Film

ALILA
Directed by Amos Gitai
Kino International
Opens February 27
Cinema Village

Israel's one-man new wave, Amos Gitai, surveys his nation's hardscrabble quotidian in Alila, which dallies with both Kiarostamian spirit and Altman-esque fabric, examining the intersecting lives of a dozen or so Tel Aviv residents: a young deserting soldier, a nympho waif lurking through a clandestine affair, the soldier's squabbling divorced parents, a withering Holocaust survivor, and his Filipino maid. The style vacillates between theatrical grandstand and neorealism. After launching the movie with an audacious and eloquent backseat traveling shot that runs for nearly eight minutes, Gitai resorts to a more conventional hopscotching between characters, whose working poverty gathers in every social issue from illegal immigration to homelessness to racism. The struggle with the Palestinians pervades the action, but only as background—always politically awake, Gitai remains more observant than ethically engaged. —MICHAEL ATKINSON


EUROTRIP
Directed by Jeff Schaffer
DreamWorks, in release

A woefully dumb picaresque that doubles as an inventory of stale stereotypes (British soccer thugs, Amsterdam dominatrices, etc.), EuroTrip opens just before Ohio teen Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) gets a smoochy e-mail from his German pen pal Mieke (Jessica Boehrs). Thing is, Scotty thinks Mieke is a guy—Mike! He fires back a missive calling the former friend a "sick German freak," but soon has a change of heart upon learning Mieke is not only female but looks like a Teutonic Kate Spade model. So our bland hero teams up with best pal Cooper (Jacob Pitts) for some trans-Atlantic stalking. Many gender-confusion jokes ensue. The especially annoying Pitts comes off as a two-bit David Spade. "German?" he whines to the college-enrolled Scotty at the end. "You should major in not being such a woman!" Eurotrip's constant anxiety that women might turn out to be men and vice versa makes this command especially fraught. —MICHAEL MILLER


BROKEN LIZARD'S CLUB DREAD
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Fox Searchlight, opens February 27

To those unfamiliar with Broken Lizard—or those who only know them from Super Troopers (2001)—the possessive may seem unearned. But anyone who saw the five-person troupe's frat-boy comedy Puddle Cruiser (1996) knows the group has a distinctive deadpan style; after you get on their wavelength, it's impossible to quit chuckling. An And Then There Were None parody with fewer pretensions than Scream, Club Dread is as relaxed and fun-loving as its characters. After a boatload of hot bodies arrives at Pleasure Island—a Costa Rican resort run by burned-out rocker Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton)—staffers start turning up dead, and the hedonist employees are forced away from the tennis courts for a round of Scooby-Doo. —BEN KENIGSBERG


DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS
Directed by Guy Ferland
Lions Gate, opens February 27

The plot is essentially the same: Little miss goody-two-shoes falls for the dirty-dancing bad boy and upsets her country club family. The setting has been moved from the Catskills, 1963, to Havana, 1958, during the revolution (presented as a mere inconvenience to the love story), and the music given a hip-hop/r&b infusion. Romola Garai is the headstrong, middle-class Katey and Y Tu Mamá También's Diego Luna stars as hottie waiter Javier. The stereotypical characters (witchy mom, stern but loving dad) aren't as vivid as their cartoonish predecessors. Katey and Javier dance slutty but produce no friction; as Javier's upper-class rival, Jonathan Jackson does James Spader creepy-cool but isn't callous enough to be seriously hateful. Havana Nights es mucho frío—the only titter of excitement comes in a cameo from a strangely reptilian Patrick Swayze. —TRICIA ROMANO


CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN
Directed by Sara Sugarman
Walt Disney, in release

A passel of 'tween-and-younger girls at the screening were boogieing and singing along with 16-year-old fashion doll Lola Cep (Lindsay Lohan). But this smug, sanitized fantasy, in which the hysterical blonde attention-seeker, in a succession of sparkly outfits, is uprooted from New York to the boring suburbs and learns boring suburban values like telling the truth, has little to offer parents or guardians. One can, however, enjoy the quavery stylings of Carol Kane as an unhinged drama teacher, or track the incongruous '50s references that underscore the cheery, conformist message: Lola's sensible best friend calls her parents "square," her boyfriend tends to his classic car in a dirty white T-shirt, and Lola appears in one of many pop-art daydream sequences in full-on, subway-grate-dress Marilyn regalia. —ANYA KAMENETZ


CONFESSIONS OF A BURNING MAN
Directed by Unsu Lee and Paul Barnett
Windline, February 27 through March 5, Angelika

"This is bigger than bling-bling," gawks Kevin Epps, apparently the only African American to attend the 2001 Burning Man, the Cali-centric convocation of chaos in the Nevada desert. For their documentary on the annual summer fling, the filmmakers lured Epps out of his dicey San Francisco 'hood to join a Road Rules-ish quartet along with co-director Paul Barnett's actress girlfriend, a grumpy taxi driver, and confused co-producer Anna Getty. Even the ubiquitous dust seems whitewashed in this time-lapsed, MTV-style attempt to derive emotional lessons from a gloriously inexplicable spectacle. Barely scratching the surface of Burning Man's myriad cults (that would probably take an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of digicams), Confessions averts its gaze from the event's druggy hedonism. Instead, our foursome dig a labyrinth in the sand, scribble somber homilies on various walls, ponder their relationships, and check out pretty lights and art. Less sentiment and more peculiarity would have limned a richer, though probably less audition-tape-worthy, reflection of Burning Man's 25,000-strong community of the absurd. —RICHARD GEHR

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