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THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: Moviegoers Will Be On Cloud ‘9’


After months of quietly building buzz, the Peter Jackson-produced, Neill Blomkamp-directed sci-fi thriller District 9 is hitting theaters with a bang. The story centers on a remote South African colony that is home to a group of alien refugees. Critics are already calling it an instant classic. Steven Rea, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, says,

What is absolutely impressive are the visual effects: the hordes of aliens, the mother ship, the seamless blending of the real with the fantastic. The allegorical allusions to ghettos and concentration camps, the street signs reading ‘No nonhuman loitering,’ the callous degradation of an entire race: It isn’t hard to see what this talented South African director is getting at.”

Will audiences turn out for it? It remains to be seen whether, in this summer of Transformers and G.I. Joe,  audiences will turn out for a huge blockbuster movie that’s not also completely brain dead.


Hayao Miyazaki‘s sweetly engaging fairy tale Ponyo also opens this week and it seems the prolific animation auteur has delivered another tour de force. Scott Foundas, of  The Village Voice, writes,

The advance word on Ponyo had suggested that the film would mark a conscious return by its director to the gentler, more kid-friendly style of movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service, and while that may be the case, the appeal of Ponyo is hardly limited to the Romper Room set. It’s a movie for anyone who, like Miyazaki himself, can still happily commune with his inner five-year-old.”

Content aside, I’m just thrilled that someone has the guts to still use the hand-drawn animation technique. It’s depressing how many computer-generated cartoons come out every year. They pop up like toys on an assembly line. Monsters vs. Aliens, Up, Ice Age, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and on and on. I miss the beauty, complexity, and rich detail of the images in movies like The Lion King and The Iron Giant. Just because a new technology exists, doesn’t mean it has to be overused to death.


For the tween set is Bandslam, a coming-of-age musical drama starring Vanessa Hudgens and Lisa Kudrow, among other rising stars. The movie has received surprisingly good reviews. Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, writes,

It’s no minor compliment that Bandslam gets a stamp of approval from David Bowie, who plays a small but pivotal role. Given that it’s aimed at High School Musical fans, Todd Graff‘s romantic dramedy is considerably cooler than it needs to be. Yes, the plot is totally predictable. But the smart script consistently tweaks the formula, allowing director/cowriter Graff to pull off the near-impossible: making a movie that neither sells out nor talks down to teens.”

I’m sure John Hughes would be proud.

If you’re in the mood for sci-fi of a different variety than District 9, then perhaps you’ll be interested in The Time Traveler’s Wife. Especially if you’re a middle-aged adult who’s in need of a good snooze. This melodramatic time travel yarn, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, with direction by Robert Schwentke, has been deemed too confusing and frustratingly implausible by most critics.
Rex Reed, of the New York Observer, writes,
Maybe the novel by Audrey Niffenegger, which a number of people seem to have read and enjoyed, was more convincing, but the unsatisfactory, yo-yo script by Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote Ghost, makes no real effort to explore the inner emotions of the characters. Nobody loves, loses and learns. They’re just desperate and confused at all times.”
On second thought, just see District 9. Movie’s with “Wife” in the title don’t exactly have a good track record (The Astronaut’s Wife, The Butcher’s Wife, The Rich Man’s Wife, The Slugger’s Wife, etc.).
The clunker of the weekend is definitely the irritatingly proud-of-itself car salesman comedy The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. Director Neal Brennan, working from a script by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson, has managed to create a movie so bad that it’s a wonder how it even became greenlit in the first place. It also shows full well why Jeremy Piven should stick to TV (especially after this and his much-ridiculed foray into Broadway last year).
AP critic Christy Lemire summed it up best:
It’s just repetitive, adolescent and lame.”
It’s sad when a raunchy “adult” comedy makes a teen flick like Bandslam seem decades more mature by comparison.

The other movies opening in limited release are:

Cloud Nine, a Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner about two people who rediscover romance at the tender ages of 67 and 76.

Earth Days, a documentary by Robert Stone that traces the birth of the American environmental movement, a subject that’s more prevalent than ever in the age of Obama and Al Gore.

Grace, a horror flick, written and directed by Paul Solet, that plays on the evil child motif. It stars Jordan Ladd (Death Proof) as a mother who insists on giving birth to a dead baby only to find that he comes back to life in the operating room. But something’s a little off…

It Might Get Loud, a musical documentray by Thomas Tull. The movie follows three musicians who treat the electric guitar as God and use the instrument to escape their ordinary mortal lives.


Mein Fuhrer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler, a German WWII spoof, written and directed by Dani Levy. Its reception has been lukewarm, much like Valkyrie and the upcoming Inglourious Basterds.


Spread, a comedy about a modern-day Cassanova (Ashton Kutcher, whose no Cary Grant) who uses sex to gain such amenities as cash flow and luxorious lodging from older women (Anne Heche is one of them). Kutcher’s adventure in indieland, however, falls flat, according to almost every major critic. What is Hollywood’s obsession with this kind of story (Alfie, Cassnova)? Maybe it’s time for a new idea.

Taxidermia, an intriguing and highly disturbing tale that centers on three generations of grotesque men. This import from Budapest and Hungry, written and directed by György Pálfi, explores the animalistic side of human nature.


And, finally, there is Yasukuni, a Ling Yi‘s searing documentary about Japan and its military history.

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