Weekend!Movies: A fake assasination, a real queen and artificial eccentricity
'Death of a President' (R)
The fact that this faux documentary about the assassination of President Bush in 2007 is entirely fictitious is powerfully reinforced early in the film when a staffer describes riding in the presidential limo past an angry mob of protesters.
She recalls the president saying to her that he supports their right to say what they think, but 'he just wished they would protest peacefully.'
It doesn't sound remotely like something Bush would say in private, even if his motorcades weren't carefully routed to avoid any interaction with dissenters. And the whole film is like that, presented in an authentically documentarian manner but still ringing totally false.
There doesn't seem to be any real point to this picture, and it's in questionable taste, besides.
If the words 'President Cheney' strike fear into your heart, this movie will be scarier than 'Saw III.' For everybody else, it's a bit of a head scratcher.
- Dawn Taylor
'The Queen' (PG-13)
Helen Mirren most definitely rules in this fascinating look at the British royal family's misjudged response to the death of Princess Diana.
And if you think this sounds a little too PBS for your taste, think again. Mirren's remarkable performance in the title role is simply - well, not so simply - the crowning glory of a surprisingly engaging look at the difficult relationship between the tradition-bound monarchy and the modern world it serves.
Under the astute direction of the reliably versatile Stephen Frears ('The Grifters,' 'Dangerous Liaisons,' 'High Fidelity'), it proves insightful, humorous, gripping and, finally, moving, with Mirren ably supported by James Cromwell as the brusquely clueless Prince Philip and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, the new prime minister who must chart a tricky course between the royals and the public.
Still it's Mirren, accomplishing more with just the set of her mouth than many actors will in their entire careers, who makes something personal of this uncertain trembling in Britain's legendary stiff upper lip.
- Pat Holmes
'Running With Scissors' (R)
And while you're running, flee this excruciating adaptation of the memoir by Augusten Burroughs, in which Burroughs (Joseph Cross) chronicles life with his delusional mother (Annette Bening) and then with the wacky family of Mom's highly unorthodox shrink (Brian Cox).
This is one of those horrifically artificial portraits of 'eccentricity' in which everyone and everything comes enclosed with quotation marks and is italicized. It's all so incredibly false that it makes you wonder if Burroughs' book isn't another of those 'memoirs' we hear so much about these days.
Under the misdirection of television vet Ryan Murphy ('Nip/Tuck'), there's no difference between the people and the überkitschy décor. The overstatement and preciosity is slathered on with a trowel, gumming up even the usually stalwart Cox and Alec Baldwin (as Burroughs' alcoholic father).
Meanwhile, Bening's performance doesn't just request Oscar consideration; it takes hostages and demands the golden doorstop right now!
Cinetopia, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center
Also new this week:
Get into the Halloween spirit by watching 'Prom Night' at the Clinton Street Theater. The 1980 scary movie classic about bloody revenge stars (who else in 1980?) Jamie Lee Curtis. If you aren't a Pixies fan, well … you should be. See why so many people are in 'Loud Quiet Loud: A Movie About the Pixies' at Whistell Auditorium. 'Princesas' is a Spanish film about two young prostitutes, first enemies and then friends, living and working in Madrid (Hollywood Theatre).