The 1950s Hollywood tradition was that an alien spaceship landed on Earth and was surrounded fearfully by military troops. "Planet 51" is true to the tradition, but this time the ship comes from Earth, and it lands on a planet inhabited by little green men. It's still the 1950s, however.
The redemption-minded sports flick "The Blind Side" serves its inspiration straight-up with no twist.
The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted, some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: Their charisma is by Madame Tussaud.
It's not so much that the Earth is destroyed, but that it's done so thoroughly. "2012," the mother of all disaster movies (and the father and the extended family), spends half an hour on ominous setup scenes (scientists warn, strange events occur, prophets rant and, of course, a family is introduced) and then unleashes two hours of cataclysmic special events hammering the Earth relentlessly.
Before we get to the movie, let's assume you're near a computer that has iTunes. Go to "radio," look under "alternative rock," and go down to Radio Caroline. I'll tell you why in a moment. Don't turn it up so loud that it drowns out my review.
"A Christmas Carol" by Robert Zemeckis (and Charles Dickens, of course) is an exhilarating visual experience and proves for the third time he's one of the few directors who knows what he's doing with 3-D. The story that Dickens wrote in 1838 remains timeless, and if it's supercharged here with Scrooge swooping the London streets as freely as Superman, well, once you let ghosts into a movie there's room for anything.
Bear with me here. Imagine "Ghostbusters" is based on a true story. Imagine the Big Lebowski as a real-life U.S. Army general. All factual, right? That's what "The Men Who Stare at Goats" sort of wants us to believe. I think I sort of do - to a small degree, sort of. "More of this is truer than you would believe," the movie says in an opening title. I'm waiting for the review of this one in Skeptic magazine.
"This is it," Michael Jackson told his fans in London, announcing his forthcoming concert tour. "This is the final curtain call." The curtain fell sooner than expected. What is left is this extraordinary documentary, nothing at all like what I was expecting to see. Here is not a sick and drugged man forcing himself through grueling rehearsals, but a spirit embodied by music. Michael Jackson was something else.
"Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" includes good Vampires, evil Vampaneze, a Wolf-Man, a Bearded Lady, a Monkey Girl with a long tail, a Snake Boy, a dwarf with a four-foot forehead and a spider the size of your shoe, and they're all boring as hell. The movie has good special effects and suitably gruesome characters, but it's bloodless.
"Astro Boy" is yet another animated comedy in which the hero, who is about the same age as his target audience, is smarter, braver and stronger than the adults in his world. Toby is also a quick learner; after he dies in an accident, he's reborn inside a robot that looks just like him and retains all of his memories. His father, in fact, treats him just like the original Toby. But "Toby is dead!" my inner logician insisted. Here's a good question: Does Astro Boy with Toby's memory wonder why he is a robot and can ...
I am drawn to every news story about the attempts, which still continue, to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance on July 2, 1937. It's pretty clear she ditched at sea, but you just never know. Those clues found on a Pacific atoll are tantalizing. It is not her disappearance but her life that fascinates me.
Where the Wild Things Are" reflects so much of a plucky little kid: the flirting up of anger at a parent, the defiant escape into fantasy, the tough talk in a tight situation, the exuberance, and then the fundamental need to return home and be loved and reassured. All of these stages are explored in Maurice Sendak's famous 1963 children's book, which contains only nine sentences. Ah, but what sentences they are when given resonance by his drawings.
"Law-Abiding Citizen" is a taut thriller about a serial killer in reverse: He's already in prison when he commits all but one of his many murders, and in solitary for most of that time. So the story is a locked-room mystery: How does he set up such elaborate kills? Does he have an accomplice outside the walls, or what?
"Good Hair" is a documentary about black women and their hair. Chris Rock, the host and narrator, is a likable man, quick, truly curious, with the gift of encouraging people to speak openly about a subject they usually keep private. He conveys a lot of information, but also some unfortunate opinions and misleading facts. That doesn't mean the movie isn't warm, funny and entertaining.
"Couples Retreat" tells the story of four troubled couples and how they're healed by sitcom formulas. Why are they troubled? Because the screenplay says so. It contains little comedy except for free-standing one-liners, and no suspense except for the timing of the obligatory reconciliation. It doesn't even make you think you'd like to visit its island paradise.