Film Openings

Week of June 1, 2005

 Cinderella Man. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, KEN, MR, NW, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Eating Out. (Not Rated) This awkward and unfunny comedy of errors is almost over before it begins. First, writer/director Q. Allan Brocka saddles the film with an ungainly concept: Straight boy attempts to win fag hag by pretending to date her (male) roommate. Then, Brocka renders three out of four of his characters insufferable, so that we watch people we don't care for manipulate other people we don't like by saying and doing tasteless things we can't believe. The translation: Boring Keanu Reeves look-alike (Scott Lunsford) attempts to win shrieking fag hag/Courtney Love look-alike (Emily Stiles) by pretending to date the superficial hottie (Ryan Carnes) on whom his soulful roommate (Jim Verraros, of American Idol) has long had a crush. It's one ill-conceived scene after another, in which characters say things like "That sounds etch-a-sketchy to me" and "You're a geekazoid," the latter serving to pay tribute to the ridiculous conceit that Verraros is ugly and undesirable. Attempts at humor are far too effortful, as is the sex, which is ice cold and forced. (Melissa Levine) HP

Lords of Dogtown. (PG-13) This is an odd, disorienting commodity -- a fictional version of a documentary (Dogtown and Z-Boys) about the birth of skateboarding in 1970s Venice, California, that was written by the man who directed the doc, in which he was a central figure. Stacy Peralta is fast becoming one of those guys you find in a neighborhood tavern who keeps regaling patrons with stories of ancient glories. He just can't stop talking about those good ol' days when he and his fellow Z-Boys were suntanned gods riding their wooden decks into the golden sunrise courtesy of the skateboard magazines of the 1970s that ran action-packed pics of SoCal kiddos laying tracks in drained swimming pools. One could almost understand the existence of Lords of Dogtown had the documentary been somehow deficient in its telling of the tale, but it left out nothing. These guys were self-mythologizing long before anyone outside their circle knew their names. But with Peralta there is no end of story, only more of the same. (Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

The Nomi Song. (Not Rated) If Klaus Nomi hadn't existed, someone would have invented him by now. Arguably a forefather of such media-created personalities as Pee-wee Herman, Blue Man Group, Marilyn Manson and Mike Myers' "Dieter" character, the erstwhile Klaus Sperber (his stage surname was an anagram of "Omni") hit the New York club scene in the '70s, combining his classical opera training with a new-wave sensibility and the invented persona of a retro sci-fi alien. David Bowie used him as a backup singer on Saturday Night Live, and two European records seemed like the beginning of international superstardom for Nomi, until AIDS took its toll. It was lonely at the top, and Nomi used anonymous unprotected sex as a consolation, with tragic results. Director Andrew Horn clearly has a fondness for musical weirdness -- his East Side Story documented communist musicals -- and this film shows Klaus Nomi as a character ahead of his time. If retro ain't your thing, fear not; this doesn't feel dated in the least. (Luke Y. Thompson) TV

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (PG) This is a flawed movie born of a flawed novel, but teenage girls will eat it up. Sisterhood features three young stars (Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel), indulges in rampant romantic fantasy, drips with teary-eyed sentimentality, and pays a heapload of lip service to the long-since co-opted notion of girl power. Part of the trouble stems from its failure to adapt the best-selling novel by Ann Brashares; the rest of the trouble comes from its success in doing so. The novel spreads four best-friend protagonists around the globe for a summer, sending one to Greece, another to Baja and a third to South Carolina. The girls are bound by the titular pair of pants, magically fitting jeans that they share throughout the summer. With four plots, there isn't time to fully develop any one. The result is a constant feeling of summary, saddled with four times the usual number of after-school issues. Tamblyn is a treat, playing intelligence and anger, and there are some real moments of connection between characters, but the film is hysterical with self-promotion. (Levine) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Voices in Wartime. (Not Rated) The rapping GIs in Gunner Palace are just the latest in a long line of battlefield poets that spans borders and centuries. They aren't mentioned in this earnest and often moving documentary, which explores the intersection of war and verse, but their bitter resignation echoes through the stunningly unsentimental Great War stanzas of British officers Wilfrid Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The doc's timing -- and a section on Sam Hamill igniting a Poets Against the War movement as his RSVP to Laura Bush's invitation to a writer symposium -- gives it an anti-Iraq War slant, but the P.O.V. is more broadly antiwar. Veteran director Rick King lacks the inspiration to make a truly poetic work, but the familiar blend of archival war footage and talking heads allows for several haunting passages. When David Connolly, a Vietnam vet with a terse South Boston brogue, reads his brilliant, brutal verse, we're reminded that poetry can be as eloquent a critique of war as the most graphic newsreels, and as visceral an account of combat as memoirs or journalism. (Michael Fox) TV

 
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