Many critics are calling this an improvement over the first movie, and they’re probably right. But both are fairly routine minor variations on superhero tropes that have been around for over half a century, and as such I find them blending together into one ultimately forgettable (if agreeable) four-hour romp. As Dr. Octopus, Alfred Molina makes a more baroque supervillain than Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, but the other starsTobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmonsseem happy to be giving us more of the same. Sam Raimi’s direction, on the other hand, is even more fluent and well paced, integrating the hero’s spectacular acrobatics with the grueling horrors of being a working-class teen. PG-13, 127 min. (JR)
Traumatized by the recent death of his mother, a maladjusted 14-year-old farm boy (Emile Hirsch) undergoes a brutal initiation into masculinity at the hands of other local teenage boys, some of whom displace their own uncertainties about sex and gender onto him. Michael Burke wrote and directed this painfully well-observed and disturbing first feature (2003); it’s especially good in its handling of actors and its sharp feeling for characters who can’t even describe their own problems, much less analyze them. 94 min. (JR)
Shot in 1968, this abstruse and fascinating film by Jean-Luc Godard juxtaposes scenes of the Rolling Stones rehearsing and recording their satanic anthem with various protorevolutionary vignettes staged in and around London, among them an interview in which Eve Democracy (Anne Wiazemsky, Godard’s wife at the time) perfunctorily answers every question yes or no. Godard’s original cut, released in 1969 as One Plus One, never allowed the full and finished song to be heard; here it plays out over a freeze-frame that was tacked onto the final sequence, a version Godard disowned, punching out the producer when it first appeared. 99 min. (JR)
Ernst Lubitsch’s only completed film in Technicolor (1943), the greatest of his late films, offers a rosy, meditative, and often very funny view of an irrepressible ladies’ man (Don Ameche in his prime) presenting his life in retrospect to the devil (Laird Cregar). Like a good deal of Lubitsch from The Merry Widow on, it’s about death as well as personal style, but rarely has the subject been treated with such affection for the human condition. Samson Raphaelson’s script is very close to perfection, the sumptuous period sets are a delight, and the secondary cast–Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Pallette, and Spring Byington–is wonderful. In many respects, this is Lubitsch’s testament, full of grace, wisdom, and romance. 112 min. A 35-millimeter print will be shown. Also on the program: When Hell Froze Over (1926), a Mutt and Jeff cartoon by Budd Fisher. LaSalle Theatre.
For once the hype is true: Michael Moore outdoes himself as a polemicist, surveying the presidency of George W. Bush as if our lives depended on it. He’s grown in ambition both as a documentary filmmaker and as a tactician, showing restraint and using other voices when necessary. (His depiction of the World Trade Center attacks of September 2001 is especially powerful.) To expect this eloquent and multifaceted statement of rage to be any more “objective” than our evening news would be naive–especially when Moore uses so many selected nuggets from the evening news to make his points. More generally, however, this Cannes prizewinner delivers a wealth of information that the U.S. major media have been skirting, and it registers with a good deal of common sense and simple humanity. There are plenty of laughs whenever Moore wants to twist the knife, but the bottom line is that he respects and trusts his fellow Americans a lot more than Bush does. 116 min. Reviewed this week in Section One. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Crown Village 18, Davis, Esquire, Gardens 7-13, Lake, Landmark’s Century Centre.