All About the Benjamins. Kevin Bray. As bounty hunter Bucum, Ice Cube zaps people unnecessarily with Tasers, points his gun at a kid, tortures a man with metal screws and slings ethnic slurs -- all in the work of obtaining some diamonds that aren't rightfully his to begin with. Flawed heroes are one thing, but this is overkill. He's trying to go into business for himself as a private investigator, and might even have the money if he didn't waste it on $600 tropical fish that tend to die within a couple of hours. In the meantime, he's stuck with low-paying assignments, such as pursuing small-time hustler Reggie Wright (Mike Epps). In an extremely unlikely coincidence, Wright wins the lottery on the same day he accidentally stumbles upon a diamond heist, only to leave the winning ticket in the jewel thieves' van. The film's fast-paced enough that most probably won't think to look at their watches but not quite quick enough to gloss over plot problems. When not extrapolating huge chunks of exposition from nothing, Cube and Epps are stumped by setups so obvious you'll be 10 steps ahead of them. If the point is comedic banter, that's not too effective, either. A tiresome setup for what will most likely be a bankrupt franchise. Opens March 8 at multiple locations. (LYT)
Kandahar. Mohsen Makhmalbaf. It would be easy, and tempting, for a critic to hail Kandahar as a masterpiece without even seeing it: It's a foreign film, it takes on social issues, it's directed by Iranian master Makhmalbaf, it speaks to the causes of our war on terror and first hit U.S. shores right as the city of Kandahar fell to the Northern Alliance. The film is astonishingly well made and also very accessible to those unaccustomed to Iranian cinema; almost half the dialogue is in English and the story plays like a feminist's Apocalypse Now: An expatriated Afghan journalist (Nelofer Pazira, who attempted a similar journey in real life) must journey from Iran into Afghanistan, and the heart of darkness that is Taliban-controlled Kandahar, to stop her despondent sister from committing suicide. Frustratingly, though, the film ends before the journey is concluded. It isn't possible to spoil the ending, for there really isn't one: The quest simply continues out of our sight. It's as if The Fellowship of the Ring were titled Mordor and had no guaranteed sequels. The journey's a worthwhile one nonetheless, full of images of absurd tragedy you have to see to believe; just don't go looking for closure. Opens March 8 at the Tivoli. (LYT)
The Time Machine. Simon Wells. Opens March 8 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.