July 25, 2008
This week's movies
Loads of notable movies come out today. Unfortunately, the reviews for the big ones that I've been looking forward to (X-Files, Step Brothers, Baghead, American Teen, Brideshead Revisited) aren't all that good. The Times hardly likes anything this week, but a few other reviewers come through with positive words.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Manohla at the Times is unimpressed: "Baggy, draggy, oddly timed and strangely off the mark." Roger Ebert likes the way it explores morality and the complex choices Mulder and Scully have to make, and notes positively that there are no explosions or CGI. His review gives away a LOT of the plot though, so don't read it if you want to be surprised.
I've been excited about American Teen since it was playing at Sundance, and it still sounds pretty good despite lukewarm reviews from A.O. Scott, who thinks it feels weirdly contrived, and NY Mag's David Edelstein, who says it just reinforces everything you assume to be true about the stereotypical teen types when going in. Yeah, well, I'm seeing it anyway.
Baghead looks like a sort of goofy indie parody of people-getting-stabbed-in-the-woods horror movies that's also a little bit scary. The Times' Stephen Holden seems to like the strained relationships between the 4 characters OK, but as he often does, he mostly just describes the plot and style without quite saying if it's good or bad. David Edelstein decides that "fumblecore" is a better name for the genre than "mumblecore", and confirms that the gentle satire of horror movies is actually scary in itself. This one I will definitely see.
Step Brothers. Everybody already knows exactly what this Farrell-Reilly-Apatow movie is like, and for the most part they already hate it. Like Manohla Dargis, whose review is scorchingly disdainful: "Dudes, I understand: You have penises. You’re nice and sort of blobby and you don’t look like Tom Cruise, but you’re real men. Hot-blooded, anatomically correct men, and no one should ever forget it, least of all the ladies that you can’t stop talking dirty about and hope one day to marry because, well, that’s the kind of good, hot-blooded, anatomically correct guys you are."
Ebert really lets rip, linking the movie's gross-out humor and general vulgarity to the moral degradation of our society. His disgust is pretty intense: "Sometimes I think I am living in a nightmare. All about me, standards are collapsing, manners are evaporating, people show no respect for themselves. I am not a moralistic nut. I'm proud of the X-rated movie I once wrote. I like vulgarity if it's funny or serves a purpose. But what is going on here?"
Over at the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter finds depths of nuance and an "undertow of melancholy" in the characters and thinks the crude jokes are a riot. So who knows.
The movies that sound really good are the little ones. The Order of Myths is a documentary about the all-white and all-black Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile, AL, by the same woman who did the Townes Van Zandt doc a few years ago. Manohla and Davy E. both love it.
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