THE HISTORY BOYS
On Broadway, where it won six Tonys and became a modest hit despite the absence of a Disney cartoon character in the cast, Alan Bennett's dog-eared paean to grammar school life carried a nearly mythic resonance. No matter the 1980s Sheffield setting, it was instantly familiar to anyone who's ever been young, questioned the purpose of a slide rule and felt like the world was yours for the taking. Made by the same creative principles—Bennett, director Nicholas Hytner and a superb cast who have now been with their roles for far longer than a term—the film version is a lesser thing, more fixed in space and time and rendered almost unbearably "cinematic" in patches by Hytner's gymnastic camerawork. Yet the ideas and feelings of the piece remain so rich that it almost doesn't matter. The "history" under discussion here is that of history itself, as a classroom becomes a crucible for the debate over learning for its own sake versus "teaching to the test." But if History Boys arrives at a perilous moment for culture and learning, it nevertheless instills in you hope for the youth of tomorrow, and a newfound appreciation for the lyrical value of compound adjectives. (Scott Foundas) (Edwards South Coast Village, Santa Ana)
The poster says you will see System of a Down in this movie, and so you will; it kicks off with a hard-rocking performance from the band's April 2005 concert at the Gibson Amphitheatre. If you couldn't be there in person, it's great to see it on the big screen, but there's a lot more going on here than a mere big-screen rockumentary. By the time Screamers is done, you'll have seen footage of corpses from every major recent global genocide, and perhaps be convinced, if you weren't already, that there is some value in having celebrities take up political causes. System of a Down are certainly no Dixie Chicks—it's hard to imagine anyone trying to tell lead singer Serj Tankian to shut up and sing. In the U.S., the band are the most visible spokespeople for the recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915, which many of their grandparents lived through. (That so many of those grandparents are still alive today may be the best advertisement ever for the benefits of pomegranate juice—a staple of the Armenian diet.) So many documentaries about genocides play art-house theaters that it can be easy to get jaded, but combining one with tour footage from the most innovative metal band in the world is genius, banging the viewer's head before he realizes it's being filled with awareness too. (Luke Y. Thompson) (AMC at the Block, Orange) See related story here.
See "Mel Gibson is Responsible for All the Wars in the World" (Countywide)
See "Say It With Diamonds?" (Countywide)
Trying to emulate the frenzy that the Mona Lisa brought to religious-conspiracy yarns, Guadalupe aims to cash in on the mystique of the Western Hemisphere's most famous female portrait: Our Lady of Guadalupe. The film's marketing campaign suggests an action thriller along the lines of The Da Vinci Code, but Santiago Parra's debut feature is actually a bland domestic drama—one that somehow manages an even more sluggish pace than Ron Howard's bloated blockbuster (a feat considerably more miraculous than the film's depiction of divine incarnation). Instead of racing across Europe, Guadalupe's characters amble around Mexico City, searching for meaning in their yuppie lives while helping a friend to write a "script" about the mysteries of the Guadalupe shroud. Guadalupe screenwriter Roberto Girault's own script is clearly a rebuttal of sorts to Dan Brown's narrative (which was skeptical of religion and denounced by the Vatican), as it shamelessly peddles the healing power of the Guadalupe myth and Catholicism. Intercut with the pretentious present-day scenes are cornball flashbacks to the 16th century, where the Virgin Mary's appearance in the New World is rendered in Sunday-school fashion, complete with multiple scenes of wizened old men gazing at hokey digital effects while mouthing the words "Madre de Dios!" (James C. Taylor) (Countywide)
See "Woman's Glib" (Countywide)
10 ITEMS OR LESS
See "Less is Less" (Art Theatre, Long Beach)
Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig certainly knows how to cast talented young actors, but in this instance, he doesn't seem to have any idea what to do with them. So while Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris), Dyllan Christopher (Seabiscuit), Brett Kelly (Bad Santa), Gina Mantegna (daughter of Joe) and Quinn Shephard are all appealing, the series of forced slapstick scenarios they endure are not. (Memo to Feig: "That's gotta hurt!" doesn't cut it as a punch line.) Stranded at an airport on Christmas Eve, the five minors amuse themselves by running around, stealing things and pissing off security officer Lewis Black (surely no great feat, that). Anyone who has ever actually been stuck in an air terminal with rowdy youngsters will not likely choose to pay money to revisit that experience onscreen. (Luke Y. Thompson) (Countywide)
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11:59 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 14. (Countywide)
WE ARE MARSHALL
7 p.m. Wed. (AMC Fullerton)