Film Shorts

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Posted June 3, 2009 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film

OPENING:

2009_adorationAdoration (R) Atom Egoyan’s latest film is about a high-school student (Devon Bostick) who uses his French class assignment to unearth buried family secrets. Also with Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Kenneth Welsh, Noam Jenkins, Maury Chaykin, and Arsinée Khanjian. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Easy Virtue (PG-13) Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) adapts Noël Coward’s comedy about an American widow (Jessica Biel) who wreaks havoc on an aristocratic British family when she becomes engaged to their son (Ben Barnes). Also with Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth, Kimberley Nixon, Charlotte Riley, and Kris Marshall. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Land of the Lost (PG-13) Based on the 1970s TV show, this fantasy film stars Will Ferrell as a park ranger who’s transported to an alternate dimension filled with strange creatures. Also with Anna Friel, Danny McBride, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Sierra McCormick, and Jorma Taccone. (Opens Friday)

Tennessee (R) Aaron Woodley’s drama stars Adam Rothenberg and Ethan Peck as brothers who go in search of their estranged father. Also with Mariah Carey, Lance Redick, Michele Harris, Melissa Benoist, and Bill Sage. (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.

Dance Flick (PG-13) The Wayans collaborate on this spoof of dance movies. The plot, mimicking those of Save the Last Dance and You Got Served, revolves around white, upper-class Megan (Shoshana Bush), who moves to the ghetto and clicks with one of her neighbors, Thomas (Damon Wayans Jr.), who is preparing for a dance battle to pay off a loan shark. Jokes about dance movies and pop culture and gross-out gags fly at rapid pace but mostly miss — the ones that hit are at most a chuckle. Still, the amiable cast and desire to entertain make Dance Flick less painful than most other bad comedies. Also with Essence Atkins and Affion Crockett. – Cole Williams

Drag Me to Hell (PG-13) Spider-Man director Sam Raimi returns to his outrageous horror roots with this scary and funny B-movie. Alison Lohman stars as Christine, a mousy woman who, in an effort to assert herself at her banking job, ends up foreclosing on an old gypsy woman, who curses Christine with an evil spirit that torments you for three days before … well, see the title? Despite a PG-13 rating and the passage of 17 years since his last horror movie (cult classic Army of Darkness), Raimi hasn’t lost his ability to get audiences to shriek and laugh. The movie drags near the end but generally keeps the scares coming, a welcome effort in a mostly scare-free summer. Also with Justin Long, Loma Raver, and Dileep Rao. – Cole Williams

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.

I Love You, Man (R) This thoroughly charming knockoff of a Judd Apatow comedy is a more persuasive movie about male friendship than Superbad. Paul Rudd plays a real estate salesman who has no close male friends until he meets a fun-loving private investor (Jason Segel) who teaches him to cut loose. The characters are a bit thin, but the two leads have effortless chemistry together, with Segel in surprisingly self-assured form and Rudd pulling off the difficult task of being funny while portraying a character who’s not funny. (His attempt at a cool catchphrase: “Totes magotes.”) Watch for Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly, who steal some laughs as a married couple who are continually resolving their fights through sexual bartering. Also with Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Sarah Burns, Mather Zickel, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, Jay Chandrasekhar, Carla Gallo, Liz Cackowski, J.K. Simmons, and Jane Curtin.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (PG) Mediocrity reigns in this sequel starring Ben Stiller as a security guard-turned-infomercial guru who teams up with Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) to prevent an Egyptian pharaoh (Hank Azaria) from raising an undead army to unleash upon the world. The film’s too scattered to work as a thriller, the comic material isn’t good enough for the actors, and the special effects are thrown at you until your senses overload. As summer movies go, this is pretty weak. Also with Robin Williams, 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.

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 lightsabers. Also with Michelle Trachtenberg, Allison Miller, Sterling Knight, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jim Gaffigan, Collette Wolfe, and Hunter Parrish.

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.

Terminator Salvation (PG-13) After 25 years, we finally find out what John Connor does in the future war against the machines that’s so great. Meh. Christian Bale portrays the grown Connor, while Sam Worthington plays a convicted killer who mysteriously comes back to life and helps Connor’s war effort in unexpected ways. Director McG (the Charlie’s Angels movies) cloaks the visuals in shades of brown and gray, and executes a few lengthy tracking shots that’ll delight any film-school formalist. Too bad he can’t begin to handle the emotional content of this movie, such as it is, and never generates any sense of fear and awe of the killer robots. What should be a dark and terrifying film comes out grim and soulless. Also with Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jadagrace, Common, Michael Ironside, Jane Alexander, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Up (PG) The latest Pixar animated film features an absurd yet somehow logical plot about a 78-year-old retired balloon vendor (voiced by Ed Asner) who attaches enough balloons to his house to sail away to South America, accompanied by an 8-year-old kid (voiced by Jordan Nagai) who’s marooned on his porch. The best part of the film is a deeply moving wordless montage early on, depicting the early married life of its elderly hero. The rest of the movie is a Pixar adventure that’s more lightweight than usual, though no less enjoyable for that. The warmth and simplicity at the heart of this fable are enough to win you over. The film doesn’t even need 3-D to work. Additional voices by Christopher Plummer, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, and John Ratzenberger.

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

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (NR) Sacha Gervasi’s documentary follows the 1980s Canadian heavy metal band in the present day as they return from a European tour and make one last attempt at a comeback.

The 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.

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.

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.

Lemon Tree (NR) Eran Riklis’ drama about a Palestinian widow (Hiam Abbass) who sues the Israeli defense minister (Doron Tavory) after he moves in next door to her and orders her to cut down her lemon orchard. Also with Ali Suliman, Rona Lipaz-Michael, Tarik Kopty, Amos Lavi, and Amnon Wolf.

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.

Valentino: The Last Emperor (NR) Not to be confused with Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, this is Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary portrait of the Italian fashion designer. Also with Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace, Diane von Fürstenburg, Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, André Leon Talley, Claudia Schiffer, and Gwyneth Paltrow.


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