New Releases for the Week of May 3


LONG SHOT

(Summit) Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Ravi Patel, Randall Park, Alexander Skarsgård. Directed by Jonathan Levine

Flarsky is a gifted journalist but also a loose cannon. His childhood crush, Charlotte, is his polar opposite; accomplished, refined and now running for President. When they accidentally reconnect, she impulsively hires him as her speechwriter, much to the chagrin of her elite team. In the stranger things can happen department, the two develop the most unlikely of romances.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, video featurettes and B-roll footage here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use)

Bolden

(Abramorama) Gary Carr, Erik LaRay Harvey, Ian McShane, Michael Rooker. Buddy Bolden is one of the greatest unsung musicians of history. Credited with inventing jazz, his music was misunderstood during his lifetime and his contributions to the genre all but forgotten as time went by.

See the trailer and clips here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs
Rating: R (for sexual content and graphic nudity, brutal violence, language and drug use)

El Chicano

(Briarcliff) Raul Castillo, Aimee Garcia, Jose Pablo Cantillo, David Castaneda. A police detective is not convinced that his brother committed suicide. Believing that he was murdered, he goes on a crusade to discover the truth as his neighborhood is about to be caught in the crossfire of a drug cartel turf war. The detective will soon find himself up against a childhood buddy who is now a cartel leader.

See the trailer and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout)

Hesburgh

(O’Malley/Creadon) Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although many are unfamiliar with his name, Hesburgh was the long-time President of Notre Dame whose wisdom and political savvy led him to be an adviser for presidents, an envoy for his faith and one of the most influential Catholics of the last century.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall
Rating: NR

The Intruder

(Screen Gems) Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid, Joseph Sikora. A young married couple, looking to move on to the next step in their lives, find and purchase their dream house in the Napa Valley. However, when the former owner begins to insinuate himself into their lives, they begin to realize that his motivations are far more sinister than just a quick sale.

See the trailer, a clip and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, terror, some sexuality, language and thematic elements)

Sunset

(Sony Classics) Juli Jakab, Vlad Ivanov, Evelin Dobos, Marcin Czarnik. In 1913 Budapest is a part of the crumbling Austria-Hungarian Empire. A young woman seeks a position as a milliner at the hat store that once belonged to her late parents but is turned away. Disappointed, she follows a mysterious man who might be the only link to her treasured past.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for some violence)

UglyDolls

(STX) Starring the voices of Emma Roberts, Kelly Clarkson, Gabriel Iglesias, Janelle Monáe. Not all dolls are created equal and those misfits who are deemed not of the norm are sent to live in Uglyville. A group of free-spirited citizens decide to find out what life is like outside of town and discover that not everyone agrees with their philosophy of life.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, video featurettes, World Premiere footage and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website  </strong
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic elements and brief action)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Nuvvy Thopu Raa
The River and the Wall

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Ask Dr. Ruth
The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia
Knock Down the House
Red Joan

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

The Convent
I’ll Take Your Dead
Oru Yamandan Premakadha
Red Joan
Wild Nights with Emily

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Degas: Passion for Perfection
Dogman
Nuvvy Thopu Raa
Oru Yamandan Premakadha
Wild Nights with Emily
Woman at War

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Ask Dr. Ruth
Knock Down the House
Long Shot
Red Joan

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Canes Film Festival, Coral Gables FL

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Afghan Star


Afghan Star

Randy Jackson found Lema's performance "pitchy."

(Zeitgeist) Habib Amiri, Setara Husseinzada, Rafi Naabzada, Lema Sahar, Hamid Sakhizada, Massoud Sanjer, Daoud Sediqi, Tahir Shaqi, Fazi Hadi Shinwari. Directed by Havana Marking

The fallout from the War on Terror continues to wreak havoc on those countries that it has touched. After years of totalitarian rule by the Taliban, Afghanistan is finally beginning to turn the corner and modernizing, loosening ridiculous strictures laid on that country in the name of religion. For example, it was a crime under Taliban rule to listen to music or broadcast musical content on television.

A charismatic young television producer named Daoud Sediqi caught a glimpse of the British show Pop Idol (the American version of which is American Idol) and thought it would be something worth bringing to Afghanistan. Normally, I’d be making some joke about war crimes here, but the broadcasting of that show would prove to have a profound effect on the country.

This documentary, made by British filmmakers, captures a season of the show and its effect on Afghanistan. While the Taliban is gone, its supporters still wield enormous power, particularly in the Kandahar district. Death threats for those who go against the strict rules of the Imams is not uncommon.

Afghanistan also has a number of different ethnic groups, all more or less at each other’s throats. Sediqi was hoping that the voting would cross ethnic lines but in truth it hasn’t up to now. The program set up a cell phone voting program which would tend to favor younger and more open-minded voters, although in all honesty the results were still more or less along ethnic lines.

In fact, the four finalists – whom the documentary focuses on – were from different ethnic groups. There’s Rafi, who has the slick, charismatic and handsome look that would make him at home on our own version of the show. Hamid is a more polished vocalist from a professional group; he is from the marginalized Hazara ethnic group and he hopes his success will shine a spotlight on the plight of the Hazara. Setara is a fiery young woman from Herat whose last appearance on the show involves dancing and allowing her scarf to slip, both major no-no’s for the chaste Islamic woman. Lema is also a woman, also from a conservative region of Afghanistan whose music lessons, had the Taliban discovered them, would have led to her immediate execution.

That the documentary exists at all is a tribute to the resilience of the Afghans. Footage early on from the 1980s shows that the country had at least a passing interest in modern Western music, although that was abruptly and brutally cut short by the ascension of the Taliban.

This is not about the music competition and quite frankly, unless you’re a BIG fan of Afghan music, you’re probably not going to care who wins so much. In fact, the drawback here is that the music is mostly along traditional Afghani lines and those less open-minded sorts are going to dislike it pretty intensely. For my part, I found the music okay, not being a particular expert in the particular art form. All I can say is that I liked most of it.

Can you imagine what American Idol would be like if Kelly Clarkson would have had to go into hiding for dancing during her performance, or if Sanjaya had been making a political statement just by entering? It’s an amazing juxtaposition between two different cultures, where contestants in one thrive on popularity and the ability to sell records, compared with contestants who want to perform because they finally have been allowed a forum to. How exciting it is to see a voice which has been silenced for so long to finally be given its chance to shine?

WHY RENT THIS: A very compelling look at modern Afghan culture, particularly on the clash between traditional Islam and Western influences.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The “pop” music of the show is actually fairly traditional music from the various Afghan ethnic groups and some may not find it to their liking.

FAMILY VALUES: Some of the subject matter is on the mature side, but otherwise should be suitable for nearly everyone.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This was the official United Kingdom submission for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film for 2010. It did not, however, receive a nomination.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s an interview with director Havana Marking detailing the difficulties in making this documentary.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Kick-Ass

Made of Honor


Made of Honor

Monaghan and Dempsey dance cheek to cheek.

(Columbia) Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin McKidd, Kathleen Quinlan, Sydney Pollack, Kadeem Hardison, James Sikking, Busy Philipps, Whitney Cummings. Directed by Paul Weiland

The secret to a successful romantic relationship is to marry your best friend. Sometimes, that logic escapes even the brightest of us.

Tom (Dempsey) is a serial lady-killer who operates on a complicated but nonetheless rigid set of rules guaranteed to prevent a serious relationship from sprouting up from the sex. At a collegiate Halloween party during the Clinton era he accidentally climbs into the bed of Hannah (Moynahan), a bookish co-ed when he meant to get busy with her cousin Melissa (Philipps). He gets sprayed in the eyes for his trouble and Moynahan, finding him curiously fascinating despite his male chauvinist pig attitudes, nurses him back to sight and points him in the direction of her cousin, who doesn’t handle liquor very well.

Fast-forward a decade and the two have become best buddies. His collegiate tendencies have blossomed into a full-blown lifestyle; he is able to afford this because he invented the coffee cup holder, which has made him rich. She works as an art buyer and is heading for Scotland on business. Tom still has the company of his buddies, including pal Felix (Hardison), and boasts that he has the best of all worlds; a different woman in his bed every night and Hannah during the day to hang out with. However, Tom realizes the longer that she’s gone that he really likes hanging out with Hannah and that he wants more than a platonic buddy relationship with her. He resolves to tell her so, but unfortunately for him, she returns with Colin (McKidd) in tow, the near-perfect man – a Scottish noble with medals for valor and achievement on his perfect manly chest, and a nice guy to boot. She informs a shocked Tom that the two have set a date to be married and she wants him – Tom – to be her maid of honor. Tom does what all men in that situation should do; knock over a waiter with a full tray of food. Ah, hilarity.

Tom is reluctant to go to Scotland to watch the woman he now knows he loves wed another man but Felix convinces him that the best way to subvert her nuptials is from the inside. He decides to go ahead with the plan, not realizing that among the bridesmaids is grown-up cousin Melissa who has an absolute hate on for Tom, and who secretly thinks she should be the maid of honor.

Tom tries to prove himself the best man for Hannah by being as perfect at everything as Colin is but as is usually the case in romantic comedies, events (and the very vindictive Melissa) conspire against him. Will true love triumph in the end?

Romantic comedies are a kind of fantasy, particularly as practiced by Hollywood. The formula is pretty much the same; an unlikely couple gets together and discovers a growing feeling for one another. Things go well until one of them makes a critical error and the two are separated. Usually a third party becomes involved and one of them looks headed for a lifetime relationship with the wrong person until the one he/she should be with saves the day.

That’s all fine and good for the movies but it doesn’t really work that way in real life. Now, I’m all for escapism but I just wish that Hollywood rom-com writers could put some variation in the formula to make these just a tad more interesting. After all, the plot here sounds suspiciously like My Best Friend’s Wedding, except that movie had Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney as a couple and there was more chemistry between those two than Dempsey and Monaghan any day of the week.

There really isn’t much here that makes this movie worth seeing, other than a pretty good-looking cast and the beautiful scenery of Scotland. One notable exception is director Sydney Pollack in his last acting role before his death in 2008 from stomach cancer. He plays Tom’s oft-married dad (undergoing wedding number six to American Idol Kelly Clarkson) who is negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement that is essentially a license for prostitution. It’s one of the few sequences that really stand out.

It’s hard to buy why the allegedly bright Hannah would find anything remotely in common with the terminally shallow Tom, who seems to represent everything in life she is against. I guess that the odd couple formula had to be filled out one way or another.

I will be the first to admit I have a great deal of fondness for a good romantic comedy. Some of my favorite movies of all time – Love, Actually comes to mind right off the top of my head – fall into that genre. However, the sad truth is that the studios seem incapable of making a good one and it’s been a bloody long time since I saw anything better than average come out in the genre from a Hollywood studio. It seems that Hollywood can churn out the special effects to make you believe an alien planet is real but can’t find a writer that will make you believe a romance is real. How sad is that?

WHY RENT THIS: Another harmless rom-com without ambition to be much more than that. The fine-looking cast is easy on the eyes.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: If your expectations are slightly higher, there are movies with similar themes done far better.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s some mild sexuality and a bit of harsh language but otherwise suitable for most audiences.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Some of the filming was done at Dunvegan Castle on the Island of Skye, the oldest continuously-inhabited castle in Scotland and the ancient home of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod. The Highland Games sequence was filmed here, as well as a sentimental scene between Hannah and Tom.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Gigantic