Monday, October 31, 2011

Review of Life Itself for BiblioBuffet

Yes, I know it's not really a sports book, but Ebert did begin his writing career as a sportswriter, so I think it's appropriate. Especially when I compare it to Robert Lipsyte's memoir, "An Accidental Sportswriter."

In short, Ebert's memoir is outstanding. You can read my thoughts here.

And a special thanks to our immensely talented film friend in Brooklyn, R. Kurt Osenlund, for the book.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review of The Three Musketeers

Buy the candy bar instead. You'll spend less money and the experience will be ten times more memorable.

You can read the review here, and observe my continued transformation into Jay "It stinks!" Sherman.

P.S.--Someone once asked me how I can review movies if I hate everything. I do not. Movies like "The Three Musketeers" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" are occupational hazards. My faith in the power of movies, however you would like to define that phrase, is unshakeable.

And to quote Joe Queenan: "Let me confess that I am one of those people who has never lost his childlike belief that the next motion picture he sees could be the worst film ever made. That's why I go to all of them."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Etc.--My Strip Club, Playing Hooky, Greeting Kids

The Englishtown Auction, a colossal outdoors flea market based in Manalapan, NJ, literally has everything: used books and tools, CDs, toys from the 1980s, new toiletries, Christmas ornaments, furniture, clothes. For someone like me, who likes low prices and endless browsing, it's wonderful.

But the people-watching makes the place Xanadu. Englishtown is a required visit for any writing student. Some of the vendors look like recovering hoarders who reluctantly bring whatever was in their attic with them. Most are surly. Some are condescending ("One peso," remarked one to a Spanish-seeking crowd, unaware that a dollar and peso are two different currencies). Others are downright neighborly. The shoppers consist of Yuppies, immigrants, teenagers, and white trash.

It's also my strip club. Every couple has certain places that a man adores but a woman loathes. A visit to this place requires months of planning and superb timing. You can't go every week unless you want your possessions relocated to the front lawn. For most couples, the battleground is a strip club, a golf course, or a bar. Think this is the death of manhood? No, it's a natural consequence of being in a relationship. It's not all about you.

My wife loathes Englishtown. She thinks it's dirty (when it rains, the venue resembles a mud wrestling pit), filled with a special variety of weirdo, and beyond creepy. After seeing underwear of questionable origin for sale, she threw in the towel. Her open disdain is rare because she's so patient--after all, she's married to me. My sister-in-law also hates it, so my brother is left to fantasize about searching through mounds of old Happy Meal toys.

On Sunday, circumstances aligned so that we got our freedom. And it was glorious. I bought a packet of Gilette Fusion razors for eight dollars and a hardcover of "The Miracle of St. Anthony" for one dollar. I munched on a bagel, sipped a coffee, and took it all in.

It was a ton of fun, and I look forward to the next visit. Unless I develop a drinking problem or improve my tee shot, then it's anyone's guess.

2.) I was watching the end of "Wanted" the other day, and I couldn't help wonder why James McAvoy was in this dreadful affair. Movie executives couldn't have imagined the following conversation, right?

Artsy Husband (from behind "New York Times" arts and leisure section): James McAvoy? Honey, isn't that the young man from "Becoming Jane"?

Artsy Wife (looking up from Anita Diamant paperback): Yes, he was fabulous in that! And he was riveting in "Atonement." He's such a thoughtful, sensitive actor. Oh, I like him.

Artsy Husband: Well, the review says he plays an assassin who can bend bullets, or some such nonsense. That can't be the same actor, right?

Artsy Wife: There's one way to find out. Let's invite the gang from the film society. We should go soon, before the Fassbinder marathon on IFC.

3.) My wife and I recently visited friends who have three young girls, all under the age of seven, whom we were meeting for the first time. Is there anything more awkward than introducing yourself to little kids? Hugs are too intimate. Handshakes are too formal. High-fives make me feel like a doofus youth coach.

Anybody have any advice on this? I'm legitimately puzzled.

4.) During a weekday afternoon trip to the drug store, I bought a packet of razors and some business envelopes. The clerk, a very nice, gregarious guy, said, "Playing hooky today?"

This got me thinking: What in this transaction suggests that I'm blowing off work? "Yeah, I'm just going to shave my neck hair and mail the shaving scum to business contacts. That's how I chill out."

5.) Note to the writers of "He's Just Not That Into You": Ginnifer Goodwin's character is how a 15-year-old acts, not a 28-year-old. That's one reason why I jumped ship after 10 minutes, and I'm the schmuck who sat through "Made of Honor."

6.) It's quite possible that the opening to the "Jane Austen Book Club"--look at how modern technology is failing us; we need a return to a simpler time!--is one of the most patronizing in recent memory. However, it is the perfect beginning to a shrill, predictable movie that examines unfulfilled lives with the grace of a truck stop bathroom

7.) Recommended reading: Roger Ebert's "Life Itself" (thanks, Kurt); Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Hometown Movie Theater: Creating New, Pretentious Movies

Lars Von Trier has to direct "What's Urnumber?", right? It sounds moody and unpleasant and ripe with meaning that I can't comprehend. My guess is that Urnumber is just like Grendel. Stellan Skarsgard can play the mythical, tortured hunter. It's too perfect.

Also, I think the theater manager simply instructing his employees to put up the titles via text message. "Ur"? "Dolphin" for "A Dolphin's Tale"? "Stee" instead of "Steel" Nicolas Carr is right: The wired world is turning our brains to mush. Pretty soon we will all communicate with grunts and head nods.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Susan Orlean Q&A

I don't think this piece needs a giant introduction. All I'll say is that it's always nice when the writers you admire are decent human beings. It's another little thing that prevents me from filling out law school applications.

This interview previously appeared in "ICON" and is reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina).

P.S.--I didn't ask about "Adaptation," because she's talked (and written) about it a thousand times. I wanted to explore somewhat new terrain.


Susan Orlean is busy today. She's settling into a new home. Her pets are giving her trouble. A deadline is looming. Yes, she's still up for the interview, which amidst the swirl of domestic- and work-related chaos, she nails.

This snapshot of Orlean's afternoon encapsulates her strength as a writer—she's remarkably focused. Her latest book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (now available for sale everywhere) covers the rise of dogs as pets, dog training, the beginnings of the film and television industry, and the lives of the dog (or, more accurately, dogs) and his enamored guardians: trainer Lee Duncan and TV producer Bert Leonard.

Every diversion fits into this memorable portrait of the canine icon, and Orlean's orderliness does not lead to stodgy prose. The author of The Orchid Thief and New Yorker staff writer clearly relishes finding every angle to a story, even the ones that affect her personally. It's why I'll read anything she writes. Regardless of how arcane the subject is, she makes it sparkle via wit and investigation.

In this mid-September interview, Orlean, 55, talks about juggling all those subjects, what led her to write about Rin Tin Tin, and if an animal will ever again reach such a level of celebrity.

Pete Croatto: The last time we talked you displayed quite a passion for bookstores misplacing you and other authors' books. With that said, where is Rin Tin Tin going to end up being placed?

Susan Orlean: Well, I already see it listed under pet care, which I guess is not surprising, and biography, which is not incorrect. I think it's going to end up in a couple of different places, and I suppose better that it end up in many rather than none. It's tricky. It's a biography of a sort. It's an animal book of a sort. And it's kind of a cultural observation of a sort, so I don't blame bookstores for finding it a little hard to figure out.

PC: The book covers a lot of ground. How did you manage to tie all those subjects together without getting overwhelmed or cluttering the narrative?

SO: Well, you're assuming I didn't get overwhelmed. I did. The book took me a long time [nearly 10 years]. First of all, it was a huge undertaking that was far bigger than I expected. I felt strongly that it made sense only if I told it in a really thorough way. What I think was the only thing I could do in terms of keeping the narrative intact was to try to convey to the reader the story of my discovery of what I was learning. Essentially that I started a subject expecting it to be kind of compact—not simple, but just manageable—and it grew and grew and that I wanted them to come along on that same exploration with me.

PC: It's funny you mention wanting to take readers along with you, because in Rin Tin Tin, like your other work, you write regularly in the first person. How did you come to write in that style, and did anyone encourage you not to at any point?

SO: To answer your first question, I began writing in the first person—or at least not pretending that I wasn't in the story as the reporter—at a point where the only way to make sense of the narrative meant acknowledging my presence, basically. And it was really liberating. And I didn't feel that it meant that I was suddenly the subject of the story, but rather that it made it so much easier to move the reader around in time and space. I'm just sort of saying, "I'm here. I'm the person observing this." It's actually much more natural. It's the way you'd tell a story over dinner. We're not inhibited in telling a story at dinner to friends: "And then I asked" or "Then I went to figure out x." So, to me, it's actually far more authentic. And it's the way you tell stories, so it never felt phony to me.

I've always written for places that, fortunately, don't have strict rules about how you write. You write to achieve the best effect. I don't think the stories become narcissistic exercises, so no one ever said to me, "I don't see what the point is of having you in here. Get out." It's not been a problem in that way.

PC: The one reason I ask is that I've read a lot of books steeped in reporting where authors include themselves in the narrative, and it becomes a distraction. How do you keep yourself from being the elephant in the room? When do you know not to include yourself in the narrative?

SO: Well, it's kind of hard to answer that. It's surely intuitive. I really do think it's strictly a kind of measure in your own gut of whether you're interfering or helping. It should always feel that you're advancing the story by being in there. Huge, huge long stretches of my writing I'm not the least bit present. To be honest with you, I feel I always write in a way that my voice is very subjective. Even if I don't say "I, I, I," I think there's always a sense that this is a story being told by an actual person, and I happen to be the actual person. Occasionally, I'm going to refer to something specific. Not everyone is going to like that. There are some people who get very irritated by the writer being present at all. That's fine. It's a matter of taste, but I feel strongly that I follow my instincts and hope that they keep it authentic and readable.

The bottom line is that I feel that my goal is to be the most interesting storyteller in the world, and whatever I need to do to make that happen is what I try to do.

PC: Without giving away too much, Rin Tin Tin had a special significance to you from an early age. What made you decide to write this book now?

SO: Very specifically because I had come across Rin Tin Tin's name in the course of working on another story. I hadn't actively thought about Rin Tin Tin in decades. I came across his name and had a reaction that was so strong that I really kind of sat up straight. It's rare that you have a reaction to a memory that's so strong. It just led me almost instantly to think, "This is a book; I want to write a book." Because I so quickly learned so many things about Rin Tin Tin that were so fascinating and rocked me out of what I had thought was the case of his life. It made me think, "Oh my gosh here's something that I thought I knew, and in fact I don't know it all—and there's this amazing story to be told."

PC: You could also say that sense of discovery runs through the book.

SO: Yeah, very much. This is so much a case of falling into the rabbit hole and thinking, "Wow, this is an incredible story and it just keeps getting more and more interesting. I can't walk away."

PC: One striking aspect of the book was how much the general public loved Rin Tin Tin. Are we ever going to see an animal with such a devoted following or has the novelty of TV and films—two media he was around for in their early days—worn off?

SO: I think that the innocence that is required to look at an animal as so powerful and so symbolic, I don't know that we're that culture anymore. I don't know if we look at animals with the same kind of belief the way we used to. Animals have been heroic and moved in and out of roles many times as far as being looked at almost as more powerful than people. I'm not sure that we will have that connection. Also, at the time Rin Tin Tin became such a phenomenon, the number of channels, so to speak, of entertainment was so limited. You had three networks. It was just a very different world. We still have stars that take on enormous significance, but I think the impact is kind of different these days.

PC: I would agree with that. Also, you mention in the book dogs only become a regular part of domestic life until the 1940s or 50s. Rin Tin Tin premiering onscreen in the late 1920s was a big deal.

SO: We're a far more sophisticated culture now. It's harder to surprise people. It's harder to get a reaction of such amazement because we've seen it all.

PC: Yeah, we have. We've seen Keyboard Cat.

SO: Because of the rise of things like YouTube and reality TV, we just don't look at entertainers as having a kind of god-like quality. That's something we just don't see anymore. It used to be that you knew nothing about Hollywood stars and you simply admired them from afar, and that simply does not happen anymore.

PC: Bert Leonard, the producer of the first Rin Tin Tin television show, was devoted to the dog until his death. You learned of Leonard's loyalty via a storage locker full of old documents, the key for which you received from his daughter Gina. How do you get subjects to give you that kind of trust?

SO: The one thing a writer needs to be is genuine and I think that many people are really eager to have their stories told and in the case of Bert…I think his family loved the idea of his being remembered when he had kind of disappeared. And so, while she had no idea if there was anything in there, I think also her feeling was it's great that you're interested in him; if you want to take a look, go ahead. But I was certainly fortunate that I had her trust. I think that's the sort of result of being honest and saying, "I really want to know his story and I really care about telling his story."

PC: Your best-known books have dealt with subjects—orchids and Saturday nights—that are not on the tips of everyone's tongues. Many people don't know who Rin Tin Tin is. These aren't what publishers would consider sexy topics.

SO: I am a victim of my own curiosity. The only ideas that really get me excited are the ones that really get me excited. I have a sort of temperamental inability to focus group my ideas. I tend to get interested in a subject and really want to learn about it. My natural next reaction is, "Oh, I just learned something really interesting. I want to tell people about it." The fact that I do that via a keyboard and a published book is really almost incidental. Learning a story and telling a story is what really interests me…It's just sheer impulse and, frankly, a certain instinct of, I know this is a good story. I know people won't think that they want to know this, but boy, it's so cool they're going to be really glad that I told them.

PC: If you write a book because it's a popular topic and you don't care about it, then that lack of interest may show.

SO: I'm just not interested in that. If something is already popular, why would I want to write a book about it? I don't pick subjects just to be contrarian and purposefully offbeat. I like to write about what interests me. The kind of commitment I have to it and my enthusiasm is what usually draws people in and later they may think, "Wow, now I'm interested in that." I'm so often curious about the things that I don't know anything about and that strike me in a surprising way. It's hard to be surprised if it's something that's already really familiar.

PC: There's one quote from the book that stuck with me: "A singular passion helps you slice through the mess of the world, but I had also come to believe that cutting such a narrow path plays tricks with proportion and balance and pushes everything to the edge." That's written about people who were passionate about Rin Tin Tin. But, for you, does that apply to writing?

SO: Absolutely—I think the focus and, frankly, obsession required to write something is just as consuming as any passion, and sometimes plays the same tricks on your ability to be balanced and have perspective. Unfortunately, that's also the only way to get it done.

PC: Over the last couple of years, you've hit the social network with abandon. Your Twitter account is a blast. You're easily reachable on Facebook. Is that part of a writer's job now or was it a curiosity that blossomed?

SO: Aha! It's a bit of both. I first signed up for social media at the urging of my assistant; she insisted that it was a new job requirement for a writer. Then I discovered that I enjoyed it, much to my surprise. I think there are still many writers who don't engage in social media and still sell lots of books and do a great job. I just think it's a good opportunity to talk to your readers, to have fun, and to add another dimension to your experience as a storyteller.

PC: You're in California now. Has moving west changed your perspective as a writer?

SO: I'm sure it will—place has such a profound effect on all of us. But we've only been here two weeks. So far, I'm still jet-lagged.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book of the Month, October 2011

I love books. They're fun, educational, and without them 85 percent of movies wouldn't be made.

Case in point, "Moneyball," an adaptation that fought an uphill battle from the start: How can you make a movie about a statistics-driven business model? Bennett Miller tried, but by making the movie more about A's GM Billy Beane than his methods, he watered down what made Michael Lewis's book so special.

So, what baseball book should be made into a movie? How about Jane Leavy's "The Lost Boy," her superlative biography of Mickey Mantle. The best aspect of her book is that Leavy paints a full, vivid portrait of Mantle as a legendeary athlete and as a flawed person.

What's tragic about Mantle--and why his story is tailor-made for the big screen--is that he succumbed to the cult of personality. Post-baseball, Mantle became an aw-shucks, hard-drinking bullshitter, which is what the fans wanted and what made him profitable. It was an arrangement that ultimately cost him his life, and what defines Leavy's effort as so much more than a "sports book."

That's it for now. Until next month, read in peace.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Film Round-Up: October 2011

In this edition of the Film Round-Up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's attempt to woo the multiplex, solid documentaries on a legendary Yiddish author and a high school band, and an apocalyptic love story for the art house crowd.

One of the nice things about "50/50" is to see Dallas Bryce Howard expertly play another bitch. She's finally found her niche, which is great because her work before "The Help" was less than impressive. You ever see her and Chris "Cardboard" Evans in "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond"? Oof.

These reviews previously appeared in "ICON" and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)


Thunder Soul (Dir: Mark Landsman). In the 1970s, the Kashmere Stage Band was a phenomenon. Based in Houston's all-black Kashmere High School, the band annihilated its stodgy competitors with funky, pounding arrangements and nifty choreography. After dominating nationally with their groundbreaking content, the kids toured the world and even found listeners decades later, thanks to a popular retrospective album. Landsman's documentary covers band members from KSB's heyday—many of whom have not played their instruments since graduation day—reuniting to play a 2008 concert for their beloved leader and teacher, Conrad "Prof" Johnson. Undeniably upbeat and heartfelt film that shows the impact a good teacher can have on students, especially those who need a father figure. The music, of course, is fantastic. Only glaring flaw: With one or two exceptions, we don't know the members of the band and how their lives fared after their high school glory days. Jamie Foxx served as executive producer. [PG] ***1/2

50/50 (Dir: Jonathan Levine). Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall. Adam (Gordon-Levitt), a seemingly healthy 27-year-old, is diagnosed with a nasty form of cancer that comes with a grim outlook: he only has a fifty percent chance of surviving. As the disease begins its onslaught and Adam undergoes treatment, his coarse best friend-wingman (Rogen, who also produced) stands by his side and a cute, practically novice therapist (Kendrick) navigates Adam through the rough patch. Like Judd Apatow's emerging catalogue of bromedies (Knocked Up, Funny People), Levine's effort embraces aspects of testosterone-driven comedy and legitimate, man-friendly drama, though not consistently; 50/50 never completely satisfies as a hearty comedy or as a raw character study. Still, it's a solid, entertaining look at young adulthood interrupted that features good performances from everyone, especially Huston as Adam's overprotective mom, and Kendrick (Up in the Air) as the young professional with strong feelings for her new client. The movie's writer, Will Reiser, is a cancer survivor. [R] ***

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness (Dir: Joseph Dorman). Aleichem (1859-1916) is probably best known as the creator of Tevye, the lead character in the beloved musical, Fiddler on the Roof. In reality, Aleichem's stories about the Jewish milkman were less than cheerful. They reflected the changing status of Eastern European Jews who, at the end of the twentieth century, were struggling to find their way amidst pogroms and opportunities in the secular world. One interview subject in this illuminating, intelligent documentary puts it best: Aleichem taught Jews how to live in the modern world. Dorman effectively puts Aleichem's cultural significance into perspective. By writing his stories in Yiddish, Aleichem helped turn it into a credible language; his funeral was so massive that it introduced the Jews as an influential demographic in New York City politics. But what's more impressive—and touching—is how the director reveals Aleichem as a writer of the people. The author truly struggled (and coped) like his beloved characters. Other plusses: Terrific interviewees and Peter Riegert and Rachel Dratch offering sublime readings of Aleichem's work. [NR] ****

Bellflower (Dir: Evan Glodell). Starring: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, Vincent Grashaw. Highly stylized, borderline incomprehensible drama follows Wisconsin natives and friends, Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Dawson), who aspire to construct a flamethrower a la what they saw as kids in Mad Max. Everything changes when Woodrow falls hard for the wrong woman (Wiseman). That romance, of course, ends badly, causing the poor guy to succumb to a deadening pattern of alcohol and self-pity. Soon, a flamethrower isn't enough and Aiden and Woodrow's goofy intentions darken. Starts off as a quirky take on the Go West Young Man tale, with two nimrods trying to make it in the seedy, unglamorous side of Hollywood. But the plot takes a hard left into kinetic, jealousy-tinged nihilistic nonsense that abandons the characters and exhausts the audience's patience. There's a story in Bellflower. It's too bad that debut director-writer-editor-producer Glodell abandons it for sound, fury, and apocalyptic dream sequences. If Glodell relies on substance more than style, his future work will be worth watching. This one is not. [R] **

The Big Review: Contagion

Every fall, a movie comes out that throws everyone into a tizzy with its name cast and high-profile director. It seems destined for a gaggle of awards. Then it's released and...pfft!

Here's the front-runner for 2011's unique distinction.

This review--complete with 9/11 interpretation and my take on Steven Soderbergh's stoic approach--previously appeared in "ICON" and is reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)


Director Steven Soderbergh has always displayed a coolness that borders on emotional disconnect. You don't see teary speeches or hug-filled reunions. His box office triumphs (Erin Brockovich, the Ocean's trilogy) feature characters who can't afford to let their guard down. King of the Hill might be the most intense coming-of-age story I've ever seen. Traffic could have made a billion dollars and sold a zillion t-shirts if he chose to glamorize drug dealing with violence and big personalities.

Soderbergh didn't. All he got was an Academy Award for best director.

His refusal to talk down to his audience while skipping through genres, even if it costs him, is why I am an admirer. But it makes Soderbergh an odd choice to direct Contagion, the star-studded virus-runs-amok drama. A good poker face is not scary. The film never grabs you by the shoulders and gives you an old-fashioned fright. You can watch it with your eyes wide open—unless you find stellar ensemble work and directorial polish bone chilling.

The origins of the viral horror are benign. Executive Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), coughing and pale, prepares to board her flight home after a business trip to Hong Kong. The same conditions plague a fashion model in London, a Tokyo businessman, and, logically, a Hong Kong waiter. Everyone looks like they have the flu. Emhoff returns home to Minneapolis, where a few days later she collapses on the kitchen floor, frothing at the mouth and lapsing into seizures. The hospital's doctor can't explain her death, but the coroner's reaction during the autopsy says it all: "Call everyone."

Soon, a no-nonsense investigator (Kate Winslet) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travels to Minnesota. A World Health Organization official (Marion Cotillard) heads to the Hong Kong casino where Emhoff gambled and dined. As the ladies follow leads, attempts to vaccinate the virus prove exceedingly difficult. It's a model of biological perfection, fitting into cells "like a key into a lock." People keep dying, so much so that body bags run out.

In the ensuing weeks, things fall apart. Homeland Security becomes interested. A popular, truth-telling blogger (Jude Law) gets his priorities mixed up. Beth's widowed husband (Matt Damon) becomes really overprotective of his only daughter. Throughout, Soderbergh handles the material with his usual quiet confidence. The proof is in the cinematography: Winslet opens her hotel window to see a caravan of military vehicles driving down an empty street on a miserable gray morning. The beleaguered CDC deputy director (Laurence Fishburne) sits in a cafeteria, surrounded by empty chairs, overwhelmed by a problem he can't solve.

Soderbergh's approach only takes him so far. His quiet confidence turns into politeness. Grave red lettering pops up to remind us of the number of days that have passed in this misery. Everyone is clearly working against the clock, but the tension never explodes. The movie proceeds as one long anticlimax. Major plot developments get treated with little fuss as Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns make their points about leadership (the military calls the shots; the president is nowhere to be found), bureaucratic red tape, and the common good of people. These messages are fine, but they're placed too high on the priority list. The movie is about an unstoppable virus killing millions of helpless people. Shouldn't we feel a little bit scared? Is it weird not to feel any connection to characters? (Burns and Soderbergh address this shortcoming by having Damon turn into a less hirsute version of Viggo Mortensen's character from The Road, a distracting move in an otherwise journalistic-style narrative.) Why does the movie feel respectful and orderly, like something The Learning Channel would produce?

An argument could be made that this kind of restraint is appropriate for a movie released two days before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. I don't buy that. The Dark Knight perfectly captured the random terror that comes when a psychopath gains power over a major city. V for Vendetta, released in the middle of George W. Bush's second term, explored the horror of an overprotective government. And there was The Road, Team America World Police, and more.

One of the great artistic triumphs post-September 11th is that filmmakers have used the fear of a world run amok in a creative, non-exploitive way. Movies have helped us explore the uncertainty of that day and ever after. By holding back his own emotions, whatever they might be, Soderbergh has offered a somewhat entertaining, well-acted cop out. [PG-13]