Mambo Italiano. Emile Gaudreault. If any further indication were needed of the fact that gay has gone mainstream, this flaccid farce provides definitive proof, for it's as forced and unfunny as subpar Sandra Dee. Set in Montreal's Italian community, the film recounts the presumably comic chaos derived from the coming out of an otherwise bland young man whose parents scream and shout nonstop. Director Émile Gaudreault (who co-scripted with Steve Galluccio, from the latter's play) matches the verbal hectoring with a film unable to hold a shot longer than five seconds. The close-ups of actors grimacing through tons of multicolored makeup against candy-box backdrops are more relentless than those in Amélie. As the hapless hero, Luke Kirby manages to maintain some semblance of poise in a film so overdone that a sugar-cured ham like Paul Sorvino appears to be underplaying. In supporting roles, Ginette Reno, Mary Walsh and Claudia Ferri attack the screen like a pack of ravenous wildebeests. Opens Friday, October 17, at the Plaza Frontenac. (David Ehrenstein)
Runaway Jury. Gary Fleder. Based on John Grisham's novel about a Big Tobacco lawsuit, Gary Fleder's film deals instead with a suit against gun manufacturers. For the plaintiff is Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman), and his opponents in the courtroom are Durwood Cable (Bruce Davison) and Cable's boss Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman). Fitch has a base of operations more suited to a CIA officer than a gun lawyer, a sort of snoops-central from whence he unethically retrieves every iota of information he can get on all prospective jurors, from biases to blackmail material. One way or another, they'll vote his way, regardless of the trial evidence. But one juror comes without any apparent paper trail: Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), seemingly a part-time student who works in a software store. Working in conjunction with mysterious blackmailer Marlee (Rachel Weisz), Easter aims to swing the jury whichever way he chooses, depending on which lawyer is the first to agree to a $10 million bribe. Good premise, good cast -- shame it lacks Grisham's suspense and humor. Opens Friday, October 17, at multiple locations. (Luke Y. Thompson)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Marcus Nispel. This remake of the 1974 classic has been released just in time to scare up your Halloween dollars. You know the story (and if you don't, you should probably just rent the original): road-tripping teens encounter cannibalistic killer who wields the titular chainsaw, and gory horror ensues. 7th Heaven's Jessica Biel stars, and rumor has it that Leatherface isn't nearly as terrifying as he was the first time around. Still, it could make for some good, scary fun and should provide plenty of excuses to grab your date's leg. Opens Friday, October 17, at multiple locations. NR
Veronica Guerin. Joel Schumacher. Before you crack your wallet for this biopic from director Joel Schumacher and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, you'd do well to rent John Mackenzie's 2000 film When the Sky Falls, of which this new Veronica Guerin is basically a tarted-up remake. Same story, same scenarios, same basic characters, different names, equally important. Stepping into the barely fictionalized role well held by Joan Allen comes Aussie Cate Blanchett, who assists poor actress-deprived Ireland by starring as the titular national heroine. Spunky, Dublin-based journalist Guerin starts investigating the ghastly heroin trade in 1994 and is slain in 1996. In between, her unprecedented inquiry wreaks havoc for all concerned, including her somewhat thick husband (Barry Barnes), chummy editor (Mark Lambert), an underworld poseur (Ciarán Hinds) and one sensationally violent drug lord (Gerard McSorley). To be sure, this touching yet manipulative movie is a well-built machine, and judging by its enthusiastic reception in Ireland (where a quarter of the population has seen it), it captures the essence of the real Guerin, whose work and martyrdom changed a nation. Opens Friday, October 17, at multiple locations. (Gregory Weinkauf)
Wonderland. James Cox. Opens Friday, October 17, at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.