There are a few specialized events I try to never take part in willingly: poetry slams, film festivals, food tastings, and especially haunted houses. Horror is easily consumed on the big screen, where the distance between the macabre and the audience is sufficiently tolerable. Take that dosage of terror and lend it a 360 degree atmosphere, and my fraidy cat heart will inform my legs to immediately sprint the opposite way.
A high-tech paranoia thriller with severe terrorism and patriotism overtones, “Eagle Eye” will be best remembered as the film where director D.J. Caruso sold his soul to the wicked Hollywood machine. An empty calorie, implausible action film with the sort of visual diarrhea most associated with Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, “Eagle Eye” squanders a stunning start on a wheezing screenplay obese with mass stupidity and grand theft movie.
Disney, being Disney, has marketed “Miracle at St. Anna” as something heroic, historically challenging, and action-packed; presenting Spike Lee’s latest film as the African-American counterpart to features such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Flags of Our Fathers.” I’ve seen many cases of outright fraudulent advertising in my day, but “St. Anna” takes the cake. Pushed as a film of astonishing cultural depth, Spike Lee has actually manufactured a picture of numbing constipation, frenzied melodrama, and racial characterization so bitterly one-dimensional, it’s almost impossible to believe the feature isn’t a flat-out cartoon. The real miracle of “St. Anna” is how anyone could stomach such crude filmmaking and blatant disregard for the finer edge of drama.
My beloved readers, this is why they call it “star power.” A shameless, sentimental, sudsy soap opera, “Nights in Rodanthe” is kept animated by the superior work of the cast, who take the surface mentality of the source material and make it a deeply felt, agreeably tragic romantic experience. “Rodanthe” is obvious, but it’s very effective.
Childhood pangs of loneliness and parental discord are important features of the black comedy “Choke.” An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s 2001 novel, the picture is a difficult amalgamation of tones and characters, lacking a needed core, but nevertheless remains an engrossing observation of diseased people engaged in self-loathing behaviors.
Does Diane Keaton owe some loan sharks a considerable amount of cash? Are there incriminating photos of her that she’s insistent never see the light of day? I’m having trouble understanding why Diane Keaton would, over the course of a single year, take part in both “Mama’s Boy” and now “Smother.” Perhaps she was poisoned by merciless Asian gangsters with strict instructions to make two career-denting comedies that methodically peel away her integrity before she was allowed the sweet kiss of a life-saving antidote. Heavens, I hope that’s the impetus behind these recent professional decisions, otherwise Keaton has lost her mind.
Listen, I was no fan of 2006’s sleeping pill “The Illusionist,” but its mild box office success paved a very specific road for director Neil Burger to follow; instead, the filmmaker drives straight into a brick wall of complete incompetence. “The Lucky Ones” might have its heart in the right place trying to soften the image of the average Iraq War soldier, but this is a clumsy, insufferable feature film of excessive formula and embarrassing dramatic development.
It seems marijuana is not only good for laughs, but it can potentially realign the soul. “Humboldt County” is a prosaic drama about escape and immersion in a foreign land, and while the concept of the movie is tuned into all those warm, important questions of purpose, the execution lacks gravity, making the picture one long, slow spiral into melodramatic hogwash.
Earlier this year I extolled the virtues of Blue Bell’s masterful ice cream concoction Anniversary Cake. Well, now it’s been officially yanked off store shelves because Blue Bell apparently hates obscene profit, but I have to congratulate the sweet treat architects: they certainly know how to follow up perfection.
OK, so I’m the last to mention this bit of obviousness: there’s a Harry Potter theme park coming to Universal Studios Orlando in 2010. This isn’t red hot news.
Keira Knightley extravagantly bewigged and tightly corseted is not a sight unfamiliar to the screen. That said, “The Duchess” is a costume melodrama not concerned with familiarity, only passion and how it shaped a momentous moment in English history. “Duchess” takes a dramatic pathway riddled with heavy footprints from previous productions, but the picture is a winner, thanks in no small part to Knightley and her accomplished ability to communicate utter despair with only a faint ripple of her porcelain features.
If it were up to me, I would rather watch Jennifer Love Hewitt run around town conversing with the dead over Ricky Gervais. I mean, he’s an amazingly gifted performer with a razor-sharp wit and sniper-accurate delivery, but if there must be another go-around with the guilt-ridden dead trying to correct their errant ways, I’ll take Hewitt. It’s shallow, but, then again, so is “Ghost Town.”
A routine CG-animated family film offering, “Igor” does have the novelty of being something darker to offer the little ones as the Halloween season begins to creep into view. Embracing monster movie motifs from the classic era of cinema, “Igor” has charm but misses a grand opportunity to evoke the world of James Whale when it would rather crib blatantly from Tim Burton.
Neil LaBute has a lot of apologizing to do after his last picture, 2006’s “Wicker Man” remake, failed at the box office and became the unintentional comedy smash of the last decade. While already surfing an unsteady career of provocative curiosities, “Wicker” sent LaBute’s credibility into the toilet. “Lakeview Terrace” represents only a slight gasp of oxygen for the filmmaker, helming a mediocre suburban thriller absent any of the LaBute touches admirers have come to expect.
In 1999, while the World Trade Organization was preparing for a massive gathering in Seattle to discuss matters of global economics, thousands of protestors of all shapes and incendiary motivations were planning their attacks. With the media spotlight firmly fixed on the city streets, the police and the protesters marched towards war, leaving a turbulent crater in recent history that has not been easily forgotten.
An unofficial remake of the 1962 film “Carnival of Souls,” “Yella” transports the action to modern day Germany, taking a fresh approach on a tattered story of guilt, hostility, and the nightmares the follow us to the very end, and even beyond.
One of the first sounds introduced in the comedy “Surfer, Dude” is a bongo. I couldn’t dream of a more ideal way to start off a Matthew McConaughey vanity film than with a light bongo beat, guaranteeing the picture holds 100% McConaugheyness and that, at some point, the actor was nude during the scoring session. I wish the finished product was as amusing as the behind-the-scenes pot-fueled merriment I imagine took place during production.