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Stop-motion animation virtuoso Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) releases his long-gestating movie Coraline this weekend. Adapted from a book by Neil Gaiman (The Sandman), Coraline tells the story of a lonely, inquisitive girl who finds creepy trouble behind a forgotten doorway in her drafty old house, which leads into a seemingly better version of her current, dreary home. (Emphasis on seemingly.)
Get your canned excuses ready, fellas, because He's Just Not That Into You opens today, and you do not want to get stuck taking your girlfriends to this. Even women agree! Here's the Observer's Sara Vilkomerson, who was "really looking forward" to seeing it: "How can I explain the feeling of rage that had me white-knuckling my armrest by the end of Heâs Just Not That Into You? Unlike the best of romantic comediesâthe ones that send you swooning home with thoughts of first kisses and your own private montage of slo-mo paint fights in your first shared apartment, chasing lobsters or dragging a Christmas tree down a West Village cobblestoned street (somebody cue up âBaby, Itâs Cold Outsideâ!)âthis movie honestly made me never want to date again. It kind of made me not want to be a woman! Wait, scratch that. It kind of made me not want to be a member of the entire human race."
Absurdistan is an "allegorical comedy" set in a water-starved village where two childhood sweethearts, Aya and Temelko, await the date (foretold by Aya's grandmother) that a perfect celestial alignment will bless their first night of love. An intrepid inventor, Temelko plans to repair the aging water pipe, but the older men scoff at his designs. Then the women take matters into their own hands and declare a strike: No water, no sex. Ha? Not so much, apparently. It won some praise at Sundance last year, but the Hollywood Reporter says it "stretches a thin premise to feature length."
Good grief, Pink Panther 2. Why can't Steve Martin stick to novels and banjo playing? Oh right, he's got to feed the monkey that is his extensive art collection. The paycheck this time comes with John Cleese and Emily Mortimer, but is it worth adding another Hopper to Martin's stash? Christopher Orr at the New Republic thinks not: "If half-hearted remakes of fondly remembered films (and their still more lifeless sequels) are one of the most acute ills currently plaguing Hollywood, Martin is arguably the primary vector by which the malady is transmitted: Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride 2; Cheaper by the Dozen and Cheaper by the Dozen 2; The Pink Panther and The Pink Panther 2. His remake of Topper is already slated for next year, presumably dragging another sequel (Toppest?) in its wake. And then, who knows? A wan echo of Harvey? Bringing Up Baby 2: Too Many Leopards? The mind reels. The stomach churns."
Set in Hong Kong, Push concerns a shadowy government agency called the Division that's genetically transforming citizens into an army of psychic warriors and brutally disposing of those unwilling to participate. Only a clairvoyant Dakota Fanning and a telekinetic Chris Evans can stop them! The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris says, "Push is that rare humans-with-superpowers movie where the powers are contagious. It made me feel psychic. Suddenly I found myself able to predict what Dakota Fanning would say next, and where Chris Evans would put his hands... This flaccid bid for franchisehood suffers from woeful judgment...The film doesn't hail from a comic-book series or graphic novel but from a screenwriter (David Bourla) whose imagination seems full of such things. It's Heroes: The Movie, minus the energy. Not much of it makes sense. The rest isn't terribly interesting."
The long-delayed Fan Boys is about a group of Star Wars nerds who take a road trip to California with the intent to sneak into George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut of Episode I: The Phantom Menace before its release. Neil Genzlinger at the Times says, "The film doesnât have the boosters, or thrusters, or whatever, to elevate it to more ambitious heights; itâs weighed down by tired conventions and a general sense of having missed its moment. The plot device of young men who refuse to mature has never felt more exhausted, maybe because these actors or ones who look like them have already done this shtick in other movies."
Filmed over the course of a year in NYC, Chiara Clemente's documentary Our City Dreams peers into the life and work of five female artists: Nancy Spero, Kiki Smith, Swoon, Ghada Amer, and Marina Abramovic. The Onion's Noel Murray says the film "finds the myriad dimensions in a simple concept. While most documentaries about the New York art world look for defining figures and unifying threads, Our City Dreams acknowledges that in a metropolis, the artists can be as varied as the neighborhoods they inhabit.
Poet, archivist, Lithuanian emigre, and structural filmmaking pioneer Jonas Mekas spent much of 1990 and 1991 glued to his television as his Baltic homeland declared its independence and joined the United Nations. His new film, Lithuania and the Collapse of the USSR, is comprised almost entirely of TV news footage videotaped by Mekas of the screen as he watched it.
When NYC guitarist and songwriter Jason Crigler had a near-fatal brain hemorrhage at the age of 34 during a concert in Manhattan, the doctors told Jason's family that he would be in a permanent vegetative state if he made it through the night. The documentary Life. Support. Music. tells the story of how his then-pregnant wife refused to despair and helped nurse Crigler back from the brink. Jeannette Catsoulis at the Times says, "If you can get past the excruciating title, with its forced uplift and intimation of immobility, Life. Support. Music. is a blessedly nimble journey from loss to reclamation.
2009's ten Oscar nominated short films (live action and animation) are currently screening at IFC. The Village Voice's Tim Grierson warns, "Don't expect all 10 entries to be mini-masterpieces. Nonetheless, there's some lovely artistry to be found... The live-action selections largely reject tight narrative to engage in meditations on guilt, cultural differences, and aging... The animation nominees are a battle between the deeply personal and the playfully freewheeling...Japan's La Maison en petits cubes (pictured) follows an aging man whose towering house is being consumed by a flood, forcing him to enter the submerged floors and confront the memories held within them. A heartbreaking treatise on the inescapable clutter of life, this film is one of the most modest in this entire series, but, in terms of emotional resonance, it's among the best."
Right on cue is Film Forum's "Breadlines & Champagne," a four week festival spotlighting Depression-era films ranging from screwball comedies to more "socially-conscious" fare. J. Hoberman at the Village Voice has a comprehensive monograph on the series. Most screenings are double features, but not tonight; the program kicks off with the 1933 film I'm No Angel (pictured), in which Mae West "tames a den of lions, an all-male jury, and socialite Cary Grant, in the supremely Pre-Code picture that scandalized the Legion of Decency."
Sunshine has the New York premiere of martial arts flick Chocolate at midnight this weekend. The Times's Nathan Lane writes, "Chocolate is dedicated to 'the unconditional love given to all the special children in the world,' which is a cheeky way to kick off a movie about a little girl [named Zen] with a gift, very special indeed, for kicking grown men in the face...Risibly sentimental even for a genre not known for its emotional sophistication, Chocolate follows Zen as she collects on debts owed her ailing mother in order to pay for medical care. (You hope her targets have paid up their own premiums.) All of which is pretext â barely â for a series of unexceptional brawls."
Filmmaker Grant Gee, who made the weirdly engrossing Radiohead documentary Meeting People is Easy, directed this documentary about another English band known for a bit of a dreary streak: Joy Division. Featuring the unprecedented participation of all the surviving band members, Joy Division tells the band's story through never-before-seen live performance footage, personal photos, period films and newly discovered audiotapes. In an interview with Spinner, Gee says he was "surprised at how candid and forthcoming" the band was with him. IFC is screening it at midnight this weekend.