Do you hear that sound? Of course you don’t, because nothing is happening. Summer is pretty much over and there’s nothing left to do but get your new school clothes (Mom, can I have Garanimals please! They’re back!) and give vacation a big sloppy-wet kiss goodbye. This is generally also the beginning of the 2nd worst patch in the movie-going calendar after January/February. The big studios are starting to dump their summer product that didn’t have what it takes to cut it in the middle of the season of hype and everyone else is ramping up for Oscar season.
As always however, there are nuggets to be found if you dig a little. In limited release for example is the must-see documentary The Tillman Story. Prepare to be pissed off. On the other end of the spectrum is Fatih Akin’s likable comedy Soul Kitchen.
- The Tillman Story (**** 1/2). You remember Pat Tillman. He was the NFL pro who enlisted into the Army Rangers in the wake of 9/11 and ended up getting killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. The US government initially hid the circumstances of his death and, with the full complicity of a willing media looking for headlines, used his heroic story as patriotic pro-war propaganda. Those are the infuriating broad strokes, but there is also a complex man at the center of this story and this is his powerful story. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev does a terrific job of connecting the dots and skewering the highest levels of government with proof that they knew what happened to Tillman and allowed, if not encouraged or ordered, the story to be covered up and spun, but what really makes this documentary work is the revelation of the man underneath the symbolism. The Tillman Story movingly reclaims the man, flaws and all, from the legend he never wanted to be in the first place and gives him back to his family. (Limited)
- Soul Kitchen (****) German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven) shifts gears into slapstick territory with his latest, a chaos-moving-to-order comedy about a Greek restaurateur trying to keep his restaurant afloat as he juggles his recently paroled brother, his rich girlfriend Nadine who wants him to come with her to China and a former friend turned real estate agent with eyes on the restaurant’s property. Like the restaurant it’s named for, Soul Kitchen the movie is a loose, shambling, but comfortable affair. The thin story is predictable, but it’s funny and everyone is having a great time. Mining a remarkable energy from it’s matter-of-fact multicultural/globalism, it feels like a group of friends hanging out and having fun and they welcome you to the party with open arms. Also, Udo Kier is in it. Need I say more? (NY)
- A Film Unfinished. This holocaust documentary made a bit of news lately when distributor Oscilloscope protested the MPAA’s R rating. The film examines the horrifying truth behind an unfinished Nazi propoganda film about the Warsaw Ghetto. (NY)
- Mao’s Last Dancer. I’m going to have to go to the official blurb on this one. I’ve got nothing: ” From the Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies), comes the inspiring true story of Li Cunxin and his extraordinary journey from poverty to international stardom. Based on the bestselling autobiography, “Mao’s Last Dancer” weaves a moving tale about the quest for freedom and the courage it takes to live your own life. The film poignantly captures the struggles and triumphs, as well as the intoxicating effects of first love and celebrity amid the pain of exile.” In a kind of Twin Peaks reunion, Kyle McLachlan and Joan Chen co-star! I wonder if Mao’s last dancer is a dwarf… (Limited)
- The Switch. Much to the real life irritation of professional shmo Bill O’Reilly, spunky Jennifer Aniston decides to go the artificial insemination route on her way to single motherhood. 7 years later, she finds out the donor wasn’t hottie Patrick Wilson as she’d hoped, but her neurotic best friend Jason Bateman. And there ladies and gentlemen, you have a comic set up. Make of it what you will. (Wide)
- Nanny McPhee Returns. I didn’t even know she’d gone away. Is she staying this time? (Wide)
- Piranha 3D. Word on the street is that the latest in Nature vs. Man flicks is incredibly bloody even by gore hound standards. Alexandre Aja (High Tension) directs. There it is. What more do you want me to say? (Wide)
- Lottery Ticket. I can’t imagine going through life being called Bow Wow. Is it really that much of an improvement over Lil Bow Wow? I’m sorry, but when it comes to the nickname lottery, Shad Moss lost.
- Vampires Suck. And so do the comic geniuses behind Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie and Disaster Movie (Wide).
- Army of Crime. French/Armenian poet Missak Manouchian leads a ragtag band against France’s Nazi occupiers. Virginie Ledoyen is in it. I’m guessing she plays a pretty French girl…? (NY)
- What If… Kevin (Hercules) Sorbo is brought back to god by a tow truck driver named Mike (John Ratzenzberger). I can hear the angels singing already. Oh no, wait. That was just gas. (Limited)
- Altiplano. A Peruvian village next to a gold mine suffers the consequences of a mercury spill. Sam Worthington plays a wheelchair-bound Marine who… oops, wrong movie. (NY)
Filed under: Weekend Forecast