(Capsule reviews by Melissa Anderson, Aaron Hillis, Michelle Orange, Nick Pinkerton and Ella Taylor.)
How Do You Know A brave, odd duck of a romantic comedy from James L. Brooks, How Do You Know strays as far from a barrel of laughs as a writer-director formed by network television can get without losing his grip altogether. Reese Witherspoon stars in fetchingly scanty frocks as a pro athlete newly cut from her team, who has to choose between her sweetly clueless baseball star squeeze (Owen Wilson) and George (Paul Rudd), a straight-arrow businessman upended by a federal investigation. The movie has its share of shameless shtick--Jack Nicholson is his usual guilty pleasure as George's feckless dad--but its rhythms feel freshly loose, disjointed, and peppered with strategic silences or half-finished thoughts.
The punch lines are few, there's not much mugging for the camera, and with Janusz Kaminski on board as cinematographer, How Do You Know actually looks like a rainy but warmly inviting downtown Washington, D.C., rather than the inside of a sitcom set. Uncertain though its box office prospects may be, this strange little film deserves to be sent out to sea in a bottle so that future generations may take the measure of just how hair-raisingly indeterminate it was to live and love in early-21st-century America. -Ella Taylor
121 Minutes Rated PG-13The People I've Slept With
Angela (Karin Anna Cheung) is a proud party-girl who, as this yarn begins, is in the practice of getting raw-dogged in bar bathrooms by strangers. She's gotta have it--chlamydia, that is--but it's an unplanned pregnancy that sets director Quentin Lee's self-distributed indie in motion. As it happens, Angela keeps homemade collector's cards of her conquests, and, soliciting the help of Ricky fromMy So-Called Life
, she revisits the various caricatures who've strewn seed inside of her in recent memory, including a big-schlonged stalker, a two-pump chump, and a bend-over boyfriend. In hysterics yet? Head and shoulders above this rabble is possible-father Jefferson Lee (Archie Kao), who's also in the running for City Council. He's a Republican, but totally great at making homemade pizza, and tells Angela encouraging things like, "You know you really should show your art" (she shouldn't). When all's done, Angela has learned a challenging moral to pass along to her baby: "The most important thing is: You do what you want." If this advice is followed, no one will finishThe People I've Slept With
, which has notably liberated itself from the fusty tradition that a sex comedy should either titillate or tickle an audience. -Nick Pinkerton
89 Minutes Not RatedSkyline
Malevolent intergalactic critters swoop down to harvest our citizens and ravage yet another postcard-perfect horizon inSkyline
, a generic war-of-the-worlds imitation featuring noisy H.R. Giger-ish battleships, squid-gorillas with brain-sucking tentacles, and other mismatched monsters who all hypnotize and infect people with blue LEDs. "Once you look at the light, it grabs hold," discovers a cast ofCloverfield
understudies (led by limber lunkhead Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson, who plays his exasperated girlfriend), a no-duh explanation that could've underplayed as media satire in the hands of Romero, Cronenberg, or even far lesser genre auteurs. But in F/X-pros-turned-filmmakers the Brothers Strause's technically spectacular, otherwise unremarkable B-movie, the most profound ideas are the stoopid action-sequence setups, during which everyone barks at one another inside their penthouse home base (which conveniently has a telescope synched up to a plasma screen, perfect for watching the big show outside): Let's run to the roof! Let's run to the parking garage! Let's stay in the party pad! Let's try the roof again! The military eventually shows up to nuke the joint (L.A., incidentally), but there's no urgency, suspense, or charm with all that back-row rattle. -Aaron Hillis
100 Minutes PG-13The Tourist
Men follow Angelina Jolie inThe Tourist
. Men and cameras. They follow her--chic, coiffed, assless--through the streets of Paris. They follow her onto the train to impossible, floating Venice, where she heads on the instruction of her shadowy, fugitive lover. Eventually, they follow fellow passenger Johnny Depp as well, but mainly because he, too, begins trailing Jolie--just a little closer than the rest. Bringing up the rear is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the German-American director who chose to follow his Oscar-winning debutThe Lives of Others
with a different kind of surveillance thriller--an expensive, star-gazing Hollywood one.
Commitment issues had stars like Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron bowing in and out of The Tourist last year; von Donnersmarck himself reportedly left the project, returning just before shooting began. The studio eventually nailed down principles for their romance/action/wardrobe caper, a remake of the 2005 French film Anthony Zimmer, but the deadly air of interchangeability lingers over its decadent design and almost defiantly fluffy plot.
Jolie plays Elise Clifton-Ward, an undercover British Interpol agent who, assigned to follow a wanted fugitive named Alexander Pearce, instead fell in love and "went dark," acquiring a Scotland Yard tail of her own. She's strutting through Paris and waiting for word from him when the film opens, a troupe of government-paparazzi snapping at her heels. Jolie channels Audrey Hepburn's look circa Charade--a clear, sparkling inspiration for much of the film--from her buggy sunglasses to her glass-cutting elbows, but the resemblance ends at the tips of her darling, side-swept bangs. Alternating between limpid and imperious, onscreen Jolie has become so caught up in her beauty that she seems frozen within it; her performance could easily pass for an extended, head-swiveling camera test. Depp filled out for his role as the hapless Wisconsin tourist Frank Tupelo, whom Elise targets for decoy purposes, and though he talks through his teeth and disappears into a boxy white tux, in smitten kitten mode he at least seems like a smushy good time.
Aesthetically, The Tourist is the equivalent of movie star hardcore, and I'm inclined to continue describing its creaturely comforts--Elise's hotel room is pre-stocked with gowns and jewels; the couple's courtly waltz at a lavish ball serves mostly as a comparative jawline study--in part because the narrative cliff beyond is steep and absolute. Tipped off by an Interpol leak, British gangster (Steven Berkoff) heads to Venice with his Russian henchmen to collect the billions that Elise's abandoned target Pearce randomly stole from him; Scotland Yard, headed by a maniacal buzzkill (Paul Bettany), is also after Pearce--for back taxes. "What is it he did, really?" purrs Timothy Dalton as an Interpol heavy, echoing my sentiments exactly. A big twist is meant to throw the "who cares" conceit and Depp and Jolie's reluctant tango into meaningful relief, but with no there there, a teasing minimum of scripted effervescence, and little chemistry to keep the leads on point, the plot just gimps around the harbors of Venice.
Four years ago, von Donnersmarck expressed dismay that Hollywood intended to remake his German-language breakout. Watching this pedigreed show pony saunter to the finish, I understood his fears. -Michelle Orange
103 Minutes Rated PG-13Yogi Bear
Rock-bottom expectations are rewarded, sort of, in this update of Hanna-Barbera's necktied ursus, which hopes to outdo the live action/computer animation success of theAlvin and the Chipmunks
franchise by adding one more dimension. Yogi (who debuted in 1958 and was loosely based onThe Honeymooners
' Ed Norton) is voiced by Dan Aykroyd, unable to nail down the picnic stealer's Catskills-comedian delivery. Justin Timberlake, however, flawlessly re-creates Boo Boo's adenoidal intonation. The obligatory creature ass-shaking to a past dance hit (here, "Baby Got Back") is blessedly brief, though 21st-century Yogi proves to be an unbearable mugger. Still, the kiddies will learn an important civics lesson by following the main plot thread: Yogi tries to save Jellystone Park as Franklin City's Tea Party-ish mayor, prepping for a gubernatorial bid, plans to sell it off to logging interests. (Another teachable moment for tykes: Eating too many snacks in between meals will lead to Yogi's unenviable BMI.) And though Yogi's foil, Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh, formerly of TV's
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), barely registers as 1-D among the non-CG performers, adults will be thrilled to see Anna Faris as nature documentarian Rachel. Greeting Yogi by speaking in "brown bear," the actress never fails to be seriously goofy. -Melissa Anderson
82 Minutes Rated PG