A more promising round this time:
"The Road to Guantanamo"
Directors: Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross
Winterbottom’s Silver Bear winner brushes by Tribeca on its way to a US theatrical release slated for June 23rd, one of the higher-profile Middle East-focused films in a festival heavy with them. Fleet and imbued with an extraordinary sense of urgency, "The Road to Guantanamo" isn’t a film you can really like or dislike â€” it’s intended to provoke a sense of outrage and, in that regard, it’s extremely effective. Winterbottom turns the story over to Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, the "Tipton Three," British-born Pakistanis who on a trip back to Pakistan for a wedding made a detour into Afghanistan just before the US bombings started. Rounded up with surrendering Taliban forces, they ended up being held at Guantanamo for two years without ever being charged. Interviews with Ruhel, Asif and Shafiq are intercut with actors depicting the events as described, rather like "The Thin Blue Line" without Errol Morris‘s remove or (mostly) the stylistic coyness of his reenactments. It’s sometimes uncomfortable that the film so unquestioningly follows the Tipton Three’s account, particularly in the vaguenesses surrounding how they unthinkingly ended up in Kabul, but the details of their time in Guantanamo ring unavoidably true.
Director: Todd Robinson
Robinson’s not the first to wrangle the murderous couple of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez onto the big screen, but he’s the first to have such a personal angle â€” his grandfather, Elmer C. Robinson (played in the film by John Travolta) was one of the detectives who caught the infamous "Lonely Hearts Killers." The film is a distinctly glossy affair, with Fernandez being played by Jared Leto (with faux receding hairline) and Beck being played (with panache, if nothing else) by Salma Hayek. That Beck was in reality quite obese isn’t as much an issue as the fact that the film just ignores Hayek’s fully vamped-up period piece beauty â€” when a voiceover informs us that while the pair were out conning wealthy single women, "Martha played the role of Raymond’s spinster sister perfectly," while the camera pans over a dÃ©colletÃ© Hayek sprawled in a vintage gown, it’s bewildering. Still, Hayek’s psychotic turn is fun for a while; the police side of the story, tying in the unexplained suicide of Robinson’s wife to the investigation, is rote and creaky, with James Gandolfini and Laura Dern wasted in sketched-in supporting roles.
Director: Fay Ann Lee
Proof that an Asian American filmmaker can make as awkward and formulaic a romantic comedy as anyone in mainstream Hollywood, "East Broadway" is notable for being the film that was meant to be B.D. Wong‘s directorial debut, until reported "creative differences" between Wong and writer/star Fay Ann Lee led to Lee stepping up to also helm the film and Wong requesting his name be removed from the credits (despite playing a supporting role). "East Broadway" is a retooling of the Cinderella story, with Lee playing Grace Tang, a second-generation gal with aspirations toward high society who, thanks to a case of mistaken identity, soon has all of the Upper East Side believing she’s a Hong Kong heiress, including dreamy Andrew Barrington, Jr. (Gale Harold). The film neatly sidesteps all potentially interesting issues â€” Class barriers innately impermeable? Dodged! Romantic lead may have an Asian fetish? Ducked! â€” in favor of a standard mix of screwball comedy and stagy dialogue. When Grace admitted to being obsessed with "Grease" as a child, and Andrew asked her to sing a song from the movie, we bailed.
Director: Mark Fergus
Mark Fergus’ directorial debut is not terrible, but it’s wholly unremarkable, a competent first film that happens to be mildly expensive-looking and star Guy Pearce. Pearce plays Jimmy, a slick Albuquerque salesman who happens upon an honest-to-God fortuneteller (J.K. Simmons) at a pit stop out in the desert who reluctantly foresees his death around the time of the titular turn in the weather. Simplistic meditations on fate and death are balanced by Pearce’s grounded performance and a somewhat interesting development about Jimmy’s past.
"Color Me Kubrick"
Dir: Brian W. Cook
More a collection of sketches than a film, but gleefully enjoyable sketches. You couldn’t call Brian Cook’s film a biopic; when we meet Alan Conway (John Malkovich) he’s already quite adept at passing himself off as Stanley Kubrick in order to drink for free and bed attractive young men, and he never really goes anywhere from there. It doesn’t matter â€” the pleasures of watching Malkovich enjoy himself as Conway enjoying himself as varying over-the-top interpretations of a Hollywood director are innumerable. Conway wasn’t even that familiar with Kubrick’s oeuvre, but he did know the important thing â€” that everyone has a script, or a band, or a fashion line, or a secret belief that they should star in films, and that their vanity could equal plenty of gratis meals. Cook mixes in references to various Kubrick films, most notably in the use of music, with Kubrick’s most famous choices underlying deliriously incongruous scenes of Conway conning his way around London.