Director: John Landis
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Joe Morton
Until some bright spark decides that we need is a follow-up to Waterworld, Blues Brothers 2000 will surely rank as the least keenly anticipated sequel of all time. And one of the tardiest: 18 years after the release of the startlingly unfunny original, The Blues Brothers, that film's director and his co-writer, Dan Aykroyd, have contrived to resurrect the story of Elwood Blues (Aykroyd) who, after the death of his brother and musical partner, Jake, re-emerges after a prison term and decides to reassemble his old band.
There doesn't seem to be any discernible reason for this, but then you don't come to a John Landis film for logic or sense - you come to witness the flights of fantasy which punctuate the long periods of self-indulgence. Landis makes shaggy-dog stories, like his best film, Into the Night, or shaggy-monster stories, like Schlock and An American Werewolf in London. What he does best is ambush an audience with silliness, a talent that he gets the opportunity to exploit in the movie's dotty musical set-pieces, the best of which is set in the headquarters of a phone-sex company, with the various employees in their kaftans and hairnets and curlers twirling their chairs and rolling across their desks.
While the film is all-out stupid, it's also rather endearing - how can anyone despise a movie in which the Russian Mafia and a mob of fascists corner the Blues Brothers Band, only for a voodoo priestess to step in and turn the villains into rats?
But whatever warmth John Goodman brings to his supporting role as Elwood's sidekick, there's no escaping the feeling that this lovely actor has been cast simply because his size is reminiscent of the man he's standing in for - the late John Belushi, a comic whose speciality was a mixture of the uncouth and the utterly naive. Still, at least the calculating nature of the film-makers didn't extend to patching together old out-takes, in the manner of Trail of the Pink Panther, or creating a computer-generated Belushi. Be thankful for small mercies.
THE REAL BLONDE
Director: Tom DiCillo
Starring: Matthew Modine
Tom DiCillo's prickly satire on the fashion industry and the whole ethical structure behind the promotion of sex doesn't have enough original or incisive ideas to go around, but it is charmingly played by a game cast, and littered with surprises and fizzy one-liners - it's everything that Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter desperately wanted to be but wasn't.
The film's handful of stories are interweaved in a graceful manner which also brings Altman to mind, with DiCillo carefully balancing his various characters. Matthew Modine plays a struggling and self-righteous actor who is persuaded by his casting agent to lower his standards; the sharp and funny Catherine Keener is his girlfriend, a make-up artist for fashion shoots; Elizabeth Berkley plays a vacuous but good-natured model who believes that The Little Mermaid holds the key to life's secrets; and, in a theatrical performance which hides disturbingly dark shading, Maxwell Caulfield is a soap-opera actor struggling with his own ego.
There is a degree of smugness in the picture's portrait of fashion industry types, but DiCillo mostly reins in these tendencies, and creates an intelligent and disquieting study of the relationship between illusion and reality, as represented by one of the character's ongoing search for a real blonde.
Director: Merzak Allouache
Starring: Gad Elmaleh (subtitles)
A well-intentioned and largely successful portrait of immigrant life in France. Alilo (Gad Elmaleh) arrives in Paris to collect an assignment of clothes to return to his boss, but ends up staying with his cousin, Mok, after he loses the address of the supplier. Hanging around with Mok, he discovers how harsh life can be for an Algerian in France.
Shot with a wonderful groggy feel by the brilliant cinematographer Pierre Aim (La Haine), this is a sensitive exploration of a side of French life rarely touched on by cinema.
Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio
Formally daring, but dramatically rather draining, experiment in the manipulation of perspective, explored to much more interesting effect in The Lady in the Lake. An unseen woman follows the actor Vincent D'Onofrio around town with a film camera, but the novelty value of this exercise - written by Kirby Dick, who directed the recent documentary Sick - soon wears off.
Director: Manny Coto
Starring: Joseph Mazello
Amiable children's adventure about a young boy (Joseph Mazello from Jurassic Park) who's called upon to save the universe. What it lacks in budget it makes up for in imagination.