AFI Dallas: The Joy in Joy Division, and The Monster Among Us

From Allen and Cynthia Mondell's The Monster Among Us, screening tonight at the AMC NorthPark
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A couple of AFI Dallas International Film Festival recommendations this morning, after a long opening weekend during which Angus Wynne marched a teen-aged New Orleans street band, the To Be Continued Brass Band, through a W wingding on Saturday night; Mischa Barton strolled the red carpet in the West Village; Bob Musgrave and Kumar Pallana staged a mini-Bottle Rocket reunion; and Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips stopped familiar face Richard Jenkins in the Angelika lobby Friday night to ask him, "What're you doing here?" First and foremost, though, another item for those on the lookout for "news" items: Ubiquitous Fort Worth native and JFK speech-listener Bill Paxton will talk to whomever about his and Tom Hanks' forthcoming adaptation of Vincent Bugliosi's epic Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which HBO's set to shoot -- in Dallas, he hopes, as well he should -- within the next two and a half years, so don't commence to breath-holding just yet. As for casting: "Man, that's a long ways off."

Now, onto spending the spending money today. Gorillaz and Radiohead filmmaker Grant Gee's doc Joy Division bows tonight, at 9:45 at the Angelika Film Center, and though the film's really an artsy, glorified episode of Behind the Music, it's a poignant, sincere and smart thrill nonetheless -- a thousand times the movie Control was, because no actor could ever hope to measure up to the looming, melancholy, spastic specter of Ian Curtis. (The same could be said of every other music biopic, incidentally: They're all pale, puny shadows of The Real Deal.)

Gee's doc presents him without the tortured-genius baggage, but as he was -- a bright and gentle soul swept into the darkness who meant it when he sang, "But if you could just see the beauty/These things I could never describe/This is my one consolation/This is my one true prize." Gee cuts to the bone: It's the whole story, told by the surviving members of Joy Division and the others mythmakers and hangers-on from inception to implosion to rebirth. And it presents a picture of a band not as suffering martyrs, but as hard-working artists; as Stephen Morris says when explaining why the other members carried on as New Order, it's because, well, he was just expected to show up at work the next day, what else was he supposed to do? Here's the trailer.

And right here's the brand-new trailer for Bowling For Soup: Live And Very Attractive, which debuts tonight at 7:15 at the Angelika. And, yes, it's precisely what it sounds like: a doc about the local band Bowling for Soup as goes on a Eurotrip, winding up at the storied Manchester Apollo. In other words, it is the exact opposite of Joy Division.

Also screening today, at 7:15 p.m. at the AMC NorthPark, is local filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell's The Monster Among Us, about the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Says the local filmmakers' Web site, which features a trailer for the forthcoming doc: "The Monster Among Us examines this wave of antisemitism against European Jews and their institutions, mainly from the point of view of those who have directly experienced the violence or live every day with the threat."

Following the Mondells' doc at the NorthPark is The Last Lullaby, otherwise known as AFI's Tom Sizemore offering about a hit man who, ya know, can't escape the business -- which sounds familiar enough. You can't stay the same about Tracing Cowboys, which is at the Magnolia at 4 p.m. and, says its fest-book entry, is "the story of Ethan, an Englishman, who is determined to become a country and western singer but is somewhat derailed by his search for his girlfriend, Debbie." Also says it's like The Searchers, but different. --Robert Wilonsky

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