Arts + Scene » Screens

A B- For X

Plus: Toward a unified theory of Step Brothers




The new X-Files film made a believer of few people, so opening on Friday, Aug. 1, is the latest summer wannabe box office hit The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, starring the suddenly busy Brendan Fraser. Fraser reprises his character Rick O’Connell who, along with his son (Luke Ford), wife (Mario Bello subbing for Rachel Weisz, which seems a wash) and brother-in-law (John Hannah) must stop the evil, resurrected Dragon Emperor Han (Jet Li) and a sorceress (Michele Yeoh). Can’t wait. Rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence. 112 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and the Minor.

Kevin Costner fans -- and there must be some out there -- get to enjoy the old guy as a beer-swilling (hasn’t he already done this?) loser who suddenly finds himself in the national spotlight when a presidential election ends in a dead heat and his vote will be decisive in Swing Vote. The film co-stars Madeline Carroll as his daughter, Dennis Hopper and Stanley Tucci. Rated PG for language. Running time not available. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

On a happily more independent note, Jellyfish (Meduzot), a 2007 French/Israeli film, follows the stories of three Tel Aviv women who become serendipitously connected as they try to deal with their somewhat disappointing lives. It’s good to see an alternative to the summer films finally opening locally. In Hebrew and English with English subtitles. Not rated. 78 m. At the Broadway.

The final film in the latest Eureka Library Based on the Book series is the classic 1953 noir The Big Heat. Directed by Fritz Lang, the film is the story of honest cop Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) working in a corrupt department. When the brass won’t investigate the death of a fellow cop, Bannion resigns but his troubles are just beginning, complicated by his connection with a crooked cop’s girlfriend (Gloria Grahame). Hosted by Charlie Myers, the screening begins promptly at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 5, in the Multipurpose Room of the Eureka Main Library.


STEP BROTHERS: As I sat in the theatre watching the start of this truly abysmal comedy produced by the Judd Apatow assembly line, my mind wandered a bit. My first thought was how much William Kowinski said he would charge the Journal to review a Will Ferrell film. I believe it was somewhere in the $100 to $300 range. Then I speculated as to whether the presence of John C. Reilly would reduce or lower the charge. Then, of course, I thought about how little I was getting paid to watch the film and I felt really sorry for myself.

But about the time I heard the line, “We’re guys. We like to shit with the door open and talk about pussy,” I started to ruminate on the nature of comedy itself. According to Aristotle, the origin of the genre lay in early phallic rituals. Well, Step Brothers does give us a lingering shot of Ferrell’s scrotum, presumably a prosthetic replica, being rubbed on the skin of a drum, so I guess that’s close enough.

Aristotle goes on to say, at least in English translation, that comedy features ordinary people who are worse than average. Check. Indeed, one theory of laughter says we tend to laugh at people we perceive as even more incompetent than we see ourselves to be, thus burnishing our own self-image. I wondered as I sat in the theatre if that was why others were laughing and I was not. Perhaps my self-image was beyond repair.

Then as the image of Ferrell as 40-year-old teenager Brennan Huff being forced to eat dog feces temporarily replaced my thoughts about comedic theory, I flashed back to the much more interesting use of coprophagia by John Waters in his 1972 film Pink Flamingos, which Step Brothers was surely referencing.

Inevitably, my thoughts drifted to the comedies of Aristophanes and I had to admit that they are full of rude physical bits, so what right do I have to complain about similar content in a current film? Then I noticed that I was watching an extended wrestling match between Ferrell and Reilly, but couldn’t help remembering at the same time the famous nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in the 1969 Ken Russell film Women in Love.

Gradually, it occurred to me that the real function of Step Brothers, which constantly references other film, often by using their titles, was to remind me of film history. So, far from deadening my senses, the film actually awakened them. No doubt that’s why everyone else was laughing; I was just a little slow to get it.

Perhaps the early comedies of Aristophanes functioned as a sort of aesthetic corrective to corrupt practices in society, who cares about that sort of nonsense anymore? As far I could tell, the final moral of Step Brothers is that it’s best not to grow up because adults don’t have any fun, just responsibilities. That works for me.

And when I found myself feeling sorry for Mary Steenburger, who plays Brennan’s mother, or Richard Jenkins, Dale’s (Reilly) father, I quickly remembered that they are being reimbursed much better than Kowinski would be were he writing this review. Rated R for crude and sexual content, and pervasive language. 95 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE: Ten years after the previous big screen version of the popular TV series, and some six years after the conclusion of the series itself, series creator Chris Carter gives viewers I Want to Believe. Set apparently six years after the conclusion of the TV show, the film reunites David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, neither of whom work for the FBI any longer.

For better or worse, I bring no X-Files baggage to this film outside of the media hype. At my partner’s insistence, she being a rabid fan, I tried two episodes of the TV show but they left me cold, or perhaps that was just my partner’s shoulder in reaction to my lack of taste. I have been assured that I watched the 1998 feature film, but literally cannot dredge up any memory of it, so I guess my memory and Mulder’s sister ended up in the same alien universe.

It’s probably just as well, then, that Believe mostly jettisons the alien stuff from the series except for a couple of references to the sister. In fact, it struck me that shorn of the X-Files label, this is just another serial killer film, complicated by the history many people bring to its viewing. It follows the arc of many serial killer plots that involve the FBI, including the element of the agency having to ask a former “rogue” agent for help.

The plot element that allows for Mulder’s reintroduction involves visions of the murders that pedophile priest (how’s that for an up-to-date cultural reference?) Father Joe (Billy Connolly) is having. While most agents are suspicious of Father Joe, and who wouldn’t be, Agent Dakota Whitney (a sparkling Amanda Peet) asks Scully, now working as a doctor in a hospital, to locate Mulder and convince him to help with the case.

To its credit, the film begins with a wonderfully suspenseful cross-cutting between a slew of agents banging sticks on a frozen lake, led by Father Joe, and the abduction of a female agent as she returns home (but where was her gun?). The film also effectively connects the seeming side-plots to the main storyline, such as that of the young boy with a rare condition that Scully is treating when we first encounter her.

But fans of the series will probably get more enjoyment from the relationship between Scully and Mulder than I did, which too often devolves for me into a series of brooding exchanges and presumably meaningful eye contacts. But I should say that although I dissed Duchovney, seen most recently having joyless copulations in the TV series Californication, in my preview for Believe, he was decent here, and I’ve always enjoyed Anderson. In general, Believe is an entertaining film for one who has virtually no connection to the series at all. But, then, I’m always a sucker for serial killer stories. Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material. 104 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.


DARK KNIGHT. Batman walks the line between hero and vigilante when he faces the Joker to save Gotham once again. Rated PG-13. 152 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

GET SMART. Maxwell Smart and his partner, 99, take on arch-villain Siegfried, out to brainwash and exploit Nobel Prize winners. Rated PG-13. 111 m. At The Movies.

HANCOCK. Hard-living superhero who has fallen from grace gets help from a public relations pro. Rated PG-13. 93 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY. When the shit hits the fan, the rough and tough kitten-loving superhero from Hell saves the day. Rated PG-13. 120 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

INCREDIBLE HULK. Live action film features classic character from Marvel Comics’ series. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At The Movies.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Intrepid archaeologist becomes entangled in Soviet plot to uncover secret behind mysterious Crystal Skulls. Rated PG-13. 112 m. At The Movies.

IRON MAN. Action/adventure flick based on Marvel’s iconic comic book super hero. Rated PG-13. 126 m. At The Movies.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel packs in comedy, fantasy, action and adventure. Rated PG. 93 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

KUNG FU PANDA. Po the Panda Bear lays down bamboo shoots, takes up martial arts. Rated PG. 92 m. At The Movies.

MAMA MIA! Film adaptation of musical uses the jams of ’70s supergroup ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be searching for her real father. Rated PG-13. 109 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

SPACE CHIMPS. Slacker grandson of first chimp blasted into space joins other astro chimps for zany other-planetary adventure. Rated G. 81 m. At The Movies.

WALL-E. Robot love/adventure story from the director of Finding Nemo. Rated G. 98 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.


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