Archive for January, 2011

The Mechanic
Bullets, Blood & Statham

If there is a better actor out there right now to fill the tough guy shoes of Charles Bronson than Jason Statham, I cannot think of who it could be. Statham steps into those shoes for The Mechanic, a remake of Bronson’s 1972 hitman action flick. It’s a little less patient than the original—a definite result of modern audiences’ shorter attention spans—but the outcome is the same: an entertaining flick with some good old-fashioned butt-kicking.


Applause
Doesn’t Satisfy

It’s too bad I didn’t enjoy the film, because the script obviously has a lot going on at the religious level. When you name a character Thea and have her declare, in the early going, “I hate ordinary people,” you’re clearly out to make a point. And when the father of Thea’s children is a man named Christian, a health industry worker who is long on second chances and patience but still offers little in the way of healing, your point is aching to be underscored. Other critics will no doubt do a lot more with that grist than simply throw it on the wheel. More power to them. There’s a lot to chew on here; I just wish I found it more tasty.


No Strings Attached
Shouldn’t It Be More Fun?

Every year around the time of the announcement of the Oscar nominees, it seems that a favorite for the award always shows up in a movie that wouldn’t even be welcome on the red carpet. Remember in early 2007 when Eddie Murphy, a best supporting actor Oscar favorite for Dreamgirls, showed up in Norbit? Well, there’s little debate that this year’s front-runner for best actress is Natalie Portman, who was brilliant in Black Swan. Now, with the Oscar nominees set to be announced in just four days, Portman is back in theaters with No Strings Attached. Hopefully Oscar voters are too busy catching up on last year’s movies to get to the cinema for this one.


Wake Up
Rousing, but not Spiritual Caffeine

I’ve heard of the blind leading the blind, and the outcome is traditionally thought of as pretty poor. I suppose the same is true for the sleepwalking leading the drowsy; there’s a certain pejorative sense to imperative enthusiasm. The deeper Jonas Elrod’s spiritual investigations go, the shallower they seem to be—less enlightening about the profundity of Elrod’s personal experience, and more revealing of the ways in which those who claim insight find ways to profit from sharing it. Little of this seems very conducive to connecting with any sort of higher power, or inner peace. Where does Elrod end up? Still searching, like the rest of us.


Plastic Planet
Get On Board

Boote takes us along on a global tour examining the use of plastics, their very cryptic and highly secretive manufacture (it’s trade secrets, you know), and what researchers have discovered happens to plastics when they break down. And, you know, they do break down. If you believe Boote’s evidence—and it’s fairly compelling, as Boote puts together a film that is easily in a class with Moore’s best stuff, if less incendiary and overtly manipulative—we’ve all been poisoned with chemical toxins for decades. Still, Plastic Planet isn’t one of those dour downer docs intended to be all fatalistic and politically correct.


The Green Hornet
It’s the Audience That Gets Stung

Between 1966 and 1968, two of the most successful television shows were The Green Hornet and Batman. Both featured masked crime fighters and were campy (to put it nicely). Since that time, everyone knows what happened with Batman. He’s been the star of six major motion pictures in the last twenty plus years. Although there was definitely some camp in the earlier films, the caped crusader has now reached the peak of his success on the big screen by going dark and serious. Now, after multiple false starts, The Green Hornet finally gets its shot at the big screen and to say that the creators of this movie decided to go in a different direction than the Batman folks would be a gross understatement.


I’m Dangerous with Love
Messy and Intoxicating

Addiction is a wild, dangerous, intoxicating thing. So is I’m Dangerous with Love. It’s like watching a car wreck in slow motion and fast forward, simultaneously. You know that events are compressed, but there’s so much gory detail that it feels like you’re living it all, too. Complicating matters is Dimitri Mugianis’ manic energy and charisma. Even as an audience member, you really can’t get enough of the guy. Mugianis is, above all, an evangelist for a particular form of salvation. But if anyone is looking to ibogaine or Mugianis’ shamanistic West African rituals for salvation—which is what this film ultimately feels like an advertisement for—I recommend caution.


Season of the Witch
Wicked Witchcraft

Nicolas Cage is the new Michael Caine. I’m not referring to their acting styles, talents, or even their choice of roles, but rather the sheer amount of roles they take. It has often been joked throughout his great career that Caine never turned down a role, not even Jaws: The Revenge. Now it seems as if Nicolas Cage is following his lead, appearing in a new movie every couple of months. They may not all be great, but some of them are pretty entertaining. The much delayed Season of the Witch, unfortunately, is not one of those.


Country Strong
It's a Little Bit Country

With the exception of the two Iron Man movies, Gwyneth Paltrow hasn’t been seen much on the silver screen in recent years. During that time, she has actually been gaining more recognition for her singing talents than her acting chops. She recently was a big success on an episode of Glee and now headlines the country music drama Country Strong. The second feature effort of writer/director Shana Feste, the movie plays like a country music version of The Fighter, only here it is the addict character that gets a chance at a comeback, not the sibling.


Blue Valentine
The Rise and Fall of a Romance

It seems that every year there is a hard-hitting drama with much talked about performances that rides the festival circuit right into the awards race. This year, that movie is Blue Valentine. It has already earned a few nominations among the independent film awards—and some extra publicity over its fight to get its rating changed from NC-17 to R—but does it have the momentum to make a push at the Oscars?


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