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Reviews for January 9th, 2009

Bride Wars

Directed by Gary Winick.

Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson), friends since childhood, have always dreamed of having their weddings at The Plaza Hotel. Now that they’re both adults, Liv works as an attorney and Emma works as a schoolteacher while remaining friends with one another. It happens to be that when Emma’s boyfriend (Chris Patt) proposes to Emma, Liv’s boyfriend (Steve Howey) proposes to Liv, so they’re both about to get married. It also happens to be that their prestigious wedding planner, Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), schedules their weddings on the same day in June at the Plaza Hotel. However, neither Emma nor Liv want to move their wedding to the next available opening three years later, so they must contend with having it on the same day in the same location after all. Soon enough, they try to ruin each other’s wedding plans in many childish ways. Co-writers Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael fail to generate any real laughs and instead opt for juvenile and recycled humor that gets old pretty quicky. For example, Emma “accidentally” leaves with an orange tan after spending time at a tanning salon. In another scene, Liv “accidentally” leaves a hair salon with blue streaks in her hair. Are you laughing yet? Or how about when Emma sends a box of chocolates to Liv, who assumes it’s from her own fiancé, in order to fatten her up so that she can’t fit into her wedding dress? Worst of all, it’s difficult to root for neither Emma nor Liv because they’re irritating, selfish and snobby. What do their fiancés see in them to begin with? The most amusing parts involve the scene-stealing Kristen Johnson as Deb, Emma’s maid of honor who has radiates more charisma in her brief scenes than Emma and Liv combined. Ultimately, Bride Wars manages to be sporadically entertaining, but often unimaginative, asinine and bland, even if you’re willing to check your brain at the door and suspend your disbelief for 90 minutes.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4.
Released by 20th Century Fox.

Just Another Love Story

Directed by Ole Bornedal.

In Danish with subtitles. Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen), a crime scene photographer, and his wife, Mette (Charlotte Fich), get into a car accident with Julia (Rebecka Hemse). After the accident, Julia falls into a coma while Jonas, his wife and two children are safe and unhurt. Jonas visits Julia at the hospital when she regains consciousness, but at that point she has amnesia, so she can’t recognize Jonas or who her lover was back when she was living in Vietnam. That’s when Jonas decides to pretend to be her lover, Sebastian, and she believes him. How long will Jonas be able to hide his dark secret? Will Julia start remembering what Sebastian truly looks like? What happens if the real Sebastian returns? Those are the overarching questions that provide a little dramatic tension. Writer/director Ole Bornedal opens the film with a bloody scene in pouring rain that occurs later on, so you’re left wondering what might have led up those intense moments. Unfortunately, once Jonas pretends to be Sebastian early on, there’s really not that much of a mystery to solve for the audience because they’re always at least one step ahead of Julia and her family. Even Julia’s father believes Jonas about his lie, although when he tries to tell him the truth, he seems not to care who Jonas really is because all he wants his for someone to take loving care of his precious daughter. Had the audience not known the truth about Jonas from the very beginning or at least had there been more interesting surprises as the plot progress, the plot would have been much more mysterious and suspenseful. The performances all across the board, especially by Rebecka Hemse as Julia, are quite solid and convincing, though, enough so that you’re somewhat compelled, but not particularly moved. Bornedal includes terrific cinematography along with a musical score that sets just right dark tone of the film. It would have been helpful has he added some well-needed comic relief which would have lightened things up a bit for a change. At a running time of 100 minutes, Just Another Love Story manages to be mildly engaging with strong performances, but it ultimately lacks suspense, intrigue and poignancy.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3.
Released by Koch Lorber Films. Opens at the Cinema Village.

Not Easily Broken

Directed by Bill Duke.

Based on the novel by T.D. Jakes. Dave Johnson (Morris Chestnut) has always dreamed of becoming Major League Baseball player, but, after getting injured, he settles for being a little league baseball coach. His wife, Clarice (Taraji P. Henderson), has found a more financially secure job as a real estate saleswoman. As their marriage begins to fall apart, they argue with one another and, during one of those arguments, Dave has a car accident with her in the passenger seat. That car accident leaves her seriously injured at the hospital and requiring physical therapy, but Dave miraculously only leaves with a few scratches and bruises. At the hospital, he bumps into Clarice’s mother, Mary (Jenifer Lewis), who blames him for the accident claiming that if he weren’t in rush to get home from work, it wouldn’t have happened. Clarice doesn’t have the courage to stand up to her overprotective, controlling mother, though, and lets her how to deal with her husband. Why can’t Dave and Clarice just talk like two mature, open adults? Dave almost goes through a midlife crisis when he meets Julie (Maeve Quinlan), Clarice’s physical therapist who also happens to be the mother of one of the children who Dave coaches. She also happens to be attractive, single and flirtatious with him. Will he yield to her temptations or remain loyal to Clarice? Meanwhile, in a rather silly subplot Dave’s best friend, Brock (Eddie Cibrian), expresses his interest in dating Mary only to be rejected by her. Screenwriter Brian Bird writes these characters as if they were teenagers who haven’t matured yet emotionally. Dave seems to be the only one who behaves somewhat rationally, but he still has a lot of growing up to do. The way he changes by the end of the film along with Clarice isn’t believable though because much of what happens throughout the transformations feel contrived. Most of the scenes feel like a melodramatic soap opera, so that makes it difficult to be truly engrossed and moved by them. On a positive note, director Bill Duke moves the film at an appropriately brisk pace and includes a well-chosen soundtrack. Also, it’s worth mentioning the terrific ensemble cast, especially the underrated Taraji P. Henderson and Jennifer Lewis, who all help to invigorate Not Easily Broken from being merely a ho-hum, contrived film to a mildly engaging melodrama much like a Tyler Perry film.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3.
Released by TriStar Pictures.

The Unborn

Directed by David S. Goyer.

Casey (Odette Yusman) walks through the forest, stumbles upon a dead fetus before and nearly crashes her car into a young, creepy boy (Atticus Shaffer). And then she wakes up. Was this dream some sort of an omen or foreshadow of what’s to come? Anyone who’s ever seen a horror film will know the answer quite easily. The little boy keeps on showing up unexpectedly around Casey in the real world, although quite expectedly from the audience’s perspective. Casey also has visions of her mother, Janet (Carla Gugino), who went crazy and committed suicide years ago. She also hears a voice that says “Jumby wants to be born now.” It all has something to do with an unborn twin that was strangled with an umbilical cord. Writer/director David S. Goyer also interweaves a ludicrous, horribly developed subplot involving the supernatural occurrences’ connections to the Holocaust. Gary Oldman shows up as a rabbi who performs an exorcism to try to get rid of the dybbuk haunting Casey. His failed attempts at speaking Hebrew when exorcising are more horrifying to watch than any scenes throughout the film. At times, his Hebrew skills seem more like a parody of Hebrew rather than a real attempt. Jane Alexander adds a little gravitas as a Holocaust survivor who may or may not be able to help Casey. Oh, and Megan Good also shows up as Casey’s sexy best friend who believes in ghosts but who’s stupid enough to answer the door to an unknown entrant while alone the house and as Casey warns her not to open it. Both Casey and her friend seem quite dumb as characters, although they’re both quite easy on the eyes---yes, Odette Yusman does get to walk around in her underwear and there’s a shot of her back as she’s taking a shower. Why can’t there be a horror film with smart victims who don’t let the audience be one step ahead of them all the time? Much of what happens doesn’t just feel predictable, but silly, preposterous unintentionally funny, especially as the plot progresses, leaving a few plot holes along the way. Ultimately, while The Unborn doesn’t have any dull moment, but that’s just because it supports the theory that horror films nowadays often turn into unintentionally absurd comedies without any real suspense or surprises.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2.
Released by Rogue Pictures.

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