By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Kill Me Later -- Dana Lustig directed this darkly comical romantic thriller about a suicidal bank teller (Selma Blair) who's taken hostage by a fugitive thief (Max Beesley) in the wake of a botched heist.
Kirikou and the Sorceress -- French animator Michel Ocelot created a new version of a traditional African folk tale with his 1998 adventure about a young hero's battle against a wicked sorceress.
Lakeboat -- The film is based on an early David Mamet play, and actor-turned-director Joe Mantegna obviously doesn't care that you know this. Indeed, except for adding some stylized flashbacks to illustrate a few anecdotes, Mantegna does next to nothing to disguise the theatrical roots of this freewheeling collage of monologues and conversations aboard a freighter on the Great Lakes. Essentially plotless, Lakeboat unwinds through the eyes of Dale (Tony Mamet, David's brother), an Ivy League college student who gets a summer job aboard the Seaway Queen. He's a mostly mute witness while his more experienced shipmates -- played by Robert Forster, Peter Falk, Charles During, Denis Leary, George Wendt and frequent Mamet collaborators J.J. Johnson and Jack Wallace -- argue, wax philosophical and otherwise tear into the red meat that is Mamet's foul-mouthed dialogue. The end result plays like a loosely connected string of verbal arias and duets. If you're not a Mamet fan, the film may seem shapeless and pointless. But if you're an admirer of his work, you'll recognize the first soundings of key themes he would examine more fully in later plays. (J.L.)
Life Sentence -- Director Andy Graydon grabs attention with an intriguing premise and a palpable sense of foreboding throughout the first half of his debut feature. Somewhere around the midway point, however, things start to unravel, and suspense gives way to tedium, then confusion. Even so, there's something fascinating, and more than a little creepy, about the symbiotic relationship between Richard Barrow (Patrick Clear), a burned-out, middle-aged Chicago book critic, and B. Rian Garrity (Andrew Rothenberg), a brilliant but unstable young author. Five years ago Garrity published a first novel, Life Sentence, that was greeted with universal raves. Since then, however, he's been too busy with boozing, and too immobilized by writer's block, to even begin a follow-up. Slowly, insinuatingly, Barrow worms into Garrity's life, taking on the roles of editor and mentor while contriving to remove "distractions" -- like Maddie (Mariann Mayberry), the writer's amazingly patient girlfriend. Early on, it becomes obvious that neither Garrity's novel nor Graydon's movie is likely to have a happy ending. Unlike Garrity, though, Graydon relies on an unconvincing plot twist and a few melodramatic flourishes to wrap things up. (J.L.)
Lightmaker -- Yes, sadly, that is once-great actor Rod Steiger's disembodied head presiding over this monstrous assemblage of the detritus from several cultures. If you ever wanted to see an audio-challenged music video created by the production designers for the X-Files after they spent an acid-fueled night watching Fellini, this is the movie for you. This disaster allegedly tells the story of a young violinist lured into King Osso's underground realm by Mira, the king's daughter. There he is supposed to play the magic strings that create life and light. You see what can happen when Swiss techno-pop star Dieter Meier (conceptualist and librettist for Yello, which perpetrated "The Race," a.k.a. the biggest Euro-dance theme of all time) gets to live out his filmmaker fantasies. (J.H.)
Looking through Lillian -- Jake Torem's silly psychosexual drama would be good for at least a few laughs if it weren't so ponderously and pretentiously serious. Newcomer Jade Henham, who co-wrote the lame screenplay, plays Lillian, the vaguely discontented mistress of a stressed-for-success business executive (Joseph Bottoms). You can tell Lillian is unhappy because of the moody music and endless close-ups that, in this kind of movie, are unmistakable indications of deep, pensive thought. Maybe she's worried about her uncertain future. Or maybe she's simply tired of servicing a guy who gets his kicks by dressing up in Marilyn Monroe drag. Either way, she's emotionally vulnerable enough to fall for the smooth moves of Luke (Robert Glen), a hunky poet who takes her for long walks on sandy beaches. But when he reveals his true colors, she gravitates back to the business executive, who asks her to try "something different." That something turns out to be sodomy, with Lillian wearing a strap-on. No kidding. (J.L.)
Love Inventory -- Not exactly a home movie and not exactly a theatrical production, this strangely engrossing documentary by filmmaker David Fisher takes his sister and three younger brothers on an emotional journey in search of their long-lost elder twin siblings. It begins inauspiciously with what appears to be home video footage from the hospital where the Fishers have gathered at their father's deathbed. It's not really clear exactly what's going on at first, but once the relationships are sorted out, the film takes off. David virtually harasses the others until they agree to look for the grave of their brother, who died in infancy, and to search for information about his twin sister, who disappeared shortly after their births in 1951. The Fishers' parents, Eastern European refugees from the holocaust, told their children little about their lives. The only things the siblings have to go on are rumors and bits of information that their mother periodically let slip. In the course of what amounts to a shaggy-dog story, we get to know the brothers and sister. (J.H.)