Film Openings

Week of December 12, 2001

Dec 12, 2001 at 4:00 am
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Expedition. George Butler. In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton led an expedition designed to reach the South Pole. The result was a two-year ordeal of almost unbelievable bad luck, offset only by equally unbelievable determination and strength of character. What should have been a complete tragedy instead became -- in a spiritual sense, at least -- a remarkable triumph. Filmmaker Butler (Pumping Iron) has taken on the considerable task of recounting the story with a minimum of staged footage. Original crewman Frank Hurley had brought along not only still cameras but a movie camera, providing us with an extraordinary record of the ship's voyage. (After the return to civilization, Hurley assembled the footage into the 1919 film South, itself a gripping document.) Butler makes heavy use of Hurley's movie footage, but it only covers the first half of the adventure. After that, he reconstructs the men's journeys through new scenic footage of the locales and a heavier reliance on the still photos Hurley took with the one camera he saved. These are supplemented with a narration by Liam Neeson and recent interviews with relatives of the of the crew. If none of this can match the immediacy of Hurley's original footage, it is still to Butler's credit that we barely notice the transition to the less authentic segments. Opens Dec. 14 at the Plaza Frontenac. (AK)

The Girl. The Girl. Sande Zeig. Hoping for a dash of neo-noir sophistication, director Zeig's debut feature gives the Godardian formula of "a man, a woman and a gun" a twist by making the traditional doomed loser/hero a heroine, a boyish young painter with a fondness for masculine attire and a proclivity for pouting. The Painter (the characters in this film have no names, only labels) falls helplessly in love with the Girl, a nightclub singer who is unfortunately also pursued by a variety of unsavory types (yes, one of them is called the Man). Set in an atypically drab Paris, The Girl wants to plunge into deep emotions even as it tries hard to retain a layer of cool, a contradiction that merely leaves the film and its players looking uneasy and a little amateurish. Ultimately all that remains in the memory are the many softcore love scenes, neither better nor worse than the sort of thing you find on cable in the middle of the night. Plays at 7 p.m. Dec. 14-16 at Webster University. (RH)

Not Another Teen Movie. Joel Gallen. Making fun of the already frivolous seems a particularly profligate pastime, but it's surely a profitable one; look, only if you must, at Scary Movie, which made considerable green by proving there are indeed still people awed by light-projected moving pictures. We're so familiar with this hackneyed film's archetypes -- "The Pretty Ugly Girl," "The Popular Jock," "The Obsessed Best Friend," "The Cruelest Girl," and so forth, as laid out in the press notes -- that the filmmakers need do nothing more than drop them into high-school set pieces. The film could play without sound, and we wouldn't miss a beat (or a beating). Not Another Teen Movie is just another teen movie that swipes its central storyline from, among so many others, She's All That and Whatever It Takes -- one good-looking guy (Eric Christian Olsen, as generic as a bar code) bets another (Chris Evans, Freddie Prinze Jr. Jr.) he can't transform the beautiful-behind-glasses ugly-duckling outcast (Chyler Leigh, star of Kickboxing Academy) into prom queen -- and tries to divert your attention by upping the gross-out factor that made mad millions for the Farrellys and the American Pie franchise-owners. The result is a crass, dim-witted affair that culminates in a sad Molly Ringwald cameo. Opens on Dec. 14 at multiple locations. (RW)

Tape. Richard Linklater. Opens Dec. 14 at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.

Vanilla Sky. Cameron Crowe. Opens Dec. 14 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.