The commercial failure of nearly every Iraq-themed movie released in 2007 has Hollywood in a tizzy. What’s going to happen to the intellectual life of our culture if the moviegoing public loses all interest in seeing serious themes grossly oversimplified by a middlebrow elite?

Actually, the situation isn’t that drastic. It’s just that war movies have always worked best when they used previous conflicts to allegorize current entanglements – the way M*A*S*H traded ’Nam for Korea and the Star Wars prequels used the Clone Wars to comment on the Falklands invasion. (You picked up on that too, huh? Puff, puff, pass.)

The good news is that, no matter who wins in November, we’re obviously going to be stuck in Iraq for at least another generation, which means this mortifying quagmire will be the first U.S. adventure that lasts long enough to generate its own wave of nostalgia cinema! We can’t wait to see Jayden James Federline in Pardon My Surge, a screwball look back at the innocent days when our side’s “victory” propaganda was only two phenomenally destructive PR campaigns deep.

In the meantime, we’re stuck with …


Opening Friday, March 28

Stop-Loss Mounting her first film since the eons-ago Boys Don’t Cry, director Kimberly Peirce bucks the box-office trend we mentioned above by casting Ryan Phillippe as a soldier who’s sent back to Iraq after his tour of duty has supposedly ended. (What the hell: Reese Witherspoon had already mothballed the yellow ribbons, anyway.) Peirce may have a better chance than most of making such topical material connect, but we have to admit feeling creepy about that chiseled-torso shot that’s in all the TV spots. If the Iraqis didn’t greet us as liberators, who’s to say they’ll think any better of us as Abdomenizers? (Paramount Pictures; R)

21 Fresh off The Other Boleyn Girl (and yes, we know how that sounds), Jim Sturgess plays an MIT student who joins his classmates in perpetrating a mammoth scam against Las Vegas. Co-stars Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth are working together for the first time since Superman Returns; if you see an asthmatic kid anywhere near them, asphyxiate first and ask questions later. (Columbia Pictures; PG-13)

Run, Fat Boy, Run Furthering his second career as a lefty documentarian, Jona-than Demme turns his attention to Bill Richardson’s recent campaign for … oh, that’s not funny. But this picture should be, given its behind-the-scenes pedigree. The very talented Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg wrote the script, which finds the latter an out-of-shape schlub trying to win back his ex by running a marathon. The fear factor in the whole equation? Direction by David Schwimmer. Scram, Friend-boy, scram. (Picturehouse; PG-13)

Superhero Movie So much for the theory that today’s bilge-wave of genre parodies would be better if an actual Zucker were involved. There’s nary a laugh to be found in the promos for this alleged spoof of all things costumed – yeah, like Fantastic Four wasn’t? – which position it as more of a point-for-point lampoon of the first Spider-Man. Director Craig Mazin allegedly worked similar terrain in 2000’s The Specials. Ring any bells? Anybody? (Put your hand down, Mazin.) (MGM; PG-13)


Available Tuesday, April 1:

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (Extreme Unrated Remastered) To whet your appetite for the modern-day Cheech & Chong’s upcoming Guantanamo escapade – and that one’s not a joke – a new version of their cinematic debut is coming to market. Special features include an “Art of the Fart” sound-effects featurette and footage of the duo’s induction into the White Castle Craver’s Hall of Fame. Having eaten at the place, we can testify that the two issues are intimately related. (New Line Home Entertainment)


Published Tuesday, April 1:

Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi Younger readers who have no idea who Ralph Bakshi is might want to start by considering him the missing link between Robert Crumb and John Kricfalusi. But that would still be something of a disservice to an animator whose résumé includes the seminal Fritz the Cat movies, a hallucinogenic (if kinda crummy) season of TV’s Spider-Man and a Lord of the Rings feature that condensed Tolkien’s sprawling text into a tidy 133 minutes. This printed career retrospective is said to touch on all those high points, and maybe even the furor that greeted Bakshi’s perceived depiction of Mighty Mouse as drug-dependent – and on Saturday-morning TV, no less. (Universe)


Released Tuesday, April 1:

Nim’s Island What’s that you say? Your kids can’t wait the lousy three days until the Jodie Foster–starring adaptation of the 2001 children’s book arrives in theaters? They have to have the score by Patrick Doyle now? Man, we hear ya. The little buzzards sure can be graspy. But look on the bright side: They’ll be headed to Iraq in a few years, anyway. (Varese Sarabande)

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