Film Reviews

Short Cuts

Freddy vs. Jason
Directed by Ronny Yu. Written by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift, based on characters created by Wes Craven and Victor Miller. Starring Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena and Kelly Rowland. Opens Friday.

Anyone not already a fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street dream-stalker Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) or Friday the 13th's zombiefied redneck Jason Voorhees (currently portrayed by Ken Kirzinger) will probably not find a great deal to enjoy and much to despise. The acting's wooden, the profanity gratuitous, the fake breasts in-your-face, the gore excessive and the plot frequently moronic. Once upon a time, these would have been debits. But to the fan of '80s slashers, this return to glorious excess is a beautiful thing. Basically, Freddy needs to be feared again in order to bust loose from hell, and to achieve his goal he somehow resurrects Jason. People get confused and think it's Freddy who's at large, hurting Freddy's ego and forcing a badass showdown. --Luke Y. Thompson

Directed by Casey La Scala. Screenplay by Ralph Sall. Starring Mike Vogel, Vince Vieluf, Adam Brody and Joey Kern. Opens Friday.

Neither young dawgs nor old poops will be surprised that this movie is about friendship, competition, product-placement and, like, chasing one's, like, dreams. Mike Vogel seeks to escape Boringville, U.S.A., and patriarchal assholery by chasing pro skateboarding tours and showing off his moves, enlisting an anal-retentive nebbish (Adam Brody), an anally obsessed freak show (Vince Vieluf) and a babe magnet (Joey Kern) to join him on his cross-country quest toward a big SoCal finale. The movie's general characters and conflicts could be dropped into almost any setting, but Grind does evince a true love for skating, and both the street action and the actual competitions are brilliantly performed and slickly lensed. --Gregory Weinkauf

The Holy Land
Written and directed by Eitan Gorlin. Starring Oren Rehany, Tchelet Semel, Saul Stein, Arie Moskuna and Albert Illuz. Opens Friday.

American-born filmmaker Eitan Gorlin has outraged many observant Jews with this brash first feature about an uncertain rabbinical student (Oren Rehany) who falls in love with a magnetic Russian prostitute (Tchelet Semel)--in the holy city of Jerusalem, no less. Instead of picture-postcard views or the hushed reverence the city usually evokes in Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, Gorlin reveals a politically flammable demimonde whose back streets are inhabited by an international cast of nihilists, crass opportunists and flesh peddlers. A former yeshiva student himself, Gorlin turns this tale of political intrigue and the search for divinity into an act of liberation, if not outright defiance. --Bill Gallo

Masked and Anonymous
Directed by Larry Charles. Written by Bob Dylan and Larry Charles. Starring Bob Dylan, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges and Luke Wilson. Opens Friday.

With its obvious in-jokes and comatose winks, this movie wants to be treated as the cinematic equivalent of a Bob Dylan song. Its inane dialogue attempts to echo the rhythm and wordplay of his lyrics, and the all-star cast attempts half-hearted Dylan impressions to accommodate the poetic nonsense they're asked to put in their mouths and gargle. The film strains for some kind of meaning but asks you to do the work it can't and won't perform on its own. You can figure out the muddled story, which has to do with a dictator's mistress (Angela Bassett) and Dylan and his old man in some creepy love triangle, but why pay attention to something that doesn't seem interested in itself? --Robert Wilonsky

The Secret Lives of Dentists
Directed by Alan Rudolph. Screenplay by Craig Lucas, based on the novella The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley. Starring Campbell Scott, Denis Leary and Hope Davis. Opens Friday.

Stellar director Alan Rudolph (The Moderns) has delivered a very dull movie. Based on a Jane Smiley novella and starring Campbell Scott as a doubtful DDS and Hope Davis as his perchance-unfaithful wife and dental partner, the project seems vaguely interested in American domestic ennui but ends up feeling--wait for it--like pulling teeth. Playing an irritable trumpet player who loathes dentists and pretty much everyone else, Denis Leary informs Scott's character that he needs to stop being such a wussy-ass wuss. --G.W.

Uptown Girls
Directed by Boaz Yakin. Written by Julia Dahl, Mo Ogrodnik and Lisa Davidowitz, based on a story by Allison Jacobs. Starring Brittany Murphy, Dakota Fanning, Jesse Spencer and Donald Faison. Opens Friday.

With its ominously square title suggesting a feature-length Billy Joel video, Boaz Yakin's latest sellout movie arrives in theaters smelling a bit spoiled, and not only because annoyingly precocious Dakota Fanning plays a pampered 8-year-old going on 58. Everything about it, from after-school-special premise (Fanning teaches Brittany Murphy how to act like an adult; Murphy teaches Fanning how to live like a child) to plot point (Murphy lives off her father's pop-song royalties) to overwrought finale (musical production number on school auditorium stage), seems far too familiar for comfort. About a Boy, anyone? --R.W.

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