September 19, 2008, - 12:03 pm

Weekend Box Office: A Few Good Selections

By Debbie Schlussel
**** UPDATE: Review of Horrid “Towelhead” Added, Scroll Down ****
There are a few good new choices at the movies, this weekend. I did not review “Igor” because the screening was held on the Jewish Sabbath. “My Best Friend’s Girl” was not screened for critics, which as I usually note is a good sign that it stinks. I will be adding my review of “Towelhead”, later today.
* “Lakeview Terrace“: I think this is one of my favorite movies by director Neil LaBute. I usually like his movies because he doesn’t shy away from controversial issues, whether it’s misogyny or relationships with fat women or, in this case, racism.
We usually hear the narrative about White racism against interracial couples. But in this movie, LaBute explores Black racism against interracial couples. And it comes with an interesting twist: Samuel L. Jackson is great as a Black single father and cop, who is doing his best to raise his kids with good values and deal with the mean streets of the inner city he patrols.


Enter Patrick Wilson, who is White, and his wife, Kerry Washington, who is Black. It’s not just that they are an interracial married couple, it’s that Wilson is your typical White liberal. He’s a Berkeley grad who drives a Toyota Prius and listens to loud Gangsta Rap and Hip-Hop, polluting the neighborhood’s quiet street, music which even his Black wife does not like or approve of. And he works for an eco-friendly supermarket chain like Whole Foods.
That’s what I like about this movie–that even though Samuel L. Jackson is the racist villain, it’s not all black and white or . . . Black and White. We see Wilson and his wife having sex in their pool, while Jackson’s kids are watching. Jackson is rightfully upset that, while he’s trying to raise his kids with good, conservative values, the neighbors might be a bad influence.
But he takes it way too far and enlists violence. His hatred gets the best of him. The movie also briefly depicts other Black-on-White racism, as Washington’s Black executive father (who appears to be a lawyer) refuses to talk to Wilson, his daughter’s White husband.
It’s interesting, though it gets a little messy and carried away toward the end. Perhaps it might have been better explored without mixing in a thriller. Perhaps not. Entertaining and noteworthy, but lots of bad language (and some implied sexual situations and violence).
* “Ghost Town“: Funny, light, and entertaining. This is the way movies are supposed to be–an enjoyable escape.
Ricky Gervais is a perfect fit for his role as a self-absorbed, misanthrope dentist who lives alone and looks down on people. But there’s an accident during his colonoscopy. He insists on a full anesthesia and dies for seven minutes.
Soon, he sees ghosts of dead people who are stuck on earth to finish their unfinished business: A woman who wrote a letter to her daughter, but it got stuck and hidden under a rug; a man whose son can’t find his favorite stuffed bear hidden under the front seat of the car; and a jerk who was cheating on his wife and died the day she found it. All went his help to communicate with their living relatives.
That last example is Greg Kinnear, and he succeeds in getting Gervais to talk to his wife, in an attempt to break up her impending marriage to a man Kinnear doesn’t like. Soon Gervais falls for the wife. But does he give up his selfishness and hatred of people, or does he use his new gift for his own immoral purposes?
Could have done without the brief jokes about a mummy’s penis and the dog poop and farting jokes–both of which were stupid and completely unnecessary. But there are a lot of funny lines in this movie that’ll keep you laughing.
Charming and cute. Would love to have seen more of SNL’s Kristen Wiig and a hospital legal administrator, both of whom are hilarious in this movie.

* “TransSiberian“: In this thriller, a married American couple (Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer) are taking a train ride across Russia and the former Soviet Union at the conclusion of doing charity work in China.
The husband is your typical middle America good guy, but the wife was a bad girl at one time and has become restless. Soon, they meet a mysterious couple (Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega) who teach English in Japan. The male, of Hispanic origin, is apparently a drug smuggler. Can’t say more or it will ruin the movie, except that people disappear and it’s not always what you thought.
Interesting, but violent and a little slow. Entertaining, and I liked the message I got out of it, which is that an average middle American life with its boredom and predictability is often preferable to restless adventure, which can have dangerous and deadly consequences. Did not like the portrayal of Middle Americans–via the Woody Harrelson role–as naive and dopey, though.
Also stars Ben Kingsley as a Russian narcotics detective, though he has a relatively minor role in the movie.
* “In Search of a Midnight Kiss“: This movie, shot complete in Black and White, has a few brief, sweet moments, but it’s mostly disgusting and vile, with a masturbation scene at the very beginning. It’s all downhill from there, and depressing.
It’s also a poor semi-imitation of the far-more charming but somewhat over-rated “Before Sunrise.”
A lonely guy who moved L.A. is sad because he has no-one to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve. He posts an ad on an online dating site, and soon meets a shallow blonde who moved to L.A. to become–what else?–an actress. Soon, the guy is sucked into what seems like a lifetime of drama and unfun “adventure” with the self-absorbed blonde and her estranged boyfriend. All actors in this movie are unknowns, and the movie tries very hard to be artsy and avant-garde (and not very hard to be entertaining, interesting, or give me a reason to care about these vile, loser characters).
If I needed melodrama and stress, I wouldn’t go to the movies to get it. He gets the kiss at midnight, but you get kissed off by this substandard movie and lose ten bucks and 1.5 hours of valuable life never to be redeemed.

* “Baghead“: Four amateur actors involved in a dating love triangle go to a family cottage in the woods to write an indie movie starring themselves. Soon, they find they are terrorized by someone with a bag over his/her head. They think it’s one another playing tricks on each other. But is it?
Obviously low-budget and amateurish and not very scary, but hardly as bad as I expected.
* “Towelhead“: Blecccch! This is one of the grossest, most disgusting, most stupid movies I’ve ever seen. It’s the “coming of age” story of Jasira, a horny, slutty half-Lebanese Arab girl sent by her Anglo loser mother to live with her stupid, immature, racist Lebanese Christian father in Texas. We’re treated to such class activities as watching her masturbate to Penthouse-style magazines many times in the movie, having sex with her callous Black boyfriend (forbidden by her father because he’s Black), and having sex with her adult, married, next-door neighbor. Oh, and we see menstrual blood on her underwear, a bloody tampon up close on the screen and another seen where her next-door neighbor has her vaginal blood on his hands.
Yeah, a fun, tasteful time at the movies. A complete waste of time and completely sick. And did I mention, completely disgusting? Skip at all cost. Warped to the max.
By the way, CAIR just sent out an e-mail that it participated in a taped “dialogue” about ethnic slurs, which will be featured on the “Towelhead” DVD. One wonders why, since the people in this movie are Christian Arabs. Islam is neither mentioned nor featured. But, hey, hilarious that CAIR wants to be connected with this piece of vile garbage. So much for Muslim “modesty.” Just curiuos: Did they film the “dialogue” at “The Pink Pony”?

3 Responses

I like samuel jackson, and will try to see that movie. ghosttown also looks funny, and owlehead looks like crap.

mindy1 on September 19, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Lakeview Terrace:
Wow, I’m flabbergasted! Bravo, Mr. LaBute, finally someone had the guts to admit that black-on-white racism exists.
I had the misfortune to grow up in the Brightmoor section of Detroit, raised by a Canadian mother and a Baptist minister father who believed G-d created us all equal and we were to practice the Golden Rule regardless of racial or religious differences.
I received my wakeup call when I started going to school. Most of the black teachers made it abundantly clear that we white students weren’t welcome. Confused, I asked my mom what was going on. She mumbled something about riots that happened when I was a baby, but didn’t seem to know what to tell me. Being from Canada, I don’t think she understood it herself.
Then “Roots” came out on TV, and from then on it was open season on the white kids. Unabashed discrimination and outright violence ruled the day. It was no longer safe in school, on the streets or even in our own home. If you want to see what I mean, and you’re feeling brave, take a drive in the Lasher/Fenkell area and see what I mean. I want to cry when I see what my grandparents house looks like now. It was so beautiful once.
Prejudice is a two-way street. It only depends on who is in the majority.

mplumb on September 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm

The movie “Ghost Town” was a wonderful treat. I thoroughly enjoyed Ricky Gervais’ performance and look forward more from him.
**On a separate note, this film was appropriately rated PG-13. The previews that played prior to the movie were not and had me wondering who on earth decides which previews to include with PG-13 films.
**One of the previews was for a film I anticipate Debbie will not have sufficient # of Marx’s. “Revolutionary Road” reuniting mental midgets Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet – a film which belongs in the circular file. I nearly walked out of the theatre in protest. Ughhh.

justamomof4 on September 21, 2008 at 10:45 am

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