“Tobe” (Evan Rachel Wood), short for October, is a San Fernando Valley teen
who impulsively invites a lonely but cute-looking stranger named Harlan (Edward
Norton) to join her on a jaunt to the beach. Harlan dresses and talks like a
cowboy, and he has either madness or poetry in him — maybe both — because he
walks straight off his job at a filling station by way of saying yes. They shortly
become lovers. Writer-director David Jacobson has an excitingly clear-eyed,
unsentimental feel for the intensity of adolescent passion. Wood inhabits Tobe’s
swoony romantic nature and unrestrained sex drive without losing her balance.
Norton, in turn, remains blazingly lucid as a performer even as Harlan must
go off the deep end, holding Tobe, her kid brother Lonnie (Rory Culkin) and
us in his complicated thrall. Harlan is at least 10 years older than Tobe, a
fact that even her belligerent, protective father, Wade (David Morse, pitch-perfect
as usual), leaves unremarked as he tries to chase Harlan out of their lives.
But what’s dangerous about Harlan isn’t that he’s older; it’s that he’s psychologically
even younger than Tobe. (There’s a hint of homage to Kit Carruthers, the lost
bad boy of Terrence Malick’s Badlands,
in that Harlan’s last name is also Carruthers, but Jacobson never belabors this.)
Harlan leads Tobe on impulsive, scofflaw adventures and schemes to overthrow
her father, but (in his best moments) also supplies her little brother with
the simple love and attention the boy (and maybe Harlan himself) has never had.
At first it is Wade who plays the heavy in this drama, as fathers must. Then
Harlan takes over that role as his problems become too overwhelming for Tobe,
for the law, for himself. The climax, a wildly cinematic chase through the little
wilderness that’s left, detours (with just the right touch of dry wit) across
a Western movie set, and yet, despite the heady thematic touches, loses none
of its suspense, because the characters are so richly developed, and death so
present, that we’re violently kept guessing as to who might prevail. (Selected
theaters) (F.X. Feeney)
flirtation with the hot-button immigration issue, this inspirational movie about
an underdog soccer player from tough East Los Angeles is pretty standard stuff.
Mexican TV heartthrob Kuno Becker stars as Santiago Munez, a rec-league standout
who lands a trial with the fabled Newcastle United club of northeastern England.
The appealing young man’s tribulations are predictable, his triumph inevitable;
while he gets respect (and the girl, played by Anna Friel), we get another Rocky-style
dose of emotional uplift, cloaked in the usual game-day clichés. Not a bad movie,
but as familiar as Alex Rodriguez’s batting average. Two sequels are already
in the works, probably aimed at the soccer-crazy international market. Brit
director Danny Cannon and Brit screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais
know their fútbol, but will American moviegoers pay to play? (Citywide) (Bill


JUST MY LUCK Looking tired and sallow
and drained of her customary glow, Lindsay Lohan marches grimly through this
mechanical tween comedy as if it were a particularly tedious homework assignment.
Which it is: The kind of switcheroo premise that so deftly showcased Lohan’s
instinctive gift for physical comedy in Freaky
Friday falls flat as a pancake in this lame slice of slapstick about
a go-ahead Manhattanite whose habitual good luck runs out when she kisses a
luckless stranger (the anodyne Chris Pine) who’s trying in vain to make it as
a rock producer with such implausibly uncommercial material as the British boy
band McFly. As his good fortune waxes, hers wanes, thus exposing them both to
a rapid succession of excruciating sight gags involving dog poop, cat poop and
endless rain without benefit of umbrella. Directed by Donald Petrie (Miss
Congeniality) from a colorless script by I. Marlene King and Amy Harris,
Just My Luck is so unremittingly chipper,
you want to shoot it on sight. Lohan is a great talent whose gravel-voiced poise
promises an intriguing transition from child performer to young siren, but if
she continues to cut up for the tabloids and lend herself to rubbish like this
and Herbie Fully Loaded, she’s going
to end up remembered as no more than a sad little party animal. (Citywide) (Ella


Steins of Brentwood held their son’s bar mitzvah celebration on an ocean liner
at sea, with party sets modeled after the movie Titanic
— how do you top that? Such is the dilemma facing Hollywood agent Adam Fiedler
(Jeremy Piven), whose son Benjamin (Daryl Sabara) isn’t sure that his dad’s
plan for a Dodger Stadium extravaganza is the best way to go. Although first
time director Scott Marshall and screenwriter Mark Zakarin nimbly satirize West
L.A. excess, Keeping Up with the Steins 
is actually more of a valentine to Jewish family life — one that goes down a
lot sweeter than the recent, similarly-themed When
Do We Eat? Marshall is the nephew of actor-director Penny Marshall (Laverne
& Shirley to Awakenings)
and the son of TV producer-movie director Garry Marshall (Happy
Days to Pretty Woman), who here
gives a funny, surprisingly restrained performance as Adam’s long lost father,
a man with a knack for cutting to the heart of the Talmudic teachings that have
Benjamin so tongue-tied. As director, Scott Marshall displays an unsurprising
flair for selling a joke, but also a fine sense of dramatic pacing and, even
better, a gift for brevity, neither of which, it could be argued, are innate
skills of his famous filmmaking family. (Selected theatres) (Chuck Wilson)



LADY VENGEANCE This putative final
chapter in Korean director (and Quentin Tarantino fetish object) Park Chan-Wook’s
“Vengeance Trilogy” finds the director working in familiar storytelling mode:
Upon her release, a paroled prisoner (Lee Yeoung-Ae) begins plotting an elaborate
revenge against the man who, 20 years earlier, framed her for a brutal child
kidnapping and murder, then absconded with her young daughter. This is OldBoy
or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance redux,
with the minor twist of a female protagonist, which only makes the movie seem
that much more of a cut-rate Kill Bill
clone. Aren’t trilogies supposed to take us somewhere new, as opposed to doubling
back on the same well-trodden ground over and over again? Admittedly, the movie’s
style changes midstream: After an hour of Park’s de rigueur camera pyrotechnics,
cartoonish blood splatter and simplistic dream imagery, things settle into a
more mature rhythm, complete with expansive wide-screen compositions held for
more than a few seconds at a time and a downright sedate pace that suggests
someone on the crew injected a powerful tranquilizer into Park’s bloodstream.
But Park’s ideas never evolve, and by the end he resorts to that old warhorse
of making the villain of the piece (OldBoy
star Choi Min-Sik) so execrable that all the hand-wringing over the morality
of revenge is rendered moot. If this is what qualifies, as some critics have
suggested, as an artistic advance for Mr. Park, let us pray for a hasty retreat.
(Nuart) (Scott Foundas)


of a hardened convict stands on the scrubby playing field of a prison complex
and recites Prospero’s famous lines from The
Tempest: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on!” he bellows, with
enough primal lung power to rally an army regiment or an NFL squad. His oration
is the upshot of the “Shakespeare Behind Bars” program at a Kentucky medium-security
prison that’s unusual for its progressive-leaning leadership. (From the horse’s
mouth: “I’m a warden who hates prison.”) Each year, the prisoners cast, rehearse,
direct and perform the Bard themselves, and Hank Rogerson’s documentary chronicles
their production of The Tempest from
its first workshops through to opening night, making clear (in candid interviews)
that the play’s themes of imprisonment, isolation and forgiveness resonate with
urgency among the cast and crew. The movie derives energy from its odd juxtapositions:
men serving long or lifetime sentences — some have murdered their partners or
molested children — hone their iambic pentameter and, teary-eyed, speak in the
tidy jargon of therapy. Albeit a tad repetitive, Shakespeare
Behind Bars succeeds in humanizing men we might too easily label as monsters,
and provides a solid argument in favor of prisons that place rehabilitation
above retribution. (Fairfax) (Jessica Winter)


SAVING SHILOH The latest film to be
drawn from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s best-selling young-adult trilogy about
a frisky West Virginia beagle with a knack for bringing people together, Saving
Shiloh takes place in 2005, but in its setting and sensibility, it feels
like 1930s Walton’s Mountain. In a little town called Friendly, Marty (Jason
Dolley) lives with his parents, two little sisters and Shiloh, the lovable mutt
he rescued from a dog-kicking meanie named Judd (Scott Wilson). In this final
adventure, Marty attempts to cement the tentative friendship he and Judd formed
in the second film, despite the fact that everyone in town thinks Judd responsible
for a recent murder. Marty’s a nice boy, but dull, and though Shiloh is certainly
a smart, sweet dog, the movies that bear his name, which aren’t exactly pulse-pounding,
gain their true resonance not from Naylor’s old-fashioned lessons in faith and
friendship (faithfully rendered by screenwriter Dale Rosenbloom and director
Sandy Tung) but from the deeply pained eyes of Wilson, a character actor who’s
been making villainy complex since he portrayed Richard Hickock in the 1967
film version of In Cold Blood. It’s
kind of a lovely thing — in these decidedly unhip children’s films, he’s found
the role of a lifetime. (Selected theaters) (Chuck Wilson)



Effects writer-director Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau used to be a sales
rep for pharmaceutical manufacturers, then quit that job due to her increasing
disgust over industry practices. Rather than make a Michael Moore–style gotcha
documentary to spread her beliefs and insights about how new drugs are created
and sold, she’s instead turned out this romantic comedy about — what else? —
a young pharmaceutical sales rep. As Karly (Grey’s
Anatomy star Katherine Heigl) finds herself moving up the corporate ladder,
she grows uneasy about industry practices that place sales volume above patient
safety, while at the same time struggling to nurture her budding relationship
with a rugged guy who’s building his own house in the woods. It’s a tantalizing
idea — a little rom-com sugar to help the Big Pharma exposé pill go down — but
Slattery-Moschkau is simply not a writer of the caliber necessary to pull off
that delicate balancing act. Lovers’ spats too quickly turn into debates over
business ethics, and all the drug-industry info feels tacked on. When Side
Effects does work, it’s because of the very winning presence of Heigl,
who makes even the most stilted speechifying seem less unnatural — and it doesn’t
hurt that she’s game for some gratuitous dancing in her underwear and conspicuous
side-boob action. While Slattery-Moschkau is obviously coming from a very earnest
place — a card before the final credits compares the annual budget for the pharmaceutical
industry to that of her own film — it doesn’t make the overall effort any less
clumsy. (Sunset 5) (Mark Olsen)


GO WAH-WAH Richard E. Grant’s semiautobiographical
drama lifts the lid on both what inspired the sourpuss sneer and gimlet eyes
this gifted character actor has perfected since making his film debut in the
hilarious Withnail and I (1987) and
how different Grant the man is from his icily pent-up screen persona. Wah-Wah
chronicles the writer-director’s upbringing — if that’s what you can call a
childhood that hung him out to dry with feuding parents (wonderfully played
by Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson, who’s right up there with Grant in
the department of bitter rage) in a British expatriate community during the
last wheeze of British Empire in 1960s Swaziland. Though far from expert filmmaking
— visual clichés fly thick and fast — the movie has a swooning feel for the
stark beauty of the African kingdom in which it was shot. As you’d expect, Grant
works expertly with a terrific ensemble that features Emily Watson as Byrne’s
vitally blowsy American second wife; Julie Walters as a dumpy jettisoned wife
who falls in love with Byrne and ends up mothering the confused adolescent Grant
surrogate (a strikingly beautiful Nicholas Hoult); and the excellent Celia Imrie
as snob-in-chief of the loony band of colonials, with their idiotic baby talk,
casual racism, pathetic insistence on badges of bygone status and myopic inability
to see why they’re being chucked out by a newly independent nation. Grant doesn’t
gloss over the wounds he endured at the hands of his hair-raisingly ill-equipped
parents, who were clearly enough to make an artist out of anyone, but in his
maturity he bestows on them and their obsolescent pals a compassion that lines
this sorry tale with silver. (Selected theaters) (Ella Taylor)

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.