New Reviews

we recommend:

See "Death Becomes Her" (Regency's South Coast Village, Santa Ana)

See "Bob Shaye's New Line" (Countywide)

See "Goal(s)!" (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)

The feature debut from South African director Sunu Gonera is straight from the sports-film playbook, the one in which an underdog team coached by an obstinate overachiever overcomes obstacles and adversity to take home the gold. It's Hoosiers in a swimming pool—well, Glory Road, anyway, given this is about a group of black swimmers competing against all-white teams who wouldn't toss the brothers a life preserver if they were drowning in the deep end. Like most sports pics, Pride is based on a true-life tale, that of Jim Ellis (played here by Terrence Howard), a former college swimmer who, in the 1970s, resuscitates a Philly rec center by filling the pool with water and some neighborhood kids with hope. Destined to be drug-runners for a dangerous but ultimately dim neighborhood thug, the kids instead excel between the lane ropes. If everything about the movie is overly familiar, at least Gonera and his writers get the details right; the pool sequences capture the isolation of the competitive swimmer who crawls for miles in lonely, aching silence. Howard, playing Ellis with equal measures of desperation and determination, is terrific—when is he not? Better still is Bernie Mac as the rec center's janitor, who is suspicious of Ellis's motives until at last he dives in. If nothing else, Pride has the best sports-film soundtrack ever—Philly funk and soul, '70s style. And hell, that'll get ya wet. (Robert Wilonsky) (Countywide)

See "Again With the Serious Face?" (Countywide)

See "Forget Gun Control" (Countywide)

See "Spoiler Alert" (Regency's South Coast Village, Santa Ana)

Also showing:

Being John Malkovich reaches new heights of mincing, self-indulgent madness in Color Me Kubrick. That's no mean feat, but it comes with something of a mean streak here. Malkovich plays Alan Conway, a self-loathing alcoholic weirdo who hustles his way through London's gay bars, rock clubs, and B-list celebrity scenes pretending to be the famously reclusive filmmaker. Based on a true story, this sneering would-be comedy was written by Anthony Frewin, Kubrick's former personal assistant, and directed by Brian Cook, one of his assistant directors and co-producers. They may have known the man but they've got a flimsy grasp on his doppelganger. Conway's fraudulent picaresque would seem the ideal vehicle for satirizing celebrity obsession, punking the Kubrick mystique, and rooting into the theatrics of identity, but the CMK crew settles for a shapeless, low-grade comedy of flamboyance, giggling at Conway's histrionics and fishnet gloving. Malkovich musters a brand new accent (always ridiculous) and body language (always virtuoso) for each new mark: an impressive, if unexamined act of invention. I find it hard to believe that Conway bamboozled half of London by simply announcing his name, and regrettable that the filmmakers premise their picture on such improbable gullibility. The real Conway was assuredly slier than his biopic incarnation; he ought to have been played by Sacha Baron Cohen. (Nathan Lee) (Regency's South Coast Village, Santa Ana)

Once again, the hills are alive with the sound of mutants, and this time, they're horny! Rather than facing off against a dysfunctional family ala part one, however, they're up against a squadron of incompetent soldiers who seem more obsessed with their own bodily functions than anything else. This leads to at least one useful lesson: "Shit stinks because it's full of pathogens." If you're looking for the stylistic touches and actual character development and plot momentum that Alexandre Aja's previous installment had, you'll likely think this movie stinks a fair bit, too. But if all you need is guts, 2 delivers with mucho messy brutality—the phrase "picking your brain" has never been quite so literally realized. The script, by Wes Craven and his son, is hilariously gratuitous with profanity, but lacks the amusing red-state-versus-blue-state subtext of its predecessor, substituting an obvious Iraq metaphor instead (one hapless soldier says. "Bring 'em on!" while another is chastised for being so nave as to complain that the president lies). Utterly disposable, but messy fun in its own way—save for the rather hideous and unnecessary rape and childbirth sequences. (Luke Y. Thompson) (Countywide)

Silence has always functioned as a form of resistance, but perhaps never more so than it does today, when being "unreachable" is a cardinal sin. "The silent treatment" can be the most heinous of punishments because it feels almost inhuman, though for the subjects of Into Great Silence, Philip Gröning's painstaking meditation on the cloistered life, that's not a bad thing. "Behold, I have become human," is the lament of one of the many quoted religious passages "...join me in becoming God." Gröning became interested in making a film about the Carthusian monks at France's Grande Chartreuse monastery in 1984, and wrote them saying so; in 2000 he got the all-clear. Well, semi-clear: In the six months he spent at the 17th century compound, Gröning could only use natural light, had to abide by monastery rules, and was allowed no crew. The result is less a documentary than a Dogme treatment of some hermits keeping it real in the French Alps. Gröning traces the passing of the seasons with outdoor beauty shots of God's creations, while life inside is constructed as a series of human set pieces: monk mops the floor, monk gets a haircut, and—big finish— monk eats lunch. The simplicity can seduce, but the point is solidly made by the two-hour mark of this 162-minute film, when you may tire of exalting the supposedly pure existence of a bunch of men playing house on a hill, oblivious (and useless) to the world of need and suffering beneath them. (Michelle Orange) (Regency's South Coast Village, Santa Ana)

The fall of the title is that of South Vietnam and the journey is the long and arduous trek to America undertaken by one persecuted family—the wife, mother, and son of an unrepentant counter-revolutionary—while their absent patriarch rots in a Communist "re-education" camp. Beautifully made and sincere to a fault, Journey From the Fall comes touted by its writer-director, Ham Tran, as the Vietnamese equivalent of Schindler's List; in reality, the film carries stronger echoes of The Joy Luck Club, as it juxtaposes grueling torture and heroic escape against the sometimes equally Sisyphean struggles of settling into a new life in a new country. Such intentions can't be faulted, and Tran's film is laudable as one of the few movies to depict Vietnam and its aftermath through the eyes of the Vietnamese. But at a moment when directors as varied as Clint Eastwood, Paul Verhoeven, and Ken Loach are discovering innovative and meaningful ways of dramatizing the great man-made atrocities of the 20th century, Tran's reliance on declamatory political dialogue and movie-of-the-week inspirationalism feels decidedly old-fashioned and, finally, even phony. (Scott Foundas) (Edwards Westminster)

There may be no finer phrase in the English language than "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," but given how kids these days are super into that whole Internet thing, the latest adventures of the crime-fighting, sewer-dwelling, slang-dropping pop-culture phenomenon is called simply TMNT. Unlikely to achieve BFF status with the MMORPG set, this CGI feature is light on the LOL factor, heavy on the ADD action scenes, and, like, TOOIFM (Totally Out Of Its Freakin' Mind). To wit: 3,000 years ago, a power-mad warrior opened a nasty magic portal that granted him immortality, turned his four brothers into stone, and unleashed 13 monsters upon his foes. Cut to the present, where the immortal warrior turned melancholy industrialist (voiced by Patrick Stewart) has rounded up his rocky brethren and enlisted Karai (Ziyi Zhang) and her ninja Foot Clan to capture the monsters, thereby reversing the curse. Meanwhile, the color-coordinated turtle dudes reunite to foil the plot with the help of Splinter (Mako), their Fu Manchu rat guru, and two dorky, white kids (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans). Oodles of madcap digi-fu ensues, along with some halfhearted life lessons for the heroes in a half shell. Writer-director Kevin Munroe parties like it's 1989, grooving on the Xtreme sports set pieces and vintage slang to generally cowabusted effect. (Nathan Lee) (Countywide)

Mars Callahan's 10-character rant about modern relationships sounds like it was researched by eavesdropping on the restroom chatter at a high school prom. Tom Riley (Cuba Gooding Jr.) comes home on Valentine's Day to find his three-year relationship over. Enter his four best friends, who try to cheer him up with a seemingly endless bull session, followed by the arrival of five hot chicks who stop by (inexplicably) to talk about blowjobs. Shooting with four cameras on a single set, Callahan attempts to break his script's stagy monotony by applying Guy Ritchie-style editing to tired—and lengthy—"Isn't it crazy how girls/guys don't understand each other?" speeches. (In another artful touch, the obligatory black female character introduces each new dating clich with the phrase "Just like my mama always said...") The level of insight and grace in this romantic comedy's dialogue makes the oeuvre of Ed Burns look like Racine. Callahan's previous effort, Poolhall Junkies, was also laughably bad, but at least it featured billiards and Christopher Walken; What Love Is contains lots of talk about balls. (James C. Taylor) (Countywide)  


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >