The Movie Binge

Previews

Preview: X-Men: The Last Stand

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Do you think Ratner's shaking in his boots after the colossal opening for Da Vinci Code? He probably is, but he shouldn't be. I'm guessing every fan boy and his mother (literally, in this case) will be seeing X-Men: The Last Stand this weekend. Gene Parmesean hears that the early reports from fanboys are positive, but metacritic and rotten tomatoes aren't as optimistic.

For those who are unaware, this installment of X-Men centers around a cure found for mutants, which forces the X-People to take sides. Personally, I would stick with my mutant powers. Of course my mutant powers would include the ability to create Shake Shack burgers...with my mind.

The movie opens this Friday the 26th, although tons of theaters have midnight showings here in New York. If you saw it already, spill your thoughts out in the comments.

Preview: An Inconvenient Truth

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Never in my day did I think a 100 minute Powerpoint presentation by the once quasi-robotic Al Gore would be a highly anticipated film. What's more, people are calling for Al to run again in 2008! I guess that's what a 29% approval rating and $3.50 a gallon gas will do to a country.

The team behind An Inconvenient Truth is obviously pushing this movie on the 16-25 set, as they've been keeping a blog and they've announced a MySpace tie-in. The blog is mostly filled with self-congratulationary posts, but it also has a couple real posts, like this one on an article in Scientific American Magazine. Personally, I hope they keep up with the content-filled posts, because it'll only add value for moviegoers.

The movie is already open in New York and LA and will open in San Francisco next weekend. As far as I know, there's no plan for anything after that, but I have a feeling most of the blue states will see it come there way soon.

Preview: Coastlines

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It looks like Coastlines is the type of movie we dread here at the Binge. Oh, it's not supposed to awful, if that's what you're thinking. Instead, it's supposed to be completely mediocre. What can I do with that?

The film is third and final installment of Victor Nunez's panhandle triology (Ulee's Gold and Ruby in Paradise were the others) and stars Timothy Olyphant, Josh Brolin and Sarah Wynter (i.e. Jack Bauer's lusty lady in Day 2 of 24). The plot centers around Sonny's (Olyphant) release from jail and his attempt to retrieve money owed to him by the local mob boss. He ends up needing the help of his innocent friends from a previous life (Brolin and Wynter). The intial reviews are pretty wishy-washy.

New York Times

Enough of the ingredients for a sultry downscale noir are in place in "Coastlines," that once the film turns perversely goody-good, it leaves you feeling vaguely disgruntled, as if after consuming a rich, greasy meal, you were handed a single sugarless mint for dessert.

Onion A.V. Club

...as tempting as it is to make Coastlines an example of what's wrong with the indie market, it must be noted that this is the least successful entry in Nunez's Panhandle films. It keeps many of the expected Nunez virtues—understated and absorbing performances, a strong sense of place, unhurried direction—but dilutes them with clunky dialogue and relationships that seem forced.

Keith Phipps of the Onion is referring to the faults of the indie market because this film was originally shown at Sundance four years ago and is only now making its theatrical debut. Well, at least it's playing at the IFC Center, which is one of the better theaters in the city.

Preview: Typhoon

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"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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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