New Reviews

Look Both Ways, The Lost City, RV

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AKEELAH AND THE BEE
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UNITED 93
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also opening

HARD CANDY
See Film feature. (Countywide)

LOOK BOTH WAYS
An unassuming, unadventurous, but likable dramedy about dying and grief, Sarah Watt's debut feature has been something of an audience-pleasing award repository, in Australia and abroad. It's not hard to see why—rename it Death, Actually, and a sense of its fluffy, faux-angsty approach is brought to bear. Watt has carved out a niche for herself as a watercolorist-animator, and the new film is regularly punctuated by mordant painterly imaginings, of both the mortality-obsessed artist-heroine (the refreshingly plain Justine Clarke) and the cancer-haunted photog-hero (William McInnes), detailing demise via sudden earthquakes, derailed trains, car crashes, etc. (A killer-whale fantasy has a fishy wit to it.) More than that, Watt liberally visualizes her characters' racing consciousnesses with Gatling gun montages, all of them crazily referencing death, dying, death, funerals, and more death (McInnes's dazed mope gets one that stretches from infanthood to terminal X-ray in a few manic seconds), but their buoyant speed keeps them distanced from genuine pain. Unfortunately, the quirky drama and knee-pad farce that fill out the film, starting with an offscreen death-by-locomotive that connects everyone, is tepid and unoriginal. Among the many moratoriums you'd wish an international film culture would declare for independent filmmakers, let's include fugue mini-dramas set in strangely semi-deserted cities where the same seven people keep bumping, literally, into each other, and rom-com clichés like the frumpy single woman who talks too much, and cutely, to herself. Most of all, Watt should've won the Aussie award for Most Frequent and Obnoxiously Lengthy Song Interludes, without which her film might've clocked in at 25 minutes or less. But it's not without its frisson: McInnes has a frightfully distressed stare, and given his chiseled everydude's particular diagnosis, Waysis one movie that makes you gallingly hyperaware of your own testicles—or whatever you've got that's vulnerable to toxicity, bad eating, smoke, and sun. Watt's montages are crammed with growing cancer cells; disease veterans or likely prospects should know they're risking a degree of queasiness for a few heartwarming homilies. (Michael Atkinson) (Edwards University, Irvine)

THE LOST CITY
Andy Garcia's film set amid the Cuban Revolution stylistically revisits The Godfather, complete with multi-scion-in-tuxes dynasty, formal translated-to-English patois, deep umber shadows, concerns about "respect," meetings with sly Jews (Dustin Hoffman as an inscrutable Meyer Lansky)—even an old-timer (Richard Bradford) having a coronary in a sunny garden. In production for two decades or so, Garcia's pet project (written by the late novelist and critic Guillermo Cabrera Infante) focuses first on three upper-class brothers (played by Garcia, Nestor Carbonell, and Enrique Murciano) as the 1959 usurpation looms. Staged with credibility and loads of Cubano flair, the film slows to a sludgy crawl amid the reactionary romanticism; like a rumba-inflectedGone With the Wind, Garcia's tale bemoans the loss of easy wealth for a precious few. Poor people are absolutely absent, as if peasant revolutions happen for no particular reason. (Michael Atkinson) (Edwards University, Irvine)

RV
There is probably a level of hell built around cross-country road trips with Robin Williams. So it's quite a surprise that RV, in which Williams treks from LA to Boulder with his wife and kids, isn't actively painful to watch. Thankfully, he plays it relatively straight, sparing the world from yet another round of his trademark gibbering, in favor of aping the hapless but earnest Clark Griswold of theVacationfilms, RV's obvious source material. The result is a workmanlike family comedy with enough pratfalls and poo jokes for tykes and enough sentimentality for parents (Williams still pours the schmaltz with a heavy hand). Add a few points for the funny and foxy Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) in the wife role and Jeff Daniels as a roving redneck. Then take the points back for director Barry Sonnenfeld's decision to film his American road movie . . . in Canada. (Jordan Harper)(Countywide)


STICK IT
See Film feature. (Countywide)


preview

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III
11:59 p.m. Thurs., May 4-12:01 p.m. May 5. (Countywide)

 
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