Death at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral
Death at a Funeral, the 2007 British comedy centering around horrible albeit hilarious hijinx at a funeral, gets the remake treatment as an American comedy loaded with well-known comic actors. Chris Rock produces and stars as the son of the deceased, playing straight man to Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Danny Glover, and Loretta Devine among others. And it was Rock's idea to redo the British film, move it to LA, and have it center around an African-American family.

Rock saw the original film in a nearly empty theater and thought he could take the set-up, twist it, and deliver laughs to a wider audience. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, as the first Death at a Funeral was very funny but never caught on. But Rock's take on a family enduring a funeral that's gone drastically wrong only pays off in scattered laughs.

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X-Games 3D

X-Games 3D
Much like a biker or skateboarder launching off some physically near-impossible ramp, attempting some unparalleled feat of mid-air contortion in defiance of gravity, X-Games 3D could only ever succeed or fail spectacularly. Unfortunately, much like Jake Brown's epic, 50-foot fall that went so widely viral last year, the quasi-documentary plummets to the ground with a dull, hollow thud. Like any good trick in extreme sports, the concept worked in theory: Take the most dangerous, visually captivating collection of games imaginable and film their greatest moments in eye-popping 3-D. The problem, however, is threefold…

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Hired Gun

Hired Gun
Anne Francis is about to hung for the murder of her husband, the son of the local Ponderosa owner John Litel. But her uncle sends Chuck Connors to rescue her and he does, taking her across the Texas state line to New Mexico territory where he, Robert Burton is the local Ponderosa owner. And due to Burton's influence, New Mexico will not honor extradition. What to do, but hire out for The Hired Gun.

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Vampires Suck

Vampires Suck
Vampires Suck is the latest in a long line of cheaply produced, minimum effort parody movies. In fact it’s the fifth just directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. In recent years the Hollywood mockery machine has tackled horror movies, superhero movies, teen movies, romance movies, and they’ve even parodied vampire movies before too. But this one, it’s the best of the bunch. Not because it’s good, but because it’s only unbelievably boring while all the others have been unbearably irritating.

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28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later
Nothing satisfies the appetite for allegory quite like a movie about flesh-eating zombies. Somehow the genre, at least as practiced by its masters, has the capacity to illuminate some brute facts about the human condition and its contemporary dysfunctions. There are not many recent movies that match, for example, the social criticism undertaken by George Romero in his “Living Dead” cycle.

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Stardust

Stardust
Watching Stardust, Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the acclaimed fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman, it's obvious that the filmmakers were trying for a sly if special-effects-heavy update of Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride -- a film equal parts romance, fun and fantasy. But I was more immediately reminded of Ron Howard's Willow, not just because I loved that film and all of its disjointed parts, but primarily because those same disparate elements are only occasionally combined in consistent measures here. That said, Vaughn's film eventually proves to be a far more delightful and engaging adventure than Howard's -- although it may take a little patience enduring Stardust's front-loaded fantasy before you get to the fun that follows.

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Zodiac

Zodiac
Explaining a mystery is an act of reassurance. It makes us feel that chaos has been defeated, and the forces of order restored. Zodiac, David Fincher's vastly intricate and dazzling drama about the hunt for the serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area starting in 1969, offers no such soothing closure, and that's part of what's haunting about it. It spins your head in a new way, luring you into a vortex and then deeper still, fascinating us as much for what we don't know as what we do. Reenacting one of the most infamous ''cold'' cases in U.S. criminal history, Fincher has broken with the fanciful mode of tawdry baroque opulence he employed in Fight Club, Panic Room, and his first serial-killer outing, Seven. Zodiac is based on piles of documents culled from police records, and it's been made in a style of dogged, almost fetishistic realism, its suspense rooted in the scrappiest tidbits of bureaucratic protocol. Fincher refuses to squeeze the hunt for the Zodiac killer into tidy arcs. The revelations occur where they did, and not where they didn't.

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Children of Men

Children of Men
It is above all the look of "Children of Men" that stirs apprehension in the heart. Is this what we are all headed for? The film is set in 2027, when assorted natural disasters, wars and terrorist acts have rendered most of the world ungovernable, uninhabitable or anarchic. Britain stands as an island of relative order, held in line by a fearsome police state. It has been 18 years since Earth has seen the birth of a human child.

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Blade II

Blade II

Those regarding Blade II as a travelogue will not be planning their next vacation to Prague, where the bulk of the motion picture takes place. (Economic considerations caused it to be filmed there.) The Eastern European city is portrayed as a shadowy hellhole that's crawling with vampires. Like the recent Queen of the Damned, Blade II postulates that today's society is in part populated by the creatures of the night. They're everywhere. In fact, the ratio of the undead to the living in Prague appears to be ridiculously high.

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He's Just Not That Into You

He's Just Not That Into You
He's Just Not That Into You seeks to mine the same vein of romantic comedy ore as Love, Actually - the multi-arc story in which characters cross each others' paths and interact in an attempt to show different facets of one emotion. Unfortunately, while Love, Actually succeeded in providing well-developed characters in (mostly) interesting situations, He's Just Not That Into You is often flat with subplots that feel rushed and/or contrived. The comedy is perfunctory, almost as if the filmmakers wanted their child to be a drama but didn't feel confident enough in the material to proceed without a layer of false levity to keep things from becoming too serious.

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Transamerica

Transamerica
As much heralded, "edgy" movies go, Transamerica fails to live up to expectations. The final 30 minutes are interesting, funny, and affecting, but that segment represents less than a third of the running time. To get to the parts of the film that work, it is necessary to endure 15 minutes of setup, then an hour of some of the most uninspired road movie tedium in recent history. Road movies often turn into vehicles for lazy screenwriters, and this is no exception. The primary purpose of this prolonged portion of Transamerica isn't to bring the characters closer or to give us insight into their personalities; it's to stretch out the running length so we're left with a motion(less) picture rather than a short.

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Lucky Number Slevin

Lucky Number Slevin
Lucky Number Slevin is a fascinating case study of what might result if Quentin Tarantino directed a script written for Alfred Hitchcock. From a screenwriting perspective, this is pure suspense, with twists that would appeal to The Master, including his favorite: mistaken identity. (In fact, North by Northwest is explicitly referenced.) From a directorial standpoint, Paul McGuigan was evidently inspired by Tarantino, and some of the Pulp Fiction filmmaker's favorite actors - Bruce Willis, Robert Foerster, Lucy Liu - make appearances. Non-Tarantino actors like Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley, are at home. And lead Josh Hartnett, recalling his appearance in Sin City, is also in synch with the proceedings. All-in-all, like many of Hitchcock's middling films, this one is flawed but enjoyable. And it's clever enough that I didn't guess all of the surprises.

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Santa Clause 2

Santa Clause 2
The Santa Clause 2 is a worthy successor to the original 1994 film – that is to say, anyone under age 10 will be enchanted; anyone over age 10 will have trouble stifling their boredom. The movie has a laudable quality or two, but overestimating the audience's intelligence is not one of them. Even the so-called "clever" moments of satire (such as the opening segment, in which Santa's workshop must avoid detection from a nearby plane) are too juvenile to be considered suitable for adults.

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Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection
If nothing else, Alien Resurrection emphasizes something that became apparent five years ago with Alien 3 -- the series hasn't only run out of steam, it's getting thin on new ideas. No one seems willing to take any chances with the franchise, so we keep seeing the same basic story over and over again. There's very little in Alien Resurrection that wasn't done better in either of the first two films. And, on those occasions when the latest entry offers a fresh twist on old material, the script's underdevelopment fails to make it special.

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Blues Brothers 2000

Blues Brothers 2000
They're back, and this time they're not on a mission from God. Strictly speaking, however, only one of the original Blues Brothers has returned -- Dan Aykroyd's Elwood. His partner, Jake (played by the late John Belushi), died in prison, so now it's up to the survivor to find a new lead singer, re-form the group, hit the road, run from the police, and end up in a band competition to end all band competitions. Any similarities between the sequel and its classic inspiration are entirely intentional. In fact, in many ways, Blues Brothers 2000 is as much a remake as it is a follow-up. The familiar elements are certainly all there.

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Kiss Me Deadly

Kiss Me Deadly
Ex-spy Jacob Keane is drawn back into the shadowy world of international espionage when his former partner Marta reappears after 17 years, her memory erased, on the run from a pair of deadly, psychopathic assassins.

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