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Non-AFI Fest reviews

Yes, I still do regular work when fests happen. Did you see Kenny Turan’s review of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in the LA Times yesterday? ‘Twas a total rewrite of the press kit — Kenny couldn’t have been less out of his element.

Some people may say the same about me once they read this:
Get Rich or Die Tryin’, named after one of 50′s albums, seems to have begun life primarily as a marketing tool: Like Eminem’s 8 Mile and Howard Stern’s Private Parts, it’s consciously styled to show the more sensitive side of a guy known primarily for macho swagger, and in the process expand his audience to women and older folks who may have been otherwise put off. But it’s also designed to give director Jim Sheridan some hipster points with the kids, as 8 Mile did for Curtis Hanson. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing to read, in the press notes, the 56-year-old Irish director’s constant assertions that he’s always loved rap music. Even if it’s true, it sounds overly defensive.”

Dare to read on

I liked ZATHURA more:
“You know it’s a good sign for a children’s film when Peter Billingsley is listed as a producer. Star of one of the greatest family films ever, A Christmas Story, he seems determined to find a similar tone in his work with director Jon Favreau, here and in Elf. Danny and Walter are not sugar-coated, nostalgia-tinged, idealized kids-as-remembered-by-adults; they’re often quite mean, unabashedly calling each other “dick,” and Walter’s first impulse when he obtains his own personal robot is to say, “Get me a juice box, beeyotch!” (Perhaps the best line of dialogue in any movie this year.)”

the rest is here

And if you wonder when I’m gonna do a more thoughtful, topical film, this one’s for you:
“The point of Protocols of Zion is not so much to debunk outlandish conspiracy theories, but to keep a dialogue alive so that prejudices can come out and be challenged. Levin has invited radicals of all stripes to come to screenings, and has even persuaded Malik Zulu Shabazz, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, to go from embracing the 9/11 theory to admitting he isn’t sure, which seems like a baby step but cannot be discounted. And though the movie doesn’t give equal focus to other prejudices, it does go a little bit toward criticizing the argument that blacks and Palestinians are justified in horrendous anti-Jewish bigotry because they’ve been subjected to discrimination themselves.”

More social stuff this-a-way

some quick takes after the jump:

TENNIS, ANYONE?

On the set of a movie down in Mexico, two actors bond over their shared love of tennis. One of them, Danny Macklin (Donal Logue) is a successful sitcom star whose life is spiraling out of control, while the other, Gary Morgan (Luke Wilson lookalike Kirk Fox) isn’t particularly talented but projects a zen-like attitude not unlike that of The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Gary remains unfazed as Danny’s life falls apart, but eventually tennis unites the two against an arrogant former costar of Danny’s, played by Jason Isaacs. Logue makes his directorial debut with this movie, cowritten by Fox, and it feels like a series of improvisations between friends — the two have definite chemistry, but don’t exactly propel the story forward. By the time we get to the climactic tennis bout, we wonder if this was somehow supposed to be a sports movie all along. If you’re a fan of the actors, it’s worthwhile, but there’s nothing much else to it. Danny Trejo and Stephen Dorff make amusing cameos.

DERAILED

Having come directly from the dentist’s to the press screening of “Derailed”, I can honestly and accurately state that a dental cleaning is more enjoyable than watching this inaugural release from the Weinstein Company, a C-grade thriller recycled from a thousand direct-to-video precedents. Clive Owen does his standard mopey sleepwalking shtick as Charles Schine, an advertising executive with a hot wife (Melissa George) and a dangerously diabetic daughter (Addison Timlin). On the train to work, he begins a casual flirtation with fellow advertiser Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston), and soon enough, the two are secretly booking a hotel room. Only when they start to get down and dirty, things are interrupted by an aggressive Frenchman (Vincent Cassel) who mugs Charles and rapes Lucinda. Afterwards, he continues to call Charles asking for more and more money, and even shows up at his house to charm the family, just to prove that he can.

If Charles were simply to come clean to the police, this story would be over, so of course endless contrivances ensue. You also have to believe that Charles would abandon Melissa George for Jennifer Aniston, which frankly isn’t a choice most guys would make. And if you don’t see the ending coming, you really haven’t seen many movies of this type before, though points to director Mikael Hafstrom (“Evil”) for a cheat of an opening that sets you on the wrong track initially. The RZA’s cameo as an office mailman is the best thing about the film by far.

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