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Wednesday, January 20,2010

RevIews in Short

by Cole Smithey

 

The Book of Eli. Falling on the heels of "The Road," here is a similarly themed vision of a postapocalyptic dystopia where cannibals and criminals make up what’s left of the human species. Survivalist extraordinaire Eli (Denzel Washington) has spent the last 30 years, since the world’s final war, walking — when he isn’t reading from the bible that he lugs around with a giant knife and a sawed-off shotgun. A late inciting incident brings Eli face to face with criminal kingpin, and bookfanatic, Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie sizes up Eli as a man of secrets, and sends in his adopted daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) to act as a prostitute/ spy. Eli rebuffs her affection, but unintentionally lets her see the hefty bible he possesses. It isn’t long before Carnegie and his ruffians are in hot pursuit of Eli and his new traveling partner Solara. The glorified chase plot finally runs out of gas.. The story never allows for any kind of unity of opposites to develop between Eli and Carnegie, who might have some latent redeeming quality since he so ferociously covets the word of the Lord. "The Book of Eli" has a biblical ring to it, what with the ill behavior of Eli’s sons causing God to curse all of Eli’s lineage. At least that’s what happened in the bible. Newbie screenwriter Gary Whitta cares little for any kind of biblical references that might weigh down what is really more of a neo-western than a convincing measure of dystopic reality. This isn’t a Samuel L. Jackson gospel-spewing potboiler after all, and Denzel Washington somehow seems a more capable post-apocalyptic hero. The Hughes brothers directing team are more interested in a firing Gatlin guns and RPGs than imparting thematic logic or character development. Eli is a loner badass with a bible, and if that isn’t good enough for an audience to empathize with, then the exit doors are located at the front and rear of the cinema. Rated R. 118 mins. (C )



The Lovely Bones. A cross between "What Dreams May Come," "Stir of Echoes," and director Peter Jackson’s own "Heavenly Creatures," this visionary filmic adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel packs a worthy punch of haunting esoteric pathos. Saoirse Ronan plays 14-year-old Susie Salmon, an unfortunate girl murdered by Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci), a serial killer residing in Susie’s suburban Philly neighborhood circa 1973. The story hop-scotches between events leading up to Susie’s murder, while giving eye-candy visions of a heavenly waitingroom limbo of rainbows, verdant fields, and hypernatural spaces. Susan Sarandon sets herself apart as Grandma Lynn, a self-medicating matriarch who brings some much-needed humor to the story. In spite of its obvious flaws, "The Lovely Bones" carries an inertia of unmistakable tension, care of Peter Jackson, that makes it a suspenseful and entertaining film. Rated PG-13. 135 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. 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, Simon Kinberg 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. Meryl 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-)




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-butwealthy 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. Rated PG. 95 mins. (B )




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