Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 6 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

Film » Film Clips

Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 6

by

comment

Page 5 of 7

MACHETE More fun than a barrel of Sylvester Stallone DVDs, Machete is gleeful trash that delivers on the promise it held when it was just a twinkle in creator Robert Rodriguez's eye, as one of the mock trailers shown in 2007's Grindhouse. Everything about Machete is so over the top that it's impossible to feel as if one's morals are being compromised: When a movie quickly moves from a sequence in which the title bad-ass (played by Danny Trejo) decapitates several men with one swift 360-degree turn to a scene in which a naked woman retrieves a hidden cell phone from her vajayjay, it's clear that nothing is to be taken seriously. As expected, the Mexicans are the heroes, demanding to be treated like people and eager to have a crack at the American Dream. On the other side are the rich Texas fat cats determined to keep them down, including a right-wing Senator (Robert De Niro) who guns down illegal border crossers when he's not busy hitting the campaign trail. Machete is coerced into taking out this slimy politico, but he quickly realizes he's been double-crossed, and he has to rely on two women (Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba) to help him out. Whether it's a beefy Steven Seagal or a topless Lindsay Lohan, viewers never quite know who or what Machete will throw at them next. ***

NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS Considering that 2005's Nanny McPhee hasn't exactly established itself on this side of the Atlantic as a family classic, there's nothing about the title Nanny McPhee Returns to suggest that this sequel will fare any better. Perhaps Universal Pictures would have been wise to keep the film's original British moniker, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, in the hopes that a few ill-informed folks stateside would mistake it for a softcore romp and hand over their hard-earned dollars. Certainly, this children's tale could use more bang for the filmgoer's buck, relating an occasionally clever but often daft yarn about the efforts of the title character (again played by Emma Thompson) to help a struggling mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal, affecting a fine English accent) with her brood while her husband's off fighting in World War II. The children are all well-cast, but this overdoses on the saccharine: Watching CGI critters do supposedly cute things (a bird constantly belching, pigs engaging in synchronized swimming) isn't exactly my cup of tea — English Breakfast, English Afternoon, or otherwise. **

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

SALT A neo-Cold War thriller would seem like just the ticket for cineastes who fondly recall Iron Curtain-courting capers on the order of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and select James Bond tales. And the title even suggests a nod to that chunk of 20th century history involving U.S.-U.S.S.R. tensions, as SALT was the name given to discussions centering on reducing both nations' arsenals of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the majority of this film fails to honor either its cinematic predecessors or its real-life milieu: Extracting the occasional misplaced titter from viewers, it stirs memories less of John le Carre and more of Yakov Smirnoff. Angelina Jolie headlines as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy; as she follows a trail of clues in an effort to clear her name, it begins to appear as if maybe even she's not completely certain about her own identity. Jolie is practically the whole show; the rest is negligible, from the repetitive (if well-staged) chase sequences to the absurd plotting, which — thanks to obvious casting in a key role — culminates in a final twist that can be spotted even before moviegoers manage to crack the top layer of their buttered popcorn. There's already talk of a sequel to Salt, but it's going to have to provide a lot more flavor than this bland offering. **


Add a comment