One for the Ladies, and One for Everyone Else
The Proposal: "The Proposal is the rare rom-com that doesn't feel as though it began with a pitch, a title, and the two leads before the script was even written. Granted, it's still constrained by that formulism, but there's a lot of life going on in those gaps. Much of that magic comes in the form of Ryan Reynolds, who has finally gotten a role that not only takes advantage of his physique, but more importantly, his droll sarcasm and the ability to naturally deliver a cutting remark with impeccable timing -- it's a heady combination of the likable Reynolds from Definitely, Maybe and the romantic version of the wry, deadpan Reynolds in Blade Trinity. And though it's the unlikeliest of pairs, there's an actual easy-going and sweet chemistry between Reynolds and Sandra Bullock (sans snort!), who finally gets to express what many of us have known lies beneath her gauzy button-cute, dewy façade: Her inner, simpering bitch." -- Dustin Rowles
Land of the Lost: "The 2009 Land of the Lost, like the original, is similarly cheesy, and like its predecessor, feels at times like an acid trip. Only this trip feels similar to the effects of a narcotic featured in the movie: It's like having your "intestine punctured with a zombie dick." Land of the Lost is a big old bag of pube balls that sticks in your throat for an hour and half no matter how hard you try to cough them up. Land of the Lost aims for the camp value of the series, but its combined with a more family-friendly-ish approach and filtered through a big Hollywood studio, which is a bit like seeing your grandfather in baggy jeans a backwards cap and other assorted hip hop attire. The clothes are right, but the attitude belongs in a nursing home, where Will Ferrell's gibberish would go over quite well with strained peas and carrots."
Every Little Step: "Every Little Step, which chronicles the arduous audition process for the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line, might very well be the most meta-film concept ever produced. It's a veritable Matryoshka doll: a documentary about auditions for a musical about dancers auditioning for a musical. A Chorus Line explores the desperation and heartache of trying to be on stage and make a living in theatre from all conceivable angles: struggling with being gay, unattractive, Asian, too old for the limelight. It speaks to the heart of anyone who's every dreamed of trodding the boards, culled from hours of interviews performed by Michael Bennett and the original cast. Every Little Step deftly intersperses snippets from Bennett's tapes with the history of the production and the current crop of hopefuls desperate to take these marquee roles. Like boring people who try to figure out if they're a Ross or Rachel, a Dwight or Pam, or a Carrie or Miranda, all theatre nerds tried to determine if they were a Val, a Sheila, a Connie, or a Zach. The documentary beautifully captures the haunting agony of wanting a part and coming up short, but like the original production of A Chorus Line, the appeal for people outside the theatre community may be limiting. If you've dreamed of the spotlight, you'll be dazzled by the sequins, but if you couldn't give two shits, a third won't matter."
American Violet: "The quietly impressive American Violet is another clear demonstration of the shifting demographics in Hollywood. It wasn't that long ago when a superbly acted legal drama could command a sizable adult audience. But in 2009, in the wake of low-concept comedies and special-effects laden remakes, reboots, and other blockbusters built around familiar titles, it takes more than a strong cast of mostly character actors, a compelling story, and competent direction to get notice in Hollywood, which is why the independently released American Violet has to settle for slumming it at film festivals to get any notice at all. It's had zero marketing; it doesn't even have its own website, settling instead for Facebook and MySpace pages and positive word of mouth, which at least helped the movie rack up the third highest screen gross among the top 20 films over the weekend. It's a shame it's not getting any attention, too, because American Violet deserves to be seen, even if it's only to demonstrate just how much racism still clings to the fabric of southern, small-town America."