Film

Russians Are Crazy!

Succinct Reviews for the Discerning Cinephile

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Day Watch

dir. Bekmambetov

Opens Fri June 8

Cinema 21

2004's Night Watch was some crazy shit: A Russian horror/fantasy epic, it featured vampires, witches, shapeshifters, demonic dolls, and enough prattle about the eternal battle of good vs. evil to fill a thousand dungeonmasters' wet dreams. Based on a trilogy of Russian novels, Night Watch detailed an eons-long battle being waged in modern Moscow; predictably enough, it was a huge blockbuster in Russia. Its sequel, Day Watch, offers more of the same—vampires, demonic dolls, etc., now with 800 percent more sports cars driving along the sides of buildings, plus galloping horses crashing through brick walls and enough body-swappin' slapstick to make one long for the days of Freaky Friday. It's also totally, utterly bewildering, but I suppose that's to be expected from any plot that revolves around a magical piece of chalk. (Pssst! Russians are crazy!)

Like Night Watch, Day Watch has some fun moments, most courtesy of director Timur Bekmambetov's sharp, wacked-out visual style. But also like its predecessor, Day Watch is more bewildering than entertaining, with plot confusions that might've been excusable in the first entry of a trilogy, proving far less welcome in the second. Throw in bland characters that get steamrolled by the special effects, and you've got something that's kinda cool and kinda weird, but mostly just like having a Russian nerd show you his crappy comic book collection for a few hours. ERIK HENRIKSEN

Maxed Out

dir. Scurlock

Opens Sat June 9

Hollywood Theatre

If your first reaction after watching Maxed Out isn't to run out of the theater screaming and cut up every single credit card you have, you're probably already completely fucked.

The documentary doesn't break any new stylistic ground, but with a subject as pants-shittingly terrifying as massive, nationwide credit card debt, the filmmakers didn't need to get clever. Maxed Out covers a lot of ground during its runtime, from credit card companies' vulture-like marketing to the most marginalized people—dumb college students, poor widows, veterans, etc.—to the sleazy practices of collections agents and "debt buyers," who are shown almost literally dripping with slime. These are juxtaposed with relentlessly sad stories of people who've fallen into credit traps.

Maxed Out also draws a bigger circle, relating Americans' credit stupidity to our monumental national debt. Turns out the US government suffers from the same problems as most of Maxed Out's hard-luck subjects: We all want lots of stuff, but we don't want to pay for it. SCOTT MOORE

Room 314

dir. Knowles

Opens Fri June 8

Living Room Theaters

Everyone knows that there's a considerable amount of genetic material slopped all over the average hotel room. It's best not to think too deeply about this; the human dramas staged in hotel rooms are usually presumed to be tawdry, slutty, and a little bit gross. In Room 314, however, only life-changing, emotionally cumbersome interactions are permitted. Michael Knowles' film is comprised of a series of vignettes about five sets of people who pass through the room: a football player has a one-night stand that convinces him to break off his engagement; a lonely alcoholic contemplates suicide; two coworkers decide against committing adultery. It's all very heavy, and the "heaviness" of the subject matter turns to "suffocating pretension" when coupled with an uninspired script and an utter indifference toward the sticky little issue of female agency. (Knowles seems incapable of writing a woman who is anything more than a foil for a masculine identity crisis. Bo-ring.) The entire effort is lackluster yet precious—like we should be impressed with the low-budget indie brilliance of it all. It's hard to be impressed when you're bored and irritated, though, and ultimately those are the only real emotions that Room 314 manages to elicit. ALISON HALLETT

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