Goldenberg's capsule film reviews

Bonneville, Semi-Pro and other films opening this week

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BONNEVILLE (PG-13) A chick flick for the over-50 set, this warm, fuzzy and thoroughly formulaic outing focuses on three women-of-a-certain-age transporting a loved one's ashes cross-country. Jessica Lange is the sensitive, grieving widow, Joan Allen is the prim and proper companion, Kathy Bates is the good-natured earth mama, and each role lazily conforms to the basic screen personae with which each of these actresses is most commonly identified. The women talk about their lives, squabble over issues big and small, hug, cry, and hug some more. Love and loss are encountered in a variety of predictable ways, montages play out to assorted popular tunes, and a long future on the Lifetime channel is assured. Also stars Christine Baranski, Tom Skerritt, Victor Rasuk and Tom Amandes. Opens Feb. 29 at local theaters. 2 stars

THE GASPARILLA FILM FESTIVAL Read Lance Goldenberg's review.

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (PG-13) Sex and sibling rivalry juice up this historical drama about two sisters competing for the attentions of Henry XIII. Stars Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance and Kristin Scott Thomas. Opens Feb. 29 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

PENELOPE (PG) Read Lance Goldenberg's review.

SEMI-PRO (PG-13) The latest in an apparently never-ending line of sports comedies from Will Ferrell. The subject this time is basketball. Also stars Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett and Andy Richter. Opens Feb. 29 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)


BE KIND REWIND (PG-13) The latest movie from Michel Gondry, director of The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, largely avoids the provocative, in-your-face artistry of those earlier films, but it's a uniquely entertaining project that only Gondry could have made. Filled with charmingly cheesy special effects that reveal an abiding affection for the raw, the retro and all the dusty, unloved relics of pop culture, Be Kind Rewind takes place, naturally enough, in a video rental store, where all the tapes have been inadvertently erased. This leads to a harebrained scheme where Mos Def and Jack Black replace all of the store's videos with their own homegrown, shot-on-the-fly versions — super-amateurish but heartfelt productions that become inexplicably popular with everyone who sees them. Be Kind Rewind rails against big, formulaic Hollywood movies in a way that's as clever as it is subtle, and it takes the piss out of movies with "heart" while eventually becoming one itself. Gondry has made better films before, but he's never made one so sweet and simply enjoyable we barely notice how truly subversive it is. Also stars Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz and Sigourney Weaver. 3.5 stars

THE BUCKET LIST (PG-13) Director Rob Reiner layers on the schmaltz, and Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman supply the star power in a meathead's delight that might just have well been called Grumpy Old Terminally Ill Men. Freeman's obligatory opening voice-over sets the tone, cramming in the words "love," "fate" and "folks" in under a minute, as dying roommates Carter (Freeman) and Edward (Nicholson) decide to spend their final months, and a sizeable chunk of the latter's fortune, doing all the things they never got around to doing. Endless footage ensues of the old coots skydiving, getting tattoos, driving fast cars, and popping up in a virtual travelogue encompassing the Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. Freeman's wise but slightly prickly character periodically pontificates on the nature of the world, eventually teaching the meaning of life to the considerably richer but far more cynical Nicholson, and it all feels like the spitting image of a made-for-TV movie. Also stars Sean Hayes and Beverly Todd. 2 stars

CHARLIE BARTLETT (R) Precocious, privileged Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is booted out of prep school and forced to join the unwashed masses at public school in Charlie Bartlett — a movie that seems determined to recycle Rushmore for a new generation. After being subjected to some cursory bullying, Charlie too-quickly learns to make friends and influence people by supplying them with various highly coveted prescription drugs and playing shrink to his classmates in the boy's bathroom. Robert Downey Jr. is both believable and borderline dangerous, but there's not much else about Charlie Bartlett that's particularly convincing. Too many of the characters are lazily written (the school bully, the depressed loner, the slow, fat kid), the movie's sense of ironic detachment comes and goes (the drug pushing is sometimes played for laughs, sometimes for pathos), and the quirks are often uncomfortably forced. Also stars Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton and Hope Davis. 2.5 stars

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR (R) Based on true events from the Reagan years, Mike Nichol's new film stars Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson, a hard-partying Texas congressman who sets monumental forces in motion, almost without realizing it, when he begins lobbying to supply Afghanistan's Mujahideen in their struggle against Russian invaders. Urging Wilson on is his occasional lover, a rich, ultra-right-wing dragon lady played by Julia Roberts. The individual players are fairly engaging, but Charlie Wilson's War never manages to muster up much dramatic momentum. The movie's tone is all over the place, veering from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's trademark sitcom style to quasi-screwball satire to something approaching sentimental mush, and then straight into agitprop, with tears welling up in Hanks' eyes in the midst of multitudes of mistreated Afghan orphans. Charlie Wilson's War starts out strong and then slowly fizzles out just as it should be getting interesting. The covert war waged by Hanks' congressman results in the Soviet empire crumbling just as the film is ending, all but ignoring the more interesting twists that followed (specifically, how Afghan "freedom fighters" transformed into the legions of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, using American weapons and training against their so-called benefactors). The movie opens with a dreamily stylized image of a Muslim praying beneath a starry sky, then picking up his rocket launcher and aiming at squarely at the camera — which is to say, at us — but that's about as close as Nichols gets to that particular can of worms. Stars Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts and Amy Adams. 2.5 stars

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