Archive for January, 2009

The Uninvited
More Creepy Kids

The Uninvited is the latest in a long line of Hollywood remakes of Asian horror films; in this case, the highest-grossing Korean horror film to date, A Tale of Two Sisters. Like the previous remakes—with the exception, maybe, of The RingThe Uninvited has the creepy plot of the original, but lacks the extremely important atmosphere that made the Korean original so chilling.

New in Town
Missing the Key Ingredients

There is not necessarily anything glaring that I can point to that makes New in Town miss the mark. It’s just completely uninteresting. Even the worst comedies tend to generate at least some kind of reaction from the preview audience, but for the majority of this film there was a chilling silence throughout the auditorium. It’s appropriate that one of the movie’s first gags is about tinnitus, because I have never been so aware of the constant ringing in my ear.

Real Problems, Real Change

Conventional wisdom says that we need to learn a thing or two about characters first and grow to like them—otherwise, we might learn to hate one of them, or care very little about what happens to either. So it’s a credit to both Kendrick’s script and direction—and to very appealing performances by Kirk Cameron and newcomer Erin Bethea—that both Caleb and Catherine come off as redeemable and appealing, even while they’re lost. Fireproof possesses a rare realism in a genre that usually depends on clichés and a very predictable arc toward mutual attraction. Oddly, very little in Fireproof is predictable or programmatic, even though we know full well where this story must be headed.

Somebody’s Daughter
Hard Truth About Porn

Many might think that the husbands—and one wife!—who appear in this documentary are quite brave for “coming out” about their sin. After all, as one of them points in the film, even ministry leaders (such as I also was while in the throes of addiction) believe that confession of sin will automatically lead to expulsion from ministry. Yet those who have been delivered see nothing brave at all in confession: they know that it is, instead, an essential liberating step. If we will confess our sins—not just to God, but also to our brothers and sisters in Christ—our Father is faithful to deliver us. It just may take a long, long time.

A Talk with Kirk Cameron
Growing a Marriage Can Be Painful

“The anger meter was way up in the red zone in some of these domestic violence scenes,” acknowledges Cameron, who portrays firefighter Caleb Holt in Fireproof. “And even though it might be disturbing for some of your kids, if they’ve been seeing that in your own house, it might just be upsetting to see because it rings true. It’s reality in far too many homes. And the beautiful thing is that you see this guy realize that unless you can be a hero to your wife before anyone else you’re not a real man. And the way to get there is by first humbling yourself, getting right with God, and then you can start to understand what love is and begin to win back your wife’s heart.”

Expiration Date
One-Upping Hollywood A-Listers

In director Rick Stevenson’s slightly off-kilter universe, nothing is too mundane to be taken seriously or used as a gag line. So what is the deal with the killer milk trucks? Why is Bessie trying out caskets, too? Just how much caffeine can Arnold guzzle? I don’t want to pass along too many answers to these and other humorous questions framed by Stevenson’s opening scenes. There’s a bright, frothy freshness to the film that would be spoiled by excessive critical churning. Suffice to say that the conclusion to Charlie’s tale is both delightedly unexpected yet sensible enough to feel like one of the more inspired Fawlty Towers episodes—if quite a bit gentler, in a true Northwest fashion.

Hotel for Dogs
Who Can Resist?

A good friend of mine once theorized that “no movie with a monkey in it can be a bad movie.” Strange as it sounds, I find he’s right more often than not. The same logic cannot necessarily apply to dogs as there is a dog in pretty much every movie, but give me a movie with a plot that focuses on dogs and that’s a formula that is pretty hard to mess up. One needs only to look at the recent success of Marley & Me to see that. Hotel for Dogs may not have the added emotional punch of that film and it’s a bit more cartoonish, but it’s still hard to resist the cuteness of its lead canines.

No Awards Here… 2008
The So-Called Experts Weigh In

There were 603 theatrical releases in 2008. Of these 603, I actually saw 98 in their entirety. (Of these 98, I reviewed 70.) Of the remaining 405, I edited detailed reviews of another 195. (One film that made my list of favorites for the year, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, ranked 515th out of those 603 in terms of boxoffice. It sold a total of 1,468 tickets.) So out of 603 releases, I am well familiar with 293—less than half of the films released during the year. And I’m reasonably well informed, by critical standards. This is why I continue to be reluctant to offer an opinion about which were the “best” films of the year.

The Unborn
2009's First Comedy??

Director David S. Goyer’s The Unborn is officially the first horror movie of 2009, but you would never know it by gauging the reaction of the preview audience. Instead, you would be certain they were watching the year’s first comedy. Who knows? Maybe Bride Wars will turn out to be a fright fest. Also, why—if you believe you are being haunted or are maybe even possessed—do you go into the scary basement to watch a creepy black and white home movie without turning any lights on? Perhaps that is a metaphor about going to see this movie.

Not Easily Broken
...But Maybe They Should Be

The title of this drama refers to a message a priest delivers to a young couple during the wedding ceremony. To paraphrase, he tells them that a bond between not just a man and a woman, but a bond between a man, a woman, and God is a bond that is not easily broken. As directed by actor-turned-director Bill Duke, Not Easily Broken is a fairly effective film about the difficulties all relationships face and how we must be able adapt and persevere… but there were times when I felt that the film didn’t really know where it was going, and that Duke was unclear about what kind of film he was intending.

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