Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Review: This Means War
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

It's impossible to ignore the relevance of Reese Witherspoon's profession in This Means War. Her character, an especially Witherspoonian blonde named Lauren Scott, is a consumer-products tester whose workplace looks like a scrumdiddlyumptious torture chamber. Neon-handled Teflon pans are blasted with flamethrowers in a tangerine lab, while a focus group of concerned housewives discusses charcoal grills in a polka-dot boardroom. Before long, it hits you like a skillet to the face: How many times did this love-triangle action comedy go through similar rounds of quality control? How many focus groups gave it the once-over before it got the green light? Considering its multiple endings, spastic construction, odd romantic outcomes, and bizarrely dated snippets, it's safe to assume the punchy product arriving in theaters is a few generations removed from Simon Kinberg and Timothy Dowling's original script, which was once called Spy vs. Spy and had Sam Worthington and Bradley Cooper attached to star.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


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

It's too bad every complacent couple can't have one spouse lose all memory of the other. As evidenced by The Vow, being forced into a clean-slate courtship is a great way to cure mid-marriage malaise. The zealous effort to woo is restored. What was tired is fresh again. Indeed, it makes the simple renewal of vows look like the work of lazy slugs. Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) aren't old enough to have fully nestled into married life, but Leo is nevertheless compelled to dust off his game when Paige suffers head trauma from a car crash and can't recall that the tall drink of whey protein at her bedside is the same one who's been between her sheets. Based on the tale of a real-life couple who stalwartly gave amnesia the wedding-banded finger, this Valentine's Day date magnet is a proud cheerleader of love conquering all. It might have been better if the script, the sets, or just about anything else in its visual palette had the bottled-lighting ease of Tatum and McAdams's quiet chemistry. This is a movie whose true romance has virtually nothing to do with the movie itself.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Review: Big Miracle
1 star (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

In Big Miracle, a big ol' mess of a fact-based weeper that welcomes the whale puns (pass the harpoons!), the only things that ring somewhat true are the ulterior motives scattered among the characters, each of whom has something to gain from helping a trio of gray whales trapped beneath the ice in Middle of Nowhere, Alaska. An aspiring Anchorage journalist (John Krasinski) hopes spreading word of the story will get big networks to notice him, a Colorado oilman (Ted Danson) thinks lending his Alaskan resources will make for killer PR, a fish-out-of-water reporter (Kristen Bell) hopes covering the rescue will make her career as big as her hair, Inupiat natives want to save face lest the public think they're heartless hunters, and a Reagan staffer (Vinessa Shaw) wants to preserve the boss's legacy while securing the future of "humanitarian" George H.W. Bush.