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|July 3-9, 2008
Bigger, Stronger, Faster
Why are so many of our heroes on performance enhancing drugs? From the producers of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 comes a new documentary that unflinchingly explores our win-at-all-cost culture through the lens of a personal journey.
Blending comedy and pathos, writer/director Christopher Bell’s film is a collision of pop culture, animated sequences and first-person narrative, with a diverse cast including U.S. Congressmen, professional athletes, medical experts and everyday gym rats. At its heart, this is the story of the director and his two brothers, who grew up idolizing muscular giants like Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and who went on to become members of the steroid-subculture in an effort to realize their American dream. When you discover that your heroes have all broken the rules, do you follow the rules, or do you follow your heroes? Rated R. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
The Big Lebowski
Following up Fargo, the fraternal filmmaking team of Joel and Ethan Coen returned to their too-hip, surreal send-ups of old Hollywood movies. It’s a wild story of a deadbeat bowler nicknamed “the Dude” (Jeff Bridges) who gets pinned into a fantastic plot involving blackmailers, German nihilists and Republicans. Anything goes in the Coens’ film-buff fantasy, including the Dude’s Busby Berkeley-style hallucination. An indulgent spoof, The Big Lebowski isn’t a straight gutter ball, but it’s no strike. With John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and John Turtorro. Rated R. At Boulder Theater. —TD
Cairo, Nest of Spies
Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath goes on a mission to find a missing French secret agent. Not rated. At Mayan.
Children of Huang Shi
Very pretty but very stiffly written, this film strives for epic canvases relaying an intimate story. In following foreign correspondent George Hogg’s life and mission — to save dozens of boys left homeless by the brutal Japanese occupation of China in the late 1930s — director Roger Spottiswoode returns to the world he explored so well in Under Fire a generation ago. Here, though, the atmosphere doesn’t breathe; it suffocates. Rated R (some disturbing and violent content). At Esquire. — Michael Phillips
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The four Pevensie children have returned to the magical Narnia, which has fallen prey to the forces of darkness. The second of a potential seven-film Narnia dynasty is roughly the same as the first, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in terms of quality and style. It delivers without much visual dynamism, and with a determined emphasis on combat. Rated PG (epic battle action and violence). At Flatiron. — Michael Phillips
The Edge of Heaven
There are six principal characters in The Edge of Heaven: two mothers, two daughters, a father and a son, all arranged in more or less symmetrical pairs. In the course of this extraordinary film by the German writer-director Fatih Akin (which won the best screenplay award in Cannes last year) children are lost, lost parents are never found, and generational and geographical distances grow wider. Yet at the same time, as the lives of the characters cross and entwine, there is a sense of human connections becoming stronger and thicker, of a fragile moral order coalescing beneath the randomness and cruelty of modern life. At Starz. — A.O. Scott
If director Peter Segal’s dutiful, heavy-spirited comedy clicks with fans of the old TV series as well as with those too young to give a rip about the original — it’ll be a case of the right cast winning out over the wrong material, material that is immaterial regarding what made the show so popular in its spy-infested, James Bonded, Man From U.N.C.L.E. era. Rated PG-13 (some rude humor, action violence and language). At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
Will Smith is Hancock — a conflicted, sarcastic and misunderstood superhero. His well-intentioned heroics do OK, but tend to leave a trail of damage behind and the public wondering why they put up with him. Hancock doesn't care what other people think. That is, until he saves a PR executive's life and begins to realize that he might have a vulnerable side. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square, Twin Peaks.
Director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has had a rough streak, what with The Village and Lady in the Water and now this. The premise in his latest film is workable enough: Something is causing people to stop whatever they’re doing, slide into a trance and commit suicide. That same cryptic something apparently also causes talented writer-directors to forget how to seduce an audience. This movie grinds along, solemnly, and feels an awful lot longer than its 90 minutes. Rated R (violent and disturbing images). At Century, Colony Square, Twin Peaks and Flatiron. — Michael Phillips
The Incredible Hulk
What do you know? A credible Hulk. Five years ago, Ang Lee’s melancholy Hulk played to an indifferent mass audience. This version plays the story for keeps, while heaping on the body-slamming death matches 13-year-olds will love. Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) undergoes experimental gamma-ray treatment that, unbeknownst to him, is being conducted on behalf of a secret military weapons project. Having tasted blood as the Hulk, Banner becomes a fugitive, but his pursuers are close behind. Rated PG-13 (sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content). At Century, Colony Square, Twin Peaks and Flatiron. — Michael Phillips
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
This eagerly anticipated sequel, which comes 19 years after Harrison Ford last donned the Indiana Jones fedora, doesn’t know when to quit. Nor does it extract much fun from a cockamamie story involving aliens, the lost city of El Dorado, the Red Menace and the kid (Shia LaBeouf) Indy never knew he had. Director Steven Spielberg delivers the usual frenetic action scenes, but a lot of this disappointingly humorless picture veers uneasily between solemnity and slapstick and 47 different genres. Rated PG-13 (adventure violence and scary images). At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
As big-budget comic book adaptations go, this one is a lot of fun. Chief among its assets is Robert Downey Jr., who fits nicely into the role of a billionaire war profiteer who develops a conscience, an off-and-on politicized streak and a titanium alloy flying suit. Director Jon Favreau’s picture, rumored to have cost $180 million, doesn't look, feel or play like a heavy-spirited blockbuster. Rated PG-13 (some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and brief suggestive content). At Flatiron, Century and Colony Square. — Michael Phillips
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
American Girl fans, rejoice: the big-screen iteration of your beloved Kit Kittredge is tried and true; a wholesome dose of Americana suitable for everyone. Except maybe parents. G. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square. - J.R.
Kung Fu Panda
Everything about Kung Fu Panda is a little better, a little sharper, a little funnier than the animated run of the mill. With Jack Black voicing the role of a martial arts-obsessed panda who lives his dreams of high-flying glory, the film has an air of assurance and rightness of casting from the get-go. Even with a surfeit of battle sequences riffing on live-action martial arts iconography dating back to Enter the Dragon, the energy captivates. Rated PG (sequences of martial arts action). At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
The Love Guru
Guru Pitka, played by Mike Myers is the “neo-Eastern self-help spiritualist” who dreams of zooming past Deepak Chopra in the eyes of a grateful book-buying public. The character of Pitka is enough for a recurring “Saturday Night Live” sketch, but blown up to feature-length format, the bromides and healing axioms become predictable. You don’t find yourself rooting for this guy; he’s just not funny enough. PG-13 (crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references).At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square, Twin Peaks. — M.P.
A grandly kitschy rendering of Genghis Khan’s early years, Mongol might as well be called Braveheart in a Yurt. Director Sergei Bodrov isn’t trying to get anyone to look at the historical figure’s tactical wiles, or the cost of all that bloodshed, in a challenging way. Mainly Mongol is out for pretty pictures and epic photogenic mythmaking. Rated R (sequences of bloody warfare). At Mayan and Century. — Michael Phillips
Mother of Tears
Mother Of Tears is the finale to the saga that began with the international blockbuster Suspiria and continued with the classic Inferno from Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. In the heart of modern Rome, an urn is found and brought to a young archeologist, Sarah Mandy. But what Sarah doesn’t know is that the urn belongs to the world’s most powerful witch, the Mother of Tears. She unwittingly unleashes a demonic power intent on destroying the city and everything in its path. When the Mother’s minions and henchman brutally murder Sarah’s co-worker and come after her, she takes refuge with an old priest and discovers her legacy — that her own mother was murdered years before by the Mother of Tears, and that only Sarah has the power to end the destruction. She must find and stop the Mother, before it is too late. Rated R. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
In Steve Conrad’s directorial debut, Seann William Scott plays a mid-level supermarket employee whose future as manager of a new store is threatened by the new guy from Canada (John C. Reilly), an ex-motorcycle gang rider and recovering alcoholic with an indeterminate degree of career ambition. One of the chief virtues of this modest, eccentric comedy is Conrad’s refusal to make the Canadian interloper an easily pegged antagonist. But Conrad doesn’t do enough to vary and amplify the competitive gamesmanship of the would-be managers. Rated R (language including sexual references, and some drug use). At Esquire. — Michael Phillips
Ramon De Gare
In the still of the night, three lives are about to cross — a woman abandoned, a stranger awaiting his chance and a best-selling author who imagines the thriller of the year. Deceptively layered and intriguingly misleading, this highly anticipated new feature from writer/director Claude Lelouch (Oscar winner for A Man and a Woman) stars Dominique Pinon and Fanny Ardant as an unlikely couple caught up in a game with high stakes — and deadly consequences. The thriller takes its title from the name given to pulp fictions sold in French train stations. Co-starring Audrey Dana. Rated R. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
Sex and the City
The gang’s all here for this exuberant, unexpectedly heartfelt reunion of the four friends from the HBO series. Michael Patrick King’s deftly constructed screenplay builds on the warmth and familiarity of the series (which King also wrote), while taking full advantage of the longer format, drawing the characters into a more fully realized, emotionally resonant narrative. This eagerly anticipated movie actually lives up to the hype — and then some. Rated R (strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language). At Flatiron and Century. — Jessica Reaves
Some call it tagging, some call it writing, still others call it bombing — it’s all graffiti. Whether it's art or not is another matter, but it's undeniably illegal. Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's historic PBS documentary Style Wars tracks the rise and fall of subway graffiti in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the peak of its popularity, graffiti was as much a part of B-boy culture as rapping, scratching and breaking. The filmmakers present a sympathetic, but well-rounded portrait of their subject through extensive interviews with taggers — notably Seen, Kase and Dondi — art collectors, transit authorities and even Mayor Ed Koch, who would eventually put the hammer down. Along the way, they documented the burgeoning breakdance scene, with a focus on the world-famous Rock Steady Crew. The soundtrack features selections from Grandmaster Flash, the Treacherous Three, and other tagger-approved icons of old-school hip-hop. Not rated. At Starz. —Denver Film Society
A documentary that explores the life of surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, who abandons his life of normalcy for a surfside Bohemian lifestyle. Rated R. At Chez Artiste.
A reclusive widower (Richard Jenkins) visiting New York City for an economics conference forges an unexpected friendship with a Syrian drummer (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend (Danai Gurira) in writer-director Tom McCarthy’s simple, moving story about connections and goodbyes. It’s a pleasure to see veteran character actor Jenkins step up to a leading role. Rated PG-13 (brief strong language). At Chez Artiste. — Michael Phillips
See full screen review on page 51. Rated G. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
See full screen review on page 51. Rated R. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square, Twin Peaks.
This mordant unofficial sequel to Grosse Point Blank reunites John Cusack with an assassin’s gun. In a future where corporations have replaced nations, Cusack is a benumbed corporate hit man dispatched by the former U.S. vice president (Dan Aykroyd) to take out a local pol whose oil pipeline stands in the way of certain business interests. So far critics are all over the map on this one, some calling it a liberal polemic with a lot of bitter laughs, others calling it... well, a liberal polemic without laughs. The truth’s in the middle. Rated R (violence, language and brief sexual material). At Esquire. — Michael Phillips
Teenaged angst is beautifully explored and revealed in this remarkable debut by director Céline Sciamma. Friendship, rivalry and crushes — both heterosexual and same-sex — abound among the members of a synchronized swim team. Floriane (Adele Haenel), a shapely blonde, is cool and brazen. She makes the introverted and boyish Marie (Pauline Acquart) her confidante, at the expense of Marie’s best friend Anne (Louise Blachère). Anne is self-conscious and overweight, but also outspoken and extrovert. She has a crush on a handsome boy, but of course he only has eyes for Floriane. The young cast give outstanding performances in this tender and intense film. Rated R. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
When Did You Last See Your Father?
This intimate look at a son (Colin Firth) grappling with his aging father (Jim Broadbent) and coming to terms with their life of conflict is achingly familiar, but director Anand Tucker slowly wins you over, delivering not another imitation, but a very persuasive drama. Broadbent and demonstrate the magic and majesty of finely etched British acting. Backed by a solid support cast, their performances are deeply felt and cagily detailed. PG-13 (sexual content, thematic material and brief strong language). At Chez Artiste. — S.S.
Young @ Heart
Wry, hilarious and heartbreaking, this resolutely unsentimental portrait of a group of singing seniors is an invaluable reminder that while youth is fleeting, friendship and music are forever. And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen octogenarians belt out Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.” Rated PG (some mild language and thematic elements). At Chez Artiste. — Jessica Reaves
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