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How Do You Know
How Do You Know is cute, harmless, and utterly forgettable. For a while it was being buzzed about as a potential Oscar contender, but that was based solely on the fact it's a James L Brooks (Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets) film starring Reese Witherspoon. Once people actually had a chance to see it, the buzz was cut off - and rightfully so. How Do You Know isn't that big epic love story we've been waiting for all year. Instead, it's simply a nice diversion and nothing more.
How Do You Know has a charming cast and an Oscar winning filmmaker at the helm. It had potential, but suffers from having characters who are...and here's the kiss of death...just blah. How Do You Know also disappoints because its blah characters act and talk like they're in a romantic comedy. There's barely a genuine moment in the film, and what does feel real has nothing to do with the three attractive leads but instead comes from supporting player Kathryn Hahn and her relationship with her boyfriend.
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Race to Witch Mountain
Childhood is a good time in one's life to look toward the sky, count the stars and wonder if somebody, somewhere, isn't perhaps counting you. It's a time when the idea of extraterrestrial life isn't limited simply by the cold logic of biology or astrophysics, but to the limitless boundaries of a child's imagination, where green creatures with impossible spaceships and bodies in defiance of sound architecture roam the galaxy in diligent search of… well… us. Which is all to say that, for a child, aliens are like the dinosaurs of the sky. The stuff of stories.
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That title could allude to the Bermuda Triangle, but viewers of a certain age might be pining for a feature-length version of the BBC's legendary 1980s shipboard soap starring Kate O'Mara and Larry Lamb. Actually this is a rather smart, interestingly constructed scary movie from British director Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance) set in the US: a supernatural time-shift chiller perhaps inspired by Donnie Darko. A group of twentysomethings take a jaunt on a fancy yacht, get into difficulties and gratefully scramble aboard a weird 1930s-vintage ocean liner that looms mysteriously up out of the mist. But nobody's there and as the increasingly terrified castaways walk down the ship's endless Kubrickian corridors and into eerily deserted art deco rooms, it's clear that there are some very weird things going on.
A professionally executed farce of the yelling-family variety, “City Island” revolves around a blue-collar clan with more secrets than filters. At the head of the table is Vince (Andy Garcia), a stolid corrections officer and clandestine acting student; facing him is Joyce (Julianna Margulies), the wife who wonders where the passion has gone. Add a daughter (Mr. Garcia’s real-life daughter, Dominik Garcia-Lorido) who’s stripping instead of studying and a teenage son (Ezra Miller) who fantasizes about feeding doughnuts to fat women and you have a household that, even by current comedy standards, strains credulity.
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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Whatever happened to the delight and, if you'll excuse the term, the magic in the "Harry Potter" series? As the characters grow up, the stories grow, too, leaving the innocence behind and confusing us with plots so labyrinthine that it takes a Ph.D from Hogwarts to figure them out. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" still has much of the enchantment of the earlier films, but Harry no longer has as much joy. His face is lacking the gosh-wow-this-is-really-neat grin. He has internalized the secrets and delights of the world of wizards, and is now instinctively using them to save his life.
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When I first saw the trailer for Francois Ozon's latest film I laughed out loud at the seemingly preposterous premise. An ordinary couple have a baby that sprouts wings and flies around their living room – and seemingly this was meant to be a serious drama. As with his previous films such as SWIMMING POOL and UNDER THE SAND, however, things are never so clear cut and the lines between fantasy and reality in RICKY quickly become blurred, both for Ozon's characters and his audience.
It goes without saying that it's dangerous for a lamb to spend time in the den of wolves, but when that lamb lingers longer than is necessary, the result is guaranteed. Alpha Dog, the 2006 Sundance Closing Night film whose resemblance to a real-life case engendered a lawsuit, is about such a situation. It illustrates that not all master criminals are masterminds and that not all "nerds gone wild" stories have happy endings. Director Nick Cassavetes should be commended for the unflinching manner in which he tells the story - it packs a punch, although it lingers too long to be truly unsettling. There's an art to figuring out when to end a movie and, at least on this occasion, it eludes the filmmakers.
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Eyes Wide Shut
Several years ago, I recall reading an interview with British novelist P.D. James (the author of the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series) in which she was asked why it took her an average of three to four years to write a new book when other writers working in her genre typically released something every six to twelve months. James' response was illuminating. She indicated that it wasn't the writing that consumed her time, but the effort of doing background research and preparation. The late director Stanley Kubrick (who died on March 7, 1999) would have understood and agreed with that assessment. Kubrick, the craftsman of more than a half-dozen genuine classics (including Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Full Metal Jacket), was known for taking his time shepherding projects to the screen. Especially with his later films, he would not allow himself to be hurried. The gap between The Shining and Full Metal Jacket was seven years. That widened to an even dozen between Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.
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Legally Blonde fits into the niche occupied by motion pictures like Clueless, Dick, and Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion - that is to say, films in which an airhead heroine captures our affection and overcomes her vacuous disability to triumph. However, while Legally Blonde boasts its share of cute moments, the production has at least one significant problem - the plot. Director Robert Luketic's feature debut is handicapped by a lame, predictable storyline that calls attention to itself too often. Admittedly, in all but the best comedies, plot is usually not a strong suit, but the filmmakers of Legally Blonde make the mistake of believing the audience will care about the way things progress, which is not likely to happen.
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When I first heard that Twentieth Century Fox intended to re-make Dr. Dolittle with Eddie Murphy in the title role, I suspected that it was a bad move (the success of The Nutty Professor notwithstanding). Now that I have endured the 85 minute motion picture, I'm sure it was a bad move. Dr. Dolittle is supposed to be a lowbrow comedy with lots of laughs and a heartwarming message. Instead, it's a cloying, humorless motion picture whose only assets are the work of Jim Henson's Creature Shop and a couple of good one-liners by a pair of rodents.
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It would be possible to write pages and pages comparing and contrasting the reality of Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential campaign with the fictional one of Jack Stanton, the candidate in Primary Colors. Likewise, it would be equally possible to develop a lengthy piece about the similarities and differences between the movie and the best-selling novel upon which it is based. Since more qualified individuals than I will be penning articles of this sort over the next few days and weeks, I feel confident that I can narrow the scope of this review (mostly) to the movie itself, and let others worry about the divisions between fact and fiction.
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Die Hard 2
It's rare that the sequel to a good movie lives up to expectations. Such is the case with Die Hard 2, the somewhat-muddled but still entertaining return of Bruce Willis' John McClane. Fortunately, the original Die Hard was good enough that there's room for the second installment to be enjoyable while still not matching the pace or possessing the flair of its predecessor.
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Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer
Branded as a 'nerd' and harassed by the school bully, 12-year-old Arthur is rescued by a magical troll who knows that the boy unwittingly holds the secret to defeat an evil dragon. Arthur's loving mom, struggling to keep her devious ex-husband from gaining custody of Arthur, dismisses her son's 'fantasies' until she realizes the all-too-real immediate danger and joins forces with Arthur, the troll, and a dashing but washed up video-game master. Together, they hope to conquer the dragon and the wicked vice-principal who threaten civilization.
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James Franco stars as Sonny, the son of Jewel who runs a brothel. Sonny returns home from the army, staying with his mother while waiting to start the job an army buddy of his promised him. Jewel tries to convince Sonny to come back to working for her as he had before the army, saying many of his old clients still missed him and he was the best gigolo she'd ever had. Sonny continually turned her down, wanting to leave that life behind. However, the job he was promised never materialized and he was forced to come back to working for Jewel again. Jewel had also recently recruited a new girl to the brothel, a girl called Carol. Sonny and Carol meet and fall in love. They often talk about getting out of the business and escaping together. They also do some jobs together. One of Carols clients, an older man, proposes to her and asks her to go away with him. She at first declines, hoping to go away with Sonny. She and Sonny fall out as he is making no effort to get out of the business, but becoming more introverted and depressed with the occasional outburst as he looks for more and more work. Carol accepts the marriage proposal. At the end of the film, Carol is in the car with the man, driving away and looking back. We see Sonny coming out of the house, and beginning to run down the street, towards the car. It is left up to the viewer what happens next.
In the 80s, after seeing his father and lumberjack foreman being hit by a protestor against the deforesting and arrested by the police, the boy Gus kills the protestor with a chainsaw. In the present days, Samantha, who is traumatized after being abused by her former boyfriend Jimmy, travels with her pothead friends in a van to the American Free Love Festival, a rock-and-roll concert in the woods. Near the location, they are assaulted by three local hillbillies, but they succeed to arrive in the festival. Meanwhile, Mayor Hal Burton and Deputy Buzz Hall try to give a minimum of organization to the event. However, a deranged psychopath serial-killer wearing a mask of Ronald Reagan uses an ax to kill the pacific stoned hippies.
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A British design executive, who seemingly has everything going for him has his life totally changed when a refrigerator falls from an aircraft and lands on his wife. He decides to getaway from it all by taking a trip to Australia. On his bus, he meets a wild group of eccentrics, including a woman who has stolen cash from her drug-dealing boy friend. As the movie moves along, we learn further that the executive is constantly accident-prone and drawn into unlikely situations. The films title refers to a new design color that Roache is trying to develop.
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