Thursday, April 17, 2008

Movies opening this week

88 Minutes (Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Neal McDonough, Leelee Sobieski, dir. Jon Avnet)
It's common when people like Pacino star in crap like this to say that they need the money, but I wonder at the validity of that. I mean, with a career like his, Pacino has to have put away plenty of dough, right? So what's the real motivation for taking a starring role in this awful waste of a movie, and then not putting any effort whatsoever into the performance? Lord knows, but it's not just Pacino's fault that this is so terrible: a whole bunch of generally decent actors (Alicia Witt, Deborah Kara Unger, Amy Brenneman) give really bad performances here; the script is full of giant plot holes and useless dead ends and wooden dialogue; and Avnet uses hammy melodramatic quick zooms and flashbacks to scenes that occurred five minutes before to bludgeon the audience with obviousness. It's a complete mess, and Pacino, if he just wants to work, would be far better off giving some young, ambitious indie director a leg up rather than sleepwalking through this insulting piece of trash. Wide release

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, dir. Nicholas Stoller)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I've been sort of ambivalent about the Judd Apatow juggernaut, and although I liked Knocked Up and Superbad, I thought they were both overrated. I've also been a bit uneasy about the moralizing that shows up in the films that Apatow himself writes and directs, and I'm starting to wonder if he might be a better shepherd of talent than a great talent himself. Because here he lets Segel and Stoller loose, and they really deliver, with a movie that's very funny and filled with surprisingly effective and nuanced characterization, without any moral condescension. Sure, the plot is predictable and adheres to standard rom-com formula, but there's a refreshing respect for all the characters, including Bell's Sarah Marshall, who comes off as a well-meaning person who makes a mistake or two, and really did try to save her relationship before dumping Segel's character. A cast full of people you can understand and believe in goes a long way toward enhancing the comedy and engendering a real investment in the results of the plot, however obvious they may be. Wide release

Zombie Strippers (Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund, Roxy Saint, dir. Jay Lee)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I admit I was excited at the prospect of seeing this movie, and it did afford me a few chuckles. But it's much more amusing as a concept than as a film, and Lee's penchant for "I may be making horror schlock but I'm really smart, really" moments is tiresome and awkward. Great, so you've heard of a few philosophers and hate George Bush - now how about spending less time reading Nietzsche and more time punching up the jokes in your lame satire? Limited release

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