Bad Education, Sons of Provo, The Wedding Date ... | Film & TV | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Bad Education, Sons of Provo, The Wedding Date ... 

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Information is correct at press time. Film release schedules are subject to change.

Bad Education ***

Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her) again travels down the road of unconventional sexuality, but his usual puckish humor gives way to something slightly angrier. Layers of flashback wind through this story in which successful film director Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez) considers a script presented by Ángel (Gael García Bernal), who has a link to Enrique’s past. A tale unfolds of a gay experimentation in a Spanish Catholic boys’ school, and a priest (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who abuses his position. But while there’s an edge in Almodóvar’s voice this time around, this is more than another screed against pederast priests. It’s more a twisted story of lost love, with Bernal—playing Ángel’s drag-queen alter-ego to the hilt—solidifying his status as a pretty boy with versatile acting chops. The convoluted plot line takes perhaps one too many twists and turns through its layers of artifice, but those distinctive Almodóvar touches—a character casually removing a pubic hair from his mouth after an intimate act—keep shining through. It’s another fresh, distinctive effort from the Spanish auteur, even though he seems more comfortable when he’s winking than when he’s frowning. Opens Feb. 4 at Tower Theatre. (R)—Scott Renshaw


[not yet reviewed]

A man (Barry Watson) returns to the home where a terrifying entity haunted his childhood bedroom—older brother noogies! Opens Feb. 4 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Sons of Provo ***

It’s never wise for a movie to court comparisons to This Is Spinal Tap. This would seem especially true of Mormon comedies, which to date have produced roughly as many belly laughs as the Asian tsunami. But danged if Sons of Provo doesn’t slip a few smiles and giggles past even skeptical gentiles. It tracks the rise and fall of Mormon “boy band” Everclean—devoted to spreading the gospel through pop music and choreography—by following members Will (co-writer/director Will Swenson), Danny (Danny Tarasevich) and Kirby (Kirby Heyborne) through power struggles and bad gigs. Not surprisingly, the earnestly “spiritual” songs by Swenson, co-writer Peter D. Brown and Jenny Jordan Frogley provide many of the comic highlights. But there are also disarming little bits of business, like a meeting constantly interrupted by an extinguishing garage door light. No one’s pretending this isn’t an attempt at an LDS Tap—one character is named Tufnel, fercrimenysakes—which helps a little through the overly familiar equipment malfunctions and egomaniacal posings. It’s a flimsy approximation of the real thing, but more Mormon comedies could stand to Tap into Provo’s genuinely funny jokes. Opens Feb. 4 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—SR

Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation 2005

[not reviewed]

Twenty-three brand-new shorts! Fun for the whole family! Er, maybe not the whole family. Opens Feb. 4 at Brewvies Cinema Pub. (NR)

The Wedding Date *

Hooray! Now all those women who had their sense of sexuality perverted by the “fairy tale” of Pretty Woman have the perfect fantasy movie cure for their messed-up love lives: Why wait for a man to come along and purchase you, when you can buy him instead! In this bizarrely “romantic” and absurdly sentimental “comedy,” Debra Messing—a nightmarish golem-creature who embodies all the worst stereotypes of modern femininity—hires an escort for her to her sister’s days-long wedding. Pain and suffering ensue. Oh, not the abject humiliation Messing’s overgrown little girl is subjected to at the hands of her horrible family—that’s meant to be funny—but rather on the audience’s part, required as they are to endure such things as a lovers’ tiff over paying for sex. Because, as is required by the complete remove from reality that is virtually demanded by idiotic Hollywood movies, Messing and her hired sex slave fall in love, even though he’s the charisma-bereft Dermot Mulroney. Measure it up against only other idiotic Hollywood movies, and the result is still the same: This is icky, icky, icky. Opens Feb. 4 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—MaryAnn Johanson

The Woodsman ***

See review p. 46. Opens Feb. 4 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)


Black Girl/Borom Sarret

At U of U Film Front Series, Feb. 6, 7 p.m. (NR)

Cold Mountain

At Broadway Centre Cinemas, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m. (R)

Hibiscus Town

At Bountiful/Davis Art Center, Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m. (NR)

Lackawanna Blues

At Broadway Centre Cinemas, Feb. 3, 7 p.m. (NR)


At Park City Film Series, Feb. 4-5 @ 8 p.m. & Feb. 6 @ 6 p.m. (R)

A Summer in La Goulette

At Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Feb. 9, 6 p.m. (NR)


At Tower Theatre Midnight Movies, Feb. 4-5. (R)

This Divided State

At UVSC Ragan Theatre, Feb. 3, 8 p.m. (NR)

Works from Along the Wasatch Front

At Utah Film & Video Center, Feb. 4, 8 p.m. (NR)


Alone in the Dark [Zero Stars]

Overblown dialogue, hammy overacting, jaw-dropping incoherence: those are its good points. There’s no way you could make a movie this awful deliberately—there’s a kind of clueless, misguided sincerity here that is unfakeable. Movies this hilariously insane happen by pure dumb luck, emphasis on “dumb.” Alone pretends to have a plot, one that features a feral-looking Christian Slater as a paranormal investigator and Tara Reid as an archaeologist and a museum curator (which is like casting Paris Hilton as Secretary-General of the U.N. and a cancer-research Ph.D., only funnier). Slater and Reid chase after ancient Indian artifacts, which gives Reid a chance to phonetically sound out lines with big archaemological-type words in them; meanwhile, some sort of ripoff-Alien creatures are running around eating people. I’ll call this an instant classic of cheeseball cinema, but only if you promise not to take that as a reason to actually see it. (R)—MAJ

Are We There Yet? [Zero Stars]

It’s artificial sentimental claptrap mixed with ethnic and gender stereotypes, crotch injuries and inappropriately aggressive herbivores—it’s heartwarming and it’s asinine! Ice Cube “stars” as Nick, a misanthropic 30-something bachelor; the shamelessly manipulative single mom he’s chasing (Nia Long) commandeers Nick’s new SUV as a taxi for her horrible kids, and he lets himself be led around by the appendage he’s hoping Mom will start paying attention to. The joke about America’s new propensity for torturing prisoners of war is a new low, but a brief one. Worse is the movie’s wallowing in the symbolic castration of Nick—the kids demolish his 6000-pound-penis-extender Lincoln Navigator on a long road trip—as a prerequisite to his learning how to be a family man. It’s enough to drain all the joy from seeing a militantly macho piece of machinery like an SUV get destroyed. (PG-13)—MAJ

Assault on Precinct 13 *

Hopefully, John Carpenter banked a nice chunk of change for letting this shoddy, contrived action movie swipe his title and the barest skeleton of his concept; potential new audiences for it may be turned off if they end up thinking the two movies have something in common besides a name. This is the kind of movie culture warriors look to when they complain that Hollywood has inured us to violence, not merely by depicting it but by playing the bloody, drawn-out deaths of human beings for laughs. Here, lawlessness is institutional and endemic even among Detroit’s police force, and Laurence Fishburne’s gangster and cop killer—with whom Ethan Hawke’s cop is forced to team up to defend his precinct house—is a thoughtful philosopher, practically the hero of the film. There is no morality here. There is only base practicality. (R)—MAJ

The Aviator ***

On a fundamental level, Martin Scorsese’s version of the life of Howard Hughes is nothing more than a series of snapshots of the oft-mythologized millionaire (Leonardo DiCaprio). But snapshots are never as kinetic or riveting as The Aviator manages to be at its best, even if the stretches between the best are bumpy. Covering the two decades of Hughes’ greatest influence, Scorsese creates several brilliant set pieces to accompany Cate Blanchett’s astonishing performance as Katharine Hepburn. He also can’t resist more distracting cameos—Jude Law as Errol Flynn, Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner—or avoid the problem of DiCaprio in a mustache still looking like a high school student play-acting at being a grown-up. Get past the filler and the stunt casting, and you’ve got vintage Scorsese visual riffs that get more out of a genius-turned-to-madness tragedy than standard biopic rhythms. (PG-13)—SR

Coach Carter **

It’s uplifting to hear about a man who believed academics are more important than sports, but the movie about that man seems to suggest exactly the opposite. This fact-based story casts Samuel L. Jackson as Ken Carter, who took over as boys’ basketball coach for academically-challenged Richmond (CA) High School in 1999, turned the losing program around—then benched his undefeated team for failing to meet strict standards for classroom performance. Director Thomas Carter knows his way around a hoops court, and the film addresses the community’s rough edges with refreshing honesty. But Coach Carter doesn’t trust its “books before ball” message, falling back on sports-movie cliches. That’s particularly inexcusable when the last half-hour focuses on a Big Game that takes place after the team members have already learned their most important lesson. By dragging the narrative out past its true, off-the-court climax, Coach Carter sends pandering mixed signals. (PG-13)—SR

Finding Neverland ****

Oh, this is a magical film, one that transports us not only to another, more delightful, place and time—a slightly idealized Edwardian England—but to within the vivid flights of fancy of a writer whose fantastical inventions of Neverland, Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Tinkerbell continue to mesmerize us a century after their debut. This isn’t the precisely true story of how J.M. Barrie was moved to write the play, but it does take its inspiration from reality. A perfectly cast Johnny Depp, as the writer and a man immersed in his own imagination, combines the exhilaration of a child at play with an adult melancholy that comes from being profoundly aware of the fleetingness of moments of unbound joy. And director Marc Forster, with a light, playful touch, gives us seamless transitions from reality to fantasy, seeing the world simultaneously through the eyes of both child and adult. (PG-13)—MAJ

Hide and Seek *

Who has pictures of Robert De Niro doing what, and does that mean we’re gonna get one of these hacktacular movies from him every year? And what is wrong with Dakota Fanning’s parents that they let her do a film that takes perverse pleasure in terrorizing her character for the audience’s entertainment? Eleven-year-old Emily’s (Fanning) imaginary friend ain’t so imaginary, we “discover” after 45 minutes of waiting for De Niro—as Emily’s father and perhaps moviedom’s least likely psychologist ever—to do something deranged. Because why else was De Niro cast and not someone Dad-like and possessing some of the warmth of an actual psychologist? I’m not saying for sure one way or the other whether De Niro does turn deranged, just that you can’t help but expect it from him. Just as, these days, you can’t help but suspect that any movie he appears in is going to be a ridiculous waste of time. (R)—MAJ

Hotel Rwanda ***

Don Cheadle—quick-witted, cerebral and wholesomely calculating—is an excellent choice to play a man whose ordinary goodness inspires him to extraordinary feats amid the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when nearly a million members of the Tutsi minority were killed. Hutu Paul Rusesabagina was a slick operator at an upscale hotel, until violence turned him into a protector of the oppressed amidst unimaginable atrocities. Unfortunately, audience members without a reasonable versing in the Rwanda horrors won’t understand the full impact of this moment when undermanned U.N. troops stood by, powerless to stop massacres that went mostly unnoticed outside the borders. Director Terry George points out the follies of the West, but his film largely is content to refer to the butchery in anecdotes and brief asides, without much visceral imagery. In taking the high road, George fails to evoke the lowest emotions that could have made for a truly unsettling film. (PG-13)—Greg Beacham

House of Flying Daggers ***.5

It’s a skin-deep beauty with some of the most incredible skin we’ve seen in years. After uncorking a virtuoso interpretation of martial arts action films with last summer’s Hero, Zhang Yimou tightens his nearly casual mastery over color and motion in another operatic visual spectacle. In A.D. 859 AD China, policemen Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau) investigate rumors of an anti-government rebel working at the impossibly gorgeous local brothel. It’s Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a blind girl who’s soon on the run with Jin. Every melodramatic element doesn’t seem so pedestrian when it’s happening in a vibrant forest of changing leaves. In the greatest moment, characters battle while gliding up and down towering bamboo plants with a preternatural grace, while Zhang delights in the sibilant sounds of snapping stalks and the delicate whistle of air through the hollow trunks. You’ve got to see it to believe it. (R)—GB

In Good Company ***

The irony of Topher Grace commenting in his as-himself Ocean’s Twelve cameo that he “totally phoned in that Dennis Quaid movie”—aside from how totally phoned-in Ocean’s Twelve was—is that In Good Company could be the film that proves he’s the next Tom Hanks. Grace plays an up-and-coming ad exec who, after a corporate takeover, replaces veteran sales manager Quaid at a sports magazine. Generational complications ensue—further complicated by Grace dating Quaid’s daughter (Scarlett Johansson)—but the film never plays like a wacky sitcom. Writer/director Paul Weitz (About a Boy) knows how to wrestle smart humor out of the way men struggle with their identities; he was also wise enough to give a showcase to Grace and his impeccable comic timing. The easy chemistry between Grace and Quaid overcomes some overstuffed plotting and anti-corporate sermonizing. Watch your back, Tom—there’s a new “new Jimmy Stewart” in town. (PG-13)—SR

Million Dollar Baby ***.5

On the surface, Clint Eastwood’s gem of a film is little more than a collection of genres, yet he finds everything that’s purely satisfying about those genres while constantly throwing unexpected curve balls. Eastwood himself stars as a veteran boxing cut man who agrees to train a scrappy woman (Hilary Swank); Morgan Freeman offers narration and supporting gravitas as a half-blind ex-boxer. Unlike the more operatic Mystic River, Baby operates on a level of masterful restraint that’s more in Eastwood’s filmmaking comfort zone. As director, he demonstrates absolute confidence that when you nail a genre film’s execution, it’s hard for an audience not to be moved; as star, he gives what may be a career-best performance. Broader characters populate the fringes, but rather than warranting criticism, they show how Eastwood reclaims the tropes of yesteryear’s classics. He’s not out to abandon melodrama so much as he’s out to perfect it. (PG-13)—SR

Racing Stripes **

At last, a movie for everyone who thought that all Babe was missing was a few more fart and poop jokes. Widowed ex-racehorse trainer Bruce Greenwood rescues a baby zebra left behind by a circus, bringing Stripes home to be raised by his teen daughter (Hayden Panetierre). But—get this!—the animals talk to each other when people aren’t around, allowing Stripes (Frankie Muniz) to voice his dream of racing against thoroughbreds. Dustin Hoffman, Joe Pantoliano and David Spade are among those who supply other critter chatter, mostly consisting of puns and nudging pop culture references amidst the perfectly acceptable lessons in following your dream and not being species-ist. It might have been harmlessly enjoyable, if not for the obligatory scatology. Memo to parents who fume over Nicolette Sheridan’s bare back yet drag their 4-year-olds to see bad taste passed off as kid-friendly humor: You’re part of the problem, too. (PG)—SR

Sideways ****

Director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Election) moves to the head of his class of American filmmakers with this exquisitely nuanced tale of nearly-middle-aged male bonding. During a weeklong trip to central California wine country, a frustrated writer named Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his actor friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), indulge in booze, women and Xanax—and Payne creates humor and enlightenment out of a rather ordinary road trip setup. With hungry actors reveling in their meaty roles, with a thousand Easter eggs of character development hidden within his frames, Payne makes a film that vibrates with authenticity, warmth and optimism. His four films are a small chorus of our time, with a thousand voices saying beautiful small things in a language we all speak. Oh, and his script is also funny as hell. In a movie about stalled lives, everything is in perfect motion. (R)—GB

A Very Long Engagement ***.5

This labor of love for Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet combines a Gallic comic sensibility with the nightmare of the Great War trenches. It leaves you not despairing at the cruelty of humankind, but inspired by the hopeless hope that allowed those caught up in it to survive. That wonderful weirdness and barbarism can coexist here without lessening the appeal of the first or the enormity of the second is a triumph. You’ll be tempted to ask for a cheat sheet to keep track of the sprawling cast and the enchantingly convoluted, time-jumping plot, but you won’t need it. This small, lovely story against an enormous background is filtered through Audrey Tautou’s Mathilde, who is searching for her lover who was lost on the battlefield but may not be dead. If you’re along with her for the ride, you’ll be fine. (R)—MAJ

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