The Weinstein Company
Since I didn’t get to go to the press screening, I’ll never know what kind of clever pun I could have made from the title if the film isn’t any good—most likely something about director Mikael Hafström, screenwriter Stuart Beattie and/or actors Clive Owen and Jennifer Anniston derailing the film. Oh, how glorious it would have been! In case you’re wondering, it’s about two business executives who have an affair and find themselves blackmailed by a violent criminal.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’
(out of four)
I know that “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” is supposed to closely resemble gangsta-turned-gangsta-rapper-turned-movie-star Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s actual life, but it also closely resembles a lot of recent movies. And many of those movies, including this year’s “Hustle and Flow” and the 2002 Eminem vehicle “8 Mile,” featured more charismatic characters in their tales of poor inner-city rappers changing their lives through music. With all the available options, this film is only worthwhile for 50 Cent fans and people who have never seen another movie about the hardships (until you become a successful rapper) of inner-city life.
Jackson doesn’t have the charisma that other rappers-turned-actors like Tyrese Gibson or André Benjamin have shown. He smiles, mumbles and recites mundane dialogue with his girlfriend (Joy Bryant), whose relation isn’t developed well enough to inspire sympathy. Marcus is supposed to be a poet, but he doesn’t have anything of interest to say and his rapping isn’t showcased enough to convince those who aren’t already fans that he’s the real deal. When supporting actor Terrence Howard, who starred in “Hustle and Flow,” comes on the screen, he livens the film like a defibrillator, but when he leaves it flatlines again.
Director Jim Sheridan (“In America”) tries his best to make the film a work of art with several inspired shots, most notably the motif of a reflection distorting as a loud bass speaker shakes a mirror. He doesn’t try to manipulate emotions or paint his hero as perfect. The problem is, his hero isn’t that interesting.
Pride and Prejudice
(out of four)
It’s been 10 years since a straight, period adaptation of Jane Austen’s satirical romance Pride and Prejudice came out, and even longer since one was released for the big screen. But with all the recent modern-day and/or Bollywood adaptations of the film to come out, the new version starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen still seems a bit unnecessary. But the film, while unlikely to have the following of the beloved five-hour 1995 BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth, adds life to elements where other adaptations have been lacking.
While a tad overly serious at times, director Joe Wright opens up the movie with the most cinematic (though not best-acted) treatment the novel has had. Wright uses tricks with lights, intense closeups and moving shots, and some show-offy long takes to make a film rather than a standard stuffy adaptation.
The screenplay, however, doesn’t always display the best judgment. While it runs a little over two hours, many of the relationships in the film feel thinly developed. The film would have benefitted by some judicial editing of storylines like Judi Dench as Lady Catherine to make room for more development of Elizabeth’s relationships with the stuffy but sexy Darcy and the sexy but sleazy Mr. Wickham (Rupert Friend).
After 33 years, the documentary “Winter Soldier” finally sees wide release. Some say that the 1972 documentary’s records of soldiers discussing atrocities committed during the Vietnam war are powerful, others say that film is nothing but lies, all lies, vicious left-wing lies! Do you love your country’s freedoms or not?
(out of four)
Director Jon Favreau has gone from the creator of adult-oriented films like “Swingers” and “Made” to a reliable director of fun family movies. “Zathura,” his follow-up to “Elf,” is based on a book by Jumanji writer Chris Van Allsburg. The main difference between that book’s concept and that of “Zathura’s” is that the boys who play this board game wind up in outer space, not the jungle.
Danny (Jonah Bobo) wants to play with his brother Walter (Josh Hutcherson), who’s a grumpy little brat. Well, they’re both brats, but the film takes the time to understand both of their feelings.
The film is at its best when examining the relationships between siblings and parents, with Tim Robbins appearing at the beginning and end as a divorced father who can’t make his children accept that he has work responsibilities or that they have to spend some time in a house other than the one they grew up in. The clever writing features some great lines—the boys’ frustrated older sister (Kristen Stewart) responds to her father’s interrogation about boys with the quip, “We never should have rented ‘thirteen!’”
It occasionally falters, however, in the narrative pull of the action scenes, which don’t build in excitement quite enough. When the film reaches its conclusion, it feels like it’s been drifting in space for too long. Luckily, it’s not so bad to drift with these characters.
Opening Next Week
El Crimen Perfecto
Thanks to the lack of early alphabet titles, I don’t have to decide whether to file this Spanish black comedy—about dueling Madrid department store employees—under C or E.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Warner Bros. Pictures
“The Legend of Zorro” might not have had the balls to go PG-13, but the fourth film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series shows things getting darker. Hence the tagline: “Difficult times lie ahead, Harry.
After the great director Alfonso Cuaron opened up the visuals and the actors on the third film, “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” the first British director to take on the series, Mike Newell, takes the reigns. Newell made “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Donnie Brasco” and (brace yourselves) “Mona Lisa Smile,” so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Lila Says (Lila dit ca)
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Get ready for some sexual awakening, French style, in this adaptation of the controversial novel.
Warner Independent Pictures
If you don’t feel like seeing “Harry Potter,” maybe this acclaimed study of suicide bomber motivations might be for you.
jeremy [at] saltshakermagazine.com