Opens Fri, Sept 3
The Aussies make comedies like IHOP makes pancakes: big, fluffy, and swimming in syrup. But Australian comedies also have an unmistakably breezy tempo, which can take even the cynical off guard.
Take Danny Deckchair, the harmless fable of a frumpy cement layer and amateur inventor named Danny (Rhys Ifans) who is really, really looking forward to his vacation with his girlfriend, Trudy (Justine Clarke). Unbeknownst to him, however, Trudy's planning a secret rendezvous with a new, more handsome beau and cancels her travel plans with Danny. Catching wind of the affair, Danny decides (with little explanation) to tie enormous balloons to his deckchair and float away, eventually drifting to a perfect little town far from the city where he fits right in, emerging like a butterfly from an unsightly chrysalis.
Ifans, last seen playing nearly the exact same character in Michel Gondry's much-maligned Human Nature, does a fine job playing Danny as a frog prince. His soulful eyes and lanky build make him a fine addition to the cosmic list of odd heartthrobs. But the problems come in with the film's tired, heavy-handed "appearances are deceiving" moral, which falls pretty flat after a while, even though a wacky sort of sweetness and lush scenery still manage to keep Deckchair buoyant--even when it dips (and nearly crashes) into formulaic romantic comedy territory. MICHAEL SVOBODA
Uncovered: The War on Iraq
Dir. Greenwald Opens Fri, Sept 3
Clinton St. Theater, Lloyd Mall
For all the liberals who complained that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was little more than "entertaining propaganda," Uncovered: The War on Iraq should be a real treat. A wholly factual treatment of Bush's backwards promotion of the war on Iraq, Uncovered has nary a propaganda in sight... and it's also the most boring film to come along in a long time.
Uncovered is a methodical, point-by-point breakdown of the Bush administration's promotion of the Iraq War, focusing on the myth of weapons of mass destruction and how facts were twisted and assumptions were made to justify the war. To get an idea of how director Robert Greenwald achieves this, check out the film's opening, which consists of every interviewee introducing themselves and stating their time in service with the government. The point is to establish the credibility of every witness--and, by association, that of the film itself--but the deadpan segment of recitation goes on for four entire minutes. (And no, I'm not exaggerating--but trust me, I wish I was.)
Most of the facts and arguments that Uncovered supposedly uncovers have already been reported in the press, so the only thing that the film establishes is that Bush and his administration are either a group of dim-witted morons or a bunch of devious, conspiratorial goons. But I already knew that, and the only audience this film is going to reach is one that already knows that too. MANU BERELLI
Opens Wed, Sept 1
Wicker Park supports my theory that everything in life turns out better if you have low expectations. Upon arriving at the movie, I didn't know anything about the story--other than it starred Josh Hartnett, and took place in Chicago's Wicker Park district. Beyond that, I had an inkling that it was a love story... but holy shit, it turned out to be so much more. Meaning: Wicker Park is the best, most deliciously twisty romantic suspense thriller you'll ever see. Granted, the whole movie is completely implausible (although revealing any of this implausibility would ruin it), but regardless, its an assload of stomach twisting, anxietous, mysterious fun. There are flashbacks, flashforwards, missing persons, and nothing is quite what it seems. Plus, the film has the added bonus of tons of footage with the adorable Josh Hartnett looking pained, and confused, and sad, and loving, and dashingly handsome.
Sorry, but I'll I'm going to say for now is that Wicker Park is totally great. It's about two people and they fall in love, and crazy weird shit happens, and again, that's all I can say. Go see it. My friend and I even cried at the end. I know, now I've made the grave mistake of raising your expectations, but in this case, I honestly don't think it will matter. KATIE SHIMER