Film capsules

By C. Glen Bellamy, Danny Letz and Aaron Zundel

“Halloween”Rated R/109 minutes

There’s no better time to release a modern remake of a horror classic, whose moniker shares its namesake with the holiday of horrors, than on?Aug. 31, the most evil, horror-stricken day of the year!

Perhaps, in some sickly ingenious marketing ploy, the release date is somehow tied to a demonic aligning of the planets. Or perhaps, through some odd algorithm, the numbers 8, 31, and 2007 multiply into a catastrophic code of death.

Date choices aside, director Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” looks to rot quicker than carved pumpkins the week after Halloween (the holiday, that is).

“Death Sentence”Rated R/110 minutes

There seems to be something inherently wrong in casting the former “Footloose” star in a revenge franchise made famous by Charles Bronson’s “I’m going to make you swallow your own watch” braggadocio screen presence.

Admittedly, Bacon’s face is showing more rifts than cracked leather upholstery, but without the ugliness of a Bronson mug, it’s going to be tough times swallowing Bacon as a serious threat — unless he brings his Timex with him.

“The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”Rated PG-13/79 minutes

Not to be confused with the sequel to Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” — “King Kong’s Fistful of Quarters,” wherein the bewildered Kong is used in a spaghetti-western remake of a classic Kurosawa film — this film heralds the rivalry of video-game nerds vying for world records on classic arcade consoles as akin to a real competitive sport. Nerds, take note — if you can’t win at competitive sports, perhaps someday you can film your digital escapades in such a way as to make others take your physicality seriously.

Ongoing Films

“The 11th Hour”Rated PG/95 minutesOpens Aug.. 31, 2007Two-and-a-half out of four stars

Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this environmentally conscious, politically charged documentary continues to pound us with facts and statistics about humanity’s impact on the planet — only this time they’ve replaced Al Gore with a few respectable scientists. A note to the ladies: Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio is in “The 11th Hour.” No, he doesn’t take his shirt off. Sorry.

Stephen Hawking is in it, though, and there is something sexy about a guy who talks through a monotone computer.

“The Invasion”Rated PG-13/93 minutesOpened Aug.. 17, 2007Two out of four stars

Regardless of Hollywood’s contemptible current trend of never-ending remakes, I’m sure that Jack Finney’s “The Body Snatchers” could be updated to fit a modern milieu and focus on modern issues. But Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “The Invasion” never does that — it just finds justification for its own existence. The cold, emotionless “humans” who are systematically replacing all of us make for an eerie sight, but once the conflict is presented, the filmmakers treat it like just another movie monster that has to be stopped with a vaccine and/or a gun. Actual terror is never allowed to permeate the lives of the characters, and the issues of human nature and dehumanization, which the premise clearly presents, are paid nothing but lip service — if that.

“No End In Sight”Not Rated/102 minutesOpened July 27, 2007Three-and-a-half out of four stars

As though the words “quagmire,” “catastrophe” and “endless, pointless mess” weren’t used often enough to describe the ongoing conflict in Iraq, director Paul Ferguson’s documentary “No End In Sight” backs up the claim apparent to any reasonable person equipped with actual facts regarding the conflict — that is, that the Bush administration’s handling of the war is perhaps more embarrassing and criminal than its justifications for engaging in the war to begin with. With narrations by Campbell Scott, “No End In Sight” focuses not on the reasons leading up to the ensuing conflict, but rather examines what happens when poor planning, judgement and the exclusion of outside input adversely affect both Americans and the Iraqi civilians caught inside the war zone.

“Sunshine”Rated R/107 minutesOpened July 27, 2007Three-and-a-half out of four stars

One of the most well-realized films to come out all year, Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” takes place 50 years in the future aboard the Icarus II, with its crew of seven charged with re-igniting a dying sun. The characters treat the sun as a god-like entity, and indeed they grapple with issues of mortality and playing God with the fierce passion and determination of people not fighting for their own survival, but for the survival of mankind. Whether or not we have any such right to tinker with the cosmos is a matter the film — and one character in particular — tackles head-on. Though a jarring stylistic transition into the third act and a flawed climactic scene cause some problems, “Sunshine” is forged with such beauty and vibrance that it’s easy to forgive the few missteps.

“Superbad”Rated R/114 minutesOpened August 17, 2007Three-and-a-half out of four stars

Two codependent teens — Seth and Evan — and their nerdy friend Fogel spend a profanity-filled night drinking, running from cops and looking to score. Complications arise when the boys, tasked to score alcohol for a sweet party (read: their ticket to scoring), face an Odyssey-like journey to fulfilling their promises. Just when we thought the high school sex genre was totally run-down and devoid, “Superbad” swoops in to show there’s nothing a few good jokes, some funk music and a sucker punch to the face can’t buff to a high shine.

“Rescue Dawn”Rated PG-13/126 minutesOpened Aug. 3, 2007Three-and-a-half out of four stars

We know how it is going to turn out beforehand, as “Rescue Dawn” is being billed as the true story of one of the most daring escapes in history. So, the end result isn’t the objective — if you’ll pardon the cheesiness, it’s the journey. Stories of survival are easy crowd-pleasing fodder, but Werner Herzog has never been one for easy crowd-pleasing. In his exploration of American fighter pilot Dieter Dengler’s (Christian Bale) escape from a Vietnam POW camp — which the director already explored in the 1997 documentary, “Little Dieter Needs to Fly” — Herzog is as raw and detail-oriented as ever. He doesn’t go for cheap thrills, but for psychological torment and heartbreaking moments of humanity that emerge from the characters amid the filth and hopelessness of the POW camp. If you can forgive the awful, spoof-worthy denouement, “Rescue Dawn” is a captivating exploration of survival that manages to avoid most of the “triumph of the human spirit” clichs.

“Resurrecting the Champ”Rated PG-13/111 minutesOpened Aug. 24, 2007Two-and-a-half out of four stars

A down-and-out sports writer falls across the story of a lifetime when he meets Champ, a has-been champion boxer now eking out an existence on the streets of Denver. Everything goes awry, however, when Champ’s knock-out story lands an ethical, journalistic sucker punch that leads the film into what should have been a gut-wrenching question of character. Instead, the film drowns in the sea of its own sentimentality. Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as Champ is the most notable element in this otherwise forgettable drama.

“WAR”Rated R/103 minutesOpened Aug. 24, 2007Two out of four stars

Jet Li takes on Jason Statham mano-a-mano in “WAR” — as if any man in his right mind actually thinks he can take on The Chev himself. Not very likely. But if that’s what the filmmakers want to sell us on, so be it. The problem with “WAR” isn’t just in its attempt to de-mythologize Statham’s greatness, but in its over-reliance on plot twists, or plot in general. You’ve seen the movie before: Super-villain (Li) kills Good Guy Cop’s partner. Good Guy looks for revenge. Fights ensue. Except we have to wade through excruciatingly uninteresting plot details in order to actually get anywhere. And when Statham’s butt-kicking actually begins (before a blasphemous final plot twist), director Philip G. Atwell does the hyperactive
infant thing — the most hackneyed MTV-editing techniques you could think of — and fails to generate even the standard level of action-movie excitement.