By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
Somewhere in the City
Director Ramin Niami is scheduled to attend.
Wednesday, April 22; 8:50 p.m.
Manhattan on screen usually looks cleaner, brighter, and friendlier than it is: Woody Allen's New York, Neil Simon's New York, Jerry Seinfeld's New York. Sure, there are exceptions, like Martin Scorsese's Big Rotten Apple, so grim it's almost stylized. But the metropolis of Somewhere in the City, a modern-day Manhattan without filters or added dirt, looks like the real thing: complex, frenetic, abrasive, and occasionally inspiring. Based loosely on Maxim Gorki's The Lower Depths, this mid-budget debut of filmmaker Ramin Niami follows the overlapping lives of six residents in a tenement building. Sandra Bernhard plays Betty, a therapist who talks at length about her own screwy and disappointing love life during patient sessions; Marta (Swann in Love's Ornella Muti) exchanges her body for rent with the building's superintendent; Marta's swanky, thieving lover Frankie (Robert John Burke from Thinner) plans a heist that would allow their escape from the city; Graham, an aging, frustrated-yet-gifted actor (Peter Stormare) thinks he may be on the verge of his first big movie break; young Che (Paul Anthony Stewart) hides in the basement organizing a communist revolution; LuLu the beautiful Chinese student (Bai Ling) hopes to secure a green card through a quick contractual marriage. Not quite formulaic, but every element a bit too familiar, Somewhere in the City's best moments spring not from its screwball plot elements but from the even, engaging performances by all the leads. But the uncredited star is the city itself, looking more immediate and textured than usual: smell it, hear it, taste the air--and be happy you're only visiting. (CR)
Actor Mark Metcalf is scheduled to attend.
Wednesday, April 22; 9 p.m.
Henry Thomas starred in one of the most personal and most popular films ever made, a little something called E.T.--which, in the end, was bound to make the rest of his resume seem pretty lame by comparison. But when Thomas turns up in low-budget yawners such as this one from first-time director-writer Neil Mandt (who made his bones covering the O.J. trial for ABC-TV), you're reminded just how far the fall can be. Thomas stars as Kevin Conroy, a Detroit moviemaking wannabe who lands a production assistant gig on Moby Dick 2: Ahab's Revenge and figures out he can finance his own film by holding the film ransom. A cross between Swimming with Sharks and Secret of My Success--but with a twist, as they say in pitch meetings--this is one of those movies about movies that every waiter in L.A. dreams of making. Too bad they sometimes make them. Hijacking Hollywood, which also stars former Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson and Animal House's ROTC Nazi Mark Metcalf, has been available on video since February but never opened in Dallas, which should give you some idea of its...quality. (Robert Wilonsky)
Thursday, April 23; 7:15 p.m.
Joan Micklin Silver has made one great, maybe even classic film--1975's Hester Street, which featured a stunning performance by Carol Kane as a turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrant struggling to adapt to America--but that's not part of the USAFF tribute to Joan Micklin Silver. Included in the tribute are Crossing Delancey and Chilly Scenes of Winter--two Silver movies so light, you have to pull the film cans off the ceiling before you can thread the projector--and her latest effort, A Fish in the Bathtub. Watching this sitcommy film reminded us of an old joke about nothing being more boring than watching old people have sex. Well, it's not true. Watching old people break up their 40-year marriage over cigar smoke in the house and then spend 90 minutes of screen time figuring out if they want to put it back together again is far more tedious, at least as presented by Silver. Maybe that's a bit harsh, but Fish plays more like a TV show plopped between syndicated reruns of The Golden Girls and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman than a feature film. The cast doesn't help the correlation. Long-time comedy (and life) partners Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara star as Sam and Molly Kaplan, and the rest of the cast is peppered with other familiar faces from the boob tube, including The Jeffersons' Mr. Bentley, Paul Benedict. Stiller does the same eccentric, brash loudmouth character that he does as George's father on Seinfeld. But he doesn't have the sitcom's Emmy-winning writers backing him up here, just first-time screenwriters who are "zany" enough to have him dump a giant fish into his bathtub in the opening minutes but uninspired enough to let it flounder underused the rest of the film. Puny side stories involving the love lives of the Kaplans' adult children make sure the younger audience can relate, but from the tone you know all the misunderstandings will work themselves out nice and neat right before the credits roll--just like on
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