Film Openings

Week of June 22, 2005

Bewitched. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue.

Herbie: Fully Loaded. (G) Reviewed in this issue.

Land of the Dead. (R) Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero tackles the touchy subject of just what to do when the undead come to town. One might be courteous and amiable, while another might simply soil his drawers. Here, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper take a third approach: holing up in a wall-protected city and mulling over what to do next. Whatever. Bring on the zombies! (Not Reviewed)

My Summer of Love. (R) Mona (Natalie Press), a West Yorkshire lass, is down on her luck. She never knew her father, her mother has died of cancer, and her brother (Paddy Considine) -- once the violent owner of the pub they live above -- has turned to Christianity. Into Mona's life trots Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a rebellious girl home from boarding school, who shows Mona something she's never seen -- a sophisticated, self-dramatizing form of adolescent ennui and self-obsession. They fall in love. Directed and co-written by Pawel Pawlikowski (a Pole working in English), the film rises above its particulars. Its immediate subject is a few months of heated passion between two girls, but it's really about the psychology of need, and of want, and of abandonment -- especially for adolescents whose parents aren't around. Pawlikowski shows a fantastic level of commitment -- in the script, the photography, and the acting -- and the result is a mood movie that sweeps you into its infatuation and holds you there. (Melissa Levine)

Mysterious Skin. (NC-17) Director Gregg Araki seems to have finally watched a few Todd Solondz movies, then realized that abusing James Duval onscreen is nowhere near as disturbing as the abuse of children. Let's put it this way: If you're Michael Jackson, this is the movie for you. If not, you're gonna find it creepy. Eight-year-old Brian (George Webster), who suffers a couple of blackouts that induce bloody noses, decides that alien abduction must have been responsible. Meanwhile, young Neil (Chase Ellison), forced to play Little League so that his mom can have free time to copulate, is immediately awestruck by the coach (Bill Sage), a well-built man with blond hair and a porn-star mustache. The feeling is mutual. In their teens, Brian (now Brady Corbet) is still shell-shocked and unsure of what happened, while Neil (now Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a gay hustler. Both will eventually connect, but meanwhile, Araki revels in the sordid details of Neil's tricks. Mostly, this will creep you out, and not in any kind of fun way. (Luke Y. Thompson)

Rize. (PG-13) Fashion photographer David LaChapelle expands upon his award-winning short film "Krumped," introducing us to the new dance forms popular in South Central Los Angeles via the charismatic "ghetto celebrity" known as Tommy the Clown. A former drug dealer who now hosts children's birthday parties, Tommy is credited here with creating the dance style known as "clowning," which combines the physical comedy of a clown with hip-hop moves. Spinning off from the clowns are the devotees of "krump," a more aggressive, warlike dance originated by guys with names like Dragon and Tight Eyez, who say they came up with the form for the benefit of kids who didn't want to play sports after school and had nothing else to occupy their time (legally) in the 'hood. One of the dancers says to the camera, in all seriousness, "This is not a trend." Not to him, perhaps. But just wait till the executives at MTV and the suits at major advertising agencies get a look at the movie. You can bet your buns it'll become a trend. (Thompson)

Saving Face. (R) Wil (Michelle Krusiec) is a young resident at a New York hospital, first-generation Chinese, and gay. Her girlfriend Vivian (Lynn Chen) wants her to share the relationship with her family, but can Wil's mother and grandparents, ensconced in an all-Chinese community in Queens, handle the news? Before anyone can find out, Wil's mother (Joan Chen), 20 years a widow at the age of 48, suddenly turns out to be pregnant. She won't reveal the identity of the father, so Wil's grandfather kicks her out of the family residence. That lands her squarely at Wil's doorstep, apparently for good. Saving Face has a very sweet feel to it, a tone of wanting to prove that being open and compassionate, and allowing oneself to make mistakes, is the way of happiness. But part of the reason that it doesn't quite succeed is that these messages are so tried and true. The other part is that in the execution of these themes, director Alice Wu uses only the most conventional and uninspired means. (Levine)

 
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