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9/11/2008

Film & Video > First Shot

FIRST SHOT
SPY VS. SPY: What's a Coen brothers film without Clooney and McDormand?

 

Everything’s a movie these days, even stuff that isn’t. Sarah Palin had barely wrapped up her introductory address to the Wasilla Department of Public Works Republican National Convention when bloggers and TV talking heads began to pounce on her allegedly eerie resemblance to a certain big-screen icon: Tracy Flick, the cutthroat student candidate played to supercilious perfection by Reese Witherspoon in 1999’s Election.

Sounds to us like somebody owes an apology to Flick. Sure, that character was a smug pain in the ass who broke the rules to crush her enemies. But she was also undeniably smart and unafraid of heavy mental lifting. When Tracy realized that her campaign could be undone by the dullard teenagers and resentful, washed-up adults by whom she was surrounded, you genuinely felt sorry for her. At least she knew the answers. In contrast, Palin thinks the Pledge of Allegiance was written by the founding fathers and has declared herself too preoccupied with state business to know much about the Iraq war. And those are her good points.

Ironically, conservative pundit Ben Stein, himself a veteran of big-screen classroom satire, isn’t chugging the Kool-Aid. On convention night, Stein invoked yet another cinematic referent by opining that the phenomenally unqualified Palin would need a crash course in the issues – a tutelage as far-ranging and intensive as the one the baby Kal-El receives in the first act of Richard Donner’s Superman. With all due respect to Stein, emulating the narrative arc of Christopher Reeve is obviously a losing game for any of us mere mortals to attempt. (Especially Palin, who happens to oppose stem-cell research.) If she’s looking for an easy Tinseltown makeover, we think she should start small and simply go Flick herself.

In theaters

Opening Friday, Sept. 12

Righteous Kill It’s somewhat misleading to call this police thriller a “reunion” of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, given that their previous shared screen time consisted of a few minutes of coffee talk in Heat. (Or, as John McCain would call it, “an extensive vetting process.”) This time, they can actually appear together on a poster without the benefit of Photoshop, as they team up to investigate the activities of a crusading killer. Director Jon Avnet also made Red Corner, in which earnest attorney Richard Gere shamed the entirety of Communist China into following due process. So grab the Raisinets and hold on tight, because anything could happen in this one! (R)

Burn After Reading After the successful trip to the gravitas well that was No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers are back to goofball character comedy with this story of opportunistic dunderheads who blackmail a government agent. Latter-day Coen laffers like Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers were a mixed bag at best, but at least you can thank the brothers’ newly inflated PR budget for the now-’round-the-clock spectacle of Brad Pitt getting tagged in the schnozz. (R)

The Women Thanks to the box-office acumen of Deadline Hollywood columnist Nikki Finke (First Shot, July 10), Picturehouse is going wide with its repouring of the 1939 estrogen bath in an all-out attempt to seduce the Sex and the City crowd. Gal-on-gal bonding is said to replace the foursquare bitchiness of the original, which may mean that our country has outgrown its need to see sisters brutally wrestling in the ring of patriarchy. In other words, we bought a bunch of Wesson oil for nothing. (PG-13)

Tyler Perry’s the Family That Preys Please stop. We’ll pay you. (PG-13)

On DVD

Available Tuesday, Sept. 16

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains A genuine lost treasure, Lou Adler’s 1981 music-business satire cultivated a fervent cult following in the early days of pay cable, but has never before been available for home viewing. Its profile of an up-and-coming girl group provided a sturdy platform for star Diane Lane, as well as for an eclectic cast of supporting performers that included Laura Dern, Ray Winstone and members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Tubes. If that pitch doesn’t make you reach for your credit card, you’re reading the wrong newspaper.

Risky Business 25th Anniversary Edition See the alternate ending that test audiences rejected as too depressing – also known as “the first five minutes of Cocktail.”

Books

Available Tuesday, Sept. 16

Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh The celebrated director of talky, naturalistic ensemble dramas explains his work by … talking about it. Gee, but that’s meta.

Video games

Available Tuesday, Sept. 16

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed A nation of stern fanboys gives George Lucas his monthly One Last Chance. Hey, it’s not like he’s killed anybody. Yet.

film@orlandoweekly.com
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