Film Reviews: Arctic Tale, One to Another, Punk's Not Dead | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Film Reviews: Arctic Tale, One to Another, Punk's Not Dead 

Also this week's pick, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Lindsay Lohan's I Know Who Killed Me and Who's Your Caddy?

Wednesday, Jul 25 2007

ARCTIC TALE A smarmy score (“We Are Family” when it ought to be “Stayin’ Alive”), some orgiastic farting from a herd of walruses and a modicum of cutesy anthropomorphism from narrator Queen Latifah prove a small price to pay for this stunningly photographed documentary about a year in the endangered life of an Arctic ice floe. With 15 years of experience in the area, Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson shoot around, inside and underneath the compromised habitat of Nanu, a polar bear cub, and Seela, an enchanting jolie-laide walrus calf weighing several hundred pounds, as they and their mothers try to survive in hunting grounds that may lose all their ice by the year 2040 if we don’t mend our anti-green ways. G-rated or not, Arctic Tale is admirably hard-headed about the dog-eat-dog call of the wild. The movie’s bracing account of the blend of altruism and aggression that is animal domestic life, and the sheer diversity of family forms (bear cubs are raised by single mothers, walruses by mothers and self-sacrificing “aunts”), may be enough to place it on the shitlist of the evangelical right. Diminishing resources encourage civil war: The movie’s most heartbreaking moment comes when, two years ahead of developmental schedule, Nanu’s hitherto protective mother has to put a steely glint in her eyes and scare her underprepared daughter into self-sufficiency because she can’t feed them both. As agitprop alone, Arctic Tale must be doing something right: Coming out of the theater, my daughter’s pal grabbed my cell phone to call home and check that her family owned a hybrid, while my own child menaced me with “Shorter showers, Mom, okay?” (Selected theaters) (Ella Taylor)

GIRL 27 Knowing what we know about the unfettered power and corruption of pre–World War II Hollywood studios, it’s hardly a shock to learn that MGM, under the management of the notoriously thuggish Eddie Mannix (memorably brought to life last year by Bob Hoskins in Allen Coulter’s Hollywoodland), threw a wild party in 1937 for its salesmen, to whom they fed a bevy of mostly underaged chorus girls. Or that one of them, 15-year-old Patricia Douglas, was brutally raped by a salesman, and when she had the guts to file suit, provoked a huge smear campaign and cover-up by the studio, after which she disappeared for good. On the basis of his thorough but feverish Vanity Fair piece about the scandal, television writer David Stenn has made an even more overheated documentary that’s not without fascination, in part because he’s dug up extraordinary footage that features Douglas and her attacker. He also dug up Douglas herself, and it’s her story that dominates the movie. It’s not clear that Douglas, already “platonic mascot” for movie stars well before the party, was as much of an ingénue as Stenn, who has written biographies of Jean Harlow and Clara Bow and insists on giving himself a spurious role in the drama, makes her out to be. But she was undoubtedly a victim, not only of her rapist but of her stage mother and the whole tawdry milieu in which they moved. The saddest thing about Girl 27 is the way that Douglas’ travails have blighted her life, and those of her own children. (Music Hall) (Ella Taylor)

I KNOW WHO KILLED ME Watch the mallrats’ jaws drop as they pay to see the same old teen slicer-dicer, only to get this wacko hodgepodge of the Brian De Palma horror filmography and—I swear to God—Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique. Lindsay Lohan plays a demure honor student who gets abducted by a psycho and appears weeks later in a hospital bed, missing—well, let’s just say that piano scholarship may need rethinking. Worse, the girl not only has no memory of her past but claims to be someone else entirely—a jackpot for her horny jock boyfriend (Brian Geraghty), whose girlfriend suddenly morphs from a bashful abstinent into an exotic dancer hot to hit the pole. In short, it’s a gift-wrapped part for Lohan, who plays her good-girl/bad-girl role with wit and an air of sly calculation. Despite some disgusting (and obligatory) meatball surgery with rotting fingers and severed hands, this intriguing oddity directed by Chris Sivertson (The Lost) is less a shocker than a surreal, disjointed mood piece about teen alienation. The script even has the nerve to forsake the obvious solution for something much crazier and over-the-top—the kind of high-altitude nonsense that can only be explained onscreen by radio paranormal maven Art Bell via a Kafka allusion. Yes, it’s that kind of Lindsay Lohan movie. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

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MACBETH There’s nothing so difficult or novel about restaging Shakespeare in modern dress — just add cell phones and iPods, button-snap cowboy shirts, Prada suits, and machine guns. The trick is to match the play with the period and setting, to mutually illuminate the Elizabethan and the modern. Films like 10 Things I Hate About You and Romeo + Juliet pulled it off; this Melbourne mobster adaptation of Macbeth — not so much. Director Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) and co-writer Victoria Hill, who also plays Lady M., greatly abridge, turn soliloquy into voice-over and rearrange a few key speeches. None of which is a sin: Macbeth should remain a living, breathing document. But the rush into gunfights and car chases pushes the text in all the wrong directions. As written, the 400-year-old words are still fresher than anything ripped from Miami Vice. And what, really, don’t we already know about honor among thieves? Only in the movie’s later going, as the usurper (Sam Worthington) begins to bog down in blood, does the cast stop rushing its lines and the film move nearer to the topical and tragic. Only not near enough. The grim cycle of retribution, the vengeful orphan sons of Duncan and Banquo, the wailing widows — a more fitting adaptation would’ve been Macbeth in Mosul. (The Landmark) (Brian Miller)

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