Patrick Wachsberger

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Step Up Revolution [Step Up: Miami Heat] Review


Weak
The Step Up franchise has never been noted for its astute screenwriting, but this instalment sets the bar so low that even its bendy cast members would have trouble limboing under it. Even so, the cut-and-paste characters and plot can't make this sweaty dance movie boring.

In a noble but poor neighbourhood under a stack of bridges by the Miami River, Sean (Guzman) and his pal Eddy (Gabriel) lead an underground dance crew called The Mob to perform flash-mob antics in picturesque locations. Their goal is to win an online competition and go pro. Then Sean meets Emily (McCormick), whose property tycoon dad (Gallagher) wants to destroy Sean's neighbourhood to build another glitzy development. While trying to make her own way in dance school, Emily hides her identity to join The Mob and take on Dad.

Continue reading: Step Up Revolution [Step Up: Miami Heat] Review

Step Up 3D Review


Weak

Shamelessly derivative and laughably packed with every cliche imaginable, this second sequel pushes the formula into a full-on celebration of street dance.
And through sheer exuberance, it almost gets away with it. It's not good, but it's a lot of fun.

Luke (Malambri) runs a nightclub and dance studio out of the Brooklyn warehouse he inherited from his parents. Despite the fact that the club is packed to the rafters every night, he's behind on his mortgage and really needs to win the upcoming World Jam to save his crew's home. So he challenges his team, the Pirates, to go for it against their arch-rival competitors. New members include Natalie (Vinson), who sparks a romance with Luke, and Moose (Sevani), who neglects his university studies and his pining best pal Camille (Stoner) to dance in secret.

The only connections to the first film are Stoner (from Step Up) and Sevani (from Step Up 2 the Streets), plus a couple of surprise appearances. Otherwise, the filmmakers jettison the clash-of-the-dance-genres premise for a more straightforward sports-movie structure with a win-or-die competition, two formulaic rom-com subplots and a rather pointlessly evil villain in rival team leader Julien (Slaughter), who has a nefarious connection to one of Luke's dancers.

But the filmmakers also realise that the whole point of the exercise is the dancing, and they stage outrageously elaborate dance-offs and montage sequences that are choreographed for maximum 3D gimmickry using water, lights and anything else they can find. Including Slushees blowing in a gust of wind from a Subway vent. This is all done with smiley brio and hectic energy, and the dance sequences are truly exhilarating.

They're so good, in fact, that we can overlook the clunky dialog, which the actors struggle to deliver with any believability. But if their performances are often almost comically stiff, their dance moves are thoroughly entertaining. It's impossible to watch this film without enjoying every ridiculous moment, even if much of the enjoyment is in laughing at the corny script. "We can go anywhere," emotes Natalie, urging Luke to run off with her, "even California!" Oh come on, who would want to go there?

P2 Review


Unbearable
Someone -- either screenwriters Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur or director Franck Khalfoun -- is very, very proud of the name of their new movie. At every possible opportunity, they make a point to linger on the title when it appears on screen. It's like product placement for a movie within the movie itself. Even more inexplicable, the name is... P2. Because it strikes such fear in the heart?

It's unfortunately not the only baffling part: Who decided that a horrorfest set in an underground parking garage needed to be made, and what on earth possessed Wes Bentley to decide he needed to be in it? The list of questions is longer than the movie, so it's best to start at the beginning.

Continue reading: P2 Review

In The Valley Of Elah Review


Excellent
Although Paul Haggis' gut-punch of a story, In the Valley of Elah, is the first truly great narrative film about the Iraq War, it only spends a total of maybe five minutes there. The rest of the time, Elah is back in the U.S., dealing with all the stomach-churning consequences of what the country has sent young men over the sea to do. For this war story, combat -- that terrifying adrenaline high that changes many soldiers forever -- would be a distraction. The film comes at the war elliptically, immersing viewers in a world of soldiers, veterans, military bases, and civilian hangers-on, where President Bush is always pontificating from a nearby radio or television and everyone gets their check, directly or indirectly, from the Pentagon.

Elah is set in late 2004, when previously pro-war segments of the population started seeing cracks in the official flag-waving rhetoric, and ugly rumors started flying about what was actually going on Over There. Haggis' hard-boiled script -- closely based on Mark Boal's harsh, eye-opening article, "Death and Dishonor," published in Playboy in 2004 -- takes the form not of a war film but of a mystery, hiding its disquieting revelations in a familiar structure. Retired military policeman Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) finds out that his son Mike (Jonathan Tucker, from Haggis' short-lived TV show The Black Donnellys), currently serving in Iraq, went AWOL not long after coming home on R&R. Having already lost his other son to combat in Afghanistan, and convinced he's getting some sort of runaround from the army, Hank hops in his winded old pickup and heads to Mike's base looking for answers.

Continue reading: In The Valley Of Elah Review

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) Review


Excellent
It will go down in infamy as the film that split up Brad and Jen -- assuming that 10 or 20 years from now people still remember the headline-making legacy of the ill-fated Pitt-Aniston marriage.

Unfortunately for gossip fiends, Mr. & Mrs. Smith doesn't really bear any mark of Angelina Jolie as homewrecker or of Brad Pitt as any more infatuated with the lippy screen queen than any normal, red-blooded man ought to be. And fortunately for moviegoers, Smith (wholly unrelated to the 1941 Hitchcock film of the same name) is a funny and wild ride, an impressive blend of black comedy, ultraviolence, and romance that we rarely get to see -- and which rarer still is any good.

Continue reading: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) Review

The Alibi Review


Grim
Distraction is one of Hollywood's greatest assets. People are easily distracted by damn near anything, and in movies it becomes crucial. Story doesn't quite make sense? Make an explosion or a tidal wave. Character development not going so well? Throw a love story in and a sex scene for good measure. If you make things complicated enough, the audience really has nowhere to go and just takes things as they come, allowing for some absolutely implausible things to happen. For Kurt Matilla and Matt Checkowski's The Alibi, distraction is the name of the game, but it's all in the name of fun.Steve Coogan, in what seems destined to be only his first Hollywood film, plays Ray Elliott, a man who has built a business around making it safe for people to cheat on their spouses. Through contacts and an outlandishly complex phone and computer system, Elliott has set up alibis for literally hundreds of people who need a quick romp in the sack. While handling his favorite client, Bob (a cheeky James Brolin), Ray decides to hire Lola (Rebecca Romijn) as his new assistant and is asked to handle one last personal case for Bob: an alibi for his son Wendell. As Wendell is getting his freak on in the clear, he accidentally kills the girl he's with and Ray is forced to cover it up, something he vows never to do. Soon enough, the girl's boyfriend (John Leguizamo), a cop (Debi Mazar), and a Mormon assassin (Sam Elliott) are all after Ray and he has to mislead all of them to make sure he can quit and run away with Lola, who has indeed fallen for him even though they only have a handful of scenes together (a largely undisputed problem with many romantic subplots).With a runtime just a tad shy of 90 minutes, The Alibi can't handle all these characters, even if it all just comes back to Ray. Talented actors like Leguizamo, Selma Blair, and the great Elliott play their parts well but are given no room to dig into the roles. In fact, the structure of the film introduces each of these characters as a threat then moves straight into how they get duped by Ray. Writer Noah Hawley seems so interested in the quirkiness and silliness of his characters that he doesn't take time to really bring them to life and make them work their mojo on the film.What keeps the film from being a disaster is Coogan, who gives Ray so much wise-ass, dry-as-a-martini charm that we are simply enamored with laughter every time he comes on screen. Although he seems more at home with indie masterpieces like 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Coogan has an odd way of keeping us interested in things when Matilla, Checkowski, and cinematographer Enrique Chediak are just fine playing things safe and harmless. In the end, the problem comes down to conflict: there is none. The minute danger is introduced to Ray or the storyline, it becomes clear that Ray can handle it and that there really is no threat at all. Therefore, none of the characters stick, because we know they're all just small-timers compared to Ray. But as far as distraction goes, Coogan has got the whole game wired.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) Review


Excellent
It will go down in infamy as the film that split up Brad and Jen -- assuming that 10 or 20 years from now people still remember the headline-making legacy of the ill-fated Pitt-Aniston marriage.

Unfortunately for gossip fiends, Mr. & Mrs. Smith doesn't really bear any mark of Angelina Jolie as homewrecker or of Brad Pitt as any more infatuated with the lippy screen queen than any normal, red-blooded man ought to be. And fortunately for moviegoers, Smith (wholly unrelated to the 1941 Hitchcock film of the same name) is a funny and wild ride, an impressive blend of black comedy, ultraviolence, and romance that we rarely get to see -- and which rarer still is any good.

Continue reading: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) Review

Patrick Wachsberger

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