The Arrival

When a radio astronomer (Charlie Sheen) receives a transmission from space and nobody at NASA wants to hear about it, he and a global-warming researcher (Lindsay Crouse) converge in central Mexico, where extraterrestrials disguised as humans are waiting to adapt our planet for their own purposes. Writer-director David Twohy, best known for his work as a writer on The Fugitive, Alien , and Waterworld, has a creepy notion or two up his sleeve and loads of free-floating paranoia to exploit, but either no idea of how to cut a film or no power to resist the recutting of others. Either way, this is a collection of bits and pieces that never manages to gather any momentum. Another problem is Sheen, who looks so bug-eyed at times that he seems to be trying to gross out the aliens. With Ron Silver (creepier than usual), Teri Polo, Richard Schiff, and Tony T. Johnson. (JR)

Published on 28 May 1996 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Gate of Heavenly Peace

An immensely valuable three-hour 1995 documentary by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon about the events in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989–what led up to them, what they were, and what has ensued since. One of the most impressive things about this film is its view from the inside (Hinton has lived in China for most of her life); another is its refusal to adopt a single partisan position or to assume, as the filmmakers themselves put it, that there’s only one correct path for China. Drawing on archival materials, the filmmakers have also benefited from expert advisers–Orville Schell, for instance, served as a consultant. If you want to learn more about this pivotal event, this is a film likely to revise the very terms of your understanding it. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, May 25, 2:30; Sunday, May 26, 3:00 and 6:30; and Tuesday and Thursday, May 28 and 30, 6:00; 443-3737. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Published on 24 May 1996 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Two Friends

Technically, this low-budget 16-millimeter television film (1986) qualifies as Jane Campion’s first feature. The script is by Australian novelist Helen Garner, one of whose books was the source for Monkey Grip, a film in the Australian retrospective at the Film Center. (She also worked with Gillian Armstrong on The Last Days of Chez Nous.) The mise en scene, though clearly Campion-esque in certain stretches of oddball inventiveness, is still some distance from the splendors of Sweetie, An Angel at My Table, and The Piano. Like Kaufman and Hart’s play Merrily We Roll Along and Pinter’s Betrayal, the story proceeds in reverse chronology, starting with the death of a teenage dropout (Kris Bidenko) from a drug overdose and then working through the previous year, with particular emphasis on her friendship with a classmate (Emma Coles). (Part of the point is how similar these friends were when they started school together.) Campion’s work with actors yields plenty of rewards here, and the structure is certainly interesting, though one also feels at times that Campion and Garner have bitten off a little more than they can chew. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, May 10 through 16. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Published on 10 May 1996 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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