35 & Ticking
Four friends approaching the age of 35 struggle with a variety of relationship issues that keep them from being happy. Zenobia (Nicole Ari Parker), a sexy sportscaster, yearns to find a man to settle down with, so, out of all places, she looks for that ideal man via an internet dating site. It wouldn’t be a surprise to state that she doesn’t exactly get what she asked for once she meets the man in person. Victoria (Tamala Jones) wants to have children, but her husband doesn’t want to make that commitment. Phil (Keith Robinson) has a wife who cheats on him and neglects to take care of his child. Finally, there’s Cleavon (Kevin Hart) makes ends meet by often donating sperm to a sperm back, and he tries to keep that secret buried while pursuing a girl, Calise (Wendy Raquel Robinson), who’s involved with another guy.
Writer/director Russ Parr takes what could have been a serious romantic drama peppered with comedy and turns it into an occasionally funny comedy peppered with serious drama and romance. There’s nothing particularly memorable to be found here because the characters comes across as one-dimensional while most of what transpires to them feels over-the-top rather than realistic. For example, just look at Zenobia’s internet date, Zane (Clifton Powell). He tells her right off the bat that he had served time in prison ten years ago, yet Zenobia’s too stupid to realize that that’s red flag. His disrespect of her when they first meet still doesn’t raise any flags for her. Then again, Parr doesn’t seem to strive for realism; he’d rather just keep you entertained which at least he does achieve for the most part thanks to the cast’s lively performances. The comedy aims for the higher end of lowbrow humor (see Bridesmaids if you want the lower end), so you’ll find Cleavon peeing while sitting in a hot tub with friends, and Zane mispronouncing items on the food menu much to the embarrassment of Zenobia and the waiter. Not surprisingly, the third act wraps up everything neatly in a nice little bowtie thereby not trusting the audience’s intelligence and leaving no room for any interpretations. At a running time of 1 hour and 44 minutes, 35 & Ticking manages to be an occasionally funny comedy that’s far from poignant or true-to-life, but it’s nonetheless harmless, breezy and amusing more often than not.
A Beautiful Life
A sexy real-estate agent, Peiru (Qi Shu), falls in love with Zhendong (Ye Liu), a police officer who she meets while drunk at a karaoke bar. She continues their romantic relationship even though she's the mistress of a wealthy married man.
The first half of the film that deals with Peiru and Zhendong's blossoming romance feels organic and sweet. However, when writer/director Wai-keung Lau gives Zhendong a neurological disease midstream, the film begins to lose its realism and feels melodramatic and contrived instead because the disease seems like a plot devise. Ye Liu, who recently starred in City of Life and Death, gives a warm and tender performance that adds some poignancy and keeps you marginally engrossed. Qi Shu sizzles in her role as the seemingly tough yet fragile Peiru. Lau could have easy trimmed 15 minutes or so from the later part of the second act because it tends to drag a bit.
Children of God
Cost of a Soul
Florent: Queen of the Meat Market
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) tracks down his imposter who turns out to be Angelica (Penélope Cruz), his old flame. Little does he know until later on that she’s actually the daughter of the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Sparrow agrees to show Blackbeard and his crew of zombie pirates the way to the Fountain of Youth while sailing the high seas on the Queen Anne's Revenge. Soon enough, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Sparrow’s archenemy, follows them on his own ship in hopes of also reaching that much sought-after Fountain of Youth. In a parallel subplot, Philip (Sam Claflin), a cleric aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, finds himself falling in love with a mermaid, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who has taken hostage because part of what’s needed to activate the Fountain of Youth is a mermaid’s tear.
Fortunately, the screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio moves along in a much more easy-to-follow fashion than the prior two installments of Pirates of the Caribbean, so the plot feels less convoluted and, therefore, more engaging overall. They know that their most valuable asset which made the first film so remarkable is Captain Jack Sparrow because, with the help of Johnny Depp’s charismatic performance, he adds oodles of panache and a witty sense of humor that never cease to keep you entertained. It should be no surprise then that Depp steals the show once again and turns a pedestrian plot into one that’s fun and exciting whenever he’s onscreen which is quite often. Sure, the romance between Sparrow and Angelica lacks chemistry as does the one between Philip and Syrena, but those minor setbacks can be easily forgiven for because, after all, Pirates’s strong points have always been as a pure action adventure sprinkled with comedy in the form of Jack Sparrow.
Director Rob Marshall, best known for Chicago and Nine, does his best to keep the pace moving swiftly and the action sequences thrilling for the most part while keeping your eyes and ears entertained with the exquisite set/costume designs, beautiful scenery of the jungles, and the musical score that further adds to the sense of adventure. There’s no need to watch the film in 3D, though, because the images look murkier than in 2D. At a running time of 2 hours and 17 minutes, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is not nearly as consistently exhilarating as the first installment, but, with Rob Marshall at the helm, it’s certainly less convoluted, more thrilling and exciting than the last two. Please be sure to stick around after the end credits for a stinger.