New Reviews

We recommend:

See "A Scar is Born" (Edwards "Big One" Megaplex, Spectrum, Irvine; Edwards Long Beach; UA Marketplace, Long Beach)

"Dark Continentals" (Edwards University, Irvine)

See "Culture Clash" (Edwards University, Irvine)

See "What a Difference a Day Makes" (Countywide)

See "Fighting Irish" (Regency Lido, Newport Beach)

also showing:

See "Attention Starved" (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)

Terror takes a drink of water and talks simultaneously as the makers of Saw bring you the ultimate in ventriloquist horror! Actually, what they've very nearly brought is a retarded classic to rival that previous Donnie Wahlberg ass-terpiece Dreamcatcher—a shocker so silly it practically fogs the theater with beer-burp fumes. Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell announce they're kickin' it old-school right from the James Whale-era Universal logo: The movie is a throwback to old-dark-house chillers with the merest splash of gore, as a grieving widower (Ryan Kwanten) traces his wife's grisly demise back to his hometown, which consists of a spooky mansion, empty streets, an eerie motel, a funeral home—and oh yeah, that creepy old theater once run by the evil ventriloquist with the 101 lifelike dummies. Dolls are innately unnerving, but the movie's semi-menacing Charlie McCarthys never live up to their potential; the same is true of the filmmakers' two clever William Castle-style gimmicks—a visual scheme leached of its color except lurid reds, and a soundtrack that mutes the ambient noise whenever mayhem lurks. As creaky nonsense goes, though, this is chock full of corny goodness down to its hilarious sense-shredding "twist," which the movie reveals like a magician proudly unveiling a dead rabbit. (Jim Ridley) (Countywide)

From the makers of Pootie Tang, one the greatest movies ever made, comes I Think I Love My Wife, the most unlikely remake in the history of cinema. Director, co-writer, and star Chris Rock claims his comedy is an update of Chloe in the Afternoon, the concluding opus in Eric Rohmer's famous suite of "Moral Tales." None of the froggy nuance and mise-en-scne nonsense here; Rock appears to have been inspired by the opportunity Chloe affords for unloading bitter chauvinism and venting hostility. The moral of this tale is that when women aren't sexless, boring, and safe (i.e., wives), they're horny, fun, and frightening. Rock plays Richard, an über-buppie investment banker whose mellow Westchester domesticity is upended by the arrival of Nikki (Kerry Washington), a flirtatious fox from his past. Co-written by Pootie director Louis C.K., the plot wonders if Dick can resist while offering just a touch of that old crazed, incongruous, sah-dah-tay je ne sais quoi (notably in an elevator meltdown scene that rivals the bare-assed squirm from Borat). Rock capably directs a screenplay graced with one or two chuckles ("You stare at a soccer mom too long and they'll post your name on the Internet") and soured by a whole lot of misogyny. (Nathan Lee) (Countywide)

Centuries before Sacha Baron Cohen elevated Kazakhstan to a destination on the Great Silk Road, the Eurasian territory was inhabited by nomadic tribes whose refusal to band together left them vulnerable to marauding invaders. In the early 1700s, the biggest and baddest of the plundering hordes were the Jungars. This sweeping historical drama follows the rough outlines of Kazakh history in presenting the tale of Ablai Khan, who unified the feuding societies just in time to beat back the Jungars. Widescreen cinematography captures the austere beauty of the semi-arid, windswept steppes, the costumes and horseback riding are impressively authentic looking, and the cast of B-picture, handsome Western actors—Mexico's Kuno Becker and Americans Jay Hernandez and Jason Scott Lee—convey appropriate stoicism, though not much real emotion. With a commendable sincerity but also an unfortunate Hollywood veneer, Nomad is a poor man's Gladiator. (Jean Oppenheimer) (Countywide)

God loves all his children, including the imbeciles who make up Falfrrias, New Mexico, the fictional small town that provides the setting for director Judy Hecht Dumontet's clumsy family comedy. Cut off from the highway, and thus civilization, Falfrrias' community of 73 Mexican and Native American residents lead a quiet religious life—everybody prays all the time—until Isidor (Jos Ziga), the owner of the town's only restaurant, discovers Jesus' face on one of his tortillas. Quickly thereafter, miracles start popping up all over town, zealous neighbors demand to gaze at the holy tortilla, and Gil (Miguel Sandoval), an out-of-town charlatan, arrives to fill Isidor's head with visions of merchandising rights. If it was simply a jokey commentary on the dangers of greed and religious fervor, Tortilla Heaven would be forgivable. But Dumontet deserves special derision for her hypocritical condescension toward Falfrrias' simple-folk caricatures, rendering them as God-fearing dolts worthy of scorn until the patronizing finale, which tries for a spiritual uplift that's as disingenuous as it is incompetently executed. As a director, she encourages copious mugging, which is particularly galling when a low-budget film manages to wrangle talents like Sandoval and Lupe Ontiveros and then gives them only bad physical comedy to work with. (Tim Grierson) (Countywide)

In all likelihood, you weren't aware of the existence of parts one and two of this saga; if that's the case, the movie isn't for you anyway. The work and glory in question belong to Mormon founding father Joseph Smith (Matthew Lillard lookalike Jonathan Scarfe, who also played Jesus in a TV movie), and these movies take it for granted that the viewer already believes in his message—if you come in thinking he might have been a delusional nutcase, nothing in the story or Scarfe's performance is going to change that. Regardless, the story oddly splits its focus between Smith in Ohio, and conflicted foe Joshua Steed (Smallville's Eric Johnson) in Missouri, where the governor is looking for an excuse to start trouble with the "Mormonites." Steed is mildly more interesting; Smith, at this stage, does little but get sick. The whole production, right down to the quality of the film stock, looks and plays like a long-lost Little House on the Prairie TV movie unearthed from the '70s—in the age of Deadwood, a non-Mormon viewer may want more, but for the faithful, this at least has higher production values than most LDS flicks. (Luke Y. Thompson) (AMC at the Block, Orange; Pierside Surfcity, Huntington Beach

Sun. (Countywide)


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