Film Shorts

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Posted May 20, 2009 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film

OPENING:

brothersbloom3The Brothers Bloom (PG-13) The second film by writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick) stars Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as adopted brothers and con artists who aim to swindle an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz) out of her millions. Also with Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane, Maximilian Schell, and Nora Zehetner. Narrated by Ricky Jay. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Dance Flick (PG-13) The Wayans brothers’ latest parody film takes on recent musicals. Starring Shoshana Bush, Damon Wayans Jr., Essence Atkins, Affion Crockett, Chris Elliott, Christina Murphy, Chelsea Makela, David Alan Grier, Kim Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans, and Amy Sedaris. (Opens Friday)

Every Little Step (PG-13) Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern’s documentary profiles the dancers trying out for the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. Also with Marvin Hamlisch, Charlotte D’Amboise, Jacques D’Amboise, and Donna McKechnie. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Girlfriend Experience (R) Steven Soderbergh’s latest film is about a high-priced Manhattan prostitute (Sasha Grey) who seeks emotional fulfillment for herself while providing it to her clients. Also with Chris Santos, Glenn Kenny, and Tim Davis. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (PG) Ben Stiller returns for this sequel as a museum security guard who must break into the Smithsonian Institute to free two of his friends (Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan). Also with Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Alain Chabat, Jon Bernthal, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, Jay Baruchel, Mindy Kaling, Craig Robinson, and uncredited cameos by Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, and Jonah Hill. Voices by Eugene Levy, Brad Garrett, and Jonas Brothers. (Opens Friday)

Summer Hours (NR) The latest film by Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Clean) stars Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Renier as siblings who deal with their family issues as they dispense with their late mother’s estate. Also with Edith Scob, Dominique Reymond, Valérie Bonneton, Isabelle Sadoyan, and Kyle Eastwood. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING:

Angels & Demons (PG-13) Better than The Da Vinci Code, at least. Tom Hanks returns with a more sensible haircut for this sequel as a Harvard professor who’s called in by the Vatican to use the clues in a set of Bernini sculptures to solve the kidnappings of four cardinals on the eve of a new pope’s election. There’s still too much expositional dialogue, especially at the beginning. Once that’s out of the way, director Ron Howard turns this into a functional action thriller. The story’s religious trappings are so much nonsense, but this is acceptable, if slightly stale, popcorn fare. As a sympathetic priest, Ewan McGregor steals away the acting honors despite his unsteady Irish accent. Also with Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Thure Lindhardt, and Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (PG-13) Matthew McConaughey stars in this pretty bad comedy as a skirt-chaser who’s visited by three ghosts to show him the error of his ways on the eve of his brother’s wedding. The movie’s inspired by A Christmas Carol, though Charles Dickens never pandered to his female readers by pretending that Ebenezer Scrooge could transform into the man of their dreams. The filmmakers pull no punches setting up the main character as a real bastard, but McConaughey’s performance is too similar to what he does in other movies. Worse, the film tells you that inside even the most cynical player, there’s a bruised romantic who needs to be told that it’s OK to feel. Selling a fantasy like that takes more finesse than this movie has. Also with Jennifer Garner, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster, Anne Archer, Daniel Sunjata, Emma Stone, Noureen DeWulf, and Michael Douglas.

Management (PG-13) This looks like a cookie-cutter Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy, and for long stretches that’s exactly what it is. In the last half-hour or so, however, it turns into something more. Aniston plays a business executive whose one-time sex in a motel with the owner’s son (Steve Zahn) becomes a full-fledged romantic relationship. The actress’ offscreen life resembles her character’s to an uncomfortable degree, which serves to distract us from the essential thinness of the story and the staginess of the early scenes. However, she invests her part with real despair that makes this considerably more interesting than Marley & Me or He’s Just Not That Into You. Also with Margo Martindale, Fred Ward, Woody Harrelson, James Hiroyuki Liao, Tzi Ma, Kevin Heffernan, Mark Boone Junior, and an uncredited Josh Lucas.

Next Day Air (R) This satisfying little black comedy (no pun intended) stars Donald Faison as a lazy, weed-smoking package deliveryman who sets off a chain of events when he accidentally delivers a box containing ten bricks of cocaine to the wrong apartment in Philadelphia. The movie isn’t as funny as it could be, and it looks like crap, but first-time filmmaker Benny Boom (who cut his teeth making hip-hop music videos) keeps things spinning up to the blood-soaked conclusion. Might be worth seeing what he can do with a bigger budget. Also with Mike Epps, Mos Def, Wood Harris, Yasmin Deliz, Omari Hardwick, Cisco Reyes, Lauren London, Darius McCrary, and Debbie Allen.

Rudo y Cursi (R) Carlos Cuarón reunites Y Tu Mamá Tambien‘s stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna for this Mexican soccer movie that avoids the conventional traps but falls into some other traps of its own. García Bernal and Luna play half-brothers who become successful soccer players before falling victim to the excesses of fame and money. The film casts a cold glance at the corruption of Mexican sports, and some humorous moments leaven the action. (Check out García Bernal singing “I Want You to Want Me” in a Spanish-language music video.) Still, the movie is filled with too much voiceover narration comparing soccer to life, and none of the plot developments are surprising. This is as formulaic as the Goal! movies, and we don’t even get much soccer action. Also with Guillermo Francella, Dolores Heredia, Jessica Mas, Adriana Paz, and Joaquín Cosio.

17 Again (PG-13) Unexpectedly funny genre picture stars Matthew Perry as a self-loathing 37-year-old named Mike who relives his high-school years after being magically transformed into his 17-year-old self (Zac Efron). A bit fuzzy on Mike’s mid-life crisis, the film nevertheless has a number of terrific lines, Leslie Mann investing all sorts of conviction in the role of Mike’s wife, and a scene-stealing turn by Thomas Lennon as Mike’s tech-geek best friend who poses as his dad and flirts awkwardly with the hot high-school principal (Melora Hardin). Efron’s pretty funny, too – his early career is starting to look like John Travolta’s in his 1970s glory. Watch for the early scene in which Efron and Lennon duel with light-sabers. Also with Michelle Trachtenberg, Allison Miller, Sterling Knight, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jim Gaffigan, Collette Wolfe, and Hunter Parrish.

Sin Nombre (R) This story about illegal Central American immigrants making the train ride through Mexico to the United States is an ethnographic treasure trove; too bad it’s so inert as a piece of drama. Paulina Gaitán plays a 14-year-old Honduran girl who crosses paths with a Mexican gangster (Edgar Flores) who’s on the run from his own gang while on the train ride through Chiapas. The stop-and-start rhythms of life on the rails are keenly observed, and writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga stumbles into some powerful moments. He doesn’t seem to realize, though, what a hackneyed and formulaic story he’s constructed here. The film tries to make a social statement, but it only collapses under the weight of its research. Also with Kristyan Ferrer, Gerardo Taracena, Guillermo Villegas, Tenoch Huerta, and Diana García.

The Soloist (PG-13) Based on Steven Lopez’ best-selling memoir, this drama stars Robert Downey Jr. as a Los Angeles Times columnist who befriends a mentally ill classical cellist (Jamie Foxx) reduced to living on the street. Director Joe Wright (Atonement) does a nice job with the atmosphere of L.A., and the two leads are excellent, especially Downey. However, Wright’s direction too often veers into sentimental excess, and he fails utterly when he tries to capture the homeless man’s madness through experimental cinema techniques. It all adds up to a wildly uneven movie whose bad patches and flights of soaring inspiration come equally thick and fast. Also with Catherine Keener, Nelsan Ellis, Tom Hollander, Stephen Root, Rachael Harris, Jena Malone, and Lisa Gay Hamilton.

Star Trek (PG-13) The funniest sci-fi blockbuster in recent memory, this relaunch of the fabled franchise tells the backstory of Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) as they make their way through Starfleet Academy and earn their stripes fighting a rogue Romulan warrior (Eric Bana). The antic, high-energy Pine and the deadpan Quinto make an effective hot-and-cold comedy team, and the supporting cast contributes mightily to the laughs, especially Simon Pegg as Scotty. The film includes tons of in-jokes for the fanbase, but non-fans will find plenty to enjoy as well, not least the extended action sequence when Kirk and Sulu (John Cho) parachute onto a Romulan drilling platform and tangle with the guards. For a big-ticket event movie, this film’s lightness is refreshing. Also with Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Ben Cross, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, Rachel Nichols, Tyler Perry, Winona Ryder, and Leonard Nimoy.

State of Play (PG-13) Flawed but savvy thriller stars Russell Crowe as a schlubby newspaper reporter who’s forced to investigate a congressman and longtime friend (Ben Affleck) after the murder of a Capitol Hill staffer leads to a Blackwater-like private security contractor. This two-hour film is based on a six-hour BBC TV miniseries, and the compression shortchanges characters like the congressman’s wife (Robin Wright Penn) and a blogger (Rachel McAdams) who helps report the story. Still, the film boasts some wondrous individual performances (including Helen Mirren as the paper’s editor and Jason Bateman as a two-bit publicist), includes some tart asides on the decline of the newspaper industry, covers a great deal of ground efficiently, and delivers enough thrills to make it go down smoothly. Also with Jeff Daniels, Harry Lennix, David Harbour, Michael Berresse, Maria Thayer, Wendy Makkena, Katy Mixon, and Viola Davis.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PG-13) What happens when you take the most badass mutant superhero out of the X-Men soap opera and give him his own feature? A rather tepid movie, unfortunately. The film follows Logan (Hugh Jackman) from sickly boy in the Canadian north in the early 1800s until the 1980s, when he joins a mutant special forces team headed by Col. Stryker (Danny Huston), accompanied by his increasingly vicious half-brother, Victor Creed, a.k.a. Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). The two leads are perfect for their roles, but neither actor really gets the chance to cut loose. Despite a few decent action scenes, the story plods along without a sense of urgency. Focusing on Logan’s work with Stryker instead of his enmity with Sabretooth turns out to be a big mistake. Beloved characters like Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) are trotted out and then not given the treatment they deserve. Too many extraneous characters and shoddy special effects don’t help either. An unfortunate misfire. Also with Lynn Collins, will.i.am, Kevin Durand, and Dominic Monaghan. – Cole Williams

 


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