The Bourne Identity. Doug Liman. Opens June 14 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Intimacy. Patrice Chreau. A complete 180 from the emotional generosity of his Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, Patrice Chreau's new film (his first in English) is a lacerating study of sexual alienation. Based on a novella and a short story by Hanif Kureshi, this tale of total strangers in erotic thrall posits sex not as a liberating activity but one that can inspire depression and despair. Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox are the nonloving lovers, and the supporting cast, which includes Marianne Faithfull, Timothy Spall and Philippe Calvario, deliver the bad news in grand style. Opens June 14 at the Plaza Frontenac. (DE)
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace. Mickey Lemle. Before he changed his name, Ram Dass was Dr. Richard Alpert, professor of psychology at Harvard. He worked there alongside fellow LSD experimenter Timothy Leary, and the two became figureheads of the '60s hippie movement. Ram Dass: Fierce Grace is a documentary that traces Alpert's transformation into Dass and follows him through his life by using both archival footage and recent filmed interviews that portray Dass as he is now, debilitated by a stroke. Plays at 8 p.m. June 14-16 at Webster University. NR
Scooby-Doo. Raja Gosnell. This wearying adaptation of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon opens with a dull adventure right out of the old series. Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and a horribly computer-generated Scooby-Doo battle a ghost in a toy factory, only to reveal their nemesis as an old man with a grudge against Pamela Anderson. The rest of the film takes place on Spooky Island, a creaky theme park run by Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, now just a pod) and populated by zombielike spring-breakers and Sugar Ray. The Mystery Inc. team is left to solve the secret of just who's brainwashing the kids. The plot serves as little more than a thin frame upon which screenwriter James Gunn hangs his limp lines and flat jokes, an odd number of which involve smoking pot -- which makes sense, since Warner Bros. is presumably aiming this movie not at children but at full-grown dopers with bad munchies stuck to the Cartoon Network. Opens June 14 at multiple locations. (RW)
Trembling Before G-d. Sandi Simcha DuBowski. If you think being gay or lesbian and being an Orthodox Jew is an irresolvable contradiction, then DuBowski's documentary will be a real eye-opener. In fact, even if the subject has no particular objective resonance with you, this sensitive, passionate and beautifully made film provides an overwhelming emotional and intellectual experience. Nearly five years in the making and shot on locations encompassing half the world, DuBowski's film might be likened to an adventure in ethics both personal and political. And it's an adventure no one, Jew or gentile, can afford to miss. Opens June 14 at the Plaza Frontenac. (DE)
Windtalkers. John Woo. Based on a true military story from World War II, this new Woo film tells of two Navaho "codetalkers" (Adam Beach, Roger Willie), Marines whose obscure language was likely to flummux Japanese code breakers. Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater are the soldiers assigned to protect them ... and kill them if necessary to ensure the code won't be tortured out of them in the event of capture. Moral conflicts surrounding friendship are at the heart of all of Woo's strongest and most personal films, but Windtalkers feels like he's playing against his strengths. Fans of the beautifully choreographed and edited action sequences that catapulted Woo to fame will find very little of that here. And the same unabashed earnestness and melodrama that give most of his films their power seems more clichèd in this genre. Still, the movie does develop a real wallop by the end, driven largely by Cage's performance. Opens June 14 at multiple locations. (AK)