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Movie Reviews: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Jennifer's Body, Love Happens 

Also, Crude, You the Living and more

Wednesday, Sep 16 2009
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GO  STINGRAY SAM Eight years after his underseen debut feature, The American Astronaut, writer-director-singer-songwriter Cory McAbee returns with another sui generis sci-fi/western/musical, set in a parallel universe where Mars is a bottomed-out casino town and the rest of the galaxy has been stratified by an interstellar class war. McAbee, a cross between Buck Rogers and Gene Autry, stars as the titular gunslinger-turned–lounge singer, enlisted by his old sidekick, the Quasar Kid (Crugie), to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a celebrity carpenter from the clutches of a genetically engineered man-child despot called Fredward (Justin Taylor). And that’s just the first of Stingray Sam’s six, serialized 10-minute episodes, which premiered as a gallery installation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will be available for Web downloading in concert with their theatrical release. Shot, like Astronaut, in crisp black-and-white, with ingenious shoestring production values (including reams of backstory conveyed through tinted, animated collages), each installment features at least one of McAbee’s genre-bending lounge-rock musical numbers. In an American indie-film landscape, where a 500 Days of Summer is lauded for its “originality,” McAbee should be a candidate for canonization. Somebody get this man an order for a second season. (Downtown Independent) (Scott Foundas)

TYLER PERRY’S I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF If you are the director, producer, writer (adapting your own stage play) and co-star of a film, you really show how bad you can do all by yourself. Usually thrilling in their lunacy, most Tyler Perry movies can at least keep up their momentum through the combination of an overstuffed plot and the presence of Madea, the big-boned granny who will rip out your urethra tube if you sass her. Perry’s latest — about a boozy nightclub singer, April (Taraji P. Henson), begrudgingly sheltering her niece and nephews — has so many dead moments that singing spots by Gladys Knight, Pastor Marvin Winans and Mary J. Blige simply highlight, rather than alleviate, the inertia. Madea, tonic in February’s Madea Goes to Jail, appears onscreen for only about 15 minutes, at least sharing an inspired bit about Siegfried and Roy on Noah’s “arch.” If the Atlanta impresario is just bored with cranking out two adaptations of his earlier stage work annually, the audience is getting restless, too: I counted at least three walkouts at the 11 a.m. show I attended. Though Perry may have stuck with his chitlin-circuit material for too long, I still can’t wait to see what he does with the choreopoem in an upcoming project — directing Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. (Citywide) (Melissa Anderson)

WHITEOUT In this earnest but muddled Antarctic thriller, a masked man kills research scientists who may have stumbled upon a valuable object hidden beneath the ice. Figuring out the murderer’s identity falls to U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), with help from the research station’s doctor (Tom Skerritt) and a shady U.N. investigator (Gabriel Macht). Carrie is a good detective tortured by memories of a Miami drug bust gone bad, and in a regrettable blunder, director Dominic Sena (Kalifornia, Gone in 60 Seconds) and his four credited screenwriters have chosen to stage that failed arrest in a series of hokey flashbacks that always end with Sena cutting back to a zoned-out Carrie, who literally shakes her head to clear the bad vibes. One feels for Beckinsale, a B-movie action queen badly in need of a comedy and a script that doesn’t require, as this one does, her stripping down to her skivvies in the opening scene. It could be said that Whiteout is an honest attempt to set an old-fashioned whodunit in an exotic locale, but the mystery at the film’s core is so hopelessly dull that one begins to long for a third-act cameo by the Abominable Snowman. (Citywide) (Chuck Wilson)

click to enlarge Joe Berlinger’s Crude
  • Joe Berlinger’s Crude

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