The rerelease of this 1968 masterpiece in 70-millimeter, planned by director Stanley Kubrick well before his death, was so indifferently promoted by Warner Brothers in New York last year that most people were unaware it had even happened. Now the film is belatedly hitting Chicago in a limited release, digitally restored and with remastered sound, providing an ideal opportunity to rediscover this great spectacle, adventure, and mind-blowing myth of origin as it was meant to be seen and heard, an experience no video, laser disc, or DVD setup, no matter how elaborate, could ever begin to approach. The film remains threatening to contemporary studio-think in many important ways: Its special effects are used so seamlessly as part of an overall artistic strategy that, as critic Annette Michelson has pointed out, they don’t even register as such, and thus are almost impossible to trivialize, a feat unmatched in movies. Dialogue plays a minimal role, yet the plot encompasses the history of mankind (a province of SF visionary Olaf Stapledon, who inspired Kubrick’s cowriter, Arthur C. Clarke). And, like its flagrantly underrated companion piece, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, it meditates at length on the complex relationship between humanity and technology — not only the human qualities that we ascribe to machines but also the programming we knowingly or unknowingly submit to. The film’s projections of the cold war and antiquated product placements may look quaint now, but the poetry is as hard-edged and full of wonder as ever. 151 min. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, March 29 through April 4.
This intricate farce with a Miami setting was adapted from a Dave Barry novel and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and it’s a letdown from the man who brought us Men in Black and Addams Family Values. Various crooks and kooks converge on a mysterious suitcase, and it’s symptomatic of what’s wrong (as well as sometimes right) with the picture that the peripheral gags are usually the funniest. There are certainly worse entertainments around, but count on familiar types and gags rather than originality. With Tim Allen (the nominal hero, and Barry’s apparent stand-in), Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Johnny Knoxville, Dennis Farina, and Janeane Garofalo. Written by Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, this was held up for months after September 11 because it concludes with a hijacking. 85 min. (JR)
This closed-space thriller pits a divorced mother (Jody Foster) and daughter (Kristen Stewart) against three ruthless burglars (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam) in a huge brownstone. It’s set up as a stylish exercise in suspense but, barring one or two fancy camera movements, doesn’t succeed as either style or suspense; it’s mainly a matter of applied mechanics. Director David Fincher has a way of squelching some of his best opportunities by shifting to slow motion when real time is what’s needed, and the script by David Koepp is much too predictable in showing that Whitaker has a heart after alland has too little idea of what it or we should do with this belated discovery. I was never bored but only occasionally interested. With Ann Magnuson and Patrick Bauchau. 112 min. (JR)
A brooding, hard-drinking, murderous monster (Robert John Burke) who’s older than humanity, which he despises, and yearns for his own destruction is brought from the wilds of Iceland to New York City by a young woman (Sarah Polley) working for a crass TV producer (Helen Mirren); the only person who can destroy him, a mad scientist named Dr. Artaud (Baltasar Kormakur), is also being held in New York. Despite the heavy-handed media satire, apt but stridently expressed, Hal Hartley’s odd American-Icelandic coproduction (2001), on which Francis Ford Coppola served as an executive producer, has a witty, suggestive script and able performances. The probable reason it doesn’t work better is that its conceptiona kind of postmodernist spin on Frankenstein and King Kongseems more theatrical than cinematic, needing the kind of direct address that only a stage can provide. R, 103 min. (JR)