The Last Airbender See feature in this issue.
Twilight: Eclipse See feature in this issue.
The A-Team Like the '80s TV series it's based on, The A-Team is incredibly simple-minded. The saving grace of both show and movie is the four likable main characters — Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), "Face" (Bradley Cooper), and Mad Dog Murdock (Sharlto Copley). Copley (District 9's Wikus) and Neeson get most of the film's best moments, but even supporting players Jessica Biehl and Ray Liotta are given a chance to shine in between all the explosions and shoot-outs. There's not much to the plot about a Special Forces team that tries to clear its name after it gets framed for stealing U.S. currency printing plates. But plenty of fight scenes, ridiculous stunts, and clever jokes keep you from noticing just how flimsy the whole thing is. Director Joe Carnahan, who made the equally dumb and entertaining Smokin' Aces, strikes just the right tone. He doesn't take the material too seriously, and he doesn't try to camp up what was already a pretty silly concept. Normally, movies like this have no business going past the 90-minute mark, but Carnahan's pacing keeps the film from dragging even at a full two hours. (Robert Ignizio)
Get Him to the Greek When we last saw British rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he was a recovering addict dating TV actress Sarah Marshall and incessantly irritating her ex-boyfriend. It's a few years later, and in the beginning of Get Him to the Greek, Aldous fallen off the wagon and hasn't had a hit song in quite some time. To make things worse, his relationship with pop star Jackie Q has ended, and she's taken up with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), a young record-company flunky, has an idea: If Aldous can stage a comeback concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, it'll get his career back on track. The only catch, Aaron's boss (Sean Combs) wants him to fly to London to retrieve Aldous and bring him to the States. But that isn't as easy as it sounds, since booze, drugs, and women easily distract the self-involved rock star. The movie sputters a bit midway, when the pair makes a stop in Las Vegas and Aldous meets up with his half-crazed father (Colm Meaney). The Hangover-like antics with strippers ensue. But once Aaron and Aldous finally arrive in L.A., the film gets back on track — especially when they have a heart-to-heart that reveals each's insecurities and shortcomings. (Jeff Niesel)
Grown Ups Adam Sandler plays a high-powered Hollywood agent who reunites with some boyhood friends (including former SNL castmates Chris Rock and David Spade) at the funeral of their grade-school basketball coach. Every character comes with a joke: Rob Schneider's new-age boob has a thing for older — really older — women; Rock's Mr. Mom is pussywhipped by his wife and harridan of a mother-in-law; Kevin James is, well, fat. None of them gets appreciably funnier with repetition. Lazy, witless, and aggressively coarse, this could very well be Sandler's worst and most cringeworthy film (and, yes, I'm including The Water Boy and Bedtime Stories). I don't know what's more offensive here — the rancid, vulgar humor or the icky sentimentality that permeates every frame like a congealed layer of Transfat. Hopefully, Sandler and his pals had more fun making Grown Ups than anyone will have watching it. (Milan Paurich)
Jonah Hex Josh Brolin plays the ex-Confederate soldier turned bounty hunter whose wife and son were killed by his former commanding officer, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich). Hex almost died at Turnbull's hands himself, an experience that left him with a nasty scar, the ability to talk with the dead, and a really dark sense of humor. As played by Brolin, Hex is a great character. But Jonah Hex isn't a great movie. Thanks to some sharp writing by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (of Crank fame), parts of the film are inspired. But its spaghetti-western-meets-horror film motif simply doesn't work. One approach or the other would have sufficed, but everything gets shoehorned into an utterly typical summer action movie plot about a guy who tries to use a super weapon to disrupt the U.S. Centennial. Of course, Hex must try to stop this dastardly plan, as well as rescue token love interest Lilah (Megan Fox). A terrible sound mix that frequently buries dialogue under Mastodon's churning metallic score doesn't help matters. Even at less than 90 minutes, this thing feels too long. (Ignizio)
Karate Kid This remake of the 1984 Ralph Macchio-Pat Morita kitsch classic (itself a Rocky rip-off) rethinks the clichés and bundles a spectacular Far East travelogue on the side. New Karate Kid on the block Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) arrives in Beijing with his single mom (Taraji P. Henson), who's relocated for business reasons from Detroit. Outgoing Dre runs afoul of Chinese boys from a mean-spirited kung-fu school, adding serial bullying to his culture shock. To Dre's rescue comes Mr. Han (a subdued Jackie Chan), the Parkers' taciturn handyman and a secret source of ancient kung-fu knowledge and philosophy. To end the bullying (and, it's hinted, as a sort of therapy for his own family loss), Han mentors Dre for a tournament showdown against the bullies. The movie delivers on the master-disciple interplay and the dawning respect across races and generations that were always the strength of the series. Backdrops of the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Beijing Olympics complex come as a bonus. (Cassady)
Killers Jen (Katherine Heigl) is on a trip to France with her parents (Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara) when she meets Spencer (Ashton Kutcher) in a hotel elevator. Shirtless and ripped, the guy isn't ashamed to show off his fab abs. Not so surprisingly, Jen falls for him. It's not long before they're having romantic picnics on the beach and taking long drives along coastal highways. Jen doesn't know it, but Spencer is a hit man. But he wants out of the game and tells his boss he's quitting so he can lead a normal life. His boss doesn't like it, but he lets Spencer go. Fast forward three years: Spencer and Jen are happily married, living the suburban dream in a quiet residential community. When one of their houseguests unexpectedly tries to kill him, Spencer realizes there's a bounty on his head. He returns to his hit-man ways, pulling a small arsenal of automatic weapons from his attic as he and Jen begin to suspect even innocent neighbors. Killers' premise isn't bad, but it takes far too long for any action to develop. Plus, Kutcher and Heigl just don't click. He never seems like he's truly in character (you keep expecting him to tell Jen she's been "punk'd"), and Heigl tries too hard to be glamorous (she changes her hairstyle countless times). It's a losing combination. (Niesel)
Knight and Day This is the kind of film that practically encourages ADD, cobbled together out of stray parts from a slew of mostly better movies. North by Northwest (the standard-bearer for this type of escapist fluff), Romancing the Stone, the Mission Impossible flicks, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Groundhog Day, and even the under-loved Hudson Hawk are just a few of the titles liberally quoted here. The MacGuffin propelling Patrick O'Neill's connect-the-dots script is a super-strength new battery codenamed "The Zephyr." Rogue agent Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) wants to protect the contraption and its dweebish, Hall & Oates-loving inventor (Paul Dano) from his former agency bosses (the overqualified Viola Davis and Peter Sarsgaard) and a slew of Euro weapons manufacturers. Cameron Diaz is the cutie Roy uses as a mule to help get through airport security then can't quite seem to shake — possibly because the studio felt they needed a female star to lure women into the theater. Any reasonably competent craftsman (say, action-film directors Doug Liman or Nimrod Antal) could have made Knight and Day and nobody would've been able to tell the difference. That cookie-cutter anonymity is probably why you'll forget most of the plot particulars before hitting the parking lot. 1/2 (Paurich)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Movies based on video games have a history of overall suckiness. It doesn't matter how good or bad the game is; watching flesh-and-blood actors play out the pixilated adventures onscreen just isn't the same as sitting in your beanbag chair with a controller in your hands and a bag of Cheetos by your side. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, based on a hit (and occasionally terrific) video-game series that goes back to 1989, doesn't completely suck. But it isn't very good either. Jake Gyllenhaal — with bad hair and an even worse accent — plays Dastan, a poor orphan plucked from the slum's rough streets and adopted by a sympathetic king (who's seemingly impressed by his Persian parkour skills). Gyllenhaal gets to do a lot of stuff Dastan does in the games: scale walls, leap rooftops, and swing into palaces with style. There's some sibling rivalry, a feisty princess, and lots of intricately choreographed swordplay. And there's also a to-hell-with-logic plot about a magical, time-shifting dagger. It's a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean. But with sand. And without much of a story. Or awesome action sequences. Or Johnny Depp. You'll be longing for your beanbag chair and Cheetos after about 20 minutes. (Gallucci)
Sex and the City 2 Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) reunite for a scattershot follow-up to the 2008 blockbuster that even diehard S&TC fans may find lacking. Except for a big, fat gay wedding sequence (replete with a delicious Liza Minnelli cameo), laughs are in perilously short supply. And writer-director Michael Patrick King's decision to ditch Manhattan for an extended sojourn in Abu Dhabi reeks of creative desperation. It's a jumping-the-shark-style time waster the movie never truly recovers from. Carrie's marital woes with Big (Chris Noth) never seem particularly compelling either, a problem that afflicts too much of the film. While it's fun seeing the gals strut their stuff on the big screen again, they're a bit like dear old friends you haven't seen in awhile who turn out to be kind of boring once you finally reconnect. King will have to do a lot better next time if he plans to make this into a viable movie franchise. Otherwise, maybe it's best to just pull the plug on Carrie & Co. once and for all. (Paurich)
Shrek Forever After Sometime over the course of three sequels, the Shrek franchise stopped being a parody of super-saccharine kids' movies and became one itself. What started as an occasionally hilarious and sharp satire of Walt Disney (the animated features, the corporation's front office, the trusted trademark) in the first Shrek from 2001 had become repetitive and critically unfunny by 2007's Shrek the Third. So it's probably a good thing the gang (Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas — they're all back) is calling it quits after Shrek Forever After (in 3-D, of course). This time, Shrek thinks he's lost what it takes to be a big, bad ogre. So he makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that goes horribly wrong, ending up in an alternate Far Far Away (what is this, Lost?) where he's never met Fiona and ogres are hunted by villagers ruled by the evil Rumpelstiltskin. Thankfully, there aren't as many pop-culture references shoehorned into the script, and it's nice to see the familiar faces — Pinocchio, Gingy, the Three Pigs — doing something a bit different. There's more life in Shrek Forever After than there was last time, but the fairy tale ended a while ago for the series. At least it's going out with a little heart, a fighting spirit, and, best of all, having some fun. (Gallucci)
Toy Story 3 For a studio as innovative and consistently terrific as Pixar, it's kind of odd that they're reaching into the Toy Story box for a third time. Not that we're complaining: The first Toy Story (and Pixar's first feature, from 1995) is a masterpiece of CGI storytelling. The 1999 sequel nearly tops it. The third outing achieves the near impossible: Toy Story 3 is the best of the bunch. This time, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and the gang are accidentally shipped to a daycare center as all-grown-up Andy gets ready for college. And things don't go well. The toys run into some sticky situations and a hierarchy led by the pink, vindictive, and strawberry-scented Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty). Like the other two movies in the series, Toy Story 3 expertly mixes poignancy and humor. There are so many standout moments here: The gang's first afternoon at the daycare is exhilarating. Woody ends up in the home of a little girl whose overactive imagination exceeds Andy's. And bring tissues for the final scene — seriously, you'll need them. Credit Pixar's creative team for pulling together these great characters with such an emotionally rich and thrilling story. Nothing else in theaters will deliver as much as Toy Story 3. It's the funniest, smartest, and most touching movie you'll see this summer. (Gallucci)
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