FSR's Weekly Report Card

BRIDE WARS

Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures

Rated: PG for suggestive content, language and some rude behavior.

Starring: Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt, Steve Howey, Candice Bergen and Kristen Johnston

Directed by: Gary Winick

What it’s about: Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway play best friends who have always dreamed of a June wedding at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. When they both get engaged at the same time, a scheduling mix-up causes their weddings to be booked on the same day. Soon, a battle ensues in which each bride-to-be wants to make the day her own.

What I liked: As I left the screening of this movie, I told the rep that this wasn’t bad for a January release. It’s not a great film, but I’ve seen a lot worse in the first release of the new year. It helps that the stars are easy on the eyes. I admit that I don’t get tired of seeing Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson on screen.

Like many movies of this ilk, the supporting cast and ancillary material in the film is actually funnier and more engaging (no pun intended) than the main characters. So, even if you’re dragged to this flick by your wife or girlfriend, you could do a lot worse. Ultimately, there are plenty of funny moments, and like Four Christmases, this movie is best when it’s bitter. When it tries to have heart, it unravels.

What I didn’t: The writing of this movie is typical of a January release. The characters don’t have a lot going for them, and the two leads are really dreadful people from the beginning. They buy into the myth that a big wedding is a beautiful thing when the reality is that any wedding is a giant ball of angst and stress.

There’s some really terrible plot twists, especially one at the end that comes out of nowhere and really has no relevance to the rest of the movie. It’s as if the writers had one movie in mind and then most – but not all – of the subplots had been changed.

Who is gonna like this movie: Chicks. It is a chick flick, after all.

Grade: B

NOT EASILY BROKEN

Studio: TriStar

Rated: PG-13 for sexual references and thematic elements.

Starring: Morris Chestnut, Taraji P. Henson, Maeve Quinlan, Kevin Hart, Wood Harris, Eddie Cibrian, Jenifer Lewis and Niecy Nash

Directed by: Bill Duke

What it’s about: Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson play a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. She’s the breadwinner, and he’s got a low-rent job as a handyman. When they get in a car accident and she’s severely injured, they face struggles to make ends meet and suffer through his wandering eye with their physical therapist.

What I liked: The car accident was good. It came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. But damn, I just spoiled it for you.

There are times like these where I hate a film that I’m tempted to say, “Well, it was in focus.” But the cinematography was so poor that several close-up shots actually weren’t.

What I didn’t: Pretty much the beginning, middle and end. This movie tries so hard to be a Tyler Perry flick, but it doesn’t have Tyler Perry behind it. Instead, the producers mined a cheesy, schmaltzy and preachy story by a pastor who wants to be Tyler Perry. Worse, they give this author a cameo, and he looks like Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but talks like Mike Tyson with a stronger lisp. If you didn’t know this guy was the writer, you’d wonder if the casting director was on crack.

There are so many characters, each getting a backstory and subplot, that the movie is murky and muddled with ongoing, silly drama. It becomes a love-fest for Morris Chestnut and resolves itself without any actual change in the characters.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone looking for their Tyler Perry fix that’s so desperate that they’ll deal with a rip-off of the guys’ formula.

Grade: D

GRAN TORINO

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: R for language throughout, and some violence.

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Ahney Her and Brian Haley

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

What it’s about: Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, an old, bitter, racist Korean War veteran who is disgruntled about all the Hmong immigrants moving into his neighborhood. However, after some gang-bangers start some trouble with the kid next door, Walt becomes his friend and protector.

What I liked: Okay, if you haven’t seen the trailer of Clint telling the punks to get off his lawn, you’re missing out. This is easily one of the best, most iconic moments in the film. I loved the way that Eastwood played the old racist but still managed to be loveable. He’s like your grandfather who just grew up in a different generation.

I always enjoy a good revenge story, and while this is no Death Wish or Kill Bill, this has plenty of elements that will make you feel empowered. Like Eastwood’s other award winner a few years back (Million Dollar Baby), this film is a drama with plenty of comic relief moments. I found myself laughing a lot in this film, even though it also has plenty of intense moments.

What I didn’t: With the exception of the heavy Hmong influences, I’ve seen much of this film before. It’s not like Clint Eastwood playing an old codger is anything fresh in American cinema. Also, the movie’s not totally realistic because Walt’s house would have been fire-bombed a long time ago if he really acted this way in gangland.

The other thing that I didn’t like was the unnecessary symbolism of Walt’s Gran Torino, which earned the title but really was a shaky premise. That, and the ridiculous song over the end credits sung in Eastwood’s gravely, raspy voice.

Who is gonna like this movie: Eastwood fans, Hmong families and anyone who has known a loveable old racist.

Grade: B+

THE READER

Studio: The Weinstein Company

Rated: R for some scenes of sexuality and nudity.

Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Bruno Ganz, Kaoline Herfurth and Linda Bassett

Directed by: Stephen Daldry

What it’s about: Michael is a teenage boy in 1950s Germany who has an affair with an older woman named Hanna Schmitz. They have a voracious sexual relationship, but it’s intellectual as well. She enjoys having him read to her after sex. One day, she disappears, and years later Michael discovers that she is a former SS guard on trial for war crimes.

What I liked: I knew nothing about this movie, so I was blindsided by the plot twists. What started out as a stilted May-December (or possibly March-June) romance turned into an intriguing film that examined what makes a person commit acts of evil. Kate Winslet played Hanna Schmitz perfectly, showing her as a simple person who got caught up in the Holocaust.

The Reader put a human face on the people in World War II who were party to atrocities, and it showed the gray side to the human condition. There’s a lot to think about in this movie, including questions about different legal systems, proving guilt and assigning punishment. It also had a brilliant way of presenting a character who had committed evil acts but framed in an initial context of a warm and friendly soul. The conflict Michael faces as he grow up an learns of Hannah’s crimes is a brave look at how anyone can commit these acts, warning us that we all have the capacity for evil in our lives.

Oh, and Kate Winslet was naked through about half of the first act, and there’s nothing wrong with boobs.

What I didn’t: I know I probably offended some folks with that last comment about the boobs, and I’ll give you that. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that after a while, I was kinda tired of seeing Kate Winslet’s nipples. I know she’s getting a lot of praise for being brave enough to be fully naked in this film, but seriously… isn’t she naked in just about anything she does?

Other than Kate Winslet’s over-exposure, the film does get pretentious at times, especially featuring Ralph Fiennes as the grown-up Michael. Where the character of the boy was interesting and had a lot of potential, Michael ended up a bit of a douche.

Who is gonna like this movie: Award film junkies, dramatic movie hounds and anyone who didn’t get their Nazi fix over Christmas.

Grade: A


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