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The Sentinel, Silent Hill, Standing Still

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AMERICAN DREAMZ
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IRON ISLAND (JAZIRE AHANI)
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THE SENTINEL
The director Clark Johnson got his start in TV, and it shows. Two years ago, he turned that cop-drama warhorse S.W.A.T. into a surprise (read: inexplicable) summer hit; now he's back with an enervated presidential-assassination thriller that feels calculated to cash in on the popularity of 24. In reality, it's closer to a tawdry White House soap opera, with Michael Douglas as the veteran Secret Service agent whose affair with the First Lady (Kim Basinger) gets him blackmailed by the ex-KGB operatives who, for reasons unspecified, want to off the current Prez (Sledge Hammer himself, David Rasche). Framed for complicity in the assassination plot, Douglas flees while his dogged protege (Keifer Sutherland as a slightly neutered Jack Bauer) gives chase and Johnson—as he did for the cops of S.W.A.T.—takes every opportunity to show us how much cooler and sexier Secret Service agents are than we mere mortals. (Cue Desperate Housewives' Eva Longoria in a cleavage-intensive get-up as Sutherland's partner.) With its roving camera, rapid-fire cuts and amped-up sound design (Okay, we get it: a camera shutter can sound an awful lot like a gun cocking), The Sentinel works overtime to suggest what a thrill-a-minute world its characters inhabit; but only during the last 20 minutes does the movie's pulse (or ours) raise above a flatline. The actors look uniformly unhappy to be there—except for Basinger, who seems lost in a lithium haze. That said, there's almost nothing wrong with the movie that a few commercial breaks and the ability to do your dishes at the same time wouldn't improve. (Scott Foundas)(Countywide)


SILENT HILL
Another videogame spinoff, this mindless horror flick directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) replays the clichť of the desperate parent searching for a lost child. In this case, a dim-witted mother (Radha Mitchell) tempts fate by driving her troubled daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), to the menacing, fog-shrouded old mining town whose name keeps recurring in the girl's nightmares. The kid promptly vanishes and—right on cue—assorted ghouls, fiends, and monsters begin popping out of the woodwork to scare the bejesus out of Mom. Stuffed with cheap effects and devoid of tension, this French-Japanese-U.S. co-production contributes exactly zilch to the rich film history of those three nations; the most horror-crazed teen may be hard-pressed to find any authentic thrills here. With Sean Bean as the distressed father and Alice Krige as Silent Hill's resident religious nutjob. Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary is responsible for the murky screenplay. (Bill Gallo) (Countywide)


STANDING STILL

The title of director Matthew Cole Weiss' debut feature refers to the arrested development of a gaggle of college friends—four years out of school but still unmoored in life—who reunite for the weekend leading up to buddy Michael's (Adam Garcia) marriage to his longtime girlfriend, Elise (Junebug star Amy Adams). There's the maid of honor (Melissa Sagemiller), who's trying to coerce her own commitment-phobic beau (Aaron Stanford) into popping the question; the ne'er-do-well Pockets (Jon Abrahams), whose life is like one globe-spanning frat party; and the emotionally unstable actress (Mena Suvari), who finds herself surrounded by the only three men she's ever slept with. And what little chill like this would be complete without the bride-to-be's lesbian ex-roommate (Lauren German), who still harbors a hot-and-heavy crush after all these years? Standing Still is one of those movies about how you can be 20-something and feel as though your life is over, or at least that your best years are behind you—a sentiment that led to much seriocomic soul-searching in the case of Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming, but which here becomes fodder for less-than-Proustian pining over roads not taken and an unrecoverable past of getting wasted, hanging out and hitting on girls. Until, after one long night of drunken confession, everything magically rights itself. The script (by Matthew Perniciaro and Timm Sharp) is trite, and the direction so flat that every scene looks like it was shot in a broom closet, but the bright young cast makes things more bearable than they should be. They scurry around so frantically trying to stay light on their feet that it takes a while to realize the movie itself is heavy as a brick. (Scott Foundas) (AMC at the Block, Orange; Century Stadium, Orange; Mann Rancho Niguel, Laguna Niguel)

 
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