Soul Surfer

New review from The Movie Snob

Soul Surfer (B-). This movie is based on a true story about a teenaged Hawaiian girl, Bethany Hamilton, who was a promising amateur surfer when the unthinkable happened — a shark attacked her and bit off virtually her entire left arm while she was out surfing. Miraculously, she survived, and even more amazingly she went on to become a competitive surfer again. AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie) plays Bethany with plenty of pluck. Dennis Quaid (Flight of the Phoenix) and Helen Hunt (Cast Away) play Bethany’s concerned but supportive parents. Kevin Sorbo (TV’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) plays the family friend who basically saves Bethany’s life with his quick action. Carrie Underwood (TV’s American Idol) plays the Christian youth leader who helps Bethany get through tough times. It’s all very nice and uplifting (except for the shark attack, which is horrifying without being too gruesome), but it feels a little by-the-numbers.

The Red Garden (book review)

New from The Movie Snob

The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman (2011). Entertainment Weekly magazine gave this new novel a rave review, but the most I can say is that I liked it all right. (I’d stop trusting EW for book reviews, but it did lead me to one recent novel I really liked — I think it was called And Then We Came to the End.) Actually, this is really more of a collection of short stories than a novel. The book as a whole is about the people of the small town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, with the first chapter being about its founding in 1756 by a small rag-tag group, and each chapter moving chronologically forward usually roughly one generation. The characters are quirky, and there is a bit of what I guess they call “magical realism,” and it is well-written. But I guess I was really wanting more of a novel.

Hop

A new review from Nick at Nite

Hop

Wow. Santa should sue. He should bring a class action on behalf of all of the parents of the world that were forced to sit through this awful, mind numbing movie. The plot finds the Easter Bunny trying to pass off his title to his son, the son doesn’t want the job, and so he runs off to America. Here, young “EB,” finds an unemployed lout to be buddies and together they lean the value of hard work (from David Hasselhoff). I guess it is not all bad. I did learn a few things. For example, the Easter Bunny lives on Easter Island, the Easter Bunny and his progeny poop jelly beans, and bunnies live with Hugh Hefner (yep, this kids movie has not one, but two scenes filmed near the playboy mansion). I give this movie an “F.” It was that bad.  [Rated PG for “mild rude humor.”]

Hanna

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Hanna (B-). This movie is quite a change for director Joe Wright, who helmed the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice and also 2007’s Atonement. It’s a PG-13 thriller about a girl named Hanna who has been raised by her father in complete solitude in a remote part of Finland. There, her father (Eric Bana, Troy) has taught her survival skills, martial arts, and about a million different languages. Now about 16, Hanna wants to see the world, and soon enough she is on the run from the CIA, especially the cold-blooded agent Marissa Viegler (Cate Blanchett, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). Hanna is played by the young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who deservedly gets top billing in this flick. I have liked her in everything I’ve seen her in — City of Ember, The Way Back, and Atonement, for which she was Oscar nominated. (Tom Hollander, who played the dorky Mr. Collins in Pride & Prejudice, turns up as a German assassin.) It’s a decent thriller, but I was never totally engrossed in it.

Born to Be Wild 3D

A new review from The Movie Snob

Born to Be Wild 3D (B+). Is it just me, or do they not make as many science-and-nature oriented IMAX documentaries as they used to? Maybe they just get crowded out by the Iron Men and TRONs that now always seem to come out in IMAX mode. Anyhoo, this is a nice, wholesome little movie about two women who made it their life’s work to care for orphaned wild animals. One works with orphaned elephants in Kenya, the other with orphaned orangutans in Borneo. I don’t think there were any upsetting shots of the baby animals with their deceased mothers, although they do describe how they found one elephant with the carcass of his mother, killed by poachers. At the end they show some of the grown-up orphans being released into the wild (or into a halfway house, for the elephants), but even that’s not really sad or upsetting. The 3D is used to pretty good effect. Worth seeing.

Just Go With It

New review from The Movie Snob

Just Go With It (C-). If I understand correctly, the original source material for this weak effort is a French farce that has already been made into a movie once, 1969’s Cactus Flower, starring Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman, of all people. Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer) plays Danny, a well-to-do plastic surgeon who hits on women by pretending to be unhappily married and pouring his soul out to them. Supposedly this works so well that he is able to basically defraud tons of beautiful women into having one-night stands with him. So our protagonist is, in my humble opinion, a creep from the get-go. Life throws him a curve when he falls in love with a 23-year-old schoolteacher named Palmer who looks like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model — which the “actress” who plays Palmer, Brooklyn Decker, actually is. Danny’s got 20 years on Palmer, but she’s still digging him until she finds the wedding band he uses to pick up chicks. Because the truth would make him look like an odious jerk, he comes up with a quick lie–he’s in the process of divorcing–and he cajoles his attractive office manager and good pal Katherine (Jennifer Aniston, The Switch) to play his soon-to-be ex-wife when Palmer insists on meeting her. And it gets a lot more complicated from there as the lies pile up. There were a few humorous moments, but on the whole, not very good. I would’ve liked it better if Danny had gotten a big comeuppance for his early caddish behavior. Oh, Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) has a small role as Katherine’s frenemy from her sorority days; she doesn’t have much to do, but she overacts it with great exuberance.

Certified Copy

New review from The Movie Snob

Certified Copy (C-). Or Copie Conforme, if you prefer the original title of this French-Italian-Belgian co-production starring Juliette Binoche (Dan in Real Life). I like Binoche, which is the main reason I sought this film out despite the mediocre review I saw in the Dallas Morning News. Although she won some sort of acting award at Cannes for her performance, I was not all that impressed with the performance or the movie. The movie begins at a press conference somewhere in Italy; an English author named James Miller is speaking about his new book, which is about the significance of originals and copies in the world of art. Binoche’s character, who is never named, attends part of the conference with a boy, apparently her son. Later, Miller goes to see the woman, and she takes him on a drive out into Tuscany, sans boy. Miller and the woman seem to have some sort of past, but what is it, exactly? The more they said and did, the less certain I was. Miller has to catch an evening train, and as time ticks away, the woman begins to come off as slightly unhinged, and he seems like a fairly standard-issue intellectualoid jerk. One scene provides a sad comment on modern European life: when she briefly ducks into a lovely old church, Miller waits for her outside and then asks her what she was doing in there — praying? — in a manner clearly indicating that an affirmative answer would be almost beyond belief. Intelligent modern Europeans, it seems, are allowed to seek answers to life’s big questions almost anywhere — art, love, reason — except in religion.