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Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Black Swan</em> Vs. <em>The Trial</em>

<p>Unlike say Todd Solondz, who seems to enjoy making the world feel uncomfortable by creating excruciating circumstances for his awfully flawed characters, Darren Aronofsky puts his flawed characters in bad situations and then films it in such a way as to make the audience feel nauseous (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Following up his painful but excellent film <em>The Wrestler</em>, Aronofsky returns with <em>The Black Swan</em> starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. Portman stars as a ballerina from one of the top ballet companies in New York City who has a freak out in her head space when some hot little number pirouettes into her Swan Lake performance. The whole shebang was filmed in NYC, so you can watch Natalie flip out in your friend's apartment building and then complain how there's no way to get to Lincoln Center that quickly from Brooklyn.</p><p></p>Reviews have been very good, with J. Hoberman from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-12-01/film/natalie-portman-goes-batshit-in-a-tutu-in-black-swan/">The Village Voice</a> saying: "A near-irresistible exercise in bravura absurdity, Darren Aronofsky’s <em>Black Swan</em> deserves to become a minor classic of heterosexual camp—at the very least, it’s the most risible and riotous backstage movie since <em>Showgirls</em>. The camera lurches, leaps, and pirouettes; in some scenes, it feels as if it’s being tossed around the stage along with Portman. Kitsch this bombastic becomes something primal."


<em>Say what you like, but THE TRIAL is the best film I ever made.</em>—Orson Welles<p></p>This weekend at 11 a.m. every day <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/the-trial/">IFC Center</a> is showing the absolutely brilliant and hilariously dark film <em>The Trial</em>. Based on Kafka's classic novel, directed by Orson Welles, and starring Anthony Perkins, <em>The Trial</em> is one of the most criminally neglected films ever made. Beautifully shot in black and white, this surreal tale about the wrongly arrested Joseph K. is one of the great existential tales ever written. For those of you sick of dealing with the bureaucracy of day to day life, see a film that shows it in its absolute, absurd, extreme. Out of all the movies being shown this weekend, and there are plenty of potentially great ones, this could be the best. If you haven't seen this (which most people haven't considering the awful quality and scarce quantity of the DVD releases) do yourself a favor and see this newly restored print. One of the greatest films made by one of our greatest directors.


<p>Although it premiered two years ago at Sundance, the film <em>I Love You Phillip Morris</em> is only now being unleashed upon the American masses. Maybe the public wasn't ready for a hot gay love between Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor or another movie written and directed by the scribes of the wonderful <em>Bad Santa</em>, but nevertheless, the movie is hitting the big screen tonight. The film follows the true story of a small town crook turned white collar criminal who escapes the Texas prison system four times in order to get back with his boytoy. If it's anywhere near as funny as <em>Bad Santa</em> it should be hysterical.</p><p></p>Reviews have been positive, with Scott Tobias from <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/i-love-you-phillip-morris,48506/">The A.V. Club</a> saying: "Making their directorial debut, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the writing team responsible for the filthy alternative Christmas classic <em>Bad Santa</em>, apply the same go-for-broke nastiness to a story of love and crime that fully warrants it. This is <em>Catch Me If You Can</em> with two middle fingers raised in the air.<p></p>"The film’s only major flaw is that the two actors are never fully convincing as a couple; when it comes time to feel the breadth of Steven’s love for Phillip, the emotions don’t materialize. Ficarra and Requa are more comfortable being bad: The nastier the film gets, the better it is."



<p>If you're growing impatient to see <em>Long Island Ophelia: The Lindsay Lohan Story</em>, we've got the next best thing for you: Henry Jaglom's new film <em>Queen of the Lot</em>. This fictional film follows one electronic ankle bracelet-clad B-Movie star under house arrest as she attempts to get her life out of the gutter. Will this star be able to make it to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy while maybe finding time to find true love? We hope so!</p><p></p>Much like a TV movie, this film seems to be perfect for watching with your mother on a Sunday afternoon in your living room because none of your friends have called you back yet. Reviews have been tepid, with Eric Hynes from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/arts-culture/film/617691/queen-of-the-lot">Time Out New York</a> saying: "The indie iconoclast’s latest proves to be damningly out of touch with the culture it’s satirizing; having your characters worry over 'Google points,' as if the Internet were from a faraway land, does not make your curdled showbiz critique two decades past its sell-by date feel current.<p></p>"Jaglom can craft a scene and stage organic conversations, but if his saps and suckers never wander beyond a hermetic view of the real world, then so what?"


<p>Fresh from her Depression tour 2009, Kirsten Dunst stars opposite Ryan Gosling in the film <em>All Good Things</em> which opens today. The film is a love murder mystery story that is set against the extravagant backdrop of a 1980s New York real estate dynasty. Dunst apparently goes missing and all fingers point to her rich beau.</p><p></p>Reviews haven't been that great, which is sad considering this is Andrew Jarecki's follow up to the absolutely riveting doc <em>Capturing the Friedmans</em>, with Nick Pinkerton from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-12-01/film/all-good-things-true-crime-minus-the-truth/">The Voice</a> saying: "Generously bankrolled (then shelved) by an imperiled Weinstein Company and peopled with Oscar® nominees, it’s tempting to call <em>All Good Things</em> an upscale version of straight-to-cable True Crime crap—only that makes it sound more entertaining than it actually is.<p></p>"Also good advertising: <em>All Good Things’</em> patina of fictionalization has not prevented the cagey Durst Organization from threatening a lawsuit. They need not worry, though. The film succeeds only in indicting its authors."


<p>For the majority of the country, who don't read The Economist, watch BBC News, or know much of anything outside of the states, movies like <em>Bhutto</em> are important educational tools. Rather than staring at a terrifying block of uninterrupted text or watching some namby pamby with a funny accent tell us our country isn't great, people can now just watch docs on their Netflix streaming and get edumacated. <em>Bhutto</em> will teach people about the heroic and selfless Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who helped make Pakistan a little less crazy for a short while.</p><p></p>Reviews have been pretty good for what could have easily been thought of as a puff piece, with Andrew Schenker from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/arts-culture/film/617681/bhutto">Time Out New York</a> saying: "In telling the story of assassinated Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara’s doc not only recounts the leader’s life and career; it also offers a fascinating look back at the history of her troubled nation, wisely placing its current political volatility in an easily graspable context.<p></p>"And rather than treat its subject as the sort of martyr to democracy that makes good copy in the West, <em>Bhutto</em> digs deeper by drawing on a range of conflicting voices (including a hostile niece who blames her aunt for her father’s death) to suss out the ultimate legacy of this problematic figure."



<p>So you'd think after <em>The Lady with the Dog, Madame Bovary</em> and <em>Anna Karenina</em>, people would stay away from the whole bored-married-types-having-affairs scenario, considering it's been done perfectly before, but alas, people still really want to believe in monogamy, so other people continue to make works about infidelity. Toss another on the pile. <em>Come Undone</em> is pretty much the same exact set-up as countless other domestic dramas [i.e. "she thought she had a perfect life" (i.e. wonderful job, caring family, loving husband etc... ad nauseum)] involving some "respectable" woman who meets some hot hunk of man meat and surrenders to her (gasp!) carnal desires! Delicious! Much like the Russian and French writers alluded to before, the film is Italian and therefore probably won't fully demonize the Jezebel like we're required to do here in the States, so yeah, at least it's got moral ambiguity going for it.</p><p></p>Reviews have been all rright, with a rather unflattering one by Joshua Rothkopf at <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/arts-culture/film/617695/come-undone">Time Out New York</a> who says: "From its title on, Come Undone is as dully generic as is imaginable. You ache to think that Europeans could be responsible for such mundanity. Dutiful chubby-hubby Alessio (Battiston) shops at Ikea, handily fixes the shower door and rocks the couch like nobody’s business, offering to pause the movie when Anna gets up for secret calls from her paramour. You grow tired of waiting for their confrontation; all the performances are so underheated that even the expected I-need-you fights feel halfhearted.<p></p>"Someone also thought it was a good idea to pepper the film with a few more sex scenes than usual. They give illicit thrusting a bad name."


<p>Also opening tonight is the film <em>Night Catches Us</em>, which follows the character Marcus, who in 1976 returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up in the midst of the Black Power movement he was once a part of. Marcus had mysteriously left the 'hood for a short time, prompting his former comrades to believe that he had something to do with the murder of a former member. Oh yeah, and there's some dame named Patricia whom Marcus wants to get with.</p><p></p>Reviews have been positive, with Sam Adams from <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/night-catches-us,48505/">The A.V. Club</a> saying: "Hamilton drifts dangerously close to formula, and risks reducing her genuinely fascinating subject to a backdrop. But Mackie and Washington are too fine to let stock situations overtake them.<p></p>"<em>Night Catches Us</em>—the title comes from a Jamaican expression about staying after dark—would hit harder if its form embodied the tension between revolutionary and assimilationist strategies, but it’s clear Hamilton wants to reach beyond the arthouse to people who’ve experienced stories like hers firsthand. Even undeclared wars have their casualties, and the scars don’t always show."


<p>Although we were all kind of secretly hoping <a href="http://gothamist.com/2010/12/02/aliens_2.php">NASA was going to announce</a> that there was alien life out there the other day, we can still pretend and make movies about it. One such film is the animated comedy <em>Mars</em>, which follows three hapless astronauts in 2015 on the first expedition onto the red planet. Unfortunately for us in the real world, Bush's single potentially great unachieved achievement of getting us there fell through and who knows when or if we'll ever get up to that chemical monstrosity in the sky.</p><p></p>Reviews have been mixed with Jeannette Catsoulis from <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/movies/03mars.html?ref=movies">The New York Times</a> saying: "Low key, low budget and low energy, this animated space odyssey from the writer and director Geoff Marslett accompanies three mismatched astronauts to the red planet and the search for new life forms. <p></p>"Maintaining an amiable and innocently awed tone, he minds his science more than his fiction, delivering a listless romance upstaged by a cute robot, dancing aliens and Kinky Friedman as a Johnny Cash-style president of the United States. At least in space no one can hear you urinate."


<p>Are you the type of person who put <em>A Charlie Brown Christmas</em> on the TV while piping up James Brown's Funky Christmas on the stereo before the turkey even finished cooling? Were you wearing riot gear on November 25th? Do you love the secular, capitalist, Santa Christmas tradition? Are you demented? Then boy howdy do we have a movie for you: <em>Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale</em> sounds like the greatest, most perverse Christmas movie since <em>Santa Claus: The Movie</em>. Read this summary carefully and just take it in (we will not attempt to edit this down because it's just too amazing): </p><p></p>It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an 'archeological' dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn’t the one you want coming to town. When the local children begin mysteriously disappearing, young Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter by trade, capture the mythological being and attempt to sell Santa to the misguided leader of the multinational corporation sponsoring the dig. Santa's elves, however, will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader from captivity. What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare—a fantastically bizarre polemic on modern day morality. If you can come up with a more effed up Christmas plot and get it greenlit than you have our undying respect.<p></p>Reviews have actually been pretty good with Mark Olsen from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-12-01/film/santa-goes-dark-in-rare-exports/">The Voice</a> saying: "At times, it’s easier to like the idea of Helander’s film than to actually like the film itself. And yet, his knack for reinvention—adding to the story, re-orienting who is doing what to whom—is so winning that <em>Rare Exports</em> moves with a swiftness and certainty that almost doesn’t allow for boredom or dissatisfaction.<p></p>"Even with its darker undercurrents, the film is surprisingly sweet: In its own way, it never stops believing in Santa Claus, and by ultimately revealing itself as a boy’s adventure story, it actually celebrates the youthful, innocent exuberance of holding on to that faith. It’s likely the best anti-Christmas Christmas movie since <em>Bad Santa</em>."


<p>This weekend at midnight at the <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Films/films_frameset.asp?id=26560">Landmark Theater</a>, Sunshine at Midnight presents the classic slasher <em>Black Christmas</em>. Although director Bob Clark would go on to direct <em>A Christmas Story</em>, this film is far from your traditional holiday fair and centers on a remote sorority house that's being terrorized by an unwanted visitor. The film is arguably the first holiday-themed slasher (predating <em>Halloween</em> by four years) and is actually very well made. It stars Olivia Hussey (whose breasts were immortalized in <em>Romeo and Juliet</em> by 14 year old High School boys everywhere) and Margot Kidder. There's no better way to ring in the holiday season.</p>