If you judge your week-to-week quality of life solely on the basis of new theatrical releases, you’re probably pretty unhappy about now.
+ "The Quiet": Jamie Babbit (of "But I’m a Cheerleader") has managed to get her suburban Gothic thriller released by Sony Pictures Classics, but that doesn’t save it from the critics. "What if itâ€™s not cell phones, iPods, MySpace or whatever thatâ€™s keeping the teen demographic out of movie theaters? What if, instead, itâ€™s the moviesâ€™ endless reduction of their complex, muddled and â€” gasp! â€” occasionally enjoyable lives to a bunch of recycled social-problem clichÃ©s?" muses Ella Taylor at LA Weekly. Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly complains that Babbit "thinks in stereotypes so thin that they put you to sleep the moment they open their mouths." At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis squashed hopes of lurid, campy fun: "Neither ambitious enough to take seriously nor sleazy enough to enjoy, ‘The Quiet’ flirts with the trappings of exploitation cinema without going all the way." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon finds that the film "wobbles around between genres, a terrible example of what can happen when the wrong sets of talented people get together." And this week’s Reverse Shot three are so disparaging that they have to dredge up old Sam Mendes resentment to bear some of the ire â€” a selection from lead reviewer Lauren Kaminsky: "[T]his film somehow manages to surpass even ‘American Beauty’ (to which the filmmakers no doubt hope their effort will be compared) in hateful representations of women, dopily sympathetic men, and heaps of misplaced misogyny."
+ "Idlewild": Word is mixed on music video director Bryan Barber‘s feature debut. On the likey side is Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman, who’s near ecstatic, writing that "I’m not sure what OutKast fans, let alone the Snakes on a Plane crowd, will make of it, but Idlewild is a film of spiky delights â€” a vision of African-American pop culture rising above the heartache and sin that has nurtured it." Also fond, in a rather bemused way, is the Chicago Reader‘s Jonathan Rosenbaum, who blurbs that while there are plenty of flaws in the film, "director Bryan Barber and his cast display so much gusto that it’s hard to keep up your resistance–I wound up finding this more enjoyable than the Oscar-bestrewn Chicago." Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek writes nicely that:
"Idlewild" is a wild, sprawling movie, one that’s bound to be underestimated and misunderstood. But maybe the best way to read it is to treat it as a dream history, as a testament, to borrow [Stanley] Crouch’s words, to the ways that inventing, borrowing and refining can bring us closer to the lives we want to lead — yet even within that framework, there’s no guarantee of happiness.
Less won over are Manohla Dargis at the New York Times, who calls the film "as much a missed opportunity as a terrible tease" and who bemoans Barber’s love of narrative clichÃ©s and editing choices; Dana Stevens at Slate complains about the same, and seems to judge the film more fun in theory than in practice. Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice starts off what seems like it will end up being a good review, but actually goes downhill quite quickly (a fate shared, in his opinion, in the film). He does, however, like the film’s "sober, loving respect for history and the old South." And at the New York Press, Armond White, of course, is roundly unimpressed: "OutKastâ€™s long-gestating feature film debut finally hits the big screen in the dog days of summer. Thatâ€™s because it is a dogâ€”with a bling-bling collar." He does make an interesting point:
Barber avoids putting a single white face on the screen which, in post-Spike Lee terms, is probably a point of pride. But itâ€™s racist; it also puts black pop in a void. Eddie Murphy did not make this error in Harlem Nights nor did Tap or White Nights, the â€™80s dance musicals recently released on DVD that are now Gregory Hinesâ€™ legacy.
Barber displays a weird nostalgia for what never was. Idlewildâ€™s fantasy of an all-black world with a self-sustaining economy has a downside: it reflects back only the egotism of the star performers who must feel that they have transcended the vicissitudes facing other blacks. Rooster and Percival do not strive for Utopia, just their own success. In this sense theyâ€™re not just outcasts with strange, artsy ideas, but outside any uplift-the-race ethics. (Their nadir: repeating Eminemâ€™s 8 Mile mantra â€œYou only get one shot at success!â€)
+ "Beerfest": Expectations aren’t exactly high for Broken Lizard‘s latest effort, which makes its goals of being unreviewable pretty clear in its trailer. Still, Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir takes time to muse about the difficulties of writing about dumb comedy in his review, claiming that "I can’t claim to know, in any scientific way, that ‘Beerfest,’ the high-concept new movie from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, is a disappointment." To him, it is, if a mild one, and Scott Foundas at LA Weekly feels the same way: "’Beerfest’ bubbles with the cheeky irreverence of early John Landis and David Zucker. Yet, like just about every other American screen comedy of the moment, itâ€™s far too long in the tooth, with a scattershot final half-hour that seems the work of an editor battling a bad hangover." And at the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis judges the film "increasingly incoherent," but in a good way? It’s hard to tell.