There are no ideas, just repartee. Snoop Dogg, as a superfly snitch, and Vince Vaughn, as a drug lord, are wasted in obvious supporting roles. It's harmless fun--and too lazy to be more.Dirty Dancing: Havana NightsDirected by Guy FerlandIn Cuba on the eve of the revolution, a brainy American 18-year-old (Romola Garai), whose father is a Ford executive, finds passion in the arms of a sexy Cuban waiter (Diego Luna), her secret partner at the national dance competition. The Afro-Cuban rhythms are infectious, and though the leads aren't great hoofers, JoAnn Jansen's sinuous choreography cleverly disguises the fact. This sweet, sometimes...
  • SO WHAT'S THE GOOD NEWS?

    I have no doubt that Mel Gibson loves Jesus. From the evidence of "The Passion of the Christ," however, what he seems to love as much is the cinematic depiction of flayed, severed, swollen, scarred flesh and rivulets of spilled blood, the crack of bashed bones and the groans of someone enduring the ultimate physical agony. This peculiar, deeply personal expression of the filmmaker's faith is a far cry from the sentimental, pious depictions of Christ that popular culture has often served up. Relentlessly savage, "The Passion" plays like the Gospel according to the Marquis de Sade. The film that has been getting rapturous advance raves from evangelical Christians turns out to be an R-rated inspirational movie no child can, or should, see. To these secular eyes at least, Gibson's movie is more likely to inspire nightmares than devotion.It's the sadism, not the alleged anti-Semitism, that is most striking. (For the record, I don't think Gibson is anti-Semitic; but those inclined toward...
  • The Barbarian Selections

    Certainly the biggest surprise in this year's Oscar nominations were the four major nods to Brazil's "City of God," a hard-hitting look at the slum children of Rio. The movie was nominated for directing, editing, screenplay and cinematography. Funny thing is, last year Brazil submitted "City of God" as its entry in the foreign-film category--and it didn't even make the final five. (Movies qualify for foreign-film consideration the year they open in their home country. They are eligible in all other categories the year in which they open in the United States.)The foreign-film nominating process has been a scandal for decades. This year, things have finally reached the boiling point. In a front-page story in Variety last week, many Academy members were calling for a revamping of the foreign-film committee. A similar fuss erupted a few years back over the documentary selections. The documentary branch cleaned up its act, revised the way films were chosen, and this year came up with...
  • THREE-WAY TANGLE IN PARIS

    Forty years ago, in his ravishing breakthrough movie "Before the Revolution," Bernardo Bertolucci created a hero torn between his desire to be a revolutionary and his sensuality. The same feverish ambivalence underscores "The Dreamers," his eroticized ode to the youthful passions of Paris in 1968. The three protagonists--the American student Matthew (Michael Pitt) and the inseparable, highly theatrical French twins Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green)--are swept up in the revolutionary fever that would lead to riots across the country, but their deepest passion is reserved for movies. Cinephiles to the bone, they fight over the relative merits of Keaton versus Chaplin, act out scenes from "Queen Christina," run full tilt through the Louvre exactly like the trio in Godard's "Band of Outsiders."While the twins' parents are off in the country, they invite Matthew to live in their Paris apartment. Shut off from the world outside, they engage in a mutual seduction. They shed...
  • THE VISIONARIES

    Early on in the conversation that follows between five of this year's most formidable filmmakers, "Cold Mountain's" writer-director Anthony Minghella points out the absurdity of talking about "Return of the King" and "Lost in Translation" in the same sentence. One, of course, is vast, the other minimalist. But both films are indisputably the products of the singular vision of their directors. One is taken from a classic book and the other is based on Sofia Coppola's original idea, but the triumph of Peter Jackson's epic is that it is no less personal a project than Coppola's autobiographically inspired, jet-lagged encounter. These movies are their directors.It wasn't all that long ago that people scoffed at the notion of directors as visionary artists or "auteurs." Sure, filmmaking is a collaborative art form, but these days nobody seriously doubts that when great movies happen, it's because of the eyes and soul of the man or woman behind the camera.It's revealing and highly unusual...
  • Sundance 2004: The Buzz and the Bores

    The Sundance Film Festival in snowy Park City, Utah, is many things to many people, but its relationship to reality is open to debate. Here, if nowhere else, people fight to get into screenings of the latest indie movies and documentaries; they're willing to stand for an hour in the freezing cold to see a film without stars made for the price of a used Honda Civic; they burst into rapturous applause for movies Hollywood would never dream of releasing. This is all wonderful, but deceptive. The sorry truth is that these same people wouldn't rush out to see these movies if and when they opened in their hometowns. Back at sea level, different rules apply. Over the years, many distributors have learned this lesson painfully. Caught up in the hysterical enthusiasm of Sundance, they have spent large amounts of money on movies that, it turned out, nobody in the real world wanted to watch. (The most egregious example was the $10 million Castle Rock forked over for the forgettably sappy "Care...
  • Wipe Off That Smile

    Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) arrives at Wellesley College in the fall of 1953 to teach art history. She's a bohemian from Berkeley, an idealist who, we're told, "wanted to make a difference." In case you missed it the first time, Katherine says it again: "I want to make a difference." This is not going to be easy, because, according to "Mona Lisa Smile," Wellesley College 50 years ago was little more than a finishing school run for, and by, snippety East Coast snobs. The girls--especially the viperous blonde Betty (Kirsten Dunst)--are eager to cut this interloper down to size. Not enlightened like the proto-feminist Ms. Watson, all they really care about is landing a spouse and becoming model housewives for their powerful WASP husbands. Guess what? The free-thinking Julia melts their East Coast frost with her West Coast independence, shows them the error of their ways and teaches them there is more to life than preparing cocktails for their men.What can one say about a movie...
  • Review: The House Of Pain

    At the heart of the harrowing "House of Sand and Fog" is a battle over the ownership of a house. The seaside home has been taken away from Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a recovering addict who's neglected to pay her taxes. She's desperate to get it back from the new owner, Colonel Behrani (Ben Kingsley), who bought it from the city for a rock-bottom price. For Behrani, a fiercely proud Persian refugee struggling to reclaim his former fortune, the house--which he plans to fix and resell--is his family's only hope. He's as determined to keep it as she is to get it back.Vadim Perelman's film elicits our sympathy, as well as our wariness, for both dispossessed protagonists. Kingsley conveys the violence lurking beneath Behrani's hatchet-sharp will. Connelly captures Kathy's unnerving volatility. She becomes even more reckless when she falls off the wagon, and the danger heightens when a married cop (Ron Eldard), who's fallen for her, uses the law for his own ends. The climax is a tragic...
  • Peter Pans Out

    The new live-action version of "Peter Pan" doesn't try to come up with a radical new twist on the tale, the way Spielberg did when he cast 40-year-old Robin Williams to play a corporate Peter in the misguided "Hook." Directed by the Australian P.J. Hogan ("Muriel's Wedding," "My Best Friend's Wedding"), this version tries to be faithful the original J. M. Barrie material. Yet it does feel different from other "Peter Pans." In the musical and almost every live-action version, Peter has been played by a girl or a woman. Here he's an actual boy (14-year-old Jeremy Sumpter), and this turns out to make all the difference. For now the Peter/Wendy relationship has a romantic and sexual undercurrent that's palpable, and it allows us to look at the fable with fresh eyes.The golden-locked Sumpter is an American, and the only cast member without a British accent. This is surely no accident; it serves to further offset his anarchic energy from the veddy British members of the Darling family...
  • Bring On The Light

    You might expect from the man who made "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father" that a movie called "In America" would be something epic, gritty, grounded in historical struggle. In fact, Jim Sheridan's wondrous new movie, which he wrote with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten, is none of these things. It's a lyrical, intimately personal account of an immigrant Irish family newly arrived in contemporary New York, loosely based on his own experience. But the movie's slight, anecdotal structure is deceptive; you wouldn't guess how big an emotional wallop it packs.The head of the family is Johnny (Paddy Considine), an aspiring actor whose liveliness and determination are but a thin curtain over a hollowed-out heart, which has never recovered from the accidental death of his son. Sarah (Samantha Morton), his wife, is equally haunted by the tragedy, but she's the one with the strength to hold the family together when Johnny, who's taken work as a cabdriver, comes home jobless from...
  • Epic Proportions

    If there's an image that defines this holiday movie season--a period that has nothing to do with Christmas, and everything to do with Oscars--it's the grave, grandiose spectacle of troops rushing into battle. From the left, flanks of Union soldiers charge across a muddy Virginia battlefield toward a horrible confrontation with their Confederate foes ("Cold Mountain"). From the right, sword-wielding 19th-century samurai speed on their mounts across green Japanese knolls into the cannon fire of the emperor's Army ("The Last Samurai"). From bottom to top, seen from a flying God's-eye view, a numberless mass of human warriors streaks across the plains of Gondor as the even larger forces of Sauron's army descend for the slaughter ("The Return of the King").These panoramas are thrilling, terrifying and expensive. It's been a long time since Hollywood has painted so many pictures on so grand a scale. For decades the historical epic was thought to be an extinct species, left for dead back...
  • Snap Judgement: Movies

    Stuck on YouDirected by Bobby and Peter FarrellyFurther exploring their obsession with physical and mental extremities, the Farrelly brothers cast Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as conjoined twins Bob and Walt Tenor, who give up their comfy lives as hamburger-joint chefs on Martha's Vineyard to pursue Walt's dream of acting. What first feels like thin skit material gets funnier and sweeter. Damon and Kinnear make a terrific team. But don't expect knee-slapping gross-out humor. Behind the hit-or-miss gags, this is really a love story about two people who can't live without each other.Bad SantaDirected by Terry ZwigoffAn antidote to forced holiday cheer, this scabrously funny misanthropic comedy is not for the whole family. A magnificently debauched Billy Bob Thornton stars as the world's most inappropriate department-store Santa-and thief. "Bad Santa" never goes soft, even when a pudgy kid (Brett Kelly) becomes Thornton's tag-along admirer. Zwigoff doesn't hype up the gags, and his...
  • Lech Fall In Love

    The premise of Nancy Meyers's romantic comedy is so sure-fire it's amazing (though not really surprising, given how close it cuts to home) that Hollywood hasn't tackled it before. While dating a sexy twentysomething girl, an old rake famous for never dating any woman over 30 finally falls in love. Not with the girl, however; with her mother. This is a concept a few million women are going to find irresistible.In "Something's Gotta Give," Jack Nicholson is the horny, Viagra-assisted old dog Harry Sanborn, a successful, never-married 63-year-old entrepreneur who never seems to work. Amanda Peet plays the lithe young art auctioneer Marin he's hoping to seduce at her family's beach home in the Hamptons. Diane Keaton is her divorced mom, the svelte, famous playwright Erica Barry, who wasn't supposed to be at the house this weekend. That's the first curve Harry is thrown. Then, on the verge of seducing Marin, he collapses with a heart attack, and is forced to recuperate under Erica's...
  • Reeling In A 'Fish'

    If the garrulous Edward Bloom's (Albert Finney) tall tales are to be believed--and his skeptical son, Will (Billy Crudup), has heard them too many times to believe a word--when Bloom was a boy in Ashton, Ala., he looked into the eye of the town witch and saw a vision of his own death. That's how he knew that when he left town to pursue his fortune, accompanied by a giant, he wouldn't die in a spider-infested forest en route to a secret backwoods town where no one ever wears shoes. That's how he knew he'd survive the Korean War, making a daring escape with the help of two beautiful singing conjoined twins. But now Will's father is on his deathbed, and his estranged son returns home to make a final attempt to reconcile fact with fiction.As you can see, Tim Burton's "Big Fish" has a high whimsy quotient. This candy-colored fable treads a fine line between the wacky and the elegiac, and doesn't always keep its balance. With Ewan McGregor playing the young Bloom, it jumps back and forth...
  • Holes In The Heart

    Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's powerful debut film, "Amores Perros," left little doubt about the man's ferocious talent, and his first film in English, the equally intense "21 Grams," certainly confirms it. Like the three-part "Amores," his new movie (also written by Guillermo Arriaga) concerns the strangely interlocked fates of three characters, their lives brought together by a tragic accident. But just how these three people connect--Paul (Sean Penn), a professor of mathematics awaiting a heart transplant; Christina (Naomi Watts), a recovered drug addict whose new life as a wife and mother is shattered by the death of her husband and two daughters, and Jack (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-con and born-again Christian struggling to tame his demons--takes time to discover.Gonzalez Inarritu and Arriaga have constructed their movie like a jigsaw puzzle, or the broken shards of a pot that has to be pieced together and made whole again. Chronology is tossed to the winds; the viewer has to...
  • City Of Angels

    How in heaven's name do you describe "Angels in America" without taking up this entire magazine? After all, this is a play about Jews and Mormons, gays and straights, New York and Antarctica, the ozone, Ethel Rosenberg, AIDS, African-Americans, Reagan Republicans, "Cats"--and we haven't even mentioned the angels, or a devil named Roy Cohn. When "Angels" opened on Broadway in 1993, it blew the roof off American theater. Here, at last, was a play that wasn't afraid to take on the whole world--and the afterworld--with thrilling language and stagecraft, and wicked humor that would have made Oscar Wilde proud. Tony Kushner, then only 36, won a Pulitzer Prize and two Tony awards. See why we're afraid we can't do it justice?Which is why we've enlisted some expert help. On Dec. 7, HBO will debut a six-hour, $60 million TV version of "Angels." Directed by Mike Nichols, HBO's "Angels" features a dream-team cast headed by Al Pacino (Cohn), Meryl Streep (one of the Mormons) and Emma Thompson ...
  • Snap Judgement: Movies

    Shattered GlassDirected by Billy RayWhether or not you know the story of Stephen Glass, the young writer at The New Republic exposed for fabricating stories, this account of his rise and fall is a fascinating tale of a journalistic con artist. Hayden Christensen, atoning for "Attack of the Clones," is smarmily terrific as the unctuous Glass, and gifted chameleon Peter Sarsgaard, as the stiff, unpopular editor who exposed him, is a refreshing movie hero. Writer-director Ray has a no-fuss style that is quietly, thoroughly gripping.ElephantDirected by Gus Van SantThough it ends with an eruption of violence reminiscent of the Columbine massacre, Van Sant's Cannes prize winner has no interest in explaining school violence. Instead, he offers a lyrical, elliptical portrait of a suburban high school (using nonprofessional actors) that captures the texture of teenage life with haunting verisimilitude. There's much to argue with, but this unconventional, oddly beautiful film resonates in...
  • Whoa--That's Plenty

    After "The Matrix Reloaded," there was still some question about whether Keanu Reeves's Neo was The One, but it had become clear that the Wachowski brothers were decidedly mortal. Their movie made piles of money, but the franchise, for all its fancy philosophical aspirations, had lost its mystique. Six months later it would be hard to find anyone who hadn't adjusted his expectations for "The Matrix Revolutions," the trilogy's finale.The brothers pick up just where they left off, with Zion bracing itself for the ultimate attack of the Sentinels, and Neo emerging from his comatose state to continue his quest to save humanity. If you missed the second part, you will be hopelessly lost. Even if you saw it, expect more confusion than your average action movie delivers. Now it's not just a matter of man vs. machine, but humans and programs and machines with competing interests. To further complicate matters, The Oracle has changed appearances (with Mary Alice taking over the role...
  • Playing To The Crowd

    Here's a verbal Rorschach test: when you hear the term "crowd-pleasing" attached to a movie, does it seem a recommendation or a dis? How you respond to this may determine your reaction to Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," a panoramic, star-studded British romantic comedy that is very eager to be liked. Curtis is the talented fellow who wrote "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill" (not to mention "Bridget Jones's Diary"). This is the first feature he's both written and directed, and it seems designed to guarantee he'll get to direct another: failure is not an option. In pursuit of laughs and lumps in the throat, Curtis employs every clever or hoary trick he's ever learned, freely pillaging his own movies and others'. Offering up nine loosely connected love stories, Curtis has whipped up a heaping meal of cinematic comfort food, sweet as English pudding and just spicy enough to earn an R rating.The movie baldly announces its "love is everywhere" theme with a montage of...
  • Plays: Jackman's 'Oz' Fest

    Hugh Jackman may not quite be in the first rank of macho heartthrobs, but he's pretty darned close. He turned heads as the hunk in "Swordfish" and a whole lot more as Wolverine in the "X-Men" movies. But one hit away from movie stardom, Jackman has confounded expectations by taking a leading role in a Broadway musical.What's surprising, and conceivably risky, about Jackman's Broadway debut in "The Boy From Oz" is that he's playing the undisguisedly gay disco-era darling Peter Allen, the Australian singer-songwriter ("I Go to Rio," "Don't Cry Out Loud") who was discovered by Judy Garland and then later wed to her daughter Liza Minnelli before dying of AIDS in 1992. Jackman slips inside the Hawaiian-shirted, booty-shaking skin of his fellow Aussie with carefree flair and high-voltage charm. Jackman's a better dancer than Allen, and he can belt his songs out of the park. His exuberant performance is a gallant gesture to his countryman, whose outback-to-riches saga (somewhat cleaned up...
  • Pulp Friction

    SYNOPSIS: On her wedding day in El Paso, the Bride (Uma Thurman), her unborn child and her entire wedding party are slaughtered by assassins. She alone survives, and after emerging from four years in a coma in a hospital (where her comatose body has been sold to redneck rapists), vows revenge on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, of which the Bride was once a member. Its leader is Bill (David Carradine), the father of her dead child. One by one, she tracks down her enemies: Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), now a housewife, and O'Ren-Ishii (Lucy Liu), head of the Tokyo underworld (whose own backstory is revealed in an anime sequence). To get to O'Ren, the Bride must take on her army of masked gangsters and her lethal associates. Tarantino divides his story--an homage to the samurai and kung fu movies, blaxploitation flicks and spaghetti Westerns of the '70s--into chapters, leaping forward and backward in time. "Volume 2" is due out in February.DAVID ANSEN: All right. Let's start...
  • The Walking Wounded

    In a working-class Boston neighborhood, a young boy named Dave Boyle is playing stickball on the street with his friends Sean and Jimmy when he's abducted by men posing as cops. Over the course of the next few days, until he escapes, he will be repeatedly molested. The echo of this life-shattering event reverberates through every brooding frame of Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River," a haunted thriller of disturbing power. Dave (Tim Robbins) is now a father and a married man (Marcia Gay Harden plays his wife), but he walks with the stunned shuffle of a man who's been emotionally lobotomized. The three childhood friends have grown apart. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con who runs a convenience store and wields power in the neighborhood. The upwardly mobile Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a homicide detective whose wife has left him.Violence split them apart, and violence brings them back together when the dead body of Jimmy's 19-year-old daughter is found in a park. Sean and his partner (Laurence...
  • What's The Big Deal?

    Have you ever had the feeling that the movie you are watching is not the same one everyone else is seeing? There are plenty of movies that the public adores that most critics disdain, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about "The Station Agent."AT THE Sundance Film Festival, Tom McCarthy's first feature won the Audience Award as the favorite feature film and the jury--the same folks who wisely selected "American Splendor" as best film--deemed McCarthy's screenplay best in show. And now it has opened commercially to almost entirely favorable reviews from critics high-, mid- and lowbrow. When I saw the movie at a small screening, I overheard an awed audience member say that he'd be a happy man if he could ever make a movie half as brilliant. To which my reaction was, and still is, "huh?"Indeed, as I was watching this small, intimate drama unfold, "huh?" kept popping into my head with distracting regularity. "The Station Agent" is far from the worst film I've seen this...