Reviews for January 14th, 2011
The Green Hornet
Directed by Michel Gondry.
When Jack Reid (Tom Wilkinson), the owner of The Daily Sentinel newspaper, dies from a bee sting, his son, Britt (Seth Rogen), becomes the company’s new owner. The morning after showing up the job, he realizes that he had fired all of his father’s staff members including his assistant/mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou), who served coffee from a machine that he himself had invented. Like a spoiled, cranky and selfish child, Britt complains about his bad-tasting coffee and immediately re-hires Kato. He soon discovers that Kato had invented many different gadgets that turn his father’s cars into vehicles for crime-fighting superheroes. So, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, Britt and Kato quickly turn into just that: crime-fighting superheroes who done masks to shield their true identity. Britt sees these heroes as a big story that serves as an opportunity to boost the Sentinel’s revenues. He hires Kato as his assistant and agrees to refer to the superhero as The Green Hornet even though he was stupid enough to initially suggested calling him The Green Bee. Britt behaves even less professionally when he hires a new staff member, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), and continuously hits on her both during and after work. The fact that she agrees to take the job even after he comes across as a sleazebag shows you just how bright she is. Will she or anyone else discover The Green Hornet’s true identity? Will an evil man, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), be able to defeat The Green Hornet? Will Britt be able to successfully woo Lenore? Who cares? The anarchic, lazy screenplay co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Golberg dumbs the drama and action down that even someone like Sarah Palin might smell its entire stench of stupidity from a mile away. Only the brief moments with Chunofsky stand out because Waltz has charisma and knows how to chew his lines up with terrific comic timing as if he were winking to the audience. A truly great action comedy should be grounded in reality at least to some degree, but The Green Hornet doesn’t have that or even thrilling action scenes to keep you entertained. The 3D effects add nothing and serves as a cheap, unnecessarily gimmick. With the exception of one imaginative sequence using animation, where’s Michel Gondry’s nifty, daring visual style when you need it? Moreover, the including of a plot twist, which won’t be spoiled here, isn’t really a twist because it’s too obvious and facile. At a lengthy running time of just under 2 hours, The Green Hornet is an uneven, dull and painfully asinine action comedy that’s neither thrilling, funny nor visually stylish enough to deliver pure entertainment. Go rent Kick-Ass instead.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4Released by Columbia Pictures. Opens nationwide.
Directed by Alex Cox.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1Released by Strand Releasing. Opens at the IFC Center.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4Released by Industrial Entertainment. Opens nationwide.
A Somewhat Gentle Man
Directed by Hans Petter Moland.
As soon as he’s released from serves a 12-year stint in prison, Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) meets up with his former boss, Rune (Bjørn Floberg) and his airheaded henchman, Rolf (Gard B. Eidsvold) at a local restaurant. Rune offers him a chance to get back into a life of crime by killing the man who has snitched on him, but Ulrik tells him, point blank, that he has decided to give that lifestyle up for good. He moves into a dilapidated basement room in an apartment building run by a grouchy, lonely landlord, Karen (Jorunn Kjellsby), who eventually warms up to him in more ways than one. Meanwhile, he finds a job as a mechanic at a garage where he meets a coworker, Merete (Jannike Kruse), who’s suffering from domestic abuse by her husband. Screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson takes a little too long to get to the meaty part of the story because, for at least the first hour, Ulrik just goes about his daily routines at the garage and his home which begins to feel tedious. On a positive note, that tedium eventually dissipates once Ulrik bravely confronts Merete’s husband and beats him up badly before romancing Merete much to the disapproval of his landlady who calls her a whore. The scenes during which Ulrik tries to bond with his estranged son, Geir (Jan Gunnar Røise), add a slight amount of poignancy and richness to the film. Aakeson blends drama, comedy and a sprinkle of action with mostly smooth results. The humor ranges from dark to just plain offbeat, i.e. when the landlady lies down in bed, spreads her legs and asks Ulrik whether he’s waiting for a written invitation to have sex with her. Stellan Skarsgård gives a sensitive performance that balances fragility and toughness because you can sense that sadness and regret lurk beneath Ulrik’s macho appearance. He doesn’t share his feelings much, but he doesn’t need to because his eyes speak volumes about what he’s truly feeling. Unfortunately, the third act loses plausibility when a few rather convenient events occur which culminate with too much contrivance; if the Coen brothers were at the helm, they’d probably tie things up with more cleverness and less neatness. At a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, A Somewhat Gentle Man is an often engaging with just the right balance of poignancy and comedy, although it takes a while for it to gather dramatic momentum. Skarsgård delivers a convincingly heartfelt performance.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2Released by Strand Releasing. Opens at the IFC Center.