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Recent reviews

Bright Young Things
Dir. Stephen Fry; writ. Fry, based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh; feat. Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore, James McAvoy, David Tennant, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow (R)

Evelyn Waugh's novel Vile Bodies, on which Stephen Fry, in his directorial debut, based Bright Young Things, is the kind of foreign import that mental hygienists in this country might wish to embargo. Like some noxious microbe, Waugh's bilious account of avarice, intemperance, and insouciance among the high and mighty might, if left to spread, induce an epidemic of cynicism. The dim young things who populate the movie spend their lives flitting from one outrageous party to another. At one of many extravagant parties thrown throughout Bright Young Things, an American evangelist named Mrs. Melrose Ape hectors the merrymakers. "The lives you lead aren't real lives," she announces. Yet, as portrayed by Stockard Channing, Mrs. Ape is a sanctimonious prig and no more real than anyone else in the movie. "Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality," wrote T. S. Eliot. That is why we have Britney Spears, Donald Trump, and Jimmy Swaggert, and why Stephen Fry sweetens Evelyn Waugh's wormwood. SGK

The Corporation
Dir. Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar; writ. Joel Bakan, Harold Crooks; feat. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Milton Freidman, Michael Moore, Ray Anderson, et cetera (NR)

The Corporation should be required viewing for tie-dyed protester and pin-striped broker alike: Armed with a wealth of historical knowledge and a long roster of thoughtful interviewees, the film gives voice to citizens of the world with legitimate, well thought-through complaints against capitalism as we know it. Progress-ing from history to dissection, from a cornucopia of speakers to more focused, single-topic sections, it is compelling throughout. Using the diagnostic tools of psychology, the corporation - which has no concern for others' welfare, lies as a matter of course, and strives to take no responsibility for its actions - is a psychopath. Greed is its sole reason for living, and even the guy in the pin-stripe suit (like some of the executives interviewed here) would have to admit that, sophisticated rationalizations aside, that's the truth. JD

The Forgotten
Dir. Joseph Ruben; writ. Gerald Di Pego; feat. Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard, Anthony Edwards (PG-13)

Aside from a characteristically superb performance by Julianne Moore, as Telly Paretta, The Forgotten is a routine psychological thriller whose routine is complicated by the existence of aliens who abduct humans in order to conduct experiments. At the outset of the film, Telly Paretta (Moore) cannot expunge from her mind images of her beloved 9-year-old son, Sam, who died in a plane crash 14 months before. But the misfortune, insist her husband, Jim (Edwards), and her analyst, Dr. Munce (Sinise), is only in her mind. However, the supernatural force that really sets this film apart is the ghost of 9-11 haunting every frame; this is clearly a story about the aftermath of loss and how powerful figures establish control by manipulating remembrance. Long after The Forgotten might otherwise be forgotten, it will survive to remind viewers of the current reign of terror, in which history is rewritten to justify snooping and actions by the federal government serve to strengthen hostile hands. SGK

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Dir. Mamoru Oshii; writ. Mamoru Oshii, based on the comic book by Masamune Shirow; feat. (voices) Akio Ôtsuka, Atsuko Tanaka, Kôichi Yamadera, Tamio Ôki, Yutaka Nakano, Naoto Takenaka (PG-13)

There is a perfect cinematic moment at the end of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, that gracefully captures the big philosophical questions (about what it means to be human, natch) the director tries to address in this futuristic mob-sex industry mystery: Bateau, our mostly cyborg protagonist cuddles his purely canine Basset Hound and contemplates his human partner's daughter as she cradles her new doll. The audience can relate to the look of shocked comprehension on Bateau's face because of the spare interaction - set against breathtaking anime backdrops of Japan circa 2032 - between Bateau and his human colleagues: no thanks to the long-winded hack philosophical monologues in which everyone from Milton to Confucius is quoted with abandon. The scenes comprised of nothing but music and wildly imaginitive anime are worth the wait, and fans of the series will appreciate Major Motoko's brief return. EW

Going Upriver: the Long War of John Kerry
Dir. George Butler; based on the book by Douglas Brinkley (NR)

Upon his return from Vietnam, where he earned three Purple Hearts, one Bronze and one Silver Star, John Kerry was instrumental in organizing Veterans Against the Vietnam War and the group's capitol-shaking protests of September 1969 that culminated when the vets tossed their medals back to the government. These acts have been the core of the Bush campaign's attempt to characterize Kerry as a flip-flopper and if there is one thing Going Upriver can accomplish it is to articulate Kerry's belief that it is "men of small character" who are afraid to admit their mistakes. If the Vietnam War represents our ongoing inability to reconcile two forms of patriotism - duty and dissent - Bush and Kerry also symbolize our difficulty in reconciling two styles of leadership. In difficult times we seem to be drawn to men who, like John Wayne's characters, shoot first and ask questions later. Maybe this film will convince some viewers that cowboys and generals are not the same thing. EW

Shaun of the Dead
Dir. Edgar Wright; writ. Wright, Simon Pegg; feat. Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy (R)

The first specimen of the ZomRomCom genre, or "Zombie Romantic Comedy," Shaun of the Dead skips along atop those genre-separating fences without losing its footing. It's easily one of the most entertaining things to hit screens in recent years, a movie that shows just how fine a line distinguishes family drama and flesh-eating, or meet-cute romance and post-apocalyptic survivalism. Actor/writer Pegg and writer/director Wright actually make you care for the characters in their goofy story. Major characters die here, and against your better judgment, you may choke up. But you'll laugh your ass off a few seconds later. JD

She Hate Me
Dir. Spike Lee; writ. Lee, Michael Genet; feat. Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Q-Tip, Jim Brown, Ossie Davis, John Turturro, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor (R)

It's easy to see how, in Spike Lee's eyes, She Hate Me might seem an epic moral statement - one that wraps sex, money, and politics up into one man's year-long crisis. Unfortunately, the movie's connections aren't convincing, leaving us with two imperfect storylines mashed into one another. More galling, She Hate Me is a two-hour-and-20-minute film that is a bore even at the 90-minute mark. Although She Hate Me seems to be marketed as something of a comedy, it's one of Lee's least funny movies. Hip-hop star Q-Tip, as Jack's friend Vada, has a casual wit that brightens things occasionally, but not nearly enough to overcome the film's tedious self-importance. JD

Touch of Pink
Dir. & writ. Ian Iqbal Rashid; feat. Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Kristen Holden-Reid, Sue Mathew (R)

The sumptuous nuptial feast of her nephew, a wealthy dentist, propels Nuru (Mathew), a Canadian-Indian Muslim, to London, to goad her own son into marrying. Though Alim (Mistry) tries to disguise his relationship with Giles (Holden-Reid), Nuru learns not to expect grandchildren. Like Wedding Banquet, Touch of Pink is a comedy of sexual manners in which pretending to be straight is the compliment that homosexuality pays to family hypocrisy. Despite its ethnic stereotypes, the film offers endearing performances and unexpected pleasures, such as Kyle MacLachlan as the ghost of Cary Grant, Alim's imaginary mentor. A festive Indian wedding is disrupted not by a monsoon but a swish of fresh air. SGK

Films reviewed by:
JD: John DeFore
GG: Gilbert Garcia
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
SDP: Susan Pagani
AP: Alejandro Pérez
LS: Lisa Sorg
EW: Elaine Wolff


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