If you haven’t yet seen a film by Wong Kar-wei, one of the more exciting and original of the younger Hong Kong filmmakers, you should make this immensely charming and energetic two-part comedy feature a priority; if you have, you probably won’t need my recommendation. Though less ambitious than either Days of Being Wild or Ashes of Time, the Wong films that precede and follow it, Chunking Express qualifies in many ways as the most accessible of the trio and as an ideal introduction to his work. Both stories here are set in contemporary Hong Kong and deal poignantly with young policemen striving to get over unsuccessful romantic relationships and their unconventional encounters with other women–a hit woman for the mob in the first case, an infatuated fast-food waitress in the second. Wong’s singular and frenetic visual style and his special feeling for lonely romantics may remind you of certain French New Wave directors, but this movie isn’t any trip down memory lane; it’s a vibrant commentary on young love today, packed with punch and personality. With Lin Hsing-hsia, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung, and Faye Wong. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, October 28, 6:00, and Saturday, October 29, 2:00, 443-3737.
This 1994 SF film starts out suggesting 2001 and winds up recalling Flash Gordon. In between, it proceeds fairly enjoyably on the level of a minor Forbidden Planetpleasurable for some of its vistas, its overall scenic design, and its unself-conscious naivete about displaying otherworldliness, but not very nourishing or satisfying to the mind. James Spader plays an archaeologist specializing in Egyptian ruins who’s invited to join a secret military team, headed by Kurt Russell, that’s investigating a curious artifact uncovered in Giza. It proves to be a gizmo planted on earth centuries ago that serves as a doorway to a planet in a remote corner of the galaxy. Most of the remainder of the movie is set on this desert outpost, which has three moons and is lorded over by an androgynous despot (The Crying Game’s Jaye Davidson). The adventure and spectacle tend to be more sustaining than the speculative anthropology. Directed by Roland Emmerich from a script he wrote with Dean Devlin; with Viveca Lindfors, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avital, and John Diehl. (JR)
Alan Parker’s flair for vulgar showmanship pays off in his funny, entertaining 1994 adaptation of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s novel. The movie’s set in 1907 in Michigan’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, which is presided over by pre-New Age guru Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins). Healththe open sesame of the sucker’s purse, says a con man played by Michael Lerner, and while Parker’s satirical viewpoint encompasses this judgment and plenty of chicanery, it’s also sympathetic enough in the bargain to honor the sincerity of fanatics like Kellogg and many of his patients. Among the other leading characters are a dysfunctional married couple played by Bridget Fonda and Matthew Broderick who check into the sanitarium and wind up getting various forms of sex therapy (inadvertent and otherwise), Kellogg’s rebellious adopted son (Dana Carvey), and a young entrepreneur in town (John Cusack) who’s interested in becoming a breakfast cereal tycoon. The treatment of period is both fanciful and highly enjoyable, and if the story seems to run out of both ideas and energy before the end, it’s still an entertaining ride most of the way. With Colm Meaney, John Neville, Lara Flynn Boyle, Traci Lind, and Camryn Manheim. (JR)
This bewildering 1994 first feature by David Johnson, written by Johnson and Butch Robinson and inspired in part by Ellis Cose’s book Rage of a Privileged Class, is about a secret black organization known as the DROP Squad (DROP being an acronym for Deprogramming and Restoration of Pride), which kidnaps black people who’ve allegedly sold out their culture and community and deprograms them through brainwashing and other forms of torture. Part of what’s bewildering is that the movie seems mainly to endorse this form of de facto terrorism but never builds a coherent case for either its justice or its effectiveness. Produced and subsequently recut by Spike Lee, the movie may suffer from a collision of viewpoints and approaches; as it stands, the material is provocative but confusing. With Eriq LaSalle, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Williams, and Kasi Lemmons. 86 min. (JR)