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  • Issue of
  • Oct 4-10, 2006
  • Vol. 26, No. 51

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • Jimmy and Judy

    Pampered, manic depressive loser Jimmy (Edward Furlong) is so detached from his parents, school and the world in general that he obsessively videotapes everything as if his life is just a movie he happens to be making. So everything we see is via Jimmy’s shaky camcorder shots. Seemingly normal teen Judy (Rachel Bella) falls for this sociopath because she mistakes him for a deep thinker, because he’s a bad boy, and because he takes swift and nasty revenge on her high school tormentors. In between his frequent stays in “the bin,” the two love doves fuck like bunnies, while cultivating a “fuck everything” posture that can only spell disaster when they start to mix hormones and homicide. When a car accident starts a deadly cycle, it’s their excuse to run away and make their own bizarre little universe of sex, violence and fast food. Though it’s vile, misanthropic and literally nausea-inducing, Jimmy and Judy still possesses a certain sort of awful fascination; you simply can’t help but wonder how much worse it can get. The movie starts as merely seedy and unpleasant but then careens headlong into chaos, fueled by the same sort of inane suburban teen angst you can buy off the rack at Hot Topic.
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  • The Scene
  • The Science of Sleep

    Even those who’ve only seen Gondry’s dreamlike music video work will recognize his thrift-store aesthetic when they see it. Grown men dress up in fuzzy animal costumes; cops drive cardboard squad cars; felt boats sail away on seas of Saran Wrap. Using the most low-tech methods possible — stop-motion animation, blue-screen projection, 2-D optical effects — the director not only outdoes filmmakers with 10 times the budget, he creates worlds you’ve never seen in the movies. Watching a Gondry production is a little like watching a super-deluxe class project created by the most ingenious kindergartener ever.
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  • The Scene
  • The Guardian

    Any movie that can make Kevin Costner look heroic and Ashton Kutcher seem vulnerable is worthy of consideration, as in the new Hollywood water thrill ride with the woefully generic name, The Guardian. With this intriguing pairing of Costner and Kutcher as hard-bitten, mission-weary veteran versus brash young recruit, we have two generations of the same basic leading man type: The snotty, privileged frat-boy maverick with a wink in his eye who always gets the girl (or beautiful older actress) in the end. Surprisingly, this film represents a high-water mark for both actors. Costner is Ben Randall, a living legend among the swimming corps, a man who has rescued hundreds of victims but can’t seem to save himself. His wife (the ever-elegant Sela Ward) is demanding a divorce, and his rugged machismo is shattered when he emerges as the lone survivor of a fiery Bering Sea chopper crash that kills the rest of his crew. To aid his physical and psychological recovery, Randall’s commander orders him to take a stint as an instructor at the Coast Guard’s “A” school for swimmers in training. There Randall encounters Jake Fischer (Kutcher), a former high school swimming champ who’s determined to break all Randall’s squad records and carve a new legacy for himself. Predictably, teacher and student clash viscerally.
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  • The Scene
  • Half Nelson

    Everyone knows a Dan Dunne. He’s the guy you knew in college, the one with super-liberal parents who got an education degree mainly because he couldn’t figure out what else to major in. He’s the guy who moved to New York to “find himself” as a writer and ended up getting swallowed whole by a huge city and an even huger coke habit. The wonder of Half Nelson is the way that co-writer and director Ryan Fleck maintains our sympathy and interest in a burned-out hipster like Dan (played by Ryan Gosling) without resorting to manipulative melodrama (Dangerous Minds) or flashy, romanticized scenes of drug use (Requiem for a Dream). Fleck doesn’t even allow Gosling, as good as he is, to dominate the film: this is a movie anchored as much by an intense, unknown teenage actress, Shareeka Epps, as it is by a Hollywood hotshot.
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  • The Scene
  • Boynton Beach Club

    The ladies of Boynton Beach are like the Sex and the City crew of the shuffleboard set — only the squeaky clean TBS-version, without all the HBO naughtiness. Boynton Beach Club is the sweet story of a group of widows and widowers who cope with loss and relearn the rules of romance as they mingle at a seniors’ bereavement group in a sunny Florida retirement community. The movie never hits harder than a Bea Arthur sitcom, and but its messages will easily hit home with AARP-card-carrying moviegoers who rarely have a decent movie made for their demographic. Thankfully, though, not all the characters fit so neatly into typical age and gender roles. Lois (Dyan Cannon) is a firecracker who runs her own business and encourages other widowed women to get out there and become more independent. At 69, Cannon still bears a trademark wide smile and mane of blonde curly locks that have rendered men weak-kneed since long before Ally McBeal was a twinkle in David E. Kelley’s eye. (Her last big role was as a feisty, sexy judge on the ’90s sitcom.) As Lois, she dons a wardrobe of impossibly skinny jeans and impossibly tall stilettos. Some of the comedy in Boynton Beach, however, tends to feel antique. Over the course of the movie, the grieving men and women have all manner of mishaps, proving that generic romantic comedy clichés apply easily to any age group. Seidelman mostly plays it safe, delivering nothing risqué enough to require blood pressure meds. Boynton Beach doesn’t dig too deep into mourning, loss and baby boomers’ sexuality, instead boiling down to a cute, passable comedy about the social trappings of widowhood.
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  • The Scene
  • Jesus Camp

    At the “Kids on Fire” summer camp, Pastor Becky Fischer doesn’t just preach the gospel, she inflicts it. Every year, she asks her preteen charges to pray for the sins of America until they shiver in fear, their eyes roll back into their heads and they start speaking in tongues. Jesus Camp documents a new breed of far-right Evangelical Christians — known as “charismatic Pentecostals” — who defy the popular stereotype of shack-dwelling, snake-handling outcasts from the Deep South. As depicted in the film, these are mostly middle-class, Midwestern, suburban families who eat together, pray together and instill their beliefs via home-schooling. To complete their education, parents ship their baby-faced, Tommy Hilfiger-wearing grade-schoolers off to Fischer’s camp, where, in a rigorous series of sermons, stories and “games,” she introduces them not only to the concept of righteousness but also to spreading the gospel. It’s her intent to get these tots out in the streets, at bowling alleys and eventually in the halls of government, where we see them protesting abortion by covering their mouths with electrical tape.
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  • The Scene
  • School for Scoundrels

    Loosely based on a 1960 British film with the same name, School of Scoundrels takes a promising idea and turns it into a jumbled, one-dimensional comedy that occasionally finds laughs but mostly bores the audience and embarrasses its cast, particularly the talented Billy Bob Thornton. Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Roger, an awkward and insecure meter “maid” plagued by low self-esteem. Determined to turn his life around, he enrolls in a secret confidence-building course taught by the slick and ruthless Dr. P (Thornton). Assisted by Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan), Dr P indulges in deceit, humiliation, and physical and verbal abuse to transform his class of wimps into real men. Women are conquests, colleagues are road kill, and merciless dishonesty is a man’s most valuable tool. Director Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip) made the first mistake in casting Heder as the leading man. However, Todd Louiso (High Fidelity), who plays a fellow classmate, illustrates how an accomplished comedic actor can turn a sad, shy loser into something funny and sympathetic. If Phillips had any sense, he would have cast Louiso as the lead. While never awful, Thornton samples from several of his recent films to patch together a passionless and inconsistent performance.
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  • The Scene
  • This Film Is Not Yet Rated

    The Motion Picture Association of America: The way they award ratings to filmmakers is off-limits to filmmakers and the public. This de facto censorship has filmmaker Kirby Dick up in arms. He set out to expose the secret members and practices of the MPAA, and it wasn’t easy. The organization works inside a gated compound, employs a clandestine ratings panel and forces all employees to sign strict confidentiality agreements. Dick’s film confronts the MPAA’s claim that it uses common-sense “parental” guidelines, revealing a system that’s completely arbitrary and woefully out of touch with contemporary society. Studio films are favored over independents, violence is preferred to sex, and gay themes or female sexuality are heavily restricted. Dick succeeds in exposing the MPAA’s public dishonesty and questionable business practices; two former employees break their code of silence and explain how raters are given no guidelines and are often pressured into building a consensus.
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  • The Scene
  • The U.S. vs. John Lennon

    In the new documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, writer-directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld create a focused and seamless time capsule of the period from roughly 1966 to 1976 when the Nixon White House — convinced that one man could sway a youthful new voter demographic and change the outcome of the 1972 election — set J. Edgar Hoover and the power of the U.S. government on a mission to quash a Beatle. As former FBI agent Wesley Swearingen says, “the problem was not with his music, but with his friends.”
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • Dublin your pleasure

    Irish pubs, which have long been a feature of the American drinking scene, have become a worldwide phenomenon, flourishing in such unlikely venues as Moscow and Tokyo. And so it makes sense that the Blarney Stone's everyday menu is all-American pub grub. The appetizers, which average around $6, are dominated by scores of familiar deep-fat fried items, many of which are available in the hefty Pot of Gold sampler that includes serviceable renditions of potato skins, chicken strips, jalapeno peppers, mozzarella cheese sticks and onion rings. A more unusual appetizer, though no less calorie-laden, is pizza dip, which deconstructs a pie into a creamy mass of cheese, pepperoni and sauce, with soft bread sticks as dippers. The Susie-Q-Fish & Chips dinner ($10.95) is based on the original recipe of the celebrated drive-in restaurant. Burton fries his freshly-cut scrod encased in a secret-recipe batter that emerges as a thick, crispy but surprisingly light crust, accompanied by house-made tartar sauce and Susie’s vinegar-based cole slaw. Try the order of five flavorful burger sliders ($5.95) — with pickles, onions and a tomato-mustard sauce. There are 10 other burger varieties, including, again for the health-conscious, bison or turkey. There are plenty of beers either on tap or in bottles, with Guinness drawn in the traditional manner, as the bartender permits some time to elapse before topping it off. A handful of wines are available
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