Casa de Los Babys. John Sayles. John Sayles (Sunshine State) is rarely a bore, but occasionally he frustrates more than he delights, enlightens or challenges. Such is the case here, with the self-appointed spokesman for the world's women and people of color laboring over social consciousness but delivering only an affably waffling soap opera. In the titular tourist hotel in an unnamed Latin American country (Mexico), six stressed Yanqui women (Marcia Gay Harden, Susan Lynch, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Lili Taylor, Mary Steenburgen) fulfill tedious residency requirements while awaiting receipt of surplus newborns. Some characters are well drawn (particularly Gay Harden's racist bully, Lynch's impassioned princess and Rita Moreno as the hotel's tough-lovin' diplomatic manager), but Sayles's meandering narrative sparks emotional intrigue only about half of the time, leaving his unusually curt 95-minute outing feeling much longer than it actually is. At least we can count on him punching hot buttons, from the incensed revolutionaries who wander the grounds to the olvidado-esque kids who kick around the dusty streets, illustrating just what happens when the world is cluttered with too many babies and not enough thinking adults. Opens Friday, October 10, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Gregory Weinkauf)
Don't Tempt Me. Agustín Díaz Yanes. Opens Friday, October 10, at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
Good Boy! John Hoffman. Did you know that domestic pooches were actually sent here from another planet and have failed in their mission to control all mankind? That's what's posited by this elaborate comedy-fantasy about a dog-walking kid (Liam Aiken) and his adventures with a pack of pooches that speak with the voices of Matthew Broderick, Delta Burke, Carl Reiner, Cheech Marin, Donald Faison and Vanessa Redgrave. No, we're not making this up. Yes, it's a "family film," of the sort we've become increasingly accustomed to these days; cute dogs for the kids to coo over, and a plot just complex enough to keep the parents who've accompanied them to the theater from dozing off. But that's about all you can say for it -- outside of the fact that Good Boy! is without question the most elaborate and expensive talking-dog movie ever made. John Hoffman directed from a script he co-confected with Zeke Richardson. Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon are the other humans who figure in the cast. Opens Friday, October 10, at multiple locations. (David Ehrenstein)
The House of the Dead. Uwe Boll. This film is a prequel to the House of the Dead video games. You probably don't need to know any more than that, but just in case: The "plot" centers around a group of teens who go to a remote island for a rave, only to discover that the island is populated by flesh-eating zombies. Oops! Opens Friday, October 10, at multiple locations. NR
Intolerable Cruelty. Joel and Ethan Coen. Opens Friday, October 10, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Kill Bill, Volume 1. Quentin Tarantino. Opens Friday, October 10, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Mystic River. Clint Eastwood. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland and director Clint Eastwood's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel sheds enough tears to fill a canal. On the surface it plays like an episode of Law & Order written by William Shakespeare, but that's too glib a pronouncement for so deep-felt a movie about rage and retribution that will stick with you like a bad dream. It's a mystery and meditation on grief and loss -- of life, and of innocence -- but it's also a ghost story in which old memories doom grown men who thought they could escape the wolves in the woods. Dave (Tim Robbins) was physically assaulted, Jimmy (Sean Penn) and Sean (Kevin Bacon) psychologically so. We're meant to think that a damaged Dave might have had something to do with the death of Jimmy's daughter, but it's not that simple, because everyone is guilty of something. The performances are uniformly remarkable, but none more so than the one given by Penn, who treats sorrow and rage as though they were the same blinding emotion. Opens Friday, October 10, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)