dir. Shawn LevyThere wasn't a press screening for Just Married, the new film starring That '70s Show crotchthrob Ashton Kutcher, but, like, so what? Rumored to be a romantic comedy about a blue-collar "late night traffic reporter," whatever the hell that is, who marries a girl from an insanely wealthy family that disapproves of the match, one viewing of the trailer for Just Married renders this film utterly critic-proof. How so? Well, in the beginning of the trailer, Ashton Kutcher is shirtless! (His arm is draped around a woman but, hey, no film is perfect.) More importantly, toward the end of the trailer, the 6' 3," shaggy-haired MAN OF MY FUCKING WET DREAMS runs around a hotel room brandishing a fireplace poker and wearing nothing but his underpants. Sigh. (Kutcher can also be seen on the film's posters wearing an awful lot of peach lip-gloss.) I don't know about the rest of the fags in the United States, but this fag is going to be camping out in front of the theater the night before this amazing, brilliant, comedy-hit-of-the-year, thumbs-up-way-up masterpiece opens this Friday.
Oh, and for all you straight boys out there, there's some girl in this flick named Brenda Murphy or Brittany Smurfy or Mrs. O'Leary or something. She's supposedly pretty hot, according to the straight boys here at the office. Unfortunately for the straight boys, this Murphy girl does not--repeat, DOES NOT--appear shirtless or in her underpants in Just Married. Thanks to the complete and total homosexualization of American popular culture, it's men's bodies that are on display in teen sex comedies these days, so gay boys can go to the movies for their soft-core porn and the straight boys have to shoplift (or download) theirs. God bless America! DAN SAVAGE
Fight to the Max
dir. Simeon Soffer
Thurs-Sun Jan 9-12 at the Little Theatre.After a month-long series of documentaries devoted to hating on consumer culture, and a killer program about "The Futility of War" on the horizon (keep your eyes peeled for Duck Soup!), the Northwest Film Forum now turns its attention to the U.S. prison system with "Scars and Bars," a two-week run of two documentaries at the Little Theatre. I haven't seen The Farm: Angola, USA, but Fight to the Max is essential viewing for anyone who even pretends to still care about the word "liberal."
Despite its awkward title and a cinematographic tendency toward Bruce Weber-style homoerotic black-body fetishism, Fight is an amazingly uplifting story about prison boxing and the ways it gives convicts not only an outlet for aggression, but a vehicle for the order and reason absent from the rest of their penitentiary regimen (to say nothing of their lives outside). Through boxing, the prisoners (all of them black) begin to feel of some use, not just to the world around them, but to themselves. And as they grow in self-discipline, they are entrusted with incremental doses of trust from their guards and wardens. Pride and passion for life ensue. It's not to be forgotten that these men are violent criminals (armed robbers, drug dealers, kidnappers, rapists, murderers) or that the sport they're being redeemed by is, on its best nights, a monstrous exhibition of swift-footed brutality. What Fight makes plain, however, is that the men are men first--some witty, literate, and charming--and that the violence inside them is crying out for a channel. Boxing in prison is the best and perhaps only way to ensure that channel is defined by a respect for rules.
The film's most harrowing moment comes not in the climactic tournament, but during the training, when one fighter lies on a mat while his trainer stands above him, hurling a medicine ball against the boxer's impossibly ripped abdomen again and again. Every time the ball comes down, the fighter crunches, then heaves a breath, and shouts, "Bring it!" And the trainer brings it. And the fighter asks for more. SEAN NELSON
dir. Spike LeeWe spend the first half of 25th Hour trying to figure out who turned in heroin dealer Ed Norton. Is it his girlfriend? One of his two best friends? Could it be his father? Then all of a sudden we're not in that movie at all. The mystery is solved summarily, and we're left with nearly another hour to go and not a single three-dimensional character to fill it with.
There's no problem with the actors. Norton is as capable an antihero as his generation provides. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as one of the friends, and Brian Cox, as Norton's father, are among our greatest actors. If Hoffman descends to strangulated shtick in the absence of a script, I for one feel grateful. Cox performs the even greater service of acting in thin air, making a character seem like a real person trapped inside a stereotype. Actors, however, don't get to write their own lines.
No Spike Lee film is without its rewards. The 9/11 material in the movie sits there like a big, undigested lump of suet, which seems appropriate. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros) provides eye candy. Norton has a mirror sequence that's sure to join Robert De Niro's "You lookin' at me?" as the subject of endless impersonation. But I was disappointed to be wondering about such standard movie fodder.
All in all, 25th Hour is no train wreck; it's more like the collapse of a rickety little scooter. BARLEY BLAIR