Archive for May, 2011

The Hangover Part II
"It Happened Again"

The Hangover Part II opens exactly the same way as its predecessor. A couple of cell phones ring into the voicemails of our missing protagonists, followed by Phil calling in to advise that there is a problem. “It happened again” is how he phrases it. Of course, we chuckle in the audience because we know exactly what “it” means. Unfortunately, that phrase also perfectly sums up this sequel’s major flaw: we have seen this movie before.

Transcendent Man
More Than Thrills or Chills

Transcendant Man is an earnest documentary that attempts to demonstrate that nobody should consider as ephemeral the subject of humanity’s eventual integration with technology. The personality through whom the argument comes to the fore is inventor and visionary Ray Kurzweil. In plain terms, Kurzweil envisions nanotechnology incorporated within our biologic systems; self-healing mechanisms integrated with our biological core; and instant access to the computing power of cloud-based processing, with the capacity for understanding it all. In short, we’ll have the ability to live forever. But the breadth of human knowledge is expanding so rapidly that those who believe they can anticipate its course, or propose a way of thinking or living that leverages what we currently know, are perhaps the ones who are most to be pitied.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The Return of Swashbuckling Adventure

The Pirates of the Caribbean series is one of the most successful franchises in movie history. Not bad for a project inspired by a rather laid-back amusement park ride. Still, even the biggest Pirates fans would likely admit that after the terrific original, the sequels started getting a little out of hand. What makes for one of the more intriguing aspects going into the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, is the question of whether the franchise will keep moving in that direction, or whether it will return the series back to the fun, swashbuckling spirit of the original. Happily, I can tell you that it is the latter.

The Girls Can Gross You Out, Too

The gross-out comedy has largely been a male dominated genre in Hollywood, but the girls of Bridesmaids are determined to change that. For better or worse, there is little that is off-limits in this comedy that unites former Saturday Night Live cast mates Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. The result is a movie that has a few moments of hilarity, some disastrously unfunny ones, and a scene or two that I would rather just forget.

The Encounter
What You Expect, But Not

I’m really not sure how much to say about The Encounter—because if I tell you why I liked parts of it, I’ll probably spoil most of the effect for you. In short, The Encounter is David A. R. White’s surprising, often humorous, and decidedly Christian-niche-market micro-budget take on the classic travelers-meet-mysterious-stranger story. If that’s all you need to know from me, stop right here. And remember that I said “I liked parts of it” and that my primary adjectives were “surprising” and “often humorous.” What makes David A. R. White’s take on this tale a particularly Christian-niche spin is his decision to blend the stock story with a semi-related niche staple: the mysterious stranger who is a stand-in for Jesus.

There Be Dragons
A Very Timely Epic

Despite the emphasis the film places on the Spanish Civil War, the lessons of Escrivá’s life work themselves out in a contemporary tale that we actually care about. In many ways, the film says, “Controversies, claims to greatness, and global grousing aside, Escrivá’s teaching only matters if it makes a difference in the here and now. And it does.” On this score, by extension, the film also functions as an effective and relevant apologetic for the teachings of Jesus. Josemaría Escrivá learns in the crucible of war that Scripture and its precepts are also meaningless unless they make a difference in times that try men’s souls. To this end, There Be Dragons couldn’t be more valuable and timely.

The Beaver
Puppet Advice

In an alternate universe, The Beaver would be anticipated as the reunion of stars Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, seventeen years after they co-starred in the western comedy Maverick. It may even have been anticipated as Foster’s third directorial effort. When hearing that it is about a man who communicates through a beaver puppet he wears on his hand, people would chuckle at the idea of it. Instead, in this universe, the reason they are chuckling is because of the public mess that has become of Gibson’s private life. Long delayed because of the star’s off-screen antics, the movie now hits the silver screen and the question becomes: will audiences be willing to look past the exterior distractions and find what proves to be an entertaining drama about dealing with depression.

Jumping the Broom
A Tale of Two Families

The second producing effort of Pastor T.D. Jakes, Jumping the Broom is one of those wedding stories we see usually a couple of times a year at the movies. The happy couple come from completely different backgrounds and chaos ensues when the two families are brought together for the big day. In this case, the difference between the families is class. More specifically, it’s Martha’s Vineyard vs. Brooklyn. Things will be said and feelings will be hurt, but you can be pretty sure that everything is going to work out in the end.

Something Borrowed
Will They or Won’t They?

Based on the popular novel by Emily Giffin, who shows up in an awkward, wordless cameo sitting on a bench reading one of her own books, Something Borrowed is your classic “will they or won’t they” movie. In these movies, the destination is fairly clear from the get-go to everyone in the audience and usually at least one of the characters—in this case, John Krasinski’s Ethan—so the value in the movie pretty much comes down to the journey. The journey in Something Borrowed may often seem like an endless figure eight, but there is enough good stuff along the way to make it worth your while.

How I Ended This Summer
Left Me Cold

I’ll stop right here and surmise that the tension that’s being set up is a cinema metaphor about the contrast between old-school filmmaking and new-fangled, quick-cut, short-attention-span cinema. So we really are meant to take to Sergei and loathe Pavel, ultimately. And that’s all well and good if you watch film simply as an exercise in self-referential over-analyticism; but it doesn’t make for a very good story.

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