September Dawn dir. Christopher Cain
Opens Fri Aug 24
Lloyd Center 10 Cinema
September Dawn is a soap-operatized account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a horrific 1857 event in which one early Mormon settlement murdered an entire wagon train for no reason. (In a meaningless coincidence referred to as "ironic" by many dumbasses, the massacre occurred on September 11.) The movie contends that Brigham Young himself (Terence Stamp, sporting a beard of pleasant ringlets) ordered the killings. Modern-day Mormons take the opposite position. Mitt Romney is deeply annoyed.
He needn't worry. September Dawn is aggressively absurd. First of all, it's narrated by a BABY (a literal infant!) who, admittedly, doesn't remember much: "But I remember feelings!" Then there's Jon Voigt, as a crazy person, who—when he's not busy bloviatin'—rides around in his Mormon buggy (OF DEATH) and cries about dead Joseph Smith (Dean "Fucking" Cain).
I've never laughed harder than during the final massacre montage, when Jon Voigt's huge red face is superimposed over an endlessly repeating loop of babies being stabbed in the head. There's also a stupid love story, a horse-whisperin' Morm, and the most clichéd death scene in the history of death.
Long story embarrassing, these filmmakers believe that their movie makes a statement about modern religious extremism. Whatever. Only a very special film could reap hilarity from hitting a baby with a sword. September Dawn wins. You lose. LINDY WEST
Right at Your Door dir. Chris Gorak
Opens Fri Aug 24
Unless you went into massive denial as a result of 9/11, you probably spent some time after the towers fell in contemplating the possibility of another attack. Right at Your Door manipulates these fears into an unpleasant and nerve-wracking little film that focuses on the improbable situation of one married couple in the midst of a terrorist attack.
When a dirty bomb goes off in LA, the city turns into the post-apocalyptic wasteland the rest of the country already believes it to be, and Brad (Rory Cochrane) quarantines himself inside his house, sealing it shut with layers of Saran Wrap and duct tape. Meanwhile, his wife (who was downtown when the bomb went off) is presumed to be contaminated by the microbes released in the attack—so she stays locked outside the house, getting sicker and sicker, separated from her husband by a layer of Saran Wrap.
It's hard to shake the sense that writer/director Chris Gorak is playing the terrorism card, angling to tease a reaction out of the audience by manipulating our collective fears. Ultimately, the film produces the same effect as watching several consecutive hours of Fox News: It'll make you feel scared and unsafe without doing a damn thing to help you better understand the world we live in. ALISON HALLETT
2 Days in Paris dir. Julie Delpy
Opens Fri Aug 24
Romantic comedies have become so routine, so processed, so horribly unfunny, that Julie Delpy's hilarious and astute 2 Days in Paris carries a jolt of surprise. The movie follows Franco-American couple Marion (Delpy, the most unaffected of pretty French actresses) and Jack (Adam Goldberg, in a major comic performance) on a stopover in Marion's hometown. Those who think it's another Julie-Delpy-and-scruffy-American-in-Europe-walk-and-talkathon, à la Before Sunrise/set, are wrong. The Paris that Marion and Jack encounter isn't that of moonlit strolls along the Seine (amen!); it's a real city, teeming with noise, tension, music, strange food, assholes on the metro—and, to Jack's dismay, many of Marion's exes.
Delpy, finding cores of truth in clichés about Ugly Americans and temperamental Frenchies, writes dialogue that's a delirious blend of bawdy French farce and Woody Allen-ish neuroses. As for she and Goldberg, they just might be the prickliest, most luscious screen couple we've had in ages. Delpy has made something rare: a romantic comedy that feels spontaneous and handcrafted, rather than shat out by a studio and a couple of stars. JON FROSCH