Battlefield Earth

To my taste, L. Ron Hubbard peaked as an imaginative writer in 1940, with yarns like Fear and Typewriter in the Skya full decade before Dianetics turned his imagination in another direction and several decades before his best-selling novels flattened it into thousands of pages of clodhopping prose. This 117-minute adaptation of an 800-page SF adventure for teenagers (2000) seems like a miscalculation on multiple levels. Coproducer John Travolta is buried under what appear to be tons of makeup and padding to create a parody of one-dimensional villainy, and as his flunky, Forest Whitaker fares only slightly better by virtue of retaining his belly laugh. These aliens enslave and exploit earthlings on the charred remnants of earth in the year 3000 while insulting them with various rat-related epithets. The atmosphere is pretty depressing, but I wouldn’t describe the distance between this and The Phantom Menace as a yawning gulf. PG-13, 117 min. (JR)

Published on 30 Apr 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

Raising Victor Vargas

Warmly recommended to viewers who like their romantic comedies small-scale but life-size, this charming debut feature by Peter Sollett, set in a Dominican milieu on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, follows the stumbling exploits of the title character (Victor Rasuk), a small-time teenage Romeo trying to upgrade his street image after being caught in the act with a chubby neighbor. Victor plots his way into the good graces of Juicy Judy (Judy Marte), a wary local beauty with agendas of her own; the hero’s sister, his younger brother, his cantankerous grandmother (Altagracia Guzman), and Judy’s brother and best friend all play significant parts in the developing intrigue. The nonprofessional cast contributed a lot to the script, and it benefits from their input. 88 min. (JR)

Published on 28 Apr 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

Levity

A convict (Billy Bob Thornton) who killed a boy in an attempted holdup is unexpectedly released from prison; still obsessed with redemption, he moves into a community house presided over by a mysterious preacher (Morgan Freeman), befriends the dead boy’s sister (Holly Hunter) without her knowing his crime, and attempts to counsel her troubled son. Haven’t we seen this already? Well, not exactly, but writer-director Ed Solomon, shooting in the midwestern dead of winter (actually in Canada), makes it more familiar than unfamiliar, despite good performances by Freeman and Kirsten Dunst (as another troubled youth). Thornton and Hunter are good too, albeit less memorable when required to do retreads. 100 min. (JR)

Published on 25 Apr 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

Fruit Of Paradise

I couldn’t make heads or tails out of this avant-garde version of the Adam and Eve story when I saw it umpteen years ago (it was made in 1970), but Vera Chytilova’s wild, extravagant, and ravishing romp was certainly intoxicating on a sensual level. It came at the end of her rebellious period as the great hope and holy terror of the new Czech cinema, after her even better About Something Else and Daisies, and before she buckled down to the relatively staid efforts of The Apple Game and Prague. A Czech-Belgian coproduction, set in a Czech resort, with a great deal of technical razzle-dazzle: double exposures, slow motion, step printing, and so on. In Czech with subtitles. (JR)

Published on 25 Apr 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>