BURLESQUE

It evaporates even as you watch it, a compendium of hoary conventions
from all the backstage movies you've ever seen: hard-as-nails club
owner mentors wide-eyed new chick in town, troubled star toppled by
said new chick, club owner's wisecracking gay sidekick, new chick's
struggle to have her talent recognized, club owner's money woes
threaten to shut the joint down — need I go on? Every “crisis” is too
easily resolved, every number looks and sounds the same, and the cast
struggles to make themselves interesting. Cher seems afraid to go the
distance and be the total hard-ass the role calls for; only then would
her ultimate softening satisfy. Stanley Tucci is always entertaining,
but he's been playing this part for so long now, it seems like
retread. (That's why he was such a revelation in Easy A.) Aguilera
fails to electrify. And please, someone tell me who is it that thinks
Eric Dane is a movie star? I started squirming less than 15 minutes
in; by the end, I had retitled it Borelesque. — Jeff Schultz

MONSTERS

An interesting misfire, this is a love story and a political allegory
semi-disguised as a monster movie. Thematically, it calls District 9
to mind; stylistically, it reminds you of [REC], had that film moved
outdoors. The creatures themselves are almost tangential, the
“MacGuffin” if you will that brings up everything from journalistic
ethics (he's a photographer inured to misery looking for that killer
shot which will land his picture on a magazine cover) to America's
losing effort to keep aliens (get it?) from crossing the border by
means of a gigantic, lengthy wall. The leads, two unknowns, aren't
quite good enough: while imagining a more high-powered version, I cast
Cameron Diaz and Justin Bartha. But as an attempt at a thinking
person's horror flick, it has enough going for it to keep watching,
including a lovely scene with a Central American mother who takes the
couple in on their journey to safety. This is the first feature for
director Gareth Edwards; he's someone to watch. — Jeff Schultz

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

Watching this gamer/videogame type movie was as enjoyable as watching my grandmother play Pong for two hours. It looks great and the directing is top notch but the “story” is cookie cutter, the acting non existent (except for the awesome, not used enough Jason Schwartzman) and too many filler scenes of the band playing. I assume there's an audience for this and they probably loved it. And a note to Michael Cera: YOU CANNOT ACT EITHER! Your act has grown tired, take other types of roles or retire. You can't play a 16 year old girl forever. -Stormy Curry
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MEGAMIND

This is what Despicable Me should have been. A witty movie with hilarious voice work by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Brad Pitt. More Shrek than Toy Story, Megamind is aimed at kids and parents who can get the “lesson” without having it spoon fed to them in a safe, vanilla, “don't offend the masses” way. Cute without being boring, funny without being lame, Megamind is a MEGA blast! -Stormy Curry
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MACHETE

Hate to say it, but the best parts of Machete are in the “trailer”. Trejo and most everyone else are in top form and there are some fantastic scenes…but all in all, Machete just doesn't cut it. When its a tongue in cheek B movie it is great…when it bogs down with politics it is preachy and torture to watch. Even though the “message” may be an homage to the 70's flicks its emulating, it takes itself too seriously and slows down the fun. And a note to Jessica Alba: YOU CANNOT ACT!
-Stormy Curry
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TANGLED

If only the animators hadn't opted for those large Manga-style eyes,
the look of this swell Disney fairy tale retelling would get an A+.
Skin has never better conveyed youth. There are dizzying perspective
shots of the castle and village. Also “touchable” textures like grass
and silk and paint on a wall. And the movie's big centerpiece, a
nighttime lantern display set to song, is sheer beauty. What keeps
this from being among the greatest Disney features is the music. It's
good in that Alan Menken, semi-Broadway way — but when it comes to
this material, Sondheim got there first — and a number like Tangled's
“Mother Knows Best”, sung by Rapunzel's mother, is kind of generic
compared to the far more affecting “Stay With Me” (also sung by
Rapunzel's mother) from Into the Woods. I'm just saying that in this
case, the score doesn't live up to the rest of the film. But highest
praise to the filmmakers for the wonderful, readable, and very funny
expressions they have given all their characters, especially Maximum
the steed. This picture is delightful. — Jeff Schultz

FOUR LIONS

I expected something a little more madcap, more zany and absurdist —
a Marx Brothers take on terrorism. But this turns out to be a very
British comedy, droll rather than knockabout. The premise is, they're
homegrown jihadis in London, but they're idiots. At least all but one.
And that's where you have to suspend your disbelief that this first
among equals — a bright, dedicated family man (who happens to
subscribe to a psychotic ideology) — would hang out with, much less
plan a terrorist operation with the other three morons. You can see
each of the ostensibly shocking moments coming right before it happens
and when the movie goes soft, it betrays its comic premise. Warning:
unless you speak fluent Brit, count on missing more than a few punch
lines. — Jeff Schultz

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: THE PROMISE

What would it be like if we were able to get new music from bands like The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones or any number of classic rock artists from early in their careers. Not outtakes. Not studio demos. Whole songs or whole albums of new, never before heard material. Sounds impossible. But with THE PROMISE, Bruce Springsteen gives us just that. These 21 songs were recorded in preparation for his follow up to Born to Run. Because of legal battles over ownership of his own music with his manager, Mike Appel, Springsteen couldn't record that new album. That didn't stop him from writing and recording songs in a New Jersey farmhouse. These 21 songs, plus 10 more, were culled into the epic Darkness on the Edge of Town album. So, Springsteen had 31 (probably more) songs to pick from. The discarded songs (or as Steve Van Zant has called them “lost arguments”) make up THE PROMISE. Many are '60's Motown or Mitch Ryder in feel. Count “Someday (We'll Be Together)”, “The Brokenhearted”, “Ain't Good Enough For You”, “It's A Shame” and “Talk to Me” among those. There are songs with melodies or lyrics you'll recognize that were obviously jumping off points for those that appeared on Darkness. Count “Come On (Let's Go Tonight)”, “Racing In The Streets” and “Candy's Boy” in that category. Then there are the songs you've heard a million times in concert, but never in the studio. That list includes “Fire”, “Because the Night” and “Rendezvous”(but that falls somewhere in between this category and the “early versions” one). Then there is the category of new and instantly classic. “Save My Love” is an unbelievable melody with lyrics about love and distance. It could have easily been on Born To Run. “The Way” is a haunting song about obsessive love (Bruce says it belongs in a David Lynch movie. No debating that). You won't see it in the track list, but trust me, it's there. Then there is the title track. “The Promise” could very well have been included on Darkness, with it's theme of lost and wasted dreams. It is among Springsteen's best. Not just of recent years, it's among his best EVER! I could go on and on about this 2 disc collection, I haven't even mentioned seven songs that are simply awesome. Finding a weak sister in among these songs is impossible. For me, this bridges the gap from Born to Run to Darkness. It just fills me with joy to hear these songs. It takes me back to New Jersey in the '70's, when I was first discovering Bruce. I've been transported back in time and what a wonderful trip it is. — Alan Yudman

UNSTOPPABLE

Unexceptional. When two of a movie's three Executive Producers are
Rick Yorn and Jeff Kwatinetz and the movie is dedicated on screen to
Ed Limato, you know it's going to be pure Hollywood product. And in
fact, this comes right from the Tony Scott action template, with way
too many pauses (some in the very heat of the thrills) for who-cares
personal backstories involving a restraining order (for Pine) and a
single father (that'd be Washington). As for those thrills, the
problem is that all the big set pieces seem the same: the aerials over
the train, the sparks flying off the wheels, the old-time-serial leaps
from boxcar to tanker and truck to train. You're set up for a big
finish at a massive trestle curve — but the scene comes and goes with
just a brief “whew”, then keeps on going and going like… a runaway
train! Denzel and Chris are way better than this movie deserves; they
are easily the best thing about it. — Jeff Schultz

The only UNSTOPPABLE part of this movie is the never ending use of “news” reports to move the story along, but more on that later.  This is a better than average action thriller and what makes it better than average are Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson.  The story is based on a real runaway train incident that occurred in 2001.  The characters are stereotypes.. the veteran who's facing forced retirement training the new guy who seems to know it all and is dealing with personal issues.  The supervisor caught in the middle (Dawson) and the loathsome executive who puts profits above people (Kevin Dunn).  It is all fairly routine but engaging.  If they didn't have A-List actors this would have been monumentally awful, a worse disaster than a real train derailment.  But tony Scot knows action and keeps it moving at a brisk pace.  Back to my initial complain about the use of “news” reports as a storytelling device.  STOP!!! It's lazy.  rather than having to think about plotting and arc, lazy screenwriters use this device to advance the story.  In this case it's just too much.  And in case you didn't realize this was a 20th Century Fox production, there are enough Fox News bugs and Breaking News billboards to bludgeon you over the head with it.  And this puts real news reporters in the uncomfortable position of having to act.  And in case you weren't sure, they're not actors (and some of the too earnest stand-ups prove my point).  So, learn how to write and stop falling back on this “news” device to tell your story! — Alan Yudman

RED

Imagine “The Expendables” with a quicker pace, a lighter tone, and fantastic acting. That’s is what makes RED solid gold! Willis, Malkovich, Mirren, and Freeman are in fine form as retired agents brought back into the job after Bruce and John end up on a hit-list. Every character gets their moment, sometimes two or three, the action scenes are fun yet tense, the directing is top notch, and it just pops from beginning to end. Special props to the supporting cast, including Karl Urban, who more than holds his own against these Hollywood heavyweights. Color me won over by Red!
-Stormy Curry