Capsule reviews of films playing the week of August 18 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of August 18

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MOTHER AND CHILD Three terrific performances are at the center of Mother and Child, an emotionally taxing drama that focuses on a trio of women all dealing with the issue of adoption. An excellent Annette Bening is all coiled tension and repressed emotion as Karen, who at 14 was forced to give up her newborn baby and has been haunted by the incident ever since. Naomi Watts displays a chilly disposition as Elizabeth, who was given up for adoption as a child and has been molded by her past into an icy attorney who prefers to avoid (or toy with) people rather than get close to them. And Kerry Washington packs the empathic heat as Lucy, whose infertility leads her to want to adopt a child. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia leans toward the melodramatic during the final portion of the film, and it's annoying how neatly all the story strands manage to wrap around each other right before the fadeout. But for the most part, Garcia offers a sober, clear-eyed picture that's populated with prickly personalities and unenviable situations, and he and his actors (including Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson and Shareeka Epps in the supporting ranks) are brave enough not to flinch even during the most challenging interludes. ***

THE OTHER GUYS It makes sense for a film like, say, An Inconvenient Truth or Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room to end with a plea to our sense of activism or with a mountain of hard data about the evils of unchecked capitalism. But what to make of The Other Guys, featuring closing credits that are packed with statistics concerning government bailouts and the glaring discrepancy between the average salaries of CEOs and the rest of us poor clods? No matter: The film's ample laughs had already dried up long before this ode to Michael Moore muckraking. That's a shame, because for its first hour, The Other Guys is a very funny movie, as two desk cops, meek Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and hotheaded Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), are provided a chance to step up once New York's finest (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) are put out of commission. Ferrell holds his excesses in check more than usual (though still not enough to my liking), and he and Wahlberg prove to be an amusing team — whether scripted or improvised, their banter is often top-grade. But humor largely vacates the premises during the second half, as the emphasis is placed more on autopilot action sequences and, worse, a topical, torn-from-the-headlines scam that's an ill — and dull — fit for this sort of raucous outing. **1/2

PREDATORS It may not have seemed like much at the time, but in retrospect, 1987's Predator now stands as one of the better pictures on Arnold Schwarzenegger's surprisingly underwhelming resume, behind only the first two Terminator films and Total Recall. Predators, on the other hand, won't seem like the cream of anybody's crop; instead, time will dismiss it as yet one more belated sequel hoping to turn name recognition into cash value. In this flabby outing, the hapless earthlings are all imported to a distant planet for the amusement of the alien hunters. You know priorities are out of whack when the most interesting performer, Machete's Danny Trejo, checks out waaay too early while the worst actor in the bunch, the perpetually hammy Walton Goggins, is allowed to hang around. As for the action, it's dutifully handled, but there isn't much here that quickens the pulse or jolts the imagination. In fact, if there's a central failing in Predators, it's that true innovation is in desperately short supply. The film comes armed with memorable monsters and a workable premise, but by offering little more than one-dimensional variations of the original's entertaining characters as well as basically duplicating its lush forest setting, this qualifies as little more than a bungle in the jungle. **


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