Brothers of the Head
dirs. Fulton, Pepe
Opens Fri Aug 11
Surely a contender for "Weirdest Film of 2006," Brothers of the Head is a mockumentary set in the '70s about conjoined twins fronting a punk band (the two are played by real-life twins Harry and Luke Treadaway). Taken from their remote home in England and essentially sold by their father into an exploitative contract, they are trained and looked after by a crew of tutors and keepers (well, if you count beatings, the constant consumption of substances, and guitar lessons "looked after"), and are unleashed onto the proto-punk scene.
It's difficult to entirely recommend the film, because the collage of mock doc, atmospheric video art, and meta-drama is initially frustrating. Its closest resemblance is probably to Hedwig and the Angry Inch—with its freak-as-rock-star theme, the stereotypical rise-and-fall arcs of its character(s), and soundtrack—but Brothers is radically different in tone, trading camp for disarming earnestness. But it's this sincere yet standoffish approach that contributes to the curiousness of this film—Brothers of the Head is worth watching, if only because, like its subject matter, it's quite an oddity. MARJORIE SKINNER
Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
dirs. Crowder, Dower
Opens Fri Aug 11
Although billed as a soccer fan's stroll down memory lane, the documentary Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos is much smarter than that. Sure, in telling the story of the 1977 New York Cosmos soccer team, Lifetime boasts multiple shots of Pelé bicycle-kicking goals. But you don't need to be a soccer fan to like this film; the story is more about how corporate interests tried (and failed) to build soccer into a mega-money-making machine.
Playing out like a VH1 Behind the Music episode, the narrative chronicles a struggling, little-known soccer team just before they were discovered, bought, and championed by a rabid fan (in this case, Steve Ross, then-CEO of Warner Bros.). When the team's new Daddy Warbucks infuses the struggling band of soccer players with rock-star talent (in this case, Ross pays millions to recruit Pelé out of retirement in Brazil), the Cosmos soar into the national consciousness—until, inevitably, under the weight of egos and overexposure, they crash and burn. It's a solid story, and well told—and as narrated by Matt Dillon, Lifetime is easy, smart summertime watching. PHIL BUSSE
Opens Fri Aug 11
"Restraint" isn't a quality I often seek. But in the case of teen dance movie Step Up, it's the filmmakers' restraint that most made me enjoy it. The story is classic: Tyler (Channing Tatum) is a roughish foster kid who steals cars and gets in fights, but who mostly is just a sweet, cute guy who's good with children and puppy dog eyes, plus is a really killer street dancer. (He's a hell of a lot more modern jazz than krump, but go with it.) For slap-dash and expediently deployed reasons, he ends up in a dance studio with Nora (Jenna Dewan), a serious dance student at the prestigious Maryland School of the Arts. Rousing hybridizations of formally trained skills and raw talent ensue, as does romance, a couple of plot progressing and unobtrusively inserted life lessons, some cute clothes and fresh, pretty faces, and of course some decent dancing—that's all you need. Step Up didn't fart around trying to be something it wasn't, but stuck the finish being exemplary as what it was supposed to be—Fame-lite. MARJORIE SKINNER