Friday, July 22, 2005

Movies opening this week

Bad News Bears (Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, Greg Kinnear, dir. Richard Linklater)
I have not seen the original Bad News Bears, which I never realized was such a cardinal sin until two of my co-workers waxed rhapsodic for an hour about how great it was. I always thought it was a dopey '70s kids' movie, but apparently it's brilliant. After seeing this new version, I may be ruined on the old one (so says my expert co-worker). This is a very, very faithful remake if what others say is true, and as such it's probably pretty pointless. On its own, it's mildly amusing and gets a lot of goodwill based on Thornton's persona, pretty much a watered-down version of his character from Bad Santa. Linklater has had such an eclectic career that it's sometimes hard to judge his films within his oeuvre, but I think this will come out as a lesser work, somewhere around The Newton Boys. He did wonders with the mainstream comedy of School of Rock, but this is just sort of limp. Wide release

The Devil's Rejects (Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, dir. Rob Zombie)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
There's a flood of movies that I saw at CineVegas coming out this week, starting with this one. I think Zombie has a great visual style and a deep love of grindhouse and underground cinema that could turn him into the next Quentin Tarantino (seriously). I'm just not sure if doing a sequel to his first film was the best move. He's said that there won't be any more movies about the Firefly family (and given this film's ending I can't imagine how there could be), and I think whatever he does next will really set the tone for his career as a filmmaker (hopefully in a good way). Wide release

Hustle & Flow (Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, dir. Craig Brewer)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Despite the complete predictability and hokiness of this movie, I can't help but like it. By applying that whole rags-to-riches formula to a pimp who's not always lovable, Brewer does sort of subvert the form and make you question why exactly you're rooting for DJay to succeed (and you do root for him). At the same time, it's not exactly a movie with a ton of subtext. It's about a guy achieving his lifelong dreams, and it's damned entertaining. Go with it. Wide release

The Island (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Bean, dir. Michael Bay)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
This, on the other hand, is full of subtext, or at least it can be if you want it to. No doubt Bay would deny any other meaning than pure entertainment, but one of his former professors did liken him to an abstract artist, so certainly his films can be open to multiple interpretations. Some have seen this movie as a conservative screed against stem-cell research, but it didn't come off that way to me. I looked at it more as critique of the commodification of everything, including human life (ironic since Bay's films are full of commodities in the form of product placement), the logical outgrowth of our obsessions with plastic surgery and staying young. Of course, this isn't really a movie about serious issues; it's about blowing shit up. You can tell that the original script was probably a lot more interesting before it went through rewrites to add in more car chases. Not that those would have been particularly difficult rewrites; Bay has this awesome attitude toward scripting: "I literally tell the writers, 'When you're writing the script I want you - when you come to an action scene - to just put "action," and I'll fill in the blanks.'" I mean, really, how can you even pretend to take the guy seriously when this is his approach to filmmaking? For a much (much, much) better approach to some similar themes about genetic engineering, check out Andrew Niccol's criminally underappreciated Gattaca. Wide release

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, John Hawkes, Brandon Ratcliff, dir. Miranda July)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Man did I hate this movie. This is one of those times that I just want to throttle critics for being snowed by excessive preciousness and pointless quirks and meaningless oddities masquerading as depth. It's not as reprehensible as some of this year's critically-lauded pieces of pretentious pseudo-indie shit (The Upside of Anger, Crash), but it's still pretty worthless, and entirely undeserving of all the effusive praise it's gotten from all sorts of critical quarters. Thankfully not everyone's bowled over by July and her cutesy quirks; both N.P. Thompson and my friend Jeannette Catsoulis tear this film apart, so I figure I'm in pretty good company in disliking it. Opened limited June 17; in Las Vegas this week

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