Bringing the hit 1981 fantasy “Clash of the Titans” safely back to the big screen requires a divine touch that can successfully vault past the beloved special effects display of the original film. Of course, what was once handcrafted and painstakingly mounted has been replaced with computer wizardry and polish, making the update a rowdy video game of heroes and villains, only lacking true character. It’s a gorgeous remake from a technical perspective and highlights a handful of magnificent widescreen ideas, but as much as it hustles to be an eye-popping extravaganza (nudged along by a last-minute 3-D conversion to squeeze a few more bucks out of patrons), the new “Clash” is detached and frustratingly cold to the touch.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s not just a motto to author Nicholas Sparks, but the very key to his vast literary fortune. The architect of North Carolina soap operas, Sparks launches another granny shot with “The Last Song,” an absurdly formulaic tearjerker based around the aging appeal of star Miley Cyrus. It’s a fascinating attempt for the former Hannah Montana to edge away from her clownish Disney ways, but even Meryl Streep would be hard-pressed to make something stimulating out of Sparks’s paint-by-numbers storytelling effort.
Reviewed at the 2010 Florida Film Festival
At least in America, the work of director Yimou Zhang has redefined the widescreen scope of the Eastern historical epic, through films such as “Hero,” “House of Flying Daggers,” and “Curse of the Golden Flower.” “The Warlords” isn’t nearly as finely tuned, sumptuously mounted, or dramatically alert. A blunt take on Chinese history crossed with heavy soap opera inclinations, “The Warlords” is certainly forceful, but it only marginally succeeds at pulling the viewer into a state of battle zone fatigue and budding regality, assisted greatly by three tremendous lead performances.
Reviewed at the 2010 Florida Film Festival
Drugs, Judaism, brain-dead intellectualism, and pops of ultraviolence. “Leaves of Grass” isn’t the new film from the Coen Brothers, but don’t mention that little fact to writer/director/co-star Tim Blake Nelson. It appears working with the Coens on the 2000 feature “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” has rubbed off on the filmmaker, who molds a dark comedy in a frighteningly similar manner, minus the godlike tonal control that could shake some sense into this scattershot, criminally unfunny picture.
Grief is such a tricky emotion to handle in film. It’s an elusive sensation, often manifesting itself in resolute silence, which doesn’t always register cleanly for the cameras. “The Greatest” is not a picture of complete quiet, but it’s marvelous when it settles into a hushed mood of introspection and unspoken personal connection; a sweeping feeling of sea change reflected through a trio of splendid actors and their unexpected articulation of mourning.
“Defendor” could be processed either as a dreadful misfire of a black comedy or a semi-brilliant deconstruction of the deranged superhero mindset. It’s a weird picture and not always successful selling its ideas, but it definitely retains a determined personality, making the picture convincing on a fundamental level of cinematic ambition, not execution.
People enjoy heat. I’m not a member of this wet-brow, runny-nose club, but I applaud anyone who dares to confront food that could possibly liquefy them. Doritos isn’t new to the ways of zesty, but they’ve introduced a pair of amplified flavors to help cross-promote Pepsi Max Cease Fire, a “cooling” brand of lime-infused soda eager to make a dent in the marketplace. This coupling of drink and chip is intended to provide the ideal snacking intensity, yet these Doritos retain a bit more snap than anticipated.
When most directors repeat themselves, it’s typically a sign of artistic exhaustion or perhaps unshakable fixation. In Wes Anderson’s case, his visual repetition has become an irresistible thumbprint, and one of the great moviegoing joys I’ve encountered in recent years is the opportunity to watch this supremely gifted filmmaker use his leather-bound imagination to impart varying stories of eccentric outsiders and their enduring emotional wounds, with each film connected by exotic aesthetic degrees of detail-oriented splendor. Now Anderson takes his cinematic language to the hand-woven field of stop-motion animation for “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and, yet again, the filmmaker shapes a breathtaking cinematic marvel; he finds a magnificent home nestled firmly in the luxurious textures of the animation, the dancing vocal performances, and delicious wry tone that makes for stunningly fanciful cinema.
This is a wonderful motion picture. Perhaps Dreamworks, in their frantic need to push the movie to every demographic, has lost sight of the film itself, but abysmal marketing efforts aside, “How to Train Your Dragon” is a rousing success; a soaring, endearing adventure feature that plays smart and fierce. Now stop giving your money to Tim Burton’s wheezy imagination and see something with genuine magic. An actual, effective, multi-dimensional wonderland.
There’s a 15-minute period at the commencement of “Hot Tub Time Machine” where matters feel rather dire: faced with a loopy plot, a competitive cast of comedians, and well, the hot tub, the film proceeds to roll out a series of gross-out jokes and an endless stream of profanity. The effort is to establish a potent tone of vulgarity to prepare the audience for the runaway-boulder-sprint of comedy ahead, sloshing around the chum to see who decides to stick around. For those who elect to ride out the booze-soaked, forked-tongued storm, they receive a startlingly alert, good-natured, borderline poignant slapstick comedy that makes the most out of a one-joke premise.
“Chloe” opens with a clinical description of the female orgasm, and then spends the following 100 minutes displaying increasingly more frenzied examples of it. Director Atom Egoyan returns to his favorite thematic playground with this sexual thriller, working the levers and polishing the knobs on a juicily plotted, tantalizing chiller that cooks in an appealingly heated state of submission to the bitter end.
In Noah Baumbach’s world, there’s not a soul around who isn’t a ball of razor wire just begging to be kicked. “Greenberg” arrives after the astonishing clarity of “The Squid and the Whale” and “Margot at the Wedding,” forming a mesmerizing second-wind career resurgence for the filmmaker, who’s finally sniffed out a meaningful cinematic voice in recent years. “Greenberg” is constructed with a certain determination, but it lacks authority; Baumbach’s concentrated spray of toxin has been reduced to a fine mist, adding up to a film of extraordinary pathology, but only marginal connection.
To its credit, “The Eclipse” is a difficult film to summarize. A bizarre concoction of literary world misery and ghostly visitation, the picture takes its time unfolding, revealing horrors almost by accident as it probes the lives and loves of three characters, each with their own private reservoir of suffering to confront over the course of a long weekend in Ireland.
Fools, gangsters, and a suitcase filled with money. Now there’s a recipe for an exhilarating cinematic adventure, filled with thrills, chills, and the quivering lure of greed. The caper “Ca$h” (the production’s spelling, not mine) offers inept cinematography, stiff performances, and Sean Bean using a kitchen sink sprayer to mimic urination. The picture doesn’t exactly live up to the sizzling potential of the genre.
Craving a gooey shot of pure shameless geekery, I motored over to Orlando’s MegaCon last weekend to drink in the spandex sights and fill my ears with the din of plastic lightsabers. This was my second visit to the area’s most popular sci-fi/comic convention, which was granted a spacious hall to fill for 2010, filling the room with all types of dealers, artists, and celebrities. Excitement was in the air, along with an eye-crossing brew of musty body funk.
“Repo Men” is a gonzo, head-smashing, organ-tearing delight…at least 50% of the time. The rest of the film meanders about, searching to assume some form of significance. It’s a solid ground-rule double from director Miguel Sapochnik, but the picture is not nearly as deranged as it should’ve been, trying urgently to stay friendly when a nice shiny set of Verhoeven-sharp fangs would’ve done the premise more justice.
Within the first five minutes of “The Bounty Hunter,” two different male characters find themselves on the receiving end of a swift jab to the testicles. It’s an achy, sickening feeling sure to be shared by most moviegoers who spend their hard-earned cash on this comatose, exceedingly unfunny caper. More remarkable for the glistening sex appeal of the leading actors than anything found in the excruciatingly labored script, “Bounty Hunter” is an empty calorie, brain dead waste of time.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is an adaptation of the 2007 illustrated bestseller from author Jeff Kinney, and a vociferous motion picture that feels like an endless sugar high. Aggressively irreverent and disappointingly insistent on toilet humor, the picture should’ve remained in book form. Committing it to film only encourages a strident tone I’m sure the source material never intended to produce.