Flick picks and pans
August 11, 2006
See the movie listings for movies and showtimes.WORLD TRADE CENTER: There isnt a single gratuitous minute in Oliver Stones film, which recreates the endless hours in which two Port Authority police officers (Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena) were trapped beneath the rubble of the twin towers on Sept. 11 and tracks the panic of their family and friends who waited anxiously for news of their rescue. But its also the safest film Stone has ever made. This is a director you expect to grab hold of an historical event as he has with the Vietnam War in Platoon and the Kennedy assassination in JFK and shake it tirelessly until some meaning falls out, some perspective that perhaps we hadnt cared or dared to consider. What Stone has come up with here is an exceptionally crafted, strongly acted, high-end made-for-TV movie. Its visceral and intense, exceedingly faithful in its depiction of the fear and chaos, the ash and smoke, that enveloped New York that day. And yet it provides no insight, offers no political statement, doesnt even begin to broach the subject of terrorism. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal give beautiful, moving performances as the officers wives. Classified: PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language. Running time: 129 minutes. Rated: Three stars out of four. (Lemire, AP) THE ANT BULLY: Another week, another animated movie with a scorchingly starry vocal cast. Meryl Streep! Julia Roberts! Nicolas Cage! (Though the best work comes from Bruce Campbell, best known for the cult favorite Evil Dead series.) Theres not much new here. Structurally, its reminiscent of this summers superior Monster House, with an awkward boy (Zach Tyler Eisen) experiencing adventures and learning to trust what hed once feared while his clueless parents are on vacation. Thematically, it calls to mind Over the Hedge, with its ideas about suburban sprawl destroying nature (it even features a villainous exterminator, voiced by … Paul Giamatti!). And visually, its similar to Antz from 1998. As in, it looks just like Antz. But the movie certainly means well, and its worthwhile message (teamwork is good, selfishness is bad) should penetrate the brains of kids old enough to stay in their seats and listen. Classified: PG for some mild rude humor and action. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated: Two stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)BARNYARD: Theyre all essentially interchangeable by now, you know these animated movies with talking animals. Or insects. Or cars. Its hard enough for adults to tell the difference between them, but for kids, who are supposed to be the target audience, this years flock of such films must be boggling their young minds. Which, in this case, is a pity. Because Barnyard actually has a clever concept (the animals walk upright, talk and hang out like humans when the farmer isnt around) and it handles such sensitive topics as birth and death with unexpected grace. The all-star cast (because certainly these films cant be voiced by no-names anymore) includes Kevin James, whos charismatic as the irresponsible Otis the cow, Courteney Cox as a pregnant cow whos new to the farm, Danny Glover as the wise, old mule and Sam Elliott as the cow whos in charge of the group. From writer-director Steve Oedekerk, who has amassed one of the more eclectic filmographies in Hollywood lately between his involvement with this, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Patch Adams. Classified: PG for some mild peril and rude humor. Running time: 83 minutes. Rated: Two and a half stars out of four. (Lemire, AP) THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA: Can a young girl from a campus newspaper in the Midwest find wealth and happiness as the assistant of a rich and imperious Manhattan editor? Anne Hathaway stars as Andy Sachs, girl editor, who ventures east and ends up under the thumb and heel of Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), dictator and editor of a famous fashion magazine. Streep and Hathaway are effective in their roles, and Stanley Tucci is fun as the mags fashion designer, but isnt this movie the equivalent of an after-school special for teenage girls? Classified: PG-13. Running time: 106 minutes. Rating: One and a half stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate). AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Global warming is real, and unless it is reversed, the planet will pass a tipping point in about 10 years and start a slide into the destruction of civilization. Al Gore says this is not his opinion, but the consensus of 100 percent of the scientists who have studied the subject. It is not a political issue, Gore says, but a moral issue. This documentary, skillfully directed by David Guggenheim, is not the boring lecture you might expect, but fascinating and relentless. In 39 years I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. Classified: PG. Running time: 120 minutes. Rating: Four stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).
MIAMI VICE: Unlike other recent film versions of TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky & Hutch and Bewitched, which toyed with the innate campiness of their source material, Miami Vice plays it completely straight. Deadly straight, actually. Its so self-serious at times, itll make you laugh out loud at moments that arent supposed to be funny. Which is a total letdown because, theoretically, this is Michael Manns pure, true vision, now that hes free from the constraints of television decency standards. The film looks fantastic, shot in intense, intimate high-definition like Manns Collateral. Its still a sexy, rock n roll world of crime and corruption that the ever-fashionable undercover detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) inhabit. But the story is simultaneously convoluted and forgettable (it has something to do with the duo infiltrating a drug cartel to determine the source of an intelligence leak, in case you care). Gong Li is gorgeous but often incomprehensible as the money launderer Sonny falls for, and John Ortiz clearly watched Scarface too many times in preparation for his role as a drug runner. Classifield: R for strong violence, language and some sexual content. Running time: 133 minutes. Rated: Two stars out of four. (Lemire, AP) THE NIGHT LISTENER: Theoretically, this couldnt be more relevant even more so now than in 1992 when the events occurred that inspired Armistead Maupins book and, in turn, Patrick Stettners film. Its ideas about fact vs. fiction, reality vs. imagination, and the blurry line in between have become all too familiar following the recent exposure and subsequent downfall of writers like James Frey. It does leave you guessing until the very end and even afterward. Who, if anyone, is losing their mind here? What really happened could anyone possibly know for sure? In leaving those questions for the audience to interpret, Stettner as director and co-writer (with Maupin himself and Maupins former partner, Terry Anderson) has crafted a sophisticated, grown-up mystery, and a welcome challenge. Yet it feels truncated, and the brief running time suggests there was a lot more going on here that Stettner excised. Robin Williams is believably understated as the talk radio host who receives a shocking book by a 14-year-old (Rory Culkin). Toni Collette co-stars as the boys adoptive mother. Classified: R for language and some disquieting sexual content. Running time: 82 minutes. Rated: Two and a half stars out of four. (Lemire, AP) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MANS CHEST: Even better than the first one and, oh, that Johnny Depp! Reprising his Oscar-nominated role as the roguish Capt. Jack Sparrow, Depp romps through and often saves by sheer charisma a somewhat incomprehensible plot. It has something to do with Jack owing a blood debt to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, buried in an octopus beard). Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom return as the young lovers, now in hot water themselves for aiding Jacks escape in the original film. Plus cannibals, sea battles, ghost ships and a helluva giant squid. Parental note: Some of it is quite scary. You may want to check it out yourself first. Classified: PG-13. Running time: 140 minutes. Rated: B+ (Cox News Service). QUICKSILVER: Jack Casey (Kevin Bacon) is a brash yuppie broker who ends up losing his and his parents wealth playing the stock market. Whats Jacks next move? To drop out of the corporate rat race and become a bike messenger. Jack finds his new free-wheeling co-workers to be a diverse bunch, and he especially likes the down-and-out, sensitive Terri (Jami Gertz). But Jack also discovers that Terri and other messengers have an illegal and lucrative sideline delivering drugs for the nefarious drug dealer Gypsy. Can Jack rescue Terri from Gypsys dangerous grip? Classified: PG. Running time: 101 minutes. (Yahoo!)THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO: Prolific British director Michael Winterbottoms film is a visceral first-person account of what happened to three British teenagers shortly before and for a long time after they were captured by American forces while traveling in Afghanistan in 2001. Detained in Cuba for three years without charge, where they were tortured and denied access to lawyers or their families, they were eventually released and returned to England. Though its methodology raises some questions, The Road to Guantanamo provides a riveting glimpse into a heavily shrouded political and moral quagmire that deepens by the day. If history has established the banality of evil, The Road to Guantanamo illustrates the rank stupidity of it. Classified: R for language and disturbing violent content. Running time: 95 minutes. In English and Arabic with English subtitles. (Los Angeles Times)
STEP UP: Take Fame and suck out all the sex and nudity, take Romeo and Juliet and drain it of the preteen suicide and iambic pentameter, and you have this thoroughly formulaic but mildly enjoyable dance movie. Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan star as a tough kid from a Baltimore foster home and a privileged ballerina who are unexpectedly drawn to each other through their shared love of dance. The two end up fusing styles and falling for each other while working together on a routine at a prestigious arts school. Its totally mindless summer eye candy: Everyones great-looking, everyones preternaturally talented. This is the first feature from choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher, so at least the dance sequences are refreshing and high-energy. Thats more than we can say for the script, which was co-written by Duane Adler who also wrote Save the Last Dance, yet another film that Step Up so obviously resembles. Classified: PG-13 for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated: Two stars out of four. (Lemire, AP) TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY: Ricky Bobby goes straight, then he turns left. Then he goes straight, then he turns left again. Around and around, over and over. Such is life in NASCAR, but its also true of this auto racing comedy. Like the sport it spoofs, the movie has its thrilling moments but mostly feels repetitive its constantly moving but never really goes anywhere. Its also just too much like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or at least its trying to be, but comes up short. Same star (Will Ferrell), same director (Adam McKay), same writers (Ferrell and McKay again). Same basic character (a fervently clueless doofus whos unflappably confident in his abilities), same plot (hes at the top of his game but experiences a downfall at the hands of a new rival), same outcome (he returns to the top of his game having gained perhaps a smidgen of humility, if that). John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen co-star. Classified: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated: Two stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)ZOOM: (No advance reviews available) Tim Allen as an out-of-shape former superhero who must train the next generation to save the world. With Courteney Cox, Chevy Chase, Spencer Breslin and Rip Torn. Written by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum, based on the novel by Jason Lethcoe. Directed by Peter Hewitt. Classified: PG for brief rude humor, language and mild action. (Los Angeles Times)