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ISSUE
  Thursday
169
  March 25
2004
c o n t e n t s
 
 

Even Better than ‘The Real Thing’

Lab to be In the Company of Neil LaBute (With free punch and cookies!)
 

The Canadian Invasions
Quebecois Director Denys Arcand Discusses His New Film and Its Oscar Win, the Canadian Health-Care System and Jesus

Elaborate Filmmaking of the Thoughtful Kind
 
 
 
 

 theReel
 
Opening This Weekend
 
by Jeremy Mathews

“Jersey Girl”
Miramax Films
Rated PG-13
(Not reviewed)

Kevin Smith, known for writing smart, clever dialogue and directing with the visual grace of an episode of “Married…With Children,” aims for a more mature story in this tale of a depressed, widowed father (Ben Affleck) who meets a woman (Liv Tyler) who challenges him to look for love again, seven years after his wife dies. By the way, Jennifer Lopez plays the wife, but everyone is quick to point out that she dies right away—before you can mention “Gigli.”


“The Ladykillers”
Touchstone Pictures
Rated R
(Not reviewed)

The Coen brothers’ latest quirky comedy is a remake of “The Ladykillers,” the 1955 film starring Alec Guinness. Hanks, in very amusing makeup, plays a Southern professor with an interesting beard who must kill an old landlady in order to secure the success of his planned Casino robbery.

Joel and Ethan Coen’s last film was “Intolerable Cruelty,” which marked a step away from their more interesting past work into commercial territory. This film could determine the direction of their careers.


“Latter Days”
TLA Releasing
Not rated
(Not reviewed)
Opening at the Tower

The gay romance gets a new twist when one of the lovers is…an LDS missionary! You might be offended, you might already be in line for tickets and you might not really care all that much.


“Modern Times”
United Artists
Not Rated
3.5 reels (out of four)
Opening at the Broadway

charles Chaplin’s 1936 critique on modern technology crushing the common man might not be the Tramp’s best work, but it’s still a great film to see in a new, restored 35-mm print.

In his third work after the coming of sound and his second after the innovation became standard (after 1931’s “City Lights”), Chaplin denies the common practice and uses inner titles for all the Tramp’s dialogue, except for a much-anticipated gag in which he finally “speaks.” During the rest of the film, the main voice we hear comes over an intercom, as workers are ordered about, herded like sheep.

The film contains some famous Chaplin moments, including his trip through the gears of a machine after a parody of the hypnotic assembly line and the chaos of a machine that serves your meal to you—and beats you up.

The only real problem is that the film comes off as a series of gags centered around Chaplin’s performance, some of which happen to critique technology. I could come up with some metaphor to explain the random scene in which Chaplin unknowingly almost roller-skates off the edge of a department store balcony—several times—but when it comes down to it, he’s just showing off.


“Never Die Alone”
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rated R

(out of four)

"Never Die Alone” cleverly combines bad direction, bad dialogue and bad acting with a boring gangster story that has no defining characteristics. Its less-than-90-minute running length feels about twice that. To adequately deal with its multiple storylines and have interesting characters, director Ernest Dickerson might have benefited from more time.
DMX plays a gangster named King David who returns to town and is killed after paying off a debt. A white journalist (David Arquette) listens to tapes DMX made of himself recalling his life story. Meanwhile, Michael (Michael Ealy), who killed David out of revenge, is on the run from his father-figure gang leader. All of these characters are cardboard cutouts of gangster stereotypes.

The characters are supposed to speak like real gangsters, but the slang doesn’t work naturally. Meanwhile, Dickerson uses nonsensical camera movement. Several shots begin with the camera sideways and then rotate up to the correct position—a movement that would be fine if it served any purpose whatsoever. Whatsoever.


“Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed”
Warner Bros.
Rated PG
(Not reviewed)

Apparently, the suits at Warner Bros. figured that a “Scooby-Doo” movie sequel couldn’t be as bad as the dreadful original. This could be so, but the general problem with this franchise is that the appeal of Scooby-Doo is that he’s a cute cartoon dog who interacts with his cute cartoon friends. The 3-D computer animation and live-action actors take this away.
jeremy@red-mag.com

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