Friday, September 26, 2008

Movies opening this week

Hear me chat about these movies with fellow Las Vegas Weekly film critic Tasha Chemplavil in this week's Josh Bell Hates Everything podcast.

Choke (Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, dir. Clark Gregg)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Fight Club is probably one of my five favorite movies of all time, so I had hoped for something similarly nutso and exhilarating with this one, also based on a Chuck Palahniuk novel. It's definitely not in that league, but it's still weird and funny and surprisingly sweet. The romance between Rockwell and Macdonald feels genuine despite its odd trappings, and that makes up for some of the slower, less amusing parts. Limited release

Eagle Eye (Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, dir. D.J. Caruso)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I'm still waiting for Michelle Monaghan to do something that capitalizes on the promise she showed in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I'm sure taking on all these supporting roles in bland Hollywood movies is helping her pay the bills, but I wish some more indie filmmakers would take chances on her (I haven't seen the recent festival film Trucker, in which she plays the lead, although reviews haven't been very good). In the meantime, she does serviceable but unremarkable work in this silly thriller, along with the rest of the cast. I suppose that's about all I could expect. Wide release

The Lucky Ones (Tim Robbins, Michael Pena, Rachel McAdams, dir. Neil Burger)
I'm sort of over waiting for someone to make a decent movie about the war in Iraq; it's not like we necessarily need one of these movies, and no one seems to have any idea how to make one work. So why don't we just let it alone for a little bit until someone actually has a good idea? This is yet another misguided take on the subject, following three soldiers home from Iraq as they road-trip across the country. The problem isn't so much the effort to grapple with the effects of war on soldiers returning home, but with the pile of absurd contrivances that drive the plot. It's so unbelievable and manipulative that anything genuine gets lost amid the groans at how Burger hammers home each of his points in the most ludicrous manner. Let's just move on to another topic, shall we? Limited release

Tell No One (Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josée Crozet, Francois Berléand, dir. Guillaume Canet)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I think there's a possibility this movie has been a little overpraised - it's a well-made thriller, but it's still subject to the occasional plot hole, and doesn't exactly reinvent the genre. In comparison to how shitty American thrillers (like, say, Eagle Eye) are, it's remarkable, but ultimately all that means is it's an effective genre film. Opened limited July 2; in Las Vegas this week

Towelhead (Summer Bishil, Peter Macdissi, Aaron Eckhart, dir. Alan Ball)
American Beauty is one of those movies that I suspect I might not like as much if I went back and watched it now, but at the time it came out I thought it was brilliant. Ball's directorial debut (he wrote American Beauty) is another look at the seedy underbelly of the suburbs, but it's completely superficial and crass, designed mostly to shock. Although there is fertile ground here, it would seem, in exploring the experience of a mixed-race girl (half white, half Lebanese) in the American suburbs, this movie is really just about the main character's mistreatment at the hands of awful males, and as such it's one-dimensional and crude, and doesn't say much of anything about the unique cultural backdrop. Bishil does a good job with a rather inscrutable character, and I was impressed with her ability to create a believable 13-year-old girl (she's actually 20). But she can't anchor a movie when everything surrounding her is completely empty. Opened limited Sept. 12; in Las Vegas this week

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