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March 2008 Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 03/16/2008

Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in March of 2008.  Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.

Go directly to my reviews of College Road Trip, The Bank Job, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, 10,000 B.C., Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, Never Back Down, Doomsday, Funny Games, Chicago 10, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Drillbit Taylor, Shutter, Under the Same Moon, Run, Fatboy, Run, 21, Superhero Movie, and Stop-Loss.

College Road Trip Review

Martin Lawrence is venturing down the path of kiddie flicks that his mentor Eddie Murphy forged…and he does an okay job at it.  James Porter (Lawrence), the police chief of Fox Springs (a suburb of Chicago), is the overprotective father of his 17-year-old daughter Melanie (Raven-Symoné.)  In his mind, the worst day in a father’s life is not when he gives away his daughter to her future husband…it’s the day she leaves for college.  He wants Melanie to go to Northwestern University, which is 40 miles away (he clocked it at 28 minutes driving time.)  She wants to go to Georgetown University in Washington D.C. because it has a great pre-law program (she desires to be a defense attorney)…but it is 700 miles away.  James’ wife, Michelle (Kym E. Whitley), has to be the referee between the two while Melanie’s younger brother, 10-year-old genius Trey (Eshaya Draper) is trying to train his baby pig Albert to play chess and do other things, like become potty-trained and complete a Rubik’s Cube (Albert also hacks into James’ computer, which seriously creeps him out.)  When Melanie finds out that she has an interview in a few days at Georgetown, she is extremely excited, because she is going to drive there for a tour of other colleges with her best friends, Nancy (Brenda Song) and Katie (Margo Harshman), ending at the interview.  James decides to be the one to drive her instead in order to protect her (and possibly convince her to go to Northwestern.)  Melanie is ticked off, but she is still determined to go to Georgetown anyway.  What follows is your typical road trip flick, complete with your expected complications.  For one…Trey and Albert stow away in James’ police cruiser (Trey wants to show Albert off to the powers-that-be in D.C. that the pig would be a useful tool for them), and second…they accidentally flip the cruiser over, thanks to an ineffective GPS system.)  They meet and travel with a way-too-perky dad Doug Greenhut (Donny Osmond) and his equally overenthusiastic daughter, Wendy (Molly Ephraim) as they make their own college road trip.  Along the way, James tries to figure out how he can let his baby girl grow up, including hearing some sane advice from his not-so-elderly mother (Arnetia Walker) on how to let her go.  There aren’t any surprises in the movie, but for a Disney family film, it does its job well.  It’s Lawrence’s first G-rated movie (even his two previous attempts at family films, 2005’s basketball flick Rebound and 2006’s animated talking-animal movie Open Season, were both rated PG), and he manages to be funny without being overly sappy (leave the hilarious sap to the almost creepy performance of former teen heartthrob Osmond.)  Raven is a long way from being the cute little girl Olivia from NBC’s “The Cosby Show,” but she is essentially doing a theatrical version of a movie that would have easily aired on the Disney Channel (since she appeared in her own TV show called “That’s So Raven” and two “Cheetah Girls” TV movies for the channel anyway.)  Lawrence and Raven have believable chemistry as a father and daughter, though I would have been more amused to see him be even more overprotective (which might have raised the parental rating.)  I wouldn’t recommend paying full price to see the movie, unless you are a hardcore Lawrence fan (and if you are, I recommend Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins as an alternative), but if you are the parent of a pre-teen kid, you won’t be bored watching it with them.


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The Bank Job Review

Terry Leather (Jason Statham) is the owner of a used car dealership in London in 1971…but he also happens to be a small-time criminal.  He made a promise to his wife Wendy (Keeley Hawes) and their two daughters, Catherine (Taelor Samways) and Julie (Kasey Baterip), to get out of the crime business, but he is still struggling financially.  He owes a lot of money to Jack Jessell (Trevor Byfield), and his thugs, Pinky (Les Kenny-Green) and Perky (James Kenna), come around to try to collect in a not very friendly way.  Good luck comes his way though when his former lover, model Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), gives him a tip on a major security lapse at the Baker Street branch of Lloyd’s Bank in London.  They are shutting down the alarms for a few days to fix a glitch in the system…which is a perfect time to tunnel in and steal what they want from it.  She doesn’t tell Terry that she has given him this information because she was blackmailed into working with MI-5 after being busted at Heathrow Airport on a drug charge.  What she doesn’t know is that the blackmail was set up by Tim Everett (Richard Lintern), an operative with Britain’s MI-5 intelligence agency who Martine has been having an affair with.  The government wants to get a hold of some salacious photos of Princess Margaret currently in the safe deposit box a Lloyd’s Bank of Michael X (Peter De Jersey), a Caribbean drug lord and black power figure who has been using them to blackmail MI-5 from interfering in his business.  Tim found out the location of the photos being in the safe deposit box because one of its undercover agents, Gale Benson (Hattie Morahan), has secretly positioned herself to become the lover to Michael X’s associate, black power author and radical activist Hakim Jamal (Colin Salmon.)  Terry assembles his small-time criminal friends to do the job.  Amateur porn actor Dave Shilling (Daniel Mays) and photographer Kevin Swain (Stephen Campbell Moore) begin assembling their team.  Tunnel expert Bambas (Alki David) will tunnel underneath a chicken fast-food restaurant from a failed leather-goods shop two doors down…which was leased by Guy Singer (James Faulkner)…while Eddie Burton (Michael Jibson) will be the lookout from a roof across the street.  They have their share of complications, including having a ham radio operator named Eric Addey (Angus Wright) accidentally tune in to the gang’s walkie-talkie frequency in the middle of the heist, but they get the job done.  In fact, they find more than expected in the vault.  Aside from money, jewels, and the naughty Royal photos, they find a ledger of payouts to corrupt police officers from local porn king Lew Vogel (David Suchet), and some weird S&M photos of a senior MP named Lord Drysdale (Rupert Frazer) in compromising positions in a local brothel run by Soho Madame Sonia Bern (Sharon Maughan.)  So…not only do they have to avoid the MI-5 and the local police, led by honest cop Roy Given (Gerard Horan), but they have to be on the lookout for the criminal element who want the contents of their safe deposit boxes back.  Despite a large cast and a complicated plot, the movie is fun to watch.  I’ve been a fan of Statham for a while now, and even his crappy movies (I’m thinking January’s In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale) he isn’t the worst one in it.  The only other recognizable star in it is Burrows, who is the sexy British lawyer named Lorraine Weller harboring a deep, dark secret on ABC’s “Boston Legal.”  She isn’t very memorable though.  In fact, of the unknowns that are memorable, is Mays.  He plays such a lovable guy that it is funny he is an unlikely porn star, a la Ron Jeremy.  I also like the fact that it is a fast-paced British action movie with a linear storyline.  Statham’s first movie…Guy Ritchie’s 1998 movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels…was so jumbled that I really didn’t like it (that’s the same feeling I had about Ritchie’s follow-up movie, 2000’s Snatch, which also starred Statham.)  This one had less action than either of his Transporter movies or 2006’s Crank did, but it was still good (it had probably the same action pace as his 2003 movie The Italian Job though.)  If you want more Statham action, 2009 will see the potential releases of Crank 2: High Voltage (where Chev Chelios will have his heart replaced with a battery-powered one) and Transporter 3 (with Robert Knepper, T-Bag from FOX’s “Prison Break”)…but in the meantime, this one will do.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Review

Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a governess (a.k.a. a live-in tutor of high society children) living in London in 1939.  She has a reputation for being difficult, and her last employer, Mrs. Brummegan (Beatie Edney), has just fired her.  Her employment placement caseworker Miss Holt (Stephanie Cole) turns her down from any other job, because of her difficult status.  While she isn’t looking, Guinevere swipes the business card off Holt’s desk of a person wanting a new governess.  She goes to the address of the new potential client, and finds that it is an American actress and singer named Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams.)  Delysia isn’t need of a governess…she needs a social secretary (or more like a spin doctor) to help her juggle her various affairs around…starting with 19-year-old Phil Goldman (Tom Payne), the son of a theater producer.  He is putting on his own play called Pile on the Pepper, but Charlotte “The Rabbit” Warren (Christina Cole) is #1 in contention for the lead part.  He is currently naked in the bed of the flat she lives in owned by Nick Caldarelli (Mark Strong), the owner of a nightclub called the Scarlett Peacock, where Delysia sings in.  She also happens to be in a relationship with Nick as well.  There is also one other man in her life…Michael (Lee Pace), a poor piano player who performs onstage with Delysia…and unlike Phil and Nick, whom she is using to get ahead, she likes him for just being him.  Michael knows about Phil and Nick, but he wants her exclusively.  Guinevere manages to improvise and deal with a potential disaster of a naked Phil and a booty-call-wanting Nick, so Delysia hires her, but she insists that Guinevere must see a friend of hers named Edythe Dubarry (Shirley Henderson), a high-society salon owner and the fiancée to lingerie designer Joe Blumfield (Ciarán Hinds.)  Edythe agrees to give Guinevere a complete makeover without charge, but in exchange, she wants Guinevere to use her spin doctoring skills to smooth things over with Joe over Edythe’s disreputable behavior with Phil’s friend Gerry (Matt Ryan.)  There seems to be two romances going on though…Delysia and her many boyfriends (though it’s obvious that she likes Michael), and Guinevere and Joe, though Guinevere makes sure that she isn’t interfering with his relationship with Edythe.  Most of the action takes place in Delysia’s flat and at the Scarlett Peacock.  It’s because of the limited amount of settings that it feels like we are watching the adaptation of a play.  It was adapted from a 1938 novel by British author Winifred Watson, and as far as I know, it has never been produced as a stage show.  It’s a modern day comic farce, which would be dull for younger audiences normally if it weren’t for the droll performance of McDormand and the hyperactive performance of Adams.  I’m also glad to see my favorite TV pie maker Pace (from ABC’s “Pushing Daisies”) get work (he will be in the latest Sarah Michelle Gellar Japanese horror remake Possession sometime this year doing a role different from the friendly ones mentioned here already.)  McDormand and Hinds seem to have chemistry, but it appears to be just age familiarity and maturity level rather than a real attraction (Henderson’s character seems to be younger and more naïve in the ways of the world.)  If you are a fan of theater productions, you may enjoy this one.  In fact, I think that TV director Bharat Nalluri should take David Magee and Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay and turn it into an off-Broadway show.

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10,000 B.C. Review

In supposed year of 10,000 B.C. (according to narrator Omar Sharif), English-speaking mammoth hunter D’Leh (Steven Strait) from a small tribe called the Yagahl is a young man who has a crush on a blue-eyed hottie named Evolet (Camilla Belle.)  He isn’t concerned about that right now though, because he has to feed his tribe following the exit of his deadbeat hunter leader dad (Kristian Beazley.)  Evolet (Grayson Hunt Urwin, Evolet as a young girl) arrived years ago as the lone survivor of an attack by “four-legged demons” (a.k.a. horses) as their spiritual leader Old Mother (Mona Hammond) had predicted a long time ago.  She also predicted that her arrival would bring bad things for the tribe.  When D’Leh was a kid (Jacob Renton, D’Leh as a kid), he was enamored with her…which became a lifelong obsession.  D’Leh’s main rival, Ka’Ren (Mo Zinal), thinks that he sucks as a hunter, so he has to prove himself.  He unintentionally gets a chance to prove it when he is attached the net caught on the head mammoth, allowing it to fall accidentally on his spear.  It’s a great honor to kill the head mammoth all alone, and he is rewarded with the legendary White Spear of the North and Evolet as his bride.  His mentor, veteran hunter Tic’Tic (Cliff Curtis), knows the truth behind the hunt, but he allows D’leh to come clean or not.  He decides to come clean and find out a way to redeem himself, but not long after, outsiders led by the Warlord (Affif Ben Badra) and his right-hand man, One-Eye (Marco Khan), attack the village on horseback, killing some villagers and kidnap others, including Evolet.  D’Leh and Ka’Ren make quick amends and join Tic’Tic on a rescue mission to save the abducted villagers.  Young hunter Baku (Nathaniel Baring), who witnessed the outsiders kill his mother (Louise Tu’u), tags along.  They run into a saber-toothed tiger and terror birds (giant dodo bird type creatures) along the way, but they also hook up with another tribe led by Nakudu (Joel Virgel) whose wife was killed and whose son Tudu (Junior Oliphant) was kidnapped by the same outsiders.  The posse eventually makes it to an advanced civilization with a god-king (Tim Barlow) who’s using the kidnapped people as slaves to build a gold-tipped pyramid for himself.  Words cannot express how cheesy this movie is!  If it weren’t for the cool special effects, this would be a perfect candidate for Joel/Mike and the ‘bots to skewer on the late, great “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”  Oh, wait…maybe there is a reason.  Could it be for the fact that the good guys speak English, while the bad guys speak in an ancient tongue?  (It reminded me of last year’s Pathfinder, where the Vikings spoke Norwegian and the Native Americans spoke English.)  Could it be the horribly bad acting?  Could it be that the heroes are too pretty to be “early man?”  Could it be that there were no domesticated horses or complex structures (like pyramids) back then?  This isn’t the worst movie to mess up early man, but many movies have done it better.  The 1981 movie Quest for Fire did a great job, and even though it isn’t necessarily about early man, Mel Gibson’s 2006 epic Apocalypto was more realistic.  How can the man who made the great movies Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), The Patriot (2000), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) direct a movie so bad that it made his 1998 monster movie remake Godzilla look good?  Roland Emmerich…let’s hope that your planned treks into the future with the post-modern 2012 and remake of Fantastic Voyage will be better than your excursion into the past.

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Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! Review

Finally!  A Dr. Seuss big screen adaptation that isn’t a potential Razzie contender!  As CBS news anchor Charles Osgood narrates the story, Horton (voice of Jim Carrey) is a friendly elephant who lives in the jungle of Nool.  He likes to hang out with his friends, including a mouse named Morton (voice of Seth Rogen), Tommy (voice of Jonah Hill), and a cute little creature named Katie (voice of Joey King.)  One day while lazing out on the river, Horton hears what he thinks is a voice coming from a little speck that floats by him in the air (his huge ears allow him to hear things a little better than most.)  He starts imagining that the voice is a tiny little person on it with a family, so he makes it his mission to save the speck.  Sour Kangaroo (voice of Carol Burnett) doesn’t believe his claim, and she forces him to keep his trap shut, because she doesn’t want the other kids to be influenced by Horton and start using their imaginations as well (why she wields so much power I couldn’t figure out.)  According to her, “If you can’t hear, feel, or see something…it doesn’t exist.”  Her “pouch-schooled” joey, Rudy (Josh Flitter), longs to escape from her mother’s pouch and venture out on his own though (which just shows you how controlling she is.)  The speck lands on a piece of clover, which makes it convenient for Horton to carry it around.  It turns out that there really is an entire civilization living on the speck.  The speck is actually a world with a town called Whoville, who just so happen to be planning to celebrate their centennial.  The voice is that of Mayor Ned O’Malley (voice of Steve Carell.)  Ned has 97 kids with wife Sally (voice of Amy Poehler), and all of them are girls…except for JoJo (voice of Jesse McCartney), the oldest and smallest O’Malley kid who barely ever speaks.  Ned suspects that something weird is happening to their world, but the Chairman (voice of Dan Fogler) and the rest of the council don’t believe him (for some reason, they don’t see the rumblings happening all around them.)  They don’t want to disrupt the celebration either way.  He is able to communicate clearly with Horton through a drainpipe, and it confirms for the both of them that the speck is a tiny world, and that it is in trouble.  Kangaroo wants to stop this imagination thing in the bud, so she hires eagle hitman Vlad Vladikoff (voice of Will Arnett)…not to be confused with Vlad the Bunny who likes to give people chocolate cookies…to destroy the clover and the speck on it.  She also sends the Wickersham brothers…a pack of monkeys led by Yummo (also the voice of Dan Fogler)…to bully Horton into complying.  In the meantime, Ned goes to see Dr. Mary Lou Larue (voice of Ilsa Fisher) the lisping smartest professor at Who-University, who tells him that if their world were indeed a small speck, that they would encounter frequent tremors, erratic weather shifts, and would possibly be destroyed.  Horton and Ned work together to convince people that their world is in trouble by having Norton bring the Clover to the top of Mt. Nool and having the residents of Whoville trust that Ned is not crazy.  After 2000’s awful live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas (also starring Carrey) and 2003’s equally horrible live-action The Cat in the Hat, they could go nowhere but up (plus, the widow of Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, who holds the rights to his work, declared that there are to be no more live-action movies based on his books.)  The smart thing was to make it a computer-animated G-rated film, because it isn’t offensive (like Cat) or stupid (like Grinch.)  It managed to be family-friendly without losing the ability to be funny (the funniest part is a scene where Horton travels to Mt. Nool, and the animation switches from computer-generated to a Japanese anime style…a la Pokémon.)  Once again, special interest groups are going to see into a kiddie flick for underlying political themes…specifically abortion and global warming in this one…but if you are a kid, you won’t care.  You just want to see talking animals doing funny things.  Come to think of it…that’s what I want to see as well.

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Never Back Down Review

Daniel LaRusso…er, I mean Jake Tyler (Sean Faris), is the star player on his high school football team, where he is known for his vicious tackles and aggressive behavior.  His younger brother, Charlie (Wyatt Henry Smith), is a tennis phenom (and amateur trivia whiz), so their widowed mother, Lucille…er, Margot (Leslie Hope) decides to move them from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, California…er, from Iowa to Orlando, Florida to let the young tennis golden child accept a scholarship to a school there.  Jake and Charlie’s father (Steve Zurk) drove drunk with Jake in the car, and he blames himself for not stopping him from driving and killing himself (obviously, Jake survived.)  He is extremely angry for his dad dying and for his mom moving them that he decides not to play football at his new school.  He does find something good at his new school though…and that is the smart, sexy blonde Ali Mills…er, Baja Miller (Amber Heard.)  After an enthralling discussion about the Greek Homer epic poem The Illiad, she invites him to a party (and no…it’s not a Halloween party.)  Meanwhile, Jake meets Max Cooperman (Evan Peters), who he thought he was protecting earlier from a fight by a bigger guy, only to find out that the fight was sanctioned.  Max also shows him a YouTube video of a fight Jake started during a play at a football game he played in back in Iowa.  At the party, Jake finds out that Baja’s seduction of him was just a ploy to get him to the party, where ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence…er, current boyfriend Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet) plans to beat him up in public to prove that he is the most skilled fighter at school.  Ryan has seen Jake’s video too, so he knows Jake can and will fight.  He does end up royally kicking Jake’s butt, but Max gives him a DVD of mixed martial arts fighters trained by Mr. Kesuke Miyagi…er, Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), a Brazilian vale tudo fighter instructor who lives in his gym called the 365 Combat Club.  Max trains with Jean (though he seems to mostly just videotape others training) and he convinces Jake to come to the club.  Jake and Jean clash, but it’s mostly because they both tragically lost someone special in their lives.  There is no “wax on, wax off” scene, but there are some clichéd Rocky-like training sequences.  Ultimately, Jake may have to use his new mixed martial arts skills to defeat Ryan at the All Valley Karate Tournament…er, The Beatdown mixed martial arts competition at Club Zero.  Admittedly, I’ve never seen the sport, but from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty brutal.  In a PG-13-rated movie, I bet that it could have been more brutal.  My big problem with the movie though is that it was about as original as a dance movie.  I have been having fun comparing it to 1984’s The Karate Kid, but in all reality, Faris and Gigandet are evenly matched physically.  What made Karate so special was that it was cool to see a short, scrawny Italian kid go up against a Nazi-like blonde behemoth in a karate battle.  Now if Peters went up against Gigandet, then it might be more interesting.  It was hard to sympathize with Faris, because even his character admits that he is so full of anger that he takes it out on others.  We are supposed to feel sorry for Jake because his father died, but then it is confusing, because then we are supposed to feel bad for Ryan as well, because he has a jerk for a dad (played by David Zelon.)  Aside from being smoking hot, Heard didn’t necessarily have any chemistry with the young Tom Cruise-looking Faris (to be fair though, Ralph Macchio didn’t really have any chemistry with Elisabeth Shue in Karate...so go figure.)  Somehow, I don’t think that Hounsou will get a third Oscar nomination for his Miyagi-like performance (which, by the way, earned the late Pat Morita an Oscar nomination), but he did okay.  While some of the fight sequences looked cool, I don’t think that I will be going back down to the theater to see this movie again anytime soon.

Doomsday Review

The movie opens on Glasgow, Scotland on April 3, 2008.  Katherine Sinclair (Emma Cleasby) is a mother who is trying to get her daughter Eden (Christine Tomlinson) out of the city that has been infected by the deadly Reaper virus.  Eden has been hit in the eye with a stray bullet, but Katherine manages to have a rescue helicopter take the girl away while she stays behind (since there is no room left in the copter.)  Fast forward to 27 years later…it’s 2035 in London, and a grown-up, Snake Plissken-looking Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) is a major for the DDS (Department of Domestic Security), which is part of the British military.  An artificial eye that she can take out and use to see behind corners has replaced her real eye (but, for some odd reason, she doesn’t use it beyond Mitra’s opening scene.)  She works for Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), the chief of the DDS, who reports directly to Prime Minister John Hatcher (Alexander Siddig) and his right-hand man, Michael Canaris (David O’Hara.)  Hatcher and Canaris are concerned by a recent outbreak of the Reaper virus in London.  The previous virus in Glasgow was so bad that they decided to build a 30-foot armored security wall around all of Scotland to contain it, but they have recently received surveillance footage of Glasgow showing people that appear not to have the virus…even though they should have been dead a while ago.  They have Nelson send in Eden, who will lead a team to…with any luck…find Dr. Marcus Kane (Malcolm McDowell)…a scientist who was working on a cure, but hasn’t been heard from in a while.  Their hope is to track Kane down and bring back whatever cure he may have come up with during his disappearance.  Eden is joined by military man Sgt. Norton (Adrian Lester), armored transport driver Chandler (Rick Warden), mechanic Read (Nora-Jane Noone), gunners Carpenter (Leslie Simpson) and Stevie Miller (Chris Robson), and researchers Dr. Talbot (Sean Pertwee) and Dr. Ben Stirling (Darren Morfitt.)  The mission is top-secret, so Eden and her team have 46 hours to get in, find the possible cure, and get out with it.  While entering Scotland, they have a run-in a bunch of punk survivors called the Marauders, led by Kane’s son, Sol (Craig Conway), and his tattooed girlfriend Viper (Lee-Anne Liebenberg.)  Eden is captured and tortured, but she escapes and rescues one of Sol’s prisoners, Cally (Myanna Buring), who happens to be Kane’s daughter and might be the possible cure to the virus.  Eden must take Cally back to England to have them study her and come up with a cure…if they live that long.  Neil Marshall, the director of 2006’s The Descent (a very good, claustrophobic movie...once I thought about it a little more) helmed this Escape from New York-meets-Mad Max-with-a-little-Army-of-Darkness-thrown-in flick.  While I wasn’t as crazy about this one as I was about The Descent, it was an effective post-apocalyptic action flick.  Mitra, whom I mostly familiar with because of her work on ABC’s “The Practice” (and its spin-off, “Boston Legal”), proves that she can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Aliens’ Sigourney Weaver and Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s Linda Hamilton.  Heck…she could almost go toe-to-toe with Escape’s Kurt Russell.  I heard that there is a slight possibility of a sequel, which I would welcome.  I liked Milla Jovovich more and more as each succeeding Resident Evil movie came along, so I think that she will be even cooler in a possible sequel.  Like The Descent, this movie isn’t for people with weak stomachs.  The gore is extreme, but it is hilariously gross (wait until you see what Eden does with the corpse of a dead Marauder to understand what I’m talking about.)  While it is a little derivative of the previous movies mentioned above (and I have no idea why it switches to a sword-and-sorcery film halfway in), it’s a fun action flick that a group of guys wouldn’t mind checking out.

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Funny Games Review

A peaceful two-week vacation at the remote lake house of the upper-class Farber family turns into a slow-moving nightmare.  Anna Farber (Naomi Watts), her husband, George (Tim Roth), their young son, Georgie (Devon Gearhart), and their Golden Retriever dog named Lucky are happily playing “Name the Classical Tune” when they stop by their neighbors Fred (Boyd Gaines) and Eve (Linda Moran) Thompson.  Two proper-looking young men named Peter (Brady Corbet) and the older Paul (Michael Pitt), wearing white gloves, accompany the nervous neighbors in their front yard.  Once they get to the house, George and Georgie take their sailboat out while Anna stays behind.  Peter comes over and says he’s staying with the Thompsons.  He has been sent over to borrow some eggs, but for some reason, he is a Butterfingers, because he keeps dropping the eggs (along with Anna’s cell phone, a.k.a. the only phone in the house.)  Eventually, Paul comes over as well, and Lucky disappears.  Anna starts getting the creeps from them, and she tells them to leave.  George and Georgie come back, and Anna tells George to get the young men out of their house.  When they pretend not to understand and don’t leave, George slaps Paul…who in turn breaks George’s leg with one of George’s golf clubs.  They essentially begin to hold the family hostage (though they initially don’t have any weapons), and the Farbers soon realize that the two are psychotic thrill-seekers with no clearly-defined motive.  It’s just a matter of survival at that point.  The movie is actually the American remake of director Michael Haneke’s 1997 Austrian original.  Haneke always felt like this was an American movie, so he decided to remake it shot-for-shot.  The result is quite possibly the slowest “thriller” I’ve ever seen (I’ve never seen the original, but I’m guessing that it’s just like the remake…except that the original had subtitles.)  The movie is not going to get any Oscars for its editing.  There are long stretches where these stupid rich people could have gotten away from the evil young men, but they just talked too much and didn’t do anything.  In addition, I realize that you can’t move very fast when you are tied up and/or injured…but I really think that it is possible that they could have tightened up the scenes a little bit.  After the movie, an employer of the theater I visited pointed out the fact that the kid who plays Paul…Michael Pitt…is the same guy who played the Kurt Cobain-like character in 2005’s worst movie, Gus Van Sant’s Last Days…one of the most boring, coma-inducing movies I’ve seen in a long time.  I will say that the boring parts of this movie weren’t because of Pitt though.  In fact, no one’s actual acting in it was bad.  I just really think that the action could have been streamlined a little better.  I also had a little logic gripe near the end, but that would be spoiling things (when you get to the part involving the remote control, then you will know what I mean.)  I have to give the movie loads of props for not being clichéd in the end.  It’s funny…for a director to say this his original should have been more like an American movie…it didn’t end in the way a typical American thriller would.

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Chicago 10 Review

I like documentaries in general, but when you get a filmmaker who manages to bring something original to the genre, then I am truly entertained.  In 2002, Brett Morgan directed The Kid Stays in the Picture, a documentary biopic about the life of movie producer Robert Evans.  He told Evans’ story through a mix of Evans’ distinct vocal narration, animation, 3-D cutouts, and archived footage.  This time he focuses on the arrest and trial of the eight demonstrators (and contempt of court charges of their two lawyers) who contributed to the violent anti-war protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  Morgan uses archival footage of the main “characters” during the actual demonstration, but since the trial itself wasn’t exactly filmed, he uses court transcripts to construct an animated recreation using voice actors to stand in for all of the main players.  The “Chicago 7” (more on how they came up with “10” later) who were put on trial were the cofounders of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) Abbie Hoffman (voiced by Hank Azaria) and Jerry Rubin (voiced by Mark Ruffalo); pacifist David Dellinger (voiced by Dylan Baker); Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S) members Tom Hayden (voiced by Reg Rogers) and Rennie Davis (voiced by James Urbaniak); and the “forgotten defendants” John Froines (voiced by Chuck Montgomery) and Lee Weiner (also voiced by Montgomery.)  They planned their demonstration for months beforehand…even going so far as to meet with Chicago Deputy Mayor David Stahl (also voiced by Baker), who flatly denies their application for a permit for sleeping in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.  They correctly guessed that there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of protestors who wouldn’t be able to get a motel room during the convention, so they wanted to be able to sleep in the park.  They decide to do it anyway, leading to the chaos that occurred during the convention.  Black Panther cofounder (with Huey Newton) Bobby Seale (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) joined them in the trial.  He was quickly separated though from the defendants by clueless old judge Julius Hoffman (voiced by the late Roy Scheider) because the judge felt he was disrupting the proceedings (Seale’s lawyer, Charles Garry, couldn’t represent him because he was about to undergo gallbladder surgery.)  To prove that the trial was practically a joke, Judge Hoffman actually bound, gagged, and chained Seale to his seat when he refused to be denied his right to defend himself.  Going up against Judge Hoffman, lead prosecuting attorney Thomas Foran (voiced by Nick Nolte), and co-counsel Richard Schultz (also voiced by Urbaniak), were Hoffman and Rubin, whose monkey business in court turned the proceedings, as Rubin says, into “a cartoon show.”  Morgan also decided to choose music that was thematic in nature rather than just the music from the era.  Along with songs by Steppenwolf and Black Sabbath are songs by Rage Against the Machine, Eminem, and The Beastie Boys.  It threw me off at first, but I really enjoyed it in the end.  The only thing I wasn’t too crazy about was the rotoscoping style of animation that has been used before in filmmaker Richard Linklater’s movies Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006.)  I may have been just so burned by the awfulness of those two movies that I automatically associated this movie with it (you have to admit though…it is a little creepy.)  Why the traditional documentarians get all of the awards while movies that entertain along with educating the audience (even though it’s slanted a little to the left politically) get no kudos boggles my mind.  By the way…the “10” is the seven defendants that weren’t bound and gagged, Seale, and their defense lawyers William Kunstler (voiced by Liev Schreiber) and Leonard Weinglass (voiced by himself), who were both charged with contempt of court.

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Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns Review

Tyler Perry has made a success writing and/or directing some low budget dramedies that are hated by most critics (I think that they are just bitter that Lionsgate doesn’t do screenings for them), but do well in the box office.  This one follows the same formula.  Brenda Brown (Angela Bassett) is a single mom from Chicago who is trying to raise her three kids that she had from three different fathers.  Her oldest is a talented high school basketball player named Michael (Lance Gross.)  He and his younger sisters, Tosha (Chloe Bailey) and Lena (Mariana Tolbert), live with her in the projects, and Michael’s biological father, Michael, Sr. (Phillip Edward Van Lear) is a construction worker who is a bum who refuses to pay child support.  Brenda is also concerned about Michael hanging out with his drug dealer friend Calvin (Kristopher Lofton), and is suspicious of divorced former pro basketball player and current scout Harry Belton (Rick Fox) who is interested in Michael for future basketball opportunities.  Brenda is struggling to pay the bills anyway…she still needs to pay her landlord/babysitter Miss Mildred (Irma P. Hall)…and it only gets harder when she and her outspoken bipolar friend and coworker Cheryl (Sofia Vergara) lose their jobs at the plant they work at when it unexpectedly shuts down.  When the electric company shuts off her power…then that becomes the last straw.  She previously got word that her father that she had never known, Pops Brown, has passed away, and she has been invited to the funeral and the reading of the will.  With the hope that there might be something in the will that could benefit her financially, she and her kids travel to a small town in Georgia where they meet the other family of hers that she has never met before…the Browns.  They include Sarah (Margaret Avery) and her whipped husband L.B. (Frankie Faison)…the latter of the two sent the letter to Brenda.  Also, there is loud, highly opinionated, and functioning alcoholic Vera (Jenifer Lewis) and her handsome gynecologist son Will (Lamman Rucker); LeRoy Brown (David Mann), who dresses tacky and confuses words that he thinks are real; and his widowed, single mom daughter, Cora (Tamela Mann), who is the daughter of Madea (Tyler Perry.)  Speaking of Will…he just happens to be friends with Harry, who happens to live nearby in town.  Brenda doesn’t want to get too close to Harry romantically, but she does finally allow him to mentor Michael’s basketball future.  With a family suspicious as to why she is there, Brenda learns what it’s like to have a family that you can depend on in good times and bad…and she also possibly allows love to come into her life.  I’ve liked all of Perry’s movies in various degrees (the only project of his I don’t like is his TV show “House of Payne” on TBS), and this movie hits the right buttons.  They are all essentially dramas, except the supporting characters (the ones usually featured in the trailers) make them look like comedies.  Bassett does her usual exceptional acting work, but she doesn’t really have much chemistry with Fox (that’s not really her fault though…Fox isn’t a very good actor.)  Lewis and Mann are gratuitously colorful…and dang it…the shtick works every time.  Perry’s dramedies are very unrealistic because of these colorful characters, but they make them stand out amongst copycat flicks.  In fact, other filmmakers have started copying him (see Henry Billups’ This Christmas from last year for proof.)  It looks like he has been churning out at least two films a year (The Family That Preys is tentatively scheduled for release in September), and I welcome them.  By the way…Madea does make an appearance (with his other character, Uncle Joe), but it’s a brief one near the end where she is being pursued by cops.


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Drillbit Taylor Review

The Judd Apatow train keeps rolling along…this time with a PG-13-rated movie.  Best friends Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) are starting their first day as freshmen at McKinley High School, and they want to be cool.  Wade is a tall, lanky kid, and Ryan is an overweight aspiring rapper who wants to be called T-Dog.  They get off on a bad foot in that pursuit right away when Wade decides to tell senior bullies Terry Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck) to stop picking on pint-sized fellow freshman Emmit (David Dorfman)…so of course, all three of them become Filkins’ and Ronnie’s targets.  They don’t want to tell their parents, and Principal Doppler (Stephen Root) is no use, because Filkins has convinced him that he is an upstanding student.  They decide that they need to hire a bodyguard, and after some initial bodyguard interviews (including Adam Baldwin, the bodyguard in 1980’s My Bodyguard), they decide on former Army man Bob “Drillbit” Taylor (Owen Wilson)…mainly because he is cheap.  They don’t know that he is actually a homeless man who will say anything he can to get enough money to get him to Canada (he needs approximately $387 to get there.)  Drillbit’s fellow homeless friend Don (Danny McBride) thinks that he should keep up the ruse about being a bodyguard in order to get into the boys’ houses and steal what he can.  He does that, but the more time he spends with them, the more he realizes that the boys do need help, so he decides to pose as a substitute teacher so that he can watch over them.  While doing so, be becomes attracted to English teacher Lisa Zackey (Apatow’s real wife Leslie Mann), and has a series of quickies during school hours.  Wade himself finds love as well with Asian student Brooke (Valerie Tian), and he begins to join all of the after-school clubs that she belongs to just to be near her.  The hope is that Drillbit can teach these kids to stand up for themselves and enjoy high school life before he and his fellow homeless associates…including Don, Bernie (Cedric Yarbrough), and Stump (Robert Musgrave)…clean them out.  I’m thinking that Apatow is only hilariously funny when he is R-rated (his PG-13 exceptions are his movies starring Will Ferrell.)  Even though he is just a producer (frequent Adam Sandler movie collaborator Steven Brill directed the movie while Kristofor Brown and Apatow regular Seth Rogen wrote the screenplay based on a story they co-wrote with legendary teen comedy writer/director John Hughes), Apatow is the marquee name here.  I’m sorry…but Wilson isn’t the funniest guy on the planet (as was proven very recently in last year’s awful The Darjeeling Limited), but he does an okay job here.  The standout here is Gentile.  His mad rapping skills against Frost (who is no slouch either) and his general personality remind me of Rogan in his younger “Freaks and Geeks” years (sorry Jonah Hill…this kid might be the Rogan heir apparent.)  The kid reminds me of MTV’s Andy Milonakis…only less annoying.  The other two boys play their roles well using their clichéd obvious physical nerd features (tall and skinny for Hartley; short for Dorfman…with the added feature of looking creepy), so there aren’t any surprises here.  I guess you could say that it was an effective comedy, but not one I could see myself buying the DVD for when it comes out.  Maybe I’ll like Apatow’s next producing project, Forgetting Sarah Marshall…an R-rated romantic comedy.


Shutter Review

Pacey…er, Benjamin Shaw (Joshua Jackson) and his new 6th grade English teacher bride Jane (Rachel Taylor) are newlyweds from New York who are spending their honeymoon in Tokyo.  Unfortunately, Ben is combining the honeymoon with work, because he has been hired as a corporate photographer for the Tokyo Global Koukoku Agency, where agency head Bruno (David Denman), sleazy model manager Adam (John Hensley), and Ben’s assistant Seiko (Maya Hazen) are there to work with him on an important campaign.  On the way to the place where they are going to stay, Jane accidentally hits what she believes is a young woman with their car.  The police can’t find any trace of anyone being hit, so they go along with their business.  They spend their honeymoon in a building that’s still under construction, and it is conveniently next to his set and darkroom.  Jane goes off sightseeing, but when she checks out her photos later on, she notices some abnormal white anomalies in her shots.  Ben sees the same anomalies in his professional shots, but he thinks that it’s just that his camera equipment may have been damaged in the car accident.  Jane thinks that the ghost of the young woman she hit may be haunting them though.  Ben thinks that she is seeing things, but when the ghost of Megumi Tanaka (Megumi Okina), that young woman, appears, it confirms that her spirit is haunting them.  Seiko takes Jane to see Ritsuo (James Kyson Lee), her ex-boyfriend who runs a magazine specializing in scary photography.  He directs her to Murase (Kei Yamamoto), a psychic who can cleanse spirits.  Ben thinks that the guy is nuts, but when Megumi becomes more violent in her haunting, they do anything to rid her from their lives.  Yet another horror remake of an Asian original (this one is Thai and not Japanese this time), the first movie of the same name came out in 2004.  I haven’t found any of these remakes scary…and this one may be the least scary one so far.  Dark mood lighting and copying the same creepy ghost girl from 2002’s The Ring over and over does not make a good horror movie.  I like former “Dawson Creek” heartthrob Jackson as an actor, but he is doing what so many former CW/UPN show alums have done…star in horror movies.  I like that fellow “Creek” alum James Van Der Beek has concentrated on indie flicks and the occasional cameo appearance on TV shows.  I hope that both of them will achieve the heights that “Creeker” Michelle Williams did in Brokeback Mountain (I hated that movie, but at least it wasn’t a J-horror remake.)  Jackson’s next project is back on TV also though.  He will join the cast of a FOX pilot called “Fringe,” created by “Alias”/“Lost” creator J.J. Abrams…and I hope that it gets picked up, because we need Pacey back in a good role.


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Under the Same Moon Review

In director Patricia Riggen’s feature-length directorial debut (using a screenplay by first time feature screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos), Carlitos Reyes (Adrian Alonso) is a 9-year-old boy living in Mexico who currently lives with his sick grandmother, Benita (Angelina Peláez.)  When Carlitos is not playing with his friend, Chito (Isaac Bravo), or doing odd jobs for businesswoman Dona Carmen (Carmen Salinas), he looks forward to getting a phone call every Sunday morning at 10 AM sharp from his mom, Rosario (Kate Del Castillo), who calls from Los Angeles.  She and her friend Alicia (Maya Zapata) illegally immigrated there four years ago in the hopes of making a better life for her and Carlitos.  She sends him $300 a month for living expenses…money that his greedy uncle Manuel (Gustavo Sánchez Parra) and aunt Reyna (María Rojo) want to get their hands on.  When Benita dies in her sleep, Carlitos calls American sister and brother college students Marta (America Ferrera) and David (Jesse Garcia)…who want to raise tuition money by smuggling babies across the border…to do so for him as well.  It turns out that Dona is a woman who arranges border crossings for Mexicans wishing to enter the U.S., but she has already turned down the siblings on their smuggling services.  Carlitos packs his things and saved money (nearly $1200 in cash), and stows away with Marta and David with the intention to get to L.A. to see his mom.  When their car is impounded at the border due to unpaid parking tickets, Carlitos manages to get across the border…but he is all alone at that point.  He contends with pimps and the police on his journey from Texas to L.A., but he finally ends up getting some help from fellow illegal immigrant Enrique (Eugenio Derbez)…though he does so reluctantly at first.  Enrique eventually talks Carlitos into meeting with Oscar (Ernesto D’Alessio)…Carlitos’ deadbeat dad who now who works as a clerk at a warehouse market.  Meanwhile, Rosario works two jobs as a housekeeper…one for a racist nutjob rich lady named Mrs. McKenzie (Jacqueline Voltaire), and another for a nice white couple named the Snyders (Jorge Rojas and Sonya Smith.)  Mrs. McKenzie’s security guard Paco (Gabriel Porras) is a legal immigrant who is sweet on her and is willing to marry her to fix her citizenship problem…but even though Paco is handsome and nice, she doesn’t want to marry him just for a Green Card.  The stress is getting to her though, and she wrestling with the decision of going back to Mexico, or sticking it out back in L.A.  This sweet tale is very predictable, but I enjoyed it anyway.  When it opened, it set a U.S. record for Spanish-language films at the box office with $2.6 million (surpassing the $1.6 million made by Ladrón que roba a ladrón last September)…so I’m guessing a lot of other people liked it as well.  Even though it has several telenovela stars well-known in Latin American community in it, North American audiences will probably only recognize “Ugly Betty” title character Ferrera.  Her part is very small though, so it’s a good thing that they had a satisfying story to make up for it.  All of the performances were excellent…especially the very mature Alonso (who is actually 13 years old.)  I still haven’t made up my mind about the whole illegal immigration debate, but this was an entertaining movie with lots of heart that goes beyond politics.

Run, Fatboy, Run Review

Dr. Ross Geller is directing British chick flicks now…and doing a decent job at it?  Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) is a slightly overweight security guard at a lingerie store in London.  Five years ago, he suffered an extreme case of cold feet on the day he was supposed to marry his pregnant fiancée, Libby O’Dell (Thandie Newton.)  She now owns a bakery called Libby’s Nice Buns, and she shares custody of their son, Jake (Matthew Fenton.)  Dennis realizes that he made a huge mistake, and he would love to get her back into his life…but she has moved on.  She’s now dating successful hedge fund manager Whit (Hank Azaria)…a confident and fit man…which is everything Dennis is not.  Dennis is late with his rent to his widowed Indian landlord Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel), and the man’s adult daughter Maya (India De Beaufort) would love to evict him and replace him with a more reliable tenant.  He and his best friend, Gordon (Dylan Moran), a gambling addict who is also Libby’s cousin, play poker with Grover (Tyrone Huggins), Claudine (Ruth Sheen), and Mickey (Nevan Finegan) in the back of the piano store owned by Vincent (Simon Day.)  One of the reasons that Libby is attracted to Whit is that he follows through on his commitments, and when Dennis hears that Whit is going to be running in the Nike River-Run marathon, he decides to enter the race himself.  Unfortunately, Dennis is so out of shape that he might not be able to complete the over-26-mile race, but with the help of his flaky best friend and his overweight landlord as his coaches, he is determined to win Libby’s heart back.  “Friends” resident sad sack paleontologist David Schwimmer makes his directorial debut with this movie.  I heard that it was originally supposed to be set in New York, but when Pegg signed on as the lead, they changed the location.  That might have been a smart thing to do, because it was originally released in Britain last September, where it topped the UK box office for four weeks.  Pegg co-wrote the script with Michael Ian Black (the annoying Phil Stubbs from the late NBC show “Ed”), and though it doesn’t have the same punch as Pegg’s collaborations with director Edgar Wright (2004’s Shaun of the Dead, last year’s Hot Fuzz), it does have some of the charm.  There is nothing surprising in the story, but it is effective in its ability to entertain.  One major gripe I might have is that Azaria was woefully miscast.  He is good as a jerk (a skill he has picked up along the way in the last 19 seasons as the voice of Moe Szyslak the bartender in FOX’s “The Simpsons”), but he doesn’t fit the part physically.  Not that he has to be a muscleman, but when you think of an actor who is athletic…“Hank Azaria” isn’t an actor that immediately springs to mind.  It’s a cute flick that women can take their boyfriends or husbands to without them becoming bored.  Just don’t expect any zombies or highly-skilled super cops in it.

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21 Review

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a math whiz who’s going M.I.T. in Boston with his best friends and fellow students, Miles Connoly (Josh Gad) and Cam (Sam Golzari.)  He has been accepted into Harvard Medical School, but he and his friends are too poor to be able to pay the tuition…despite the robotics project they are working on to win a scientific financial prize.  His non-linear equations class professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), is offering an alternative financial option though.  While in class, he is impressed by not only Ben’s intellect, but also the fact that he can come up with answers without bringing emotion into it.  Micky has one of his other students, Fisher (Jacob Pitts), bring Ben to an after-hours card-counting study session.  He explains to Ben that he has created this team…consisting of Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), an intelligent, hot blonde; Choi (Aaron Yoo), the comic relief; Kianna (Liza Lapira); and Fisher, the star of the team…to count cards and win money playing Blackjack in Las Vegas.  You see…it’s legal to count cards, and with intelligence and teamwork you can make a lot of money…but the casinos highly discourage it for obvious reasons.  He turns them down at first, but some friendly persuasion from Jill, and the daunting fact that he needs $300,000 for Harvard (and he doesn’t want his mom Ellen [Helen Carey] footing the bill with her life savings), he agrees to the venture.  They all start to make a lot of money, but they have their obstacles.  Loss prevention specialist Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), along with his team consisting of Terry (Jack McGee) and Stemple (Spencer Garrett), are the last humans in charge of thwarting gambling cheaters before the casino installs face-recognizing software.  His technique of discouraging cheaters usually involves physical harm…and he is good at what he does.  By this point though, Ben has gotten so good that he’s become greedy and jerky…alienating all of the people in his life who care about him.  It takes some underhanded finagling by Micky to knock him off his high horse and get him focused again.  There is decent acting all around.  What little interaction there is between Sturgess and Bosworth is steamy.  There is almost more chemistry between Sturgess and Spacey as student and teacher.  Spacey, who also produced the movie, does what he does well…be an intimidating antagonist.  Australian director Robert Luketic helmed this film using a screenplay written by Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb, and it is based on the novel by Ben Mezrich called Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.  I actually liked it better when I thought about it later than in my initial reaction.  Some other critics thought that the ending was predictable, and though you know Ben is eventually going to humble himself and make up for the wrongs he has committed against the people who care about him, the ultimate ending was fun, satisfying, and unpredictable (at least for me.)  Maybe that’s the gamble I take when I see a movie.

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Superhero Movie Review

Despite the presence of director David Zucker (only as a producer here), Robert Hayes (in a cameo), and Leslie Nielsen…don’t expect a reunion of the cast of 1980’s Airplane!  Following the generic plot of 2002’s Spider-Man, it tells the story of Rick Riker (Drake Bell), an average high school student from Empire City being raised by his Aunt Lucille (Marion Ross) and Uncle Albert Adams (Nielsen.)  They have been taking care of him since his parents, Blaine (Hays) and Julia (Nicole Sullivan), were killed years ago in the back alley of a theatre (in the same way a young Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in the Batman legacy.)  When not hanging out with his best friend, Trey (Kevin Hart), he’s pining over next-door neighbor Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton) from afar, but she’s dating bully Lance Landers (Ryan Hansen.)  During a school field trip to Amalgamated Pharmaceuticals…a company specializing in genetics research…a dragonfly bites Rick.  It changes his DNA, which gives him superhuman powers.  He develops every power Spider-Man has, but since he doesn’t have web-slingers, he is a little deficient because he can’t fly (because, you know…dragonflies fly.)  Under the tutelage of mutant benefactor Dr. Xavier (Tracy Morgan), Rick fights crime as The Dragonfly…which impresses Jill (although she doesn’t know that Rick is the hero.)  Meanwhile, Lance’s uncle, the terminally ill corporate CEO of Amalgamated Pharmaceuticals Lou Landers (Christopher McDonald) is having his lead scientist, Dr. Strom (Brent Spiner), do experiments on him in the hopes that they will save his life.  Strom is successful, but in order to sustain Lou’s life, he has to drain the life out of others.  He adopts an evil persona, calling himself Hourglass.  He has done the calculations, and he figures if he can steal enough Cerelyum from Stephen Hawkings’ (Robert Joy) lab, that he can achieve immortality.  His plan is to mass murder the citizens of Empire City…a plan The Dragonfly vows to thwart.  Scary Movie 3 and 4 co-writer Craig Mazin makes his sophomore picture with this movie.  While it’s not as gross as Meet the Spartans from earlier this year…and it’s still better than the lowest parody benchmark, 2006’s Date Movie…it’s no Airplane! (it’s not even as good as those Scary Movies.)  One thing that I did admire about it was that it stayed focused mainly on the genre it was spoofing…the superhero flick.  It was nice to see Hays and Nielsen again in a parody movie, but I guess I’m just getting a little tired of them now.  Since the awful Date Movie, there have been eight of them (including this movie.)  While they vary in quality (Hot Fuzz and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story being two of the best), most of them have been either just okay or outright bad.  Unless they can come up with an idea that is genius in its ability to parody, I say that we put a moratorium on them for a little while.  Otherwise, we might as well reserve our tickets now for next year’s Goodie Two Shoes (a spoof of teen comedies that seems to be focusing on Judd Apatow’s productions.)


Stop-Loss Review

Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), Tommy Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Isaac “Eyeball” Butler (Rob Brown) are three good friends and fellow Army soldiers from Brazos, Texas, who have come back home after a tour of duty in Tikrit, Iraq.  Brandon’s heart is full of guilt though, because a few fellow soldiers in their squad were killed or badly wounded…including PFC Al “Preacher” Colson (Terry Quay), who was killed, and PFC Rico Rodriguez (Victor Rasuk), who is missing an arm, a leg, and has been blinded…in an ambush he could have possibly avoided.  He is done though with the Army…something his parents, Roy (Ciarán Hinds) and Ida (Linda Emond), are happy about, along with Steve’s fiancée, Michelle (Abbie Cornish), and Tommy’s new wife Jeanie (Mamie Gummer.)  Their superior officer, Lt. Col. Boot Miller (Timothy Olyphant), orders all of them to be on their best behavior while back in town (only Brandon and Steve are staying home for good.)  They are all experiencing post-traumatic stress following their experiences “over there”…especially with Tommy, who is kicked out of their home by Jeanie for his excessive drinking.  Brandon has bigger problems though…he has learned that he has been stop-lossed, which means…despite having fulfilled his contract with the military…he has been ordered back to active duty in Iraq.  He was awarded medals for heroism, but he really doesn’t want to go back for many reasons, but when Miller commands that he follow those orders, Brandon goes AWOL.  Michelle decides to help him out, so they go to Washington, D.C. to talk to a politician named Senator Orton Worrell (Josef Sommer) he originally met at the homecoming who he thinks might be able to rescind the stop-loss.  With both Miller and Steve looking for him, he tries to figure out if what he is doing is right, wrong, or even legal.  Kimberly Peirce, the critically acclaimed director of 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, is making her second feature film in nine years with this one.  Originally meant to be a documentary about the soldiers and inspired by her younger brother’s enlistment in the military following 9/11, she found out that a number of soldiers were being subjected to a “back door draft” and she decided to write a fictional script (with screenwriter Mark Richard) based on some of the soldiers’ experiences at being stop-lossed.  While it didn’t pull the same emotional punch for me that Cry did, I liked the movie.  Phillippe continues to be one of the more underrated actors working today, and Tatum has proven that he can easily handle more grown-up material that don’t involve high school sports or dancing.  I was so glad that they didn’t do the clichéd thing of hooking Phillippe and Cornish up while he was running for his life.  A former military man movie critic colleague of mine said that he doesn’t like the fact that almost every movie portraying soldiers coming back from war have to have post-traumatic stress…because he didn’t have it when he came home (he admits that he went to war a little messed up though!)  There were good performances throughout though, but it probably won’t get any Oscar love because it didn’t do well in the box office, and because it was released in March (the Academy voters have notorious short-term memories.)  I just hope that it won’t be another nine years before we see a third flick out of Peirce (heck…even Quentin Tarantino has come out with more movies in the last decade than her!)

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