ALONE IN THE DARK /
The film adaptation of the popular video game involves a detective,
played by Christian Slater (!), who is investigating a deadly
plot that involves government agents, experiments on orphans,
crazed zombies and a few giant hungry dog-like creatures.
How they all fit together is anyone's guess, as the movie
has a plotline so weak it could be fully described in the
punchline of a quick joke. Easily one of the most stupid and
pointless films ever made.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR /
The remake of the original 1979 scarefest is spearheaded by
Michael Bay as executive producer. Need another reason to
avoid it? Consider the fact that its dead-in-the-water treatment
is so lame and tiring that it doesn't even generate enough
energy to fill you with dislike. Nearly a direct replica of
an already-flawed original, rendered completely pointless
by the fact that it does not improve, rethink or even heighten
all the conflicts or dilemmas explored by its ancestor. Lame
BATMAN BEGINS /
A reawakening of a dead film franchise that renders every
previous entry completely pointless. "Batman Begins,"
which chronicles the early era of the caped crusader as he
is building legacies as both Bruce Wayne and a mercenary by
night is driven almost entirely by plot and characterization,
and the action does not take precedent until the third act.
Very unconventional for a superhero but nonetheless ingenious
and reinvigorating, finally it is okay to be a Batman film
once again at the movie theater.
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY /
Tim Burton's re-imagining of the famous Roald Dahl children's
story is a movie so off-the-wall and so driven by its own
bizarre reality that it literally drains you of all energy.
The colorful sights are an enticing prospect -- especially
when the movie moves into the infamous chocholate factory
itself -- while an unresolved tone, routine plot structure
and performances that seem buried behind plot conventions
interfere somewhat with the experience of watching it all
unfold. Not a bad movie nor a good one, its great appeal lies
in the performance by Johnny Depp, who gives the Willy Wonka
role a new directive that, while not necessarily kid-friendly,
is engaging in a shrewd and unconventional kind of way.
CINDERELLA MAN /
The second Ron Howard/Russell Crowe collaboration yields a
film in which a prize fighter succumbs to the pressures of
the Great Depression before ultimately surprising his detractors
and returning to the top of his game. Solid performances and
respectable plot movement keep the movie afloat (along with
camerawork that is some of the best of Howard's career), but
the movie is not as perfect as others would like you to believe
it is. At the end of the day, this is really just a decent
movie that in no way matches the progressive power of another
recent boxing drama, "Million Dollar Baby."
Keanu Reeves stars as comic book hero John Constantine, who
utilizes a knowledge of the occult to wage an ongoing war
against demons and hellspawn who are trying to escape from
their world and come into ours. Whether they can succeed all
depends on the efforts of he and his newest acquaintance,
detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), but the movie cares
so casually about the fine details that you never know which
way the narrative is going. Still, the sharp production values
and skillful directing make it less mediocre than it could
have been, and newcomer director Francis Lawrence, should
he see the effort as a beginner's lesson, could conjure up
something good the next time around.
FANTASTIC FOUR /
Four scientists head for the stars to study solar storms that
may or may not have heralded the start of life on Earth, only
to find themselves caught up in the devastating disturbance
and... surviving it! Afterwards, they are transformed into
the Fantastic Four, superheroes whom, if not for the fact
that they have bizarre superpowers, would probably not have
any other distinguishing characteristics in life other than
their ages and names. The most insipid and banal excercise
of the summer treads waters that no one will be interested
in for long; action-less and heavy on corny dialogue, it is
like watching someone you know and love blow all of their
assets on something that does more harm than good.
HIDE AND SEEK /
Robert DeNiro plays a psychologist whose daughter seemingly
spirals into mental collapse when her mother commits suicide.
Seeking to relieve her pain, he moves her out to a house up
in the hills, where she begins emerging from her depression
and creates an imaginary friend named Charlie. But is he imaginary
or is he real? Ah, good ol' Dad can't be too sure of that,
especially when wierd things begin happening under his roof.
A premise that has a lot of promise as a family drama is squandered
away for the sake of tossing around cheap thrills and pointless
excercises in formula, and the ending twist is so incredibly
familiar that you can almost accuse the writer of ripping
it off from a certain movie that played in theaters during
the early part of 2004.
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY /
An aloof but visionary adaptation of a famous series of British
sci-fi comedy novels, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy" succeeds in exhibiting enthusiasm for its subject
matter, but ultimately sidesteps brilliance because it refuses
to be very accessible to the casual moviegoer. Jokes and dialogue
exchanges litter the celluloid like broad reference points
to the literary material, and most of the time you are not
able to laugh at something because you're never sure if you
understand (or even want to understand) the randomized satire.
Still notable for its visual look, "Galaxy" should
at least please those who are already experienced in the reading
of Douglas Adams' famous stories.
HOUSE OF WAX /
Half a dozen dimwitted college students decided to camp overnight
in a shady wooded area while traveling to a big college football
game, only to mistakenly wind up in a town in which all the
inhabitants are either creepy... or dead. But get this --
people aren't just deceased, their bodies have been made foundations
for wax statues at the town's House of Wax, which is like
a creepy death museum. Don't assume that any of this paints
a pretty portrait, though -- the movie is so vile, so reprehensible
and so utterly stupid on so many levels that those who pay
decent hard-earned money to see it will undoubtedly feel cheated
when they walk away. Avoid.
IN GOOD COMPANY /
Paul Weitz's latest opus centers on the story of Dan Foreman
(Dennis Quaid), whose job as the advertising sales editor
at a local sports magazine is torn away from him when the
publication is bought out during a conglomerate takeover.
The job is then given to a 20-something guy named Carter (Topher
Grace), who wants to succeed in the world of business enterprise
but is seemingly in way over his head here, not fully aware
of just how damaging his company's antics can prove to be
for the established employees there. Rather than make this
story a platform for ruthless backstabbing, though, Weitz
sees the material in a more relevant and feel-good context,
and he develops his characters in a way that not only stresses
their professionalism, but also certain weaknesses. Well-crafted
and acted mild comedy.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN /
Ridley Scott's latest historical epic, about 12th century
crusades over Jerusalem, is more like a pale imitation of
his "Gladiator" rather than its own movie. Orlando
Bloom stars as a blacksmith burdened by tragedy who is whisked
away from his village in France by his father and taken to
the Holy land in hopes of finding redemption. While there,
however, he instead comes across a politcal tug-of-war between
members of the Christian authority of Jerusalem over whether
the kingdom should attack threatening muslims who plan to
seize the city and take back what they believe is theirs.
Much less enthusiastic than it sounds, the movie lacks character
perspective, fully realized story arcs, and genuine interest
in any of the events it presents. Totally boring.
LAND OF THE DEAD /
George A. Romero's fourth entry in the genre that he founded
in 1968 with "Night of the Living Dead" is a tame
but fun little experiment with the zombie persona, in which
human characters are secluded in a city overrun by social
inadequacy and their enemies -- the walking undead -- are
starting to use their brains in order to get around all those
pesky obstacles that keep them from getting close to all that
living flesh. As usual, Romero packs his film with social
and political commentary, and he gets good performances from
people like Dennis Hopper, whose character, like most, seems
to exist in a bubble that has totally disregarded the presence
of mankind's potential demise beyond the city walls.
THE RING TWO /
Perhaps the most pointless sequel to a successful horror film
since "Exorcist II: The Heretic." A basic retread
of all the material that came before it, the movie opens as
its main characters, Rachel and son Aidan, transplant themselves
into a new town to try and escape the memories of the evil
little girl that disrupted their lives in Gore Verbinski's
"The Ring." Needless to say, she is back and badder
than ever... or so the filmmakers would have you believe.
Lacking all the menace and skill of its predecessor, "The
Ring Two" slogs its way from one sequence to the next
without so much as a thought in its head. The narrative is
a basic rehash with virtually no context, and the fact that
it doesn't try to push for newer goals, as a respectable sequel
would, makes the experience all the more infuriating.
Fox's CGI follow-up to "Ice Age" is not only a major
improvement over that previous endeavor, but also a serious
contender in the ongoing competition between movie studios
over who is capable of doing truly great work with this relatively
young genre. Ewan McGregor voices a robot whose big dreams
as an inventor take him into the big city, and the adventures
that follow are stocked with humor so diverse and multi-faceted
that it pleases audiences no matter what their age may be.
The movie is also the best looking visually since "Finding
Nemo," driven by the notion that mechanics come fully
equipped with the promise of intricacy woven into the images.
Robot City itself is a skyline of such detailed and innovative
proportions that it deserves comparisons to the great fictional
metropolises of any cinematic genre.
SIN CITY /
Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of the famous Frank Miller graphic
novels is a triumph of scope, distinction, artistic thrust
and compelling storytelling. In a city alive with corruption
and peril, several shady characters, some related only by
a mere thread, engage in gruesome battle with lowlives of
every evil face imagineable. Cannibals, corrupt politicians
and religious figures, vengeful hookers and shady law enforcement
are just some of the citizens to meet in a place like this,
which is so alive and sharp in its visual extravagence that
it wows the eyes long before it ever has the chance to pollute
our minds with its lurid subject matter. One of the most enjoyable
experiences I have ever had at the movies.
STAR WARS EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH /
The purported final installment into the legendary "Star
Wars" franchise is stirring in the way it bridges two
seemingly-alien story arcs into one convincing saga. Anakin
Skywalker, the hero of the prequels, is now destined to fall
into the clutches of the Sith and become Darth Vader, the
villain of the later stories -- as such, observing the movie
becomes less about absorbing action and more about exploring
the deterioration of character. Fascinating but flawed sci-fi
blockbuster (especially in terms of dialogue), "Revenge
of the Sith" is nonetheless probably the best possible
result one could have hoped for to conclude this series.
WHITE NOISE /
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
The first new movie of the year repsects the long-running
tradition of January cinema releases by being both lousy and
miscalculated. Michael Keaton starts as an architect whose
wife, a famous author, turns up dead in a river channel after
going missing for several days. Unfortunately for him, she
isn't totally ready to say goodbye to him yet, and when she
tries to instigate contact with him through electronic devices,
it turns his life into a foreboding detective story. The characters
seem so involved in their situations that you wish they'd
share in the glory; the script here is neither very constructive
or detailed, and often it builds great big mysteries for viewers
to solve without actually giving them the right insight.