"Breakfast with Scot" NEW!
Former bruiser hockey player-turned sports anchor Eric (Tom Cavanagh) and his attorney partner Sam (Ben Shenkman) seem to be living together comfortably in a gray zone between out and proud and closeted and quiet when 11-year-old Scot (Noah Bernett) arrives on their doorstep.
The child of a recently deceased ex of Sam's world-traveling, d-bag brother, who's his legal guardian, Scot's placed with the couple temporarily and quickly upsets their straight-faced life with his makeup, jewelry and love of musicals.
For the most part, comedy ensues. At other times, director Laurie Lynd and writer Sean Reycraft generate compelling tension and poignance between Scot and Eric, whose frustration with the boy's flamboyance stems as much from his own identity issues in the sports world. Cavanagh and Bernett reciprocate with the film's strongest performances.
Working against its predominantly genuine, affable nature, however, are some thinly fleshed-out characters - especially Sam - and an unchecked urge to tie everyone's fate up in a big, beautiful bow. Grade: B-
Clint Eastwood turns his deliberate pacing and gorgeously spare cinematography on an extraordinary true story -- the experience of a '20s-era mother (Angelina Jolie) whose son goes missing one day, and who's eventually given the wrong boy back -- and Jolie turns in a fearless performance as a very fearful but resolute parent. Yet by sticking to the known facts of the case, a lot of questions are left unanswered, and you can't help wondering whether a bit of fiction would've been more satisfying. Grade: B+
"My Name is Bruce" NEW!
Bruce Campbell acolytes, the latest feature both directed by and starring the B-movie icon is made for you. Playing a pompous, abrasive version of himself that lives in a trailer and drinks to excess, Campbell's kidnapped by a rabid young fan from a backwater town and forced to battle the local killer Chinese spirit. All the while Bruce believes that the townspeople's pleas for help, as well as the fan's babe-a-licious mom, are part of some elaborate birthday surprise set up by his agent (Ted Raimi, playing three roles total).
For everyone else, this is a near-total waste of time. The plot's smugly nonsensical, the acting is amateurish, half the jokes are strictly for the in-crowd and the other half just aren't funny - unless you find comedy gold in ass-grabbing, gay rednecks and goofing on how Asian people's "L"s sound like "R"s.
Granted, no one should be expecting Lawrence of Arabia from the star of the Evil Dead and Maniac Cop franchises, but this feels thoroughly phoned in. And as the dropping of Sam Raimi's name reminds us, it was ingenuity and creative spark that separated Campbell from the pack of direct-to-video also-rans in the first place.
The film opens Wednesday, November 19 at Landmark's Gateway Theater; Campbell will appear in person opening night for post-screening Q&As after the 7:45 and 9:50 p.m. shows. Grade: D+ -Melissa Starker
You can't blame Denison alum John Jeffcoat for the fact that his feature film debut, which was made in 2006 but only recently came off the festival circuit to reach wider audiences, feels a bit dated. Sadly, the story of a call center supervisor (Josh Hamilton) who's won over by India after begrudgingly going there to train his replacements is almost quaint now, after the U.S. credit meltdown and tens of thousands of jobs disappearing altogether.
You can go ahead and blame the cowriter-director for not bringing enough originality to his tale of cultural awakening and for the sitcom-y flavor it sometimes takes. Yet he maintains likeability by showing care with his characters and their relationships and by deftly avoiding easy stereotypes. And along with a strong supporting cast, in Hamilton, Jeffcoat has a master of both exasperation and disbelieving wonder. Grade: B-
Rachel Getting Married"
Ditching the standard ways of Hollywood mainstream, director Jonathan Demme adopts handheld camerawork and natural lighting while star Anne Hathaway takes on bad hair and a damaged, ragingly narcissistic character for this intense view of a deep family wound reopened by a weekend wedding. Unwelcome distraction comes from the more exhausting parts of her performance and a forced feeling of multiculturalism throughout. But if you can tune out that loudness, you'll find a touching statement about punishing the ones you love, made in a style that's right for the material. Grade: B
Just in time for his break from Madonna, Guy Ritchie has returned to the winning form of Snatch with another whiplash ride through the London underworld. The convoluted plot this time involves a major heavy with real-estate interests (Tom Wilkinson), the Russian mob, a local gang of working criminals led by Gerard Butler and the Russian's two-timing accountant (Thandie Newton). Sure, it can be tough to keep up with, and it's basically more of the same from Ritchie, but it's also a hoot. Grade: B+
If you're not a fan of live-action medieval role-playing, you might want to steer clear of David Wain's comedy about a couple of slackers (Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott) who end up as mentors in a Big Brothers-like program in a community service plea bargain. Most of the laughs come from the early, pre-mentoring scenes, but there's plenty that's not funny, including jokes about one boy's obsession with breasts and bad language and the other's all-consuming mock swordplay habit. Grade: C
Zack and Miri Make a Porno"
Kevin Smith's latest is refreshingly simple, a story of two childhood friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) who decide to earn some quick cash by filming their own amateur skin flick. As usual for Smith, it's high on the immaturity, quick with the inappropriate and consistent with the hysterical, but Rogen and Banks really bring this film to life with their natural chemistry. Grade: A-