Without being any sort of miracle, this is an engaging and lively exploitation fantasy-thriller about computer hackers, anarchistic in spirit, that succeeds at just about everything The Net failed toespecially in representing computer operations with some visual flair. The isolated teenage hero (Jonny Lee Miller), having caused 1,507 Wall Street computers to crash some years before, moves to New York with his mother and eventually joins forces with other disenfranchised hackers at school (Hackers of the world, unite!) against a hacker working for a corporation who’s bent on snuffing them out. The director and executive producer here is Iain Softley, best known for Backbeat, doing his utmost with an only so-so script by Rafael Moreu; the standout in a cast composed mainly of youthful unknowns (apart from Lorraine Bracco and Penn Jillette) is Angelina Jolie as the spiky hacker heroine. With Fisher Stevens, Jesse Bradford, Laurence Mason, and Renoly Santiago. (JR)
The second installment of Satyajit Ray’s great Apu trilogy, fully comprehensible on its own terms, suffers at times from its episodically constructed plot, which follows Apu from the age of ten in the holy city of Banaras (in 1920) to his early adulthood in Calcutta. It also bears the traces of technical problems, which led to a virtually one-to-one shooting ratio for many scenes. But this also happens to be my own favorite film in the trilogy, as well as the reported favorite of Ray’s fellow Bengali directors Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen. Its treatment of death — specifically the death of Apu’s father toward the beginning of the film and of his mother near the end — is among the most beautiful, mystical, and precise handlings of that subject in all of cinema, worthy of Mizoguchi; in a way the film is little more than a careful contextualizing of these two astonishing sequences. An adaptation of roughly the last fifth of Bibhutibhusan Banerjee’s novel Pather Panchali and the first third of his subsequent novel Aparajita, this benefits as much as the rest of the trilogy from the ravishing “commentary” of Ravi Shankar’s music. It’s a masterpiece for which terms like “simplicity” and “profundity” seem inadequate. With Pinaki Sen Gupta, Smaran Ghosal, Kanu Banerjee, and Karuna Banerjee. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, August 25 through 31.
Peter Watkins documents a decisive step in England’s conquest of the Scots with this impressive early feature (1964). Like many of his other films, including The Commune, it’s a period film done in the style of a TV news broadcast. (JR)
This 1995 film works so well as storytelling and action adventure that you may want to overlook the dubious if well-intentioned premise: the slaughter of the Burmese populace becomes significant only to the degree that an American tourist (Patricia Arquette), seeking to overcome a tragedy in her own life, becomes personally involved with it. Ace director John Boorman took over this project from other hands, and he shows his customary flair with ‘Scope compositions, gorgeous sunsets, and suspenseful, exotic spectacle. What left me a little uneasy is epitomized by Hans Zimmer’s hack score, which aims at sounding vaguely Southeast Asian (wooden-sounding flutes and the like) rather than specifically Burmese to get us all in the right paternalistic frame of mind. But if you don’t mind such casual insults, you’re likely to be glued to your seat. Alex Lasker and Bill Rubenstein wrote the script; with Frances McDormand, Spalding Gray, and U Aung Ko. 99 min. (JR)
A singularly unconvincing parable, ultimately hamstrung by awkward, choppy storytelling. Mark Harmon plays a divorced radio psychiatrist in Seattle who reluctantly takes his son and daughter on a holiday to a lakeside community in British Columbia where, according to Indian legends, a sea monster is lurking; by the time you discover whether it is or not it’s pretty hard to care as much as the characters, who undergo all sorts of improbable changes by listening to their inner selves. Directed by Rick Stevenson, from a script he wrote with Icel Dobell Massey and Ninian Dunnett; with Joshua Jackson, Harley Jane Kozak, and Sarah Wayne. (JR)