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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Square

The first words in this Australian noir thriller are spoken to Ray, the architect at the center of the film by Carla, his mistress. "You're going to get me in trouble," she kids him.

And, how.

But, the hapless Ray doesn't intend to get Carla or anyone else in trouble. He's so p**-whipped, though, he agrees to a scheme he knows is wrong because Carla asks him to. The casualties of his greed begin stacking up in Biblical and almost comical proportions.

Turns out, though, that this plan he hatches with Carla isn't the only crooked plan Ray is involved in. His greed knows no bounds, and he gathers so many enemies that, when he begins to get blackmailed, he has no idea which one of his haters could be coming after him.

Actually, he does hazard some guesses. But, they all turn out to be tragically wrong. Things go from bad to worse to "Oh. My. God." in a hurry.

The passion Ray and Carla feel for each other at the beginning of the film must be put on hold (or was it really there to begin with?), as both deal with the tragic consequences of their greed, ineptitude and plain bad luck.

The Square is a murky, well-acted cautionary tale with a bitchin' original soundtrack. I consider it a must-see. See it!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Casino Jack: The United States of Money

Even if you followed the tawdry case of disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, you may not have realized he was once a producer of B-movies. Alex Gibney, the filmmaker behind this documentary about the rise and fall of perhaps the greediest sumbitch to ever walk down K Street, shows us the evidence of that abandoned career and points out an irony. Abramoff, a lover of schlock action-adventure movies, is now the subject of, in Gibney's words, a "dreary documentary."

Far from being dreary, this flick nearly forced your Coke Zero'd-up critic to lose control of her bladder as she tried to find a lull in which she could excuse herself.

But, Gibney's movies tend to have that effect on her. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side (about how the Bush administration concocted reasons to start a war with Iraq) are among his previous credits.

This time, Congress and its pay-to-play structure (especially under the leadership of exterminator-turned-Congressman Tom DeLay) are Gibney's targets. Most of the players tarnished by Abramoff are GOP legislators. But, plenty of Dems took his money, too. Patrick Kennedy, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Harry Reid are among the recipients of Abramoff's ill-gotten gains.

DeLay appears on camera extensively, as does the convicted former Rep. Bob Ney. Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist are prominently featured, although not interviewed.

Neither is the subject of the movie himself, although we see him and hear his words throughout. Several people express genuine shock at the emails Abramoff sent, which characterized his native American clients as buffoons, dimwits and jackasses. This, after collecting tens of millions in fees from them.

This movie isn't just a smear job -- although Abramoff wouldn't appear to deserve much more. The filmmaker digs deep to try to uncover what led Abramoff from being an earnest leader of the college Republicans to a felon.

The movie makes it seem as if there's a very fine line between being a true believer to your cause and being a pimp for it. See it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


A lot happens in the French documentary, Babies. Children are born in four corners of the world (Tokyo, Namibia, Mongolia and San Francisco) and live the first 12 months of their lives.

But, some people may feel that not much happens at all.

The pace is slow. There is almost no dialogue. And, the camera focuses almost exclusively on the four babies who are the film's stars. Even the parents are seen (or heard, rather) mostly as disembodied voices.

The babies' lives couldn't be more different -- beginning with the circumstances of their birth. Some babies are born in a hospital and almost immediately hooked up to gizmos. Some are born to mothers, alone, in grass huts.

Hattie, the baby in San Francisco, lives a life of overindulged privilege. She goes to classes where babies sing and clap with their parents. The baby in Africa amuses himself by crushing rocks.

The San Francisco baby gets clean in the shower with her daddy. The Mongolian baby gets clean in a small tub full of water -- and shares the tub with a thirsty goat. The little boy in Africa gets licked clean by his mom.

But, the movie aims to show us the similarities among the babies rather than point out the profound differences. All across the globe, siblings battle each other. Pets patiently endure the unintended torture inflected on them by toddlers. And, mothers love and nurture their children using whatever tools they have at hand.

Babies (the movie), like babies (the human variety), may not be for everyone. But, I found it to be a little miracle. See it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

North Face

The Chronic Critic is no adventurer herself. Far from it. But, she does like to read about and watch other people risk their lives in pursuit of a dream.

If the risk-taking adventurers on screen -- rock climbers in the case of the movie, North Face -- are smokin' hot Germans, so much the better.

It's 1936, and two best buddies are out to be the first men to climb The Eiger, a 13,000-foot peak in the Alps. Their childhood best friend, a fetching lass now fetching coffee for her newspaper editors, is a budding photojournalist who wants to be there to capture on film their moment of triumph.

Oh, she's also in love with the hottest of the climbers (Benno Furmann), as he is with her.

But, the love story plays second fiddle to story about man vs. nature. It's a matter of national pride for the two Germans to conquer the mountain. The media are camped out at a luxury hotel at the base of the mountain to cover either the triumph (which seems less and less likely as conditions worsen) or tragedy. Throw into this mix two Austrian climbers on the mountain at the same time and with the same goal and a nasty storm (and lost glove), and you've got yourself an icy, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

That this movie is based on a true story makes it all the more riveting. See it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

City Island

Everyone has secrets. Spouses keep secrets from each other. Children -- even adult children --keep them from their parents. Some secrets, if revealed, could topple a family. And, there are smaller secrets -- like telling your spouse you've quit smoking when you are, in fact, sneaking cigs on the roof or in the backyard.

Secrets are the theme at work in City Island, and while some of them will ultimately have serious consequences, the movie itself is breezy, lighthearted fun.

Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a corrections officer -- as he keeps having to remind people who refer to him as a prison guard -- living in a sweet, little fishing village in the Bronx. The Brando-obsessed Vince confides in his acting partner (Emily Mortimer), as part of an assignment for class, that his "secret of all secrets" is that his wife, Joyce, (Julianna Marguiles) thinks he's at a poker game instead of at acting class. Even after 20 years together, he can't tell her he wants to be an actor.

Joyce, a disgruntled wife, assumes that poker is his cover for an affair. Joyce might not care so much about the acting bug, but she would almost certainly blow up over the much bigger secret her husband is harboring. That secret soon reveals itself at the correctional facility where Vince works.

The two Rizzo children have embarrassing secrets of their own, and they'll go to great comic lengths to keep them hidden.

When these secrets are uncovered -- and all at once -- the family comes undone. It's positively Greek in scope, as Mortimer's character points out.

The acting is uniformly good, the storyline original and the whole of it is charming and satisfying. An unexpected little gem of a movie. See it.