Chin Up [B+]
(1999, Solveig Anspach) Viewed March 11, 2000 at Walter Reade.
The best medical melodrama I've seen in ages (in fact, I can't remember the last good one I did see), Chin Up avoids the biggest pitfalls of the genre by refusing to play for easy sentiment, recognizing that its story of a pregnant woman diagnosed with breast cancer is riveting enough without playing for the cheap seats. Instead it relies on fine work by its actors (Karin Viard as the heroine is superb) and an almost-documentary matter-of-factness combined with a tinge of SF especially in the film's final scene.
My Little Business [B-]
(1999, Pierre Jolivet) Viewed March 11, 2000 at Walter Reade.
Good natured enough, but lacks the comic vitality to raise it above the merely pleasurable. Best thing about it: Francois Berleand's turn as a crooked insurance agent and orphan who's invented an entire Russian mystique for himself simply because the only fact he knows about his parents is that his father had a Russian last name.
(1999, Cedric Klapisch) Viewed March 12, 2000 at Walter Reade.
Ouch. A disastrous attempt by Klapisch to combine the inverse of Back to the Future's plot with a bit of Parisian hipness, largely failing because Klapisch, despite being a technically accomplished director, lacks the necessary visual imagination to make his 2070 Paris work. Despite some clever details in its production design and a refreshingly non-dystopic, non-utopic view of the future, his Paris of tomorrow is more a loose, unfocused collection of "hip" details than an integrated vision. Shockingly mediocre acting from his cast is another problem.
La Buche [C]
(1999, Daniele Thompson) Viewed March 12, 2000 at Walter Reade.
Things I'm tired of: seriocomic films about a dysfunctional family whose focal point consists of three sisters. Well acted, but the familiarity quotient is sky high.
I'm Not Afraid of Life [B-]
(1999, Noemie Lvevsky) Viewed March 12, 2000 at Walter Reade.
A cinematic scrapbook examining the lives of four young girls through the turbulescene of adolescence, Life has irrepressible high spirits and a carefree air of experimentalism (favorite bit: one character's battle with a brain tumor expressed as a paper-cutout video game). But like Fallen Angels, another film that lives for the moment, the overall effect is wearying.
Alien Resurrection [B+]
(1997, Jean-Pierre Jeunet). Viewed March 13, 2000 on DVD.
A buff female with superhuman powers, including the ability to heal rapidly, and a (female) computer-geek (literally, in this case) sidekick; think Joss Whedon has some preoccupations? For a role that could be treated as little more than an easy paycheck, Sigourney Weaver attacks the role of Ripley #8 with as much gusto as her Oscar-bait turn in A Map of the World; in fact, this may be her best work so far in the franchise. Wildly imaginative in its ideas, and one of the weirdest mainstream films of the past decade, but not quite up to the standards of the first two flicks of the series, due largely to a couple of bad decisions in execution and casting. The alien-human hybrid that's prominent at film's end just looks dorky, and while I love the idea of a Winona Ryder type being an action heroine, Winona Ryder herself is not the actress to pull it off.
(1999, Alexander Payne) Viewed March 15, 2000 on DVD.
A definite improvement on second viewing. The adultery plotline still drags the second half down severely, but a wealth of details came to light: the Stalinistic overtones of Tracy "erasing" Mr. Novotny from the yearbook, the name of the motel for Mr. McAlister's illicit rendezvous being the "American Family Inn", and thanks to Payne's superb DVD commentary (one of the best I've heard) the continuing visual motif of garbage that pervades the film.
The Astronaut's Wife [D+]
(1999, Rand Ravich) Viewed March 16, 2000 on DVD.
A silly mix of Rosemary's Baby and 50s science fiction that has Charlize Theron whimpering through most of the film and Johnny Depp doing a bad John Wayne impression. Best enjoyed as Architectural Digest porn.
 The sounds of the heart machines and silence in the hospital remind me of the thumping heartbeat on Alien's soundtrack.
 The fact it was the final scene took me completely by surprise.
 As a note to future directors, Chekhov did write other things besides Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters.