Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
Gibson back with a vengeance in 'Edge of Darkness'
Mel Gibson has never been one of those chameleon actors who disappears into a role. Even in Braveheart (especially in Braveheart), viewers could never forget they were watching Mel Gibson painted blue. Since Gibson's career has always been about persona, it's interesting to see how that persona is evolving in the political thriller, Edge Of Darkness, Gibson's first onscreen role in eight years. Physically, more lined and craggy than we remember, and smaller, even shorter on camera, his demeanor seems more humble and contained, less flamboyant.
This conservative, paternal approach befits his character here, a blue-collar police detective searching for the murderer of his grown daughter. But there's one aspect of Gibson's persona that has not altered over the years: ever since Braveheart, he's been drawn to playing the martyr, the stoic hero who suffers mightily for the sins of the rest of us. Gibson's martyr complex isn't so much of a problem at first in Edge Of Darkness; clues begin to add up, suspense builds, the action is fast, visceral and violent. It's not until the last quarter of the film that logic and dignity are tossed aside and we're invited to wallow in the character's pain and bow down to our wrathful, rampaging avenger.
Once upon a time, Josh Duhamel had a featured role in a popular soap opera which earned him a legion of female fans. Kristen Bell also has her share of devotees after recurring roles in three cult TV series. These combined crossover viewers will be the principal audience for When In Rome, the silly, but harmless romantic comedy in which Bell and Duhamel co-star. Written by David Diamond and David Weissman for director Mark Steven Johnson, it's a typical story of impossibly beautiful people destined to be together who nevertheless keep throwing roadblocks in the path of love. Bell stars as Beth, a junior art curator in New York City (at the Guggenheim, no less), who's given up on love. At her kid sister's wedding in Rome to a man she's only known for two weeks ("That's not even enough time for a credit check!"), Beth seems to hit it off with best man and fellow New Yorker, Nick (Duhamel), until she (mistakenly) thinks she's been played. At a so-called "Fountain of Love," into which tourists pitch coins in hopes of finding amore, Beth, Grinch-like, purloins some coins.
Father fights system to cure sick kids in 'Extraordinary Measures'
Parental love is a powerful thing. It drove John Crowley, a corporate idea man at Bristol Myers in Portland, Oregon, to found and operate an independent research center in hopes of developing a treatment in time to save the lives of his two youngest children, stricken with a rare genetic disease. Crowley's extraordinary parental love is also the motivating force behind Extraordinary Measures, the earnest, workmanlike film dramatization of Crowley's story.
EDGE OF DARKNESS Mel Gibson gets back in front of the camera to star in this political thriller about a tough homicide detective investigating the murder of his actvist daughter who discovers a sinister government agency is also interested in the case, hoping to hush things up. Adapted from the mid-'80s BBC miniseries, with an updated script by William Monahan (The Departed.) Ray Winstone and Danny Huston co-star for veteran action director Martin Campbell. (R) 117 minutes. Starts Friday.
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Story pales under opulent fx in 'The Lovely Bones'
A story about a murdered child is a tough sell. Alice Sebold evidently pulled it off in her bestselling novel "The Lovely Bones." Narrated from the afterlife by a 14-year-old girl brutally murdered by the neighborhood serial killer, it's a story of death-defying love, grief, healing and redemption.
But for those of us who haven't read the novel, only vague traces of what must have made it so meaningful survive in Peter Jackson's unwieldy adaptation of The Lovely Bones. Jackson and co-scriptwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens replicate the action of the plot—which is occasionally grim and often confusing—but never imbue it with the poetic or transformative power that would make it all amount to something. Instead, Jackson spends his creative energy attempting to depict the unknowable—the afterlife ("the in-between time") from which the young heroine tells her tale. Jackson envisions it as an opulent CGI playground of mind-blowing images, but every time we go there, we're wrenched out of the intimate human drama that should have given the film its soul.
The hothouse dramas of Tennessee Williams were considered pretty scandlous back in the '50s because, hello! it was the '50s. These days, warmed-over Williams just doesn’t have the same impact, even if provided by Williams himself, via a long-unproduced screenplay. Rookie director Jodie Markell's handsome production of The Loss Of A Teardrop Diamond conjures up the usual intemperate Williams brew: unspoken homosexual longing sublimated into the tale of a fragile, yet willful Southern belle too arty and sophisticated for her stifling social milieu, teetering on the brink of madness. Pale, porcelain Bryce Dallas Howard goes brunette to play Fisher Willow, a Memphis debutante ca. 1923 who's spent some time abroad, bobs her hair, and has a yen for jazz. She's also smitten with dirt-poor Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans)—his father's an affable drunk and his mama is locked up in a madhouse—who runs the commissary on her rich Daddy's plantation.
EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES When his two youngest children are diagnosed with a rare and fatal disease, a young business entrepreneur (Brendan Fraser) ditches the corporate world to set up his own foundation with a renegade scientist (Harrison Ford), in hopes of developing a cure. Keri Russell and Jared Harris co-star. Adapted from the non-fiction book, "The Cure," by Geeta Anand. Tom Vaughan directs. (PG) 102 minutes. Starts Friday.
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Colin Firth is marvelous navigating grief in 'A Single Man'
The scary-beautiful image that begins A Single Man, a naked male figure floating embryo-like (or possibly drowning) under water, plunges the viewer into a sense of edgy dislocation. All the better to appreciate the mindset of the film's protagonist, a quietly closeted gay expatriate Briton in sunny L.A., grieving over the loss of his longtime partner, who no longer fits into his own well-tailored life. From these opening moments, we share the protagonist's unease about the randomness of the universe in Tom Ford's spare, elegant study on the nature of grief.