MORE

Film Reviews

A dog and her boy (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

CRANK Ludicrously named hitman 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 effectively recreate 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, but induces 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)

CROSSOVER Cruise (Wesley Jonathan) is an aspiring medical student with a full scholarship to UCLA and mad skillz on the basketball court. His best friend Tech (Anthony Mackie) is good at underground streetball, but has yet to get his GED and occasionally lets his temper get the better of him. As they pursue their goals, no movie cliché is left unturned. The streetball scenes offer some nifty trick plays, but the rest of Crossover features poorly dressed sets, cheap-looking costumes and locations, and silly histrionics — particularly (and unintentionally) amusing is the part where Tech films a commercial on the Sony Pictures lot, only to get in a fight, hurt his woman and head back to the hotel, where he promptly gets drunk on two beers and spills his emotional secrets. America’s Next Top Model winner Eva Pigford shows up as a screeching gold digger who latches on to Cruise, while Wayne Brady almost adds some respectability as an unscrupulous agent. Alas, no hot tunes on the soundtrack. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)

IDIOCRACY The strange irony of Fox off-loading the new (yet long-completed) Mike Judge comedy without screenings, trailers, posters or marketing is that in the IQ-obliterated future Judge’s movie envisions, the biggest evil in the collective sanding of our brains is arguably advertising. Luke Wilson plays a present-day average joe experimentally frozen by the Army and forgotten about until he’s accidentally awakened in 2505, where he discovers a slovenly, sophomoric, masturbatory, junk food-engorged world of mental midgets who first imprison him, then make him Secretary of the Interior once they realize he’s probably the smartest man in the world. It’s an eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too concept — stupid humor as dystopian satire. Idiocracy squeezes out just enough embarrassed heh-hehs and what-if loopiness to justify outraged film geek conversations of the “They’ll release [insert despised studio film here] and dump this?” variety — my own favorite gag being an Orwellian Carl’s Jr. that punishes infrequent patrons by taking custody of their children — but it’s a low-boil affair from the Office Space auteur that wears out its dumb-and-dumbest playbook early on. When we see CGI cityscapes of neglected, barren skyscrapers and monuments tilting, it’s somehow appropriate: the movie just feels off. If you crave a lively and funny trek through the farcical possibilities of unchecked dimwit power, Judge is still your guy. Just go rent Beavis and Butt-Head Do America instead. (Citywide) (Robert Abele)

{mosimage} PICK LASSIE Far from the madding crowd and frantic squeak of Hollywood kid flicks, British writer-director Charles Sturridge makes beautiful, stubbornly unhurried movies about the best and worst in human, animal and even otherworldly nature. Set in World War II England, Sturridge’s Lassie reaches back beyond the original 1943 movie and all subsequent remakes (including the beloved but bland television series), to Eric Knight’s 1940 novel about the famously determined collie’s obstacle-ridden trek through the North Country to rejoin the bereft young master, whose down-on-their-luck parents were forced to sell his best friend to the rich to pay for food. Deploying a stellar cast to mine the evergreen potential of pokerfaced British proletarian waifs (Jonathan Mason), honest-to-God mums and dads (Samantha Morton and John Lynch), crusty old bluebloods (Peter O’Toole, mugging away happily as the Duke who covets Lassie for his evacuee granddaughter), blustery retainers (a very good Steve Pemberton) and kindly traveling players (Peter Dinklage), Sturridge spins a warm but persuasively unsparing tale of war’s multiple displacements, and the redeeming power of loyalty and love. Oddly enough, the director’s leisurely style works better in his movies for children (see, above all else, his superb 1997 Fairy Tale: A True Story) than in his work for adults. Where Brideshead Revisited may have been the most claustrophobic dampening of Evelyn Waugh’s wit ever made, Lassie puts its trust in kids to be grown up, and appeals honestly (minus the usual knowing winks) to grown-ups by returning them to a state of childlike wonderment. (Citywide)  (Ella Taylor)

{mosimage}  PRINCESAS Writer-director Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s bleak yet warmly humanistic Princesas deftly and sympathetically ponders the interlocked destinies of two Madrid prostitutes. Caye (Almodóvar vet Candela Pena) is a tough but wounded blue-collar Spanish hooker with sharp, exhausted features and deep-set, frightened eyes. Trapped in a depressed, self-sabotaging whore-for-life’s mindset, lacking any exit plan, pathetically saving for a boob job to attract more johns, and fearful that her upright family will stumble upon a secret life she’s half-addicted to, she plies her trade from her girlfriend Gloria’s beauty parlor. From there, she and the other white girls glower disapprovingly at the Caribbean and Latin American immigrant streetwalkers who work the park outside, undercutting their rates and eating up their business. One of these is Zulema (soulfully beautiful Puerto Rican newcomer Micaela Cordero, for whom stardom surely impends), an infinitely more well-balanced Dominican woman, who’s hooking only to support her infant son back home. They become friends after Caye helps Zulema when she’s beaten up by a crooked cop. Gradually, Zule’s hard-won wisdom and dignity seep into Caye’s fucked-up consciousness, liberating her from her own self-hatred and knee-jerk racism. Unlike Claire Dolan, Lodge Kerrigan’s raw, icily nerve-shredding portrait of a New York prostitute, Aranoa’s film is a small miracle of controlled empathy. It seeks and finds the warm, beating hearts of his two protagonists, elucidating their particular dilemmas and fears, and offering a complex distillation of the power and the pitfalls of street sisterhood. (One Colorado; Sunset 5) (John Patterson)

RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES See film feature. (One Colorado, Royal Theatre)

THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED See film feature. (Nuart)


THE WICKER MAN
Gender-combar provocateur Neil LaBute remakes the cult 1973 British film, and its something of a muddy, methodical slog, and as overwritten as you’d expect, with plenty of the-past-was-no-accident ploys and character traits (a bee allergy, for instance) that — surprise! — emerge as plot functions. Faithful to his own prejudices, LaBute has reinvented the generalized Celtic pagans of Anthony Shaffer’s original screenplay as a mother-goddess-worshipping matriarchy whose main product is honey, and whose men are all mysteriously mute and subservient. Now, the mainland officer (Nicolas Cage), haunted by a highway wreck and in search of a missing girl, has only the quasi-Amish colony’s irrationally antiquated ways to infuriate him. Given its origins, the film is curiously sexless — curious, that is, until you realize how LaBute is shaping the material, unleashing his particular brand of savage-sympathetic woman hating. The film boils down to Cage’s hangdog investigator barking at implacable and gorgeously forbidding women and, eventually, punching the shit out of several, as the story’s timer ticks down to a murderous fertility ritual. This wasn’t a horror film the first time around, and LaBute makes sorry feints at effective creepiness, letting the story roam in circles just like Cage. (Citywide) (Michael Atkinson)

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >