Fresh Film Reviews

Ari Gold is back, meaning Jeremy Piven as Jeremy Piven in the curiously named The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, which opens today at the Meridian, Varisity, and other theaters. Vadim Rizov delivers his verdict:

Making headline writers' lives everywhere easier: The Goods doesn't deliver. Don Ready (Jeremy Piven, not changing a note from Entourage) is a hired-gun slasher salesman, the guy you call when your used-car business is in trouble. With his team, Don's a genius at clearing out stagnant lots. Producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are firmly in Anchorman territory, which means there's zero time wasted on token sentiment. They also miss a chance to immerse themselves in a potentially rich environment, shown in all its gimmicky grandeur in John Landis's underrated used-car-salesman documentary Slasher. Nothing here convinces. Briskly vulgar, The Goods skips scatology and goes straight for the gonads: "I have hair on my balls, and I sell cars" is how Ready introduces himself. Compared to this year's truly vile specimens (like Miss March), The Goods is unobjectionable, but shoddy. The few real laughs--all two minutes' worth--come courtesy of Russ Meyer veteran Charles Napier as Dick Lewiston, the angriest macho male anachronism of the year: "I don't like Jews, queers, or Eskimos," he announces apropos of nothing. "I was raised that way." Napier connects the dots between economic disenfranchisement and subversive humor--the rest of it is just a bunch of absurdist dick jokes. (R, 89 minutes) VADIM RIZOV

Make the jump for the new Miyazaki anime and Lisa Kudrow...


Deep into this latest ride on the High School Musical bandwagon, the death of a main character's father is treated as less devastating than the social-clique intel it uncovers. Besides that bit of OMG hysteria, Todd Graff's film is written with a desperate cleverness that clamors for attention over the brainless against-the-odds music-competition plot. Chinless new kid Will (Gaelan Connell) finds his encyclopedic audiophilia pressed into service when nervy Charlotte (singer Aly Michalka) wants to enter her garage trio into a regional battle of the bands. He also finds a partner in crime in sarcastic outsider "Sa5m" (played by HSM-er Vanessa Hudgens), while his long-necked and fretful Mom (Lisa Kudrow) hovers. Thus, Will achieves the bizarre dream of becoming a band manager, in a story littered with musical references (Bowie, CBGB) that are more 50-year-old screenwriter than platinum teenybopper. The fleeting first kiss between Will and Sa5m is the rare sweet moment on the trudge toward the big night, when a tinny line-up of finalists in various ersatz styles climaxes with Will's nine-piece band--actually called "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On." (PG, 111 minutes, Metro and other theaters) NICK PINKERTON


The great ocean deep proves a natural canvas for Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away), whose latest feature riffs on Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale of The Little Mermaid, albeit with the distinctly Miyazaki-an twist that the mermaid princess is an anthropomorphic goldfish with magical powers, and her handsome prince is a five-year-old schoolboy still in full possession of his baby teeth. The advance word on Ponyo--presented here in an English-dubbed version adapted by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison and supervised by Pixar guru John Lasseter--had suggested that the film would mark a conscious return by its director to the gentler, more kid-friendly style of movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, and while that may be the case, the appeal of Ponyo is hardly limited to the Romper Room set. It's a movie for anyone who, like Miyazaki himself, can still happily commune with his inner five-year-old. Like much of Miyazaki's work, the film carries an unsubtle environmental message about the littering and overharvesting of the ocean. Yet, as he glances at the world once more through a child's wide, unspoiled eyes, Miyazaki seems to find hope for renewal. (G, 100 minutes, Metro and other theaters) SCOTT FOUNDAS

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