Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever. Kaos. The son of a fascistic intelligence-agency boss (Gregg Henry) is kidnapped by Sever (Lucy Liu), a ruthless, mysteriously hooded killing machine. The only one who can retrieve the boy is Ecks (Antonio Banderas), a former FBI operative who has been on the skids for seven years, ever since his wife was allegedly killed. There are several elements lifted directly from John Woo's Hard Boiled, but the plot is even tougher to follow, in part because of Banderas' accent and partly because it's tough to keep track of just who's working for whom, and why, and even where. In addition to the plot problems, the movie suffers from what might be called xXx disease: Ecks survives such insane physical abuse so early in the film, with barely a scratch on his frame, that it verges on the supernatural, removing any possibility of jeopardy and, hence, of suspense. Not that action fans will necessarily care: Director Kaos and his stuntpeople have contrived some clever shtick and executed it with dazzling visuals. Opens September 20 at multiple locations. (AK)
The Banger Sisters. Bob Dolman. Goldie Hawn plays Suzette, an aging groupie too stuck in a gloriously seedy past to move into the future. It's 2002, yet she acts as though it's 1969 and nothing's changed -- not the Sunset Strip's Whisky A Go-Go, her augmented body or the age of the boys she beds. Haven't we been here before? Yes, when Hawn's daughter, Kate Hudson, played groupie Penny Lane in Almost Famous. And it's every bit the downer Crowe suggested at that film's end: Once the groupie has no one left to cling to, all that's left is a hollow, decimated woman. Except writer/director Dolman is too glib to go for sad songs, and what could and should have been a deep-felt rumination on aging is never more thoughtful than half-hour television. Pitiable Suzette is instead a force of nature who frees her old pal Lavinia (Susan Sarandon) from her suburban shackles and a suicidal writer (Geoffrey Rush) from ancient demons. If Almost Famous was Crowe's concept album, then The Banger Sisters is a pallid collection of B-sides. Opens September 20 at multiple locations. (RW)
Four Feathers. Shekhar Kapur. Opens September 20 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Home Movie. Chris Smith. Director Smith's brief (one hour) but thoroughly entertaining tour of five bizarre American houses and the eccentrics who inhabit them is -- thank goodness -- less suited to Architectural Digest than to Ripley's Believe It or Not. Ben Skora lives amid a plethora of dated electric gizmos and believes his robot will speak for him after his death. Blissed-out new-agers Ed and Diana Peden occupy a converted Air Force missile silo near Topeka. Linda Beech has built a treehouse in Hawaii. As in 1999's American Movie, his bow to a deluded young moviemaker in suburban Milwaukee, Smith once more transmits his affection for people who live in a state of dreamy purity with no regard for skeptics and scoffers. On the same bill: Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a wonderfully whacked-out 15-minute dive into the ecstatic chaos preceding a 1986 Judas Priest concert. Plays at 8 p.m. September 20-22 at Webster University. (BG)
Igby Goes Down. Burr Steers. Opens September 20 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
The Notorious C.H.O.. Lorene Machado. Taking up more or less from where her last concert film, I'm the One That I Want, (2000) left off, Margaret Cho continues her exploration of the outer limits of raunch with considerable brio. As with every female standup since the dawn of time, Cho's humor is derived from this disparity between what the culture expects of her and what she's actually capable of doing. But unlike her comedy predecessors, Cho declines to make herself the butt of her jokes. Rather, she highlights the culture's failings to deal with women of size, color and sass. Filmed by director Machado on direct video, it's a visually primitive affair. But you're not likely to care, given the chance to witness Cho's often incisive but never hectoring take on life as she's lived and observed it. In an especially telling bit, she lists all those who -- like her -- are considered to be society's "minority." Cho knows no one needs any further prompting to realize that "minorities" are in fact the majority of the population. Opens September 20 at the Tivoli. (DE).
Trapped. Luis Mandoki. Charlize Theron stars with Courtney Love, Stuart Townsend and Kevin Bacon in this kidnapping thriller involving a seemingly perfect crime. When a young family's daughter is kidnapped, three dastardly villians (played by Love, Bacon and Pruitt Taylor Vince) move to hide their tracks and swindle a boatload of money. Alas, this is a Hollywood production, so evil will not prevail, of course. But perhaps this crime drama will offer something intriguing within the template.Opens September 20 at multiple locations. NR