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August 8, 2008 at 9:37 a.m.
It has been two years since the summer Tibby, Carmen, Bridget and Lena found the magical pair of jeans that brought them adventure and closer together as friends. The sequel’s story begins the summer after their freshmen year at college. All have taken different paths and are slowly losing touch with one another. This time, Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) learns a valuable lesson about relationships, Carmen (America Ferrera) experiences romance and acting, Lena (Alexis Bledel) faces both tragedy and love and Bridget (Blake Lively) finally gains understanding about her mother.
Like the first movie, this movie brings love, loss, and life lessons to the table, a recipe for typical girl movies. And of course, in the end, everyone is happy. In true “chick flick” tradition, the movie is full of young hot actors cast as the girls’ love interests. New comers Jesse Williams (Leo) and Tom Wisdom (Ia) are not all bad to look at, and Greek hottie, Kostos (Michael Rady) is back — and as handsome as ever.
The acting in this movie is enjoyable and there were several times in which I wondered how the stars were able to converse so normally in each scene. Ferrera is able to be so natural on camera and Tamblyn’s experience and comedic talents shine in this film. Lively comes off as the “rookie” of the film. She is better playing a younger character, much like the one she plays on her hit CW series, Gossip Girl. As a self-professed hater of the over-sarcastic series Gilmore Girls, I’m much happier seeing Bledel as quiet, conservative and kind Lena. I truly felt like I was watching regular girls, just like me, experience the same things I have in the past. I also enjoyed the struggles Lena and Tibby faced in this film because I believe most twenty-something females today can seriously relate to the characters’ feelings, thoughts and problems.
All in all, this movie is definitely one that can be watched again and again. I plan on purchasing it one day to go with the previous one I own. I recommend seeing the first movie to even know half the story line, but chances are, if you’re at this movie, you’ve already seen and are a fan of the first film. - Danae' Stout
See it twice! VVVVV
For movie times, click here.
August 8, 2008 at 9:26 a.m.
First off, if you're not into stoner-action movies, don’t even read this review, much less see the movie.
Now that that’s out of the way, Pineapple Express was highly entertaining and action packed, despite endless references to ganja. Seth Rogen (Superbad, Knocked Up), delivers another convincing performance as Dale Denton, an average-Joe who makes a living issuing subpoenas. Dealer and sidekick, Saul, played by the typically sexy James Franco, took a step back from his smarmy Spiderman days to play a loveable, dirty hippie.
Everything is going swell for the duo until Dale goes to issue a subpoena to a drug dealer and witnesses a brutal murder. He’s so freaked out by the experience that he tosses his fresh joint of 'pineapple express', a new strand of weed he bought from Saul, and books it, hitting a cop car on the way. After some bouts of stoner wisdom, Dale and Saul realize the strain is such a unique joint that it could easily be traced back to them. Hilarity ensues, along with impressive amounts of violence.
Audiences that choose to board the Pineapple Express will experience laughter, some slight de ja vu (if you follow Weeds , pay attention for the Bubbie references), and major attempts at authenticity into the world of smoking weed. While the drug trade comes off more as something out of Scarface rather than Cheech and Chong, it’s apparent that the ‘bad guys’ were supposed to come off as tough, but really end up looking like hams.
Only go see this movie if you want to have a good time, not if you’re looking for Oscar-winning performances or cinematic gold. Pineapple Express definitely delivers on the humor, but not so much on the relationships between characters. Overall, I had a smokin’ good time. - Julie Terry
VVVV - Pay Full Price
For movie times, click here.
August 2, 2008 at 4:14 p.m.
Going into this movie, it's fairly easy to predict what it will involve; a mummy, his tomb and an emperor. However, while the film definitely lacks surprises, you might not have guessed after viewing the its title and trailer that the biggest surprise is the lack of an actual mummy in this film. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, follows the legend of Emperor Han, known better as the Dragon Emperor, who was placed under a curse that turned him into a terra cotta zombie instead of the mummified corpses seen in the last two installments of the film. Once again we follow those crazy O’Connells, Rick and Evelyn (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello), as they fearlessly fight the undead (and un-mummified) and try to repair their stressed family ties in the meantime.
The duo is summoned out of early retirement to serve their government by returning a precious artifact to a Chinese museum. Unbeknownst to them, their son Alex (Luke Ford) has not only dropped out of college, but taken up the family business and discovered the long lost tomb of the great Emperor Han. Ironically, it's Alex’s find that is being exhibited in the museum his parents are delivering their artifact to, and the artifact is the only thing that can waken the emperor from his 2,000 year slumber. Needless to say, the emperor rises, and things get out of hand, fast.
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has all the fun of the original Mummy film: high speed car chases, shootouts with decaying corpses and even Evelyn’s mindless brother Jonathan (John Hannah), but something is missing. Perhaps it’s a little bit of thought. Jonathan, once a favorite wise-cracking character, comes off as annoying and thoughtless, and the rest of the movie seems to have been written in one sitting, with the majority of the lines taking on a clichéd “here we go again” tone.
If you go in with relatively low expectations and an easy-to-please attitude, this film could provide a lovely way to spend a Tuesday afternoon.
August 2, 2008 at 3:39 p.m.
Swing Vote is the story of a man named Bud Johnson, played by Kevin Costner, who finds himself literally centered in American politics. He’s a resident of Texico, New Mexico and a single father whose idea of a loaded ballot is the choice between a day spent fishing or a day spent saddled up at the bar, sipping his favorite cold drink—which just so happens to share his name. His apathetic view of life is trumped only by his love for his daughter Molly, played by Madeline Carroll (Lost, The Santa Clause 3), provided that love doesn’t get in the way of his daily practice of slacking off and drinking beer.
Thinking that doing so will put him on “the fast track to jury duty,” Bud hasn’t even registered to vote. That’s his belief, anyway. In reality, his ambitious 12-year-old-daughter has taken care of it for him. It’s just part of her own routine of playing her father’s concierge: she wakes him up in the morning, cooks his meals and lectures him about his lackluster performance at the egg farm where he works.
So when the presidential election results come rolling in and the nation is locked in a dead heat, it’s New Mexico that’s too close to call. Then it’s Curry County that announces it's split down the center, teetering on a single vote rendered invalid by a computer error: Bud’s.
The film does just fine as a comedy, but gets a little sidetracked when it starts to take itself too seriously. The dramatic subplots could have been left out to make a much better film. The dynamic between Costner and young Carroll is excellent; it will warm your heart and crush it at the same time. Swing Vote is a humorous satire of the carnival the democratic process has become that ultimately accomplishes what it set out to do: tell an inspiring story with a few laughs along the way.
July 26, 2008 at 6:55 p.m.
If you're expecting aliens, the “fluke man”, or some other outer-worldly creature, then X-Files: I Want to Believe may surprise you. Unlike the first X-Files movie, which was released in 1998, this film sticks closer to a more realistic story. Sure, there’s a psychic priest that is a convicted pedophile helping lead the case, but don’t let that fool you. X-Files: I Want to Believe can be best described as a thrilling suspense drama about FBI agents trying to solve a missing persons case and possibly saving the life of a fellow agent in the process.
After a female FBI agent is abducted from her home, current FBI agents Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and Mosley Drummy (Xzibit) seek the help from past X-Files agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) to solve this mysterious case. With few clues and even fewer leads, the team must rely on the help of Father Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly), who claims to see visions of the missing women. Until this case, Scully and Mulder have given up their careers as special agents and are trying to live their lives together as normal people. When an unsolvable case arises, it’s no question that Mulder wants to be involved and believe. As always, Scully is hesitant to believe the visions of Father Crissman and focuses on the facts of the case. Their different opinions cause some problems for the couple, but in the end, nothing brings two people closer together than a near-death experience.
The motive behind the abductions may surprise you, and at an hour and 44 minutes, this movie is filled with suspense and thrills. One of the best things about the film is the X-Files theme music, and the occasional laughs thanks to some witty remarks from Mulder. It’s probably best if you’ve seen the show, but even after nearly six years since the last episode, this movie is worth paying to see. - Danae' Stout
VVV - Make the matinee
July 19, 2008 at 12:05 p.m.
As moviegoers in the midst of the same blood and gore and horror being presented on the big screen, it’s safe to say most people who will walk into a theatre today do so in a pretty desensitized state, indifferent about the nature of a film’s heroes and villains, or lack thereof.
But with a more desensitized audience comes a new breed of villain, one who is utterly terrifying, morally ambivalent and willing to destroy every last strain of virtue in their immediate world. Previous incarnations have included Jack Nicholson’s mobster in The Departed, bounty hunter Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men and Hannibal Lecter almost two decades before.
The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s long-awaited Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight is that villain, perfected for a young audience raised during two Gulf Wars on torture porn flicks (Fight Club, Wanted) and starving for comic-book thrills. Heath Ledger’s final performance is a sock to the collective gut, a psychotic powerhouse capable of shaking even the most unfazed moviegoer out of indifference. He plays through every nervous tick and tongue-flick with painstaking attention to detail, making The Joker simultaneously real and unreal, a contradiction that makes him a truly scary villain. So it goes without saying, this is Ledger’s movie.
But a villain still needs a hero to fight and a city in which to raise hell. And The Dark Knight picks up where we last left our hero (Christian Bale), still taking out mob bosses with the help of gung-ho District Attorney Harvey Dent (a fantastic, well crafted performance from Aaron Eckhart) and pining for Dent’s new flame, his old pal Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal—a definite casting upgrade from Katie Holmes). Enter The Joker, picking off people in an effort to tantalize Batman and reveal his moral flaws, and the struggle between good and evil ensues. This is more than a comic book-movie: the questions raised here, particularly by The Joker, speak volumes about our capability to act as incarnations of good or evil. Just as The Joker is terrifying because any of us, he says, could become him. Batman is an incredible hero because we have the capacity to be him too.
The film, shot mostly in the dead of night in the abandoned Chicago Loop, has a more realistic and intensified urban feel than its predecessor, easily the most effective incarnation of Gotham City yet. No detail, no truck decal, Loop storefront or spark trailing from the BatCycle is overlooked. Even the cosmetic changes are worth noting—Ledger’s malignant clown makeup is a far cry from Jack Nicholson’s goofy grin, and the sleeker, sexier Batsuit is enough to make even the most embittered fans forget about the Bat-nipples (Batman and Robin). And supporting performances from returning cast members Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are all stellar, per usual.
Long story short, believe the hype. Even if the Academy can’t swallow its pride and give proper dues to a comic book movie, at least Ledger’s unmissable performance deserves their recognition.
-- Lindsay Eanet
July 19, 2008 at 12:01 p.m.
Oh my, my, my, Meryl Streep did it to me again! Not since Death Becomes Her have I enjoyed Streep in a role so much. Initially upon seeing the trailers for Mamma Mia! I assumed the movie would be one huge ball of cheese, but I was pleasantly surprised. Never having seen the musical, I was consumed with laughter throughout many random bursts of song and dance.
Young bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is in love and about to marry and longs to know the identity of her father and, on a whim, invites all three possible candidates to her wedding on a remote island in Greece. She romantically believes she’ll know who her father is upon first seeing him and doesn’t tell her mother (Streep) of her master plan. This in turn causes many awkward but hilarious situations (and songs).
The A-list cast consisting of Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth (Love Actually) and Christine Baranski (Cybill) should have been a tip that this movie wasn’t going to suck. Whereas many Broadway-to-the-big-screen movies fail to deliver, Mamma Mia! packs a big punch, despite the occasional weak voice. The original soundtrack, written by ABBA, is backed up by slightly updated screenplay that modern audiences will appreciate.
Adding to the drama to already dramatic plot line is the ever-present Greek chorus of hotel workers, village people, bridesmaids and groomsmen. Providing a constant backdrop, the classic chorus served a really great purpose of reminding the audience of the Grecian setting and irony in the entire situation.
If you go into Mamma Mia! expecting a great time and lots of laughs, you will not be disappointed. It delivers humor on multiple levels and manages to bridge the gap between musical and chick flick, which isn’t always easy to do. Honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.
-- Julie Terry
July 12, 2008 at 12:29 p.m.
Del Toro does it again! With visually stunning fight scenes and creatures that are beyond imagination, this movie proves to be yet another success from director Guillermo del Toro. Unlike most sequels, Hellboy II: The Golden Army delivers a better movie-going experience than the first. With the same key characters that include Hellyboy, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien played by the same actors as the previous, this movie gives audiences that warm fuzzy feeling one gets when seeing an old friend again and promises another magical story from the creative mind of the director. Also, for the ladies out there who are into that long blond haired elf look (remember Legolas from Lord of the Rings?), the bad guy Prince Nuada (Luke Gross) is not too shabby on the eyes - in a very dark sort of way.
In this movie, Hellboy and his crew are still working as agents for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Development while trying to keep a low profile from the public. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is still the same cocky, cat-loving guy that struggles to take orders from his neurotic boss, Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). His relationship with fellow agent Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) has blossomed since the last movie and provides comedic relief as it pokes fun at a typical married couple. Brainiac Abe Sapien also suffers from a bout of the love sick blues in this film after he meets Princess Nuala (Anna Walton).
The plot of this movie surrounds the struggle between humans and supernatural creatures to live together in harmony. In a century long war between man and creatures like ogres, elves, and goblins, a goblin blacksmith creates an indestructible Golden Army of giant mechanical robots for the king of the elves. After an agreement to live at peace is reached between the two sides, a crown, which can control the army, is broken and harmony is reached. That is until the prince decides to take control again. Love, laughs, action and fantasy, Hellboy II: the Golden Army has all genres in one. The movie may be longer than most at a little over two hours, but it is well worth the time. - Danae' Stout
VVVV-Pay Full Price
July 10, 2008 at 12:56 p.m.
The literal English translation of the Korean martial art Tae Kwon Do is “the foot fist way." It's simultaneously a bit goofy in English and a bit profound, the perfect title for a grainy, bare-minimum budget, out-of-its-mind comedy armed only with the wit of unknown actors and writers and the blessings of comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Anchorman).
This quirky, occasionally brilliant train wreck of a film centers on the life of Fred Simmons (newcomer Danny McBride), an oblivious and less-than-competent Tae Kwon Do instructor with an ego the size of Barry Bonds's. The minimal plot surrounds him training his two apprentices, meeting his Chuck Norris-like idol (fellow writer Ben Best), and attempting to save his frayed marriage.
While inconsistent, the talent in this group of writers and actors does begin to emerge. First-time writer and director Jody Hill is a master of the cringe-worthy, is-he-really-saying-or-doing-that-horribly-reprehensible-thing humor that propels television programs like The Office and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. McBride’s commitment to the role in all its god-awful requirements (beating the snot out of a small child, telling a recently-widowed woman she’s “making things awkward”) and ability to generate laughs from said requirements is as astounding as it is discomforting.
The pacing, ultimately, is The Foot Fist Way’s biggest problem, and even a runtime of 85 minutes feels a bit much here. The material seems better suited for smaller chunks (the film itself is divided into five segments, each named for a different tenet of Tae Kwon Do). Had it been a Web short or miniseries on Ferrell and McKay’s comedy Web site, FunnyOrDie.com, it would have easily been a sensation.
Strains to meet the demands of a full-length film aside, there is promise in The Foot Fist Way’s team. Hill has the timing and audacity of McKay and could make equally great films with a bit more practice, and McBride sure as hell isn’t going anywhere. In Tae Kwon Do terms, the film and its crew are at a blue belt—great comic skill, but just a tad shy of true mastery of the art. — Lindsay Eanet
VVV – Make the matinee.
July 10, 2008 at 12:45 p.m.
A beautiful exotic woman is employed in the home of a rich, white, British land developer in India circa 1937. You may think you know where this is going, but don’t start yawning just yet. The love story that evolves between Henry and Sajani turns out to be anything but typical, and quite literally ends up involving the entire village. Before The Rains manages to encompass adultery, intrigue, and British Imperialism in a way that may actually manage to keep more than just women interested.
Set in India on the heels of its revolution from the British, the movie does a wonderful job of juxtaposing the exuberant colors and lifestyle of the natives against the stuffy British with their designer clothes and chauffeured cars. The critique of the times blends well with the undeniably tragic love story and the social consequences that inevitably ensue when two young boys witness an act of passion they never should have.
This is one of those movies that would be good to see after a break up, if you’re feeling lonely, or just have an overly general hatred of men. Henry, played by Linus Roache, to say the least, doesn’t do much to help the greater male cause.
The cinematography and camera angles employed make the film aesthetically appealing to watch. Director Santosh Sivan managed to capture many significant moments in unique ways with creative camera techniques and tight headshots. Beautiful shot-on-location scenes also add increased joy to this flick. — Julie Terry
VVVV – Pay Full Price
July 3, 2008 at 8:30 p.m.
Oh Will Smith, you have come a long way since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Smith takes the holiday weekend by storm in Hancock, a fresh account about what happens to superheroes after they stop being super and start to piss people off.
Smith’s Hancock, a Superman/Batman/Spiderman figure with one asshole of an attitude, comes complete with a huge potty-mouth and absolutely no will to do his job, nonetheless do it right. He spends his days passed out drunk on street benches instead of worrying about protecting Los Angeles from its high crime rate. That is until he meets (rather, rescues) Ray (played by Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman), an unsuccessful PR consultant willing to help change Hancock’s sour taste with the public and make him into a likeable hero again. Add to the mix Charlize Theron as Ray’s demure wife Mary, and you’ve got a recipe for good, messy fun, all within the barely 90-minute movie.
Although the sub-par special effects are a little distracting, Hancock is full of unexpected twists and turns that are designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Bateman lights up the screen with his portrayal of a hard-working, loveable husband, and Theron never hesitates to challenge Smith over and over again. And Smith, God bless him, gives a saving grace performance much like he did in Independence Day, but is also able to give Hancock a heart of gold that you will be rooting for by the end of the movie.
Sure, there are a few bumps in Hancock’s road, but most are smoothed out by the time the credits roll. The mystery of Hancock’s existence is introduced as a back-story but slowly comes full circle by the beginning of the second half. And if the first half-hour doesn’t have you sold, just wait for the hilarious yet did-they-really-just-go-there? scene at the jailhouse that sets the tone that in this movie, anything, and I mean anything, can happen.
Rating: VVVV — Pay full price
June 28, 2008 at 4:30 p.m.
Poor Wesley Gibson is insubstantial. With a hellish cubicle job, cheating girlfriend and uncontrollable anxiety attacks, all he needs to top things off is a secret fraternity of assassins looking to beat him to a bloody pulp and transform him into the perfect weapon in six weeks time. Bloody, wicked and thrilling, Wanted is custom made for the summer action audience.
You know you’re in for a brutal battle when the body count for the opening scene comes in at a cool half dozen. But this is not a typical “shoot ‘em up” action flick. Car chase, check. Gun fights, check. But when was the last time you saw someone cruise a city atop a speeding train to take out an unsuspecting target?
Angelina Jolie plays Fox, an intense, fire-eyed super assassin assigned to transform a humdrum civilian into the top-notch killing machine that lurks in his DNA. The heavily armed, tattooed beauty brutally hazes Wesley (played by James McAvoy), who is being trained to take out the man who killed his father. A father who, coincidentally enough, happened to be one of the greatest assassins of his time and passed down his talents to his only son.
The film is full of moments that will leave you wide eyed and slack jawed. Try as you might to catch your breath during wildly intense scenes, you can’t help but turn to those around you with a look of, “Did that really just happen?” And it did. It is the endless thrill of Wanted from the opening scene to the final moments that tempt you to go back and see it again. And maybe again.
Continuing the trend of Hollywood-ized graphic novels, Wanted is cinematically stimulating and lives up to its “wow” expectations. Containing all the elements of a thrilling action film, it ups the anti, putting a little extra love into its plot and special effects. What could you become in six weeks? Only fate will tell.
VVVV: Pay full price
June 28, 2008 at 12:04 p.m.
Had this film been in the hands of anyone other than Pixar chief John Lasseter and the rest of his crew, WALL-E could have easily been an epic failure: the unsettling portrait it paints of the future and the notable lack of dialogue throughout seem like a combination that would deter the family set. But the film instead uses these potential roadblocks as perfect devices for character development. In the world of WALL-E, whistles, sighs and bleeps speak louder than words.
700 years from now, humans have long since evacuated a decimated Earth for a lush, convenient life aboard a space station. Meanwhile, WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is forced to stay behind and clean up our mess. But WALL-E views his world with a childlike eagerness and intuition, picking up items humans left behind (a paddle ball set, a Rubik’s cube) and seeking solace in an old VHS tape of Hello, Dolly! Our lonely hero falls in love with EVE, a robot sent to look for signs of life on Earth, and proceeds to follow her into space, only to be inadvertently responsible for the fate of Earth itself.
Empathy alone seems to drive this film—despite never saying a word, WALL-E’s sounds and actions carry a range of emotions rarely found in more verbose films; the love story is truly one for the ages, choreographed by Lasseter with a genuine sweetness that only a pair of plucky robots could truly pull off. The film sometimes relies on simple slapstick for humor, but it never feels cheap, not even when WALL-E is run down by a barrage of shopping carts or loses control of a fire extinguisher. Since there are no big-name actors to steal the show, the characters themselves, each simultaneously simple and complex, are the stars. It is a sign of a truly skilled group of filmmakers that a cockroach can become a truly three-dimensional character.
And for what it’s worth, I defy anyone not to melt when WALL-E experiences love at first sight. It’s a movie cliché, but thanks to two robots, it feels more possible than ever.
VVVVV – See it twice!
June 21, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.
Congratulations, America. You have officially become Mike Myers’s bitch.
You have let this once-great Canadian comedian continue to dazzle you with his recycled impersonations and semi-decent dialects until he achieved A-list comedy status. And now, after gaining your admiration and trust, he feels he has free reign to make less-than-mediocre films like The Love Guru because his star power and a hot leading lady (Jessica Alba) are enough to entice audiences. For shame.
This time around, Mike Myers plays the Guru Pitka, a self-help guru bent on becoming the next Deepak Chopra. To achieve his goal, he is summoned to help Darren Roanoke (a gravely underused Romany Malco, 40-Year-Old Virgin), a lovelorn hockey star with a failed marriage and a Stanley Cup on the line at the request of team owner Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba). Guru Pitka must help Roanoke win his ex-girl (Meagan Good) back from a well-endowed rival hockey player (Justin Timberlake), employing lusty elephants, half-baked acronyms (GURU: “Gee, yoU aRe yoU!”) and flatulent noises along the way.
Needless to say, very few ingredients (curry?) in this recycled stew of Myers leftovers yield laughs. Myers plays Pitka with all the color and cheesiness of Bollywood but none of the charm, and Alba lets her looks do the talking where a non-bland performance would have been welcome. The writing relies on an unsavory combination of gratuitous scatological humor (a totally unnecessary urine-soaked mop fight), topical references (Pitka greets followers with the well-known Zen mantra, “Mariska Hargitay.”) and let’s-make-fun-of-the-little-person moments (as if Verne Troyer’s decade as “Mini-Me” wasn’t enough).
Not everything is a loss here, however. Justin Timberlake makes no attempt to take himself seriously and is, as a result, gives one of the few truly funny performances here. But the semblance of redemption for Guru comes in a fantastic supporting appearance from Stephen Colbert as a drug-addled hockey commentator.
So if you must see this movie, wait until it appears in rotation on TBS or as a VH1 "Movies That Rock” marathon, lest you pay to watch Myers butcher a certain Steve Miller Band hit, sitar in hand. Bruce Springsteen would never let him get away with those kinds of shenanigans.
V – Don’t waste your money.
June 21, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.
I half expected to see Michael Scott listed at the top as the credits began to roll in place of Steve Carell's name as the actor behind agent Maxwell Smart. His performance, if you're a fan of his character on NBC's The Office, is stellar in the role as the eager yet inexperienced agent charged with (you guessed it!) stopping a slew of Russian bad guys intent on blowing the world to pieces with stolen nuclear weapons.
The plot seems to develop for the sole purpose of giving Carell a medium in which to make fun of himself, which he is quite good at. With the help of a sexy sidekick, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), and the smooth talking, epitome-of-cool Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Smart pursues the neo-Soviet villains through Russia.
Hathaway gives a generic performance, and the movie barely gives The Rock enough time to wink at the camera, let alone unleash his own comedy. The weak, uninspired supporting cast abandons Carell in the task of making audiences laugh. Get Smart is funnier than Evan Almighty but is significantly more diluted than 40-Year Old-Virgin (which is understandable, considering Virgin's R-rating).
Although the film is little more than yet another entry in the spy movie parody genre, it is nonetheless entertaining. It's a silly, goofball movie that will appeal to teens and 'tweens alike—with plenty of laughs on reserve for the parents who paid for the movie tickets.
VVVV – Pay Full Price
June 14, 2008 at 4:51 p.m.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. After the commercial disaster that was Lady in the Water, who doesn’t want to see M. Night Shyamalan redeem himself with his new writer, director, producer release, The Happening? But this eco-drama falls short of providing viewers the Shyamalan hit they are looking for.
With early promise, the movie gradually loses steam, focusing more on cheesy puns than the psychological horror that should come when your villain is the unlikely Mother Nature. Much is invested in the idea that this is Shyamalan’s premiere R-rated film, but don’t be fooled just yet. While tension builds as humans are one by one struck by "the happening’s" effect, becoming disoriented, freezing in their tracks and ultimately causing their own death via the quickest means possible, it becomes inherently clear that the reason this film is R-rated is simply due to the gross-out factor.
Although viewers might be left asking the question, “So that was a comedy, right?” the film truly becomes horror where Mark Wahlberg’s character is concerned. Wahlberg has proven himself to be more than just a teen heartthrob with films such as Boogie Nights and The Departed, so why is he now being upstaged by John Leguizamo (who appears to be the only believable actor in this film)? It’s apparent that Shyamalan likes his actors to portray their characters a certain way, but what he’s getting at with Wahlberg’s performance is beyond understanding.
While the premise of the film is an interesting and fresh take on the common horror flick, The Happening leaves viewers with the “clenching your teeth, sucking in air” face. The film has the potential to entertain, but not much else. An interesting concept, but ultimately a film perhaps only Al Gore could love.
V - Save your hard-earned money
June 14, 2008 at 10:04 a.m.
With an entirely new cast, a new director and a darker, more sinister (and ripped!) Hulk, Director Louis Leterrier takes the challenge of rebooting the series after the utter disappointment that was Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). From the surface, it looks like we’ve seen this movie before—it still features an unstoppably huge green monster and the confident scientist determined to find a cure for his explosive temper.
Only this time, the movie is a less moody and more faithful adaptation of the comic book series. Edward Norton seems to be the perfect casting choice for the role of Dr. Bruce Banner, the unassuming scientist plagued by the inclination to bust out of his shirt and begin tossing cars like softballs when he gets excited.
The film injects the audience into action from the get-go, assuming that audiences’ have some knowledge of the basic Hulk premise beforehand. The opening credits give a brief, obscure synopsis of the genetic experiment that created the green monster before catching up with the escaped Banner, on the run and hiding deep in Brazil.
The first hour progresses in a wild, Bourne-esque game of cat and mouse, with Banner narrowly escaping the grasp of overzealous bad-guy Emil Bronsky (Tim Roth), a commando determined to do whatever possible to personally ensure Banner has a bad day.
Ultimately the film is a refreshing take on the Hulk saga and a thoroughly entertaining movie. However, its close proximity to the release of Iron Man reduces whatever novelty The Incredible Hulk might have held as the summer’s blockbuster comic book adaptation. As for the previous Hulk movie it replaces, Norton’s Banner seems to sum up the overall attitude when he says in the movie, “I don’t want to control it… I just want to get rid of it.”
VVV - Make the matinee
June 7, 2008 at 11:34 a.m.
There are three things that can truly kill a movie: an overdose of celebrity cameos, a thinly-veiled political allegory and Rob Schneider.
Unfortunately, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan has all three. Aside from the perpetually irritating Schneider (an especially awful caricature of an Arab cab driver), the film uses these to its advantage…sort of. The film attempts to shine a humorous light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The results vary from preachy to overdrawn and mildly offensive to, at rare intervals, good-natured and fun.
Zohan (Adam Sandler) is an Israeli counter-terrorist who fakes his own death to get away from the conflict and moves to New York City to follow his dream: to become a hairstylist. Hilarity ensues (or is supposed to) as he wins success by seducing his clients, fights to keep his identity secret and courts salon owner Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Entourage).
Sandler, sporting jean shorts and an epic array of codpieces, brings his usual ridiculousness to the title role. While he tries to make the film about him, the supporting performances are worth taking notice. Nick Swardson (Reno 911!) is wonderfully awkward as Zohan’s American roommate, and Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) is hilarious as his mother. The celebrity cameos (Mariah Carey and George Takei) are hit-or-miss overall, but Kevin Nealon’s turn as a nervous neighborhood watch volunteer is a highlight.
The writing, despite its Hollywood credentials (Sandler and comedy juggernauts Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow) is fairly witty at times, but ultimately fails to save the film’s far-fetched premise. As a social commentary, the film lacks focus due to a sidebar about how gentrification ruins the cultural fabric of urban America.
On the Sandler spectrum, Zohan is a step above Mr. Deeds and a step below Big Daddy. There are a few funny, even poignant moments: A temporary peace is forged between Israeli and Palestinian men who find common ground in their desire to get intimate with Laura Bush.
VV - Wait for the DVD
June 7, 2008 at 11:11 a.m.
“I’m not a fat panda. I’m the fat panda,” says Po, the kung-fu wannabe panda in DreamWorks’ new film. Kung Fu Panda is not just another mindless animal adventure. Though it does showcase the voices of famous actors like Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, and Jackie Chan, this movie is full of witticisms and actual depth.
Po’s dream of becoming a kung-fu artist contrasts from his daily labor in his father’s noodle shop. The unlikely candidate knows everything about martial arts yet can’t manage to see his own toes.
When widely known and feared Tai Lung escapes jail, it is up to the Dragon Warrior to stop him. Kung-fu master, Shifu, expects one of his students to be awarded the title. The Furious Five: Tigress, Crane, Monkey, Mantis, and Viper (all representing classic kung-fu styles) are stunned when Shifu’s master chooses Po instead. The never-exercised-in-my-life bear joins the ranks and trains in hopes of obtaining the teaching scroll, which is destined for the Dragon Warrior and holds unspeakable power. Master Shifu has little patience for the lazy bear. Yet, China’s future rests in Po’s hands…if only he wasn’t always holding a cookie.
Kung Fu Panda is light, funny and an infectious crowd pleaser. Jack Black is the voice of Po, and doesn’t hold back with his chill-dude attitude. The film separates itself from others that also include mix-matched animal groupings (Madagascar, Over the Hedge) by keeping the script fresh with plenty of pop-culture jokes. It’s about time we see an animated film that is not just for the kids.
It isn’t film perfection, but the visual fireworks and karate action keep you entranced. It’s hard to find an objection to this fast-paced comedy. Even though it’s centered on the “believe in yourself” theme, you can’t help but to fall for the cheesy, yet not overdone, message.
VVV - Make the matinée.