A lighthearted, low-rent lampoon of Star Trek and its cult, this is also a characteristic piece of committeethink from DreamWorks: it wants to leave no base uncovered and therefore tries periodically to reproduce certain Star Trek action thrills without mocking them. Overall it’s what it aspires to bea pleasant time waster. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman are the three leads, but many of the best laughs come from Tony Shalhoub. Directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon. 102 min. (JR)
Though the writer-director is Neil Jordan, not Anthony Minghella, and the source novel is by Graham Greene, not Michael Ondaatje, the male lead is Ralph Fiennes and this 1999 feature is clearly designed to be another The English Patient. In that endeavor the film succeeds pretty well, but whether it does full justice to Greene is another matter. The book is my favorite of this author’s, and one aspect that the movie captures quite nicely is romantic nostalgia for the London blitz–a curious emotion also evoked by Gravity’s Rainbow, which learned a great deal from Greene. The underrated 1954 movie version of Greene’s novel, which Van Johnson and Deborah Kerr starred in, Edward Dmytryk directed, and Greene gave grudging approval to, had some of the same quality. This new version is a misty, highly emotional Catholic mystery story with dreamy flashbacks and evocative performances by Julianne Moore and Stephen Rea, and if you’re looking to be romantically captivated, this movie just might do the job. Michael Nyman composed the music. 109 min. (JR)
This 1992 French feature by Leos Carax (Boy Meets Girl, Bad Blood) could be the great urban expressionist fantasy of the 90s: like Sunrise and Lonesome in the 20s and Playtime and Alphaville in the 60s, it uses a city’s physical characteristics to poetically reflect the consciousness of its characters. Carax daringly and disconcertingly begins the film as a documentary portrait of the homeless in Paris, but it becomes a delirious love story between two people (Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche) who live on one of Paris’s most famous bridges and experience the whole city as a kind of enchanted playground, a vision that reaches an explosive apotheosis during a fireworks display over the Seine. To realize his lyrical and monumental vision Carax built a huge set in the French countryside that depicted Pont-Neuf and its surroundings, making this one of the most expensive French productions ever mounted, not to mention Carax’s best work to date. Also known as Les amants du Pont-Neuf. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, December 3 through 9.
Writer-director Anthony Minghella and critic Frank Rich, both sounding like ventriloquist’s dummies for Miramax’s publicity department, touted this as an uncommercial movie that says something profound about the 90s. Yet their adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel is commercial to the core. Ripley (Matt Damon), a young man on the make, is sent to Europe to retrieve a tycoon’s errant son; he winds up killing the son and assuming his identity, and Damon plays the character as a closeted homosexual and potential serial killer, which makes him about as salable as a movie hero can get these days. Rene Clement filmed Highsmith’s novel in 1960 as Purple Noon; that version was more conventional and derivative of Hitchcock, but at least it didn’t inflate the story, as Minghella does, to the proportions of Ben-Hur. As in Clement’s film, the Mediterranean settings are sumptuous, and Minghella has updated the novel’s action from the early to late 50s and made the errant son (unconvincingly played by Jude Law) a jazz musician, which allows for a pleasant if unadventurous score by Gabriel Yared and many familiar tracks. Familiarity is the watchword of this overblown opus, which neglects holes in the plot to play up its postmodern theme of identity as pastichea clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Jack Davenport, James Rebhorn, Sergio Rubini, Philip Baker Hall, and a very nice turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who should have been cast in Law