A true beatnik story, some post-nuclear terror, a holiday farce and a minor celebrity’s surprise
THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY: Malcolm D. Lee didn’t want to make a sequel right away to his hit movie The Best Man. But waiting 14 years? The original opened at Number 1; it bumped Brad Pitt’s Fight Club off the top and proved a hit for its witty comedy of upper middleclass blacks in America. Now Lee has brought all the actors together again and we can see what happened to their characters. Too much, it seems. The film works for a while before feeling overloaded with plot and sentiment. And then doesn’t know when to stop.
Harper (Taye Diggs) wrote a hit novel but is now struggling while his wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) is close to giving birth. Julian (Harold Perrineau) also has money problems at the school he runs while old video of his wife Candace (Regina Hall), a former stripper, appears on his phone. Jordan (Nia Long) is a TV executive, Quentin (Terrence Howard) is the same wisecracking cynic he always was and Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) is a gaudy divorcée. They all come together at a Christmas weekend hosted by Lance (Morris Chestnut), now a big football star, whose wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) we learn later, has cancer. These are all good actors and they sell the improbable cluster of new problems, old resentments and sexual byplay with great energy and spells of humor. Few surprises, though. (International Village and a few suburban theatres). 3 out of 5
SLAUGHTER NICK FOR PRESIDENT: Ok, imagine this. You’re an unemployed actor, pushing 45, poor and reduced to living in your parent’s basement in Brampton, Ont. Then you get an invitation to visit Serbia because you’re a celebrity over there. A cultural icon even. Rob Stewart went, took along a film crew and made this delightful and often funny documentary.
The story is that for three seasons in the early 1990s Stewart starred in a Canadian TV series called Sweating Bullets, a sort of Baywatch-Miami Vice knock off. It ran late night in the USA and was often mocked by David Letterman. But it also ran overseas under the name Tropical Heat. In Serbia the show played on four channels and its hero was taken up as an ironically-humorous symbol by the student movement marching to oust the dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. The title appeared as graffiti. A punk band had a hit song (Nick Slaughter, Serbia Hails You) and people still revere him, as Stewart found out. A crowd, including the main student leader, greeted him at the airport, TV shows interviewed him and he was cast in a commercial for a product he didn’t know. He played bass with the punk band and packed a huge hall. He also interviewed a number of people to hear how it all came about and what it means. Mainly, he gets across how great a time he had. The film is ever-fascinating although not as emotional as the similar story in last year’s Searching For Sugar Man. (VanCity Theatre Sunday, Monday and twice next Thursday. Local film critic Jim Gordon will introduce the Sunday screening. He’s worked with Stewart, who is also his cousin, and wrote one of the Tropical Heat episodes). 3 ½ out of 5
TODD HAYNES RETROSPECTIVE: You know at least some of his work. I’m Not There, in which six actors including Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett portray different sides of Bob Dylan’s persona. Velvet Goldmine about a David Bowie type. Safe, with Julianne Moore as a housewife hyper-allergic to chemicals and toxins.
Now you can see them all. The Cinematheque is presenting them as part of a weekend retrospective of Todd Haynes films. It starts with an opening reception where you can mingle with the director, followed by a Q & A session and then I’m Not There.
Among the other films to be shown is the five-part Mildred Pierce series which he made for HBO and a rarity, the controversial Poison, his first feature.
Visit http://thecinematheque.ca for more information, times and prices.