Rumor Has It...
Opens Sun Dec 25
Jennifer Aniston—not a fan. I never even liked her hairdo. That, coupled with the directorial clusterfuck that heralded the commencement of Rumor Has It...'s filming had me expecting a turd. Originally the director was screenwriter Ted Griffin (Ocean's Eleven), but he was quickly fired and replaced with Rob Reiner (Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally, etc.). Perhaps they realized Griffin was a writer with zilch experience as a director, and hauled in a respectable—if long past his prime—film director. Regardless, the flub was not a good sign.
Thankfully, while not fantastic, Rumor far exceeded my expectations, particularly with the crass presence of Shirley MacLaine, and in spite of the presences of Aniston, Kevin Costner, and Mena Suvari. The premise is meta-strange—positing that The Graduate was inspired by a true story, that Mrs. Robinson is actually Aniston's grandmother (MacLaine), and that Dustin Hoffman's character (Costner) may or may not be Aniston's real father. It's a lot of convolution for a romantic comedy, which is actually somewhat relieving. And while most rom-coms clobber you over the head with clichés, Rumor manages to trim them down—also appreciated. It's far from perfect, but more than tolerable—who'd a thought? MARJORIE SKINNER
Opens Sun Dec 25
After the abominable blitz of sissy Japanese horror remakes (The Ring, The Grudge), a blood-soaked wake-up call is just the thing Hollywood needs to remind them that horror's all about sticking to the basics. Basic Horror Step One: Provide characters we love and identify with. Basic Horror Step Two: Slice those characters up. Horror's pointless if you can't put yourself in the slicee's shoes—and Australia's Sundance-approved Wolf Creek ties those shoes on too tight for comfort.
The plot is textbook: Two girls (Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi) and a boy (Nathan Phillips) go on a road trip to the middle of Australia's bum-fuck-nowhere, and—of course—their car dies. Luckily, an eccentric, fat Crocodile Dundee type (John Jarratt) shows up and promises to fix their car! (By the way, when he says, "Hey, I can fix your car!" He means, "Hey, I can rape you and use your tits for wall décor!")
Wolf Creek's first 45-minutes are pure Horror Basics Step One—it's devoted to a slow, character-driven examination of our doomed group. But then Step Two kicks in, and Wolf Creek spirals into complete absurdist hell—and from there on out, the film's gruesome, gut-churning plot unfolds in a manner that's grotesquely voyeuristic. When you leave the theater, you'll be wondering how something as basic as a busted-down car can be so mind-bogglingly frightening. Also, you'll probably be wishing the theater had covered their seats in plastic. JENNA ROADMAN
dirs. Geller, Goldfine
Opens Sun Dec 25
In 1909, an innovative Russian dance company known as the Ballets Russes arrived in Paris, bringing with them an approach to ballet that would radically alter the face of dance. During their 20-year reign, the celebrated company was eventually replaced by two rival splinter groups, toured several continents, and survived a World War. Told through old dance footage, historical narration, and recent interviews, Ballets Russes documents the path of the two companies as they traveled the world.
For the most part, Ballet Russes rests lightly on its interviews—elegant and gaudy old ladies with Russian accents reminisce about dancing on sets designed by Dali and love affairs gone wrong; spry old men describe the glamour and romance of a dancer's life. But there are also somber realities: One black dancer recalls the racial discrimination in the South that led to her abandoning the stage. But largely Ballets Russes amounts to a charming and nostalgic look at faded glory, supplemented by gorgeous footage of some of the most talented dancers ever to grace the stage. ALISON HALLETT