Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 3 of 5

LADDER 49 (PG-13) It's Backdraft for post-9/11 America. Firefighter Joaquin Phoenix recalls his years of hijinks and heroism in the Baltimore Fire Department while waiting for Chief John Travolta's men to rescue him from a burning building -- or not. It couldn't be more formulaic. You'll recognize several clichés from old war movies, but here the enemy is fire. Without a fraction of the edge of Denis Leary's Rescue Me series on FX, Ladder 49 unfolds like a Lifetime movie for men. Our brave firefighters deserve a better tribute. -- SW

MARIA FULL OF GRACE (R) A clear-eyed, almost documentarian account of a 17-year-old Colombian (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who decides to smuggle a bellyful of heroin into the United States as a mule. First-time NYU-schooled filmmaker Joshua Marston avoids sensationalism in his remarkably sober and engrossing story of Moreno's white-knuckle progress from Colombia to Jamaica Hills, Queens. -- FF

MR. 3000 (PG-13) The king of The Original Kings of Comedy, Bernie Mac proves himself a capable, charismatic leading man in this feel-good movie that, despite an original premise, seems overly familiar. Returning to baseball at 47 to make up three discounted hits, Stan Ross (Mac) finally becomes a team player. If Big Mac can make a movie like this work in spite of its flaws, when a good script comes his way, he should hit it out of the park. -- SW

THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (R) The man who would grow up to be a violent revolutionary and the star of every counterculture's T-shirt, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, receives some emotional backstory in Brazilian director Walter Salles's earnest but lightweight film. Before he took up firearms, Che traveled with best friend through South America, and discovered the kind of poverty and injustice his bourgeois Argentinean upbringing denied. Bernal and the scenery are beautiful but this bio-picture lacks the fire in the belly its radical subject deserves. -- FF

PRIMER (PG-13) A pair of moonlighting computer entrepreneurs discover their latest invention may effect the flow of time itself in this Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner. Writer-director-star Shane Carruth thinks through the technical and sci-fi ramifications of his story and stays just ahead of the audience to keep us intrigued. But in the final Primer's near-tangible feeling of mounting dread dissipates into utter confusion as Carruth drops all attempts to keep his mind-bending tale coherent. -- CH

RAISE YOUR VOICE (PG) I tried getting in touch with my inner teenage girl but even she has too much taste to like this Hilary Duff vehicle about an Arizona girl bringing her homespun values to wicked Los Angeles for a summer music program. Her father (David Keith), who out-ogres Shrek, won't let her go, but the movie's message is that teenagers should follow their hearts, even if they have to disobey their parents. Apart from Duff's mediocre pop bleating the music mix proves interesting and diverse. -- SW

RAY (PG-13) Director Taylor Hackford presents a refreshingly candid and earthy biopic of blind pianist Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx), whose womanizing and drug addiction emerge, the film suggests, from a kind of competitiveness with sighted musicians. Roof-rocking tunes like "Hit the Road, Jack" and "What'd I Say" capture the excitement of live performances, while the script and Foxx's justly praised performance persistently look beneath Charles' cheerful, avuncular persona to find the fiercely determined artist underneath. -- CH

RECONSTRUCTION (NR) This first feature from Danish Christoffer Boe shows a director as invested in film form as his cinematic influences. The imprint of surrealist Luis Buuel and fellow Film School of Denmark alum Lars von Trier are all over Boe's metaphysical romance laced with self-referential smarts. Boe won the Camera d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for this engaging, dreamy discourse on two lovers whose lives are batted about like a mouse in fate's paws in this shrewd commentary on the capricious whims of cinema, and how we long to believe in them. -- FF

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (R) In the spirit of the videogame that started it all, the franchise's second film features probably the most -- though far from the best -- action of any movie this year. The mindless plot fills the zombie gap between Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead and relies on clichés that weren't good enough for the first movie. -- SW

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  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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