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Film Review Archive

 

Four Reviews
Charlie’s Angels
28 Days Later
Respiro
Capturing The Friedmans

By Dennis Morton


I’ve seen four films in the past week. Two were advanced screenings and the other two are playing now in area theatres. I’ll start with the latter.

The latest installment of Charlie’s Angels is a ubiquitous presence in American theatres right now. It’s the top box office draw in the country. Still, on my own, I wouldn’t have chosen to see it. But it was my friend’s turn to choose. I entered the darkened temple with extremely low expectations. To my great surprise, I found myself enjoying the movie. Especially Drew Barrymore. She manages to seem simultaneously vulnerable and invincible. For those of us who remember the Angels from TV, there is the reassuringly avuncular voice of John Forsythe as the disembodied Charlie. And, to spice up the stew of athletic pulchritude, there’s even a fallen angel, played by Demi Moore. This episode of Charlie’s Angels doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is good, because it’s a funny film. It opens with Cameron Diaz riding a mechanical yak in a bar populated with hordes of Mongol bad guys. That’s about all you need to know. It’s not art, but it is entertainment. For a few hours of harmless diversion, check this one out.

While in London last Fall, my friend and I watched 28 Days Later in a small movie house off Picadilly Square. It’s just now reached America, and the critics seem entranced by it. I returned for another look but left the theatre with pretty much the same impression I had the first time. 28 Days Later is the work of a dour imagination, bereft of humor. It’s been typed as a genre film, specifically, the latest incarnation of the zombie flic. To be sure, there are a few scary moments, but not many. And Director Danny Boyle’s take on humanity leaves me cold.
The film opens with a team of animal liberationists breaking into a London laboratory. They free an ape and all hell breaks loose, in the form of a virus. As the movie lugubriously marches its eye-gouging way to a conclusion, we’re not quite sure who the real bad guys are – the infected zombies or the few surviving uninfecteds. The movie is so somber and humorless that I hardly cared. Don’t waste your money on this one.

Now for the good news: opening this weekend are a pair of wonderful movies – Respiro, an Italian film, and Capturing The Friedmans, a feature length documentary.

Respiro is about community. However stultifying the small town life can be, it is not without drama. Valeria Golino plays the part of an eccentric mother of three children. She’s a free spirit tethered by the traditions of her isolated, male dominated, fishing village. When her impulses conflict with the community’s expectations, something has to give. Leavened with comic moments, Respiro, a tragedy-in-waiting, is a breath of sea freshened air. Good writing, good direction and plenty of fine acting makes Respiro a sure bet. Don’t miss it.

Capturing The Friedmans is about a real life tragedy. It’s one of the oddest films I’ve ever seen. It’s an invisibly intrusive look at the Friedman family, of Great Neck, Long Island. It asks questions that can’t be answered, which is the point of the movie. What is truth? Who really did what, and to whom, and why? We may not be much closer to the answers after watching this film, but quite possibly we’ll have a greater appreciation for the complexity of life in contemporary America. The Friedmans may not be embarrassed for themselves, but after watching two hours of the intimate details of their lives, we the viewers will have experienced embarrassment and much more. This is a true story and it’s far stranger than most fiction. Brace yourself and catch it. Capturing The Friedmans is very bizarre and very powerful.

So then, my score card for this week reads – thumbs up for Charlie’s Angels, Respiro, and Capturing The Friedmans. And one thumb down for 28 Days After.

For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.