Film Openings

Week of August 16, 2006

Accepted. (PG-13) In director Steve Pink's amiable but undernourished campus comedy, industrious high school underachiever Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) gets rejected from every college under the sun. So he starts his own, the South Harmon Institute of Technology, complete with facilities (an abandoned mental hospital), faculty (a belligerent former shoe salesman), and fully functional website, where admission is, quite literally, a click away. Soon, S.H.I.T. becomes a Mecca for all the huddled masses turned away by the legitimate university system. The joke, of course, is that the "fake" college is no worse — and in some ways better — than the high-ticket institute of higher learning down the road, with its stuck-up faculty and humiliating frat-hazing rituals. But Accepted is an inspired premise in search of a movie: What starts out as a scabrous takedown of academic bureaucracy ends up as yet another modestly rousing underdog story about the little slacker that could. The cheat sheet in Pink's loose-leaf binder is Long, who's great fun to watch as he moves through the film with the shit-eating confidence of the kid voted most likely to succeed . . . at grand larceny. (Scott Foundas) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, STCH, STCL

Army of Shadows. (Not Rated) Led by a short, rotund man who carries a briefcase and speaks as if conserving his last reserves of emotion, the heroes of this long-unreleased French resistance drama from 1969 engage in little of what counts for action these days. And yet, as directed by WWII veteran and gangster-movie master Jean-Pierre Melville, Army of Shadows is deeply engrossing — and deep in numerous other ways that one scarcely encounters at the movies anymore. The chief of the resistance group (Lino Ventura) is repeatedly apprehended by the Nazis and forced to reckon with the knowledge that any breath could be his last — that even if he escapes again, his group's survival will require him to execute some of those closest to him, those who have earlier saved his own life. Initially dismissed by French critics for bringing a hardboiled aesthetic to a story whose true horrors warranted greater gravity, Army of Shadows in fact reveals that all of Melville's movies about fatalistic tough guys were tales of occupation and resistance: Some of them were simply forced to work in disguise. (Rob Nelson) TV

Material Girls. Sisters Tanzie and Ava Marchetta (Hilary and Haylie Duff) are heiresses to their family's fortune. An investigation prompts them to get "real" jobs. Someone should really do a television show with this premise. (NR) ARN, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Shadowboxer. (R) The directorial debut from Monster's Ball producer Lee Daniels clearly tries to follow that movie's formula for success. Oscar-caliber actors? Check. Interracial sex? Plenty. A violent demise or two, all in the service of character development? Oh yes. But while you can draw a crowd with naked Halle Berry getting it on with Billy Bob, it just isn't quite the same to see naked Helen Mirren getting ravished by Cuba Gooding Jr. If reducing the movie to its sex scenes sounds unduly crass, it's only because the rest of the movie is rather silly — profoundly stupid when it aspires to be profound. Gooding and Mirren play a bizarrely oedipal pair of professional killers who do one last job that goes wrong: Refusing to kill a pregnant woman (Vanessa Ferlito), they take her on the run with them instead, away from nasty criminal Stephen Dorff. That Dorff is the best thing about the whole movie tells you pretty much all you need to know. (Luke Y. Thompson) PF

Snakes on a Plane. Samuel L. Jackson shares an m-effin' plane with some m-effin' snakes. Squirming ensues. (NR) CPP, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

 
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