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FILM REVIEW ‌ Capsule Reviews

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Lucky You (PG-13) (pictured above) A hotshot poker player (Eric Bana) tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems, which evidently include Drew Barrymore and Eric Duvall.

Year of the Dog (PG-13) With a heavily pedigreed cast — Peter Sarsgaard, John C. Reilly, Laura Dern — that happens to include SNL’s Molly Shannon, Dog tells the story of Peggy (Shannon), a happy-go-lucky secretary who lives alone with her beloved dog Pencil. But when Pencil unexpectedly dies, Peggy embarks on a journey of transformation.

300 (R) Yes, 300 is great to look at (though its burnished golds and CGI’d settings begin to feel like watching a series of production sketches long before the movie ends). But there’s not a hint of humanity in the evil Persians, as the demonized enemy. It’s also alarmingly homophobic, which is a pretty strange approach for a movie that’s nonstop beefcake. And, for that matter, it’s neither terribly exciting, nor involving, since it never gives us a single character to care about, and as soon as it’s set up the action, it’s merely repetitive. It is loud, however. —Ken Hanke

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (R) First of all, I “get it.” I know that this wretchedly-made juvenalia is supposed to be funny precisely because it is wretchedly-made juvenalia. That’s the joke. And it’s pretty much all the joke there is. I also “get” that a plot about saving the world from destruction by a villainous exercise machine is bizarre, but so what? Is it really the height of satirical humor? Is it really even all that different or more hip than saving the world from a robotic bowler hat in Meet the Robinsons? That’s not to say that the film is entirely unfunny — bits and pieces are hysterical — but it’s all so random and so pleased with itself that it’s hardly worth the bother. —Ken Hanke

Are We Done Yet? (PG) The real question is whether or not Ice Cube’s film career is done yet. Certainly whatever edge he had is out the window. Despite being supposedly based on 1948’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, director Steve Carr’s latest effort bears almost no resemblance to that film. In reality, it’s just an unfunny, lamebrained sequel to Cube’s equally unfunny Are We There Yet?, inflicted on us last year. The main difference here is that Cube as a standard sitcom family man is no longer just a stooge for two smart-mouthed kids but a stooge for all comers. Throw in a few gags about a city guy in the country and a creepy local jack of all trades (John C. McGinley), and you have the perfect recipe for tedium. —Ken Hanke

Blades of Glory (R) Have you seen Anchorman? How about Talladega Nights? Then you’ve seen Blades of Glory. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as rival figure skaters who are banned for life from the sport, only to find a loophole which will allow them to compete as a pair. Ferrell does his patented “Hey, look at me, I’m funny” shtick, and Heder seems to be forever trapped in his Napoleon Dynamite persona. There are a handful of amusing gags, but little that will stay with you once you leave the theatre. —Justin Souther

The Condemned (R) Easily the best of the WWE movies to date, though that’s saying astonishingly little. Pro wrestler Steve “Stone Cold” Austin stars in this actioner from World Wrestling Entertainment Films. The film follows a group of convicts forced to fight to the death so their exploits can be broadcast over the internet. No prizes for guessing the outcome, though your jaw may drop when things stop dead for some preaching about the evils of violence — only to dredge up 20 more minutes of that evil as entertainment. Austin doesn’t embarrass himself, but is wisely never called upon to do more than look grim. Brit character actor Vinnie Jones, on the other hand, has charisma to spare, and again proves that he should be making better movies than this. —Justin Souther

Disturbia (PG-13) If nothing else D.J. Caruso’s Disturbia serves as an object lesson: if you set your goals low enough, you stand a fair chance of reaching them. Assuming that reasonably competent mediocrity was the goal here, Caruso and company have succeeded wildly. There are absolutely no surprises in Disturbia. It is exactly as advertised: a teen-centric variation on Rear Window with a hero under house arrest, a goofy best friend, a girlfriend, a disbelieving mom, unsympathetic cops, and a guy next door who’s a serial killer. It ultimately turns into a Freddy Krueger-lite affair. Fairly efficient at what it does, but nothing exciting. —Ken Hanke

Firehouse Dog (PG) Largely harmless and likely to keep a youngster happily occupied for a couple of hours. Anyone above the age of eight, though, will find little merit in this boorish, clichéd excuse for a family comedy. Hollywood star dog, Rexxx (played by a quartet of canines named Arwen, Frodo, Rohan, and Strider, leading one to assume Bilbo had worms), gets lost when a stunt goes wrong and winds up as the mascot of a rundown fire department, where, of course, he learns to be a “real” dog and saves the day. Embarrassing attempts at broad comedy don’t help, while scenes where Rexxx shits into a stew — or is offered three painted lady poodles to have his way with — make us wonder who the real audience is supposed to be. —Juston Souther

Fracture (PG-13) Essentially a cat and mouse game a la Silence of the Lambs between stars Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Wealthy Ted Crawford (Hopkins) has discovered that wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is unfaithful. So he shoots her (though only enough to put her in a coma), hands over the weapon, confesses to the crime -— and then proceeds to prove how he couldn’t have done it, making a monkey out of hotshot assistant D.A. Willy Beachum (Gosling). It’s entertaining, but it’s also just Hopkins in one of his super intellect roles pitting his giant brain against a seemingly lesser adversary. Gosling even sports a Clarice Starling accent. —Ken Hanke

Grindhouse (R) There’s one-half of a great movie here. Unfortunately, it’s not Quentin Tarantino’s. In an audacious move, Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez partnered to create this sprawling three-plus-hour homage to the kind of exploitation schlock that used to adorn the screens of grindhouse theatres and drive-ins back in the 1970s. The movie is actually a double feature (including faux trailers by the guest directors) of Rodriguez’s splattery zombie flick Planet Terror and Tarantino’s female revenge saga Death Proof. Both are done in crashingly bad taste, but only Rodriguez is completely successful. His entry is fast, funny, absurd, and gross, while Tarantino’s ultimately sinks itself in endless Tarantino-esque dialogues. —Ken Hanke

The Hoax (R) Lasse Hallström’s been the poster boy for tediously respectable awards-season fodder for so long that it was reasonable to assume he would never again come through with a film built on idiosyncratic energy. But last year he went goofy with Casanova, and now here he is, helming the adaptation of Clifford Irving’s infamous adventures as a literary world charlatan. And damned if he doesn’t give The Hoax a quality you couldn’t ascribe to many previous Hallström films: fun. Richard Gere and Alfred Molina head a great cast — Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Marcia Gay Harden, Eli Wallach — but the real star here is Hallström’s direction. Add a wonderfully funky Carter Burwell score, and you’ve got something that rarely loses momentum. —Scott Renshaw

Hot Fuzz (R) From the wildly witty guys who wrote 2004’s Shaun of the Dead — writer-star Simon Pegg and writer-director Edgar Wright — comes Hott Fuzz, and not a moment too soon. There was a palpable sense with Shaun that Pegg and Wright had, in their first feature film, instantly established a signature style, and Fuzz confirms that. It’s its own unique creature — a sendup of buddy cop movies, with no supernatural elements whatsoever — but it’s just as visually lively, just as crammed full of clever and literate wordplay, just as screamingly hilarious as Shaun of the Dead was. —MaryAnn Johanson

In the Land of Women (PG-13) Another Kasdan kid tries his hand at filmmaking. This time it’s Jonathan, with a fairly serious comedy-drama that wants to be Garden State and In Her Shoes, too -— and a bit like dad’s Big Chill while it’s at it. (A sub-Big Chill soundtrack doesn’t help it.) Unfortunately, this story of a young man (Adam Brody) nursing a broken heart by going to Michigan to care for his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) isn’t any of those films, and its Lifetime-style drama about his involvement with the dysfunctional family across the street doesn’t change that. Nice to look at and stars Brody, Dukakis, Kristen Stewart, and Meg Ryan handle it well, but it’d play better on cable. —Ken Hanke

The Invisible (PG-13) Neither a horror picture nor a mystery, despite its tagline, “How do you solve a murder when the victim is you?” (The one horrific scene in the trailer isn’t even in the movie.) Instead, The Invisible is a romantic fantasy propped up with typical life lessons about unlikable characters becoming less unlikable by the end. Troubled teen (Margarita Levieva) thinks snotty rich kid (Justin Chatwin) turned her in for a jewel robbery, so she and her gang beat him up and leave him for dead. Ah, but he’s really in limbo and has to get someone to find him and get help before he goes to the other side — a neat trick, since no one can see or hear him and Lassie’s nowhere in sight. Chances are you won’t care what side of limbo he ends up on. —Ken Hanke

Kickin’ It Old Skool (PG-13) First-time director Harvey Glazer and TV writers Trace Slobotkin, Josh Siegal, and Dylan Morgan have conspired with the breathtakingly untalented Jamie Kennedy to create a brand new genre — the laugh-free comedy. You might think that after Kennedy proved himself capable of emptying every theatres nationwide with Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask, someone would have said, “Enough!” But, no, he’s back as a break-dancer who awakens from 20 years in a coma so he can enter a dance contest, win the girl and save the old homestead. The pathetic ending will have you on the edge of your seat — literally, ready to spring from the theatre as soon as possible. —Ken Hanke

Meet the Robinsons (G) Mildly diverting at best. The hook for this animated sci-fi flick lies in its “Real D” 3-D presentation, at least in theatres that support the format. The effect — a polarized process rather than anaglyphic 3-D — is indeed impressive and makes the film a pleasant novelty. What it doesn’t do is offer much appeal for anyone past the age of experiencing a major loss of social status unless he or she gets the tie-in lunchbox. Anyone else is apt to find the film a lightweight, overstuffed, and undercooked trifle. —Ken Hanke

The Namesake (PG-13) If you’re not a basketcase of sobby, sloppy tears of sadness and joy by the end of The Namesake, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It’s about one young Indian couple and how they dread to watch their American-born children grow up thoroughly American. But it’s really about that compromise that all parents and children negotiate that allows youngsters to be themselves while also honoring all that their ancestors have given them. And it is magnificent, as you would expect from filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair), whose perceptive eye for the tiny, overwhelming moments that make up a life once again creates a tapestry of emotion that is both delicate and gut-wrenching, and that haunts you long after the film is over. —MaryAnn Johanson

Next (PG-13) Despite a title that suggests the saga of a man sitting in a barber shop waiting for an empty chair, Next is actually a preposterous sci-fi yarn from a Philip K. Dick story that asks viewers to accept 1) that Nicolas Cage can see two minutes into the future and 2) that Jessica Biel would sleep with him. Talk about science fiction. Ever since Ridley Scott scored with an adaptation of a Dick story by making Blade Runner, studios have been crazy for Dick (so to speak), trying mostly in vain to duplicate Scott’s success. This one is no better or worse than most, though it may be funnier, especially with its German-accented French-speaking Russian bad guys with a nuclear warhead at the center of things. —Ken Hanke

Pathfinder (R) With its perfect blend of plotlessness and complete lack of characterization, Pathfinder has a good chance of joining such films as The Beastmaster and The Running Man in constant basic cable rotation for the next 10 years. The film centers around Ghost (Karl Urban) a man of Norse decent who was abandoned in North America by a group of Viking invaders as a child. Fifteen year later, he finds himself joining in a fight against another Viking raid. It’s Last of the Mohicans meets The Thirteenth Warrior meets Apocalyto, and the stupidity grows exponentially. For hardcore decapitation fans only. —Justin Souther

Perfect Stranger (PG-13) Here I was, expecting a big-screen version of the old Bronson Pinchot TV series Perfect Strangers and instead I get Halle Berry and Bruce Willis IMing each other (carefully saying aloud everything they type for all the illiterates in the audience), in what is supposed to be a sexy thriller. Problem is, it’s neither sexy nor thrilling. Berry’s a hotshot reporter out to prove that Willis murdered her best friend, meaning of course that she has to seduce him (this is obviously how reporters do things). The big deal — besides the teaming of two stars with zero chemistry — is supposed to be the film’s trick ending, which is not only preposterous, but renders the first 90 minutes meaningless. —Justin Souther

The Reaping (R) “What hath God wrought?” ask the posters for The Reaping. Better we should ask what hath Warner Bros. wrought. Double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank plays a professional debunker of “miracles,” who meets her match when the 10 plagues of Exodus start afflicting a backwater town in Louisiana. Incredibly, it’s even sillier than it sounds, rife with preposterously overwrought performances from all concerned, a comedically serious Mulligan’s stew of rip-offs from other, better, horror movies. —Ken Hanke

Shooter (R) A solid performance from Mark Wahlberg and stylish direction from Antoine Fuqua can’t disguise the fact that Shooter is just an acceptable actioner laboring under the delusion that it’s something altogether more important — which perhaps explains why it’s 20 minutes too long and ends at least three times. Wahlberg plays an embittered ex-Marine sharpshooter who’s tricked into being the fall-guy for a presidential assassination attempt (whoops!), which sends him on the lam and off to prove his innocence, even if that requires blowing up half of America. This odd attempt to create a liberal-minded revenge fantasy never really jells, but it’s not unwatchable. —Ken Hanke

Vacancy (PG-13) To hell with marriage counselling. According to director Nimrod Antal and screenwriter Mark L. Smith, nothing will fix a failed marriage faster than trapping the battling couple in a Roach Motel (“couples check in but they don’t check out”) where they’re slated to star in a snuff movie. Apart from paying for otherwise decent actors Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, the costs here had to be virtually non-existent. Less gory and, thankfully, less inclined toward torture porn than so much modern “horror,” Vacancy is fairly effective at what it does. The problem is it doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before. —Ken Hanke

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