Friday, July 25, 2008

Movies opening this week

Bigger, Stronger, Faster (documentary, dir. Christopher Bell)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
As much as the snarky, Michael Moore-style documentary has probably run its course, this movie works fairly well, and Bell gets a lot of mileage out of being very revealing about his own family's struggles with steroid use. He sometimes falls into the trap of being overly cutesy or not thinking through his gimmicks, but overall he presents an argument that makes sense and is about an issue that a lot of people haven't given much thought, so it might even change some minds. Opened limited May 30; in Las Vegas this week

Step Brothers (Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, dir. Adam McKay)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really thought I liked Will Ferrell; I thoroughly enjoyed Anchorman, and I liked Talladega Nights well enough. But I have been finding him less and less amusing in each recent movie, and even here, with the collaborators from his best work, he's just running through the same kinds of jokes again and again, not even bothering with an interesting story or characters who make sense. Of course, this is one of those movies where everyone in the theater was laughing but me, so obviously there is still a market for Ferrell's brand of idiocy. But to me what was once hilarious has quickly grown tiresome. Wide release

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly, Amanda Peet, dir. Chris Carter)
I was a big fan of the X-Files TV show, although I gave up on it a couple of seasons before it ended, and I don't think I've seen an episode all the way through since the finale in 2002. Still, I was excited for this movie, especially since it promised a standalone story and not an extension of the series' confusing and annoying alien-conspiracy mythology. But this disappointment almost makes me wish they would have gone for a mythology story, because at least that would have felt important. As many reviews have pointed out, this is like a long version of a mediocre episode, with a villain who barely gets any screen time and a mystery that turns out to be more silly than scary. Plus, Mulder and Scully as an actual couple just doesn't work at all; their mostly unspoken romantic chemistry has turned into dull bickering, and Duchovny and Anderson seem uncomfortable with the intimacy. Carter tries too hard to graft the series' big themes onto this small story, as if to justify its existence. Virtually none of the show's supporting characters show up (only Mitch Pileggi's Skinner, for about five minutes), and rapper Xzibit is terrible as one of the agents who call Mulder and Scully back into action (Peet is a little better as the other one, and has more chemistry with Duchovny than Anderson does). Dedicated fans will get a bit of a thrill from simply seeing these characters again, but I have to acknowledge that like the Sex and the City movie (which was made from a show I never watched), this has no reason to exist other than to milk the show's dedicated followers. Wide release

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