A ripe premise left out in the sun too long, co-writer and director Randall Miller's "Nobel Son" stars Alan Rickman
as a snotty university chemistry professor married to a forensic psychiatrist, played by Mary Steenburgen.
Their son (Bryan Greenberg) spends his academic life sitting around coffeehouses playing his Game Boy and mulling his
thesis on cannibalism.
Dad wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry, but rather than accompanying his folks to Stockholm,
son Barkley has the bad manners to get kidnapped by a sociopath with a taste for blood (Shawn Hatosy) and a plan to
extort the Nobel Prize winner for $2 million in ransom money.
Rickman can play an imperious rotter in his sleep.
As in the other recent Miller film, "Bottle Shock" (shot after this one, but released before), Rickman tones up the
flabby material. His sneer is, of course, incomparable. Despite a dull performance from Greenberg, the actors aren't
the problem with this cockamamie mash-up of revenge thriller and black comedy. Miller, who co-wrote the script with
his wife, Jody Savin, and who also edited the footage like a man with serious, perpetual distractions, never settles
on a style or an effective clash of tones.
"Nobel Son" was shot on 35 mm film, but the digital color timing gives everything a grim bluish pall. The results look like the cruddiest digital video possible.
I enjoyed Eliza Dushku's mad poetess, probably for the wrong reasons, but with a project this meager, you take your
artful sneers and scenic diversions where you can get them.
Nobel Son Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: R (for some violent gruesome images, language and sexuality).
Running time: 1:50.
Starring: Alan Rickman (Eli Michaelson); Bryan Greenberg (Barkley Michaelson); Shawn Hatosy (Thaddeus James); Mary Steenburgen (Sarah Michaelson); Bill Pullman (Max Mariner); Eliza Dushku (City Hall); Danny DeVito (George Gastner).
Directed and edited by Randall Miller; written and produced by Jody Savin and Randall Miller; photographed by Michael J. Ozier; music by Paul Oakenfold and Mark Adler; production design by Craig Stearns. A Freestyle Releasing release.
This charmless film concerns two lifelong friends, played by Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, whose competing weddings, mistakenly scheduled for the same day at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, turn bride-to-be against bride-to-be. Half the comedies made in Hollywood are based on the premise of boy-men acting like idiots. Switching the gender and toning down the vulgarity to a PG level offers only change, not improvement. Hathaway in particular deserves better material.
Based on a book by Bishop T.D. Jakes, this film is a faith-based love story, secondarily about God's role in the care and feeding of an L.A. couple's turbulent marriage. Thanks to Morris Chestnut, whose warm, easy screen presence was an asset way back in "Boyz N the Hood," and to Taraji P. Henson, a by-the-book scenario (described by screenwriter Brian Bird as "sort of a male version of the film 'Waiting to Exhale'") ends up being pretty entertaining.
However sterling the craftsmanship, the film adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel -- an excoriating portrait of a
mid-1950s marriage built on sticks, straw and delusion -- inflates the meaning and buffs the atmospheric surfaces of
the story, rather than digging into its guts.
But when stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet unleash their
character's demons, "Revolutionary Road" loses its tight, controlled sense of composition and air of solemnity
and, in human terms, matters.
Adrien Brody plays record exec Leonard Chess, who built a music empire in the 1950s with the help of stars such as Chuck Berry (played
exceptionally well by hip-hop artist Mos Def) and Etta James (played not so well by Beyonce Knowles).
This gory follow-up works a bit better than the 2004 "Punisher" installment, the one starring surly, dislikable Thomas
Jane as Frank Castle. This time Ray Stevenson, (from the HBO series "Rome") plays Castle.
Overnight-delivery specialist Frank Martin (Jason Statham) must once again move dangerous cargo. His wrist is strapped with a bracelet that explodes if he strays 75 feet from his car, which holds the package. The best sequences involve Frank's inventive ability to stay close to his vehicle, but otherwise, it's Frank's charismatic, unruffled dexterity in the face of impossible odds that rivets. PG-13
The story of Harvey Milk is a tragedy, but not since Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" has Sean Penn played such a serenely happy individual. Penn is superb as the martyred San Francisco city supervisor, America's first widely acknowledged openly gay elected official. He was killed by Milk's former colleague, Dan White (Josh Brolin, also excellent), minutes after White's fatal shooting of Mayor George Moscone in 1978. R
En route to love, and to save his ranch from the clutches of a rival, a cattleman known as "The Drover" (Hugh Jackman) guides a prim Englishwoman (Nicole Kidman), a crew of mixed-race outcasts and 1,500 head of cattle across thousands of miles of Australia during World War II. The second half of director Baz Luhrmann's first project since "Moulin Rouge!" develops some momentum. But you have to pass through the first half to get to the second, by which time you may find yourself drowning in high-fructose Aussie corn syrup. PG-13
Christmas itself will survive this acrid, wince-worthy holiday film, but barely. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn (who both need new agents) play a carefree couple who routinely lie to their respective divorced parents about being unable to visit around the holidays. But bad weather ruins their trip to Fiji and strands them in an airport, they're interviewed on TV, and their families see it, so to save face they speed-visit all four sets of caricatures. The cast, which also includes Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall, is far better than its material. PG-13
This highly anticipated, surprisingly low-key vampire movie is a film of intelligent strengths and avoidable weaknesses, a modest adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's publishing phenomenon. It's faithful to its source material, and it's better written than Meyer's frothy book. Teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) relocates from Arizona to Washington, where she falls for tortured, sensitive vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Director Catherine Hardwicke was right to concentrate on getting the smoldering down between her stars, but her film lacks visual magic.
Voiced by John Travolta, the chief asset in a bland ensemble struggling with its material, Bolt is a canine who headlines a TV show co-starring his longtime owner, Penny (Miley Cyrus). Bolt has never been told that his life-or-death adventures are fake, so he's the star of his own depressing version of "The Truman Show." Complications separate Bolt from Penny, sending him to New York City, where his superpowers, which he believes to be real, are useless. This animated Disney feature is stingy on wit, charm, jokes and narrative satisfactions.
This lovely, vinegary holiday film from French writer-director Arnaud Desplechin is a simple picture about complicated people, the members of the extended Vuillard family. Taking place over a few days around Christmastime, the film's narrative may be more conventional than Desplechin's earlier work ("Kings and Queen," "My Sex Life ... or How I Got Into an Argument"), but it's as juicy and tonally unpredictable as anything he has made. Catherine Deneuve heads a fine cast.
Chilly-eyed Daniel Craig is the right man for the James Bond franchise, and his second outing confirms it. The trouble is, Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Monster's Ball") demonstrates that not every director is well-suited to Bondland. There's plenty of action, but half the time it's visually incoherent. The tale picks up minutes after the end of 2006's "Casino Royale." Bond is after the shadowy Quantum organization for killing his lady friend. PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content). 1:45. 2-1/2 stars.
"Slumdog Millionaire" is a ruthlessly effective paean to destiny, leaving nothing to chance. It also has a good shot at winning this year's Academy Award for best picture, if the pundits have anything to say about it. Every arrow plucked from director Danny Boyle's quiver takes aim at the same objective: to leave you exhausted but wowed. An 18-year-old (Dev Patel) in the former Bombay, India, is suspected of cheating his way to national fame on the Hindi version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" R (some violence, disturbing images and some language). 2:00. 3 stars.
This unusual vehicle for Jean-Claude Van Damme is an unexpectedly droll game of three-card monte disguised as an action film that turns into a (fake) reality-TV-style documentary and then into a hostage thriller. The star's star has waned, and he has child-custody battles to wage, as well as a drug-and-philandering rep to cloud his recent past. When Van Damme finds himself embroiled in a heist and then a hostage situation, he must draw upon his inner Van Damme to resolve it. The film is more a novelty item than a fully formed work, but it's very entertaining. R (language and some violence). 1:32. 3 stars.
The animated "Madagascar" (2005) made a mint, but this sequel is a better film -- less manic, more easygoing. Marooned on Madagascar, Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) and hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) yearn for home in the Central Park Zoo. The penguins rig up an old, busted plane and zing the quartet (plus stowaways) not to Manhattan, but to Africa. PG (some mild crude humor). 1:28. 3 stars.
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott mentor a medieval-fantasy-prone teenager (the invaluable Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who played "McLovin" in "Superbad") and a trash-talking preteen (Bobb'e J. Thompson) in this sloppy but diverting comedy. The last 20 minutes, climaxing with a Dungeons & Dragons-type battle re-enactment, redeems much of what comes before. R (pervasive language, and sexual content including nudity). 1:43. 2-1/2 stars.
Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac play a couple of estranged backup singers who uneasily reunite for a tribute concert dedicated to their recently deceased front man. Crass but not without laughs, and Mac gets most of them. Too much of "Soul Men" relies on violent slapstick and Viagra jokes, but the two stars are having fun, and the fun translates when the script loosens its straps. Mac and Jackson transcend this hopped-up version of "The Sunshine Boys." R (pervasive language, and sexual content including nudity). 1:43. 2-1/2 stars.
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Nobel Son stars Ray Stevenson, Dominic West .
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