Arts+Movies » Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews of current and ongoing movies

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Opening this Week

The Great Buck Horward (PG) See review on here.

Hannah Montana: The Movie (G) Her famous father encourages superstar Miley Ray Cyrus to go back to her small hometown for a little perspective. We are in serious trouble if this is what qualifies as a storyline.

Observe and Report (R) Seth Rogan is at his greasy, schlubby best as a mall cop on the trail of a peeping tom only to be stymied by Ray Liotta playing a real cop. Apparently, we need more in the way of Paul Blart.

Dragonball: Evolution (NR) More anime made into a movie with real actors. This time, it's about an alien (Justin Chatwin) who for some reason must save the world but can only do so with the help of his master (Yun-Fat Chow). The public so eagerly awaits the release of this movie that it hasn't been rated yet so as to build up a frothy head of anticipation. Maybe.

Critical Capsules

12 Rounds (PG-13) Once upon a time, a young Renny Harlin made Die Hard 2, which, in the end, just turned out to be a simple re-hash of John McTiernan's Die Hard. After that, McTiernan returned to the franchise with 1995's Die Hard: With a Vengeance. And now, 14 years later, Harlin has finally gotten the chance to rip off that movie with 12 Rounds. OK, so the movies aren't exactly the same, but the plots — centering around a master European terrorist leading a cop through a series of dangerous challenges in a bid for revenge — are uncannily similar. But in this case, there's no Bruce Willis. Instead, we get pro wrestler John Cena, a man with a neck bigger than his head, and the kind of range that makes Willis look like Laurence Olivier. Seriously, the guy walks through the movie with the pained look of someone trying really hard to do long division in their head. It all revolves around a master criminal getting revenge on Cena by kidnapping his fiancée and making our hero pass 12 challenges (all involving much property damage) to save her. You've seen it before — and better. —Justin Souther

C Me Dance (PG) Writer-producer-director-star Greg Robbins attempts to crash the big time with this faith-based "thriller." The results are perhaps the most appallingly incompetent movie ever to receive a fairly wide release. The plot follows Sheri (Christina DeMarco), a Pittsburgh high school girl with improbable eyebrows and a passion for dance. But quicker than you can say pas de deux, it turns out that this Pennsylvanian Pavlova has movie leukemia (the kind where you're only diagnosed in the final stages, have but weeks to live, and look fabulous the entire time.) Dad Vince (Greg Robbins himself) wants to pray. Sheri, on the other hand, just wants to withdraw from everyone — at least until she becomes convinced that God wants her to bring her friend Ally (Samantha Sham) to Jesus. Turns out that this is easier done than said, because her in-extremis status allows her to merely touch a person and cause them to see a flash of Jesus' hand being nailed to the cross — et voila instant conversion. (That Jesus' hand is played by the same guy who's Satan's stunt double surely qualifies as blasphemy of some sort.) This annoys Satan (Peter Kent), who doesn't do much more than wander around in a Hot Topic trenchcoat and look vaguely menacing. Yes, it really is as silly as it sounds. —Ken Hanke

Duplicity (PG-13) With its fractured narrative and its myriad convolutions, Tony Gilroy's Duplicity still isn't as clever and sophisticated as it's obviously meant to be, but I'm not sure it matters very much. It's a stylish, entertaining movie with pretty people in pretty clothes (or in very few clothes, which is OK as long it's pretty people) in pretty locations saying witty things. At this point in the moviegoing year, it's probably foolish to ask for more. This is a movie for movie people — with a bottle of Dom Perignon at the end. Stylish direction, a script that "thinks," Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and champagne. It's late March and that ain't bad. The story is basically a reworking of a Cold War spy flick with rival corporations rather than superpowers, and Owen and Roberts as former secret agents out to use their skills to con and defraud the corporations in question for personal gain. Gilroy, however, isn't content with that alone and has created a "golden age"-style, battle-of-the-sexes romance for his stars, making them unable to trust each other and having that be part and parcel of the very reason they find each other irresistable. It's the kind of film bona fide movie stars were made for. —Ken Hanke

Fast & Furious (PG-13) On the plus side, at least some of the action scenes are put together in a coherent manner (an increasingly rare phenomenon). Also, Paul Walker no longer looks like he's waiting for the director to tell him what to do next. What else can be said? Well, it's not nearly as funny as Vin Diesel's last picture, Babylon A.D., but whether that's in the movie's favor is as personal a call as deciding whether Mr. Diesel's second chin is really getting that obvious, or if director Justin Lin just shoots him in profile way too often. As a mindless — verging on incompehensible — action flick, Fast & Furious probably scales the heights of adequacy. That's to say people drive fast, perform improbable stunts, things blow up, and the leads glare at each other a lot. Neither the plot nor individual set-pieces, however, survive even cursory scrutiny. All you need to know — not that there's much more to know — is that Diesel and Walker are out to bring down a Mexican drug lord, who was responsible for the death of Diesel's girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez). If that — and watching people drive fast — appeals to you, so might the movie. —Ken Hanke

The Haunting in Connecticut (PG-13) Peter Cornwell's The Haunting in Conneticut is the latest in a long line of "based on a true story" haunted house films in the style of The Amityville Horror (1979). What this generally means is that any old yahoo who thinks the ghost of grandma is running around flushing toilets and flipping the porch light on and off can get a movie deal. Couple that with the fact that this is the haunting in Connecticut, it would appear that this is the definitive tale of spookiness in the Nutmeg State. Be sure to thank Mr. Cornwell the next time you see him. Regardless, what we get is a family, whose oldest son Matt (TV actor Kyle Gallner) is suffering from some unnamed form of movie cancer. They ill-advisedly move into a house with a "history." In this case, the house used to be a mortuary, and Matt begins to see spooky goings on. This mostly consists of murky figures popping up in mirrors or the reflections television monitors, but quickly graduates into broken dishes, bloody mops, charmingly animated crabs, and a column on their porch filled with what appears to be maggot-infested beef stew. It's downhill from there with the climactic "true evil" of the house being a fridge full of moldy food and a killer shower curtain. Evil has never been so banal. —Justin Souther

I Love You, Man (R) I Love You, Man is only the latest in a long line of movies called the "bro-mantic comedy" or perhaps the "dick flick." And it may have much to teach us about ourselves, my brothers — as we are, as we wish we could be, and as we want to make it excruciatingly clear to everyone that we're not. It's kind of depressing watching I Love You, Man look so insecure when attempting to prove its protagonists' heterosexuality. On the surface, it seems very gay-friendly to have Peter's (Paul Rudd) out-and-proud brother serving as one of his mentors in wooing male companionship. But one of the big early guffaw moments involves a misunderstanding on one of Peter's "man-dates," ending with a vigorous tongue-kissing. Neither director John Hamburg nor Rudd overplays the panic of the moment, but it becomes clear that the gay characters here exist primarily to prove by contrast what Peter and Sydney are not. It's a shame, really, that I Love You, Man isn't funnier, and that it feels as uncomfortable in its own skin as its hero. We're getting closer to learning something interesting about what guys need from other guys, but the sociologists won't be gleaning more from this effort than a few chuckles. There's more bro-vado here than bro-mance. —Scott Renshaw

Knowing (PG-13) Alex Proyas' Knowing stands a very good chance of being in the running for best bad movie ever made. From a purely visual standpoint, it's almost impeccable. The effects work tends to be very good though not wholly believable. The problem is that the direction, the effects, and the music are at the service of a screenplay that gets sillier and sillier as it moves from provocative horror thriller into the realm of religious allegory science-fiction. The premise of the movie — that a series of seemingly random numbers put in a time capsule in 1959 by a strange little girl (Lara Robinson) who hears voices whispering to her actually predict disasters for the next 50 years — is OK. The problem is that the more we learn about where the movie is going, the more preposterous it becomes and the less sense it makes — unless you're willing to accept the notion (never really explained) of what might be called "Freewill Aliens." Worth a look, but it's apt to produce about an equal number of thrills and groans. —Ken Hanke

Monsters vs. Aliens (PG) The basic idea of making a spoof of 1950s science fiction movies using the quintessential 1950s gimmick of 3-D is in itself inspired. The idea of filling it with cross-references to 1950s-'60s sci-fi movies is a nice for SF nerds. There's even something sweetly nostalgic about the idea that the government has had all these out-of-date monsters locked away for about 50 years. The voice casting is surprisingly good, especially Rainn Wilson as the evil Gallaxhar. The results of all this, though, are rarely more than pleasant. The individual components suggest it should be better. It's less a case of anything being actually wrong than it simply being no more than OK. The idea basically finds the earth invaded by aliens and calls on their stash of homegrown monsters to save the day. Apart from the personal stories used to flesh this out, that's the plot and it works fine for what it is. At bottom, I liked it well enough. I found it consistently clever and that it maintained a pleasantly giddy sense of fun. In a year, I'll have only the vaguest sense of ever having seen it. —Ken Hanke

Watchmen (R) Stripped of its gory, blood-soaked, sexed-up R-rated approach and its plodding 163-minute running time, the film isn't much more than another entry in the dysfunctional "superhero" subgenre. Partly, it's simply the result of the fact that what was fresh — the deconstruction of the superhero — 20-plus years ago just isn't so fresh today. The main problem, though, is that Snyder hasn't so much made a film of the comic as he's taxidermied it. The deeper aspects of the book are subverted in favor of the "bad ass" qualities. The storyline — about a possible conspiracy to murder costumed heroes in an alternative 1985 America where Nixon is still president and nuclear war looms — is retained while the film almost slavishly copies the look of the comic, but characterization and motivation are sketchy to non-existent. Overall, it's going to please some fans, anger others and probably leave the uninitiated wondering what all the fuss is about. —Ken Hanke

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