We have our winning entry in the "worst scene in 2008 cinema" sweepstakes.
It arrives halfway through the achingly poor screen version of "The Spirit," based on the comic book series begun
in 1940 by artist and writer Will Eisner.
In a Nazi vaudeville interlude, Samuel L. Jackson, dressed like Col. Klink
with a monocle, shares the screen with Scarlett Johansson, dolled up as if rehearsals for a remake of "Ilsa, She
Wolf of the SS" were starting any minute.
They gas on about their plans for immortality, and Hercules' mystical blood, and various failed experiments while
their prisoner, the masked, supernaturally hardy crime-fighter known as The Spirit, played by Gabriel Macht, sits
there muttering how bored he is with their act. And how. Dull, yet offensive. Nice trick.
Frank Miller wrote and directed this adaptation, in a visual style lazily close to that of his "Sin City." You
know the vibe: stark, grim silhouettes, urban decay by the ton, blood that looks pretty because it oozes from a
victim's skull in black-and-white. It's not "real," so the violence can spill over the top and still stay within
the Motion Picture Association of America's jaded notions of a PG-13 rating.
All you hormonally addled teens may take solace in the "great eye candy" (as Johansson's character describes herself)
provided by Johansson and Eva Mendes, the latter of whom is shown at one point photocopying her posterior.
Yet even the cheesecake curdles.
Director Miller chops the action into awkwardly paced illustrations of a scene rather than keeping the scene in
Macht, the Robert Cummings of our generation, hasn't figured out how seriously to take his assignment
or what sort of energy to provide.
Only Sarah Paulson, as the Spirit's doctor and sometime lover, seems to be in there playing the scenes as if she were a
human being in a comic book superhero scenario, as opposed to a comic book character stuck in a cruddy movie.
The Spirit Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of stylized violence and action, some sexual content and brief nudity).
Running time: 1:48.
Starring: Gabriel Macht (The Spirit); Eva Mendes (Sand Saref); Sarah Paulson (Ellen); Dan Lauria (Dolan); Scarlett Johansson (Silken Floss); Samuel L. Jackson (The Octopus).
Directed by Frank Miller; written by Miller, based on the comic book series created by Will Eisner; photographed by Bill Pope; edited by Gregory Nussbaum; music by David Newman; art direction by Rosario Provenza; visual effects supervised by Stu Maschwitz; produced by Deborah Del Prete, Gigi Pritzker and Michael E. Uslan. A Lionsgate 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.
The misadventures of a lovable Labrador retriever frame this sweet, surprisingly moving chronicle of a young couples
struggle to simultaneously build a family, advance their careers and maintain their sanity. Owen Wilson plays journalist
John Grogan, whose popular 2005 memoir spawned this film, and Jennifer Aniston plays Jenny, his wife. Dog lovers will
laugh delightedly for the first hour and spend the second hour weeping openly.
This is a tall tale of a man aging in reverse while bobbing serenely on lifes unpredictable seas. The colorful supporting
characters spill their guts to the wonder of nature played by Brad Pitt, as he begins his life a very old man, ages into
late-middle age, ripens into well, Brad Pitt, then embarks on the big fade into childhood, infancy and check-out time.
This film spends 105 minutes grappling at the edge of camp, cheap laughs and cliches. Yet the way it is handled by
director Darren Aronofsky and especially by Mickey Rourke, who really should get an Oscar for his portrayal of Randy The Ram
Robinson, a steroid-addled sweetie in tights, it stays honest and keeps on fighting.
Valkyrie, a plot to assassinate Hitler, stars Tom Cruise as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, a cultured aesthete who turned
against his supreme commander. Cruise is not bad, but he cannot suggest the aristocratic hauteur or the steely authority
needed in this role. Going into this film, you know how things are going to come out. Still, with actors as good as Tom
Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Thomas Kretschmann and Kenneth Branagh in key supporting roles, this ensemble piece avoids the
usual action-movie triumphalism.
Adam Sandler plays Skeeter, a hotel handyman under the thumb of the owner (Richard Griffiths) and manager (Guy Pearce). Skeeter and his sister (Courteney Cox) grew up in a motel bungalow court, and Skeeter longs for a crack at running the hotel that's built on the site. While Sis is away, Skeeter must baby-sit for his niece and nephew, and the adventure stories he spins become fantasy vignettes that somehow manage to improve his disappointing life. It's an adequate idea, dutifully delivered.
Kate Winslet stars in the film version of the Bernhard Schlink novel about a 15-year-old West German boy who, in 1958,
embarks on an affair with a 36-year-old trolley conductor with more on her mind, and in her past, than she admits.
The novel was hugely popular as well as controversial worldwide
Jim Carrey plays a loan officer who cannot get out of his self-pitying rut three years after a breakup. Then he encounters a self-help guru (Terence Stamp, in his first genuinely funny screen appearance) who challenges
his followers to say yes to every single thing that comes their way.
Clint Eastwood performance as a reclusive Korean War veteran toughing it out in a sketchy Detroit-area neighborhood may well lead to his first Academy Award for acting. After the vets young neighbor (Bee Vang) breaks into his garage to steal the car for which this film is named, our hero sets out to teach the boy how to stand up to his venal gangsta cousins.
Will Smith plays an IRS agent who has committed a terrible deed and appears to be investigating the cases of a carefully selected group of people, including a seriously ill heart patient (Rosario Dawson) and a blind pianist (Woody Harrelson).
This earnest, emotional film is a mixed but pretty interesting bag, though its G rating may mislead some parents into taking 4 or 5 year-olds to it, which could lead to some freakouts. Much of the movie, based on a Newbery Medal-winning book, has a grim narrative.
The Spirit starring Eva MendesMovie Review | Michael Phillips Reviews The Spirit The Spirit Movie Review & Movie Trailer
The Spirit stars Eva Mendes.
The Spirit in Theaters this weekend The Spirit movie review and movie trailer