New Reviews

We recommend: After the Wedding, Away From Her, The Ex, The Hi

AFTER THE WEDDING
A reformist disciple of Dogme, director Susanne Bier (Open Hearts, Brothers) here caps her post-9/11 trauma trilogy with a movie that has less to do with a terrorizing event—a bad breakup, in this case—than with that event's collateral damage, namely trust. Still licking his heart's wounds after 20 years, Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) works at an orphanage in Bombay and vows never to return to Copenhagen, scene of the romantic crime. Muscular, oddly handsome, funny, and adoring of children, Jacob is introduced scooping rice for hordes of young Indian kids. Will we ever learn what kind of woman would dream of dumping this veritable saint? Coincidence, the mistress of melodrama, comes calling: Jacob gets an invitation from a Danish CEO (Rolf Lassgård) to apply for charitable funds that could get his orphanage the supplies it sorely needs, but only on condition that he fly to Copenhagen for a personal meeting. As before, Bier dares you to deem her work absurd; here, she also forces us to recognize that we wouldn't blindly trust a movie's good Samaritanism any more than Jacob would believe in pennies from heaven. And no wonder: We've all been burned. But After the Wedding is a gift. Bier is like Douglas Sirk reborn as a digital neorealist, and the riveting Mikkelsen displays the self-conscious jitter of the young Pacino. (Rob Nelson) (Edwards University, Irvine)

AWAY FROM HER
See "Memory Loss." (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)

THE EX
When career slacker Tom (Zach Braff) gets fired from his latest job, he packs up his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) and their newborn kid and trades life in the Big Apple for the calming pleasures of small-town Ohio—Sherwood Anderson country. There, he takes up his sad-sack father-in-law (Charles Grodin) on the offer of an "assistant associate creative" position in a new-agey advertising company, only to find himself under the thumb of Sofia's paraplegic former high school classmate (and possible ex-flame), Chip (Jason Bateman), a seemingly benevolent cripple who's really a Machiavelli on wheels. That's an inspired starting place for a farce, and director Jesse Peretz (working from a sometimes tasteless, often insidiously funny script by first-time screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman) has a knack for casting the kind of bright comic talent—Amy Adams, Donal Logue, Mia Farrow, and Paul Rudd round out the ensemble—who more or less just have to show up. The movie is Bateman's to steal, however, which he does early and often, whether re-enacting an old high-school cheerleading routine or trying to seduce Sofia by showing her the money shot from one of his favorite movies: Coming Home. (Scott Foundas) (Countywide)

GEORGIA RULE
See "Mormons: They're Just Like Us." (Countywide)

THE HIP-HOP PROJECT
This is a story you've heard before: Inner city kids falling to drugs/crime/pregnancy are saved by the power of music/dance/art. Don't let that premise (or the credited producers Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah) dissuade you from checking out this documentary about a nonprofit hip-hop program in New York City founded by Chris "Kazi" Rolle, a quietly charismatic, formerly homeless teenager. The doc toggles between Kazi's personal story (he grew up on the streets of the Bahamas and remains mostly estranged from his mother), the inner workings of the Hip-Hop Project, and the home lives of Kazi's protégées. From domestic strife to studio triumph, the most impressive accomplishment of the Project is not the student-made album, but that when Kazi says cheesy things like "This is healing through hip-hop," you actually believe him. (Jessica Grose) (Edwards University, Irvine)

28 WEEKS LATER
The story thus far: Seven months have gone by since the Rage virus passed from chimp fang to British bloodstream in an animal-rights intervention gone awry, unleashing a horde of the frenetic undead in the direction of Cillian Murphy's cheekbones. England since quarantined, the zombie menace has starved to death, and an America-led NATO force now proceeds with the reconstruction. A man named Don (Robert Carlyle) oversees the infrastructure of a heavily fortified "green zone" established for preliminary resettlement. You can guess how that turns out. Yes, Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo bluntly raids the zeitgeist in his sequel to Danny Boyle's new-school zombie smash 28 Days Later. That's forgivable because (a) 28 Weeks Later kicks ass; (b) etiquette forbids Nancy Pelosi from discussing the occupation in terms of gore-drenched cannibalistic anarchy; and (c) topical dissent is as intrinsic to the zombie genre as topical skin problems. Eventually the zombies return, and Fresnadillo displays a fine sense of scale, shifting from a God's-eye perspective of mushrooming chaos to subjective, street-level reportage, and an uncompromising commitment to unrelenting dread. Happy times! And superior horror. 28 Months Later can't come too soon. (Nathan Lee) (Countywide)



WAITRESS
Impossible though it is to watch Adrienne Shelly's posthumously released comedy without thinking of the actress-writer-director's gruesome murder last November (the indie stalwart was killed by a construction worker in her New York office), it's unclear what kind of notices Waitress would have received had she not died such an appalling death. In the long run Shelly will probably be remembered more as Hal Hartley's beautiful muse in Trust and The Unbelievable Truth than as the filmmaker who, while pregnant with her daughter, dreamed up this amiable confection about maternal ambivalence and female liberation. Shelly has the kind of seraphic face— part baby, part siren—that you can't imagine turning 40. Yet here she is, unselfishly sidelined, along with a game Cheryl Hines, as a dim-bulb waitress sidekick to the main attraction: Keri Russell as a reluctantly pregnant pie-maker wavering between an abusive husband (a very good Jeremy Sisto) and her married gynecologist (Nathan Fillion) while taking sage counsel from a grumpy old geezer with soft innards, played by none other than Andy Griffith. Washed in a honeyed 1950s glow, Waitress has a mildly puckish way with outlandish baked goods and pert dialogue, but the movie is memorable largely for the contrast between its innocent sweetness and the savagery of its maker's premature death. (Ella Taylor) (Edwards University, Irvine)

THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
British director Ken Loach's masterful tale of the early days of the Irish Republican Army supplies the second end of a conversation started by Loach's excellent 1995 Spanish Civil War drama Land and Freedom. Both represent profound considerations of the fog of wars, those that rage between nations and, all too often, within. But The Wind That Shakes the Barley also takes the form of a thriller, as an idealistic Cork medical student (Cillian Murphy) finds himself forgoing a London internship to become a freedom fighter (though some would say terrorist) on the home front. Though it spans just over a year (1920-21) of actual history, the film implicitly casts one weary eye back to the failed Irish Republican Brotherhood uprising of 1916 and the other forward to the seven decades of bloodshed that would yet fall upon Irish soil before the arrival of something approximating peace. Finally, it weeps for the way in which friends—and even brothers—who once fought side by side against a collective oppressor can, in a moment, find themselves stationed on opposite sides of an ideological divide. (Scott Foundas) (Art Theatre, Long Beach)

ALSO SHOWING

DELTA FARCE
This film was not screened in time for our critics, but a review will appear here next week. (Countywide)

PROVOKED
Based on the true story of an Indian woman who set fire to her abusive husband, Provoked is a feminist homily of the shrillest order. As Kiranjit Ahluwalia, Aishwarya Rai accumulates battered-woman clichés, venerating the legacy of Judith Light by jolting every time a door slams and staring at the fourth wall in traumatized stone-face. In a London prison, she finds a semblance of freedom and solace, even though the guards riotously mispronounce her name and a big, fat lesbian with bad teeth tries to take her non-vegetarian gruel. Outside, a group of women's rights activists that could pass for the stock cast of 3-2-1 Contact rally for her appeal, trying to justify why Kiranjit—Karen to her lazy prison gal pals—would have wanted to burn a well-oiled Deepak (Naveen Andrews) to a bacon-crisp. Most unintentionally hilarious bad scene: an absurdly preachy game of Scrabble during which Karen leaves the "u" out of the word shoulder. Lean on this: Short-changing issues of race and wearing its heart way out on its sleeve, it's the film's amateur exposition that's most dumbfounding—poised to provoke more sarcasm than righteous indignation. (Ed Gonzalez) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)

SHREK THE THIRD
This film was not screened in time for our critics, but a review will appear here next week. (Countywide)

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