Films Review September

28 DAYS (PG-13)

Sandra Bullock is fine as the party girl who destroys her sister’s wedding and her own life in the process. Bullock brings a vulnerable charm to her role of Gwen Cummings, a working alcoholic who spends days as a writer and nights poisoning her body and mind. She’s in good company with her enabler boyfriend, but finds her family harder to please.


Things come to a head when Gwen ruins her sisters wedding with a rude toast and a drunken dance that sends the wedding cake crashing to the ground. Desperate to make good, Gwen steals the wedding limo to buy another cake and crashes into a house. Good times come to an end when Gwen is sentenced to a rehab for 28 days or face jail. Either one is a prison sentence for Gwen, who chooses rehab but fails to follow the rules. Films about alcoholics are a tough call, usually because it is hard to feel compassion for people who are self destructive. Few films, notably “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Lost Weekend,” and to another extent, “Arthur,” managed to capture the true essence of the condition. “28 Days” is smart in its presentation of the problem. Even though the screenplay takes some familiar side trips, the film never becomes a soapbox for alcoholism. Instead, it uses Gwen’s addiction as a catalyst to examine her life and then help her get on with it. It would have been easy to make this a feel good movie, but director Betty Thomas never bows to the obvious. The film ends on a realistic note, letting us know that “28 Days” in rehab is just the beginning. There’s a whole life that follows, one filled with uncertainties and challenges. I liked the cast, especially Viggo Mortensen as a baseball player drying out at the facility, and Steve Buscemi as Gwen’s counselor, a former addict who knows the temptations and tricks of the trades. Much better than I expected, a delight at every turn. (Columbia-TriStar)

ALIEN VISITOR (R)

Despite gorgeous scenery, there’s not much to recommend this mundane sci-fi romance about an alien who falls in love with a local. Shot and released in 1995, the film is making its belated debut on video. The visitor is a female alien who lands on Earth in the Australian outback. Thinking that she has landed on paradise, she absorbs as much of the local color as she can. Then she learns she’s on Earth and is all bummed out, but manages to hide her disappointment when she falls in love with a local man. All very nice, but no big deal. (Miramax)

BLACK & WHITE (R)

Audacious filmmaker James Toback examines the threads that hold the fabric of life together in this sometimes dizzying, sometimes frustrating, yet always compelling comedy-drama. The comedy isn’t of the ha-ha variety, but human comedy, where we watch as characters find themselves involved in some of the most awkward positions. The drama is the film’s calling card, a combination of scripted dialogue and improvisation that suits the film and its message perfectly. Using a eclectic collection of actors and personalities, Toback, the cinema bad boy whose films demand you pay attention, has created a tapestry of life in New York City that is alive and vibrant. What can you say about a film that has Mike Tyson playing himself, with Brooke Shields playing a documentary filmmaker who seems like, well, Brooke Shields. The line between reality and drama blurs quite frequently in the film, which addresses race relations on some unexpected levels. Robert Downey Jr. is a standout playing Shield’s gay husband, a fact known to everyone but her. Downey’s performance is so honest and touching that when he finally lets the cat out of the bag, you really feel his emotion. Ben Stiller is also good as a cop whose evil ways sets into motion the film’s main plot. How the other characters fit into the scenario has to be seen to be fully appreciated. (Columbia-TriStar)

HIGH FIDELITY (R)

“High Fidelity” begins with John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, asking which came first,”the music or the misery?” It’s rare for a film to speak with such a distinctive voice. “High Fidelity” is that rarity, a film so honest and real you feel like you’ve accidentally stumbled into someone’s life. “High Fidelity” spoke to me like “The Big Chill” spoke to the generation before mine. As a baby boomer, I not only recognized the characters in the film, I identified with them. Hell, I was them, or parts of them. I saw a lot of myself in “High Fidelity,” and how refreshing to realize that I’m not alone. Please click on title for complete review. (Touchstone)

PASSION OF MIND (PG-13)

Demi Moore doubles up in this okay tale of a woman who leads two separate lives. In what is quickly becoming its own genre, Moore plays a woman who lives two different existences. In France, she’s Marie, a book reviewer raising two daughters. When her character goes to sleep, she becomes Marty, a New York literary agent who puts career ahead of her personal life. They’re two, separate, distinct women, and the problem is, Marie/Marty can’t figure out which one is real and which one is a figment of her imagination. Or maybe they’re both real. It’s a technical question that doesn’t get much support from the screenwriters, who seem more content to examine the lives of both personalities rather than how she arrived at the split. Moore is fine as both characters, but its hard to sympathize with her because she seems to have the best of both worlds. While each personality seeks out psychiatric help, I kept wondering why. Except for never getting any sleep, Marie/Marty not only has two fulfilling lives, she also has two men who love her. If she is crazy, then she’s better off than most of us. Stellan Skarsgard and William Fichtner play the men in her life, and do so admirably. (Paramount)

RPM (R)

David Arquette turns up twice this week on video (see “Ready to Rumble”), and neither film is really worth the effort. This one is a quickie car thief action film that works hard to put a new tread on an old tire and fails. Arquette plays a master car thief who heads off to Europe to steal a new prototype, the RPM, which is destined to revolutionize the car industry. Despite the presence of Famke Janssen and Emmanuelle Seigner, the film can’t get much of a rise out of Arquette, who seems indifferent to the whole affair. The plot and production are also lifeless, as if this film was shot as a tax shield. (Paramount)

READY TO RUMBLE (PG-13)

You don’t have to be a fan of professional wrestling to watch “Ready To Rumble,” but it helps to fully appreciate the effort. To that degree, I watched the film with my brother and his son, who both religiously watch professional wrestling every chance they get. They sit there, glued to the television, for WWF this and WCW that, with pay-per-view Slams thrown in for good measure. They liked the film more than I did, which seemed like a bargain rate rip-off of Jim Carrey’s “Dumb and Dumber.” They also wanted more wrestling action, yet seemed pleased every time one of their favorites appeared on the screen. David Arquette and Scott Caan play two small town fans who concoct a plan to keep their favorite wrestler from being downgraded from hero to zero. Oliver Platt plays the wrestler Jimmy “The King” King, whose ride at the top is about to end. This news doesn’t sit well with porta-potty cleaners Gordie (Arquette) and Sean (Caan), who make it their duty to keep the King from being dethroned. Unlike the character in “Dumb and Dumber,” it is hard to care about these loose cannons. Gordie and Sean are hardly endearing, and spend most of the film yelling at each other. That’s funny for about ten minutes. Wrestling fans will appreciate the familiar faces, but anyone else looking for a laugh fest will get slammed to the mat. Check out the recently released documentary “Beyond the Mat” for a more expressive look at the sport. (Warner)

YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, THE (G)

Director Jacques Demy’s exquisite, elaborate and old fashioned musical about two women looking for love in the small town of Rochefort. This companion piece to Demy’s classic “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is a throwback to the classic musicals of Hollywood, a nod to directors like Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donen. Released in 1967 just as French New Wave was becoming en vogue, Demy’s film is undeniably outdated, a big, bright, colorful musical released in a time when Hollywood was turning its back on such fare. Demy makes no apologies, and even recruits Gene Kelly as one of his star. Catherine Deneuve and her real-life sister Francois Dorleac are wonderfully engaging as twin sisters who know that freedom and true love are just beyond the fringes of their small town. They’re looking for love, and before the film is done, will find it. But not before the filmmakers have put them through their paces. Unlike “Umbrellas,” “Girls” isn’t totally sung. There are brief passages of dialogue, but they are just bridges to the lush and memorable Michel Legrand score and the exciting choreography that allows the entire cast to kick up their heels. The film has a fairytale quality to it, with bright, vibrant colors and stylized settings. It works well for the film, which features engaging performances and a tried and true book that recalls any number of Hollywood’s greatest musicals. Danielle Darrieux captures your heart as the girl’s strong mother who raised them by herself yet longs for the man she kicked out of her life years earlier. Michel Piccoli and Kelly also hit their stride as a musician looking for a lost love, and his American friend who falls for one of the sisters. Sweet and sentimental, “The Young Girls of Rochefort” is a delightful excursion that will take you exactly where you want to go. In French with English subtitles. (Miramax)

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:FALLEN ANGEL (R/Avalanche)

LITTLE MERMAID II: RETURN TO THE SEA (G/Walt Disney)

MODEL BEHAVIOR (G/Walt Disney)

NO ALIBI (R/Studio Home Entertainment)

SAINTLY SWITCH, A (G/Walt Disney)

TALES OF THE KAMA SUTRA (NR/Spartan)



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