Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 14 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

Film » Film Clips

Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 14

by

comment

Page 2 of 10

CONAN THE BARBARIAN John Milius' 1982 treatment of author Robert E. Howard's pulp hero was a lumbering bore, with a wooden Arnold Schwarzenegger not yet seasoned enough to work up the charisma that would serve him well in later pictures. Still, I'm now forced to recall that model with at least some smidgen of fond nostalgia after sitting through this perfectly dreadful reboot. A humorless endurance test from the director (Marcus Nispel) who previously desecrated horror staples both good (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and bad (Friday the 13th) with so-what? remakes, this Conan fails in practically every respect. Despite being presented in 3-D, this sports characters who barely fill out one dimension. The battle sequences are staged with little variance and no imagination. There is one nifty FX scene involving an army of monsters made out of sand, but even this becomes idiotic once it's apparent that a single tap will cause them to fall apart (guess they should have been fashioned from adamantium instead). As the title warrior who makes it his life's mission to avenge the death of his father (Ron Perlman), Jason Momoa has the requisite six-pack abs but otherwise comes off as such a contemporary jock that you half-expect him to eventually forget about the bloodletting and start discussing Cam Newton's chances as the Carolina Panthers' new quarterback. And speaking of Perlman as his pop, am I the only one who thinks his facial hair makes him look like the title creature from that dreadful '80s family flick, Harry and the Hendersons? Perlman isn't the only decent actor wasted here: Providing the narration is no less than Morgan Freeman, who sounds so bored and distracted that it's likely he was reading his lines while simultaneously making an omelette or putting away his laundry. As the daughter of Conan's nemesis (an unrecognizable Stephen Lang), Rose McGowan sports a receding hairline and talons that would make Freddy Krueger jealous. Her character is also blessed with an incredible sense of smell, although obviously not strong enough to keep her away from this suffocating stinkbomb. *

COWBOYS & ALIENS Cowboys & Aliens boasts a high-concept hook (and moniker) so obvious and promising that it's amazing this angle wasn't first tackled at least 30 years ago. Instead, this hybrid of two genres beloved by Old Hollywood (Westerns) and New Hollywood (science fiction) is based on a graphic novel that was released five years ago, and even at that, director Jon Favreau and his army of writers elected to toss out almost everything except the bare bones premise of, yes, cowboys and aliens mixing it up. The movie works best toward the beginning, before potential gives way to actual execution. In the rocky New Mexico Territory of 1875, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up with no memory of his identity or what led him to this spot; all he knows is that there's an unusual metallic contraption wrapped around his left wrist. He stumbles into a nearby town, where he soon meets (among others) the powerful Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde) — and then the aliens show up to wreak havoc. Any movie teaming James Bond with Han Solo certainly sounds like a can't-miss, and the two stars ably fill their roles. But the picture rarely finds imaginative ways to merge its disparate trappings — this past spring's animated yarn Rango did a far superior job of placing fantastical characters in a Western setting — and it soon settles into a deadening, repetitive pattern of one protagonist about to be offed by an alien before being saved at the last millisecond by another of the heroes. By the time Jake and company are tangling with e.t.'s in cavernous surroundings (in scenes eerily similar to those in the more accomplished Super 8), it's apparent that the picture's authors have elected to merely plug in conventional story devices that would have worked just as well in movies named Cops & Barracudas or Doctors & Hornets or even Accountants & Amoebas. **

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. Just how likable is Crazy, Stupid, Love.? Likable enough that it survives not one but two absurd narrative coincidences that would cripple a lesser film. The secret to the film's success starts with its blue-chip cast, the summer's finest gathering with the possible exception of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Steve Carell plays Cal Weaver, a typical suburban schlub; Julianne Moore is Emily Weaver, who announces to her husband that she wants a divorce. Rocked right down to his rumpled pants and designer sneakers, Cal spends his post-breakup period wallowing in nightly pity parties at a stylish bar. His caterwauling attracts the attention of uber-stud Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), who elects to take Cal under his wing and teach him how to be a successful ladies' man. Before long, Cal is reborn as a swinging single, but the resultant meaningless sex can't conceal the fact that all he really wants is his wife back in his arms. For his part, Jacob finally meets a woman — Emma Stone's aspiring attorney Hannah — who stirs his heart as much as his libido. That right there is enough plot to pack a running time (in fact, it once was; see the similarly themed Hitch), but writer Dan Fogelman clearly had taken his vitamins before cranking this one out, adding on a few more story strands. It's a lot of material for one film, and to help himself make all of these competing plotlines somewhat manageable, Fogelman takes some shortcuts by tossing in the aforementioned pair of whopping coincidences. The first is minor and easily dismissed, but the second affects the entire film and, worse, is revealed in a silly sequence that culminates in an over-the-top physical brawl. Fortunately, the actors continue to shine, the movie's hard-won truths are articulated in an unlikely but effective denouement, and all is forgiven. ***


Add a comment