Charlotte Bronte’s immortal tale of love and separation has seen its fair share of adaptations over the last century of filmed entertainment. Regurgitated time and again for both television and the big screen, “Jane Eyre” has been bled dry, with filmmakers of diverse backgrounds hungry to make their mark on a most celebrated story. Now, director Cary Joji Fukunaga steps up to courageously guide another look at the novel, unearthing something that’s eluded many creative forces throughout the years: A fresh approach.
I’m sure Christians are used to seeing a grand perversion of Christmas at this point, but are they ready to see Easter fully stripped of its religious meaning? “Hop” Santa-fies the holiday to fit standard kid film fixings, turning up the color, unleashing adorable CG-animated characters, and offering impressively dated pop culture references, making a mild matinee ruckus that doesn’t feature much in the way of creative invention or comedic might. However, candyholics and fans of David Hasselhoff will be delighted.
In 2009’s “Moon,” director Duncan Jones found clever ways to refresh sci-fi tropes and instill emotional stakes into a distancing story of isolation. Building on the idea of frustration through separation, Jones keeps the sci-fi and ventures into Hitchcockian thriller territory with “Source Code,” a stunningly crafted suspense tale of alarming surprise and resonance, elevating the young helmer to a level of accomplishment few filmmakers are able to achieve. Winding nail-biting suspense out of pure repetition and moderate existential panic, Jones nails a feverish pitch that takes a bizarre concept and shapes it into exhilarating cinema.
“Insidious” marks a return to the big screen for director James Wan, who debuted in 2004 with the original “Saw” (yep, he’s the one to blame), only to see that success wither away after two follow-up stinkers in the form of 2007’s “Dead Silence” and “Death Sentence.” Making his way back to low-budget spooktaculars, Wan actually makes an appealing ruckus with “Insidious,” a derivative but effective scare machine pulled off with a certain gusto, making the viewing experience a treat for those who enjoy their shock jump cinema.
Bullets, babes, perverts, Euro travel, secret documents, hitmen, car bombs, and testicular torture. Oh my. “Cat Run” doesn’t offer much in the way of thriller invention, but there’s also a scene featured here where dignified actress Janet McTeer faces off against a legless, one-armed D.L. Hughley inside a decrepit porno theater. Now there’s something I’ve never seen before.
“Dogtooth” recalls the wondrous heyday of the Dogme 95 film movement, once spearheaded by Lars von Trier. Though enjoying some degree of polish, “Dogtooth” nevertheless approaches the concept of dehumanization with a gritty, free-flowing tone, permitting the film a genuine sense of surprise. It’s a grotesque illustration of inhumanity and feral instinct, but “Dogtooth” is an absolutely hypnotic motion picture, attaining a nauseating sense of self-destruction in a thrillingly art-house manner that’s been absent from the screen for far too long.
There’s a bit of medical anal play tucked snugly into the first five minutes of the sequel, “Little Fockers.” No greetings and salutations, just boom, right into the butt to give the fanbase exactly what they want. Skillful writing, sharp comedic performance, and endearing domestic reflection are tossed aside here, permitting the picture a wide berth to engage the autopilot function and make these millionaires even richer. Who needs a challenge at this point? Just comedically snake a tube up a stranger’s ass, and watch the box office light up with willing customers.
Michael McGowan’s “One Week” is an inspirational tearjerker that confronts a primal force of life, often triggered when staring into the abyss of the death. A philosophical road move with a serious hard-on for all things Canada, the feature is a patchy but satisfying ride to self-actualization, drinking in marvelous locations and sharing universal fears while setting a musical mood that feels genuinely human until the vein-popping strain of the final act.
“The Scenesters” is a satire of life in East L.A. To fully appreciate its sharpness and sense of history, one needs to be intimately familiar with the inner workings of East L.A., leaving roughly 1% of the potential viewing audience open to the film’s sense of humor and rich environments. For everyone else, the feature is likely to be rejected as a labored, smug, and ultimately inert neo-noir crime comedy, a movie far too wrapped in its own cleverness to engage the viewer with anything above rampaging self-awareness.
Out of all the adventures I’ve enjoyed over the course of this week, I think my introduction to the masturbatory preferences of director Zack Snyder was my least favorite encounter.
It was merely a year ago when the world was introduced to the cinematic incarnation of author Jeff Kinney’s saga of adolescent woe. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was only a moderate hit in the spring of 2010, but it was cheap, crude, and ripe for expansion. Enter “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” the hastily assembled follow-up, which does away with what little passed for legitimate charm the first time around. Of course, fans won’t likely mind, which is exactly what the producers are hoping for.
The CG-animated “Tangled” is perhaps Disney’s most calculated effort since 1997’s “Hercules,” often caught begging for love from every demographic. It’s a gorgeously mounted motion picture with impeccable artistic flair, but there’s something rattling around the engine of this film that doesn’t sit right, a desperation that grows more insistent as the movie motors along. Disney magic gives the feature a satisfying lift, but the ride is rocky, caught between the lights of Broadway and the battering ram comedy tempo of a Looney Tunes production.
Richard O’Barry worked for the Miami Seaquarium in the 1960s, capturing and training dolphins to perform tricks for tourists. O’Barry was also the man who trained “Kathy,” the dolphin that became a sensation on the popular television series, “Flipper.” Lining his pockets while Kathy went about her stunts for the cameras, it soon dawned on O’Barry that something wasn’t right. When Kathy died in his arms after years of rigorous instruction, O’Barry was rocked to his core, refusing the lucrative comfort of future dolphin exploitation to become an activist, preaching a message of freedom for these highly intelligent mammals often cooped up in aquatic cages or worse, as found in an astonishing corner of rural Japan.
2005’s “Waiting” was a lowbrow plunge into the endless ocean of raunchy comedy, finding some merit within its lived-in perspective on the cruel business of being a chain restaurant server. The movie ended up a cult hit, perhaps in great part to its vocational candor. Now the dubious DTV barrel vomits up the sequel, “Still Waiting,” and it’s crushing to observe the follow-up assume a Cro-Magnon comedic vision over an effort to build on the universal eatery frustrations of the original picture.
“How Do You Know” is a James L. Brooks film that plays like a parody of a James L. Brooks film. It’s an overly mannered, emotionally void romantic comedy, ideal for viewers who aren’t on the hunt for common sense when it comes to the oily mechanics of love on the silver screen. Straining to coast on charm, the picture instead belly flops immediately, massively overestimating the appeal of the cast and the tender overtones of the script. Heck, even the camerawork is bungled in this insufferable motion picture. I can’t believe Brooks signed off on it.
I would best describe “Meskada” as an admirable failure. Writer/director Josh Sternfeld aims for a gritty tale of small town dysfunction and criminal paranoia, but his efforts are muddled and the story incomplete, making the feature limp along, in search of something substantial and focused to lean against. While initially moody and raw, the film quickly falls apart.
I wouldn’t classify “Yogi Bear” as a particularly superior movie, but considering the potential for disaster a property like this holds in today’s matinee marketplace, the finished film is far more palatable than expected. In fact, it’s actually pretty darn funny in small portions, tiny enough to fit inside the average pic-a-nic basket.