Arts+Movies » Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews of current and ongoing movies

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Opening this Week

The Brothers Bloom (PG-13) See review here.

The Hangover (R) This very bachelor party comedy starring Bradley Cooper., Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, is getting solid reviews so far. Directed by Old School's Todd Phillips.

Land of the Lost (PG-13) Will Ferrell and Danny McBride face off against T. Rexes and sleestacks in this family-friendly remaker.

My Life in Ruins (PG-13) Nia Vardalos plays a Greek tour guide who looses her mojo in this romantic comedy.

Critical Capsules

Angels & Demons (PG-13) Tom Hanks — sans his greasy Da Vinci mullet — is back as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, summoned by Vatican officials to help deal with a potential crisis. In the wake of the death of the Pope, the four cardinals who are the primary candidates to replace him have been kidnapped. Evidence suggests the involvement of the Illuminati — the ancient society of scholars and artists whose pro-science views antagonized the Renaissance-era Catholic Church. And if Langdon can't follow the clues to the lair of the Illuminati, the Vatican itself could be destroyed by a cylinder of stolen anti-matter. Langdon has the potential to be a really entertaining character — a true, non-Indiana Jones academic thrust into life-threatening situations — but nobody involved appears the slightest bit interested in exploring that character. —Scott Renshaw

Dance Flick (PG-13) The only saving grace for Dance Flick is that Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer — the, um, gentleman behind the recent glut of Movie movie send-ups — are nowhere to be had. This is only a vague silver lining, however, since comparing the quality of Dance Flick with, say, Epic Movie is akin to debating which Wayans Brother is supposed to be the funny one. For anyone up for such an undertaking, this movie is the place to start. With, by my count, a whopping 11 credited Wayans kinfolk (I guess Zeppo Wayans was busy or we could've had an even dozen), Wayans brothers, sisters and second cousins twice removed all come rolling out like oranges from the film's first frame. And the sole purpose is of this cavalcade of Wayans is to send-up the overabundance of dance movies that have flooded theaters over the past few years. It's actually a sub-genre that's ripe for satire, but what we get is simply tired parody of the sort that randomly assembles a string of pop culture references and grafts on a bit of slapstick. The results are less insulting than those from Friedberg-Seltzer (the Wayans actually believe you'll get the references), but not appreciably funnier. —Justin Souther

Drag Me to Hell (PG-13) The opening sequence of this hard-to-pin-down horror sort-of comedy features a young boy who's been afflicted with a gypsy curse getting actually dragged to the actual hell by soul-lusting demons, presumably to suffer for all eternity for a very minor crime. Business is meant here. There's no fooling around. This is so we know what's in store for director Sam Raimi's heroine, mild-mannered bank loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), now that she has been damned by the same curse. Literally damned, it would appear. The longer I have to think about Hell, the more it haunts me, and now I suspect that not only is Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead II) daring to push the mainstream studio horror movie to a new and uncomfortable place, he may even be daring his longtime fans to come along with him. My great fear is that while Raimi's longtime fans may be pleased, Drag Me to Hell may be too subtle for mainstream audiences, who appear to demand torture porn and more overt moralism than this sly story can offer. —MaryAnn Johanson

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (PG-13) Undoubtedly, you can guess by the title that this is a modernized knock-off of Mr. Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol — something the characters of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past must be totally unfamilar with. The idea is that Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a sleazeball, womanizing photographer who will learn the error of his ways on the eve of the wedding of his brain-dead brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer), to the shrill and unlikeable Sandra (Lacey Chabert). Assuming that we're familiar with the original, there's not much chance we don't know where this is going. Throw in the one girl he ever truly loved, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), and there's no chance at all. The film's decision to make the already unctuous McConaughey über-sleazy works against whatever merit it might have had. What's left is an unbelievable reformation, cheesy special effects, not very funny comedy, and zero romance. —Ken Hanke

My Life in Ruins (PG-13) The latest from Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, My Life in Ruins, is a steaming pile of stereotypes and sitcomery, a pathetic excuse for a comedy, a romance, and a movie. If you chanced to be accursed enough to have caught even a single episode of the TV spin-off from Wedding, the unimaginatively dubbed My Big Fat Greek Life, then you already have a general idea of what Ruins looks like: it's the ruined version of what could have been a simple but charming movie. Ruins is populated by supposed adults who behave as if they are moronic children, it's obvious and banal, its idea of humor is embarrassing, and it's overseen by the tediously typical misogynistic concept that any woman who's dissatisfied with her life must simply need to get laid. Because all other problems disappear if you are getting properly fucked on a regular basis. Know this: director Donald Petrie is sort of a Ghost of Bad Romantic Comedies Past — he is responsible for such reprehensibleness as Miss Congeniality and How to Lost a Guy in 10 Days, which may be the most anti-woman, anti-man, anti-human movie ever made. And he has not redeemed himself here. —MaryAnn Johanson

Next Day Air (R) I'd held out some hope for this movie. The cast was full of likable performers; the director, Benny Boom, was an unknown commodity; and the trailer made the movie look like a clever Afro-American variation on a Guy Ritchie picture. Well, Guy Ritchie never made anything this bad and boring on the worst Madonna-influenced, crypto-Kabbalistic day of his life. If Ritchie swallowed a bottle of horse tranquilizers, he might approach this level of lameness. Maybe. The premise is fine. There's nothing wrong with the idea that a perpetually stoned delivery man, Leo (Donald Faison), might deliver a package containing 10 bricks of cocaine to the wrong address. That the address he delivers it to happens to belong to a pair of small-time crooks, Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris), who think their ship has come in is good, too. They're portrayed as sufficiently lacking in grey matter that they might believe they can get away with making off with someone else's fortune in drugs. For that matter, the plot is generally workable all the way through. Unfortunately, no one knows what to do with it, and a dull, meandering, unfunny, and even unpleasant film is the result. —Ken Hanke

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (PG) I'd actually held out some slight hope for this one. Those hopes didn't quite pan out. Others were similarly snookered. Friends of mine attended the screening and lasted up through the point that the movie inflicted CGI cherub versions of the Jonas Brothers singing "More Than a Woman" on us. While I'm sure they felt as edified as I to learn (based on the onscreen evidence) what had previously only been the suspicion that the Jonases are bereft of genitalia, this afforded them sufficient provocation for departing the theater. I envied them. Granting that the sub-Thorne Smith whimsy of the premise of the first movie — that the displays in a museum come to life during the night thanks to a magical doodad — was already pretty thin, the sequel just feels desperate in its attempts to stretch it out further. Amy Adams fills out her aviatrix outfit nicely, but she's forced to deliver lines that are all written in faux 1920s jazz baby speak — and it's quickly tiresome. But then everybody gets the one joke treatment — and then gets to repeat that joke endlessly. Hank Azaria as the villain does a credible Boris Karloff impression (ancient Egyptians must sound like Karloff since he was in The Mummy, I guess) and scores a few laughs, but the film mostly confuses shrill and busy with funny. —Ken Hanke

Star Trek (PG-13) J.J. Abrams' Star Trek has arrived on the scene to stake its claim as the big movie of the summer. It just might win that accolade, too, because it's a surprisingly pleasing work that doesn't require being a certified Trekkie (or Trekker, if you must) to enjoy. Of course, it helps that Star Trek is such a part of collective pop culture consciousness that nearly everyone knows the main characters and basic set-up of the original 1960s TV series. The film works because it takes itself seriously without taking itself too seriously. It's not slated to become one of the "great movies." It has some significant flaws and missteps, but on its own merits it's entertaining. The whole origins story idea comes with a set of built-in pitfalls and Star Trek stumbles into a few of them. There's an inescapable sense of watching kids playing dress-up to the whole thing — a kind of Muppet Babies aura. It's hard not to imagine these young Trekkers arguing over who gets to play whom, which is echoed by the musical chairs business of who gets to command the ship at various points in the narrative. The business of jamming all the characters into Starfleet Academy at the same time is simply awkward. But it scores most of the time — and shows true genius in bringing Leonard Nimoy in to play Spock — or Spock Prime. Nimoy has just the right gravity to lend the film authenticity and an emotional resonance it would otherwise lack. —Ken Hanke

Terminator Salvation (PG-13) What is there to be said about McG's Terminator Salvation? That it proves that, yes, it is possible to make a worse movie than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? This is one of those post-apocalyptic concoctions where the whole world looks like a rave that went wrong taking place in a disused steel foundry. The color scheme is muddy gray-brown to a point where you wonder why everyone isn't so eaten up with malaise that they don't just sit down and forget about the whole thing. This is the movie where Christian Bale was so immersed in his character that he went bananas on a member of the crew? Had he gone after his agent or McG, I could understand that. The story has John Connor (Bale) trying to defeat the evil forces of Skynet that are still out to obliterate humankind for reasons that are only as clear as the explanatory title that the machines perceive humankind as a threat. This guarantees a lot of shooting and explosions. There's also a new terminator on the block — a half-human model made from executed murderer Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington). Clever writing teams Marcus up with Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who, presumably needs to go back in time in order to father John Connor. There are websites devoted to making this make sense. Does anyone really care? —Ken Hanke

Up (PG) Early in Up — the tenth feature from the cinematic quality machine called Pixar — there is a sequence that distills all of the best that the animation powerhouse brings to filmmaking. After a brief prologue introducing us to a pair of simpatico kids named Carl and Ellie in the 1930s, we watch without a word of dialogue as the childhood friends become sweethearts, then follow them through 50 years of married life. This kind of jaw-dropping, tear-jerking brilliance is what we have come to expect as matter-of-fact, everyday stuff from Pixar. In the present day, Carl (voiced by Edward Asner) is now a curmudgeonly septuagenarian, living alone in his house while a high-rise development goes on around him. Facing the prospect of life in a retirement home, Carl instead sends a massive cascade of balloons through his chimney, launching the house into the air with a plan to head to the remote South American jungle that was a dream adventure destination for Carl and Ellie. There's also an unexpected hitchhiker: Russell (Jordan Nagai), a young Wilderness Explorer. But nothing matches the magic of that early sequence, and Carl doesn't prove to be nearly as interesting or engaging a protagonist once he actually starts talking. Even the visuals are satisfying without really offering a wow factor. Director Pete Docter plays the best material he has at the outset, and as a result he faces the blessing — and curse — of being part of the Pixar legacy: He crafts an enjoyable and at times lovely piece of family-friendly filmmaking, and it still ends up feeling a bit disappointing.

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