In an effort to provide a thrilling new twist to their legacy, Cinematic Titanic decided to plunge into the cherished vaults of their forefather “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to pluck a feature film to riff anew. Sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? I’m sure eye-bleeding sacrilege to some. However, the results snuff out the initial unsettling vibes, with Cinematic Titanic adding another energetic brew of laughs to their flourishing library.
“Australia” is not a motion picture odyssey for curmudgeons or cynics. Director Baz Luhrmann is stretching for classic movie poses within a film of marathon sweep and locale, and he achieves his lofty goals with this exhaustively enchanting romantic adventure, making the obscene wait between movies (seven years!) seem all the more easy to comprehend. Luhrmann isn’t desperate to rewrite the rules of cinematic spectacle with “Australia,” he only wants to play in the sandbox of yesteryear’s lavish big screen achievements, while drizzling on his own imaginative flourishes.
Since James Bond is currently clogging the pop culture air, allow me this comparison: “Transporter 3” is like watching “Casino Royale” right after heartily enjoying “Moonraker” and “Octopussy.” An attempt to butch the franchise back up after the thickly frosted, logic-free happenings of the last installment, “Transporter 3” actually prefers gloom and doom, thus creating a joyless machine of violence, absent the spark of delirium that made previous efforts barrels of fun.
OK, it’s obvious to me now that Vince Vaughn shouldn’t be let anywhere near screenplays that revolve around Christmas. Perhaps the seasonal fumes cloud his judgment, but for the second year in a row (remember “Fred Claus?”) Vaughn has created a disturbingly frantic holiday comedy that runs itself ragged to achieve laughs, quickly becoming an utter annoyance. I know Vaughn can be a comic dynamo, but good heavens, keep this man away from the holidays.
It’s hard not to feel an attack of the yawns with “I Can’t Think Straight.” After all, it’s a fairly routine story of newfound lesbian rapture told with draggy melodrama and general overemphasis. However, the film is cast well with striking actresses Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth, who provide some needed emotional buoyancy to an otherwise unsuccessful attempt to merge hazardous sexual identity with turbulent world politics.
Perhaps the least likely event movie in the history of cinema, “Twilight,” after a full year of fire-stoking from fangirls of all ages and lung capacity, finally hits screens to greet its adoring followers, leaving the uninitiated on the outside looking in. However, that’s a great place to be when it comes to this impossibly sloppy, incoherent motion picture; the outside leaves plenty of leg room to run screaming from Catherine Hardwicke and her absolute inability to direct a stirring motion picture.
Emerging from Disney’s wounded in-house animation arm, “Bolt” is as routinely arranged a tale as the Mouse House is capable of telling. However, the lack of screenwriting imagination is offset by the inherent charm of the picture, resulting in a pleasing arrangement of CG-animated action set-pieces and slapstick comedy to push “Bolt” beyond the repetitive family film norm.
Only taking a few trips to the Universal Studios Orlando Resort over the last month, it's easy to see construction on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is coming along...just slowly.
The James Bond franchise isn’t known for its employment of top-tier action directors, but the series has made it this far with an agreeable roster of journeymen filmmakers. What I fail to understand is the hiring of Marc Forster to helm the 22nd installment, “Quantum of Solace.” Did I miss the kinetic mayhem of “Monster’s Ball?” The sexual electricity of “Finding Neverland?” The searing emotional complexity of “Stranger Than Fiction?” It floors me that Forster was even allowed to say the name James Bond in public, much less call the shots on this, one of the superspy’s lousiest outings. Yeah, yeah, I know: he’s good with actors. Well, good with actors with a terrible eye for action in a Bond film is a cocktail to be shaken, stirred, and immediately spit out.
Rarely has a film of such visual and narrative confidence come along quite like “Slumdog Millionaire.” Director Danny Boyle’s adaptation of the Vikas Swarup novel “Q and A” is a searing portrait of the human spirit, crafted with such harrowing scenes of peril and heart-wrenching effusion, it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen. It’s a classic story of adversity told with outstanding passion and visual agility, and while it’s housed in a bleak setting populated with some truly vile characters, it’s almost guaranteed to soothe any viewer with a soft spot for beautifully sculpted contrivance.
The documentary “We Are Wizards” opens with activist Carol Matriciana speaking candidly about the effect of the “Harry Potter” series on the malleable brains of children today. The outspoken woman believes “Potter” is a gateway drug to the occult, polluting the minds of the masses that have unknowingly opened themselves up to demonic suggestion, with younger devotees practically handing their future over to Satan with every passing chapter. If you take the remainder of this documentary to heart, it turns out “Harry Potter” might not be quite the harbinger of doom Matriciana would like to believe.
After all the damage Madonna has inflicted on the world with her acting, it’s amazing anyone would allow her the chance to actually direct a motion picture. The upside of “Filth and Wisdom” is that Madonna doesn’t make an appearance onscreen. That’s a huge upside. The downside is that “Filth” is under Madonna’s complete artistic control. She might be music royalty with a striking career of pop culture achievements, but she’s just not meant for big screen glory.
While not his last feature film, the late Bernie Mac is served well by the comedy “Soul Men,” putting in a feral performance that brings out the old Mac we all fell in love with long ago. It’s a shame the movie can’t live up to his spirit, trading comedic momentum for a story nobody is going to care about. Still, the laughs are plentiful for 45 minutes, and that’s all this movie needs to please.
“Role Models” is not a product that needs much effort to be funny. Not only does the comedy troupe “The State” more or less reunite here, but there’s Paul Rudd, the world of LARP, and McLovin’ also stealing screentime. Coming dangerously close to self-parody at times, “Role Models” remains a light but heartily funny diversion, best served with a raucous audience who appreciate a masterful KISS joke when they see one.
Like any improbable sequel, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is a more potent creation when acting as a carefree joke blender than a believable sample of storytelling. As good-naturedly hilarious as the 2005 original film, the sequel suffers only in the freshness department, with filmmakers who really show lackluster confidence on where to take this unexpected franchise. It’s a fine family diversion, but it fails to improve on its predecessor, and there’s something mildly disappointing in that missed opportunity.
I imagine “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” will become required viewing for junior high schools just beginning to explore the history of the Holocaust. The film is an emotional experience highlighting the tragedy of innocence, using the point of view of an eight-year-old German boy to expose the raw psychological devastation of the era. It’s an unnerving film with a knockout punch for an ending, but it feels more acceptable as an educational piece than a profoundly rewarding work of drama.
“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” is a lovely film of small intentions, yet embellished with an enormous heart. It’s a story of a father and a daughter forced to confront their mounting personal unease, yet the picture is far more interested in the mechanics of dialogue, and how interaction with fellow human beings can fill the nagging holes in the soul.
A Christian horror film? Well, I suppose every person with access to plenty of money wants in on the spooky genre these days. Unsurprisingly, “House” fails to supply a sufficient level of fright; the picture seems content to wallow in confusion and convention, removing the novelty of faith to roll around in tired terror clichés and dreadful direction.
With “Synecdoche, New York,” Charlie Kaufman’s imaginative idiosyncrasies calcify into tiresome clichés. A sprawling elegy to death and the art of navel-gazing, Kaufman’s directorial debut is a piece of performance art that drips with intangible meaning, but lacks any sort of drive that compels the viewer to invest in this punishing two hours of furious artistic masturbation. While teeming with unique visuals that challenge the audience, it has finally come to a point where if you’ve seen one Kaufman film, you’ve seen them all.