Coming Soon

  • This Week: Aug 18
    • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug 22)
    • If I Stay (Aug 22)
  • Farther Out
    • No Good Deed (Sep 12)
    • The Skeleton Twins (Sep 12)
    • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (Sep 12)
    • This Is Where I Leave You (Sep 19)
    • Tracks (Sep 19)
    • A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sep 19)
    • The Boxtrolls (Sep 26)
    • Jimi: All Is by My Side (Sep 26)
    • The Equalizer (Sep 26)

This Week: Aug 18

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Opens Aug 22, 2014

There's only so much pulp you can ingest before it starts to get stuck in your teeth, and that's the takeaway from Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Robert Rodriguez and graphic novelist Miller's sequel to their hit black-and-white-but-sorta-color CG noir from 2005. For all the watermelon-like smashing of noggins and copious nudity (with a particularly odd choice of rendering males genital-less), the overall effect is less titillating than numbing. That more or less puts Dame on par with its predecessor, even if the narrative focus is as blurry as the film's resolution when you remove your 3-D glasses. (The 3-D, by the way, is at least warranted and not half bad.) Revenge is the order of the day here, with a slick card shark (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, recalling his teen gumshoe in Brick) attempting to swindle ruthless politico Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), while the now-hardened, boozy exotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba), looks to settle the score that forced her beloved protector (Bruce Willis, cameoing as a ghost) to take his life in order to preserve hers.

Any movie whose cast includes two dozen famous actors has to coast on those thesps' abilities, and that proves to be the case here—though, disappointingly, Alba, Rosario Dawson, and the Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, share about 15 lines of dialogue. Mickey Rourke is back as biker brute Marv and Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen's tortured ladies' man Dwight. With their low-rumble vocal stylings, they were born for this type of flick. The filmmakers wisely hired the fearless, magnetic Eva Green to play—what else?—the delectably twisted femme fatale Ava, who offers up most of the aforementioned copious nudity. Reminiscent of Linda Fiorentino's classic turn in the seedy suspenser The Last Seduction, and far more resourceful than the movie she's in, Green's Ava more than lives up to this picture's subtitle. C+

If I Stay
Opens Aug 22, 2014

What is it about teenage girls clinging to life that speaks so directly to the YA audience? Earlier this summer, Shailene Woodley found a momentary stay from a cruel death sentence in the arms of an impossibly upbeat hunk in The Fault in Our Stars. That film was melodramatic and manipulative, but at least it was packaged with a handful of scenes that felt true (no, not the Anne Frank Museum one). It's hard to say the same for R.J. Cutler's If I Stay.

Based on Gayle Forman's best-selling tearjerker novel, the film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a shy Portland high school cellist named Mia Hall. As the story opens, Mia's at home with her younger brother (Jakob Davies) and her parents (The Killing's Mireille Enos and Higher Ground's Joshua Leonard), who can't stop reminding their kids just how hip they used to be. They toss off references to Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry like cheap shorthand confetti, never realizing that if they really were cool, they wouldn't have to keep repeating it over and over. Not that Mia would care anyway. Her musical hero is Yo-Yo Ma.

After school is called off for a snow day, the family decides to distract Mia, who's nervously awaiting a decision letter from Juilliard in the mail, with a scenic car ride. Bad idea. They endure a horrific accident, and Mia wakes up amid the wreckage, standing over the injured bodies of not only her family members...but also of herself. No one can hear her or see her. She's in some sort of helpless metaphysical limbo. At the hospital, she races from operating room to operating room, willing her family to pull through. Teetering between life and death, Mia reflects on her life and whether she wants to keep living—a choice, according to one of the least believable ER nurses in movie history, that is up to her. From there, the movie becomes a string of flashbacks to the key moments in Mia's life with her family, friends, music, and most crucially for If I Stay's target demographic, her boyfriend, Adam—an earnest, non-threatening bad-boy rocker played by Snow White and the Huntsman's Jamie Blackley, who seems to be channeling the young Johnny Depp (or at least the young Skeet Ulrich). It's only a matter of time before we witness the young lovers passionately embrace and talk about ''making music together.''

Like The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay paints teen romance as little more than a wish fulfillment fairy tale. Boys like Blackley and Fault's Ansel Elgort always seem to be there with a sweeping gesture, a sensitive ear, and whispered promises about how their love will last until the end of time—if not longer. There's nothing wrong with that, per se. Young women should expect men to be chivalrous and kind. But there's something about the way that Hollywood keeps churning out these puppy-dog knights that I suspect will lead to a lot of disappointment and broken hearts a few years from now. These Romeos are unrealistic fantasies.

At just 17, Moretz is already an actress with enough smarts and self-possession to convince you that Mia has her head screwed on straight. Bach is just as important to her as her boyfriend—a choice that comes into sharp relief when she has to decide between staying in Portland with Adam or heading off to Juilliard in New York. Still, as believable and relatable as Moretz's wallflower is, the supernatural story swirling around her is so mawkishly rigged to work your tear ducts that it squanders whatever honesty she invests in it. The other stand-out in the film is Stacy Keach, who, in a pair of scenes as Mia's grieving grandfather, shows how much better the film could have been if it were more interested in real sentiment than gooey sap.

I suspect that the problem may lie with the man behind the camera, R.J. Cutler, a director better known for documentaries (The September Issue, A Perfect Candidate) than slick, three-hankie studio fare. You'd think that someone so used to working in non-fiction would have a better handle on realism. But If I Stay never bothers to go after authenticity when there's a cliché hovering nearby. That may not be enough of a drawback to prevent teenage audiences from lapping up the movie with a spoon, but they certainly deserve better. C-