The trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua was a thing of wonder, with a small army of dogs rapping in a spectacular Mayan Busby Berkeley chorus number. But cuidado: the finished product, which features Cheech Marin and Luis Guzman voicing Latino stereotypes for mucho dinero, has no rapping! The Detroit News says it's "not the apocalypse-signaling, cultural abomination its trailers make it out to be. The bad news: That's pretty much the best thing that can be said about it." Or as Kyle Smith at the Post puts it: "The film is Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The audience is the fire hydrant."
Jonathan Demme has assembled an appealing ensemble—Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger, Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio!)—for Rachel Getting Married, in which Hathaway plays a problem child on furlough from rehab for her sister's wedding. The Times's A.O. Scott writes, "The wonderful thing about Rachel Getting Married is how expansive it seems, in spite of the limits of its scope and the modesty of its ambitions. It’s a small movie, and in some ways a very sad one, but it has an undeniable and authentic vitality, an exuberance of spirit, that feels welcome and rare."
Then there's Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, which features Michael Cera and Kat Dennings finding romance against the backdrop of New York's indie rock scene. Or Hollywood's idea of it, anyway. Robert Wilonsky at the Village Voice says it "plays like something crafted in a lab by 54-year-old hucksters trying to sell shit to the kids under the cheerless guise of 'alternative.' The only thing it's an alternative to? Good."
Director Lance Hammer rehearsed with his non-professional actors for four months before shooting Ballast, which explores the impact of one man's suicide in a dirt poor Mississippi town. We saw the preview at Film Forum, and it looks phenomenal. The Times's Manohla Dargis calls it"a serious achievement and a welcome sign of a newly invigorated American independent cinema." And Dargis has a survey of the New York Film Festival in today's Times.
There's also Religulous, Bill Maher's satirical send-up of organized religion. The Washingon Post says Maher "doesn't understand that some thoughtful people actually do believe in some sort of spiritual life." And in Blindess, a stellar ensemble—Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal—gets exiled during a freak outbreak of contagious blindness. Andy Kaufman at the Voice says it "unveils its apocalyptic scenario with visceral intensity, but lacks the emotional sophistication to rise above schadenfreude kicks."
Midnight movies this weekend are Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Sunshine and Alejandro Jodorowsky's hallucinatory El Topo, screening once again at IFC Center.