Opening This Week
Medea Goes to Jail (PG-13) Tyler Perry stars in Tyler Perry’s Medea Goes to Jail, a Tyler Perry production of a Tyler Perry movie.
Fired Up (PG-13) Two star high school athletes skip football camp to try out for the cheerleading squad. Stars a bunch of people pretending to be in their teens who are really in their early- to mid-30s. Directed by Will Gluck.
Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG) Forget the bad reviews — especially the outraged ones that are aghast that a movie with a credit-crazed heroine would dare to show its face at this unfortunate time in history. P.J. Hogan’s Confessions of a Shopaholic is a triumph of style over lack of substance — one made human by Isla Fisher and made romantic by the pairing of Fisher and Hugh Dancy. Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a wanna-be fashion writer working for a dying gardening magazine, and buried under a mountain of credit card debt. When she accidentally gets a job writing a column for Dancy’s financial magazine, things change for her, since her financial advice — delivered in shopping terms — is immensely popular. The film is essentially a stock romantic comedy, but it’s done with such stylish direction that it feels fresher than it is. And there’s Isla Fisher — the type of comedienne we haven’t really seen since the great screwball comedies of the 1930s, a performer who can remain sexy and appealing even while taking a pratfall. Even if the movie weren’t as pleasant a diversion as it is, she’d make it worth seeing.
Coraline (PG) Perhaps Coraline should scare away impressionable youngsters, but it shouldn’t scare away anyone who would revel in pure creative wonder. Gaiman’s story follows young Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) as she and her parents move into an old house-turned-apartment building. Mom (Teri Hatcher) and Dad (John Hodgman) are busy writing their gardening books, leaving Coraline to explore her new residence and discover a mysterious small door. A passage inside leads to an alternate world identical to her own — except that her parents are more attentive and accommodating to her every desire. And if Other Mother and Other Father happen to have buttons for eyes … well, nobody’s perfect. What potential viewers will need to wrap their heads around is that while Coraline may be about childhood, it isn’t really for children. —Scott Renshaw
Friday the 13th (R) An acquaintance of mine posted on a message board something to the effect that while Marcus Nispel’s “re-imagining” of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th isn’t any worse than the original, neither is it any better. I think that demonstrates that Nispel’s film actually is worse. It cost more than 20 times as much and took nearly twice as long to make. You might think some improvement over a cheesy little slice-and-dice exploitation flick from nearly 30 years ago would have resulted. But it didn’t. Instead we simply got more of the same doled out in such a way that it somehow feels like less of the same. Apart from a slightly clever opening that manages to telescope the first couple films into a few minutes of screen time, there’s nothing even slightly new here — apart from advances in cosmetic surgery where the topless female victims are concerned. Jason chases and murders various over-age meat-on-the-hoof teens — and that may be enough if you’re one of the folks who has helped make this franchise keep going for 12 movies. Everyone else is warned. —Ken Hanke
He’s Just Not That into You (PG-13) Ken Kwapis’ He’s Just Not That Into You is messy, cliché-ridden, filled with characters so inane that you marvel they made it to adulthood, predictable, and dull, dull, dull. I didn’t expect much, but I got even less than that. What you get for the investment of a whopping 129 minutes are several clumsily interconnected stories following the trials and tribulations of an oversized cast of characters who comport themselves with such calculated stupidity that it’s hard to care about them. Full of recognizable but hardly big box office names, the film is overstuffed to say the least. And all for what? To parade a bunch of not very likable 30-somethings and their relationship angsts, while playing out every rom-com trope to the max and beyond. It plays and feels like a TV-movie knock-off of a Woody Allen picture with all the wit surgically removed. —Ken Hanke
Inkheart (PG) Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) inadvertently sent his wife, Resa (Sienna Guillory), into a book called Inkheart while reading it aloud. In so doing, he also caused characters from that book — Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and Capricorn (Andy Serkis) — into our world. The book in question has become increasingly difficult to find in the intervening nine years that bring us to modern times. Mo’s pursuit of this book has become his major preoccupation. It’s also high on the list of Dustfinger, who wants to be read back “into” the book, and Capricorn, who has other ideas. Likable supporting characters, and actors like Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, help make this agreeable entertainment, but Iain Softley’s flat-footed direction (especially at the end) keeps trying to sink it. —Ken Hanke
The International (R) Surprisingly old-fashioned in its adherence to solid, unpretentious suspense, The International is perfectly exhilarating for its craftsmanship and low-key style, too. We join Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, as a New York City district attorney, as they try to nail the ominously monikered International Bank of Business and Credit for some very bad things that could, arguably, be deemed crimes against humanity. Owen’s agent is twitchy in his hindered authority: He’s ex-Scotland Yard, eager to do some real police work to bring down these banking bastards (he’s crossed swords with them before, of course), and doesn’t want to be limited to Interpol’s information-gathering mandate. Watts is his unruffled counterpart, sleekly professional and calmly competent. (Refreshingly, their investigation is not complicated by romance, though the two actors sizzle with creative chemistry together onscreen.) At one point, during the Guggenheim sequence, everything I thought I knew about what was going on took a 180 turn … and then moments later took another 180 turn that, were normal physics involved here, should have taken us back to where we started, but instead takes us into a whole new realm. It’s awe-inspiring not just in a storytelling sense, but also in an artistic one. So there really are still filmmakers out there who aren’t content merely to do work that is good enough, but better than we ever might have expected. —MaryAnn Johanson
New in Town (PG-13) You’ve seen everything offered here before. You’ve seen it done better, too. It’s that old wheeze about the tough-minded career gal (Renee Zelwegger) from the big city who gets sent to make changes at a dinky manufacturing plant in the sticks that’s been taken over by a large corporation. The natives are strange creatures for her — and us — to gawk at, make fun of, and feel superior to for two-thirds of the movie. Then she — and we — see the error of our ways, realize that these are the real people who’ve “got it right.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt matters any that our tough-minded career gal finds romance in the form of a champion-of-the-little-man union boss (Harry Connick Jr.). The clichés are thicker than ice on the frozen lakes that crop up in the movie, and the writing is transparent beyond belief. It’s also neither funny nor romantic. —Ken Hanke
Notorious (R) George Tillman, Jr.’s Notorious is the story of rapper Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. (newcomer Jamal Woolard). It’s a movie that for all its attempts at showing the transcendent power and drama of its larger-than-life subject can’t help but fall into the same formulaic traps that plague so many musician-centric biopics. The biggest issue is that these episodes are handled with about as much zest and freshness as they are original. None of it’s terribly exciting or interesting, because we’ve all seen it before. Maybe the only difference is that Biggie spends about 90 percent of the movie being a complete and total lout, wallowing in his own solipsism and reveling in the kind of aggression and misogyny that hip-hop is so often criticized for. —Justin Souther
The Pink Panther 2 (PG) Instead of stopping while it’s ahead, The Pink Panther just continues to snowball into a relentless Steve Martin-created avalanche of obnoxious idiocy. The set-up is simple, with some long missing international super-thief simply named The Tornado suddenly reappearing and snatching priceless artifacts from around the eastern hemisphere, including, eventually, the Pink Panther diamond. A “Dream Team” of investigators from England, Italy, and Japan all brought in to track down the items, with the bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Martin) leading the way. The movie then turns into a series of set pieces where Clouseau bungles and blunders his way towards embarrassment with the kind of exhausted slapstick that would make Mr. Bean groan, before making it all right in the final act. It’s just one unimaginative gag after unoriginal pratfall, with the minutia occasionally broken up by Clouseau’s cheesy French accent. —Justin Souther
Push (PG-13) Call it a case of diminished expectations, but going into Paul McGuigan’s Push, I expected the worst. Part of this had to do with the goofy trailer that looked a bit too much like last year’s dreadful Jumper. Push is not the train wreck I expected, but a perfectly adequate action movie. It isn’t exactly what I’d call a good movie. Sure, the movie’s slick enough, but it’s never as clever as its twisting, turning plot thinks it is, or half as cool as it tries to be. In a plot that would be more at home in a comic book, the movie centers around Nick (Chris Evans), a guy who’s hiding out in the slums of Hong Kong from a U.S. government agency called Division. It seems Nick, like his father before him, is a “Mover,” meaning he has telekinetic powers that allow him to move objects with his mind. Naturally, this devolves into one of those evil government conspiracy affairs with an array of colorful villains to fill it out. It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but it’s vaguely entertaining. It’s just not a movie to get too excited over. —Justin Souther
Taken (PG-13) In Taken, Liam Neeson kicks so much ass. How much? Well, imagine the exact amount of ass-kicking you think is enough, plus even more. Now double it. And he takes names, sometimes, but only to find out which asses he’ll kick next. Many of them don’t even have names. They’re dead, instead. That’s right: In addition to, and often as a result of kicking ass, Neeson also does a whole lot o’ killin’. The reason is that his teen daughter, while vacationing in Paris with a girlfriend, has been kidnapped by sex traffickers. It’s Bryan’s worst nightmare. Or maybe his secret hope? Actually, the reason is that he’s highly trained, by Uncle Sam no less, in the arts of kicking ass and killin’. He even explains this to the kidnapper on the phone, at considerable length, in a riveting, parody-ripe little monologue evidently much cherished by screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, director Pierre Morel and not least Neeson himself. —Jonathan Kiefer