Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hollywood has broad summer range behind the blockbusters

(From The Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Along with the major blockbusters, Hollywood offers loads of other films this summer. A look at the highlights:


"The Fall" — A bedridden man in early Hollywood spins wild fantasies to encourage a young girl at the same hospital.

"How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer" — America Ferrera and Elizabeth Pena star in a comedy about three generations of Mexican-American women.

"Made of Honor" — Patrick Dempsey covertly romances his best pal (Michelle Monaghan) after she asks him to be "maid of honor" at her wedding.

"Meet Bill" — A lingerie saleswoman (Jessica Alba) helps turn life around for a loser (Aaron Eckhart).

"Noise" — Tim Robbins stars as a man who turns vigilante to combat the constant racket of Manhattan.

"Redbelt" — David Mamet directs Chiwetel Ejiofor as a man of honor in a corrupt world of mixed martial arts fighting.

"Son of Rambow" — A British charmer follows two wildly different boys who team up to make their own "Rambo" action flick.

"The Strangers" — A couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) face terror as masked intruders invade their home.

"War, Inc." — A hit man (John Cusack) poses as a corporate flunky to pull off an assassination in a war-torn country. The dark satire co-stars Hilary Duff.

"What Happens in Vegas" — Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher are scheming strangers who wed on a whim then battle over a Vegas fortune they've won.


"The Happening" — M. Night Shyamalan's latest features Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel in a tale of a couple running from an apocalyptic terror.

"Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" — Abigail Breslin stars as a plucky Depression-era girl in an adaptation from the American Girl book series.

"The Love Guru" — Mike Myers is a self-help weirdo trying to patch things up between a hockey star and his wife. With Jessica Alba and Justin Timberlake.

"The Promotion" — John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott are supermarket workers duking it out for a management job.

"Wanted" — Angelina Jolie's an operative for a secret agency who helps train a dormant prodigy (James McAvoy) to use his super abilities. With Morgan Freeman.


"American Teen" — It's the "Breakfast Club" in real life with this teen documentary about a jock, a nerd, a stud, a popular girl and an artsy one.

"Brideshead Revisited" — Hayley Atwell, Ben Whishaw and Emma Thompson star in an update of Evelyn Waugh's 1930s-era classic.

"Gonzo" — Director Alex Gibney's documentary examines the outrageous life of boozing, drug-abusing writer Hunter S. Thompson.

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" — Ron Perlman and director Guillermo del Toro reunite for another adventure about the superhero from way down under.

"The Longshots" — An ex-high school jock (Ice Cube) coaches his niece (Keke Palmer), the first girl to play Pop Warner football.

"Mamma Mia!" — Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and the music of ABBA highlight this musical about a woman sorting out which of three old flames is the dad to walk her daughter down the aisle at her wedding.

"Religulous" — Bill Maher goes globe-trotting to talk with people about God and religion.

"Space Chimps" — Stanley Tucci and Cheryl Hines provide voices for an animated tale of lower primates in space.

"Step Brothers" — Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are adult slackers who become family when one's mom marries the other's dad.

"The Wackness" — Ben Kingsley's a frustrated shrink who forms a bond with an equally frustrated teen. With Mary-Kate Olsen and Famke Janssen.


"The Accidental Husband" — Uma Thurman's wedding plans are knocked for a loop when she learns a prank left her married to a man she's never met.

"Babylon A.D." — Vin Diesel's a courier in a post-apocalyptic world whose package turns out to be a mystery woman.

"Bangkok Dangerous" — Nicolas Cage is an assassin whose loner life is altered as he connects with a shop girl and a street punk in Thailand.

"Crossing Over" — An ensemble including Harrison Ford, Sean Penn and Ashley Judd are featured in a Los Angeles immigrant drama.

"Fly Me to the Moon" — A 3-D animated adventure centers on three young flies that tag along on the Apollo 11 moon landing.

"Hamlet 2" — Steve Coogan and Catherine Keener star in a comedy about a teacher staging an irreverent musical sequel to "Hamlet."

"Hell Ride" — A Western on two-wheels features bikers avenging a murder by a rival gang. With Michael Madsen and David Carradine.

"Henry Poole Is Here" — Luke Wilson's a shut-in whose nosy neighbors teach him he can't live in isolation.

"The House Bunny" — An exiled Playboy bunny (Anna Faris) offers lessons on living to the social misfits of a college sorority.

"The International" — Interpol agent Clive Owen and prosecutor Naomi Watts take on a global bank that finances terrorism.

"Mirrors" — Kiefer Sutherland's a night watchman at a department store whose mirrors hold a horrible secret.

"Pineapple Express" — A pothead (Seth Rogen) who witnesses a murder ends up on the run with his dealer (James Franco).

"The Rocker" — Rainn Wilson and Christina Applegate star in the tale of an '80s rock drummer who stages a comeback 20 years after he's booted from his band.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" — George Lucas presents an animated adventure featuring Jedis Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi as prelude to a TV cartoon series.

"Swing Vote" — A critical election comes down to the vote of one apathetic, beer-chugging nobody (Kevin Costner).

"Towelhead" — An Arab-American teen deals with her sexual awakening amid the Gulf War.

"Traitor" — Don Cheadle's an ex-American operative suspected in a terrorism conspiracy. With Guy Pearce.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" — Woody Allen's latest features Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in a romantic drama in Spain.

"Wild Child" — A teen brat (Emma Roberts) is packed off to a strict British boarding school. With Aidan Quinn and Natasha Richardson.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New at the theaters

This week's offerings seem kind of disappointing on the surface, but they might be worth looking in to.

Rogue is the sophomore effort from Greg McLean. If any of you remember the excessively disappointing Wolf Creek from 2005 then you'll know the only part of this that might be exciting is the comic value of cartoonish violence that follows long stretches of nothing.

While probably less funny than Rogue, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay looks like it will deliver a laugh or two. That might be about it though. Another one of those the-funniest-parts-are-already-in-the-trailer-so-why-bother-seeing-it romps is about all I expect out of this.

Ewan McGregor surfaces with Deception as he apparently tries to give Hugh Jackman some indie cred. Two high profile actors in a movie by a director fresh off of the advertisement circuit actually makes me interested. McGregor seems to pick roles well. He has yet to really let me down, and the previews for this one look like it will at least keep my attention, possibly even entertain me.

Burt Reynolds is apparently not dead. Who'd have thunk? Deal is, as one might expect from the title and cast, a movie about poker. Reynolds tries to teach a young upstart gambler how to play with the big boys. What makes me think this has been done before? Oh, because it has, over and over and over again. Let's take bets that the old timer gets into a wild predicament where he's forced to square off against his young pal.

Saturday Night Live alumni rarely make good movies when they team up. But with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler under the watchful eye of SNL writer Michael McCullers, who also penned an Austin Powers movie or two, could prove to be one of the exceptions to the rule as they bust out Baby Mama this weekend. Rumor has it that they are a little light on the Mean Girl's touch as Tina Fey had no part in writing this one. That might be a good thing for people like me who think Mean Girls was overrated and not that funny. 30 Rock, however, is comic genius. So if Tina Fey's past is any evidence, she's best when delivering her own material, but this has potential.

--john berry, online editor

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The buzz around this week's releases.

Hitting theaters on Friday, April 18:

Jackie Chan and Jet Li team up for the first time in The Forbidden Kingdom. In theory, every fan of kung-fu movies should be lining up for this one. Mixing Chan's more goofy and campy film history with Li's more straight-up action history seems like a good idea. A lot of buzz about it being family friendly makes me think it's leaning more towards the Chan end of the spectrum. Given director Rob Minkoff's history (Lion King and Stuart Little) this might be too kid-friendly for standard kung-fu audiences. My prediction: enjoyable but nothing great, although the first time teaming of Li and Chan should be epic.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a first time director who grabbed up the second string players from every comedy that's been out in the past few years. You'll recognize several supporting cast members from Knocked Up and various other Apatow productions. Jason Segel gets dumped and accidentally ends up at a vacation resort with his ex and her new dude. It'll probably be funnier than I'm expecting, but not full-fledged-Apatow-project funny.

Al Pacino is back with 88 Minutes and critics are calling it too long and slow among other not-so-friendly things. Not sure how you could go wrong with an action movie from the guy who produced all of the Mighty Ducks movies, oh, wait, there we go. I'm probably going to skip this one.

Morgan Spurlock's Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? opens in limited release. He ventures to the middle east to talk with Muslims about America's "war on terror" and their views of it. His documentary past that makes no attempt to hide the fact that he has a point to be made with his social experiments foretells what this one will be. Spurlock clearly wants to make a point with this one too. One might think with the tone of the promotional materials that he is not agreeing with Bush. With that said, I'll probably go see it when it comes to Philly area theaters. He makes funny, thought provoking films and this one looks like more of the same.

The funniest thing in theaters this week is probably going to be Pathology. Another in a long line of horror/thriller movies that would only scare/thrill viewers with head injuries. A German director with a history of short films and music videos somehow got Milo Ventimiglia while he was bored on a break form Heroes, and Alyssa Milano who was apparently bored with doing nothing. As a fan of the horror genre, I think I'll have to skip this one.

--John Berry, Online Editor

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Counterfeiters

Okay, so The Counterfeiters is yet another limited release, foreign film, based on a true story. All the fixins for a movie nerd like me. Subtitles, small independent theater, actors no one at the Regal Cinemas has ever heard of. Yes, I have an obsession with the Ambler Theater. Good movies, friendly staff, reasonable prices, why wouldn't I have this crush on the place?
So, the movie. . .
The protagonist, Sally (short for Salomon,) is a career criminal in nazi Germany. He mainly prints his own money, but touches on other illicit activities. After his arrest, for both the crimes and the being Jewish, he is sent to a concentration camp where he is labeled as both Jewish and criminal so that his fellow prisoners know what he is.
When the nazis find out exactly what Sally is capable of, they put him to work for them. With Sally at the helm of what has been called the largest counterfeiting operation in history, the nazis print enough foreign currencies to fund their war effort.
Sally just goes along to keep himself alive in desperate times, as do the other members of his crew. Once one of his fellow prisoners/coworkers in the printing plant voices his opposition to the effort, the movie takes a turn from historical study to fascinating character study of just how much a person is capable of in order to keep himself safe and alive. Sally has to keep up appearances, but help hide what his friend is doing to intentionally sabotage the operation, not only from the nazis, but from fellow inmates that fear for their own safety.
Balancing his own life, and those of the men he has bonded with in these horrid conditions, with the idea of helping the greater good becomes very complicated. If they openly defy the operation, they will all be killed and the nazis will find other prisoners to do the work.
The movie deftly weaves through these complicated issues of self-exploration while building a detailed picture of the historical facts behind the personal struggles.
The only failing of the movie would be in the lack of in-depth study of the supporting characters. So much attention is paid to Sally, that many of the fascinating minor players fall to the wayside.
Overall, the story is gripping, the drama is touching, the characters are captivating. With a run time of one hour, thirty-nine minutes, there is plenty of room for more probing of those minor characters.
I'll have to give it a B for the effort.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Monday, April 14, 2008

Count On Me

We in the newspaper business like to see ourselves as civic-minded souls.

We almost play the role of Don Quixote as we use our place in the communities we serve to exhort our readers to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

It is a sacred right, one that has evolved from allowing only property-owning white males to cast a ballot.

Some black males, followed by women, received the right to vote in the 19th and 20th centuries. The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 sealed the deal.

If you are a citizen - of any gender, creed or color - you are guaranteed the right for which history books tell us Americans fought and died.

Evidence is mounting, however, that those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms may be spinning in their graves.

This horrifying notion has been put forth with such aplomb by David Earnhardt in his documentary "Uncounted: The Math of American Elections" that you may never take the holy voting process seriously again.

And it makes one wonder if the real role of the mainstream media, one that has virtually turned away from these seemingly founded and well-researched accusations or egregious acts against the common citizen, should be to encourage a voter boycott.

What if they throw an election and nobody came?

It would be almost as compelling to watch at the 80-minute effort produced, directed and written by Earnhardt, who will be on hand April 16 for a Q & A session following a screening of his project at the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown.

"Uncounted" is made in the spirit of Michael Moore's veracity to awaken the American public from its slumber on core issues. Although lacking some of the comic relief of Moore's narration ("Uncounted" has none, whatsoever, adding to its impact), this project could go down as the political documentary that Michael Moore should have made after it became clear that the irregularities - seemingly centering on the rich (whites from the right) winning national elections by disenfranchising the poor (minorities who lean left come Election Day) - of 2000 in Florida were not anomalies.

If this were a relay, Earnhardt picks up the baton and continues the race for justice by exposing almost laughable and obvious discrepancies and miscarriages of justice in the 2004 presidential elections and again in the 2006 elections.

Among these discrepancies are eye-opening exit poll numbers that don't add up, voter suppression that evokes the name "Jim Crow" without stretching it, the insidious evil of under voting (less votes reported than ballots cast in key districts in key states), electronic voting and the inability to confirm its accuracy, privatization of the election process that rivals that of the the privatization for profit of the war in Iraq and so on and so on.

There is so much here that more than one viewing is suggested. Even if you are unable to make it to Jenkintown for a one-time, mid-week viewing, I suggest you go to the Web site and order a copy for yourself.

It could be the most patriotic act of your life.

--Gordon Glantz, Managing Editor

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Run, Fatboy, Run

It's probably time for me to see some mainstream films, but I see what I feel like seeing.
"Run, Fatboy, Run" is another British comedy that is not really getting a lot of attention and is not a box office smash. With Simon Pegg, star of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," at the front of a bizarre premise, it was bound to be amusing.
Pegg and Michael Ian Black (of "The State" fame, look it up kids) wrote it. David Schwimmer, yeah, the guy from "Friends," in his feature film directorial debut, manned the helm. A strange combination to say the least, but it turns out to work like magic. Disparate and seemingly incongruous comedic talents that don't seem to work on paper manage to pull it off without a hitch.
Pegg plays a coward who runs out on his gorgeous, pregnant fiancee on the day they were supposed to get hitched and essentially spends the next few years running from all responsibility. When the mother of his child decides to move on, he freaks out and wants her back. So he runs a marathon. Right, I know, it sounds like every cliche and lame joke in the book. But again, what seems like a bad idea on paper worked out really well in real film life.
Other than the improbable pairing of Thandie Newton and Simon Pegg, it actually seemed kind of feasible without stretching the imagination too much. Pegg's Dennis actually tells his ex at one point that he isn't trying to win her back with his desperate scheme, but that he'd settle for her respect. The more touching aspect of the film takes on its own life as Dennis becomes human and almost lovable instead of the caricature of a loser that he seems on the surface.
Somehow, the merging of these three seemingly inappropriately matched comedians brings out the best in each of them and the writing and directing team puts together a stirring little comedy.
I'll give it an A.
--John Berry, Online Editor