Movie Reviews – April 2010

Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0

Alice in Wonderland
Disney
In Theaters: 03.05
When Tim Burton announced his intentions to direct Lewis Carroll’s beloved classics, it seemed like the perfect choice … and it was. No other modern-day director could conceive and achieve the stunning visuals necessary to convey Carroll’s wondrous creations. In this visualization of the memorable tale, a teenage Alice (Mia Wasikowska) flees from an unwanted marriage proposal and, in her hastiness, falls into the all-too-familiar rabbit hole. Upon her arrival, the confused guest, unaware of her previous childhood visit, discovers she’s Underland’s prophesized hope for prosperity against the evil Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) and must reunite with an array of peculiar characters to do so including the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), the Blue Caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman) and the odd coupling Tweedledee & Tweedledum (Matt Lucas in a dual role). Burton gathers the usual suspects and strategically utilizes their unusual talents to convey his own quirks and quips. Depp delivers a wildly entertaining schizophrenic Hatter with accents galore, while Carter certainly amuses as the merciless Red Queen. While the epic final confrontation feels shortchanged and ends with a pointless Napoleon Dynamite celebratory dance routine (the only pointless ingredient in the entire film), the costumes are strikingly chic and the special effects are visually gratifying, especially in the case of the charming Cheshire Cat. –Jimmy Martin

The Bounty Hunter
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters: 03.19
Nothing from this dim-witted, stereotypical comedy will be remembered 30 seconds after walking out of the theatre, except for maybe the rancid aftertaste of regret for having endured its multiple failed stabs at humor. Gerald Butler plays Milo, an ex-cop turned bounty hunter who leaps at the opportunity to incarcerate his investigative journalist ex-wife, Nicole, played by the once funny, now tragically dismal Jennifer Aniston, who jumped bail in order to follow a lead involving a suspicious suicide. After a fairly easy capture in Atlantic City, which can only bring wacky trouble to Milo’s gambling addiction, the bickering duo not only encounter the pursuits of a crooked cop, but the idiotic ramblings of Milo’s gangster bookies. For a transport that should only take a little over two hours (Yes, I mapquested it), it’s absurd that the story deemed itself necessary to take over three days. As one predictable scenario is concocted after another, the chemistry between Butler and Aniston remains entirely stagnant until the wonderful sight of credits roll. It’s no surprise the same director of other comedic flops like Hitch and Fool’s Gold would turn in yet another waste of time, but it’s saddening to see these two capable stars subject themselves to this type of romantic debauchery. –Jimmy Martin

Brooklyn’s Finest
Overture Films
In Theaters: 03.05
As much as Martin Scorsese loves mafia films and Michael Bay adores senseless explosions, director Antoine Fuqua seems to be the go-to guy for gritty cop dramas. In his latest film, three NYPD police officers’ lives sporadically intertwine as they walk the fine line between justice and transgression. Eddie (Richard Gere) is a suicidal alcoholic who’s been assigned to train one week before his retirement. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a married father testing his morals in dire need of financial assistance in order to move his growing family out of a mold-infested home. Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover cop hoping to make detective, but begins to lose his grip on reality when asked to arrest a well-known drug dealer who also happens to be a long-time friend (Wesley Snipes). Even though the film incorporates several clichéd cop drama characteristics, the actors discern and utilize the greatest essentials accessible in the script. Hawke successfully transitions from an honorable cop in Fuqua’s 2001 Training Day to a corrupted family man attempting to justify his unlawful actions for the greater good of his loved ones. The running time is entirely too long and the ultimate payoff isn’t the grandiose finale one would hope for, but Fuqua does sustain captivation with an increasing sense of tension and an intriguing foundation of characters. –Jimmy Martin

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 03.19
It’s interesting to see the number of films depicting the horrors of high school when the true origins of these ungodly rituals begin in the forgotten halls of junior high. For three years, these concrete nests are overflowing with hormone-enraged prepubescents eager to take the next step toward adulthood. Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is an overconfident yet scrawny kid who starts his first day of school with a scheme to become the most popular kid by having his name forever etched in the sacred yearbook. In order to do so, he, along with his immature/ambiguously gay friend Rowley (Robert Capron), partakes in a slew of extracurricular activities to only have each ploy backfire, sending him spiraling down the chain of popularity. Coming directly from the horrid Hotel for Dogs, director Thor Freudenthal improves his own reputation with this amusing glimpse at childish capers that captures relatable memories including laughable educational videos, bathroom stalls lacking doors and the banishment of the juvenile phrase “Wanna come over and play?” in reference to hanging out. Coming across as a miniature version of Ferris Bueller or Parker Lewis minus the Ferrari and neon shirts, Gordon does well at playing the self-righteous protagonist, but is surrounded by several more appealing side characters that essentially diminish his screen presence. –Jimmy Martin

The Ghost Writer
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters: 03.05
Say what you will about Roman Polanski’s personal life and 1970s escapades, but no one can deny his talents as a gifted filmmaker. His ability to create suspense with isolation and unnerving deceit is a thing of beauty. Based on Robert Harris’ 2007 novel, The Ghost, the story follows an unnamed ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) who’s been hired to write the memoirs of a former prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) after the former author is inexplicably found dead on the beach. As the newcomer conducts his research on the dishonored ex-politician and a scandal involving his crimes against humanity erupts, mysterious clues surface, placing the scribe’s life in danger. Polanski has skillfully adapted a gripping mystery that embodies an uncanny portrayal of the suspected undertakings between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the United States government, which only heightens the sensation of discomfort. As the leading man, McGregor is terrific as he leads the audience on an enthralling journey into the frightening world of political conspiracy theories where no one can be trusted and escape is all but impossible. Even with the men dominating the majority of screen time, a powerful performance comes unexpectedly from Olivia Williams, as she portrays Brosnan’s stringent and deceptive wife. –Jimmy Martin

Green Zone
Universal
In Theaters: 03.12
I can appreciate the reason why directors and actors collaborate on multiple projects when their relationship is mutually beneficial. Why risk bringing on a shoddy newcomer, when an accredited actor is waiting in the wings? On the other hand, I am not a fan of the same duo executing the same trick over and over, or attempting to disguise their latest endeavor as familiar territory. That said, Paul Greengrass, director of the past two Bourne films, and Matt Damon team up yet again to deliver a critical look at the logic behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but deceive the audience by marketing it as another high-octane action adventure flick. Weeks after the “shock and awe” campaign, U.S. Army officer Roy Miller (Damon) becomes increasingly frustrated after multiple failed attempts to locate WMDs at supposedly confirmed sites. Enraged and confused, Miller takes his suspicions to an unethical Pentagon spokesperson (Greg Kinnear) and an agitated CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson). Ultimately, the apprehensive soldier decides to go rouge and investigate the alleged government’s source material himself. While the producers are pushing it as the fourth Bourne film, it isn’t—but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. The film plays out like a Tom Clancy adaptation with conspiracy theories galore. Action is present somewhat, but the continued use of the shaky cam to induce tension comes across irritating and eventually confusing. –Jimmy Martin

Remember Me
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters: 03.12
Every so often, a film comes along that’s so terrible, anyone responsible for its creation should not only consider an alternative career but an intervention as well. The atrocities that spew off the celluloid of newcomer Will Fetters’ hollow romantic drama are so insulting, future filmmakers should meticulously study his craft to educate themselves on precisely what not to do when directing. This pretentious disaster follows Tyler (Robert Pattinson), a chain smoking rebel with daddy issues who’s wrongfully assaulted by an NYPD officer, and Ally (Emilie de Ravin) a carefree twit with an overprotective father who just so happens to be an aggressive NYPD officer. See the connection? A devious plot of revenge is enacted to date the officer’s daughter, but when it’s discovered they both suffer from personal tragedies, apparently misery loves company. As their relationship blooms, Ally predictably discovers Tyler’s initial motivation behind their first encounter, which inevitably forces the cards to come tumbling down. Not only is the acting set to autopilot for everyone on board, but the by-the-numbers romance supposedly established between Pattison and Ravin is as artificial as they come. What could have been considered a typically awful romantic venture ends up nose-diving into the category of a cinematic disaster when the filmmakers shamelessly exploit a national tragedy to provoke drama for their meaningless production. –Jimmy Martin

Repo Men
Universal
In Theaters: 03.19
Before buying a $12 ticket, it should be made clear that this film is in no way connected to Repo! The Genetic Opera, even though there are multiple similarities, or the 1984 Emilio Estevez comedy, Repo Man. This sci-fi romp, set in the distant future, follows a biotech company that has perfected the science of artificial organ transplants, but with a hefty price tag attached. The majority of the desperate customers are persuaded into outlandish loans, but those who sign up yet refuse to pay after 90 days are assigned a repossession agent to come reclaim their property, no matter the consequences. That‘s where Remy (Jude Law) comes into play. He’s a husband, a father, and the best repo man in the city. However, his wife wants him leave the hazardous yet profitable collections department and transfer into the more stable sales division. Remy reluctantly agrees, but, on his final assignment, an equipment malfunction forces Remy into receiving a heart transplant he can’t afford, especially since the accident opened his eyes to the mayhem the job truly entails. In an effort to retaliate, the outcast partners with a fellow recipient and attempts to bring down the corporation by attacking the headquarters’ mainframe. What starts off as a silly satire soon takes itself too seriously in the second act, but ends on a delightfully bizarre note of gore galore. Law provides an acceptable performance, but it’s Liev Schrieber as the smarmy ruthless businessman who steals the scene whenever present. While not everything works as the filmmakers had hoped, their homages to other classics such as Brazil, Blade Runner and Oldboy do transition into enjoyable visuals on the screen. –Jimmy Martin

Scream of the Bikini
Golightly Productions
Street: 02.19.09
Cleverly marketed as a mid 60’s campy spy thriller that was found and “poorly translated and dubbed by Germans,” Scream of the Bikini is, rather, a modern parody of the above genre. Unfortunately, the cleverest aspect of this film is the conceit set up by the marketing department and the witty paragraph on the back cover that thoroughly fools you into thinking you’re in for an unintentionally funny bit of 60’s era camp.  Had the film itself kept up the ruse, I feel the intended parody would’ve been all the more successful.  However, it’s painfully clear from the opening scene that everyone involved in production is in the business of poking fun at the given schema.  The film is enjoyable for a good number of ‘facepalm’ style laughs, and overall it’s certainly fun and entertaining, which is one good way to measure a parody’s success.  I only wish the performers had been told to take their roles a bit more seriously, so that I could laugh at the film, rather than attempt to laugh with the overly self-aware scenarios. –Jesse Hawlish

She’s Out of My League
Paramount
In Theaters: 03.12
If you’ve ever seen the website HotorNot.com, you’re well aware of the process of ranking complete strangers on a scale of 1 to 10. Everyone has their own system. Blonde hair? Add a point. Gangly teeth? Minus two. Appeared on To Catch a Predator? You get the gist. First-time director Jim Field Smith attempts to emulate the successes of Judd Apatow by showcasing a romance infused comedy with a splash of vulgarity that appeals to both sexes. Scrawny TSA employee, Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel), catches the biggest break of his love life when blonde bombshell Molly (Alice Eve) leaves her cell phone at security and asks him to return it personally. As the polar opposites have both recently escaped hurtful relationships, they discover solace in the other’s unfamiliar presence, but not without a barrage of negative observations from envious friends and family members who relentlessly remind the fortunate dweeb of his “6” ranking compared to her “hard 10” (and the impossibility of jumping more than two spots). While the simple storyline is nothing new, Smith leads the actors, especially the supporting cast, in forming an undeniable comedic chemistry that increases the believability of such a preposterous premise. As much as you want the little guy to win, you’ll also stand loyally by the hilariously enraged outsiders screaming, “How has God let his happen?!?” and “Why not me?” –Jimmy Martin