LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION
Opens Fri., Nov. 14, at Metro and others
The Looney Tunes gang survives the traumatic transition from Saturday-morning cartoon to big-screen crowd pleaser with relative ease. Expect a simple plot full of action, physical comedy, a car chase, love lost and found, sight gag upon sight gag upon sight gag, and a disturbing Wal-Mart product placement. This movie is as formulaic as they come, but it works. Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, and Steve Martin are the human stars. Martin is hilarious in his too-short screen time, while Elfman and Fraser are adequate (it must be difficult to top EDtv and Encino Man). The actual stars are the animated charactersbasically every regular from the Warner Bros. cartoon universe. The human-'toon interaction is sufficient, but nothing Who Framed Roger Rabbit? didn't accomplish before. The movie is layered with jokes for all ages, with surprisingly little toilet humor. For parents nostalgic for Daffy Duck and company, Action is anything but "despicable." (PG) BRANDON IVEY
Runs Fri., Nov. 14-Thurs., Nov. 20, at Varsity
For a movie whose characters deal in fabulousness, Monster feels like a grind. On one level, that's appropriate since its main character, Michael Alig, is a murderer. But it's also a drag to watch people enjoy themselves to such extremesAlig's parties were notorious for their outrageousnessand with so little real joy. It's not just that early-'90s New York club kids James St. James (Seth Green) and Alig (Macaulay Culkin, in his first movie role in nine years) are studiedly blasé about seeing and being seenthough even the haughtiest of scenesters tend to have more life than these guys. It's that the movie has no spark at all. It's poorly directedthe camera wanders aimlessly throughoutand insultingly edited. One early scene in which St. James coaches Alig on becoming a nightlife face (walk around and say hello to everyone, then leave after an hour, basically), set in a midtown Manhattan coffee shop, is so half-formed and rhythmless that you keep wondering if they ran out of money in the middle of shooting it and were hoping no one would notice. Wrong.
That's what most of Monster is likea series of half-assed set pieces shot with the budget of a Lifetime Network TV movie but none of the clarity. If I hadn't already read St. James' Disco Bloodbath (upon which the movie is based) or Frank Owen's Clubland, both of which traffic the same material, I'd have no idea why or how Alig became king of the club kids. In those books, he comes off as diabolically charismatic, but Culkin mostly stares glazed-eyed and talks a lot, reducing evil to a dull cipher. Eventually, Alig kills Angel Melendez (played by Wilson Cruz with just about the only empathy in the movie), a drug dealer who's terminally uncool by Alig's lights, after he stops letting Alig and his pals have freebies off him. Monster is the kind of movie where you sit there wishing he would just get the killing over with so you can go home. (R) MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Opens Fri., Nov. 14, at Metro and Uptown
Stephen Glass made up preposterous lies for years during the mid-'90s, published them as fact in many of America's most prestigious publications, snottily insulted those who cast doubt on his faux reporting, earned a six-figure income, and hit the big time at 25. Then he was exposed and disgraced in 1998.
The only good thing to come out of Glass' regrettable existence is writer- director Billy Ray's debut film about him. Like Elephant, it makes no attempt to diagnose or peek inside the sociopathic mind. We simply see Glass in action, creepily re-created by Hayden Christensen as he pads around The New Republic office in his socks. His Glass is an emotional lamprey who attaches himself to ambitious young colleagues (chiefly a best friend, Chloë Sevigny, playing a composite character based on his several best friends) and to his superiorskindly editor Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) and Kelly's successor, Charles Lane (Peter Sarsgaard).
Glass did it by artful flattery and jujitsu self-deprecation calculated to incite reassurance and inflate the ego of the reassurer. But flattery would've gotten him nowhere without the insanely great stories he kept getting: a Young Republicans convention resembling a Mötley Crüe tour; religious cults devoted to Bush and Greenspan; a kid hacker wangling big bucks from his software-firm victim.
Steve Zahn sizzles as the actual reporter who proved the hacker and victim to be fictitious, but top honors go to the TNR gang. Christensen is masterfully dastardly who'd have thought that Star Wars would hurt his career or that his name would be made by a low-budget docudrama about a flap at a magazine with, like, nine subscribers? Sevigny shows more gumption than usual as Glass' loyal pal, who angrily defends him to Lane.
Best of all is Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry) as Lane, Glass' patron-turned-interrogator. Ray deftly shows how delicate his position was: The staff, loyal to now-sainted Kelly (who recently died in Iraq), saw him as a cold usurper. They were half right (he's a cold personality), but Glass thaws his heart. Then ours breaks along with Lane's as the latticework of lies dramatically collapses around them. Ray builds palpable tension into the foregone conclusion of Glass' downfall, and makes Lane the hero of a satisfying morality play about journalism besmirched and redeemed.
The only thing wrong with Glass is the horrific real-life finale left unfilmed. Glass subsequently got a Georgetown law degree, still more prestige-mag assignments, and a six-figure advance for a mendacious novel portraying himself as a misguided sweetie with disloyal friends. Alas, unlike the movie's brittle brilliance, that Glass is shatterproof. (PG-13) TIM APPELO
Opens Fri., Nov. 14, at Meridian and others
Touted as the only Tupac Shakur film created "in his own words" (with the approval of his mother, Afeni), one would think this pretentiously titled documentary a masturbatory puff piece martyring, well, a martyr. And although it sometimes is, Resurrection is not without delicate merits as it floats solemnly in and above the Las Vegas cityscape (site of his 1996 execution). The film deftly employs countless interviews and voice-overs to tell a moving quasi-autobiography of the groundbreaking rapper. Director Lauren Lazin wisely focuses on how Pac managed to simultaneously galvanize and mortify America via Thug Life (a poetic, proactive call to ghetto awareness and pride, not necessarily arms), while never getting an opportunity to initiate/devise the "plan for young black men" he claims his constituents wanted. Impressively, Resurrection doesn't shirk from revisiting Afeni's drug addiction, Pac's public immaturity, and tough questions about his 1994 sex-abuse conviction. It's as evocative a look as we've had yet at an antihero for the ages. (R) ANDREW BONAZELLI