Film Reviews: Diggers, Next and Banished 

Also Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace and more

Wednesday, Apr 25 2007

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THE FAR SIDE OF JERICHO Blink and you’ll miss the premiere and one-week Los Angeles run of The Far Side of Jericho, a rollicking “femme oater” directed by Tim Hunter, who has inexplicably languished as a television director for hire since making the 1986 indie classic River’s Edge and the pretty good 1993 drama The Saint of Fort Washington. Refreshingly free of solemn parallels with Society Today, this is no earth-mother Western either, though it’s plenty playful with its homage to Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men From Now. Moderately wrinkled and as handy with a whiskey bottle as they are with a Smith & Wesson, the three gangster widows (nicely played by character actresses Judith Burnett, Suzanne Andrews and Lissa Negrin) are automatically neither loyal nor kind to one another as they go on the run from several posses — led by a fake preacher (James Gammon) and a crooked sheriff played by Patrick Bergin — with a more than passing interest in the treasure buried by their husbands before they were hanged. The movie gives every cheerful appearance of having been shot with no time and less money, and it doesn’t have much on its mind, unless you count the moral integrity supplied by local Apaches more by way of Mel Brooks than Howard Hawks. It’s a fun night out, though, and if you show up, you’ll have the added satisfaction of being a good film citizen who might help this jolly Western to a commercial release. (American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre) (Ella Taylor)

THE INVISIBLE Director David S. Goyer has made a fortune milking the brooding loner shtick for all it was worth with his overrated Batman and Blade screenplays, but when the template is applied to an ordinary high-schooler rather than a marquee-level superhero, it doesn’t work at all. Apparently based on a Swedish novel and film — though it might just as easily be considered a remake of Just Like Heaven with all the humor leached away — The Invisible centers on golden boy Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin, of the similarly annoying The Chumscrubber), an honor student who’s been emotionally numb since the death of his father. When he inadvertently finds himself drawn into a conflict with the delinquent Annie (Margarita Levieva), things go drastically wrong and she ends up beating him to death...or does she? Awakening as a disembodied spirit unseen by all, Nick must discover whether he’s a ghost, or merely in some kind of limbo. It’s all, y’know, such a deep metaphor for alienation, man, especially since nobody truly “sees” Annie for who she really is, either. And yes, you are supposed to take this all extremely seriously; it probably sounded layered and complex when the writers were stoned. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson) JINDABYNE See film feature

KICKIN’ IT OLD SKOOL This ostensible comedy may be a new depths-of-hell low in the Emmanuel Lewis filmography, but for star Jamie Kennedy it’s par for the coarse. Combining the appalling infantilism of Son of the Mask and the dork entitlement of Malibu’s Most Wanted into a perfect storm of celluloid agony, Kennedy plays an ’80s breakdance whiz who awakens after a 20-year coma (now that’s comedy!) to reunite his old crew. Of course, the hottie he loved back then (Maria Menounos) adores his idiot-manchild ways; of course she’s still hooked up with his snotty rival (Michael Rosenbaum, detestable beyond the call of duty), who gets knee-slappers such as calling Kennedy’s Asian-American and Hispanic crewmates “rice” and “beans.” (Other gags concern bitchy black baby-mamas, dollar signs as Jewish symbols, and me-rikey-flied-lice dialect humor; if the movie were a human being, it would be a bellowing ex-jock who wields “post-racial” like his lawyer’s business card.) The only tolerable part of director Harvey Glazer’s subhuman farce is the climactic dance-crew step-off, choreographed by the one, the only, Adolfo Quinones, a.k.a. Shabba-Doo. The rest is strictly a Shabba-Don’t — or, to borrow the hero’s description of his so-called life, “a big, soggy piece of...shit-cake nobody wants!” Word. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)  NEXT Orchestrated by evildoers from hostile quarters of the global village, a nuclear holocaust looms over Los Angeles. This ought to ease traffic, but the FBI, headed by an extremely excitable Julianne Moore, is concerned enough to forcibly recruit the services of a two-bit Vegas magician (a buffed and alluringly gaunt Nicolas Cage) who until now has made trivial use of his power to see two minutes into the future. That’s unless you count his moony recurring visions of a dewy stranger played by Jessica Biel, who has little to do but look aghast with gelignite strapped to her lovely bosom. Oh, never mind the daft plot, lifted by heavy-breathing writers Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh and Paul Bernbaum from a Philip K. Dick story: Directed by Lee Tamahori with his customary flash and glitter, Next lives from one brilliantly executed chase sequence to the next, which is more than enough reason to stay the course. The clever climax plays out in downtown L.A. not far from the madding crowd of Spring Street, where, had the bad guys not got theirs at the hands of our glorious intelligence services, they would surely have been mown down by a pack of departing Los Angeles Times staffers with buyouts under their arms. If the deliciously sneaky trick at the end doesn’t make you gasp, then I’m sorry to say you are no longer capable of surprise. (Citywide) (Ella Taylor)

click to enlarge (Magnolia Pictures)
  • (Magnolia Pictures)

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