First Takes: movies opening this week in South Lake Tahoe and Stateline
August 20, 2008
No summary available. Rated R for strong violence and language.
This might really have rocked if it didn’t feel like a cover of a couple of superior comedies. The first and most obvious is “School of Rock.”
As a shlumpy, 40ish drummer who missed his shot at heavy metal stardom, Rainn Wilson is pretty much channeling Jack Black here: the volatile man-child outbursts, the intensely pure feelings about rock music, even some of the crazy eyeball stuff feels way too familiar. And Wilson’s character, Robert “Fish” Fishman, similarly gets a chance at redemption when he hooks up with a high school band that unexpectedly finds itself on the rise. But there are also plenty of elements of “This Is Spinal Tap,” one of the greatest musical comedies ever.
Twenty years ago, Fish played drums for the up-and-coming Cleveland hair band Vesuvius, but the other members (led by Will Arnett in leopard-print tights, eyeliner and shaggy, blond hair) cast him aside to secure a record deal. Everything about the parody of this type of metal is very Tap-esque, from the gaudy clothes and cheesy songs to the on-stage explosions and offstage egos. Nevertheless, Wilson has an engaging, goofy energy about him, as does the movie itself ” for the most part.
Peter Cattaneo, who earned an Academy Award nomination for directing “The Full Monty,” brings some of the same unabashed, let’s-put-on-a-show vibe of that 1997 British-American film. Too bad the music is so tame, like something you’d hear on Radio Disney. Emma Stone, Teddy Geiger and the likable, nerdy Josh Gad play Fish’s bandmates, with Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch and Jeff Garlin among the seasoned supporting cast.
PG-13 for drug and sexual references, nudity and language. 105 min. Two stars out of four.
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You should hate these people, really ” these smug American yuppies chatting gaily about golf, tennis and boating over red wine on a sun-splashed Spanish afternoon. You’re also free to abhor the painters, poets and musicians who populate Barcelona and spend their bohemian days idly debating the merits of love and art ” when they’re not wrapped up making them both, that is.
Somehow, Woody Allen makes us not just tolerate these people but find ourselves engaged in their adventures in this, his strongest film in quite a while.
It’s a romantic comedy, yes, in his great tradition of absurdity and longing. And it’s an easy European romp, though it’s surely superior to Allen’s recent trilogy of London-based movies. But it’s also tinged with melancholy, letting us know Allen isn’t just mocking his characters but feeling a certain amount of sympathy for them in their confusion, which inevitably evokes a similar response from his audience. What’s fascinating is the juxtaposition he’s created here: In obviously stilted, overly literary tones, his narrator describes his characters’ every action and emotion, and yet they themselves consistently behave in impulsive, contradictory ways
Rebecca Hall and Allen’s recent muse, Scarlett Johansson, co-star as the titular Vicky and Cristina, best friends spending the summer in Barcelona who couldn’t be more different in terms of their deeds and dreams. Vicky is a practical and structured student; Cristina is a restless and passionate photographer. But they both respond in surprising ways to sexy artist Juan Antonio (an irresistible Javier Bardem), a stranger who invites them to spend the weekend with him. Penelope Cruz is a force of nature as Juan Antonio’s tempestuous ex-wife: She’s fiery, funny and impossible to stop watching.
PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality and smoking. 97 min. Three stars out of four.
Just in time for back-to-school comes a comedy that won’t teach you anything new or useful, but it will prepare you for sorority rush. Well, its depiction of Greek life isn’t all that accurate either, but that’s beside the point.
The entire purpose of this late-summer entry is to serve as a showcase for Anna Faris, star of the “Scary Movie” franchise, whose sunny disposition and solid comic timing make “The House Bunny” a lot more enjoyable than it ought to be.
Faris stars as Shelley, a perky Playboy bunny who gets kicked out of Hef’s mansion and becomes the house mother for Zeta Alpha Zeta, a sorority full of misfits. Actually “full” is stretching it, since the Zetas only have seven members, and they need to come up with 30 pledges to keep from being kicked off campus (and having the mean-girl Phi Iota Mus take over their house). And so Shelley, with her itty-bitty outfits, pouf of platinum hair and an endless stream of malapropisms, transforms these wallflowers into Pussycat Dolls, and turns the Zeta house into the place to be. Emma Stone (“Superbad,” “The Rocker”) continues to establish an engaging presence as the sorority’s brainy leader, with Kat Dennings, Rumer Willis and “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee playing some of the sisters.
PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language. 98 min. Two and a half stars out of four.