Movie Reviews

Unknown
Unknown (PG-13)
Let’s cut right to the chase - If you think this is a follow up to Liam Neeson’s breakout hard-guy hit Taken you’re in for for a real let down.

The photo above was carefully chosen so as not to ruin the movie. The film is overly complex and figuring out the answers before finishing the movie would be impossible without first examining the film’s large array of photos and behind the scenes clips before seeing the film.

Liam Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a bioengineer who arrives with his loving wife in Berlin for a week-long world conference full of scientific movers and shakers. But his briefcase doesn’t make it into their airport cab to the hotel, so he grabs another cab back to the airport to retrieve it. Before he can get there his cab suffers a horrific crash. He’s saved but hospitalized in a coma for a few days. The bump on his head brings on a type of very selective amnesia that only exists in Hollywood script medical books. He can remember things like everyone’s telephone number but not who he really is? That’s the major puzzle the viewer and Martin Harris has to deal with. But without such maladies we’d miss out on some really good movies.

The sudden most frustrating part of his life is that no one seems to recognize him anymore. Even more baffling is that his wife no longer recognizes him either. How is that possible in a non sci-fi movie?

The major problem with the film is that it sags deeply in the middle (picture a hammock) with a plot seemingly so unsolvable that everyone gives up guessing and wonders where this thing is going? The scenes mirror a Bond film in their outrageous suspension of belief. Everyone in the film has the uncanny ability to drive like a Formula One racer, and the cars seem to rebuild themselves after every impact.

Diane Kruger won’t get the credit she deserves in saving the film during the sagging middle. She plays the Berlin local who helps Dr. Harris solve his impossible problem. Her scenes are strong and could prove that Liam Neeson can’t carry a film single-handedly in a way that someone like Schwarzenegger or Tom Hanks can.

The final revelation does bring the entire premise into reality, which seems impossible during the film. But this movie will be best when rented, where you can hit Pause at the sagging middle to fix yourself a sandwich before continuing the ride.
- Wait for Rental
Paranormal Activity 2
Paranormal Activity 2 (R)
The first one was much better.

No one knew what to expect when the first of this series hit the movie screens in 2007. The original was shot in one week on a budget of $11,000 and turned out to be one of the creepiest movies ever made. You would think a boatload of cash and Hollywood backing would produce an even creepier sequel. The sequel isn’t awful, it’s just not as effective as the original.

It seems the script was so short on storyline and scary events that the film makers decided (or were told) to pad the movie so they could end up with the bare minimum Hollywood release length of an hour and a half. The padding they employ here is boring live feeds from scores of hidden cameras that were installed by the family after a strange break-in involving a lot of overturned furniture but no theft. So we are left sitting in a darkened movie theater gazing at long repetitive footage of the backyard pool in the middle of the night as a recorder time code ticks off the hour and seconds on the lower right corner of the screen. We get scenes of the empty kitchen at midnight, or the nursery as the baby sleeps. Sure, we get it - police surveillance involves days of boring observation followed by the occasional rush of the chase. But we movie goers pay money to see more of the chase and less of the surveillance.

Those that saw the original know there will be on-screen events coming that will make the film worth the painful, monotonous build up. Whether or not the payoff is worth the one hour wait will be up to the individual viewer.

The film stars no one, and is well acted overall. But it’s so slow moving that your mind may wander enough that you find yourself nitpicking the film with your free time. Some of my observations:

Anyone who is familiar with dogs knows that when their owners return home, the dog becomes absolutely giddy with excitement, uncontrollably wagging their tail and jumping like they haven’t seen a human in six months. And that happens if you just forgot you car keys and have been out of the house for only 60 seconds. No such reaction here by their loyal German Shepherd. A police investigator’s first question to this family would likely be, “Is this really your dog, or did you just find him?” It’s all too obvious that this Hollywood actor film dog has no connection with this family whatsoever.

So as a casual viewer you find yourself examining each scene to locate the dog’s trainer off camera signaling what to do.

Lastly, more than any other other scary movie I can think of, if you ever find yourself in a kitchen where suddenly every cabinet door and drawer violently bursts open all at once with a loud explosion as if a 747 just hit the house - whether or not a jet just hit the house - the last thought in your mind would be to stick around.

Note: Just as with the original film, at the end of the movie the screen stays black for a long, long time, giving the audience a cue that there is more footage coming. It’s a fake tease as only credits await those that sit patiently in the dark. So look for the nearest exit and stumble your way out of the theater immediately.
- Wait for HBO
Easy A
Easy A (PG-13)
It takes a lot of guts to release a movie like this and even more guts to play the lead actress in this role.

Emma Stone plays Olive Penderghast, a nobody in high school who suddenly becomes the talk of the entire school when a simple false rumor takes on Tweet and Facebook legs. She soon pretends to be the high school harlot to help select geeky boys boost their reputations all the while getting paid for it and “noticed” for the first time in her life. In the wrong hands this film would have wound up like the other 63 dreadful high school movies that are impossible to sit through.

What we have here is one terrific film.

There are a lot of stars here, and cameos by even more familiar faces, but they are all secondary to Emma Stone who is on camera for nearly the full 90 minutes. I’d never seen her in anything else so I had no preconceptions. Much like Tom Hanks, somehow she manages to hold the attention of the audience by simply taking us through her daily routine. The writing is smart in a Juno meets Forgetting Sarah Marshall kind of way, but the writing here ups the ante even further into MIT professor levels. Even highbrow comedian Dennis Miller would be impressed. There are so many zingers you’ll need to pay close attention to catch them all, especially if the audience is laughing out loud.

The subject matter is edgy with frank sex talk and religious smearing. However, it is dealt with in such a light and smart manner by the actors that only the most sensitive people in the audience would truly be offended. Thin-skinned religious folks with no sense of humor should probably skip it. For the rest of us, it’s a must see.
- See it on the Big Screen
Let Me In
Let Me In (R)
If you recently made friends with a vampire, would you dare let them affectionately kiss you on the neck?

That’s the kind of questions that pop into your head when you see the the latest American vampire movie Let Me In.

I reviewed the Swedish version of this film back in 2008 and won’t rehash it here as it’s the same movie with different actors. But for those that didn’t go to an inner city art house to see the foreign original subtitled film, Let The Right One In, now is you chance to see the English remake at your local theater. Furthermore, the remake doesn’t suck (no pun intended).

It’s unfortunate that people have to spend years casting, directing and editing to make the exact same movie over again all because of a language barrier. Seems like a waste of collaborative effort, but it happens. Here we get the rare treat where both the foreign original and U.S. remake are worth seeing. Two other successful foreign remakes from the past immediately come to mind: The Ring starring Naomi Watts (based on Ringu from Japan) and Point of No Return starring Bridget Fonda (based on the French film La Femme Nikita). The foreign versions tend to be grittier but all the above films are worth seeing.

The original Let The Right One In was more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie. The remake retains the original screenplay and slow pacing but adds gore which pushes it a bit more into the horror category. Still, it’s the psychological tension between the characters that drives the film forward. Because the movie follows the original film very closely you gain nothing by seeing both versions. Both films are well acted by actors you’ve never heard of. If you want to know which version you should see, here are the minor differences, other than the obvious subtitle use:

The Swedish version is a bit darker and the ending less bloody but more graphic than the U.S. version.

The U.S. version keeps the camera running longer for the few scenes of death with buckets of flowing blood, but also has some added CGI effects used on the vampire girl that are a little hokey as if the budget was really low.

It’s a toss up but both are well worth renting.
- Wait for Rental
Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland (PG)
The always quirky Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s all new version of the classic story Alice in Wonderland. It’s not the book version, so other than the familiar characters that show up, don’t bother comparing one story to another.

But it works. The ½ animated, ½ live story is engaging and the acting is top notch - with the exception of Anne Hathaway playing the White Queen. Her scenes never quite work, but that’s a small quibble with the film.

Now, about the 3D visuals. James Cameron intended Avatar to be 3D from the start. Burton’s film was digitally turned into a 3D film - post production - to ride the 3D coattails of Avatar. It shows. The visual 3D experience of Alice in Wonderland is exactly the same as the 3D movies of 1988. Not awful, but not great either. Kind of like theme park video quality. Certainly not worth paying $13.25 a ticket.

Which brings me to the lowest point. To add insult to injury, the Cinemark theater chain tries to get everyone to recycle their 3D glasses into a cardboard recycle box as they exit the theater. Wait a minute, you charged each of us $13.25 for a movie ticket with a pair of 3D glasses! I paid for the glasses, and I’d rather break them in half and toss them into the trash rather than to give you a chance to resell them again. If you want them back, Cinemark, stop charging us $3 extra for them at the gate. What a scam this whole 3D scheme is.

It can’t last.
- Wait for Rental
Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart (R)
Country music singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is down on his luck and struggling to get by as he tours the bowling alleys of the South. His apprentice, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) has hit the big time, which only adds to Blake’s anguish as he continues playing the dives. Musicians in the audience will sympathize with the difference between the line of luxury tour busses the famous travel in, and the run down vehicles used by the struggling artists.

Blake has a running gig in Houston (when not on the road) at a bar that’s run by friend Wayne Kramer (Robert Duvall). Some good banter there, as Bridges and Duvall are some of the best actors working today.

Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Jean, a local reporter who gets romantically involved with Blake. She’s a divorcee with a young boy, so when Blake shows an immediate affinity to her son the bond between the three grows quickly.

Bridges delivers great witty lines, and the sound check scene at the outdoor amphitheater will bring a wide grin to any musician who has ever taken a stage in real life. But if you’re looking for a feel-good movie, “this ain’t it,” as a country boy would say. The Fabulous Baker Boys, starring Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer, was no feel good movie either, but it was an intriguing, throughly enjoyable road film and a much better choice overall if you’re looking for a “musician’s life on the road,” love story, genre movie. Coal Miner’s Daughter, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones would be a better choice as well. Hell, even Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez is a better road/love story choice, and everyone knows she dies in the end! So does Janis Joplin (Bette Midler) in the road/love story film The Rose.

All better films. Since Crazy Heart is a country music movie, it tends to follow the stereotypical storyline of:
I need a cigarette
My dog died
My (3rd) wife left me
Give me another cigarette
The dishes are dirty
I lost touch with my son
I’m out of money
I drink too much
Truck won’t start
Time for another cigarette

The star power is certainly here in spades, and no one will want to walk out of the theater. Nevertheless, what we were all hoping for was that uplifting moment that Hollywood is so famous for. The credits finished. Still waiting.

The movie’s just not strong enough, nor does it have that killer song that would allow it to survive without a big uplifting moment.
- Wait for HBO
The Crazies
The Crazies (R)
The pitchfork scene (see movie poster above) is genius horror moviemaking.

If you like zombie movies, where normal people suddenly become afflicted with the urge to lose control of themselves and become rabid killers, then this movie is for you. Too many other write-ups on this film explain in advance why the people in this story become zombies. And that’s too bad, because half the fun of these things is trying to figure it out during the movie.

Here, the small town sheriff (well played by Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy have to figure out why their townsfolk suddenly go nuts and kill their neighbors and families. It all starts with the first zombie, a local man walking onto the field during a little league baseball game. He carries a shotgun and has a menacing look on his face. The showdown between the zombie and the sheriff, in front of all the children and their families, makes for some anxious moments. Even when in a jail cell these zombies are no nonsense and not to be fooled with.

Unlike others in this genre these zombies don’t limp as if back from the dead, nor do they run after their victims like greyhounds. They simply possess the stare of a great white shark and will patiently stand motionless for weeks in a house or the local diner until you walk in. Eerie.

It’s a tense movie throughout and offers plenty of disturbing images including a nighttime monster farm equipment scene (filmed in an ET Spielberg kind of fashion), a claustrophobic carwash adventure, and the aforementioned disturbing but quite effective pitchfork scene. It’s always bad news when a zombie gets hold of a pitchfork. But even when you figure out in advance how the scene will end, the director definitely kicks it up one horrifying notch and milks it for all it’s worth.

Good stuff. You already know if this film is for you or not.
- See it on The Big Screen
Avatar
Avatar - In 3D (PG-13)
James Cameron returns to directing for the first time since Titanic and brings us an uplifting story (unless you are an enlisted Army/Marine guy) for young and old alike.

Here a wheelchair bound ex-Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is called back into service in order to run the Avatar body that once belonged to his now deceased brother. (It’s a DNA thing - that will save the time and money it would take to grow and program a new Avatar.) Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) is the scientist that runs the Avatar program. There is a very expensive/valuable rock called unobtainium (the most lame word to come out of this film) that lies beneath the surface of the planet Pandora. We need lots of that material in order to save the dying, resource-challenged Earth.

But there is an indigenous group of bow and arrow equipped native people living on Pandora, and in particular, on the very ground with the most dense amount of unobta . . . I can’t use that silly word again . . . where most of the valuable ore is located. The American humans have tried for years to “educate” and explain to the local aliens why they need to relocate, but to no avail. So the U.S. military is called in to forcefully move or otherwise destroy the locals in order to get the precious mineral to save Earth.

If you’ve even glanced at any description of this movie over the last few months, or have seen a trailer, you can figure out the paint by numbers Hollywood plot of this 2 1/2 hour film. Take the knowledge you have from the other 1,200+ movies you’ve seen in your life, and you’ll experience no surprises here. That doesn’t make it a bad film. Paint by numbers = feel good audiences and lots of money for Hollywood.

Jake Sully finds himself, in Avatar form, suddenly stranded in this strange world called Pandora, where he must learn everything from scratch in order to survive the ordeal. When any strange fact is revealed to us about this odd world we are sure to see that tidbit come around again to help the plot to its solution. He is aided by a local female alien, and as we’ve seen many, many times before, he falls in love with the exotic girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Suddenly he sees the world from her prospective and switches sides.

It is an interesting time in history to release a film with this subject matter. Do you root for the alien tribe against the big bad U.S. Military? Do you root for the tribe, which in turn means the destruction of our planet Earth?

We take sides all the time. We root for the rebels when the big bad guy is Darth Vader in Star Wars. But what if Darth Vader represented the U.S. Marines? Then what? Would we root FOR Darth Vader and the destruction of the rebels and their collective planets? Perspective is a funny thing.

The all too obvious parallels with the U.S. Military and its ongoing wars, overuse of Earth’s natural resources, the plight of the American Indians, etc. etc. will leave some shaking their heads and others nodding theirs during the movie. Still others will simply watch the show and munch on some popcorn. It’s up to the viewer whether to take this as more than just a movie. But as I sat there I noticed a strange urge from the people around me to clap/not clap/stop clapping when a military airship full of American soldiers went down in flames. The worldwide brainwashing (regardless of country) of all populations that “Our soldiers are great, and should be supported, always,” has certainly taken hold. I would imagine the applause to be quite loud and sustained in movie theaters outside the U.S., much as the applause would be thunderous here in America if the airships were full of Russian soldiers, or even better, terrorist rebels!

The 3D experience is up there with the Imax 3D experience that has been around for years. We will now see a smattering of 3D movies as Hollywood tries to milk the gimmick for all it’s worth. But just as in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, this 3D phenomenon will be short lived, so don’t expect a special “glasses free” 3D TV anywhere near your living room for another 30 years, if ever. This movie, like any good movie or TV show, will stand up in 2D as well as in 3D.

I’m not fond of the $3 added cost per ticket to buy the 3D glasses that probably cost them a buck. They are not recycling these glasses like the Imax and theme park venues do. You go home with the worthless glasses after the movie ends. Do we really need multiple pairs of goofy 3D glasses gathering dust in our homes? Unless they are going to give me a $3 discount in the future for bringing my own 3D glasses to the theater, I want no part of this scam. I suppose you could reuse one single pair when the 3D DVD rental comes out this summer.

If you have a nice big HD TV, the DVD rental will still be a very enjoyable viewing experience.
- See it on the Big Screen
Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity (R)
Your skin will crawl. Paranormal Activity is not a Hollywood movie. It was shot in one week on a budget of $11,000. It’s a Blair Witch type of film, except this movie is far better.

A couple moves into a new home where strange noises start to occur. The woman reveals that she has had noises like these follow her wherever she lives since she was a child. The boyfriend buys a video camera to document the strange happenings and to further study/solve the issue. It certainly CAN’T be ghosts. How silly to think it’s ghosts!

The woman is pretty sure it is something - like a ghost.

They bring in a psychic who tells them it’s not a ghost. It’s a demon. And demons are way out of his league.

Like Blair Witch there is a lot of camera shaking (it’s shot on a handheld home camera) but the disturbing parts happen when the camera is mounted in the bedroom, security mode style on a tripod whenever the couple sleeps. And this is the film’s strength.

Jaws affected us because it played on the fact that we can’t see what’s below us when swimming in the ocean. We’d rather not think about that stuff. If you think about it too much, the urge is to get out of the water.

This film plays on the fact that we don’t really know what happens in our bedrooms when we sleep. If the next morning a video revealed things happening around us while we slept, that would certainly freak us out. It might even make someone want to stay awake all night. You can’t simply run from the house because, as the girlfriend revealed from the start, this issue follows her wherever she goes! With that being the case, the boyfriend chooses to stay and fight.

This is not a movie you’d want to sit through multiple times (the pace is too slow and methodical for multiple viewings). However, the acting is realistic as the issue affects their relationship, and the creepy content will certainly make your hairs stand on end.

Note: When the film ends, the screen stays black for a long, long time, giving the audience a cue that there is more footage coming. It’s a fake tease as only credits await those that sit patiently in the dark. So look for the nearest exit and stumble your way out of the theater immediately.
- See it on the Big Screen
Surrogates
Surrogates (PG-13)
Bruce Willis stars as a detective who is trying to find out how people are dying while jacked into their personal surrogates in this latest sci-fi action thriller. The premise is not all that shabby and mirrors online sites like Second Life, but instead of animated avatars on a computer screen, the whole world uses expensive animatronic robots in the real world. People all around the world are so hooked on this that they no longer physically venture outside at all.

The claim is that racism is solved, and the crime rate dropped 99% after everyone went to surrogate use. Hmmm. Perhaps the writers forgot about how much fun Grand Theft Auto players have making their avatars rob, murder and otherwise trash the entire city. Having no skin in the game turns people into real risk-takers.

Issues immediately pop up as you watch this film. To run your personal robot, you need to be laying down on a special chair with a pair of wired sunlamp goggles over your eyes. (Willis sits upright more than most.) People are so sedentary while “driving” their personal surrogate through their daily routines that obesity would plague the world, if not terrible bed sores.

In one scene we see Willis’ Surrogate perform like a Terminator. He must own the upgraded G.I. Joe model with the kung-fu grip.

There are pockets of people who shun the idea of surrogates as an evil idea. They are put on reservations (slums) and look less healthy than the surrogate users who lay around all day and night.

Odd.

The weapon that does the killing is pretty interesting, and other than an absurd Saturday morning cartoon of a car chase scene, this very dark story is engaging.

This is a leave your brain at home kind of action movie, but would make a great rental.
- Wait for Rental
District 9
District 9 (R)
I wanted so badly to love this movie.

The theater was nearly sold out at the midnight sneak preview of District 9 as we all sat, ready to be the first folks to see this intriguing alien movie before it opened nationally. Too many critics (who loved the film) have revealed too much about the story already. I won’t.

The movie covers (in a documentary style) the story of a group of space aliens, who find themselves stranded here (perhaps) and end up fenced into a sort of prison camp in Johannesburg (obvious apartheid parallel) by the humans. Twenty years later, the new plan is to relocate these aliens to a different camp further away from the local humans who have grown tired of the animalistic alien antics. It would seem the two species are not compatible with each other. That’s an understatement of the highest order.

The new alien camp is in no way better than the current slum camp, but that’s not an issue for the humans who plan to use sly crafty maneuvering to get the creatures to agree to the move. It seems like an impossible task to the movie viewer from the onset, but what do we know?

The young theater crowd was into it as the house lights went down. We were ready to partake in this strange script, starless cast and independent film budget. And then we waited, a full one and a half hours for the action to start. The movie takes its time laying out various loose ends, many of which are not tied up at the end. It would make a better book for sure.

Shaky cam aside, it’s not a bad movie. The plot turns will absolutely keep you guessing right up to the credits. But having seen it, I can see very clearly that this two-hour film is simply a set-up for a much better part 2 down the road. Can’t wait for that one.

When a movie is slow, it just allows more time to pick it apart. A couple pet peeves are in order:

We’re to believe just over a million human sized aliens came off that crippled ship. Dallas has just over a million people. I know the alien ship is pretty big, but why tell us a million folks were on it? Really? A million?

Chairs are designed to work for humans because our legs bend a certain way. Dogs can’t use our chairs as currently designed. Neither can giraffes or dolphins, and those animals are from our same planet. If a human gets behind the wheel of a friend’s car they have to adjust a lot of things to make it work - and we’re the same species! These crazy alien creatures have legs that bend at wacky angles. You could never use their alien crazy legged chairs and devices, nor could they use ours - ever. The director doesn’t seem to understand that.
- Wait for Rental
Public Enemies
Public Enemies (R)
The boring photo above pretty much sums up a lot of the shortcomings of this film about John Dillinger’s short, bloody crime spree and Melvin Purvis, the FBI pursuer. The 140 minute run time feels like three hours. Strange for a Michael Mann film. Mann’s films are usually exciting. A man sitting in the row in front of me snored a few times as he went in and out of consciousness. I think a few folks in the theater were near that point as well.

One problem is that Melvin Purvis is played by Christian Bale. Bale’s a bore. He has exposed his true self with his growing list of films showing his lack of animation and monotonous scratchy whisper of a voice. His one trick pony career should be shortened because of it.

Johnny Depp, on the other hand, plays John Dillinger very well. Depp is the only thing that keeps the audience awake until the credits roll. People then quickly roll to the exits.

To add insult to injury, the film has all the facts wrong. Wrong jail breakouts, wrong characters breaking each other out. Gangsters (like Pretty Boy Floyd) dying in the wrong order. It’s one historical mess of a movie. Strangely, the truth might have been more exciting.

Couldn’t have hurt.

But regardless of whether you’ve ever read about these gangsters you’ll likely find the film worthy of passing the time while digesting Thursday night’s dinner. But you won’t pay much mind to it after it’s over as you flip the channel to see who’s on Letterman.
- Wait for HBO
Drag Me To Hell
Drag Me To Hell (PG-13)
There are certain directors that have an irreverent style all their own. Love them or hate them, they usually stick to their fingerprint locked style forever.

The Cohen Brothers come to mind as having their own special mold. Their quirky movies stand apart from all others. David Cronenberg certainly has a few screws loose, as does Quentin Tarantino. And here we have Sam Raimi, a guy who was doing shock value, campy horror movies (by campy horror I mean hokey, not campy like Friday the 13th) twenty years before Tarantino started his career by shocking audiences.

Although most would instantly think of Raimi’s latest Spider-Man film releases, this is no comic book superhero franchise. While it’s been many years since he’s done horror, Raimi’s horror gene is already cast in stone. He can’t change.

To prepare yourself for any Raimi horror film you must recall these fine gems from his past:

Evil Dead (The first director in history to film a girl getting raped by a demonic tree. Really.)

Evil Dead II, etc.

Army of Darkness

If the preceding films disgusted you - move along, keep driving, there’s nothing to see here. If these classic titles don’t ring a bell, perhaps you should rent one first before proceeding to the expensive theater.

If you enjoyed any of the sick demonic titles above (and really, who among us could blame you?) then this is another fine installment in Raimi horror film making.

In a nutshell, Drag Me To Hell follows a young loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) who desperately wants to get a big promotion at the bank. To show she’s manager material she makes a tough call against an old grotesque gypsy woman who’s looking for a loan extension in order to keep her home. The old hag finally gets down and begs on her knees, but Christine will have none of it. Big mistake.

The old gypsy puts an evil curse on Christine. As curses go, it’s about as bad as you’ve seen in any movie. Turn up the curse level to ten, then break off the furry curse knob so you can crank the curse stem two notches higher with a pair of rusty pliers.

It’s gross at times (every 15 minutes) so skip the buttered popcorn and just sip on your Coke instead. You’ll likely never look at a housefly the same way again. The film is also needlessly loud, so skip the THX theater for this trip.

Her boyfriend, professor Clay Dalton (Justin Long), is as supportive as any guy could possibly be in the year 2009 when he hears someone has a curse put on them.

It must be made clear from the start that although the film is over the top campy, there are solid strong points to this movie that make it worth seeing.

1) Alison Lohman plays it straight. Although she’s got over a dozen movies under her belt, this is the first time I’ve seen one of them. She’s terrific in her role. With all the absurd demonic things going on around her on screen she plays it just as a real woman would play it if it were happening for real. Amazing how well she stayed in character. This movie could easily have been a total stink bomb without her professional acting skills.

2) Although Raimi has been a fan of handheld cameras in the past, he uses a tripod throughout most of this film, giving it a very polished professional Hollywood look.

3) Justin Long plays it straight as well. He’s more likely to goof on what’s happening, but any guy in 2009 would goof in the same manner if faced with the ridiculous situations he faces.

Unfortunately you’ll see the “twist” of the ending a full 20 minutes before it happens. And Christine does something with a shovel toward the end that will have you rolling your eyes as well as pique the interest of the Guinness Book of World Records authors. However, if this is your kind of film, don’t let that stop you from seeing it. {It’s not quite scary enough to recommend a theater trip, (the PG-13 rating has a lot to do with that outcome)}.
- Wait for Rental
Star Trek
Star Trek (PG-13)
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to line up to see a new Star Trek film. Few people disliked the films starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Some fans fell by the wayside when new characters came into the series, such as the Patrick Stewart addition. I would include myself in that camp. Then there are the Trekies (or Trekers as they prefer to be called) who line up for anything with the words Star and Trek on the sign.

Writer/Producer J.J. Abrams got the nod to direct his first film, and he succeeds in delivering a stand out story in the long series. This latest 2009 Star Trek rides high into the summer blockbuster lineup. Because Abrams decided to go back in time to the roots of the franchise he was able to use an all new fresh young cast to explain how all the original characters came to be. We get to see how Dr. McCoy got the nickname “Bones” from Captain Kirk. Watching Captain Kirk develop from a young punk to a Star Fleet Captain is equally entertaining and enlightening.

Then there is the addition of Industrial Light & Magic’s latest movie visuals to ensure the space and planetary scenes are breathtakingly intense and realistic looking. There’s a lot to like in this film, and those that appreciate the original cast will equally enjoy the much younger version of them. Just four small critical items to note:

1) The menacing music that plays whenever a Romulan ship is on screen is 60’s campy. Perhaps it was on purpose but it was overdone and cheesy.

2) Uhura has a ridiculous connection with Spok that makes utterly zero sense.

3) There’s a Willy-Wonka Chocolate Factory style scene with clear water pipes that has no business in the film.

4) For some reason the director purposely has crazy “stylish?” camera lens glare on the screen during most scenes of the movie. You’ll notice colored streaks of glare and shiny lights reflecting off the camera lens as it bobs and weaves throughout the movie. Once you notice them they show up in nearly every scene. Directors avoid lens glare like the plague - but not first-timer J.J. Abrams. Are these shiny room lights of the future? Overdone. Annoying as hell.
- See it on The Big Screen
State of Play
State of Play (PG-13)
Russell Crowe stars as Cal McCaffrey, a veteran reporter for the Washington Globe. He’s the non-blogger guy in the room who most folks consider a dinosaur. But when “real” reporting needs to be done, Cal shows everyone why newspapers will be sadly missed when they’re inevitably gone. After two people are killed and one is critically shot, Cal investigates a connection that no one else notices. One of the victims is a research assistant for a congressman, well played by Ben Affleck. It turns out the congressman was sleeping with the attractive woman who is now dead. Certainly little stretch there.

Cal and the congressman are not friends, but were roommates in their college days, so there’s obvious tension within that relationship. Robin Wright Penn plays the congressman’s wife (more tension) and Jeff Daniels plays another congressman (menacing tension).

But every Hollywood movie needs eye candy. Enter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), as the Globe’s resident blogger. She’s a greenhorn who, for reasons she doesn’t initially understand, is suddenly taken under Cal’s veteran wing. They end up examining a connection with a corporate group called PointCorp (instead of using the too obvious Blackwater name) that hopes to take over America’s domestic surveillance bid and make billions in the process.

So it becomes a race to:

1) Uncover the truth behind the conspiracy.

2) Uncover the truth (boring) instead of running the easy (racy infidelity) side of the story which would sell infinitely more papers and save The Globe from extinction.

3) Do all this in time to make the morning edition before any other newspaper scoops it first.

4) Avoid getting killed by Blackwater-like villains who don’t want anyone to stand in the way of billions of dollars.

The film is actually quite entertaining and all the actors are first rate. Although not filmed entirely in shaky-cam mode, when any scene of two or more chatting characters comes up, the camera gets to bobbin’ and a weavin’ as if the cameraman’s private headphones are playing his favorite rhythmic gangsta rap. When will this amateur filming technique madness end?

Also note that the movie shows the Globe’s morning paper delivery trucks driving out of the warehouse with the sun rising off in the distance. Everyone over the age of eleven knows that newspapers are delivered in the wee hours of the night - long before homeowners get up to go to work at 6 AM.
- See it on the Big Screen