Movie Reviews – November 2008

924 Gilman St: Let’s Talk
about Tact and Timing…
Scarred Films
Street: 07.29
The Gilman Street Project is a one-of-a-kind “free space” venue in Berkley, Ca. The music is mostly punk and its various subtypes, but anything goes as long as it’s not racist, sexist, homophobic, or signed to a major record label. All of the above are sins and deal breakers in the eyes of Gilman’s 100% volunteer staff. This cement palace has been a festering petri dish of fresh talent for well over twenty years. From AFI to Rancid to GWAR, Gilman’s history of shows is huge and sprawling. To think it all started with a bunch of punks getting together and – in a very un-punk move for the times – realizing what they were really all about. They wanted music for everyone, a safe place for it to take place, and an assurance that, whatever might happen, the project would be done for its own sake, never for money. The ideology, I must say, demands respect. But how’s the movie? At an hour twenty, the interviews, though generally lucid, drag on a bit. There are twenty live performances interspersed but I, for one, can’t really watch a taped punk show with the same enthusiasm I might’ve felt if I’d been there. The story’s great, but ultimately the movie’s pretty boring. ––Jesse Hawlish

Black Metal Satanica
MVD Visual
Street: 09.30
Well I knew I was in for a pretty one-sided documentary about Black Metal when the tagline on the cover of the DVD says “The Most Haunting and Evil Documentary ever Made.” I can understand having the certain point of view and wanting to purvey that. My biggest complaint is the fact that the DVD isn’t really much of a documentary – the actual facts are few and far between and when stated by the horrible monotone narrator, come off as more as assumptions rather than fact. According to the documentary, black metal is rooted in Scandinavian Viking lore, particularly the conversion and killing of Vikings by Christians. These origins, however, aren’t explained well. There is a wealth of interviews with new-wave era black metal bands like Watain and the disturbing Shinning that go nowhere. The footage is useless and completely unrelated to anything other than trying to create a dark and scary atmosphere. By the end, the “documentary,” comes across as contradictory and dry. –Bryer Wharton

Body of Lies
Warner Bros.
In Theaters 10.10
Director Ridley Scott takes a dose of his brother Tony’s filmmaking style with this Big Brother watchdog thriller set smack dab in the middle of the War on Terror. Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA operative working covert assignments throughout the Middle East in order to track an Islamic terrorist with the aid of the not-so-helpful and exaggeratedly conservative Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). While the multiple twists and turns may have worked in David Ignatius’ novel, someone should’ve asked Mr. Owl how many twists it takes to annoy an audience. The answer is five. DiCaprio, while good in his own right, flies through the film on auto-pilot, never effectively taking control of the character or the film (when we all know he’s perfectly capable of doing so). On the other hand, an overweight Crowe, as cartoonish and outlandish as his character is, proves he doesn’t need the lead role to stand out amongst the crowd. Is it entertaining? Yes. Does it look like someone gave Leo a gorilla mask? Yes. Will you remember it a month later? Probably not. –Jimmy Martin

The Incredible Hulk
Street: 10.21
Edward Norton revives the suffering franchise that was harshly abused by Ang Lee’s 2003 artsy-fartsy disaster. Rather than wasting 45-minutes to once again explain the Hulk’s origins – an excellent choice – the foundation is swiftly summarized in the opening credits and it is soon revealed that Bruce Banner (Norton) has been hiding in Brazil to search for a cure to his mutation. Following a freak accident, General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) and the U.S. Military, including Major Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) locate Banner and the hunt is on! Director Louis Leterrier provides an accurate ratio of realistic characterization vs. comic book adaptation cheese to string the audience along on a variation of multiple Hulk universes that will please both general audiences and comic-nerds alike. Granted, a few scenes will make the majority groan in disbelief – did he really just say “Hulk smash”? But, let’s get real, it’s a comic, not Shakespeare…get over it. The 3-disc Special Edition DVD comes with an impressive array of special features including multiple making-of featurettes, an alternate opening sequence, and a digital copy of the film for iTunes users. –Jimmy Martin

Kraftwerk and The Electronic Revolution
A Sexy Intellectual Production
Street: 9.02.08
Prepare yourselves for a history lesson as this documentary distances itself from your typical VH1 Behind the Musictype documentary. This documentary spans decades to school you on a generation of musicians fueled by the distrust of their Nazi parents and culture. Driven to produce something original and unlike what the Americans and Brits were turning out, the founding members of Kraftwerk constructed electronic music. Their musical experiments would go on to influence much of what we hear in modern techno, electronica, synthpop, rock, and even rap. Featured in the documentary are live performances, interviews with the band members, and some pretty sweet music videos that will undoubtedly make you trip. After a glimpse of the monstrous computer components and rigor that went into composing electronic music in the 1960s, I am amazed that this genre made it. -Ben Trentelman

Max Payne
20th Century Fox
In Theaters 10.17
When will Hollywood learn that adapting a video game into a feature film never works? Super Mario Bros. was super shitty, Double Dragon doubly blew and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Street Fighter...well, it’s Van Damme, ‘nuff said. Secluded in social exile years after his family’s murder, NYPD officer Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) roams the streets of New York seeking vengeance on those accountable for his unvarying misery. Leaving no stone unturned with the help of a Russian assassin (Mila Kunis), a merciless Payne delves deeper into a hallucinogenic underworld that risks destroying the remaining piece of his existence. While the first half proves these adaptations may have the ability to succeed via an authentic storyline, the latter section noticeably proves otherwise. The film quickly tumbles into a laughable, CGI-infested universe spewing ridiculousness across the screen. Director John Moore’s blatant Sin City rip-off style comes nowhere close to the original source, especially with a childish PG-13 rating, and as for Kunis’ callous assassin—she’s more like a 16-year-old playing with her big brother’s toys. Go ahead and Marky Mark this one up to another failed video game vision, but don’t be too sad—the future is bursting with more destined failures including Castlevania, Spy Hunter and Metal Gear Solid. Can’t wait…ugh. – Jimmy Martin

Pride and Glory
New Line Cinema
In Theaters 10.24
There’s no argument that an Irish family/ crooked cop film hasn’t already been done. I believe it’s a standard template script included with all screenplay-writing software. Police motorcade funeral scene? Check. Christmas dinner with a boozin’ father? Check. Fist fight in an Irish pub? Check. However, before damning writers Gavin and Greg O’Connor for a cliched storyline, why mess with a formula that always seems to entertain? This time around, NYPD officers Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) and Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell) are brother-in-laws playing cat and mouse as a corrupted Egan uses his badge for profit with an honorable Tierney in pursuit. Besides Farrell’s uncomfortable manifestation of Robert De Niro, the acting is enticing, especially in the case of an alcoholic Jon Voight. With a strenuous running time spilling over two hours, it’s obvious what needs to stay and what needs to go. I wish Jennifer Ehle’s gifted portrayal of a cancerridden wife and mother could have been featured in another film, because in Pride it feels unnecessary and unwelcomed, which is an insult to her performance. Some may call it derivative, but the gripping chase scenes and who done it routines seem to always draw a crowd. –Jimmy Martin

In Theaters 10.03
From Jerusalem to good ol’ Salt Lake City, comedian Bill Maher and director Larry Charles (Borat) go toe-to-toe against virtually every major religion and the followers who defend their doctrines in this comical documentary. Confronting televangelists, Christian truck drivers, Scientologists, Hasidic Jews, and an array of other worshippers, Maher attacks every creed and faith in his path leaving no one contented. In a similar fashion to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts’ Monet to Picasso exhibit, rather than an in-depth look at one or two specific areas, the film swiftly explores as many topics as possible leaving the viewer with a yearning for additional information…which isn’t entirely a negative feature. If anything, it forces the audience to continue the research. The film’s 100-minute running time bites off a little more subject matter than it can chew, however Maher’s sharp tongue and wit constantly keeps the audience laughing. His comedic element is further supported by vintage film clips inserted in a similar fashion to HBO’s 1990s hit Dream On and supplemental text similar to The Colbert Report’s The Word. –Jimmy Martin

Role Models
In Theaters 11.07
Director David Wain’s formulaic comedy Role Models reminds me of shopping at the D.I. – while you may find a gem here and there, you’re mostly sifting through a bunch of shit. Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott (a.k.a. Stifler) are arrested for vandalism and sentenced to be Big Brothers to Christopher Mintz- Plasse (a.k.a. McLovin) and Bobb’e J. Thompson (a.k.a. Who?). While laughing at the few entertaining scenes, you’ll constantly be questioning yourself on why people think boob jokes are funny and how much worse Jane Lynch can make the film? A key issue with Role Models is that every actor has played the same character before. A 32-year-old Stifler is becoming increasingly sad, and does anybody really care about a Dungeons & Dragons-crazed McLovin with parent issues? You’re better off staying at home and watching the classics that created their stereotypical alter egos. –Jimmy Martin

Sex Drive
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters 10.17
Director Sean Anders may have missed the virgin teen comedy craze by roughly a decade, but enough time has elapsed for another awkward tale complete with and his lusting online companion, Ms. Tasty. A challenge is proposed: if Ian drives all the way for her, she’ll go all the way with him. How convenient! Joining the adventure is Ian’s best male friend, Lance (Clark Duke), and his sexy best female friend, Felicia (Amanda Crew)… wait, can you smell it? What is that? Oh yeah, it’s a predictable ending! While the story is by no means innovative, the grotesque gags and clever dialogue keeps the audience laughing, especially with the jovial additions of a homophobic James Marsden and a brilliantly condescending Amish Seth Green. –Jimmy Martin

In Theaters 10.17
If you’re expecting to witness shocking subject matter regarding September 11th, new insights to the questionable 2000 election or are hoping Oliver Stone provides jab after satirical jab at the 43rd President in his allegedly controversial biopic, you’ll be sorely upset. Intertwining tales of George W. Bush’s (Josh Brolin) upbringing with recent War Room debates concerning Iraq and Iran, W. provides a slapdash overview of Dub-ya’s rise to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you glance at the synopsis of any Bush biography, you’ll obtain the same amount of information you’d receive from this film. He’s an alcoholic Born Again Christian with daddy issues who used the family name to reach the White House…that’s it. However, the reason to see W. isn’t the story—it’s the acting. Brolin embodies Bush so flawlessly, he disappears entirely. It’s not Brolin playing Bush well, he is Bush, and I would be shocked if Richard Dreyfuss didn’t receive a nomination for his spine-chilling portrayal of Dick Chaney. On the flip side, Thandie Newton’s horrendous caricature of Condoleezza Rice is sure to gain recognition as well, only down the street at the Razzie Awards along with other Worst Supporting Actress winners including Scary Movie 4’s Carmen Electra and House of Wax’s Paris Hilton. –Jimmy Martin

Warren Miller’s Playground
Warren Miller Entertainment
Street: 10.14
Growing up watching Warren Miller’s movies, I have sort of a soft spot in my heart for his cheesy narrations of exotic locations and quirky characters. Nowadays the man himself has taken a back seat to a new generation of producers and the ever lame non-emotional California jivin’, three-sixty mute grabbing Johnny Moseley. Playground still has its fair share of exotic locations like Ski Dubai and northern Sweden, but where are the cool characters like the old movies? I want to see the magnetized skier who can’t get his poles to stop sticking to his forehead or the four hundred pound ski instructor from Killington. This movie is almost two hours long, which I say is pushing it for a ski movie. Miller’s movies used to be unique refreshing and humorous, showcasing no name locals in ski towns across the country. Now Miller’s movies are about skiers everyone knows with a Spiccoli like narration. Another film the ski community could do without. –Mike Reff

Water Lilies
Balthazar Productions
Street: 09.02
Here, let’s make this easy. Water Lilies is an angst-ridden, awkward drama about the social interactions between three French tweenie would-be-lesbians. Now, you’re either gonna want to see that or you’re not, and there’s really no right answer. Water Lilies is well constructed, and the acting is subtle and sometimes pretty daring. I even liked the moody soundtrack. But the pacing is slow, and the mercury rose to the top of my gauche-o-meter at least once in every scene. Consider yourself warned that this is not a Hollywood cookie cutter teen movie: it’s a convincing look at a specific culture, and if that’s your bag, then I say go for it. Whether you want that cute girl at your local Hollywood Video to know you’re into artsy coming of age dramas is your own problem. She probably has a boyfriend anyway. ––Jesse Hawlish

Young @ Heart
20th Century Fox
Street : 09.16
“You’re never too old to rock,” reads the extremely appropriate tagline for this documentary about the Young @ Heart choir, consisting of nothing but old folks, average age of 80! Now its well known that I’m not a fan of old people, but director Stephan Walker really put together a fun documentary here. I was smiling all the way through the gimmicky production of this worldwide tour of fogeys. Singing modern classic songs by Sonic Youth, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Coldplay, this truly is worth your time seeing. Walker deals with the collaboration of the choir, from practice to performance, and the issue that could not be avoided with an average age of 80, death. You care about the characters and cannot help but laugh at the music videos and passion these folks have for being able to perform and embrace music like they were young again. -Adam Palcher

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
The Weinstein Company
In Theaters 10.31
In these uncertain economic times, one may ponder the limitations on what they’re capable of doing in order to keep a roof over their heads. Would you donate blood? Make periodical deposits at the local sperm bank? How about videotaping a raunchy fuck fest with you and your best friend? Kevin Smith’s latest edition to the View Askew-niverse (minus Jay and Silent Bob) forces childhood friends, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), to face this difficult decision once they have no water, no power, and are merely days from being evicted into the Pennsylvania snow. Once again, Smith tackles a topic that is sure to produce picket lines, yet doesn’t deserve them. Yes, there’s nudity (both male and female), but no more than you’d find in the awful soft core crap sold locally. Without neglecting his trademark obscene humor, Smith continues to emotionally develop and expand his characters’ psyche, which creates excitement for what creations the future holds. As always, Smith’s droll dialogue is his strongest attribute, but, this time around, the jokes weren’t as polished as we’re accustomed to. Nevertheless the laughs are definitely guaranteed. It was amusing to see adult film stars Katie Morgan and Traci Lords lend a boob to authenticate the film’s touchy topic. –Jimmy Martin