Click Here!

Now Playing

By |2008-06-19T09:00:00-04:00June 19th, 2008|Entertainment|

The Happening
Philadelphia high school teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), whose wife (Zooey Deschanel) is experiencing doubts about their marriage, finds himself in the middle of a freakish natural event in which an apparent airborne toxin causes humans to destroy themselves. What follows is a desperate trek across rural Pennsylvania to find safety and a possible reason for the shapeless death that seems to be intentionally stalking those who run. Unfortunately, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has, himself, run off directionless, a move that sees him refrain from indulging in his now-established penchant for twists and surprise endings. Strangely, it’s in this attempt to tell a straightforward story of a fantastical, unexplained disaster that he fails. The magnitude of the tragedy presented in the movie’s early moments doesn’t balance the weakly explained final act. As “happenings” go, it’s barely there. C-

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Wahlberg starred in “Boogie Nights,” and was, in his early career, known for making house music and being a popular gay pin-up in Calvin Klein underwear ads. Co-star John Leguizamo starred as a drag queen in “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.”)

The Incredible Hulk
General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) is determined to capture Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), to further the research into the gamma rays that transform the mild-mannered scientist into the raging Incredible Hulk. But the pursuit turns into a mad monster party when English commando Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) transforms into an even bigger, angrier creature. The special effects are on the cheesy side, but with plenty of action, tons of explosions, and a touch of romance as Banner reunites with his longtime love, Ross’ daughter Betty (Liv Tyler), this latest iteration of the oft-filmed Marvel Comic is also wildly entertaining. The story, co-written by Norton, keeps things on an appealingly human level, despite the larger-than-life antics, and the all-star cast is nothing short of terrific. B

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Hurt won his Oscar for his portrayal of a gay prisoner in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Norton was raped in a prison shower scene in “American History X.” Tyler was a lesbian in “Dr. T and the Women.”)


Baby Mama
Kate (Tina Fey) is a successful organic grocery executive who learns she can’t conceive a baby. Obsessed with being a mother, she turns to an expensive surrogacy service and is placed with Angie (Amy Poehler), a none-too-bright woman who agrees to carry Kate’s fertilized egg. Battling at first, the two eventually come to understand and like one another, even when wild plot twists threaten to come between them. In fact, those script ups and downs – the weakest link in this winning comedy – serve only to highlight how talented Fey and Poehler are at keeping even sometimes-middling material afloat. These women are a comedy force to be reckoned with – a pairing that, given an edgier, less conventional script, would rival the greats of film comedy. They make this sometimes ugly baby a keeper. B

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
With assassins at his heels, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) escapes into the woods and sends up a distress call that reaches the 20th-century Pevensie children. Traveling back through time, teenage Peter (William Moseley) and his siblings discover the land they once ruled, Narnia, in ruins, inspiring them to ally with the impetuous prince and lead the kingdom’s forest-dwelling denizens in revolt against the corrupt Telmarines. This lengthy C.S. Lewis adaptation offers eye-popping spectacle, spectacular special effects, plenty of battles, and a ridiculously high body count along with its Christian allegory, yet still manages to work as a soporific. It is occasionally enchanting, mostly in its quieter moments when animals like the warrior mouse Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) and the wise badger Trufflehunter (Ken Stott) lend gentle comic relief. B-

The Forbidden Kingdom
Jason (Michael Angarano) is a bullied teenager who is bewildered to find himself transported back in time to feudal China, selected as the answer to a prophecy concerning a long-awaited warrior sent to free the people from a tyrannical ruler. He’s mentored by two martial-arts masters (Jet Li and Jackie Chan, co-starring together for the first time), who join forces to teach him the ways of kung fu. It’s a silly, by-the-numbers fantasy, and the teaming of Chan and Li, while historic, isn’t the blast of excitement it would have been at the height of their careers and skills. But for kids who’ve never seen this sort of thing, the battle sequences will seem fresh. As for older fans who understand that they’re watching two screen legends sometimes simply go through the motions, the pleasure of seeing them doing anything together at all will be enough for now. B-

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Composer Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) gets dumped by his up-and-coming actress girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). To nurse his wounds, he travels to a Hawaiian resort where, coincidentally, Sarah is staying with her new rock-star boyfriend (British comedian Russell Brand). Fortunately, a pretty, feisty hotel concierge (Mila Kunis) enters the picture and becomes Peter’s vacation fling. Plot-wise, that’s about it – give or take a few throwaway moments in which Paul Rudd plays a stoned surfing instructor. But what at first seems like a series of raunchy comic “bits” eventually forms a funny, loosely coherent whole, one with plenty of surprisingly intelligent insight into the nature of adult relationships. “How I Met Your Mother” star Segel makes for a refreshingly unconventional leading man, and the script (which he also wrote) allows its characters to be uncool sometimes. For that alone, it’s the opposite of forgettable. B+

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
When archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) agrees to accompany angry rebel Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) to Peru in search of a legendary crystal skull, the journey reunites him with ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). It also puts him in the crosshairs of vicious Soviet scientist Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and her goons, who are hunting for the same object. Director Steven Spielberg rarely allows the energy to flag in this long-awaited sequel that blends adrenalin-pumping action, dazzling special effects, good-natured comedy, and a touch of romance. The supporting cast is terrific, but the film belongs to the superb, sardonic Ford, who wears the iconic character like a second skin, and at 65, still completely convinces as an energetic, athletic, resourceful, and unstoppable action hero. A-

Iron Man
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a military weapons manufacturer who realizes that his life’s work causes only death and misery. His response? Create a titanium suit that allows him fly and to destroy the worlds super-villains. By his side and keeping track of his well-being is his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who finds herself imperiled by Stark’s former colleague Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). And when Stane turns nemesis, developing a super-suit of his own, the battle for good and evil turns the planet into chaos. And it’s those wildly exciting battle scenes that keep this popcorn adventure blasting its way through nearly two hours of humor, intelligence, and even political commentary. The first summer movie of 2008 is also going to be the one to beat for sheer excellence. A

Kung Fu Panda
Po (the voice of Jack Black) is a kung fu-and-steamed-dumplings-obsessed panda bear who finds himself in the unlikely position of being anointed the “dragon warrior” that will save his Chinese valley homeland from the arrival of the cruel, destructive Tai Lung (Ian McShane). One problem: loving kung fu isn’t the same thing as “knowing” kung fu. So it’s up to a team of fighting experts and their master (Dustin Hoffman) to step in and train Po before Tai Lung returns from exile. The film nicely sidesteps the pitfalls that have ruined so many recent animated features – namely, sarcastic and pop-culture-heavy dialogue that will easily date the entire enterprise, obnoxious characters, and showy A-list actor voice performances. It relies instead on sweetness, wildly animated kung fu battles, and a cuddly panda to root for. A-

Made of Honor
Womanizer Tom (Patrick Dempsey) and smart-cookie Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) are best friends, but have never been lovers, in spite of a mutual attraction. When Hannah meets a man in Scotland whom she decides to marry, and asks Tom to be her “maid of honor,” the two wake up to the fact that they’re meant to be together. And that it takes them nearly two hours to realize their destiny, when the audience has it figured out within the first 15 minutes of the movie, makes for a pretty long wait, especially when virtually nothing funny takes place along the way. Both leads are pretty (and pretty boring), and there’s a certain amount of romance accomplished in this tepid, dull, by-the numbers, stop-the-wedding comedy – there’s just very little comedy. C-

The Promotion
According to his boss, assistant grocery store manager Doug (Seann William Scott) is a shoo-in for the top job at the new shop going up across town. That is, until new assistant Richard (John C. Reilly) transfers in with his eye on the same position, and the no-holds-barred competition is on. This low-key comedy rarely goes for the big laugh, but it is consistently amusing, and its charms are many as the contest heats up and the dirty tricks start to fly. Writer/director Steve Conrad’s stroke of genius was casting Scott and Reilly, both of whom remain immensely likable even when behaving badly, and who are completely believable as nice guys discovering their inner jerks when the pressure is on. B+

Sex and the City
Ten rocky years after writer Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) met her Mr. Right, Mr. Big (Chris Noth), he finally proposes. But despite the fairytale wedding trappings, the course of true love never runs smoothly for Carrie or her best pals: sharp-tongued Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), seductive Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and eternal optimist Charlotte (Kristin Davis). The most remarkable facet of this epic-length adaptation of the popular TV show is how completely unnecessary it is. It is a weirdly ugly movie with flat, badly lit cinematography seemingly designed to emphasize the now-middle-aged cast’s every wrinkle. And it plays like a TV episode, recycling plots and even dialogue from the series, while the flaccid pace and shallow characterizations will not win the franchise any new fans. C-

Speed Racer
Auto-racing and the corrupt establishment behind it killed Speed Racer’s (Emile Hirsch) brother, Rex. Speed himself becomes a target when he turns down racing magnate Royalton’s (Roger Allam) lucrative sponsorship. But with the help of his family and mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed intends to bring down the crooks – and win the Grand Prix. An adaptation of the 1960s-era cartoon, this otherwise simplistic family action adventure is a triumph of art direction, production design, and CGI, a truly eye-popping experience. Beyond those stunning visuals, the movie is a punishment with story and characters that are malnourished, racing scenes that drag on endlessly, and tortuous “comic” relief in the form of Speed’s shrill little brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and his pet chimp’s obnoxious mugging. C

The Strangers
After attending a wedding, James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) return to his family’s isolated country home to spend a romantic night. What they experience instead is a night of terror at the hands of three mysterious, masked strangers. There’s no motive, only stalking, manipulation, and eventual murder on the menu as the movie delivers jolt after jolt. Unfortunately, those jolts are all writer-director Bryan Bertino has up his sleeve here, as the premise requires all-seeing, everywhere-at-once villains and thoughtlessly dumb victims in order to work. So when the doomed couple make all the wrong moves and suffer the eventual consequences, that’s the least of the surprises. But still, it’s sufficiently creepy and anxiety-ridden, and the shocks don’t stop. You just might not respect your taste in horror when it’s over. B-

What Happens in Vegas
Joy (Cameron Diaz) meets Jack (Ashton Kutcher) in Las Vegas. They get drunk, sleep it off, and wake up to find they’re married and – thanks to a borrowed quarter and a lucky slot machine – $3 million richer. They’re eager for an annulment, but a no-nonsense judge refuses to grant one and freezes the money until the couple agrees to a six-month “trial marriage.” What follows is a game of greedy one-upping, as each tries to force the other to bail out and walk away empty-handed. Naturally, because this is Hollywood, these two pretty people also discover they just might love each other. And fortunately for the audience, the predictable outcome is tempered with enough laughs along the way – often provided by supporting cast members who aren’t above stealing scenes – to make it feel almost worthwhile. B-

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
Click Here!