By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
PICK MUTUAL APPRECIATION The latest from Funny Ha Ha director Andrew Bujalski — the cinema’s reigning poet laureate of postcollegiate anomie — is another baggy, charmingly disheveled romp through awkward courtship rituals and uncomfortable silences. This time, the setting is New York City, where Alan (the wonderfully dazed and confused Justin Rice) is an indie-rock musician trying to go solo, while poorly suppressing his attraction to Ellie (Rachel Clift) — who happens to be the girlfriend of Alan’s best friend, Lawrence (well played by Bujalski himself). As before, Bujalski’s preference for nonprofessional actors, his ear for the rhythms of conversation among bright young 20-somethings and his adept use of a roving, hand-held camera (this time shooting in fuzzy black and white) lend the film an invigorating energy. Yet the movie’s defining characteristic — especially in two hilarious sequences set at a pair of underpopulated, overlong parties — may be its languor, its familiar sense of how we drag our feet in the sands of time to delay “growing up” and, worse still, becoming our parents. (Sunset 5; Playhouse 7) (Scott Foundas) Click here to read Scott Foundas’ Web-exclusive interview with Andrew Bujalski.
AMERICAN BLACKOUT Ian Inaba’s American Blackout isn’t a flashy or genre-busting documentary. Stylistically and structurally, it’s strictly by the book — full of talking heads, file footage and unlimited access to controversial Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It’s also one of the most important of the deluge of political docs that have flooded the cultural landscape over the last several years. Kicking off with the detailed argument that black voters in Florida were systematically disenfranchised in the 2000 presidential election, the film then pulls double duty: It’s a fine-tooth examination of both the continued, unconstitutional marginalization of black voters in America and the attempts by various political and media machines to crush McKinney in retaliation for her outspokenness on that subject and on the illegality of the war in Iraq. It’s a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream, except that the film’s interview with a Republican operative who gloats at the way he helped sabotage McKinney’s 2002 re-election campaign is quite real, as is news footage of Katherine Harris smilingly shrugging off the question of what she did to remedy the unlawful purging of thousands of black voters from Florida rolls. American Blackout is an illuminating, infuriating document that paints McKinney as a true American heroine and patriot and confirms your worst fears about just how rotten our “democratic” process is at its core. (Magic Johnson Theatres) (Ernest Hardy)
THE BRIDESMAID Given Claude Chabrol’s doggedly consistent fascination with psychopathic crime intersecting with bourgeois lives, it’s a surprise to find that The Bridesmaid is only his second adaptation of a Ruth Rendell novel (after La Cérémonie). It is, in any case, a psychodrama of typically brisk efficiency and relaxed gallows humor. The semi-functioning family at the center is sketched in — responsible son (with incestuous lurkings) Benoit Magimel, high-spirited single mom Aurore Clément, bickering sisters — before we meet the titular catalyst at a family wedding: Senta (Laura Smet), a sensuous but off-putting seductress with a mysterious past. Magimel is all pro, deciphering life with his eyes, as the chump who gets vacuumed in by this odd girl’s impulsive devotions and Nietzschean delusions, but Smet, all eyelashes and butterscotch skin, is the film’s prize; she doesn’t act out the character’s slowly revealed pathologies so much as keep them barely contained behind her mesmerizing stare, like mad dogs in a cage. Chabrol sets us up, of course, which is half the fun, and the experience is a delight, for lack of pomposity (his visual storytelling remains no-nonsense) as well as genre expertise. (Nuart) (Michael Atkinson)THE COVENANT was not screened in advance of our publication deadline, but a review will appear here soon. (Citywide)
CRANK Ludicrously named hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) awakens to the news that he’s been injected with a deadly poison, the effects of which can be staved off by cranking his adrenaline up to insanely high levels. Naturally, his reaction is to turn the city of Los Angeles into his own personal Grand Theft Auto game while searching for the culprit (Jose Pablo Cantillo). Property is destroyed, racial prejudices are indulged, and Chev even delivers a very public doggy-style sex scene with his doofus stoner girlfriend (Amy Smart). First-time feature directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor play with speed and sound to re-create effectively the buzz of an over-caffeinated all-nighter, delivering one of the year’s best pure junk-food entertainments. They get that a stimulant high isn’t just about fast motion, and induce weird periods of slowness and distortion into the mix too. If you stop to think too hard about any aspect of the story, things might fall apart; but stopping is something the movie never lets you do. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)HOLLYWOODLAND See film feature.
HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU This family-friendly IMAX documentary, warning of the potential for disaster if the erosion of the Louisiana wetlands isn’t reversed, was in postproduction when Hurricane Katrina struck. Less than a week later, director Greg MacGillivray (Everest, Coral Reef Adventure) and his crew were back in New Orleans, borrowing from the Miami Vice movie set a helicopter on which they mounted their huge cameras. The resulting footage — of crumbled homes, a cargo ship hurled onto a freeway, and water-sunken neighborhoods — is familiar yet powerful, and the giant IMAX screen offers a sense of scale that simply isn’t possible on television. To counter the sense of hopelessness such images might inspire in their young target audience, MacGillivray and screenwriter Glen Pitre return again and again to their exploration of the life-renewing wetlands, complete with a mama alligator sitting atop 50 about-to-hatch eggs, and the band of humans cheering them on, chiefly, Cajun musician Tab Benoit and 14-year-old violin prodigy Amanda Shaw, who narrates much of the film (along with Meryl Streep). A film free of political fury, but full of activist optimism, this tame but heartfelt documentary is a fine companion piece to a day at the science museum. (California Science Center IMAX Theater) (Chuck Wilson)
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