Saturday, March 27, 2010

This week: Guilty pleasures, high and low

Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried in "Chloe": it's complicated.

When it comes to mainstream movies this weekend, follow your groin.

There are two sets of features opening, one for the discriminating, intelligent viewer and one for us. In each set, there is a guilty pleasure. Guess which I advocate seeing, in each case?

Yep. Go dirty, or go home.

Following one’s prurient instincts is something I normally don’t recommend. But let’s review the evidence:

SET ONE: PURE ENTERTAINMENT

“How to Train Your Dragon” is soothingly predictable. This time, it’s Vikings versus dragons, but you know a brainy misfit will bond with a magical creature, overcome the trepidations of his love interest, try to forge understanding between the two groups, suffer second-act setbacks, and then triumph on the basis of ingenuity and courage – but not before a lot of carnage has taken place.


Jay Baruchel is the voice of the plucky young Norseman, and he sounds a bit like a young Norm MacDonald. AND IT’S IN 3D! Should be good if you have kids.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” is nothing but sleaze, cheap jokes and gratuitous sexual situations. It looks great.

 

It’s ringing the changes on the time-travel genre, as well as the second-chance-to-make-things-right gimmick, with a side order of Didn’t the 80’s Suck. It knows what’s it’s doing, and makes no bones about it. And hey, Crispin Glover’s in there somewhere.

Oddly enough, the red-band (age-restricted) trailer is better than the green-band above, but very dirty so I can’t post it. The green-band actually seems to give the audience less credit and gives away some major plot points – someone is someone else’s dad, and Chevy Chase is a plot spring.

SET TWO: FOR THE DISCRIMINATING FILMGOER

“Greenberg.” Sigh.

 

Is this the feel-bad movie of the year? It’s a bittersweet romantic comedy by “The Squid and the Whale” writer/director Noah Baumbach, starring the increasingly insufferable Ben Stiller. He’s a lost, lonely manchild who gets to crack cynically wise until life teaches him lessons he never expected.

POSER ALERT! The hero’s friend, the quite good Rhys Ifans, says, “You finally embraced the life you never planned on.” $10, please, I just gave you the whole experience in a nutshell.

Reasons to go anyway: Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who collaborated on the story, and Greta Gerwig, who has up-and-comer written all over her but managed to scrub it of before filming. Plus you want to bring it up at the next cocktail party, you freak.

“Chloe.” Hmmmm.


OK, I’ve been burned before by director Atom Egoyan. Loved “The Sweet Hereafter,” hated “Exotica.” When he’s good, he’s very good, and he’s got Moore, Neeson and another newcomer, Amanda Seyfried. It’s adapted from Anne Fontaine’s 2003 French film “Nathalie,” but it’s safe to say Egoyan will bring his peculiar and intense gaze to it.

Will it fall apart about halfway through? It might. But there’s lots of sex going on to keep you awake. This could be the soft-core Eurofeature the likes of which we haven’t seen since the heyday of Laura Antonelli and “Wifemistress”!



ART HOUSE FARE

Boulder venues are back on line after spring break. The Boulder Public Library film series will present the 1972 adaptation of Herman Hesse’s life-of-Buddha-inspired novel, “Siddhartha,” on Monday at 7 p.m.

 

It’s a trippy take on the subject directed by Conrad Rooks, a late Beat whose only other film was the cold-turkey autobio, “Chappaqua.”

On Thursday, the feature is Abel Gance’s 1923 “The Wheel (La Roue).” Here’s an excellent look at the film by Kristin Thompson:

 

This was the warm-up for Gance’s 1927 masterpiece, “Napoleon.” It originally clocked in with a running time of eight hours, 32 minutes. It was carved down to five hours, and is available now in its most complete form in a four-hour, 30-minute version.

Kudos to BPL for giving this one a shot. They are very up-front in their program: this is a two-hour version, marred by episodes of poor-quality film. However, this showing will feature live piano accompaniment by Brian Golden, as well as live translation of the original intertitles by Tatiana Durantez. That means that this performance will replicate, as far as it is possible, the conditions experienced by the contemporary audience – with live music and titles read aloud for the illiterate or non-natives.

 Over at the International Film Series, they go for it Wednesday with Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 “Starship Troopers.”


This fascist fantasy is an imperial Amerika wet dream, in which we can annihilate our insect enemy with glee and abandon – draw you your parallels as you will. Verhoeven is a master satirist, which makes his spectacularly uneven career even more suspect. I think of his worst as his horrifying best – how about Cinema Interruptus with “Showgirls,” for instance?


Thursday at IFS is “The Room,” a dark, independent L.A. comedy which is making the rounds. Its promotional material insists that it’s a cult film. Beware of films that set out to be cult films, is all I’m sayin’.

The Landmark chain has shuffled the deck this week, moving films around its various houses and getting good use out of them. Their single new entry is a great one – it’s “Prodigal Sons,” a documentary by Kimberly Reed.


We screened it at the Boulder International Film Festival a couple of years ago, and the charming and talented Reed was there herself. It’s at the Chez Artiste in Denver.

Over at the Starz Film Center, they are featuring the Found Footage Festival tonight, with Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, curators, in attendance. (They were in Boulder last week.) Good times! Special friends!


Starz is also rolling the Ellsberg documentary, the Demme Neil Young film, and more “Red Cliff.” New is “The Paranoids”:

 

It’s an edgy urban dark romantic comedy from Argentina. Is this that country’s version of “Greenberg”?

SPECIAL EVENTS

Saturday at 3 p.m., as part of its Kids Saturday series, Starz will present two episodes of Shelley Duvall’s Nickelodeon series “Tall Tales & Legends”: “Casey at the Bat” and “Annie Oakley.”

Down at the Denver Public Library, the series celebrating films that DIDN'T win the Best Picture Oscar continues. On Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the B2 Conference Center in the library's Central branch, see the 1958 runner-up: "Vertigo."



(What movie beat it out that year? "Gigi." Ouch.)

At the Boulder Theater, it’s “The Hurt Locker” at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Here’s an essay related to it I ran when that film debuted – about my favorite microgenre, the Movie in Which Something Will Blow Up If Someone Doesn’t Think Fast.

On Thursday, it’s the Fly Fishing Film Tour at 7 p.m. OK, now stay with me. This looks cool.

 

Fishing is fun. Yes, the streams are sometimes littered with snotty rich perfectionists with bamboo rods. Essentially, though, it’s quiet time for guys. You go out with your buddies and sit in the middle of nowhere, doing not much, just hanging around. It’s Zen with beer. It’s us getting in touch with the Eternal Feminine. Whatever.

It’s like golf – you love it or you don’t. If, like me, you grew up on Curt Gowdy hanging out with Bing Crosby and Phil Harris, trolling for gar in some godforsaken place on “The American Sportsman” on ABC, then you will love this evening of piscatorial peliculas.

LATE SHOWS

Decisions, decisions. The late show at Starz (10 p.m. Friday and Saturday) is “The Burning (aka “Cropsy”)” from 1981 – Harvey Weinstein’s first screen credit!


Check out Starz’s curatorial notes – they’re excellent. Blink and you’ll miss Holly Hunter!

Over at the Esquire, it’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at midnight. Oh, I could tell you stories . . .


On Friday and Saturday at midnight, the Esquire is also screening the most wonderful 1988 “They Live,” courtesy of Mr. John Carpenter himself. Featuring Rowdy Roddy Piper, Keith David, the haunting blue eyes of Meg Foster, and just about the dandiest fist fight in film history.

“I’m giving you a choice: either put on these glasses or start eatin’ that trash can!” Ah, why don’t I love the movies MORE?