Friday, February 15, 2008

Movies opening this week

Definitely, Maybe (Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Breslin, dir. Adam Brooks)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I'm a little surprised at all the good reviews for this movie (check out MaryAnn Johanson's inordinately gushing take), which struck me as little more than another ho-hum romantic comedy, although not as grating as last week's Fool's Gold. Maybe it's my pathological aversion to Ryan Reynolds, or maybe it's my cold, black heart, but this movie just did not do it for me. It's whiny, it's unfocused, it's illogical, and it's not funny. The female leads are mostly charming (although Fisher gets sort of shrill at times), but that's not enough to redeem this one. Wide release

Diary of the Dead (Michelle Morgan, Josh Close, Shawn Roberts, dir. George A. Romero)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really do like George Romero; seeing Night of the Living Dead for the first time, on the old cheesy Saturday-night horror-movie showcase on local Vegas TV hosted by Count Cool Rider, was a formative experience for me, and I really like Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and much of his Day of the Dead as well. And I respect that he has stuck to his passion and continued making horror movies. But this is a bad, bad movie, and some of the positive reviews really read like apologies for Romero's clumsy, heavy-handed preachiness, which is far more prominent in the movie than zombie attacks are. He's already talking about a direct sequel to this one, but maybe he'd be better of just letting the whole zombie thing go (not that he will, since that's the only real way his movies get any attention). Limited release

In Bruges (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, dir. Martin McDonagh)
Something about this movie just felt off to me, like all of its various elements never fit well together. It's a fairly derivative Tarantino-style thriller, starring two overly reflective and articulate hitmen, and its overwritten banter is occasionally amusing. But then there's this equally strong element of melodramatic seriousness that never jibes with the comedy, and McDonagh seems to be trying too hard on both ends. There's also a bunch of really choppy editing, and some unconvincing acting from Farrell, who always comes off like a petulant little boy to me, although I realize a lot of people think he's really talented. It's all just a little too self-consciously clever to work out into anything worthwhile. Opened limited Feb. 8; in Las Vegas this week

Jumper (Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, dir. Doug Liman)
Despite his reputation as an abrasive jackass who leaves the actual directing to producers, writers and/or editors on his various projects, I generally like Liman's work, and he's proved himself good at making brisk, entertaining action movies (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). But this one is a total mess. It's full of glaring plot holes and inconsistencies, it has a whiny jerk as a protagonist (played by a whiny, annoying actor), it ends without resolving anything or even properly setting up a sequel, and about the only thing it has going for it is that it looks really expensive. That's really all I could think about as I was watching all the helicopter shots of far-flung locations; huge, effects-heavy stunt sequences; and fight scenes that jump from one exotic place to another, thanks to the characters' ability to teleport. Those scenes are a bit cool at first, just to imagine how they might have been pulled off logistically, but they don't make the movie any more logical or interesting. Wide release

The Spiderwick Chronicles (Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, dir. Mark Waters)
I suppose it's pointless to rag on this ultimately forgettable and harmless movie, which is slightly better than your average kiddie fare, but I just found it boring and a little sloppy, with unconvincing effects and a half-baked story. It still bugs me that Highmore is apparently the only male kid actor studios will bother casting, since he can't really do an American accent, and here the digital doubling of him as twins often looks awkward. Parker and David Strathairn look completely lost in their roles, and the story is both predictable and never fully fleshed out. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, although at least it's not a cliffhanger. Parents dragged to this won't hate it, I suppose, but they'll certainly be bored. Wide release

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