It’s insane, isn’t it? Nine movies opening, and eight of them going wide?
That’s the biggest dump we’ve seen in a while, but I’m right on top of it. The only movie I couldn’t review was “The Hills Have Eyes 2”, which Fox Atomic declined to screen in advance.
But if you want to know what I thought about the other movies …
“Air Guitar Nation“: For those about to pretend to rock, I salute you. Although there’s some question as to whether they’re only pretending to rock … after all, as Vonnegut’s “Mother Night” taught us, if one pretends to be something long enough, and well enough, does one not actually become that something? Anyway, never mind, Alexandra Lipsitz’ scruffy documentary is totally awesome, and the best thing I’ve seen in weeks.
“Amazing Grace“: In which Mr. Fantastic convinces England to abolish the slave trade. (Well, he is supposed to be fantastic.) Yes, Michael Apted’s biopic about William Wilberforce is, at its heart, just another movie that looks at the plight of black people through the eyes of their outraged white saviors … but Steven Knight’s script is a little sharper than you might expect, and the cast — which includes Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and Romola Garai — is in top form.
“The Last Mimzy“: Bob Shaye, moonlighting from his regular gig as the head of New Line, goes all Spielberg with this family adventure, heavily influenced by “E.T.”, about a brother and sister who discover a box of weird toys and wind up holding the future of all humankind in their hands. It throws out a lot of ideas that are never followed up — both kids getting smarter, the sister being some sort of Buddhist ideal, and so forth — and the whole thing smells like Otto’s jacket, but at least Rainn Wilson gets to play a normal person for a change.
“Pride“: Terrence Howard straps himself into the Inspirational True-Life Sports Movie machine to play Jim Ellis, who founded an African-American swim team at a crumbling Philadelphia recreational center in 1974 and became a force for change in his community. It’s a good, wholesome story … and this movie is dedicated to telling that story in the most banal and conventional way imaginable. Way to go.
“Reign Over Me“: Mike Binder is America’s answer to Roberto Benigni, once again gloms onto an unpleasant topic in order to give his hacky script the sheen of respectability. With “The Upside of Anger”, it was spousal abandonment and bereavement; here, it’s 9/11, as experienced — apparently exclusively — through Adam Sandler’s ruined widower. Nothing against Sandler, or his co-star Don Cheadle, both of whom give Binder their all. It’s just that they’re trapped in a terrible, terrible movie.
“Sharkwater“: I know Rob Stewart; he was my cameraman on a number of interviews I shot for Tribute TV a few years back. He’s a nice guy, smart and resourceful, and he really should have stuck to his original plan of building a meditative underwater documentary. The more time he spends on the adventures he had making his movie, the less time he spends on his intended subject. The underwater footage is gorgeous; there’s just not nearly enough of it.
“Shooter“: Mark Wahlberg glowers his way through all two hours and eight minutes of this slick but pointless action-thriller about a sniper framed for murder. It’s “The Fugitive” meets “The Bourne Ultimatum”, directed by an attention-deficient sadist! Seriously, somebody’s got to sit Antoine Fuqua down and explain why shooting people in the head is only an effective motif if their deaths have meaning, especially in a military context, and … nah, you know, he delights in women being brutalized and puts a dog through a glass window. F*ck him.
“TMNT”: Yep, that’s the on-screen title. (Rhymes with “mint”.) If you were wondering when someone would get around to using CGI to place the Turtles in their ideal context — running around New York, skateboarding through sewers and fighting giant monsters, with Master Splinter sitting at home trying to find “Gilmore Girls” on the Tivo — well, wonder no more. Good, dumb fun, and extra points for getting Larry Fishburne to narrate the prologue in full Morpheus mode. (No Metro link yet, apparently.)
Catching “The Hills Have Eyes 2” this afternoon. Apparently this one’s about soldiers who run afoul of everyone’s favorite torture mutants. I shall bring candy.