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Wednesday, June 17,2009

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey

 


The Brothers Bloom. Newbie director Rian Johnson ("Brick”) fumbles his self-penned sophomore effort with an incongruously toned con-story that is a chore to sit through. A thoroughly amateurish opening sequence full of stale voice-over introduces orphan childhood versions of budding conmen brothers Bloom and Stephen, who hatch a scheme with a local laundry man to dirty the dresses of their female "bourgeoisie" classmates. Cut to modern times when the brothers (played by Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo) dress like Charlie Chaplin knock-offs and aim to bilk Penelope (Rachel Weisz), a filthy rich East Coast heiress with a knack for playing stringed instruments and juggling chainsaws. Further evidence that Johnson is still enrolled in the Wes Anderson school of filmmaking comes with the introduction of the brother’s non-English-speaking assistant Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi). The laws of diminishing returns take effect, as the globe-trotting quartet hit ports from Montenegro to Russia while scheming and out-scheming each other and the audience. Acting students will get a kick out of seeing Weisz give textbook meaning to "breaking character." Rated PG-13. 109 mins. (C-)


Land of the Lost. Will Ferrell is a buzz kill to this innuendo-laced comedy that’s unrelated to the television series it’s ostensibly based on. Notorious for repeating his same shtick rather than creating characters, Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a quantum paleontologist who bumbles into inventing a time-travel device that takes him and his assistant Holly (a squandered Anna Friel), along with slacker Will Stanton (Danny McBride) to a surreal place where lizard-type aliens clash with monkey people represented by Chaka (Jorma Taccone). Doomed from its faulty inception, "Land of the Lost" lives up to its title as a movie with no comic bearing save for Will Ferrell’s tired humor that works fine on David Letterman, but not so much on larger screens. This movie doesn’t even rate as a guilty pleasure. It’s a guilty pain. %u2028Rated PG-13. 96 mins. (D)


The Hangover. To its credit, "The Hangover" transfers to the audience the smelly, still-inebriated state that the title promises. Director Todd Phillips ("Old School") is nothing if not relentless in his pursuit of a full, mixed sack of masculine stupidity at the hand of drink, drugs and the dubious charms of Las Vegas. In the interest of their soon-to-be-wedded pal Doug (Justin Bartha), best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), let future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) come along for the ride to Vegas, where the circumstances of their bachelor party celebrations spiral out of control. A drunken night of childish carousing leaves the group missing their prime member and sends the absentminded trio on a humor-riddled mission to reconstruct the night’s events and locate Doug in time to get him to his wedding. Gratuitous sex, pratfalls and goofy violence come with the territory in this over-the-top guys’ comedy. A word to the wise: stay for the closing credit sequence to see a droll photo collage of outtake events from the lost hours of darkness. Rated R. 99 mins. (B-)


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. 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 journey 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. Rated PG. 89 mins. (A )


For more reviews visit www.colesmithey.com

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