Film Shorts

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Posted October 13, 2010 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film

OPENING:

MANThe Man From Nowhere (NR) Not to be confused with Nowhere Boy, this Korean crime thriller stars Won Bin as an ex-con who’s caught up when he discovers his neighbor is using her young daughter (Kim Sae-ron) as a drug mule. Also with Kim Tae-hoon, Kim Hee-won, Kim Seong-oh, and Lee Jong-pil. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

I Want Your Money (PG) Ray Griggs’ documentary details the evils of the Obama administration and government bureaucracy. (Opens Friday)

Jackass 3-D (R) Oh yes, Johnny Knoxville and his pals perform more hazardous hijinks, this time in three dimensions. (Opens Friday)

Lovely, Still (PG) Martin Landau stars in this romantic comedy as an old man finding love for the first time. Also with Ellen Burstyn, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Pure Country 2: The Gift (PG) This sequel to the 1992 country music drama reunites director Christopher Cain with George Strait, though he’s relegated to a cameo here. The lead role goes to singer Katrina Elam (a natural screen presence in her first film appearance) as a small-town Kentucky girl who has a meteoric rise and fall in Nashville. The canned melodrama in the script and teeth-rotting inspirational numbers on the soundtrack aren’t nearly as bad as the bizarre running subplot about three angels in heaven (Cheech Marin, Michael McKean, and Bronson Pinchot) who take away her singing voice when she misbehaves. This leads to all sorts of corny dialogue and terrible special effects. This crazily ill-advised move leads what might have been a watchable drama into a spectacular derailment. Also with Travis Fimmel, Jackie Welch, Todd Truley, William Katt, and Dean Cain. (Opens Friday)

NOW PLAYING:

Alpha and Omega (PG) This undistinguished animated film is about a female wolfpack leader-in-waiting (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) and a slacker male wolf from the same pack (voiced by Justin Long) who have to help each other get back home after they’re captured by the park service and relocated to another park far away. There’s nothing terrible about this (except possibly the musical howling sequences). Yet even with a fairly good chase sequence with angry bears, there’s nothing worth going out of one’s way for. Additional voices by Danny Glover, Larry Miller, Vicki Lewis, Eric Price, Chris Carmack, Christina Ricci, and the late Dennis Hopper.

Buried (R) A gimmick in search of a movie. Rodrigo Cortés’ thriller stars Ryan Reynolds as an American supply truck driver in Iraq who comes to after an ambush and finds himself buried alive in a coffin. The director works wonders with the lighting in this film (illuminating the inside of the box with a cigarette lighter, a cell phone, and a flashlight with two different settings at various times), but he can’t do anything creative with the conceit. Worse, his political points about the Iraq war are heavy-handed and obvious. Reynolds gives it all he has, but he can’t act his way out of this box. Also with Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, José Luis García Pérez, and Erik Palladino.

Case 39 (R) Filmed way back in 2006, this supernatural thriller finally receives its much-delayed release now, and it wasn’t worth waiting for. Renée Zellweger stars as a social worker who rescues a 10-year-old girl (Jodelle Ferland) from her murderous parents and adopts her, only to discover that the girl is a demon who can persuade people to kill others or themselves. The movie starts off well enough but then turns extremely silly during a scene where somebody dies being attacked by imaginary hornets. Ferland’s amateurish performance and the fake scares contribute to the overall fraudulence of this piece of junk. Also with Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie, Adrian Lester, Cynthia Stevenson, Kerry O’Malley, and Ian McShane.

Devil (PG-13) This creaky parable about sin and forgiveness is dressed up as a supernatural thriller about a Philadelphia homicide cop (Chris Messina) who watches via a security camera as five passengers trapped in a skyscraper’s elevator (Geoffrey Arend, Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, and Bokeem Woodbine) are mysteriously killed off one at a time by an unseen force. One of the passengers turns out to be a demon — if not Satan him/herself — whose methods are revealed by an insulting stereotype of a religious Latino security guard (Jacob Vargas). Forget the elevator car, it’s the theology in this movie that’s really confining. Also with Matt Craven, Joshua Peace, Joe Cobden, and Caroline Dhavernas.

Easy A (PG-13) Emma Stone’s easy aptitude for charm and comedy carries this comedy. She portrays a virginal high-school student who lies to her fellow students about having sex, initially to impress her best friend (Aly Michalka), then to keep her gay friend (Dan Byrd) from being harassed, and finally to change her own wallflower reputation. The high-powered supporting cast is lively, the script goes to some surprising places, and director Will Gluck’s comic timing is pretty well on. However, it’s the spunky, sparky, sarcastically knowing Stone and her infectious sense of fun that carry this show. Watch for the musical number at a pep rally. Also with Penn Badgley, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Amanda Bynes, Malcolm McDowell, Cam Gigandet, Fred Armisen, Lisa Kudrow, and Thomas Haden Church.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (PG-13) Zach Galifianakis gives a layered, subtle performance in this overly facile mental illness dramedy. Keir Gilchrist stars as a depressed teenager who spends five days in the psych ward of a Brooklyn hospital. Writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) make their bid for mainstream recognition with this uncharacteristically light and conventional film, and unfortunately they wind up trivializing mental illness. Nobody in the ward seems that sick; they’re just sitcom characters hovering in the background and saying crazy things. As a suicidal patient, Galifianakis alone suggests the intractability of his condition while still retaining the ability to laugh at it. If only the rest of the movie had found the same balance. Also with Emma Roberts, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Zoë Kravitz, Jeremy Davies, Lou Myers, Bernard White, Daniel London, and Viola Davis.


Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
(PG) Zack Snyder goes into animation with this adaptation of Kathryn Lasky’s novels about a barn owl (voiced by Jim Sturgess) who goes on an adventure that leads him straight into a war between good and evil owls. The film looks spectacular, with fine visual detail even in the midst of frenzied action sequences, and the largely Australian voice cast tears through their roles. Yet the movie loses steam in its final third, with the hero practically winning the climactic battle singlehanded and an ill-advised song by Owl City killing the movie’s serious, operatic mood. For family entertainment, there’s much worse around. Additional voices by Emily Barclay, Ryan Kwanten, Geoffrey Rush, Joel Edgerton, Anthony LaPaglia, Sam Neill, Barry Otto, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Essie Davis, Deborra-lee Furness, Miriam Margolyes, Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish, and Helen Mirren.

Let-Me-In-new-movie-imageLet Me In (R) Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) directs this amazingly faithful adaptation of the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, with Kodi Smit-McPhee as the bullied 12-year-old kid who falls in love with a seemingly-his-age vampire (Chloë Grace Moretz) who just moved into his apartment complex. Reeves moves the setting to 1980s America, but otherwise retains the original’s sinister, insinuating mood, the most fragile thing about it. Cinematographer Greig Fraser does some gorgeous work with the lighting, and the two lead actors give the central romance an innocence that makes all the bloodshed around them seem more menacing by comparison. It may be only a copy, but it’s a really good one. Also with Richard Jenkins, Dylan Minnette, Sasha Barrese, Cara Buono, Ritchie Coster, and Elias Koteas.

Life As We Know It (PG-13) Pure crap. Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl portray two single professionals who don’t like each other but are forced to take care of a baby girl after her parents — friends of theirs — are killed. This is too long, too busy, and too predictable to even qualify as flawed fun. Director Greg Berlanti doesn’t know how to shift between moods, and the two protagonists demonstrate a lack of feeding and diapering skills that borders on criminal neglect. Somehow this all takes place in an improbably beautiful house. It doesn’t help. Also with Josh Lucas, Sarah Burns, Chanta Rivers, Melissa McCarthy, DeRay Davis, Will Sasso, Majandra Delfino, Hayes MacArthur, and Christina Hendricks. — Jimmy Fowler

My Soul to Take (R) Either Wes Craven is marking time until Scream 4, or he’s well and truly out of ideas. Either way, this latest slasher flick of his fails to cohere on even the most basic levels. Max Thieriot plays one of several teens born on the death date of a famous serial killer in their small town. On the kids’ collective 16th birthday, they all get murdered one by one. Craven borrows so many clichés from other slasher flicks that the film quickly approaches self-parody, and the bad 3-D transfer only makes matters worse. Also with Emily Meade, Frank Grillo, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Jessica Hecht, Dennis Boutsikaris, Raúl Esparza, and Shareeka Epps.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (R) If you’ve seen any zombie movies at all, this one doesn’t show you anything new. Paul W.S. Anderson re-teams with Milla Jovovich, who leads a group of prisoners out of a zombified L.A. to a zombie-free paradise. The filmmakers waste the premise of Alice clones left over from the last installment in favor of a suspenseless setup and uninventive throwing-things-at-the-3D-camera action. It all turns out extremely mediocre. Save your money for the video games. Also with Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Sienna Guillory, Boris Kodjoe, and Wentworth Miller.

Secretariat (PG) Diane Lane stars in this Disneyfied sports flick as Penny Chenery Tweedy, the Denver housewife who saved her father’s horse-breeding farm from financial ruin when her horse won the 1973 Triple Crown. Randall Wallace directs this film in the foursquare house style. John Malkovich steals a few laughs as Secretariat’s flamboyant French-Canadian trainer, but the movie would be instantly forgettable if it weren’t for Penny’s speeches about how a woman can do anything. These bursts of female-empowerment rhetoric are unconvincing and hectoring, and it doesn’t help that Lane is off her game here. Spend your money betting on the horses instead of this movie. Also with Dylan Walsh, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell, Dylan Baker, Kevin Connolly, Margo Martindale, Amanda Michalka, Nelsan Ellis, Otto Thorwarth, and Fred Dalton Thompson.

The Social Network (PG-13) David Fincher’s ridiculously entertaining account of the birth of Facebook stars Jesse Eisenberg as co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Eisenberg  is a marvel, drawing a portrait of a lethally smart troll fueled entirely by resentment. No less impressive are Andrew Garfield as his Harvard pal and Justin Timberlake as a smooth-talking interloper who battle each other for influence over Zuckerberg. Veteran screenwriter Aaron Sorkin packs this movie with funny, quotable lines, and Fincher edits the thing for the right combination of smoothness, energy, and pace. There aren’t any thunderbolts of enlightenment about Facebook or the nature of success, but this old-fashioned piece of fun hits all the right notes. Also with Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara, Josh Pence, Joseph Mazzello, Brenda Song, Wallace Langham, Douglas Urbanski, and Rashida Jones.

The Town (R) Ben Affleck might be a major filmmaker-in-waiting. He directs, co-writes, and stars in this crime thriller as the brains behind a gang of Boston bank robbers who tries to get out after falling for a bank manager (Rebecca Hall) who was taken hostage on a previous job. Adapted from Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, this taut, streamlined film improves on its source considerably. The role calls for Affleck to project self-loathing and disappointment, which he does quite well. He skillfully incorporates comic relief into the script and pays as much attention to character development and his fellow actors’ performances as he does to the action set pieces, which he directs with flair and assurance. This is Michael Mann territory, and Affleck looks completely at home in it. Also with Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine, Owen Burke, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, and Chris Cooper.

Waiting for “Superman” (PG) Why are there quote marks in the title? Davis Guggenheim’s documentary is good at diagnosing the problems in the American education system: decentralized power, lack of accountability, the outdated practice of tracking, and overly powerful teachers’ unions. Yet even if you’re not an education expert, you can still sense the gaps in Guggenheim’s arguments. Is it really impossible to get a good education at a public school, as this movie makes out? Are charter schools really a magic bullet? Most of us would support replacing bad teachers with good ones, but how do we find good ones? Guggenheim pulls dramatic strings expertly, following four underprivileged kids competing in lotteries for space at charter schools, but his movie is too fuzzy to work as a galvanizing call to action. A graphic at the end says, “The problem is complex, the solution is simple.” If only that last part were true.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (PG-13) Why didn’t they call this Gordon Gekko Returns or The Revenge of Gordon Gekko? Michael Douglas returns in Oliver Stone’s sequel as the former financier, now an ex-con and author seeking a reconciliation with his grown daughter (Carey Mulligan) via her fiancé (Shia LaBeouf), an investment banker who wants Gordon’s advice on high finance. The plot is undercut by cheap theatrics, sentimentality, and a scheme by Gordon more transparently crooked than a Nigerian prince’s e-mail. Still, LaBeouf easily embodies the contradictions in his character, and it’s fascinating watching the new Gordon scrap after he’s brought down to our level. Watch for a fierce performance by 94-year-old Eli Wallach as an aged banker. Also with Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, Austin Pendleton, John Bedford Lloyd, Frank Langella, and Charlie Sheen.

You Again (PG) Well, what do you want now? Probably not this horrendous, offensive, degrading comedy starring Kristen Bell as a successful publicist who flips out when she discovers that her brother’s new fiancée (Odette Yustman) is the same girl who used to torment her in high school. The mean-girl bullying in her family turns out to go back several generations, which explains why the women in this film all act like screeching psychotics incapable of rational thought. The issues seem to come from a real place, but the cast is too good for the third-rate script. The exception is Yustman, whose whiny non-acting fits the material just fine. Also with Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Betty White, James Wolk, Victor Garber, Kristin Chenoweth, Billy Unger, Kyle Bornheimer, Patrick Duffy, Cloris Leachman, and an uncredited Dwayne Johnson.

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

I Spit on Your Grave (NR) Sarah Butler stars in this remake of the 1978 slasher flick as a rape victim who takes revenge on her attackers. Also with Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, and Tracey Walter.

Never Let Me Go (R) Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) adapts Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about an English schoolgirl (Carey Mulligan) who realizes that she and her fellow students are clones who have been farmed to donate their vital organs to the world’s population. Also with Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Sally Hawkins, Nathalie Richard, and Charlotte Rampling.


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