Alex Cross

October 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Marc Moss (“Along Came a Spider”) and Kerry Williamson (debut)

Confession: I’ve read every single book featuring the character Alex Cross that has been published so far. Created by prolific author James Patterson, the character Alex Cross is a detective/psychiatrist working homicide for the police department in Washington, D.C. His keen intellect and unparalleled ability to get inside a killer’s head makes Cross the best choice to hunt down the most brutal, creative, and intelligent serial killers that turn up in and around D.C. In doing so, he often risks the safety of his family (his children and his frail-yet-sassy grandmother Nana Mama). Novels like “Along Came a Spider,” “Kiss the Girls,” and “Jack and Jill” were tight thrillers featuring villains with unique nursery rhyme-derived hooks. The character was a hit and the two former books were adapted into motion pictures starring Morgan Freeman. Alas, financial success demanded someone to churn out more Cross-based movies. But after at least 15 more books, the character of Alex Cross is tired and threadbare. He is merely going through the motions. Once a year or so, there is Cross ready to stop another grisly weirdo murdering hookers or businessmen. All the while, Nana Mama seems eternally perched at death’s door. Even today, I still find myself reading every new book despite how predictable and boring the series has become.

More than a decade after Morgan Freeman’s cinematic turn as Cross fizzled out, a reboot was in order. Billed as being an adaptation of the 12th book in the series, “Alex Cross” stars Tyler Perry as a more age-appropriate Cross. Set in the crumbling decay once known as Detroit (and featuring copious product placement from General Motors), the film pits Cross and his partner (Edward Burns) against an assassin known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), a twitchy psychopath who leaves abstract charcoal drawings behind after he kills. When Picasso makes his crimes personal for the detectives, Cross sets aside his own moral code in an attempt to track down the killer.

As an adaptation of a late-period Alex Cross novel, director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) has at least stayed true to the spirit of the book and kept the film very dull. Perry, best known for his terrible movies wherein he dresses as an old woman and teaches vaguely churchy lessons to awful women, tries his best as Cross, but the humdrum script and murky direction do him no favors. Cross begins the film written as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, all spot-on deductions and poor social skills, only to be forgotten in the second half of the film when he becomes a vengeful badass. It’s this transition, however, that proves to be the best few minutes of the film. As Cross saws off the barrel of his shotgun and marches out the door covered in ammo and firearms to hunt down Picasso, the stern Nana Mama confronts him in order to make him reconsider his actions as a family man. Somehow there’s real tension and heart on display. Best of all, Nana Mama is played by Cicely Tyson and not Tyler Perry in drag.

27 Dresses

January 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Edward Burns
Directed by: Anne Fletcher (“Step Up”)
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”)

It’s almost shocking to see that the same screenwriter who was responsible for “The Devil Wears Prada,” a polished and classy female-free-for-all, wrote “27 Dresses.” As much as “Devil” was scathing and enjoyable, “Dresses” is really nothing more than chick-flick leftovers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some estrogen-filled entertainment, but not when it’s pre-packaged like the new Katherine Heigl vehicle. Heigl definitely has the comedic chops to keep up in the genre. She proved that last year in the wildly funny “Knocked Up.” She has a panache (almost like a Julia Roberts but without the overbearing glut) and manages to carry a few scenes on her own despite her limited feature film career (anyone remember her in “Under Siege 2”?)

In “Dresses,” Heigl hams it up again as Jane, a woman so obsessed with weddings that she has an entire closet in her apartment dedicated to the 27 of the happiest days of other women’s lives. In each of them, Jane has been a bridesmaid. Okay, let’s get the “always a bridesmaid never a bride” cliché out of the way before we continue.

Never able to say no to a friend who asks her to be a part of her ceremony, Jane has known since she was a little girl that weddings were her true calling. She thinks she might even want to have one of her own if her boss George (Burns) would sweep her off her feet the way all girls dream to be courted in movie land.

When Jane finally gets the nerve to confront George and tell him how she feels, she is undercut by her drop-dead-gorgeous sister Tess (Malin Akerman), who immediately catches George’s attention with a few flirtatious exchanges and fabrications.

Before you know it, Jane is planning her sister’s wedding to the man she wants to marry (or at least go out on a date with). She is so caught up in her love triangle, she blatantly ignores Kevin (Marsden), a persistent lifestyle and style reporter who is interested in her as the subject for his next puffy newspaper article.

As a romantic comedy, there’s not too many hearts fluttering to keep anyone’s interest for long and most of the jokes stay with the safe confines of rehearsal dinners and bouquets. You’ve seen it before in all its formulaic glory, so instead, go out and rent “My Best Friend’s Wedding” again and save yourself from a wasted night. If you do decide you want to see it “Dresses,” consider yourself warned and marked as a born sucker for anything that resembles a sassy rom-com.

One Missed Call

January 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Shannyn Sossaman, Edward Burns, Ana Clauida Talancón
Directed by: Eric Vallete (debut)
Written by: Andrew Klavan (“A Shock to the System”)

If “One Missed Call,” the first major release of 2008, is giving us any hint about what the new year is going to be like at the movies, stay away from the theater for the next 12 months.

A remake of the Japanese horror film “Chakushin ari,” “Call” follows a group of college students who are being killed off by a supernatural force inside their cell phones.

After the death of her friend Shelley, Leann Cole (Azura Skye) receives a call coming from Shelly’s phone. When she listens to the voice mail, she is startled to hear her own screams coming from the other end. She is also confused because the time and date for the message is incorrect. Her shrieks for help are coming one day prior to the date shown.

Soon, we find out the time and date given is the exact time and date of death of the person who receives the call. The pattern repeats itself as the technologically-advanced killer flips through the cellular phone book of its last victim and chosen another person to call.

As college students are picked off one by one in incredibly dull fashion, (including Ana Claudia Talancón of “El Crimen del Padre Amaro”), the phantom call finds its way to psychology student Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), who has just witnessed the death of three classmates from the bizarre events.

Of course, no one believes her despite the uncanny coincidences in the case (stand-up comedian Margaret Cho makes a ridiculous cameo as a dumbfounded detective in these scenes). The only one willing to listen to her is Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), a detective whose sister was recently killed under the same peculiar circumstances as the other students.

With the time and date set for Beth’s death, she and Jack attempt to find the source of the calls. This leads them to the story of a hospital fire and a creepy little girl who looks like she was pulled straight out of “Children of the Damned.” The kid, who hasn’t spoken in months, holds a secret that could solve the mystery and save Beth’s life.

Full of primitive scares and a unexceptional screenplay, “Call” outdoes its already horrible presentation (the scene where a priest exorcises a cell phone is laughable) with pointless storytelling and mechanical special effects in its drawn-out ending. (Since “The Ring,” how many more times are we going to be tortured with those awful and overly-used stop-motion graphics?)

It’s agonizing enough to think about how much American-made horror films have diminished over the last decade. With “Call,” the evidence is rubbed in painfully.