Film Reviews

THE ABANDONED was not screened in advance of our print deadline, but a review will appear here next week and can be found online at (Citywide)

ALONE WITH HER The notion that the movies make voyeurs of us all may be the most venerable of cinema-studies chestnuts, but it’s scarcely less true for that. Predicated on the inexpensive, near-ubiquitous spy technology that its protagonist supposedly uses, this first feature from writer-director Eric Nicholas is shot “first person” and is first and foremost a concept — at least as interesting to think about as to actually watch. Our stalker, an apparently unemployed nebbish named Doug (Colin Hanks), finds suitably vulnerable prey in Amy (Mexican telenovela star Ana Claudia Talancón), a young woman tearfully playing with her dog in the park. Doug stakes out Amy’s place (sound of heavy breathing) and several days later — according to the film within the film’s visible time codes — breaks in and installs a half-dozen nanny cams, which have the uncanny ability to cut within a given scene. Too bad that around the time Amy’s beloved dog goes missing, the time codes disappear altogether from Doug’s footage. As the voyeur manages to enter the Amy Show, Nicholas uses this ontological shift as the basis for a “real” movie of his own, effectively liquidating the original premise. (Grande 4-Plex) (J. Hoberman)

GRAY MATTERS Heather Graham seems resigned to mugging and shrugging out the remainder of her 30s in a series of undercooked romantic comedies. Too old for the edgy ingénue and yet too weirdly youthful to convincingly pull on the mom jeans, Graham, her early potential (and ability to transcend luscious looks) squandered, has strapped on the stilettos and reported for duty in Sue Kramer’s execrable New York coming-out film. After admitting to her creepily co-dependent brother (Thomas Cavanagh) that she is in love with his new bride (Bridget Moynahan), and being outed to her entire office (including the redoubtable Molly Shannon) in a bit lifted almost directly from Ellen, Gray (previously a hopeless singleton despite her fantasy-blonde status) dissolves into hysterics. She’ll never get married now! People will stare! Lesbians get no respect, dammit! It’s an obstacle course of emoting that would be a stretch even for champion mugger Drew Barrymore. Coming from the strangely vacuous Graham, in a Manhattan this preposterous, the staid social message is almost as ludicrous as its surroundings. (Sunset 5; Loews Cineplex Broadway) (Michelle Orange)

RENO 911!: MIAMINorbit has nothing on Niecy Nash, who proudly parades her prosthetic ass along Miami Beach, lowering oceanside property values with each thunderous step. The joke here is that the snooty pastel metropolis needs to be taken down a few rungs by Nash and her law-enforcement crew from the Comedy Central show Reno 911! (basically a lampoon of Cops, only dumber, if that’s possible). The series regulars — including director Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney-Silver — accomplish this task with signature incompetence. They are levelers whose fathom line never hits bottom. With the city’s regular police force trapped inside a quarantined convention, our gang from Reno confronts backyard gators, a bad Scarface imitator (Paul Rudd), and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a good-natured cameo. Stretched out (barely) to 84 minutes, these vignettes seem more like an assault on filmmaking than on municipal probity. On TV, the show excels with its short squad-car bursts of random inanity. Here, the plot — somehow involving Patton Oswalt’s corrupt city official — feels like a dime bag tossed aside by a fleeing perp. Fans won’t mind, though the material would’ve worked better on the small screen, with blacked-out breasts and bleeped-out dialogue. Garant does attempt one ambitious long-take sequence along a motel breezeway, each window a sad tableau of lovelorn off-duty cops. It’s like Jacques Tati with drunken, desperate masturbation. (Citywide) (Brian Miller)

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