By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Saturday, April 17, at 1:15 p.m.; Sunday, April 25, at 3:15 p.m.
Not many would have predicted back in '98 that an affable trifle like The Full Monty would prove to be one of the most influential European films of its era, but movies about groups of misfits tackling unlikely artistic ventures have since become almost a genre unto themselves. This time around, our protagonist is a newly widowed Belgian septuagenarian (Merilou Mermans) who reunites her 1950s pop trio to collaborate with her estranged son (Jan Van Looveren) on a raunchy R&B album. The Over the Hill Band never strays too far from the expected template, with a host of stock characters (the lusty old dame, the prude who finds her freewheeling side, etc.) overplaying a series of predictable culture clashes before learning to work together. The film is at its best when it veers away from broad comedy and focuses on the relationship between Mermans and Van Looveren. Their respective portrayals of cautious adventure and good-natured vulgarity are much more involving than the jokey fluff surrounding them. Those two performances elevate the proceedings a notch above your standard Monty knock-off, moving the film into deeper territory than it sometimes seems comfortable with. —Ira Brooker
Thursday, April 22, at 5:15 p.m.; Saturday, April 24, at 7:10 p.m.
Reality TV—Italian style! Erik Gandini's documentary examines the media and political empire of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as seen through the eyes of three of his countrymen: Rick Canelli, a singer and martial artist who has spent years preparing to be a contestant on an American Idol-type show; Lele Mora, Italy's most powerful super-agent and a fan of Mussolini who proudly plays Fascist hymns on his cell phone; and Fabrizio Corona, a slimy, pony-tailed celebrity tracker who takes embarrassing photos of the famous and sells them to either gossip rags or the celebrities themselves. The film is chock full of footage of tanned, sweaty stars attending galas; public appearances by Berlusconi himself (who has a specially built remote-controlled volcano on one of his many estates, and on another, a maze in which guests are expected to get lost so he can rescue them); and the beautiful, half-naked Veline girls, who shake their moneymakers for the shows that made his fortune. But you'll find out more from Wikipedia about the face-lifted prime minister's cult of personality and control of the country's media than you would from this glossy, empty, often vague movie. Even the three main figures—only one of whom (Corona, who spent several months in stir for extortion) has anything remotely interesting happen to him—get no more than a superficial going-over. However, the 10-minute montage that opens the film is a definite "Wow!" —John Ervin
Sunday, April 18, at 9:35 p.m.; Wednesday, April 21, at 9:15 p.m.
Lars might have had his "real girl" in the form of a life-sized rubber blowup doll, but in the case of Hideo, a waiter in Tokyo, the inflatable woman he lives with—and makes love to in a couple of sickening scenes—actually is real, thanks to the heart her maker implanted in her. Unbeknown to Hideo, whenever he is not at home, Nozomi, his air-pumped companion, comes to life in the form of actress Bae Doona. Wandering the streets near his apartment, Nozomi befriends a handful of lonely people who confess to being as empty as she repeatedly insists she is. She even gets a job at a video store, where she learns enough about movies to assist customers (though without ever having seen a movie). Director Hirokazu Koreeda's feature is commendable as a commentary on how women in Japan, even with the advent of equal rights in most areas of society, continue to be treated by many men as toys, appreciated only for their sexual and housekeeping skills. But the thin story, glacial pace, and sparse, proverb-laden script make it a long, ponderous, watch-checking experience. One item that does hold interest is figuring out the video store's inexplicable promotion of the 1965 beach flick How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. —John Ervin
Saturday, April 24, at 7 p.m.; Thursday, April 29, at 9 p.m.
Northless, Rigoberto Perezcano's suffocatingly mute and dour tragedy about a Mexican man attempting the perilous border crossing from Tijuana into the United States, is a feast of hopelessness, a forced but aimless march in which the concept of hope is a laughably weak cinder by which the principal characters are just barely able to navigate their lives and catch a bit of spiritual warmth. The film is a visual smash, borrowing much from the Mexican scenes of Soderbergh's drug opus Traffic. Perezcano's handheld cameras match his all-but-nameless protagonist, Andres, step by plodding step, washing the Mexican desert, the backwater suburbs of Tijuana, and his characters' pitted, sorrowful faces in a nearly sadistically unforgiving light. Perezcano isn't making gruesome sport of his characters, but as Andres launches a handful of dispassionate, abortive crossings, or finds precious few handfuls of manna in day work at a Tijuana bodega, the film approaches distaste and runs the risk of wallowing in endless anguish. Were it not for expertly timed passages of romance, camaraderie, and a last-reel prospect of actual escape (each made all the more affecting by their brevity), the film would topple into an oubliette of despair from which there is no chance of liberation. Perezcano deserves credit for courageously acknowledging the long odds his characters, and the millions of real-life counterparts they represent, face. But too often he seems preoccupied with stamping out the cinders his characters manage to create, cruelly retarding our ability to sympathize with their do-or-die plight and turning the most complex border conflict in the Western Hemisphere into endless emotional stalemate. —David Hansen