Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 3 of 4

THE INCREDIBLES (PG) Former costumed crime-fighter Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) and his family must pass as ordinary suburbanites until a mysterious archvillain inspires them to flex their super-muscles once more. Pixar's latest computer-animated classic fits in more with James Bond and Marvel Comics than family films like Finding Nemo, and the metaphors for conformity and mid-life crisis will strike deeper chords with parents than kids. But the spectacular derring-do in the second half will inspire all audiences to cry "Look! Up on the screen!"--CH

KINSEY (R) Writer-director Bill Condon lays out the importance of Alfred Kinsey, whose ground-breaking -- and still controversial -- research on American sexuality emphasized facts, not disapproving morality. At times Condon oversimplifies to score easy points against repressive figures, but Kinsey uses the complexity of sex to explore how "normalcy" proves to be a slippery concept. Neeson's fascinating portrayal captures both Kinsey's scientific passions and his shaken confusion when he realizes that keeping emotions separate from sex is easier said than done.--CH

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE (NR) Antoine Fuqua's (Training Day) concert film captures the February 2003 celebration of the blues' 100th birthday at Radio City Music Hall. A host of luminaries, past and present, old school and new, mount the stage to honor the occasion including the evening's host Martin Scorsese (Clint Eastwood already had dibs on jazz), Ruth Brown, Mavis Staples, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Buddy Guy, India.Arie, Macy Gray and John Fogerty. A smattering of memorable performances make up for the tepid ones without breaking any new ground in the uninspiring concert film genre. The sight of youth bowing and scraping in deference to wrinkled old age is something to behold in a youth-crazed culture. -- FF

THE MACHINIST (R) The story that almost succeeds in eclipsing screenwriter Scott Kosar's "Twilight Zone" chiller is the 60 lbs. star Christian Bale dropped to play a painfully emaciated, mentally disintegrating drill press operator in this mildly diverting yarn. A beautifully stylized, greyed-out landscape and retro details as well as Bale's engaging performance manage to keep interest up even as the plodding story derails into Stupidsville. -- FF

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' 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

NATIONAL TREASURE (PG) Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence to track down a mythic fortune based on clues hidden in American icons. Cage's performance drips with insincerity and the film uses dizzying editing, fussy CGI-effects and a portentous soundtrack to distract us from the sluggish script. National Treasure tries to piggyback on the success of The Da Vinci Code, but lacks the bestseller's gossipy enthusiasm for history. Even a crackpot theory would be better than none. -- CH

THE POLAR EXPRESS (G) On Christmas Eve, a boy losing faith in Santa Claus rides a magical train to the North Pole. The groundbreaking "performance capture" computer animation captures the expressions of live actors (including Tom Hanks in five roles) with impressive subtlety, but more often the characters look stiff and glassy-eyed. The script feels like a series of false crises, so when the train becomes a roller coaster or when Santa's elves bungee-jump to avert disaster, Express leaves an aftertaste like tainted egg nog.--CH

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

SEED OF CHUCKY (R) In the fifth film of the Child's Play franchise, psycho doll Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) and his murderous bride Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) are brought back to life by their long-lost, equally plastic son (Billy Boyd), who puzzles over his parents' homicidal ways. Tilly proves a great sport by playing herself as a grasping has-been in a film that finds consistent laughs about Hollywood, the recovery movement and modern parenting. If you can get past the gore -- and with glimpses of steaming entrails, that's a pretty big "if" -- you'll find Seed a silly, sloppy, yet surprisingly funny piece of no-budget drive-in schlock. -- CH

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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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