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Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Amelia</em> Vs. <em>Antichrist</em>

<p>Oof. <em>Amelia</em>, the biopic about the famous pilot, is getting <em>slammed</em> <a href="http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/amelia">by the critics</a>. Hilary Swank plays Amelia Earhart, and Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor also show up for the prestige pic, but to no avail. <a href="http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2009/10/the_deadness.php">Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere</a> represents the majority with his signature brio, "Everyone had heard or suspected that [director] Mira Nair's <em>Amelia </em>would be bad, but I was nonetheless stunned by the boredom and general flatness that leapt—seethed?—out of every scene and frame. Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan's script is amazingly drippy and mundane. The roteness of Nair's direction is suffocating. This is probably the last American-funded directing gig she'll have in a long time. <strong>Put her in movie jail and throw away the key.</strong></p><p></p>"Call it a mildly agreeable time-waster if you want, but if you truly enjoy <em>Amelia </em>or express a degree of genuine enthusiasm even—"Not too bad! Nice aerial photography!"—there's really something wrong with you. With your taste buds, I mean. <em>Amelia</em> is a film diseased and poisoned and deadened with schmaltz. It's a major embarrassment all around."


<p>After causing <a href="http://gothamist.com/2009/10/06/is_lars_von_triers_antichrist_causi.php">booing and seizures</a> on the festival circuit, Lars Von Trier's twisted movie Antichrist, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, is ready for public consumption. Or is it? <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/movies/23antichrist.html?ref=movies">A.O. Scott at the Times asks</a>, "Women: intrinsically evil or tragically misunderstood? If this strikes you as a fruitful topic of discussion, then you may wish to see — or perhaps I should say endure — Lars von Trier’s <em>Antichrist</em>, a film that has already set off carefully orchestrated frissons of disturbance at film festivals around the world. </p><p></p>"It starts with a slow-motion, black-and-white sequence, scored to a Handel aria, of graphic sex (with a snippet of hard core thrown in just for fun) and climaxes with two vivid scenes of genital mutilation...The scandal of “Antichrist” is not that it is grisly or upsetting but that it is so ponderous, so conceptually thin and so dull."


<p>Adam Goldberg, whom we like, is starring in <em>(Untitled)</em>, a satire of the New York art world. We've watched the preview twice and still can't tell if this is going to be funny or just too broad. In a mixed review, <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/movies/23untitled.html?ref=movies">Stephen Holden at the Times</a> says this "brave little movie deserves an audience." But the Voice's <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-10-20/film/untitled-aims-wide-and-misses/">Melissa Anderson says</a> it "aims wide and misses... <em>(Untitled)</em> tries to reignite who-gets-to-call-it-art debates that haven't been taken seriously for at least a decade—which may explain the recurring presence of a plastic bag that appears to have blown in off the set of <em>American Beauty.</em>"</p>



<p>Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, and others lend their voices to <em>Astroboy,</em> about a young robot with incredible powers who "embarks on a journey in search of acceptance." The Onion's <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/astro-boy,34439/">Tasha Robinson calls it</a> "weak, clunky, and lazy... Young audiences will get a slick, exciting, well-animated adventure with a neat child-robot protagonist who gets drawn into city-smashing battles. Older viewers are more likely to see a muddled film full of one-dimensional characters and insultingly strident politics."</p>


<em>Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant </em>stars John C. Reilly as a 220-year-old vampire who tours with a freak show and lures a suburban teen into joining the fun. Aaron Hillis at the Voice writes: "Drawn from the young-adult books by U.K. author Darren Shan, <em>Cirque du Freak</em> has F/X creatures, teen angst and romance, mysterious backstories, and a brewing war between beasties...and Willem Dafoe shows up looking like Vincent Price resurrected. Some of you are thinking: That sounds rad! And Cirque might have worked if were either straight dark comedy or actually dark, like its source material. Directed by Paul Weitz (American Pie), the movie suffers from the same tonal schizophrenia of that other recent goth wannabe, <em>Jennifer's Body</em>: <strong>Is it meant to be scary or funny? Oops, it's neither."</strong>


<em>Saw VI</em> is the latest installment of the juggernaut horror movie franchise about learning to appreciate life and limbs. You probably have a pretty good idea what you're in store for. Mike Hale of the NY Times thinks it's appropriately "user-friendly," but <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/24/movies/24saw.html?ref=movies">writes</a>: "The “Saw” films have always been more about the gruesome toys and the puzzles than about the scares. In “VI,” one test involves dodging hot steam. That’s quite a comedown from the good old days of being drowned in liquefied hog carcasses, or having to remove your own foot with a hacksaw."



<em>Eulogy for a Vampire</em> has vampires, priests, animal evisceration, a phantom goat, and unrequited gay love. Neil Genzlinger <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/movies/23eulogy.html?ref=movies">at the Times says</a>, "This one is aimed at those who find the mix of religious imagery, whippings, animal blood, amateurish cinematography and moronic dialogue to be arousing. It focuses on an all-male religious order whose members seem to spend no time in spiritual reflection but quite a lot of time groping one another...<strong>It’s hard to imagine anyone watching this attempt at a horror film without guffawing.</strong> (Or maybe it’s supposed to be a comedy?) Especially when, after about 50 minutes of unbridled scheming and debauchery, one senior monk explains the goings-on by saying, 'I’m starting to think there’s some kind of a flu going around.'"


<p>Uma Thurman stars in <em>Motherhood, </em>which follows her as she plays a harried stay-at-home mom/blogger juggling multiple responsibilities in contemporary Greenwich Village. Somehow, she finds time to enter an essay writing contest on being a mother. As Nick Shager of Time Out New York <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/film/79811/motherhood-film-review">puts it</a>, "The tone isn’t jovial so much as smug and condescending, with everyone from Thurman’s whiny matriarch to her distant husband (Edwards) turning into ugly caricatures. It’s a judgmental tale whose only payoff is carpe diem drivel."</p>


<em>Night and Day</em>, the new film by acclaimed South Korean director Sang-soo Hong, tells the story of a married man who escapes to Paris, where nobody knows him, after a paranoid drug experience, and has a series of encounters with different women while exploring the city. Scott Foundas of the Village Voice <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-10-20/film/hong-sang-soo-gets-in-touch-with-inner-frenchman-in-night-and-day/">liked it</a>: "Structured as a series of diary entries, the film has an episodic flow: in between extramarital dalliances (which are more like lunges), Sung-nam pleads for his wife to masturbate to him over the phone, drunkenly insults a visiting North Korean student at a party, and even turns to the Bible for answers—only to find that there are none. Some of it is hilarious, some sad, all filtered through Hong's inimitably wry take on the unbearable lightness of being . . . himself."


<p>In the sequel (that's more of a prequel, though it features none of the same characters, so is it really a sequel?) to 2003's Ong Bak, director/star Tony Jaa plays a 15th century orphan who learns multiple martial arts skills from bandits while on a quest to avenge his father's death. Fighting aficionados will have much to enjoy in <em>Ong Bak 2: The Beginning</em>, but there's not as much in the way of plot, as the Daily News' Elizabeth Weizman <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/2009/10/23/2009-10-23_short_film_reviews_motherhood_astro_boy_.html">summarizes</a>: "does a 20-minute martial arts battle featuring Thai superstar Tony Jaa sound like the ideal way to spend your time and money? If not, move on."</p>


<p>Docudrama <em>Rembrandt's J'Accuse</em>, directed by Peter Greenaway (<em>The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover</em>), takes a step-by-step examination of Rembrandt's most famous work, "The Night Watch," and argues that a murder conspiracy was revealed in the painting, which later played a part in the artist's ruin... Elizabeth Kerr <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film/reviews/article_display.jsp?rid=11778">at the Hollywood Reporter</a> calls it "a worthy murder mystery... Greenaway is first and foremost a deft storyteller and filmmaker—and a cheeky art historian. An appreciation of art isn't necessary to enjoy<em> Rembrandt's J'Accuse</em>, and Greenaway goes to great lengths to draw the artistically illiterate into the story. Before he gets to the central mystery, the film weaves Art History 101 into its runtime and succinctly puts 'The Night Watch' into a larger historical context. Whether you agree with his conclusions is moot; getting there is what counts."</p>


<p>Film Forum's Elia Kazan retrospective <a href="http://www.filmforum.org/films/wildriver.html">wraps up with <em>Wild River</em></a>, starring Lee Remick and Montgomery Clift as a Depression-era government man trying to get 80-year-old matriarch Jo Van Fleet to vacate her island homestead before the dams flood it. David Denby <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/notebook/2009/10/26/091026gonb_GOAT_notebook_denby">at the New Yorker</a> calls it "an elegy to pioneer stubbornness. Kazan’s direction is maddeningly deliberate, and some of the staging is stiff, but Lee Remick is extraordinary as the matriarch’s granddaughter, a passionate woman who hurls herself against the anxieties and diffidence of Clift’s official. The movie couldn’t have greater present-tense resonance: how do you get people who loathe the federal government to do what’s good for them when the government recommends it?"</p>



<p>This weekend at midnight <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Films/films_frameset.asp?id=36472">the Sunshine screens</a> the 1987 Joel Schumacher flick <em>The Lost Boys.</em></p>


<p>And this weekend at midnight the IFC center <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/life-of-brian/">screens the Monty Python classic</a><em> Life of Brian</em>.</p>