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ISSUE
  Thursday
165
  February 19
2004
c o n t e n t s
 

Beer and Punk Rock:
Mest Comes to Salt Lake


 
 
 

Nationally Renowned Arts & Entertainment Magazine Endorses John Kerry
 
 
 

 theReel
 
Opening this Weekend
 
by Jeremy Mathews

“Against the Ropes”
Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13
1.5 reels (out of four)—reviewed by Chris Bellamy

There comes a time in every adorable, typecast actress’s career when she forces herself to break the mold and take challenging, different roles to prove to everyone she’s not a one-trick pony. Results have been mixed.

The latest superstar girl-next-door trying to break out of her shell is Meg Ryan, with last year’s “In the Cut” and Hollywood’s latest atrocious boxing movie, “Against the Ropes.” This is a biopic about the life and times of Jackie Callan, the first female boxing manager to break through the sport’s unwritten gender barrier and find success.

Ryan is cast— or rather, miscast— as Callan, who is supposed to a be a brash, hard-ass New Yorker, but instead ends up looking like Meg Ryan trying desperately to act like a brash, hard-ass New Yorker. Ryan sports a New York accent for the role, but it’s not a convincing or consistent one.

“Against the Ropes” is doomed by horrid writing, too many sports clichés, a preposterous climax and an even worse denouement.


“The Best Two Years”
Halestorm Entertainment
Rated PG
(Not reviewed)

“The Best Two Years” isn’t about grad school nor the most drastic period of puberty, but about serving a mission for the LDS church. Scott S. Anderson, who wrote and directed a direct-to-video release in 1985 titled, “The Best Two Years of My Life,” reprises his comedy with a slightly shorter title. Set in Holland, the film looks at the trials and tribulations that come with being a missionary.


“Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”
Walt Disney Pictures
Rated PG
(Not reviewed)

In “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” Lindsay Lohan plays…a teenage drama queen who loses her fabulous New York City life when her family moves to…a suburb in New Jersey! Expect some moping, followed by life lessons.


“Eurotrip”
Dreamworks Films
Rated R

2.5 reels (out of four)

The ads for “Eurotrip” bill the comedy as being from the people responsible for “Road Trip” and “Old School.” If this claim actually impresses you, the crossover from that film is pretty much limited to a producer. Further investigation reveals that director and co-writer Jeff Schaffer’s previous work includes “Herman’s Head” and “The Cat in the Hat.” The film isn’t quite as bad as those titles, however, and actually has a few clever ideas, although poorly executed.

On a horrible graduation day, Scott (Scott Mechlowicz) is dumped by his girlfriend and later, at a party, is treated to a tune called, “Scottie Doesn’t Know” about various sexual exploits with this girlfriend. Then he tells off his German e-mail pal when the pal makes a pass at him, realizes Mieke is a girl’s name and goes to Germany with his obnoxious friend, who wants to have wild sex.

This is all by-the-numbers, and Schaffer fails to get strong performances from his actors or pull off most of his clever concepts. There are moments that fans of nudey comedies will enjoy, but the film doesn’t reach comedic nirvana.


“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara”
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated PG-13
Opening at the Tower

4 reels (out of four)

When historical figures like Robert S. McNamara want to put on record their account of events, they usually go to fact-obsessed journalists or biographers. McNamara, however, somehow ended up with Errol Morris, that legendary documentarian who’s always more interested in the characters behind their topics than the simple order of events. “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” reveals not only important insights about the former U.S. secretary of defense’s involvement in the Vietnam War and other offensives, but studies the personality of a larger-than-life figure associated with one of the United States’ most controversial wars.

Any well-done interview with McNamara would be important simply for historic and archival purposes. Morris has created a work that arrives with (accidentally) perfect timing and is also a fine artistic achievement.


“My Architect: A Son’s Journey”
New Yorker Films
Not rated
Opening at Madstone

3 reels (out of four)

The investigation of “My Architect” combines the desire to uncover the truth of a great, mysterious artist and to uncover the truth about one’s father.

Nathaniel Kahn, the son of famed architect Louis Kahn from his second out-of-wedlock partner besides his wife, directed this film in order to better understand his father, who died at a train station with his address oddly blacked out of his passport.

Nathaniel goes to all of his father’s buildings— of which there aren’t very many but, as a few people point out, many of those that exist are considered masterpieces. At the locations, he meets with various people who knew his father and asks them about him. The resulting film isn’t propagandizing Lou’s legacy, but tries to come to an authentic understanding of the artist’s work.


“Touching the Void”
IFC Films
Not rated
Opening at the Broadway

4 reels (out of four)

One of the recurring visual motifs in “Touching the Void” is that of the camera pulling back from its mountain-climbing subjects to a wide shot of the mountain or landscape they’re on. As the shot widens, the climbers go from prominent figures to tiny, then invisible specks lost in a monstrous expanse of nature.

These shots hammer in the harrowing helplessness of the experience portrayed in the film, which is so rich in re-enactments that if it weren’t for the interviews explaining things, the film would be a dramatic work instead of a documentary.

Director Kevin Macdonald uses his interviews and a range of standard and experimental visual techniques to communicate the fear and loneliness of being trapped in the cold Peruvian Andes. This is one of the best mountain-climbing films of all time.


“Welcome to Mooseport”
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13
(Not reviewed)

Gene Hackman plays a defeated one-term U.S. President who returns to his hometown and runs for mayor against Ray Romano in “Welcome to Mooseport.” Unfortunately for Hackman, everybody loves his opponent. Marcia Gay Harden also stars.

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