A solid cast bodes well for this unnecessary remake of the 1982 movie (based on the 1970s musical), but the filmmakers' decision to turn the catchy songs into bland pop numbers is the real mistake. It leaves the entire film feeling empty, highlighting director Will Gluck's clunky direction, which includes coaxing Cameron Diaz to a squirm-inducingly over-the-top performance. Young children probably won't mind, but as the movie lurches awkwardly from one messy set piece to the next, the lack of a decently arranged musical number makes everything look dull and witless.
In Harlem, 10-year-old Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) is an orphan living in a foster home with four other girls, run by the greedy Miss Hannigan (Diaz). Smart and quick-witted, Annie longs for a day when she can be reunited with her parents. Then she has a run-in with Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a workaholic mobile phone executive who's running for New York mayor. Will's advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale) suggests that he take Annie in temporarily to boost his poll numbers, and once settled in his spacious penthouse apartment she immediately charms Will's assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) and driver Nash (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). And she begins to work her way into Will's heart as well.
From here, Gluck completely misses the point of the play, trying desperately to crank up a ridiculous scam subplot into some big final-act action mayhem. But this never gains any traction at all because it's clear what has to happen in the story. Indeed, the best thing on screen is the strong chemistry between Foxx and Wallis, who find moments of genuine humour and connection even in the silliest slapstick. And they seem almost reluctant every time they have to dive into yet another insipidly revamped song. Pop star Sia worked on them, but loses all the charm in the attempt to turn each one into a chart-topping clone. Fans of the original music will enjoy the brief riffs of the originals audible here and there, and they'll leave the cinema wanting to revisit the old numbers instead of these Frankenstein versions.
Continue reading: Annie Review
Frank (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are best-pal CIA operatives who wouldn't know the word "subtle" if it clubbed them over the head. After a chaotic case in Hong Kong, they're grounded back home in L.A., and both decide to use the down time to find women. The problem is that they find the same woman, Lauren (Witherspoon), who struggles to decide which one is right for her. Certainly her married best pal Trish (Handler) is no help. The bigger problem is that Frank and Tuck use the agency's resources to sabotage each other.
Continue reading: This Means War Review
Dre (Smith) is annoyed when his mother (Henson) moves from Detroit to Beijing, where he's mercilessly bullied by a gang of schoolboy thugs led by Cheng (Wang Zhenwei). Sure, there's the cute violinist (Han) to distract him, but things don't really start looking up until the maintenance man (Chan) agrees to teach him kung fu. Now Dre has three goals: learn skills to defend himself, compete in an upcoming tournament against Cheng and his evil mentor (Yu), and of course get the girl.
Continue reading: The Karate Kid Review
That's Seven Pounds in a nutshell, and it sounds more like Saw 6 than a holiday drama reuniting Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino with Will Smith. But unlike Happyness, the feel-good movie of 2006, Seven Pounds is just the opposite -- a feel-bad movie -- and its unpleasant aftertaste lingers in your mouth for days. After watching this depression-inducing saga of sadness, you'll need a Zoloft prescription.
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Lily (Dakota Fanning) lives in rural South Carolina with her no-account abusive redneck daddy T. Ray (Paul Bettany) and the family housekeeper Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson). Her mother died when she was very young, and the circumstances have haunted the young girl ever since. When President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1964 into law, Rosaleen decides to register. In the process, she is assaulted, beaten, and arrested. In a moment of opportunity, she escapes the police, and takes Lily out on the run. They wind up in the care of the Boatwright sisters -- August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys), and May (Sophie Okonedo). Successful beekeepers, their safe haven gives Lily a chance to face the demons from the past and plot a course for the future.
Continue reading: The Secret Life of Bees Review
Set in an affluent corner of a Los Angeles suburb, Jackson enters the screen quietly as Abel Turner, a veteran member of the LAPD. On any given day Abel is either the best parent and neighbor you've ever met, or a lumbering, blue nightmare. The latter opinion is that of Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington), a young, interracial couple from Chicago who have just bought the house next to Turner's. She designs clothing while he works for an all-natural supermarket chain named Good. Abel isn't fond of seeing a pretty black woman with a white boy, but his bigger problems are with domestic decorum.
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That's disappointing, because before the drop-off point, Hancock is surprisingly good. The movie's best as a comedy and worst when it tries to get serious. Hancock is a tragically misunderstood, alcoholic super human of sorts; he's what would have happened to Superman if the Kents were unstable parents. Bulletproof, capable of flying, and strong as an ox, Hancock possesses all the physical traits to be a superhero but lacks any of the heroic characteristics. Everybody in Los Angeles hates this guy, because the damage he causes while nabbing criminals costs the city more to repair than the criminal acts themselves.
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Will Smith plays Robert Neville, a virologist investigating a genetically engineered cure for cancer that has gone very, very wrong. With most of the world's population wiped out and a small remnant turned into ravenous, infected carriers, Neville ekes out a lonely existence with only a dog for company in the remains of New York City, hunting, foraging, and exploring by day and shutting himself in at night. The infected, as it turns out, are vulnerable to ultraviolet light.
Continue reading: I Am Legend Review
Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is one of those downtrodden guys for whom better times are always just around the next corner. He's a salesman, hawking some over-priced and under-used equipment to hospitals around San Francisco. What Chris wants is a better life for his family, his angry and overworked wife Linda (Thandie Newton, unconvincing with her brittle, bottled up range) and his delectably cute five-year-old Christopher (played by Smith's real-life son Jaden -- or, as he's loftily billed in the credits, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). And the idea he latches onto, because it does not require a college education, but could still pay off big time, is to become a stockbroker.
Continue reading: The Pursuit of Happyness Review
Unfortunately, aside from a few tastes of local flavor, this buffed-clean Boyz n the Hood could have been set on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. The mansions meant to represent the city's wealth could stand beyond any iron gate in Beverly Hills. The greasy spoon diner that attracts the film's high school slackers could be housed in Greenwich Village - the fact that the kids order sweet tea doesn't automatically make ATL southern. Heck, the film's life lessons are obvious to anyone, whether they're from the streets or the suburbs.
Continue reading: Atl Review
Wil (Michelle Krusiec) is a young surgeon not feeling New York's liberal vibe. Her widowed mother (a long-lost Joan Chen) hounds Wil to find a husband, working her circuit of gossipy Chinese friends to find suitors. For Wil, a lesbian, it's a waste of time except that in her tradition-abiding family, she must do what is expected.
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Smith plays the titular hero, a guy who's so smooth he turned it into a career as a "date doctor," helping a succession of schlubby but good-hearted guys make it into the arms of gorgeous women who otherwise wouldn't have looked twice at them. But although he's like a consultant for romance, Hitch doesn't use his powers to find true love for himself, leaving marriage and lasting relationships for his clients. This leaves him with plenty of energy to devote to his newest project: Albert (Kevin James, very funny), a nervous, fumble-thumbed accountant desperately in love with one of his clients, the ridiculously wealthy and beautiful heiress Allegra (Amber Valletta, who comes closer to approximating an actual actress in each film she's in) and needs help getting her to notice him. A few quick lessons from Hitch, which include a nicely-played Cyrano scene (and a dancing tutorial that contains most of the film's few true laughs), and Albert begins to blossom into a confident, impressive romantic who looks sure to make Allegra fall for him. It's light stuff, to be sure, but often played with a disarmingly sweet touch by both James and Valletta and enjoyable enough. But then the film feels the need to add in a whole other storyline, and that's where the problems start.
Continue reading: Hitch Review
Now, with Michael Mann's lengthy biopic of the heavyweight king hitting theaters, kids can think of former "Fresh Prince" Will Smith. And I'm still not sure if that's a good thing.
Continue reading: Ali Review