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Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>The Army of Crime </em>Vs. <em>The Switch</em>

<p>This summer we've seen action films that take place within comic books (<em>Scott Pilgrim vs. The World</em>) and dreams within dreams (<em>Inception</em>). But what about some real-life <em>Inglorious Basterds</em> (taking part in true events, no less)? In what the New York Times calls "a passionate act of remembrance," director Robert Guédiguian has made a heavily-populated film that recounts the lives of the ragtag band of 23 youngsters and immigrants—"salon communists"—who saved France not only from the Nazis, but from internal oppression as well. <em>The Army of Crime</em> has been criticized for its scatterbrained web-of-life plot, but overall critics seem engrossed, even charmed. Writes Michelle Orange <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-08-18/film/freedom-fighters-for-france-in-wwii-epic-army-of-crime/">at the Village Voice</a>: "Virginie Ledoyen stars as [political chief Missak Manouchian]'s impossibly lovely, stalwart wife, and a troupe of supporting players give life to the men and women who died not for the miserable France of that moment, but for the vision of what it could be."</p>


<p>Boy meets girl. Boy and girl become best friends. Boy likes girl. Like, likes her-likes her. Girl wants to get pregnant through artificial insemination. Boy replaces donor's sperm with his own. Cute? We're not sure, but <em>The Switch</em> is based on the Jeffrey Eugenides short story, <em><a href="http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1996/06/17/1996_06_17_082_TNY_LIBRY_000037160">The Baster</a></em>, where a woman decides to impregnate herself with the sperm of a married man but her friend replaces the sperm with his own. (OMG, this could totally be a Friends episode, "The One With The Bad Idea.") <br/><br/>Anyway, while the story ends with the baby's birth, the Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman romantic comedy involves the grown child in much of the film. Which is one reason why the <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/movies/oh_mama_pull_the_switch_on_aniston_TZDFQ2R5QVhVcM1XoKJzDI">NY Post's Lou Lumenick hates it</a>—"This may be the first movie to feature a head-lice montage"—and finds that Aniston and Bateman have no chemistry. He also breaks the bad news that Bateman "an ace supporting actor...can't quite carry a movie."</p>


<p>Mo' money, mo' problems: so it goes for Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), who must survive a three-day weekend in the housing project where he lives after his neighbors find out he's got a $370 million lottery ticket. Critics are giving <em> Lottery Ticket </em>high marks on tone and charisma while readily admitting that, well, it's not very realistic, especially in its gentle portrayal of the rough environs and exaggerated, if funny, characters. <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/movies/lottery-ticket-the-perils-of-good-fortune/article1678972/">The Toronto Globe and Mail</a> calls it "escapist"; <a href="http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/movies/reviews/article_39de3e35-c034-55ab-b48e-8e2d7d2780a1.html">Kevin C. Johnson at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch</a> calls it "hard to love and hard to hate." Perhaps <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20414038,00.html">Chris Nashawaty at Entertainment Weekly</a> wins the pull-quote prize with: "If <em>Lottery Ticket</em> had as much conviction as laughs, it could have hit the jackpot."</p>



<p>Li Cunxin, a poor boy living in obscurity, danced his way out of Maoist China in 1979, falling in love with an American woman and somehow finding a way to defect to the United States. Though he's now a stockbroker living in Australia, Li's younger self will now finally be dancing onto the big screen in <em>Mao's Last Dancer</em>, with the help of Australian director Bruce Beresford (<em>Driving Miss Daisy</em>). "This first-cabin director returns to top form, with this revelatory film his best in years," writes <a href="http://www.observer.com/2010/culture/mao%E2%80%99s-last-dancer-masterpiece">The New York Observer's Rex Reed</a> in his ecstatic review. "More than that, <em>Mao's Last Dancer</em> is a masterpiece."</p>


<p>Emma Thompson, who can pretty much do no wrong in our book, is back with a sequel (which she wrote) featuring her unsightly, snaggletoothed Nanny McPhee, <em>Nanny McPhee Returns</em>. Instead of Colin Firth as the in-need-of-a-nanny parent, we have Maggie Gyllenhaal whose character's husband, played by Ewan McGregor, is off at war. The <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-08-18/film/nanny-mcphee-returns-needs-spoonful-of-sugar-and-then-some/">Village Voice's Nick Schager complains</a>, "it's merely a compendium of photocopied elements, cartoonish special effects, and easy-bake happily-ever-afters," but <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20409537,00.html">Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum notes</a> it's "skittery, baffling fun" plus "Kid viewers will have fun with the references to barnyard poo, poo of all sorts, poo to reckon with."</p>


<p>Here it is, folks, the intellectual event of the summer film season: <em>Piranha 3D</em>, a visually scintillating remake of the 1978 <em>Jaws</em> parody. If you like blood, nudity, and porn star cameos, roughly in that order, then this film will be a treat, because all three will be popping out at your face. The tongue-in-cheek quality of the original is thankfully fully intact as well. <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/features/movies/review-piranha-3d-is-graphic-gratuitous-and-glorious/1116456">Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg</a> Times says it best: "Hands down and body parts floating, the most irresistibly sick movie in years is <em>Piranha 3D</em>, which should be retitled<em> Piranha 3D, Double-D and C</em> for all the topless cuties director Alexandre Aja feeds the fish and audience." Just don't buy any snacks at the theater.</p>



<p>Fatih Akin, the Turkish-German director whose last film was the brilliant but somber <em>Edge of Heaven</em>, tries his hand at the mainstream and comedy with <em>Soul Kitchen</em>, about a Greek-owned American restaurant in Hamburg. The <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/soul-kitchen,44348/">A.V. Club's Scott Tobias says</a>, "<em>Soul Kitchen</em> plays everything big and loud—and sometimes too doggedly conventional—but it’s the rare example of a crowd-pleaser made without cynicism or calculation. It’s about a protagonist who strains to make everyone happy, and it does the same without breaking a sweat."</p>


<em>Hiding Divya</em> is a drama about the hiding and ignoring of mental illness among South Asians, and sadly, it seems to be only a shadow of what it could have been. Following three generations of women and encompassing a couple of faltering romances, it would seem like an ordinary family drama, if not for the stabby antics of the matriarch Divya, who at one point carries around a carving knife to cut out evil eyes and mentally projects Bollywood fantasies onto the rearview mirror of her car. As the family tries to ignore her troubles, reviewers grows restless. "Hiding Divya” has moments that feel drawn from life, and the nurturing, smothering Indian community where Divya lives is nicely sketched in,"<a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/movies/20hiding.html?ref=movies"> writes Rachel Saltz at the Times</a>. "But Ms. Mirza’s storytelling has too many holes: pieces that don’t add up, scenes that leave you with fundamental questions. In the end, you’re none the wiser about mental illness or even about these characters."


<p>The documentary <em>The Tillman Story</em> concerns Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman, who enlisted in the Army Rangers eight months after September 11, and died in 2004 in a friendly-fire incident that was covered up by the Army. "Amir Bar-Lev's assiduous, furious documentary (a significant improvement over his last nonfiction film, 2007's middling <em>My Kid Could Paint That</em>) on the Army's craven cover-up and the Tillman family's determination to find out the truth is a withering assessment of U.S. military culture," writes Melissa Anderson at the Voice. "Unlike Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's Afghan-war doc <em>Restrepo</em>, Bar-Lev's film feigns no pretense of 'neutrality.' War is hell, the former documentary relentlessly (if unhelpfully) reminds us. But <em>The Tillman Story </em>goes deeper, exposing a system of arrogance and duplicity that no WikiLeak could ever fully capture."</p>


<em>"Daddy wants blue velvet!"</em> David Lynch's 1986 masterpiece about suburbia's pervy underbelly demands to be seen in the theater, and you've got two chances this weekend, when the Sunshine <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Films/films_frameset.asp?id=43211">screens it at midnight</a>.


<p>In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the French New Wave (or the Nouvelle Vague as Francophile cinephiles know it), The Film Society of Lincoln Center is <a href="http://filmlinc.com/wrt/onsale/ericrohmer/programg.html">screening many of writer-director Eric Rohmer's films</a>. Rohmer, who died earlier this year at 89, directed over 50 films. While his "Six Moral Tales" films, like <em>My Night at Maud's</em>, <em>Claire's Knee</em> and <em>Chloe in the Afternoon</em>, are best known, and his 1990s "Tale of Four Seasons" quartet are among his most highly regarded recent films, we're most fond of his 1980s "Comedies and Proverbs," six films covering the flirtations of hopeful young people (<em><a href="http://filmlinc.com/wrt/onsale/ericrohmer/paulineatthebeach.html">Pauline at the Beach</a></em>, <a href="http://filmlinc.com/wrt/onsale/ericrohmer/summer.html"><em>Summer</em></a> and <em><a href="http://filmlinc.com/wrt/onsale/ericrohmer/boyfriendsandgirlfriends.html">Boyfriends and Girlfriends</a></em> are favorites). Another recommendation, for romantics, is the 1995 film <em>Rendezvous in Paris</em> (there's a <a href="http://filmlinc.com/wrt/onsale/ericrohmer/rendezvousinparis.html">screening on Sunday</a>), three films about would-be lovers.</p>