Ask the Dust
Opens Fri March 17
In adapting Ask the Dust, John Fante's Depression-era book about a would-be Italian writer struggling in LA (Bukowski cited it as his greatest influence), legendary Hollywood screenwriter/director Robert Towne (Chinatown, anyone?) has made the same serious error that many legendary filmmakers have made in recent years: casting Colin Farrell in the lead role.
As Fante's enigmatic, malnourished Arturo Bandini, Farrell furrows his caterpillar eyebrows and mush-mouths through his lines with buckets of monotonous earnest reserve. He's playing a man who takes himself utterly seriously, a man who treats a hot, lusty Latina (Salma Hayek) like shit because he's trying to develop a "persona" for himself. This should be a funny situation—but because Farrell really does take himself this seriously, it isn't funny.
Perhaps seduced by the dullard whims of his leading man, Towne interprets his material like a Technicolor soap opera, with shimmering Hollywood sunsets as the backdrop to slow, burning, boring conversations between Farrell and Hayek. In Towne and Farrell's hands, Fante's fascinatingly erratic, self-loathing literary icon is watered down into a confident ladies' man who plays Hayek's upward-climbing Camilla like a pair of bongos as big as her breasts. I was praying for this movie to end before it was halfway over. Please, don't see it. Join me, and do your part to end the acting career of Colin Farrell! JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS
Opens Fri March 17
In 1987, the US government went after New Jersey's notorious Lucchese mob family, in a show trial aimed at striking a decisive blow against organized crime. It took the prosecution almost two years to roll out hundreds of witnesses and thousands of pieces of evidence as they attempted to build a case against 20 notorious gangsters, and Find Me Guilty tells the story of that trial—and of how the government's best lawyers were thwarted by the efforts of one man. That man?
The thoroughly coiffed Diesel plays Jackie DiNorscio, a gangster who chooses to be his own lawyer at the trial, mounting a defense that consists largely of vulgar anecdotes and statements like "I'm no gangster... I'm a gagster!" Guilty focuses on DiNorscio's clowning, but underlying his antics is a serious and unshakeable loyalty to his "family."
Diesel is surprisingly endearing as the affable, thick-tongued thug, and his dopey persona taxes neither audience credulity nor his own acting abilities. While the courtroom scenes of Jackie demolishing one witness after another can be repetitive, director Sidney Lumet's film is nonetheless an entertaining and oddly nostalgic nod to the days when the mob was a gunrunning, coke-dealing force to be reckoned with. ALISON HALLETT
Opens Fri March 17
Okay—while channel surfing, I've occasionally stumbled upon Amanda Bynes' WB sitcom, What I Like About You, and stayed there, watching for way longer than anyone who's not a 12-year-old girl should. (Please note that I will deny this anecdote if it's ever brought up again.) Also: David Cross is a funny bastard, and the fact he's in She's the Man, Bynes' attempt at teen mega-stardom—in which she dresses up as a boy to play soccer and find pubescent love—would be awesome if he was in it for more than two seconds, which he's not. She's the Man's plot is a pretty retarded riff on Shakespeare's already retarded Twelfth Night, with lame slapstick and PG-13-appropriate crushes—but the unexpectedly likeable Bynes makes things a bit less painful and a bit more funny than one would expect. If anyone asks, though, I didn't even see this movie, alright? In fact, I don't even know who Amanda Bynes is. Leave me alone. ERIK HENRIKSEN