Die, Mommie, Die! (R) Mark Rucker. Far from heaven but down with love, or at least possessing an attraction to an enormous schwanz dangling in some 9021-ho's trousers, this hummer-camp offering from writer-actor Charles Busch proves one thing: In a wig and taffeta, Busch looks just like Kathleen Turner. There's something a little too arch about dialogue delivered between quotation-mark fingers and ironically cocked eyebrows; Busch, playing washed-up chanteuse Angela Arden, asks her gay son whether he's a "cocksucker," and all the film lacks is a laugh track. We get it: It's Beaver without one, which works for a good while -- the cast's game, especially Philip Baker Hall as the patriarch without much patience and Jason Priestley as the under-covers TV-star has-been with the huge one -- but runs out of steam around the time the rat-poison suppository comes into play. Busch, responsible for the similarly hit-and-miss-that's-a-mister Psycho Beach Party, has a good idea; two in one movie would make him absolutely fabulous. Opens Friday, December 5, at the Tivoli. (Robert Wilonsky)
Elephant (R) Gus Van Sant. The spooky beauty of Gus Van Sant's strange take on the Columbine massacre arises not from the shock of sudden violence but from the filmmaker's steady gaze at the numbing routines of high school life. Using actual Portland, Oregon high school students as actors, Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting) encouraged them to improvise their dialogue, and the result is an authentically messy tapestry of adolescence in which the traumas remain open-ended, the conversations unfinished. Van Sant never tries to explain the two killers' motives -- and that can be irksome -- but in his austere, almost Oriental meditation on his young cast's movements and moods, he vividly creates the sense that terror shadows all young lives, and that we'd best take note of their vulnerability. Opens Friday, December 5, at the Chase Park Plaza. (Bill Gallo)
The Event (R) Thom Fitzgerald. Back in 1996, Randal Kleiser was mining new territory when he made It's My Party, a drama about a terminal AIDS-sufferer who elects to end his life following a final celebratory get-together with friends. Now such assisted-suicide parties are called "events," and they have become increasingly common as the anti-viral "cocktail" hits the wall for increasing numbers of people. Thom Fitzgerald's film featuring an all-indie-star cast (Brent Carver, Olympia Dukakis, Sarah Polley and the hardest-working woman in show business, Parker Posey) moves one to tears without jerking them. Beautifully made and sensitively performed, The Event is no free-spirited night at the movies, but it's a morally and aesthetically necessary one. Opens Friday, December 5, at the Plaza Frontenac. (David Ehrenstein)
Honey (PG-13) Bille Woodruff. Opens Friday, December 5, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
The Last Samurai (R) Edward Zwick. Opens Friday, December 5, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.