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Wednesday, March 4,2009

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey
Madea Goes to Jail. Tyler Perry continues to preach to the choir with his entertaining, albeit stereotype-laced, blend of melodrama and comedy. Joshua Hardaway is a DeKalb, Ill., assistant district attorney (well played by Derek Luke) attempting to rescue an old friend named Candice from a life of prostitution and addiction. Joshua’s attorney fiancée Linda (Ion Overman) takes a dim view of his humanitarian efforts and sets about pulling some unethical legal strings. The comedy comes to life whenever Perry’s irrepressible lifelong criminal Madea takes over, turning her rage at the social misdemeanors of others into humorous action. As a filmmaker, Perry is content to recycle his talents and pad his pictures with self-congratulating cameos by the likes of Dr. Phil and the Rev. Al Sharpton. If he ever gets around to widening his worldview, he might surprise himself and his loyal audience. (Lionsgate) Rated PG-13. 103 mins. (B-)



Friday the 13th. Death by a surfeit of sharp objects comes to two groups of ill-fated young campers whose brief vacations to the Crystal Lake stamping ground of the infamous hockey-mask-wearing Jason Voorhees (played by Derek Mears) incites prickly gasps and roller coaster laughs. Marcus Mispel (director of the "The Texas Chainsaw" remake) gets big budget assistance from producer Michael Bay for this enjoyable update of the classic horror flick that set off cinema’s longest running slasher-movie franchise. Our modern batch of victims are just as obsessed with sex, drugs and music as the murder fodder of the 1980 original, even if the barebones revenge story (if you can call it that) is closer to the series’ second installment. Aaron Yoo delivers an especially fun performance as Chewie, a stoner with a bottomless stomach for booze. (Warner Bros.) Rated R. 97 mins. (B)




Confessions of a Shopaholic. "Confusions of a Shopaholic" would be a more accurate title for this garish romantic comedy that wants to have its thematic cake and eat it to when it comes to inveterate shopper Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher). Huge credit card debt from compulsively purchasing overpriced clothing from every haute couture designer boutique in Manhattan has left Rebecca penniless when she flubs a job interview for a finance magazine. The interview backfires into a writing position that Rebecca miraculously fulfills with an immediately popular column, "The Girl In the Green Scarf," written from personal experience. Distilled from Sophie Kinsella’s first two novels, the picture struggles to mitigate the importance of dressing in designer fashions for Rebecca’s new highprofile job with the necessity of fiscal responsibility. Hugh Dancy plays Rebecca’s editor/love interest Luke Brandon, but never strikes a spark with Fisher’s character. It might have helped if the movie ever got around to showing what Rebecca did with her seemingly nonexistent paychecks. Rated PG-13. 104 mins. (C-)




Fired Up! A shameless celebration of female nubility, "Fired Up!" is a peppy teen sex comedy that draws on a perfectly pitched pop music score, a bevy of scantily clad cheerleaders and the quick-fire camaraderie of its skirt-chasing buddies Shawn and Nick (Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen). The Illinois footballplaying pals have a systematic approach to conquering the legion of high school hotties that surround them. So it goes that the pair choose to forgo football camp in favor of catching fishin-a-barrel by attending cheerleader camp where their school’s Tiger cheerleading team is outnumbered by pep rally girls from other competing national squads. Shawn’s well connected little sister Poppy (Juliette Goglia) gives the boys a crash course in the skills of male cheer leading. The movie hits its stride of athletic fun under Coach Keith (John Michael Higgins) and his wife Diora (Molly Sims). Nick sets his sites on seducing Diora, while Shawn goes for a more traditional route, pursuing the Tiger’s captain Carly (Sarah Roemer) in spite of her romantic involvement with a bratty frat boy. There isn’t anything special here, but "Fired Up!" is still a lot more fun than the adult romantic comedies Hollywood has trotted out so far this year. Rated PG-13. 89 mins. (B)




The International. Packed with so much clumsy exposition about its antagonist multinational bank’s vaporous involvement in arms dealing, terrorism and third-world revolutions that the story frequently slips from director Tom Tykwer’s grip, "The International" still manages to invent meaty iconographic set pieces thanks to its great architectural backgrounds that include the Guggenheim Museum and Istanbul’s Ayia Sofia. There’s no denying that Clive Owen does more justice to a trench coat than most actors could as former Scotland Yard agent Louis Salinger, who is involved in a globetrotting investigation of the IBBC bank with the help of Manhattan Assistant D.A. Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). Debut screenwriter Eric Warren Singer should be eternally grateful to director Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") for elevating the muddy script with lush visual compositions and an energetic score that supports solid performances from its cast. A distant cousin to Daniel Craig’s second James Bond outing ("Quantum of Solace"), "The International" is still worth seeing for fans of the genre. Rated R. 118 mins. (B-)




Coraline. Regardless of its esteemed pedigree of writer Neil Gaiman and director/animator Henry Selick ("The Nightmare Before Christmas"), this creepy gothic kids’ movie doesn’t approach anything that the Brothers Grimm cooked up on an off day. The animation is never as inspired as the films that Aardman ("Wallace & Gromit") puts out on a regular basis. Little witchy Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is bored with her milquetoast parents (voiced by Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) and their 150-year-old house that they’ve recently moved into. But Coraline’s ennui fades when she finds a portal into a mirror reality where her parents are kinder and the house is better painted and has better lighting. The only catch is that if Coraline wants to stay in the more festive reality, she’ll have to have her eyes sewn up with buttons. Yes, with buttons. The 3-D effects are less than impressive, and as a character, Coraline is a shade too snotty to ever completely win over the audience. Keith David adds pizzazz as the leathery voice of a quirky black cat that comes to Coraline’s rescue, but it’s not enough to save the movie from itself. (Focus Features) Rated PG. 101 mins. (C )


For more reviews visit www.colesmithey.com

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