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Film Reviews: Hot Fuzz, Redline and More

Film Reviews: Hot Fuzz, Redline and More

EVERYTHING'S GONE GREEN See film feature   Showtimes


FRACTURE See film feature.   Showtimes


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PICK HOT FUZZ As wee budding filmmakers, writer-director Edgar Wright and writer-actor Simon Pegg (a.k.a. the Shaun of the Dead guys) were clearly allowed by their overly permissive parents to stay up late at night watching far too many violent, R-rated movies — something for which moviegoers should feel most grateful. In their second feature-length outing, Hot Fuzz, Wright and Pegg turn their comic ammo on the law — “Bruckheimer’s law,” that is, according to the press notes for their giddy send-up of the Hollywood überproducer’s signature brand of orange-tinted, high-octane action spectaculars. Yet if Bad Boys II occupies the highest position in Wright and Pegg’s satiric shrine, Point Break, Lethal Weapon and Clint Eastwood’s Hang ’Em High are also paid due homage by this tale of ace London metro cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg), whose embarrassingly high arrest rate — 400 percent higher than anyone else on the force — earns him a transfer to an idyllic country hamlet, where the streets are crime-free and you can’t take a step without stumbling upon a stellar British character actor: Jim Broadbent (as the aloof local police chief), Timothy Dalton (as a supermarket magnate and self-proclaimed slasher... of prices) and The Equalizer himself, Edward Woodward (as the CCTV-obsessed head of the local neighborhood watch), to name but three. Partnered with the chief’s cloying son (Shaun co-star Nick Frost), who’s certain that Angel’s big-city past was the action-packed stuff his own movie-fueled dreams are made of, Angel finds himself rescuing cats from trees and busting up gangs of underage drinkers. That is, until a rash of “accidental” deaths convinces him that there may be more to Sandford, Gloucestershire, than meets the eye. Decked out in color-saturated widescreen compositions and accompanied by a suitably eardrum-shattering sound mix, Hot Fuzz harbors an affectionate (rather than cynical) attitude toward its blockbuster forefathers that sets it miles apart from the recent spate of wan Hollywood parody movies (Date Movie, Epic Movie, et al.). For most of its running time, it’s an enjoyably unpretentious celebration of the guilty pleasure we can take from a stupid-as-all-get-out car chase or from watching things blow up real good. Then, in its final half hour, Wright and Pegg ratchet up the absurdity tenfold and enter the realm of the sublime: Beware of the shotgun-wielding grannies and double-barreled vicars! (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)


IN THE LAND OF WOMEN Adam Brody made his name playing a neurotic, self-absorbed California Jew on The O.C., so it’s no surprise that he’s cast here as a narcissistic, whiny Los Angeles heeb named Carter Webb. (Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like Seth Cohen, does it?) In this maudlin, formulaic affair, Webb goes to suburban Michigan to take care of his ailing grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) and to nurse a broken heart. Instead, he ends up befriending a quietly dysfunctional mother-daughter duo (Meg Ryan and Kristen Stewart) who teach him the real — as opposed to the fake — meaning of love. Brody shows glimpses of life after suspended adolescence, Dukakis is surly and hilarious, and JoBeth Williams is winning if underused as Carter’s mother and confidante. Too bad Meg Ryan’s new plastic face keeps us from noticing her decent enough performance as a disaffected mom. And too bad writer-director Jon Kasdan — son of Lawrence and brother of current box-office competitor Jake — lays on the saccharine pronouncements so thick. Without the soppy plot devices, the Land of Women might have been worth visiting. (Citywide) (Jessica Grose)


PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA In February, as plans for a $6 billion Salton Sea rehab project were being fought over (where to preserve nature? where to unleash the Jet Skis?), ­newspapers reported that hundreds of thousands of dead fish had been discovered along the inland ocean’s shores. Readers could only wonder, “How did anyone notice?” The Imperial Valley waterway makes the troubled Sea of Aral look like Lake Tahoe by comparison and has become the mother of all metaphors — a cautionary ecological fable, a symbol of real-estate schemes gone bust and the California Dream turned to alkaline dust. Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer’s documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, narrated with surprising empathy by John Waters, is a historically thorough and thoroughly hysterical examination of the big, smelly desert lake’s formation (breached Colorado River levy), its tourist heyday (1960s) and the grim odds against revitalization. Interviews conducted all around the sea focus on the mostly elderly locals — notably a profane, drunken Hungarian known as Hunky Daddy — along with fish-and-game wardens, and kids from Bombay Beach’s growing African-American community. The young blacks seem marooned in this blasted desert oasis, yet more poignant is their palpable fear of the violent Los Angeles they fled. (Grande 4-Plex) (Steven Mikulan)


REDLINE The makers of this self-indulgent autopalooza take a Ferrari engine, Porsche speed, Mercedes horsepower and a Shelby Mustang chassis and somehow combine them into a Yugo. But for the 95 minutes of this awesomely terrible gearhead orgy, it’s 1978 and you’re at a Southern California drive-in at the bottom of a triple bill of The Gumball Rally, the original Gone in 60 Seconds and... this. The candy-colored baby of a mortgage mogul–turned–producer named Daniel Sadek — who not only appears onscreen but has one character stop to take his call — Redline is a showcase for Sadek’s personal car collection as it pits a busty racer (Nadia Bjorlin) and a returning soldier (Nathan Phillips) against the soldier’s Mob-tied vegan uncle (Angus Macfadyen, we hardly knew ye). There’s not a single frame that fans of the craptacular will regret — not Bjorlin’s Sadek-penned come-on song, not the priceless character introductions (“Carlo, the war hero... he fights for what he believes in!”), not the evident deployment of a cinematic process called Hooter-Vision that removes the top three buttons of every woman’s blouse. But the stunt work is real, and so is the rather endearing retro cheesiness. This is the movie that really belongs with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)


SLOW BURN Star Trek fans have been abuzz with talk about Jolene Blalock’s sex scenes in Slow Burn — does Enterprise’s Vulcan hottie finally lower more than just the deflector shield? Indeed, you do get to see T’Pol’s T’itties, but only for a second or two; it’s hardly worth the price of admission, unless you also have an affinity for low-budget crime flicks that want to be The Usual Suspects when they grow up. Blalock is cast rather unconvincingly as African-American (!) assistant district attorney Nora Timmer, who claims to have shot a would-be rapist (Mekhi Phifer) in self-defense. Her D.A. boyfriend, Ford (Ray Liotta), initially believes her, but then a stranger (LL Cool J) walks into the police station with a different story — one in which Nora courted her “rapist” for weeks to seduce him into testifying against a mysterious crime lord that no one has ever seen. Yep, it’s Keyser Soze time, and writer-director Wayne Beach figures if you liked Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie’s big climactic reversal, you’ll love four of them in a row! It’s much more likely, however, that you’ll have stopped paying attention by then. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson)


VACANCY See film feature  (Showtimes)



THE VALET Of all of Francis Veber’s farces (The Dinner Game, La Cage aux Folles, The Closet, et al.), this is the one that feels most like a sitcom pilot, which is to say it’s a farce most forced. One can hear the show runner’s pitch now (translated from the original French, natch): “Okay, so a valet who parks cars at a restaurant across the street from the Eiffel Tower has to live with a supermodel to cover up the affair the supermodel’s having with a powerful executive whose even more powerful wife will leave him, bankrupt and humiliated, should she ever find out about the affair. Oh, and the valet’s really in love with his kindergarten girlfriend, who needs 32,450 euros to cover the cost of her new bookstore. But the bookstore owner doesn’t want anything to do with the valet — romantically, that is — till she discovers he’s living with a supermodel, since she doesn’t know it’s really a business arrangement. Which it is and isn’t, when the supermodel discovers the valet’s really kinda good-looking and really quite nice. Jealousy and wackiness ensue.” The Valet is missing only a laugh track, which isn’t to diminish its good times, only to admit that it’ll inevitably wind up with an English-language makeover and an 8 p.m. time slot on ABC. (Royal; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Robert Wilonsky)




WHOLE NEW THING Half new at most, this Running With Scissors–type tale of a precocious, effeminate teen who gets hot for teacher (co-writer Daniel MacIvor) while prepping for a life in the arts evidently isn’t autobiographical. Neither is it funny — or remotely worth one’s time except as a reminder that Canadian indies can be every bit as feeble as American ones. Our hero is Emerson Thorsen (Aaron Webber), a 13-year-old playwright-turned-novelist raised by hippie-dippy parents in wintry Nova Scotia. How hippie-dippy? Mom (Rebecca Jenkins), upon discovering bed-sheet traces of young Emerson’s first wet dream: “Sweetie, that’s wonderful!” Dad (Robert Joy), meanwhile, dreams of a business plan to make fuel out of human excrement. Director Amnon Buchbinder similarly yearns to create something precious from doo-doo, but right from the first scenes, he mistakes ponderousness for seriousness and assumes his viewer’s interest without attempting to earn it. The movie does itself no favors by making Emerson a critic in English class: “The characters are thin, the plot is contrived, and there’s no theme — except something like, ‘You can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it.’ ” (Sunset 5) (Rob Nelson)

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