Silver Screen: The Scorecard June 24, 2010 Edition

Silver Screen: The Scorecard June 24, 2010 Edition
Bryan Miller

by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.

> Opening this week in Carbondale (Friday unless otherwise noted).
< Leaving Carbondale this Friday.

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.

Jonah Hex (PG-13, *): This incomparably silly Western/action/alternate-history/horror movie is as patched together and absurd as it sounds. More so, actually. Josh Brolin stars as the title character, a gunslinging avenger with supernatural powers and steampunk gadgets who is out for revenge against the Confederate general who killed his family (John Malkovich). Our hero is hired by Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) to stop Malkovich's proto-terrorist from using an early weapon of mass destruction created by Eli Whitney. At eighty minutes of running time, including credits, it's clear that the movie was reconceived and reshot to death, then patched back together by some poor editor who had to make sense of a lot of incoherent, unmatched footage. The result is manic, misguided, and at times shockingly sloppy, but the movie is so dumb and short that it qualifies as a moderately diverting trainwreck. Featuring Megan Fox and Will Arnett.

Karate Kid (PG, ***): In this remake of the 1984 kinda-classic, nerdy sixteen-year-old introvert Daniel Laruso is swapped out for twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), whose mother doesn't just uproot him to southern California as in the original but schleps him all the way to China. There he learns kung-fu from a guarded maintenance man (Jackie Chan), who helps him stave off bullies. The remake is a little bigger and a little dumber and more than a little longer than the original, but it hits most of the same notes about as well. Chan is wonderful as Mr. Han, who's equal to the original's Mr. Miyagi, despite Han's character being burdened with the bulk of the movie's melodrama. Smith mugs too much, but he also pulls of some impressive physical feats; it's a shame his big kung-fu scenes are muddled with silly wire effects and overwrought slow-motion, making them a little ridiculous for a bunch of seventh graders dueling over a pre-pubescent Chinese violin prodigy.

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!

Toy Story III (G, ****): The toys are back for a second sequel that feels a little perfunctory, although the joy and cleverness that made the first two films so endearing remains. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of their toy crew are donated to a daycare center when owner Andy goes off to college. The daycare turns out to be a prison camp for toys run by a sadistically laid-back teddy bear, so once more Woody must lead his plastic pals to safety. The pathos is a little thick this time around, and a little too familiar-- the conflict is really no different than that of the second movie-- but a slew of excellent jokes and Pixar's winning animation style win the day. The real treat, though, is the stellar opening short cartoon, "Day and Night," which is as inventive as this movie should have been. Featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Michael Keaton, Ned Beatty, and others.

Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
> Grown Ups (PG-13): A group of childhood friends (Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James, and Rob Schneider) reunite several decades later for a vacation with their respective families for bonding and bodily function jokes. Featuring Salma Hayak, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph.

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): Tom Cruise stars as a motormouthed assassin who gets tangled up with a hapless civilian (Cameron Diaz) in his efforts to keep a powerful new energy source out of the hands of terrorists in this romantic action-comedy, a seeming contradiction in terms. Featuring Maggie Grace, Paul Dano, and Peter Sarsgaard.

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.

> The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (PG-13): In the continuing adventures of mopey, virginal Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her sparkly vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson), our huffy heroine is further torn between her bloodsucking beau and buff werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), even as the werewolves contemplate an uneasy alliance with Pattinson's crew to stop a gang of renegade vampires. Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, as if you needed to see that phrase in print one more time. David Slade (Thirty Days of Night) directs. Opening Tuesday, June 29 at midnight.