Sunday, January 29, 2012


Review: One for the Money
1.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

You could go nuts with the double entendres associated with One for the Money, beginning, of course, with the film's title. The gluttony of Katherine Heigl's inexplicably street-smart character Stephanie Plum—for money, bad guys, and most of all food—can be easily applied to the formerGrey's Anatomy star's career path. Heigl, it seems, hasn't met a headlining opportunity she wouldn't plow through like junk food in order to hit pay dirt ("I'm not going to say no to a cupcake," Stephanie eventually says). A mix of Rosalind Russell, Erin Brockovich, and Sandra Bullock's Gracie Hart (who gobbled up steak and spaghetti with the same elbows-out voracity Stephanie shows while downing oodles of product placement), Heigl's latest cipher is a dyed-in-the-nylon Jersey girl who loses her Macy's job in underwear sales and has to spend a lot more time at her parents' house in Trenton, where home cookin' and bad wallpaper reign supreme.

Monday, January 16, 2012


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

Perhaps you've heard of Gina Carano. A former American Gladiator and current YouTube sensation, the raven-haired 29-year-old is one of the most Googled people on the planet, and has been dubbed "the face of women's mixed martial arts." She's also the comely ass-kicker at the center of Steven Soderbergh's Haywire, a hell-hath-no-fury spy jaunt conceived by its director as Carano's breakout vehicle (think Ong Bak with boobs). Ever the experimental genre jumper, Soderbergh finally gets his Luc Besson fanboy on, making his first-time leading lady a Nikita thirsty for vengeance in a man's world. He certainly breaks some sort of new ground in the way his fights are presented. Though Carano's freelance operative Mallory Kane tends to walk away the victor, it's hard to recall the last time a female character was so fiercely and frequently beaten up by men, punched and kicked and thrown and smashed without a speck of sugarcoating.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


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

Joyful Noise certainly has its demographics covered. For the traditionalistic Bible Belt crowd, there's a bounty of God-fearing folk, and at least three women who are rendered defective when the men who complete them leave the picture. For the urban enthusiast, there's ample soulful swagger and belting of R&B, with tracks by Michael Jackson and Chris Brown given the shake-the-rafters treatment. For the Gleeks, there's an exultant third-act medley that puts every single mash-up in Ryan Murphy's repertoire to shame. For the gays, there's nearly enough over-primped fabulosity to rival Burlesque, whose divas-play-themselves lead the movie surely follows. And for the cynical liberals, there's a tacky reflection of the church's overall hypocrisy that seems marginally self-aware (among other things, the inevitable tournament victory of the film's devout, cookie-cutter choir can't be had until the crooners ditch the God stuff and whip out the secular guns).

Monday, January 9, 2012


Review: The Devil Inside
1.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

"Connect the cuts," Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) hisses to her doe-eyed daughter, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), who's come to visit Maria in a Roman mental hospital after 20 years of estrangement. "Connect the cuts, connect the cuts, connect the cuts." The chant is fair warning for the inevitable revelation of Maria's self-mutilation, a tic-tac-toe patchwork of upside-down crosses that she's apparently been carving into her forearms since she murdered three clergy members back in 1989. It's also an unintentional nod to the first fundamental faux pas of this klutzy bamboozler, directed and co-written with senseless audacity by William Brent Bell (Stay Alive). Bell's cuts are connected with the formal intuition of a filmmaker possessed by Ed Wood, as every abrupt jump that aims for dramatic intensity begets comedy instead—or merely points to a puerile grasp of continuity. The common scenario involves film-within-film footage of over-the-top possession victims curtly juxtaposed with reaction shots from onlooking characters, whose soap-opera-serious expressions couldn't be further from those of The Devil Inside's actual audience (what's unwittingly created is the kind of awkward, how-about-that humor often seen in one-camera sitcoms). Bell doesn't mean to be in the business of jokes, but his movie is a big one, and it's most certainly at the viewer's expense.