Movie Reviews – October 2008

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Burn After Reading
Focus Features
In Theaters: 09.12
After riding the wave of their four Academy Award-winning masterpiece, No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers return to the grind with a deliberately moronic tale of personal trainers, government officials, and a misplaced CD containing secret “shit” roaming the streets of Washington D.C. Overflowing with an all-star cast (George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, and John Malkovich), it’s obvious after directing the sinister film that is No County, the Coens and crew wanted to create something simplistic yet fun with a smidgen of maliciousness. Think of a Raising Arizona and Fargo hybrid : one minute you’re face aches from laughing, the next, you’re terrified to the core. However, Burn falls just short of a solid cinematic jab. As is the case with many films featuring ensemble casts, no one significantly stands out among the crowd to keep the already minimal plot moving forward, but don’t let that keep you from viewing the film. There are few filmmakers who consistently entertain audiences (sometimes more than others) with every project they helm, and the Coen Brothers once again reach this desired ambition with their twelfth feature. –Jimmy Martin

Clutch
Full Fathom Five: Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008
DVD/CD
Weathermaker Music
Street: 09.16
If you’re not familiar with Clutch, then it’s your loss I’m not explaining it. This came as a treat to me since the last time I saw the guys they were supporting their Pure Rock Fury record seven years ago. The DVD contains a wealth of newer songs I’ve never seen live. The odd thing about this DVD is that it encompasses five different shows from four different locations filmed in ‘07 and ’08, but if you didn’t know and you don’t have a keen eye (they do change their clothing but the stages look the same), you would think it’s all one show. The sound recording for all the songs is the exact same, featuring great quality and fan noise comes in and showcases Clutch’s ability to jam, an essential portion of their live show. The song selection is hefty and diverse, although it’s missing quite a few older songs that made me fall in love with Clutch like “A Shogun Named Marcus.” In a live sense Clutch are kind of like Slayer: once you’ve seen them, you’ve pretty much seen them. That’s not a bad thing, just a fact. They play it straight no frills, no fancy lighting, just the music. The whole band is energetic and fun to watch and this DVD showcases the fact. –Bryer Wharton

The Duchess
Paramount Vantage
In Theaters 09.19 (limited)
When a theater reeks of arthritis cream and encompasses enough scooters to open a Jazzy dealership, you quickly realize the intended audience for the impending film. Once again, Keira Knightley sets her sights on Oscar gold with yet another cinematic period piece. Granted, this time I didn’t wake up during the end credits disoriented and drowning in my own drool. Set in the 18th century, Knightley embodies the life of Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, who was known throughout England as the original fashionista. She stylistically inspired women and seductively infatuated every man, except one…her husband, The Duke (Ralph Fiennes). Solely obsessed with conceiving a male heir, The Duke breaks every marital vow to ensure the preservation of his family name (local polygamists will convulse with pure ecstasy at his devious actions). While the film walks a thin line between a well-executed dramedy and a Lifetime Original Movie, Knightley provides a stellar performance that will most certainly grant her recognition on February 22, 2009, but the strongest statute contenders will be Gyula Pados’ astonishing cinematography and Michael O’Connor’s incredible costume design. –Jimmy Martin

Eagle Eye
DreamWorks
In Theaters 09.26
The idea of walking into your apartment and discovering enough weapons to fight the war on terrorism single-handedly and instantly becoming America’s Most Wanted is rather frightening. The idea of being forced to assassinate the President with a piece of jewelry and a 10-year-old trumpet player is downright retarded. Director D.J. Caruso must have only presented the first 30 pages of this idiotic Big Brother thriller to executive producer Steven Spielberg, because the remaining 90 spiral deeper and deeper into a level of absurdity I haven’t seen since Sylvester Stallone’s arm-wrestling masterpiece, Over the Top. It’s a shame to witness the talents of Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, and Rosario Dawson be overshadowed by this $100 million disaster. –Jimmy Martin

Flash of Genius
Universal Pictures
In Theaters 10.03
“Let me immerse you in the legend of Bob Kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. Wait, where are you going?” I have a sneaking suspicion that producers Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum had several similar reactions as they attempted to pitch Flash of Genius to various Hollywood executives. The film exposes the true story of Bob Kearns (Greg Kinnear) and his prolonged legal battle against the Ford Motor Company for stealing his renovation to the windshield wiper. The first 45 minutes of the film feels well-crafted and compelling, but rapidly descends into mediocrity destined for the Hallmark Channel. It’s apparent that first-time director, but veteran producer, Marc Abraham requires additional training for his new-found position. After witnessing numerous shots running much longer than usual, it feels as though he forgot to shoot various angles in order to keep the audience constantly engaged. The acting is respectable with impressive performances from Kinnear and Alan Alda, but in the spectrum of other remarkable courtroom accounts (The People vs. Larry Flynt) it fails to leave a lasting impression. –Jimmy Martin

Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal
Lightyear Entertainment
Street: 09.16
In 1986 I was 13 and Metallica was more important to me than school, God, or family. I wore white hightops, ripped the knees out of my jeans, sewed a back patch onto my denim jacket, and spent lunch leaning against a locker blasting Bonded by Blood through headphones. I feel uniquely qualified to review Get Thrashed: an entertaining, if overly nostalgic and somewhat threadbare docmentary. The usual gang of idiots are well represented: Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and his mushroomcloud sized ego, Anthrax’s Scott Ian with his disgusting pubic yak tail of a goatee, members of Overkill, Exodus, Slayer and various Europeans, all churning out stories about the good old days and tossing meaningless compliments at each other in the well-established VH1/MTV documentary style. Largely favoring this soundbite-oversubstance approach, Get Thrashed is certainly not the comprehensive history one might hope for. Rather, its more a collection of the reminiscence of whichever friends and touring bands the Bay Area-centric filmmakers could get in front of a camera. How else do you explain the inordinate amount of time spent on Exodus (who had only one good album) and the near-complete omission of Metal Church? Another almost unforgivable omission is the lack of credit given to album cover artist Ed Repka, who created covers for Megadeth, Evildead and Nuclear Assault and has become the go-to guy for all the bigger names of the Thrash Revival. Instead, we get 20 minutes of Hirax’s Katon leering at the camera and dominating a traffic cone. Hirax warrants barely a mention in the documentary, so why does Katon get so much screentime? Probably because he was willing to be filmed. Rent this one and watch it with your dirthead buddies and a 12 pack. You’ll get plenty of shits-n-giggles pointing out how badly everyone has aged, including yourself.-Ben West

Ghost Town
DreamWorks
In Theaters 09.19
Let’s be honest: the concept of an individual having the ability to converse with the dead in order to complete their “unfinished business” isn’t the most unique. Robert Downey Jr. did the talking in Heart and Souls, Whoopi Goldberg chit-chatted it up in Ghost, and Haley Joel Osment lent a hand in The Sixth Sense. It’s been done. However, this genre’s condition went from critical to satisfactory once comedic genius Ricky Gervais (creator of The Office and Extras) took the reins in Ghost Town. Gervais stars as Bertram Pincus, an anti-social dentist who doesn’t hate crow, just the people in them. During a routine examination, Pincus flatlines for seven minutes then revives with his new ability. Once discovered by Manhattan’s deceased, in rolls Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) and his request to stop his widow’s (Ta Leoni) approaching wedding. Gervais’ distinctive dry deadpan humor and brilliant timing adds an element to the film that no other actor could replicate and no writer could anticipate. While the underlying message to live life as a compassionate person is pounded into the viewers’ head a few times too many, director David Koepp succeeds with his first shot at the comedy genre. –Jimmy Martin

Hatebreed
Live Dominance DVD
Koch Records
Street: 09.02
Loaded with enough throat-kicking aggression to start a revolution, Hatebreed’s first official DVD, Live Dominance, is just that: live dominance. The DVD is filmed from a sold out show at Harpo’s in Detroit and the quality of the filming is quite impressive. It’s very fluid and crisp, except for the pit cameras that capture the absolute insanity and chaos of a Hatebreed show. The sound quality is unbelievable and makes it feel like you are right there enjoying the action. The band run through an hour-plus setlist featuring a wide variety of songs, including several from their first record, inter-mixed with Jamey Jasta working the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Aside from the actual concert disc, there is a second disc containing six live songs between shows in NY and CT, tattoo gallery and other goodies as well as a two-part documentary on the band entitled “Behind the Hate.” –Jeremy C. Wilkins

I Was A Teenage Mummy
Ghost Limb Films
Street: N/A
This movie has camp written all over it. Every stereotype you can think of is picking on the Egyptian exchange student, Ray, who decides to get revenge by turning the head cheerleader into a Mummy, thereby picking off the jocks, greasers and anyone else in the way with shotty gore that Rob Bottin could be proud of. There has got to be a cult out there for this stuff but I for one am not part of it. Maybe some of the Troma buffs would be into this, as it’s over 40 years old and is an apparent spoof of the genre, but I just can’t get into it. At the very least you can laugh at the stupidity but I guess that’s why this genre was invented in the first place. –Adam Palcher

Lakeview Terrace
Screen Gems
In Theaters 09.18
I always wanted to see what would happen if Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and his neighbor, Wilson, went into psychotic rampages and tried to kill each other on an episode of Home Improvement. Thanks to director Neil LaBute and Samuel L. Jackson, no more sleepless nights of pondering for me! Jackson is Abel Turner, a widowedfather and disturbed LAPD officer who’s hell bent on forcing his new interracial neighbors out of town because…well… he’s racist…and he hates discarded cigarette butts in his lawn. That’s it. That’s the plot. The entire film relies of Jackson’s infamous shouting, a barrage of childish tomfoolery (my favorite word) between homeowners, and three comedic lines of dialogue. David Loughery and Howard Korder’s script attempts to spotlight the issue of racial prejudice in America, but instead it’s a formulaic, lackluster tale with characters no one could care about. With its straight out of film school cinematography, horrific overacting, and substandard editing (there’s no need for 20 seconds of jogging footage to establish someone exercising), the only thing keeping this shoddy production from premiering on my DVD player at home are the prayers that Mr. Jackson’s cult following will fill the seats. —Jimmy Martin

Man on Wire
Magnolia Pictures
In Theatres 08.29
If you though the greatest heist movie included a Vegas vault, Mini Coopers, or a lumpy heap of Marlon Brando perched in a sauna, you’d be absolutely wrong. What you may not know is that the crme de la crme of cinema capers includes a bow and arrow, two structures reaching 1,368 ft. high, and a French tightrope walked. Oh, and it’s a true story. Director James Marsh brilliantly mixes documented footage and still photographs with updated dramatizations to reveal the seat-gripping tale of Philippe Petit’s audacious yet unauthorized feat of tightrope walking between the World Trade Center rooftops. Marsh and Petit are first-class storytellers and envelope the audience in a story you never want to end. The collection of archived photos leaning over the Towers’ rooftops implant of feeling of vertigo that only adds to the thrill of being caught red-handed. Your heart will race, skip beats, and completely stop as Petit and friends reveal how they pulled off “the artistic crime of the century.” It’s no wonder why the cast and crew walked away from the 2008 Sundance Film Festival with the Grand Jury and Audience Awards for Best Documentary. –Jimmy Martin

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Sony Pictures Entertainment
In Theaters 10.03
Visibly created with tweeners and teenagers as its primary audience, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is as simple as movies get, but don’t let that divert those who were born before 1990. Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad) plays Nick, the shy, soft-spoken bassist of The Jerk Offs who is pitifully depressed due to his recent breakup. When Norah (Kat Dennings) needs a faux boyfriend to impress the school bitch, Nick unknowingly accepts and the two venture off into New York City’s music-nightlife. Once again, Cera captures the audience with his “cute puppy dog” routine, but needs to avoid the infamous Will Ferrell syndrome (an illness that annoys audiences by playing the same character over and over). Both leads provide respectable performances, however, Norah’s friend, Caroline (Ari Garynor), steals the show (along with her gum) as the galabanting drunk. Rather than an arched story structure, the film flows more like a 24-hour voyeuristic sneak-peek into each character’s life that leaves the audiences craving more. –Jimmy Martin

Suidakra
13 Years of Celtic Wartunes DVD/CD
Wacken/SPV
Street: 10.07
Going into this mainly DVD experience from Suidakra I had no clue who the band was, other than they were from Germany but lyrically focus on Celtic themes. The music is a diverse array of dark metal with pagan and folk influences, even some bagpipes. The material included on the DVD/CD is massive: there is a live show recorded at the Wacken Open Air, which features eight songs, an acoustic set (my favorite part) filmed in Germany, which includes nine songs, and a CD of 17 tracks. Here’s the key point as to why this release is a massive success not only for fans but also for newcomers: there is very little rehash. In a total of 36 cuts of material only a select few are repeated on the release and they’re only repeated once. Other big name bands that release DVD/CD packages that made up of three discs with the same damn songs should take a since no one wants to watch/listen to the same damn thing again. Suidakra did a great job with this package, which is finely produced camera wise and audio-wise. Ultimately this is a bunch of bang for your buck, it turned me into a fan. –Bryer Wharton

Survive This
Regain Records
Street : 7/08/2008
This ridiculous movie stars an ensemble that includes an adult film star, a Playboy playmate, a member of Hatebreed, a member of Wu-Tang Clan, The Naked Cowboy and a Jerky Boy. If that’s not enough to get you uninterested, the barrage of naked tits this movie throws at you is quite impressive. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for pointless nudity, but I felt like a 14 yer old in my parents’ basement with nothing but a pause button, undies at my ankles and a fresh bottle of baby oil. Save your Lubriderm fellas, this waste of time includes terrible everything. Though you don’t expect much from the beginning, the camp and boobs alone cannot hold its $12 production value. This is true straight-tovideo, pay-per-view from the early ‘90s, if that is your shtick, than God help you. Survive This? I dare you. –Adam Palcher



Towelhead
Warner Independent Pictures
In Theaters 09.26
Not since Todd Solondz’s Happiness has a film made me want to take a shower with baking soda and a cheese grater immediately after viewing. I think I wore a hole in my seat from all the awkward squirming. Towelhead chronicles the sexual exploration and exploitation of Jasira (Summer Bishil), a 13-year-old Arab-American girl who’s sent to live with her strict Lebanese father (Peter Macdissi) in Texas during the first Gulf War. In the tradition of American Beauty, writer/director Alan Ball continues to spotlight teenage sexual taboos and unspeakable desires all while engulfing the audience in its uncomfortable wake. However, where Beauty succeeds in standing firm with its tone, Towelhead’s attempt to morph into a redemption story fails. There are various comedic scenes that remind everyone how uncomfortable yet funny teenage life was, but the main reason for seeing this film in theaters is to play voyeur to the reactions of fellow audience members. How many conservative Utahns will file out in the walk of shame in your screening? I had 24. Beat that! –Jimmy Martin