Archive for May, 2010

George Romero on making movies, monsters

Friday, May 28th, 2010
Filmmaker George Romero George Romero has firm ideas about what the undead should, and shouldn’t, do.


George Romero, the filmmaker who re-created the modern horror film with his 1968 renegade black-and-white classic “Night of the Living Dead,” has his fifth sequel, “Survival of the Dead,” opening tonight at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

Illness prevented Romero, 70, from flying into Chicago. So, we played a round of Seven Questions on the phone:

Q. What’s the best zombie movie you didn’t make?

A. Wow! This is out of the blue. I’ve never had the question before. Uh, the old, old ones. They’re the only ones I really love. “I Walked With a Zombie.” “White Zombie.” Those were the funnest things. I don’t know that anyone could do those movies again. They’ve become demystified.

Q. Should zombies be able to move like Michael Jordan in his prime, as they do in Zack Snyder’s remake of your sequel “Dawn of the Dead”?

A. Absolutely not. They’re dead! It’s as simple as that! In the remake of “Dawn,” I think he’s a good director and he did a good job with the action parts of the film. It’s not the kind of film I would have made. I thought it was more of a video game. No politics. No sort of social criticism or whatever. But, I mean what did they (zombies) do? Wake up and join a health club?

Even in “28 Days Later” or in “Zombieland,” they’re not really dead. They’ve got some kind of virus or something. I can sort of forgive them there, but if they’re dead, how can they run? I don’t get it.

Q. Why haven’t you ever put sex into your undead films? Even the 2006 second remake of “Night of the Living Dead” has sex and a naked woman in it. Why not your films?

A. I don’t know. It just doesn’t belong. People are too preoccupied with other things. People have told me that in a doomsday scenario, the first thing people will do is crawl into bed with each other. I don’t know. In these films, it just doesn’t seem to fit. (Read more…)

‘Sex and the City 2’ not as good as the first time

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis in "Sex and the City 2" Samantha, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte (Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis) return for more “Sex and the City” in a new sequel.

You.

Yeah, you!

If you already have plans for a girls’ night out to see the new movie “Sex and the City 2,” don’t read this review. It’s not for you.

The sheer joy of seeing Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha together again, talking about their problems with men, kids and jobs, salivating over shoes, wearing high-fashion dresses and copping condescending attitudes toward non-American cultures should be reward enough.

But for the men and women who loved the original HBO cable series, “SATC2” lacks many essentials, such as charm and goodwill. And, the biggest blow of all, the fifth leading character has been unceremoniously dumped: New York City.

Yes. The sex is there.

The city isn’t.

Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall) take up an offer from a Middle Eastern businessman and head to an exotic Abu Dhabi hotel to be pampered and pleasured beyond their wildest dreams. How wild? No charge! (Read more…)

Bollywood’s sensational ‘Kites’ soars over the top

Friday, May 21st, 2010
Barbara Mori and Hrithik Roshan in "Kites" Natasha and J (Barbara Mori and Hrithik Roshan) become fate-crossed lovers in the romance-action-thriller “Kites.”

Every frame in the bold, breakthrough Bollywood movie “Kites” looks as if it’s been purloined from a heavy-breathing Victoria’s Secret commercial.

Bodaciously beautiful bikini-bound babes practically pose while on a yacht with ripped and rippled men. The camera luxuriates in the sexy, sensual appeal of its main cast. It shamelessly showcases the actors’ most alluring pairs, mostly burning green eyes and fiery lips.

Although “Kites” uses English and Spanish as well as Hindi dialogue, and has been filmed in the United States and Mexico instead of India, it’s still very much a Bollywood movie, a hyper-stylized, over-the-top cinematic experience of epic excess and bombastic sensationalism.

As directed by successful Indian filmmaker Anurag Basu, “Kites” is mostly a movie about the movies.

It slams seemingly disjunctive genres together with gleeful force, so that one minute we’re watching spaghetti western, the next, a moody film noir detective mystery or a spectacular, strobe-edited rock music video.

Film buffs can tick off the stylistic references: “A Fistful of Dollars,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Flashdance,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Thelma and Louise” (make that minus Louise). And more.

“Kites” valiantly attempts to play it straight. That is, people don’t suddenly break into elaborately choreographed musical dance numbers as they do in traditional Bollywood epics. (Read more…)

Latest ‘Shrek’ sequel a 3-D homage to midlife crisis

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas in "Shrek Forever After" Shrek (Mike Myers) and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) freak out Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) in “Shrek Forever After.”

“Shrek Forever After,” the third and supposedly final sequel in the popular fractured fairy tale franchise, still packs plenty of green entertainment power.

It offers up the expected barrage of witty lines, pop culture references, sight gags and songs played for comic effect. It brings back Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Puss in Boots for one more round of merriment.

But you know the series is running out of inspiration when it resorts to using an ogre’s midlife crisis as a premise, then baldly steals its plot from the classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which a despondent Jimmy Stewart contemplates suicide before an angel shows him what the world would be like had he never been born.

Shrek, that green glob of gelatinous goodness voiced by Mike Myers, doesn’t want to be lovable anymore.

No. He wants to be feared.

He wants people to run away from him in stark terror.

He wants to frighten children so he can steal food from their picnic baskets.

What the heck has happened to Shrek?

He’s in the throes of a midlife crisis. He hates the drudgery of everyday life, changing diapers of his three belching, pooping babies and forgetting how sexy his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) used to be in her prime princess period. He hates being beloved.

“I’m just a jolly green joke!” Shrek shrieks. (Read more…)

‘Letters to Juliet’ stamped by listless plot

Friday, May 14th, 2010
Christopher Egan and Amanda Seyfriend in "Letters to Juliet" Engaged Sophie (Amanda Seyfriend) starts to fall for British Charlie (Christopher Egan) in the romance “Letters to Juliet.”

If you like the generic pop-tune montage that opens “Letters to Juliet,” you’ll love the second one 30 minutes later.

And the third 36 minutes later.

And the fourth 44 minutes later.

And the fifth 70 minutes later.

And the sixth 75 minutes later.

Gary Winick’s romantically listless “Letters to Juliet” squanders an utterly winsome cast in a prefab plot so predictable and gooey that your shoes might just stick to the theater floor.

The adorable Amanda Seyfried plays Sophie, a fact-checker for New Yorker magazine, edited by a curt Oliver Platt. Sophie embarks on a “pre-wedding honeymoon” to Italy with her beau, Spanish chef Victor (the cute and charming Gael Garcia Bernal).

Instantly, we can tell: He’s all wrong for her.

Victor is about to open his own New York restaurant. He spends his time in Italy not with the lovely Sophie, but with the suppliers who will furnish the food and wine for his business. Victor can’t even get through a conversation with Sophie without taking an urgent phone call.

So, “Letters to Juliet” becomes another one of those rom-coms where everyone but the heroine knows that her current relationship is doomed the moment that she meets the next available hunky guy. (Read more…)

By-the-numbers ‘Just Wright’ gets it almost right

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Paula Patton, Queen Latifah and Common in "Just Wright" Trophy-wife-wannabe Morgan (Paula Patton), left, moves on NBA star Scott (Common) as Leslie (Queen Latifah) can barely believe her eyeballs in the romantic comedy “Just Wright.”

There are moments in the trite rom-com “Just Wright” when executive producer Queen Latifah looks unbelievably stunning in an evening gown, or just swaddled in a set of overalls.

There are other moments in Sanaa Hambri’s romantic fantasy that explode with genuine romantic fireworks, amazing little moments that transcend a formulaic, by-the-numbers plot.

In this almost-right, bland and overwritten rom-com, the size-plus woman gets the guy, because the guy gets her first.

But this only happens after he realizes that playing for a picture-perfect woman isn’t always the best strategy in the metaphorical game of love.

Latifah plays Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who lives vicariously through the endless romances of her beautiful, model-esque best pal Morgan (Paula Patton, the knockdown gorgeous inner-city teacher in “Precious”).

A shallow materialist and gold digger, Morgan can’t wait to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming an NBA trophy wife so she can sit in the special bleachers and hobnob with the other trophy spouses.

One night at a gas station, Leslie has a chance meeting with New Jersey Nets superstar Scott McKnight (Common), who seems quite taken with her down-to-earth qualities and self-confidence.

Until he meets Morgan, who baits her feminine hook with the precision of a professional deep-sea fisherwoman. Soon, she’s picking out silverware and dishes with the man whom Leslie really likes – and saw first. (Read more…)

Ridley Scott’s ‘Robin Hood’ a passionless, joyless tale

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood" Aussie actor Russell Crowe tries on the tights, quivers and scabbards as the infamous English rogue “Robin Hood.”

Zounds! What hath Ridley Scott done to ye old Robin Hood and his band of merry men?

You know, the beloved English outlaw who took from the rich and gave to the poor in one of history’s most celebrated redistribution of wealth programs?

This moody Robin Hood, played by mumbling Aussie Russell Crowe, suffers from repressed memories stemming from a traumatic childhood. No wonder his men have trouble working up a little merriment now and then.

Plus, this Robin Hood sports a graying beard, saggy eyes and paunchy tummy. He’s as old as a Medieval grandpa and he hasn’t even met maid Marion yet.

Speaking of Marion, she’s played by the perfectly enunciating Cate Blanchett.

She hasn’t been a maid in quite a while. But in the 10 years she’s been married to Crusades warrior Robert Loxley, she’s become a gifted farmer, fighter, archer, English speaker and feminist warrior.

Stand back. She wields one mean broadsword.

During a climactic battle on the English beach, she shows up wearing a fashionable knight’s suit just her size. (Where’d she get it? Armor R Us? Was she home-schooled in combat, or did she intern under an English knight?)

The idea of Robin and Marion getting together in their senior years has already been explored in Richard Lester’s 1976 movie “Robin and Marian” with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. There’s nothing wrong with “Robin Hood” revisiting that concept, except that Scott’s movie is a legend origin tale that takes place before military archer Robin Longstride evolves into the outlaw Robin Hood. (Read more…)

Downey keeps action-packed ‘Iron Man 2’ light and fun

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man 2" Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as wealthy industrialist Tony Stark in the anticipated action sequel “Iron Man 2.”

“Iron Man 2” takes off with a sputter, flies aimlessly around for a while, then finally kicks the blasters into overdrive during the last act to deliver a comic book adventure worthy of its well-made 2008 original.

Jon Favreau’s sequel neither eclipses nor equals his fresh, clever Marvel superhero origin tale, but it still packs loads of entertaining fun sprinkled with witty dialogue, spectacular effects and physical stunts so amazing they boggle the eyes – especially when executed by Scarlett Johansson swaddled in a skintight ninja suit.

Robert Downey Jr.’s irreverent, Peter Pan-like portrayal of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) continues to be the movie’s strongest asset, although Favreau’s light and nimble direction keeps the story’s piled-on complications from sinking under their own globby weight.

Stark continues to have heart problems, and not only because E.T.’s glowing ticker in his chest is slowly dying, He also possesses unresolved feelings for Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, back with more red hair) roiling beneath his armored facade.

In addition, poor Tony suffers from estranged daddy issues with his dead father, Howard Stark (John Slattery, looking as if he just stepped off the set of “Mad Men”).

Then there’s the strained friendship between Stark and Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle, an improvement over original actor Terrence Howard). Stark doesn’t appreciate how his increasingly flaky behavior jeopardizes Rhodes’ career. (Read more…)