On The Go movieguide for 07/13/07

2007-07-13T00:00:00Z On The Go movieguide for 07/13/07 nwitimes.com
July 13, 2007 12:00 am


CAPTIVITY (Rated R) See mini review, below. No grade.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (Rated PG-13) See mini review, below. Grade: A-

RESCUE DAWN (Rated R) See mini review, below. Grade: B+


A MIGHTY HEART (Rated R) As Mariane Pearl, the wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Angelina Jolie reminds us she really can act, that the supporting-actress Oscar for "Girl, Interrupted" wasn't a fluke, that there is indeed substance beneath the sex appeal. Likely to get overshadowed is the excellent Dan Futterman, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Capote," as Daniel Pearl. "A Mighty Heart" can get a bit draggy and feel like a standard, though strikingly crafted, crime drama. Grade: B

CAPTIVITY (Rated R) A man and a woman awaken to find themselves captured in a cellar. As their kidnapper drives them psychologically mad, the truth about their horrific abduction is revealed. No Grade.

EVAN ALMIGHTY (Rated PG) "Evan Almighty," a sequel, is a better comedy than its predecessor, "Bruce Almighty." Steve Carrell is Evan Baxter, a Buffalo news anchor who has been elected to Congress on the platform that he will "Change the World." Morgan Freeman is Jehovah. In answer to Baxter's prayer, God asks him to build an ark, an activity enjoyed by his attention-starved sons but incomprehensible to his wife, who thinks her husband has lost his mind. Grade: A- (Jim Gordon)

EVENING (Rated PG-13) A highly esteemed group of actresses -- Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson -- comes together for a pretentious, maudlin pile of goo in "Evening," based on Susan Minot's book. Michael Cunningham, who wrote the novel "The Hours," helped Minot adapt the screenplay and infuses it with the same romanticized sense of self-importance. This highbrow chick flick explores the romantic past and emotional present of a woman (Vanessa Redgrave) moved to convey to her daughters the defining moments in her life 50 years prior. Grade: C

FANTASTIC FOUR (Rated PG) This sequel is better than the first attempt to bring the Marvel Comics characters to the big screen. The surprise is how much better it is. The sequel uses the approach that made the "X-Men" movies so good. These are people who are not like everyone else, which means they are going to be treated differently by everyone from the people they meet. That simple change of focus improved the movie. The final ingredient that makes the film soar is the addition of the Silver Surfer (played by Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne), who provides the link to a global catastrophe befitting the Four. Grade: B+

1408 (Rated PG-13) This adaptation of a Stephen King story about a guy alone in a haunted hotel room could have been the low-rent version of the author's "The Shining," which had an entire resort hotel in which evil could roam. Yet the movie generally survives and thrives on the strength of John Cusack's passionate performance as a skeptic of the supernatural who learns that spooks may be real, plus a spirited supporting role by Samuel L. Jackson and some effective chills by director Mikael Hafstrom and his effects crew. Grade: C+

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (Rated PG-13) The fifth film of the Harry Potter series focuses more sharply on the boy wizard with a dark past and a darker future. And although the movie has its share of fun moments, it is the most serious-minded film to date, and a harbinger of dire days to come in films six and seven. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts for his fifth year under heavy guard, eyed with suspicion by schoolmates who have been taken in by the Ministry of Magic's propaganda that the evil Voldemort has not returned. Grade: A- (Jim Gordon)

KNOCKED UP (Rated R) "Knocked Up" is even more riotously and consistently hilarious than its predecessor, Judd Apatow's 2005 sleeper hit "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," with even greater heart. Seth Rogen, a scene-stealing supporting player in "Virgin," emerges as an unlikely but likable leading man as a goofball slacker-stoner, who has a drunken one-night stand with an up-and-coming entertainment reporter (Katherine Heigl from "Grey's Anatomy") who's way out of his league. Eight weeks later, she realizes she's pregnant, forcing both of them to make major changes in their lives. Grade: A

LICENSE TO WED (Rated PG-13) John Krasinski plays Ben, an easy-going young man who finds his way to marrying Sadie (Mandy Moore) blocked by her family's choice of ministers -- Rev. Frank, played by RobinWilliams. "License to Wed" isn't a good movie, because it insults our intelligence. As a series of gags, it may suffice, but as a coherent and comically integrated film, it won't. Grade: D- (Jim Gordon)

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (Rated R) Bruce Willis has thrown in the rug, but he hasn't given up on John McClane. It won't surprise anyone who has seen the other Die Hard films that McClane adds considerably to the body count in "Live Free or Die Hard." What is new is the methodology and weapons he employs. As the movie progresses, the action sequencesgrow increasingly incredible. I may be stodgy in my desire for a film to stay within shouting distance of reality. I enjoy McClane most when he seems to live in the same physical sphere as I do. Grade: B- (Jim Gordon)

MR. BROOKS (Rated R) Kevin Costner is Brooks, a businessman and philanthropist who also is a serial killer. With Brooks' alter ego (William Hurt) talking in his ear, there is little chance he will be one of AA's success stories. Grade: A- (Jim Gordon)

NANCY DREW (Rated PG) There's something refreshingly quaint and unexpectedly necessary about the idea of this decades-old girl detective today, and rising actress Emma Roberts makes her an easy character to root for. It is contrived, cliched and stiff, but its target audience will probably enjoy it. While on an extended business trip to Los Angeles with her lawyer father (Tate Donovan), Nancy stumbles upon a mystery in the Hollywood Hills mansion they're renting. Grade: C

OCEAN'S THIRTEEN (Rated PG-13) Let's take it for granted that the third modern iteration of the Rat Pack movie of 1960 is NOT one of those big heist films that tempts the bounds of credibility but ends up wowing the audience by the ingeniousness of its plot. What, then, do we get? In addition to George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan and the rest of the crew, a barely imaginable plot punctuated by character vignettes, an extended joke that asks the audience to revel at tough guys shedding tears at Oprah's human dramas and rolling their eyes over hackneyed lines such as "I was born ready." Grade: C- (Jim Gordon)

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (Rated PG-13) At 168 minutes, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" is the longest yet, but it didn't feel nearly as long as its two predecessors. In it, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) is in Singapore to recruit the help of pirate lord Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), to unite the nine-pirate Court of the Brethren to fight Beckett and his ally, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, under octopus makeup) and to fetch Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the underworld at World's End, a destination from which none has returned. Orlando Bloom also is back. It's a darn good time. Grade: B+ (Jim Gordon)

RATATOUILLE (Rated G) This may be the first Pixar movie that is so advanced, so sophisticated, it doesn't feel like it was made for kids. Children probably will enjoy watching the adventures of a plucky Parisian rat pursuing his dream of becoming a gourmet chef. There's some slapsticky physical comedy that keeps things going at a lively, engaging clip. But it's not silly; the main character is experiencing an existential crisis: Stay with the family and sift through garbage, as his rodent ancestors have done for centuries, or risk loneliness, failure and worse -- death -- by chasing after a loftier goal? "Ratatouille" also is visually wondrous in ways that are both lush and intricately detailed. Grade: B

RESCUE DAWN (Rated: R) In Werner Herzog's "Rescue Dawn" German-American Dieter Dengler is shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War and after eluding capture for a few days is caught by the Pathet Lao and imprisoned in a jungle camp from which there is seemingly no escape save death. Through meticulous planning and iron discipline, Dieter eventually engineers the escape from the stockade prison to engage an adversary -- the jungle -- that is as deadly as it is beautiful. Grade: B+

SHREK THE THIRD (Rated: G) What you expect with the third installment of this animated fractured fairy tale is just about what you get. It has its moments, including the high school assembly devoted to the wisdom, "Just say nay." There are small pleasures scattered among the in-jokes, hurt feelings and action. But if you remember the uproarious delight of the original film, you'll be inclined to think of this as an echo that grows increasingly dim with each new rendition. Grade: C+ (Jim Gordon)

SICKO (Rated PG-13) Welcome to health care in the richest nation on earth, where stepping on a rusty nail could be a catastrophe that plunges you thousands of dollars into debt. It's the subject of Michael Moore's most accomplished film yet. "Sicko" is a compelling, funny, highly persuasive and ultimately hopeful report on the ills plaguing America's private, for-profit health-care system. The film skillfully blends moving individual stories, humor, political analysis and ethical passion. "Sicko" is most effective not when Moore is lecturing us, but when he exhorts us to examine our consciences and ask what kind of nation we want to be. Grade: C+

SPIDER-MAN 3 (Rated: PG-13) Like a stew with too many seasonings and ingredients, "Spider-Man 3" is hard to digest. In his third go at the narrative born in the comic art of Stan Lee, director Sam Raimi operates under the tenuous principle that more is better. It's unusual for the director of a hit movie series to stick through three segments. If you're a web-swinging action fan, there's plenty here to delight. But three revenge-driven subplots is at least one too many for a single film. Grade: C (Jim Gordon)

SURF'S UP (Rated PG) What the world needs now is not another penguin movie, it would seem, following the animated "Happy Feet" and the documentary "March of the Penguins," both Oscar winners, as well as the spoof "Farce of the Penguins." But "Surf's Up" is so different from its predecessors, and so different from the slew of animated films that have come out in the past couple of years, it's hard not to be charmed. The movie has a totally inspired vibe: It plays like a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary, complete with deadpan humor, improvised dialogue and hand-held "camera work." Grade: B

TRANSFORMERS (Rated PG-13) Inspired by the popular Hasbro action figures that loom large in the memories of 20- and 30-somethings, "Transformers" computer-generated effects by Industrial Light and Magic are as spectacular as speculation has predicted. Some film critic, short of time, will see the chance to file a one-word review: Wow. But it's more than helicopters transforming into deadly Decepticons and blasting the landscape. Michael Bay ("Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon") knows his way around an action movie, and for its first three quarters, "Transformers" demonstrates the best of the genre. But the grand finale is too much of a good thing, and I was sent away disappointed.Grade: B+ (Jim Gordon)

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