New Reviews

Deck the Halls, Dhoom2, Flannel Pajamas, Let's Go to Prison, Opal Dream

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Sanjay Gadhvi's high tech heist thriller uses bits and pieces filched from the global action movie repertoire (M:I-2, Charlie's Angels, et al.) to lend some cutting-edge flash to Bollywood's loose-knit "cinema of attractions" format. Here, the action set pieces alternate smoothly with song-and-dance numbers and scenes of romance and broad comedy. The first Dhoom (a.k.a. Blast, in the sense of "having a…") was a fast and furious motorcycle romp; this self-explanatory sequel is a globe-trotting succession of elaborate robbery and chase sequences. Judged purely as a crime movie, it's a mess, littered with unanswered questions and dangling plot threads. As an entertainment that has more in common with a variety show than with a well-made narrative, it lives up to its title. In spite of all the CGI- and wire-assisted heavy lifting, the most impressive special effects here are the sinuously athletic dance moves of leading man Hrithek Roshan (Krrish), who plays the dashing cat burglar everyone else is chasing—a wall-climbing, sky-diving master of disguise. Eventually, he comes to share a John Woo-style adversarial bond with Bluffmaster star Abishek Bachchan, cast as a cop so grimly businesslike that even his pals call him "Mr. Grumpy." The women, including a startlingly slimmed-down and scantily clad Aishwarya Rai, are presented as little more than additional "attractions," often in rain-spangled slow motion. But in a couple of intense encounters toward the end, Rai and Roshan, gazing at each other with their perfect profiles, revive a form of unselfconscious romantic fantasy that survives today almost exclusively in Bollywood. A movie meal as satisfying as this one can make you feel that nothing else matters. (David Chute) (Naz 8, Artesia)

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Flannel Pajamas
Flannel Pajamas

See "The Whole World in His Hands." (Countywide)

What is it about the holiday season that brings lazy filmmakers to pitch meetings with Frank Capra knockoffs clutched in their sweaty paws? 'Tis Noel in Massachusetts: Fake snow glistens hokily on every patch of, er, Vancouver ground while wholesome suburbanites Steve and Kelly Finch (Matthew Broderick and Kristin Davis) lie chastely strapped to their marital bed, planning for the nth time the world's most traditional family Christmas with their eye-rolling offspring. Enter vulgarian: new neighbor Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito), a car salesman equipped with D-cupped wife (Kristin Chenoweth), twin blond bimbettes, and big dreams of Xmas lights so bright, they'll be seen from outer space. Male competitiveness surges hither and yon as tight-assed Steve and brassy Buddy try to outdo one another. Several hundred sight gags later, mounted with more enthusiasm than skill by director John Whitesell (Big Momma's House 2), Buddy's house is a hi-tech gingerbread nightmare, while Steve stews helplessly in the juice of his own hubris until both see the error of their adolescent ways. Though DeVito and Chenoweth bring a rough plebeian charm to the proceedings, it's nothing short of tragic to see the great Ferris Bueller relegated to grimacing straight man. (Ella Taylor) (Countywide)

See "Tony Scott, Trailblazer." (Countywide)

Indie-film exec Jeff Lipsky's sophomore feature as writer-director (after Childhood's End) shares with his distribution work a desire to restore some of the untidier virtues of '70s American film. For one thing, that means the well-off thirtysomething couple in this epic study of a relationship's slow deterioration—from tentative flirtation to horniness, marriage, and consensual masturbation in place of sex—spends less time simply charming its bourgeois audience than making it squirm in unflattering recognition. (Even the lovemaking here isn't hot so much as explicit.) Money, believably, drives a wedge between Broadway PR spinmaster Stuart (Justin Kirk) and the underachieving Nicole (Julianne Nicholson), yet Lipsky, to his credit, portrays everything in the relationship—family planning not least—as a kind of minutely calculated business transaction. (Peeing in the tub can be forgiven, but not debt.) At a full two hours, Lipsky's talky movie is more compelling and authentic in its second half, when the spouses, as spouses will, finally get around to being themselves. "You never used to talk to me like this when we were dating," says Nicole. "Were you just censoring yourself back then?" (Rob Nelson) (Edwards University, Irvine)

See "A Mighty Whiff." (Countywide)

See "Fountain of Shame." (Countywide)

One doesn't feel too optimistic about a film that titteringly names its protagonist Lyshitski, especially when all the trailers would have you believe the story's a one-joke riff on the fear of a black penis. So perhaps it's just a case of low expectations at work here, but Let's Go to Prison is much funnier and weirder than you think. Directed by Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk, who doesn't have much of an eye for cinematography or editing but knows a good joke when he hears one, it involves a hare-brained revenge scheme conceived by a perpetual screw-up (Dax Shepard) against the judge who regularly incarcerated him. Since the judge has died, our anti-hero plots to get the judge's pompous son (Arrested Development's Will Arnett) thrown in jail, then have himself sent back so he can make prison life even more miserable for the son. Michael Shannon (last seen as World Trade Center's heroic former Marine) shines as a white supremacist with a fork fetish, cannily mocking the obsessive zeal he's shown in other roles. But Let's Go to Prison is Shepard and Arnett's show, and if they weren't on everybody's comedic radar before, they will be after this. (Luke Y. Thompson) (Countywide)

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