Movie Reviews: Choke, August Evening, Eagle Eye, Nights in Rodanthe 

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Wednesday, Sep 24 2008

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GO  CHOKE There’s a whole lotta fucking going on in Choke, Clark Gregg’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s first-person novel about a sex addict named Victor Mancini with severe Mommy issues — fucking in a cramped airplane bathroom, on a barnyard’s itchy haystack, in a grimy toilet stall, in a hospital’s chapel. Sam Rockwell plays Mancini, an emotionally disconnected Colonial America theme-park employee, who, in his spare time, ditches his sexaholic meetings to screw one of his fellow addicts on the bathroom floor; good thing he’s her sponsor. Gregg has shuffled around some scenes (the book’s first is now toward the film’s end) while rendering the story altogether stickier with sentiment. But in the end, Gregg and Palahniuk wind up in the same place — with a dude for whom doin’ it just ain’t cuttin’ it anymore. And Palahniuk and Gregg (who has perhaps the film’s funniest role as the theme park’s strict taskmaster) both suffer the same flaw: They explain and explain again the genesis of Mancini’s demons, to the point where the novel and movie play almost like parodies of novels and movies in which a character must get in touch with his feelings in order to become a better man. Basically, Mancini’s gonna fuck himself crazy or fuck himself sane. Yawn. (Selected theaters) (Robert Wilonsky)

DAYS AND CLOUDS A movie about bourgeois downward mobility at least has good timing going for it, but though Silvio Soldini’s new film is every bit as gently sympathetic to the hurts and losses of regular folk as his Bread and Tulips (2000), it plays out more like a 12-step program than a human drama. Days and Clouds diligently walks us through but fails to explore the marital tensions that afflict Elsa (the charming Margherita Buy), a recently graduated art restorer, and her laid-off businessman husband, Michele (Antonio Albanese) as they struggle to adapt to life first without the boat, the dinners out and the vacations abroad, then without the basics. She takes a job at a call center. He works as a messenger and handyman in between bouts of depressed idleness. Meanwhile, absorbed in their respective miseries, the couple grows further and further apart until they’re barely communicating. What a pity that love, family solidarity and a sermon on the evils of covetousness walk in on cue to take care of business — along with, absurdly, the mutual contemplation of frescoes as balm for the worried soul who has no idea where the next utility payment is coming from. (Music Hall; One Colorado) (Ella Taylor)

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EAGLE EYE Director D.J. Caruso fancies himself a hipster Hitchcock, with Shia LaBeouf as his snarky Jimmy Stewart. Last year, the duo remade Rear Window and called it Disturbia; this week, they return with their North by NorthwestThe Man Who Knew Too Much mash-up, Eagle Eye, which is also flavored with overpowering dashes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Live Free or Die Hard and The Parallax View. To offer up even the barest hint of plot synopsis would be fruitless for two reasons: It would take a week to untangle this convoluted tale — also starring Michelle Monaghan as a single mom, Michael Chiklis as the Secretary of Defense, Billy Bob Thornton as an FBI agent and Rosario Dawson as an Air Force investigator — and you’d never believe it anyway. For grins: LaBeouf and Monaghan are two dupes in the wrong place at the wrong time wrangled into a plot not only to kill the president, but most every other government official in the line of succession. By whom? Um ... HAL 9000. From tepid start to laughable middle to thudding finish (and the final two minutes smack of a reshoot), it’s nothing but a herky-jerky clusterfuck of noise and nonsense that scoffs at logic in order to justify its brainless treatise on American foreign policy, terrorism and government surveillance. Big Brother’s watching you, and he can’t stop laughing his ass off. (Citywide) (Robert Wilonsky)

FIREPROOF was not screened in advance of our publication deadline, but a review will appear here next week and can be found online at www.laweekly.com/film. (Selected theaters)

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