Opens Fri Aug 18
This summer comedy about a high school kid who fails to get into college—he starts a fake one to fool his overzealous parents—not only gets a D-minus for plot, but stars no known actors. So I expected it to be awful. But it's not!
It's true that there's some toe-curlingly bad acting, and the writers' efforts to imbue the plot with a higher meaning—by riffing clunkily on the "true purpose of education"—made me want to throw up. But there are similar moments in The Breakfast Club, and that movie rules. Furthermore, Accepted has plenty of hot women who admirably distracted me from caring. It doesn't hurt that the script has more than its fair share of sharp one-liners: "Enjoy these four years, because after that, you're fucked," or "This is a great fraternity—the anti-Semitism is really kept under the rug, you know?"
As flicks about high-school-burnouts-with-romantic-souls go, Accepted is no Ferris Bueller, nor is it as deft at college craziness as Old School. But Justin Long is convincing as the lead, Bartleby Gaines (but why did they have to give him such a stupid, stupid name?!), and strong performances from Bartleby's wacky friends lift Accepted out of the mire. Hey, it's hot outside. You could do worse. MATT DAVIS
Dark Water Rising
Cinema 21, Laurelhurst
After Hurricane Katrina, relief agencies had a no-animal rescue policy: When families evacuated, they had to leave their pets behind. One month later, animal rescue agencies began searching the decimated neighborhoods of New Orleans for the thousands of dogs and cats still living in and around the city. Dark Water Rising follows both the Humane Society's efforts and those of a "renegade" group known for their fearlessness and persistence. These groups faced the daunting task of rescuing hungry, frightened animals, many of who had been tied up for over a month—including hundreds of pit bulls that had been raised for fighting. Volunteers came from all over the country to help out, sleeping in parking lots and tents while putting in long, dangerous days on patrol.
While some of the camerawork feels sloppy, and the interviews are rarely deep, there's no doubt that Dark Water Rising's filmmakers were in the right place at the right time, and their footage is fascinating. This is not an easy documentary to watch, though; the film shows as many decomposing animals as living ones, and the ones that are alive are often in pretty bad shape. If nothing else, it'll make you want to hug your dog, and then volunteer at the Humane Society. ALISON HALLETT
Opens Fri Aug 18
Psycho-dramatic horror movies... they hold a soft spot in my heart. You know the ones: Jacob's Ladder, 12 Monkeys, even Lost Highway. Head Trauma is a solid induction into these halls of creepy mindfucks—"solid" as in "there're two jump-worthy moments and a (not so surprising) surprise ending."
George Walker (Vince Mola), a professional bum, comes skulking back into town to take care of his grandmother's estate. Squatters have trashed her house, and he's determined to fix it up and sell it. George (like a certain other George Walker you might've heard of) is a bit of a bumbler, so of course he falls off of the porch and hits his head—at which point scary dreams and visions begin to plague him as he wanders through his grandma's labyrinth of a house. To make matters creepier, a ghoulish stranger in a hooded parka seems hell-bent on making George's life miserable.
Director Lance Weiler's succinct take on psycho-horror doesn't have any bells or whistles—in fact, it's downright sturdy. Don't expect to be bowled over or wowed, but sometimes you just don't need to be—sometimes, two jump-worthy moments make a workhorse worth its weight in gold. COURTNEY FERGUSON