Daily Archives: September 14, 2007

Good Luck Chuck

In a game of spin the bottle, a ten-year-old goth girl puts a hex on the title hero after he refuses to bare his penis. The result: when he grows up to become Dane Cook, each woman he has sex with marries the next guy she meets. Then he falls in love with a penguin specialist (Jessica Alba) andis there any point in continuing? Writer Josh Stolberg and director Mark Helfrich think so little of this premise that they periodically debunk it themselves, leaving me to conclude that for them any excuse for Cook and sidekick Dan Fogler’s vulgar shticksuch as sex with an obese woman who fartswas good enough. Some of the audience seemed to be having fun, but for me it was like a Farrelly brothers gross-out without the laughs. R, 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Story Of Three Loves

From the Chicago Reader (September 14, 2007). — J.R.

Released in 1953, this glitzy, entertaining MGM art movie is fascinating partly because it testifies to the influence of patriarchal French existentialism on American pop culture. Gottfried Reinhardt (son of Berlin stage director Max Reinhardt) directed the first of its three episodes, about a ballet dancer with a heart condition (Moira Shearer) who’s driven to the breaking point by an enthusiastic choreographer (James Mason), and the third, a suspenseful tale about Parisian trapeze artists (Kirk Douglas and Pier Angeli) who learn to commit to one another in a post-Holocaust context by taking inordinate risks. But the best episode is Vincente Minnelli’s fantasy about a disgruntled boy in Venice (Ricky Nelson) who, with the help of an American witch (Ethel Barrymore), becomes a grown man (Farley Granger) long enough to date his French nanny (Leslie Caron). 122 min. (JR)

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In the Valley of Elah

Paul Haggis follows up his Oscar-winning Crash with this searing drama that uses the police procedural to explore the moral and psychological devastation of the Iraq war for U.S. soldiers (and, incidentally, for Iraqi citizens). Inspired by real events, it focuses on a grief-stricken father (Tommy Lee Jones, at his best) who, assisted by a police detective and single mother (Charlize Theron), tries to solve the murder of his son, who has been dismembered near a New Mexico army base shortly after going AWOL and returning from Iraq. With Josh Brolin and Susan Sarandon. R, 121 min. Webster Place. –Jonathan Rosenbaum… Read more »

Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman

The best miniseries I’ve seen this year, The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom, made by Adam Curtis for the BBC, hasn’t reached U.S. screens yet (although you can find it online). But the second best, a six-part, six-hour essay by Jennifer Fox (Beirut: The Last Home Movie, An American Love Story), has a related theme–how a free and independent filmmaker in her mid-40s can create her own set of traps. Still unmarried and childless by choice, she has lovers on two continents–one of them with a wife and kids–and finds her life turning into a frantic juggling act; meanwhile, she tapes her conversations with women from around the globe about their own ideas of freedom. There are times when Fox’s nervy endeavor to combine art and life obliges one to give way to the other, but her efforts and reflections throughout are riveting. Reviewed this week in Section 1. a Parts 1-2: Fri 9/14, 8:15 PM, and Sat-Sun 9/15-9/16, 3 PM; parts 3-4: Sat 9/15, 5:30 PM, and Tue 9/18, 6 PM; parts 5-6: Sat 9/15, 8:30 PM, and Tue 9/18, 8:30 PM; Gene Siskel Film Center. –Jonathan Rosenbaum … Read more »

Eastern Promises

From the September 14, 2007 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Untitled David Cronenberg Film

David Cronenberg’s follow-up to A History of Violence – starring the same lead, Viggo Mortensen, in a very different part — lacks the theoretical dimension of its predecessor, but it’s no less masterful in its fluid storytelling and shocking choreography of violence. A Russian mafia tale with a London setting, scripted by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), it confirms Cronenberg’s position as an old-fashioned, almost Dickensian moralist. He refuses to fetishize corruption the way the Godfather films do, while working wonders with a charismatic villain (Armin Mueller-Stahl in a remarkable performance) and creating a charged homoerotic atmosphere. With Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel. R, 96 min.  River East 21. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

easternpromises