Saturday, July 15, 2006

Movies opening this week

A Scanner Darkly (Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, dir. Richard Linklater)
I've been looking forward to this movie since it was first announced years ago, but the reviews have been very mixed, so I was prepared to be disappointed. Luckily I wasn't - this is one of my favorite movies of the year so far, an intelligent sci-fi piece that captures the flavor of Philip K. Dick's work (I haven't read A Scanner Darkly, but I have read some of his other novels) - both the paranoid fantasy and the dark humor. Robert Downey Jr. is hilarious in this movie, and there are a number of scenes that are very funny in their depictions of the random shit that stoned people talk about when they're just sitting around. That's one of Linklater's strengths as well, of course, and this movie plays sort of like Blade Runner crossed with Dazed and Confused. The rotoscoping (which was why the film was delayed for so long) works really well to create a sense of the surreal and put you on the same level as the slightly out of it characters. And unlike Waking Life, which looked great but was an annoying, meandering mess, this film has enough plot that its occasional ponderous diversions work well within the context of the story as a whole. The story, like much of Dick's work, remains relevant today, and it's political without being heavy-handed or distracting from the humor or the characters. The kind of smart sci-fi film we see about once a year, if we're lucky, and this year we are. Opened limited July 7; in Las Vegas this week

Strangers With Candy (Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Carlo Alban, Maria Thayer, dir. Paul Dinello)
I saw this at CineVegas and absolutely hated it, although the TV show it's based on has a dedicated cult following. Even though I'd never liked the show, I thought I'd give the movie a chance since I usually only flipped past the show for a minute or two before deciding it wasn't worth my time. Well, after spending 90 minutes with this movie, I confirmed that whatever people see in these characters (and Amy Sedaris in particular, whom I can't stand even in talk show appearances) is lost on me. The humor is so smug and condescending and repetitive, the characters are irritating and the central gag (Sedaris as 47-year-old ex-junkie back in high school) gets old after, well, about as long as I used to turn on the TV show for. Opened limited June 28; in Las Vegas this week

Wordplay (documentary, dir. Patrick Creadon)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was pleasantly surprised at how rich the Scrabble documentary Word Wars was, and this one doesn't have quite as much depth but is still very entertaining, even if you're not into crossword puzzles. I imagine we're reaching the end of the line for these documentaries about nerds who compete in tournaments, though - what's next, Mind Boggled? Opened limited June 16; in Las Vegas this week

You, Me and Dupree (Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon, Kate Hudson, Michael Douglas, dir. Anthony & Joe Russo)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
So many things about this movie annoyed me, but especially the way all the characters are so passive-aggressive that you just want to punch them in the face, and despite allegedly loving/caring about one another, they treat each other so poorly and make up so insincerely that you can't help but imagine that after the credits roll they'll be right back at it. An unfunny, overlong slog with unpleasant characters - what's not to like? Wide release

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