Sunday, January 24, 2010


Review: Tooth Fairy
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

If you're willing to fully embrace the absurdity of a movie that's basically built on the goofy spectacle of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wearing wispy wings and a tutu, “Tooth Fairy” actually isn't half bad. Though sticky-sweet and by no means outstanding, it more or less works because it, too, embraces its ridiculousness with giddy, infectious abandon. And, as it turns out, seeing the former wrestling star all dolled up in pastel-colored fairy frocks does provide a certain amusement, puerile and primitive as that amusement may be. I'm not exactly recommending the film, but if your 7-year-old – for whom it is perfectly appropriate – is begging you to take him to a matinee showing, think of it as mindless fun that's surprisingly bearable, like a ride on the Tea Cups in which you savor the spins instead of wait to vomit.


Sunday, January 17, 2010


Review: The Book of Eli
2.5 stars
(out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

There are some provocative ideas at the heart of “The Book of Eli,” the latest object of Hollywood's seemingly unquenchable affection for doomsday-related fare. Written by first-time scripter Gary Whitta and directed by Albert and Allen Hughes (who haven't made a film since 2001's Jack the Ripper thriller, “From Hell”), this Denzel Washington distress vehicle is powered by the somewhat nifty notion of preserving religion – Christianity, specifically – in a world where civilization has gone to waste. I'm glad the filmmakers at least tried to hit upon something weighty, because the last thing audiences need is a generic walk through yet another post-apocalyptic landscape. But I also would've liked to have seen things handled more delicately, as these gents don't have nearly enough respect for the built-in power of their hefty themes. And this walk, truth be told, is often a crawl, and an ugly one to boot.

At the risk of spoiling one of a few revelations that aren't as wow-inducing as they'd like to be, the titular book is a leather-bound King James Bible – the last surviving Bible on Earth following a 30-year-old global cataclysm that the movie thankfully refrains from over-explaining (there was a war, fire rained down from the sky, yada, yada, yada). Eli (Washington), a drifter of few words and uncanny fighting skills, is the Bible's protector, divinely selected to carry the doorstopper to a western location he can't place, but will know when he sees it. It's to the film's credit that these details aren't immediately divulged but, then again, prior to their unmasking (which I'll estimate starts to unroll after about 30 minutes in), the movie is an empty, dismal bore, and what their inclusion chiefly does is finally give the viewer something to latch onto.


Sunday, January 10, 2010


Review: Leap Year
1 star (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

“Icky” is one word to describe the way I felt after watching “Leap Year.” “Insulted” is another. It wouldn't be January without at least one crap-heap comedy hitting multiplex screens, and you can bet this grimly unimaginative and unfunny Amy Adams-goes-to-Ireland dud is that comedy for 2010. Worse than it looks and as disposable as Kleenex, it's a movie so dimwitted, so unsophisticated, it doesn't even have the good sense to go easy with its few moderately effective running jokes, which it clearly and tragically believes are downright brilliant. It's a movie you've seen so many times before, each time slightly more fresh and, odds are, slightly more special. If there's anything audacious about it, it's that director Anand Tucker, screenwriters Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, and the folks at Universal Pictures think they have any right to make a film like this in this day and age. I'm sure they'd all argue they've created something classic and old-fashioned, but “Leap Year” is in fact something fiercely clichéd and old hat.

No blarney stone is left unturned as we watch posh Bostonian and professional home-stager Anna (Adams) embark on what must be the most boring and by-the-numbers trip through Ireland in the history of cinema. Anna's off to find her beau, Jeremy (Adam Scott), a cardiologist who's in Dublin on business and to whom she plans to propose.


Sunday, January 3, 2010


Review: It's Complicated
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

I imagine writer/director Nancy Meyers is a fine hostess and an even better interior decorator. The meticulous production design of her films – including “What Women Want,” “Something's Gotta Give” and, now, “It's Complicated,” a bubbly, screwball romantic comedy about a 50-something restaurateur (Meryl Streep) who finds herself caught up in an affair with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) – often appears to have sprung from the pages of House Beautiful or the latest coffee table book by the Barefoot Contessa. The interior of Mel Gibson's workplace in “What Women Want” was a stunner of architectural eye candy; the white-washed Hamptons setting of “Something's Gotta Give” was gleamingly picturesque; and the indoor (and outdoor) Santa Barbara locales in “It's Complicated” practically beckon you to step in, take off your shoes, and have a look around.

Meyers opens her latest by scanning a sunny, unblemished stretch of Southern California shoreline before cutting to a swanky outdoor party, during which she sends luxuries like a tray full of golden champagne flutes gliding into the frame. Streep's character, Jane Adler, whose three children have moved out and whose ex, Jake, now lives with his much younger new wife, Agness (Lake Bell), is the lone inhabitant of a gorgeous, sprawling hilltop estate complete with lush gardens, a bench swing, immaculate décor and, soon, an elaborate kitchen addition. In case we didn't already know, Meyers reminds us of where her head is when one of Jane's friends affectionately observes that Jane has “Feng Shui-ed” her entire life.