Silver Screen: The Scorecard June 17, 2010 Edition

The Scorecard June 17, 2010 Edition
Bryan Miller

 > Opening this week in Carbondale (Friday unless otherwise noted).
 < Leaving Carbondale this Friday.
 
 For more film reviews and capsules, see the Nightlife section of
 <http://www.CarbondaleRocks.com>.
 
 by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
 
 The A-Team (PG-13, **1/2): This perfectly serviceable remake of the pretty unruinable 1980s action-show franchise features the unnecessary return of Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Faceman (Bradley Cooper), B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), and Murdock (Sharlto Copley). Framed by Blackwater-style mercenaries in wartime Iraq, the crew must finish their botched mission and get revenge on the various government stooges who wronged them. Director Joe Carnahan's retread is broad and dumb and self-aware of its stupidity, which makes it a little more amiable but no less stupid. The action sequences are passably thrilling, which means it delivers on its meager promise to anyone who knowingly walked into a movie about the A-Team, but it's also ambitionless and drowning in catch-phrases, cheeky self-references, and other in-jokey fanboy fodder.

 Get Him to the Greek (R, ***): The spinoff of 2008's affable Forgetting Sarah Marshall follows the continuing adventures of egomaniacal rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), who, after releasing a hilariously misguided album dedicated to impoverished African children, falls off the wagon. Record-company stooge Aaron Green (Jonah Hill, not reprising his Forgetting Sarah Marshall role) is tasked with bringing the addled musician from London to L.A.'s Greek Theater for an anniversary concert, but a raft of booze and drugs, plus Aldous's sex-crazed ex-girlfriend Jackie Q. (Rose Byrne), threaten to derail the plans. Though neither as funny nor as touching as the movie that spawned it, this semi-sequel moves fast and packs in a fair number of laughs, certainly enough to justify its existence. Featuring the fatally adorable Elisabeth Moss and a surprisingly pretty amusing turn by P. Diddy.

 Iron Man II (PG-13, **1/2): The sequel to the surprisingly adroit first installment retains some of the charm of the original-- ninety-nine percent of that charm being star Robert Downey Jr.-- but plays like a two-hour long trailer for Marvel's planned Avengers movie in 2012, which is set to feature some incarnation of Iron Man. When the movie isn't too busy setting up its own sequels or introducing characters of future use to the Avengers movie, most notably a sexy spy played nicely by Scarlett Johansson, it pits Downey's Tony Stark against a rival industrialist (Sam Rockwell, having fun with a bumbling villain role) and a psychotic Russian tech savant (Mickey Rourke) who both want a piece of Iron Man. Director Jon Favreau once again proves deft with character-building and humor, but all but one of his action sequences lack any real verve, and they're few and far between. Nothing hyped this heavily should be so tedious.

 Letters To Juliet (PG, ***): Pleasant enough romance about an American abroad (Amanda Seyfried) who discovers a lost love letter at the Verona home of Shakespeare's most famous leading lady. When she attempts to track down the writer (Vanessa Redgrave) and its intended recipient, she inadvertently stumbles onto a Romeo of her own (Christopher Egan). It's a predictable, unambitious trifle, but it delivers the goods to its target audience of middle-aged women efficiently and not entirely without charm. Redgrave still has charm and presence to spare, and both Seyfried and the Italian countryside are worth staring at for two hours or so. Egan, however, is far less interesting than Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays Seyfried's distractible and obviously doomed fiancé .

 Robin Hood (PG-13, *1/2): Director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe reteam for this joyless, mud-smeared, faux-historical take on the legendary adventurer, who here isn't a gentry-robbing outlaw but rather a soldier battling on behalf of his usurped king (Danny Huston) against a corrupt government bent on taxation. This seeming ode to the Ron Paul Revolution is politically convoluted, but worse, it's just plain boring, dragging on for nearly two-and-a-half hours and only delivering a recognizable Robin Hood in the final fifteen seconds. Featuring Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, and Max Von Sydow.

 Sex and the City II (R, 1/2*): Moribund cash-in sequel to the not-very-funny first movie following the once-witty HBO series about four single women navigating the New York City dating scene. There's no conflict here, nor pacing, nor story structure, just a loose and interminable collection of scenes in which the gal pals spend money and complain. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) worries she's already losing the spark in her marriage; Samantha (Kim Cattrall) attempts to stave off the side effects of menopause; Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is worn out by her kids but fears the live-in nanny who saves the day may steal her husband; and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) thinks her boss is too mean to her. The solution: a lavish trip to Abu Dhabi. After all, all problems are solved in a hasty voiceover narrative wrap up-- and it only took two and a half hours of screentime!

 < Splice (R, ****): This slow-burning, cerebral horror flick is part Frankenstein, part David Cronenberg, and part Eraserhead (okay, just the worm part of Eraserhead, but still...). Like the hybrid creature created by a pair of meddling, married geneticists (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley), however, it turns the combination of source material into something unique. Instead of jumping right into scenes of the strange beast stalking unaware scientists through the dark, writer-director Vincenzo Natali's wonderfully creepy film focuses on both the literal and metaphorical horrors of raising a monster. As much a dark fable about the fears of parenting as anything, this freaky sci-fi-laced frightener hits nearly all the right notes, even if it does eventually give way to the familiar horror-movie theatrics it mostly earns.

 Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
 Karate Kid (PG): Remake of the inspirational 1980s fighting flick, rewritten for and around Will Smith's son Jaden. This time the family moves not to So. Cal. but to China, where the bullied youth is trained by Mister Miyagi 2.0 (Jackie Chan).

 Killers (PG-13): The odious combo of prissy scold Katherine Heigl and low-energy doofus Ashton Kutcher costar in this action-comedy about a married couple whose quiet suburban life is thrown into chaos when hubby's past as a CIA contract killer comes back to haunt them.

 > Knight and Day (PG-13): Since the world is probably permanently finished with taking Tom Cruise seriously, he's consigned not to acting but to hamming it up in big, dumb, fun summer blockbusters. This comedic action-adventure spy flick will certainly prove big and dumb-- but how fun? Cruise's unlucky costars include Cameron Diaz and Peter Sarsgaard. A sneak preview plays Saturday, June 19, and the film opens Wednesday, June 23. (Wissmann)

 > Jonah Hex (PG-13): A scarred bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) whose harrowing past has put him in connection with the afterlife is hired by the military to take down a proto-terrorist (John Malkovich) in this loose adaptation of the comic-book Western scripted by the Crank team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Costarring Megan Fox and Will Arnett.

 Marmaduke (PG): The negligible newspaper cartoon becomes a live-action kiddie comedy in which a vaguely teenaged Great Dane (voiced by Owen Wilson) learns to party down with his pooch pals at all-dog beach parties, and also causes some familiar canine havoc. Featuring a slew of celebrity voices including Kiefer Sutherland, Sam Elliott, George Lopez, and Steve Coogan.

 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PG-13): In this big-budget adaptation of the popular computer-game series, Jake Gyllenhaal does a brownface act as a swashbuckling Persian prince who must stop one of those evildoers Bush was always talking about from using a Sandstorm of Mass Destruction. Featuring Gemma Arterton and Alfred Molina.

 Shrek Forever After (PG): In the fourth installment of the computer-animated fart-joke-and-pop-culture-reference series, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers), bored with married life, wishes for one more day of bachelorhood. Rumpelstiltskin grants the wish, sending him to a bizarre alternate universe. Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas return. In 3D and 2D versions.

 > Toy Story III (G): Pixar goes back to the well again for this second repackaging of talking toys Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jessie the cowgirl. This time the crew is terrorized at a daycare center where they are dropped off when their former owner, now grown, splits for college. Featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, among a host of other returning stars, and now Michael Keaton. In 2D and 3D versions.