Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Offbeat and on the road

Good performances almost crowded out by indie cliches in odd oddysey film

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

As a final hurdle before gender-reassignment surgery, heroine Bree’s therapist (Elizabeth Peña) orders her to make amends with the son she fathered back when she was still a man, during an ill-advised college fling. Bree travels to New York City, where she finds the wayward, teenage Toby (Kevin Zegers) incarcerated for hustling and minor drug possession.

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Match Point

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

In this Woody Allen film set in London, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays Chris Wilton, a social climber whose lukewarm success as a pro tennis player prompts him to abandon the tour to give lessons at a posh English club. There he meets Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) who takes an immediate liking to Chris and introduces him to his smart but all-too-chipper sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Chris and Chloe become an item, and she gets him a post in her dad’s business. It seems like Tom’s on his way to getting the lifestyle he craves. Nola (Scarlett Johansson) is Tom’s American fiancé, whose failing acting career is the bane of the hoity Hewett parents. We watch as Johansson and Rhys-Meyers' simmering lust explodes and then slowly implodes into near disaster. Chris’ wife is desperate to get pregnant, his pregnant mistress is desperate to be his next wife — and the fallout leads him to murder.

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Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Albert Brooks drops the pretense of character and simply plays himself. Hired by the American government, Brooks travels to Pakistan and India to find out what makes Muslim people laugh, and to better understand Islamic culture. It’s a great premise for a comedy, and an abortive audition with Penny Marshall, Brook’s initial contact with the State Department, as well as his attempts to find a suitable assistant in India are all quite funny. But then, mysteriously, any semblance of a well-crafted comedy disappears.

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The New World

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

To the uninitiated, Malick’s style and pace can be like watching paint dry, and this film will do nothing to change that impression. The filmmaker tackles the legend of Pocahontas, with Captain John Smith played by Colin Farrell and Pocahontas played by newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher. But the film isn’t a romance, it’s an exploration of the way one culture can seduce and ultimately destroy another.

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Underworld: Evolution

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

If you liked the first Underworld film, chances are you’ll find this unnecessary sequel only mildly disappointing. For the rest of us, there’s very little evolution to be found, just more of the same … but not even as good.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blasé boobies

Film about London’s first all-nude girlie revue is surprisingly tame

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Directed by Stephen Frears, the movie is based on the story of a real London nude revue in pre-World War II London and its stodgy proprietor, Mrs. Laura Henderson (Judi Dench). No need to get all hot and bothered, though: The gorgeous cast of English roses prances around for most of the film showing plenty of skin, but there’s hardly any gyrating or jiggling. Mrs. Henderson takes on the Windmill Theatre as a hobby after her husband dies. She recruits a crusty old salt of a manager, Vivian (Bob Hoskins), to run the show. When ticket sales dwindle, Mrs. Henderson proclaims, “Let’s get rid of their clothes.” But to satisfy the conservative powers-that-be, and to prove that the show is art not obscenity, the girls aren’t allowed to move. It’s more painful than funny to watch the showgirls as they try to stand perfectly still for the drooling throngs of boys about to be shipped out to fight in the trenches.

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Tristan & Isolde

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Based on a Celtic legend from the Dark Ages, this tale of doomed love is set in the years following the Roman Empire’s fall, it charting the tragic life and love of English knight Tristan (James Franco), the adopted son of Lord Marke of Cornwall (Rufus Sewell). A kind and just ruler, Marke struggles to unite the fractured tribes of England against brutal incursions by the Irish. When Tristan is wounded in battle, mistaken for dead and given a burial at sea, his body washes up on the Irish shore and is discovered by Isolde (Sophia Myles), the king’s daughter. While nursing him back to health in secret, the two fall in love — but fate is unkind. When the king’s forces close in, the young knight must flee without his flaxen-haired sweetie. The film asks: Will the couple’s affair survive? The answer, unfortunately, is, “Who cares?” Though handsomely produced and occasionally thrilling, this film is, at best, a mediocre action flick.

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Last Holiday

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2006 at 12:00 AM

So, who thought to cast a movie starring hip-hop heavyweights Queen Latifah and LL Cool J alongside renowned French dramatic actor Gérard Depardieu, garnished with a cameo from Emeril Lagasse? Whatever the inspiration, the unlikely casting combination works for director Wayne Wang’s update of the 1950 comedy Last Holiday. Aside from some unfortunate attempts at physical humor, it’s surprisingly charming, thanks mostly to leading lady Latifah.

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Glory Road

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2006 at 12:00 AM

You’ve seen this movie before: A fiery, inspiring basketball coach convinces a headstrong team of underdogs to overcome their differences and win a championship. Glory Road is just the latest derivative, heart-tugging sports drama from super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “Based on a true story,” Glory Road recounts one team’s rocky rise to stardom at Texas Western University in the mid-1960s. Hired to bring the school’s basketball program up to snuff, strapping young Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) moves his family to the arid, desolate border town of El Paso, where he decides to recruit talented African-American players from the far-reaches of Detroit, New York City and Gary, Ind. When they go on the road, they encounter an opponent far greater than all of them: racism. Glory Road is in many ways a well-made film. But there’s a big, gaping void at the center of Glory Road, and his name is Josh Lucas. He’s not good enough to overcome the script’s hardass coach clichés, and he’s given so little to do with his wife, it’s hard to get a sense of who Don is off the court.

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Hoodwinked

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2006 at 12:00 AM

A badly drawn and disappointingly uninspired rehashing of what’s become the standard fare for children’s movies: the fairy tale with a twist. It seems everybody in Hollywood is looking for the next Shrek, so much so that reworking classic tales has become as played out as having someone say "fo shizzle." Regrettably, this movie does both.

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