Films Review September

CHANGING LANES (R)

Ever have one of those days. You know, one that begins in the toilet and only gets worse as the day drags on? That’s what happens to Wall Street lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and insurance salesman Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson).


Two diversely different men whose mid-morning collision on the FDR Expressway in New York is about to turn them into the same animal. Prepare to brake for director Roger Michell’s “Changing Lanes,” a riveting dichotomy about how indifference can turn rational men into monsters. Please click on title for complete review. (Paramount)

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (PG-13)

In 1814, just off the coast of Elba, shipmates and best friends Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel) and Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) help escort their ailing captain to shore seeking help. Even though their captain dies, Dantes and Mondego get to meet exiled French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who asks Dantes to secretly deliver a confidential letter for him. Believing that he is doing the Emperor an innocent favor, Dantes agrees, never once thinking that his simple gesture of returned kindness would lead to his downfall, or that his best friend would be the one who would betray him. Please click on title for complete review. (Touchstone)

CQ (R)

Ah, the sweet joys of nepotism. How nice to be the offspring of a famous director. I was lucky if my parents could afford a roll of Super 8 film was I was young. I imagine the biggest worry in the Francis Ford Coppola household was whether the kids could get three instead of two Pana-Flex cameras for their home movie. Enough ranting and raving. I really admired daughter Sofia’s “The Virgin Suicides,” a tough little film to make and take, but I wasn’t nearly as thrilled with son Roman’s quasi-comedy about a student director working as an editor on a film shooting in Paris. Set in 1969, “C.Q.” features a film within a film, with Gerard Depardieu playing an idealistic director making a futuristic spy thriller named “Dragonfly.” The time frame is important because Coppola and company are spoofing 60’s films like “Barbarella.” Jeremy Davis plays the editor, who is recruited by the producer to finish the film, even though he has no idea how it ends. Coppola obviously has the clout to recruit major players, but he gives them very little to do once the initial premise is set up. The script shows promise, but it’s a promise the director can’t keep. The cast looks lost, almost as if looking for some sort of direction and getting none. (MGM)

GREEN DRAGON (PG-13)

Touching, brave and inspired drama about what happens to a group of Vietnamese refugees when they are deposited into a makeshift tent city at Camp Pendleton. Set in 1975, the film, written and directed by Timothy Linh Bui, whose brother Tony co-wrote the story and directed the thoughtful “Three Seasons,” “Green Dragon” is another example of a great film that slipped through the cracks. You immediately appreciate Bui’s point of view, drawing us into a real experience instead of a Hollywood recreation. Like New York, there are a million stories inside the makeshift city, and while Bui is extremely selective with his focus, the central characters manage speak for everyone. Don Duong is excellent as Tai, a refugee who has arrived with his nephew, a young boy who befriends the camp cook (Forrest Whitaker), while Patrick Swayze is appropriately stern but compassionate as the camp manager. I liked this film a lot, which has the guts to use Vietnamese language with subtitles when it’s appropriate. (Columbia-TriStar)

THE SALTON SEA (R)

A wild ride from the first frame to the last, this nasty little slice of film noir came and went so fast during its theatrical run that I doubt audiences even knew it was playing. Too bad, because they missed a film that literally blows the doors off the theater, a fast-paced, quirky, dark and dirty crime drama where nothing is what it seems. Director DJ Caruso has recruited a terrific cast to tell writer Tony Gayton’s tale of a drug addicted trumpet player trying to figure out which of his two identities really belongs to him. His search takes him through a maze of eccentric, violent characters, including a rather creepy character named Pooh Bear (Vincent D’Onofrio, totally unrecognizable) who looks like he stepped out of the dungeon in “Pulp Fiction.” The closer Danny Parker/Tom Van Allen (Kilmer) gets to the truth, the worse his situation becomes. The entire cast is in tune with Caruso’s vision, while Gayton’s script is filled with numerous plot twists and vivid flashbacks. The perfect film for anyone looking for a stylish albeit violent crime thriller that actually thrills. (Warner)

SON OF THE BRIDE (R)

This Academy Award-nominated best Foreign Language film from Argentine director Juan Jose Campanella is a warm, winning story of love and redemption. Ricardo Darin (so good in “Nine Queens”) is excellent as Rafael Belvedere, a 42 year-old-man who knows that life is passing him by. Despite taking over his parents’ restaurant and making it a success, Rafael has very little reason to celebrate. His mother, the remarkable Norma Aleandro (“Official Story”), is slipping into the ravages of Alzheimer’s. The economy sucks, and business is bad. He’s divorced, and has become a stranger to his daughter, while the latest woman in his life wants a commitment. How much can one man take, and what would it take to get him back on track? Desperate to crawl out from under his father’s shadow, Rafael agrees to help his old man throw together a church wedding for his wife, who always wanted and never got one. As Rafael struggles with his life, director Campanella never feels compelled to turn his dilemma into a soap opera. Instead, he allows us to become the fly on the wall, privately watching the characters explore their lives and emotions. You will be enchanted by the performances and appreciate the sweet nature of the story. (Columbia-TriStar)



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