The Bucket List

What a setup: Jack Nicholson is a billionaire Scrooge with terminal cancer, sharing a room in the oncology ward of his own hospital with auto mechanic Morgan Freemana family man endowed with all the kind, redemptive wisdom Freeman can bring to Justin Zackham’s hokey script. This being Oscar-coveting Hollywood claptrap, class barriers vanish as the two become best friends and Nicholson bankrolls a spree in which they indulge their deepest romantic whims: parachuting, car racing, and flying across the globe while sampling the emblems of the good life found in TV commercials. I don’t know if Rob Reiner is the one to blame for this atrocity, but he directed and coproduced. PG-13, 98 min. (JR)

Published on 27 Dec 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

The Great Debaters

The story of the champion debate team nurtured in the 1930s at the all-black Wiley College in rural Texas is so amazing that it’s infuriating to see producer Oprah Winfrey, director Denzel Washington, and screenwriter Robert Eisele add so much spin, including a climactic argument that anticipates Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent tactics by two decades. Washington plays the tough-love coach, poet and activist Melvin B. Tolson; Denzel Whitaker is the team’s youngest member, James Farmer Jr., who later founded the Congress of Racial Equality; and Forest Whitaker (no relation) plays his remarkable father. The other three debaters (Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker, Jermaine Williams) are fictional composites, and for some reason the climactic match has been moved from the University of Southern California to Harvard. Conceived like a sports movie, this delivers passion, nuance, and historical insight along with unnecessary hokum. PG-13, 123 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Dec 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

27 Dresses

Katherine Heigl stars as a compulsive bridesmaidshe cultivates friends for the sole purpose of joining their wedding parties. Secretly in love with her boss (Edward Burns), she has to negotiate an emotional obstacle course after he proposes to her dependent and popular younger sister (Malin Akerman). Meanwhile a wedding reporter (James Marsden) has been dogging the older sister’s steps, writing a story about her compulsion. For most of this romantic comedy, fatuous contrivances run neck and neck with what seem to be authentic observations about repressed sibling rivalry; some of the latter are too painful to be funny, and eventually the contrivances win out, but the cast keeps it all watchable. Anne Fletcher directed a script by Aline Brosh McKenna. PG-13, 107 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Dec 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

P.S. I Love You

B.S. I Love You would be a more accurate title. After a young Irishman in New York (Gerard Butler) dies of a brain tumor, his bereft widow (Hilary Swank) receives a series of messages from him, written when he knew he was dying, that fondly advise her on how to resume her life. New Agey Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers) cowrote this interminable tearjerker with Steven Rogers, adapting a Cecelia Ahern novel, and directs as if he and we had all the time in the world. At least he has the wit to open with the couple fighting bitterly in their Chinatown flat, which implicitly qualifies the fond memories that follow. With Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, and Kathy Bates, all squandered. PG-13, 126 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Dec 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets

I haven’t seen the original, but the absurd high-concept of this sequel appears to be quite similar: it’s a Disney romp with several stars (Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, and Harvey Keitel from the first movie, plus Ed Harris and Helen Mirren) appearing in and around various international monuments as they pursue a centuries-old treasure with arcane clues and sliding panels. All this climaxes in an underground city of gold out of H. Rider Haggard, located close to Mount Rushmore. Leave it to coproducer Jerry Bruckheimer to revive the Indiana Jones cycle without the period setting, the camp elements, or Spielberg’s efficiency; director Jon Turteltaub just plods along, and the script by Marianne and Cormac Wibberley is equally poker-faced. With Justin Bartha and Bruce Greenwood, the latter playing the U.S. president. PG, 124 min. (JR)

Published on 13 Dec 2007 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>