Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Descent

by Brian
The Descent is obviously one of the better reviewed horror films of recent years, but I just don’t get why. Now, I’ll readily admit that I’m generally not much of a horror film, but I also feel that a good movie is a good movie, and a bad movie is a bad movie. This is a bad one.

Let me count the ways:

1) The scares Seeing this movie compared to movies like Jaws, I expected there to be some kind of strong psychological element to the horror, but no such luck. Every single scare in the movie is of the character-turns-around-and-there’s-something-suddenly-there variety. I don’t mean that this happens two or three times - it’s probably a dozen or so in all. It’s no different than every stupid cheap horror movie that comes down the pike, and it’s a completely illegitimate way to scare people. And obviously, since you know it’s coming, every single time, it stops being scary anyway. Real quick.

2) The story … which doesn’t make any real sense at all. I would have been much happier if the filmmakers had at least made an effort to make the cave people credible - how do they live down there, really? - but I guess that requires more effort than having something jump out every time a character turns around. Anyway, there are a bunch of cave people that apparently single-handedly keep the deer population in North Carolina under control, in an area that isn’t even very remote (there’s a road to it!), and nobody knows it. And not one or two cave people, but hundreds, maybe thousands.

*spoiler* Now, a word about this. The US version cut the original ending, which made things much more ambiguous, and which is available on YouTube. This ending does kinda, sorta solve the credible cave people problem, but it has severe problems all its own, the basic one being that it’s basically a cop-out and ambiguous only for the sake of ambiguity. Frankly, I think the movie worked better without it.*end spoiler*

I was also disappointed that the last third of the film descended (pun intended) into a silly gorefest. There had been elements, albeit underdeveloped, of some sort of thematic arc involving Sarah’s grief over her dead husband and child, but that really doesn’t play out during the third act. Instead, it’s turns into a very standard exploitation film, the kind of movie that thinks it’s clever cover one of its characters in blood - just like Carrie! I say, save it for Scary Movie 5.

3) The acting These girls are all pretty terrible. Even several positive reviews have acknowledged the weakness here, but it’s worth bringing up. Again, standard exploitation fare.

So, what is it that I missed?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm Having an Old Friend for Dinner

by Jackrabbit Slim

As I am in a self-reflective, navel-gazing mode (a habit of writers) I’ve been thinking about the year 1991, and my Netflix queue is made up of the key films from that year. Since it’s been pretty quiet around here lately, I thought I’d share my reflections on these films as I watch them again, most of them for the first time since I saw them in theaters way back when. I realize that most of you guys were in junior high fifteen years ago, and probably didn’t see these films in theaters when they were released, so I’d be interested how you came to them.

I begin my trip back to 1991 with the Oscar-winning Best Picture of that year, Silence of the Lambs. It’s one of the few times I agree with the Academy, as it was my favorite film of that year as well. I own the DVD (unfortunately, the first release, not the Criterion Collection), and looked at it again the other day, so I have at seen it at least three times. The first time I saw it was on a cold, sunny February day at Loews Astor Plaza on Times Square, which was one of the few large houses left in Manhattan (I think it has been since carved up or done away with completely). I was with a girl whose response to scary movies was to bury her head into my arm; by the end of this film she was practically in my lap.

I regard Silence of the Lambs as a classic of its genre, and in fact, a film that rises above its genre. Even on my third viewing, it manages to create tension and suspense, and the performance by Anthony Hopkins will endure as one of the great depictions of evil in cinema history. He does this, intriguingly, by making Hannibal Lecter, dare I say, likeable. He’s witty, sophisticated, and even has a splinter of humanity, as his affection for Clarice Starling is evident. As Roger Ebert points out in his review, you’d love to have him as a dinner companion, as long as he didn’t eat you.

The credit can be spread around liberally. Jonathan Demme, who hasn’t made nearly as good a film since then, masterfully creates a sense of dread almost from the very beginning, and Ted Tally’s screenplay is economical without being dumbed down (I have not read the source novel). The editing is particularly brilliant, as the film contains one of the great head-fakes I’ve ever seen (the scene involving the ringing of doorbells at two different houses).

As for Jodie Foster as Starling, who also won the Oscar, I noticed a few things about her role that hadn’t sunk in before. She is playing a woman in a man’s world, which is reinforced many times, such as when she steps into an elevator at the FBI and is a petite woman surrounded by tall men, or the scene at the funeral home in West Virginia, where she musters the courage to politely tell all the local cops to get out. This ties in with the performance of Scott Glenn as her boss, Jack Crawford. At first glance this seems to be a matter-of-fact role, the kind that exists to give exposition and further the plot. But every scene he is with Starling there is a palpable awkwardness, as if he is containing something. When Lecter first meets Starling, he asks her whether Crawford lusts after her, and she shrugs the question off, but the question hangs there for the rest of the film. Crawford has used Starling because she is a young woman, will he ever think of her as just an agent?

When the film came out, there was some expression of dismay in the gay community that the killer, Jamie Gumb (aka Buffalo Bill) was a homosexual and gender-disoriented individual. I remember that there was a particularly angry article in the Village Voice. I can sort of see the point, because especially back then there weren’t that many characterizations of gay people in mainstream cinema—so when there is one, he’s a sadistic and twisted serial killer. On the other hand, every group has its bad apples, and artists can’t be forever looking over their shoulder, afraid they are going to offend someone. I believe it was Jean-Luc Godard who said that the most effective criticism of a film was to make another film, and hopefully there will be continue to be more films about gay people that portray them in the myriad ways that they are, good, bad and in-between.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

by Jackrabbit Slim

I went into Little Miss Sunshine with high hopes, given the mostly sterling reviews. I came out thinking it was a good film, but not a great one. It's a look at one of the recent staples of film, the dysfunctional family, and an analysis of what makes someone a winner or a loser in life. The dad, Greg Kinnear, is a struggling entrepeneur who gives seminars on how to be a winner. His harried wife is Toni Collette, and their two kids are Paul Dano, an angry loner who has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy, and Olive, a perky seven-year-old who dreams of becoming a beauty queen. Also in the extended family are a grandpa, Alan Arkin, who soothes his old age with heroin, and the newest member, Steve Carrell, Collette's brother and a Proust scholar, who has just tried to kill himself because his lover has run off with another eminent Proust scholar.

The catalyst that sets off the ensuing zaniness is that Olive, who finished second in a regional beauty pageant, becomes the winner when the actual winner can't make it to the finals. The family now has to get her to California from their home in New Mexico. They embark, bitter feelings and all, in an ancient yellow VW bus, and we're now off on another movie cliche, the road picture.

There are numerous laughs along the way that had the audience I was with laughing out loud, but I was just smiling. A lot of humor is mined from the bus itself, which has to pushed to get started. Kinnear plays such an overbearing prick that he becomes the foil for Cannell, who seems to be very sane for a failed suicide. Arkin, practically begging for a Supporting Actor nomination, really amps up the crotchedly-old-man routine. The script is loaded with implausible plot twists and coincidences that weigh the story down and lead to a climax that is meant to be heartwarming but just seemed too Hallmark card-ish to me. A few problems that I can mention without spoiling: Dano plays a character who hates everyone and buries himself in philosophers like Nietsche. It seems a stretch to me that he would have a goal that is so square as going to a military academy, where conformity would be demanded of him. Also, it seems odd to me that none of the family would have seen Olive's routine for the pageant, which turns out to be such a surprise.

I don't want to be too hard on this film, though, because it does have good dialogue and nice performances by Collette, Dano and Cannell. The direction is straightforward and flat, so the heavy lifting is done by the script and performances. I wanted to like this film more, but it just isn't as good as some of the reviews.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 08/25

by Brian
A lot going on this week, so I have to write in a rush:

Factotum (trailer): Matt Dillon does Charles Bukowski.

Invincible (trailer): All these Disney sports movies are pretty much the same, but so far they’ve all been of fairly decent quality.

The Great New Wonderful (trailer): I thought this had come and gone already, but apparently not. Good ensemble cast playing post-9/11 New Yorkers; bad title.

The War Tapes (trailer): Another soldiers-in-Iraq movie. Doesn’t look like any new ground is covered here.

Idlewild (trailer): OutKast does a Prohibition-era musical. Long-delayed - it was supposed to come out in April - so it’s probably not very good.

The Groomsmen (trailer): Edward Burns kinda bores me, frankly.

Beerfest (trailer): Maybe the most-overtaglined movie ever. Just look at the poster; you’ve got “Bring on the Beer; They’ve Got the Nuts”; “Prepare for the Ultimate Chug of War”; and “Comedy on Tap”, plus “Brewed in 2006” and the “Super Troopers” promo credit. I’ll give it this much, though: it’s got to be better than Jay Chandrasekhar’s last movie, The Dukes of Hazzard (though not as good as The Dukes Au Hasard).

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green (trailer): Another of Regent Releasing’s specialty gay releases that look for all the world to be direct-to-pay-per-view quality.

How to Eat Fried Worms (trailer): Not that I’m going to test this theory, but I think I’d rather eat worms than watch a movie about eating worms.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 08/18

by Brian
Nine movies this week, but nothing all that special.

The Illusionist (trailer): I’m a big fan of Edward Norton, although the only movie he’s ever done that I really thought was great was Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. The People vs. Larry Flynt was pretty good, too. Nonetheless, it’s somewhat disappointing to see such a mediocre body of work from probably the greatest actor of his generation.

My Country, My Country (trailer): Documentary about a Sunni physician who decides to run for office in Iraq. You’d have to screw up pretty badly to make an uninteresting film with that subject matter.

Snakes on a Plane (trailer): Well, at least we had fun with this back in the day, at the old place … seems like so long ago. Oh wait, that was October - it was a long time ago.

Quinceañera (trailer): Big winner at Sundance, but the trailer looks fairly generic - girl gets pregnant, family objects, et cetera.

Lower City (trailer): Looks kinda like Y tu mamá también, which I liked, but grittier and less observant. Reviews have been somewhat less than enthusiastic.

Accepted (trailer): You know what this looks like to me? “Saved by the Bell”, ca. 2006. It seems more innocent and less crude than most teen comedies that come out today. Of course, it doesn’t look very good, but it also doesn’t look as actively annoying as most entries in the genre.

10th & Wolf (trailer): Cyclops joins the mob. Looks pretty bad. Also, Tommy Lee’s in it. Yikes.

Boynton Beach Club (trailer at official site): If you came up with something that is the exact, polar opposite of MTV, I think this would be it. Just like MTV makes it clear that they don’t want you watching if you’re over 25, I think it’s equally clear that the makers of this film don’t care about you if you’re not at least 60. It’s as old-at-heart as it gets.

Material Girls (trailer): Listed here solely to complete the record.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Beyond The Sea (2004)

by Professor Wagstaff

I was quite interested in seeing this Kevin Spacey directed biopic of Bobby Darin at the cinema a couple of weeks ago* – partly because I was interested in learning something substantial about Darin’s life, experiencing his music and partly because I was curious to see how Spacey’s ‘labor of love’ had turned out.

Firstly, there was the widely-said criticism of how Spacey was simply too old to play Darin and after seeing the film, I have to agree. It hurts the film on a surface level in the early scenes where Spacey is playing Darin in his early 20’s – the worst example of this is when he’s singing ‘Splish Splash’ on a TV show in front of an audience of screaming teenage girls. Try as he might, Spacey pretending to be a teen idol doesn’t convince and just feels silly and even absurd.

And Spacey’s age also hurts the film on a deeper level as Spacey tries to justify the obvious age gap by having a framing device of a mid-30’s Darin play himself in his own biopic. It adds very little to the film except self-consciousness and length.

And yet despite these substantial flaws I found the film enjoyable. Certainly the music helped which (apart from the inane ‘Splish Splash’) is enormously entertaining to listen to. And Spacey’s direction has a nice verve and pizzazz at times – nobody will mistake him for Stanley Donen but the musical numbers are entertaining and well-staged.

But Spacey does make some errors with his direction. In particular a scene where a major row occurs between Darin and his wife Sandra Dee is incorrectly turned into a cartoonish comic scene. This is most likely because Spacey didn’t want to present Darin in an unfavorable light by presenting in a realistic manner (especially as Darin's selfishness is the prime cause of the fight) and took the soft option of presenting it in a jokey manner.

As for the insights into Darin the person, there are some interesting things although its generally pretty standard for this type of biopic. The film’s perspective on the Darin/Dee marriage is that Darin went after her to compliment his already large ego in that he could have any woman he wanted, even the ultimate pin-up girl in Dee that would’ve been unthinkable even a couple of years before.

I thought the portrayl of Sandra Dee was well done in a reasonably complex fashion. We understand how she's both repelled and attracted to Darin in their inital meetings and her struggles of being a young girl living in a non-reality Hollywood lifestyle backed up by an overbearing mother (entertainingly played by Greta Scacchi). But we also see how she lets her brief and superficial success in Hollywood gets to her head and her failure to realise that her lifespan as a major actor is going to be much shorter then she anticipates. Within the constraints of this film, I thought the portrayl (and performance by Kate Bosworth) rang true.

So despite significant flaws (as well as an over-extended ending), I enjoyed the film overall and there’s been a fairly low percentage of films I’ve seen at the cinema I can say that about in recent years. And I should add that Greta Scacchi is great fun in the small role of Sandra Dee’s mother.

*A highly unusual aspect of this film was that it took 18 months after it got released in America to actually get released to cinemas here in Australia. Usually by that period most films have not only already become available on DVD but are available on Pay-TV. Apparently it appeared for a long time that this film would go straight to DVD in Australia but I’m guessing someone decided to release it to cinemas because they saw a chance to exploit the Bosworth/Spacey pairing on the back of their appearance in ‘Superman Returns’.

Friday, August 11, 2006


by Count Olaf
I got a chance to watch the pilot of the show where some people are born to be extraordinary. Excitement/curiousity/something had been building for this show since I started seeing the previews a few months back. The first one I saw (with Hayden Panettiere jumping off some construction site and cracking her dislocated shoulder back into place) was somewhat disturbing. I eventually got the gist of the show being about superheros with kind of an X-men flavor.

The picture and sound were not the best quality, but it was enough to enjoy. My copy ran 55 minutes, so I don't know if they're going to cut stuff out in order to fit it into an hour timeslot with commercials, add stuff to make it 90 minutes - 2 hours, or if they're going to pull a "24" and do an uninterrupted premiere.

I plan on telling quite a bit of what goes on in the opener, albeit heavy on the sarcasm, so take this as your IMDB-"Here Be Spoilers"-type warning. Click the "LINK" button below to read the review.

If you want to stay spoiler-free, or just want the short and sweet, I liked it and definitely recommend it. I hope the story goes deep enough to keep us interested.

The show opens up with a scrawl and a voiceover not unlike the first X-Men. Heck, it even fades to a shot of the sun rising over the Earth from outer space.

We are then treated to the shot of the guy standing/falling/jumping off of a building in New York City. This has been on many previews and usually cuts to the guy telling someone "I think I can fly!" Right before he jumps, we get to see that our epiosdes will be called "Chapters" which is nice. Kind of a story/comic-booky feel.

The story then takes us all over the world (well, India, Japan, and the USA) introducing us to characters that are more interconnected than anybody on the Lost island. If you thought those coincidences were ridiculous, it's going to be near impossible for you to go through the first show while believing that everyone is about 2 degrees or less from everyone else. I guess they wanted to get them together quickly and thought (if it works in a Lost flashback, then more will be better!). That's a minor complaint, though. I mean, this IS a TV show. There are some other complaints right off the bat, though...

Some of the characters have completely typical storylines and others seem to act in no way that a natural person would act. Perhaps these situations will be explored as the season and show continues, but let me ask you this: have you ever heard of a stripper with a heart of gold? Well in Las Vegas, what other job is there?

We are treated to Ali Larter doing her best strippercam-girl who also happens to be a single mother of a genius child and, oh yeah, owes "the mob" somewhere between $30-50k. seems I've heard these things before...But in this case the original $25k was used to get her son into private genius school which she now can't afford. So they decide to kick him out. She is also plagued by her reflection which doesn't seem to follow her as quickly as one normally would. Mob goons break into her house on this same day and end up raising the price only to tell her she can work a bit off if she does her little stripper routine. Unfortunately for the goons, this girl's reflection has a different idea altogether.

Back in New York our frequent flier is the younger brother of a guy running for congress. Unfortunately for not-yet congressman, their mother is a loose cannon due (it would seem) to the recent death of their father. Combine that with the brother who thinks he can fly and you've got a recipe for political implosion. But younger brother only daydreamt his rooftop flight earlier while he was caring for an elderly patient. It seems he is a nurse of some sort who has the
hots for his patient's daughter(?). She, on the other hand, has an eccentric artist boyfriend who I will describe later.

In India a young professor at university is told that his father was killed in America. Seems his father was a brilliant scientist who thought humans were soon going to be capable of flight, invincibility, teleportation, etc. To finish all of his research he went to New York to become a cab driver. This may seem odd, but only 3 days later the son goes to New York and instantly becomes....a cab driver! But while still in India the son grabs some of his father's research at his apartment there only to find a strange man with glasses already in the apartment. Hmmm...

Also we have a Texas high-school cheerleader who, for all intents and purposes, is invincible. Is this teen excited? No. She hates it because it means she's different from everyone. Excuse me? I can understand Rogue not liking herself because she can kill anyone she touches, and Nightcrawler looks like a freak so he goes into seclusion. But a young, pretty and popular teenage girl who can't get hurt, but looks normal in every other way, feels ostracized from her peers? How so? She can't play bloody knuckles with her pals anymore because she'll always win? If she gets dropped from the cheer triangle and doesn't get hurt the people will scorn her?

Soon after we meet her she rushes into a burning building and ends up saving a man trapped inside. She comes out with her sleeve on fire and the fire department "puts her out" and checks her for burns. They find out she has no burns so she......runs away! Of course. Oh, did I mention she has a guy videotaping her this whole time? At her request! Kind of like "tape me doing something cool!" So far her actions, reactions, and intentions just don't add up. It's enough to make you not like her, but I'm sure we'll get some answers sometime.

Our Japanese guy can stop time, move time forwards and backwards, and teleport. I didn't realize that power over time also gave you the power to teleport. But I guess if you can disrupt the space-time continuum you can pretty much do anything. After all, if there is no time then it wouldn't take any time to get anywhere. Oh, and this guy has a screensaver on his computer (or maybe it's something he's working on) that has the image of a monster that just so happens to be on the cover of a comic that genius son-of-an-internet-stripper is reading later on. AND, Japanese guy's co-worker just happened to be the guy viewing the internet stripping we were treated to at the beginning of the show. Just coincidentally.

Back in New York we find that the fly-guy is one of the first customers of our Indian cabbie. The have a nice discussion about evolution and human development possibilities. Typical talk. Unfortunately for the cabbie his next customer is a mysterious man with glasses who wants to go to the airport. Luckily he discerns this and escapes while the cab is still running. I hope this doesn't look bad on his daily report. Guy with glasses manages to get home to his family early. I
won't say who it is, but you can probably guess as I did halfway through the show.

We also find out the artist boyfriend is a little psycho and claims his paintings are evil.

Apparently he paints the future (good, bad, and otherwise) while high. To stop himself from painting he shackles himself to a bedpost with a saw just in reach. With no key, how will he escape his self-imposed prison? The world may never know....or we may find out 5 minutes later when Girlfriend and Fly-guy/nurse rush into the apartment and we see his severed hand on the floor. Didn't see that coming....

But our nurse finds an interesting painting of himself flying/falling off of a building. Much like we saw in his "dream" earlier.

Also there's a massive painting on the floor of NYC up in flames and the painter is mumbling "we must stop it" while his left stump is draped with a bandanna. Looks bad...but I guess it's not too bad because our flier chooses to take a swan dive off of aforementioned building the next morning. He calls his brother to come stand in the alley and then jumps down to him. That ending is one that I won't spoil. But I can link to some pictures of it here and here.

I realize after writing this that it sounds like I'm bagging on it pretty hard, but I really did like the show. It has enormous potential but right now is using all standard conventions/twists/meet-cutes/stereotypes without breaking any new grounds. But it's only one episode and I do want to see what happens next..

World Trade Center

by Brian
We’ve heard a lot about how World Trade Center is not the typical Oliver Stone movie. After watching it, I think that’s true, up to a point. As has been said countless times before, there’s no discernable political point of view. And in stylistic terms, it’s probably the most straightforward movie he’s done since Platoon, and it shares with that movie the same limited perspective. He doesn’t use any quick editing or different film stocks that became his trademark after JFK.

Looking past that, though, it’s easy to see thematic threads in the movie that tie in with his past work. One thing that nearly all Stone movies (caveat: I still haven’t seen The Doors or Heaven on Earth) have in common are characters that struggle to find the goodness in themselves. From Richard Boyle in Salvador, to Barry Champaign in Talk Radio, to Jim Garrison in JFK, to even Richard Nixon and Alexander the Great, the one unifying theme throughout Stone’s work has been the struggle to maintain personal integrity against outside influences that seek to undermine it.

That’s why, despite conventional wisdom (not to mention my own misgivings), Stone is the perfect director for this material. World Trade Center is a great film, not despite the lack of political content, but because of it. Because Stone is so used to working on this kind of emotional terrain, he’s able to see the struggle that these men face so clearly. These two men, trapped in the rubble of the first tower, aren’t fighting against Islamic terrorists or misbegotten US policies or anything else in the political realm, so these things have no place in the film. Instead, they’re fighting against their own will to live, and the pain and darkness and hopelessness that try to sap that will from them.

The film is filled with moments of great emotion, some of them actually very joyful. Stone does a fantastic job of taking a small story and writing it large, although of course he has very large context to place the story in. Nonetheless, the emotional bombast that occasionally mars his films feels honest and appropriate here. Much of the credit goes to the actors; Michael Pena, Maria Bello, and especially Maggie Gyllenhaal are all great. I was less thrilled with Nicolas Cage, who is mostly convincing, but never really what I would call authentic.

A final note: I’ve read that test audiences had trouble buying the character of Dave Karnes, the ex-Marine who sneaks his way through security in order to look for survivors in the rubble. It’s not hard to see why, because he does seem like a Hollywood creation. But reading about the guy, it’s clear that, if anything, Stone and screenwriter Andrea Berloff actually play down elements of his character.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Opening in Dallas, Weekend of 08/11

by Brian
World Trade Center (trailer): Will check it out tonight. The obvious thing to say about this is that “it doesn’t look like an Oliver Stone movie,” which may be true, but good for him. I think we all know what the “Oliver Stone” version of 9/11 would look like, and after Any Given Sunday and Alexander, I’m not sure that he has the discipline to make that film work. I’ll post a review tomorrow, time and inclination providing.

Little Miss Sunshine (trailer): There’s something about this that looks good, and I’m not sure what it is. The trailer is OK, but not great. The cast is pretty good, but of a fairly typical caliber for an indie ensemble. The directors are famous for their music videos, always a warning sign. But I’m instinctively curious, and the strong reviews so far are encouraging.

Brothers of the Head (trailer): Fake documentary about a pair of conjoined-twin rock stars. I’m sick of the trailer, but otherwise I don’t really have any thoughts on this one.

The OH in Ohio (trailer): Unquestionably the ugliest poster of the year (click the trailer link to see it). That’s strike one. It’s about (from IMDb) “a woman who has never had an orgasm, and seeks counsel from a quirky sex therapist,” played by, of all people, Liza Minnelli. That’s strike two. And Danny DeVito is also in it, playing a pool salesman who seduces Mischa Barton. Or something. Strike three!

Pulse (trailer): Yet another reason to wonder how the Weinsteins were ever serious movie people.

Step Up (trailer): Disney bravely explores the effects of ballroom dance on troubled teens, material that has been criminally neglected for a whole four months now.

Zoom (trailer): And I ask, again, why does Columbia hate us so?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mel Gibson

by Jackrabbit Slim

What does everyone think of the Mel Gibson scandal? Frankly, I'm not surprised by him being stopped for drunk-driving or going on an anti-Semitic rant. It was pretty clear from interviews over the past few years that he is a bit of a nut. I'm not sure what this does to his career. Will people avoid his movies because of this? Maybe some Jews will, but will anyone else? He made enough movie from Passion of the Christ that he won't suffer, anyway.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Opening in Dallas, 08/04

by Brian
Belle de jour: The Angelika is showing Luis Buñuel’s 1967 classic this week. I don’t know why, since as far as I know the last actual re-issue of the film was back in 1995 or so. But I’ve never seen it, and if the Angelika wants to turn themselves into a repertory house for a week, I’m down with that.

The Descent (trailer): The ads for this have NOT been appealing; Lionsgate has been marketing it as the second (third? fourth?) coming of Saw. However, word from other parts of the world, where The Descent has been playing for about a year now, has been very good. I seem to remember Nick raving about it, back in the old days.

La Moustache (trailer): OK, here’s the deal. A guy has a mustache. He shaves it off. Nobody notices, and then they tell him, what’s the big deal, you never had a mustache anyway. Apparently, creepy existential psychological horror ensues. And it’s French.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (trailer): So, I guess Will Ferrell is the biggest comedy star around right now. In the grand scheme of things, this is a better state of affairs than when Adam Sandler was the biggest comedy star around right now, but less good than when Jim Carrey was the biggest comedy star around. If I’m bored I might go see this, but I feel Ferrell’s schtick has gotten a little old, and was fairly thin to begin with.

The Night Listener (trailer): These last three all look like complete crap. That The Night Listener is ranked above the other two does not constitute an endorsement of any kind.

Barnyard: The Original Party Animals (trailer): I’m glad I don’t work in Paramount’s marketing department right now, because this movie directly follows Monster House, which did OK business, and The Ant Bully, which did not. And now comes Barnyard, which looks to have easily the least charm of the three.

Shadowboxer (trailer): “Cuba Gooding, Jr.” “Full-throttle noir”. Enough said.