Capsule reviews of recently released movies | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte
Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Capsule reviews of recently released movies 

Dreamgirls, The Good Shepherd, Rocky Balboa, others

Page 4 of 4

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS Anyone who's seen the trailer for The Pursuit of Happyness knows that the movie has only two things on its mind: 1) Win Will Smith an Oscar and 2) drive up Kleenex profits by unleashing a flood of sob-worthy moments. Whether it succeeds in achieving either goal remains to be seen, but 1) Will Smith does indeed turn in a strong performance (though hardly the year's best) and 2) the picture is skilled enough to generate some genuine pathos to go along with the more calculated melodramatics. This is based on the true story of Chris Gardner, a failed salesman in the 1980s who tries to raise his son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) even as he descends further into poverty. Chris can't turn around without something bad happening to him -- it's not enough that he's struck by a car; he has to then lose one of his shoes in the accident and limp to work with one foot clothed only in a sock. How much of this is factual is unclear -- it's anybody's guess whether screenwriter Steven Conrad is laying it on this thick for audience members or whether God had indeed laid it on this thick for the real Chris Gardner -- but the moving and sincere work by Will and his real-life son Jaden (a confidant and relaxed actor) cuts through all pretensions (even the instant happy ending) and allows The Pursuit of Happyness to earn at least some of its tears. ***

ROCKY BALBOA Critics generally haven't been kind to Sylvester Stallone (and subjected to mega-bombs like Cobra and Over the Top, who could blame them?), but even the crustiest of reviewers might feel a protective twinge when faced with the spectacle that is Rocky Balboa. Stallone's career has been over for years, yet here's the big lug, now 60, returning to the role that made him a star three decades ago. That there's now a sixth Rocky movie, coming 16 years after Rocky V, is perhaps the ultimate in both money-grubbing and star groveling, yet because Stallone so obviously loves this great character he created, it's hard to get worked up in a fury of righteous indignation. My only regret is that Rocky Balboa isn't a better film. It has some nice touches, particularly in the way it draws upon memories of previous installments, and Stallone is never more human as an actor than when he's essaying this role. But the movie spends too much time in idle and not enough in overdrive, and what should be the central storyline -- Rocky comes out of retirement to fight an undefeated champion (Antonio Tarver) half his age -- only takes shape once the picture's nearly over. Through the first three entertaining films in the franchise, Stallone went the distance with the Italian Stallion, but since then, the character's been stuck on an endless treadmill. Get off, already. **

WE ARE MARSHALL Another movie season, another inspirational sports yarn torn from the headlines of history. So in most respects, this traffics in the same kind of predictable underdog uplift championed in The Rookie, Miracle and oh-so-many-others. But real life provided a tragic twist, and that's what makes this otherwise familiar tale a cut above the norm. Set in 1970, it centers on what transpires in a West Virginia town after nearly all the members of the Marshall University football team (as well as several coaches and fans) are killed in a place crash. After much hemming and hawing while trying to figure out the right thing to do, it's decided that the sports program will be resurrected from the ashes as a way of honoring the fallen players. Cue the entrance of Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughney), an outsider who arrives to serve as the new squad's head coach -- and to help community members move on with their own lives. Except for Anthony Mackie as the team captain, the actors portraying the players are a nondescript lot, meaning the emphasis is shifted to the adult characters. And it's these seasoned actors (among them David Strathairn and Ian McShane) who best punch across the heavy burden that threatens to crush the town's spirit. The movie is never as emotionally draining as this material requires, but it gives it the old college try and comes close to succeeding. **1/2

Speaking of 2.33000

Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

More by Matt Brunson

Search Events


© 2019 Womack Digital, LLC
Powered by Foundation