The last time we saw Harry Potter in action, he was engaged in war, suffering a great personal loss that would forever rob him of innocence and compassion toward his enemies. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth film of this long-standing franchise, replaces combat with the electrical storm of teen hormones. It’s not as breakneck a change of pace as it sounds, but the new direction helps to further develop the Hogwarts gang past wands and wonder, finding fertile dramatic ground yet again to raise the stakes as Harry takes his first leap toward the ultimate showdown with his nemesis, Voldemort.
It appears the trilogy is now complete. After creating starring vehicles for his characters Ali G (2002’s “Ali G Indahouse”) and Borat Sagdiyev (2006’s smash “Borat”), the time has come for Sacha Baron Cohen to allow Bruno an opportunity to carry his own picture. “Bruno” will likely be welcomed by an adoring audience fully equipped to endure the traditional blast of Cohen-approved smut and merciless social commentary, especially after “Borat” turned his obscure antics into box office gold. However, don’t hold sudden international success against Cohen’s superb modus operandi, who once again tears into a clueless world seeking to mock, celebrate, and disgust anyone who will welcome him.
Full disclosure: I think Chris Columbus is a wonderful mainstream filmmaker. Perhaps not the most dignified director in the business, but his blockbuster instincts are sharp and his résumé contains some of Hollywood’s most beloved features. Granted, Columbus took a hit with the underrated Broadway adaptation “Rent” four years ago, but who could’ve expected that risky change of pace would lead him to “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” by far the most repellent film Columbus has ever been associated with, not to mention a shoo-in for multiple 2009 worst-of lists. Perhaps Columbus was involved in a hideous car accident recently that left him partially brain damaged, or maybe tragic senility is creeping up on the 51-year-old filmmaker. I simply refuse to believe Columbus willingly created something as monstrously unfunny and schizophrenic as “Cooper.”
Yes, it’s worse than “Bicentennial Man.”
Burning through a film career in the same time it takes some people to shop for car insurance, Lindsay Lohan suffered a major blow two years back when she agreed to star in the laughable thriller, “I Know Who Killed Me.” It was then and there that Ms. Lohan went from a praiseworthy ingénue to a bad actress statistic, effectively killing her screen career through a series of poor artistic and personal choices. “Labor Pains” symbolizes Lohan’s attempt to climb the Hollywood rope all over again, forgoing an interesting, cunning rebirth to make a dreadful sitcom-style film that merely asks her to show up and stand in front of a camera. “Pains” is aptly titled, placing the visibly exhausted star in the center of a motherhood farce that’s miles above her skill level.
The documentary “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” is tender, affectionate, and exceptionally educational. And when I write educational, I mean it: not being a student of classic radio or television, I’d never heard of Gertrude Berg before this film. After watching the documentary on her life, I never want to forget her.
Ahh, yes, there’s no better time of year to issue a film titled “I Hate Valentine’s Day” than the weekend celebrating the Fourth of July holiday. I suppose you could label it clever counterprogramming, but I’m more inclined to consider the release date as the latest in a long series of bad ideas when it comes to this bland, winded motion picture.