Film Openings

Week of October 13, 2004

Oct 13, 2004 at 4:00 am
The Final Cut Omar Naïm. (PG-13) Writer-director Omar Naïm's debut feature is a satisfyingly eerie thriller concerned with the moral implications of recording entire lives on brain-implanted microchips and what those lives ultimately mean once they're edited down into sweet, bowdlerized, easily digested movies. Robin Williams, in fine form, makes a logical progression from One Hour Photo to play another detached observer, an editor of lives, or "cutter," considered the best in the business. When he agrees to edit the corrupt life of his trade's head honcho, moral mayhem ensues. The job also draws in Jesus Himself, Jim Caviezel, as a former cutting colleague who's now bent on fouling the corporation's reputation. He's not alone, given that bands of mysteriously tattooed protesters violently oppose humanity being whored into nonstop Candid Camera. Naïm's movie sometimes takes itself so seriously that it flounders into absurdity, but it is filled with smart writing, subtle character tics and genuine tension. Opens Friday, October 15, at multiple locations. (Gregory Weinkauf)

Head in the Clouds John Duigan. (R) Opens Friday, October 15, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed in this issue.

The Last Shot Jeff Nathanson. (R) The premise is so far-fetched, yet conforms so perfectly with our stereotypical image of Hollywood, that it almost sounds plausible. An undercover FBI agent (Alec Baldwin) poses as a movie producer and convinces an aspiring, totally gullible film director (Matthew Broderick) that he wants to make the director's movie. In reality, it's all part of an elaborate sting operation to smoke out a mobster (Tony Shalhoub) with criminal ties to the film industry. The directing debut of screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Rush Hour), The Last Shot has a few bits of genuinely cute humor (so desperate is the director to make his movie that he agrees to shoot a film titled Arizona in Rhode Island), but most of it is decidedly lame. The actors, however, are ingratiating. For those wondering...the movie is based on an actual sting that suckered not one, but two hapless young filmmakers. Both are listed as associate producers here. Opens Friday, October 15, at multiple locations. (Jean Oppenheimer)

Shall We Dance? Peter Chelsom. (R) In director Peter Chelsom's best movies, half-empty men stare longingly into the distance in search of the something or someone that will complete them. Here, it's Richard Gere who does the staring -- out the window of a train that schleps his character, John Clark, to his law office. John has it all but not enough, and one night on the train home he sees Jennifer Lopez's Paulina staring out a dance-studio window; he's drawn to her not just because she's, well, Jennifer Lopez, but because he recognizes her blank stare as the longing look of a fellow traveler. Soon enough John's light on his feet and lighter in his heart; his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, believes he's having an affair, but nothing could be further from the truth. There's but one flaw here: Shall We Dance? runs out of breath and collapses into a heap of feel-good endings that turn a soaring feeling into a sinking one. But by then, the audience that adores it will forgive its sins. Opens Friday, October 15, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)

Team America: World Police Trey Parker. (R) Opens Friday, October 15, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.

Tying the Knot Jim de Sève. (unrated) This documentary exposes the discrimination suffered by American same-sex couples denied the right to marry. Though the film includes interviews with activists and footage of Pride parades, protests and legislative debate, it's the personal narratives that pack the punch. The march toward legalized gay marriage is recounted mostly in passing, without any depth; for much longer stretches, the film lingers on a Florida police officer, struggling to win the rights to her deceased partner's pension, and a farmer in rural Oklahoma, fighting to keep his dead partner's relatives from claiming his farm. It's essentially an advertisement for gay marriage -- an effective, sweet and moving advertisement, to be sure -- but far less an examination of a pressing public issue than a piece of promotional material. It presents the "gay community" as a united front, working to win the right to marry, when the truth is more complex. What about the activists (gay and straight) who want to secure legal benefits for all citizens, not just married ones? Opens Friday, October 15, at the Tivoli. (Melissa Levine)