Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Feb. 2 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte
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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Feb. 2 

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THE GREEN HORNET Seth Rogen, superhero? It's nearly impossible to wrap the mind around such an outlandish idea, almost on par with Sarah Palin as U.S. president or Ricky Gervais as the next recipient of the Golden Globes Lifetime Achievement Award. Yet it's Rogen's slovenly appearance and snarky asides that help transform The Green Hornet into not just another superhero movie. Having said that, this is still rough going in many respects. An update of the 1960s TV show starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee (and a 1930s radio show before that), this finds Rogen (who also co-scripted) giving the Judd Apatow treatment to the role of Britt Reid, a wealthy party animal who, along with his ingenious employee Kato (Jay Chou), decides to fight crime by donning a mask and becoming The Green Hornet. We're not talking Dark Knight territory here: The plot doesn't advance so much as lurch forward like an alcoholic making another trip to the bar, the villain (played by Inglourious Basterds Oscar winner Christophe Waltz) is a cinematic zero, and the initially exciting action soon becomes redundant. But the comic approach works more often than not, Rogen and Chou banter with ease, and some of the gadgets are indeed pretty cool. Note to self: I've got to get me one of those coffee makers! **1/2

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 We won't know until July 15, 2011, whether or not the final book in J.K. Rowling's franchise really needed to be divided into two movies. But until the release of Part 2 on that forthcoming day, the evidence based on Part 1 leads to an inconclusive verdict. This is the first picture in the series that actually drags — it's not a disastrous debit since the majority of the film is so strong, but it does suggest that some judicious trimming might have given us the final chapter in one fell swoop. The coasting comes in the middle, which is fortunate since it leaves the production with a vibrant opening act and a powerhouse final hour. Fans will immediately be swept up in this latest chapter, which begins by killing off one of the good guys and sending Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) on a crusade to locate specific items that might help them vanquish the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The movie spends an awful lot of time on the teens as they set up camp in an isolated area, and the romantic yearning between them, usually a highlight of the series, here settles into soap opera mundaneness. Yet once the story leaps past this narrative hurdle, it again gets back to the intriguing dynamics that have long defined this series. ***

THE KING'S SPEECH Arriving on the scene like so much high-minded Oscar bait, The King's Speech is anything but a stiff-upper-lip drama as constrained as a corseted queen. It is, however, perfect film fodder for discerning audiences starved for literate entertainment. Director Tom Hooper and particularly screenwriter David Seidler manage to build a towering film from a historical footnote: the debilitating stammer that haunted Albert Frederick Arthur George (aka the Duke of York and then King George VI) since childhood and the efforts of speech therapist Lionel Logue to cure him of his affliction. The film is careful to paint in the historical details surrounding this character crisis — the support of George's wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the abdication of his brother Edward (Guy Pearce), the buildup toward World War II (Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill; love it!), etc. — but its best scenes are the ones centering solely on the unorthodox teacher and his quick-tempered student. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are accomplished actors on their own, but squaring off as, respectively, George VI and Lionel Logue elevates their game. It's no wonder that they deliver the two best male performances of the year. ***1/2

LITTLE FOCKERS Let me get this straight. Dustin Hoffman deemed the script for Little Fockers so awful that he refused to participate until new scenes were written for him. And here he is now, having agreed to a revised screenplay that has him uttering lines like "You can pick your nose, but only flick the dry ones, not the wet ones." Needless to say, that's a long way from the likes of "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me ... Aren't you?" and "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" Then again, Little Fockers is pretty much the basement for most of the accomplished actors squirming up there on the screen. Even those charitable folks (like me) who didn't think Meet the Parents' first sequel, Meet the Fockers, was a sign of End Times will feel the comic desperation in this outing. There's admittedly a chuckle here and there, but they quickly get buried by painful sequences like the one in which Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) sticks a needle into father-in-law Jack Byrnes' (Robert De Niro) erect penis, or Greg's young son projectile-vomits onto his dad. As in How Do You Know, Owen Wilson proves to be an unlikely saving grace, but enough is enough. This franchise has run its course and made its millions, but now it's time for it to fock off. *1/2

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