Focus on… Upcoming Movies

Been to see The Passion or fancy something a little, lighter? Been to see Starsky and Hutch? Really don’t want to go see Agent Cody Banks II? Well check out what’s coming to a cinema near you this week.

Jersey Girl (PG-13)
Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is at the top of his game. A smooth, Manhattan music publicist, he has just married the love of his life (Jennifer Lopez) and has a child on the way. It’s a perfect life that is upended when he suddenly finds himself a single father. Cue a massive readjustment as Ollie’s old lifestyle clashes with fatherhood. After losing his job, he’s forced to move back in with his father (George Carlin) in the New Jersey suburb where he was raised. Fortunately he has the help of a beautiful Liv Tyler and his daughter (Raquel Castro) to help him through. You can pretty much guess the ending, the question is, will the journey be worth it?

The good: 1) A film directed by Kevin Smith is guaranteed to feature high quality dialogue, and memorable characters. 2) Liv Tyler will be hot, even if she doesn’t recreate ‘those scenes from Stealing Beauty or One Night at

McCool’s. 3) Oh and Jennifer Lopez dies near the start, thus minimising her screen time.

The bad: The film has Ben Affleck in it, and worse he is the star. No one manages to suck the life out the screen and a film quite like he can.

The Ladykillers (R)
Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks teams up for the first time Joel and Ethan Coen (“Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski”). The plot is based on a retelling of the supposedly critically acclaimed 1955 comedy, “The Ladykillers.” Hanks stars as Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, Ph.D., a charlatan professor who’s assembled a gang of experts for the heist of the century. Their base of operations the basement of an unsuspecting, church-going old lady named Mrs. Munson (IRMA P. HALL).

The problem though is that they have all seriously underestimated their upstairs host.

The good: Joel and Ethan Coen. Their films are always memorable.

The bad: Joel and Ethan Coen. Their films are somewhat of an acquired taste.

Never Die Alone (R)
Based on cult novelist Donald Goines’ novel of the same name, Never Die Alone is a film noir about King David (DMX), a hard-boiled criminal who returns to his hometown looking for redemption but, being DMX, finding only death. King David’s final moments are spent with Paul (David Arquette) an aspiring journalist who knew him just a few minutes but upon whose life he would forever have an impact. King David – half preacher, half Satan, and all street smarts – had recorded the story of his recent exploits on audiotape, leaving behind a sermon on villainy and its consequences. The tapes reveal that the cycle of violence and retribution his actions have spawned has come back on him full circle, as he suspected it might all along…

The good: Ummm… In need of a liberal dose of violence, hip hop, guns and drugs. Then you’ve probably come to the right place.

The bad: 1) DMX is a questionable lead man. He may be a 22million selling recording artist, but its uncertain whether he’ll survive as an actor.

2) The director spent a lot of time hanging out with Spike Lee and working on his ‘joints’. This is not a good thing for people after a cohesive, sensible film.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (PG)
Apparently enough people went to see the first film that they’ve decided to subject us to a second. So before we set up the ludicrous plot I want a word with those of you shelled out hard earned cash to see the first film.

Are you listening? Good. Now as my grandmother, bless her soul, would have said, “Shame. On. You.” Unless you have small children, don’t go and see this film. Just say no. I know how much all you HBS’ers are into volunteering. Consider not going this week’s act of community service. If my pleas are not enough, just bear this in mind. They’re thinking of making a third one of these. Save the studio and yourself some money and actually go and see a good quality film.

Those of you with kids though are firstly forgiven for seeing this, and secondly probably don’t care much about what the plot is. Knowing anything about the film is hardly likely to change your mind, but for the 3 of you still left reading this, here goes. In Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Scooby and the gang “lose their cool and their stellar reputation”, as the advertising described it, when an anonymous masked villain wreaks ‘mayhem’ on the city of Coolsville. His ‘dastardly’ invention; a monster machine that re-creates classic Mystery Inc. foes like The Pterodactyl Ghost, The Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cutler’s Ghost and The 10,000 Volt Ghost. Cue lots of ‘jokes’, far too much of Shaggy (MATTHEW LILLARD) and not enough of Velma (LINDA CARDELLINI) and Daphne (SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR)

The good: 1) There’s no Scrappy Doo. 2) Smug Freddie Prince Junior gets smacked around, lots. 3) Linda Cardellini – a good actress who is unfortunately utterly wasted in this mess. 4) Oh and Scooby fanatics will recognise all the bad guys from past TV episodes.

The bad: 1) Note to studio executives, live action films of children’s cartoons DO NOT WORK. They have never worked, and if you continue to make films like this, they will never work. They are not a good idea on any sort of level. 2) Matthew Lilard. How did this no-trick pony ever get a job in Tinseltown?

Dogville (R)
Dogville is not an easy film. One critic connectedthat watching it was ‘like climbing the Matterhorn with a cement block tied to your neck’. However just because it’s a complex difficult film does not mean it is not good. In fact it is thought provoking, and well worth the effort. It is a film that demands to be seen, but not to be loved.

Filmed on a black-painted soundstage with house outlines marked off in white, like the chalk outline around a corpse (the dog even has an outlined doghouse), Dogville feels both theater-like and set apart from the world.

We’re told a lot about the surrounds but all we see around the hazy edges is an opaque white blur in daytime and an indistinct blackness at night.

This is the kind of indeterminate place where one might wait for Godot.
Onto this scene comes Grace (NICOLE KIDMAN) who is taken in and hidden from mobsters and the law by the town’s good man Tom (PAUL BETTANY). There’s no safe way out, so he gives her a place among their small, close-knit, community. In return she’ll pay them back by working with the townsfolk, helping each one for a short time each day. With Grace in their lives, the Dogville citizens are happier than ever. But sadly as the police close in, the townspeople realize that Grace has nowhere to go – she is, in fact, at their mercy. Perhaps she can be persuaded to work a few more hours for a bit less pay. Perhaps she can be convinced to go a little further. The ends and the places to which the townsfolk go once they realise this are not pretty.

Lars Von Trier describes Dogville as a fable set in an unworldly everytown. Asked to explain the conflict of the film he echoes one his characters by describing it as a demonstration of the difference between the vengeful God of the Old Testament and the merciful Jesus of the New, with the film ultimately postulating which version man truly deserves. (Its not as obvious on which side he falls as you may think.) The film has also been criticised as an indictment of Americans and American ideals. This view however is decidedly short sighted. The sins of Dogville echo those of slavery and capitalist society over the centuries and could apply equally to any country today that drops bombs on its enemies, ignores or persecutes particular groups just for being who they are, arbitrarily imprisons and tortures individuals and executes those it labels undesirable.

The good: 1) File this under thought provoking and challenging. If you want
something that will make you think then this is for you. 2) Kidman. She has really matured since she split with Cruise and this is yet another fine performance from the actress of this decade. 3) Bettany. Proving he’s not just Russell Crowe’s stooge, the British actor excels as the conflicted moral compass of Dogville.

The bad: 1) It’s a long film. 2) Its heavy going. 3) It will be an acquired taste.