Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, July 21

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Hey everyone.

You're about to read negative reviews of the two big mainstream films coming out this week, so allow me to suggest an alternative if you want to take in a movie this weekend. For reasons I can't explain but I'm very glad to find out about, the wonderful In Bruges is being re-released today at Pipers Alley in advance of its DVD release. Is it absolutely essential that you see this movie on a big screen? Not really, but it is important that you support good film by going to see it in the theater (as opposed to plopping down a couple bucks to rent these movies). My original review of the film can be found here. The bottom line is that this is a really funny movie that you should and will treasure. Now here's the junk you probably will see this weekend.

The Incredible Hulk

Let's just assume for the moment that it was okay of Marvel Studios to make a new Hulk movie that isn't exactly a sequel and isn't exactly a reboot of Ang Lee's perfectly fine 2003 effort. The difficulty in producing any movie based on this character is that the Hulk himself isn't that interesting a character. Now before you jump up and down and wish me death, allow me to explain. I think Bruce Banner is one of the most fascinating Marvel creations ever invented, and Ang Lee did a terrific job plumbing the psychological depth and struggles this man must go through on a daily basis to keep his cool and not let out the ultimate manifestation of his raging Id. Sure, it's always a blast to watch the Hulk demolish anyone and everything that challenges him, and in this new film these sequences are mind-blowing, especially now that we've got a villain of equal, possibly superior, strength. But let's face it, plot and character development get pummeled right alongside cars and buildings when the Hulk breaks out.

The challenge for any filmmaker is making the Banner character even a fraction as interesting as Hulk, a nearly impossible task. And so watching a Hulk movie or the television show (which I cherish) is essentially a waiting game for many. My memory hasn't been tested on this point in a while, but I always remember TV's "The Incredible Hulk" coming up with halfway decent stories that actually held my interest. In the first Hulk movie, Eric Bana did an excellent job capturing the turmoil of carrying a monster within him. My point is that live-action Hulk is nearly impossible to get right because everybody wants to see destruction, but destruction only takes you so far. So we turn to the plot of a Hulk movie, which is doomed to be less interesting than the destruction. Do we really care about Banner's love life? Okay, maybe we're curious to see what happens when the old heart rate gets a-pumpin' under the sheets (a scenario dealt clumsily in The Incredible Hulk), but it's not nearly as satisfying as watching Hulk strap police cars to his fists and use them as boxing gloves. The point is, the Hulk taps into our most primal needs as action film lovers, and more often than not, anything that stands in our way of said action seems like a pesky nuisance.

So how is The Incredible Hulk? That's a tough question. Four scenes in the new film are downright glorious. Three of them are the film's main action sequences, and one, well, you know what the fourth one is if you've heard anything about the cameos in this movie. It's the final sequence, set in a dive bar, and it's equally great for what it represents and for what it is. The rest of the movie is more of a mixed bag. I think Edward Norton is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and I've thought so since I first saw him in Primal Fear years ago, where he also played a character with something dark and destructive inside of him. But I could never shake the feeling that his heart just wasn't in this movie. I'd love to throw some of the blame at the screenwriters for failing to make Bruce Banner as compelling a character as he's been in the past, but I'd still be blaming Norton (who co-wrote the screenplay—under the name Edward Harrison—with director Zak Penn). Growing a few day's worth of stubble and making yourself look sweaty doesn't make your character deep and thoughtful; it makes him unkempt.

I liked the idea of Banner living a life of solitude and relentlessly practicing meditation to keep his heart rate under control under the most intense circumstances, although I wonder if an impoverished city in Brazil is the best place to build a calm environment around you. Anyone who has seen City of Men knows that's pretty much impossible. But let's give Banner the benefit of the doubt and assume he's found the one major Brazilian city that has little or no violence. The initial attack on Banner by the U.S. Army led by General Ross (William Hurt) is a pretty solid re-introduction to the Hulk persona. Coming into close contact with Hulk is Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who wants another crack at the monster after getting his ass handed to him in their first encounter. When the film throws around terms like "Super Soldier" and "S.H.I.E.L.D.", of course, it makes me smile. And there are quite a few nice comic book fan touches like that scattered throughout The Incredible Hulk, but those winking recognitions only carry you so far. (Composer Craig Armstrong's not-so-subtle inclusion of the "walking away" piano music from the "Hulk" TV show got one of the best crowd reactions.)

Blonsky insists that General Ross subject him to exposure testing similar to Banner's and the results are grotesque, eventually turning Roth into a warped and hideous Hulk-like creature called the Abomination. Roth gives the best performance in the movie. As interesting as the Abomination is to look at, I'm more of a fan of the middle fight sequence involving Hulk and a juiced-up Roth, who jumps and scurries around Hulk but still looks like Roth, who appears to be the only one having fun in this movie. Liv Tyler's take on Betty Ross, the good general's daughter and Banner's love interest, works fine, but nothing grinds a superhero movie to grinding halt more than a boring love story (unless the love interest also has superpowers). I used to dismiss Tyler as an actress, but between this film and The Strangers, I find her a much more engaging performer. The film almost self-destructs when Tim Blake Nelson comes into the picture as Prof. Samuel Sterns, a biologist who is secretly helping Banner in his effort to rid himself of his little Hulk problem. I've always dug Nelson, but he's so fucking annoying here and acting for the folks in the rafters pretty much non-stop. Like Blonsky, Sterns is seduced by the power he sees manifested in the Hulk, but he sees Banner's blood as a means to cure hundreds of diseases. The film leaves the distinct impression that the professor would be a villain should a sequel happen.

The Incredible Hulk has some decent ideas kicking around, but in the end they don't ever gel the way they should. Somehow Banner has managed to elude those chasing him for years, yet when he gets with 50 feet of Betty, his mind turns to mush. When you're trying to stay undercover and your lady friend says, "Can I walk you to the bus?", the answer is "No, because the same people who are looking for me would likely be looking for you as well, and it's broad daylight, dummy." I know this is a small instance, but the film is filled with moments like that, and the cumulative effect on my brain was too much to handle. In fact, it made me angry. And when I get angry, I type angry stuff about your deeply flawed film. For those wanting to see the coolness of how Marvel is establishing its film universe, The Incredible Hulk is a must-see. But for those of you that just don't care, you can probably skip this one.

The Happening

"Is this movie actually being released?" Those were my first words when the lights came up after seeing M. Night Shyamalan's latest, The Happening. And the question was in no way rhetorical. I truly could not conceive of a world where anyone would allow a film this poorly made to be released. I know that Shyamalan is everybody's favorite punching bag of late; the writer-director had the misfortune of having his first three films (The Sixth Sense; Unbreakable; Signs) be very popular and varying degrees of great. How dare he. And while I'm far from a Shyamalan apologist (I liked The Village; I tried and failed to appreciate Lady in the Water), I think the man has talent. That being said, the man who made The Happening is a stranger to me. There's no way this can be the same guy who skillfully creeped me out time and time again with his work. I am truly and without exaggeration baffled by The Happening in ways that I'll attempt to explain, but I may simply fall forward from exhaustion trying.

The only thing I'd really heard about the flaws in The Happening before I saw it was that Mark Wahlberg's performance was bad on a legendary scale. And while I question his high-pitched line delivery in a few spots in this movie, Wahlberg fans can rejoice in knowing that it isn't their hero who kills this movie. Nearly every performance is terrible, and I'm a bit shocked that even the always-reliable Zooey Deschanel is acting like she's been struck by a car before the cameras began to roll. One guy I always look forward to seeing, John Leguizamo, has clearly been slipped some sort of tranquilizer. There isn't a single decent performance in the entire film, except may be that of Betty Buckley as an old woman living in home cut off from the rest of the world. Her acting is so off-the-charts gothic that I had to stifle my giggles the entire time she's on the screen.

Mark and Zooey play couple Elliot and Alma Moore, who are going through a rough patch in their still-new marriage. Elliot is a high school science teacher, which comes in handy when he tries to figure out why everyone in the northeastern corner of America is killing themselves, especially those in highly populated areas like New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The opening sequences of random citizens suddenly freezing in their tracks and then finding the quickest way to kill themselves are a bit startling at first, but quickly degenerate into silly. The guy who feeds his own arms to zoo lions was my personal favorite. Leguizamo's daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) has been left with the Moores while John goes to look for his missing wife, and they attempt to stay away from the places where these mass suicides are occurring. At first, the media blames the happening on a terrorist attack, but it becomes clear that the problem is spreading too quickly and covering too much ground to be anything other than a natural phenomenon.

The thing that struck me first about the screenplay was how much of it is dedicated to conversations and exposition that do nothing to further the plot or develop the characters. Why is it important that we know about the Elliots' marriage troubles? Why do we care whether Leguizamo finds his wife? Why does everyone seem to latch onto one theory about what is killing people without question or other options? Why is Wahlberg talking to a plastic tree? Who is supposed to give a flying fig about a mood ring? The world could potentially be ending, and these idiots just want to fight about how and when they fight. Answer me this, does a film in which the heroes spend the entire film running away from wind sound thrilling? You have no idea.

The Happening falls apart little by little over the course of its running time, and the fact that the film is being promoted heavily as being Shyamalan's first R-rated movie means absolutely nothing. The rating should be altered to fit the film's profile a little better. Anyone bringing their underage child to this movie should be arrested and charged with 100 different types of child endangerment. Youngsters shouldn't be punished for watching the film; they don't know any better. It's the adults who need a good slap for seeing this dreadful experiment gone wrong. Around the world, critics will be preparing their "Worst of 2008" lists a little early this year. This is the film by which other bad movies will set their standard by. In the not-too-distant future, this is a film that college students will rent, get drunk watching and spend the film's blessedly short 90 minutes mocking it without mercy.

I was never bored watching The Happening. I was absolutely locked onto what was going on in this film, mainly to what ridiculous, nonsensical plot turn or awful line delivery was up next. So many different drinking games could be born from the dopey shit that goes on in this movie. I mentioned Betty Buckley's off-the-wall performance as "Mrs. Jones," the woman who is completely unaware of the goings on in the rest of the world. In a lot of ways I envied her while watching The Happening. If I lived her life, I would never have known the pain of enduring this half-baked concoction, which may be Shyamalan's treatise about the environment, global warming, loving one another or respecting nature. My guess is that he was aimed for some combination of all of these. Unfortunately, the finished film feels more like the sloppy, chunky afterbirth of a message film from a man who used to impress me as a filmmaker. I truly hope this is as bad as it ever gets from Shyamalan. This is the kind of movie that kills careers; it certain murdered my spirit for most of a day. It's almost worth seeing just to see how poorly executed every aspect of the work is, but even I'm not that much of a sadist to say that's a reason to watch any movie. I'm done.

Savage Grace

While this based-on-a-true-story episodic film could have been an insightful examination of the perils of marrying above your station, instead Savage Grace focuses on the seedier and more unsavory aspects of what happens to people who strive for social distinction at the expense of family, friends, and personal well-being. The story focuses on the life of Barbara Daly and spans from 1946 to 1972, during which time Barbara (played by the spectacular Julianne Moore) hardly seems to age a single year. Barbara thrives on her countless social engagements, matchmaking (personal and professional) and being a part of her husband's influence. Stephen Dillane is Brooks Baekeland, who goes through the motions of playing Barbara's society tool with little complaint but much inner seething. The couple have a child/accessory, Tony, whose training in languages, the arts and all things society children ought to know seems to be the blueprint for the spoiled little shit he becomes later in life. Eddie Redmayne plays the adult Tony, whose homosexual encounters are kept under wraps by his parents. His father is ashamed and disappointed in him; his mother seems to approve because she views it as a way to stay close to him (more on that later).

The biggest problem I had with director Tom Kalin's take on this material (based on the book by Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson; screenplay from Howard A. Rodman) is that he presents one "scandalous" revelation about the Baekeland family as if they were the ones who invented this behavior. Brooks' sexual preferences with his wife as well as his affairs, Barbara's alcohol-fueled raging and Tony's gay ways are all revealed as being shocking and unheard of, when in fact we've seen this sort of thing a million times before. The film does manage to throw us a few unexpected curve balls in its final 20 minutes or so as Barbara makes the ultimate play for Tony's affections. It's literally impossible for Moore to be bad in any drama (her work in comedies is another story), so to see her spin through Savage Grace in all her redheaded glory is a real treat. But the rest of the movie seems exactly the opposite of what it's trying to be. The film is hardly decadent or eye-opening. I was particularly put off by Redmayne's acting style; he seems to be trying much too hard to act the spoiled, foppish man-child. Dillane fares a bit better, but his screentime is so limited that he hardly has time to improve the film's shortcomings. Savage Grace is a film behind its time. Anyone who has read a Tennessee Williams play will probably ask "What's the big deal?" about the movie. And while I consider Moore's performance worth the price of admission, I still cannot recommend the film, which opens today at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.

When Did You Last See Your Father?

It's rare that I walk into any film screening unaware of some of the plot of work I'm about to see. But all I knew about director Anand Tucker's (Hilary and Jackie) film based on the autobiographical novel by Blake Morrison was the cast, which is a nice start. Colin Firth plays Morrison, a man whose complicated relationship with his father, Arthur (UK national treasure Jim Broadbent), is the subject of a book and film, and his view of his dealings with his father throughout his life are probably not that different than many others who still speak to their parents in their adulthood. But Morrison and Tucker have managed to articulate this love/hate bond in truly interesting and tenderhearted terms.

While Morrison at times grew to despise his father, the rest of the world saw him as the life of the party, a genuinely good-natured fellow who was always fun to be around. Arthur didn't beat or berate his son. Instead, he pushed him, sometimes too hard, often making him the butt of lighthearted but often painful jokes. Blake's mother (Juliet Stevenson) was also sometimes at the receiving end of such thoughtless comments, but she takes it with the stamina of a war bride. We see examples of interactions between father and son in several flashbacks, whose emotional content seems determined by Blake's mood in the present day. When he's remembering his father fondly, the memories are good; when he's pissed off at daddy, the remembrances are uglier. Blake is experiencing these range of emotions because Arthur is dying of cancer, and Blake and his sister have come to spend his last days at his side.

Now before you start thinking this is some disease movie or shameless melodrama, rest assured it is not. When Did You Last See Your Father? earns its emotion and tears with quality writing and acting. We view Blake in different ways throughout the course of the film. Sometimes he's an overly sensitive brat; other times, he's an honest-to-God victim of his father's thoughtlessness. That being said, we are more often than not charmed by Arthur's spirited take on life and the way he spends time with his son. As Blake combs his memories, he comes to realize that his time with dad (there's a camping trip the two take that is especially memorable) might not as bad as he always believed. And while Blake seems committed to having "a talk" with his father before he dies, time does not always give us what we need to get closure. If it's possible for a film to miss out on giving us resolution but still supply a wonderful conclusion, then When Did You Last See Your Father? is that movie.

Firth gives us another one of his grumpy-gus performances, but this time his character seems to have earned the right to be a sour puss. But the film belongs to Broadbent's larger-than-life, but all-too life-like Arthur. There are looks he gives (usually when his son's back is turned) that tell a story unto themselves. It's clear he knows he's being unnecessary harsh, but he almost can't help himself. Stevenson is glorious as the put-upon wife, who reveals to Blake that she was not always so happy with being dutiful. Gina McKee is also quite good as Blake's wife who knows a bit about playing second fiddle and taking the brunt of her husband's family frustrations. This is the kind of film that is almost guaranteed to get lost in the summer shuffle, but if you are one of those wonderful people that is always looking to find a film that is only playing on one screen at your local arthouse, this one will move your soul.

War, Inc.

Put the thought out of your mind right now that this politically charged and overly smarmy comedy is some sort of Grosse Pointe Blank sequel (despite the presence of several actors from that film). If it had been, I 'd be in a much better mood right now. No, War, Inc. is a well intentioned, but far too clever for its own good satire about a world where American wars are 100 percent financed by corporate enterprise (complete with tanks featuring corporate logos like they were NASCAR vehicles). Throw into the mix a paid assassin (John Cusack) who is hired to kill a prominent oil official in the country of Turaqistan on behalf of one of these corporations, led by the former vice president (Dan Aykroyd). Cusack is brought into the country posing as a trade show producer, along with a partner played by Joan Cusack, who has some of the film's best lines but adds nothing to the plot.

Cusack's moral compass is tested on two fronts. A journalist played by Marisa Tomei is clearly a potential love interest, but her politics are diametrically opposed to his. Attacking his libido from another front is a overly sexualized Middle Eastern pop singer played by Hilary Duff, who has never been quite this…um…aggressive with her acting. I'll admit, I don't know much about Ms. Duff's Disney-era career, so my exposure to her has been limited to the Cheaper By the Dozen movies. But she's absolutely explosive here and quite funny, clearly pulling from the pop-music clichés of her past and her peers to create one of the film's only three-dimensional characters. Also on hand is Ben Kingsley (in flashbacks) as Cusack's mentor, whom he must kill in order to progress as an assassin.

The problems with War, Inc. are many, but they all stem from the script (co-written by Cusack) thinking it's so much smarter than it really is. It doesn't take intelligence to criticize the current administration; it's an easy target. And as much as tend to wear my left-wing beliefs on my sleeve, the film seems to think that just because it's preaching to like-minded individuals (who else would bother with this film?) that it doesn't have to try to be smart or subtle or funny. At times the film is painful to watch, as we see these terrific actors go through some of the most inane motions imaginable. I admire Cusack's political beliefs and support his right to voice them however he'd like, but he did much more to admonish the current war and administration with his work in the recent Grace Is Gone than anything that is going on in this tired film. War, Inc. opens today at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.

The Edge of Heaven

Attempting a grander-scale effort than his previous efforts Head On and In July, German-born writer-director Fatih Akin has made an astonishing film that encapsulates the often-tumultuous situation in Turkey (Akin's long-time home) with The Edge of Heaven, Germany's Oscar submission for 2007 and the winner of the Best Screenplay award at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Not afraid to tackle the weighty issues of ethnicity, racism and the never-ending tensions between East and West, Akin uses a handful of storylines set in Hamburg and Istanbul. One involves a sprightly senior citizen who meets a prostitute and asks her to live with him, not just because he's horny but also because he's desperately lonely. The old man is German; the woman is Turkish and has been threatened with violence by a couple of fundamentalist Turks in the area if she doesn't quit her line of work. So both have something to gain from the relationship.

The more we learn about the prostitute, named Yeter, the more we feel for her situation. She's not a young woman, but she's still quite beautiful. We discover that nearly 30 years earlier she had a child, who is still living in Turkey and thinks her mother is off working in a factory making money. Yeter becomes friends with the old man's grown son, a professor in Hamburg named Nejat. But the viewers know from the outset that an ill fate awaits Yeter (thanks to an early chapter title "Yeter's Death"). To somehow attempt to make up for his father's part in Yeter's death, Nejat travels to Istanbul with Yeter's body in an attempt to find her daughter. The film shifts to another story involving an on-the-run political activist hiding in Germany and befriending a college student with affluent parents. The two become lovers, and the story sets up a startling series of events in Germany and Turkey that lead to a powerhouse conclusion. The film has a great deal to say about the parent-child relationship, particularly when the college student gets into trouble and her mother must travel to Turkey to help save her. I dare not say more than that.

If I've made The Edge of Heaven sound far more complicated than it really is, I apologize. It's actually a fairly straightforward telling of these events, and I doubt you'll have any difficulty following the stories. The movie marks a shift in Akin's style, from more flashy and sometimes-shocking visuals and plot, to this more deliberate and measured work. There's a real mature atmosphere to this movie that I hope continues in the director's future work. He's not rushing to get to his climax, but he manages to keep things always moving and always interesting. This is one of the best films you're likely to see in 2008, and it opens today at the Music Box Theatre.

The Dhamma Brothers

There may be other prisons in our nation that have tried something like this over the years, but I'm guessing few if any met with the kind of resistance that greeted the Buddhism-infused practices brought into this Alabama prison where violence, drugs and rape were an almost-daily occurrence. Still, when a small group of men entered the prison in the heart of the Bible belt prepared to teach a 10-day intensive course in Vipassana meditation, the reaction among prison officials (especially the prison chaplain) and the surrounding community was immediate and highly negative. The class also changed the lives of the 36 men (most of whom had life sentences) forever. Perhaps more shocking is that three filmmakers (Jenny Phillips, Anne Marie Stein and Andrew Kukura) were allowed to film the procedure and interview nearly all of those involved in taking the class, teaching the class and approving its being held at all in this unlikely place.

Asked to lead a silent, monastic life for 10 days, the prisoners found it one of the most grueling experiences they'd ever gone through (some compared it to boot camp, but worse). In their meditative state, they were forced to consider the lives they'd led and the crimes they'd committed. Demons came forth from deep within, and you get a sense that these inmates are not simply saying what they think they're supposed to say to get this activity put into their permanent record as an attempt at rehabilitation. Even after the teachers leave, the inmates continue to carve out time in their day for meditation, and nearly all of the prisoners manage to stay out of trouble and away from the negative influences that they'd surrounded themselves with since entering the prison. But when the prison chaplain complains to the leadership of the facility and the local community leaders, the program is ripped out of the system despite its apparently positive track record. The film tracks the inmates' attempts to get the Vipassana teachers back into the prison walls and documents the struggle some of the men have when they are separated from their Dhamma brothers. This short but smart, impressive film covers a small corner of the world that I'd never even considered and never wanted to be a part of until seeing this movie. But now that I've seen it, I'm inspired to revisit these inmates 10 years from now to see where their practices take them, and how striving for their inner peace has changed their outlook on life and death. I don't use the word "inspirational" often in my review, but this movie qualifies.

The film is screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Saturday, June 14 at 8pm, and Tuesday, June 17 at 8pm. Co-director Andrew Kukura will be present for audience discussion on Saturday.

Operation Filmmaker

Somehow I managed to miss this film at two different film festivals in the last year, and I now realize that was a massive mistake on my part. Operation Filmmaker is one of the most authentic commentaries on the American policies that led to the Iraq War and the continuing attitudes that play a part in our view of the Middle East in general. It also is a prime example of how even the most left-minded of us can start a world of trouble despite the best of intentions. This is the story of Muthana Mohmed, a young filmmaking student in Iraq whose school is bombed out in the early days of the American attack on Baghdad. An MTV documentary film crew found Muthana, and turned his story into a nice piece for the network. Actor Liev Schreiber, who was about to embark on his first directing gig on the film Everything Is Illuminated, saw the MTV doc and decided to bring Muthana to the Czech Republic, where the film was shooting, and hire him as an intern and learn the ropes on making an American film. Documentarian Nina Davenport was hired to track Muthana's journey from Iraq to this movie set, and I had assumed that this would be a feel-good story that would be right at home, well, in a Hollywood movie.

Boy, was I wrong, and I'm sure Davenport was a little surprised by the direction her film took as well. After being treated like a superstar before getting to the production, Muthana is a little bit shaken by the menial tasks he is given as a glorified gofer, but even when he's given the more important task of helping to edit the wrap-party gag reel, he essentially blows off the work. Perhaps the bigger concern is that his work visa is about to run out just as the production company seems ready to give him a job on the next film they're preparing to shoot in Prague, and Muthana has done nothing to apply for an extension. Schreiber and company are a bit stunning by the young man's attitude and expectations for assistance, and Davenport cleverly shows the parallels between Muthana's situation and the American strategy (or lack of long-term strategy in Iraq). The guy has no money, and the American team seem utterly shocked when he comes looking to them for help. Muthana is a proud man, so begging for cash is too much for him to endure, but eventually he must resort to just that.

What's even more remarkable is that the Americans have put Muthana in a position where he can never return to his homeland because when the insurgents discover that he's been working for a Jewish-run production company on an American movie for a Jewish director, he'll be killed immediately. Also fascinating is the relationship that forms between Muthana and Davenport, who does her best to be impartial, but when her subject turns to the camera and asks for advice or help, she can't remain so and the fourth wall is quickly destroyed.

Muthana's life does seem blessed in some ways. He does manage to secure work on The Rock actioner Doom for the production company, and thanks to a bit of old-fashioned Hollywood ass kissing, Muthana befriends and charms many of the people in front of and behind the camera. His friendship with actor and Guillermo Del Toro regular Doug Jones is particularly moving, but it's The Rock who gives Muthana the break that may secure his path for years to come. Muthana journey continues in some pretty starling ways from that point, but I'll leave that for you to discover. The young would-be filmmaker's bond with the woman chronicling his sometimes-humiliating travails is strained as his demands on her grow. As she deftly says in one of the final title cards, by the end she was simply looking for a solid exit strategy from Muthana. I was the exact opposite; I wanted to know where Muthana's life goes after we leave him. Even the most recent footage in Operation Filmmaker was shot a couple years ago, so clearly there have been developments, and I'm dying to know what has become of this man, who was expected to be the subject of a documentary with no questions asked because of the perceived leg up he was being given by certain big shots. But much like those left behind in Iraq, Muthana was given a taste of the good life, only to have it snatched away with no clue how to hold onto or recapture it. This is great doc filmmaking and some of the finest social criticisms I've seen in ages. It opens today for a week-long run at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

GB store

About the Author(s)

A Windy City resident for nearly 20 years, Steve writes about everything but movies at his day job for a trade journal publishing company. Using the alias Capone, he has been the Chicago Editor for Ain't It Cool News since 1998, and has been writing film reviews since he was a wee lad of 14, growing up in Maryland. Direct your questions or comments to
GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15