Archive for January, 2010

When in Rome
Save Your Coins

In the world of subpar movies, there are those that are just bad (Legion) and others that are just plain stupid. With its characters that can’t grasp the obvious, When in Rome certainly falls into the latter category. It is the audience that suffers the real beating in a movie that drags painfully despite its rather light 91-minute runtime. As if things weren’t already bad enough, the movie also features perhaps the worst performance by an extra in movie history. He was much too happy. Well, at least someone got some enjoyment out of this movie.

Edge of Darkness
The Return of Mad Mel

Edge of Darkness seems to have all the elements in place for a successful revenge thriller. First and foremost, it stars Mel Gibson. Although making his first on-screen appearance since 2002’s Signs, Gibson is a veteran of vengeance seeking roles and a perfect fit. Secondly, the film is based on a popular British mini-series and updated by William Monahan (along with Andrew Bovell), who won an Oscar his The Departed script. Finally, the film is directed by Martin Campbell, who since directing the original mini-series has proved himself a successful action director with films like Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale. Unfortunately, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.

This Is It Revisited
Does Purpose Count For Anything?

Choreography Travis Payne says that Jackson’s dancers are “the next generation to help convey his messages, and help continue his ideas; and they are soldiers, in a way.” And what are those ideas and messages? Baby dangling? Crotch grabbing? Myopic, blindered excess in service to tree-hugging environmentalism? Alleged child molestation? Well, not really. Almost all of those faults, crimes, and misdemeanors come through in the hours of material on this DVD. But what drives Jackson—as attested to both in testimonials and in Jackson’s words and behavior, and no matter how misguided his efforts may be—is love.

Bright Star Revisited
A Movie Lovely As A Tree

When young woman-of-privilege Fanny Brawne attempts to “study” poetry at Keats’ feet, she tries to understand it by dissection—as if it were a matter of construction and a collection of choices, and a matter of digesting one great work of poetry after another in order to extract what’s nourishing and move on to the next. But Keats tells her: “Poetry is like a lake, and when the poet jumps into it, his purpose is not to swim immediately to shore, but to luxuriate in the water.” And this is what Campion’s film—and Campion herself, as a cinematic poet—does with the poem “Bright Star.”

Tooth Fairy
The Rock in a Tutu

One of the first things they teach you in screenwriting classes is that most audience members will decide whether or not they like a movie within the first ten minutes. I find this generally to be true, but I have found a number of exceptions; movies that took their time earning my affection. Tooth Fairy turned me off rather quickly, but could it be one of the exceptions? Unfortunately, it was not. As delightful as some of the supporting characters are, they can’t save this movie from being one worth skipping. The message is sweet and important, but the packaging is stale and dull.

Extraordinary Measures
Too Much Ordinary

Extraordinary Measures is based on the true story of John Crowley, a businessman whose two younger children are both afflicted with Pompe disease, which carries with it a life expectancy of no more than nine years. As the movie opens, Megan Crowley is celebrating her eighth birthday. Determined to save his children, Mr. Crowley contacts a research scientist in Nebraska who is considered the top mind on the subject and together they form a company dedicated to finding a cure. Their goal is to be in clinical trials within a year, and John wants his kids to be the test subjects. If it sounds like this ought to be on T.V., you’re right.

Too Unappealing for Ho-hum

The story, at its core, is a mish-mash of many things we’ve seen before—usually done better, and often done quite recently. This time around, Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster star as a pair of hyper-sleep-drunk flight officers trying to figure out why their ship, the Elysium, seems to be suffering a reactor failure before completing its mission to colonize a new Earth-type planet. It’s like a big-budget dime-store horror cum mystery cum sci-fi potboiler—filmed by a crew suffering from indigestion and a run of really bad relationships. For those who like their sci-fi rough and grotesque, I’ve probably already said too much; for those who don’t, I need say no more.

The Lovely Bones
A Victim of Adaptation

Walking out of the advance screening of the adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones, I overheard a young woman comment: “that was so funny.” I felt it was a rather odd reaction to a movie about a 14-year-old girl who is murdered by a serial killer, but I wrote it off figuring she was talking about a specific scene or moment of humor. Then someone else made the exact same comment and I realized it was the perfect summation of a movie that never seems able to settle on a tone.

The Book of Eli
Stylish Post-Apocalyptic Thriller

The Book of Eli is the post-apocalyptic thriller for those who thought The Road was too boring. The first movie to be directed by the Hughes brothers since 2001’s From Hell, the movie is full of stylish action sequences that usually involve Denzel Washington making mincemeat out of a number of attackers. The religious implications are also much more on the surface in The Book of Eli than they were in The Road, as the book of the title is no less than the King James Bible. Plus, it might inspire you to hold on to any KFC wet naps you come across… you know, just in case you’ll eventually need them as currency.

Leap Year
Stop Me If You've Heard This One...

Released in 1934, director Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night set the formula that romantic comedies have been following ever since: the mismatched pair whose distaste for each other slowly turns into love after they are forced to spend a good deal of time together. The new film Leap Year at times feels like a direct remake of the classic, but unfortunately it cannot match its predecessor’s wit and charm.

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