Another weak parody of the alleged new cookie-cutter template of Judd Apatow-produced flicks like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, this time from Michael Swaim and Cracked.com. Yeah, yeah, I get it… the easy targets — schlubby guys, weed, juvenile slagging on one another. But the point is what, exactly? A disdain for the improvised feel of these flicks? Also, other stuff mentioned is just wrong (“Never reuse an actress,” “Remember to change locations once in a while”); the closest thing that comes to a knowing laugh is the PhotoShopped poster tutorial, born of Knocked Up. Otherwise this is just lazy writing. And believe me, I know of what I speak…
A full review should follow tomorrow, but it’s worth noting that Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the follow-up to 2004’s inspired stoner comedy, is a hell of a lot of fun. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, co-writers of the first film, make their directorial debut with the movie, and the delicious uniformity of vision creates a wild ride. Harold & Kumar is first and foremost (as well as maybe second and third) a lewd, pot-infused re-imagination of The Odd Couple, but racial expectations, male sexual subjugation and topical political humor all get a hilarious workout, as well as the current president’s unresolved daddy issues. What makes this work so well is a game cast, and the movie’s ability to honestly and confidently depict white fear with a feverish intensity, while also exposing its ludicrousness. Oh, and there’s also a groundbreaking “bottomless party” scene. Yes, as in the opposite of topless…
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Oren Jacoby’s fascinating documentary explores some of the massive amount of violence and ill done in God’s name throughout history — a skipped-stone journey of remembrance and reckoning. Starting with the story of conservative Christian ideology being peddled at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (where fliers for Mel Gibson’s The Passion were handed out, and Ted Haggard’s New Life ministries touted) and winding back in time, the movie follows author and former Roman Catholic priest James Carroll as he interweaves his own family history with a grander inquisition into faith, and in particular the nasty, tangled intersection between Christianity and Judaism.
Neither naked provocation nor burrowing analysis is a part of Jacoby’s agenda here. In fact, as soon as the film alights on some engrossing historical nugget — Roman general Constantine’s 310 A.D. conversion, which ushered in the iconography of the cross — it’s just as quickly off to something else. This occasionally makes for some minor frustration, since one wants a deeper probe and massage of certain topics. Carroll, though, is a fantastic and articulate guide, and this exceedingly contemplative and engrossing work is both topically important — warning of what happens when military might and religious fervor are mixed — and intellectually stimulating as all get out. For more information on the film, click here. (First Run, unrated, 95 minutes)
The civil rights struggle holds thousands of stories, and this
clear-eyed documentary focuses on St. Augustine, Florida, which in 1963
and ’64 found itself at the center of this great social upheaval. Much
of the movie centers around the business establishment primarily
targeted in the protest, the Monson Motor Lodge, and embittered, now 81-year-old owner
James Brock (below right), makes for an interesting interview subject, along
with former UN ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and other former field organizers of the demonstrations.
Directed by Jeremy Dean, Dare Not Walk Alone successfully avoids the trappings of many well-meaning civil rights docs that serve only as grief mops for white liberal guilt. This movie comes by its solicited emotions honestly, simply, plaintively. Eschewing overly explicative narration, it isn’t afraid to trade in silences, or let 8mm or newsreel footage unfold under a trip-hop spiritual beat. The effect is often mesmerizing, and certainly heartrending; it’s the grandness of history writ in personal strokes.
Still, there are a few small bumps; a little more than halfway into its running time, the film makes a hairpin, and not entirely convincing, turn into the present day, tying the story of the allure of hip-hop’s upward social mobility with current-day St. Augustine residents, where over a quarter of the African-American population lives in poverty. It’s not so much a stretch to try to tie together the ugly history of racial divide with a gaping socioeconomic chasm that still exists, it’s just that it’s not foreshadowed or particularly smoothly interwoven here. One feels like they’ve been jerked out of one movie and put into another one. That whiplash is almost forgotten and entirely forgiven, however, with moving closing footage of a church reconciliation ceremony for African-American parishioners turned away from shared worship 40 years earlier. For more information on the film, click here. (Indican Pictures, unrated, 71 minutes)