Random Reviews: Inkheart, Wanted, Chalk

We’ve been having a lot of Blockbuster nights since we bought the house last summer, while managing to catch whatever kid-friendly movies worth seeing in theaters whenever possible, and I’ve been reviewing a lot of them on Flixster but wanted to round up the most recent batch and post them here, including expanded commentary on a few.

Inkheart: Saw it tonight and loved it! A great cast highlighted by Paul Bettany and Helen Mirren, who lift Brendan Fraser beyond his typically solid leading-man performance, and Andy Serkis as a great villain; plus, an intriguing story combine for what is effectively an entertaining love letter to the power of the written word, writers, and imagination itself. It’s a little dark for some kiddies — India said afterwards that she thought it was rated R! — but I enjoyed it so much that I went and bought the book right afterwards and started reading it in the store.

Side note: This was the first movie I’ve seen Mirren in since those pictures last summer of her in a bikini and it was a little distracting for the first couple of minutes. Zoinks!

Black Snake Moan: Surprisingly poignant and touching; great performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci enable Craig Brewer to fulfill the potential of his risky idea — the DVD extras are must-see — and Justin Timberlake does a solid job of not embarassing himself. The music, too, is amazing and I want the soundtrack which includes Jackson doing “Stack-o-lee”, one of the many songs that inspired the best graphic novel of 2006, Stagger Lee.

Wanted: Imagine, if you can, a mash-up of The Matrix and Fight Club, written by a roomful of monkeys with iPods and directed by the least talented monkey in the room, and you’ll get close to the total wackness that is Wanted. James McAvoy’s character and acting were lame imitations of Ed Norton in Fight Club, and the handful of kewl action moments were overshadowed by the sheer lameness of the script and, pardon the pun, threadbare plot. The comic book it was based on was similarly hacktastic, so it’s no surprise, but I expected a little better from Easy Reader. Morgan Freeman: You’re on notice!

The Happening: There is not a single redeeming aspect of this movie, and I’m a Shyamalan apologist! (I still say Unbreakable was his best movie and The Village, while flawed, was better than most people give it credit for.) The acting is terrible, the script is stupid and the suspense is virtually non-existent. Is a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch reunion in the works?

Chalk: Mildly entertaining mockumentary that’s not quite sure which direction it wants to go, wandering aimlessly between occasionally poignant and less frequently humourous. Comparisons to Best in Show are superficial at best; more like an amateurish take on Boston Public. (I really, really miss Boston Public and wish they’d release the first two seasons on DVD. Amazon even has a listing for it in anticipation! Seriously, what’s the hold up?)

Tropic Thunder: Unexpectedly hilarious; I nearly passed out several times, including Tom Cruise’s image-altering appearance. (That second scene literally made me cry.) Robert Downey Jr.’s Oscar nom might be a bit much, but he’s probably one of the few actors who could pull that role off.

Son of Rambow: Based on the trailer, I was expecting a lighthearted romp, not the surprisingly credible story of friendship dramatically played out by an amazing cast of young actors. It gets a bit out there at times, but it never feels wrong as Garth Jennings has written a pitch-perfect script that will ring true to anyone who spent even a single minute of their childhoods in fantasyland — the French kid is a total WTF until the whole story falls seamlessly into place by the end — and the two leads fully pull you into their characters’ very (and not-so-very) different lives. A must-see!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Much better than I expected, but I’m glad I waited to see it on DVD as it feels more like an extended TV episode than a standalone feature movie. The stylized animation is designed for the new video game generation, the voice acting is solid — Matt Lanter makes Anakin way more interesting than Hayden Christansen did — and Ahsoka Tano and the featured Clone soldiers are interesting new characters, but the story is a bit on the light side for a 98-minute movie. All of the key elements are here, though, including broadly sketched archetypes, pseudo-philosophical subtext, and the requisite spaceship and lightsaber battles. Lucas is clearly aiming for the next generation, and judging by my kids’ newfound love for lightsabers and Jedi, I’d say he nailed it.

True story: A few weeks after watching this movie and 5 of the live-action Star Wars movies, Salomé sends me this text message: “your kids are running around screaming ‘DIE SEPARATIST SCUM!!!’ we need to monitor that star wars stuff!”

Side note: After watching this movie and a couple of episodes of the TV show, and then watching Revenge of the Jedi again, it gave me a new appreciation of the betrayal of the Jedi and made me even more pissed off that Lucas botched the whole movie so badly.

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