Archive for May, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Destined to Disappoint

Movies based on video games have historically been about as successful as video game adaptation of movies: not very. Still, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time seemed destined to be an exception. After all, video games nowadays are basically interactive movies themselves and the adventures of a magical dagger wielding action hero seemed a perfect fit for the big screen. Additionally, the movie is co-produced by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer who previously succeeded in turning a theme park ride into a hit swashbuckling adventure. Sadly, Prince of Persia never manages to get its exciting concept off the ground.

Sex and the City 2
Leaving the City Behind

Writing a review of the new Sex and the City movie seems superfluous. Fans of the show are going to see the movie no matter what the critics say and those who haven’t seen any of the show or even the first movie are not likely to give in now. A review seems especially unnecessary coming from a source about as far away from the film’s target audience as possible, but I did actually somewhat enjoy the first film and expected to get a similar enjoyment out of its sequel. The story, however, just isn’t quite there this time around.

Saving Our Bestest Friends

Who owns an animal? Is a dog the same thing as a chair, an automobile, or a cigarette lighter? Is the human side of the relationship more akin to that of a guardian? Or a friend? One thing is certain: Pezanoski’s subjects all feel a special, inviolable bond with their dogs. And they all feel, to a degree, that their rights have been violated. If you’ve ever owned a pet you really might want to consider watching this dogs-and-their-masters documentary. Given that the film follows several dogs (and their corresponding people) displaced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, you might also want to turn flinchingly away.

Edge of Darkness Revisited
More Than Good Business

This is a decent little Big Hollywood picture that may, like Michael Clayton, remind you of classic thrillers from the 1960s and early 1970s. Despite what the trailers show you, it relies more on characterization and engaging dialogue than on flash, chase, and sizzle. And probably no CGI whatsoever. The heart of this Darkness is the surprisingly moving and convincing tale of a father’s relentless love for his daughter. The tension is derived from the narrative invention that this particular father is a Boston police detective. The wheels within plot wheels concern eco-terrorists, dirty-bomb terrorists, conspiratorial politics, and slimy corporate schemers. Oh, and little dashes of radioactive isotopes thrown about for good measure.

Secrets of the Mountain
Pssst... Walmart's Making Movies

Raise your hands. How many of you grew up reading Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, or Happy Hollister mysteries? Personally, I can remember spending many an engrossing summer afternoon with such simple-minded but entertaining kid lit… though, even at the time, I felt slightly embarrassed reading them. That feeling of adventurous innocence—coupled with a B-grade, TV-movie Mummy aesthetic—is captured perfectly in Walmart’s second foray into feature filmmaking. Yes, the legacy of the cliff-hanger tradition has us aping Raiders more than Tarzan these day—and Secrets is no Raiders. But if you’re okay with it not trying to be, you will probably enjoy it just fine.

Letters to Juliet
Time for a Change of Address

There’s a great movie to be found within the new romantic comedy Letters to Juliet. Unfortunately, that great movie is merely a subplot that serves yet another predictable, humorless, and unromantic romantic comedy. Seyfried and Christopher Egan have absolutely no chemistry as they deliver the cheesiest of dialogue (“Why is it I feel like a schoolboy?”). When the pair finally kissed for the first time, the reaction in the audience was closer to a groan than a delighted sigh. Thank goodness for Vanessa Redgrave who towers over her costars in both height and acting talent. She’s also still quite a beautiful woman at seventy-three.

Robin Hood
"When the Legend Becomes Fact..."

Director Ridley Scott’s new version of the Robin Hood myth is being advertised as “the story behind the legend.” While watching this movie that continuously felt less and less like the Robin Hood tale I have come to know and love, I couldn’t help but think of a line that is often attributed to legendary director John Ford: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This new Robin Hood is at its best when it shows flashes of the classic tale. Unfortunately, those moments are too few and far between. After this film likely struggles to come close to earning back the reported $235 million budget, will the powers-that-be allow a sequel to be made?

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry
True to the Times

Feeling like a cross between Stand by Me, Leave It To Beaver, and a 1960s Sunday School film strip lesson, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry is yet another preaching-to-the-choir, family-friendly program for the faithful… but then again, it isn’t, either. There’s so much about Dustin’s experience with Mr. Sperry which rings true that I have to admit, as much as many critics might not care to, that filmmakers Rich and Dave Christiano have not made some ersatz nostalgic reflection on a rural-suburban America that never was. No, they have captured a one-time reality pretty accurately—if not compellingly so, from a narrative standpoint.

The Secret in Their Eyes
A Worthy Oscar Winner

Two months after it took home the Oscar for best foreign language film, American audiences finally get an opportunity to see the Argentinean thriller The Secret in Their Eyes. Due to Academy rules, the foreign language nominees are usually released in the States after the actual ceremony and many times the nominees fail to live up to the promise. Fortunately, this film lives up to its praise… at least until the last act.

Iron Man 2
Let the Summer Begin

The official calendar may list the first day of summer as June 21st, but movie buffs know it really begins the first week in May. That seems to be week that Hollywood has chosen to kickoff the blockbuster season each year. Last year, the summer got off to a sluggish start with the disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but this year Iron Man 2 meets all the high expectations of both an event movie and a high-priced sequel. Fortunately, director Jon Favreau and company remembered to keep Iron Man 2 playful and fun. It’s a blast, filled with plenty of exciting action, impressive special effects, and good humor. Let the summer games begin.