Pain flows like a river in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Biutiful.” Actually, a river is too shallow and narrow to accurately convey the level of misery on display here, which plunges to abyssal depths at certain intervals of the film. Why so sad? “Biutiful” doesn’t retain much meaning beside expected explorations of spiritual and personal consequence. Instead, it’s an intermittently striking film with a few immensely effecting moments of catharsis, stretched out over an unnecessarily long running time desperate to hammer home every last twitch of agony.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a motion simulator attraction titled “Star Tours,” born from the imagination of George Lucas and his iconic “Star Wars” franchise. For over two decades, the entertainment experience remained unchanged at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, leaving fans to wonder if the semi-dated attraction would ever see a significant overhaul. After all, being an unabashed tinkerer, why would Lucas leave one of the more vividly imagined forays into his ATM-like empire unmolested? Would “Star Tours” remain the same forever? I mean, honestly, how many times can a person do the trench run before a case of the sleeps sets in?
In 2010, director Scott Stewart brought a dopey apocalyptic action film titled “Legion” to the big screen, which starred Paul Bettany as an agent of God caught in the middle of an unearthly war. For 2011, Stewart throws a curveball with “Priest,” a dopey apocalyptic action film that stars Paul Bettany as an agent of God caught in the middle of an unearthly war. And people say there’s no originality in Hollywood anymore. Well, instead of combative angels in a desert setting, the new feature offers a plague of vampires in a desert setting. Additionally, “Priest” offers its rusty delights in magical 3D, leaving its dreary lifelessness to linger right in front of your eyes!
Red-hot noir meets a college lecture in “The Big Bang,” a distinctive spin on detective dealings that bravely assumes audiences might be more interested in the nuances of physics than any sort of narrative momentum. Energetically acted and scripted with faint pizzazz, the feature simply runs too hot and cold to convince. The movie’s originality is stimulating, but it often cuts into the basic necessities of the mystery genre, pausing the action to tend to monologues concerning time and space. Dames, diamonds, and science -- they don’t exactly form an exhilarating motion picture.
Though it has the early designs to be a head-spinning mystery, “Hesher” is no puzzle. What a disappointment. An abrasive dark comedy that invests more in mood than substance, the picture feeds off an anarchic ambiance of metalhead insight, showing a fist when all it really wants to do is offer a hug. Blowing a glorious opportunity to create substantial psychological mischief, “Hesher” would rather play it safe, though this is hardly a traditional domestic drama.
“Bridesmaids” has more than its share of wonderful moments exploring the ease and crisis support command of female friendships, a sensitive tenor not seen nearly enough on the big screen. In fact, the film is best slipping inside this intimacy, which goes a heck of a lot further than any of the gross-out jokes co-writer/star Kristen Wiig serves up to play to the back row. “Bridesmaids” is a hoot, but it’s also ridiculously overlong and surprisingly unadventurous, almost afraid to pursue its most compelling qualities.
I like Will Ferrell when he slips into serious dramatic actor mode. The creative tidal change suits his abilities, permitting the perennial clown an opportunity to show off his unexpected range. “Everything Must Go” is perhaps Ferrell’s most consistent work as an actor, stepping inside a dubious character enduring the worst week of his life. Though streaks of comedy are present, this is Ferrell crouching in a dark corner, playing a complicated role in an unsteady, though rewarding psychological drama.
Stepping away from serious business (and the lucrative world of Robert Langdon) for a spell, Ron Howard mounts his first comedy in over a decade with “The Dilemma.” True to form, it’s really not much of a comedy at all. Though crudely marketed as a slapstick bonanza to sell some discs, the picture is a far more peculiar machine of anxiety, flavored with only a light dusting of the funny stuff. Howard’s not drilling to the root of infidelity here, but he touches on delicate relationship issues, providing a fascinating, unexpected personality to the picture.
The nauseatingly titled “Cougars, Inc.” comes across like an unfinished movie, with viewers often dropped into scenes already in progress. It’s a mess of characterizations and romantic connections that also wants to register as a raunchy sex comedy, spinning itself dizzy for 79 minutes. I’m not exactly sure what type of film writer/director K. Asher Levin was looking to make, but he’s made all of them, uncomfortably stuffed into a doomed comedy where every character is either suffering from an undiagnosed mental impairment or registers as flat-out repulsive.
It appears writer/director Michael Goldbach really enjoyed Richard Kelly’s 2001 mind-bender, “Donnie Darko.” In fact, he liked it so much, he went out and made a copy for himself, dialing down the sci-fi complexity, but retaining the apocalyptic teen angst routine, performed by a cast of frantic actors who always look bewildered. I can’t blame them, for “Daydream Nation” is an impenetrable, seemingly unfinished saga of love, rage, drugs, and sinister activities, thrown up on the screen all at once. “Donnie Darko” it’s most certainly not, though it finds a few appealing moments underneath the deflating sense of chaos Goldbach is incapable of aiming.
“Last Night” is an account of marital trust put to the test, though it’s not a habitual situation of primitive carnal delights. The picture dares to approach the sensitivity of emotional need, asking difficult questions about infidelity, submitting a disconcerting query: When it comes to wandering eyes and escalating flirtations, what’s the worst offense, sex or love?
With Tyler Perry spending his precious time driving his most popular character into the ground to sustain a hold on African-American entertainment dollars, burgeoning movie mogul T.D. Jakes (“Not Easily Broken”) has selected a softer approach for multiplex dominance, taking on the trials of family and marriage with the charming feature, “Jumping the Broom.”
“Something Borrowed” is a romantic comedy, thus immediately placing its contents outside the border of reality. That whimsy established, this movie is still a total crock. Even by the low standards set by the occasionally nauseating genre, the feature doesn’t play fair, electing to strip a complex situation of romance and friendship free of any human qualities. With all the crude good vs. evil scenarios passed around in this unbearable motion picture, it might as well be a western.
Now here’s a superhero that’s difficult to translate to the big screen. Born of mythology and armed with a magical hammer, Thor isn’t exactly Batman or Iron Man, lacking the brood and the gadgets required to keep viewers in a shadowy mood of fractured valor. To successfully bring the character to cinemas, director Kenneth Branagh has conjured an epic visual experience, infusing “Thor” with the expansive sweep of a comic book and some snappy personality, creating a wildly entertaining yarn that effectively launches the adventures of a new caped crusader (and his trusty hammer).
It’s easy to misjudge the South Korean drama, “Poetry.” From the outside, it might appear as another mawkish tale of self-discovery, with an older woman finally seizing the finer triumphs of the world in the twilight of her life, tasting her surrounding at the very moment it’s all about to be taken away from her. Instead, “Poetry” is a far more pained, unsentimental picture, investigating the commotion raging inside a perplexed grandmother, generating over two hours of spellbinding introspection.