Movie Reviews – March 2010

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Black Dynamite
Sony Pictures
Street: 02.16
The Wayans Brothers should probably screen Scott Sander’s perfected spoof of 1970s blaxploitation films if they want to discover how the comedic craft is properly executed. After his undercover brother is murdered in cold blood, the smoothest crime fighter this side of the street, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) comes out swinging with vengeance, but not without forgetting to sweet talk every foxy bitch crossing his path. As the funniest parody film delivered in years, White is hysterical as the jive-talking kung-fu kicking badass. The fact that no one breaks character, not even at the most hysterical of moments, is a testament to the dedication and motivation involved in the filmmaking process. Everything from the shifting cinematography and choppy editing to the retro costumes and mellow dialogue make Sanders’ film a flawless tribute. To add icing on the cake, Adrian Younge’s funky soulful soundtrack only solidifies the detailed research that went into this uproarious undertaking. –Jimmy Martin

Cop Out
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 02.26
Director Kevin Smith’s talents have always been stronger in the writing department, so his first attempt at directing an outsider’s script was off to a questionable start from the beginning. His latest film, Cop Out, follows two police officers, Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) & Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan), as they’re put on a 30-day suspension without pay following their participation in a hazardous public shoot out. In order to pay for his daughter’s wedding, a cash-strapped Jimmy decides to sell a rare baseball card, but after it’s stolen in a robbery, the two officers become intertwined with a Latin drug lord/baseball fanatic obsessed with expanding his empire. Smith attempts to deliver an homage to 1980s buddy cop films complete with Harold Faltermeyer’s (composer of the Beverly Hills Cop “Axel F” theme) synthesizer score and the stereotypical enraged police captain, but fails with his lackadaisical approach in direction. To make matters worse, Morgan’s inability to provide improvisational skills for long periods of time increase the sense of boredom paved smoothly throughout the entire production. Who would have guessed co-star Seann William Scott (a.k.a. American Pie’s Stifler) would be the only actor producing a significant amount of laughs as a juvenile, foul-mouthed mimicking cat burglar? –Jimmy Martin

The Crazies
Overture Films
In Theaters: 02.26
In the past year, the zombie genre has gained increasing momentum, and I couldn’t be happier. There’s nothing better than a horrific visual representation of society crumbling in a fiery disaster. While the devastators of this remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 film are not those of the undead, their menacing antics are definitely in the same category. After a military plane crashes in a nearby swamp with mysterious cargo onboard, various residents of the small Iowa community of Ogden Marsh become psychotic killers without explanation. As the chaos escalates and an intense military operation quarantines the township, the local sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell) fight for survival as they make their way to the border. Director Breck Eisner puts a great spin on the genre with these ravenous citizens who hold grudges and place their victims in multiple terrifying predicaments including a thrilling car wash sequence. Olyphant and Mitchell play off each other well as their situation becomes increasingly gruesome. The film does utilize cheap thrills and gags to extract screams from the audience, but not too many to spoil its creative elements. -Jimmy Martin

Dead Snow
IFC Films
Street: 02.23
Straight out of Norway comes the greatest resurrection to a genre since sliced bread…wait, that doesn’t even make sense…fuck it…Nazi Zombies!!! When eight college medical students (four horny males and four sexy females) decide to spend their Easter vacation in an isolated cabin in the mountains with no phone service, rock music, alcohol, and Twister, no good can ever come of it. When a stranger unexpectedly arrives, seeking brief shelter, he informs the rambunctious bunch of the region’s unnerving connection to World War II. Add a barrage of blood-thirsty zombies from the SS and the result includes splattered gelatinous brains, slit throats, exposed intestines, and gallons upon gallons of blood spilled on the glistening white powder. The level of horror surpasses frightening and veers toward absurd, and that’s the point. One can only pray Hollywood doesn’t sink its whetted teeth into the neck of this foreign beauty and develop another turd-tacular replica. -Jimmy Martin

Nirvana Live at Reading
Universal Music Enterprises
Street: 11.3.09
Nirvana’s live performance at the UK’s Reading Music Festival in 1992 has been noted as one of the most significant in the bands history as well as that of the festival itself.  Until now, this performance has only been available as a bootleg.  I was originally planning on just throwing this on in the background while I did some stuff around the house, but I was lured in by my loyal grunge leanings and had to sit and watch the DVD in its entirety.  Re-mastered and colorized and all of that stuff, Kurt Cobain is still gruff and leaving Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl to fend for themselves on stage while he steps off to “do his thing” (he really only takes off twice). The beauty of the grunge scene is you’ve got to be pretty jacked up to really mess up the show, which Kurt did not do.  Performing almost all of Nevermind and taking tracks from In Utero and Bleach, Nirvana is in top form for most of the set.  A “Hendrix-esque” cover of the National Anthem by Cobain provides top-notch background music as Grohl chucks cymbals like Frisbees at his drums and bandmates to make for an amazing ending.  –Ben Trentelman

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 02.12
Anyone denying that the Percy Jackson series is a rip off of J. K. Rowling’s wonder wizard is clearly lying to themselves. Hell, even the director of the first two Harry Potter films, Chris Columbus, helms this first cinematic envisioning of Rick Riordan’s modern Greek mythology escapades. However, seeing that the Potter parade is almost over, a new fantasy franchise is exactly what the doctor ordered. Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is a typical teenager suffering from dyslexia, ADHD and an abusive stepfather, but when it is discovered that Percy is a demigod and the son of Poseidon, the fact he can hold his breath under water for over seven minutes becomes more plausible. Along with this breakthrough, Percy is informed that Zeus’ lighting bolt has been stolen and he is the prime suspect, and if the weapon is not returned within 14 days, a war of epic proportions will erupt on Earth’s surface. With the help of a centaur (Pierce Brosnan), a satyr (Brandon T. Jackson) and a fellow female half-god (Alexandra Daddario), Percy sets out to clear his name and restore order to both realms. Columbus, while using unoriginal yet unavoidable source material, separates himself far enough apart to spark off these new adventures in good graces, but rushes somewhat to diminish the running time. Lerman offers up a fearless interpretation of a rising hero, but it’s the grandiose visual effects that positively overshadow the entire production. –Jimmy Martin

Shutter Island
Paramount Pictures
In Theaters: 02.19
There’s no question whether or not Martin Scorsese is a master filmmaker. His latest project plays out like a Hitchcockian film noir detective story that contains enough twists and turns to make M. Night Shyamalan’s jaw drop. Set in 1954, the film follows an ex-military officer now deputy marshal, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo) who have been assigned to investigate the disappearance of a female patient at a mental institution for the criminally insane. As the investigation slowly progresses despite an unhelpful staff led by the snarky Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the simple missing person case spirals out of control into a multi-layered governmental conspiracy theory where no one can be trusted and reality may not be exactly what it seems. While there are a few middle segments that bog down the pace and a misplaced yet powerful score that cheaply induces suspense, Scorsese does utilize his environment with lighting, camera angles, and sound design (especially the creepiness of silence) to evoke fear in his susceptible audience. Two supporting roles standing out include Michelle Williams as an eerie spiritual guide/DiCapiro’s dead wife and Jackie Earle Haley’s portrayal of a patient of Ward C, the housing for the most violent Shutter Island guests. –Jimmy Martin

Valentine’s Day
New Line Cinema
In Theaters: 02.12
For some directors, it can be a nightmare to control the inflated ego of a Hollywood icon on set, so one can only imagine the headaches Garry Marshall endured while directing the 20+ celebrities starring in his latest romantic comedy, Valentine’s Day. Set during a 24-hour time period in Los Angeles, the film revolves around a series of couples, somehow connected in one way or another, as they endure the Hallmark holiday creation. The stories include a newly engaged couple (Ashton Kutcher & Jessica Alba), fraternizing co-workers (Topher Grace & Anne Hathaway), a superstar quarterback with a secret (Eric Dane), two lovers living a lie (Patrick Dempsey & Jennifer Garner), recently acquainted airline passengers (Bradley Cooper & Julia Roberts), high school virgins (Emma Roberts & Carter Jenkins) and a preachy elderly couple (Hector Elizondo & Shirley MacLaine). The majority of films that cram enough celebrities to perform a rendition of “We Are the World” usually fall flat on their face, and this ensemble romance isn’t an exception. Katherine Fugate’s script fails miserably with its contrived dialogue and cookie cutter storylines, while Marshall follows suit by filling the screen with clip art visuals of love including toddlers kissing and a midget couple walking hand-in-hand. The overabundance of clichéd sweetness will put anyone into a diabetic coma. –Jimmy Martin

The Wolfman
Universal
In Theaters: 02.12
After receiving notice of his brother’s disappearance, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his childhood home in Blackmoor, England only to find out his sibling has been found … in several shredded pieces. As the township blames the local gypsies for the brutal murder, Lawrence visits the gypsy compound to seek out the truth, but during his investigation, he himself is bitten by a savage beast in a vicious attack. After recovering rather quickly with bizarrely heightened senses, Lawrence is notified of his newfound curse that transforms its victims into man-wolf hybrid creatures during full moons. When the news spreads, the parish immediately gathers their pitchforks and torches, but end up in a gory bloodbath. Director Joe Johnston is unsuccessful at providing appealing characters worthy of compassion, which comes across even worse given the actors associated with the film. Anthony Hopkins stands out amongst the cast as Lawrence’s off-putting philosophical father, while the gifted Emily Blunt is left with barely anything to do except periodically shed tears. Nevertheless, the target audience for this classic stylized horror genre, and various newcomers, will be quite satisfied with the gruesome body count and inventive death sequences, and especially with Rick Backer’s unrelenting talent in the makeup department. –Jimmy Martin