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March 2009 Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 3/13/2009

Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in March of 2009.  Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.

Go directly to my review of Race to Witch Mountain and The Haunting in Connecticut.

Race to Witch Mountain Review

Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is a bored ex-con cabbie in Vegas who still has to deal with the goons of his former crime boss, Wolf.  After he deals with the goons, Frank (John Duff) and Marty (Bob Koherr), he finds two teens, siblings Sara (Annasophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), in his backseat with a roll of cash and a need to be driven into the desert.  The cash is not bad, so he agrees to take them to their destination (not knowing that the kids got the money by cleaning out a nearby ATM.)  Not long after he heads out of town do Department of Defense official Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds), and his subordinates, medical expert Matheson (Tom Everett Scott), computer expert Pope (Chris Marquette), combat specialist Carson (Billy Brown), and other feds follow him.  Jack thinks that they are more goons sent by Wolf, but when the kids demonstrate that they have powers, he realizes that they are aliens.  They’ve crash-landed on Earth and they need to bring a device to their spaceship which contains the results of an experiment which their parents set up that will save their dying planet and convince the planet’s government not to invade Earth and live on it as a replacement planet for theirs.  They’re not sure where the ship is now, so Jack takes them to see Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), a failed astrophysicist who’s speaking at a UFO convention that Jack picked up in his cab the other day.  She takes them to see UFO author Dr. Donald Harlan (Garry Marshall) who knows where the ship might be…in Witch Mountain.  On their way, they get some help from a local mechanic named Eddie Cortez (Cheech Marin), a friendly waitress named Tina (Kim Richards), and an understanding local sheriff named Antony (Ike Eisenmann.)  It’s not just Burke and his team that are after them though…an alien assassin named Siphon (Tom Woodruff, Jr., Paul Darnell doing the stunts) is intent on killing the kids before they complete their mission on Earth.  The movie is a “re-imaging” (a.k.a. remake) of the 1975 Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain, which itself was based on a 1968 science fiction novel written by Alexander Key.  The basic plot for both movies is here…two alien kids are chased by people who want to exploit them and are helped by a friendly stranger…but aside from cameo appearances by the original’s alien kids, Richards and Eisenmann, that’s where the similarities end.  Johnson continues to be entertaining, even in movies geared toward children.  In fact, this is his second family movie directed by Andy Fickman (the first one being 2007’s cute sports flick The Game Plan), so obviously they are a winning team.  I’m still continuing with my theory that Johnson should only play heroes, because his villains aren’t fun to watch.  The only villain I remember him playing is the bad guy in 2005’s Doom, and that movie was awful (I’m not counting his brief role as The Scorpion King in 2001’s The Mummy Returns.)  In a weekend populated by remakes (the other one being the remake of Wes Craven’s 1972 directorial debut, The Last House on the Left), this one is more enjoyable.  Race to the movie with your family (or alone), because it’s worth checking out.  I wouldn’t be opposed to the studio re-imaging 1978’s Return from Witch Mountain.


The Haunting in Connecticut Review

Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen) is a concerned mother worried about her teenage son Matt (Kyle Gallner) who is dying from a rare form of cancer.  It’s June of 1987, and the family doesn’t have the means to commute back and forth eight hours to the clinic in upstate Connecticut for the experimental cancer treatment overseen by Dr. Brooks (D.W. Brown.)  She and her husband Peter (Martin Donovan) agree to find a temporary place to rent that is closer to the clinic…even though the former alcoholic Peter is facing financial difficulties.  Sara hastily finds a large vacant Victorian house owned by Mr. Sinclair (John B. Lowe) during one of Matt’s painful post treatment stints.  While Peter stays in the city for his job, Sara and Matt move into the big house with Matt’s younger siblings, Mary (Sophi Knight) and Billy (Ty Wood), and helpful older cousin, Wendy (Amanda Crew)…but little do they know that the house has a colorful history.  Matt makes the basement his bedroom so that he can have some privacy, but he is soon having visions of a teenage boy named Jonah (Erik Berg.)  You know that colorful history I mentioned before?  It’s because the house was originally a funeral home where mortician Ramsey Aickman (John Bluethner) and Jonah, his young clairvoyant assistant, used it for séances.  Sara doesn’t want to believe Matt, because she doesn’t want Dr. Brooks to write them off as hallucinations or side effects and stop the treatment, but as the weird ghostly stuff increases, they realize that they need help.  Reverend Nicolas Popescu (Elias Koteas), a fellow cancer patient receiving the same treatment as Matt, thinks that he can help, because apparently those close to death can see ghosts.  I was worried when I saw that the movie was rated PG-13, because other PG-13-rated “horror movies” (this year’s The Unborn and The Uninvited; last year’s Twilight, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Prom Night, Shutter, The Eye, One Missed Call, etc.) aren’t very scary.  I tend to see that rating applied to “based on a true story” movies (like this one) or remakes of Asian original horror movies (that are usually better and freakier than the movies that ripped them off.)  Except for Madsen, Gallner, and Koteas…the other characters seemed useless.  Donovan has only one interesting scene where he stumbles around drunk smashing all the light bulbs in the house, and Crew has one gratuitous shower scene (which isn’t even titillating for guys because of the PG-13 non-nudity aspect.)  If you go to the movie, be aware that the only reason you may jump out of your seat is that composer Robert J. Kral’s score includes many loud hits that freak you out at the expected times.  I realize that they need to go for the PG-13 rating to bring in the tween market, but that’s no excuse to make the movie boring and predictable.


Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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