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Movie Reviews: Enemies of the People, Step-Up 3D, The Other Guys 

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Thursday, Aug 5 2010
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THE CONCERT Beyond fans of Mélanie Laurent — who furiously fingers a fiddle and wears flashback wigs — The Concert may appeal to those who delight in stereotypes (Jews like money!). Andrei Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) pushes a broom at the Bolshoi, where he lost his status as star conductor 30 years ago under Brezhnev for refusing to fire his Jewish musicians. Intercepting a fax from the Théâtre du Châtelet inviting the legendary orchestra to perform in Paris, Andrei rounds up his former colleagues in a scheme to pass themselves off as the real Bolshoi. To right an injustice from three decades ago — and to occasion more interminable flashbacks — the fallen maestro insists that violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Laurent) be the soloist during the performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The emotional climax: Smeary mascara runs down the cheeks of Miou-Miou, playing Anne-Marie's manager and a Link to Her Past. Witless director Radu Mihaileanu, continuing the theme of false identity from his previous Live and Become (2005), holds the following truths to be self-evident: Nothing is funnier than a Russian speaking syntactically absurd French (except maybe a half-empty Communist meeting hall). And nothing salves historical and ego wounds quite like 12 minutes of bombastic strings. (Melissa Anderson) (Monica, Playhouse, Sunset 5)

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED In suspense films about confinement, characters may be kidnapped or tortured, but the real captive is the viewer. We're stuck in our seats, powerless against manipulated time and repeated turnabouts, eager, or at least morbidly curious, participants. For all of its stylistic ambitions and cool triangulations, J Blakeson's debut does little to modify or interrogate the genre, eagerly trading on the spectacle of a young pretty girl tied up. Rhythmically and visually, Blakeson takes an economical, methodical approach, documenting the grim preparations of two kidnappers, Vic and Danny (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston), from a place of chilly reserve. Their plan and process, which gradually, inevitably come asunder, is the engine of suspense, recalling Hitchcock's Rope — until a second-act reveal outdoes even the master's own psychosexual hysteria. Marsan scowls and spittles, Compston bares gleaming teeth for all occasions, and Gemma Arterton completes the trio by getting stripped, splayed and degraded early and often. Blakeson's feature-length calling card has storyboarded austerity and sadomasochistic promise but in the end lets the game play out in a familiar flurry of double-crossings, two-timings and false deaths, content to only fetishize itself. (Eric Hynes) (Monica, Playhouse, Sunset 5)

GO  ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE Taking in Enemies of the People is a little like watching a Cambodian Shoah, but as if we had access to the director's methods and motivations instead of just the astonishing results. Chronicling his ongoing project to track down and document those responsible for the Khmer Rouge's late-'70s reign of terror, co-director Thet Sambath, whose father (directly) and mother (indirectly) were murdered by the regime, draws on decade-long relationships he forged with both Cambodia's former second-in-command, Nuon Chea, and average peasants who were enlisted in the killing fields (often, like Claude Lanzmann, he wins their confidence under questionable pretenses). He has crafted an extraordinary historical testimonial: While he and co-director Rob Lemkin don't operate with the cool ruthlessness of the Shoah director — and occasionally draw on the archival footage verboten to the earlier project — the results are often as violently direct. They may black out one subject's face at her request — a retreat from the cruelty of Lanzmann's hidden cameras — but when they're framing a tight close-up of an otherwise sympathetic farmer talking about how he killed in cold blood, or taking in the pained expression on Chea's face when Sambath at last reveals his own family history, the pair's probing filmmaking feels like anything but a compromise. (Andrew Schenker) (Music Hall)

FLIPPED You'll be forgiven for groaning through the first 20 minutes of Rob Reiner's Flipped, which kicks off in a key of aggressively picturesque whiteness — I mean, wholesomeness. Adapted by Reiner and Andrew Scheinman from Wendelin Van Draanen's novel, and set in a late-'50s America rooted more in that era's sitcoms than reality, the film's coming-of-age love story follows its hero and heroine from second grade to junior high. Juli (Madeline Caroll, excellent) loves Bryce (Callan McAuliffe, also excellent) from the moment his family moves in across the street. Bryce, terrified of Juli's forthrightness, masks his terror behind asshole behavior that worsens with puberty — until those pangs of true love hit him. Narrated by both young characters, Flipped alternates p.o.v. to show how each interprets the same situations. The film settles into its hard-sell charm when it and Bryce segue from being dishearteningly dismissive of Juli as a stalker-turned-crazed–eco-activist (foreshadowing '60s political upheaval) to celebrating her intrinsically principled decency. Bryce, meanwhile, struggles to shed an ideal of middle-class macho defined by his jerk father and reinforced by his best friend. Reiner, in very broad strokes, works in issues of poverty, thwarted dreams and family obligation, and almost pulls it off, thanks to Anthony Edwards, Aidan Quinn, Rebecca De Mornay, Penelope Ann Miller and John Mahoney, who impart humor and humanity to thinly sketched characters. (Ernest Hardy) (Citywide)

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