Harold Ramis is one of the nicest people I've met in the movie business, and I'm so sorry "Year One" happened to him. I'm sure he had the best intentions. In trying to explain why the movie was produced, I have a theory. Ramis is the top-billed of three writers, and he is so funny that when he read some of these lines, they sounded hilarious. Pity he didn't play one of the leads in his own film.
Eddie Murphy's new family comedy is a pleasant and unassuming fantasy in which a high-powered investment adviser gets advice from his daughter's imaginary friends. We never see the friends, but we see a great deal of the daughter, and it's a charming performance from newcomer Yara Shahidi.
There's not much wrong with Tony Scott's "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" except that there's not much really right about it. Nobody gets terrifically worked up except the special effects people. Oh, John Travolta is angry and Denzel Washington is determined, but you don't sense passion in the performances. They're about behaving, not evoking.
Nia Vardalos plays most of "My Life in Ruins" with a fixed toothpaste smile, which is no wonder because her acting in the film feels uncomfortably close to her posing for a portrait. Rarely has a film centered on a character so superficial and unconvincing, played with such unrelenting sameness. I didn't hate it so much as feel sorry for it.
Now this is what I'm talkin' about. "The Hangover" is a funny movie, flat out, all the way through. Its setup is funny. Every situation is funny. Most of the dialogue is funny almost line-by-line. At some point we actually find ourselves caring a little about what happened to the missing bridegroom -- and the fact that we almost care is funny, too.
"Land of the Lost" is a seriously deranged movie. That's not to say it's bad, although some of its early critics consider it a hanging offense ("a pot of ersatz dinosaur piss" - Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix). Marshall Fine even apologizes for prematurely predicting that "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" would be "the most witless, humor-challenged movie of the summer." The release inspires fervent hatred, which with the right kind of movie can be a good thing.
The name alone, "Drag Me to Hell," tells you exactly what this is: an unabashed celebration of B-movie schlockery. But the dichotomies director Sam Raimi presents within that familiar genre are what make this such a kick.
"Up" is a wonderful film, with characters who are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela. They have tempers, problems and obsessions. They are cute and goofy, but they aren't cute in the treacly way of little cartoon animals. They're cute in the human way of the animation master Hayao Miyazaki.
One of Hollywood's oldest axioms teaches us: The story comes first. Watching "Terminator Salvation," it occurred to me that in the new Hollywood, the story board comes first. After scrutinizing the film, I offer you my summary of the story: Guy dies, finds himself resurrected, meets others, fights. That lasts for almost two hours.
Don't trust me on this movie. It rubbed me the wrong way. I can understand, as an abstract concept, why some people would find it entertaining. It sure sounds intriguing: "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." If that sounds like fun to you, don't listen to sourpuss here.
Since "Angels and Demons" depends on a split-second schedule and a ticking time bomb that could destroy the Vatican, it's a little distracting when the Camerlengo, a priest entrusted with the pope's duties between papacies, breaks into the locked enclave of the College of Cardinals and lectures them on centuries of church history.
"Next Day Air" is a bloody screwball comedy, a film of high spirits. It tells a complicated story with acute timing and clarity, and gives us drug-dealing lowlifes who are almost poetic in their clockwork dialogue. By that I mean they not only use the words, they know the music.
"Star Trek" as a concept has voyaged far beyond science fiction and into the safe waters of space opera, but that doesn't amaze me. The Gene Roddenberry years, when stories might play with questions of science, ideals or philosophy, have been replaced by stories reduced to loud and colorful action. Like so many franchises, it's more concerned with repeating a successful formula than going boldly where no "Star Trek" has gone before.
"Battle for Terra" is a bewitchingly animated story about an invasion from outer space by aliens who threaten to destroy all life on the planet so they can claim it as their own. I know what you're thinking. Here's the surprise: The aliens are the human race. The inhabitants of Terra look like cute tadpoles, combined with features of mermaids and seahorses.
Remember "Harry, the Rat With Women"? This time his name is Connor Mead, but he's still a rat. A modern Scrooge, who believes marriage is humbug, but is taught otherwise by the ghosts of girlfriends past, present and future, and one who spans all of those periods. Just like Scrooge, he's less interesting after he reforms.