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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Criminally entertaining

The Shaun of the Dead team puts British bobbies in a buddy picture mash-up

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The latest offering from the team of actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright, the maverick comedy minds behind Shaun of The Dead, is a wild genre mash-up of macho buddy cop pictures, fish-out-of-water humor and pools of Agatha Christie-style murder-mystery blood. Pegg, who co-wrote the script, stars as grimly efficient supercop Nicholas Angel, ace of the London Metropolitan Police. He’s so good in fact, that he’s making the rest of them look like rubbish. The result: Angel gets promoted to sergeant then unceremoniously shuffled off to the drowsy country village of Sanford, where Angel manages to roust all the underagers from their pints and arrest the other half of the population for general drunkenness, unwittingly locking up goofy fellow cop Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). Soon enough, a series of gruesome “accidents” sends the fatality count soaring, putting our crimefighters on the hunt for suspects. Getting in on the fun is a Brit-comedy dream team, including Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan and a very funny Timothy Dalton.

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Vacancy

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The concept here is pretty much the same as any wrong-turn horror flick that’s been made since in the last 20 years. But as tempting as it is to lump Vacancy in with its “peers,” it’s a significant notch above them. It’s a grim, nasty little movie, expertly crafted to twist your gut into a knot and keep it there for 80 minutes. It helps that screenwriter Mark L. Smith has at least one killer idea up his sleeve. Not only do the unhappily stranded David (Luke Wilson) and Amy (Kate Beckinsale) find themselves checked into a motel where you don’t check out; they’re also being filmed by a perverse snuff-film auteur (Frank Whaley, looking like a refugee from a ’70s John Waters film) who relishes every squirm.

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In the Land of Women

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Adam Brody stars as Carter, a hack screenwriter who flees tinsel town for Michigan, to care for his aging grandmother and to recapture his groove. Back in a lush little Eden of manicured lawns, shiny new cars and gorgeous, fragile people, he's found the perfect place to shake out the creative cobwebs and to get over a crushing breakup, a task complicated by the pair of age-inappropriate love interests living just across the street.

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Fires on the Plain

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

In Japanese director Kon Ichikawa’s 1959 classic Fires on the Plain, survival is a curse, the ultimate purgatory. Charting the long, uncertain journey of a rogue World War II soldier from a decimated platoon as he wanders across a Philippine island, the movie is like a sustained howl; there’s nothing thrilling about wasting away. The main character, the dumbfounded soldier Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), has been turned away from both his troop and a makeshift hospital because he has tuberculosis. He wanders the countryside, foraging for food, encountering natives both mercenary and innocuous, and falling into and out of other Japanese platoons. What comedy there is comes from pitch-black irony: He survives the American attacks on the Japanese only because no one group wants him.

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Mafioso

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Alberto Lattuada’s Mafioso is a forgotten comic gem that's sneakier than it first seems. Uptight Fiat foreman Antonio Badalementi (Fellini stalwart Alberto Sordi) gathers up his wife and kids, and heads south to vacation in native Sicily. Though he’s been away from home for many years, the old country fills Antonio with a giddy sense of nostalgia, inspiring inane boasts (“island of sun and Cyclops, inspiration to all the poets!”) and outbursts of song. Once he’s there, however, his kinfolk seem more like inbred carnies than beloved famiglia. Eventually his affection for the old ways leads Antonio to the home of a local crime boss, Don Vincenzo (Ugo Attanasio), for whom he did favors as a boy. The casual reunion turns into a family debt, and before you (and Antonio) know it, the dark undercurrent of Sicilian machismo and cold-blooded honor takes over.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The people's pariah

New doc asks you to take a broad look at Ralph Nader

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

If there’s an overarching goal to An Unreasonable Man, it’s to undo Nader’s status as a left-wing pariah. To the man’s fans — the ones who watched him grow from a scrappy author of a bestselling auto-safety exposé to one of the staunchest advocates for the rights of the American people — it’s unfathomable that his name would be synonymous with “mud” right about now, at the age when most would be welcoming fawning 60 Minutes profiles. But Henriette Mantel and Stephan Skrovan’s two-hour jog through the man’s 73 years is one of those gushing, golden-years biographies, cataloguing his achievements, taking stock of his legacy and making it seem as though running for president were the next logical step for a man whose purpose in life was to champion the disenfranchised.

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Maxed Out

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Are credit card offers jamming your mailbox? Ever wonder why banks think you’re worth the credit risk? It’s not your financial stability they’re after, says James Scurlock’s documentary Maxed Out, it’s the opposite. They want you to get screwed. To illustrate just how our concept of credit has changed in...

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Disturbia

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The teen thriller bears all the hallmarks of modern-day movie-by-committee filmmaking: A voyeur-mystery premise that rips off a masterpiece (Rear Window) just enough to avoid paying royalties, a director-for-hire who cut his teeth on the small screen (D.J. Caruso), and most grievously, an R-rating that’s been edited down to a preteen-friendly PG-13. (Meaning all those 10-year-old girls who crushed on Shia LeBeouf in Disney’s Holes can now go see him do battle with a serial-killer-rapist.)

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The Situation

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Amateur screenwriters often make the same three mistakes: 1) passive protagonists, 2) didactic dialogue and 3) aimless narratives. Predictably, first-time screenwriter Wendell Steavenson’s The Situation hits the film school trifecta. American reporter Anna Molyneux (Connie Nielsen) becomes convinced that her inquiries into the death of an Iraqi teen thrown from a bridge by US troops has led to the execution of her friend, Rafeeq. Anna decides to make her last story in Iraq an investigation into what happened. But first she must resolve her torn-between-two-lovers situation with Dan, an idealistic Intelligence officer (Band of Brothers’ Damian Lewis), and young freelance photographer Zaid (Mido Mamada). It sounds like a plot but, but really The Situation flips through characters and locales without coherence or real drama.

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Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The big screen conversion of a late night cartoon series about wise cracking, sentient, crime-fighting fast-food products that live in a New Jersey crash pad, Aqua Teen Hunger Force may be one of the most love-it-or-loathe-it properties ever to find its way to a cineplex. Brilliant in fifteen minute doses, at just under ninety minutes the joke is stretched well past the breaking point, a point not lost on creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, whose script keeps smugly commenting on the film’s own crapulence and on and the fact they have your money.

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