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Recent Reviews

Anchorman
Dir. Adam McKay; writ. Will Ferrell & Adam McKay; feat. Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steven Carell, David Koechner (PG-13)
Ferrell plays anchorman Ron Burgundy, whose all-male, fraternity-like news team is thrown into disarray when the station hires a woman who takes her job very seriously. The two fall madly in love, but professional jealousy gets in the way. Will Ferrell with wounded pride is enough to hang a movie on, but Will Ferrell with wounded pride and a Burt Reynolds moustache is a reason to go online and buy advance tickets. It is roughly the era of Starsky and Hutch, and the atmosphere that middling flick worked so hard to capture is evoked effortlessly here; the difference is æ as is true so often with Will Ferrell æ that you get the feeling the movie is doing this for its own pleasure, with no thought of mocking the '70s for the benefit of smug 21st Century hipsters. JD

The Clearing
Dir. Pieter Jan Brugge; writ. Justin Haythe; feat. Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Alessandro Nivola, Matt Craven, Melissa Sagemiller (PG)
The Clearing is not so much a violent thriller as a study in three parallel lives that, in the non-Euclidean geometry of Justin Haythe's screenplay, eventually converge. But the pleasure that this understated film provides is not in guessing or discovering plot twists; the trailer already divulges the most shocking. The plot holds a viewer hostage to the spectacle of three superb actors thoroughly inhabiting their roles. "If you were in my shoes, wouldn't you do it?" asks Arnold, the down-and-out abductor, who regards, Wayne, his hostage, as a luckier version of himself. Providing new footwear for their trek through the forest, Arnold in fact puts Wayne into his shoes. For the viewer and its imperfect characters, The Clearing is a strenuous exercise in empathy. SGK

Control Room
Dir. Jehane Noujaim (NR)
Control Room presents an idea very few Americans have paused to consider: The Al Jazeera network may be a more impartial source of news than some of America's leading media outlets. The film shows just how manipulated some of our news is, with video footage not aired on these shores of iconic events such as the fall of Baghdad. It shows a frustrated American press corps that sometimes seems to want to show its viewers more than the government will allow. Whether you walk out rooting for Al Jazeera or condemning it, the film presents a side of this war you haven't seen unless you've recently been stationed in Iraq. JD

Fahrenheit 9/11
Dir. Michael Moore (R)
To the popular, manipulated, mind, the deadly attacks on New York and Washington committed by al Qaeda transformed an executive slacker into a cross between Churchill and Roland. Moore dissents. His post-9-11 Bush is an Orwellian monster who exploits public fear for partisan advantage and fosters ceaseless war in order to consolidate control. Fahrenheit 9/11 is not "balanced." Its antecedent is not those tedious documentaries whose voice-of-God narration soothes us into submission, but rather Emile Zola's "J'accuse." The imperial president, says Moore, has no clothes, except a Navy flight jacket he never earned. Fahrenheit 9/11 saddens, infuriates, informs, and empowers. SGK

The Mother
Dir. Roger Michell; writ. Hanif Kureishi; feat. Anne Reid, Daniel Craig, Cathryn Bradshaw, Peter Vaughan, Steve Mackintosh (R)
The Mother is a kind of reality check on Mike Newell's Enchanted April, the 1992 fantasy about aging with gusto. "Now all I want to do are interesting things," declares the widowed May, who ends up sleeping with her daughter's married boyfriend, Darren. Though she refuses to allow her life to be summed up as simply "the Mother," and though she ends up literally with a black eye, May is the only sympathetic figure in this painful domestic drama. In its cruel baring of souls and bosoms, the film is worthy of an English John Cassavetes. At an early point in their troubled and troubling liaison, May and Darren visit the grave of William Hogarth, whose caustic sketches exposed the odious hypocrisy of 18th-century Britain. In The Mother, Hogarth's searing spirit lives again. SGK

Napoleon Dynamite
Dir. Jared Hess; writ. Jared & Jerusha Hess; feat. Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Diedrich Bader, Tina Majorino, Sandy Martin, Haylie Duff, Trevor Snarr, Shondrella Avery, Bracken Johnson (PG)
Napoleon has a rusty Brillo pad for hair, wears enormous glasses and T-shirts that even the Salvation Army would throw out. The story's eponymous character may be the nerd to end all nerds, but that description doesn't quite capture him. There's a defiance in his awkwardness that makes him somehow heroic. Napoleon befriends a transfer student named Pedro, who is quiet but has big plans, and his near-doomed aspirations inspire Napoleon to creep slightly out of his shell. Viewers who dig Napoleon's willful self-marginalization will find his character enough to anchor a movie by itself, but the Hesses provide some amusing oddballs bobbing around on the sidelines. Hess has at least given us a debut worthy of becoming a cult favorite. JD

The Story of the Weeping Camel
Dir. Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni; feat. Ingen Temee, Botok, Uuganbaatar Ikhbayar, Odgerel Ayusch, Janchiv Ayurzana, Enkhbulgan Ikhbayar, Guntbaatar Ikhbayar, Amgaabazar Gonson, Zeveljamz Nyam, Ikhbayar Amgaabazar, Chimed Ohin, Munkhbayar Lhagav (PG)
This National Geographic feature film seamlessly blurs the line between documentary and dramatization. Our only guide to the strange customs and culture unfolding onscreen are the sometimes hilariously present-perfect-tense translations of the family of Mongolian herders as they discuss daily business. When a mother camel refuses to nurse her newborn, the two young sons of this four-generation family living in the Gobi desert must journey to the nearest town to find a violinist to help them perform a special ceremony to reunite the pair before the calf dies of malnutrition. Camels bark (they also neigh and moan), and as the title suggests, they sometimes weep. It's a vocabulary we are left to our own devices to decipher, but like the largely impassive faces of our Mongolian hosts, the film suggests that we all retain some instinct and memory of our agrarian past that binds us. EW

Two Brothers
Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud; writ. Alain Godard, Jean-Jacques Annaud; feat. Guy Pearce, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Freddie Highmore (PG)
Though Guy Pearce, playing a great white hunter, author, and looter of antiquities, has the largest speaking part, the leading men in Two Brothers are adorable tigers named Kumal and Sangha. What Babar did for elephants and Bambi for fawns, this film does for tigers: It humanizes them, which is preferable to demonizing them, but, given the film's dim view of our species as greedy, vain, and stupid, humanizing is a kind of libel. Two Brothers follows Kumal and Sangha out of the jungle and into the clutches of human captors, Kumal as a slave to the circus, Sangha into the private zoo of a pompous local potentate. "After this is all over," says Pearce's Aidan McRory, when the film is almost all over, "I'll never touch a gun again." Two Brothers offers a lesson in respect and restraint. Two Brothers concludes by announcing that, though there were 100,000 a century ago, only 5,000 tigers remain in the wild today. On the evidence of this film, it has been an incalculable loss to the acting profession. SGK


Films reviewed by:
GB: Gregg Barrios
JD: John DeFore
LMF: Laura Fries
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
WK: Wendi Kimura
AL: Albert Lopez
JM: Jonathan Marcus
AP: Alejandro Pérez
RP: Rich Perin
LS: Lisa Sorg
JW: Joe Weiss
EW: Elaine Wolff


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