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Wednesday, May 27,2009

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey

Drag Me To Hell. Co-written with his brother Ivan, Sam Raimi crafts an enormously enjoyable house of cinematic horrors that is at turns funny, campy, shocking and scary. The ever-engaging Alison Lohman plays Christine, a bank loan officer angling for an assistant manager position. Attempting to impress her boss with her ability to make "tough choices," Christine denies a loan extension to an old Hungarian gypsy named Mrs. Ganush (wonderfully played by Lorna Raver). The decision causes Mrs. Ganush to place a terrible curse on Christine that promises to drag her to hell at the end of three days. With the help of her attentive boyfriend, Clay (Justin Long), and a knowledgeable psychic (played by Dileep Rao), Christine tries to get rid of the curse that causes all sorts of terrifying events and bodily harm. Raimi uses everything in his bag of cinematic tricks to create a fast-paced, "Night Gallery"/"Twilight Zone"-styled horror movie that continuously goes much further than any expectations might prepare you for. "Drag Me to Hell" is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in years. It’s destined to be a cult classic for all eternity. Rated PG-13. 99 mins. (A )




Terminator Salvation. More of a 21st-century "Mad Max" than a continuation of the Terminator franchise seasoned audiences are familiar with, Michigan-born director McG’s post-apocalyptic man versus industrial-robot-military-complex lurches through fits and starts of spectacle that almost add up to a story. Helena Bonham Carter plays mad scientist Dr. Serena Kogan, who uses the body of executed convict Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) for her latest and last — she’s dying of cancer — experiment to create an indestructible human-machine hybrid. Christian Bale plays alpha male Resistance leader John Connor, whose blanket radio transmissions begin with "If you’re listening to this, you are the resistance." With his pregnant wife, Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard), awaiting his return, Connor sets off on a mission to rescue a group of prisoners from the occupying robot clutches of Skynet, whose prisoner Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) is of special importance. From an action standpoint, "Terminator Salvation" is an eye-blasting fiesta accompanied by good performances from Bale, Worthington, Yelchin and Moon Bloodgood as a hot shot soldier. However, the film comes up short with an underdeveloped story and some abysmal performances from actors in secondary roles. (Warner Brothers) Rated PG-13. 116 mins. (B-)




Up. With invasive urban construction dwarfing his once serene, and modest house, the recently widowed Carl sets out to make good on his promise to deceased wife Ellie, and travel to the place they had always dreamed of going in this animated film. At 78, Carl uses a walker, a hearing aid and a set of dentures that will later come in handy as a most unorthodox weapon. Carl, who sold balloons at an amusement park for a living, ingeniously ties thousands of helium balloons to his house and lifts off for "Paradise Falls," a remote spot “lost in time” in South America. Accidentally accompanying him on his jour ney is Russell, a 9-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer looking to earn his final badge by helping an elderly person. Peter Docter and co-director/screenwriter Bob Peterson have outdone themselves with a balanced and touching story well served by 3-D animation. "Up" is the first animated 3-D film to so fully complete its narrative and visual tasks with such apparent ease and meaningful detail. You can tell this film was a labor of love, and that the cast and crew were sufficiently inspired by the material to craft a children’s movie destined to be a classic. Warm and fuzzy? You bet. %u2028Rated PG. 89 mins. (A )




Angels & Demons. For all the Catholic Church hullabaloo over Dan Brown’s novels, Ron Howard’s "Da Vinci Code" sequel is an exuberant cinematic adaptation that combines elements of horror, religious tradition and hightech suspense to give audiences a non-stop thrill ride. Tom Hanks returns to his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who gets urgently summoned to Rome to assist the Swiss Guard, led by Stellan Skarsgard’s Commander Richter, and the Vatican in solving a mammoth crisis. The recent death of the pope has left the Camerlengo, the temporary acting head of the Vatican State (Ewan McGregor), overseeing conclave proceedings marred by the kidnapping of four eminent cardinals by the infamous Illuminati, who have promised to kill one cardinal each hour leading up to midnight, when it will explode an antimatter bomb of unfathomable devastation. Aided by Italian physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), Langdon jockeys between the Vatican’s sealed archives to various churches, attempting to follow the Illuminati’s path, save the lives of the cardinals and locate the bomb in time to diffuse it. The story goes into an extended triple climax that is so preposterously over the top that any concern for the sanctity of religion or historic fact falls to the wayside. It may not be the best thriller you’ve ever seen, but it is the best one of the year, so far. (Sony Pictures) Rated PG-13. 138 mins. (B )




Star Trek. Fusing a carefully chosen cast with a stunning sci-fi spectacle and a storyline that retains the workmanlike elements of Gene Roddenberry’s original television series, director J.J. Abrams ("Mission Impossible III") successfully forms a new beginning for the Star Trek franchise. Going back to the calamitous astral circumstances of James Tiberius Kirk’s birth, the story builds as the young rebellious Kirk (Chris Pine) joins the Starfleet Academy at the advice of U.S.S. Enterprise veteran Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Fast friendships, rivalries, and romantic overtures connect Kirk to Dr. "Bones" McCoy, Spock (Zachary Quinto), and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) before the crew is thrust into the thick of its first mission aboard the latest version of the Enterprise. Dark Romulan leader Captain Nero (well played by an unrecognizable Eric Bana) sets a trap for the Enterprise to enable the destruction of the planet Vulcan and Earth. Abrams savors establishing the relationships and quirks of Roddenberry’s Star Trek characters that arguably outshine every other sci-fi on-screen legacy. The ensemble succeeds in capturing the essence of his or her iconic character, and an extended cameo by Leonard Nimoy adds considerable flavor to the exhilarating spectacle. (Paramount) Rated PG-13. 126 mins. (B )




For more reviews visit www.colesmithey.com

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