Five Golden Reels

The Deep Ellum Film Festival grows up--nicely

Alien: The Director's Cut Like Never Mind the Bollocks...Here's the Sex Pistols, Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi-haunted-house pic influenced and transcended all comers in its wake; everything wanted to be this, but nothing ever could. Seen last week, projected digitally with a few moments of restored footage added, Alien still terrifies without grossing out, still disturbs without apologizing by adding cheap laughs, still awes without dazzling us out of the theater. It has a B cast that looks positively A+ in retrospect, an outdoor junkyard aesthetic even in outer space and a monster that would haunt the nightmares of every costumer and makeup artist working in movies for decades to come. The "new" scenes have been long available on DVD and add nothing, only because nothing new is necessary; Scott's Alien is already the perfect weapon. Harry Dean Stanton is scheduled to attend. October 22, 8 p.m., Majestic. (R.W.)

Bubba Ho-Tep This horror-comedy about an aging Elvis in a haunted rest home proves not only is Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell a good actor, but possibly a great one. It seems the real King got tired of fame and switched places with an impersonator by the name of Sebastian Haff (also Campbell). After a few years of impersonating Haff impersonating him, Elvis broke a hip, fell into a coma and now sports a big lump on his genitalia. When the threat of a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in redneck clothes emerges, however, Elvis finds himself able to once again walk, get an erection and perform some karate moves. With the help of Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow inmate who believes he's JFK post-lobotomy and skin-darkening, the battle is on. It's possible our heroes may be deluded, but part of the film's point is the power of imagination and fantasy over the tiresome, mundane world of the average adult. October 30, 7 p.m., Angelika. Director Don Coscarelli is scheduled to attend. (Luke Y. Thompson)

The Cooler A sort of companion to the sadly canceled fX series Lucky, about a Vegas gambler swearing off his vice, writer-director Wayne Kramer's The Cooler might have been titled Unlucky. William H. Macy's Bernie Lootz believes himself the walking damned, a man who brings misfortune to anyone who stumbles into his path. He carries with him a constant reminder of his bad luck and unsettled debts, a limp given to him by old "friend" and new boss Shelly (Alec Baldwin, doing a primo De Niro circa Casino), who runs an old-school casino and has brought in Bernie to cool off any gambler on a hot streak. Bernie's trying to leave Las Vegas, but cocktail waitress Natalie (Maria Bello) blocks his exit; she's a pro with a heart of fool's gold. Bernie's bad luck has at last run out. Or has it? The Cooler, in which Bernie struggles with his newfound fortune and Shelly struggles with newcomers who want to turn his joint into another Disneyland attraction on the Strip, is almost perfect: funny and heartbreaking and nerve-racking and sexy, a fairy tale full of broken bones and naked bodies and bullet holes and Joey Fatone as "the next Harry Connick Jr." October 30, 7 p.m., Magnolia. Producer Ed Pressman is scheduled to attend. (R.W.)

The King lives--in a nursing home. Bruce Campbell stars in Bubba Ho-tep.
The King lives--in a nursing home. Bruce Campbell stars in Bubba Ho-tep.

Die Mommie Die Far from heaven but down with love, or at least possessing an attraction to an enormous schwanz dangling in some 9021-ho's trousers, this hummer-camp offering from writer-actor Charles Busch proves one thing: In a wig and taffeta, Charles Busch looks just like Kathleen Turner. There's something a little arch about dialogue delivered between quotation-mark fingers and ironically cocked eyebrows; Busch, playing washed-up chanteuse Angela Arden, asks her gay son whether he's a "cocksucker," and all the film lacks is a laugh track. We get it: It's Beaver without one, which works for a good while--the cast's game, especially Philip Baker Hall as the patriarch without much patience and Jason Priestley as the TV-star has-been with the huge one--but runs out of steam around the time the rat-poison suppository comes into play. Busch, responsible for the similarly hit-and-miss-that's-a-mister Psycho Beach Party, has a good idea; two in one movie would make him absolutely fabulous. October 24, 7:30 p.m., Angelika. Director Mark Rucker and Jason Priestley are scheduled to attend. (R.W.)

The Family Jewels (Eierdiebe) Martin Schwarz, doctoral student and dutiful son, wants his ball back--his testicle, that is, removed by doctors when it's discovered to be cancerous. Martin (played by Wotan Wilke Möhring) merely wants to give it a proper burial; it's still part of him, he insists, not something to be dissected and discarded by pathologists. But Martin's pursuit of his missing nut is only a small part of this sweetly comic and disarmingly angry movie, written and directed by German filmmaker Robert Schwentke. Set in a cancer ward populated by bald and pale chemo patients who resemble zombiefied Curlys, The Family Jewels is about the death of one family (Martin's mother, father and brother don't react well to their son's illness) and the creation of another. Martin rooms with two men who kill time watching horror movies; nearby is a dying woman (Julia Hummer) who sees in Martin a last chance for love. Schwentke would seem to have no love for doctors and nurses, but doesn't allow them to become villains; they're just doing jobs that cause them to hurt those they're just trying to heal, which creates a sort of guilt masked by bad jokes and bad behavior. Theirs becomes what Martin refers to as a "sense of tumor." October 26, 5:15 p.m., Angelika. Writer-director Robert Schwentke is scheduled to attend. (R.W.)

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