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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Horny dilemma

A former Esquire editor’s lingual acrobatics

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

You think you've got problems? Let me be the first to tell you that your problems are minor compared to the problems of Gordon Lish. "Gordon Lish" is the narrator of the recently reissued Gordon Lish novel Zimzum, first published in 1993. Gordon Lish the novelist wants it to be...

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Sleight of hand

Norton fails to conjure charm in magician mystery

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Visually sumptuous but emotionally barren, this period romantic thriller never quite dazzles but does entertain with a few predictable parlor tricks. Edward Norton plays Eisenheim, a self-made magician whose childhood romance with young duchess Sophie (Jessica Biel) is rekindled when the two meet during his performance in Vienna. Unfortunately, Sophie is betrothed to the decadent and corrupt Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), a man known for beating his lovers to death when they displease him. When Sophie vows to leave Leopold, a struggle ensues and her body is found the next morning in a nearby river. Devastated, Eisenheim designs a new trick, one that crosses into the supernatural and holds Leopold accountable for his actions. The conjurer’s only obstacle is Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), a cagey pragmatist who vows to solve Sophie’s murder and expose Eisenheim’s “magic” as mere illusion.

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Lassie

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

This latest UK-made Lassie sidesteps most of the camp of earlier versions, some of which stretched the fable amazingly thin. Director and screenwriter Charles Sturridge has assembled a “serious” cast of British heavyweight actors — including Samantha Morton, John Lynch and Peter O’Toole. Lassie is living with the Carracloughs, a coal-mining family who’ve fallen on rough times. When a rich duke (O’Toole) offers to buy their beloved dog, young Joe (Jonathan Mason) protests, but Mum (Morton) and Dad (Lynch) have no choice. Lassie doesn’t want to leave either, and, once in her new home, she’s treated cruelly by the duke’s help. She eventually gets shipped off to Scotland, but escapes to find her way home to Joe and his family. When Lassie finds Joe and he squeezes her tight, however, it might as well be Timmy after the fateful well incident. A Lassie reunion is about as sweet as it gets; thankfully Sturridge and company resist trying to make it any sweeter.

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Invincible

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Invincible is cut from the same cloth as two other recent Disney hits, "The Rookie" and "Miracle," and it follows their formula to a T. Set in a grungy Philadelphia neighborhood in the mid-’70s, the film takes more than a few liberties as it tells the true story of Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a jocky 30-year-old bartender and teacher who’s just been dumped by his wife. When the city’s slumping Eagles announce they’ll be holding open tryouts, his friends and father pester him to go, even if Vince has little experience playing anything other than high school ball. This is one sports movie that’s not about a ragtag team that needs to unite in order to win the big championship; as framed by director Ericson Core, it’s the story of two men — Vince and Dick — who’ve “got the heart” to rise above all the other schlubs around them. Luckily, the film gets its moments of glory on the gridiron triumphantly right, even if the rest of the movie is too dramatically thin and anticlimactic to make any lasting impact.

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How to Eat Fried Worms

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

The 1972 book by Thomas Rockwell is an evergreen favorite of kiddie lit, prized as much for its message as the gross-out-factor. The screen version varies in details, but sticks to the main plot: once-popular fifth-grader Billy (Luke Benward) is struggling to fit into a new school in a new town. He’s soon faced with the head bully: detestable, freckle-faced snot Joe (Adam Hicks), who’s fond of pummeling kids with his weapon of choice, a “death ring” supposedly laced with a slow-acting poison that won’t kill a victim until the eighth grade. After the pre-teen goon squad replaces Billy’s Jell-O with a pile of slimy night crawlers, to save face he claims to love eating the stuff and bravely submits to a challenge to eat 10 of them in a day without puking. The bulk of the movie is a grueling catalog of ways to serve up creepy crawlers, from lard-fried to microwaved: It’ll make kids squeal and the adults want to ralph their Milk Duds.

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Beerfest

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Imagine a two-hour home movie made by your idiotic drunken college buddies, full of in-jokes and childish humor. Now, slap on a minor plot, replace buddies with the boys of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, and you have Beerfest. This is Broken Lizard’s fourth feature, after they became minor cult idols with the stoner-fueled success of 2001’s "Super Troopers." This latest entry is stamped with their brand of silly, slightly surreal frat-boy humor: part "Animal House," part Mel Brooks, with lots of sight gags and bodily fluid humor. The “plot” involves two brothers on a trip to Germany to scatter the ashes of their beloved grandfather, a task that leads them straight into “Beerfest,” a hardcore underground tournament of drinking games (Beer Pong, Ultimate Quarters, etc.). They find bitter rivals in their Bavarian cousins, who accuse the Yanks of harboring a stolen family recipe for the world’s best beer, and promptly drink them under the table. Predictably, the guys return to build a team of misfits to help win the Beerfest title and regain their family honor. Rounded out with plenty of keg stands, vomit, kicks to the groin and loads of completely gratuitous female nudity, Beerfest will score with the inevitable cult of lowbrow comedy lovers.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hype and hilarity

Motherfuckin' Snakes lives up to its motherfuckin' rattle

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 12:00 AM

From the opening helicopter shots of Hawaii that look cut-and-pasted from a travel ad, your expectations are sufficiently lowered, and nothing that follows — not the plane that looks like a cheap model, nor the Predator-style snake-o-vision shots — could possibly detract from the fun. The same goes for the perfunctory plot, which has badass FBI agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) escorting lame-ass trial witness Sean (Nathan Phillips) from Hawaii to Los Angeles on a sleepy red-eye flight. After a brief exposition, director David R. Ellis gets down to the cold-blooded business of the title and doesn’t let up, attaching slithery creatures everywhere they shouldn’t be: on eyeballs, asses and silicone-enhanced areola.

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Russian Dolls

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Living as a writer in Paris, Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris) struggles to find personal and artistic contentment as he bounces between jobs and women. Unable to get his novel published and suffering from writer’s block, he takes on assignments ghostwriting autobiographies and scripting shlocky made-for-TV romance movies. And though he dallies with a bevy of beautiful babes — his ex-girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou), a Senegalese clothing store clerk (Aïssa Maïga), a supermodel (Lucy Gordon) and his old Barcelona flatmate, Wendy (Kelly Reilly) — he fears he’ll never experience true love. Unfortunately, director Klapisch spends two hours tossing out as many stylistic tricks, comic interludes and whimsical fantasies as he can come up with. Most of it barely rises to the level of a Friends episode, but occasionally the director creates sublime moments of humor and poetry

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Accepted

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 12:00 AM

For a rude, crude anti-authoritarian comedy, it’s surprisingly smart, and there are a handful of zingers that are destined to be quoted by undergrads for years to come. Better yet, Long and several of his co-stars — including Maria Thayer, Jonah Hill and Lewis Black — have the sort of fine-tuned comic timing that makes the lines sing. The movie takes the Revenge of the Nerds and Old School template and applies it to the understandable stress of teens trying to secure a spot in the college of their dreams. Bartleby (Justin Long) and his pals are all underachievers who want nothing more than to spend their next four years doing keg stands and trying to get laid; unfortunately, even their backup schools have raised standards beyond their meager GPAs. Skilled in the art of fake-ID design, Bartleby forges an acceptance letter and — voila — He’s found a way to please his parents and tap into their college fund for him. Comic antics ensue as he struggles to maintain the ruse.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The fun in dysfunctional

Flaky family propels light and sweet indie comedy

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Sunshine features a motley crew of lovable losers who embark on what seems to be a family road trip destined to rival anything National Lampoon’s Griswold family has endured. The family of misfits races to get their youngest member to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant — and you just know there’s no wee tiara in her future. Little Olive (Abigail Breslin) is escorted by her heartbroken gay uncle (Steve Carell), who recently failed at suicide; Grandpa (Alan Arkin) has a newfound penchant for illegal drugs; her mute-by-choice teen brother (Paul Dano) hates everyone and worships Nietzsche; and Mom (Toni Collette) is on the brink of divorcing Dad (Greg Kinnear), who’s a winning-obsessed loser. The obvious moral of the story(winning isn’t everything) gives Little Miss Sunshine a saccharine undertaste, but the cast is fabulous, the performances are wonderful, the humor is cheeky, and the story is original.

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