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The Karate Kid

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12-year-old Dre Parker could’ve been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother’s latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre’s feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts “the karate kid” on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.

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Falling Up


A hotel doorman falls for the daughter of the wealthiest residents in the building, discovering that love knows no social boundaries as their playful friendship blossoms into a full-blown romance. Henry (Joseph Cross) was studying for his nursing degree when his father died unexpectedly. Realizing that the responsibility of caring for his family has fallen on his shoulders, Henry drops out of school and lands a job as a doorman at a posh Manhattan apartment building. Henry’s boss (Joe Pantoliano) is an uptight bundle of nerves, and his co-worker (Snoop Dogg) is the dictionary definition of “mellow.” Instructed never to fraternize with the tenants, Henry can’t help but fall in love with pretty Scarlet Downing (Sarah Roemer) following a chance meeting. When Henry’s fired for breaking rule number one, he realizes that not everyone defines themselves by their social status, and that sometimes love is worth fighting for.

Ultimately, Falling Up is far from a fiasco, but lacks the humor, insight, or emotion to make it in any way memorable. This is what I’ve come to expect from most of the big-budgeted romantic comedies. If nothing else, this film is proof that you don’t need a studio system to produce mediocrity.

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Twilight in Forks


Though positioned as a documentary about the town of Forks, Washington (where the Twilight films and books take place), make no mistake about it—this is little more than a love letter to the teen-angst-and-vampire series and its obsessive, adoring fans. I’d be on board for that, too, if the film was at all interested in examining why it is that Twilight has inspired such feverish devotion in such a huge and varied population of fans. Unfortunately, that’s not this movie. This movie simply wants to give the fans a forum in which to express their love of the books and films, covering everyone from teenage girls to older moms to high school teachers and, in one instance, a middle-aged man with a goofy blonde dye job. Some of the participants are thoughtful and well-spoken when they plead their case, such as the teacher who says it’s not fair to write off the fans or Meyer’s books when they mean so much to people. Others are arrogant, insulting the cults of Star Wars or Star Trek as “weirdos” while bragging about how accepting the Twi-hards are (for the record, few fan groups are more accepting than Star Trek fans). But Twilight in Forks seems to side with them both, and that’s where the problem is.

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The Wolfman


When you have a combination of Oscar winning actors Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, both known for their portrayal of dark characters playing the leads in a film, half the work is done. As a father-son duo who shares cold vibes and a mysterious aloofness from each other, the actors successfully portray their estranged relationship. Anthony Hopkins brings in the much needed supernatural appeal to the film through his intense performance.

It’s not the story but the execution that makes this film stand out. The Victorian England is shown beautifully, in fact in a much better way than what we saw in Guy Ritchie’s Robert Downey Jr starrer Sherlock Holmes recently. The huge haunting castles, mystifying candles… fear of the unknown is build up superbly well. The blazing sound effects and background score adds to the eerie feeling.

Action scenes too are shot well which are good enough to evoke those much needed screams in blood and gore horror films.

The love story of Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro too is heart-warming and in fact much better than those dozen of romantic tales you see in the week’s other release ‘Valentine’s Day’. The make-up of all the characters is done well too.

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The Back-up Plan


Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is fed up with the dating scene and decides to start a family on her own via a sperm donor.  The day she is inseminated she meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin), and he turns out to be the perfect man, sent to muck up her plan.  Supposed hilarity ensues as the two learn important lessons about life and love and the joys of a pregnancy that is not a product of their relationship.

I thought the plot was at least different enough that there was potential for a decent movie. It started on a downward slope with what seemed like a ten-minute opening-credits cartoon sequence and then went straight into a voice-over backstory.  Ugh.  From then on out it was every bad romantic movie cliche topped with cheesy dialogue and a plot that never went anywhere beyond what is shown in the previews.  I realize the genre as a whole has kind of hit the bottom of the barrel in terms of new plot ideas, but this was like some high school kid took The Wedding Planner and  Knocked Up and did a mash-up video on YouTube.  Lopez played the same character she always plays: the successful and stubborn woman who doesn’t need a man but desperately wants one.  The fact that the theater was less than half full on opening night shows how much her stock has fallen.  While dashingly handsome, O’Loughlin did little else to make his mark on American audiences.

The highlights for me were every scene with Michaela Watkins (of SNL fame).   She managed to shine despite her all-too-small role as the best friend.  I see big things for her.  I also found myself not hating Zoe’s “single mothers and proud” support group.

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Crossing Over


A teenage girl (Bishil) who is entirely American other than that she doesn’t have legal status, becomes the target of the FBI and INS when she voices compassion for the September 11 hijackers. Despite growing up in the country, she could be deported to her home country even though she doesn’t speak the language or know the culture. Kramer ignores the fact that this girl should have been smart enough to know that supporting the 9/11 hijackers would not go over well. Again, there’s promise in this story, but Kramer never gives the story enough depth to make it seem like anything more than a political statement.

And that’s what Crossing Over is: a political statement. The immigration system is messed up and perfectly good people fall victim to it. This is a fine message to have, as we all know that the immigration system is screwy, but Kramer comprises his stories with his message. As a result, Crossing Over barely garnered a theatrical release and Kramer’s message reached almost no one.

In reality, Crossing Over is perfectly watchable and mildly entertaining, with decent performances from all involved. But it wants to be Crash without the connectivity or storytelling power of Paul Haggis. The movie is a bunch of stories, but they are too random to care about any of them. Had Kramer settled down and focused on one individual plot, he has the skills to develop an authentic film; but as is, Crossing Over just doesn’t feel authentic.

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Lonely Street


With its bright lighting (even night scenes feature an attractive neon glow) and cast of familiar-faced non-marquee names (former “Ghostbuster” Ernie Hudson; Joe Mantegna as a sleazy record producer; Mohr’s wife, Nikki Cox, as a cleavage-exposing cougar newshound), “Lonely Street” plays sort of like an unsold comedy-mystery TV pilot that was retrofitted with profanity and jokes about vomit, flatulence and genitalia in hopes of attracting theatrical interest. The occasional gross-out humor (complete with sound effects) is the worst thing about the film; it’s sometimes accompanied by Mohr’s often redundant voiceover narration, much of which seems to have written in post-production, in an attempt to spice up the action.

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Office Space
The cast is a delight, especially up-and-coming star Ron Livingston. While almost every other character is more quirky, Livingston holds the film up by making us care for him. His performance is the best in the film, despite the flashy roles of others in the cast. Jennifer Aniston virtually sheds her Friends persona in a hilarious performance that will have everyone laughing in knowing recognition. David Herman is also funny as the man whose name (Michael Bolton) gets him more prestige than anything else. Ajay Naidu is good, but he doesn’t seem to know what to do in his role. Deidrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) is funny as the nosy neighbor who can hear Peter’s affairs through the wall. But the scene stealer is Gary Cole in an incredibly realistic and dead-on imitation of your worst manager. He’s absolutely hilarious. Stephen Root does what so many actors aren’t able to do: make the wretched and annoying appealing to watch. Root is terrific as Milton.

Office Space is essentially the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the working men and women of today. The main character decides that he wants to control his own life, tries to get fired, but ends up getting promoted. Two consultants (both named Bob) are brought in to evaluate the workers, and in a shining example of cynicism, Peter seriously announces that he does as little work as humanly possible. “I work about fifteen minutes in your average work week,” he tells the two Bobs (John C. McGinley and Paul Willson). Mike Judge’s screenplay is full of witty one-liners that will be spouted right and left throughout offices for quite a long time. The best? “It appears that you’ve been missing quite a bit of work lately,” one Bob says. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it much,” he responds. It’s a line of sheer perfection and it works very well.

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Blind Date


A married couple deal with a crushing loss in a way that’s both funny and deeply sad in this comedy-drama from director, screenwriter and star Stanley Tucci. Don (Tucci) and his wife Janna (Patricia Clarkson) meet every night in the same shabby nightclub where Don performs a humorously shambolic magic act.

Don and Janna’s relationship has been on the verge of collapse since the death of their daughter, and they’re trying to reconnect with each other through role playing, so each evening they pretend they’re meeting for the first time on a blind date after discovering one another through personal ads. Sometimes they assume characters that are openly confrontational, while other times they try to bring a sweetness and intimacy back into their lives, but more often than not their struggle to reclaim the love they knew ends in confusion and frustration.

Blind Date was adapted by Tucci and screenwriter David Schechter from Theo Van Gogh’s 1996 film of the same name; it was the second in a series of remakes of Van Gogh’s films (following Steve Buscemi’s Interview) created in response to Van Gogh’s assassination by political extremists in 2004.

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Brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, makers of Aussie zombie flick UNDEAD, have kicked of the year with a surprisingly good genre movie that is part sci-fi, horror, thriller, and action movie. DAYBREAKERS is a thinking person’s vampire flick with deliciously gory action, an underlying social message, lean direction, and best of all, no obnoxious product placement or pop music.

Enter Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), a blood specialist at a blood production company and a reluctant vampire, who encounters a group of humans in hiding who have stumbled upon a cure for vampirism. When Edward agrees to help the humans try to figure out how to use this knowledge to save humanity this sets the stage for conflict with Edward’s boss, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), a former terminal cancer patient-turned-immortal vampire who uses his private army to ensure that no cure is found and vampires continue to thrive.

A big part of the film’s success is the persistent tension that is maintained. This is remarkable given that it has turned the tables on vampire conventions by making most of these monsters appear ordinary, or rather paler reflections of humanity.

Backing up the strong story and action is a welcome, dramatic orchestral score from Christopher Gordon. I had almost forgotten how much better a genre movie can be with real dramatic music tailored to the film. Along with vivid, earthy production design by George Liddle, who previously worked on the equally excellent genre film DARK CITY, everything in DAYBREAKERS really flows together well and I feel the filmmakers have successfully put forth their vision about as well as anyone could.

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Hello everyone, I am Stephen George, a BIG movie freak who loves watching and writing reviews on them. Here you can watch all the latest movies as well as my short reviews on them.
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