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

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THE PROPOSAL After the stereotypical rom-com inanities of 27 Dresses, director Anne Fletcher partially redeems herself – as both an able filmmaker and a progressive woman – with her latest effort. Working with screenwriter Pete Chiarelli, she's managed to put out a picture that paints its heroine in one-dimensional strokes only part of the time. True, The Proposal depicts Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) in the same manner as most Hollywood flicks (see New in Town for another recent example): Because she's a career woman, she has no time for friends, lovers, hobbies or, apparently, even a rascally Rabbit (the battery-powered kind, that is). She's a ruthless, soulless workaholic, and the only reason Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) works as her assistant at a New York publishing house is because he figures it's a good career move. But when it looks as if Margaret will get shipped back to her Canadian homeland because of an expired visa, it appears as if his future will similarly get derailed. Margaret, though, has a plan: Force Andrew to marry her so that she can remain in the country. That these two will eventually fall for each other will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, yet the predictability of the plot isn't a detriment, since the film fits as comfortably around our expectations as a favorite old robe hugs our frame. And while the picture occasionally goes out of its way to make Bullock's character a ninny, the actress refuses to let the role manhandle her, and she and the ever-charming Reynolds work well together. Unfortunately, Fletcher and Chiarelli can't help but go for the easy, imbecilic laugh at several key junctures, and the film even includes one of those cringe-worthy moments in which a person declares his devotion to his beloved in front of a crowd of people. Still, this Proposal has enough merit to warrant some consideration. **1/2

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 Placing this new version of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 – in which four men hijack a subway car and hold its passengers for ransom – next to its 1974 predecessor makes the current model seem about as interesting as a tarnished doorknob, but rather than belabor the point, just rent the original (both were adapted from John Godey's best-selling novel) and thank me later. As for those venturing forth to catch this update, be prepared for a moderately agreeable thriller that unfortunately flames out with at least a full half-hour to go. Here, the criminals are led by the tattooed, mustachioed Ryder (John Travolta, looking ridiculous but still exuding a small modicum of menace), who promises to start blowing away hostages unless $10 million is delivered into his hands in exactly one hour. Trapped in his sinister scenario is Walter Garber (Denzel Washington, typically dependable but not half as much fun as the original's Walter Matthau), the dispatcher who reluctantly serves as the intermediary between Ryder and the city (repped by James Gandolfini's surly mayor). Few directors are as impersonal as Tony Scott (Domino, Days of Thunder), and he exhibits this detachment once again with a picture that's more interested in style than substance – even the city of New York, the true principal player in this tale, fails to come to life, meaning this film might as well have been set in Chicago or London or any other metropolis with a sprawling subway system. For a while, Scott and scripter Brian Helgeland make this Pelham a watchable affair before piling on all manner of ludicrous developments. By the time we get to a groaner of a showdown between the two stars, it's obvious that this vehicle jumped the tracks a while back. **

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE Movies involving time travel are so difficult to script that it's a wonder anybody even bothers to make them. Good ones like Back to the Future are calibrated well enough to allow audiences to understand and accept the ripples in the space-time continuum, but most trip over themselves as the filmmakers try to establish knotty rules they hope won't leave audiences so immersed in untangling the hows and whys that they forget to involve themselves in the characters and events. I suspect that many crucial details found in Audrey Niffenegger's best-selling novel failed to make it into Bruce Joel Rubin's script, meaning that some nagging questions – combined with Robert Schwentke's aloof direction – frequently keep us at arm's length. Nevertheless, Eric Bana as the man who travels back and forth through time and especially Rachel McAdams as the long-suffering woman who loves him bring enough heat to this up-and-down affair that it qualifies as an agreeable timefiller but not much more. **1/2

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