New On DVD: The Fighter, Hereafter, The Parking Lot Movie, The Switch, Waste Land

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(Capsule reviews by J. Hoberman, Eric Hynes, Karina Longworth and Nick Schager.)

The Fighter The Fighter is based on the true story of Lowell, Massachusetts, light welterweight champ "Irish" Micky Ward, but, starring Boston working-class hero Mark Wahlberg, it plays as a Rocky-fied fairy tale for our time: Consigned to Palookaville, a sweet, unassuming boxer with more heart than brains steps up â€" all the way to the top. David O. Russell's first movie since his star-studded New Age screwball comedy I Heart Huckabees crashed and burned at the box office in 2004, The Fighter doesn't seem an especially personal film for him. The first 30 minutes are rich in moxie, thanks to Christian Bale's wired, wild-eyed performance as the former "Pride of Lowell," Ward's older half-brother, Dicky Eklund, a noisy ghost living on crack fumes and memories of his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard.

Once upon a time, Dicky might have been The Fighter's fallen hero. Post-World War II boxing films were all about class struggle and Hollywood boxers were tragic figures until Sylvester Stallone changed the game, upping the genre's ethnic ante and opting for a Cinderella structure. And so, after a volatile first half, Micky eclipses Dicky and The Fighter settles into a predictably rutted narrative arc. By the time Micky faces off against an opponent so arrogant that he won't even shake hands, the bouts are as overdetermined as professional wrestling. Although the movie ends before Ward's epic battles with Arturo Gatti, The Fighter shares Rocky's optimistic trajectory and then some. J. Hoberman

115 Minutes Rated R


Is America's last cowboy icon prospecting for more Oscar gold? Taking for his map an original screenplay by British docu-dramatist Peter Morgan (

The Queen



), Clint Eastwood rides a sleepy burro deep into Iñárritu territory. Multiple story lines cross international borders to mix personal tragedy with post-9/11 existential terror.


peaks five minutes in as a frugally staged tsunami arrives on a bright blue morning to trash some paradisiacal Pacific island beach. What follows is a lugubrious tale of wonderment: An attractive French telejournalist (Cécile de France) parses her near-death experience in Hawaii, while a painfully cute 12-year-old British schoolboy (George McLaren) with a substance-abusing mum suffers a terrible loss, and a depressed, Dickens-loving psychic named George (Matt Damon, always game) wrestles with his occult power to read minds and channel the dead. The irrationality of the premise is exceeded only by the strategic irrationalities of the plot. Clumsily self-inoculating against the charge of spiritual baloney-ism, the movie introduces a formerly atheist scientist (Marthe Keller) amassing anecdotal proof of life after death. "The evidence is irrefutable," she assures the telejournalist while hinting darkly that an ill-defined religious conspiracy is preventing the happy news from reaching the rest of the planet.


is not just a stretch for Eastwood, it's a contortion.

J. Hoberman

129 Minutes Rated PG-13

The Parking Lot Movie

In Charlottesville's nondescript open-air Corner Parking Lot, located near the prosperous University of Virginia, service-industry work is not merely a way to scrape out a living but also a vehicle for class warfare and self-discovery. Or at least so say the attendants of

The Parking Lot Movie

, Meghan Eckman's documentary valentine to the male ticket collectors--most of them overqualified anthropology and philosophy grad students, poets, and musicians like former employee and current Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew--who spend their days and nights managing both the establishment's sundry automobiles and their equally diverse, often unpleasant, owners. Proprietor Chris Farina's personnel are a cheerfully gregarious group whose arrogance and navel-gazing more closely aligns them with their despised frat-boy and sorority-girl customers than they might like to imagine. Nonetheless, their sense of superiority toward the petty SUV drivers and rude midlife-crisisers who frequent the lot is matched by introspective considerations of traditional social contracts and, specifically, the ways in which money and entitlement warp public codes of conduct. It's a nonfiction


with reflections on identity, self-worth, and communal civility subbing in for

Star Wars

chitchat, with only a runtime-padding climactic music video bogging down its otherwise amusing slice of subcultural life.

Nick Schager

71 Minutes Not Rated

The Switch

A loose adaptation of a Jeffrey Eugenides story called "Baster,"

The Switch

stars Jennifer Aniston as Kassie, who, having failed to find a husband by the age of 40, informs her sad-sack best friend Wally (Jason Bateman) that she's on the hunt for a sperm donor. Though wholly devoted to Kassie, Wally doesn't have the genes of the blond, studly Roland (Patrick Wilson), who Kassie hires to provide her baby-making "ingredient." Blackout drunk, Wally hijacks the sperm cup, replacing Roland's high-quality DNA with his own. When Kassie returns to New York, seven years later, with her young son, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson, excellent), Wally can't help but notice the similarities between himself and the boy.

The Switch

's confident tone is not ha-ha funny; the sperm switch scene is the closest it gets to slapstick, and despite its sympathy for the socially awkward, it avoids the halting comedy of discomfort that's currently trendy (

The Office



). Saddled with the responsibility of carrying the film, Bateman acquits himself admirably by playing it straight, developing a genuinely convincing and affecting chemistry with Robinson and taking his character's repression seriously. There are a lot of beauty-filtered close-ups of Aniston, looking every bit the flawless yoga goddess with lush hair the same golden tone as her tanned skin, Forever 30 despite the fact that her character would logically be in her late 40s by the film's end.

The Switch

is generally uninterested in who Kassie actually is.

Karina Longworth

101 Minutes Rated PG-13

Waste Land

A fascinating, deftly layered look at the complex intersections of art and charity, reality and perception,

Waste Land

follows celebrated New York artist Vik Muniz back to his native Brazil, where he'll work with outer Rio garbage-pickers on an ambitious art project. Ostensibly called to "give back" to the impoverished region from whence he came--after the magnanimous collaboration, the plan is to auction off the art as a fundraiser--Muniz finds that the individual lives he encounters are far more complex than the morbid hordes he'd expected. These "catadores" aren't faceless bottom-feeders but proud laborers who've chosen the dirty job of hand-recycling over drug-trafficking and prostitution. Fast becoming one of today's most adventurous and empathetic documentarians, director Lucy Walker (

Countdown to Zero



) wisely keeps the film several paces removed from Muniz, whether to capture footage that falls beyond the artist's scope or to subtly critique both the art- and filmmaking processes. From a studio in New York, Muniz and Walker plot a story, and then at massive landfill Jardim Gramacho, we see how they select characters to represent it. It's to their credit that the story adapts to these fiercely human characters, and that Muniz honestly contemplates his irresolvable,

Slumdog Millionaire

-like quandary of intervention. The resultant art and film are uncommonly moving, but Walker keeps an eye on the messy pile of life that looms beyond the frame.

Eric Hynes

93 Minutes Not Rated

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