Movie Reviews – February 2011

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Country Strong
Screen Gems
In Theaters: 01.07
I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of country music. Maybe it’s because I could never relate. I never had to shoot my dog or drive a pick-up truck. I did grow up in the South, so maybe the oversaturation of the genre ruined it for me. Either way, there’s one thing a viewer must possess in order to somewhat enjoy Shana Feste’s tale of personal loss and social redemption: An absolute love for country music. A renowned country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) is recklessly brought out early from rehab for an alcohol addiction by her manager/husband (Tim McGraw) in order to reintroduce the world to the rehabilitated superstar. Along for the ride are two aspiring artists (Garrett Hedlund & Leighton Meester), who add emotional drama with their infidelity and head games. As relationships shatter and old habits resurface, the price of stardom begins to take a toll on the former superstar. Feste offers by far the longest commercial for the most boring soundtrack in recent memory. Not one character offers any redeeming values to make the audience interested in witnessing or supporting a powerful and triumphant comeback. To make matters worse, the entire cast has absolutely no stage presence when belting out their vocals. What’s left over is one dreadful concert scene after another with an awkward ensemble cast performing with foolish faces, unsure of their character’s background. –Jimmy Martin

The Dilemma
In Theaters: 01.14
The premise of Ron Howard’s latest project can be related to ABC’s recent ethical experiment series, What Would You Do?, where unsuspecting citizens are placed in awkward situations and analyzed based on their reactions. Situations such as school bullying, spousal abuse and racism have been spotlighted, but the subject of infidelity must have caught Howard’s attention. What would you do if you knew your best friend’s spouse was cheating on them? This is the situation Vince Vaughn finds himself in during this dramedy where an alliance with his best friend (Kevin James) is tested when he discovers the other’s wife (Winona Ryder) is having an affair. The predicament of revealing the truth arrives on the notion that informing his friend could directly hinder a multimillion-dollar contract with an auto company. What’s a friend to do? As much as Vaughn has overplayed the fast-talking salesman character, this time around he actually brings an acceptable amount of heart and soul to a character placed in an unusually uncomfortable situation. Surprisingly (and that word is not be used lightly in the slightest), the funniest performances comes from Channing Tatum as a sensitive tough guy leading the married woman into temptation. Howard does slip into unnecessary sight gags and pratfalls, which is disconcerting to the film’s more demure undertones, but, in the end, offers an interesting conversational piece for viewers to ponder on their drive home. –Jimmy Martin

The Green Hornet
Sony Pictures
In Theaters: 01.14
The wild ride behind the creation of Michel Gondry’s first attempt at helming a superhero epic has been extreme to say the least. From multiple attached directors and villains with Jamaican accents (Thanks Nicolas Cage, but no) to bad publicity based upon the first cut of the film, many were unsure what to expect once Seth Rogen donned the mask with his martial artist chauffeur at his side. In order to bring justice to the crime-ridden city of Los Angeles, the heir to a successful newspaper company (Rogen) partners with his late father’s assistant (Jay Chou) to become two masked vigilantes delivering terror to the corrupted members of society. The brilliance of Gondry can be seen not only through the well-choreographed fight sequences, but also through the inexplicable yet crafty camerawork that still baffles this critic’s mind on how it was achieved. Rogen molds his style of stoner humor around the character to a degree that settles nicely and makes the actor appear more buffoonish rather than heroic, which actually works quite well. Chou hits the big screen with an explosion of kicks, punches and an ability to stand toe-to-toe with his counterpart in a strong comedic fashion. The biggest tragedy, other than Cameron Diaz who essentially offers nothing to the storyline or her character, comes from the lack of utilization of Christoph Waltz, who stars as the film’s antagonist, but isn’t provided with enough material to let him shine properly. –Jimmy Martin

No Strings Attached
In Theaters: 01.21
It’s a concept that has been done time and time again with romantic comedies—two strictly platonic friends attempt to have a physical relationship without the emotional baggage that most affairs come with, but one of the participants inevitably falls for the other and fireworks ensue. Such is the case with Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman). Since childhood, the two acquaintances have had multiple awkward semi-sexual encounters with no results. However, when Adam discovers his actor father (Kevin Kline) is sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, Emma arrives to lick his wounds and other parts of his body as well. Before the sexual situation becomes too serious, the commitment-fearing Emma sets rules so as not to fall into the archetypical relationship. No snuggling, lying, jealousy or staring deeply into each other’s eyes is allowed by any means. While the situation may have an unbelievable beginning, it’s only a matter of time before someone breaks a rule and someone’s heart in the process. Essentially, you have two Hollywood heartthrobs dishing out compliments to each other for 108 minutes, the only problem is Portman has the acting ability to support her charm with comedic timing and authentic heartfelt moments, while Kutcher falls short with only a pair of batting eyelashes. The R-rating allows the cast to deliver a suitable amount of adult humor that is offered by great lineup of supporting characters that include Kline, Greta Gerwig and Lake Bell. –Jimmy Martin

Season of the Witch
Relativity Media
In Theaters: 01.07
There’s an enormous difference between a well-financed Hollywood blockbuster and a project attempting to capture the same adrenaline without the required financial support. Dominic Sena attempts to disguise his low-budget fantasy-horror as a high-end spectacle by pushing the limits with CGI-rendered effects and green screen battle sequences, but his ruse only spotlights the film’s faults and makes the experience more absurd than frightening. In an effort to rid the world of the 14th-century Black Plague, two former crusaders (Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman) are forced by the same church they abandoned to escort a suspected witch to a sacred monastery for a “fair” trial, but the dreaded path to their destination is infested with rough terrain and demonic detours. Accompanying the two warriors is an ensemble of characters with an absurdly predictable order of deaths that’s in direct correlation with whoever is the most boring with the least amount of dialogue. Cage fails miserably at his attempt to portray a valiant soldier, but it’s the overall substandard production value that deserves the majority of this hazing. Shame on Sena for attempting to undersell the audience with shortcuts as simple as sound effects—in particular, a scene in which vicious wolves attack the posse, yet their howls sound eerily similar to Kathleen Turner being tortured slowly. –Jimmy Martin