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New This Week

By Jeremy Mathews

Bee Season
(out of four)
Fox Searchlight
Rated PG-13

Based on Myra Goldberg’s acclaimed novel, “Bee Season” is admirable in its attempt to study the dynamics of a family that is completely out of touch with one another, yet perplexing in its inability to connect the events to any solid emotions or philosophy.

Young actress Flora Cross stands out as the young girl who connects with her spirituality in a way that allows her to win spelling bees, while her family members can’t connect with one another. Richard Gere plays the father, a Jewish scholar whose interest in his children seems to center more on himself. His wife, played by Juliette Binoche, secretly goes into houses and steals shiny objects. Meanwhile, Max Minghella as the older brother tries to out-spiritualize his father by joining the Harre Krishnas.

“The Deep End” directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel create some eloquent visual moments, and the family dynamics are well portrayed. But at the same time, the film feels like four jigsaw puzzles mixed together.


The Ice Harvest
Focus Features
Rated R
(Not reviewed)

Director Harold Ramis (“Groundhog Day,” “Analyze This,” some films that aren’t as good) spins a crime-at-Christmas tale starring Billy Bob Thornton (no, it’s not a “Bad Santa” sequel”) and John Cusack. Sounds promising, eh?


In the Mix
Lions Gate Films
Rated PG-13
(Not reviewed)

Pop star Usher plays a DJ who saves a mob boss (Chazz Palminteri) and in exchange, gets to look after his daughter (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Oh, oh, I’ve heard this one before, only the mobster was a father.


Just Friends
(out of four)
New Line Cinema
Rated PG-13

After a brief scene from 10 years ago in which Ryan Reynolds dons a fat suit and plays a man stuck in the “friend zone” with his female best friend (Amy Smart), the film enters the present. We find that Reynolds has become a successful record label employee and slick seducer who picks up another woman 30 seconds after his last girlfriend dumps him. But, of course, he’s not really happy.

Having never returned home since a traumatizing humiliation, he gets stranded in his New Jersey home town while escorting a Jessica Simpson-like nymphomaniac whom he needs to sign to his label (Anna Faris). He then tries to use his crafty manipulation to win the girl from his past.

For every amusing joke that studies the relationship or skewers the idiotic pop star, there are two desperately unfunny gags involving tazer guns, being mean to kids or horny teenagers. Chris Klein steals the show as another former loser named Dusty, who now seduces women by posing as a sensitive, Jesus-loving songwriter. But the other actors give flat performances and the movie never reaches the heights of recent releases like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”


Nine Lives
(out of four)
Magnolia Pictures
Rated R

From prison to funerals to a grocery store, writer/director Rodrigo García’s “Nine Lives” follows 10 minutes in the lives of nine different women and the characters who surround them. Using unbroken tracking shots for each sequence, the camera follows actors including Sissy Spacek, Holly Hunter, Amy Brenneman, Robin Wright Penn, Mary Kay Place and Glenn Close. Kathy Baker and Joe Mantegna stand out as a woman and her husband as she angrily prepares for breast surgery while he tries to be understanding. Robin Wright Penn is also very good as a pregnant woman who runs into an old fling with whom she obviously regrets never settling down.

Some characters pop up in the background or move to the foreground of other vignettes, but the film is essentially a series of stories, some more compelling than others, but collectively intriguing in their portrait of the threads and differences that make up modern existence.


Rent
Sony Pictures
Rated PG-13
Not reviewed

Everybody is waiting to see if “Home Alone” and “Harry Potter” director Chris Columbus succeeded in his adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical. Diehard fans may be annoyed by the conversion from rock opera to dialogue sequences with songs in between. Others might be angry at the deletion of certain musical numbers (“Contact,” “Christmas Bells,” Goodbye Love”). Non-fans may…well…just be annoyed.


The Squid and the Whale
(out of four)
See review, page 16


Yours, Mine & Ours
Paramount
Rated PG
(Not reviewed)
Following in the footsteps of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” it’s another remake of a real-life account of a family with a lot of kids. Dennis Quaid has eight children, Rene Russo has 10. They fall in love and get married, the kids meet. Presumably, hilarity ensues.


New Next Week

Aeon Flux
Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13
(Not reviewed)

“Aeon Flux” started as a series of animated shorts in which the silent and distorted title heroine always died, then became its own show in which she survived in every episode. Now, Oscar-winner Charlize Theron sets out to break the “Catwoman” curse and remind you to watch “Arrested Development” (see page 5) in this live-action adaptation.

She had a life once. Now all she has is a mission. Powpowpow!


Ballet Russes
Zeitgeist Films
Not rated
(Not reviewed)

Having been working while a fellow critic watched the screener of this at the Sundance Film Festival, I can tell you that only people interested in modern dance will be excited to see this documentary about one of the companies that helped establish the form in the United States.


First Descent
Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13
(Not reviewed)

The documentary “First Descent” combines the history of snowboarding with newly shot footage of four generations worth of the sport’s history going to Alaska’s pristine conditions to do tricks, talk etc.


Ninth Day
Kino International
Not rated
In German with English subtitles
(Not reviewed)

Volker Schlöndorff’s German film takes its inspiration from Jean Bernard’s Nazi-era prison diary. It studies the motives of a Catholic priest who travels to convince the Bishop of Luxemburg to support Naziism. And you thought your job was a drag.

jeremy [at] saltshakermagazine.com

 

 
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