Roger Birnbaum

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The Vow Review


OK
Inspired by a true story, this film is watchable mainly because of the extraordinary events, which are genuinely involving and moving. Although typically, Hollywood has ramped up the emotions while avoiding subtlety at all costs.

Goofy recording engineer Leo (Tatum) and adorable artist Paige (McAdams) had a cute romance, quirky wedding and four happy years together before a car crash changed everything. Leo only has minor injuries, but Paige has lost some five years of memories. Crucially, she has no idea who Leo is. And she doesn't remember turning her back on her law course, smirking fiance (Speedman) and wealthy parents (Lange and Neill). They're all she remembers now, so Leo tries to remind her of who she became after she left them behind. If they'll let him.

Continue reading: The Vow Review

Footloose Review


Very Good
A surprisingly faithful remake of the iconic 1984 hit, this crowd-pleasing romp finds some intriguing present-day resonance without pushing it too hard.

Instead, it centres on the interpersonal drama and exhilarating dance moves.

After his mother dies, Boston teen Ren (Wormald) moves to small-town Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle (Dickens and McKinnon). Teens here are prohibited from dancing due to a tragedy three years earlier, so Ren is soon at loggerheads with the local minister (Quaid), whose daughter Ariel (Hough) is a wild child with a redneck boyfriend (Flueger) and an eye for Ren. As Ren deals with his own issues, he teams up with new friends Willard and Woody (Teller and Blain) to take on the system.

Continue reading: Footloose Review

The Tourist Review


OK
This is a thoroughly offbeat concoction from the gifted filmmaker behind the acclaimed The Lives of Others: a rather goofy action comedy that deflates the suspense by telling us pretty much everything from the start.

Elisa (Jolie) is a sleek, overdressed woman of mystery who is being stalked by a tenacious British detective (Bettany). When she boards a train from Paris to Venice, his men are in hot pursuit, so she sidles up to American touristFrank (Depp) to throw them off the scent. He looks similar to her boyfriend, who's wanted by the cops and a vicious Russian mobster (Berkoff). Once in Venice, Frank finds his world turned upside both by this ludicrously elegant woman and the army of goons pursuing him at every turn.

Continue reading: The Tourist Review

The Hottie And The Nottie Review


Terrible
The Hottie and the Nottie is a clichéd film that manages to be both predictable and offensive. That's OK, people who rent The Hottie and the Nottie won't be looking for high art or a subtle satire on the superficiality of the West Coast. In fact if you're thinking of renting The Hottie and the Nottie, there is likely only one reason: You're hoping to enjoy the movie because it is awful, the idea being that movies can be so bad they actually become enjoyable. It is a little like getting a kick out of watching Plan 9 from Outer Space.

The Hottie and the Nottie follows the travails of Nate Cooper (Joel Moore) as he tries to woo the "hottest girl in L.A.," Cristabelle Abbot (Paris Hilton). Nate's pursuit of Cristabelle is aided by his first-grade friend Arno Blount, played with enthusiasm by Greg Wilson, who happens to have a three-inch thick file on Cristabelle. Arno lives with his mother, so one surmises he has plenty of time to devote to cataloging first grade friends.

Continue reading: The Hottie And The Nottie Review

Rush Hour 3 Review


Bad
For all the talk of his beguiling cameo as a police chief, Roman Polanski shows up in Rush Hour 3 for exactly two scenes for about two minutes. In fact, the French police have absolutely nothing to do with anything in the third Rush Hour installment. Polanski simply acts as a diacritic; a punctuation mark to let us know we're entering and exiting the French portion of the program. And although they are given more screen time, Ingmar Bergman-regular Max Von Sydow and French actor/director Yvan Attal serve similar purposes: They're garnish on a liver sandwich made with moldy bread and mayonnaise that started going green around the time of the Bay of Pigs.

Rush Hour 3 plunks our questionable partners, the loose-mouthed Carter (Chris Tucker) and elastic Lee (Jackie Chan), into an international scandal involving the Chinese Triad election that takes them from sunny Los Angeles to gay Paris. Lee's friend and employer Consul Hu (Tzi Ma) is about to blow the lid off the Triads when a sniper snags him a few centimeters north of his heart. Hu's friend Vernard (Von Sydow) OKs Lee and Carter's trip to his hometown of Paris, where, for one reason or another, the Chinese Triad have decided to have an election.

Continue reading: Rush Hour 3 Review

Dragonfly Review


Weak
Dragonfly asks us: When someone you love dies... are they gone forever? It also answers by saying: Apparently not -- they haunt you until you go crazy, pummeling you with insects and kooky drawings. My kind of love, baby.

The love in Dragonfly is the wife of poor Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner), an emergency medicine doctor in Chicago. She's also a doctor -- a pediatric oncologist named Emily -- and for some reason, she decides to head for Venezuela to do a little Peace Corps-style work, presumably to exorcise her upper class guilt.

Continue reading: Dragonfly Review

Abandon Review


Weak
A timely late October release and a spooky ad campaign suggest that Abandon revolves around the ghostly return of a long-lost boyfriend who haunts a lovely coed. Not the case. In reality, it's a melodramatic after school special about a deranged college girl who gets left by every man she dares to love, starting with her father. It's not scary, unless you happen to be the girl.

The question driving Abandon is who abandoned who? Did charismatic but manipulative Embry (Charlie Hunnam) leave his clingy college sweetheart, Katie (Katie Holmes, who probably would get confused if she and her character didn't share a first name), or is it the other way around? And is Embry alive and kicking on a European jaunt, or dead, as a sleazy, washed-up detective (Benjamin Bratt) believes but can't prove?

Continue reading: Abandon Review

Inspector Gadget Review


Bad
I'll admit to watching the early 1980s' Inspector Gadget cartoon, and probably far too late in life.

Looks like now I'm waaaaay too old for this kind of thing, but judging by the mute stares of the many children in our advance screening audience, maybe they are too.

Continue reading: Inspector Gadget Review

The Rich Man's Wife Review


Good
There are a couple of rules inherent to the thriller that any filmmaker should be aware of. First, you have to keep the pace moving so fast that the audience doesn't have time to think about whodunit. And second, if you kill off most of the cast, whoever's left alive at the end of the movie is the one who did the killing.

The Rich Man's Wife blindly ignores both of these rules, but still manages to float, thanks to a united effort by an exceptional cast and exquisite production values. Amy Holden Jones directs her own screenplay here, a modern-day reworking of Hitchcock's masterful Strangers on a Train.

Continue reading: The Rich Man's Wife Review

Powder Review


Extraordinary
Once in awhile, Hollywood manages to surprise me with an uncompromising film full of genuine emotion and enough to make you really think. Powder was completely unexpected: it's easily one of the best films I've seen all year.

Something of an updated, hybridized E.T., Powder is the story of an albino teenager (Sean Patrick Flanery) with strange powers of telekinesis, empathy, and the ability to channel and absorb raw energy. As Powder says, "I'm not like other people." That's putting it lightly.

Continue reading: Powder Review

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Roger Birnbaum Movies

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

The Vow Movie Review

The Vow Movie Review

Inspired by a true story, this film is watchable mainly because of the extraordinary events,...

Footloose Movie Review

Footloose Movie Review

A surprisingly faithful remake of the iconic 1984 hit, this crowd-pleasing romp finds some intriguing...

The Tourist Movie Review

The Tourist Movie Review

This is a thoroughly offbeat concoction from the gifted filmmaker behind the acclaimed The Lives...

Leap Year Movie Review

Leap Year Movie Review

Neither funny nor original enough to really register, this breezy little film will only really...

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Balls Of Fury Movie Review

Balls Of Fury Movie Review

The humor of a game like ping-pong is the outright laziness and inaction that goes...

Rush Hour 3 Movie Review

Rush Hour 3 Movie Review

For all the talk of his beguiling cameo as a police chief, Roman Polanski shows...

Evan Almighty Movie Review

Evan Almighty Movie Review

In hindsight, Bruce Almighty was the death knell for the Jim Carrey we know and...

The Invisible Movie Review

The Invisible Movie Review

The trailers for The Invisible ask, "How do you solve a murder when the victim...

The Lookout Movie Review

The Lookout Movie Review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a soft baby face and a lanky frame, so it's easy to...

Stay Alive Movie Review

Stay Alive Movie Review

It's a horror plot so surefire that you wonder why it hasn't been done before:...

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) Movie Review

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) Movie Review

The classic Monte Cristo sandwich is a rich confection -- almost inedibly so -- composed...

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