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Fatwah / November 3, 2008
By Eileen Jones

Che (12/22)
I like movies about Che Guevera because he still seems to have the power to make film critics nervous, which is odd. Stalin doesn’t make critics nervous. Nobody feels they need to have some sort of strident opinion about Trotsky or Chairman Mao or even Castro, pro or con. But when Che comes up, in movies like Motorcycle Diaries, all of a sudden the old guard like Roger Ebert and j. hoberman and the New York Times crowd, they all have to weigh in on where they stand on the Che question: inspiring revolutionary leader or corrupt despotic butcher? Recognizing this split, apparently, Steven Soderbergh has divided his movie into two parts, “The Agentine” and “Guerilla,” so you can admire him in Part I and despise him in Part II. The divinely attractive Benicio del Toro stars.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (12/25)
Apparently this title is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fault; it’s the name of his short story about a man who starts old and ages backwards toward youth. Brad Pitt plays the guy, and Cate Blanchett is his inamorata named Daisy—it’s always Daisy for some damn reason—and I’m nearly asleep already, just describing it. But David Fincher’s directing, and he did Seven and Fight Club, so people are interested. I’ll ask them how it turns out.

Marley & Me (12/25)
This one is based on the book in which they kill the dog so the humans can congratulate themselves on all the life-affirming lessons they’ve learned over the dog’s dead body. Same sort of unforgivable thing goes on in My Dog Skip, Old Yeller, and The Yearling (oh, wait, it was a fawn they killed in that one). This one’s far crueler than those, however, because it’s pitched as a wacky comedy, so you might not be expecting the dog to kick off at the end. Get set for it. You’d think Owen Wilson, with his suicidal tendencies, would know enough to stay away from material like this.

The Spirit (12/25)
How long have they been advertising this project, Frank Miller Directs Will Eisner’s The Spirit? I’ve seen the preview eight times. It’s not getting better with repetition. I’m all for stylization, but this black-and-white-and-red-all-over thing is corny as hell, and all the actors seem stiff and uncomfortable in their roles. Lead stiff is this newcomer Gabriel Macht as the undead vigilante anti-hero, and rivaling him in arch awkwardness are Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johannsson, and Eva Longoria. It’s the kind of movie in which each actor strikes a pose and pauses before enunciating a painfully stupid line, such as Longoria’s robotic, “Do-I-look-like-a-good-girl?” A pitiful spectacle!

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