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Swing Time

Current crop engages the senses


It must be the webs in my head, but an eagerly awaited motion picture made its home debut last week, yet for the life of me, I can't recall its title. Maybe it'll come to me soon; in the meantime. . .

Still one of this year's best films, Y Tu Mama Tambien (1/2 out of four) turned a pretty penny on the specialized circuit this past spring and should find itself earning a nod or two from year-end critics' groups. To tag this Mexican import from director Alfonso Cuaron (A Little Princess) and screenwriter Carlos Cuaron the art-house equivalent of a teen sex comedy would be misleading -- Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too) has more on its mind than the male orgasm. Ultimately, it begs comparison with Thelma & Louise more than American Pie, exploring the liberation (sexual and otherwise) of its leading characters as well as the mythos and pathos of the landscape they cross while making their life-altering journey. Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna portray two of the most realistic teenagers recently seen in movies, raging bulls of hormonal overdrive who, during one fateful summer, decide to embark on a road trip to the beach. They take off with an "older" (late-20s) woman (Maribel Verdu) at their side, a dental assistant from Spain who's trying to come to terms with her failed marriage and the dark secret that seems to inspire her increasingly bold actions. Sexually explicit in a manner rarely seen in American titles, yet also mindful of its country's sociopolitical breakdown, this is a mature drama that snares the viewer with seductive ease. DVD extras include audio commentary by members of the cast and crew, deleted scenes and a making-of feature.

Movies that adopt an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach are often maddening messes, but France's The Brotherhood of the Wolf () is reminiscent of countless other films yet still manages to retain its own swagger of originality. With a first half that plays like Sleepy Hollow, a second half that begs comparison to From Hell, and elements of Jaws, The Last of the Mohicans, The Company of Wolves and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon scattered throughout, this delirious film covers most bases and makes at least a cursory stab at the few it misses. In 18th century France, a naturist/ philosopher (Samuel Le Bihan) and his Iroquois companion (Mark Dacascos) are sent by the royal court to investigate a series of slayings in the French countryside. The creature responsible is reportedly a monstrous wolf, but as the pair investigates, they discover that several of the locals may know more than they're admitting. This one's got it all: martial arts, political intrigue, tender romance, steamy sex scenes, and a snapping, snarling, bloodthirsty beast. DVD extras include deleted scenes and theatrical trailer.

Moving from foreign imports to a remake of a foreign import, Insomnia () turned out to be an unusually brainy summer flick. With its bleak atmosphere, internally driven performances and unsettling ending, the 1997 Norwegian character study Insomnia seemed like just the type of movie whose pedigree would be tainted by a needless American remake. Instead, this new version, directed by Memento's Christopher Nolan, is a surprisingly faithful remake of its chilly predecessor. When it does elect to head off in its own direction, it employs changes that still work within the context of the storyline rather than imposing them for the sake of commercialism. Al Pacino, in top form, drops the ham to play Will Dormer, an exhausted LA detective who journeys to Alaska to help investigate the murder of a high school student. Plagued by bad luck that doggedly clings to him like clothes static in a dryer, and wracked by guilt over an unfortunate turn of events, Dormer begins to allow his fatigue to dictate his actions, even to the point of entering into an unorthodox partnership of sorts with the case's primary suspect (an effective Robin Williams). DVD extras include audio commentary by Nolan, co-star Hilary Swank and other crew members, additional footage, a feature on insomniacs and a making-of documentary.

My spidey-senses still haven't allowed me to recall November's big title, so let's move on to one of the month's feeblest releases, Enough (). A sleazy exploitation flick disguised as a serious message movie about a nutcase who beats his wife, this stars Jennifer Lopez as a supposedly savvy waitress who ends up meeting and marrying the "perfect man" (Billy Campbell). But in about the time it takes to clip half a fingernail, Hubby turns into a complete monster, an ogre who has affairs with apparently every woman on the continent, beats his wife to a bloody pulp and even gets rough with their helpless daughter (Tessa Allen, cast not so much for her acting ability as for the fact that she's programmed to draw an "aww" every time the camera zooms in on her tear-streaked little face). The fact that he excuses his beastly behavior by declaring that he's simply doing what a man's gotta do is offensive enough, but don't think this wanna-be feminist empowerment fantasy goes easy on the women, either: Thousands of wives in this country feel trapped in abusive marriages because they don't have the funds to escape or fight back. But hey, that's no problem in this movie, not when Lopez manages to track down her estranged father (Fred Ward), a boisterous lout who's so rich he can personally bankroll his long-lost daughter's entire revenge plot. It would take too much space and effort to list the countless plot holes littering the movie, but rest assured, there are enough of them to draw comparisons to the Grand Canyon. DVD features include a Jennifer Lopez music video and theatrical trailer.

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