Reviews: Jeremy Renner Helps Invent Talking Bottle Openers and Disarms Bombs, Plus Boring Families and Boring Nazi Ghosts

April 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm 2 comments

Lightbulb

You find out all kinds of unexpected things at film festivals; that’s the byproduct of having films from all over the globe, including countries you rarely hear from, cinematically, like Slovenia or Peru. For instance, I’m sure you never thought you’d see a film centered around the invention of those beer bottle openers that make funny noises. Is there seriously even a story there? Well, yes…and no. In the Amerindie Lightbulb (C), Dallas Roberts (Joshua) and star of the day Jeremy Renner (see The Hurt Locker, below) play two get-rich-quick schemers trying to devise the next big novelty product. That eventually becomes said noise-maker, the creation of which involved much false starts with other, lesser products, a harsh lesson in corporate thievery, plus some last-minute, major technical screw-ups. It also, however, apparently involved the guy played by Roberts being sad that his wife left him and other personal stuff about which, frankly, No One Cares. Luckily, Lightbulb has some terrific actors, including comic actor Richard Kind perversely cast as an amoral slick-talker. Unfortunately it’s frequently a technical disaster, with some awful post-dubbing, clumsy video and weird post-production fix-ups that speed certain shots up to the point where you almost think you’re watching Benny Hill. (Plays again: Sun., April 5, 7:30pm, Prince Music Theater.)

All Inclusive

The title of the Chilean comedy All Inclusive (C) refers to the nature of the Mexican seaside resort patronized by the film’s dysfunctional family. But wouldn’t you know it’s a double meaning, referring to the very nearly unsightly familial reunion hoe-down that eats up the final reel. Not that it had much to live up to. The five family members go off on their own to learn mundane life lessons: the supposedly dying paterfamilias improbably scores with a local Cuban hottie; one daughter tries to mack on the wife of a hotel owner; and the horny, pimple-faced son gets his IM groove on. As the dad Jesús Ochoa has a shumbling, sadsack mien that’s fairly appealing, but this is a cookie cutter family weepie.

The Hurt Locker

Happily, the day perked up — before plummeting back down to the dregs — with The Hurt Locker (B+), the insanely well-liked Iraq bomb squad saga from Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Point Break, and formerly Mrs. James Cameron). Following a bomb disposal unit made of star defuser Jeremy Renner and subordinates Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, Bigelow’s nail-biter takes us from one almost sadistically tense and disarmingly calm set piece to the next, the best finding them pinned down in the desert for an endless snipe-off. A far more successful bid for the art house than her 2000 drama The Weight of Water — and not coincidentally because it indulges in her skill with genre thrills — it’s also not too far from Hollywood. Though played with a disarming (so to speak) calmness, Renner’s character is a hot shot, cocky cowboy type right out of an ‘80s action movie, while his relationship with Mackie occasionally threatens to come close to the homoerotic tension that makes Point Break such a hoot. But Bigelow takes her main inspiration from The Wages of Fear, complete with a couple out-of-nowhere deaths and a palpable feeling of hopelessness. The Hurt Locker is better when mid-suspense scene than it is as a character study, but its portrait of war as addiction — as per the Chris Hedges quote that opens the film — is palpable still. (Shows again: today, 2pm, Ritz 5. Also opens theatrically in June.)

God's Forgotten Town

Apparently not good enough for the Danger After Dark section, the Spanish God’s Forgotten Town (C-) is an utterly rote ghost story, so dull and (eventually) earnest it can’t even get a charge out of the spirits being dead Nazis. Part of the Final Solution or no, these have to be the lamest ghosts ever: their idea of spooking is smashing pots on the floor and — I still can’t believe this happened — blowing out a lighter when someone’s trying to light a ciggie. I really ought to have bailed; my early instincts were right. In fact, I’ve decided to start chanelling Malcolm Gladwell and bail when I’m very sure things aren’t going to improve. Having recently entering a new decade on this planet, I’ve realized life really is too short. (Plays again: Fri., April 3, 2:45pm, Ritz East and Sun., April 5, 9;15pm, Ritz East.)

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