Archive for March, 2009

Too Green, Or Not To Green?

You may have heard about the devastation of Greensburg on the news, or seen Greensburg City Manager Steve Hewitt at President Bush’s 2008 State of the Union Address. And like me, the story may be so intriguing that you’d jump at the chance to buy this series on DVD and watch all 13 episodes of “Season One.” Not so fast, bucko. You might not be getting quite what you expect, as the series is not so much a documentary as it is a reality-TV show that latches onto a few interesting small-town personalities before it wears out its welcome. But anyone with a modicum of interest in sustainability will appreciate Greensburg’s trials and spotty successes.

Every Second Counts
One For The Rest of America

There’s an awful lot to like in this small movie that plays like a cross between Dreamer, October Sky, and Footlose. Best of all, the film’s script takes an awfully adult approach to standard teen-fare topics. When Joe tells Brooke, for instance, to “feel like a winner” and “think like a winner,” those are not just Flashdance- or Footloose-style platitudes dressing up dance sequences. This is the kind of film that just about every parent wishes they had lining their entertainment room walls… and it’s one that an awful lot of young, overstimulated teens would probably enjoy watching with them.

I Love You, Man
Consistently Funny

I Love You, Man belongs in a genre of its own: the Bromantic Comedy. Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a real estate agent who has never had problems striking up relationships with the opposite sex. As it turns out, while Peter was having an easy time meeting women, he never really had a chance to develop any male friendships and has no one to be the best man at his wedding. With the help of his mother and younger brother, he sets out on a series of man-dates, hoping to meet his Mr. Right. The film is consistently funny from start-to-finish, and holds up well against other recent, great sex comedies.

The Great Buck Howard
Well, Maybe Not So Great

When John Malkovich arrives on screen in The Great Buck Howard, he shows up with all the confidence of a movie star. His smile his wide, his eyes are hidden behind dark sunglasses and he greets each of his admiring fans with a violent handshake. It’s not necessarily the John Malkovich we are used to seeing: the character actor most famous for his darker and, often, creepier characters. But his performance is about the only thing the movie has going for it.

The Robe
A Decided Must-See

What can there possibly be to say in a review of a fifty-year-old classic like The Robe? In the case of this release, quite a bit, actually. Just in time for Easter this year, 20th Century Fox has seen fit to restore, remaster, and reissue the very first film shot and distributed in CinemaScope. This was pioneering work for its time, and it’s largely gorgeous. This is also classic Hollywood storytelling at its finest, a stirring reminder that the hope of the faith has not been in the historicity of the man Jesus Himself, but in what His words have wrought in the lives of His followers: peace, love, joy, contentment, and, yes, sometimes healing—even in the midst of darkness and despair.

The Life of Lucky Cucumber
Satire, or Juvenile Prank?

At one—and the most successful—level, the film lampoons “in search of documentaries” such as Morgan Spurlock’s latest effort, Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? In this case, the fictional object of the search is small-town loser and legendary eccentric Lucky “Cucumber” Cavanaugh—a less-than-average guy who sabotages bathtub races with Molotov cocktails and lives with his grandfather in a cave. But the object of the satire here is not Lucky so much as it is the doc’s fictional filmmakers Phillip Fellini and Forrest Fonda. Granted, the Jackass and South Park mode of lunacy hits the mark from time to time, as Lucky Cucumber is actually more focused than many of the films it apes. But the film wanders and never really finds its stride, and jumps the rails entirely with idiotic diversions. This is bachelor party material at best.

Come What May
During School... Special!

Many of the ways in which yeoman writer/co-director Manny Edwards’ script works out the details of the plot seem overly familiar; but the basic setting of the story is so fresh and original, I expect most viewers will find that they don’t mind the sometimes wooden performances and less-than-seamless audio editing. And while I found much of the Pro-Life argumentation in the film overly facile, I genuinely enjoyed the chance to screen a film on the subject of abortion that wasn’t 100% based on appeals to emotion. And it’s especially helpful to know that much of the film was crewed by students who have yet to earn their GEDs.

The Velveteen Rabbit
Strangely Compelling Adaptation

Perhaps in my ignorance, of the original story, I thought that the trailer for The Velveteen Rabbit actually looked pretty decent; and I found the film itself, which mixes live action period drama with animated sequences, much better, dragging me inexorably toward a predictably tear-jerking conclusion that had me dabbing my eyes in spite of my best critical objectivity. Landon’s period setting is very nicely realized, particularly given the film’s niche-market budget, and the characterizations are really all first-rate. I honestly recommend giving this gentle G-rated family film a shot. My colleague at Hollywood Jesus, Mike Furches, says it will become a Christmas staple in his household—and I can see why.

Race to Witch Mountain
Fun Rock, Dull Kids

After successfully making the jump from professional wrestling to the silver screen, The Rock seemed to be the obvious heir apparent to Arnold Schwarzenegger with action hits like Walking Tall and The Rundown, but has apparently decided to go the Kindergarten Cop route and focus on more family-friendly fair. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Johnson has a certain level of charm that works well for these kinds of movies and he’s a good fit for the role of Jack Bruno. He gets to flex his action muscles, but also show off his talent for comedy. The Race to Witch Mountain may have its faults, but it is still an entertaining movie that is likely to appeal to the entire family. I just hope The Rock hasn’t completely given up on more adult action flicks.

The Last House on the Left
A Messy Lesson

Although there certainly are many horrific things going on in the The Last House on the Left, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a horror movie as the title and poster would suggest; at least, not in the sense that I think of horror movies. There are no supernatural elements, killers in hockey masks or creepy figures lurking around every corner. There are just two attractive, teenage girls caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The terrific twist that makes this movie so grotesquely interesting is that the bad guys themselves wind up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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