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Wednesday, January 13,2010

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey



Daybreakers. Sibling Australian filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig flip Hollywood’s teenfriendly vampire trend on its head with a gory sci-fi world run by a majority population of bloodsuckers. In 2019 vampires outnumber humans, and blood supplies are running out. Sam Neill’s sharp-toothed corporate villain Charles Bromley runs a monopoly that harvests blood from nude human bodies connected chockablock to a vast blood milking system. Hematologist vampire Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is working on a vampire cure that Bromley and his well-armed minions want to prevent. It’s not a far reach to see the filmmakers’ satirical connection between blood and oil as battle breaks out between the vampires and a group of survivalist humans, led by Willem Dafoe in full badass mode. The film’s pacing misses a few beats and the capitalist satire never quite pops, but "Daybreakers" comes as a welcome retort to the vampire bubblegum genre that horror fans have had to tolerate lately. Rated R. 98 mins. (B-)


Sherlock Holmes. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery novels who blunder into the theater unaware this is a Guy Ritchie film will find it futile to reconcile Ritchie’s nonsensical tour of endless anachronisms. You’d need a special magnifying glass to identify any elements of the original literary source material that lends the title character his name. Snappy repartee between Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and his irrelevant sidekick Watson (Jude Law) creates an illusion of character development even if no such thing exists. Outrageous action set pieces jump from gratuitous martial arts fights to revved-up foot chases. What little mystery there is arises from Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a serial killer of women. Screenwriters Anthony Peckham ("Invictus"), Simon Kinberg ("Mr. and Mrs.Smith") and newcomer Michael Robert Johnson conspire with Ritchie to dumb down Holmes for a film franchise aimed at a modern youth that they must view as less intelligent than the generation Doyle wrote for. Rated PG-13. 128 mins. (C)


It’s Complicated. No one cries like Meryl Streep. And no one can make you laugh harder when she’s pumping out tears than the guileless icon who has defied Hollywood’s inclination for putting actresses out to pasture at 40. Streep plays Jane Adler, a 50-something owner of a Santa Barbara bakery shop, who bumps into her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) at a party with his much younger second wife, Agnes (Lake Bell). But the 10 years since their 17-year marriage ended hasn’t extinguished the torch of desire Jake still carries for Jane. With her youngest daughter going off to college and the other preparing for marriage, Jane’s defenses are down. So when busybody Jake makes his move on Jane, cheating on his wife with his ex, she’s bound to tumble, at least for a while. Though overweight, Baldwin’s happily rotund Jake easily outpaces the dopey charms of Jane’s romantically famished architect Adam (Steve Martin). "It’s Complicated" is a middle-aged romantic comedy that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Older people need to laugh at dumb stuff too. Rated R. 114 mins. (B-)


Up in the Air. George Clooney’s intentionally ambiguous character Ryan Bingham is a poster boy for America’s lack of ethical direction in this thought-provoking satire about the nation’s unemployment epidemic. Unfortunately, this film fails to swing its hammer hard enough. Smarmy Ryan works as the No. 1 hatchet man for an outsourcing company that fires employees for big companies. Ryan happily slips into a low-key affair with Alex (Vera Farmiga), who shares his shallow worldview, at least on the surface. A snag appears in the form of upstart corporate spitfire Natalie (Anna Kendrick), whose attempt at making Ryan’s job obsolete with the use of video conferencing transforms her into Ryan’s personal traveling trainee. The movie finds its level whenever director Jason Reitman’s camera depicts the outspoken responses of people being fired from jobs where they’ve toiled for years. The film seems to say, "It’s OK that we’re all losing our jobs, because it will invariably lead us to our own individual bliss." Rated R. 109 mins. (B)


Leap Year. With her gorgeous red hair and delicate facial features, Amy Adams dances brilliantly on a spiraling comic tightrope. Adams’s class conscious Anna has her heart set on marrying her crass-but-wealthy heart-surgeon boyfriend  Jeremy (Adam Scott). But instead of popping the big question over dinner, Jeremy gives Anna a pair of earrings before abandoning their meal for Dublin on an emergency call. Anna discovers an old Irish tradition wherein women propose to their men on leap year. With Feb. 29 coming up fast, romantic Anna attempts to fly to Dublin only to get stranded on the wrong side of the craggy island with heavy rains coming down. Anna seeks shelter at a pub/hotel run by the story’s inevitable husband-foil, Declan (Matthew Goode). Anna employs the none-too-pleased Declan to taxi her to Dublin. Adams’ hilarious physical comedy hits you in the funny bone as her smile melts your heart. Goode underplays Declan with just the right amount of willful contempt for some of Anna’s less than attractive character traits. Goode and Adams share a natural chemistry together that’s imbued with a well-constructed script by Deborah Kaplan, Simon Beaufoy, and Harry Elfont. Rated PG. 95 mins. (B )



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