Film Capsule Reviews 

Opening This Week

Iron Man (PG-13) Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, the man in the metal suit. Also stars Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Made of Honor (PG-13) Patrick Dempsey agrees to be the "maid" of honor in his best friend's wedding only to secretly plot to win her back from the clutches of her evil — and wealthy — Scottish fiancé. Also stars Michelle Monaghan and Sydney Pollack.

The Counterfeiters (R) Review on page 54.

La Traviata (NA) The first in a new era of high-definition satellite broadcasts of classic opera at the Terrace Theatre from La Scala.

Capsule Reviews

21 (PG-13) The fact that the source book changed the main character from the Asian Jeffrey Ma into the Anglicized Kevin Lewis perhaps excuses his further transformation from Kevin Lewis into Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess). Whether that also excuses the film's efforts to increase sympathy by turning him into a poor boy trying to get money to go to Harvard Medical School is another matter. Regardless, the story is barely serviceable, and the direction merely adequate. —Ken Hanke

88 Minutes (R) The mystery is over. It's now very clear why Jon Avnet's 88 Minutes gathered dust on a shelf for nearly two years. It only remains for someone to explain why it came out at all. Al Pacino — sporting what appears to be Frank Langella's hair from the 1979 Dracula — stars as a "forensic psychologist" whose testimony almost single-handedly puts a man (Neal McDonough) on death row as a serial killer. Nine years later — on the very eve of that man's execution — an idential murder (one of those showy, easy-to-spot murders) occurs, casting doubt on the man's guilt, and even implicates Pacino. Al's day gets worse when he receives a phone call telling him he has 88 minutes to live. Then the movie gets really silly. Pacino overacts with both fists, everyone gets his or her turn in the red herring barrel, and none of it makes any sense at all. —Ken Hanke

Baby Mama (PG-13) In the wake of Knocked Up and Juno comes Baby Mama, another film centered on psychologically-fraught reproduction. Baby Mama stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two women on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum who decide to make a baby together. A delicious dichotomy, Tina Fey's comic charm lies in her mix of prissiness and enough familiarity with the gutter-mouthed side of life to keep things interesting. In Baby Mama the priss is in the house, with Fey playing one half of a classic odd couple. A driven Philadelphia executive desperate to have a child, Kate Holbrook (Fey) is deep in the throes of baby lust: She sees babies everywhere, babies that taunt her with her own infertility. The film's uber-corny poster art with the title spelled out in baby blocks may be an early indication of the middle-of-the-road yuks to come. While Poehler sucks on a Big Gulp, Fey looks on sheepishly, and the effect is of a cartoonish poster for one of Schwarzenegger's fish-out-of-water films like Junior or Kindergarten Cop and all of the conventionalized hilarity that implies. —Felicia Feaster

Deception (R) What we have here is a slickly produced flick with a couple of cool stars ­(Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman), an appealing female lead (Michelle Williams), nice guest turns for Maggie Q and the always welcome Charlotte Rampling, along with some attractive locations — all of which is much better than the material. The plot is at once a preposterous and predictable one that huffs and puffs its way to its predestined conclusion, offering such distractions as an exploding apartment with resultant misidentified corpse, double crosses, double-double crosses, one of those concepts that suggests anyone could drain $20 million from a bank account with a little computer savvy, and so many holes that you could use a slice of the movie as the perfect topper to a ham sandwich. —Ken Hanke

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (PG) Junk science meets even junkier filmmaking in Nathan Frankowski's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — as shameless, stupid, and loathesome a piece of propaganda as ever skulked its way into a theater. Frankowski really should have chosen a different subtitle for the film (my vote is for Win Ben Stein's Brain Cell) since he seems to have succumbed to the "no intelligence allowed" credo in attempting to make his point. Facts are little in evidence, while half-truths, misrepresentations, and bizarre leaps in logic run riot: associating, for instance, evolutionists with Nazis and communism (according to the movie, Darwin fathered both). The film also shoots itself in the foot by claiming intelligent design has nothing to do with religion for half its length and then spending the rest of the film railing against atheists and the lack of God. —Ken Hanke

The Forbidden Kingdom (PG-13) The first ever teaming of martial arts film stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan, The Forbidden Kingdom is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment for what it is, but never does anything more than scale the heights of adequacy. The films follows a South Boston teen who's transported to an ancient, mystical kingdom where he must return an ancient weapon with the help of a monk and a drunken master in order to defeat a despotic warlord. This leads to a lot of the requisite fighting of numerous anonymous henchmen, though none of it — aside from the mid-film showdown between Li and Chan — is memorable, while the film itself is sufficiently slick and paced quickly enough that it's able to overcome its predictable, worn-out plot. —Justin Souther

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (R) Where many movie comedies clock in at around 90 minutes, those from Judd Apatow and his pals stretch out over a couple of hours of gag-filled dialogue. Even in his funniest films, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow has shown himself to be less interested in storytelling than in creating situations in which his actors can do funny — often extremely funny — things. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, directed by Apatow's one-time Undeclared collaborator Nicholas Stoller and written by his Freaks & Geeks co-star Jason Segel, simply goes the extra mile. It's a sketch-comedy movie in which the standard plot-development questions — Will the guy get the girl? Will someone change for the better? — prove almost laughably irrelevant. —Scott Renshaw

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (R) The original Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle came as a pleasant surprise, because no one expected it to be good. The inherent problem with that kind of success is that it only works once. For the second round, people actually have expectations to be met, and, with any luck, exceeded. Unfortunately, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay does neither, though it's not for want of trying — and that might just be the problem. Our heroes — played by John Cho and Kal Penn — are the same genial stoners, and Neil Patrick Harris returns as the same (hopefully) alternative reality version of himself. The humor is — if anything — more pointed and rude. It's certainly more subversive in its take of on post-9/11 paranoia, but it all feels kind of desperate this time around, more forced, and the freshness is gone. Some laughs, but not enough. —Ken Hanke

Horton Hears a Who (G) This latest outburst of Seussian cinema is a reasonably faithful version of the book about an elephant, Horton (Jim Carrey), finding himself the savior of a speck of dust that just happens to contain the miscroscopic world of Whoville. The problem is that it's too slight for a feature and the padding required to flesh it out is rarely inspired and all too often leans on snarky post-modern pop culture references. —Ken Hanke

Leatherheads (PG-13) George Clooney stars as Dodge Connelly, a 45-year-old pro football player in 1925. When his rag-tag team runs out of teams to play and the money to play with, he hits on the idea of recruiting the hottest college player in the country, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski). Not only is Rutherford the biggest name in college football, but he's a war hero in the bargain. There's only one catch. Ace Chicago reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) has been sent by her paper to dig up the dirt on Rutherford's heroism and discredit him. It all neatly follows the formula of the screwball comedy, even if it sometimes misses the manic intensity it aims for. —Ken Hanke

Nim's Island (PG) Nim's Island is a poorly paced, anti-climactic family film full of shoddy direction and loose ends. It will be fine for the younger set, but it's lacking for adults. With a screenplay by a whopping four screenwriters (and then directed by two of them) with credits like Wimbledon and one episode of Growing Pains, the movie is a case of not just too many fingers in the pie, but too many fingers that belong to people who really have no reason making a pie in the first place. —Justin Souther

Prom Night (PG-13) They say it's not a remake of the 1980 opus. Well, it has a psychotic killer offing meat-on-the-hoof teens at a high school prom, but the storyline is different — like that matters to its teen demographic. They're primarily there for the splatter of bright red Karo syrup blood — and the off-chance of airborne viscera. But since this is PG-13, the aerodynamic properties of intestines are not explored, and there's very little blood. The results are about on par with having sex through a blanket. It's just a lot of low-wattage slashing, silly scripting (kids do the darndest things to get themselves killed), and police ineptitude as mad killer Johnathon Schaech pursues the object of his obsession, Brittany Snow, to a predictable conclusion. —Ken Hanke

The Ruins (R) In all fairness the flowers on this kudzu of Satan do vibrate and make noises various and sundry that often sound a lot like the little singing Japanese girls in the Mothra movies in need of a lyricist. This nonsense involving hapless tourists being held captive by Indians atop a Mayan temple until Lucifer's wisteria eats them might have been campy fun. Unfortunately, The Ruins takes itself very seriously, an attitude that manifests itself by loading the movie down with images — amputations, operations, self-mutilations — that aren't so much scary as merely unpleasant. —Ken Hanke

Smart People (R) Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is an archetypal movie academic, a middle-aged sadsack in a corduroy blazer with a soft, sagging middle who harbors a profound disdain for the students he teaches. His meetings with fellow academics resemble a quorum of undertakers more than anything: a group of pasty, joyless scolds who rail about "the subjugation of women" and seethe with professional jealousy. But there is no spark of life to these scenes in the academy; nothing to suggest these are real people with real problems. Intelligence is a liability in Smart People, because it keeps these people locked in their heads unable to experience joy. Screenwriter Mark Poirier overcooks his story with a tendency to throw in every plot twist and bit of slapstick he can get his hands on, turning the proceedings into a gooey mess. —Felicia Feaster

Street Kings (R) Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is bad news; we know this in the first minute of Street Kings, because he wakes up and grabs his gun before he even takes a piss. Give Street Kings just a few minutes more, and you'll know pretty much everything else there is to know about the rule-breaking Los Angeles vice detective — because this is a movie that assumes everyone who's watching is a complete moron. —Scott Renshaw


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