Archive for April, 2010

‘Nightmare’ not the remake it’s sliced up to be

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Freddy Krueger's glove from "Nightmare on Elm Street" The infamous glove of Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) returns in the horror remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

One, two

Freddy’s after you!

Three, four

What a bore

Five, six

Same old tricks

Seven, eight

Don’t bring a date

Nine, Ten

Not this, again!

Samuel Bayer’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” squanders a grand opportunity to reinvent and update Wes Craven’s 1984 horror mini-classic about a diabolical pizza-faced boogeyman who kills tired teenagers while they dream.

Instead of a bold re-imagining – such as Zack Snyder’s kick-butt remake of George Romero’s classic zombie sequel “Dawn of the Dead” – this “Nightmare” merely recycles the original work right down to its bloody, showcase killing of a screaming teenage girl gutted by razor-happy Freddy Krueger while pinned upside down to her bedroom ceiling.

Granted, Bayer’s “Nightmare” doesn’t stoop to a simple-minded shot-for-shot remake (as Gus Van Sant did for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”), but his uninspired retread offers nothing new.

The most disappointing aspect of “Nightmare” has got to be the great Jackie Earle Haley’s generic interpretation of Freddy, the horror icon created by Robert Englund. (Read more…)

“Dann & Raymond’s Movie Club” outing

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

“Sex in Hollywood–A Love/Hate Story”

Dann Gire and Raymond BensonJoin Dann Gire (film critic of Chicago’s suburban newspaper THE DAILY HERALD, as well as the founder and president of the Chicago Film Critics Association, and adjunct instructor at Aurora and Harper Colleges in Illinois) and Raymond Benson (novelist, author of 20 books, former official author of James Bond books, film historian, and Film History instructor at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois) as they examine how Hollywood handled the touchy issue of sex up to the creation of the Ratings Administration. Included are clips from such films as “The Kiss,” “It Happened One Night,” “Tarzan and His Mate,” “The Outlaw” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” See Schaumburg Township District Library for more details.

Cost: Free

THURSDAY, May 6, 7:30pm
AV Theater
Schaumburg Township District Library
130 S. Roselle Road
Schaumburg, Illinois

‘A Shine of Rainbows’ a quiet but engaging domestic drama

Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Connie Nielsen and John Bell in "A Shine of Rainbows" Maire (Connie Nielsen) brings home Tomas (John Bell), a “runt of the litter,” in the adoption drama “A Shine of Rainbows.”

Vic Sarin’s “A Shine of Rainbows” won’t be raking in the cash at this weekend’s box office. It lacks popular A-list stars, operates on a minimal marketing budget and offers a subject that doesn’t exactly scream date movie.

It’s just a quiet, slowly engaging domestic drama with a good heart, told with sincerity, and elevated by a trio of excellent performances.

The story begins in an Irish orphanage where a little lad named Tomas (John Bell, an open wound of compassion and sympathy) suffers daily abuse meted out by class bullies, unabated by the priest and nuns.

Tomas’ life takes a drastic change when he is abruptly adopted by Maire (Connie Nielsen), a beautiful and outgoing young woman. She sweeps the boy away to the stony Corrie Island off the Irish coast. (The transition from the dark and colorless orphanage to the color-bursting island feels a bit ham-handed, but it still works.)

Maire’s self-sufficient husband Alec (Chicago’s own Aidan Quinn, a model of restrained, raging emotion) can’t hide his dismay at Maire’s choice of his new son.

Tomas is constantly terrorized by people and new things. He hides out in the shed rather than meet the neighbors from the nearest farm. He seems lost and incapable of handling the slightest responsibility.

“Why did you have to pick the runt of the litter?” Alec coldly says to Maire.

Only minutes into the movie, Nielsen has already answered that question by laying out Maire’s character in efficient and precise detail. She didn’t choose the boy she needed. She chose the boy who needed her. (Read more…)

Breathtaking ‘Oceans’ skims the surface

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Mommy and baby walrus in "Oceans" A mother and baby walrus bond in Walt Disney’s new, phenomenally photographed nature documentary “Oceans.”

If you’ve seen the TV commercials or theater trailers for “Oceans,” you already know what you’re in for.

Lots and lots of breathtaking footage of the strange and fascinating creatures that inhabit the world’s five oceans.

• Giant whales shoot to the surface, captured in magnificent, awe-inspiring slow-motion.

• Crabs comically climb into their shells to create instant mobile homes.

• A leopard seal tenderly plays with her offspring below thick slabs of white ice.

Like Walt Disney’s earlier nonfiction feature “Earth,” “Oceans” operates like a “Hooked on Classics” version of nature documentaries. It’s not really one movie. It’s a greatest hits of a zillion nature films all compressed into a single work.

“Oceans” skips around from one subject to the next, from one ocean to the next, with nimble alacrity. This has both positive and negative consequences.

Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (with editors Catherine Mauchain and Vincent Schmitt) move the film briskly along so nobody can possibly be bored.

Yet, many times the sharks and cuttlefish and other creatures prove to be so fascinating, it becomes frustrating to be yanked away to meet the next guest sea critter. (Read more…)

J Lo’s comedy ‘Back-up Plan’ fails to deliver

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Jennifer Lopez in "The Back-up Plan" Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) realizes her dialogue is so bad that she tries to spit it into a paper sack during “The Back-up Plan.”

Here’s a romantic comedy that thinks if a woman vomiting once is funny, it’ll be twice as funny if she vomits again.

Or that if a man “accidentally” falling down is funny once, it’ll be a real hoot if he falls down again. (Imagine the hilarity when several people “accidentally” fall down!)

Oh, stop, please! My sides are killing me! Oh, wait. That’s my head, not my sides.

“The Back-up Plan” casts romance and pregnancy in such an abysmally dismal light, that watching it instantly becomes the most effective form of birth control since the invention of the Pill.

It stars Jennifer Lopez as Zoe, a single New Yorker racing against her biological clock. Too impatient to wait for Mr. Right, she opts for Mr. Right Now, an unknown sperm donor who supplies the necessary component for her artificial insemination.

Wouldn’t you know it? On the very day this deed gets done, she dashes into a cab at the same time a handsome man enters the other side.

He’s Stan, played by the charismatic Alex O’Loughlin. He makes organic cheeses on his upstate farm and sells them as a New York street vendor. The moment he lays eyes on Zoe, he’s smitten and follows her around, trying to pique her interest in dairy. (Read more…)

Top-notch bad guy still can’t save ‘Losers’

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Zoe Saldana and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in "The Losers" Aisha (Zoe Saldana) and Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) enjoy a hot time in the action thriller “The Losers.”

The action-packed, DC-comic-book-inspired “The Losers” has apparently been created for young male viewers with attention-span deficiencies, an aversion to intimacy with women and a need to have everything in a movie spelled out on a 10-year-old’s level.

Take Jensen, played by Human Torch actor Chris Evans. When he operates a computer, he has this weird habit of explaining what he’s doing, even though there’s nobody else in the room.

As he downloads data, Jensen announces, “Downloading!”

During a shootout, he takes a bullet in the shoulder.

“I’ve been shot in the shoulder!” he shouts. Gee, thanks for the update, Jensen.

He’s one of five members of the CIA’s Special Forces team – aka The Losers – dropped into Bolivia to take out a drug lord’s operations.

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the guy with permanent 8 o’clock shadow, commands the team. Roque (Idris Elba), the mean-looking, knife-happy dude, likes to stab first and ask questions later.

Pooch (Columbus Short), the nice guy, worries about his wife back home in the States. Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), who never removes his cowboy hat, handles a sniper’s rifle with deadly accuracy.

And, of course, there’s Jensen, a wild and crazy guy who fearlessly changes clothes in elevators and gets caught by the hungry eyes of admiring women. (Read more…)

This comic book action movie merits its title

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Chloe Grace Moretz in "Kick-Ass" Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) clobbers a villain in the horrifically violent. graphic novel-inspired action thriller.

The title doesn’t lie.

Here comes one Red Bull of an action film that doesn’t play nice.

It combines the fantastic underpinnings of a superhero costume adventure with the excessively gory violence of a cheap martial arts exploitation film.

“Kick-Ass” may upset some viewers, especially during the scenes when an 11-year-old female superhero named Hit Girl energetically wipes out a room full of thugs with sharp and scary blades, resulting in geysers of blood and lots of screaming.

If that doesn’t do it, the scenes where the story’s chief villain holds little Hit Girl down and pounds her with his fists certainly will.

Forget your granddad’s cartoony superhero movies.

Matthew Vaughn’s sensationalized story stays true to the darker heart of its source – the comic book series by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr. – and proves to be unforgiving of a society that stands idly by while witnessing crime and violence. (Read more…)

‘Perfect Game’ has that after-school special feel

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Clifton Collins Jr. in "The Perfect Game" Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.) coaches young Mexican ballplayers to a U.S. championship in the fact-based “The Perfect Game.”

The title “The Perfect Game” kinda gives away the ending, don’t you think?

This independent drama, directed by William Dear, tells the true story of Mexican ballplayers who won 13 straight Little League games and went on to win the league’s 1957 American World Series, which, as the title suggests, was a perfect game.

This movie throws no curve balls. Everything from the direct, functional dialogue to the superficial, easy-to-grasp characters reeks of an across-the-plate, made-for-television after-school special for kids.

The screenplay, written by W. William Winokur from his own book, serves up its politics with earnest sincerity. Racism is bad. Being optimistic and a self-starter is good. Working together gets you farther than working alone. Belief in God is good, too.

“The Perfect Game” is clearly intended for young audiences, and keeping that in mind, it succeeds on most counts, especially during an awkward, tacked-on romantic subplot, treated with a pre-adolescent mix of embarrassment and bemused mystery. (Read more…)

Don’t bother trying to keep up with ‘The Joneses’

Friday, April 16th, 2010
David Duchovny and Demi Moore in "The Joneses" Steve and Kate (David Duchovny and Demi Moore) want the world’s metaphorical neighbors to keep up with “The Joneses.”

“The Joneses” begs to be a farce.

It pleads to be funnier.

More acerbic.

More outrageous.

More critical of the consumer culture that eats away at American spirituality by focusing on material possessions instead of the things that really matter.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Writer/director/producer Derrick Borte will have none of that.

He thinks “The Joneses” should be a ponderously serious commentary weighed down by soap-operatic subplots and capped with a forced ending that no thinking viewer will buy for a moment.

Not even at Walmart prices.

“The Joneses” (as in keeping up with …) move into a posh, stone-built mini-mansion in a super upscale section of town.

Steve Jones (David Duchovny), his wife Kate (Demi Moore), their son Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) and daughter Jen (Amber Heard) seem to be the perfect family.

Perfect, no. Family, no. (Read more…)

Brain-dead ‘After.Life’ preachy, predictable

Friday, April 9th, 2010
Christina Ricci in "After.Life" Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) is caught between life and death by a mysterious funeral director in the drama “After.Life.”

If Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s dullingly un-horrific and pseudo-enlightening “After.Life” ever becomes a cult movie, it will undoubtedly be one for necrophiliacs.

After all, the breathtaking Christina Ricci appears in this movie without a stitch, except for the one on her forehead to repair a wicked gash.

She lies down and walks around naked in a chilly morgue looking like a bleached cadaver with her pale skin, dilated belladonna pupils and blood-red lipstick.

As dead women go, she’s a sexual fantasy right out of an R-rated version of Tim Burton’s “The Corpse Bride.”

Ricci plays Anna, a hot, young elementary schoolteacher in a relationship with a local lawyer named Paul (Justin Long). One night, she has a fight with Paul, then drives away in a huff.

The next thing she knows, she wakes up on a slab in an undertaker’s office. She has no heartbeat. No body heat.

“I’m not dead!” Anna shouts.

“You all say the same thing,” Eliot Deacon, the irritable funeral director, replies.

If “After.Life” teaches us anything, it’s that being a clairvoyant funeral director is just about the hardest job in the world of the living. (Read more…)