This week at the movies, we’ve got Oliver Stone paying tribute to the heroes of 9/11 ("World Trade Center," starring Nicolas Cage); two youngsters trying to start a dance dance revolution ("Step Up," starring Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum); a school for young superheroes ("Zoom," starring Tim Allen and Courteney Cox); and an evil website ("Pulse," starring Kristen Bell). What do the critics have to say?
Oliver Stone has never been the subtlest of directors, nor has he shied away from controversy or conspiracy-mongering. So it’s something of a surprise to critics that with his latest, "World Trade Center," he has tackled a subject (the 9/11 attacks) rife with talk of dark machinations and created a straightforward, apolitical tale of heroism. Based on a true story, "World Trade Center" stars Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena as a pair of Port Authority police officers who became trapped in the ruins of the World Trade Center while attempting to rescue others. Critics say the narrow human focus is one of the strengths of the film, along with its stunning visuals and an old-fashioned sense of resilience and heroism. At 70 percent on the Tomatometer, "World Trade Center" may be a cut below Paul Greengrass‘ 9/11 film "United 93" (90 percent), but it’s a worthy examination of a day that will live in infamy. It’s also Stone’s best-reviewed film since "Nixon."
"Step Up" tells the story of a hip-hop dancer from the wrong side of the tracks (Channing Tatum) and a privileged ballerina (Jenna Dewan) who overcome their differences to make beautiful music together on the dance floor. Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve seen "Saturday Night Fever," "Save the Last Dance," or "Dirty Dancing." Perhaps the Bee Gees presciently spoke for the critics of "Step Up" when they sang, "You should be dancing," for the scribes say the film is at its best in its electrifying dance sequences, but dramatically flat otherwise. At 21 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics are putting this baby in a corner.
The studios apparently believe "Pulse" is pretty lifeless, and that "Zoom" is full of cinematic gloom. What else could explain the fact that the Kristen Bell J-horror remake and the Tim Allen superhero comedy, respectively, were not screened for critics? It’s time to bust out those crystal balls and guess those Tomatometers, people.
Also in theaters this week, in limited release: "Half Nelson," starring Ryan Gosling as a troubled inner city teacher, is at a whopping 95 percent on the Tomatometer; the Czech surrealist horror film "Lunacy" is at 80 percent; "House of Sand," a visually remarkable Brazilian epic, is at 80 percent; "Conversations With Other Women," a tale of a romantic reunion starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, is at 70 percent; "The Trouble With Men and Women," a low-budget Brit relationship drama, is at 50 percent; "Poster Boy," a drama about the gay son of a senator, is at 43 percent; and "The Ordeal," a dark Belgian horror import, is at 43 percent.
Films Not Screened For Critics In 2006 (Best To Worst Tomatometer Score):
28% — Silent Hill
27% — Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion
24% — Phat Girlz
16% — Grandma’s Boy
15% — Underworld: Evolution
11% — The Benchwarmers
10% — Ultraviolet
10% — When a Stranger Calls
7% — Date Movie
7% — Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector
6% — See No Evil
5% — Doogal
5% — BloodRayne
5% — Stay Alive