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Foot Losers

Remake can't dance. Plus Big Year is for the birds and The Thing returneth

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It's hip to be square-dancing in Footloose
  • It's hip to be square-dancing in Footloose
 

FOOTLOOSE. I'm old enough to remember the original Footloose (1984), lo these many years later, but young enough to have lost any significant nostalgia for it. Still and all, writer/director Craig Brewer's remake is such a pallid imitation of a familiar movie that it's surprising he got away with making it.

The biggest flaw with this version is the dancing. Structurally, the dance sequences are the set-pieces of the movie, but they don't have enough energy to be compelling. As a friend commented, it's almost like a High School Musical remake. This despite the fact that Brewer's previous features (Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan) seethed with raw, sweaty sexuality.

Here, the teens of rural Bomont, Ga., just wanna dance, but they don't seem to do it out of any desire, or need for self-expression. We're supposed to believe the dancing is their outlet, but none of the characters is multi-faceted enough to make me buy it.

That being said, members of the young cast do a fair job with what they've been given. Relative newcomer Kenny Wormald (who rose to fame as a dancer before transitioning to leading mandom) is likeable as Ren MacCormack, the troubled new kid with the dancin' feet. And he pairs well with the striking Julianne Hough as preacher's daughter Ariel Moore who, unfortunately, doesn't have much of chance in the role given the fact that her character is woefully underdeveloped. Miles Teller mines a few laughs as Willard, Ren's newest friend. But even these three characters, ostensibly the most important in the movie, are barely sketched out. I doubt even that more seasoned actors could have done much with these roles.

There are some veterans in this cast. Dennis Quaid is woodenly venomous as Reverend Shaw Moore, Ariel's father and the blowhard who spearheads the anti-fun ordinance that opens the film. Andie MacDowell barely makes her presence felt as his wife.

I'd be more than willing to forgive all the problems with script and direction if only Brewer had given me a few dynamite dance sequences to get behind. But they just aren't here. PG-13. 113m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

BIG YEAR. I've been debating this opening line, but I can't resist: David Frankel directed Marley & Me (2008). I have never seen Marley & Me. But I think I'd rather watch a dog die of old age than sit through Frankel's latest, The Big Year, ever again. And I love animals. Though I must admit I've never had a particular fondness for birds, so maybe that's the problem.

The Big Year takes its title from a yearlong event that we are to assume is fairly commonplace in the birding community, wherein an avid birder spends a full year cataloging all the species he observes. Fair enough: could be an interesting subject if presented well. But it's not.

Instead, we get a sentimentalized look at the meaning of middle age viewed from its beginning, middle and late periods. Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin play birders attempting to break the big year record previously set by Kenny Bostick (Wilson), an affluent contractor who is apparently so empty inside that he can't help but destroy marriage after marriage in pursuit of more birds. Brad Harris (Black) is a likeable schlub who toils full-time in a nuclear power plant while attempting to break the record and really accomplish something. Stu Preissler (Martin) is an uber-exec on the verge of retirement who, not surprisingly, is starting to figure out what's most important in life.

"Not surprising" sums this one up pretty tidily. Despite my lack of interest in things avian, I would have been willing to enjoy a crash-course on birds. Instead I got the most predictable, whitewashed coming-of-middle-age story I've ever seen, stitched together with stock footage and, get this, CGI birds! That seems egregious. And I didn't learn anything about birds.

It's not all bad, I guess. I'm a big fan of the three leads, and they do exactly what you would expect them to do, though Black has to rein it in a little more than I'd like. And somehow the filmmakers assembled a surprisingly talent-rich supporting cast, which is also wasted on this completely forgettable movie. PG. 100m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

--John J. Bennett

THE THING. It's hard to get too annoyed when horror films produce a slew of sequels and prequels; cinematic proliferation has been the backbone of the horror industry since the first claymation monster erupted from the rumbling sea. Bearing this in mind, I've chosen not to judge the The Thing on its status as a prequel, but rather on its ability to make me nervously perch on the edge of my seat and look away in disgust. Ignoring the obvious lack of originality, how does The Thing hold up as a sci-fi horror/thriller? Surprisingly, it performs well without attempting to challenge or embellish upon the 1982 original.

Paranoia and tension seep through the constantly rising pressure and action, giving you only seconds of breathing time between one slaughter and the next. One by one, characters are knocked off in quick succession. Aided by an unexpectedly impressive array of CGI tentacles and claws, each death is more violent and grotesque than the last. Indeed, the quality of the CGI may be the film's most redeeming quality. After all, what's a creature feature without a decent creature?

The cast is unrecognizable, save for the occasional, "Hey! It's that guy!" Chock-full of large, bearded Norwegians, the virtually unknown cast mimics the tone of an independent horror import. The American, female lead (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) plays the first half of the film with a skeptical calmness, which stands out awkwardly against the vigor of the other players (I call this the Mulder/Scully phenomenon). As the action and bloodshed intensify, her acting compensates, eventually striking a balance.

[Spoiler alert! --Ed.] Any knowledge of the original takes a bit of the mystery out of the film; there's no expectation of survival, not to mention victory. Without the stress of wondering where the story is going, the audience is allowed to indulge in the delightfully morbid entertainment of pure carnage, giant fires and action-packed helicopter explosions. Because that is what horror is all about. R. 103m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

--Devan King

 

PREVIEWS

 

THE THREE MUSKETEERS. From Walter Abel in 1935 to Gene Kelly in 1948, Oliver Reed in 1973 and, hmm, Charlie Sheen in 1993, Hollywood just can't get enough of Alexandre Dumas' mustachioed, swashbuckling Frenchmen. But this time around, each musketeer gets his own dimension (in select theaters). PG-13. 110m. In 3D at the Broadway and Fortuna, 2D at the Broadway and Mill Creek.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. Prequel alert! Discover how the franchise poltergeists were first caught on hidden camera ... back in the year 1988! (Gulp, VHS.) R. 81m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

THE MIGHTY MACS. Based on the true "Cinderella" story of a tiny Catholic school for girls whose 1970-71 basketball team won the Super Bowl. Or whatever. G. 102m. At the Broadway.

COURAGEOUS. Evangelical Christian film about four police officers struggling with their sexual identities. No, wait. They're struggling with fatherhood. Sorry about that. PG-13. 129m. At the Broadway.

On Friday night the Arcata Theatre Lounge gears up for Halloween with The Lost Boys, Joel Schumacher's 1987 vampire horror-comedy starring the two Coreys (RIP, Mr. Haim ), Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patrick. R. 97m. 8 p.m. $5. Sunday at the ATL is Edward Scissorhands, which remains director Tim Burton's best film, in my opinion. PG-13. 105m. 6 p.m. And Wednesday of next week brings an odd pairing for Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night: 1972's Blacula, a Blacksploitation re-imagining of the classic Dracula tale, and F.W. Murnau's original Nosferatu (1922), a classic of German Expressionism and one of the most seminal horror films in cinema history.

 

CONTINUING

 

50/50. Half funny, half poignant tale of a 26-year-old (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) diagnosed with cancer. Costarring Anna Kendrick and Seth Rogen. R. 100m. At the Broadway and Minor.

ABDUCTION. Taylor Lautner fights off bad guys with ab power. PG-13. 106m. At the Garberville.

DOLPHIN TALE. True story of an injured dolphin saved by a prosthetic tail so that she could star in a ridiculously adorable movie. PG. 113m. In 3D at the Broadway and Fortuna, 2D at the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE HELP. A white woman sets out to tell the stories of black maids in segregated 1960s Mississippi. PG-13. 146m. At the Broadway.

THE IDES OF MARCH. George Clooney directs and stars in this political thriller co-staring Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei. R. 101m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor.

MONEYBALL. When assembling your baseball team, don't go with your gut. PG-13. 133m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

REAL STEEL. Boxing robots. Hugh Jackman. The end. PG-13. 127m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

 

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