Film Reviews: Meet the Robinsons, Blades of Glory

AFTER THE WEDDING There’s trouble in Denmark, but Shakespeare has left the building. The stuff of soap opera gussied up as pseudo-insight, Susanne Bier’s family drama stars Mads Mikkelsen (late of Casino Royale, and looking as if he’d rather be cutting down innocent bystanders) as Jacob, a sensitive chap who’s suddenly recalled from his work tending orphans in India to pursue a fat donation from Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard), a wealthy businessman with a mysterious urge to invite Jacob to his daughter’s wedding. Once there, the hapless stranger will exchange looks of guilt! anguish! longing! with two women from his inglorious past, while Bier (who also made the inexplicably acclaimed Brothers and the rather better Open Hearts) trots after them with a fretful but splendidly arty hand-held camera. Thereafter, everybody stares miserably off into the middle distance, accompanied alternately by sitars, violins and lush green fields, until the big C shows up punctually to roil the waters. Whereupon the action, such as it is, switches to close-ups of tender glances and hands clasped in agony over the unfairness of life. Evidently, this bloated piece of Oscar-nominated nonsense was a big hit in Denmark, which makes me think there’s a glittering future in that otherwise discriminating country for several seasons of Days of Our Lives. (Playhouse 7; Royal; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

AIR GUITAR NATION “My long strums are pretty fucking tight,” gushes one faux ax-stroker in this slick, hilarious and at times even suspenseful ode to competitive mock-rock and/or the further decline of Western civilization. Power-chord mimes here include Krye Tuff, Björn Türoque, and the kung fu–style C. Diddy, who handily wins stateside air-solo honors and proceeds to the world cup in Finland, whereupon nationalist air-envy takes center stage and this American idyll turns, uh, political. Director Alexandra Lipsitz plays her own instrument impeccably, not pushing too hard for humor (the material is outrageous enough on its own), nor resting on crowd-pleasing absurdity at the expense of vital journalistic investigation (e.g., she gets Türoque’s mom to pull out the kid’s old report card, which indeed explains a lot). Nary a dull lick in the entire 80 minutes — and would you believe that there’s pathos too? (World Air Guitar Championships founder Jukka Takalo imagines nothing less than world peace — “because you can’t hold a gun and air guitar at the same time.”) Though the licensing of “classic” licks from Motörhead et al. makes the doc definitive, you just know that Paramount is prepping a Jack Black remake even as we wank. (Nuart) (Rob Nelson)

BLADES OF GLORY Will Ferrell, having moved on from the anchor desk and NASCAR, at long last ridicules a hallowed profession — I refer, of course, to men’s figure skating. Who until now has dared to mock the sequined costumes, the fondness for power ballads, the spandex pants? Luckily, Our Man Ferrell is up to the challenge, along with a troupe of the usual suspects (Luke Wilson, Amy Poehler). In Blades of Glory, he gives us the story of two male skaters (Ferrell and Jon Heder) who decide to become a pair due to a chain of events too ludicrous to recount. Even as it points its finger and laughs at every easy target in sight, the film is also bizarrely earnest: Don’t worry, it says, figure skating with another man doesn’t make you gay, not even when your partner lifts you so high your crotch is in his face. It almost goes without saying that this undercurrent of homoeroticism is less than deftly handled by co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Blades does capture the obvious eccentricities of the skating world, and is funny up to a point, but by now Ferrell & Co. have the formula for a mild comedy down pat. What they need is a little soul. (Citywide) (Julia Wallace)

THE HILLS HAVE EYES II War movie, horror movie — the difference is negligible in this grim sequel to last year’s hit remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 mutant thriller. After a grisly childbirth and some gory killings, the real action starts with a group of gung-ho National Guardsmen blasting their way through Kandahar. It proves to be a training exercise in the Southwestern desert, thank God, but the troops are being watched by a real menace: the man-eating spawn of 1950s nuclear testing, who have learned a few things about strategery as they lure the soldiers into a killing ground of rocky hiding places and booby-trapped tunnels. Yes, the most assured fighting men are the first to go; yes, the company peacenik (Michael McMillian) will undergo a Straw Dogs conversion to lethal force. Directed by Martin Weisz from a script by Craven and his son Jonathan, the movie has already bummed out the fan-boys with its paucity of cool kills — this despite a genuinely unnerving who’s-out-there use of shallow focus and a mortality rate in the high double digits. But for anyone other than hardcore gore-hounds, this flipbook of deliberately invoked global-unrest horrors, from friendly-fire killings to rape as a breeding weapon, is effectively mean and unrelenting — and pretty far from fun. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

THE LOOKOUT See film feature (Showtimes)

{mosimage} PICK MEET THE ROBINSONS Computer-generated ingenuity and a strong story line brighten the zillionth unexamined delivery of ameliorative Disney boosterism: Never mind the past, always go forward. Sharply adapted by Jon Berstein, Michelle Spitz and Don Hall from the William Joyce book A Day With Wilbur Robinson , this speedy animated feature features Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry), a bespectacled science geek and orphan who, though well cared for by a loving foster mom (velvety Angela Bassett), is too weird to get himself adopted and so goes forth in search of his birth mother. Catapulted into a future (long story) with an uncanny resemblance to a Disney theme park, Lewis falls in with a similarly gifted family of wacko special effects who must defend him (or vice versa) from a yellow-toothed villain and his sinister bowler hat (both voiced by director Steven Anderson), and point him toward a better life. Juiced by 3-D glasses that had my daughter and her pal grabbing at the air in order to trap the movie’s fickle weather, Meet the Robinsons is so cleverly executed that one forgives — just — the frenetic pace and absence of down time (save for a couple of sweet numbers sung by Rufus Wainwright) that have become standard in G-rated studio pictures aimed at kiddies who are surely too young to have their developing attention spans smashed to smithereens. (Citywide)  (Ella Taylor)

THE PAGE TURNER See film feature (Showtimes)

RACE YOU TO THE BOTTOM Nathan (Cole Williams, son of songwriter Paul Williams), an arrogant and not entirely likable 24-year-old travel writer, has a sweet boyfriend and a caustic gal pal named Maggie (Amber Benson) with whom he’s been secretly sleeping for six months. Maggie’s attached too, but her pretty boyfriend bores her as much Nathan’s does him. Watching this interesting, well-acted debut feature from writer-director Russell Brown, one begins to reason that what Nathan and Maggie have in common, besides desire, is a need for a partner who’s not completely kind. Their banter, which grows increasingly barbed and accusatory as they work their way up the coast from L.A. to Napa, where Nathan plans to write a piece on vineyards, made me think of younger (less witty) versions of George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, although Brown may have been more directly influenced by Richard Linklater’s great sightseeing-lovers film, Beyond Sunset. A 75-minute movie with plenty of sex but zero titillation, Race You to the Bottom is likely to disappear from theaters in a blink, but those who keep an eye out for promising young filmmakers should take notice — and someone in Hollywood should take Mr. Brown to lunch. (Regent Showcase) (Chuck Wilson)

TEN ’TIL NOON Scott Storm’s low-budget thriller has a neat concept — a man wakes up at 11:50 a.m. and is confronted by a hit man (Morgan Freeman’s son Alfonso, exhibiting some of Dad’s chops) who tells him his world will completely change in 10 minutes. When that time is up, there’s a gunshot and a spray of blood, and then we go back to 11:50, only in a different location. There’s a larger conspiracy at work, and we get to spend those exact minutes with each major player, one after the other, as the various layers are revealed. In more experienced hands, perhaps a great story could be told, but Ten ’Til Noon has two major factors working against it. First, the acting is wildly uneven: Veteran TV character actor Thomas Kopache holds the screen as a mysterious crime lord, and Rayne Guest’s sex scene is certainly memorable, but segments like the one involving two masturbating voyeurs play as amateur (and incongruous) teen-comedy hijinks. Second, once the conspiracy is more or less revealed, the story ceases to be interesting — especially since all the appealing actors have exited the story by then. (Sunset 5) (Luke Y. Thompson)

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