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Wednesday, September 30,2009

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey
Capitalism: A Love Story. In case you forgot about how, in spite of widespread public disapproval, the banks responsible for America’s biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression bilked over $700 billion from the government on top of the billions they stole on "exotic" loan instruments, Michael Moore is here to remind you. Since making "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Sicko," Moore has polished his humanist vehicle of cinematic political agitprop to a sheen with an entertaining, touching and informative movie that’s worth repeated viewings. Going straight for the jugular of free-market capitalism, Moore visits with teens illegally sent to an outsourced detention center in Pennsylvania, talks to underpaid commercial airline pilots and visits with people being forcibly removed from their homes in America’s foreclosure nightmare. But he really goes for the gusto of fitfully equating democracy with socialism when he visits companies where every employee owns an equal share, and then shifts gears to explore how companies like Wal- Mart profit on the deaths of employees that the company secretly takes out large life insurance policies on. Moore ends the film by saying, "I refuse to live in a country like this, and I’m not leaving." Take your friends to see this essential document of our times, and talk about it so others can hear you. Rated R. 117 mins. (A)

Surrogates. Based on Robert Venditti’s graphic novel, "Surrogates" is a disappointing sci-fi movie that includes a few energetic chase sequences.Gamers may take a better liking since its premise is based on 1 billion surrogate people interacting socially, and anti-socially, as the physical embodiment of the home-bound "meatbag" (human) wearing headset glasses to experience his or her surrogate in action in the outside world. Richard Marvin’s music feels temporary, waiting to be replaced by compositions written specifically for the film. The dialogue is bland, and the action spotty in a truncated story about Bruce Willis’s Thomas Greer, a family man attempting to investigate a rare murder. Radha Mitchell does a lot with a little as Greer’s cohort Jennifer Peters. Jennifer is a surrogate, and is the cause of much dramatic action entailing some shoddy special effects and silly plot points. "Surrogates" could serve as the seed for a great sci-fi satire that a director like Paul Verhoeven could succeed with, given the ability to rewrite the screenplay. There are some sci-fi pleasures of visual appeal to be had, but it’s tough getting past director Jonathan Mostow’s wet noodle brand of storytelling. Rated PG-13. 104 mins. (C-)


Jennifer’s Body. Director Karyn Kusama ("Girlfight") follows up her disastrous last movie (2005’s "Aeon Flux") with a less damaging career misstep in the guise of a winky teen horror movie written by Diablo Cody ("Juno"). Megan Fox shows off the ugly side of her exaggerated beauty as high school hottie Jennifer, who spews snappy slang barbs like so many plucked hairs from her perfect eyebrows. Slutty Jennifer plays dom to her submissive best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried), who carries on a sexually active relationship with her loyal boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons). Jennifer’s salty taste for sexual adventure meets its match, when she goes off with a visiting rock band. Believing Jennifer to be a virgin, the Satanworshipping group takes her into the woods and performs a bloody sacrifice that transforms Jen into a ravenous cannibal vampire. Punctuated by gory episodes, but lacking in suspense and surprise, "Jennifer’s Body" works more as a teen sex endorsement ad for hormone-raging audiences to copy their on-screen peers. When Jennifer tells her teen boy victim about the tremendous "wettie" he gives her, it’s a textbook definition of "guilty pleasure." Rated R. 101 mins. (C)


The Informant. Director Steven Soderbergh has loads of fun with a perky musical score (courtesy of Marvin Hamlisch) and jaunty ’70s-era visual hat-tips in this movie, but the filmmaker is unable to tease out substance from this off-key, one-note samba. Habitual Corporate liar Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is an ambitious biochemist who adds to his growing collection of sports cars by bilking huge amounts of money from his employer, Archer Daniels Midland. He covers his tracks by playing two ends against the middle, in this case the FBI versus his bosses at ADM. Because every word Mark speaks is a lie, there’s no use trying to follow the story for any cogent sense of substantive meaning. "The Informant!" is all tone, style and irony at the exclusion of the story. Satire is not a good genre for Soderbergh. (Warner Bros. Pictures) Rated R. 108 mins. (C-)


Sorority Row. Worse even that its insipid script (written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger) is Elliot Greenberg’s editing of a meandering slasher pic notable only for the number of nubile bare breasts it manages to fit into nearly every other scene. The movie sets up a batch of wrongheaded sorority girls who scheme to punk frat boy Garrett (Matt O’Leary), making bedroom moves on Megan (Audriuna Partridge) after giving her a roofie at a party. Megan barfs foam and seems to die, after which leader Jessica (Leah Pipes) takes Megan, Garrett and her gang to an abandoned mine shaft to prolong Garrett’s freak-out. In his panic, Garrett does retire Megan with a tire iron. The chicks drop Megan’s body down a well and go back to living a 24/7 party until a shrouded figure starts knocking off related kids and adults alike. I wish I could say that there was one redeeming reason to see this movie, but there isn’t. Rated R. 101 mins. (D)


9. This extended version of Shane Acker’s Oscarnominated 11-minute animated student short follows a group of retro "stitchpunk" doll characters that have numbers instead of names. Elijah Wood voices title character 9, who bumbles around a post-apocalyptic World War II-era bombed-out European landscape, where most of the humans have been killed off in a huge war where machines took over. Accompanied by his shrinking group of fellow oppressed creatures, 9 launches a mission to attack the "Great" machine, which seems to embody the monster of industrial capitalism to which his genius creator contributed. The film’s overblown chase plot never makes its thematic perspective clear. Acker’s visual devices fall flat due to a lack of empathetic context for the creatures, who come off as soulless. Tim Burton and Russian visionary Timur Bekmambetov take producing credits for a movie your kids won’t get and you won’t enjoy. (Focus Features) Rated PG-13. 81 mins. (C-)

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