Silver Screen: The Scorecard July 15, 2010 Edition

Silver Screen: The Scorecard July 15, 2010 Edition
Bryan Miller

> 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.

 Grown Ups (PG-13, *): Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, and Rob Schneider costar as old friends from a basketball team who get together for a long holiday weekend with their families to commemorate their old coach's passing. What ensues is a weirdly offkey mashup of broad kids' movie gags, adult-ish grossout gags, and tired riffing. Each character gets a one-sentence character description and a single, easily remediable conflict on the way in, and each one checks out one conflict lighter and no different at all. Some excellent comedians (Sander, Rock, and bit players Tim Meadows and Maya Rudolph) and some very often tolerable performers of comedy (James, Spade, Schneider) are unable to sell more than a line here and there of the creaky dialogue as the characters saunter, pretty aimlessly, from one low-intensity situation to the next.

 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.

 Knight and Day (PG-13, *1/2): Tom Cruise tries playing a maybe-crazy, motormouthed version of his superspy Ethan Hunt character in this agonizingly competent, steadfastly mediocre romp that manages to turn all the familiar notes flat. Roy Miller (Cruise) accidentally sweeps innocent June (Cameron Diaz) into an intelligence feud over a new super-battery. Miller claims he takes her along to keep her safe, but a pair of rival agents (Viola Davis and Peter Sarsgaard) say he's taken her hostage. The movie never feels arch or ballsy enough for the second possibility to be true. Exotic locales, shootouts, and bikini-clad women are all rendered dull and lifeless by the uninspired and uninspiring James Mangold.

 The Last Airbender (PG, *): This surprisingly shoddy live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender makes writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's former (never really credible) position as heir to the Spielberg throne seem even more distant. Yet again he delivers another heavily hyped summer dud in which the actors seem forced to recite awkward dialogue as flatly as possible. There's way, way too much story here for one movie, so the whole endeavor gets turned into a mush of exposition and voiceover narrative. It's roughly about a Dalai Lama-like boy who can manipulate the four elements, and must do so to keep the tyrannical Fire Nation from oppressing clans who follow the other elements. With tai chi moves and blasts of digital effects and what not. A half-dozen rushed subplots help propel it at warp speed toward a climax that turns out to be just a teaser for three more sequels that will likely never happen. Hopefully, anyway. Only in the 2D version.

 Predators (R): Robert Rodriguez oversees this unambitious but capable sequel to the first two Predator movies... kind of skipping over all the awful Aliens versus Predator stuff. Adrien Brody leads a crew of killers unwittingly airdropped onto an alien planet, only to be stalked by a group of predators. They fight. This goes on for awhile. The movie delivers exactly what it promises, for better or worse, without a trace of irony or self-awareness. Director Nimró d Antal does a solid job with the sci-fi action, which is nicely suited to a cheap summer matinee. Featuring Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, and Danny Trejo.

 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. Only in 2D versions.

 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (PG-13, *1/2): This installment of the goth teen romance/melodrama is the easiest to watch, but that's a relative statement. David Slade, the third director in as many films, does the best job so far, bringing a little more credibility to the horror elements of the series, as much as possible considering all the bloodsuckers are sparkly dreamboats. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is still planning to give her life over to Edward (Robert Pattinson), but she continues to harbor a crush on hunked-out werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). The two rivals for her affection must form a truce to stave off the evil vampire queen Victoria (an underutilized Bryce Dallas Howard) and her army of foundlings. Though competently made and more straightforwardly plotted, it's still a slop of yearning and moping, undercut by three wooden, under-emoting leads peddling suspect ideas to the teen fanbase it so unabashedly indulges.

Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
 Despicable Me (PG): Computer-animated family comedy about a bumbling supervillain, Gru (Steve Carell), who must rethink his evil ways when he adopts three orphan girls he intended to kidnap. Featuring the voices of Kristen Wiig, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, and Julie Andrews. In 2D and 3D versions.

> Inception (PG-13): In this highly anticipated sci-fi head trip from Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento), new technology allows thieves to invade people's dreams, leading to a whole new kind of thoughtcrime. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, and featuring Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, and Michael Caine.

> Sorcerer's Apprentice (R): Nicolas Cage reunites with National Treasure director Jon Turteltaub in this family friendly fantasy adventure about a sorcerer (Cage) who must recruit a young trainee (Jay Baruchel) to help him defend New York against an evil wizard (Alfred Molina, who has menaced New York City previously in Spider-Man II). Featuring Monica Bellucci.