Film Shorts

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Posted November 3, 2010 by KRISTIAN LIN in Film

fair-game-movie-reviewOPENING:

Fair Game (PG-13) Doug Liman’s dramatization of the Valerie Plame incident stars Naomi Watts as a CIA spy who is publicly exposed after her husband (Sean Penn) crosses the Bush administration. Also with Ty Burrell, Sam Shepard, Bruce McGill, David Andrews, Noah Emmerich, Michael Kelly, and Brooke Smith. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

A Film Unfinished (R) Yael Hersonski’s documentary about the making of an unreleased Nazi propaganda film purporting to show Jewish life in Warsaw after the invasion. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (NR) Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont’s documentary of the famous, reclusive Canadian pianist. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Inside Job (PG-13) Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) directs this documentary about the financial meltdown of 2008. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Megamind (PG) Animated Disney film is about an alien supervillain (voiced by Will Ferrell) who must find a new purpose in life after finally vanquishing his superhero nemesis (voiced by Brad Pitt). Additional voices by Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Justin Theroux, J.K. Simmons, and Ben Stiller. (Opens Friday)

Monsters (R) Partially filmed in North Texas, Gareth Edwards’ science-fiction film stars Scoot McNairy as a journalist who agrees to escort a tourist (Whitney Able) to a safe zone through an area of Mexico infected by alien creatures. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Tamara Drewe (R) Stephen Frears’ adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ satirical graphic novel stars Gemma Arterton as a London gossip columnist whose return to her country home causes havoc at a nearby writers’ retreat. Also with Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Tamsin Greig, Bill Camp, Luke Evans, and Jessica Barden. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING:

Conviction (R) Hilary Swank’s artistic decline continues in this suffocating, overpraised legal drama. She plays Betty Anne Waters, the real-life Massachusetts high-school dropout who became a lawyer after her brother was wrongly convicted of murder. Tony Goldwyn’s direction is not only dull but sloppy — years of life wink by in a matter of minutes, character introductions and flashbacks are handled confusingly, and subplots are forgotten. Did an editor work on this at all? A few of the actors (especially Sam Rockwell as the brother) distinguish themselves, but rectitude and moral outrage seem to be the only thing Swank can do anymore, which is one reason why this movie topples over into simplistic self-righteousness. Also with Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Loren Dean, Ari Graynor, Clea DuVall, Peter Gallagher, and Juliette Lewis.

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.

Hereafter (PG-13) Clint Eastwood’s depressing dud of a supernatural drama is so woolly-headed that you’re not even sure what the filmmakers were after. Hereafter tells interlocking stories of a bereaved English schoolboy (Frankie and George McLaren), a Frenchwoman who survives a near-death experience (Cécile de France), and an American psychic (Matt Damon) whose gift for communicating with the dead has taken too great a toll on his own psyche. The opening sequence with a tsunami laying waste to a tropical resort is technically impressive and fiercely rhetorical, but the director has no flair for the supernatural. Huge chunks of the movie don’t work, and the romantic tableau that ends the film comes completely out of nowhere. All this movie leaves us with is an unconvincing assertion that things work out for the best. Also with Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind, Thierry Neuvic, Marthe Keller, Steven Schirripa, and Derek Jacobi.

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.


Jackass 3-D
(R) Story? Character development? Artistic ambitions? Who cares! This movie has grown men running through hallways filled with tasers! Johnny Knoxville and the boys reunite for another round of cinematic self-punishment, marking Jackass’ 10th anniversary. You probably already know if you want to see this or not, so let’s say it’s not quite as hilarious as previous versions. Viewers, though, will be smiling and laughing consistently, and the gang’s good humor gives the movie a fun, positive attitude. Highlights include “Beehive Tetherball” and “Sweat Cocktail,” as well as a special introduction from MTV’s most infamous animated duo. –– Cole Williams

ParanormalActivity-2Legend 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.

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

N-Secure (R) Cordell Moore stars in this thriller as a successful man whose romantic relationships lead to murderous intrigue. Also with Essence Atkins, Tempestt Bledsoe, Denise Boutte, Lamman Rucker, Toni Trucks, and Elise Neal.

Paranormal Activity 2 (R) The sequel to last year’s sleeper horror hit is about a family who monitors their security feed after a series of apparent break-ins at their house.

Red (PG-13) This light and airy confection stars Bruce Willis as a retired CIA black-ops guy who’s forced to band together with some of his fellow retirees — and a cubicle drone who gets caught up in the action (Mary-Louise Parker) — when they suddenly become the agency’s targets. Robert Schwentke needed to direct the often physically impossible hijinks in a more cartoonlike style, but he still gives the movie the proper light tone and finds the comedy in these happy warriors put out to pasture. The movie’s full of incidental pleasures, too (like the badassedness of Helen Mirren as she sprays a security detail with submachine gun fire) that make it fun to have around. Also with Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Rebecca Pidgeon, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, and Ernest Borgnine.

Saw 3D (R) Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) returns from the dead again to take advantage of the 3D craze and squeeze more money out of you. Also with Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flanery, Betsy Russell, Gina Holden, Ned Bellamy, and Cary Elwes.

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.

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:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (R) The last installment of the Millennium trilogy stars Noomi Rapace as a private investigator who must prove her innocence in a triple homicide while immobilized in a hospital bed. Also with Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Annika Hallin, Jacob Eriksson, Sofia Ledarp, Anders Ahlbom, and Georgi Staykov.

Stone (R) Edward Norton stars in this thriller as an arsonist who tries to use his wife (Milla Jovovich) to secure early release from a parole officer (Robert De Niro). Also with Frances Conroy, Enver Gjokaj, Pepper Binkley, and Rachel Loiselle.


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