The Movie Binge

June 2006

Preview: Typhoon

Typhoon still

"The story of a modern-day pirate planning a massive attack on North and South Korea." Do you need to know anything else? Oh, you do? Oh. Well, Typhoon is the latest film from Kwak Kyung-Taek, who is the biggest director in South Korea (according to Asian Cinevision) and had two of the biggest blockbusters in his country with Friend and Taegukgi. Kaiju Shakedown reported that the film cost US$15 million, which is the most expensive film in South Korean history. Unfortunately, the film sold a lackluster 4 million tickets. Hey, I guess it's their Mission Impossible 3.

There aren't too many reviews out there right now, but I've managed to get a couple good quotes for you.

Koreanfilm.org

From a technical perspective, Typhoon is impressively constructed (as well it might be -- at an officially stated $15 million, the film's production budget is the highest in Korean history). Fans of the director should be warned in advance, however: rarely does the film display the personality of Kwak's previous works like Friend, Champion, or Mutt Boy. With strong appeals to patriotism, Typhoon feels at times like a recruitment video for the military. At other times, the chest-thumping male melodrama drags on for far longer than seems necessary.

The Onion A.V. Club

The outsized effort is up there on the screen, but there's nothing too striking about the way it's presented, and the story does even less to impress: It loses its sense of political urgency by relying on melodramatic clichés (the bad guy has a dying sister) and rhythms that are all too familiar from the big-budget American films it sets out to emulate. This may be the biggest production in Korean-film history, but viewers should search elsewhere for a better sampling of what the country has to offer.

Umm, well, there'll be explosions, right?

X-Men Trivia Answers Due Tomorrow

20060601xmengame.jpgI don't think we mentioned this in the original post, but if you'd like to win yourself a copy of X-Men: The Official Game for Xbox 360, you've got to get your answers in by 11:59 EST tomorrow (Friday the 2nd). Here are the questions again, in case you missed it the first time:

1.) What is Colossus' nationality?
2.) Who built Apocalypse's spaceship?
3.) Forearm, Wildside, and Tempo were members of what team?
4.) What's the best place in Salem Center to get a beer?
5.) Charles Xavier once faked his own death in order to hide away and prepare to battle an alien invasion. What alien race was it?

You can email your answers to info@themoviebinge.com along with your name and address (so we can ship it to you).

Josh's Review

Also, "Josh Horowitz" has added his review of X-Men to the post from Tuesday. All I'll say is that Hayley Joel Osment is mentioned in three straight sentences.

Preview: The Break Up

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We all know what this is — a romcom with two cutesy movie stars that will make you laugh and cry and has a trailer that includes 90% of the funny scenes. If you're really dying to hear the plot, The Break Up shows us what happens when Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn call it quits but won't leave the apartment. I'm just hoping that Vincent D'Onofrio gets to be super creepy because that is what makes him awesome.

The critics are lukewarm at best on this one, but you shouldn't need a critic to tell you to see this movie. That's what girlfriends are for (ed. note — zing!). A generic summer movie begets quotes from the mainsteramiest media possible:

Entertainment Weekly

I won't tell you how it all ends (other than to note that it's icky in its lack of conviction), but I will say this: Watching The Break-Up, it barely even occurred to me to think of Aniston's breakup with Brad Pitt or her current union with Vaughn. Those relationships are real. This one, in every sense, is fake.

USA Today

Neither character is terribly endearing. Gary, a Chicago tour operator, is immature and addicted to video games. Brooke, who manages an art gallery, is long-suffering and manipulative. Although Vaughn has some funny moments, he doesn't come close to the comic heights of last summer's Wedding Crashers.

TV Guide

The trouble isn't that screenwriters Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender aren't perceptive: Brooke and Gary articulate their discontent with considerable precision and occasional verve. It's that they haven't figured out a way to make emotional torment funny, which is the tall order inherent in "anti-romantic comedy."

Preview: District B13

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I'll be honest, I don't know much about this film, but I do know it looks awesome. Normally I can learn a lot from the trailer, but no one says anything. I'd fear that the plot is non-existent, but I have a pretty good sense that Magnolia Pictures is scared the theaters will be empty if people know the movie is in French. Embrace it, Magnolia! Make this the yo-dude's Amelie!

Unfortunately for yo-dudes everywhere, that probably won't happen because this movie is apparently well-constructed and quite witty, a classic yo-dude turn-off. God, I love when near-future science fiction/action movies get great reviews. Check it:

Time

Let's put the matter simply: The French thriller District B13 makes everything Hollywood has lately done in the action genre look clumsy, dull and stale. It is a short, nonstop stuntfest that, by going back to basics and placing them on the screen with simple, breathless stylishness, turns what is essentially a lowlife movie form into something one is not embarrassed to call "pure" cinema--all energy, movement and high kinetic wit.

New York Times

At the whirling-dervish center of the French action film "District B13" is a fighting discipline known as parkour. I'm pretty sure that's French for "somersaulting over balconies while drop-kicking the gangsters who kidnapped your sister and turned her into a junkie." However it translates, parkour isn't par-for-the-course movie mayhem, but a gorgeously choreographed gymnastics of pain that elevates "District B13" over the impossible missions and last stands of the season.

Chicago Tribune

The movie doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's done with such zest and skill--and such incredible stunt work and action choreography by co-stars Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle--that the absurdities don't sabotage it.

Sounds like my kind of movie. If you want to know more about Parkour, the urban gynamistics this movie uses, check out parkour.net. Don't miss their videos, or check out one of my personal favorites: Nike's Angry Chicken.

Review: An Inconvenient Truth

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This will be a dual review as both "Josh Horowitz" and I saw this film. I'll start with Josh's take.

Josh says...

It’s like The Day After Tomorrow without those pesky rabid wolves and Ian Holm freezing to death in the middle of nowhere! Paramount Classics, that quote is all yours. Enjoy. Take it to the bank. Use it in good health. Alright, semi-seriously An Inconvenient Truth has got to be considered one of the most worthwhile films of the year. You leave the theater shaken, disturbed, and downright frightened. Try seeing this in the same week as United 93 as I did and enjoy the nightmares.

As you know by now from all the Al Gore photo-ops at Cannes and the like, this is the flick that essentially documents Gore’s decades-long obsession with convincing us that the environment might be worth more of our attention than on just one “earth day” a year. Admittedly this is a flick that plays best to friendly audiences, ie. those who don’t tune into Sean Hannity for anything more than a good laugh.

I know what you’re thinking: 90 minutes in a dark room with Al Gore and a glorified slide show about the ice caps melting? Check please, right? Actually it’s a pretty engrossing and relatively visually arresting (kudos to director David Guggenheim here) way to spend an afternoon or evening. And the key reason why this film works in the end as more than a PBS special? It’s Gore, folks. Bizarre as it sounds this politician who was deemed virtually irrelevant by most now comes off as an impassioned (and vaguely tragic) hero. The film is peppered with personal anecdotes and private moments with the former VP (apparently he rolls his own luggage in the airport) that humanize the politician much in the way The War Room did for big brother Clinton way back when.

Latin Snake says...

Well, well, well...look who got a software upgrade. Not only was Al entertaining for the length of the film (ninety minutes straight!), but he was inspiring. More importantly, if you have doubts about any facet of global warming, Gorebot will quash it. And he does so without having to use a photo of a sad penguin.1 In fact, the film was so effective I thought about flying out to Middle America and buying some folks tickets to the movie (really). Heck, I even researched getting green energy instead of craptastic Con Edison.

Although the presentation aspect of the film was thoroughly engaging, I'm glad they interspersed vignettes of Gore's life. They weren't necessarily on message, but they kept me from taking a cyanide pill. My only fear is that they make it a little easier to position the film as liberal when it should just be viewed as an excellent case for tackling the dangers of a Carbon Dioxide-rich atmosphere.

Josh covered the rest pretty well, so I'll just talk a little about the movie-going experience. Since I was seeing a socially-conscious movie, I felt it was important to skip the popcorn and eat some sushi from the nearby Whole Foods.2 Not only did I receive zero dirty looks for making the theater smell like soy sauce, but the lady next to me volunteered to watch my bag while I used the restroom. And that was before we saw the film. Al Gore: if you're going to turn a normally annoying theater into a lovefest then I insist you skip out on politics and keep making movies. I'm going to need you this summer.

1 Okay, so he had an animation of a polar bear trying to find an iceberg, but it didn't look that sad.

2 And some Malteasers. I can't be good all the time.

Preview: Peaceful Warrior

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Nick Nolte is Socrates? And in one scene he jumps twenty feet in the air and lands on a gas station? And Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers 1 & 2, Powder) is directing? Okay, my interest is piqued, even if Nolte isn't the real Socrates.

Peaceful Warrior is purported to be based on a true story (and is also based on a book), but that's tough to buy considering all of the new age-y nonsense that goes on. The plot revolves around a UC Berkeley gymnast who is filled with talent but needs guidance. Nolte then saves the day, ruins the day and saves the day again as he becomes this young man's spiritual guide. If you think it sounds creepy, you're not alone.

LA Weekly

You’d have to be either an avid New Ager or willing to see Nick Nolte in absolutely anything to get fully onboard for this visually overexcited tale of salvation-by-gas-station-guru.

Variety

Mechlowicz has the kind of moody, haunted look of questing youth that a richer movie could make something of, but, Nolte can do little to turn Socrates into more than what he is -- a mystic who's good with a wrench and much too in love with the sound of his own voice.

Update (6/5/06): Well, it turns out it's not coming out in NYC until July 14th. So, we moved it up on the schedule. Sorry for the confusion.

Preview: The War Tapes

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The War Tapes is the first war film to be recorded by soldiers themselves. And no, they did not steal the idea from the Beastie Boys' I Fuckin' Shot That. Instead they solicited real filmmakers to add some footage and piece it together and it appears they did a fantastic job. The Tribeca Film Festival awarded it best documentary.

Entertainment Weekly

Yes, there's one chaotic ambush (the only glimpse of the insurgency we get). But that climax never arrives, and that's where The War Tapes transcends the pornography of violence to provide a genuine terror-struck look at what our troops are going through

New York Times

The film that the men shot, supplemented by home-front interviews and images captured by other soldiers, has been edited into a moving, complicated movie that illuminates, with heartbreaking clarity, some of the human actuality of this long, confusing war.

Christian Science Monitor

This film is apolitical in the best sense - it bears witness to a time and a place.

Review: Typhoon

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In case you didn't read the preview, Typhoon deals with a baddy North Korean, Sin, who steals, kills and connives his way into the possession of some nuclear waste, which he plans on dumping on all of Korea. A dutiful wooden South Korean soldier by the name of Gang Se-Jong, is assigned to take out the North Korean, and they both realize that had circumstances not been different they could have been playing checkers and listening to Neil Young, or the Korean equivalent of such. This realization does not stop them and their compatriots from putting a lot of bullets into each other and a bunch of innocent bystanders.

The plot device that drives the story forward is the baddy North Korean's sister, Choi Myeong-ju. As the bathos spewing terminally ill victim, she should have been the humanizing window into Mr. Nuclear Pirate Pants' pain. It's through her that we get the flashbacks allowing us to see where Sin's motivation comes from. But her acting...let's just say when she croaked I was relieved I wouldn't have to watch her flail about anymore.

One could say this film works as a primer into the zeitgeist of current North-South relations, but that would truly be a disservice to millions of people that I've never met. The twisted logic employed by agents at every level on both sides was the antithesis of pragmatism. It made me wonder if those jokers could cook themselves breakfast without shooting holes in their frying pan and spouting off about honor and brotherhood. Let it be said, the Americans make a very convincing cameo as an impatient submarine that blows shit up. If I were to take the film's tack, this should be viewed as a shameful avoidance of the nuance of stone faced crying and knife fights.

Two positive aspects: a) The final scene on the ship was well designed and well filmed. The action was kinetic engaging, until of course everyone started crying. b) The flashbacks mattered, if only because the onscreen portrayal of no-nonsense massacre is so different from the rest of the stylized blood and guts that is supposed to be entertaining in other parts of Typhoon. Why play it straight when someone gets shot in the back and not when someone gets shot in the face? This movie almost had something there.

I should probably say that the theater was packed with 75% of the crowd being Korean, and when we were all filing out I noticed more than a few were genuinely touched people. Maybe something was lost in the translation. What I saw was a heavyhanded mediocre action movie.

Review: Coastlines

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Before I begin, let me set the scene for you. It's Thursday night at 9:45pm, the night after Coastlines opened at IFC Center. It's 9:40 and I've been waiting in line to get into the theater for the last 15 minutes. The theater finally empties out and people start to file in. A theater employee yells out that Russian Dolls will now be showing on screen three and everyone files out. I'm now completely alone. Crap, does everyone know something I don't know? Did my preview send shockwaves through the film community scaring people off? Either way, I got to take off my shoes, put my feet up and relax. As for the movie...

Unfortunately, I've never seen either Ulee's Gold or Ruby in Paradise, the first two films in Nunez's panhandle trilogy, so I lack a solid frame of reference. But if people say Coastlines paled in comparison, then I'm going to immediately add them to my Netflix queue.

Note: potential spoilers are in the paragraphs below

Coastlines begins with Sonny's (Timothy Olyphant) release from jail. He hooks up with his accepting but disappointed father before reconnecting with his old mob buddies to collect a $200,000 debt. Sonny only receives a fraction of what he's owed and vows to get the rest. Sensing Sonny won't go away, the crimnals try to off him, but end up killing his father in the process. What follows is Sonny's existential struggle and attempt to inflict payback on his agressors. Luckily he has some old friends (Dave and Ann Lockhart played by Josh Brolin and Sarah Wynter) to help him along the way.

This being an independent drama, Sonny inevitably bites the hands that feed him by sleeping with Ann and threatening the career and life of Dave. Despite everything going to crap, everyone (who isn't dead) forgives everyone in the end and it's one big happy lovefest, which is my main issue with the film.

Nunez definitely leaves hints that everything isn't hunkydory and life is more pain than happiness, but then the film closes with a big party for Sonny that's all smiling and hugging and carrying on. If you want to say that life is messy, then you can't end your film with a party. Period.

What some might consider a more egregious issue is the generally poor script. I was able to get into the characters because nearly everyone played theirs well, but I had trouble enjoying what came out of their mouths. I especially enjoyed William Forsythe's portrayal of Fred Vance, the dirty mobster. He put my mental image of a backwater, redneck mobster into action and I couldn't take my eyes off him when he spoke.

Despite my gripes, the film kept me entertained most of the way through. Nunez was able to make a relatively crappy script shine with a gritty view of life in the panhandle. In fact, my disdain for the sappy ending exists only because I was sucked deeply into this world. I could see why this movie sat on the shelf for four years, but I'm glad IFC decided to release it. The best endorsement I can give is that I sat through the entire movie at 9:45 even though the theater was empty. I couldn't say the same for hundreds of movies I've seen over the years.

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Preview: The Omen

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Ahh, it's the devil! It's 6/6/6! It's a remake of a really good film! We're all going to die! That's right, a freaktactular film is being released tonight, 6/6/6, to the American public. Who's going to show up and tempt fate? Hopefully some serious crazies because we'll be in Times Square to find out.

Quickly, the movie is about the potential sun of Christ and the ensuing craziness that surrounds such a revelation. Here's hoping it's hair-raising. Battle of the Chicago reviewers!

Chicago Sun-Times

"The Omen" is a faithful remake of the 1976 film, and that's a relief; it depends on characters and situations and doesn't go berserk with visuals.

Chicago Tribune

Aside from a couple of brief, jolting dream sequences, "The Omen" plods along. "It's a bit like a Shakespeare play," director John Moore told one writer recently, explaining his adherence to the original. The text, he said, "is so good, and the story tracks so well, that you feel inclined to stick with that." If that inclination sounds like settling, there's nothing wrong with your hearing.

It's Not a Summer Movie Without Tie-ins

20060607cars.jpgWhen I was seven, the only reason I knew about movies was because of Happy Meals at McDonalds and branded toys at Toys 'R Us. Parents today have it worse than mine did because tie-ins are getting a little out of control.

Take the new Pixar film, Cars, where there are over 350 licensed products. Although I am obviously obsessive (i.e. this blog you are reading), I did not find these on my own. Kokogiak.com has taken the time to compile each of the tie-ins with links for each.

Partners alone will be spending $50 million in media buys to cross-promote this movie. Disney's portion of the marketing budget is undisclosed (afaict), but according to Dicker above, "Cars" is larger than "The Incredibles", and they spent $200 million on that movie (combined with promotional partners).

Personally, I'd take a Bouncy Castle or Power Wheels Drivable Lightning McQueen Car if anyone's interested in buying me one. The Power Wheels would be super handy in the city.

link procured from kottke.org

Jen and Vince, We're Through!

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If I had to choose between the Team Jolie t-shirt and the Team Aniston one, I'd probably cast my vote with Team Aniston. She's perky and sweet and in The Good Girl, Jen gave a nuanced performance unexpected for the former Friend. Though when one takes in the track record of recent films, particularly when she goes for comedy like Rumor Has It... which was barely luke warm, it's not looking good for her longevity. Thus it was with guarded curiosity that we took in Team Aniston's newest with Vince Vaughn, the aptly titled The Break Up on Sunday.

With our favorite crap movie companion in tow, Lisa, we settled in for low expectations. However, The Break Up defied those expectations, though not always with the most favorable results.

At the start of the film, we see how Chicagoans Brooke (Aniston) and Gary (Vaughn) meet cute at a Cubs baseball game. She's on a date, he mocks the date and buys her a hot dog. Then two years pass via handy dandy photo montages as the two fall in love, buy a unrealistically huge condo and move in together. The story proper begins on the night of a family dinner party, as Brooke slaves in their posh, yuppie kitchen and Gary lounges on the couch playing video games and offering quasi-help with the preparations. Later, the two get into a terrible row about how Gary's not willing to do the little things for the relationship to show that he cares and they break up.

Around this point in a run of the mill romantic comedy, or even a '30s screwball comedy with Cary Grant like Stanley Cavell's comedies of remarriage, we'd expect Gary or Brooke to move on and then the other to connive to get them back through various prat falls and schemes. While the Break Up has a few ridiculous moments, most of the further interactions between Brooke and Gary as they fight at the bowling alley, fight at their game night and flaunt potential sexual partners at each other, has a tone of realness and an unsettling thread of meanness. These are the kinds of things real people do to each other, yet you feel a little creepy and voyeuristic peeking in on it.

While Vaughn's frat boy charm was stronger in the Wedding Crashers, he's moderately likable here. It is a surprise though to see how doughy Vaughn has gotten since his Swingers days, especially as the equally bulked up Jon Favreau plays his obnoxious sidekick. Speaking of the supporting cast, they're all quite strong from Judy Davis to Vincent D'Onofrio though it would've been nice if Jason Bateman had more than one brief scene and the casting of Ann Margaret as Aniston's mom, who only had a brief scene as well, was perplexing. These moments hinted at more material left on the cutting room floor or in a previous draft of the script.

The film's final surprise is the un-Hollywood ending, where the happy resolution isn't quite what would be assumed from the comedy structure. While it's always a pleasant surprise to see the movie machine do something unexpected, this one feels lackluster and empty 10 minutes after leaving the movie. What are the filmmakers trying to say about the nature of relationships, especially ones with expensive cohabitation? It's seriously unclear. In the end, this movie is really only about the attempts of Team Aniston to bounce back and despite my empathy for her, I'm not totally sold.

Review: District B13

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Action is a universal language. Kicking a guy in the face is the same in English, German and Klingon. District B13 had plenty of face-kicking, which is why I think it might pass the yo-dude test. To refresh your memory, in our preview of District B13 we mentioned the possibility of this film becoming the yo-dude's Amelie. To do that, I think it will need to fulfill a few requirements. Let's go over them and see how District B13 stacks up.

Kick-ass Action Sequences

If you want meatheads to remember your movie, there has to be at least one sequence that blows them away. For me, that was our introduction to Damien (Cyril Raffaelli), the cop assigned to save District B13. See, the film is set in the not-so-distant future and B13 is an area in Paris that is cordoned off and is run by a massive gang led by Taha (Bibi Naceri). Damien and Leito (David Belle) must save the district from a stolen nuclear warhead and find Leito's sister as well.

When we meet Damien he is working undercover, trying to take down the owner of an illegal casino. This being an action movie, he must work alone. I won't detail each and every move, but I will tell you the scene ended with Damien bodyslamming the last baddie from two stories up onto a poker table.

Yo-Dude Requirement #1: Passed

Pretty Things to Look At

When I say pretty, I don't mean lusciously shot scenes; I mean hot bodies and dark, exotic locations. B13 has both of those. Damien's sister, Lola (Dany Verissimo), is a treat to look at and is portrayed as a girl who likes to get down (in a cool, non-slutty way). As a bonus, she's also available, which is a rarity for action films since the lead usually snatches up the girl by the end. The landscape of B13 isn't especially futuristic, but there are plenty of secret passageways and dark corners people jump out of. If all that's not enough, there are some crazy street-style rally cars.

Yo-Dude Requirement #2: Passed

Amazing Stunts

Much of Jackie Chan's popularity is based on his insistance on doing all of his own stunts. The two male leads in B13 should get the same kudos as they are true traceurs, or masters of Parkour. In the very first scene, Taha is trying to capture Damien while he's at home destroying a million euros worth of Taha's coccaine, but he manages to escape by bouncing off every single wall (interior and exterior) in the building. Even if the blockheads in question couldn't pronounce traceur, they will certainly appreciate these stunts.

Yo-Dude Requirement #3: Passed

Memorable Characters

Guy Ritchie has set the standard for memorable characters in yo-dude films. Everyone remembers Brad Pitt's ridiculous character in Snatch. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the actors in B13. While the story was strong and easy to follow, I never really felt a strong attachment to any of the characters (except maybe Lola, but for reasons that have nothing to do with her acting).

Yo-Dude Requirement #4: Failed

From this simple test, it looks like District B13 did pretty well, but I don't think it's going to be a smash hit here in the States. Aside from plenty of people refusing to see a foreign, subtitled film, there is something missing from the characters (which may have been lost in translation). Of course, just because the public at large isn't going to fall for this movie doesn't mean you shouldn't. I really enjoyed it and was transfixed with the actors' ability to bounce off anything and land on their feet. I give it two six-packs up.

Review: The War Tapes

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“I love being a soldier. The only bad thing about the Army is, you can’t pick your war.”

As the closing words of The War Tapes, this proclamation is bitterly ironic – wasn’t the phrase “war of choice” being bandied about quite a bit just a year or so ago? This sideswipe is about as close as the film comes to assailing the very notion of a war in Iraq; more often than not, the soldiers involved rely on the frustratingly stock non-answer (to the big unasked question) that “Now that we’re here, we’ve got to do the job.” But what, exactly, is “doing the job”? Is it the futile mission of protecting trucks full of Cheese-Whiz from car bombs you could never stop in the first place? Is it running down civilians with a Hum-Vee when they don’t have the common sense to step out of the way? Is it standing around in the desert using night-vision goggles to watch buildings vanish in whiffs of bomb-dust? These are the primary pastimes of the soldiers we follow throughout the film, and it’s the sheer banality of their jobs – punctuated by short, sharp shocks of nearly inconceivable horror, and almost never relieved by anything approaching the positive side of human nature – that is the most prominent feature of the film.

Continue reading "Review: The War Tapes" »

Preview: The Heart of the Game

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Welcome to the first sports documentary of the summer (the next is Once in a Lifetime). Here, we're following the story of Bill Resler's first season as the head coach of the girls basketball team at Seattle's Roosevelt High. Resler is a tax law professor and his coaching technique is highly unorthodox, which apparently makes for a good movie.

Personally, I'm kinda psyched for this movie. It looks like it will be thoroughly entertaining and it's been getting great reviews.

LA Times

To say more would dilute the inherent drama as it teeters on the brink of tragedy with surprises that would challenge credibility in a fiction film. An exhilarating story of loyalty and perseverance, "The Heart of the Game" succeeds as both inspiration and social commentary.

New York Times

Despite [the director's] overtures and sympathetic attention, [Darnellia Russell] eludes his grasp, particularly when compared with Mr. Resler, who turns out to be not only the heart of this particular game, but also its brains, lungs and unforgettably endearing mug.

Review: Cars

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I can confidently say that there is at least one level on which Cars does not disappoint: you'll be hard-pressed to find a more visually gorgeous film playing anywhere this summer (unless your local rep house is screening The New World), even if you (like this humble reviewer) couldn't give two shifts about the aesthetics of the automobile in general. In choosing cars as their subject, Pixar's animators hit on the perfect protagonists with which to show off the best their Macs can do: their surfaces are glossy, meaning we're treated to hundreds of beautifully complex reflections sliding over their bumpers and hoods; they can drive through the most remarkable scenic vistas the United States of CGI have to offer; and they're fast, meaning they can really chew up the processor cycles and show us how many moving pieces they can throw at us at once. And in certain scenes, these three tech-geeky elements do fuse together to create the kind of jaw-dropping visual majesty that previous Pixar highlights Finding Nemo and The Incredibles dripped from every frame. But it bears noting that this is Pixar's seventh big release, and when it comes to the script and the story, the formula is wearing thin and balding.

It's not uncommon for the studio's films to credit many writers, but this is the first of their releases to feel like it was written by committee: it's lacking the same wit, crackle, and vision that were the true animating forces of the company's previous efforts. There are more stock characters in this film than in a bowl of chicken soup, and just about all of them simply sit there on screen, failing to engage despite clever character designs and generally strong voice-acting (be sure to stick around through the credits for an homage to Pixar standby John "Cheers" Ratzenberger, who never fails to nail the supporting characters he's always given; it might be time for him to graduate to a lead, in fact) -- and the disappointingly predictable storyline doesn't give them many opportunities to come alive, either. And there's simply no forgiving the egregious mid-film musical number, five minutes of unrepentant message-carrying schlock that actually felt like a parody of heartstring-jerking balladry until I realized, soberingly, that they were dead serious. Sure, there are a few clever gags, and once again the level of graphic design and wizardry on display is honestly awe-inspiring. But the film overall just doesn't stick -- and the lackluster trailer for the studio's next film, Ratatouille, sets off the mildest of warning bells for next summer as well, even with Brad Bird in the director's seat. (Now would be the point in the review at which I would say "Pixar is running out of gas" if I was a lesser reviewer; but I suppose that just mentioning that corny line drags me down to that level, doesn't it?)

Don't get me wrong, you can certainly take the kids to this one without wanting to open your wrists (well, except during the trailer reel -- the world really needs another Santa Clause film, don'chaknow?). But if you're hoping for another movie that transcends the tired cliches of children's film and crosses over into the rarefied air of The Damn Good Movies, then I'm afraid you'd better readjust your priorities, fast.

Review: A Prairie Home Companion

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A Prairie Home Companion: The Movie? What’s next? John Cusack as Ira Glass in This American Life? A trilogy about the Car Talk guys with Nic Cage and Larry the Cable Guy (I want credit if this comes to pass)?!? Yes my dear text-messaging ipod-listening Deal or No Deal-watching short attention spanned friends, radio still exists and I’m not just talking about the kind where Opie and Anthony ask people to fornicate in Churches.

Leave it to heart transplantified, Oscar recognized, octogernarian Robert Altman to remind us that yes radio does exist and you know what, there’s even a quality movie about a program or two to be made from it. Alright, let’s get the Altman stuff out of the way up front. Worshippers at the church of Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller, prepare yourselves. I’m not a huge fan. Do I respect him? Sure. Do I actually ENJOY any of his films? Umm...err...The Player was aight. Okay so now you know where I’m coming from. Having admitted my prejudice I gotta say I had a thoroughly grand old time with A Prairie Home Companion. It’s a company of folks well worth spending a summer night with.

A Prairie Home Companion is another one of Altman’s let’s put on a show kinda jaunts. It seems the long cherished radio show A Prairie Home Companion, is going the way of the bald eagle now that a corporation (embodied by Tommy lee Jones in an odd little performance) has bought it’s home theater up. So here we are on the final night of a show that teems with more characters than any one film has a right to (couldn’t they have lent one of these charming folks to use in The Da Vinci Code? Yawn...).

Now despite the red carpet photos you’ve seen, Lindsay Lohan is not the star of this film. Sorry you Parent Trap groupies. But, yes there’s a but, The Linds-er ain’t bad. She’s the morose, would be poet daughter of Meryl Streep and manages to leave an impression among this galaxy of stars. Speaking of which you’ve got plenty to enjoy: Kevin Kline as the show’s security investigator who seems to have walked in from Altman’s own The Long Goodbye, Meryl and Lily Tomlin as wonderfully eccentric and loquacious sisters, John C. Reilly and Woody Harrelson as a couple of singing cowpokes, and let’s not forget the man who made it all possible...a truly great turn by Prairie Home creator (and the credited screenwriter here) Garrison Keillor. With a voice that could (and does) enrapture millions and a face that must belong to the secret long lost father of The Office’s Rainn Wilson (has no one else noticed the similarity?!?) he’s the glue to this little gem of a summer alternative.

Review: The Omen

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The Omen is as scary as overalls and strawberries.

We've had relatively lengthly reviews up until now, but since the creators of The Omen didn't feel like putting much effort in, neither do I.

Horror films face an uphill battle with their traditionally low budgets and focus on style over substance, but The Omen has it doubly rough since it is a remake. None of that excuses the fact that the occasionally promising build-ups resulted in laugh-enducing "boo!" moments. You know, the ones where a mirror turns slightly, there's a goblin of somekind and the music gets really loud. Everyone jumps for two seconds and it's over. It's like premature ejaculation. "Woh! WOH! Damn."

Damien, actor Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, is certainly creepy but he just doesn't feel like the spawn of Satan. Instead of hints of joy when people die, he just looks ambivalent. I'd suggest he said creepier things more often, but it turns out his voice is unfortunately cute. Satan must be ashamed.

I'll admit there were two aspects that made this film tolerable. First, we have the Rube Goldberg device-like murders, which were fun to watch unfold. Then the last fifteen minutes of the 105 minute film were enthralling. Liev Schreiber is intense and I loved seeing him (SPOILER!!!!!) bowl through Mia Farrow's creepy rendition of the Damien's nanny with his car.

If you're dying to see this film, I suggest you show up about an hour and twenty minutes into the movie. The rest just isn't worth 80 minutes of your summer. Better yet, rent the original and call it a day. Netflix has it in stock as of this writing.

Review: Agnes and His Brothers

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Your librarian wants to schtupp you.

Germans, poop, and tall skinny women (and tall skinny men that look like women): Agnes and His Brothers

Hey wait a minute, this movie's about a tranny? Oh god damn it. Well, let's see what this is about. I mean I already saw it, but I'm going to pretend that I didn't and then act surprised as I describe this sad scene. Oh hey it's kind of like a German go at American Beauty, except for a few things. It's more perverted with a few scheissa jokes in it, but really it's all about dissatisfaction with the life that's been handed to you, and getting shit on. Really, there's a big dookie theme in this movie. Oh and it's all daddy's fault, that too. Let's take a look at Agnes and her two brothers shall we? The movie basically just follows the life and foibles of three grown up, fucked up suburbanites in Deutschland.

Hans: Ahh, the perverted librarian. Depressing. What a shit. Daddy gave Hans some grief as a child and he grew up into an ineffectual pervert. About as ineffectual as they get...Hans masturbates while watching insanely hot women shit. Yup. Things turn out well for him though, he meets a big titted woman who appreciates the fact that he's a weenie and doesn't mind that he, in a full-grown tantrum, killed his daddy. American Beauty parallel? Every time he sees a hot German chick, which is quite often, choral music plays in the background.

Werner: Ahh the frustrated environmental politician. Depressing. He's a big fan of taking shits outside the potty, and throwing them out in a recycling container. He's actually going a bit crazy, losing his touch with reality. His wife is leaving him, and he thinks all his struggling might be for naught. Life turns out peachy though, for no good reason. American Beauty parallel? His kid, Ralf, doesn't respect him, but he manages to win the rebellious teen's love in the end. This of course has nothing to do with him. He simply gets his way by not lecturing Ralf, and letting his wife give the kid big ol' love-slap.

Agnes: Ahh, the sympathetic character. Depressing. Agnes basically wanders through life getting shit on/taken advantage of by all. S/he manages to be an angel nonetheless. Why? Dunno, s/he doesn't have a dick? Is that it? Not so compelling. American Beauty parallel? A nice little recreation of the misinterpreted blowjob scene as viewed by voyeur extraordinaire Hans, which is his excuse for killing daddy.

Daddy: Supremely creepy haircut.

So what happened? Hans gets laid. Werner gets his boring life back. And Agnes? Agnes gets shit on again, this time by god. S/he dies lonely and in pain, but somehow happy, because for some reason this miserable movie decides to end happy. Long story short, do you like poop? If you said "Ja," then see Agnes And His Brothers. If not, just go about your business. You aren't missing a thing.

An aside, someone owes The Turtles some money, because the song the movie ends on was a total rip-off of "Happy Together."

Preview: Garfield's A Tail of Two Kitties

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Oh Garfield, you were much better when you were two dimensional. I loved your comic strip and Garfield and Friends tv show back in the day, but I think you've gone too far. No lasagna for you. Poor Cinecultist, you'll be seeing what is likely the dumbest film of the summer. God speed.

USA Today

[This film] comes off like a coughed-up furball: a wan rehash with too many elements of the hard-to-swallow 2004 original. Garfield may be a popular comic-strip character, but he doesn't exactly light up the big screen.

Onion A.V. Club

The series' distracting, inexplicable mish-mash of live action and animation, genuine animals, and cartoon replications remains a mindfuck of a conceit, but the dismal first Garfield at least gave audiences plenty of time to get acclimated to its multiple layers of miscalculation. It also set the bar so low that a sequel almost couldn't almost help but clear it.

Preview: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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Movies like this don't really need a preview. You know the action is going to be exciting and the dialogue will make you wish there were barf bags in every theatre. There's not a lot of wiggle room with a movie like this. The only interesting piece of information is that Justin Lin directed the movie. Better Luck Tomorrow was a really fun movie and that bodes well for this one...probably.

Chicago Tribune

For all its crashes and flash, this is a movie that drifts away as we watch it. Muscle cars and all, it's often a waste of gas.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

In between are the obligatory race scenes, a terrific chase weaving through Tokyo traffic like it was an obstacle course, and a ridiculous romance tossed in the mix just to up the ante. At least Lin's local color make the idiocy fun to watch.

Preview: The Lake House

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The Lake House is 105 minutes of watching Keanu try to read that letter. Unfortunately that's what most Keanu moves feel like for me when he has more than a dozen lines of dialogue. Keanu and Sandra Bullock are reunited for another fling, but this time they exist in different space-time continuums (they live in the same house two years apart and converse via some magic note). Awesome(?)! This one has gotten pretty average reviews and a good review from A.O. Scott, which is oftentimes more of a turn off for me.

New York Times

The contrivances of the plot, which may require occasional glances at a multiyear date book, are smoothly handled by David Auburn's script and by Mr. Agresti's direction. Visually, "The Lake House" is elegant without being terribly showy, with a connoisseur's eye for Chicago's architectural glories. But the movie is, above all, a showcase for its stars, who seem gratifyingly comfortable in their own skin and delighted to be in each other's company again, in another deeply silly, effortlessly entertaining movie.

Entertainment Weekly

But we've all seen Bullock and Reeves (apart and, once, together), and it's clear that Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti, best known in the U.S. for his sugary coming-of-age drama Valentin, has put too much faith in audience fondness for that cute duo who starred in Speed a dozen years ago. Now the stars are doing Slow — she's winsome on cue, he's pained.

Preview: Nacho Libre

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When I first heard of the combination of talent — Jack Black starring, Mike White writing and Jared Hess directing — I was beside myself. It seemed like a match made in heaven as the idea of Jack Black playing a Mexican wrestler is potentially hilarious. Unfortunately, this may be a film where the preview is all we need. I haven't seen it yet myself, but friends are bringing back average reports and the critics seem to agree. I'll see it anyway, partially because I have to and partially because it's a good way to spend two hours of a 90° Sunday.


The Onion A.V. Club

Like Dynamite, Libre moves at a sleepy snail's pace, crawling from one botched setpiece to another with all the energy of a funeral dirge. A sprightly soundtrack keeps the film from lapsing into a coma, but Hess' strangely airless comedy feels more storyboarded than directed...How can any comedy with Jack Black as a Mexican wrestler not be gut-bustingly hilarious? Nacho Libre provides an all-too-convincing answer.

LA Times

But the charm of "Nacho Libre" is mostly to be found in the two friends' ruminations on faith (Esqueleto believes in science), love, dreams and nutrition. If ever a movie paid homage to fresh fruits and vegetables, it's this one. And if ever a born loser looked like the winner of the future, it's Nacho.

Fresh fruit homages? Excelente.

Preview: Loverboy

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Man, there are a lot of stinkers this week. Sigh. I shouldn't complain, this whole thing was my idea. After reading a few synopses I'm still not sure what this is about, but I believe director Kevin Bacon's film is about a mother who only wants a son to love instead of a husband. I also read that the mother, Kyra Sedgwick, gets naked a lot, which is a check in the postives column. Unfortunately, this has the lowest meta-ratings of the week (42 from Metacritic and 12% from Rotten Tomatoes). At least a couple reviews were positive.

Christian Science Monitor

Bacon lavishes his camera on her in various states of dress and undress, but the script, by Hannah Shakespeare - talk about having to live up to a name! - is a cheat. It rarely expands on the boy's crises in having to deal with such a mother.

The Hollywood Reporter

It may take a parent to really appreciate what attracted him to such one-dimensional material. Good performances and a keen eye for period detail can't disguise the fact that not much is happening here story-wise. Beyond fans of the Bacon clan, pic is unlikely to generate much boxoffice sizzle.

Preview: Lower City

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We could definitely use more sexy, Brazilian films in this summer's line up. We could also use more films by people associated with The Motorcycle Diaries (Sergio Machado was once the assistant to Walter Salles, director of the Diaries). Lower City will be the first to bring those to the screen as it follows a young, Brazilian prostitute who bums a ride to Salvador on a boat with two young men. Lots of sex and conflict follows. The similarities to Y Tu Mama Tambien seem strong, which is also a very good thing.

New York Post

The impressive first feature by Sergio Machado, a one-time assistant to Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries"), is a trip through a grungy world of crime, sex and cockfights. Machado remains nonjudgmental while getting convincing performances from Braga and, as the young men, Lazaro Ramos and Wagner Moura.

The New Yorker

In the end, “Lower City” is never quite as energetic as it wants to be, touched by the strange, milky lethargy that steeps every waterfront film. What verve it possesses should, I learn from the production notes, be attributed to Kundalini, the special pre-shoot exercise performed by the actors, which “sought to liberate their sexuality by means of pelvic movements.” I can see how that might do the trick.

Preview: Wordplay

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By now, I thought I'd be sick of the documentaries that cover a quirky subset of the American public. They seem to just keep coming. Amazingly, I'm still down for more wacky goodness. Wordplay, as you've likely surmised, is about crossword puzzles. In particular, the film follows the life of Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times daily crossword puzzle. I think this might be nerdier than Word Wars, but time will tell. This is probably an unfair battle at the moment, but Wordplay wins in a Google Fight.

Rolling Stone

I thought I'd be bored stiff watching a bunch of word geeks gather in Stamford, Connecticut, for the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Boy, was I wrong. There's more palm-sweating suspense in one minute of this baby than in all of The Omen.

Film Threat

...Of course, there are going to be people out there who flip their shit over this doc, namely crossword puzzle fanatics. For them, “Wordplay” will be hot, steamy porn. For others, watching people scribble furiously on a sheet of paper will be as exciting as watching paint dry.

Preview: The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green

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This "romantic comedy follows the story of Ethan Green, an adorable 26 year-old professional 'assistant' looking for love in all the wrong places." Gag. Oh yes, I did just jump to conclusions. Granted, a gay romantic comedy is unlikely to get a wide release, but it seems like a small release is just right for this one. One interesting tidbit: it's based on a comic strip by Eric Orner. I'm hoping to avoid it all together.

LA Times

Inoffensive even as it makes some fairly explicit sex jokes, "Ethan Green" may not exactly be fabulous, but it is pleasantly diverting.

Village Voice

If you're looking for the perfect date movie to celebrate Gay Pride, do yourself a favor: Rent some good porn and stay the hell away from Ethan Green. Flat characters and speech-bubble dialogue are to be expected when they're based on a comic strip—in this case, Eric Orner's long-running alt-weekly staple but trust me, you'd be better off with Family Circus.

Review: The Lake House

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Oh when damaged beautiful people meet, them sparks do fly, don't they? But what if they can't meet? What if time and fate have another plan in store? Cruel melodrama, why must you torture our lovers so?!? Fear not devotees of tales of doomed and star crossed lovers, The Lake House won't let you down.

If you've seen the trailer you know that the premise of our story is a fantastical one and one that demands you check your frontal lobe at the concession stand. But that shouldn't be too hard in a week that saw the release of a film starring Jack Black as a Mexican wrestler and it's much less of a leap than Somewhere in Time got away with over 25 years ago (not to mention something like Kate & Leopold just a few years back).

You've got your burnt out ER doc (Sandra Bullock reveling in her grumpiness) moving into a house torn from the notebooks of Frank Gehry. And you've got your architect turned developer who can't escape his father's legacy (Keanu Reeves) moving into the very same house. You see they're actually living two years apart. Keanu's in 2004 no doubt waiting for the recently released Matrix sequels to show up on DVD while Sandy's in the present.

But wait there's more. Thanks to a magical mailbox these two have struck up a correspondence and burgeoning love affair that defies the laws of time and space. Not quite getting it? Don't worry. You couldn't possibly be more confused than Regis Philbin was the other day when Keanu was trying to explain it to him.

The truth is it all works in an effective way. Our leads deliver two engaging and relatively authentic feeling performances and they even share a nice chemistry thanks to more scenes than you might expect of the two sharing the screen. Kudos as always to the never fail acting lion that is Christopher Plummer as Reeves' dad, a self-obessed architectual luminary who gets to shine in a couple scenes. Why Plummer doesn't get offered the roles that Anthony Hopkins can't get to is beyond me.

The Lake House is an adult summer romance, a beach read of a film that doesn't make you feel stupid on the way out and that's just about the best you could hope for something like this, isn't it? Sure the third act twist is telegraphed a long way away but that won't matter as you're enjoying the silly conceits and clever plot turns in innumerable viewings on TNT and Lifetime in the years to come.

Review: Loverboy

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Unfortunately, still photos can't accurately show crappiness.

Going in, I knew this film was going to be bad. The reviews were awful and I had little to no interest in the subject. I planned to survive this film by waiting for the moments when Kyra Sedgwick had a lot of sex. Surely, that would keep me engaged for a few of the 84 minutes of Loverboy. As a testament to the quality of this film, even the naughty bits made me consider standing up and walking into a showing of Garfield's Tail of Two Kitties. Loveryboy might even end up in my list of ten worst films I've ever seen. Yes, it was that bad.

Mostly, Kyra Sedgwick pissed me off. Instead of feeling her pain for the awful childhood she endured, I just wanted her to stop talking. It was like watching a modern-day Saturday Night Live sketch that you hoped would have a punchline but never did...and it lasted 84 minutes. Even the "surprise" ending was a cop-out. Sigh. That was seriously a waste of $10.75. I'm thankful that no other film this summer looks quite so hideous, otherwise I'd be tempted to quit now and save my dignity and remaining brain cells.

So this is your warning: Don't See Loveryboy.

Review: Only Human

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Despite the reassurance of Radiohead, meeeting people is not easy. Especially when it's your fiance's parents. And you're Palestinian and she's Jewish. And you may have killed her father. And, well, you get the idea.

Only Human is a Spanish film written and directed by husband and wife pair Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri. The lovely couple referred to above, Gloria and Rafi played by Maria Botto and Guillermo Toledo, lead us through this slapstick tale that's spiked with morality. It reminds me of a Spanish-language Meet the Parents with a distinct European sensibility.

The slapstick side of Only Human is fun, but ultimately forgettable. I have no specific grievances about the acting or the gags, but Cinecultist and I both agreed that this doesn't really add much to the lexicon of film. What sets the film apart is its desire to provide a unique perspective on the Palestinian/Israeli issue. Unfortunately, it has a mild personality disorder. I liked the idea of this being solely a goofy film using the ultimate frightening fiance for a traditional Jewish mother. The idea is cute and the mother (Norma Aleandro) played it just right.

What threw me off was a scene in the third act when the young couple had a genuine argument about the conflict between their people. It's not that I don't want to hear it, but it worked better as an unspoken tension. Letting it free changed my perspective on the film. But if you're content with a good time with some crazy Spanish characters, then it shouldn't have much effect on you. I definitely enjoyed myself despite the lack of cohesiveness and I'm confident you will too.

As a footnote, I could really see Ben Stiller in the man's role if this were remade in the States. But instead of Teri Polo, I'm picturing Renee Zellweger. It's nothing I'd want to see, but with lack of originality in Hollywood today I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see it in Summer 2010.

Review: The Heart of the Game

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The trailer for the documentary The Heart of the Game makes a point of trumpeting the fact that the film is “based on a true story,” which, of course, it ought to be by definition. On one level, this phrase is an easily-understood marketing shorthand for “uplifting tale of ordinary triumph!,” but on another, it's there to let the audience know that this is not in fact yet another mockumentary. (There are waaaaaaay too many mockumentaries. Note to mockumentarians: Please stop.)

Sports documentaries generally either play out an underdog-makes-good narrative, or mythologize individual players or teams. Ward Serrill's film is stuck in a difficult position between the two, with his milieu – high school girls basketball in Seattle, Washington – lacking the gravitas to pull off a proper “sports legend” story, and his subject, the nearly-undefeated Roosevelt Roughriders being nothing like underdogs in spite of a few setbacks here and there. The film isn't about overcoming adversity (though there is a subplot for a key player which does follow that trajectory), but rather a study in how winners go about the act of winning.

Much of the movie is focused on the team's coach, Bill Resler; a shlubby, affable tax professor who leads his team to an impressive record in his first-ever season as the head of a basketball program. He's a highly effective leader, at first dismantling the team's offense entirely, and then going on to motivate his girls to revel in their aggression. He's supportive and easygoing, and capable of transforming timid teenagers into a collective of “warriors” on the court. The girls' enthusiasm provides the film most of its energy, though the story begins to coast along in its third act in spite of plot points including the sudden pregnancy of a star player and a high-stakes state championship match against their scrappy hometown rivals. By that point, you will certainly have enough invested in the players and the coach to want to see how things turn out, but the film has long since exhausted anything that it had to say.

It is notable that rap star Ludacris provides all of the narration in the film. His charismatic drawl is far more restrained than what you may be used to hearing on his records, but it is nonetheless quite entertaining. More rappers ought to make the transition into narration, if just for the fact that clear enunciation and a compelling vocal presence is a natural part of their skill set, and that we all could benefit from voiceovers that aren't entirely dry and uptight.

Review: Garfield, A Tail of Two Kitties

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Sometimes my big mouth really gets me in trouble. At the start of this project, as the Latin Snake and I brainstormed about the pleasures and pitfalls of this binge, we bantered about all of the terrible movies we'd have to sit through for the sake of our readers. The sequel to the 2004 kiddie movie, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties came up quickly as a particularly painful entry and I thought I was so witty to harp on the pun-tastic title and brag about going to see it. But as I walked up to the Union Square Theater last Saturday morning, I felt like I was on a death march. Someone should've ducked out of a brownstone to yell, "dead movie girl walking!"

Despite my obvious trepidation, the whole cast of the first Garfield didn't have such misgivings. Stars Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt from the first installment are back for more, though one could argue they probably would be home watching Oprah if they weren't working on this film. Not so for other cast members like "the star" Bill Murray as the voice of the fat cat, Billy Connolly as the baddie and Jane Horrocks, Tim Curry and Richard E. Grant all doing animal voices. Surely these people don't need to appear in a movie about a lazy, lasagna lovin' cat and his trip to England.

The thin premise if you're curious: John is going to propose to Liz but Garfield is jealous. Before the proposal, veterinarian Liz announces she's off to England for some kind of animal protection conference. John decides to go to the UK too and Garfield and his trusty sidekick Odie tag along in suitcases. MEANWHILE, a cat named Prince has just inherited a huge estate outside of London. The spoiled nephew of Prince's former owner (Connolly) wants to get rid of Prince so he can get the estate instead. Through various circumstances all coincidental in nature, Garfield and Prince get switched and Garfield has to help save the estate from the animal hating nephew.

At this point it's clear that I've spent far too much of my brain to thinking about Garfield but here's a few more ponderings for you: The conceit of Garfield, that a sad, lonely man owns a selfish cat whom he talks to, implies that Garfield and Jon have conversation yet don't hear each other. They each talk but they're not in dialogue. In the comic strips which I read obsessively as a kid, I accepted this idea without question but on the silver screen, it's an odd one. Also, really what's so great about lasagna and bad about Mondays? Garfield lives in a world of total absolutes. He exists only to stuff himself, sleep and hate everyone around him. Why is this so funny or universally understandable to the child mind? Epiphany! Dear lord, is Garfield our id, the part of our personality that satisfies the primeval?

Another thing I learned from this movie is that if you want to make a massive quantity of lasagna from scratch, apparently bringing in a team of cooking farm animals will do the job. Also my big complaint was that there wasn't enough Pookie. Garfield's stuffed bear has but a brief cameo. How about a third part that features Pookie prominently? Goodness, there goes our big mouth again. Shut up you, just shut up.

Review: Nacho Libre

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For the most part, I think people's expectations for summer movies are far too high. Significant cereberal activity is for the fall during Oscar season. When the sweaty, dirty New York summer arrives I want something that will make me laugh, scream or cheer as I relax in my refrigerated movieplex. Nacho Libre, while a valiant effort, didn't quite make it there.

I was so freaking excited for this movie, as I mentioned in the preview, and for good reason. Jack Black and Mike White have a long history of producing great comedies and Jared Hess had a memorable start with Napoleon Dynamite. I'm not sure if it was a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen issue, but they couldn't put it together in this tale of a Mexican friar who loves Lucho Libre wrestling and the poor sap he brings along for the ride.

One of the reviews of the film, from The Onion A.V. Club, mentioned how this film and Napoleon move at a "sleepy snail's pace" which it seems is where this went wrong. In Napoleon Dynamite the cast and plot lent itself to the slowly devloping plotlines and the flatly delivered one-liners. Jack Black's unbelievable energy just doesn't jibe with this pace and the film suffers as a result. It's all so frustrating as I thought the cast was strong and the plot is ridiculously fun.

There were definitely a few good moments — a piece of Mexican street corn used as a weapon was my favorite — but not enough to make this worth your time this summer. Unfortunately, this is the only real comedy out in the theaters now, so it will have to do. So, if you're dying for 2 hours of frosty air conditioning and you only need a few laughs to keep you awake, Nacho Libre will suffice.

Review: Lower City

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You idiots, it's not, "Hos before Bros."

I'll just state the most important part of this review first, and then get to what works for this movie. DO NOT SEE LOWER CITY WITH YOUR PARENTS. It's a sleazy sexy violent movie. I felt like I should've been wearing a trenchcoat in the theater.

Yeah, this movie's about a working girl and the brain surgeons that love them. The film wastes no time establishing Karinna's credentials, about five minutes after her introduction she negotiates a ride to El Salvador with a "cash, grass or ass nobody rides for free" motto sporting pair of fellas named Deco and Naldinho. She does not pay with money or weed. This is about as good as it gets for any the three starcrossed lovers.

When the next town they roll into results in Naldinho getting stuck with a shiv, Karinna sticks around to help, so maybe she's the hooker with a heart of gold. Well, nobody ever said being a sweetie made one a genius. The rest of the movie sees the trio fuck with each other's hearts past the breaking point, destroying friendships and futures.

That's it in a nutshell, there's a hell of a lot of drinking in between (I didn't see a character voluntarily imbibe water), screwing, and day to day living, but it's all just cover for those moments when the love triangle plays itself out. It makes them all mighty unsympathetic to watch, just for being so predictable, like a crew of snotty ten year old's they just can't help destroying themselves. It makes you want to send them into the corner for a timeout.

What worked? Well, the acting was solid. No punches were pulled, that's for sure. Additionally, the atmosphere has an excellent gritty and dark feel to it, which owes a lot to City of God, the other Brazilian movie I can safely reference. I'm thinking their ministry of tourism isn't too thrilled with the image that's getting exported.

It's always cool to get a glimpse of cities, towns and neighborhoods that aren't touted by said tourism industry. And that's what you get here with Lower City, a movie that makes its way through locales that while clearly seedy aren't quite the bombed out slums of City of God. The camera spends a lot of time in residential districts that house the hustlers, wageslaves and red light district types. Neat.

To sum-up, if you're interested in seeing a few good looking people get naked and act up in a foreign locale go see Lower City. If not, then don't, see if I care.

Two asides:

-Landmark Sunshine on Houston is one of the only theaters I've been to in ages that doesn't run silly ads/trivia before the movie begins. It's a nice feeling to be able to just zone out and relax, and in fact makes the previews feel a bit more welcome.
-The actress who played Karinna was also in City of God. How about that.

Review: Wordplay

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I've noticed a tendency on the part of movie reviewers (indeed, professional reviewers of any stripe) to get a wee bit breathless any time they're presented with something that is both enjoyable and out of the ordinary. This is perfectly understandable, as they're bombarded every day with films that might meet one of those criteria (or neither, lord knows), but very rarely do they have the pleasure of encountering one that embodies both. Wordplay certainly qualifies, but critics like Peter Travers do, perhaps, overstate matters when they claim it's packed with "palm-sweating suspense." There's drama, certainly, but at the end of the day, this is still a movie about the life of the mind, and the brain is not known for its proclivity for car chases and exploding oil tankers, y'know? (Well, my brain perhaps, but that's in a totally different hemisphere from the puzzlin' part.)

Which is not to knock Wordplay. It's a sweet, funny, and very charming documentary overall, examining the lives of some very, very, very nerdy people (and I should know from nerds) as they don their crossword ties and suit jackets (no, really) and prepare for the 28th Annual Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held in the Marriott in Stamford, CT. The men and women profiled in the film span a reasonable range of demographics, and they're all intriguing folks, but unfortunately there is a slightly repetitive sense of commonality about them: it's a particular personality type that's drawn to puzzles, and it's an even more particular personality type that is both drawn to puzzles and good at solving them. But it's nonetheless quite pleasant to watch them gather and rejoice in each other's nerdiness, and even if the thought of solving the Monday crossword makes you break out into hives, you'll be able to both respect their skills and sympathize with their joy at participating in a community that shares their passions. That brief feeling of repetitiousness aside, the film is generally quite nimble in its pacing and visual style, including some rather original techniques for putting the dense visual code of crosswords onto the screen in a scannable, comprehensible fashion.

The only other two flaws in the film are reasonably minor: One is that, no matter how true the sentiment might be, the film's repeated (and I do mean repeated) references to the New York Times as "the greatest newspaper in the world" or "the most important cultural institution in existence" can be a bit obnoxious -- at moments like that, the film feels like it was created to play on flatscreen TVs in the Times lobby while you wait to speak with a customer service rep about your subscription. The other weak point is, sadly, Will Shortz: he's a very effective sort of Master of Ceremonies for the film, and it's fascinating to see a few quick glimpses of his professional process as an editor, but we get no sense of him as a puzzler or a personality in quite the same way that we're allowed into the heads of the film's civilian subjects. It's respectable as a personal decision, perhaps, but something about his weirdly rakish grin (in one of his appearances, Jon Stewart dubs Shortz "the Errol Flynn of puzzling") seems to demand a closer inspection.

But there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half staring at a wall this summer (God knows I saw one of them a few days after this screening), and you're bound to laugh and, yes, feel a tingle of suspense once the real competition kicks in. And God help me, it actually has made me want to try my hand at a crossword for the first time in years. Stop me before I buy a crossword tie.

(And for further reading: This Times Q&A with Will Shortz.)

Review: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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Warning to all the haters: I liked this movie. I got a lot of sympathy when I pulled the Fast and Furious straw last weekend, but I had confidence. Yes, the film would have inane dialogue and mediocre acting, but does it matter? Do you go to see a car movie for witty banter? I certainly don't.

Tokyo Drift rolls without Vin Diesel or Paul Walker at the helm, which means that they'll need a gimmick to keep your attention. Thus, the introduction of drift racing to the big screen. The story follows Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) to Tokyo as he is forced to attend high school there after being kicked out of school after school in the States. One of the conditions of staying with his dad is no driving, but that lasts about 2 movie minutes. Sean finds himself racing for a Yakuza sub-contractor (more exciting than it sounds) and ends up in the middle of betrayal. There's more drama and a hot girl, but you get the drift (he he, puns!).

The plot is far from special, but it's good enough to keep you entertained between driving scenes, which is all I ask of it. As for the driving scenes, they didn't disappoint. The cars were tricked out, the driving was both fast and furious (thankfully), and there was more than enough destruction to keep me happy. Oh, and if you're not into these crazy Japanese cars, our lead character drops a Nissan engine into a Mustang, which is (in the words of Homer) sacrilicious.

There's not much more to say about this film. Fast cars = entertaining. Poor acting = ignorable. And if you do nothing else, I implore you to search out the very end of the film, where there is a guest appearance by Vin Diesel and the following line of dialogue is uttered:

Random Tokyo Guy: I didn't know [Lucas] was into muscle [i.e. the tricked out Buick they're in]. Vin: He was when he was with me.

Hey-o! Well, I guess Vin's character and Sean are, ahem, good friends. If the box office numbers keep up, we might be seeing Fast and the Furious: Under My Hood sometime soon.

Review: The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life Of Ethan Green

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Oh, what a woeful film. What a woefully, woefully woeful film Ethan Green is. How bad is it? It is so bad! How bad it is! What a terrible motion picture (You get the idea).

As the Token Gay on the Movie Binge staff (side note: you may be surprised to learn that Latin Snake is not, in point of fact, our Token Latino), I felt compelled to volunteer for Ethan Green duty, despite having absolutely zero taste for "gay" cinema as such (as long as My Beautiful Laundrette doesn't count, because that movie rocks). But I thought it would be cute to go on a proper gay date to a proper gay movie, which I'd never done before, and in the worst-case scenario I would at least be taking a bullet for my fellow Bingers. In this case, an armor-piercing bullet. With poison inside. And enriched uranium. That's been set on fire. And farted on.

I won't bother you with the details of the plot, dear (likely straight) reader; I will allow you to use that time to make babies or vote for Republicans or do whatever it is that the people who don't go to movies like this do. Suffice it to say that Ethan Green is unlucky in love, perhaps because he is as a character (a.) unlikeable to an almost inconceivable degree, and (b.) acted with an emotional range one step above pornography (one step below some good porn, actually). The script is unbearably dull, jammed with vacant characters and miserable one-liners -- this is the kind of movie that brazenly expects you to laugh when an attendee at a gay wedding asks "Which side is the groom's side?" YES HA HA, WE GET IT, THEY ARE BOTH MEN. Who sleep with each other. Like your entire fucking audience (with the exception of the lesbian couple who sat four rows in front of us, and who really should have known better). Set your sights a bit higher, won't you?

It is worth noting, as a sign of where the bar was set in general, that the single best performance in the film is given by a nine-year-old girl with asthma, and she is only mildly funny. It is also worth noting that the second-best performance in the film is given by Meredith Baxter from "Family Ties," a fact which amused my date to no end. Before the film, he pointed out to me that this movie made more per-screen last weekend than The Lake House, and though I have no especial love for Keanu & Sandra (had their big reunion picture been Speed 3: Speed On A Plane, or perhaps an entry in the Jurassic Park series, it would be another story), I can only think of that as a massive travesty of justice. It would be a travesty of justice if this movie did more per-screen business than Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties, which is at least, I gather, suitable for the temporary placation of children. This film was suitable only for the temporary infuriation of yours truly. It is, I cannot stress the fact enough, a woeful movie. Stay home. (Not that you weren't planning to anyway, in this case...)

Review: Land of the Blind

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I admit, I didn't even know this movie was coming out. I have a feeling that there may only be five or six of you who have heard of Land of the Blind, even though it has Ralph Fiennes, Donald Sutherland and Laura Flynn-Boyle. After seeing the film, I'm surprised this is the case. I'll admit, there were a number of flaws and I could see how it might be tough to promote, but it deserved to open on more than two screens.

Land of the Blind is political satire that imagines a fictitious state under a totalitarian dictatorship. The dictator (Tom Hollander) uses taxes to fund his ridiculous lifestyle and stupidly large mansion. Ralph Fiennes plays a prison guard (Joe) watching over the leader of the uprising (Donald Sutherland, i.e. Thorne), who happens to be a political prisoner. Eventually, Joe helps Thorne overtake the evil dictator only to watch Thorne create an even more retched existense. This, of course, brings us to the moral.

Well, as many other reviewers have noticed, the moral isn't so fresh. I took away that dictatorship is bad and the grass is never greener. Despite these being far from earth-shattering, I was still entertained. This is probably because I'm a sucker for a highly stylized film, but I did think there was some interesting camera work, I enjoyed Ralph Fiennes' performance and the cutaways to newscasts were consistently funny.*

I'm going to give Land of the Blind an A for effort. It clearly wasn't a film for the ages but at least it tried. Anytime a studio tries for something other than a quick cash-grab, I'm happy to give it a shot. Still, save your ten bucks and rent it on Netflix.

* For example, if there were three murders in a K-Mart, the newscaster would follow this news with a live read of an advertisement for K-Mart. It's funny because I could see it being true.

Review: Waist Deep

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Don't be like your daddy; stay out of awful movies.

Look, this film was utter crap. I'm not going to even bother with a proper review. I'll just tell you the basic (and it was basic) plot outline and then follow it with a great story.

O2 (a.k.a. Tyrese Gibson) is fresh out of jail and committed to getting a real job and caring for his son. His son gets napped in a car-jacking and is held hostage by Meat (a.k.a. The Game) for $100,000. O2 enlists the help of Coco (a.k.a. Meagan Good), who's also looking to start fresh, to get the cash and his son back. They rob two feuding gangs and three banks. They get freaky at some point. A bunch of other highly anticipated crap happens. Then O2 kills Meat (at some point we find out they had beef) as he gets his son back. They drive off, but the cops are chasing behind them. O2 manages to save Coco and his son, but in a not-really heart-wrenching moment decides to drive his car into the river. We then fast-forward two years and see Coco and O2's son in a beautiful little house in Mexico (Coco wanted to move there because people say all your sins are wiped clean) living all hunky-dory.

Does it end there? No, but the ending is integrated into the awesome story. At some point during the film O2 explains his name. People call him O2 (i.e. oxygen, but like super-oxygen (yes, seriously), which is why it's Oh Two) because he can escape any situation unscathed. I know what you're thinking — "there's no way they'd use that as excuse to bring him back", right? Before I loosely quote the end of the film, I will note that I saw this at the UA Court St. Theater in Brooklyn, where people can be quite vocal.

Coco and O2's son are walking on the beach. Coco: Let's practice your spanish. What's that? (points to the ocean) O2's Son: El Mar. Coco: What's that? (points to a family) O2's Son: La Familia Coco: What's that? (points to a guy walking towards them from far away) [Dramatic pause...] O2's Son: Padre!!!

At this point, a very large man behind me is like, "No, No, Nu'uh. That did not just happen." He proceeds to step over the three people to his left and walks right out the theater. Another dozen people yell out and do the same thing. Forty-five seconds later the movie ends and people are standing before the director's name is on the screen.

I freaking loved that. I'm just glad that audiences today can sniff out a turd without a problem.

Review: The Road To Guantanamo

guantanamo.jpgThe summer movie season is usually reviled for putting out movies of the Waist Deep school of filmmaking but actually there are more quiet, moving indies in the mix of releases than you'd expect. Michael Winterbottom's newest, The Road to Guantanamo falls into that camp (no pun intended) with its fine acting, clever use of documentary realism and shocking subject matter. Like The Inconvenient Truth, this is a movie which may not seem like it would be a fun time at the cinema and at times it's certainly not, but it's an important movie if you believe in human rights and America's due process system.

Winterbottom is a director whose prolific output is only matched by his eclectic subject matter and seems to me to be one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. Thus, I hopped at a chance to attend an advance screening of the film hosted by the ACLU at the IFC Center with a Q&A following featuring Winterbottom, a few human rights lawyers and the three subjects of his film linked in via iChat AV from England. Consequently an already upsetting film about three young English muslims imprisoned at Guantanamo for two years without ever being formally charged, became an even more conscious raising experience. As the lawyers on the panel pointed out, to see the conditions at Guantanamo actualized on screen with actors living through it brought this situation home more than all even they've read or heard. It's impressive when movies can communicate someone's lived experience so viscerally and it gives this sometimes jaded viewer hope that making movies can really be an important undertaking.

On a random side note: Michael Stipe happened to be in the audience and during the Q&A got up to make a heartfelt comment to the young men in England that on behalf of all Americans he apologized for their treatment. So, if it was possible to add a tally to our Movie Binge running totals of popcorn, sodas and candy we could put down "one" next to celebrity sightings during our project.

Review: Wassup Rockers

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Larry Clark is a love 'em or hate 'em sort of artist, and I've spent the last ten years in the latter camp. I've never had a taste for Clark's artless photographs of teen sexuality and drug abuse, and I certainly don't care for the sort of influence he's had on subsequent generations as one of the prime architects of what would be best understood today as the Vice aesthetic. As Clark ages (he's currently 63), his relentless fascination with nubile teenage flesh only becomes creepier, and his films become ever flimsier excuses to indulge in his chickenhawk tendencies.

Surprisingly, after the relentless sweaty crotch-shots of Bully (if you've ever been extremely curious about the anatomy of Macauley Culkin's ex-wife, that's the movie for you) and the over the top parade of perversity in 2002's Ken Park (a film that I and most everyone else have not seen largely due to the fact that it contains explicit scenes of teen sex, incest, and autoerotic asphyxiation and never found a distributor), Wassup Rockers is a far milder version of Clark's regular shtick. Though the film is packed with lingering, leering shots of half-naked teenagers, there's virtually no nudity in the picture, and there's actually not very much in the way of glamorized debauchery. It's hard to tell whether this is the result of commercial pressures or some show of mature restraint, but I suppose that I'm grateful not to be totally skeeved out by anything in the movie.

Clark's subjects in Wassup Rockers are a group of Latino skate punks from the ghetto of South Central Los Angeles. In the first hour or so, the film trudges through a series of rhythmless, poorly shot vignettes depicting their daily life, including several interminable sequences of the teen skaters wiping out gracelessly, over and over again. The picture finds some kind of form in its second half, as the boys stumble into a series of misadventures in Beverly Hills. Obviously, the boys are fish out of water in this enclave of extreme affluence, and their encounters hammer the film's one and only discernible point: rich white people in Los Angeles are grotesque, and these poor Latino rebels are genuine and pure. The boys' presence is met with one of two basic responses – they are run down or attacked by the whitest dudes imaginable, or are treated as novelty sex objects or tokens of outsider coolness by bored white girls and jaded hipsters.

The film is at its most honest and direct in the moments when the objectification of these young men is foregrounded. When a duo of cute rich girls lure two of the guys back to their rooms, they are clearly acting as mouthpieces for Clark as the brunette gently interrogates one lad (bringing the film full circle with its incongruous opening scene of one of the boys answering questions in his bedroom with his shirt off as though the movie was a documentary), and the blonde exclaims that she thinks her dude's uncut cock is “dangerous!!!” In these moments, there's a refreshing guilelessness about the fact that Clark is treating these boys not so much as characters but as specimen to be observed, and that the fascination is largely rooted in the idealized sexualization of otherness. When the movie tries to be about the boys' struggle and the integrity of their lifestyle, it is clear that Clark means well, but it rings very hollow.

Though Wassup Rockers is a vast improvement for Larry Clark, it is at best a mediocre film. The production values aspire for documentary-style naturalism, but with the exception of the moments when the camera is ogling young skin, the photography is amateurish and shoddy, and the cast of untrained actors is often glaringly untalented, seeming stilted even when they are ostensibly playing barely fictionalized versions of themselves.

Review: Superman Returns

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Oh, what it must be like to be a comic book geek growing up today?!? Back in my day a big budget adaptation of a comic book was something called Howard the Duck and you’d get beaten up for even whispering that you liked it. (I did and please don’t give me a noogie.)

Today Hollywood seems to think they’ve hit upon the magic formula for comic book movies and great Caesar’s ghost, they’re right. It actually is working—most of the time. Take your venerable institution of a comic book character, let a fan boy/preternaturally gifted director have at it and lo and behold you’ve got your summer tent pole.

It’s been working pretty well by and large.
X-Men: Bryan Singer
Batman: Chris Nolan
Spider-Man: Sam Raimi
Hellboy: Guillermo del Toro
Hell I even have grown to like what Ang Lee did with The Hulk.

And now we come to the granddaddy of them all. The man with the big S on his chest and that silly little curl of hair that you know he must work on for hours to get just right.

Superman!

And once again Hollywood’s gone to Bryan Singer. And once again it’s worked—mostly. Superman has indeed returned as the title promises (from a DVD extra jaunt to the remains of Krypton) and by God for nearly three hours it’s pretty fun to be at the movies again. How much of the credit for that goes to Singer and company and how much is due to our collective nostalgia for the Richard Donner ’78 version is up for debate. Frankly I need to see it again. I need to see it again because I was overwhelmed—overwhelmed in a way I haven’t been at the movies since I was at an early screening of The Phantom Menace and my brain simply couldn’t process that I was watching a new Star Wars movie. It happened again last week when I saw Superman Returns and those glorious swooshing titles began and that John Williams fanfare bellowed from the Dolby surround. So honestly it’s going to take another viewing or two to properly judge just what I saw.

BUT…let’s give it a try anyway, shall we? Superman Returns is a worthy re-start of a franchise that we’ve sorely been lacking. Let’s face it, we’ve got angst-ridden/tormented/self-destructive heroes up the wazoo. I love Batman. I really do. But sometimes it’s fun to hang out with the fun friend and not the too cool for school brooder.

And more importantly for our purposes every once in a while it’s nice to feel a little wonder and awe at the movies and that’s what Superman Returns delivers. Singer and screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty have delivered a lovingly earnest continuation/re-imagining of the Donner Superman film—sometimes a little too lovingly for my taste. I get it. You liked the Donner film. We all did.

Ironically the new film gets bogged down in some of the same pacing problems of 78’s Superman. Frankly Kevin Spacey (a gallant Gene Hackman-ish turn that falls just short) and his cronies get too much face time plotting and scheming and just sort of hanging out in mansions and yachts. It’s especially too much when you consider that after two hours and forty five minutes I still felt like Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s relationship got short shrift. Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth give it a decent try but their exchanges really are trading on the memories of the past and not what’s in the here and now.

Unfortunately there is perhaps not one cast member here that improves upon Donner’s version. Alright, maybe Parker Posey could give Valerie Perrine a run for her money. Most egregious of all is a blah performance by Bosworth as Lois. This is the chick Superman turned back time for?

However and there is a big however…Superman Returns in the end delivers where it counts. Donner’s film promised that “you will believe a man can fly.” This one’s tag line could have been “you will believe a man can lift a space shuttle from a supersonic plane in mid-flight.” There are a dozen iconic images of Superman doing his thing in this film that took this overgrown adolescent’s breath away. This is what I want to see modern effects technology used for, not to put Shaun Wayan’s head on a baby (though don’t get me wrong, that’s cool too).

Credit also must go to Brandon Routh who truly embodies Superman as well as could be hoped for. He looks the part to a tee and carries a healthy dose of charisma—especially when you consider this is his first film. I just wish he (and indeed the film as a whole) would have lightened up a tad at times. Singer has created a gorgeously realized old fashioned melodrama of an epic. Your eyes widen with wonder and your pulse races as Clark makes a beeline for the elevator but unfortunately you never get the whimsy and sheer joy that Donner achieved.

[TEMP ED NOTE: This review is by Josh Horowitz. However, with editor Latin Snake out of town this week, I couldn't quite figure out how to post it under his name. Anyhow, all opinions are the sole property of Josh and not the Cinecultist.]

Review: Strangers With Candy

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The Strangers With Candy movie is rather like a late period Rolling Stones album — it's still the same super-talented people doing exactly what you expect of them, but nothing more. The creative spark isn't totally gone, but the sort of gleeful perversity that made episodes like "The Blank Page," "Hit & Run," and "Who Wants Cake" so sublime is dulled down in even the film's best moments and occasionally lacking entirely. It's a strange thing that the troupe would actually make the film version far less filthy and weird than the original series, which was subject to FCC standards. I'm not sure whether this is because they were hedging their bets, or if the timetable of writing and shooting a feature film killed the spontaneity of the show, which had episodes written and produced in the span of a couple weeks. Either way, if you come into the film hoping to revisit familiar characters and get a few good laughs and a lot of quiet chuckles, then you'll be fine, and rewarded with a few priceless bits involving Amy Sedaris' Jerri Blank sexually harassing Tammy Littlenut and Sir Ian Holm sliding down a bannister. If you're expecting something even as good as the show's weakest episodes, you're in for a disappointment.

I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of the film with a panel featuring Sedaris and director Paul "Geoffrey Jellineck" Dinello immediately following the program. The audience was packed with Strangers With Candy superfans who were laughing loudly throughout the film and applauding whenever a character made their first appearance on the big screen. It was a slightly alienating experience to be around people who were totally losing their shit to jokes that I thought were only okay, but it was also fun to be in a room with so many people that were so obviously enthusiastic about one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. (Second only to Arrested Development!) As you might have guessed, Sedaris and Dinello were hilarious in the q&a, tossing off one-liners and wisecracks with an effortlessness that seemed much more in the spirit of the show than the frequently stiff movie.

Review: Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man

Does it suffice to say that I wish that I could just plunk down a bunch of quotes from the Leonard Cohen documentary, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, and call it a day? Every single thing the man says is gold. If they just had a "Fishing with John" episode that had Leonard on it, there would've been no point in making this movie. Seriously, they should bottle up that guy's sweat and sell it in men's bathrooms across NYC.

There are some other points to this movie besides Mr. Cohen, and that's where this documentary takes a bit of a breather. The performances, from a 2005 tribute concert, are hit or miss. I've read other reviews where people have taken the piss out of Rufus Wainright's singing. Hey guess what? Fuck you. Rufus Wainright is easily the most entertaining singer in this movie as he sings like himself and not some sad ghost approximation of the movie's subject. He also talks about Leonard Cohen without sounding like an over eager tween with a thesaurus. You know why? Because he knew the guy, he grew up in Montreal and therefore can talk about personal encounters and the effect Cohen had on Montreal's character as a city. Oh, and he's funny. No other interviewee besides LC managed that.

The other film participants were solid, if not a standout in my mind. The Edge and Bono were kind of embarrassing to watch. The Edge kept reminding us he was a catholic, and Bono appeared bloated and unfocused as he racked his brain for metaphors. But it was forgivable; in the video at the end of the flick they were just so happy to play with their mentor that it made me think they were sincere.

Really, the only thing that was annoying were the directorial flourishes. The slo-mo. The red curtain. The obscenely long lingering shot of cleavage, revealed later to belong to a living breathing...cigarette girl? Still, it's not that hard to ignore the unnecessary tweaks and there's a lot of good in Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man. See it, love it, and then go buy some of the guy's music. You'll want to.

[TEMP ED NOTE: Again, this post is by Bronto Burger and express the Leonard Cohen adulation of Bronto alone.]

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