Four-Warned: April 2011


April 2011

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either. The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films perceived or otherwise but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (1.3)
2. INSIDIOUS (1.7)
3. HANNA (1.8)
4. SOURCE CODE (1.9)
TIE. THE CONSPIRATOR (1.9)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. 13 ASSASSINS (1.5)
2. INCENDIES (1.6)
3. IN A BETTER WORLD (1.8)
TIE. MEEK’S CUTOFF (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

APRIL 1, 2011

CAT RUN (LLeju) Genre: Action Comedy. A pair of amateur detectives stumbles onto a high-profile case that has everyone gunning for them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Director John Stockwell is usually pretty reliable.
CIRCO (First Run) Genre: Documentary. A family that has run a Mexican circus for generations is torn apart by the economic realities of the time and family squabbling. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 8). RATING: 2.8 Sometimes, the show shouldn’t go on.
HOP (Universal) Genre: Live Action/Animated Family Comedy. A slacker bunny who is meant to inherit the title of Easter Bunny longs to be a drummer instead. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 The trailer reminded me uncomfortably of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
IN A BETTER WORLD (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A doctor working in an African refugee camp and his son back home in Denmark must make a choice between vengeance and forgiveness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
INSIDIOUS (FilmDistrict) Genre: Horror. After moving into an old house, the small boy of a young couple falls into a coma and appears to be the portal allowing demonic creatures into the world. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 The writer-director team behind Saw look to scare up a new franchise.
THE LAST GODFATHER (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Martial Arts Comedy. The don of a powerful Mafia family in 1951 announces the heir to his empire – the illegitimate son of an Asian romance, which doesn’t sit well with the other full-blooded Italian members of the family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Korea has been churning out some really wonderful movies lately – but this doesn’t look like one of them.
QUEEN TO PLAY (Zeitgeist) Genre: Drama. A Corsican chambermaid with a talent for chess meets an American doctor to help develop her game, transforming both their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Kevin Kline is one of my all-time favorite actors; I’ll see anything he’s in regardless of how good or bad it sounds.
RUBBER (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A discarded tire unexpectedly grows sentient and finds it has the ability to destroy things with merely a thought and finds itself amused by destroying humans. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A very innovative concept and a movie that looks to be one of the most fun events of the year.
SOURCE CODE (Summit) Genre: Sci-Fi Action. A decorated soldier is projected into the body of a man killed in a bombing eight minutes before it happened in order to find out who did it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 From the director of Moon, this looks extremely promising.
SUPER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Superhero Comedy. A man whose wife leads him for a supervillain decides to adopt the persona of a superhero. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 I blow hot and cold on Rainn Wilson but the trailer looks suh-weet.
TRUST (Millennium) Genre: Drama. The lives of a suburban family are turned upside down when the teenage daughter meets an online boyfriend and discovers he isn’t who he claimed to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 An outstanding cast (including Clive Owens as the dad) and a timely premise make this one to watch for.
TWO GATES OF SLEEP (Borderline) Genre: Drama. A pair of brothers seeks to bury their recently deceased mother on the banks of the river she loved so much. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Could be a movie that will be insightful and affecting – will have to wait and see the trailer to figure out if I really want to see it.

APRIL 6, 2011

BLANK CITY (Insurgent Media) Genre: Documentary. A chronicle of the underground Super 8 scene in the Manhattan of the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.9 I just never got into this scene and the fact that it’s only being released in New York gives you an idea of the appeal.

APRIL 8, 2011

AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (Variance) Genre: Documentary. The story of comedian and social commentator Bill Hicks who was felled by cancer at the young age of 32. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles April 15). RATING: 3.1 Hicks was one of the most memorable comedians of the late 80s and early 90s; he is sorely missed.
ARTHUR (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy. A ne’er-do-well heir to a billion-dollar fortune must decide between love and money. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 I would have cast Russell Brand in the title role as well; question is, did this need remaking?
BORN TO BE WILD (Warner Brothers) Genre: Nature Documentary. This documents the dedicated people who save orphaned elephants and orangutans, and trains them to be released back into the wild. Release Strategy: IMAX only. RATING: 2.8 The success of the DisneyNature series was bound to inspire imitators.
CEREMONY (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A man tries to rekindle the romance with an old flame who is getting married to someone else. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked pretty intriguing.
EXODUS FALL (Oakhurst) Genre: Family. Two teenage boys mean to rescue their sibling who is autistic and reunite their family with their grandmother. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 4.0 No. Just no.
HANNA (Focus) Genre: Thriller. A little girl is genetically created and raised to be the perfect assassin, but finds herself the target of a shadowy government agency. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Excellent cast and terrific trailer makes this one of the month’s most anticipated releases.
HENRY’S CRIME (Moving Pictures) Genre: Caper Comedy. After doing time for a bank robbery he didn’t commit, an amiable young man decides to rob one for real with the aid of his mentor and an amateur actress he’s fallen for. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 15). RATING: 2.4 A very strong cast with a premise that is quite intriguing.
MEEK’S CUTOFF (Oscilloscope) Genre: Western. A group of pioneers travelling the Oregon Trail must decide between a guide who has been proven untrustworthy and a Native American, who they’ve been raised to believe is their enemy and not even truly human. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 An acclaimed indie director takes on a genre that could use some fresh blood.
MEET MONICA VELOUR (Anchor Bay) Genre: Sex Comedy. A teenager sets off on a road trip to meet the porn star he has a crush on, only to find something unexpected. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer is very appealing, a mixture of sexy and sweet.
MEETING SPENCER (Paladin) Genre: Comedy. A has-been theater director tries to put together financing for his comeback production during the course of a single night at Frankie and Johnny’s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 A somewhat loving tribute to the Great White Way.
NO ERES TU, SOY YO (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A couple from Argentina plan to start a new life in Miami. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A remake of the 2004 comedy It’s Not You, It’s Me.
SOUL SURFER (Tri-Star) Genre: True Sports Drama. A young female surfer who loses her arm in a shark attack determines to become a champion surfer once again despite having the use of only one arm. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’m not a big surfing fan but I must admit the story sounds compelling.
YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) Genre: Fantasy Comedy. A ne’er do well prince must help his brother on a quest to rescue his betrothed from an evil wizard. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 The trailer makes the movie look a bit raunchy; could be a big disappointment.

APRIL 13, 2011

A SCREAMING MAN (Film Movement) Genre: Drama. A former swimming medalist who now cares for a pool in a civil war-torn African country tries to reconnect with his son after losing his job to a younger man. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 This won the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

APRIL 15, 2011

ARMADILLO (Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Danish soldiers in Afghanistan violate the rules of engagement and allow their testosterone to overrule their sense and compassion. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Created quite a controversy when it was released in Denmark.
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I (Rocky Mountain) Genre: Drama. Idealistic industrialists take on a corrupt American system in which innovators and mavericks are disappearing. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Ayn Rand’s watershed novel is as relevant now as it was in 1957 when she wrote it.
THE CONSPIRITOR (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Historical Drama. In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination, innkeeper Mary Surratt is put on trial for conspiracy; her lawyer comes to believe she’s being railroaded. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Robert Redford directs a tremendous cast; looks to be an early Oscar contender.
THE DOUBLE HOUR (Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. A couple who meet on a speed date are placed in danger when they go on a relaxing weekend trip and their past begins to catch up with them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.7 Eva Green is indeed beautiful and sexy, but a prim girls school teacher?
FOOTPRINTS (Paladin) Genre: Mystery. A mysterious woman awakens at the Chinese Theater with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.7 A great premise but then the synopsis starts making allusions to a waking dream which always makes me think “artsy fartsy”.
THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! (IFC) Genre: Mystery. An Arab-American woman in post-911 Manhattan meets a fascinating PhD student from Mexico and becomes embroiled in a romance that is charming but weird. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.6 Conspiracy theories run cheek by jowl with cultural idiosyncrasies here.
THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER (IFC/Sundance Selects) Genre: Period Drama. A princess tries to survive the ruthless power games of the court in a time of civil war in 16th Century France. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 Bertrand Tavernier is one of the premiere filmmakers in France; any movie he directs is worth seeking out.
RIO (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. A rare breed of parrot is sent down from a pampered existence as a pet to Rio to be bred and winds up in an exciting adventure. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Yet another opportunity to market toys and Happy Meals.
SCREAM 4 (Dimension) Genre: Horror. Sidney Prescott once again does battle with Ghostface. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 I wonder if audiences will flock back after a nearly decade-long absence of the franchise.
SQUARE GROUPER: THE GODFATHERS OF GANJA (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A look at the marijuana smuggling culture in Miami in the 1970s and the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 4.0 I don’t think I could be any less interested.
TO DIE LIKE A MAN (Strand) Genre: Musical Fantasy. A drag queen having difficulty going through with a sex change operation enters an enchanted forest. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 Those crazy drag queens and their fantasies – sounds like a Vegas revue!!

APRIL 22, 2011

AFRICAN CATS (DisneyNature) Genre: Nature Documentary. Two families – one lion, one cheetah – try to survive on the wild African plains. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 The latest Earth Day release by Disney’s nature documentary arm will at least have lively narration from Samuel L. Jackson.
THE BANG BANG CLUB (Tribeca) Genre: True Life Drama. A quartet of photojournalists chronicle the last days of apartheid at great risk and great personal cost. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 A terrific trailer and an intriguing concept equals a movie to keep an eye out for.
COUGAR HUNTING (Aspen Entertainment Group) Genre: Sex Comedy. A trio of recent college grads, unlucky with girls their own age, decides to go cougar-chasing in Aspen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 The trailer for this looked really bad – direct-to-video bad.
DEEP GOLD (Bigfoot Entertainment) Genre: Action Adventure. When the boyfriend of a world champion free diver disappears, she is drawn into a world of mystery and intrigue to try and discover what happened to him. Release Strategy: Wide (I’m unfamiliar with this distributor and while it’s possible this will see wide release, I wouldn’t necessarily count on it either). RATING: 3.7 Looks like a movie made in the Philippines that is about up to our direct-to-video standards here.
DUM MAARO DUM (Fox STAR) Genre: Drama. The lives of five people will intersect at the Goa airport and change their lives forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 Seems to be a crime and punishment type of thriller; not having seen a trailer, I’m not sure how this will turn out.
DUMBSTRUCK (Truly Indie) Genre: Documentary. World-class ventriloquists descend on a small Kentucky town for a convention. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles April 29). RATING: 3.4 Could be worth seeing if there are some decent character studies but the trailer doesn’t really get that across.
INCENDIES (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. The passing of their mother prompts a pair of twins to go to the Middle East to find out the story of the mother they thought they knew. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Recipient of an Oscar nomination, this looks amazing.
LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (Variance) Genre: Martial Arts. A masked fighter tries to get justice for the people of Shanghai in the 1920s when foreign interests threaten to tear it asunder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Even though the hero is dressed a bit like Kato, there are some wonderful martial arts sequences in the trailer.
POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. Bad Boy Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock tries to get corporate product placement to pay for his film, showing how pervasive the practice is in Hollywood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The trailer looked hella funny.
STAKE LAND (IFC) Genre: Horror. A nun leads a group of survivors of a devastating war between men and vampires towards what they hope is safety. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sounds a little bit like it’s from the same world as Priest.
TIED TO A CHAIR (Process Studio Theater) Genre: Comedy. A housewife decides to return to her acting career and is embroiled in a series of increasingly dangerous mishaps. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Quite frankly, the trailer looked amateurish.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (Lionsgate) Genre: Urban Comedy. The health problems of Madea’s niece Shirley take a back seat to the problems of her children. Leave it to Madea to sort things right!. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.6 I wonder if the series is losing a bit of steam?
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Drama. A penniless veterinary student falls in with a second-rate travelling circus during the Depression, where he falls in love with the wife of the ruthless, unbalanced ringleader. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 From the looks of the trailer one of the movies I’m looking forward to most this month.
WHEN HARRY TRIES TO MARRY (108 Pics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young Indian-American bachelor, traumatized by his parent’s divorce goes the arranged marriage route only to fall in love with another. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 These Indian culture clash movies can be awfully good, or awfully dreary – not sure which one this falls under.
ZOKKOMON (UTV) Genre: Superhero. An orphan, abandoned by his cruel uncle, journeys to transform himself into a superhero. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Apparently Disney released this in India, where it was made with pretty sharp production values.

APRIL 27, 2011

THE ARBOR (Strand) Genre: Documentary. The life and times of British playwright Andrea Dunbar, who enjoyed a brief meteoric rise in the 1980s after emerging from the slums, only to die at the age of 29 of a brain hemorrhage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Uses unusual storytelling techniques to tell her story; not sure if I like it yet or not.

APRIL 29, 2011

13 ASSASSINS (Magnet) Genre: Martial Arts. A group of unemployed samurai try to prevent a sadistic feudal lord plunge their country into war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 The great Takashi Miike directed this, a departure from his usual horror films.
BRIDE FLIGHT (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A trio of women immigrates from post-World War II Holland to New Zealand to begin new lives with their fiancées; their lives will intersect, along with the dashing pilot of their flight, for the next 50 years. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 There is a soap opera feel to it, but the trailer is awfully compelling.
CAVES OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmaker Werner Herzog leads an expedition into the Chauvet Cave in France, home to some of the most compelling cave drawings in the world and a place rarely allowed to be photographed or filmed. Release Strategy: Limited (3D). RATING: 2.7 Herzog has become a wonderful documentarian and this might well be his crowning achievement.
DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (Omni/FSR) Genre: Horror Comedy. A living detective in New York City specializes in cases involving the undead. Release Strategy: Wide (Again, this is a distributor I’m unfamiliar with so this may not be opening in every city). RATING: 3.4 A European comic is given the Hollywood treatment which may serve to alienate moviegoers on both continents.
EARTHWORK (Shadow Distribution) Genre: Biographical Drama. The life of crop artist (those are folks who use soil, rocks and plants to make environmental art pieces) Stan Herd is examined through the preparation of a single installation. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles May 20). RATING: 3.4 Even though John Hawkes, an actor I respect, is starring, not sure how enthusiastic I am to see this.
EXPORTING RAYMOND (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. Phil Rosenthal, the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” is called to Russia to help adapt his show for Russian television and discovers a culture clash bigger than Hollywood and Main Street. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The trailer looked pretty interesting – fish out of water documentaries are like catnip to me.
FAST FIVE (Universal) Genre: Action. Players from the first four Fast and Furious movies create an all-star crew for their biggest heist ever. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 2.8 Vin Diesel vs. Dwayne Johnson? I’m down!
HOODWINKED TOO!: HOOD VS EVIL (Weinstein) Genre: Animated Feature. The covert Sisters of the Hood team take on a wicked witch who has kidnapped Hansel and Gretel. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard and 3D). RATING: 3.1 Oft-delayed usually doesn’t bode well.
PROM (Disney) Genre: Teen. As prom approaches, all sorts of drama ensues. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 Teens and drama? NO! Who’da thought?
ROAD TO NOWHERE (Monterey Media) Genre: Thriller. A young actress with an eerie resemblance to a murder suspect is cast in a movie about the crime leading to unexpected revelations. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has a little of that Laura-esque quality to the concept.
THE ROBBERS (Kino International) Genre: Drama. A noted Austrian marathon runner has a double life as a bank robber. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 Based on a true story, albeit fictionalized.
SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS (Maya Entertainment) Genre: Drama. A paralyzed DJ in Los Angeles mysteriously develops the power to heal. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 This is the directorial debut for actor Mark Ruffalo who also acts in it.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Hop, Source Code, Born to Be Wild, Hanna, The Conspirator, Rio, African Cats, Arthur, Water for Elephants

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The Last King of Scotland


The Last King of Scotland

Forest Whitaker points the direction his career is going after his performance here.

(2006) Drama (Fox Searchlight) Forrest Whitaker, James McEvoy, Gillian Anderson, Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney, Adam Kotz, David Oyelowo, Abby Mukiibi, David Ashton, Barbara Rafferty.  Directed by Kevin McDonald

Most of us are possessed of two faces; the one that we show to the world, and the one that is our true self. Sometimes these faces are very different indeed, and often those are the people who cause the world the most evil.

Nicholas Garrigan (McEvoy) has just graduated from medical school in his native Scotland, but he is in far from a celebratory mood. His overbearing father (Ashton), also a physician, treats his son like he had just won second place in a mediocrity competition and so Garrigan resolves to go anywhere – anywhere! – as long as it is far away from Dad. Therefore he decides to randomly spin his globe and wherever his finger lands, that’s where he’ll go. So he gives the globe a whirl and his finger comes down on…Canada. No good. You see, Nicholas in addition to wanting to get away from Dear Old Dad is also looking for a wee bit of grand adventure, so he spins a second time and this time his finger comes to rest on Uganda. Phew! Much better!

It is the early ’70s and as Garrigan arrives in Uganda to begin work at a remote medical mission in Uganda’s interior, General Idi Amin (Whitaker) has just seized power. This is met with much celebration from the people of that country, who see Amin as a simple man of the people who will restore Uganda to the people of that nation after years of corruption and economic ruin by the greedy parasites who had been running that country.

Garrigan isn’t really interested in politics, and to tell the truth, he isn’t all that interested in medicine either, although he does a fair job assisting the lone doc at the mission, a man named Merrit (Kotz). However, he is interested in bedding the good doctor’s comely wife Sarah (Anderson) who is appalled, but not uninterested herself. When Amin visits the village where the mission is, Garrigan goes to see his speech on a lark, and bullies Sarah into coming with him. On the way back, Garrigan and Sarah are pulled over by soldiers who order the doctor to see to the new president who’s been in a car accident.

The two Britons arrive on the scene to find a bit of surreality. A cow had wandered out into the row and had been hit by the president’s car, which was pretty much a wreck. The cow, in horrible pain, is bleating horribly in agony. Amin is screaming at everyone around him, soldiers are threatening the local farmers with machine guns and Amin’s arm is sprained. Garrigan treats the new president but is distracted by the death agonies of the wretched animal. Unable to make any of the soldiers understand his demands to put the animal out of its misery, he picks up the general’s gun and shoots it dead himself, not a smart move in front of a group of heavily armed soldiers guarding their recently injured leader. Things get tense for a few moments, but the revelation that Garrigan is in fact Scottish puts Amin in a great mood. The leader trades his general’s shirt for a t-shirt with Scotland emblazoned on it that Garrigan is wearing.

A little while later, Amin summons Garrigan to the presidential palace and makes him the extraordinary offer to be his personal physician. Even though Garrigan is desperately needed at the mission, he figures it would be quite fun to be in the inner circle of a world leader, so he accepts.

At first, life is great. Garrigan is treated as a member of Amin’s inner circle and given gifts and showered with all the luxury available in Uganda. Still, things aren’t perfect. Terrorist attacks from the president Amin ousted have come close to succeeding in killing Amin, and he is growing increasingly more paranoid. Then, there’s the matter of Amin’s son McKenzie by his youngest wife Kay (Washington) who has epilepsy; treatable, but his father hides the boy away, fearful that he will be considered weak if his children are not perfect. To make matters worse, the lovely Kay has caught Garrigan’s eye.

Amin is growing increasingly unstable, but Garrigan refuses to see it despite the warnings from the former physician to the president Dr. Junju (Oyelowo) who is now working in a modern hospital in the capital where Garrigan works from time to time. There is also a mysterious English diplomat named Stone (McBurney) who seems to know a whole lot more than he lets on and is eager to utilize the resource of having someone of his country so close to the unpredictable Amin.

At last the evidence becomes so overwhelming that even Garrigan can’t refute it. Disappearances are rampant and bodies are so commonplace that Amin’s lackeys don’t even bother to bury them anymore – they just throw them in the river so that the crocodiles will dispose of them. To top it off, the not-so-bright doc has been bedding Kay, which is sure not to sit well with the increasingly unstable Amin, and the only worse thing than cheesing off a violent African dictator is cheesing off an insane violent African dictator. Getting out of the country is difficult; Amin, who is unaware of the affair, doesn’t want Garrigan to leave. Things are getting out of hand, but a hijacked airplane arriving at Entebbe airport may provide the opportunity Garrigan needs.

This movie begins and ends with Whitaker’s extraordinary performance as Amin. At once charismatic and sinister, Whitaker shows Amin to be both teddy bear and maniacal monster. This is an Oscar-worthy performance (he won the award for Best Actor that year), and all the raves that he received in the press are richly deserved. It’s fair to say that the main reason to seek out this movie is to watch Whitaker’s performance in it.

In some ways, the movie is also cursed. Whitaker is so good that none of the other actors, particularly McEvoy, can hold a candle to him and so you wind up wishing for more Amin and less Garrigan. The fictional character of Garrigan, to the credit of novelist Giles Foden, is not always the most moral or strongest character in the story. He is extremely flawed, and his flaws get him into trouble. The problem is that it wouldn’t take much to get someone in trouble in Idi Amin’s Uganda.

The trouble I have with The Last King of Scotland is its inherent schizophrenia. On the one hand, its a drama about Amin’s disintegration into paranoid madness as witnessed by one of his “inner circle,” and that story is compelling enough. Unfortunately, the last quarter of the movie turns into a by-the-numbers thriller as Garrigan tries to make his way out of Africa. The two movies mix like oil and vinegar, and I found myself losing interest as the movie wore on.

That’s not to say this isn’t a worthwhile investment of your time. McDonald, best known for his Oscar-winning 1999 documentary One Day in September about the Black September raid on the Munich Olympic games of 1972, evokes the Uganda of the early ’70s, from the abject poverty of the rural areas to the luster of the Presidential palace. There are some extraordinary moments, as when Amin has a chorus of African singers render their own interpretation of “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond” while the dictator watches impassively in full kilt.

Ultimately, I can recommend the movie strongly, mainly for the incendiary performance of Forrest Whitaker, although I have a few reservations about the movie overall. I think if it had stuck to the first personality of Amin, the movie would have been better served.

WHY RENT THIS: Whitaker’s Oscar-winning performance as Amin is one of the best acting performances of the 21st century so far; you will rarely see one any better than this.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The schizophrenic nature of the storytelling; Garrigan’s escape from Uganda story that takes up the final reel is less interesting than Amin’s story.

FAMILY MATTERS: Some of the violence is rather gruesome and there are plenty of disturbing images. The language can be foul and the sexuality intense.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This was the first Western film production to film in Uganda since 1990 (Mississippi Masala); the black Mercedes limousine used in the movie as the presidential limo was the one that Amin actually used.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There’s a terrific featurette, “Capturing Idi Amin,” which blends in historical footage as well as footage from the movie in discussing Amin’s influence on the region.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $48.4M on a $6M production budget; the movie was a blockbuster.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Sucker Punch