Film Openings

Week of March 16, 2006

Darwin's Nightmare. (Not Rated) Hubert Sauper's outraged but carefully measured documentary begins with an ecological disaster — the introduction, four decades ago, of the predatory Nile perch into Tanzania's Lake Victoria — and telescopes into a harrowing exposé on the predatory globalization that embodies the new look of colonialist cruelty in black Africa. Sauper, an Austrian-born, Paris-based filmmaker whose earlier Kisangangi Diary examined the plight of Rwandan refugees in Congo, contrasts the appalling conditions endured by the famine-stricken local fishermen, who subsist in filthy work colonies with no medical facilities, with the white profiteers who not only export the expensive perch filets for consumption in the nations of the European Union, but abet African violence by importing the weapons used in bloody conflicts nearby. A vivid feat of reporting that stirs the conscience and enrages the soul, this is nonfiction filmmaking at its finest, as stunning as a punch in the face (Bill Gallo) TV

She's the Man. (PG-13) Hollywood's a sucker for cross-dressing, but if you're looking for drag kings, you're pretty much stuck with Yentl. She's the Man, in which a teenage girl must go undercover at a private school to play soccer, doesn't have an unpredictable moment in it, borrowing heavily as it does from just about every sports movie or teen comedy ever and, oh yeah, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. What it does have is teen-queen-turned-drag-king Amanda Bynes, who tackles the lead role of Viola/Sebastian with enough enthusiasm to wring laughs from the retread story. Other rays of light come from the adult supporting cast, particularly cult comedy star David Cross and soccer-legend-turned-actor Vinnie Jones. And while the film may not be original, should we really expect today's kids to track down Just One of the Guys to get their drag-king comedy fix? (Jordan Harper) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Luke Y. Thompson) HP

V for Vendetta. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Thompson) ARN, CGX, CW10, CC12, DP, EG, EQ, GL, J14, MR, MOO, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Why We Fight. (Not Rated) In his 1961 farewell address, President Eisenhower warned Americans that an insidious new force was taking hold in the country. He called it the "military-industrial complex." This sobering documentary, which walked off with the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2005, examines the rise of this behemoth and the perils it holds for our democratic way of life. Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki stresses that Democrats and Republicans alike are responsible for where we find ourselves today, although he also charts how the situation has intensified under the current President Bush. War has become big business in the U.S., thanks to powerful forces — the federal government, the military establishment, the defense industry — whose livelihoods depend upon maintaining a permanent state of armed conflict. A former CIA consultant explains: "When war becomes that profitable, you see more war." A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel laments, "I will not allow my own kids to join the military." A must see. (Jean Oppenheimer) TV

The Work and the Glory: American Zion. (PG-13) The second in a series of Mormon melodramas, reeking of TV-miniseries hysteria and sophistry. The "work" appears to consist of making Mormonism look good; Lord knows what the "glory" is. Zion focuses mainly on one pioneering Mormon family, the Steeds, led by patriarch Ben (Sam Hennings, the best thing about the movie). Ben is wary of Mormonism, but most of his family has embraced it, and he must see to their safety. His two sons, the fallen Joshua (Eric Johnson) and upstanding Nathan (Alexander Carroll), are at serious odds, the latter having taken the girlfriend of the former. Most of the film is consumed with the Mormons' attempt to discover their Zion, which seems at first to be in Ohio, then in Missouri, and finally in neither. (You want to yell it: Utah!) This much is clear: If the real-life Joseph Smith (played here by Jonathan Scarfe) was as dull and cheesy as the one pictured here, it's a wonder that he founded anything at all, let alone a religion. (Melissa Levine) STCH