Film Openings

Week of August 23, 2006

Beerfest. Brothers rediscover their German heritage on a trip to Oktoberfest and train to become part of Beerfest an ancient competition that's not for the faint of liver. Otherwise known in Irish families as "Thanksgiving.Ó Written and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. (NR) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Brothers of the Head. (Not Rated) Strip a couple of layers of self-consciousness from this overwrought work of Gothic tedium and you might have a story worth telling. As it is, this morbid tale of a pair of British conjoined twins' 1970s punk-rock career is nearly smothered by the form its makers have chosen: a fake documentary using footage from an earlier fabricated documentary and a narrative film based on a novel. The novel exists — real-life author Brian Aldiss appears in the movie — which ratchets up the creep factor (by, briefly, making it all seem true). But everything else is obviously, gaudily fake. Directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, who scored with the Terry Gilliam documentary Lost in La Mancha, don't seem to understand how tiresome it is to watch the petulant antics of two adolescent head-bangers, whether or not they're joined at the abdomen. And the fine performances by (non-conjoined and very sexy) twins Harry and Luke Treadaway can't rescue scene after scene of woozy rehearsal and concert footage. Like everything else in the film, they drown in its endless dream-montages and incoherent narrative gimmicks. (Melissa Levine) TV

How to Eat Fried Worms. (PG) From the studio that brought you Snakes on a Plane comes this equally stomach-churning (in the best sense) adaptation of Thomas Rockwell's beloved young adult novel, with its evergreen message about the struggle to fit in and the danger of judging books by their covers. Worms is the story of one Billy Forrester (Luke Benward) — the proverbial new kid on the block — and how his newness is sniffed out by the schoolyard bully, who challenges Billy to a creepy-crawly test of prepubescent manhood: Eat 10 worms, cooked in inventively disgusting manners, in a single day. From there, writer-director Bob Dolman (The Banger Sisters) kicks things into gross-out-slapstick overdrive, and the movie is so cheerfully crude that you begin to wonder if it wasn't just made for fifth graders, but by them as well. That's a compliment, of course: Worms is a rare kiddie flick that successfully adopts a child's-eye view, where nothing carries more importance than the saving of playground face and where parents are as distant and clueless as storybook giants. (Scott Foundas) ARN, CGX, DP, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

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Idlewild. (R) Reviewed in this issue CPP, J14, OF, RON, STCL

Invincible. (PG) Reviewed in this issue ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL

Once in a Lifetime. (PG-13) For a brief, shining moment in the late 1970s, soccer was a hot ticket in America. At their peak, the New York Cosmos drew 77,000 fans to Giants Stadium, and their aging but charismatic stars — Brazilian legend Pelé, Italian schemer Giorgio Chinaglia, unflappable German Franz Beckenbauer — were the toasts of the town, especially at Studio 54, which served as the team training room. In their intermittently fascinating documentary, British co-directors Paul Crowder and John Dower chronicle the rise and fall of the Cosmos — which is also the rise and fall of U.S. soccer. The tragicomedy stars Cosmos owner Steve Ross (then-chairman of Warner Communications) as the blinkered hero, Pelé as the faltering god, and Chinaglia as the dark-eyed villain. Will soccer ever make a comeback here? Not unless Americans decide to watch it on TV: Witnesses for the prosecution would like to blame Chinaglia, but ABC Sports' dismal soccer ratings in 1979 spelled the doom of the Cosmos and the North American Soccer League just five years later. (Bill Gallo) PF

Quinceañera. (R) A winning tale of sex, real estate, and more or less immaculate conception in Echo Park, Quinceañera edges as close to a complex view of L.A. Latino life as can be hoped for from white-boy filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Intended, a trifle oddly, as a tribute to 1960s English kitchen-sink drama, this delightfully saucy, heartfelt movie about a community under siege from gentrification turns on the testy efforts of a pregnant teenager (Emily Rios) and her gay, borderline-delinquent cousin (Jesse Garcia) to hang onto their Mexican identity while growing up American. Quinceañera neither skirts nor condescends to the difficulties faced by poor urban neighborhoods threatened from within and without. Shot with an unobtrusive hand-held camera and with copious help from the filmmakers' neighbors, this generous, observant movie offers a vital slice of Latino life — minus drug dealers, racist cops, and gun-waving street gangs — with a giddy, improvised feel and a loving sense of place. (Ella Taylor) TV

 
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