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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Untraceable,’ ‘First Sunday,’ ‘Teeth,’ ‘City of Men,’ ‘Mad Money,’ ‘Caramel,’ ‘Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show,’ ‘Chop Shop,’ ‘The Air I Breathe,’ ‘In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Sie

I thought things were gonna settle down in January, but it looks like I’m not gonna get a break: I’ve got nine screenings scheduled for this week, plus a possible not-screened-for-critics multiplex showing when that movie opens on Friday. There’s just too many damned movies opening. I mean, I love movies, obviously, but if I can’t keep up, how can anyone else?

Poor Diane Lane. No one knows what to do with her combination of brains and beauty and grown-up-ed-ness. In Untraceable [opens wide January 25], she’s stuck in a standard lady-cop-in-danger flick, which looks like it wants to be all Silence of the Lambs and will be, I suspect, rather less than that… though director Gregory Hoblit did make 2002’s Hart’s War, which is pretty good in a pulpy B-movie kinda way.

I’m loading up on misery-putting-outing bullets for First Sunday [opens wide January 11]. I thought it was gonna be about football, which would have been bad enough — I’m interested in pretty much everything in the world except football — but then I saw a trailer, and saw yet another example of black actors debasing themselves in a minstrel show. I wish audiences –black, white, purple, whatever — would demand just a little more from Hollywood, instead of flocking to this shit.

I had originally planned to see the horror comedy Teeth [opens limited January 18] before Christmas, but I had put it off as less than pressing at that time. Now I’m psyched for what I hope will be a powerful feminist knockdown of the fear some men have of women’s sexuality, and one girl’s chance to strike back at it.

City of Men [opens limited February 29] is another one I had scheduled a screening of a few weeks back, and had to cancel. Now that 2007’s movies are out of the way, I’ll finally have time for it.

Mad Money [opens wide January 18] has been a long time coming from Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri… though she’s also responsible for the unintentional feminine horror story Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes work in tandem to rob a bank, or something. If there’s one single reference to them synchronizing their periods, I’m going on a shooting spree.

Speaking of Queen Latifah, Caramel [opens limited February 1] is Beauty Shop in Lebanon, as far as I can see. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I love Vince Vaughn. I’m sorry. So of course I’m looking forward to Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights — From Hollywood to the Heartland [opens limited February 8], in which he gathers together some standup comics and takes ’em on the road to make people laugh all over the country. I hope they make me laugh.

Chop Shop [opens limited February 27] is the second film from Ramin Bahrani, who made the exquisitely beautiful Man Push Cart, which is enough to recommend it to me. It’s set in a Queens, New York, neighborhood that sounds like nothing that’s been seen on the screen before, and may shock those who think New York City is all tourist traps and Fifth Avenue boutiques.

An awesome cast populates The Air I Breathe [opens limited January 25]: Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Forest Whitaker, Andy Garcia, Emile Hirsch, Julie Delpy… I dunno much about it, except that it’s based on a Chinese proverb, so it’ll either be deep and profound or it’ll be a fortune cookie.

The one that won’t be screened for critics? In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale [opens wide January 11], which I may have to see anyway, because I can always use a good laugh. First of all, it’s from Uwe Boll, who holds critics in such contempt that he has challenged any and all of us to boxing matches. Second, it stars Jason Statham as a medieval action hero dude, which is hilarious, and not only because mockney accents slightly postdate the Black Death. Third, that’s not even the funniest casting: Ray Liotta stars as ye olde medieval evil sorcerer. Ray Liotta. I… just… I’m speechless. How can I not see this? Oh my god: it’s like Lord of the Rings as produced by a high school drama club:

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  • the rook

    In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is based on a video game.

    i challenge anyone to show a movie based on a video game that was good. successful perhaps at making money but good? nope.

  • MaryAnn

    Maybe, but this one should be especially bad, not because it’s based on a video game, but because it’s from Uwe Boll.

  • Jurgan

    I thought the first Mortal Kombat movie was really good. Other than that, I have trouble. I guess I kind of liked Resident Evil, but I’m clearly in the minority on that one, and I haven’t seen it in some time, so my opinion may have changed.

    Untraceable: this could be really good or really bad. When I watch the preview, I start out thinking it’ll be a great movie. The killwithme website looks like a clever satire of our obsession with watching others suffer violently. It could be a criticism of all the Hostel torture porn movies, in addition to the way crime news is sensationalized. As soon as Diane Lane starts getting threatening messages, though, it seemed to fall apart. And then when the creepy synthesized voice starts coming out of the radio with the “Hello Clarice” message, and the guy pops up in her back seat… I couldn’t believe my eyes. Would someone really use such an old urban legend in 2008? It really looked like two different movies: a clever satire on violence and a stupid B slasher movie.

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