Friday, October 28, 2011

LIKE CRAZY

Review: Like Crazy
2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund


Like Crazy is an art-house romance about the pain and challenges of a long-distance relationship, and watching the film is itself a grueling exercise in yearning. You spend the entirety of the running time straining to care for the central couple, who meet and fall for each other while attending college in Los Angeles, then see their love and transatlantic flights ping-pong in tandem, as one remains in the States while the other is forced, due to a student visa violation, to return home to the U.K. There's tension established with the young lovers' conflict of circumstance, but the weight of their connection requires a wealth of viewer faith that's stretched to irredeemable limits. Never do you feel a strong attachment to, or sympathy for, this pair, as their chemistry is nonexistent and only one of them seems at all invested, or even interested, in their bond. This is a movie whose emotional power is confined, almost completely, to a single performance—that of Sundance breakout Felicity Jones, whose budding British journalist, Anna, is most certainly the duo's better half.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THE MIGHTY MACS

Review: The Mighty Macs
1 star (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund


The Mighty Macs is a film from another planet, where stories are told, obliviously, in cryptic, nonsensical code, and people talk to each other in sugarplum proverbs no earthbound adult would ever inflict on another, not even on the set of a Hallmark Original Movie. Extraordinarily amateurish, it inadvertently shields you from fully grasping its narrative motivations, while simultaneously slugging your intelligence with thoroughly contrived scenarios, stupefyingly on-the-nose double entendres, and the ascribed importance of characters who have next to no development. Writer/director/producer Tim Chambers, who hails from the basketball drama's Philadelphia setting, claims to have received the full blessings of real-life chief subject Cathy Rush and the religious education institutions he depicts; however, what makes bashing this sweetly intended family flick feel less and less like a cruel act is that Chambers does a spectacular disservice to all involved with its true story, the supposed milestones of which aren't even articulated.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

FOOTLOOSE

Review: Footloose
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund


If the Footloose remake had its own signature dance, it'd be called the Push-Pull, as this hip-to-be-sorta-square movie, much like the small-town teens within it, has a mind for propelling itself toward a progressive future while continually being yanked back by cherished hallmarks of the past. The opposing forces are a direct reflection of the challenge undertaken by director and co-writer Craig Brewer, who only half sells out as he tries to leave an auteur's mark while remaining faithful to a source that's loaded with dated, studio-friendly hokum. What results is something stylish, modern, nostalgic, cheesy, and more than a little Frankensteinian, composed of surprisingly uninsulting contemporary elements and iconic re-stagings that reach varying levels of success.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TRESPASS

Review: Trespass
1.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund


If not the apocalypse, home invasion certainly seems to be the go-to film theme of 2011, manifesting in everything from an Aussie reincarnation flick about the destructive boughs of grief (The Tree) to a whole host of horror movies with unwanted visitors both creepy (Fright Night) and crawly (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark). Into this swelling vat of timely tales, which explore the desecration of the common man's last symbol of self-worth and security, Joel Schumacher bends over and squeezes out Trespass, a jerky, clamorous domestic thriller that attempts, with nonsense and expletives turned up to full volume, to say something thrillingly profound about the depths of misery one can reach while doing financial damage control. Saying the movie fails in that attempt doesn't even begin to describe the rollercoaster of bad decisions Schumacher makes here, nor does it properly express why Trespass is the hack's worst film since, well, since his last one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

DIRTY GIRL

Review: Dirty Girl
2 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund


For a movie hellbent on marketing itself as the seedy tale of a small-town tramp, Dirty Girl sure has an odd way of making good on its promise. There's a girl, and she's prone to dirty acts, but that's just one patch of this arbitrarily stitched quilt of white-trash, Bible-Belt transgression, which flattens under the weight of a truckload of half-realized ambitions. Writer-director Abe Sylvia claims the 1987-set film is derived from his experiences as an overweight closet case at his Oklahoma high school, and the daily debauchery of his promiscuous female classmate, who he desperately wished was his right-hand hag. With Dirty Girl, Sylvia dreamily concocts the friendship he always wanted, casting newcomer Jeremy Dozier as Clark, a sparkly eyed version of himself, and Juno Temple as Danielle, the campus whore whose fabulous authority-bucking is irresistible. But in this process of joining two outcast forces and telling their parallel coming-of-age stories, Sylvia lets the glitter fly like he's Michael Patrick King Jr., packing in so complete a roster of tacky queer clich├ęs you'd think he somehow knew this would be not just his first feature, but also his last.