Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WEEKEND Pic - March 2-4, 2012



a) THE WOMAN IN BLACK (horror thriller with Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, David Burke, Shaun Dooley, Alisa Khazanova, Sidney Johnston, Mary Stockley, Alexia Osborne and Aoife Doherty) Rating * * * (3 stars): Set in Victorian England, this haunted house caper reminds me of the horror movies that scared the bejezus out of me when I was a kid. It still does. There is a palpable and pervasive sense of dread and creepiness throughout the show but the more interesting aspect is Radcliffe's post-Harry Potter performance: He proves that he can meet the challenge of playing a difficult role despite his age.

b) THE DEVIL INSIDE (Horror thriller with Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama and Suzan Crowley) Rating * 1/2 (2 stars): Surprisingly, this Exorcist rehash was the top-grossing movie when it opened in America during the January 6-8 weekend, grossing US$34.5 million. The Devil Inside is another low-budget, lightweight shaky-cam effort that smacks of amateur acting, scripting and directing. The shaking images makes us want to puke.


1. THE DESCENDANTS (family drama with George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Patricia Hastie and Beau Bridges) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): It doesn't look like this Alexander Payne effort is going to win any major Oscar but it is one of the best dramas of 2011. Augmented in no small measure by Hawaiian songs and locales, the story about how a busy lawyer (Clooney) is forced to perform his duties as father to his two girls is touching and funny. And we have excellent performances from Clooney and Woodley as his eldest daughter. (Reviewed below)

2. THIS MEANS WAR (rom-com with Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Laura Vandervoort, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett and David Koechner) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): With its triangle love story about two CIA agents (Pine and Hardy) fighting for the same girl (Witherspoon), the movie promises a mix of explosive mayhem, comedy and romance. However, there is precious little of these to go around and even less chemistry between the leads. Directed by McG of Charlie's Angels fame, it looks like a music video version of Mr and Mrs Smith.

3. ACT OF VALOR (military adventure with Roselyn Sanchez, Emilio Rivera, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Gonzalo Menendez, Ailsa Marshall, Alex Veadov, Drea Castro, Alexander Asefa and Sonny Sison) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The movie follows a real US Navy Seal squad on a covert mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent and put down a complex web of terrorist cells. It is part fiction, part documentary but the most glaring weakness here is that the Navy Seals are soldiers and not actors. Still, Americans love them and it was the top grosser in the US last weekend. 

4. THE IRON LADY (biography with Meryl Streep, Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head, Olivia Colman, Roger Allam, Alexandra Roach, Julian Wadham and Nick Dunning) Rating: * * (2 stars): The one and only thing this movie has in its favour is two-time Oscar-winner Streep in the title role as Margaret Thatcher. This biopic directed by Phylida Lloyd is almost like her first feature film, Mama Mia, in terms of depth and style. Mrs Thatcher's major accomplishments and life before politics are either glossed over or left out; the men are mostly portrayed as incompetent, while Mrs T is basically depicted as feminist icon.

5. MAN ON A LEDGE (crime thriller with Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler) Rated * * (2 stars): The build-up works fine for a crime thriller - the pace is fast and there are the requisite vertigo-inducing effects and eye candy. And then just when we are about to get to the climax, everything breaks down. Yeah, the ending is so devoid of logic that it insults our intelligence. (Reviewed below)

6. GHOST RIDER SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (sci-fi fantasy with Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Lambert, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth and Fergus Riordan) Rating * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Johnny Blaze (Cage) rides again in another fiery adventure but this sequel turns out to be even worse than the first. Basically, it is a mixture of nonsensical story ideas, bad special effects and boring exposition. Vroom, vroom... splutter - and it is going to take Nic Cage further downhill in his acting career.


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