A Disappointment on Your Street

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Spoilers: none

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This respectably constructed remake of the 1980s A Nightmare on Elm Street is worth a nod or two...or three. The teen characters are less clueless and more believable, as are their screams, and they're not as stupid as you would expect. They spend way less or no time kiddishly jamming out to non-conformist tunes and squabbling in petty love (lust) triangles, sparing the more intelligent percentage of the audience much frustration.

And while the vibe of this Freddy Krueger is not as sensational as in the 1984 film, his appearance is far more hideous and disturbing than you would have expected it to be, which seems to add something to yet another needless remake. They only got it wrong in terms of his voice quality, as it sounds too embellished to be maximally creepy.

The 2010 film gets high marks for a film with no originality or creativity. And it may add nothing new to the crimson/gore-ish glory of the oldies, but it does bring in a little more detail in the application of the effects of sleep depravity, calling in use of such terms like “micro-napping” (what happens when someone fights sleep for too long as they begin to sleep in short spurts while awake) and the danger of comas from sleep deprivation. The longer the kids fight sleep, the greater the increased toll taken on them, which you see in almost every scene.

And unlike many gore-fests, you want to root for these kids to survive. I will root for any kids who willingly walk into a library, check out books, and have the gall to read and * gasp * do research! That they do the research without a stereo playing in the background and lots of colorful wristbands on are added bonuses. This one is, surprisingly, a more intellectually stimulating film than the first one, with the story as the centerpiece instead of a swift repetition of blood-flow and evisceration.

You have kids sharing nightmares of a burned, contorted, blade-handed killer chasing them and killing them one by one, and you have parents trying to keep their children from knowing a painful secret of their past about school maintenance man Fred Krueger and what they believe he did to their young, innocent children. That's a fairly complex plot for a “slash 'em” horror film, though the disputed truth of the allegations becomes an unfitting plot-point in the direction it is taken.

Contrary to what condemn-it-before-they-see-it critics tell you, this remake may actually be a slight improvement over the older version in that the depth of the story makes Freddie's terrorizing of the people on Elm Street more interesting, and at some points, even compelling. I was never bored and I found the special effects luridly creepy and, may I say, a bit scary.

In the end, however, it's old business as usual, with pointless deaths that show us what all Jason and Freddy-type horror films have shown us (and what all 80s horror buffs want to remind us of); that there is simply no way to stop or kill off this dreamworld fiend. May the slashing begin...again?

Unless you happen to be a Freddy Krueger fan and/or a teenager looking to scare a date, this means the new Nightmare on Elm Street is a really just “A Disappointment on Your Street.” The designation is well earned—all the more so in light of the films remarkably ridiculous ending that makes everything accomplished by the rooted-for characters in the space of 1 hour and 30 minutes a waste of their time, and therefore, a waste of your time.  

(JH)

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Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: R (for violence, language, and extreme gore)
Director: Samuel Bayer
Summary: Freddy Krueger, a serial killer in dreamland, kills kids whose parents burned him alive.
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley "Freddy Krueger," Kyle Gallner "Quentin Smith," Rooney Mara "Nancy Holbrook," Katie Cassidy "Chris Fowles," Thomas Dekker "Jesse Braun," Kellan Lutz "Dean Russell," Clancy Brown "Alan Smith," Connie Britton "Dr. Gwen Holbrook"
Genre: Horror / Mystery / Thriller
Trailer

The Living Wake

Movie Title: The Living Wake (2007/2010, limited release)
Spoilers: none

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Mike O'Connell, Jim Gaffigan, and Jesse Eisenberg star in The Living Wake, a dark but daring comedy that focuses on the life and last day of one self-proclaimed genius, K. Roth Binew (O'Connell) and his “best friend, authorized biographer, and poet extraordinaire,” Mills (Eisenberg). Comedian Jim Gaffigan is Lampert Binew, Binew's late father.

Whether it repels or attracts them, it is the complex personality of K. Roth Binew that will amaze viewers with his didactically delusional and dynamic determination to leave his mark on history through his works of art and literature. Having been on his quest since early childhood, he is now more desperate than ever once he finds that he has only a few hours left to live due to an unknown (but somehow still known to be punctually fatal) condition.

Binew is seeking “a brief, but powerful monologue” of which his revered father spoke when he was a child. His life's quest ever since has been to uncover this sacred-but-alluding message. A great love for alcohol, erotic feelings for the nanny who once saved his life, and parents who are ashamed of him cannot deter him from this lifelong journey.

Binew waits till the day of his death to go looking at coffins. He travels around, pulled in a rickshaw by Mills, to see his estranged parents and face down his esteemed enemy neighbor, Reginald (Eddie Pepitone), but he won't stop until his books are available for all to read in the public library. In the meantime, he will sacrifice a goat to the gods on Mt. Olympus and eat of its flesh.

Mr. Binew will use his last day of life to make his mark and be appreciated as an artist and writer in a living wake, for which invitations are distributed. His awkward verbosity, eternal optimism, together with his grim circumstance, are enough to create frustration in the mind of any critic with the fact that there's simply nothing out there to compare this film to (this film will not receive a standard grade). It is – if anything – a rare bird, some would say an instant classic.

There is an appealing musical number midway through, but it is the non-verbal moments of the film that allow the viewer the chance to begin appreciating the message in the very brief epochs of silence and stillness that are.

While some artfully-minded critics would call The Living Wake an unusual, if not altogether unique, kind of comedy that establishes its own brand, others will have grounds to call out the lack of structure in this speeding bullet of a production, with its sadly unshackled attempts at humor. As always, the question to be answered in such cases is, do the film's artistically fortified strengths outweigh its weaknesses? This reviewer says no...and yes. To date, it is the only film I have ever reviewed that is worthy of an F and an A at the same time.

The film is superbly crafted and there is overacting on the part of only one particular cast member, though the work could be called hammy even by British sitcom standards—stepping one foot past that line drawn in the sand between musically enhanced, show tune parody and artsy masturbatory gawkiness that does nothing but tickle the fancy of its writers. The established truth: not everything done in the name of art is praiseworthy. In this case, you must decide the film’s value, but I expect only a select few will garner anything from it.

The Living Wake's popularity is increasing, but this will not be a big plug for Eisenberg (Zombieland, 2009) whom we've seen go further with roles on screen recently. He is a deer in the headlights half of the time and little more than a chauffeur right up until the end. There, his role as a silent contrast to Binew begins to be appreciated.

Mike O'Connell's performance is sensational. O'Connell (The Black Dahlia, 2006, Funny People, 2009) is not just the actor who plays Binew, but co-writer with Peter Kline and has seen the project through since its inception. This says much about the driving force behind his performance in character. The Living Wake will prove to be a love-it-or-hate-it film, some hating it for its unapologetic and unexplained incoherence, or else loving it because it is a creatively inspired look at the meaning of human accomplishment.
 
The Living Wake doesn't evoke very much emotion until later on. If at all, only then can you begin to appreciate what has been watched. The best part is its ending—not because it is a failure (which it has not been established that it is), but because you know that what you have seen does not quickly escape you, but becomes more meaningful the longer it is contemplated. In that light, the crazy character of Binew becomes...if such can be said...an inspiration to all who face death having never achieved their goals.

The only constant fascination throughout, next to the beautiful autumn Maine scenery, is the audacity of the entire project, with its qualities of an articulate Benny Hill skit – dabbling in risqué, but at times simply hilarious happenings – sidelined by sloppy surrealism. If you can wade through it, there are nuggets of comedic treasure to be found.

The Living Wake has every quality of the most spirited Broadway play—less so a movie, but closer in style and content to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). The Living Wake is a no-go for more than half of the viewers in a mainline audience. This rare and beautiful bird of song will have few handlers.

(JH)

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Grade: No grade
Rated: No MPAA rating
Director: Sol Tryon
Summary: “The Living Wake” is a dark comedy that chronicles the final day in the life of a self-proclaimed artist and genius.
Starring: Mike O'Connell "K. Roth Binew," Jesse Eisenberg "Mills," Jim Gaffigan "Lampert Binew," Ann Dowd "Librarian," Eddie Pepitone "Reginald"
Genre: Comedy
Trailer

Dad, a Dolphin, and Being Tough

I sat in the parent/teacher's meeting. The meeting was because of me. It wasn't funny at this point. All eyes were on me. "I don't know how you teach a class with him in there," said one of the substitutes to my teacher, Mrs. Livengood. It wasn't a pretty moment, not now. I always thought it was cool to get in trouble, but you can only go down that road so far until the good graces of your authority figures runs out. My lying and carrying on and causing scenes was finally catching up with me.

Like Gigli, Only Nastier

Movie Review: The Back-up Plan (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Not since Gigli has a JLo romance been such a god-awful failure, a shameless and sucking excuse for a date movie, with a runtime of 104 minutes that feels like double that.

As for seeing JLo perform, with her customarily innocent and helpless-looking puppy dog disposition, she is still not hard on the eyes (though she has been known to cause hardening in certain other body parts), and she is first and foremost a singer. But JLo and her performance isn't the problem to be had, neither is her work with chemistry-connected co-star, Alex O'Loughlin.

Lopez and O'Loughlin are Zoe and Stan, two New York strangers who meet coincidentally when they both get into the same cab. From there, it's the old recipe of one trying to mentally own the other until several dates end in a fiery-but-fractured romance.

Though it has some of the earmarks, The Back-up Plan should not be considered a chick-flick. In a chick-flick, you get the emotional let-outs, the fickle behavior designed to frustrate men, spoken diaries, secret loves, and other male-unknowables, like inexplicable crying spells. I can deal with those. You can deal with those if you don’t outright like them.

What we can't as easily forgive is a movie that offers us not a stitch of novelty, but shoves in every clichéd component until it hurts. Director Alan Poul puts less focus on building emotional connections or constructing characters with some level of sophistication, choosing instead to put more on trying to tickle you with humor that can only bring on bouts of nausea with the gags, ploys, and visual imagery that is guaranteed to assault every one of your five senses.

Zoe has trust issues. Stan doesn't have a great history with marriage and he doesn't want kids. Zoe receives news that she has a child on the way. The child is not from him, but the result of her decision to be inseminated. What conflict! If you didn't know the two were going to clash, you do now. The cat is out of the bag. You can predict everything that is going to happen except how low things will go in this gross cinematic. 

Bad: The attractive girl with a big heart quits her corporate career to start her own animal shelter for dogs. She is proudly woman, (not afraid to consider insemination, remember), and effectively says: “I don't need a man.” No, she actually says that in so many words. She takes her handicapped dog everywhere, and the thing whimpers and turns its head sideways all throughout the film. It’s a dog that eats pregnancy tests.

The dog route would have been a no-no for a good director, but since we’re not dealing with a competent director, we have to point out that the dog route could have been made to work. But you would have needed three times as many dogs as there are people to get this a passing grade because it's the people that screw it up.

Like every dreaming woman in many a cheap romance movie, Zoe wonders about ever meeting the right guy, “the one.” You might be asking how a girl who proudly says she doesn't need a man dreams about meeting the right man. Don't wonder. The answer is easy—we're talking about women here. That's what the writers try ever so hard to make sure every viewer gets. Zoe is a conflicted girl who doesn't know what she wants. I can still work with that.

Very bad: meeting in a cab (in New York, of course), in the rain where the two both discover how stubborn they are, parting ways and meeting up again in random places (as if by destiny), getting detoured from a kiss by a ringing cellphone, Zoe eating stew like a pig, and making love in a cheese room while complaining about the smell. Try mentioning stinky cheese smells before copulation. Let me know how it works for you.

A pregnant Zoe is soon unable to fit into her old clothes, so she throws them onto the floor and at Stan. She vomits all over the place, especially when anyone mentions or shows her seafood—vomiting and fish, two more appetite-killing buzzwords for the viewer.

Absolutely Intolerable: three-year-olds breastfeeding and stopping to explain how right it is, call-outs on blushing, telling first kiss stories to a virtual stranger, revelation killers where someone changes the subject before the other one reveals a plot-altering truth, breathing into brown paper bags for shock relief, kids that pick up animal excrement on playgrounds and treat it like Play-Doh, an old male gynecologist who uses the word “vagina” over and over to soften up the sensitivities of patients and their guests, and meeting friends at the park who assume that all men who put their hands in their pockets are automatic pedophiles.

Yet More Intolerable: Zoe and Stan go to a house birth with Zoe’s independent mothers support group. The birth is to be a water birth in a pool in the living room. There, a woman gives birth with a hazy-but-distinguishable close-up shot of her unshaven vagina while her “sisters” beat drums and sing, marching around her as she shoots out a terd in the pool, which is promptly scooped out with a strainer and carried across the living room. This isn't funny. This is cringe-worthy stuff, given the OK by a first-time big picture director whose work should have been canned before it started, or more carefully considered by Lopez before signing on.

The overacting for nearly the first hour of the film is not as bad as the energy-sucking presence of Zoe’s best friend, Mona (Michaela Watkins), who manages to rip apart every scene she is in. The mock lesbianic suggestiveness could have been funny if anyone to do with the making of the film had taste.

It is doubtful that even the hairiest forearmed and most housebound of Rosie O'Donnell supporters and would-be mates could write a script that manages to repel such a wide percentage of the viewing audience. But stranger things have happened. 

(JH)

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Grade: F (0 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for sexual content, including references, some crude material, and language)
Director: Alan Poul
Summary: A woman conceives twins through artificial insemination, only to meet the man of her dreams the very same day.
Starring: Jennifer Lopez "Zoe," Alex O'Loughlin "Stan," Michaela Watkins "Mona," Eric Christian Olsen "Clive," Anthony Anderson "Playground Dad"
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Trailer

Funerals Really Do Suck

Movie Review: Death at a Funeral (2010)
Spoilers: none

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This remake of the English 2007 version of Death at a Funeral stars Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, and Martin Lawrence in Death at a Funeral, a love-it-or-hate-it, so-so comedy that Americanizes and black-ifies the original British version.

The film loses the majority of points at the beginning, with hammy appeals to black audiences, with references to fried chicken recipes from a slave named Jubilie, an attitude-y old uncle (Danny Glover) with a dirty mouth, and a guy who starts tripping on what was thought to be Valium: “Don't let him spend too much time talking to any one person...or bush.”

After a long set-up and some extensively stilted moments of not funny, things do get moving and head towards outrageously funny, but only after having to sit through: “Little Martina is in 12th grade, but that ass is in grad school!” “My father's dead! Put some panties on.”

As frustrating and repulsively stupid as it is funny – with long stints of bathroom humor, naked men on housetops, unlikable family members, and marital banter that only pulls out a few laughs – Death at a Funeral is at best a comedy for when you're in a weird mood. If, on the other hand, you happen to be a big fan of the four main characters, you need to see it.

As awful as funerals can be, where estranged family members are thrown together when and where they don't want to be, this eventually puts the laughs and light-heartedness back into an otherwise doosie of a film. I nonetheless expected much more from comedic powerhouses like Rock, Morgan, and Lawrence.

(JH)

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Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R (for profanity, drug use, and adult humor)
Director: Neil LaBute
Summary: A funeral ceremony turns into a debacle of exposed family secrets and misplaced bodies.
Starring: Keith David "Reverend Davis," Loretta Devine "Cynthia," Peter Dinklage "Frank," Ron Glass "Duncan," Danny Glover "Uncle Russell," Regina Hall "Michelle," Kevin Hart "Brian," Martin Lawrence "Ryan," James Marsden "Oscar," Tracy Morgan "Norman," Chris Rock "Aaron"
Genre: Comedy
Trailer

Maybe Not Kick-Ass, but Not Kicked Either

Movie Title: Kick-Ass (2010)
Spoilers: none

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At some point in our lives, we each want to be a superhero. That is the (undeniably true) premise behind the movie about an unlikely and highly inept superhero that almost was. Aaron Johnson is “Dave Lizewski,” or as he later becomes known “Kick-Ass,” an ordinary kid with a high sex drive and nothing distinguishing him from a normal guy, perhaps except for a strong interest in comics and an imagination amped up a few notches.

If he were real, you might think Dave has some mental problems. I wouldn't stop you from making that assumption since I'm no psychologist. It's one thing to want to be a superhero; it's another to dress up like one and carry around batons in broad daylight...some screws have got to be loose. Openly carrying around weapons can get you in plenty of legal trouble. He nearly leaps to a certain death very early on in his enfeebled crime-fighting career, and he can't even stop two daylight car thieves armed with a pocketknife.

But that isn't the train of thought some of us have. Some of us are asking, where is this kid's dad? Why isn't he involved in his son's life? And how does the kid buy $99 costumes to live out his fantasies? Regardless, he has a lot to learn about crime fighting. He needs help—and help he gets from two equally matching oddballs. These two are a father/daughter team, “Hit-Girl” and “Big Daddy” (Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage)…but with competence, a quality Kick-Ass lacks.

It’s like a less intelligent Gotham City...wicked mob bosses, street thugs (mighty stupid street thugs who stick around after repeatedly committing misdemeanors in plain view), and other featured attractions that come rolling in on the cliché cart, like kids that use the word “totally” to sound yet more airy than we already know they are, street punks straight out of Deathwish III, and crime lords who look as harmless as New York brokers who always try extra hard to act secretive about their “business” (can't ask about their “business,” you know, but hey, at least they didn't try to imitate an Italian accent).

The movie treats death like a slinky. Dave's mother bizarrely dies towards the beginning and nothing is made of it. The mob throws people in large-sized microwaves and vigilantes kill mobsters in car-crushers and it's a total joke just for the joke's sake. Fingers are cut off by mobsters with rusty hedge clippers. Har, har, goes director Matthew Vaughn.

I’m guessing he would bet a horse racing ticket or two that the audience was laughing as hard as he was on the set with every next exploding wave of blood. I'd take that bet. I wasn't laughing...or cheering. I was wondering where all this pint-up rage was coming from and why it was being ejected onto the screen in the form of no-selling comedy.

Everyone cusses an awful lot, way too much, and often at the wrong times. The kids cuss too—and merely for the inflammatory purpose of pissing off the status quo. Nothing spells “we revel in our decadent sin!” like a fallen angel of a child using adult language. And here, everyone cusses just to sound tougher. Doesn't work, but they do it. “Cocksucker” is the word of choice. You – the viewer – play along, waiting for it to be funny, but it never brings more than a chuckle. 

When Kick-Ass and the Big Daddy/Hit-Girl team join forces, then begins the towering stunts of lunacy that even a faint superhero child's fantasy cannot abide. No, I'm wrong. The real gamble began the moment this movie was given the green light for production. The risk that audiences would trash the theaters was a real one! Still is, but it's quickly finding a sizable audience, more so than at first thought.

There are so many flaws in this movie that it's not even possible to address them in an article under 3,000 words, but more often than not, you want to like it, even as it becomes less and less innocent and unlikely the further in you go. Inordinately bloody, putting-off-ly profane, and cyclically inconsistent – dark, then comical, then cute, then dark again, etc – there are some serious problems here. Still, I wanted to like it.

The fight scenes are fantastically gratuitous. And the audience for this film is hard to identify since it's too bloody and too dirty for the young, but the adults don't want to see an 11-year-old beating mobsters in gunfights, or wimpy kids in red, driving tricked-out Mustangs and calling themselves “Red Mist” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). 

But the lifting and reversal of Spiderman's line: “With no power comes no responsibility” was a sly move and shows us the purpose of the film before it is lost in the gummed-up pipeline of the writing. By negating Spiderman's line and then refuting it, you know Kick-Ass is going to do his darndest to be a superhero, one way or the other. Johnson was a nice choice to serve as a type of satirizing “anti-Spiderman,” complete with a shaky, unattained romantic interest on the side. No way I was going to fail to appreciate that.

There are many cleverly introduced comic book-style story elements here, with one good twist at the ending and several getting there. I'll admit that I was entertained by the whole silly shebang. And pretty inept people have done great things. History is full of them. That almost makes you want to sympathize with the effort. And I'll admit, I do. I feel for this bruiser.

The movie has an easily spot-able, if muddled, message: breaking the law and being a hero both suck. When you have something to live for, something to lose, you value life differently. You see things differently. That is as true as the movie's initial premise. Life takes on a new meaning when life is good. Let the heroes be few.

But not all is well in Kick-Ass-ville because the entire picture proceeds to have two unlikely, young heroes go on to do the impossible—a thing the audience is imaginatively being told not to expect to be able to do or even attempt. This is a monstrosity, a117-minute contradiction that kicks superheroes in the teeth and looks halfway good doing so.

What do we have in Kick-Ass? Not a kick-ass movie by any means, but an entertaining and definitely not boring adventure. Cinema rebels, non-conformists, movie junkies, and cult classic seekers may step forward to give this one a look. All else beware.

(JH)

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Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: R (for language, gore, suggestive sexual innuendos, and violence)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Summary: Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, with no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.
Starring: Aaron Johnson "Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass," Garrett M. Brown "Mr. Lizewski," Clark Duke "Marty," Evan Peters "Todd," Deborah Twiss "Mrs. Zane," Lyndsy Fonseca "Katie Deauxma," Sophie Wu "Erika Cho," Elizabeth McGovern "Mrs. Lizewski," Christopher Mintz-Plasse "Chris D'Amico / Red Mist," Chloe Moretz "Mindy Macready / Hit-Girl," Nicolas Cage "Damon Macready / Big Daddy"
Genre: Action / Comedy / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Trailer

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Movie Title: Date Night (2010) 
Spoilers: none

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Steve Carell and Tina Fey star in Date Night, a mostly adult-oriented romantic comedy with a few laughs to go along with the piling loads of sarcasm, slapstick, and dry humor that comes your way.

How many movies will begin with playful children walking into parents' bedrooms and waking them up? Another question is, how much respect should one have for those who leave SNL to pursue full-on acting careers? Their success is like that of the typical Hollywood marriage. But maybe things are different with Fey. She has that...sexy, smart woman, quiet bookworm, vegetarian, bra-burning bitch...look to her. What's not to like??

Carell and Fey are Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple burdened down with three kids and more cares than they can remember to keep up with. Lacking sleep and a zesty love-life, they want something more...something more than meeting with friends to read books about the stress of a girl having her first period under Taliban rule. They're always trying to make everyone else happy except for themselves.

What better than a date night, an on-the-fly move where you dress up and pretend you're ten years younger and twenty years ballsier than you really are? Why not steal dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant and take old habits with you, like making jokes about the striking-out couple on a date sitting next to you? Let the wine do its work. Viola! Surely a nice evening awaits.

Not quite. When the Fosters get made under the name they took for the dinner reservations, they inherent a world of trouble. Their night isn't going to go as planned once they find they are wanted by Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta), a big-time crime boss who wants something from the people he thinks they are.

The night will prove eventful. Being chased by Disney movie sort of bad guys into out-of-the-way yet in-the-way abandoned shacks with lots of pipes and old boards to be pried up, there is danger everywhere—the kind you get out of by just grabbing something big and hitting the bad guys with. It always works in the kind of movies where the antagonists can never read people and are rather stupid. A motorboat stands ready outside for complete strangers to crank it up and use it for a getaway.

The Fosters have the luck of Corky Romano. They seem confident to almost everyone else, but they're not. But no one here is that sharp, not the good guys or the bad. This is true for everyone, except Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg), a wealthy former client of Claire's who hates wearing shirts, but knows how to hook up his friends.

They take the time – no, make the time – to discuss Cyndi Lauper sex fantasies and their marriage troubles in a borrowed Audi R8 while being chased by gunmen. Go ahead...just pull over in an Audi R8 and chat a bit before the gunshots start up again.

The Fosters' babysitter is a snot of a teen that loves money and hates to miss parties. Her presence, much like the presence of certain other characters, you barely see (and you should be thankful). Most of these characters called for some refining. Take, for instance, Ray Liotta who makes a horrible mob boss with an “insta-tan” that comes off as real as a Uri Geller act, even in bad lighting. William Fichtner is DA Frank Crenshaw, a guy you just knew had some deep, dark secret.

The constant stream of sarcasm that is present throughout is at times more mentally heckling than humorous. It does occasionally give the movie its kick by instilling some potent moments of laughter, but those are somewhat of a rarity. Copious slapstick is often employed, enough to make some of us shake our heads.

With Fey bumping into file cabinets and screaming cab drivers getting spun around in busy intersections, it's just a wacky time for everyone when you knew (that for the plot's sake) it had to be. The dialogue is nothing if not creatively written. One of Fey's lines is: "They stabbed a chicken nugget with a sharpie! These are not good people!" Laugh at it if you can.

There are a few genuinely funny segments, a few mature and emotionally appreciable moments in the script for those who have endured the time-tattering anguish of marriage gone boring. And while the energy of the two leads does provide some likable stability to entertain, most of the characters are ridiculous and the plot is sketchy and is only workable when the details of it are gleefully ignored in a fit of cheap chuckling.

(JH)

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Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (language, violence, and adult situations)
Director: Shawn Levy
Summary: In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple's attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous.
Starring: Steve Carell "Phil Foster," Tina Fey "Claire Foster," Mark Wahlberg "Holbrooke," Taraji P. Henson "Detective Arroyo," Jimmi Simpson "Armstrong," Common "Collins," William Fichtner "DA Frank Crenshaw"
Genre: Comedy / Romance / Thriller
Trailer

How to Train Your Dragon

Movie Title: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Spoilers: none

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How to Train Your Dragon - despite having a title that is more fit for a reviewer's review of it than the movie - is an awesome film for a plentitude of reasons, not the least of which being that it involves Vikings. Vikings are cool for their horned helmets alone, not to mention their facial hair, fighting, or berserker’s rages, or their sheer sizable presences. The way they carry their mugs can be a status symbol by itself.

To connect with the coolness of the Viking theme, you needn’t know about Erik the Red or his son Leif and their journeys establishing the first Nordic settlement. If you fail to connect with the aforementioned, try learning about a Viking named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel). 

On the small, dragon-infested island of Berk, the seafaring, land-conquering Vikings have their hands full as they strive to fight off hungry, fire-breathing dragons. The story of their plight is made all the more interesting, not by a hardened, entrails-slashing fighter, but by one boy who has no fighting experience or the courage to slaughter a beast.

Hiccup is the unfit and unusually small-framed son of Stoick the Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler), the proud leader of the tribe. As a disappointment to his father and people, he is the least to look up to for a combat-obsessed but accomplished people like the Vikings. What has he to offer a bloodthirsty and brutish culture?

Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) is the girl he has a crush on, but she is in young warrior’s school with him and four other students who prefer to assert themselves like their burly fathers and mothers. They have each of their sights set on being the first to take down a Night Fury, the unseen and most deadly of dragons, a thing no Viking has ever done. Hiccup doesn’t show signs of promise in combat, and combat is what Astrid is interested in.

In a society where you must kill to get ahead, how is Hiccup ever going to attract a mate and win the favor of his people? His prospects are bleak until something happens that puts him in a position to learn a thing or two about dragons that will forever change the course of his people’s history.

How to Train Your Dragon is as well written as it is well animated. The subtleties of facial expressions and demeanors are more real than if the most talented actor put them on display. As nicely done is the unassuming voice-work, with no one trying too hard to leave personal impressions.

There are large amounts of combat violence and parts that may prove too scary for very young viewers, but despite talk of killing and slaying, there is no visible bloodshed or graphic depictions of mortality.

The Viking people (who are occasionally seen to call upon and thank Odin) have surely never been seen so heartwarmingly portrayed in animation, but that is probably true of the dragons as well. With great emotional and mental investment, the viewer will come to love both camps.

Paced perfectly, you will find creative visual stimulation in seeing Dragon’s lairs and various types of dragons, Viking celebrations and traditions, and pages from Viking books in Viking-style writing. Your only wonder while getting to know them as they live their lives—what will come of dragons and humans? Can they ever interact?

How to Train Your Dragon is as close as one can come to a flawless film, one that makes you forget you’re a critic by simply being all-round irresistible. It has much to say about the fact that our greatest fears often lie in what we don’t understand or are not willing to take the time to learn about.

Additional voice talents include the likes of Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and T.J. Miller. Here is a DreamWorks film that unexpectedly rivals the animation champion, Pixar, although this film has the odd distinction of being prefaced by trailers that don’t make it look like a great movie. But I have not a doubt in my mind that this will be the one to beat in the race for 2010's Best Movie of the Year.

(JH)

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Grade: A+ (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: PG (for depictions of violence and terror)
Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Summary: A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons befriends one and begins to learn their ways.
Starring: Jay Baruchel "Hiccup" (voice), Gerard Butler "Stoick" (voice), Craig Ferguson "Gobber" (voice), America Ferrera "Astrid" (voice), Jonah Hill "Snotlout" (voice), Christopher Mintz-Plasse "Fishlegs" (voice), T.J. Miller "Tuffnut" (voice), Kristen Wiig "Ruffnut" (voice)
Genre: Animation / Adventure / Comedy / Family / Fantasy
Trailer

Clash of the Eyeliner

Movie Title: Clash of the Titans (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Greek mythology has again become popular in movies while Christianity seems to be falling out ever so slightly. I can only imagine that when your gods are not the people's gods, you can play them as more villainous, warmongering, and openly hateful than the god of the Bible really is and get away with it. But make nothing of that.

All begins with the telling of the old myth, with Perseus and his mother Danae being cast into the sea at the bidding of a jealous King Acrisius. All the gods, including Zeus, are shameless adulterers. Even Jesus was conceived when God got busy with Mary as a betrothed (engaged) woman (Luke 1:26-35). No matter. The sacred three have worship flung at them. Can't criticize the pagan gods in that regard. Should be no big deal to the viewer, religious or non.

But worship is a big deal to the gods. “I created them, and they reward my love with defiance?” These are the words of an angry Zeus, wroth but weakening from a lack of prayerful adoration. The non-praying humanists became too many. Without praise, what are gods but celestial MS cases? Prayers fuel immortality, and so it is stated.

Perseus and his mother are found at sea by a fisherman who raises the boy and tells him of his providential destiny to one day take a stand. This materializes, as years later, the people of Argos destroy a sacred statue of Zeus while the gods stand around and are displeased (as if they didn't know that would happen). Humanity must be punished and Argos – that insolent city – must be blotted off the map. Hades (Ralph Fiennes) offers to unleash his deadly elemental being called Kraken to do the job.

The gods are angered by unbelief, and so it's a good thing they're dead because they'd never make it today. If not from lack of prayers, they'd be weak from having to spend all of their power doing what they do best—extracting revenge on the godless. But perhaps we, the viewers, should be seeking vengeance for having to sit through this muddle of a movie.

This remake of Clash of the Titans, starring Sam Worthington as Perseus and Liam Neeson as Zeus, is a clumsy handling of a classic, a shipwreck of rotten writing and inexcusably bad directing. Beginning with Hades' emergence against Argos at sea, the events can be summed up as follows...

Perseus is taken to see royalty after he is the only survivor of an attack at sea that left his earthly parents dead. He looks up and the audience sees an obvious mural of the Parthenon. Perseus has been instantly thrown into the plot. Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) knows who Perseus is and that he is a demi-god. She has been protecting him his entire life. Then others suddenly know, including all the gods who meet about the matter, though the gods themselves clearly had no idea of his existence before this day.

Meanwhile, the king throws Perseus in jail for holding. Andromeda gets him out without any trouble and he's off to get revenge on the gods who created him and were responsible for his parents' death. Soldiers are ready to fight and die at his side. It's a good thing because they are all expendable like the Star Trek red-shirts.

The polytheistic evangelists sound just as annoying as the monotheistic Christian ones: “Man cannot rule man. If we defy the gods, we will be punished.” Blah, blah, blah...shut the f*ck up! Then Zeus looks at a model figure of his newly discovered offspring, Perseus, and starts to rethink things: “Maybe I was a deadbeat SOB dad after all?” At Zeus' feet are clouds. He is always in armor (even when not fighting) and bathed in high intensity light (but there’s no sun). And of course, he has a beard. What god doesn't? 

A sword from the gods comes as a gift to Perseus, but he only wants to stick it up the rear of the one who gave it. The Pegasus shows up, but is a coward and flies away. Perseus is still a rockin' god-man—and that despite his sacrilegious quest. He is still destined to do glorious works. Zeus is now on his side, but Perseus cannot be bribed with a place on Mt. Olympus, even though he has been offered one by his heavenly, hooked-up daddy (and even though up until a few days ago, Perseus had no fighting experience whatsoever and did nothing his whole life except net fish). Don't just stop his heart from beating or anything, Zeus. Offer him a place among the highest gods!

Then Hades gives a man-beast with a hideous face power to take down Perseus. This creature's blood creates big scorpions in the sand. Then come much bigger scorpions, but you can't tell how many, and they won't enter the desert because it's not their territory. Perseus gets a pain in his arm and says: “Ahhhhhhhhh.” More polytheistic evangelists with lots of eyeliner can be heard spouting their crap.

A wide-eyed, polytheist preacher with too much makeup on sets himself on fire screaming for the people to appease the angry gods who have given them a limited amount of time to make a human sacrifice to Zeus. The audience is so glad the preacher is dead. An ugly, blue-eyed entity with blue fire burns Perseus' elbow to help him heal faster after the battle with the giant scorpions. If he didn't have throw-away soldiers and large remains of fallen temples as help, the scorpions would have proved too much. Forget the damn Kraken.

That really big, giant, super-sized scorpion returns, but this one's a taxi. Let's ride! Women with no eyes on their heads but in their palms meet with Perseus and speak after attacking and groping him and those with him. They are witches who tell the future. Time to kill Medusa (who is a rape victim in this remake) to use her severed head against the Kraken. The Blue-eyed thing lets out a “Rahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” for the camera. Real tough.

Medusa is dead. More threats of riots as a crazy religious nut (also with too much eyeliner on) demands a sacrifice. The Kraken comes: “Rahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Zeus and Hades face each other and it's not pretty. “Damn you, backstabbing Hades!” But Zeus knew he had it coming after how he was a dick to Hades way long ago. The Kraken is dead.

That is Clash of the Titans in this tortured remake, filled with artificial stare-downs and screams, grunts and growls, with its epileptic fight scenes that are largely inappreciable, and where more than half the cast has WAY too much eyeliner on. King Argos wears too much eyeliner, enough to add a cool 437 grams to his total body weight, but he's not alone. It must have been a trend, a cultural fad I wasn't aware of.

The story turns tail on itself and runs with Zeus first opposing mortals and calling for their punishment, and then abandoning that reasoning and choosing to help his son fight against the gods without even knowing the outcome of Hades and his plotting against him.

And get this: A blue-eyed, demonic-looking fighter entity cannot be turned to stone by Medusa's gaze because he's not human, but a giant sea creature that can blot entire civilizations out of memory when unleashed CAN be turned to stone? Consistency has never been a quality of the gods. I'll leave it at that.

(JH)

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Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13 (fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Summary: Perseus, the son of Danae, takes a stand against Hades and the gods who took the life of his earthly parents.
Starring: Sam Worthington "Perseus," Liam Neeson "Zeus," Ralph Fiennes "Hades," Jason Flemyng "Calibos / Acrisius," Gemma Arterton "Io," Alexa Davalos "Andromeda," Tine Stapelfeldt "Danae," Mads Mikkelsen "Draco," Luke Evans "Apollo," Izabella Miko "Athena," Liam Cunningham "Solon"
Genre: Fantasy / Action / Thriller
Trailer

Scanning Your Organs While Groping Your Lover…Please Don't

Movie Title: Repo Men (2010)
Spoilers: none

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In Repo Men, Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are bounty hunter-style repossession agents, not of cars or of houses, but of human replacement organs. This action-packed lesson in unlikelihood suffers from a badly deficient plot due to a story that never gives the viewer any level of satisfaction whatsoever.

“Can’t pay for your house? The bank takes it. Can’t pay for your car? The bank takes it. Can’t pay for your liver? Well, that’s where I come in.”

Jude Law is Remy, a once proud recovery agent, a husband and father who now wants to change lines of work and spend more time at home at the urgent pleadings of his wife (Carice van Houten). Forest Whitaker is Jake, Remy's partner in what should be a crime, but it's not.

The world of Repo Men is what really raises the eyebrows. No one seems to object to the practice of repo-ing organs by taking them out of bodies right where they stand, these organs being what keeps the people alive. Where are the rioters, the concerned families, the special interest groups when you need them? No one is making waves to stop this heinous practice.

The only beauty of this horribly ugly, detestably bad movie is that it's a grotesque take off of that limp urban legend about a man meeting and having drinks with a beautiful woman in some big city and then waking up in his hotel room in pain and with ice packs around him and a note that says: “You only have one kidney left. Call 911.”

But the urban legend at least has intrigue and makes for good spooky story material. The same can't be said of Repo Men. Those who can no longer pay to keep their artificial organs beg to keep them and live, but it won't work. But no worries, all collection agents must ask if the owner of the repossessed implant wants an ambulance to be on site or to have one called before the organ is taken out. How humane...that more than makes up for sentencing people to death because they can't pay for the blood pump or glucose regulator that keeps them alive.

This bizarre future society where people need organ replacements on credit must be the result of a maddening epidemic, exploited by a power-crazed Union, comprised of loan officers who've gone a bit overboard in recovering losses. Exactly what brought about this apparent organ transplant epidemic we are never told, but we are told that the banks make more money if they finance these organs, as opposed to selling them outright to a rich client. To make them available to the average man, they are financed with enormous interest rates and more money is made.

But how bad can it be? So what if some of us can't eat kidney beans for a week after watching it (some of you couldn't before). Is it that bad? Yes. As stated, Repo Men has a problem connecting with reality. The tools of the agents are a small, sanitation-challenged kits of wholly inadequate, on-the-site surgical tools. A psychopath with an organ fetish who uses kitchen knives to disfigure his victims in the basement of his home might be as prepared for the task of removing organs as these guys.

Every time they slice someone open, they leave a HUGE freaking mess! I know that doesn’t surprise you. Just knock them out with a stun gun, cut them open on their own living room floor, and take what is yours. Nothing is going to stop the company, and apparently, they are everywhere—their grasp reaching as far as South American jungles, so it is suggested. That said, feel free to operate with legal and moral impunity if you're an agent.

Your average collector will have no crisis of conscience. They stroll into the office where they get their assignments as confidently as Law & Order detectives. Though warned to keep away from the tables with salesmen working their to-be clients, they walk around the halls and carry on with office jokes and reclaimed artificial livers thrown on the table. And why not spar and see who's the toughest in tomfoolery while doing so.

The premise has potential, but needs about as much reworking as the male prostate. And while there is plenty of comic book-style action to occupy many (for which it receives a modicum of credit), the improbable and poorly justified plot set-up just doesn't ring credible. You buy into none of it. You feel for no one. The aura of dark, disturbing, Sci-fi B-movie-ism always rains down on this gloomy and gory parade.

When Remy comes to need an artificial heart that he can't afford, he finds himself on the run from the very system he has faithfully served (you saw it coming). In a flurry of fighting, he finds himself ready to finish it all. Standing beside him is a girl named Beth (Alice Braga). She's human, but that's sort of debatable since nearly every part of her body has (almost amusingly) been replaced with a financed organ. Though it's not over yet, the dust settles, followed by a make-out scene where the two are compelled to cut each other open and scan their own organs while groping each other in passionate love play, thus bringing a whole new meaning to the word: REVOLTING!

What is not logistically unsupported is as repulsive as anything you've ever seen, making Repo Men a bad bargain to begin with. Poised as a political statement on corporate greed and healthcare, Repo Men hides its obtuse back end in an unsatisfying use of techno-gadgetry and comes to a head in an ending that will leave viewers feeling as depressed as they do cheated.

(JH)

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Grade: D- (1 star)
Rated: R (for gore, violence, language, and nudity)
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Summary: A former organ repossession man fights the system when he finds himself the target.
Starring: Jude Law "Remy," Forest Whitaker "Jake," Alice Braga "Beth," Liev Schreiber "Frank," Carice van Houten "Carol"
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Trailer

“It Must Be Some Kind of...Hot Tub Time Machine”

Movie Title: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Hot Tub Time Machine was one of the funniest, profanely entertaining, nostalgically satisfying movies I have ever watched. To put it any differently would be to do an injustice to this house-rocking film that both parodies and appreciates that decade of unrelenting showy coolness known as the 1980s.

Sure, the cars were square and the hair was everywhere, but the music alone would go on to define the decade, neverminding deductions for things like crimped hair, leg-warmers, and that abominable TV character, ALF. But forgive me for mentally cavorting in my own memories of a revere-worthy time of keyboards and minor chords.

John Cusack is Adam. Adam hasn't made it big in life. He's an insurance salesman, and his love life is way worse off than his career, which at best is only average. Life has done a number, not just on Adam, but on his best friends whom he has become detached from over the years. They are former potential music sensation Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry), an alcoholic victim of crippling depression with “suicide” as a middle name.

These three old friends have been planning to hook back up for a long time, but have never made good on the plans. They finally do after Lou's latest suicide attempt goes sour in hopes of livening his spirits. Off they go to the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, teamed up with Jacob (Clark Duke), a 24-year-old, Second Life-playing cyber geek who is the son of Adam's sister, Kelly (Collette Wolfe). Soon after arriving, they discover, yes, a hot tub time machine.

Trying to understand their circumstance when they are transported back to Winterfest 1986 will only take a little time. Trying to understand the words of a mysterious riddle-making hot tub repair man (Chevy Chase) will take a little more time. Chase is showing his age, but he's still cool...because he's friggin' Chevy Chase.

Chief among the strengths is not the acting, just the way these guys rip on each other. The weaknesses...well, there are a few poorly built scenes still under construction and some plot devices that could have been done without. I just about stopped counting mistakes some 20 minutes in. Call me out for that if you must, but it's a lot harder to spot the glitches in a film that so makes you want to eat it up.

That purposely added cliché of a time traveling squirrel that periodically shows up is part of the fun. Close-ups of squirrels did happen to be an 80s music video thing, if you can remember. Just remember this: watching a comedy without wanting to have some fun is a bad thing, worse than not being old enough to remember the iconic over-the-top-ness of the Muscle Things generation.

The strengths are, naturally, the nostalgic queues that can make you want to laugh while realizing you miss seeing black dudes with 4-inch-tall afros, and of course, Mötley Crüe. The references to Poison, a still-dark Michael Jackson, Where's the Beef?, and a hundred other glorious and inglorious things from more than two decades ago are as stimulating as seeing Crispin Glover come back as “Phil,” a one-armed bellman with an attitude who knows he deserves every tip he has coming to him (Note: For those of you who don't know, Crispin Glover is that guy who played “George McFly” in Back to The Future).

Just seeing Phil and realizing who he was triggered a sudden head rush, a release of some chemical in my brain that had me recalling certain other pleasant sensations, certain smells and feelings awakened from an 80s childhood. “Hey you! Get your damn hands off!” Ah, I could do that all day—every good 80s movie gets a pass preventing it from being faulted for being quoted too often.

Upon rediscovering their sensational pasts of hope and greatness, the four spontaneous time-travelers are faced with a dilemma; keep things the same to preserve the future as they know it, or change them for the better by doing what they always wanted to do in pursuing different paths this time around. The choices will be a lot harder than watching Time Cop, Terminator, and The Butterfly Effect, their only referenced study materials for coping with this causal concern. Or do they have choices at all?

Hot Tub Time Machine is as ludicrously funny as it is “in your face,” with a bull-in-the-china-closet's disregard for portraying sobriety or the tiniest restraint of passion. Drugs, booze, nudity, and commitment-free sex are on the menu non-stop. But with a title like “Hot Tub Time Machine,” does that really surprise you? I didn't think so.

And let's talk about the title. Who would dare to make a movie (with a title or a plot) about a hot tub time machine? That says a whole lot; it doesn't say “cheap, crappy movie” as some have supposed; it says “a very good movie,” good enough to stroke its ego by not caring if it sounds sucky. It is nothing if not confident, and confidence is fine, so long as it has the goods to back it up, which it does in spades.

(JH)

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Grade: A- (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: R (for nudity, profanity, violence, and adult situations)
Director: Steve Pink
Summary: Four friends go back in time to 1986 in a hot tub time machine.
Starring: John Cusack "Adam," Clark Duke "Jacob," Craig Robinson "Nick Webber," Rob Corddry "Lou," Crispin Glover "Phil," Chevy Chase "Repair Man," Charlie McDermott "Chaz," Lizzy Caplan "April," Collette Wolfe "Kelly"
Genre: Comedy / Sci-fi
Trailer

No One Needs This Much Stress, but You Want it Anyway

Movie Title: Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?
Spoilers: none

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I was not in a worked-up frenzy to see Tyler Perry's latest creation, starring Louis Gossett Jr., Janet Jackson, and Cicely Tyson in Why Did I Get Married Too? I held out no real hope for what started out as a play and became a movie about bad marriages. My expectations were defied.

Beautiful oceanfront property...black upscale couples making you laugh and share in the heated drama of their well-off lives, as they hang out and “one-up” each other in the (sometimes) funniest of ways...I had no idea I would be so thoroughly entertained.

No one sets out to watch a movie about bad marriages anymore than they plan to go through them...or is that true? It's been a long time since The Brady Bunch era, and the “Honey, I'm Home!” family was a myth even back then. That marriage isn't rosy is no revelation, but an ethnic take on the struggles of cohabitation can provide us with another perspective. In that vein, Tyler Perry's take on the modern, upper-class African-American family is of particular interest.

This is not the first time Perry has demonstrated the uncanny ability to make soap opera-style spats interesting to a large, diverse audience. How often is that done, I ask you? And how often is it done well?

The progress of the plot is as subtle as the movement of the short hand on a wind-up clock. You can watch it, but you can't quite see it move. You start off to a slow beginning – light on laughs, but heavy on drama – the painful kind found in marriages on the rocks, with more “dirty laundry” aired than your local Washeteria. You shouldn't want to know more, but strangely enough, you do. You eat up the jealousy, the attitudes, the pressure cooker tension in every room and every scene.

These are men and women who have made mistakes. They drink beer and enjoy the beautiful beach, but even it isn't enough to make them take their minds off the mounting problems at home. These guys are cool. Before you know it, you are appreciating those overused football analogies and that worn slogan to fish for approval “know what I'm saying?” in favor of the lively characters who use them.

Then, the drama is fed back in to offset the humor, like the slight turning of a knob...just a little movement to the left makes the water a lot hotter. But it's the fires in marriages burning to the ground that can't be put out. And they all start as small and floating embers, little but hot. Then comes the brush fire.

Why Did I Get Married Too? is the continuation of Why Did I Get Married? (2007), the story of four couples with misaligned marriages. These eight friends are at each other’s throats. The title doesn't seem to do the movie justice, as I see it. Something like “The Will to Work Things Out” might have gone further and would have been more descriptive.

Do you agree with a movie that says marriage is this cutthroat of a business? Is it right to say that obtaining a good marriage is a question of being able to live with “dirt” you find on your partner through the years? Believe what you want, but please tell me why this tastes so refreshing. I have no idea why.

“I don't want to control him. I just want him to do what I say.” Is that really an odd thing for a wife to say of her husband? Of course, it isn't. She's joking, but also serious. You knew that the moment you read it or heard it.

Do all men check their cell phone messages quickly, by pulling the screen close to them and then putting the phone face down on the table again? How many men will give their wives the password to their voicemails? How many wives will get this angry if their husbands refuse to do so? And marriage is about trust, right? Come again?!

The wives gather around and chatter like hens...jealous, angry, bitchy (sometimes downright obnoxious)...hens. They read books on relationships and hang on their every word. The men aren't so high maintenance, but it's their pride that tends to get in the way. It's amazing we men have as few knock-down-drag-outs as we do.

If BET had a remake of Couple's Retreat, this would be it, remade with a family-sized serving of comedic wit and marital wisdom for Tyler Perry fans—with the tendency to make you think back to when you actually cared to try and save your last marriage before that sinking ship went under. Too late now, but it does bring back memories.

This was a great movie. A rather laborious-to-believe and melodramatic ending only moderately detracts from Perry's success in creating an animal that is like few in the cinematic kingdom.

(JH)

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Grade: A- (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: PG-13 (for intense drama and adult situations)
Director: Tyler Perry
Summary: Four couples reunite for their annual vacation in order to socialize and to spend time analyzing their marriages.
Starring: Tyler Perry "Terry," Janet Jackson "Patricia," Jill Scott "Sheila," Sharon Leal "Dianne," Malik Yoba "Gavin," Richard T. Jones "Mike," Tasha Smith "Angela," Lamman Rucker "Troy," Michael Jai White "Marcus," Louis Gossett Jr. "Porter," Cicely Tyson "Ola"   
Genre: Drama / Comedy
Trailer

Deeply Disturbing: Three Simple Ways to Creep People Out

Being ordinary isn't always a good thing. When compared to someone crazy, the status of "ordinary" is certainly sought after. Being like "the rest of us normal people" is what we want, but that shouldn't always be true. There are times when "ordinary" just means "boring," and that means being ignored.

There are times when each and every one of us wants anything but to be ignored. Not being noticed means not being exceptional, whereas being weird means moving too far in the other direction. No one wants to go to extremes, but if I had to pick one, it would be weirdness. That's what makes one memorable and unique. Being less ordinary and more of an oddball is what will make us stand out in the most incredible of ways.

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