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203 posts from January 2009

January 30, 2009

New In Town

Hr_New_in_Town_poster Rennee Zellweger works her romantic comic magic as Miami corporate climber Lucy Hill who volunteers to help restructure her company's food plant in Minnesota in the heart of winter. Lucy's culture shock is compounded by the conservative mores and short-list habits of a tight-knit community that she reluctantly comes to respect and even love, thanks in no small part to the outdoorsy charm of the town's union rep Ted Mitchell (played by Harry Connick, Jr.). "New In Town" is an uncomplicated fish-out-of-water romance with just enough modern-day social commentary to give it some substance. The sweetness here is far from saccharine, and well-crafted supporting role performances from Siobhan Fallon Hogan and J.K. Simmons go a long way toward anchoring the humor.

(Lionsgate) Rated PG. 96 mins. (B-) (Three Stars)

The Uninvited

Hr_The_Uninvited_poster Unrelated to the 1944 ghost story that gave birth to the great Jazz standard Stella by Starlight, this "Uninvited" is a clunky Americanized remake of Kim Jee-woon's 2003 Korean horror film "The Tale of Two Sisters." The upstart sibling directing team of Charles and Thomas Guard create hamburger-helper scares in a story about a suicidal girl named Anna (played by Emily Browning) who returns from a stint in the loony bin to live with her father Steven (played by David Strathairn in a squandered performance) and his new girlfriend Rachel (played by Elizabeth Banks). Anna's sister Alex (played by Arielle Kebbel) is quick to fill Anna in on how their now-deceased mother's former nurse Rachel has dug her nails into their father's heart. Anna suffers from hallucinations of her corpse-like mother crawling around the family's lakeside mansion, that point to Rachel as her assassin. Perfunctory scares lead up to a would-be surprise plot reveal that instead carries the odor of a day-old tuna sandwich left out on the counter. 
(Paramount) Rated PG-13. 87 mins. (D+) (One Star)

January 23, 2009


Taken The ever-capable Liam Neeson takes a well-earned payday as retired CIA-agent Bryan Mills whose 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers when she runs off to Paris with her best friend to follow a U2 tour around Europe. Hamfisted screenwriting over-establishes Mills's desperation at winning his daughter's affection before he gets to use his specialized set of spy skills that will impose a hearty body-count on his rescue and revenge quest around Paris. French cottage film industry maverick Luc Besson co-produced and co-wrote the project that takes special pleasure in spicing up violent surprises for a revenge fantasy that's spelled out in capital letters. Perhaps the biggest revelation is Liam Neeson's impact as a 55-year-old super spy whose physicality is undiminished in spite of his age. Mills has no ethics about torturing bad guys before leaving them to die an agonizing death or about hurting innocent bystanders in the interest of getting his way. Leave your brain at the door to enjoy this smash-and-grab spree of fast-twitch carnage.
(20th Century Fox) Rated PG-13. 93 mins. (C+) (Two Stars)

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