Palo Alto Weekly Movie Listings

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The Accompanist *** (Aquarius) Set in occupied Paris, "The Accompanist" takes place in a world of high culture, where jeweled ladies feed their poodles at the table and Nazis smoke indolently in theater lobbies. A beautiful, worldly soprano hires the gawky young Sophie as her new accompanist, and the issue is engaged: How will this unformed young woman fare amid the affairs of the heart and collaborations that shade from the artistic to the political? Romane Bohringer works countless small wonders in her role as the accompanist. Adapted by director Claude Miller from a novel by Nina Berberova, the screenplay has partly lost something in the translation: the characters' rich inner worlds of doubt and ambivalence. Still, the music (Mozart, Berlioz, Massenet) is luscious and the camera is an impeccable observer. Subtitled in French. Rated PG. --M.V.

Age of Innocence **** (UA 6) Set in New York City in the 1870s, and rigorously based on the novel by Edith Wharton, this fine film takes us into a world of calling cards, white gloves and horse-drawn broughams. Onto a high-society high-wire steps Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), his good intentions pulling him toward his sweet fiancee May (Winona Ryder), his heart sweeping him toward a spirited but "compromised" countess (Michelle Pfeiffer). Director Martin Scorsese wields his camera like a sculptor's chisel. Rated PG. --M.V.

Blink * (Century 10, UA 6) Madeleine Stowe plays a blind, Irish folk violinist who gets a corneal transplant and begins to see again, just as the shadowy stairwells and suspicious thumps check in. Big problem: Her returning vision, which we sometimes share, wildly morphs and de-morphs everything, leading to hallucinations, flashbacks and--wouldn't you know it?--a new boyfriend (Aidan Quinn). The optical gimmicks allow everyone to whorl briefly into a "suspect" while the movie remains without a genuine suspect or interesting clues. One of those "liberated" films whose leading lady gets to fight back yet still do the nude scene, "Blink," directed by Michael Apted, perilously resembles its heroine's helpmate: a seeing-eye dog. Rated R. --M.V.

Carlito's Way *** (Old Mill 6) A hood released from prison tries to go straight, but old friends and a dysfunctional code of honor ultimately destroy him. Credit director Brian De Palma with being more interested in the energy and vitality of the small-time Puerto Rican mobsters than in the cliched irony on which the film is based. The film is marred by the mawkish voice-over narration and by a boring, unconvincing romance between the hood (Al Pacino) and a showgirl (Penelope Ann Miller). But don't let these flaws keep you away. Among the film's many virtues are Sean Penn's wickedly witty portrayal of a mobster lawyer and De Palma's subtly florid creation of a Rick's Cafe American-like night club. Rated R. --L.S.

Cool Runnings *** (Old Mill 6) As you might guess, nothing is peaceful about the trek from Jamaica to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary for the ragtag team of four wannabe bobsledders whose only experience with ice has been sucking down snow cones on a hot tropical day. Inspired by a true story, the four men become the first bobsled team to represent Jamaica in the Olympics (using a reggae beat to get a rocking start on their run) and the first to break the color barrier in the white-as-snow world of this winter sport. As the cantankerous coach, John Candy does a surprisingly good job playing straight man to the comic antics of the four leads. Rated PG. --S.T.

Dazed and Confused *** (Old Mill 6) Written and directed by Richard Limbaugh ("Slacker"), this low-budget, often amateurish movie charms more often than not. If you can forgive a silly, paper-thin plot, then this look at high-schoolers in 1976 will give you a feeling of being back, a feeling of belonging, which you may not have experienced since high school or college. Seniors-to-be run around trying to haze freshmen-to-be; freshmen-to-be run for their lives, but somehow succeed at making friends with the seniors-to-be. All the while, the stoners fight for their right to party. Music by all of the glam-rock bands of the era (Aerosmith, Steppenwolf, etc.) highlight the soundtrack. Party on! Rated R. --N.M.

The Fugitive ** (UA 6) As nail-biters go, this one will have you down to the nubs. Based on the television series of the same name, "The Fugitive" takes up the case of one Dr. Richard Kimble, unjustly accused and convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death; his fortuitous jailbreak; and the ensuing dual manhunts: a sworn-to-duty cop tries to track down the doctor, while the doctor--always a half step ahead--tracks the real killer. Tommy Lee Jones, as the cop, does his doberman/basset number; Harrison Ford does his retriever/poodle number (no one acts rumpled hysteria better). Rated PG-13. --M.V.

Geronimo *** (Old Mill 6) Director Walter Hill retells the story of the great Apache warrior, with West Studi playing Geronimo, a man caught between a war and peace as his tribe becomes the last resistance to the reservation. The story is narrated by Lt. Britton Davis (Matt Damon), a young man on his first tour of duty. He finds himself on the front line, along with Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric) and Gen. George Crook (Gene Hackman), men who have great respect for the Apaches, but must hunt down Geronimo. Hill has carefully crafted an intricate story of the Geronimo legend. And a powerful score by Ry Cooder nicely completes this attractive package. Rated R. --S.I.

Grumpy Old Men ** (Century 10, Century 12) The best thing about "Grumpy Old Men" is that veteran actors Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margaret know their way around a predictable, formulaic comedy. Lemmon and Matthau are two old neighbors who have been bickering ever since Lemmon "stole" a woman away from Matthau. When Ann-Margaret moves in next door, their rivalry is rekindled. Lemmon is surprisingly calm and self-possessed, Matthau is all frumpy charm and Margaret purrs like a kitten. Your enjoyment of this film depends on how much you like to watch old pros strut their stuff. Rated PG-13. --N.M.

Intersection * 1/2 (Century 12) A man of indecision is infuriating to watch. A man of indecision who cannot decide between two unworthy choices is too much to stomach. Richard Gere stars as architect Vincent Eastman, who cannot settle on either his wife (Sharon Stone) or his lover (Lolita Davidovich) in director Mark Rydell's "Intersection." The two female roles are so terribly underdeveloped that one is given to wonder why Gere's character should even bother. Some attention to detail might have turned this film into an insightful tragedy, but "Intersection" can't get under your skin or jerk at your heartstrings. You just don't care. Rated R. --S.I.

In the Name of the Father ** (Century 10, Century 12) Injustice is meant to be the theme here--the injustice of the British government in imprisoning a handful of Northern Irishmen for a bombing that the prosecutors were well aware the defendants had not committed. By omitting, except in passing, the motives of the British, director Jim Sheridan fails to illuminate the evils the film is meant to condemn. What Sheridan does care about are the passions of the Irish and the emotional turmoil in their families. In his hands, the false imprisonment at the center of the film plays less as an example of injustice than as a rationale for putting a loving, but good-for-nothing son and his devoted, but always disapproving father in the same cell for 15 years. The movie stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the son, Pete Postlethwaite as the father and Emma Thompson as a characterless lawyer. Rated R. --L.S.

Iron Will ** 1/2 (UA 6) Set in 1917, "Iron Will" tells the story of a boy's journey to manhood as he undertakes an adventurous sled dog race from Canada to the United States. Directed by Charles Haid and starring Mackenzie Astin as Will Stoneman, "Iron Will" is based on a true story. The scenery is grand, and the action moves at a good clip, but Haid has over-dramatized most of the film. From the sometimes overwrought acting to the overbearing soundtrack, "Iron Will" simply lacks any subtlety. It looks as though Haid tried to appeal to children and adults alike, but couldn't truly hit the mark for either group. Rated PG. --S.I.

Jurassic Park **** (Old Mill 6) Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" thunders and roars, jolting viewers out of their seats time and time again. Sam Neill and Laura Dern star as archaeologists hired to check out a new theme park designed by geneticist (Richard Attenborough). Teamed up with the smart-mouthed, skeptical Jeff Goldblum, the group flies to an island where they meet some harmless brontosauruses. Things start to get hairy when the tour gets stuck in "T-rex Land" and the high-voltage fences suddenly don't work anymore. Parents should consider leaving children under 13 at home. At times, the film is just too much for young viewers. Rated PG-13. --S.I.

Mrs. Doubtfire **1/2 (Century 10, Century 12) The trouble with men-in-drag movies is that they all have the same message: A man becomes a better man when he acts like a woman. Such is the case with Robin Williams' latest, "Mrs. Doubtfire," in which Williams dresses up like a 65-year-old nanny in order to see his children. After discovering his feminine side, he becomes a better father. What's inherently funny about seeing men in drag is magnified by Williams' manic persona. He plays a San Francisco cartoon voice-over actor and really gets to strut his stuff--impersonations, crazy voices, quick one-liners. Director Chris Columbus ("Home Alone") leans on Williams for everything--jokes, plot development, his trademark schmaltz. Rated PG-13. --N.M.

Naked *** 1/2 (Aquarius) This brilliant character study of a drifter and the people he takes advantage of unfolds so effortlessly, so realistically, that you experience the movie rather than watch it--drawn easily into a fascinating, illuminating world. There's not an unreal image, a forced moment or a false-sounding line in the movie. The drifter (David Thewlis) is witty and charming, and his tragic flaw is that he uses his virtues to exploit people, often to seduce women into incredibly rough sex. In naming his drifter Johnny, writer/director Mike Leigh ("Life is Sweet") seems to make his character into an Everyman. Johnny is 27 (a member--and symbol--of the nihilistic Generation X). His literate statements about the end of the millennium put modern civilization in a historical/biblical perspective, but manage to do so without being pseudo-philosophical or pretentious. Rated R. --N.M.

The Piano **1/2 (Guild) Ada (Holly Hunter) has sailed from Scotland with her young daughter and beloved musical instrument to enter into an arranged marriage with a shy colonial rancher (Sam Neill), who has a British neighbor who's "gone native" (Harvey Keitel). Struck dumb by childhood trauma, Ada finds her deepest self-expression in music. So far, so good, but then "The Piano" takes us through Ada's "healing process": marriage to an introverted tyrant, the theft of her precious possession, her reclamation of it by becoming a sexual hostage. After all this, Ada finds her voice! How? "Through the transforming power of sex." Jane Campion ("An Angel at My Table") creates a stylish blend of the gothic, exotic and neurotic, but enjoyment of this film, voted best at Cannes this year, may depend on how much disbelief you can suspend. Rated R. --M.V.

Philadelphia ** 1/2 (Century 10, Century 12) In order to make Tom Hanks' AIDS-afflicted lawyer play in Peoria, director Jonathon Demme makes him as boring, red-blooded and all-American as anyone can be. He's gregarious, brilliant, hard-working and downright saintly. In one scene, Hanks sits with his sister's baby on his lap, while he and his large family mouth unbelievably cliched platitudes of love and support. His father: "We couldn't be more proud of you, son." His mother: "I didn't raise my children to sit at the back of the bus. You go in there and fight for your rights." Hanks' reply: "Gee, I love you guys." "Philadelphia" tries to tackle all of the pertinent issues: homophobia, discrimination and brotherly love/justice/liberty (the all-too obvious connotations of the title). But in trying to make too many "important" statements at once, the film becomes a muddled mess of abstractions, lacking any real emotional weight. Rated PG-13. --N.M.

The Remains of the Day **** (Varsity, UA 6) After three intelligent adaptations of works by E.M. Forster, Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala deliver Kazuo Ishiguro's prize-winning novel "The Remains of the Day." Like their previous works, the film is feast for the eyes, exquisite in every detail. It is also a feast for the mind. The film recalls 20-odd years in the life of Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), a butler who doesn't allow anything--not independence of thought, not love--to distract him from his duties. It is only when his personal lord is revealed to be a Nazi collaborator and traitor to England that Stevens realizes he has worshipped a false god. In his devotion to duty, Stevens loses Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), head housekeeper. It is a testament to Hopkins' and Thompson's skills that they can convey so much depth of feeling in so narrow a social box. Rated PG. --D.S.

Schindler's List **** (Century 10, Century 12) Because "Schindler's List" is a movie of such power, scope and intelligence, it will eventually take its place alongside masterpieces like "Battleship Potemkin," "Grand Illusion" and "The Great Dictator." Three hours and 15 minutes long and shot almost entirely in black and white, "Schindler's List" tells the true story of how one man, and not a particularly good or extraordinary man, pits himself against the Nazi war machine to rescue nearly 1,100 Polish Jews from certain death. Director Steven Spielberg spares nothing in his evocation of the era. The performances are universally outstanding. Liam Neeson is formidable as the handsome, urbane, philandering Oskar Schindler, whose shifting emotions and allegiances must be masked at every turn. Ben Kingsley plays Schindler's Jewish accountant with heartbreaking humanity and restraint. Rated R. --D.S.

Shadowlands *** (Century 10, Century 12) This tone poem about middle-age and late-blooming love might have been a thin affair if Anthony Hopkins were not so marvelous as the British writer C.S. Lewis, a pipe-smoking Oxford don who shares bachelor digs with his brother in 1952. The setting is all greensward and church spires, toasted teacakes and chit-chat about Aristotle. Into Lewis' biscuit-dry existence comes an American fan (Debra Winger), a divorcee in red lipstick with a 10-year-old son. Director Richard Attenborough's four-square style is as predictable as the daily post, and the script is a stage play that's been "opened up," just barely, but every time the film edges toward weepy, it retreats just enough; and the supporting cast, John Wood among them, is superb. Rated PG. --M.V.

Six Degrees of Separation **** (Palo Alto Square) About 10 years ago, a young black man insinuated himself into the homes and hearts of a number of sophisticated New Yorkers by claiming, falsely, to be Sidney Poitier's son. These events served as the basis for John Guare's witty, much-praised play about the folly of upscale liberal elites. In bringing Guare's ironic fable to the screen, director Fred Schepisi knowingly captures the Central Park East lives and lifestyles that Guare skewers. With economy and great style, Schepisi creates a world that is radiant with wit, sophistication and good taste, but oblivious to the superficiality of its values. Schepisi is aided to no small degree by the stunning performances of Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing. Rated R. --L.S.

The Snapper *** 1/2 (Park) Adapted from Roddy Doyle's book of the same title, this delightful comedy of manners from director Stephen Frears tells a simple tale with grace and humor. Sharon Curley (Tina Kellegher), a 20-year-old supermarket clerk who lives with mom and dad and five siblings in a working-class Dublin neighborhood, announces she is "up the pole." Pregnant, that is. Her family and friends take the news in stride--until the rumor gets out that the culprit is the portly, gray-haired father of one of Sharon's best friends. "The Snapper" manages to find humor and every-day profundity in the most mundane events in the topsy-turvy life of the Curley family. And there's an earthy authenticity to this cast of characters that you'd never find coming out of Hollywood. Rated R. --M.H.