Wednesday, April 5
Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece outclasses almost everything from our worn-out Disney. This animated film is about a young prince, cursed by a demon, who must find the legendary spirit of the forest to cleanse his wound. He is cast into a grand battle between man and nature that explores the implications of progress. I don’t want to make it sound too material, though, because you’ll find love and beauty in Princess Mononoke along with moral ambiguities and soul-probing questions. I can’t say anything about this film without mentioning Jo Hisaishi, who has provided an epic musical score that is absolutely perfect.
Man’s Castle/No Greater Glory
Thursday, April 6
7:30 10 12:30
Welcome to two relics of the ’30s! No Greater Glory shows some cool gang members who end up in a not-so-cool gang war started by a flag-stealing. It’s like capture the flag taken way too seriously. All the depressing themes are here — suffering in youth, the pointlessness of war... you get the picture. If the KGB took their game this far, Wean and Doherty would be no more. Man’s Castle is about love and shanty towns with random castles. It also has a guy who robs a toy store. I don’t care what your motivation is, you do not rob a toy store. That’s just evil.
The New World
Friday, April 7
7:30 10 12:30
Roger Ebert noted that the great thing about this new take on the old story is that the director, Terrence Malick, doesn’t tell this story with the modern mindset. Pocahontas and John Smith both play their parts with a sincere sense of discovery without knowledge of the coming tragedy. The tired “let’s learn the word for ‘lips’ so we can kiss” scene actually works. Telling the truth still matters, though. John Smith is not an idealized hero, and his relationship with Pocahontas is more complicated than usual star-crossed romance. Malick makes the cultural encounter authentic and, thank God, without Disney songs.
Saturday, April 1
8 10 12
I’ll show you the Hollywood checklist: Attractive male — check. Hot female — double check. Decent script — oops, looks like the producers forgot this one. Casanova really was a man with some awesome adventures. (Roof-jumping to escape the Inquisition? No one expects that.) Somehow, though, this film gets the spirit wrong. The wit is lacking and the fun misses the mark. While the real man had a very unique character, Casanova just seems to blend into any other action flick with a romance tacked on.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Sunday, April 2
8 10 12
One episode of “Hitchcock Presents” pulled off the suspense of finger amputation and truly made it a scary threat, and these British filmmakers took the scare and made it a poker strategy. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is about a man at the losing end of a rigged game of cards who has to pay his debt in one week or face a stumpy appendage. Illegal means being the best means to pay off something like that, the characters start a lot of surreal chaos where just about everything goes wrong. This is a whirlwind plot with some crazy turns, but the ending is good.