Year of the Dog
It's just about the First Commandment of Hollywood: Don't kill the dog. So it's a testament to the clout of writer-director Mike White (School of Rock) that killing off the dog is the first of many rules broken in this weird-ass movie. Folks fooled by the pack-of-lies trailer into thinking it's a romantic comedy will whiz past disappointment straight to freaked out at the sight of Molly Shannon sinking into obsession over the death of her pooch. Shannon is far better than her armpit-sniffing SNL past suggests; she does wonders with a blank smile and wounded eyes. But Laura Dern's portrait of a superficial soccer mom is clichéd, and the humor is so pitch-black that the whole thing really might not count as comedy. Still, there's a movie worth watching here for those up to the challenge. — Jordan Harper
Year of the Dog|Blades of Glory|Air Guitar Nation|LOL
Blades of Glory
Residing — which is to say, sprawled in a state of semiconsciousness — somewhere on the sports-movie-parody spectrum between Dodgeball and the new Balls of Fury, the latest roll of Will Ferrell flab is so rarely, barely funny. Ferrell, as figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels, is forced to pair with rival Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder, not funny) when both are tossed for bad behavior (kind of funny). Their chief competitors are an incestuous brother-sister team (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, sort of funny); their little sister, played by Jenna Fischer, has a thing for Jimmy (so not funny). The outtakes are funnier than the movie, which isn't saying much. Better, though, are the deleted scenes — chief among them a Manchurian Candidate homage ("I suck at shooting") and a Ferrell musical number, funny because it's performed on a keytar. — Robert Wilonsky
Air Guitar Nation
Alexandra Lipsitz's doc about those about to rock with their bare hands and nothing more has been encoring on the film-fest circuit for two years, and how it never got a proper theatrical release is a saddening, maddening mystery. Like the brand-new The King of Kong — about two gamers vying for the tiny title of best Donkey Kong player ever — this might be mistaken for mockumentary: Two guys, known as C. Diddy and Björn Türoque, are air-guitarslingers trying to win the first U.S. Air Guitar Championship, which gets them a ticket to the international competition. Diddy is a stand-up with a sense of humor; this is a gag he takes seriously. His rival is more, um, into it. The best thing about the delayed release are the where-are-they-now? extras, the deleted scenes, and the extended performances. If you think you can do this, think again. — Robert Wilonsky
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Starring the men who made it — Joe Swanberg, Kevin Bewersdorf, and C. Mason Wells — LOL isn't terribly funny, at least to those of us tethered to our electronic paraphernalia. It's more of a cautionary tale than comedy — more so if you happen to be reading this on the Web or (God forbid) your cell phone. Swanberg plays a guy too plugged-in to connect with his girlfriend; he can't get off his laptop to go to the beach with her and doesn't get off his cell once they're there. And yes, there are myriad extras here, but 20 minutes into the feature you get the point: Shut off the damn thing, shut down your MySpace page, and go outside already. And, please, get laid while you're at it. — Robert Wilonsky