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You'll Laugh Dying 

Wednesday, Oct 10 2007

You Kill Me


Funny thing seeing Philip Baker Hall in You Kill Me, as he's already played the role of a drunken hit man's boss in The Matador, to which this feels like a slapshtick-noir sequel. It's also the photo-negative of Sexy Beast: Once more Ben Kingsley plays a killer, only now he's too drunk to think straight or shoot straight or even stay awake — hence his banishment to San Francisco, where he gets a gig tending to corpses. Téa Leoni, landing her best part in ages, is the reluctant girlfriend who takes to her beau's profession; Luke Wilson is the toll-booth attendant and AA sponsor, and he hasn't been this good since, oh, Bottle Rocket. This is dark comedy played for big laughs. But it works, down to the commentary track that plays like an AA confessional — genius, going in for the kill like that. — Robert Wilonsky

Evan Almighty


The biblical inspiration is Noah, but after watching Steve Carell mug in vain through this godforsaken family comedy — a $175 million bomb that gave Universal a Jehovah-size smiting — you may be reminded more of Esau trading his birthright for a mess of pottage. In this who-asked-for-it sequel to Bruce Almighty, Carell is the sinner in the hands of a quirky God (Morgan Freeman, typecast), who commands him to build an ark and stock it with cute animals that spit and poop on cue. Director Tom Shadyac is hardly a guy you'd trust with a loaf and a fish: This reverse miracle worker makes Lauren Graham bland, Wanda Sykes irritating, and guest star Jon Stewart unfunny. But who am I to argue with the magic of fake bird crap? — Jim Ridley

American Silent Horror Collection


Four silent horror films with excellent extras make this a great box for that special someone who adores being bored silly; hey, it's getting harder to watch feature-length silent movies these days. But those who can handle the slow pace and cheesy soundtracks will witness some wonderful moments. Best of the set is The Penalty, which wouldn't be a horror movie at all if the gangster played by Lon Chaney had legs. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde shines in its famous transformation scenes (and a short parody from Stan Laurel), and two films from Paul Leni round out the pack with expressionistic flair. The bonus documentary celebrating the genre is actually better with the sound turned off, thus rendering it a horror montage minus the "spooky" narration from Rod Steiger. — Jordan Harper

Mala Noche: The Criterion Collection


Gus Van Sant's 1985 feature-length debut shares plenty o' traits with many another first feature: It's shot in dreamy black and white, on the mean (maybe just cranky) streets; it has an ending that fizzles and feels long at 78 minutes. But the talent of Van Sant, who went on to make such greats as Drugstore Cowboy and Elephant (as well as such pootie as his infamous Psycho remake), shines through in the way he makes a cruddy Portland, Oregon neighborhood look gorgeous. The movie is also queer as a football bat, its plot centering on a store clerk's pursuit of a shaggy Mexican immigrant. But gayness as fact beats gayness as political or fashion statement. The best special feature is a documentary on the foul-mouthed nut Walt Curtis, the poet and author whose work inspired the film. — J.H.


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