New Reviews: Corruption, confusion and kung fu
'All the King's Men' (PG-13)
In another not-so-good remake of a wonderful classic film, Sean Penn takes on the role of corrupt Southern politician Willie Stark - originally played to memorable effect by Broderick Crawford - and goes all Al Pacino on it.
He flails, he spits and he delivers his lines in a marble-mouthed Louisiana accent, and the result is reminiscent less of Huey Long than of Huey, Dewey and Louie.
The cast, which includes Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and James Gandolfini, is stellar, but all are overshadowed by Penn's bigger-than-life, scenery-chewing performance.
The message of Robert Penn Warren's 1946 novel, that power corrupts because people are so easily corruptible, gets a muddled treatment by writer-director Steven Zaillian, who re-imagines the story with a messy directorial hand that drags the audience back and forth in time and dismisses important subplots along the way.
Poorly written, badly cast (Penn, for all his gesticulations, is simply wrong for the role) and a general mess all around, you're better off catching the Oscar-winning 1949 original on Turner Classic Movies.
- Dawn Taylor
Cinetopia, Century Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Evergreen Parkway, Division Street
A businessman (Bill Paxton) flees from the feds to the Cayman Islands with a whole lot of money and his daughter (Agnes Bruckner). The daughter sneaks out to go to a party with a local boy (Victor Rasuk) and … huh? All of a sudden, the movie's about something else entirely.
Now it's about a young fisherman (Orlando Bloom) in love with his boss's daughter (Zoe Saldana). Her overprotective older brother throws acid in Bloom's face - supposedly rendering him hideous, but really only giving him one very odd eyebrow. But what about Paxton?
Oh, there he is. The screen reads, 'Four months later.' What the hell?
First-time director Frank E. Flowers wanted to make 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Traffic' so much it's a little sad. He uses all the cool camera tricks but lacks rhythm, humor or a cohesive narrative.
Co-produced by Bloom, 'Haven' sat on the shelf for two years before trickling into theaters. You've been warned.
'Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers' (NR)
If activist filmmaker Robert Greenwald goes down in history, it will be as an engine for change, not as a stylish or innovative director.
He has tackled the Fox News Channel ('Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism') and Wal-Mart ('Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price') and now he's taking on Halliburton and other corporations that are raking in millions of dollars as contractors with the U.S. military in Iraq.
The somewhat frustrating film jumps from critique to critique - private employees interrogating military prisoners, truck drivers gunned down during a job to which they never should have been assigned, soldiers showering in contaminated water.
Greenwald tries to fit it all together but ends up with a lot of loose ends. Then again, it's not his fault that the system of military contracts is so corrupt and dysfunctional that it would take five or 10 feature-length films to document it all.
Greenwald will answer questions after tonight's 7 o'clock screening.
- Anne Marie DiStefano
Clinton Street Theater
'Jet Li's Fearless' (PG-13)
'Fearless' is being promoted as Hong Kong star Jet Li's farewell to kung fu. As a swan song to traditional martial arts filmmaking, his earlier 'Hero' would have been a more glorious choice.
But this inspirational biopic about martial artist Huo Yuanjia, who rallied Chinese national pride amid the growing Western influence of the early 20th century, makes for an entertaining and perhaps more personal final bow in the genre.
Recalling such Li classics as 'Once Upon a Time in China,' it blends fast and furious action, melodrama and sentimentality with the usual Hong Kong exuberance.
Less welcome are the computer enhancements that give some of the fights a too-contemporary goosing, but director Ronny Yu generally maintains old-fashioned charm while his star provides the charisma.
Let's hope the Jetster's future efforts prove more salutary than a recent Hollywood stint that can only be called cheerless.
- Pat Holmes
Cinetopia, Century Eastport, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street
Also new this week: The Hollywood Theatre shows a new print of 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' and special late-night screenings of the horror flick 'Feast,' which was made under the auspices of the Bravo channel's 'Project Greenlight' (11 p.m. FRIDAY and SATURDAY, Sept. 22-23). At the Northwest Film Center, the 'Lens on Syria' series continues with 'Stars in Broad Daylight' (4 p.m. SATURDAY, Sept. 23) and 'Nights of the Jackals' (9 p.m. Friday and 3:45 p.m. SUNDAY, Sept. 22-24), and French comedies get an airing in a monthlong program (all at Whitsell Auditorium, see www.nwfilm.org for details).