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Matinee

February 14, 2008
By Tribune Chronicle
STARTS TODAY



STEP UP 2 THE STREETS: Not reviewed

More hot dancing as a rebellious brings her street moves to a prestigious school for the arts. (Rated PG-13 for language, some suggestive material and brief violence)



CURRENTLY PLAYING



ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: C-

The furry, little singing friends have been turned into something like tiny Justin Timberlakes. By placing somewhat realistic-looking, CGI-animated chipmunks in a live-action film, director Tim Hill hopes to enliven the old chipmunks, created nearly 50 years ago by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. After their tree is chopped down and brought to Los Angeles, they are soon taken in by out-of-work musician Dave Seville (Jason Lee). He’s offset by comedian David Cross, who plays a music executive with skewering sliminess. The biggest failure of the film is the animation of the caroling critters, who are essentially without expression. But families looking for distraction could do worse than ‘‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’’ but may be better off sitting down for six seconds and watching the real chipmunk star of 2007: the famed CGI-free ‘‘Dramatic Chipmunk’’ on YouTube. (Rated PG for some mild rude humor) (AP)



ATONEMENT: B-

This is a rare case when a so-so film is elevated by its finale. It’s a pro-forma romance drama that takes an unexpected turn, at least for those who haven’t read Ian McEwan’s novel. And it feels as if much of the acclaim the film has received is more a result of the source material than what director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton do with it. A wrongly delivered letter sparks a series of growing misunderstandings, culminating in a young girl falsely accusing her older sister’s beau of a crime. Focus Features is trying to position the movie as a ‘‘Titanic’’-sized romantic epic with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, but it feels more like ‘‘The English Patient’’-lite. (Rated R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality) (AG)



THE BUCKET LIST: B-

Facing terminal illness, we all should get to go on a no-costs-barred world tour to do everything we ever wanted. Most of us don’t have the convenient bottomless wallet that allows Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman to do just that in this comic drama that puts director Rob Reiner back in commercial — if not artistic — form. Nicholson and Freeman elevate a story overloaded with cliched life lessons and self-help slogans into a tolerable, relatively painless way to go. Reiner’s aiming to make a feel-good movie about death, how it’s not so bad if you face it on your own terms and go out with guns blazing — and infinite cash to supply the ammo. For most of us, though, our own bucket lists would amount to no more than wish lists as we struggle to pay the medical bills. (Rated PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference) (AP)



CLOVERFIELD: C

‘‘Cloverfield’’ is intended to be a horror movie for a generation weaned on shaky YouTube videos shot in poor lighting with $200 camcorders. It’s ‘‘The Blair Witch Project’’ with a CGI budget. Mostly, it’s a wasted opportunity. Instead, of trying to make a statement about a world where everything seems to be recorded (or at least captured on a cell phone camera), it uses the technology the same way cinematic showmen/hucksters like William Castle would wire seats with electrodes to shock the audience – it’s just a gimmick. There’s some great images here – the head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street like a bowling ball, the eerie sight of a white horse pulling an empty carriage down the street. But too often it’s a bunch of photogenic but bland actors running in and out of shaky camera shots. Just because someone will watch something jittery and grainy on the Internet, it doesn’t mean they want to pay $6.50 to see that same crappy quality blown up on a theater screen. (Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images) (AG)



FOOL’S GOLD: C

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey showed they click on screen in ‘‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’’ which is no masterpiece but it’s a more than serviceable romantic comedy. However, watching them square off in battle to see who has the lowest percentage of body fat would more entertaining than the paces director Andy Tennant and screenwriters John Chalfin, Daniel Zelman and Tennant put them through here as rival groups battle to find a sunken treasure. Despite being sold as a romantic comedy, ‘‘Fool’s Gold’’ has more gunshots than kisses. It’s ‘‘The Deep’’ awkwardly played for laughs. (Rated PG-13 for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language) (AG)



JUNO: A

Much of the attention has been focused on the oh-so-clever dialogue of first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody, but the real reason ‘‘Juno’’ is the indie comedy hit of the season is the ability of Cody, director Jason Reitman and a great ensemble to create real, relatable characters. It would have been easy to surround wise-cracking Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old pregnant girl who decides to give her baby up for adoption, with stock characters played solely for laughs. But from her exasperated but supportive father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney) to the not-as-perfect-as-they-seem adoptive couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), Cody and Reitman find the humanity and honesty in all of the characters. It’s one of the funniest and most entertaining films of the year. (Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language) (AG)



OVER HER DEAD BODY: C

This comedy is being marketed as a star vehicle for ‘‘Desperate Housewife’’ Eva Longoria Parker, but it’s Lake Bell who makes the strongest impression. Parker plays a woman who dies on her wedding day and comes back to haunt the psychic (Bell) who’s starting a relationship with her old fiance (Paul Rudd). It’s a broad silly comedy that’s better at the slapstick than it is at the one-liners, although it will audiences look forward to seeing what Bell can do with a better script. (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language) (AG)



RAMBO: C-

Sylvester Stallone insisted he would only do another ‘‘Rambo’’ flick if it was about the human condition. He stuck to his guns. Chapter 4 in his franchise about the Vietnam vet turned one-man army is about the condition of humans — after they’ve been blown apart by bombs, land mines and projectiles fired from the biggest, loudest firearms you may ever encounter on screen. The thin story is merely an excuse to turn Stallone loose so he can go Rambo on a bunch of irredeemably bad guys — soldiers who have exterminated a village and abducted American missionaries working there. Co-written and directed by Stallone, the movie is almost degenerate in its savagery. The movie might satisfy bloodthirsty action fans, but for most people, this is one Stallone do-over we could have done without. (Rated R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language) (AP)



THERE WILL BE BLOOD: B+

Daniel Day-Lewis is mesmerizing as oil prospector Daniel Plainview, grabbing the viewers’ attention without dialogue in the first 15 minutes and never losing it over 2 hours and 38 minutes. Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie sets up a battle between capitalism (embodies by Plainview) and Christianity (represented by a power-hungry preacher played by Paul Dano). If there’s a problem with the film, it’s that Plainview is so overpowering that Dano (and Christianity) don’t stand a chance. (Rated R for some violence) (AG)



27 DRESSES: B

This romantic comedy isn’t one of a kind, but screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna and director Anne Fletcher know how to make these ‘‘Dresses’’ comfortable. Heigl is always-a-bridesmaid heroine Jane, who is dreading wedding number 28 as her model sister gets ready to marry the boss Jane has had a crush on for years. James Marsden is the cynical reporter who writes about weddings for a New York newspaper. They’re polar opposites; I wonder what will happen. OK, ‘‘27 Dresses’’ holds few surprises. But it does find some new approaches to rom-com standbys, like the fashion montage (here it’s a parade of ugly bridesmaid dresses). And Heigl and Marsden make for a winning couple. (Rated PG-13 for language, some innuendo and sexuality) (AG)



UNTRACEABLE: C+

Chronicling the exploits of a serial killer who executes his crimes on the Internet and only kills if enough people log onto his Web site, ‘‘Untraceable’’ argues we are a nation of voyeurs, which hardly qualifies as a news flash. And using what is arguably the most voyeuristic art form to make that point about the Internet brings to mind the old cliche about pots and kettles. But it’s a lot less trashy than it could have been, and Diane Lane elevates the proceedings as the FBI cyber crimes investigator tracking him down. The biggest problem with the movie is that audiences weaned on these kinds of thrillers will be waiting for a surprise twist that never comes. We meet the person responsible for killwithme.com about halfway through the movie, and the only question is the motive (which can’t be figured out until the end because the audience isn’t given the necessary information). (Rated R for some prolonged sequences of strong gruesome violence and language) (AG)



VINCE VAUGHN’S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW: C

This documentary is only sporadically wild, but it does indeed go through some Western states. It also ends up being as long and draggy as the title itself. Vaughn had a clever idea, though, in amassing a group of little-known comics and taking them on a tour across the country, hitting cities like Lubbock, Texas, and Little Rock, Ark., between Los Angeles and his hometown of Chicago. We get to know the divergent personalities of Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco both onstage and on the tour bus. And Vaughn himself shows his humble, vulnerable side, something we rarely see from the star of ‘‘Swingers’’ and ‘‘Wedding Crashers.’’ But while the comics are likable, their routines tend to be hit and miss, and director Ari Sandel probably didn’t need to show us every single stop along the way. ‘‘Wild West’’ would have worked nicely if it had been about an hour long and appeared on late-night cable. (Rated R for pervasive language and some sex-related humor) (AP)



WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS: C-

No one dons a ‘‘Big Momma’s House’’ fat suit in Martin Lawrence’s family-reunion comedy, yet this one’s just as awash in silly caricatures. The comedy’s not as broad as in Lawrence’s ‘‘Big Momma’s House’’ movies, but it’s close, and nearly as gross in its physical humor and innuendo. Lawrence’s title character is a TV talk show host who fled Georgia to escape his unsupportive family and now reluctantly returns for the 50th anniversary of his parents (James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery). Playing obnoxious siblings and cousins are Cedric the Entertainer, Mo’Nique, Mike Epps and Michael Clarke Duncan, with Joy Bryant as Roscoe’s fake-celebrity fiancee and Nicole Ari Parker as his old school flame. When they’re not beating the stuffing out of one another, the members of this family keep busy crudely mocking their relations and tossing about lewd sexual suggestions. (Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and some drug references) (AP)

 
 

 

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