It looks like another drag when Martin Lawrence returns as an undercover agent with a penchant for donning a wig and a fat suit in order to catch his man. This time, the FBI agent must protect his stepson (Brandon T. Jackson) who witnessed a murder and has to slip into a cross-dressing disguise of his own. This mindless story makes Eddie Murphy’s 'Beverly Hills Cop 3' seem as complex and compelling as an installment in the 'Bourne' franchise. Grade: F.
We've all heard somebody say that so-and-so's life story should be made into a movie. But just because a producer thinks Mordecai Richler's faux autobiography is worthy of cinematic interpretation doesn't make it so. Debut director Richard J. Lewis gets saddled with deceptively less fertile source material than must have appeared to Paul Giamatti. Grade: C.
How Liam Neeson went from being that rare thespian animal of a leading-man character actor to a full-on action star while still keeping his artistic integrity is a mystery. His latest big-screen project is a fish-out-of-water mystery thriller. It's not an especially memorable film, which is ironic considering the analogous subject matter of its over-leveraged premise. Grade: B-.
A successful plastic surgeon (Adam Sandler) pretends to be married to woo women, but when he meets the woman of his dreams (Brooklyn Decker) he ensnares his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) into a deeper (and dumber and dumber) web of lies and misunderstandings on the way to his happily ever after. Grade: F.
As things stand, this is certainly not the strangest adaptation of the Bard; in fact, it could be argued that Gnomeo & Juliet is rather conventional, especially for kiddie 3-D fare, when a few creative sparks (and a richer use of the extra dimension) might have been able to woo a few more hearts. Just be thankful Shakespeare never came up with a sequel. Grade: C
Animating an unproduced script by the late, great Jacques Tati proves a problematic challenge for filmmaker Sylvain Chomet ('The Triplets of Belleville'): Tati's ingenious style of physical comedy just doesn't translate in to animation. The entertaining effect of watching the actor play with balance and proportion as he moves is lost here, in spite of Chomet's best efforts to evoke Mr. Tati as a 1950s-era traveling magician. That's not to take anything away from Chomet, who employs light and color in elegant and understated ways. Grade: B-
In 140 A.D. Roman-occupied Great Britain, Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum) is a soldier’s son haunted by an infamous military debacle in which his father never returned from an expedition in the north of Britain, losing the golden eagle standard in the process. But with the help of a native Briton slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), Marcus undertakes a likely suicide mission into the untamed north to recover the eagle. 'The Eagle' plays as a simplistic adventure that wants to be taken seriously, but never has the guts to stake out a point of view. Grade: C-.
Working for the first time from his own screenplay, Iñárritu explores yet another Third World ghetto and the lost souls seeking redemption in these hells on Earth. But he’s not making the journey alone. His muse and fellow wanderer for this project, Javier Bardem has that beautifully expressive face with those huge sad eyes and a world full of weariness etched in every crack and crevice.
James Cameron lends his immense clout to
this production about a team of spelunkers with all sorts of internal
drama, but the journey fraught with painfully dull dialogue and thematic issues that are simply too on-the-nose. Grade: D-plus.
'Single White Female' redux would be a better title for Christian E. Christiansen’s 'The Roommate,' except any connection with that film might lead audiences to believe that 'The Roommate' has a hint of credibility, which it most certainly does not. Grade: F
The 2008 economic meltdown is ripe for dramatic interpretation. John Wells, the bigwig TV producer/writer behind 'ER' and 'The West Wing,' steps up with his take on the Death of the American Dream and corporate greed run amok, and does so armed with a righteous indignation that is only sporadically earned. Grade: C.
Sofia Coppola’s first film since 2006's underrated 'Marie Antoinette' is laden with the writer/director's now firmly established concerns: attractive (often young) people yearning to connect and find some sort of deeper meaning in their privileged lives, whether they know it or not. Grade: B.
There was something in the air in Park City, Utah, as the 2011 Sundance Film Festival picked up steam — and, thankfully, it wasn’t several feet worth of falling snow. In 2010, roads and sidewalks were snarled with one storm after another. This year, the sun shone brightly for all but a few brief, furious flurries. The relative meteorological peace seemed to mirror what evolved as a generally positive sensibility.
Although 'The Rite' is 'inspired' by a true story, director Mikael Hafstrom plays to audience expectations, presenting all of the standard tropes of demonic possession without offering anything beyond the expected. Grade: D-plus.
'Blue Valentine,' from writer-director Derek Cianfrance, finds Ryan Gosling in love with the dark side all over again. His character, Dean, is a slacker intellectual; an autodidact with little drive to succeed in the traditional sense (middle-class employment stability with the wife and kids in tow) but a huge heart and an even greater openness to the potential that the world has to offer. Grade: B-plus.