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If you're going to see one Julia Roberts movie this year…
Well, it should be this one. Not that Roberts necessarily has a bunch of other pictures on her slate for 2009, but let's face it: The actress, once the darling of Hollywood who burst onto the scene with the charmer Mystic Pizza some 21 years ago, has gotten a little long in the tooth in recent times. Maybe it was that grueling Oscar acceptance speech for Erin Brockovich, or perhaps it was just a case of audiences getting too much of a good thing, but for some of us the once and future Pretty Woman hasn't been as welcome a sight lately as she once was.
If “Nim’s Island” were anything but a children’s movie, the casting genius who suggested Jodie Foster as a potential love interest for Gerard Butler would be looking for a new occupation. But miscasting isn’t the only problem with this sweet but ho-hum adaptation of Wendy Orr’s novel, a comedy-adventure that never quite finds its tone.
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Following scathing audience reaction to a "work copy" of Elizabethtown shown at several major late-summer film festivals, writer/director Cameron Crowe went back to the drawing board, paring down the 138-minute "director's cut" to a slightly more manageable 125 minutes. However, having seen both versions, I can state that the elimination of 13 minutes does not address the film's chief flaws. At best, it's a cosmetic fix. The theatrical edition of Elizabethtown, while shorter than its film festival sibling, does not represent a significant improvement.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Pardon me for wondering if director Michael Winterbottom is obsessed with cock (with or without the bull). Maybe I'm just saying that because I have been unfortunate enough to see his previous outing, 9 Songs, which avoided showing up behind the curtain in video stores because its distributor promoted it as art. (Actually, despite the graphic sex and nudity, and the obligatory "money shot," it's a failure as porn, so it's a good thing it has the "art" label to fall back on.).
Winterbottom (Jude, Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland) used to be one of those reliable directors whose work one could count on to be compelling, if not always entertaining. Then, three years ago, things went off track. His snoozer of a science fiction film, Code 46, arrived stillborn. That movie's brief close-up of female genitalia seemed to provide Winterbottom inspiration for 9 Songs, one of the highest profile (to date) examples of "art porn." It's as bad as its reputation suggests. That brings us to Winterbottom's latest, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. If nothing else, this movie brings the director back to the mainstream with a soft R-rating (probably should have been PG-13).
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Before he became the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara was an introverted medical student living a sheltered life in Buenos Aires. His life changed in 1952, when, despite almost being done with his degree, he decided to take a break from his studies and join his friend, Alberto Granado, on a trip through South America. Their journey, begun on an old motorcycle and completed on foot, by hitchhiking, and on a raft, took more than seven months and covered 7500 miles. By the time it concluded in Caracas, Guevara was not the same man who started the odyssey. The Motorcycle Diaries, which is based on Guevara's journals and a book written by Granado, is the story of that trek.
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My Life so Far
My Life So Far is a pleasantly nostalgic look at a few transformative months in the life of a 10-year old Scottish boy. Brought to the screen by director Hugh Hudson and producer David Puttnam (who collaborated on Chariots of Fire), My Life So Far provides 90 minutes of solid entertainment that runs the gamut from outright hilarity to melodrama. The film doesn't offer many surprises or deep insights into human nature, but it possesses an easygoing charm and likability that overcomes such potential deficiencies.
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Mitchell Y. McDeere (Tom Cruise) has just graduated in the top five of his class from Harvard Law School. With a record like his, there are understandably a lot of people interested in employing him. Offers abound from the large, the prestigious, and the desirable, but eventually it's a small firm from Memphis that snares Mitch's services. Bendini, Lambert, and Locke make the terms of his joining so enticing that the deal is impossible to turn down -- a starting salary near $100,000, a low-interest mortgage so he can buy a house, free use of a Mercedes, and repayment of his college loans. At first, Mitch and his wife Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorne) eagerly celebrate their new life and home, but it doesn't take long for the euphoria to wear thin. Two members of the Firm die under suspicious circumstances, and soon Mitch begins to wonder what secrets lie behind the locked doors of Bendini, Lambert, and Locke.
Alias - Season Four
One of the only consistent things about the spy series Alias is change. Creator J.J. Abrams seems to be unable to resist the urge to punch the reset button on his creation at regular intervals. Whether it's a sudden mid-season takedown of the evil SD-6 organization to the Season Two cliffhanger finale which found plucky pink-eared superspy Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) waking up to find that two years had passed and her boyfriend, Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), married to a woman who turned out to be an evil enemy agent, Abrams never hesitates to shake up the snowglobe of the Alias universe.
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Pier Paulo Pasolini continues his homoerotic explorations on the screen by taking his sexual slant into the Arabian Nights. Hungry lovers lurk behind every palm tree and the parched desert thirsts are satisfied only between the silken sheets of lustful tales of the night.
While it seems like all the tales will be interconnected at the beginning, the script seems to wander in the desert, losing its way. One tale involves a slave girl who slips a young man the money to buy her at auction so they can enjoy carnal bliss. After a pointed warning from her, he sells a shawl in the market to a blue-eyed man, which results in her abduction and sends him on a lackluster search to recover his lost love. In another tale a bridegroom abandons his wife to be on the eve of their wedding for another mysterious woman. His betrayal can only come back to haunt him. Several other stories weave together the fabric of Pasolini’s vision. With a running time of 131 minutes, the film unfolds rather slowly despite the multiple stories.
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Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Vivian Ashe (Jamie Lee Curtis) leaves her pet chihuahua Chloe (Drew Barrymore) with her irresponsible niece Rachel (Piper Perabo). However, when Rachel decides to go to Mexico with her friends, Chloe gets dognapped. She is sent to the dog fights, and meets a German Shepherd named Delgado (Andy Garcia). Delgado helps her escape the dog fights and attempts to get her back to Beverly Hills. Meanwhile, Rachel is searching for Chloe with Sam (Manolo Cardona) and Papi (George Lopez), landscaper and dog before Aunt Viv gets home.
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Continental: A Film Without Guns
Four people are affected by one mans disappearance Lucette, his wife, who anxiously awaits his return Louis, a young father whose relationship with his wife is going through confusing times Chantal, a hotel receptionist who dreams of sharing her life with someone else Marcel, an ex-gambler confronted by the realities of aging.
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Welcome to the Jungle
The plot of Welcome to the Jungle concerns two young couples who go to Southwest New Guinea in order to find Michael Rockefeller, the son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who disappeared years earlier. However, they get more than they bargained for when they come under attack from bloodthirsty cannibals.
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Comedy writer Jerry Stahl (Ben Stiller), whose 6000-a-week heroin habit had him taking his infant daughter along on his drug runs and doing smack during TV script conferences. Departing detox, Stahl explores memories with survivor Kitty, who listens patiently to Stahls flashback. Other women in Stahls life are his British wife Sandra (Elizabeth Hurley) and his agent Vola. For the TV series Mr. Chompers (inspired by ALF), Stahl meets with sitcom exec Craig Ziffer and puppeteer Allen. For freaky freebasing, Stahl hangs with mumbler Nicky and druggie Gus.
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The Russia House
Three notebooks supposedly containing Russian military secrets are handed to a British publisher during a Russian book conference. The British secret service are naturally keen to learn if these notebooks are the genuine article. To this end, they enlist the help of the scruffy British publisher Barley Blair, who has plenty of experience with Russian and Russians. Barley, an unconventionaly character who doesnt respond well to authority, finds himself in a game more complex than he first thought when he digs into the origin of the notebooks.
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Goodnight for Justice
After losing his family to murderous criminals as a youth, John Goodnight (Luke Perry) takes up the law as an adult -- eventually becoming a circuit judge in the wild Wyoming Territory of the late 19th-century frontier. Dedicated to seeing that justice is served for the innocent and victimized, Judge Goodnight relies on his skills with both words and weapons to defend the law in a harsh and often lethal landscape.
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Heaven Can Wait
Joe Pendleton is a quarterback preparing to lead his team to the superbowl when he is almost killed in an accident. An overanxious angel plucks him to heaven only to discover that he wasnt ready to die, and that his body has been cremated. A new body must be found, and that of a recently murdered millionaire is chosen. His wife and accountant, the murderers, are confused by this development, as he buys the L.A. Rams in order to once again quarterback them into the Superbowl.
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