Redo or Redon’t: A ‘Grave’ mistake

The original ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ became the equivalent of a cinematic triple-dog dare for many a youngster growing up in the VHS age. When my friends and I got our grubby, teenaged, perverted paws on a copy, we made an event of it. Parents gone, basement viewing, lights out, feigned machismo: all was in place for this taboo screening.

As it progressed, one by one, we began to unceremoniously bow out, despite our lust for blood and boobies. We could endure hours of Jason plucking the limbs off campers or Michael stabbing his way through another Halloween, but this one just didn’t sit right with any of us. We ultimately decided to make a pact to just watch “the circumcision scene,” wince mightily, and be done with it.

Now, this. Continue reading

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Howard’s end: A truly troubled ‘Dilemma’

I will allow you a pass this time, Ron Howard. But don’t ever do this again.

‘The Dilemma’ stars Vince Vaughn as every other Vince Vaughn-like character we have come to expect on screen. Kevin James co-stars as a Kevin James-like character, only far less funnier than you would expect.

Vince catches Kevin’s wife (played by Winona Ryder) cheating, and frets over telling him. That’s it. For two hours, that’s it. It’s an admittedly flimsy premise on which to base a film, but there is certainly a kernel of something interesting to be found in honor codes with friends and commitments to marriage.

Typically, I blame marketers for fouling up our expectations of films, promising one thing and delivering yet another. But I honestly feel they did the best they could with this misguided atrocity. The humor, what little there is, is half-hearted at best. Vaughn, so electric when he first shot on the screen in “Swingers” has been spinning his wheels in the same muddy ditch for the better part of the decade (seriously, is there any negligible variation of his character here and the one in “Four Christmases,” “Couples Retreat,” “Fred Claus” or “The Wedding Crashers”?).

“Dilemma” attempts to claw deeper at relationships, with miserable results. It tosses out half-hearted sentiments on love and commitment, while simultaneously failing to commit to any particular narrative pattern or rhythm. “The Dilemma’s” disheveled structure is even more disheartening with Howard at the wheel. The director knows how to construct a film. Even his disasters (“The DaVinci Code,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) have a polish to them. But his relationship-driven films have possessed a strength that felt grounded in authenticity.

Even Vaughn’s misunderstood “The Break-Up” had its icy heart in the right place.

Not so, with “Dilemma.” there’s not a character or conversation that rings true. This is mostly due to its own indecision. It weakly stretches out its palsied hands for comedy and drama, but ultimately grabs neither. Howard, who has spent his entire life in comedy, both broad and biting, should have a better grip than that.

If you feel the urge to see, instead rent: “Arrested Development,” “Parenthood,” “Swingers”

Redo or Redon’t: The Green Hornet

‘Ghost Rider,’ come back. All is forgiven. After witnessing the wrong-in-every-imaginable-way “Green Hornet,” the Nicolas Cage superhero stinker deserves to be scraped of the barrel’s bottom to allow room for this boring, repetitive, steaming-turd of a film.

The latest incarnation of ‘Horet’ has a storied past that dates back almost two decades. Rumored involvement in the project included names like George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Nicolas Cage, Greg Kinnear and Jake Gyllenhaal, with Kevin Smith and Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle”) scheduled to direct. Everything from Jamaican accents and heroes with brain-implanted microchips being controlled by joysticks. Continue reading

Awards fodder: A somewhat electric ‘Company’

You have to pull yourself back when watching ‘The Company Men.’ Because of its timely topic, it’s too easy to fault it for what it’s not than to appreciate it for what it is.

Since most of us are still feeling the sting — in one way or another — of the current recession, we want “The Company Men” to encapsulate all the fears and frustrations of all whom it has affected. This would result in some stock market “Crash,” which would have been narratively disastrous. Continue reading

Awards fodder: Gotta hand it to them

Why do we try to take a breath when we are drowning?

It is a primordial instinct, that odds-be-damned push to survive, that kicks in from our since-evolved brain, regardless of consequence.

And in the midst of starvation, dehydration, delirium and perhaps a host of other mental and physical impediments, adventure athlete Aron Ralston sallied forth, in a story that captured attention worldwide and made us pose to ourselves the question: “What would I do?” Continue reading

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