Arts + Scene » Filmland

Bots and Babes

Tedious Transformers and puffy Proposal fail to impress; see Sister's Keeper instead

by

comment

Previews

Opening Wednesday, July 1, is Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the third in the popular animated series. Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel (voiced by Chris Wedge) may find a love interest beside his prized acorn while Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) unwisely steals some dinosaur eggs. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril. 94m. At the Broadway (3-D and 2-D), Fortuna (in 2-D) and Mill Creek.

Competing for viewers is the non-kiddie film Public Enemies, director Michael Mann's take (based on Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34) on the FBI's battle with John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). While Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd figure in the story, the focus is on Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and his battle to imprison Dillinger. Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose) is Dillinger's girlfriend Billie. Good cast and director, promising film. Rated R for gangster violence and some language. 140m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and Minor.

Reviews

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. One-sentence review: Tedious Transformers traverse teen taste. More accurately, the second big screen iteration of the toy line caters to adolescents of all ages, down to its mawkish humor, repetitive action sequences and the obligatory immature romantic relationship.

Revenge of the Fallen begins two years after the ending of the 2007 film. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), have aligned themselves with humans against the Decepticons. The film opens appropriately with an action sequence set in Shanghai, where the human/bot alliance is hunting down Decepticons.

All should be well as Decepticon leader Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), is buried deep in the ocean. But maybe you should never leave your hot girlfriend to go off to college, particularly when you leave a piece of the All Spark with her for safekeeping. But Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) does just that to Mikaela Banes, played by the sex object du jour Megan Fox, who seems to have borrowed Angelina Jolie's lips for this role. But the target audience need not despair; Sam spends about 10 seconds in the classroom before being whisked off to engage the enemy and save our world. Those viewers who actually savor a little character development shouldn't blink as they might miss this sequence, blemished as it is by the silly antics of his mother Judy (Julie White) and the introduction of the clownish college roommate Leo (Ramon Rodriquez).

The rest of the film involves a seemingly endless series of action sequences wherein (SPOILER!) Sam resurrects the slain Optimus Prime and saves our sun from being drained by the evil Fallen and his henchman Megatron. Along the way, Mikaela establishes her post-feminist bonafides by refusing to be left behind during the fighting.

In an interview published in Entertainment Weekly (June 19), Fox says "working with Michael Bay is not about an acting experience." Fair enough. Director Bay has a knack for kinetic film action and wastes no time on tedious character stuff. But somehow, the first Transformers, at about the same running time, seemed more interesting than Fallen. Meanwhile, I am eagerly awaiting Fox's first acting experience. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material and brief drug material. 150m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

THE PROPOSAL. The Proposal should have been a nice alternative for those viewers, perhaps mostly female, who are looking for alternatives to the summer guy films. After all, it's a romantic comedy starring the very likeable Sandra Bullock along with an appropriately hunky guy in Ryan Reynolds (Adventureland; X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Furthermore, it mines the seemingly inexhaustible plot of The Taming of the Shrew, wherein the uppity woman is brought down and then salvaged by the appropriately manly man -- always a winner.

But didn't we just see this film earlier this year when New in Town was released? In that film, Renée Zellweger plays a driven Miami executive brought low by Harry Connick Jr. when she's transferred to Minnesota. In The Proposal, Bullock plays publishing executive Margaret Tate who is brought low when she accompanies forced fiancé Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) to rural Alaska. What is it about moving north for these luckless Type-A women? And why do they always have to wear completely inappropriate clothes, such as high heels?

All of these elements must be in the genre manual that director Anne Fletcher apparently followed. Fletcher has already shown that she is adept at romantic comedy clichés in 27 Dresses, and she follows form here in a series of sequences that sink both comedy and romance.

Writers must be getting desperate to find new setups for the genre. Here, from the moment Margaret forces Andrew to become her fiancé to avoid deportation to Canada (the horrors!), there are no further surprises. I do like Bullock a lot more than Zellweger, but unhappily she is given nothing interesting to do. Sort of like my summer film experience. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language. 108m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

MY SISTER'S KEEPER. My Sister's Keeper taps into two well-established Hollywood genres: the weepie and the social problem film. The former was a 1930s staple, with such classics as Stella Dallas, while the 1940s generated at least two major problem films with The Best Years of Our Lives (readjustment to civilian life) and The Lost Weekend (alcoholism). Based on the 2004 novel by popular author Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper taps into the weepie, generating a dying teen daughter plot, and into the ethical issue of control over one's body, in this case that of an 11-year-old.

But the film is much better than this outline might indicate, thanks to some very fine acting (especially from Cameron Diaz), a plot that is more complex than it first seems and some nice directing from Nick Cassavetes. The basic story sets up the central issue. When attorney Sara Fitzgerald (Diaz) discovers that her daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva, Ariel in the TV series The Medium) has acute leukemia, she drops her practice and devotes all her energies to saving Kate, including the in vitro fertilization of another daughter, Anna (Abigail Breslin), which guarantees a genetic match for Kate.

Anna is harvested as a donor for her sister from age 2, but when Kate eventually needs a kidney transplant to avoid imminent death, Anna seeks medical emancipation by hiring attorney Campbell Alexander (nicely underplayed by Alec Baldwin), a move vigorously opposed by Sara. We eventually discover, though, that the primary issue is not control over one's body.

There are some fine moments in the film, such as the unwavering focus on the long silence between Anna and Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack) when Anna asks about the judge's dead daughter. But it is Diaz's portrayal of a destructively single-focused mother that animates and centers this film.

Those who have read Picoult's novel will discover significant plot changes, all for the better I believe. Cassavetes proved in The Notebook that he is a master of audience manipulation (as is Picoult), and that may prove a detriment here for some viewers. But even I have been known to shed a tear. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, sensuality, language and brief teen drinking. 109m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing

ANGELS AND DEMONS. In schlocky Da Vinci sequel, swashbuckling religious historian (T. Hanks) travels through pop history to rescue the Catholic church. Rated PG-13. 139m. At The Movies.

THE HANGOVER. Getting severely trashed with your bros at a Vegas-based bachelor party can have serious consequences, especially when no one remembers what happened. Rated R. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

LAND OF THE LOST. Feature-length film version of tripped-out classic TV series stars the one and only Will Ferrell. Rated PG-13. 106m. At The Movies.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN. Museum exhibits come to life leading to a history-packed battle of good versus evil. Rated PG. 105m. At the Broadway.

STAR TREK. Get the action-packed back-story on Kirk and Spock's rivalry-ridden relationship. Rated PG-13. 127m. At the Broadway.

TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3. Criminal mastermind leads a gang threatening to execute a NY subway train's passengers unless a ransom is paid. Too bad a subway dispatcher steps in as an unlikely hero. Rated R. 106m. At The Movies.

TERMINATOR SALVATION. Young John Connor (C. Bale) leads human resistance to robotic overlords. But first he must solve a mystery! Rated PG-13. 115m. At The Movies.

UP. In Pixar's latest, an elderly gentleman sets out to fulfill lifelong dream despite annoying Boy Scout tagalong. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Film leads up to events of X-Men with story of Wolverine's epically violent and romantic past. Rated PG-13. 107m. At The Movies.

YEAR ONE. Jack Black and Michael Cera join forces to portray Zed and Oh, bonehead hunter-gatherers who take an epic journey through the ancient world. Rated PG-13. 98m. At the Broadway.

Add a comment