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Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Knucklehead</em> Vs. <em>Paranormal Activity 2</em>

<em>Knucklehead</em> is a PG-13 family comedy that seems to be marketed towards families who don't know any better. Judging from what people are saying about it and its convoluted plot, the film's target audience is the disinterested family who's letting its in-from-out-of-town uncle go to the video store to get a movie for them to all sit down and watch over pizza together. Said uncle is used to renting either porn or bad action movies ("Did you guys see <em>Boondock Saint's II: All Saints Day</em>!?") so he bypasses most of your traditional PG family movie fare, and picks up <em>Knucklehead</em>, which says "family comedy" on what will probably be an awfully designed cover. He reads on the back that the movie follows a grifter who cons a dope into fighting MMA matches for him in order to get money, and some reviewer from some paper in Orlando says its a "knee-slapper." In his mind, this film is perfect: not too violent for the 7 year-old girl, not too lame for the 13 year old boy, and a little crime and MMA for himself. Done. <p></p>Fast-Forward: In the year 2023 the 13 year old boy, now being 26, overeducated and probably unemployed, will be drunk at a bar in whatever part of the city that'll be fashionable at that time, attempting to convey the absurdity of this strange little movie he saw when he was a kid that no one else has even heard of but that he just happened to remember. So yeah, one of those movies.<p></p>Reviews have been terrible, with Michelle Orange from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-10-20/film/orphans-nuns-wwe-and-mma-what-could-possibly-go-wrong-in-knucklehead/">The Voice</a> saying: "A schmaltzy family comedy that won’t pass the smell test for kids, parents, or even stoner second cousins, <em>Knucklehead</em> is too sluggish for young attention spans, and not inventive enough to keep adults engaged.<p></p>"TV veteran Michael Watkins directs, and sub-sitcom humor prevails—every comic beat seems to have arrived from an echo chamber that hosted its last laugh in 1974. Which is, incidentally, the year wrestler Alex Karras knocked out a horse and stole the show in <em>Blazing Saddles</em>."


<p>Who could have predicted eleven years ago that a little indie with three twenty-somethings running around the woods, getting crazy, screaming, and snotting up the camera would still be affecting films now. To make matters worse (in more ways than one), 9/11 happened and influenced a new film aesthetic: hand-held catastrophe style. This mode of filmmaking has been utilized to extremely varying degrees of effectiveness, which brings us to today and the release of <em>Paranormal Activity 2</em>. The film appears to be more of the same (people assume that other people are breaking into their home and rather than buying a gun, decide to go Big Brother on themselves, only to discover that some activity of a paranormal nature is afoot) and continues the trend of reality-emulating horror films. It should be pretty easy to decide whether or not you want to see it because it's probably exactly what you expect.</p><p></p>Reviews haven't been that great, with Roger Ebert from <a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101022/REVIEWS/101029991">The Chicago Sun Times</a> saying: "For the house is indeed haunted by a ghost-like supernatural presence, I guess. I say 'I guess' because there is a scene of a victim being dragged downstairs, and the entity doing the dragging is invisible. On the other hand, the movie ends with a strong suggestion that the malefactor was in fact a living human being. So would that be cheating? Hell yes.<p></p>"My audience jumped a lot and screamed a lot, and then laughed at themselves, even after one event that wasn't really funny. Then they explained things to one another, and I could overhear useful lines like, 'She got the $#!+ scared outta her!' I understand they attended in hopes of seeing Gotchas! and explaining them to one another. I don't have a problem with <em>Paranormal Activity 2</em>. It delivers what it promises, and occupies its audiences. Win-win."


<p>Based on the cult Muslim-punk novel of the same name, <em>The Taqwacores</em> follows the Pakistani-American college student Yusef as he moves into a house with a bunch of Muslim punks and discovers things about himself and his faith. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and Yusef might just find out that what he always wanted was right in his own backyard. It's a heart-smart journey set to the sounds of Islamic punk. So yeah, a bildungsroman with a Muslim twist, but maybe we could use that these days.</p><p></p>Reviews have been mixed, with David Fear from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/film/90073/the-taqwacores-film-review">Time Out New York</a> saying: "So giggle or gasp at the shocking band names (Osama’s Tunnel Diggers, Boxcutter Surprise), acknowledge the giddy thrill of seeing something as subversive as a burka covered in band patches, and nod your head knowingly at how <em>The Taqwacores</em> upends xenophobic fears of a brown planet. But whether anyone over the age of 16 will find the film’s proud amateurism and choir-preaching personally enlightening, much less profound, is anyone’s guess.<p></p>"Such an emphasis of in-your-face ’tude and sneering sloganeering over technical chops couldn’t be more punk-appropriate, but love or loathe the go-your-own-way message, you still end up with a simplistic religious reclamation folded into the celluloid equivalent of Xeroxed zine."



<p>It goes without saying that people need their organs, and they need them in at <em>least</em> working condition, which is why we freak the hell out at the prospect of people taking them. Arguably more so than even money, humans haven't been able to part with their inner parts since mummification went out of style (organ donating could save a lot of people's lives, but most people refuse to check it off on their license because they heard the paramedics wouldn't try to resuscitate you or that God for some odd reason needs that shit in place when they get to the pearly gates). Remember the story of gettin roofied at a bar and waking up in a bathtub of ice with a phone next to you? How long did that one take to die out? Anyway, the film <em>Inhale</em> comes out today and it deals with two parents hauling it to Mexico in order to get an organ for their dying daughter, only to find themselves in too deep with some sketchy folk.</p><p></p>Revies have been...well...bad, with Eric Hynes from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-10-20/film/wanna-buy-a-lung-making-a-mockery-of-organ-trafficking-in-inhale/">The Village Voice</a> saying: "Ripped from the headlines and sensationalized for your would-be pleasure, <em>Inhale</em> uses the appalling phenomenon of illegal organ trafficking as the basis for an almost-as-appalling hyperventilated thriller.<p></p>"Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (<em>101 Reykjavík</em>) gilds an already florid lily with needless gore, a bombastic score, and a climactic ambulance chase cross-cut with the last gasps of a dying child. The road to arthouse ruin is paved with good intentions."


<p>Also coming out today is the film <em>Punching the Clown</em>, which follows the exploits of a struggling musician who haphazardly stumbles in and out of fame. The film is being billed as a comedy and has a one sheet with a bunch of laurels at the top, signifying its success in the festival circuit, so it's one of those.</p><p></p>Reviews have been all right, with Mike Hale from <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/movies/22punch.html?ref=movies">The New York Times</a> saying: "If “<em>Punching the Clown</em>” seems more polished than the usual low-budget indie comedy — the jokes more finely honed, the timing better — that’s only as it should be. Henry Phillips (writer and star) and Gregori Viens (writer and director) have been working on this material for more than a decade. They have even made this movie already, as a documentary, in 1997.<p></p>"If <em>Punching the Clown</em> (yes, it’s a euphemism for masturbation) isn’t entirely successful, it’s partly because the music — late-night satire swathed in gentle folkie chords — and Mr. Phillips’s modest but knowing manner don’t quite match up with the 'Star Is Born' clichés of the plot."


<p>Out of all the popular sports in America one of the hardest ones to train for is boxing. Sure it's nice to daydream about being a boxer but waking up every morning at 4 a.m. to run and shadow box isn't most people's idea of fun. Also, you can't really spar like you can say, throw the ball around. Fighting for the most part is frowned upon in most circles, so the only way to even partake in the sport is to join a boxing gym. Today Frederick Wisemen's newest documentary, aptly titled, <em>Boxing Gym</em> comes out and gives everyone an opportunity to live vicariously in this interesting athletic subculture.</p><p></p>Reviews have been extremely positive, with Noel Murray from <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/boxing-gym,46635/">The A.V. Club</a> saying: "Say this for Frederick Wiseman: No one is ever going to accuse one of his documentaries of being fake, or a hoax. Wiseman’s latest film, <em>Boxing Gym</em>, adheres to the same vérité principles he’s been following since the ’60s. He settles into one place—in this case, an Austin, Texas gym where amateurs, pros, and hobbyists of all ages and ethnicities practice footwork and jabs—and just takes in the action and conversations, without trying to guide the action or even ask any questions.<p></p>"Still, anyone who’s spent any time around gym-rats will appreciate how well Wiseman captures that peculiar mix of geekiness and sweaty determination that marks those who use brute physicality as an escape from the grind of everyday life. And in a way, Wiseman’s intimate-but-unrevealing approach suits the culture he’s observing. People walk in the door, pay their $50 monthly fee, and get as much action as they can before the round-timer goes beep."



<p>There are not nearly enough good thrillers these days. Hollywood either needs to inject scripts with gore, turning the film into a horror movie, or add explosions to make it into an action film. De Palma attempted to bring them back, but he was too hung up on femme fatalles and infidelity. Polanski did a good job but ended up getting caught up with that whole statutory rape incident, and Hitchcock's been dead for some time. Nevertheless, Hollywood will give one a chance every now and again to see what happens. Today the thriller <em>Kalamity</em> comes out, and it sounds like we're going to have wait a little longer for a decent thriller. The film follows sad sack Billy, whose ex-girlfriend just left him, as he goes home to find solace in his friends. Turns out, one of his old friends has become withdrawn and a little crazy. Then they find blood. Then someone gets killed. More snooping. Showdown. etc...etc....</p><p></p>Reviews have been mixed to bad, with Eric Hynes from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/film/90054/kalamity-film-review">Time Out New York</a> saying: "Apparently based on the idea that some guys just love their gals too much, <em>Kalamity</em> is an awkward, unforgivably slack thriller that takes elaborate pains to show how supposedly easy it is to go from heartbreak to homicide. The longer this catastrophe takes to reach its blessed end, the more probable it seems that the movie actually takes its chauvinist lament seriously."


<em>Where do you want to take the shot? In the hand or in the foot?</em><p></p>Tonight at the <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/">IFC Center</a> is the incredible film <em>City of God</em>. Considered one of the best Latin American films of the last decade (and even the best film of the aughts to a couple of people), it's one of the few films you could call exhilarating and get away with it. The film follows a young, budding photographer amongst the gang-ridden backdrop of Rio de Janeiro over the course of three decades. It's an amazing film and the cinematography deserves to be seen on a large screen. Don't miss it.


<em>They're coming to get you, Barbara, there's one of them now! </em><p></p>Now this sounds like a lot of fun: This weekend at midnight at <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/NewYork/NewYork_frameset.htm">Landmark Theater</a>, Sunshine at Midnight presents <em>Spooktacular</em>, a collection of classic and campy horror film trailers, a cartoon, and a full-length, un-cut showing of George A. Romero's classic <em>Night of the Living Dead</em>. Unlike say, Austin or Chicago, NYC rarely gets more than a double feature at Film Forum, so this is a nice treat to see such a fun program. This isn't just going to the movies, this is a night out. A perfect way to kick off the Halloween festivities.


<p>This week at <a href="http://www.filmforum.org/films/kuroneko.html">Film Forum</a> is Kaneto Shindo's classic Japanese horror film <em>Kuroneko</em> in a newly restored 35 mm print. Michael Atkinson from the Village Voice says: "Gothic horror fables have a long tradition of proto-feminist outrage, and Kuroneko may take the cake. Shindô’s evocation of the central haunted bamboo grove is all night shadows and luminescent mist, even when we’re inside the ghosts’ illusory house, which sometimes, via a deftly conceived double exposure, appears to glide through the dark forest on its own." The high contrast black and white should make a beautiful and creepy vision on the big screen.</p>