Film & Video > First ShotFIRST SHOT
A lot of you readers have probably felt some concern that this column often seems like little more than a platform for our incendiary political views, behind the flimsy guise of a movie roundup. Well, with this being the first installment we’ve penned since the Day the World Changed, you’ll be happy to hear that we no longer find it necessary to slip the medicine of activism into the applesauce of mass entertainment. Eight years of atrocity have been atoned for, the country is back on track, and we can all go back to compartmentalizing our preoccupations. Politics goes into a dusty file cabinet, to keep company with sports statistics and bar trivia; film, meanwhile, gets to take a celebratory strut down the runway, newly re-crowned as the darling of all our imaginations.
And, as always Renee Zellweger and Keira Knightley are duct-taped together and balancing precariously over the shark tank. Because change isn’t always a good thing.
Opening Friday, Nov. 14
Quantum of Solace Maintaining an emotional investment in the James Bond series is like being a Mets fan: No matter what sort of a renaissance your side might be enjoying, you know they’re just moments away from disgracing themselves. Could Quantum be just such a letdown after the positively rejuvenating Casino Royale? Well, when asked about his already-signed contract for future installments, star Daniel Craig has helpfully pointed out that you can get out of those things if you really have to. Yikes! Still, advance word hasn’t been thoroughly negative on this direct sequel to Casino, which some viewers are saying is like a few more hours of the same movie, but with more action and no extended poker tutorial. We’re still mostly concerned that director Marc Forster isn’t the right man for the job, given that the closest he’s come to the suspense genre was Stay – a film so impenetrable that we once watched some of it upside-down and couldn’t tell the difference. With signals that mixed, all any of us can do is assume the standard 007 position: hoping for Goldfinger while bracing yourself for Moonraker. (PG-13)
Happy-Go-Lucky Mike Leigh is known and loved for making heavily improvised ensemble dramas in which downtrodden British people sit around in drab housecoats and moan through their bad teeth about the sad farces that are their lives. But rather than succumb to that stereotype, he’s chosen to go the opposite route with Happy-Go-Lucky, a profile of an elementary-school teacher who somehow manages to always look on the bright side of life (and not in the ironic, Eric-Idle-as-Barabbas way). Our heroine’s cheery worldview faces its greatest test when she has to endure the regular company of a driving instructor who’s as embittered and destructive as she is sanguine. At any other time, this would be our cue to cynically remark that a smart gambler always puts his money on “embittered and destructive” – but we just thought of a certain Negative Nancy who’s currently padding around a darkened mansion in Wasilla, Sunset Boulevard–style. And we remembered that “nice” occasionally gets in a good one, too. (Aw, c’mon! You can’t expect us to go cold turkey!) (See review on page 25; at Enzian Theater, Maitland; R)
Ashes of Time Redux Wong Kar-Wai has reportedly never been fully happy with any of the previously released versions of his 1994 contribution to the martial-arts genre. The restored visuals of this re-edited director’s cut are getting higher marks than the resolutely nonlinear narrative, which tells the story of an assassin in seclusion who farms out his assignments to surrogates. Well, at least Wong was a good 14 years ahead of his time when it came to predicting outsourcing. (R)
Available Tuesday, Nov. 18
The Clique Last spring’s mixed-martial-arts drama Never Back Down heralded the disturbing possibility that the I-4 corridor might mistakenly become recognized as some sort of land of opportunity (albeit for lowlifes and rubes, which honestly sounds about right). So the timing is perfect for this direct-to-video exposé of mean-girl mores, in which a naif from “Orland(ew)” has to jump through hoops to be accepted by the cool kids in her new home of Westchester, N.Y.
Encounters at the End of the World The home-viewing version of Werner Herzog’s far-north expedition includes a commentary track by the filmmaker, a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes and (best of all) a spoof of Herzog’s previous Grizzly Man with seals in place of bears. Suckers’ll flipper your head off, man.
Available Tuesday, Nov. 18
Walt Disney Animation Studios: Story The first volume in the studio’s “Archive Series” reprints vintage story art by Disney stalwarts like Ub Iwerks, as well as anonymous talents. The slavishly reproduced images are said to include all of the original blemishes and side notes. Wonder if we’ll get to see Tim Burton’s “PLEASE KILL ME” memos from The Fox and the Hound.