This Beacon production plays so obviously to its target audience -- pre-teen females -- that it's almost a complaint-proof movie. The film, which is utterly predictable, could be better, but so well does it push the right buttons in depicting the concerns of coming-of-age girls that they should embrace this story, based on Ann M. Martin's wildly popular books. Schuyler Fisk stars as Kristy, the ringleader of a group of seven best friends who run a baby-sitters club. One summer, enterprising Kristy decides to add a summer camp to their services, but the venture is threatened...Read more
Screened at Montreal. One of the sleepers at the Montreal fest, this documentary had its genesis in documentarian Michael Negroponte's curiosity about Maggie, a middle-aged homeless person he spotted in Central Park walking her four dogs. She told him tales about being the daughter of the late actor Robert Ryan and having friends among New York's upper class. Remarkably, all of her stories weren't complete fabrications, as Maggie turned out to be both more and less than she claimed. Following her around during her daily routine, investigating her background, talking to the people who knew her, Negroponte slowly creates a unique, charming portrait of a rather special person -- one who in her own way broke ground for women.Read more
As directed by Claire Denis, "I Can't Sleep" ("J'ai Pas Sommeil") is a distinguished member of the French tradition of loose narrative, a style defined for many people by Eric Rohmer but used distinctively and to advantage by Denis (best known stateside for "Chocolat").
To summarize this film is to sketch the outlines of this particular school: A series of characters, generally related more by location than by anything else, briefly intersect one another's lives and as quickly disappear again. In this case, it's a young female emigre, her elderly aunt, a dancer/hustler/murderer of octogenarians, a father and his child, and the doyenne of a low-rent hotel.
For fantasy to work, two elements are required: an audience willing to suspend its disbelief, and a film able to create its own logically consistent world. Although this older children's film has audience-pleasing attributes -- a boy on a mission, a girl in love, a father figure struggling to regain his stature it too often squanders them by playing fast and loose with its world's rules, as if the 10-year-old crowd toward which this Disney pickup is pitched will be too unsophisticated to spot the spit. When a strikeout-king Little Leaguer from Reseda, Calif. ("Rookie of the Year's" Thomas Ian Nicholas, in a playing-to-the-bleachers performance) falls through an earthquake fissure, he finds himself plummeting from the high skies of Arthurian England (where he lands uninjured).Read more
Director Alfonso Arau follows his "Like Water for Chocolate" success with this fable-like period piece that has some very nice moments when its sentimental script and leaden lead aren't holding it down. A young GI (Keanu Reeves) just back from World War II poses as the husband of a beautiful stranger (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) when she confides to him on a bus that she's afraid to tell her old-world Mexican-American family that she has become pregnant while away at college. The soldier's plan--to spend one night at her family's Napa Valley vineyard and then "abandon" her (and return to his real wife in San Francisco)--is put off by a suspicious patriarch (Giancarlo Giannini) and by a meddling grandfather (Anthony Quinn) who sees before even the couple does that they really belong together.Read more
Based on the book "My Posse Don't Do Homework," the true story of Marine-turned-educator LouAnne Johnson, this drama covers the same ground as 1987's "Stand and Deliver" and 1989's "Lean on Me." All three tell the story of a determined teacher who whips seemingly hopeless students into shape using unorthodox methods, shedding a ray of light into their urban nightmare lives. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Johnson, whose delicate appearance conceals years of military training and her endurance of a rough history, including spousal abuse and a resultant painful divorce. Assigned a "special class" of bright but disadvantaged kids, Johnson is at first intimidated by the zoo of a classroom she encounters, her students seemingly a violent throng of potential felons.Read more
A delightful film based on Dick King-Smith's story "The Sheep-Pig," this fairytale follows a pig that struggles to find a purpose in life beyond that of becoming a holiday meal. In this live-action movie, dogs, sheep, a duck, a cat and the pig, Babe, all talk. Narrated chapter by chapter, with singing mice doing the titles, "Babe" tells the story of an orphaned piglet who's won by a farmer at a county fair. As Babe meets the other farm animals, none of which are pigs, he struggles with an identity crisis. Although likable folks, Babe's owners, the Hoggetts (James Cromwell and Magda Szubanski) are oblivious to their animals' intelligence and secret lives, leading to many comical scenes in which the animals take charge.Read more