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Wednesday, January 27,2010

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey

 



Extraordinary Measures. It’s like corporate rock but worse. It’s a Big Pharma propaganda piece committed with a bloated musical score that blows out the depressingly formulaic patchwork on hand. The true-life narrative is constructed around Oregonian family headed by John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) who, with his wife Aileen (Keri Russell); they have three children, two of whom are stricken with Pompe disease. The rare condition means the children will probably not live past 9 or 10 unless a treatment is found, developed, and made ready in the next year or so. John finds Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a maverick scientist doing pioneering work on treating Pompe at the University of Nebraska. Brendan Fraser gives a technically mannered performance that stands up to scrutiny. But Harrison Ford plays Dr. Stonehill with an artificial anger that boarders on camp. Together, the not-quite-compatible Stonehill and John attract investors to start their own lab where Dr. Stonehill can work with a team of dedicated interns to test and perfect a drug capable of treating Pompe. Blaring orchestral chords pound over director Tom Vaughan’s visually glossy and emotionally syrupy commercial for the drug industry. The realism on display is about as far from naturalistic as you can get. There’s something very ugly here. Rated PG. 115 mins. (C-)


Legion. A reckless attempt at flipping apocalyptic holiness on its head with an army of demonically possessed angel-zombies led by one evil Gabriel (Kevin Durand), "Legion" is a disaster of a disaster movie. The ever-committed Paul Bettany, like his co-actors Charles S. Dutton and Dennis Quaid, does a lot with a little but inevitably surrenders all integrity to an insultingly gratuitous body count movie. Archangel Michael (Bettany) falls to earth, cuts off his wings, and gathers up an arsenal of guns big enough to hold off the local SWAT for at least six hours. At a desolate diner run by Quaid’s everyman loser Bob Hanson, in the middle of the Mojave desert, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) is an eight-months pregnant waitress romantically attached to Bob’s mechanic son Jeep (Lucas Black). Charlie’s unborn baby and soon-to-be-tattooed boyfriend may just be humanity’s last hope. There’s a fumbled thematic excuse that "God got tired of the bullshit" and decided to wipe out humanity. Regardless of the B.S. in this movie, the audience will likely be on God’s side. Rated R. 100 mins. (D)


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. 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-)


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. 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. Rated R. 114 mins. (B-)



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