REVIEWS: Genocide on parade: “Carnage,” “In the Land of Blood and Honey” onscreen, “Anne Frank” onstage at WaterTower

In Carnage, two well-intentioned, upper-class New York couples hash out the details of a schoolyard brawl between their sons. Ethan, the son of Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly), was swatted in the face with a tree branch by Zachary, the son of Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz), knocking out a few teeth.

Penelope is especially high-strung about the incident — so much so, she can’t help but insert little jibes even as Nancy and Alan (clearly less horrified by the events than Penelope would like) offer pro forma apologies. Their son “intentionally hit him,” she snipes, eventually causing Alan to observe, “Yes, we’ve established it was intentional — what is gained by emphasizing it?”

Penelope clearly wants to live in a world where enemies become friends and we all hold hands around a campfire; Alan, a high-powered litigator, has a more cynical view. “I worship the god of carnage,” he says. Bad things happen, even if not because of bad people. Violence simply is the way.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Did you miss the 4D display last night at the Praetorian downtown? No worries

This may seem a lot of trouble for a mere movie trailer, but it was so worth it. Last night, great measures were taken to give a whole lot of Dallasites (especially downtowners) the pleasure of seeing the trailer for The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. The old Praetorian building was turned into a 4d mapped movie screen by the peeps at IllumeNight and pretty much kicked ass all over. Imagine if they had done it for Burlesque.

Thanks to a couple of YouTube posters, you can watch it in the comfort of indoors.

—  Rich Lopez

The stillborn ultimatum

Even Angelina can’t spice up ‘Salt’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

GIRLS WITH GUNS | She may not have a dragon tattoo, but Salt shows men who’s boss.

1 out of 5 Stars
Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber,
Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Rated R. 100 mins.
Now playing in wide release

Peace dividends and human rights notwithstanding, the fall of the Soviet Union dealt a body blow to the espionage thriller. Russia was such a delicious, non-racially-charged enemy. Now, we only have bearded, dishdasha-wearing, Arabic-speaking villains. Their anger is fueled by religion, not politics. How dull is that? The Bourne movies (based on books written during the Cold War) do a good job of capturing the “spook” quality of the spy game, but how much shaky camerawork can one eyeball take?

Too bad the lone foray into old school espionage comes in the form of Salt. The Russians are back, supposedly with a deep undercover double agent, CIA operative Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), planning to assassinate the Russian premier and start WWIII. Think No Way Out in heels. Think The Girls from Brazil.

I think not.

If it didn’t star an A-lister like Jolie, Salt would be a B-movie through-and-through; I can imagine Dolph Lundgren or, God help us, Pamela Anderson taking the lead and bringing zero personality to a film already desperate to find any identity.

The A-Team is supposed to be mindless summer entertainment; this movie imagines itself as something smarter, more political, more savvy about the real world. That’s established with the Cold War opening and the high-tech early scenes. But it quickly devolve into idiotic security missteps that would make a thinking citizen fear for our national safety — in the first 20 minutes, two potential terrorists escape from CIA headquarters. The reasons make no sense. None of it does.

Director Philip Noyce stages the action to seem awkward and silly, rather than crisp and exciting. Like Jason Bourne, Salt should be effortlessly resourceful, but instead merely trods through a series of improbabilities that work themselves out mechanically. Angelina’s last action orgasm, Wanted, at least was fun nonsense — this is just nonsense with a plot both contrived and completely lacking surprises. As in The Game, it takes an idea that could be joyously improbable and turns it into something utterly, insultingly unbelievable.

Jolie dressed in male drag is as close as the movie comes to comedy, though it’s not intended to be humorous. That says it all. Keep this Salt out of your diet — no one needs excess so-dumb.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas