by Jeff Niesel
Given that there were no laughs in his last so-called comedy, Norbit, I can't imagine the new Eddie Murphy film, Imagine That, is any good. Since it's one of the big Hollywood flicks opening this weekend (the other is the Pelham 123 remake), you might want to find something else worth seeing. Here are capsule reviews of the movies opening at the Cedar Lee this weekend.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil It’s the summer of 1984, and a heavy-metal tour featuring the Scorpions, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Anvil has hit Japan. All the bands would go on to have multi-platinum success. Except for Anvil. After an introduction that includes footage from that tour of Japan, along with testimonials from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, Motorhead singer Lemmy and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, The Story of Anvil commences with footage of what the ballyhooed Canadian rockers have become. Drummer Robb Reiner has a job in construction, and singer-guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow works for a catering company. “For all this horrible shit I have to go through, I have Anvil that gives me my happiness,” says Kudlow. “It could never be worse than it already is.” The guys still get together to play and perform at a crappy sports bar one night to celebrate Lips’ 50th birthday before leaving for a European tour. The ill-conceived tour includes stops in Prague and Munich before the “Monsters of Transylvania” concert, which draws a crowd of 174 to an arena with a capacity of 10,000. When no label shows any interest in signing the band after it spends borrowed money to make a new album, the guys decide to self-release the disc. A loveable loser whose passion far outweighs his intelligence, Ludlow makes a compelling anti-hero with whom you can’t help but sympathize. *** (Jeff Niesel)
Easy Virtue In this loose adaptation of Noel Coward’s 1924 stage hit, Jessica Biel plays a widowed American race-car driver whose impetuous marriage to a young British aristocrat (Ben Barnes) results in somewhat labored, if intermittently amusing, fish-out-of-water comedy when she goes home to meet her new in-laws (Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas). Directed in surprisingly starchy fashion by Stephan Elliott of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fame, the movie rarely ignites into the fizzy, jazz-age farce you’re expecting. The performances, however, are mostly top-drawer, particularly by old pros (and English Patient costars) Scott Thomas and Firth, who make you believe every spiteful remark and wounded glance. The lightweight Biel acquits herself surprisingly well under the circumstances, yet it’s too bad that a real actress didn’t get a crack at the role. For the record, Coward’s play was previously filmed by a pre-“Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock in a virtually forgotten 1928 silent version. ** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)
The Girlfriend Experience Porno starlet Sasha Grey goes mainstream — or at least arthouse-indie — in Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s Godardian treatise on the sex trade in present-day Manhattan. Grey plays top-of-the-line escort Chelsea whose specialty is making men believe that she’s more than a hooker (dinner and a movie is usually part of the “date”). When she begins experiencing real girlfriend feelings for a new client, her live-in boyfriend Chris (Chris Santos) predictably blows a gasket. But since Chris is currently marketing himself as a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market (he’s a high-priced physical trainer for Wall Street yuppies), his WTF moment falls on deaf ears. Semi-improvised and shot on digital video, it’s more intellectual exercise than conventional narrative drama. Soderbergh uses his film’s highly aestheticized sheen as a kind of auto-critique while engaging the audience in a dialectical debate on the current global economic crisis. In a role that’s mostly surface, Grey impresses as Soderbergh’s Anna Karina manqué. *** 1/2 (Paurich)