In a year that’s already felt the release of “Meet the Spartans,” it’s telling to write that “Superhero Movie” is in serious contention to be the worst picture of 2008. I mean, a feature would have to be just mind-bogglingly inexcusable to match the crater of awful left behind by “Spartans” in January, yet “Superhero” comes close, too close, to making the race for the bottom a dead-heat.
No matter what the behind-the-scenes politics involved, it’s taken filmmaker Kimberly Peirce nine years to come up with something to follow her 1999 near-masterpiece, “Boys Don’t Cry.” Maybe her vision rusted shut or inflammable passions on the Iraq War clouded her judgment, but “Stop-Loss” is a miscalculated heap of screwy intentions, abysmal acting, and crudely-realized sermonizing.
Adapted from the best-selling novel “Bringing Down the House,” “21” is a slick piece of amusement, cashing in on common fantasies of beating the odds, bedding the blonde, and dodging certain doom with only a few inches to spare. It’s a lively gambling drama that’s far better than it had any right to be, but is kept from greatness by some rotten dramatic choices.
It was expected that after nearly a decade on the blockbuster sitcom “Friends,” star David Schwimmer would have at least some sense of comedic rhythm. However, I never expected the guy to direct a British slapstick comedy. Turns out, he does a pretty swell job.
The California Institute of Technology is known primarily as the home to some of the most intelligent people on the planet, preparing them for lives of extreme innovation and leadership. They also have a basketball squad called the Beavers; a team that hasn’t tasted victory since Ronald Reagan was our president.
“Flawless” doesn’t move the heist genre forward as much as it bathes in the warm waters of the familiar. It’s a solid piece of entertainment, perfect for those who love their thrillers portioned out reasonably and their mysteries easily arranged.
“Blindsight” encapsulates extraordinary feats of bravery and astonishing accomplishments, but remains reined in by the pesky limitations of reality. However anti-climatic the outcome, “Blindsight” is an undeniably engrossing, heart-tugging documentary, rightfully departing at critical intervals from heroics to simply extol the wonders of the spirit.
“The Hammer” reminded me quite a bit of Artie Lange’s “Beer League;” the overall feeling being that to best appreciate the charms of the picture, it helps to be able to stomach the star of the show. Adam Carolla isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the man can sling around an acidic one-liner with the best of them, and his starring debut is a familiar, but persuasively funny brew of clichés and belly laughs.
Last fall it looked as though Tyler Perry finally made some progress as a filmmaker, retaining his screeching smirk of melodrama, but finding human elements to work with in “Why Did I Get Married?” I just knew it wouldn’t last forever, and “Meet the Browns” drags Perry back to the quicksand of laborious storytelling and grandstanding nonsense that’s made him a millionaire, keeping close to his pandering roots out of fear of truly spreading his artistic wings.
I think the international film industry is running out of hiding places bone-white ghost people can leap out of menacingly. We’ve had television sets, cell phones, and now cameras for the new Asian horror remake, “Shutter,” and all these productions are beginning to look the same.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when considering that the best moments within this Owen Wilson comedy are the times when Owen Wilson is nowhere near it. A throwaway experience, “Drillbit Taylor” is undeniably funny, with an aim toward more obscure wells of comedy, but rarely does the star of the show make himself worth the hefty price of admission.
As much as I was satisfied with the new thriller “Boarding Gate,” I wouldn’t dare recommend it to anyone. This is the type of film best left to be stumbled upon late one night when either fatigue or booze has its sweaty grip on you; when hazy images, bizarre notions of human behavior, and muddled logic are better appreciated, or at the very least, more easily tolerated.
It almost feels like slapping a nun to find “Under the Same Moon” distasteful, but this eye-rolling tear-jerker pushes enough social-issue buttons to make any viewer mentally check out 10 minutes in.
There are times when it’s painfully clear that precious drops of life are being wasted, and I experienced one of these moments on March 15th, when I spent the better part of a day blindly chasing around the “Dentmobile,” sent to Phoenix to promote the upcoming Batman sequel, “The Dark Knight.”
(Note: This film was not screened for press)
After creating “Dog Soldiers” and the mesmerizing horror bonanza “The Descent,” writer/director Neil Marshall has built up quite an impressive reservoir of good faith with both fans and critics. He’s a smart filmmaker; a fresh talent working the levers on genres that need every ounce of intelligence they can possibly vacuum up. However, “Doomsday” is a misfire for Marshall; a vivid production giving him a plump budget to pursue his deepest widescreen dreams, yet he loses control of this violent free-for-all immediately after takeoff.
“Chaos Theory” is not a comedy. The marketing folks at Warner Brothers are selling the picture in a way that promises a slapstick enterprise, but that isn’t this movie. “Theory” exists in darker corners, and while there are still plenty of laughs, the feature is much more sincere and crushing than any marketing department could possibly process.
While the memory of Dr. Seuss remains in a troubling state of cinematic rape, “Horton Hears a Who” is by far the most palatable feature-film contribution created so far. Granted, the other options weren’t hard to surpass (“The Grinch,” “Cat in the Hat”), but there’s an askew pop sensibility that rings throughout the picture, making it disposable, but not without ample charm.
I have no problem with Michael Haneke, the confrontational Austrian filmmaker who loves to unsettle his audience. With movies like “Piano Teacher” and “Cache,” Haneke has established himself as an artistic giant willing the plunge the depths of the soul to observe unsettling human behavior and dramatize the peculiarity of response. So, it comes as a disappointment that for his Hollywood debut, he’s decided to remake one of his weaker forays into cattle-prod cinema.
Did you find the “Karate Kid” too challenging? Too cerebral? Too thematically dense? Then “Never Back Down” is the film for you. The cinematic debutante ball for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), the picture is an artistic travesty. I’m not sure why the producers even bothered with a plot.