Opening This Week
Gomorrah (NR) See review here.
Sin Nombre (R) Two Mexicans jump a train for America to escape a life of violence and poverty while on the run from a brutal gang. See a review at www.charlestoncitypaper.com.
Next Day Air (R) A package of cocaine is mistakenly delivered to two would-be drug dealers, and the big dogs aren’t happy about it. Stars Mos Def, Donald Faison, and Mike Allen.
Star Trek (PG-13) Director J.J. Abrams (Lost) brings to the big screen a hot, young Starfleet crew set out to fulfill their personal destinies. Stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, and Zoe Saldana.
17 Again (PG-13) It’s not difficult to see what purpose this movie is supposed to serve. Namely, it’s here to please Zac Efron’s tween fans by parading around his heartthrobiness for 100 minutes while occasionally showing off his unique talents. The movie is one of those family friendly fantasies that crop up here and there, where an adult is transformed into a teen and sent off to learn important life lessons — think either version of Freaky Friday or pre-Christian Soldier Kirk Cameron and Arthur 2-era Dudley Moore in Like Father Like Son. In this case, it’s an exhausted looking Matthew Perry. This take offers nothing new, though a couple scenes are a little creepier than usual. It’s strictly for fans of Efron, who may actually be young enough to find it fresh. —Justin Souther
Battle for Terra (PG) If movies were a Little League baseball team, Aristomenis Tsirbas’ Battle for Terra would get a trophy just for trying hard. But no matter how striking the visuals occasionally are, no matter how much the film attempts to transcend its own kiddie-flick origins with its somewhat downbeat ending and pertinent political message, and no matter how much the movie’s heart is in the right place, Terra is just too nonspecific to warrant any kind of fuss. The film’s crux, revolving around the remainder of humanity invading a peaceful alien world in a last gasp attempt at survival, is not only relevant, but is a nice change of pace in kid’s movies. And while the film’s points are welcome, they never bring forth any ideas that feel fresh or original. Add to this that the animation is variable and the 3-D feels like the afterthought it was (the movie wasn’t designed for the process), and what you end up with is more than a little flat. —Justin Souther
Earth (G) It’s fitting that Earth was released to coincide with Earth Day, since everyone involved is very active in recycling. The footage for Earth is taken from the 2006 BBC documentary series Planet Earth, narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough and released stateside on the Discovery Channel with Sigourney Weaver’s omnipresence overseeing all. In 2007, the footage was pared down to feature length in the UK — with narration by Patrick Stewart — to create Earth, which has finally made its way here, with the voice of James Earl Jones calling the action this time. Shot in HD, the film is often striking and majestic on the big screen. But this doesn’t keep it from carrying around a sense of been there, done that. Maybe it’s the fact that the film’s been so cut down from its original form. But nothing about it seems terribly fresh or informative, coming across more as an especially spectacular episode of Wild Kingdom than anything else. —Justin Souther
Fast & Furious (PG-13) On the plus side, Paul Walker no longer looks like he’s waiting for the director to tell him what to do next. What else can be said? Well, it’s not nearly as funny as Vin Diesel’s last picture, Babylon A.D., but whether that’s in the movie’s favor is as personal a call as deciding whether Mr. Diesel’s second chin is really getting that obvious, or if director Justin Lin just shoots him in profile way too often. As a mindless — verging on incompehensible — action flick, Fast & Furious probably scales the heights of adequacy. That’s to say people drive fast, perform improbable stunts, things blow up, and the leads glare at each other a lot. Neither the plot nor individual set-pieces, however, survive even cursory scrutiny. All you need to know — not that there’s much more to know — is that Diesel and Walker are out to bring down a Mexican drug lord, who was responsible for the death of Diesel’s girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez). If that — and watching people drive fast — appeals to you, so might the movie. —Ken Hanke
Fighting (PG-13) If ever a movie deserved the largely meaningless assessment of “it is what it is,” Dito Montiel’s Fighting is that movie. It is exactly what you think it is — a fairly dumb fight drama of the sort that Hollywood’s been knocking out since Kid Galahad in 1937. In fact, this pretty much is an uncredited rehash of Kid Galahad with a slight modern varnish job. It’s still the story of a promoter spotting raw fighting talent in a kid and helping to turn him into a star fighter. That it’s on some vaguely defined underground bare-knuckle circuit changes very little, nor does it make it any less hokey. The point is that’s what Fighting offers you, and if that appeals to you, so might the movie. Unforunately, Montiel thinks he’s in deeper territory than the B-movie realm the film actually inhabits — and he tries to make that point by throwing more and more cliches into the mix, which only gooses the kitsch quotient and pads the running time. Strictly for viewers who want to see shirtless Channing Tatum. —Ken Hanke
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (PG-13) Undoubtedly, you can guess by the title that this is a modernized knock-off of Mr. Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol — something the characters of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past must be totally unfamilar with. The idea is that Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a sleazeball, womanizing photographer who will learn the error of his ways on the eve of the wedding of his brain-dead brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer), to the shrill and unlikeable Sandra (Lacey Chabert). Assuming that we’re familiar with the original, there’s not much chance we don’t know where this is going. Throw in the one girl he ever truly loved, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), and there’s no chance at all. The film’s decision to make the already unctuous McConaughey über-sleazy works against whatever merit it might have had. What’s left is an unbelievable reformation, cheesy special effects, not very funny comedy, and zero romance. —Ken Hanke
Hannah Montana: The Movie (G) The fictional Hannah Montana character is actually the fictional Miley Stewart character (something a blonde wig keeps the whole world from noticing), who, of course, is Miley Cyrus in real life. The plot finds Miley losing touch with her roots, owing to her celebrity status as pop star Hannah. Things reach crisis level when Hannah gets into a shoestore fight where she tries to skewer Tyra Banks with a stiletto heel. Civilized people might well consider this a laudable attempt, but Dad Robby Ray Stewart (real-life Miley dad Billy Ray Cyrus) takes a dim view of it, and whisks his cash-cow daughter off to Tennessee for a deprogramming dose of appallingly idealized “real life” — a reality envisioned by folks whose idea of such was obviously cobbled together from the more backward examples of 1950s sitcoms. It’s all pretty frightening. —Ken Hanke
Monsters vs. Aliens (PG) There’s something sweetly nostalgic about the idea that the government has had all these out-of-date monsters locked away for about 50 years. The voice casting is surprisingly good, especially Rainn Wilson as the evil Gallaxhar. The results of all this, though, are rarely more than pleasant. The individual components suggest it should be better. It’s less a case of anything being actually wrong than it simply being no more than OK. The idea basically finds the earth invaded by aliens and calls on their stash of homegrown monsters to save the day. Apart from the personal stories used to flesh this out, that’s the plot and it works fine for what it is. At bottom, I liked it well enough. I found it consistently clever and that it maintained a pleasantly giddy sense of fun. In a year, I’ll have only the vaguest sense of ever having seen it. —Ken Hanke
Observe and Report (R) It looks like an R-rated version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Its existence almost makes one think that Paul Blart was a pretty good movie. That should tell you all you need to know about Observe and Report. Rogen plays a sociopathic mall-security officer with an alcoholic mom (loads of laughs there) and a crush on a thoroughly reprehensible cosmetics counter worker (Anna Faris in the most thankless role of her career, if such a notion can be believed). He sees his big chance when the mall is beset by a flasher and a series of robberies. Things don’t go exactly as planned, which is supposed to lead to big laughs, but these rarely materialize. The big problem is that the film is so concerned with being hip and edgy that it manages to make its racist, homophobic, self-centered, and smarmy hero thoroughly unlikable. —Ken Hanke
Obsessed (PG-13) I don’t mind that TV director Steve Shill’s theatrical film debut Obsessed is mindless, overheated, undercooked trash. I mind that it’s boring mindless, overheated, undercooked trash. That’s the one thing trash can’t withstand. Unfortunately, it’s also the one thing Obsessed has in abundance. Oh, it has other things — awful dialogue, hysterically obvious set-ups (the more forgiving among us may call this “foreshadowing”), laughably bad performances, a mentally defective storyline — but it’s the boredom quotient that cooks the goose. The movie has about two minutes worth of plot — psycho blonde temp worker (Ali Larter) stalks and fantasizes a romance with her boss (Idris Elba), causing him no end of trouble and understandably earning the ire of his wife (Beyonce Knowles). It keeps going only because every character in the film behaves like an idiot. Yes, you’ll finally get to the big Beyonce-Ali Larter catfight, but it’s not that big and not that good. —Ken Hanke
The Soloist (PG-13) Now that Joe Wright’s failed Oscar-bait, The Soloist, has also fared poorly at the box office, maybe Mr. Wright will get back to the business of making the movies his 2005 debut feature Pride and Prejudice suggested he had in him. This isn’t to say that The Soloist is a bad movie, but the best that can be said of it is that it qualifies as an honorable failure. Finally seeing the film, there’s no longer much mystery as to why the studio pulled it from awards season. Despite worthy performances from Robert Downey Jr. as LA Times columnist Steve Lopez and Jamie Foxx as the schizophrenic homeless man who was once a musical prodigy and whom Lopez befriends, the movie’s mostly a mess with bizarre extraneous scenes filling up the gaps left by a narrative arc that doesn’t exist. Strangely, the film itself recognizes this very problem when Lopez says he doesn’t want to turn his articles on his friend into a book, because there’s no ending. The film can’t find one either, so it merely stops at a certain point with a bit of simplistic moralizing and a tepid stab at a “feel good” wrap-up. —Ken Hanke
State of Play (PG-13) Starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams, State of Play is more about whether real journalism can be done when profit is all. Yeah, this is still Hollywood. There’s an action sequence that’s not exactly out of place, except when you compare it to the original, which was all silently exchanged glances speaking volumes and quiet moments about character that made you ache for them even when you had to acknowledge that the characters were huge assholes. But I cannot bitch about this new State of Play, much as I was prepared to. It’s exciting and urgent. It’s a beautiful and sad fantasy about the last gasp of investigative journalism, which has already passed. —MaryAnn Johanson
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PG-13) It appears I’m supposed to have hated this movie, but I have to say I didn’t. It’s not a great movie, and I doubt I’ll ever feel compelled to see it again, but I enjoyed it well enough while it was onscreen. Is it profound? No. It doesn’t pretend to be weighty, which means that it isn’t pompous like Watchmen or The Dark Knight. To me, that’s a plus. I find it interesting and more than a little disheartening that the idea of quality in a comic book movie has become synonymous with “depressing.” The charge that the story isn’t realistic strikes me as peculiar to say the least. Uh, guys, we’re talking about a main character who, for all intents and purposes, is indestructible and who sprouts blades out of his hands. If the film then wants me to believe that he and his half-brother, Victor, stop aging at the time of the Civil War, and that that happens to coincide with the current ages of stars Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber, I’m cool with it. It seems an easy enough leap to make. It has the basic problem of all origins stories — namely that you know where it’s going — but it strikes a nice balance between a respect for the character and not taking itself too seriously. —Ken Hanke