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- Another Public Enemy - Korean action director Woo-Suk Kang essentially remakes his 2002 hit Public Enemy, and it is a very mixed bag. While his tale of corruption and vigilantism is well acted, it is way too long (nearly 2 1/2 hours) and loaded with unnecessary and criminally boring bureaucratic hoo-hah, not to mention the silly dialogue. Instead, check out the original or Kang's 2003 smash, Silmido (if you can find it).
- Get Rich Or Die Tryin' - It may follow the Eminem 8 Mile formula - pedigreed director (Oscar bridesmaid Jim Sheridan) rap phenomenon (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) - but it does not add up to a movie that is going to change any minds about the nigh-invincible rap star. This brooding enigma is an expressionless marble-mouth, and it is difficult to root for him in this violent rags-to-riches gangster yarn, despite its respectable duds. Even the similar Hustle & Flow, starring Mr. "Fiddy" Cent's co-star, Terrence Howard, topped this murky, self-aggrandizing run-on sentence, which this impatient survivor has re-titled Get Sleep Or Try Dyin'.
- King Kong - Oscar-granted Return Of The King director Peter Jackson spends nearly an hour introducing the three supporting characters of this overambitious simian soap opera, packing twenty minutes of introductions into that hour. He does little more than establishes that unemployed Vaudevillian Anne Darrow (Naomi Watts) was part of a comedy act back in Depression-era New York, Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), the writer she admires, is also slumming it (by writing B-pictures) and opportunistic B-picture director Carl Denham (Jack Black) is full of crap. It is quite an overly intricate set-up for what ultimately amounts to a single gag that comes during the second hour when Kong, the 25-ft. silverback gorilla, is so amused by Darrow's buffoonery that he laughs and begins to bond with her. It is a model for the inefficiency that follows, flashes of greatness punctuated by redundant and poorly paced exposition. The best part is the marvelously expressive (and entirely computer generated) beast, using Gollum papa Andy Serkis as a model for his movement. Jackson's team even got the eyes right, giving this artificial construct a level of expression previously unattainable. Consider, though, that the 3 hour tour is so Jackson can try to persuade us that a human woman can fall in love with a monstrous monkey, which, when considered logically, is as believable as a Great Dane getting goofy over a Dodge Dart. Never the twain shall meet, and Jackson only barely attempts to explain why they connect (or why Kong or his dinosaur pals on their anomalous Skull Island even exist). The action is hard and fast (imagine Jurassic Park's dinos as professional wrestlers), though there is just too much time blown on topping the last Memorable/Icky Moment. Black just plain sucks, Brody seems as reluctant as Driscoll is supposed to be, though Watts, acting opposite nothing, really, gives it a good go. Still, Jackson, who cites Merian Cooper's original 1933 King Kong (which is finally on DVD) as the movie that inspired him too want to make films, could have paid a far better tribute by championing both its simplicity and efficiency. Better yet, he could go back to creating the kinds of original gems that defined his career before Lord Of The Rings, before his edge was dulled somewhat by his posse of yes men.
- Memoirs Of A Geisha - Second-guessing filmmakers is a pastime as rich as quietly sticking a spit-softened Gummi Bear in the locks of the jabberjaw in the next row or bringing teething infant children to noisy, R-rated movies after bedtime. After witnessing the criminally boring job that director Rob Marshall did in adapting Arthur Golden's best-selling novel, one gets to wishing that he had taken a page from his Chicago playbook and added some musical numbers. Or maybe some ninjas. Or some geisha-on-geisha action. Anything to make it more interesting. It is the tale of a young Japanese girl named Sayuri (played by Suzuka Ohgo and later by Ziyi Zhang) who is groomed so that she maybe become the commodity known as geisha -- educated, cultured, coveted, pimped. Another big mistake was shooting this Showgirls Of The Rising Sun in English by letting the all-over Asian cast speak their lines phonetically, with varied degrees of skill. The result is unintentionally Mr. Moto meets Mickey Rooney from Breakfast At Tiffany's, and it is a constant distraction. Speaking of Mick, the climax becomes a "let's put on a show and save the Empire" routine, but by that time, all the dramatic promise of its premise has already been flattened by too many disconnected attempts at relevance, poignancy and visual poetry. The tension-killing voiceover is lazy, getting one to wondering if producer Steven Spielberg had helmed, would he have stuck to "show, don't tell" and turned in something richer, akin to his Empire Of The Sun.
- A Sound Of Thunder - Anyone looking for a decent adaptation of Ray Bradbury's famous short science fiction story about rich, time-traveling
hunters who inadvertently unravel the fabric of history can skip this egregious plop-plop, as it has been treated with
more intelligence in movies like The
Butterfly Effect. One of Cinematical's Worst Movies Of 2005.
- Southern Belles - At the risk of coming off like a sexist Jerry Lewis parrot, Scary Movie star Anna Faris sure is one la-la-la - funny lady! First-timers Paul S. Myers and Brennan Shroff wrote and directed this sleepy little sweetness about two Georgia peaches named Belle (Faris) and Bell (Related cutie Laura Breckenridge) who dream of leaving their small town to make it in The Big City: Atlanta. The movie is to Georgia what Mike Judge's King Of The Hill is to Texas; it simultaneously sings its many joys and drawbacks. It is also a place populated with memorable characters, especially that of Belle's dorky discount store manager, Duane. He's played with hysterical, Milton-like intensity by Judah Friedlander, whom most film geeks will remember as the White Castle burger-loving Toby Radloff from American Splendor. In the end, it's a light little flick, but the kind of good-hearted silliness that you'll likely be happy to spend an hour-and-a-half hanging out with.
- Stay - Submitted for your disapproval, Finding Neverland director Marc Forster's Frankensteining of many a visually busy existential drama like The Matrix, Jacob's Ladder, What Dreams May Come and The Sixth Sense. More pretentious than a college thesis film, stars Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts' floundering mirrors our own as we, too, try to make sense of this engineered confusion.
- Threat - All inevitable comparisons to Kids aside, this way-low budget hardcore drama about youth gone wild takes the reckless abandon of Larry Clark's gritty, often-cited modern chestnut and does it one better. Director Matt Pizzolo and partner-in-grime Katie Nisa populate their world of woe with characters we can identify with, which is part of what makes what happens to all of them that much more tragic. Certainly, we won't give it away, but it's safe to say that the words, "Oh, shit!" will be on many viewers' lips, along with "icky", "ballsy" and "unsettling".
- The Triangle - Sci-Fi's 3-part mini about the nature of the legendary tropical vortex is an engaging way to spend a rainy spring afternoon, even for those who don't usually go in for this sort of X-Files-y thing. A billionaire (Sam Neill) whose transport ships are going missing in The Triangle assembles a team of investigators, offering them each a sload (but not quite a fload) of money if they can explain exactly where the missing boats and such are disappearing to and why. It's all very reminiscent of guilty pleasures like The Philadelphia Experiment and The Final Countdown, and is the kind of well-thought, watchable fare one would expect from someone like co-creator Bryan Singer (and more than what you'd expect from co-creator Dean Devlin).