MORE

New Film Reviews

GO C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA Kevin Willmott’s bristling faux doc re-imagines 150 years of American history as they might have unfolded had the Confederate army won the Civil War. Here, for our consideration, are the never-united States as a weirdo Dixieland (even more so than in real life) where Abraham Lincoln was exiled as a war criminal, the Democratic Party staunchly upholds segregationist ideals, and Canada — that seething hotbed of abolitionism, suffrage, terrorism and rock & roll — is its very own axis of evil. C.S.A. isn’t subtle, but its undisguised indignation places it in the same bold polemical tradition as Peter Watkins’ incendiary Punishment Park (1971), that nightmarish slice of speculative sci-fi about government-sanctioned manhunts for hippies and dissidents. Like Watkins’ seminal piece of agitprop, C.S.A. also presents itself as a British-made documentary, the difference being that where Punishment Park was pitched at the level of vérité intensity, C.S.A. is overtly comic. Supposedly, we’re watching an actual TV broadcast, and so the convincingly Ken Burns–ian presentation (sober voice-over, talking heads and cleverly re-purposed historical footage) is periodically interrupted by pointed promos for Darkie-brand toothpaste and electronic slave-tracking devices. Though they’re sketchy in both senses of the word, these superfluous interludes don’t significantly detract from Willmott’s formidable assault. Sprung urgent and barn-side broad, in the tradition of all great, immodest proposals, C.S.A. is A-OK. (Grande 4-Plex; Academy 6) (Adam Nayman)


DATE MOVIE This anemic genre parody from “two of the six writers of Scary Movie” strives for the goofball precision of the brothers Zucker and, long before it reaches the end of its 70-odd minutes, gives you newfound respect for the comic genius of the brothers Wayans (two of the other writers of Scary Movie). The targets here are Hollywood’s bubble-headed romantic comedies, but director Aaron Setzer (who co-wrote the script with Jason Friedling) doesn’t satirize the genre’s familiar tropes so much as merely re-stage familiar scenes from the likes of Pretty Woman, Meet the Parents and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, while adding a gross-out twist. The “jokes,” such as they are, uniformly come at the expense of gays, the homeless, the physically unattractive and — pardon me while I catch my breath from laughing so hard — Jennifer Lopez’s ass. You know what you’re in for right from the opening sequence, in which a morbidly obese young woman (American Pie’s Alyson Hannigan) performs a rump-shaking dance routine in front of a crowd of repulsed onlookers, one of whom — a construction worker — responds by putting a nail gun to his head. At least he was spared the rest of Date Movie. (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)


DOOGAL  Hot on the heels of Hoodwinked comes another animated film from the Weinstein Company: Did anyone think that when Bob ’n Harvey finally freed themselves from Disney, they would become regular purveyors of straight-up kiddie flicks? Doogal is one of those pickup-and-redub jobs, the original version having been made by European studio Pathé based on a 1960s British children’s show, The Magic Roundabout. And lacking even the minimal pop-cultural pizzazz of Hoodwinked, the story, dialogue and animation here really are for-kids-only. An evil wizard is accidentally released from his prison inside a roundabout (that’s a merry-go-round to us Yanks), sending the rag-tag team of a dog, a snail, a cow, a rabbit and a talking train off on a race to retrieve a trio of magical diamonds before the wizard can use them to freeze the sun. If your head isn’t already swimming, just know that the feature (not screened in advance for critics) was preceded by at least 5 trailers for other animated talking-animal stories from as many distributors. If your tykes like this sort of thing, it’s going to be a long year for you. For the rest of us, it’s kind of fun to play fantasy voiceover league, imagining the American voice talent against the British cast they replaced. William H. Macy for Jim Broadbent? Fair enough. Whoopi Goldberg for Joannna Lumely? Well, alright. Jimmy Fallon for Bill Nighy? Hey now. But of course there was no replacing Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen or Kylie Minougue. (Citywide) (Mark Olsen)



GO    MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION  “I want you in this house before the streetlights come on,” Mabel “Madea” Simmons proclaims to her rebellious new foster daughter, and it’s this brand of sweet-tough Southern vernacular that’s turned playwright Tyler Perry’s no-nonsense grandma (he plays Madea, in drag, plus two other characters) into an African-American icon. From her Atlanta kitchen, Madea mixes Christian platitudes and practical, hit-the-bastard-with-a-frying-pan advice to the steady stream of troubled young people who use her home as a refuge center. Madea’s a riot, but what makes this richer, more textured follow-up to Diary of a Mad Black Woman so fascinating is the way Perry — a first-time director adapting his own hit play — shifts on a dime from a silly fart joke scene to one of intense, Sirkian melodrama, as when Madea’s niece Lisa (Rochelle Aytes), her half sister Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) and their monstrous mother (Lynn Whitfield) confront some very nasty, completely believable family secrets. Perry is a moralist, out to save his people (and all others who will listen), and you can’t help but root him on, especially when he stages a moment like the one in which Myrtle (Cicely Tyson, Perry’s real life Atlanta neighbor), this extended clan’s co-matriarch, stands on an old slave cabin porch, with Maya Angelou (!) seated at her side, and exhorts her family — in an echo of the Baby Suggs character in Toni Morrison’s Beloved — to embrace love and reject selfishness and greed. For his revolutionist’s passion and for allowing Tyson to once again fill the screen with her glory, Tyler Perry is my new hero. (Citywide) (Chuck Wilson)



RUNNING SCARED After a bad drug deal results in the death of a crooked New Jersey cop, Mafia errand boy Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) takes the incriminating revolver home, where it promptly falls into the hands of his son’s best friend, Oleg (Cameron Bright), who uses it to shoot his abusive crackhead Russian stepfather. Oleg flees, and, during the long night ahead, Joey must track down the kid and the gun, all the while dodging brutish henchmen, a crazed pimp and his own pissed-off wife (Vera Farmiga), whose 3 a.m. encounter with child pornographers is this self-consciously frenetic film’s most sustained and satisfying sequence. This is the kind of movie where the bad guys make long-winded speeches while holding knives or guns to their enemies’ heads, and while such bits are consistent with the noir storytelling being saluted here, it’s unfortunate that writer-director Wayne Kramer has followed his silver-tongued 2003 hit, The Cooler, with a film so reliant on witless profanity and trite melodrama. Worse yet — and especially dismaying from a filmmaker born and raised in South Africa — is the indiscriminate use, by hero and villains alike, of the N word as an emasculating slur, in a film where there’s not a black character in sight. Running Scared is decently acted and divertingly brutal, but it’s also a giant step backward for its maker. (Citywide) (Chuck Wilson)


GO UNKNOWN WHITE MALE Amnesia is often just a convenient disease-of-the-week plot device, but director Rupert Murray’s absorbing, poignant documentary illuminates the medical condition’s philosophical and personal implications. Unknown White Male chronicles the case of Murray’s friend Doug Bruce, who found himself on the New York subway one morning without any idea how he got there or who he was. The film’s opening 20 minutes play out with unbearable tension as Murray takes us through that first anxious day when Bruce, without a license or passport, faced permanent residence in a psychiatric ward unless he managed to make contact with someone who could identify him. Then Bruce is set free, his memory refuses to return, and the rest of Unknown White Male unfolds like a mystery as he (along with the audience) learns about and evaluates the life he used to lead. Bruce’s journey of awkward re-introductions with friends and family members provokes questions about the nature of identity — not to mention unexpected reactions from those around him who, like the filmmaker, oscillate between resentment and sadness at realizing that the man they knew, in some fundamental way, is gone forever. As Bruce discovers fireworks and the Rolling Stones for the “first” time, his enthusiasm might seem cloying, but the film isn’t interested in crafting a “lovable” innocent who teaches us cynics about the preciousness of existence. Rather, Murray honors his buddy by presenting him as a sympathetic enigma — the puzzling center of this very human suspense thriller. (Sunset 5; One Colorado) (Tim Grierson)