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Best of Boston 2009

New to DVD on January 17, 2006

Junebug , Enron , Lord of War , Two for the Money , and more.
By  |  January 19, 2006

JUNEBUG | Sony | Phil Morrison’s film begins with a cavalcade of pig calls, a rendering of General Lee’s dick shooting bullets, and an anonymous fuck. The director’s dysfunctional Southern universe centers on George (Alessandro Nivola), a quiet, reserved type with a boyish grin that hides trouble. George returns home to small-town North Carolina with Madeline (Embeth Davidtz), his wife of six months, who owns an art gallery in Chicago; she’s making the trip not to meet his parents but because she's interested in a local who specializes in Civil War art. After a warm reception, nothing clicks. George's pregnant sister-in-law, Ashley (Amy Adams), is obsessed with Madeline's worldliness, and his brother, Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie from The OC), is a jealous hack, unfulfilled and ready to explode. Revelations fly, and the actors carry the proceedings with gusto, especially Adams and Celia Weston and Scott Wilson as George’s parents. | 102m

ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM | Magnolia Home Entertainment | Enron, as this film from writer/director Alex Gibney makes clear, was not so much a scandal as a multi-billion-dollar den of thieves exploiting every opportunity to steal coins out of old ladies’ pocketbooks. Gibney uses every device in the documentarian’s tool kit to convey the story to a general audience. Unfortunately, he relies too heavily on Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, whose book inspired the film; they appear as talking heads throughout, but their view of Enron’s executives as grand figures with good intentions doesn’t square with the facts on screen. Gibney also lobs vague accusations at worthy targets — the banks, accountants, and politicians who enabled Enron — without sorting out their culpability. If only he had sought commentary beyond capitalism boosters and former Enron greedheads. | 110m

LORD OF WAR | Lions Gate | With the possible exception of the days of Soviet Social Realism, people have gone to the movies to escape the daily grind, not relive it. We would like to make a living without having movies remind us that our occupations may involve dubious moral choices. Some jobs are excepted, however, like that of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), the arms dealer in Andrew Niccol’s film, is a merchant of death, but he has style, saying things like that there’s “one firearm for every 12 people on the planet. The only question is, how do we arm the other 11?” He sure is a lot more fun than Valentine (Ethan Hawke), the humorless Interpol prig who’s trying to hunt him down. Valentine’s the film’s conscience, fingering those who profit by selling Third World countries the instruments of there own destruction. Niccol gives him lip service, but what turns him on is remaking De Palma’s Scarface with guns replacing cocaine. Lord of War isn’t as much fun, though, or as morally instructive. | 122m

TWO FOR THE MONEY | Universal | Director D.J. Caruso and writer Dan Gilroy (who penned the abysmal Freejack and seems to think “fuck” should underscore every sentence) try to give depth to this slipshod movie about the world of professional-sports gambling and the reprehensible sods who shark its waters by assigning pit boss Walter Abrams (Al Pacino) and his wife (Rene Russo) victimized pasts and a wide-eyed six-year-old daughter. Walter’s new meal ticket is Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a busted-up football prospect with dreams of getting back in the game and an uncanny knack for knowing who’ll win on Sunday. They run a TV show and a 900 call line, pushing their betting advice on gamblers like penny-stock scams from the ’80s. McConaughey struts his buff stuff, often half nude and pumping iron, and Pacino complements him with homo-erotic flattery. Everyone loves a winner, even a lovable loser, but here there’s only avaricious scum. | 123m

UNDERCLASSMAN | Miramax | In this ersatz cop comedy derivative of Eddie Murphy’s 48 HRS and Beverly Hills Cop, Nick Cannon (Drumline) plays Tracy Stokes, an LAPD screw-up who’s given his shot at making detective when he goes undercover at a prep school to solve a murder. Naturally he screws up, but Tracy gets chance after chance from his impolitic captain (Cheech Marin, whose career seems to have gone up in smoke), and the film wears on like an endless battle with a Hydra. And though Cannon can be funny (any time you drop a hip-hop African-American into a lily-white institution, you’re guaranteed a few laughs), neither he nor director Marcos Siega can decide how to play it. At times Tracy’s a sensitive guy who just needs a hug; at others, he’s an obnoxious motormouth, more grating than Chris Tucker. Fortunately, Johnny Lewis (who also stars in Siega’s other current movie, Pretty Persuasion) is on hand as a preppie into street cred. His stilted rap-speak is humorous and endearing, and, best of all, it makes Tracy cringe. | 95m

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Related: Review: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Soul Men, Lakeview Terrace, More more >
  Topics: New on DVD , Agnes Bruckner, Al Pacino, Alessandro Nivola,  More more >
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