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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Sex Drive,’ ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,’ ‘W.,’ ‘Max Payne,’ ‘What Just Happened,’ ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’

I was sorta dreading Sex Drive (opens wide in the U.S. October 17; opens in the U.K. January 9, 2009) — which is about a high school student who drives across the country to have sex with a woman he only knows from the Internet — until I discovered that it’s the first big film from Sean Anders, who made the wickedly spot-on mockumentary NBT: Never Been Thawed, about the little-known subculture of people who collect vintage frozen dinners. Sure, plenty of smart indie filmmakers have been seduced by Hollywood into churning out crap, but a gal can hope, can’t she? Also: Seth Green is in this, and he’s always fun to watch.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (now playing in the U.K.; opens limited in the U.S. November 7) looks like Harry Potter Goes to the Holocaust: a little boy has an adventure that reveals to him a secret world of genocide and terror and all-encompassing evil. Oh yeah: and his dad’s a Nazi bastard. Yikes.

I’m gonna miss the only press screenings of W. (opens wide in the U.S. October 17; opens in the U.K. November 7) on Wednesday (I’ll be driving up to Boston for the Princess Bride event I mentioned a few days ago), but I plan to check it out on Friday, when it debuts in theaters. I absolutely love that the ads for the film make a point of saying that it’s “based on a true story,” because who would believe it otherwise?

I’m also gonna miss, on Wednesday, the only press screenings of Max Payne (opens wide in the U.S. October 17; opens in the U.K. November 14), which looks pretty cool. Hopefully that will turn out to be the case. I’ll catch that on Friday as well.

Mainstream audiences don’t typically go for Hollywood satires, but I do, so I’m looking forward to What Just Happened (opens limited in the U.S. October 17, expands October 31; opens in the U.K. November 21). Awesome cast, too: Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Stanly Tucci, Catherine Keener, Sean Penn, and Robin Wright Penn. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven director Barry Levinson yet for the abominably chickenshit Man of the Year, but I’m willing to give him another chance.

Gonna catch up with Simon Pegg’s latest, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (now playing in the U.S. and the U.K.), this week, too. Not just cuz I love Pegg, but because I’m intrigued by a film that can do so well on one side of the Atlantic, and so poorly on the other.



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