Arts+Movies » Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews of Current Movies

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OPENING THIS WEEK

Be Kind Rewind (PG-13) Jack Black and friend Mos Def re-create movies in their rental shop.

Vantage Point (PG-13) A concept film about an attempted presidential assassination seen from five perspectives.

Charlie Bartlett (R) Anton Yelchin tries to help his fellow high school students as a self-styled psychiatrist.

Witless Protection (PG-13) A corn-pone hayseed (Larry the Cable Guy) protects a hot witness in a federal case.

Persepolis (PG-13) An animated film about an Iranian girl fighting to be herself. Opens at Regal Charleston Towne Square 18.

FILM CAPSULES

27 Dresses (PG-13) It's not the kind of movie I'd see of my own volition. Lots of women, I imagine, reject the notion that human validity for women comes only through heterosexual marriage. And marriage is what 27 Dresses offers us as the ultimate fulfillment of female life. The movie gives us two options of adult womanhood: You can either be a mousy, insecure, wedding-obsessed workaholic or a trampy, irresponsible liar/drunk (who's only that way to cover up how sad she is because she doesn't have a man). —Conseula Francis

Atonement (R) Joe Wright's adaptation of Atonement works — and doesn't work. As a piece of film craft, it's undeniably impressive, the kind of movie that gathers Oscar nominations by the score. At times, though, it presents itself as though auditioning for its own Cliff's Notes: an ambitious, thoughtful, and literary story that practically dares you not to recognize that it is Art. —Scott Renshaw

The Bucket List (PG-13) In The Bucket List, we're introduced to Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) who has just learned that he has cancer. He sits in his hospital bed, radiating that faintly weary dignity that has become almost oppressively connected to Freeman. Sharing his hospital room is Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson), billionaire CEO of the private health company that runs the hospital. Cole is an insensitive, philandering bon vivant who greets life with a grin and a raised eyebrow — in short, he's playing Jack Nicholson. It's sad when you become your own type. ­—Scott Renshaw

Cloverfield (PG-13) The dialogue sucks and the character development is next to nil. Think about the day-to-day conversations you have with your loved ones or your friends. Penned by Aaron Sorkin it's not. Even worse, our personal dramas are pedestrian; they lack pizzazz. We're lame. We're petty. We're boring. And because Cloverfield focuses on us as we appear in daily lives and not as we appear up on the big screen, the film feels as insubstantial as a text message, or even worse, an episode of Laguna Beach. :( —Chris Haire

Definitely, Maybe (PG-13) Though falling a good bit short of the best of the Working Title-produced romantic comedies, Adam Brooks' Definitely, Maybe marks a notable improvement over the company's last few efforts. Maybe just setting the film in New York cleared away the cobwebs that had started appearing on the British locales. Whatever the case, this is an often charming, always entertaining film built around soon-to-be-divorced Ryan Reynolds telling his daughter (Abigail Breslin) the story of the three women (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz) in his life and how one of them became her mother. You'll likely guess the outcome, but it won't matter much because the cast and characters are too likable to resist. —Ken Hanke

The Eye (PG-13) The only vestige of horror to be found in the tepid supernatural thriller The Eye is the display of Jessica Alba's rudimentary acting skills — not to mention her attempts at appearing to play the violin. Even by the dictates of the PG-13 rated horror flick, this is lame stuff — worse, it's lame stuff you've seen many times before. Ms. Alba plays Sydney Wells, a blind violinist who regains her sight through a cornea transplant. (Since she gets two eyes, shouldn't this be called The Eyes?) Of course, there's a downside — she sees dead folks and the nasty specters that escort dead folks to wherever dead folks go. —Ken Hanke

First Sunday (PG-13) David E. Talbert comes with his very own set of flaws, namely a complete inability to create a coherent film. Despite a pleasant cast and a workable premise involving a plan to rob a church that, it turns out, has already been robbed, the film is simply a mess of loose ends and meandering plotlines. Worse, for a comedy, it's conspicuously laugh-free. —Justin Souther

Fool's Gold (PG-13) Fool's Gold works on the premise that watching pretty people in pretty locations is somehow sufficient entertainment all by itself. For those content merely to gaze upon Matthew McConaughey's toplessness and Kate Hudson's bikininess, that may be true. Whether it constitutes two solid hours of amusement is another matter. —Ken Hanke

Hannah Montana (G) Calling this peculiar, pre-fab phenomenon a movie is a bit of a stretch. It's really nothing more than a cut-down version of Disney Channel pop diva Hannah Montana (aka Miley Cyrus, daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who also appears) in concert with occasional backstage glimpses. For anyone not jazzed about Cyrus — meaning, pretty much anyone who isn't a four to 12-year-old girl — the whole thing is apt to feel like the Barbie's Playhouse version of Madonna's Truth or Dare — only in 3D and marketed as an "event" at an inflated price. It hardly matters what anyone says, though. Its target audience will adore it. —Ken Hanke

Jumper (PG-13) Jumper is so indefensibly bad that it goes beyond awfulness to become, if not good, then at least hugely entertaining in its unintended hilarity and transcendent dopiness. I honestly do not believe that it would be possible to make a list of truly bad ideas and come up with anything nearly this dumb — and I'm not just talking about casting Hayden Christensen in the lead. The premise of a hero who can "jump" through time might be workable, but not when the hero has no redeeming qualities and the script has no idea what it's doing. What plot there is involves Samuel L. Jackson (with a white hair dye job) as a religious zealot out to eradicate the abominations known as "jumpers," including, of course, Christensen. (Maybe Jackson sat through Awake and wants revenge.) —Ken Hanke

Juno (PG-13) It's a familiar tale: Juno MacGuff, high schooler (Ellen Page), finds herself preggers after some sexual experimentation with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Right from the get-go, and on through the whole film, there's a refreshingly nonpanicky approach to the whole situation: Yes, having a baby can dramatically affect the rest of a young woman's life, but it's not the end of the world. —MaryAnn Johanson

Meet the Spartans (PG-13) The approach to this flick is as simple as it is simple-minded: throw as many pop-culture references (even if the pop in the culture long ago went flat) at the viewer and make him or her laugh on sheer recognition value. It has nothing to do with parody — just recognition. Tasteless, tactless, and pretty much laugh-free, it's little more than a parade of homosexual panic jokes mixed with a juvenile passion for gags involving bodily fluids. It also looks like it was made for a buck and a quarter on left over sets from the original Star Trek TV series. Absolutely awful. —Ken Hanke

No Country for Old Men (R) Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is Evil itself. Bardem performs with such casual mastery that it feels as though he has originated the concept of a sociopathic killer. In a film full of exceptional performances, his stands out not because his role is flashy, but because he makes it precisely the opposite of flashy. He is the bad thing that happens indiscriminately to the sinner or to the saint, its own logic oblivious to constructed human morality. —Scott Renshaw

Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie (G) Four year olds will enjoy this aptly titled, shoddily animated movie about the adventures of a trio of legless, armless, but strangely ambulatory vegetables — a cucumber, a gourd, and an oversized grape (all of which are technically fruits). Parents in search of the utterly harmless may endorse it, but most viewers are to wish for someone to arrive with a Veg-O-Matic and put a stop to the whole thing. The faith-based makers of the film have soft-pedaled the religious aspects this time (see their previous Jonah movie), but in exchange all they can come up with is a vague — and incredibly dull — Wizard of Oz clone that tries to cash in on Pirates of the Caribbean. —Ken Hanke

Rambo (R) This time, instead of being pushed to his limits by a maverick sheriff, John Rambo finds an opportunity to put the past behind him by helping a group of missionaries stop a genocide in Burma. Stallone admirably avoids the pitfalls of action genre cliché and instead opts for real characters who understand the profound consequences of extreme violence. —John Stoehr

The Savages (R) Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are Wendy and John Savage, estranged siblings struggling to extract themselves from the damage of their fractious childhood. The pair is reunited when they must care for an abusive father who abandoned them. They must cope with his recently diagnosed dementia. The performances are top-notch, and the cast deserves better than a series of scenes that fail to create a cohesive film. We're never allowed to build deeper relationships with the characters — we're permitted to watch them go through the ups and downs of the quiet re-building of their lives, but we're never really permitted to care too deeply about them. —Andrea Warner

Step Up 2 the Streets (PG-13) Yet another in the long line of recent dance movies, Step Up 2 the Streets is the sequel to the surprise hit Step Up. The story of a young dancer from the streets is forced to go to a private arts school, where she starts a dance crew in order to compete in an underground dance competition, Step Up 2 does absolutely nothing new. I'm sure the film is supposed to be some raising of the bar of the dance movie, though it lacks any exploding car windows a la last month's How She Move. Instead, the best director John Chu seems able to come up with is having people dance in the rain, though I'm sure Gene Kelly would have something to say about that. Poorly written and mired in melodrama, the movie is for people who love music videos but wish they were 20 times longer. —Justin Souther

Strange Wilderness (R) Produced by Adam Sandler, this is one of those movies designed to give gainful employment to those hangers-on you've never seen in anything that doesn't bear Sandler's name. But this one is so bad that even Rob Schneider wouldn't tag along. (Think about that for a moment.) —Justin Souther

There Will Be Blood (R) Based on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!, There Will Be Blood is very much a fictional story that runs on the rules of fiction. But director Paul Thomas Anderson just makes you forget that. That's how real Blood feels. It's as effortless as it is resolutely uneasy from the harsh discordancy of its weirdly urgent soundtrack by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood to the oddly stilted yet deeply, coldly expressive performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-century oilman who comes into a small California desert town and pumps out its oil. It's a mythology of oil, a fairy tale for the industrial age. —MaryAnn Johanson

Untraceable (R) This movie undercuts itself by attempting to condemn us for finding its admittedly well-produced action-with-deadly-stakes enthralling. It's frustrating. —MaryAnn Johanson

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (PG-13) Lawrence plays an obnoxious talk-show host who goes home to the Deep South and his outrageous family where he learns that his trophy fiancée is a golddigger, family comes first, etc. It's all loud, crass, vulgar, and boasts at least four gags predicated on the hilarity of a Pomeranian having sex with a Labrador retriever. One doggie sex joke is one too many. Four should warrant jail time. —Ken Hanke

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