Karen Mccullah Lutz

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The Ugly Truth Review

It may be the nature of romantic comedies to be predictable, but this movie never departs from the formula at all. And while the cast is watchable, the film simply has nothing original to say.

Abby (Heigl) is a frazzled breakfast TV producer in Northern California, annoyed when the brutish Mike (Butler) is hired to present a male perspective on her show alongside smiling/strained hosts Larry and Georgia (Higgins and Hines). Mike's theory that men are only interested in looks enrages Abby, who is trying to woo a handsome, successful guy (Winter). Even though she's a complete control freak, she agrees to let Mike help her get her man.

Fortunately, the cast is charming and sometimes even funny. Heigl and Butler could do these roles in their sleep, oozing sass while cutely prickling against each other. Both of them are endearing, in a simplistic sort of way, throwing out witty one-liners and indulging in corny banter that implies the chemistry that is completely absent from the film. Much more fun are Higgins and Hines in small scene-stealing roles that are full of eye-rolling innuendo.

For a film about a strong woman, Abby is awfully needy and desperate. All she can think about is finding the perfect man, and we seem to be the only ones who realise that Mike is the only man the script has in mind for her. Meanwhile, for all his macho posturing and chauvinist comments, he's actually a sensitive soul who understands how men and woman connect. In other words, for all of its bluster, the film isn't remotely as edgy as it pretends to be.

All of the script's male-female sparring uses stereotypes and contrived situations to push the romance forward, from the Cyrano-like coaching to the unsophisticated (and unoriginal) vibrator gag. There are no subplots and no subtext at all. Even the sexuality is simplistic: it's just puritanical sniggering. And by the time the film finally addresses something resonant, wondering who could actually love a control freak, the contrived story and shallow approach leave us cold. But since this is a rom-com with likeable stars, that doesn't really matter.

The House Bunny Review

In The House Bunny, Anna Faris looks significantly more glammed up than when she came into movies as the star of Scary Movie. In that film, she was stuck in a poor man's Neve Campbell role by design -- a spoof of a minor star, a winking knockoff. Faris stayed through the franchise throughout four installments, and coming out the other side, she still plays bimbos and cast-offs like Shelley Darlington, a second-string Playboy bunny who has turned 27 without hitting centerfold, and is summarily ejected from the Playboy mansion.

But years of scene-stealing in both indie movies and lowbrow comedies have refined Faris's approachable goofiness, and she finds an original, star-quality approach to playing a cheesy sex bomb. As Shelley, Faris widens her eyes (or as Shelley refers to them, "the nipples of the face") as if she's struggling to see through her own blissful daze, and speaks with a breathy, earnest tone. She's superficial and bubbleheaded, but doesn't have a malicious bone in her toned body; Faris finds comedy in her innocent belief in the healing togetherness of the Playboy fantasy. Shelley's attempts at sexiness are so goofy that they go back around and become sexy again.

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Ella Enchanted Review

Ella Enchanted is a familiar fairytale: a young woman must overcome an extreme set of obstacles to land her prince charming. The telling of this mythical fable, based on the novel by Gail Carson Levine, is a cross between Ever After (or any other Cinderella story) and The Princess Bride. And while there are plenty of elves, ogres, giants and stepsisters to fill a forest of enchantment, the film's lack of originality cripples its attempts to be charming.

At birth, the young Ella (Anne Hathaway) is cursed with a spell that destines her to be obedient. At the drop of a command, she is forced to stop what she is doing and obey orders. Growing up, Ella's curse brings its share of problems, but when an older Ella gains a new stepmother (Joanna Lumley) and two stepsisters, they use Ella's curse to get what they want. They instruct Ella to steal from the local market, hand over her mother's precious locket, and terminate her friendship with an old friend. The stepsisters also have their sights on the soon-to-be-king Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), but he fancies Ella. Charmont's uncle, Prince Regent Edgar (Cary Elwes), secretly covets the throne so he can continue the strict governance established by Charmont's father.

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She's the Man Review


What is it about fancy prep schools that makes them the de facto setting for contemporary re-imaginings of Shakespeare? Something about the parent-free environs of the pretty and privileged makes it a completely believable breeding ground for Shakespearean turmoil of assorted varieties. This time, we get Twelfth Night, only it's (poorly) renamed She's the Man and involves fewer tropical islands and shipwrecks and more soccer and slapstick.

Viola (the preternaturally spunky Amanda Bynes) is a soccer star and wacky tomboy who's royally ticked when her school cuts the girls' team. The smug coach - and Vi's equally buffoonish boyfriend - refuse to let the ousted players try out for the boys' squad because girls are fragile and slow, or some other early-1980s-grade cutting-edge sexism. So Vi assumes the identity of her twin brother, Sebastian, who snuck off to London for a couple of weeks, to make the team at a rival boarding school and prove her point.

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10 Things I Hate About You Review

Boy meets girl. Another boy bets boy he can't score with girl. Boy pays third boy to try to loosen up girl's sister so he can get girl. Serious themes that haven't been explored since... well... since She's All That.

At least 10 Things I Hate About You has one hell of a good title. I give it points for that alone. And while this updating of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is clever and funny at times, much of the film is just not entertaining due to bad directing by way-out-of-his-element first-timer Gil Junger.

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Karen Mccullah Lutz

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