Film Openings

Week of November 23, 2006

Shut Up & Sing. (PG-13) Not quite the Bush-bashfest its publicity might lead you to believe, Shut Up & Sing is closer to the Metallica movie Some Kind of Monster than to Fahrenheit 9/11. Like Metallica, the Dixie Chicks begin the movie as a multiplatinum band looking to move their sound forward on a new album, only to have external circumstances throw a wrench into the works and send things in a vastly different direction than anyone expected. The political angle is the film's hook, but its real goal seems to be to persuade non-country fans who support the band's politics that, hey, y'know, their music's pretty good too. And we see how the controversy both helped and hurt, gaining the Chicks national magazine covers and unprecedented crossover exposure, even as they were systematically shut out of country radio/TV and lost substantial U.S. ticket sales. It's easy to look at these lovely ladies for 93 minutes; that they have fantastic vocal chops is a major bonus, and their disdain for Bush is merely icing atop a significantly layered cake. (Luke Y. Thompson) TV

Tenacious D in "The Pick of Destiny". (R) That we're even discussing a Tenacious D movie more than a decade after Jack Black and Kyle Gass formed their heavy-metal homage/parody suggests they're too late to their own party. Already there have been myriad Saturday Night Live and Mr. Show appearances, the short-lived HBO series and the 2001 album, not to mention Black's role in School of Rock, which capitalized on his performance as, well, more-or-less Jack Black in High Fidelity, which exploited his stint in Tenacious D. It all seems more than a bit too familiar, and by the time Tenacious D gets to the protracted car chase, you'll wonder whether Gass and Black are on a mission from God or Satan — who, d'oh, finally shows up in the form of Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. Directed by Liam Lynch (responsible for the time-wasting musical sequences in Sarah Silverman's concert doc Jesus Is Magic), Tenacious D is utterly harmless and totally pointless. Black and Gass have been at this so long, their dirty little joke has all the punch of a Catskills routine. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, DP, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, TS12

This Film Is Not Yet Rated. (NC-17) Perhaps the most chilling material in Kirby Dick's raucous exposé of the film ratings board (MPAA) is a simple statement of little-discussed fact: More than 95 percent of the movie industry is controlled by a half-dozen studios whose larger conglomerates own more than 90 percent of all media in the United States. Ethical regulation of the industry — in terms of how much of Maria Bello's pubic hair can be seen in the indie drama The Cooler, for example — naturally remains of vital importance to the MPAA and its studio signatories. With its sex- and joke-filled survey of what has and hasn't been deemed appropriate for wide distribution, This Film is for buffs, but ironically, it works best in the rare moments when it seems to be about more than just movies. Indeed, to the extent that the systematic sanitizing of content to serve big business interests is hardly unique to Hollywood these days, Dick's slapstick historical record does stand to have what they call a long "shelf life" — even if they refuse to stock it at Blockbuster. (Rob Nelson) TV

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