From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - B

PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity, 107 minutes

"Wolverine" kicks off the summer movie season with loads of intense fun, action

The new fantasy adventure film X-Men Origins: Wolverine literally kicks off the summer movie season in high style, with loads of intense fun and action geared toward the comic book set. Even if you don’t fall into that group, there’s still plenty of things to enjoy Wolverine, though the story is unoriginal and the first act unloads lots of unnecessary backstory and characters. Wolverine is peppered with some colorful visuals, a few stellar action sequences and a game, extremely buffed-up Hugh Jackman in the title role.

Wolverine is a prequel to the X-Men trilogy of films, set approximately 15 years before those films, dealing with the violent past of James Logan, aka Wolverine (Jackman), before he met Charles Xavier and those mutants you’re familiar with. Logan and his brother Victor Creed (who will later become Sabretooth, played with zest by Liev Schreiber) run away together as children in 1845 after Logan kills their biological father who had murdered Logan’s adoptive father.

After serving together in the military in many wars they are recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston) to serve in a special unit made up of mutants. After wiping out an African village, Logan quits the unit and goes off to live a life of peace in Canada with his girlfriend Silverfox (Lynn Collins). However, Creed commits some acts of betrayal and murder against Logan, and wanting revenge against Creed, Logan is recruited by Stryker and covered with an indestructible metal. Now on a search and destroy mission, the ultimate battle is set between Wolverine, Sabretooth and Stryker to see who’ll emerge standing.

Wolverine is an exciting, enjoyable fantasy action-adventure that starts out the summer movie season with a load of adrenaline. If you enjoyed the other X-Men movies or enjoy superhero movies, you’ll get the most of Wolverine, though some of it lacks the heart and originality of the earlier X-Men films. The action is the best thing about Wolverine, though its detailed story slows things down considerably in the first 30 minutes, when it attempts to pack too much in. Those not attune with the first X-Men movies may get lost, but even with its script flaws there’s still much to enjoy about Wolverine.

Gavin Hood (Rendition) fills the palette with many sumptous visuals (it’s fun seeing Wolverine get all pumped up with metal) yet the most memorable parts of Wolverine are the superbly handled action sequences. One breathless sequence involves a helicopter, then another exciting fight between Gambit (Friday Night Lights’ Taylor Kitsch) and of course the extended final showdown between Wolverine, Sabretooth and Stryker on some deadly nuclear reactors.

A huge, muscled Jackman is a game, energetic Wolverine, and he ably carries the movie on his shoulders, but he couldn’t have done it without a sterling supporting cast. A snarling Schreiber comes close to walking off with the movie, and he has tremendous fun with the role of the snarky Sabretooth; Kitsch is also quite good as Gambit, but it’s a smallish role that will seemingly be developed in future films. Huston is terrific as the slimeball double-crossing Stryker, though Ryan Reynolds (yes, that Ryan Reynolds) and Lost’s Dominic Monaghan don’t have much impact in brief roles seen only in the film’s first act.

There were some things that should’ve been developed more - like Wolverine’s relationship with Silverfox, or more about Silverfox’s sister Emma Frost, whose skin can change into diamonds, and as much as Wolverine attempts to pack in, it’ll still leave you wanting more, and some may carp that Wolverine’s revenge isn’t fully realized. Aside from these story flaws, Wolverine is an exciting ride, and as fully expected, the ending leaves it wide open for more installments.

Wolverine is a satisfying, action-adventure film worth your time that will please X-Men enthusiasts and non-fans alike. It’s not a perfect film that sometimes tries too hard but is an entertaining escape from a recessionary real world.

You'll also find this review at

Battle for Terra - B

Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and some thematic elements, 85 minutes

Animated "Battle of Terra" is leisurely, crisp and should please sci-fi fans

"Battle for Terra" is an animated sci-fi adventure that will please sci-fi fans drooling over the release of the new "Star Trek" next week. For an animated film with a limited budget, "Terra" is a solid effort - crisp, colorfully drawn and filled with many familiar voices. The story lacks a sense of wonder and its pacing too slow for the younger set, but science fiction afficionados should take a look before Trekkie madness takes over.

Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) is a precocious alien girl living on the beautiful planet Terra, a place where peace and tolerance are celebrated. Mala and her fellow Terrians, the last inhabitants of Earth, are unaware that they've exhausted the resources of their planet and those of three others, and are now searching for a new home.

When the Earthlings embark on a hostile invasion of Terra, Mala's father, Roven (Dennis Quaid), is kidnapped. Hoping to save her father, Mala captures and hides a crashed human pilot named Jim (Luke Wilson). While Mala nurses Jim back to health, the two forge a friendship and a plan that could save both the human race and the planet of Terra.

"Battle for Terra" is a modest but worthwhile effort, with clean, crisp visuals though it's story lacks the power and involvment on the level of "Star Trek" or "Star Wars." Sci-fi fans will get a treat out of it. and "Terra" is seemingly made for them. Director and co-writer Aristomenis Tsirbas has made a feature-length film from his award-winning short animated film "Terra" (2003), on which this is based. The feature-length "Terra" is an auspicious debut for Tsirbas, proving he may have a solid career in filmmaking.

"Terra" is loaded with familiar voices, including Evan Rachel Wood, who makes a perfect Mala, along with Justin Long, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox, Chris Evans, Beverly D'Angelo, David Cross, Rosanna Arquette, James Garner, and if you listen closely enough, Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. They lend themselves nicely to the original story, which moves too slowly and may lose some of the younger set, which is unfortunate as it has some nice messages of loyalty, friendship and peace. The climactic battle scenes are the best, and there's a cute little robot named Giddy (voiced by comedian Cross) that is awfully familiar of WALL-E.

"Battle for Terra," with "Star Trek" on the near horizon, may not make much of a splash, but it's a decent, modestly entertaining effort that's suitable for the family and recommended strongly for those with an interest in space.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - C

Rated PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference, 100 minutes

"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past": shallow, mildly enjoyable but half-baked rom com

When a romantic comedy like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is released the same weekend as a blockbuster film like Wolverine, the studio must have great faith in the movie, or think it’s a dog of a movie. On the surface, it seems to be the latter, but studio execs might’ve also wanted an estrogen-filled alternative during a male-dominated weekend at the box-office, and Ghosts certainly fits that bill. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is fluffy and altogether pointless entertainment at best, with a handful of fun moments and not anything that actually rings true life.

A smooth-talking successful fashion photographer and womanizer named Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) heads to his younger brother Paul’s (Breckin Meyer) wedding to control freak Sandra (Lacey Chabert). Free-wheeling bachelor Connor has slept with most of the brides maid’s, including former flame Jenny (Jennifer Garner). During the weekend, he has an epiphany ala Dickens A Christmas Carol, when the ghost of Connor’s womanizer Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) shows up and brings the ghosts of his girlfriends past, present and future to teach him a lesson or two about how to truly treat women and the true meaning of love and loyalty.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a lazy excuse for a movie, but fun, forgettable entertainment sandwiched between all the Wolverine-Trekkie craziness that will dominate the early summer season. Much like a cruise, it’s a sunny, shallow getaway with loads of handsome people making eyes at each other and pretending to be funny. Mark Waters, the guy who directed half-way decent movies The Spiderwick Chronicles and Mean Girls, ends up with a half-baked, mildly enjoyable rom com. A novel premise for sure but so lazily executed you’ll forget it why you’re even there after awhile.

I give McConaughey a little (and just a little) slack because he’s a Texas boy, but he manages to play a version of this same womanizer stud in every movie, and while I do give him credit in Ghosts for actually keeping his shirt on and overall, it’s far better than the utterly dreadful Fool’s Gold, he still lacks emotional depth, particularly in the film’s climax, to reach out and emotionally connect with his (largely female) audience. The changes in his character, while honorable, are really just surface changes, and he’s still as annoying as he was at the film’s beginning (it also cheerfully and unrealistically overlooks the idea of any STD’s as he beds so many women).

As well, the more engaging parts of Ghosts come from the supporting cast of mostly women that surround McConaughey in the movie. Co-star Garner has never been more likable as she has been here (and really deserves better), which makes it even more difficult to buy that such an intelligent woman would tolerate someone like Connor for even 5 minutes, much less over many years. Even better is Emma Stone (The House Bunny) as the ghost of his girlfriends past, a 16-year old frizzy-haired brace face Valley Girl who’s much smarter than she looks, and ghost of girlfriends present, Connor’s long-suffering, lonely but caustic personal assistant (Noureen DeWolf).

Michael Douglas has the most fun in Ghosts as the slimy Uncle Wayne, the special Burt Reynolds role with “and” attached to it in the credits. With greasy, slicked-back white hair and rose-colored glasses, he spouts bad advice and is a horrible role model to a young Connor/McConaughey. His most memorable advice: “women like to be screwed, but not screwed over.” That could really apply to the movie-going audience who’ll pay good money to see Ghosts. Watch for a smokin’ Anne Archer (ironically Douglas’ screwed-over wife in Fatal Attraction) in a very brief role as the bride’s hot mom.

Handsomely filmed, energetically paced and peppered with a few entertaining moments (a wedding cake, some horny bridesmaids among them), most of which come early on. You won’t buy a single minute of Ghosts or remember it after it’s over, but it’s mindless entertainment for 90 minutes racing to a cheesy, predictable ending and an even cheesier ‘80s REO Speedwagon song. McConaughey, a wedding and loads of pretty people may make some good eye candy, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great movie, either.

McConaughey or romantic comedy fans will love Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. The rest of us will tolerate it. Live long, prosper and go at your own risk.

This review also published at:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Soloist - B

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language, 109 minutes

Flawed but affecting, well-acted "Soloist" has some good moments

"The Soloist" is a flawed but superbly acted, well-directed real-life portrayal of the ways in which mental illness can affect those around us, regardless of how gifted they are. There are some affecting moments in the drama, which changes some key facts of the key story but keeps most of the major themes in acts. It's very leisurely paced (i.e. slow) in some sections, but stick with it until the emotionally satisfying ending.

"The Soloist" is based on the real-life events that inspired Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) to write some articles for his paper that were later turned into a book. Lopez befriended a homeless man in downtown L.A. named Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), who was in fact a Julliard trained musician who was a musical prodigy and who can play a multitude of instruments, specializing in the violin and cello. Ayers had a nervous breakdown in his second year of Julliard and was taken care of by his mother until her death and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. He then came to L.A. in search of more family and ended up homeless barely getting by playing a two-stringed violin.

When Lopez learns of his plight, he begins writing articles for the paper, all the while becoming emotionally attached to Ayers, who is a member of an L.A. homeless shelter and organization called LAMP. Lopez encourages him to get help with the aid of doctors and medication, hoping to get him off the streets and fully utilizing his talents. But his relationship with Ayers becomes volatile and uncertain when Ayers himself refuses the help and Lopez realizes the most important thing to Ayers may be the friendship he has with him.

"The Soloist" is a poignant, often sad picture of mental illness and how it affects even the gifted. What could've been the next TV movie of the week is lifted by the superb performances of leads Downey and Foxx, whose chemistry provides the more touching moments of the story. Foxx does an excellent job of capturing the physical, outward extremities of mental illness (not to mention he actually learned how to play the violin and cello), but the trickier role is Downey's, whose requires more registering internal emotions than external ones. Downey is moderately successful, though he plays the role too distant to stake a huge emotional bond with the audience (sarcasm can only get you so far and his voice-over narration is unnecessary).

"Soloist" is leisurely but well-directed by Joe Wright, the Brit who sublimely directed "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice," and does an auspicious job here in his first big U.S.-filmed movie. The script borders on the maudlin, especially near the climax when it tries too hard to be inspiring, when the story alone is inspiration enough. Also, the script by Susannah Grant ("In Her Shoes") changes too many facts of the real story, which may explain why Catherine Keener's role of the ex-wife/co-worker is so awkwardly handled and underwritten (the real Lopez is, in fact, still happily married), wasting the very gifted actress.

In the end, "The Soloist," in spite of script and pacing flaws, is emotionally satisfying in the end and helps its audience realize the value of friendship in any situation, and that isn't such a bad thing at all.

The Informers - D-

Rated R strong sexual content, nudity, drug use, pervasive language and some disturbing images, 98 minutes

You've been duly informed: "The Informers" a horrible mess

"The Informers" is a baffling, junky and incoherent mess that won't do the careers of any of the actors involved any favors. The choppy, badly edited film seems to have gone terribly wrong in post-production, and most of the blame can probably go to writer and producer Bret Easton Ellis, who wrote the novel the movie is based on. What ends up on screen bears little resemblance to his book, and seems to channel his earlier (and better) efforts "Less than Zero" and "Rules of Attraction."

"The Informers" is a multi-strand narrative set in early 1983 Los Angeles, centered on an array of characters who represent the good and the bad. A bitter Hollywood movie executive (Billy Bob Thornton) is romancing a young TV newscaster (Wynona Ryder), though he wants to move back in with his boozy, estranged wife (Kim Basinger). Their handsome twenty-something son Graham (Jon Foster) is a high-profile drug dealer who lives with his promiscuous girlfriend (Amber Heard) and their hedonistic friend Martin (Austin Nichols), a music video producer.

Meanwhile, there's the dissolute rock star Bryan (Mel Raido) with substance abuse problems and who enjoys sleeping with underage women. A voyueristic doorman (Brad Renfro) must deal with his amoral leech ex-con uncle (Mickey Rourke) who moves and brings problems with him. And then there's Graham's friend Tim (Lou Taylor Pucci) who goes on an awkward vacation to Hawaii with his rich dad Les (Chris Isaak) in hopes they become closer.

"The Informers" is an unfortunate, awful piece of junk that wastes a talented cast with a bizarre, baffling and altogether incoherent story and doesn't flow well at all. It's very loosely based on Ellis' 1994 novel of the same name, using some of those same characters but that novel's non-linear structure makes it a difficult adaptation. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie, and is responsible for some of the worst dialogue that makes "Valley of the Dolls" look good. Had "The Informers" at least had camped it up some, it would've been more fun to watch, but it takes itself far, far too (and painfully) serious.

The horrific acting in "The Informers" doesn't help and brings out the most annoying habits in the gifted Billy Bob Thornton, Wynona Ryder, Mickey Rourke and particularly Kim Basinger, whose incapable of showing any emotion. It is notable that this is the last movie for Brad Renfro, who died of an overdose early last year. The bloated Renfro gives a bizarre, fidgety performance that indicates substance abuse, and his exchanges with an equally stoned-looking Rourke provide the film's only real watchable moments. The rest of the young, pretty unknown cast are completely forgettable.

The movie skims over heavy issues like infidelity, death, AIDS, substance abuse and with the exception of some nifty retro '80s songs, doesn't make good use of the time period. The script goes from one episode to the next without really saying much, and the choppiness of it all is why the story seems so baffling and filled with gaps. "The Informers" seems cut off in the middle, with one of the worst, baffling endings that I've seen in some time. Be duly informed, "The Informers" is a complete, utter mess and waste of time, don't bother.

Obsessed - D+

Rated PG-13 for sexual material including some suggestive dialogue, some violence and thematic content, 105 minutes

"Fatal Attraction" rip-off "Obsessed" is a forgettable, cliched thriller

The new thriller "Obsessed" certainly is obsessed with one thing: ripping off "Fatal Attraction" or any other crazed psychopath vixen. In spite of a handsome cast that includes music star Beyonce and a few entertaining, over-the-top moments near the end, "Obsessed" is strictly forgettable: a paint-by-numbers, cliche-laden, badly acted and written thriller that you shouldn't waste your time or money with until it hits the discount theaters or DVD.

Derek (Idris Elba) and Sharon (Beyonce) are a happily-married couple with a young son, a huge house in the suburbs and Derek's career at his firm is on the rise. Their idllyic life comes to an end when Lisa the temp ("Heroes" Ali Larter) begins working for Derek's firm. Derek is a nice guy, but Lisa misunderstands his behavior and begins flirting with Derek, then coming on to him at the company Christmas, then in his car and other attempts. Derek resists her advances, but the delusional Lisa believes they're involved, leading to disasterous and dangerous results, particularly when Lisa and Sharon have a showdown that will leave only one standing.

"Obsessed" is a third-rate thriller that throws out every movie cliche regarding these types of things (red dress, tainted drinks, et al) and is truly painful to watch. Believability is thrown out the window and you won't buy a single minute of this, though the cast is pretty to look at. All of the characters are strictly cardboard cut out with no depth, motivation or backstory. The lame direction by TV director Steve Shill and the dervivative script by "Lakeview Terrace's" David Loughery don't help, either.

As for Beyonce, who also co-produced (along with Magic Johnson), she looks good and may be able to carry a tune, but may want to sharpen those acting skills; she comes across too wooden and stilted to believe. Larter proves she can handle herself on the TV show "Heroes" but not here, and Elba (seen currently to better effect in "The Office") is altogether wasted in a one-note role. Watch for Jerry O' Connell, character actor Bruce McGill and even Christine Lahti (yes that Christine Lahti, of "Chicago Hope") in small roles that considerably underuse their talents.

The main reason that most will want to "Obsessed" is the girl fight at the end that is the most entertaining, though over-the-top moment in the film. The climax is even extremely predictable, you'll know who'll kick who and who will die at the end. At least the R&B, urban soundtack is nice to listen to, and Beyonce sings a new song on it, appropriately called "Smash into You" (if you see the film you'll know why it's appropriate).

It's hard for me to diss someone as hugely talented as Beyonce, but "Obsessed" is a forgettable drama that's beneath her talents. You're better off listening to her music, it's far more memorable and worthwhile than this trashy mess of a movie.

Earth - B+

Rated G, 90 minutes

What a wonderful..."Earth" - captivating and entertaining documentary perfect fit for Earth Day

The new Disney documentary "Earth" is a perfect treat for the green and non-green, making a great addition to Earth Day and one good thing you can do actually do indoors. Entertainingly filled with stunning, awe-inspiring footage, "Earth" isn't really new but a feature-length extension of the "Planet Earth" documentary series, and this film is really the first bookend on what could be a whole film encyclopedia on our wonderful world. This entry could also be called "Migration," as it spans the globe following the migration paths of three different animal families.

The Earth is on such an enormous scale-where would you actually begin to make a documentary? Documentary filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield decided to begin looking at how animals migrate - for whatever reason - climate changes, sustenance, breeding - in various parts of the globe. The American version, narrated with familiar force by James Earl Jones, primarily looks at polar bears, elephants and whales, and take a few rabbit trails devoting secondary footage to other animals, such as geese, moose, ducks, lions, tigers, caribou, sharks - you name it. In the process they get some impossibly stunning, breathless footage in the process, from the depths of the oceans, to the icebergs to the Himalayas, they have their cameras positioned (and with a $40 million budget, the most expensive documentary ever) to capture the unexpected.

To name just a few of "Earth's" visually engaging scenes: the great white shark lunging and emerging out of the blue seas, the polar bear trekking across glaciers in desperate search for food, the elephants trekking over desolate dry lands for water. The more intense but highly entertaining and watchable scenes come when the documentary invariably (and in National Geographic mode) focus on the ways in which animals hunt each other for food. One truly breathless scene has a wolf chasing a young caribou for miles - and one of them invariably has to win out.

There's also the scene of the tiger chasing the deer and a stunning underwater scene with fish battling out for their lives. Though "Earth" is Rated G and suitable for everyone, these scenes may be a tad intense for the younger set, especially if they don't enjoy seeing animals get hurt (no worries, no graphic bloodshed is shown). Of course, if you want cute there's plenty of that too - from clumsy, young ducklings to those adorable young polar bear cubs - "awww" may be heard more than once.

As expected, "Earth" captures the beautiful, the breathless, the stunning (even the first doc to get footage atop Mt. Everest), but even with all that it seems a little incomplete, and it understandably leaves it open to many more of these (the series took about a dozen or so episodes). With over 4,000 hours under the filmmakers belt, expect it for future Earth Day's. "Earth" is highly recommended viewing for the whole family, though this entry is a bit intense for those under 6 or 7, and no worries, there are no heavy-handed political messages, just lots of animals, loads of pretty scenery, and absolutely no humans.

In honor of Earth Day, if you see the film this weekend, Disney will plant a tree in your honor. So get your green on and see "Earth" in captivating form this weekend.

Fighting - C

Rated PG-13 for intense fight sequences, a sex scene and brief strong language, 105 minutes

Best thing about the "Rocky" rip-off "Fighting" is - no surprise - the fighting

The best thing about the crowd-pleasing new movie Fighting is well, the fighting, though its story lacks punch. Starring hunk-of-the-moment Channing Tatum in a scrappy Rocky-rip off , the script is clichéd, sloppy and unrevealing, but Fighting is entertaining enough to please those looking for some bloody, bare-fisted (and for the ladies, bare-chested) action. It also helps that the shallowly handsome Tatum is paired with a decent actor (Terrence Howard) and an even prettier young newcomer (Zulay Valez).

Small-town boy Shawn MacArthur (Tatum) has come to New York City with nothing. Hardly earning a living selling counterfeit goods on the streets, his luck changes when scam artist Harvey Boarden (Howard) sees his natural talent for streetfighting, and the two form an unusual partnership with Harvey’s promises of cold, hard cash.

As Shawn's manager, Harvey introduces him to the corrupt bare-knuckle circuit, where rich men bet on disposable pawns like Shawn desiring a quick buck. Shawn becomes a star brawler overnight, taking on far more experienced fighters in a series of increasingly intense bouts. But Shawn’s unstable past, his connection with pro fighter Evan Hailey (Brian White) and his newfound love for the near-destitute Zulay (Valez) propel him to lay it all on the line for the fight of his life.

Fighting is an enjoyably forgettable entry in the scrappy-underdog- sports story with a few nicely staged, raw fight scenes set among a soggy, powerless story. It treads familiar ground and has been covered many, many times over the years, from Rocky to The Karate Kid (and their many sequels) and Fighting adds nothing new to the genre. Director and co-writer Dito Montiel, who wrote and directed Tatum in the affecting 2006 independent feature A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, is far less effective at telling his story here. His sloppy script - clumsy clichés, lack of backstory and cardboard characters among them – we know as little about Tatum’s character at the end of the movie as we did in the beginning - is the film’s chief flaw and saps the movie of much-needed power.

In addition, Fighting shows that the boyishly handsome Tatum (who, ironically, plays Pretty Boy Floyd in the upcoming Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies) isn’t quite ready to carry a movie. His shallow charm worked well in the dance flick Step Up, but he’s yet to demonstrate a true maturity as an actor, that is in developing a real character. It doesn’t help that his love scenes with the beautiful Valez are awkwardly handled, falling flat when relying on Tatum to reveal some key character points. Montiel seemingly wants these scenes to have a Rocky-Adrian vibe though it comes nowhere close to that (mainly because a Spanish-speaking Abuela walks in and literally steals these scenes).

Fortunately, Tatum is paired with Howard (of Iron Man) in Fighting, who can snatch a moment away from our lead in a second with a few words of dialogue (“What, you lonely now? You need a friend?” he says walking away) and establish emotional connection to a character with minimal dialogue and a few glances. His is the Mickey character from Rocky, except with a better fate (i.e. he lives).

As you might expect, Fighting’s better moments are the handful of expertly choreographed fight sequences that become increasingly intense as the movie goes on. The movie’s energy level is raised considerably with these scenes, providing Fighting’s more memorable moments, though by the time it reaches its predictable (and really, anti-climactic) climax, you know exactly where it’s going. And if you’ve never learned anything about those Rocky or Karate Kid movies, never bet on the underdog (in this case - literally - do not bet on the underdog).

By the time our characters drive off in the sunset, you won’t remember much about Fighting, which may be telling of its chances at the box-office. By the time Wolverine or Star Trek reach blockbuster status, Fighting will be down for the count and ready for DVD release, where its viewing seems better suited.

This review can also be found at

Monday, April 13, 2009

American Violet - B+

PG-13 thematic material, violence, drug references and language, 120 minutes

Real Texas events highlight the affecting, vibrant "American Violet"

"American Violet" is a must-see film for anyone that's struggled to make their way in life. It's based on the true story of Dee Roberts, an innocent small-town Texas woman falsely accused and arrested of drug charges by a racist District Attorney. The fact that Roberts is black and impoverished makes things even more fascinating. "American Violet" is moving, superbly acted and uplifting, effectively highlighting the struggle that so many have faced, even if it alters some of the events and people involved.

It's November 2000 and the U.S. is in the midst of electing a new President. Dee Roberts (newcomer Nicole Beharie) is a poor black single mother struggling to raise 4 kids from several fathers, with the help of her mother Alma (Alfre Woodard) in a small south east Texas town. She's arrested by a local drug enforcement agency on charges of selling drugs at one of the local schools.

The only thing is, Dee has been falsely accused of the crime, but was somehow on the list provided by a corrupt, racist DA Calvin Beckett (Michael O' Keefe) who rounds supposed thugs to get more federal money. The ACLU, led by attorney David Cohen (Tim Blake Nelson) takes notice of Dee's case and steps in to help her and the many others affected by the convictions. With the help of a former local narcotics agent Sam Conroy (Will Patton), they hope to overturn the convictions based on racist intent by Beckett. But with Dee's unstable personal life and position in the community, they have a big challenge ahead of them.

"American Violet" is a fascinating story of how Texas law allowed convictions based on a single testimony, and how Dee's case began to change that. The film is sublimely directed by Tim Disney (yes, he's part of that Disney family) and is based on real-life events that took place in Hearne, Texas, though some names, places and events are changed, probably due to legal reasons. The story is powerful enough to stand on it's own and it will resonate with many, though it lacks a certain emotional charge and power, particularly in its final act. Also, much like the small Texas town setting, it's pace is leisurely and slow, and the story takes too long to get going, but many will find it worth the wait.

"Violet" is superbly acted by everyone involved, especially newcomer Beharie as the near-destitute Dee, and Woodard turns in her usual excellent performance as the mother who stands by her daughter. O' Keefe also has a few memorable moments as the slimy, racist DA who is still in power, especially when his family testifies against him, as does the normally comical actor Nelson, in a serious role, along with reliable character actor Will Patton (you've seen him before many times, notably as the coach in "Remember the Titans").

"American Violet" is a small, independent film with big messages about racial relations and law, especially in the south. "Violet" is a must-see film and hopefully it's messages will strike a chord with those who see it to instill more change in the inequalities with the legal system, and not just in Texas.

Gigantic - C+

Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence, 98 minutes

"Gigantic": interesting, peculiar but unfocused story

“Gigantic” is a peculiar, nuanced romantic comedy with great characters that’s well-acted by a talented cast. The problem lies with an unfocused script that veers off in too many directions, with some plot details downright baffling. First-time feature director and writer Matt Asleton, a commercial director who makes his feature film directorial debut with “Gigantic” tells a compelling but unappealing story about two weird people who fall in love amidst a backdrop of unusual circumstances.

Mattress salesman Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) finds his plan to adopt a Chinese baby augmented by the arrival of a young woman, Happy (Zooey Deschanel), who comes into his workplaces, falls asleep on one of the beds, and starts to affect his life upon waking up. The only thing is, both Brian and Happy have some clear issues.

Brian is the youngest of three brothers and came along late in life to his parents (Ed Asner and Jane Alexander), now approaching 80. He lacks confidence in himself and is often perceived as a weakling by his older, successful brothers. Happy comes from a wealthy, eccentric and dysfunctional family led by her loudmouth, intimidating father (John Goodman) with back and health problems. She lacks direction, both personally and professionally and seems drifting in many directions. It’ll be a miracle if these two peculiar people can get together and stay together.

“Gigantic” is about the gigantic issues we face in life, the ways in which we deal with them and how love can transcend our peculiarities. The film wears it’s quirkiness on its sleeve, though it has some dark, controversial moments that are jarring and threaten to throw the film off course. Brian grapples with his struggles in a very human way as he battles a homeless man (comedian Zach Galifianakis, uncredited) for his life who seemingly comes out of nowhere to beat the heck out of him. Director Aselton blurs the lines of reality here – the bruises and beatings look real – but are they really just a metaphor for the pain that Brian deals with daily?

Though Aselton has trouble getting a handle on these ideas, fortunately he has a talented cast that ably carries the film well. Dano (of “Little Miss Sunshine”) is a superb actor, and he carries “Gigantic” well, giving a nuanced, subtle performance of a young man struggling to find his identity, while the always-lovely, charming Deschanel can warm up any scene she’s in with her deadpan delivery; the chemistry she shares with Dano is the film’s highlight. (“Do you want to have sex in the back of my Dad’s car?,” she asks him. “OK” he responds wryly.) And the film’s warm climax is a fitting bookend that nicely balance out the film’s darker scenes.

Asner does a fine gruff, lovable father, Alexander is a radiant mother and Goodman chomps on scenery, though it’s fun to watch him get in and out of his car with the special contraption they have set up to slide him in and out. Dano and all the cast are much better than Aselton's peculiar, unfocused story; you'll have as much trouble as he did in getting a handle on it all.

Crank: High Voltage - D

Rated R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language. 96 minutes

The dizzyingly jumpy, very messy "Crank: High Voltage" will leave you cranky

It's easy to see why Jason Statham is a movie star. His chiseled looks and skillful martial-arts moves are desirable, but it's altogether a mystery why Statham would choose to star in crappy movies like "Crank" and "Transporter." Statham's nice martial-arts skills are the only redeemable thing about the excessively crude, violent, racist and offensive "Crank: High Voltage," a highly unnecessary sequel to the modestly successful 2006 film "Crank," about a dude injected with a poison and must keep his heart rate up or die.

In "Crank: High Voltage," a Chinese mobster has stolen professional assassin Chev Chelios' (Statham) heart and replaced with an artificial battery-powered one that must be jolted from time to time for Chelios to live. He hunts down the mobster who took his heart, meets up with his old girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), all the while talking to his doctor (Dwight Yoakum) on the phone to get tips on how to live through all of this.

There's not much to go on with this "Crank," I didn't care for the first one and hated this one even more. It's directed and written by the team that did the first movie, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. "High Voltage" is filled with every racist stereotype imaginable, to the point that they must add subtitles whenever the chatty Asian woman speaks. And "High Voltage" must be filled with more dizzingly jumpy edits than I've ever seen in a film, to the point that it renders the film incoherent.

In this manner, "High Voltage" could've been entertaining in a sloppy, over-the-top way, but there are so many edits it may leave you crankier than Statham is in the film, who never smiles and cracks some heads open (literally) in nearly every scene. It also wastes a decent comic actress in Smart ("Just Friends"), who spends most of the time running around topless with pasties covering the essential elements.

I enjoy Statham's martial-arts - the dude has some skills and can truly kick some butt - but he needs to find a better movie and far better material than this. The whole excessive jumpiness of "High Voltage" may be justified in line with the film's premise, but it left me not only dizzy but in a cranky mood and in great need of some Aleve to ease my pounding headache. In no way can I recommend this, so go at your own risk (and expense), and know that it's clearly not worth it.

17 Again - C+

Rated PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying, 102 minutes

Zac Efron is "17 Again", but Ned has all the fun in trite, derivative comedy

Zac Efron may well be one of the biggest stars on the planet, but his new comedy "17 Again," a comedy about revisiting the glory of the teenage years, doesn't shine brightly. "17 Again" is nothing new - altogether unoriginal, trite and poorly written to be honest - and the movie is stolen right under his nose by a couple of his funnier supporting co-stars. The dashing, stylish Efron seems unaffected by the fact he's upstaged, after all he's the main draw here, and draw them in (truckloads of tweens) he definitely will.

Talented teen athlete Mike O'Donnell (Efron) gives up a basketball career in 1989 to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Flash forward 20 years and he's grown up to be a cynical Matthew Perry, who's now a pharamaceutical sales rep with two kids (Michelle Tractenburg and Sterling Knight) who dislike him and a even more bitter wife (Leslie Mann), with a marriage that's headed straight for divorce. At least he has his friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), the geeky nerd and his friend from high school who's now a self-made computer geek millionaire. He desires to relive the glory days of his teen years to do more things for himself rather than others, and his wish is granted, except he realizes he's gone back to help bring his family back together, teaching everyone some valuable life lessons and growing up in the process.

"17 Again" is a pale revisionist coming-of-age story with a few fun moments, but lacks focus, solid direction and a good script. Efron, the handsome guy who became a big star via the "High School Musical" movies, is a game, effortless leading man with some sheer talent to look good but little else. The script takes every predictable turn you might think, and some of them are a little awkward and sometimes even a little icky when you think that a younger version of your Dad is mingling with your teenage friends.

"17 Again" is directed with an unoriginal flair by Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down") and an overly-familiar script by Jason Filardi ("Bringing Down the House"). This thing was done in similar form back in the late '80s with then big-teen stars Kirk Cameron ("Like Father, Like Son") and Fred Savage ("Vice Versa"), and it was not even that good back then. It sheds no new light on teen angst or family dysfunction, and it's really rather shallow at it's core, with no help from tween sensation Efron. Also, Filardi has story problems: he can't add. He opens the story 20 years ago with Mike and Scarlett pregnant with their daughter, who flashed forward 20 years is now 17. That doesn't quite add up.

Fortunately, there are a couple of supporting players that save the day and all but steal the movie from Efron and providing "17 Again" with it's best moments. "Reno 911's" Lennon makes for one of the funniest sidekicks seen this side of Ethel Mertz. Ned wants to hit on the hot school principal and will do all he can to get her - lavishing her with outrageous gifts and wearing even more outrageous, loud clothes - and then discovering that in fact, she too speaks an Elfian language from "Lord of the Rings." Also around for a few humorous scenes is Leslie Mann (or Mrs. Judd Apatow) as Mike's grown-up wife who has a sense that she's seen the young Mike somewhere before.

By the way, "17 Again" is NOT a Matthew Perry movie. He bookends the movie with a few scenes at the beginning and end - but this is a Zac Efron movie, who all those tweens have come to see. "17 Again" is a mediocre, predictable and derivative comedy at best with a few sporadically fun moments provided by the outrageous Lennon or the colorful Mann. But it will be Efron who will draw them in and make this another big hit young star. Recommended only for Efron fans, for anyone else, find something better to do.

State of Play - B

Rated PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content, 127 minutes

"State of Play" delivers enjoyable entertainment, few messages

The new thriller State of Play comes at a time when public trust in U.S. politicians is at an all-time low and print journalism is facing an upheaval from online news choices. With that in mind, State of Play, based on a BBC series from a few years back, wants to be the new All the President’s Men though its messages lack relevance of that film. Taken as a message movie, it doesn’t work, but it’s otherwise an entertaining, tense thriller that will likely find an audience due to its A-list cast, who with the exception of one crucial miscasting, performs ably.

A petty thief is gunned down in a Washington D.C. alley and a Congressman's assistant falls in front of a subway - two seemingly unrelated deaths. But not to sarcastic, brash newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), who smells conspiracy waiting to be uncovered. His unruly past is connected to Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) and his wife Anne (Robin Wright Penn), a high-level friendship that makes things a little thorny when covering the story. With the help of ambitious young rookie writer Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), Cal uncovers clues that lead him to a corporate corruption full of D.C. insiders, low-life, and assassins. But as he seeks the truth, the relentless writer must choose between risking his life and friendships and selling his soul to get the ultimate story.

State of Play is an enjoyable but flawed thriller that starts out well when it digs for clues then falters a little by the time it reaches a predictable climax that rings false with the rest of the film. Director Kevin Macdonald, who guided Forest Whitaker to an Oscar in The Last King of Scotland, helms the proceedings well, though it all has a familiar All the President’s Men tone to it. The pairing of the disheveled McAffrey and green around the ears Frye seems too Woodward-Bernstein-ish, with Mirren handling the foolproof Ben Bradlee-editor role with aplomb. Anyone could’ve played this smallish role (Alan Arkin comes to mind) but she lends it a much-needed credibility.

The interplay between Crowe, Mirren and McAdams contribute to the better parts of the movie, and along the way Macdonald and writers Matthew Michael Carnahan (who wrote another self-important D.C. thriller, Lions for Lambs) and Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton and the recent Duplicity), add some intensity, particularly one engaging scene in a parking garage that shows that even a tough guy like Crowe can get scared. But even with that, as a whole it lacks a certain mystery and power, even in its supposed (and a bit confusing) twist at the end.

Yet the biggest flaw in State of Play isn’t its lack of relevance or its familiar tone, but the crucial miscasting of Ben Affleck in a key role. Edward Norton, who was originally to play the role, would’ve made a more memorable impression than the blank, shallow stares and youthful presence that Affleck provides. In other words, he’s simply not believable, and it affects the importance of the movie itself, especially the implausibility of the whole Crowe-Affleck friendship. The boorish slob that Crowe plays here would hardly be an acquaintance, much less a close friend, with someone as corrupt and boyish as Affleck.

Though Crowe, Mirren and McAdams all turn in solid performances, the more memorable performances in State of Play come from a few reliable supporting players. Jason Bateman has the most fun as a slimy PR guy and key player in the case; Jeff Daniels shades a corrupt congressman with a perfect twinge of hypocritical attitude, and the always-lovely Robin Wright Penn makes the most of an underwritten, nearly non-essential role, of the wife of Affleck’s character, who also has eyes for Crowe. (Blink - and you’ll miss the one, brief scene with recent Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, of Doubt.)

State of Play is too self-important, too long and too flawed to make a truly, great movie. It fails to make a strong connection with the notions of politics and unbiased journalism, but it’s a decent thriller with an A-list cast with enough forgettable but enjoyable popcorn entertainment to fill a couple of hours away from the real world.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dragonball Evolution - D

Rated PG for intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language, 84 minutes

Cheap, third-rate "Dragonball" a big disappointment to comic book fans

Many comic books fans are probably eagerly awaiting the new fantasy film "Dragonball Evolution," based on the hugely popular Japanese manga comics and anime of the same name, but they'll be tremendously disappointed with this cheap, derivivative and otherwise third-rate movie version. The film builds on the dark themes of the comics and has some entertaining fight scenes, but generates little intensity and involvement and takes itself way, way too seriously while wasting a well-known, talented cast in the process.

The story begins with Goku (Justin Chatwin) who seeks out upon his adoptive grandfather Grandpa Gohan's (Randall Duk Kim) dying request to find the great Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) and gather all seven Dragon Balls. Of which he has one, in order to prevent the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) from succeeding in his desire to use the Dragon Balls to take over the world. With the help of friend Bulma (Emmy Rossum), Goku's quest is to obtain the mystical Dragonballs before Piccolo does.

"Dragonball Evolution" is a comic-book adaptation that falls flat in attempting to translate the fun and energy of the comic books to the screen. In other words it's boring and laughable in every way. Yes, this is a fantasy comic-book film, but even on that level it fails to generate much interest, mainly due to the fact that director James Wong (who directed a couple of the "Final Destination" films) and writer Ben Ramsey can't get a handle on developing any sort of coherent story or fleshing out the characters from the comic books.

"Dragonball" has a decent pace and Wong inserts a few impressive fight scenes and special effects, but the biggest disappointment comes with the worst acting - even worse the "Dragonball" anime films - and those characters are animated. The bland Justin Chatwin ("The Invisible") is miscast the role of Goku (aged to a teenager for the movie) but even worse is Rossum's expressionless Bulma and Chow Yun-Fat wildly overacting as Master Roshi. The only truly memorable character is the evil Lord Piccolo, played with quiet fervor by James Marsters underneath a load of makeup and pointy ears.

All of "Dragonball Evolution" is a bit ridiculous and silly when you think about it - the adventure of a lifetime for some magical balls - but comic-book fans may turn out enough to make it a mild cult hit. Fortunately, the film ends quickly with an over-the-top climax that reminds more of "An American Werewolf in London" than any comic book that leaves it open to more of these. Supposedly, the script for part 2 is already written; one tenet of the movie is to "have faith in yourself" - let's have faith that script is far better than this.

The Hannah Montana Movie - B

Rated G, 92 minutes

Miley still packs a punch as squeaky clean "Hannah Montana"

I must confess that I wasn't exactly eager to see "The Hannah Montana Movie." I'm not a fan of the Disney TV show nor do I really fit into its target demographic - girls ages 10-17, and star Miley Cyrus seems a bit, well, overexposed in so many ways. But one thing is for sure, the movie is a harmless, engaging and squeaky clean piece of fluffery that should please its target demographic. Cyrus herself is the right mixture of peppy and energetic, even when you know where the predictable, threadbare plot is going.

Those familiar with the TV show know that Cyrus plays Miley Stewart, who's secretly the young blond-wigged tween superstar Hannah Montana. She's really a normal girl who gets into trouble like everyone else, to the consternation of her single dad Robby Ray (played by Miley's real-life Dad, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus). Her best pal and cohort in crime is Lily (Emily Osment, Haley Joel's younger sis), along with older, clumsy brother Jackson (Jason Earles), and the well-meaning but mischief-laden Rico (Moises Aras), all from the TV show.

Her career seems to get in the way of everything, and her Dad takes her back to her roots and hometown Crowley Corners in Tennessee as sort of a "Hannah Detox" and remind her of who she really is. Of course, there's a boy for her to fall in love with, ranch hand Travis (Lucas Till), not to mention her no-nonsense Grandmother (the ever-lovable character actress Margo Martindale) and her slick agent (Vanessa Williams), who wants her to come back to L.A. to be Miley. Granny has run into problems when a developer (Barry Bostwick) wants to modernize the town, and it's up to Hannah/Miley to save the day while falling in love and keeping her identity a secret.

"The Hannah Montana Movie" is really just a retread of the show expanded to a little over 90 minutes with a few fun, padded musical numbers, but those who love the show will also love the movie. At a recent screening, the young girls in the audience were more than enthusiastic - clapping and cheering when Cyrus came on screen. She definitely has her following, and while Cyrus has made it clear she won't do anymore of these, box-office receipts (and lots of begging from Disney) could persuade her otherwise.

"Hannah Montana" knows its audience well and knows that young girls will the biggest part of it. They'll bounce along with all the songs, from the opening number "Best of Both Worlds" (very familiar to those who saw her concert movie last year) to the heartwarming "Butterfly Fly Away" performed near the end of the film. Taylor Swift makes a cameo appearance (and also adds a song - "Crazier") in the film, as does Rascal Flatts, and in addition to a crazy cameo by Tyra Banks. The energetic "Hoedown Showdown" is the movie's showstopper, combining both country and R&B in a very fun number.

The plot? Predictable as always. Love angle? Gooey as always. Cyrus herself? Engaging as always, and zany too especially when trying to be two separate people in two places at the same time. Whatever you think of Cyrus or Hanna Montana (right now, a cash cow for Disney), you have to give her credit - her movie is clean, goofy fun and suitable for everyone. And be thankful, there are lots of worse things young girls could be doing (like seeing the very adult "Observe & Report") this weekend. Definitely recommended for its target audience and should be a big, big hit.

The Black Balloon - B+

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, a scene of violence, and brief strong language, 97 minutes

Affecting "The Black Balloon" poignantly examines family and autism

The Australian film "The Black Balloon" is an award-winning, hearbreaking look at how autism affects family even in the smallest of ways. Though this type of story has been seen before, "Black Balloon's" superb acting, directing and writing lift it above the normal TV movie-of-the-week. Though overly familiar, "Black Balloon" is filled with many compelling, entertaining moments that underscore the importance of love in all relationships, normal and not-so-normal.

When Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) and his military family move to a new home and he has to start at a new school, all he wants is to fit in. When his very pregnant mother (Toni Collette) has to take it easy, he's put in charge of his autistic older brother Charlie (Luke Ford). Thomas, with the help of his new girlfriend Jackie (Gemma Ward) faces his biggest challenge yet. Charlie’s unusual antics take Thomas and his family on an emotional journey that cause his suppressed frustrations about his brother to reach a boiling point.

"The Black Balloon" is a compelling drama that examines the effects of autism of an Australian family who just wants to fit in and be normal. Directed and written by Aussie Alissa Down, autism serves as the backdrop for this coming-of-age-romance drama that looks at the situation primarily from the view of the normal brother, Thomas and his struggles to fit in and the obstacles he has from his autistic older brother Charlie, who unwittingly spoils the situation at every turn: throwing fits in the grocery story, running through the neighborhood in his underwear and other unexpected events.

Director Down skillfully directs and captures some powerfully sad scenes, most of which are very physically exhausting. The most unforgettable is Charlie's breakdown at Thomas's family birthday party in front of Thomas's shocked girlfriend, well-played by the pretty Ward. All of the cast members contribute excellent performances, including "The Sixth Sense's" Collette as the caring mother and newcomer Wakefield as the understandably frustrated brother.

Luke Ford ("The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor") is the most memorable, giving a sensitive, tender performance as the mute, autistic Charlie. Though the role requires the "most" acting of the family members, it's utterly believable and engaging. Ford, along with Collette, rightfully won Australian Film Institute awards last year for their performances, and Ford might find himself nominated for an Academy Award for 2009.

"The Black Balloon" doesn't subscribe to any lofty notions or preachy messages, and most importantly, it opts for subtle, even restrained emotional responses rather than big, maudlin moments. While the story has a familiar ring to it ("RainMan" anyone?), it's an effective, honest portrait of family trying to do the right thing, and that's all you can ask for.

Observe and Report - D

Rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence, 86 minutes

Please, don't "Observe" this unfunny, profane "Report"

If "Observe and Report" seems familiar, you're not far off the mark. It's like a raunchier, far dirtier, and less funny version of this year's "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" combined with Sandler's "The Waterboy" and both of those films were far from masterpieces. It also reveals that Seth Rogan could be a little overexposed, overrated and typecast as the schluby sarcastic underachiever. "Observe and Report" is one of the most profane, abrasive and profoundly stupid and excessively mean comedies I've seen in a long time. It's peppered with a few enjoyably funny moments, in between the excessive "f's" and "you's," if you get my drift.

At Forest Ridge Mall, head of security Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogan) patrols his jurisdiction with an iron hand, combating skateboarders, shoplifters and the occasional unruly customer while dreaming of the day when he can become a real cop. His delusions of grandeur are put to the test when the mall is struck by a flasher.

Ronnie seizes the opportunity to showcase his underappreciated law enforcement skills, hoping this will enable him to become an actual cop and win his dream girl Brandi (Anna Faris), a hot, snobby make-up counter clerk. Meanwhile, his pursuit of glory engages a battle with the equally competitive police Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) and Ronnie must solve the crime before the real cops do.

"Observe and Report" is a low-brow, derivative and profane comedy that hits below the level of mediocrity in terms of humor. Director and writer Jody Hill, who made the extremely funny "The Foot Fist Way" a few years ago, makes an egregious mistake of thinking that inserting all those four letter words will make a funny comedy. It doesn't. At least he has Rogan in the title role, a gifted, funny guy on his own, though his talents are lost here amidst the profanity, and it also shows how annoyingly talky he can be.

As for the rest of "Report" - it's story is both flat and predictable, it's characters one-dimensional, and it's tone takes a startling turn toward the violent, dark and just plain icky and mean (beating kids up, snorting cocaine and seeing every last inch of a pale flasher - just not that funny) in its last act.

What funny moments there are in "Observe and Report" come from selected members of the supporting cast. Character actress Celia Weston steals moments as Ronnie's drunk mother (she tries in vain to cheer him up), and from dramatic actor Michael Pena, showing his comic chops by channeling his inner John Leguizamo-lisp as one of Ronnie's security-guard sidekicks. Not as good: talented actors Liotta and Faris, who are altogether wasted in the movie, typecasting them both as a dirty cop and a ditzy slut and giving them little to do but either beat up people or throw up on them.

"Observe and Report" is a terrible disappointment given the talent, not to mention an excessively profane one (this is definitely not one for the kiddoes), but it will most likely be a hit anyway. Rogan, director and writer Hill, Liotta and Faris can all do much better than this. Next time try it with a real script, real characters, and without so many "f's" and "you's."