- Firewall - Like Rip Van Winkle with a $25 million per picture deal, nap-addled gruff boy Harrison Ford has seen his career hibernate for more than a decade now, scoring hit upon forgettable hit. Ford's latest variation on a theme is, like the bulk of his post-Indiana Jones filmography, predictable formula fare, and therein lies its broad appeal. In what ultimately feels like a diluted remake of Ron Howard's 1996 thriller, Ransom, he plays a bank security expert whose family is held captive in exchange for his aid in electronically liberating $100 million. Bad guy Paul Bettany sneers and jeers so much that we know from the moment he turns up that Ford is going to heroically beat him and his dirty, dirty bastards, and our belief that goodness triumphing over ee-vil will be renewed. Able British stalwart Richard Loncraine, who directed Bettany in Wimbledon, paints this one by-the-numbers, and anyone looking for what might be their last Harrison Ford fix before Indy 4 (and presumed retirement) will get what they paid for, though very little more.
• Date Movie - Nowhere in the formula "Comedy = Tragedy + Time" does "Cruelty" figure in, something that this caca-palooza -- "from 2 of the 6 writers of Scary Movie" -- sets out to correct from the very first scene. When they introduce us to morbidly obese Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan), it is with ridicule as they paint her as a hideous beast that makes men vomit and turn gay. Of course, when we remember that 2 of the 6 writers of Scary Movie were Wayans Brothers, whose stock in trade is that kind of cruelty, it makes sense (even if these are another two writers.)
A parody of romantic comedies like Bridget Jones's Diary, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Hitch, this lame spoof goes for the easy laugh almost every time, beating to death with a golf club every gag with the subtlety of, well ... someone who beats someone else to death with a golf club. The "13" in the movie's "PG-13" rating would seem to be either a limit for either I.Q. or emotional age, as the movie's show pieces are either juvenile blue bits or have something to do with either poop, pee, puke or pus (the dreaded "4 P's"). Putting gifted comic actors like Fred Willard and Jennifer Coolidge in this stinky mess makes them both stinky by association, though as time goes by, the whole lot of them will only be guilty of contributing to a vast background of white noise that we will have learned to filter out when we grow up. Presently #64 on the IMDB's Bottom 100 of all time.
• Bloodrayne - Teutonic terror Uwe Boll directs movies no more than gravity directs objects to Earth. His grasp of pithy things like story and character development is nearly non-existent, and his penchant for adapting video games has earned him a reputation as a sort of idiot savant (only without the savant part), kind of like if the kid on the porch in Deliverance only knew how to play the riff that Vanilla Ice nicked from Queen's "Under Pressure". His latest, a shameless Blade ripoff about a half-human, half-vampire avenger (Kristianna Loken), is miscast, barely written and staged with the skill of a spastic with cataracts. Currently residing on the IMDB's Bottom 100 (at #34), it and Boll's rotting body of work have elevated the oeuvre of Ed Wood, whose non-charting Plan 9 From Outer Space was once considered the worst film ever made, to common hack status. At least the inclusion of the free PC version of the Bloodrayne 2 video game will help soothe buyer remorse.
• Doogal - A saccharine, cheap-looking CGI import from Britain about a lazy, cowardly, sugar-addicted pooch (with a mullet cut) who must find a way to save the world from an icy death is not the follow-up to Hoodwinked that Disney escapees Bob and Harvey Weinstein hoped for...or we asked for. At least they've got the swell Over The Hedge in theaters this week. Formerly titled The Magic Roundabout and re-dubbed (Doogal, that is. Not Over The Hedge.)
• Duma - With most arthouse films rated "R", it is always a pleasure when one comes along that culture mavens can take their kids to, and The Black Stallion director Carroll Ballard's latest nature trek -- a visually lovely adventure -- certainly does fit that bill. It is about a 12-year-old South African boy (Alexander Michaletos) who must return his pet cheetah to the wild, encountering and overcoming a number of obstacles along the way, the biggest one being our initial reluctance to accept its premise.
• Big Momma's House 2 - In Martin Lawrence's desperate minstrel show, the comedian reprises his role as undercover FBI agent Malcolm Turner, again donning a fat suit to become the sassy, black Southern matron Big Momma. He has to stop a potentially destructive computer hacker, and the movie is broad, shameless and pandering in most every respect. Lawrence appears to assume that we automatically like him and Big Momma, and does little to endear them to us any further. Incessant mugging, weak slapstick and Teflon catchphrases fill in the many cracks of its already shaky foundation, leaving a hammy house of horrors that should have been condemned when it was still a half-baked pitch.
• Grandma's Boy - Adam Sandler's longtime second-banana, Allen Covert, gets his shot at a lead in this stoner comedy, but despite his appealing, aw-shucks demeanor, the movie, about a 36-year-old video game tester who moves in with his grandmother and her two roommates, is just irredeemably stupid. It is sad to see three lovely ladies like Doris Roberts, Shirley Jones and Shirley Knight stooping for laughs like this, though based on the fact that practically no one saw it in theaters (or will go out of their way to rent the DVD), it is a very minor tragedy. Read
Danny Huston may have a famous Hollywood last name, but not a lot of movie fans know who he is. It would seem, however, that all that is about to change for the 43-year-old actor, whose father is late director John Huston and is half-brother of the lovely Anjelica Huston. In John Hillcoat's Australian western, The Proposition, penned by fellow Aussie Nick Cave, Huston plays a killer outlaw whose brother, played by Guy Pearce, is sent into the Outback to kill him to save their simpleton brother (Richard Wilson) from the gallows. All comparisons to Brando's maniacal Col. Kurtz in Coppola's Apocalypse Now aside, Huston puts his nice-guy looks aside and steps confidently into the role of the film's key character and makes a lot of those inevitable comparisons valid ones. He took the time to talk with Cinematical during a promotional stop in Boston last week.
- The Call Of Cthulhu - The H.P. Lovecraft Preservation Society, a group of dauntless fans that created the brilliant, Cthulhu-themed musical, A Shoggoth On The Roof, have created the ultimate fan film, an incredible tribute to the writer whose work seeded modern horror favorites like Re-Animator and From Beyond. Shot like a 1920's era silent film, the 47-minute feature is technically amazing, shot (in black-and-white), lit and performed like an authentic film of the period would have been (although it would have horrified people of the time right into Arkham Sanitarium.) Considered Lovecraft's most famous story, the story of a man who inherits a collection of documents detailing the ghastly Cthulhu Cult, it is very faithfully adapted, not to mention super-efficient. The title cards are in the viewer's choice of an astonishing 24 different languages, and the lush, symphonic score can be played in hi-fi and the kitschy-fun, lo-fi "Mythoscope". A skillful build and an extremely satisfying payoff (think creature design King Kong '33 style) add up to one of the smartest horror films of recent memory.
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