Film capsules for May 29, 2009

Advertisement

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Departures" - A surprise winner of this year's foreign-language Oscar, beating out front-runners "Waltz With Bashir" and "The Class," this Japanese dramedy has its moments but is ultimately overlong and too melodramatic. Director Yojiro Takita and writer Kundo Koyama begin with an intriguing premise, though: After the symphony orchestra he plays for disbands, cellist Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) leaves Tokyo and returns to his hometown with his sunny, supportive wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue). There, he answers a help-wanted ad he thinks is from a travel agency, but in this case, "departures" pertains to the dead. (The long, wooden boxes in the office should have given him a clue.) But Daigo needs the money, and even though he has zero experience in this area, he trains with the company's crusty owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), in the ritual of encoffination. This is the washing, clothing and placing of the deceased into a coffin while family members watch and grieve. Daigo is disgusted at first, which provides the film's early comedy. But in time, he comes to appreciate the beauty of the act, the care that goes into it and the closure it provides for the loved ones left behind. It's a lovely and moving process. Too often, though, his interaction with the families turns maudlin, which is unnecessary: The state in which we're seeing them is clearly emotional enough on its own. PG-13 for thematic material. 131 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

___

"Drag Me to Hell" - The name alone tells you exactly what this is - an unabashed celebration of B-movie schlockery - but the dichotomies director Sam Raimi presents within that familiar genre are what make this such a kick. Raimi returns to the kind of cheeky horror that made him a cult favorite with the low-budget "Evil Dead" trilogy, but he applies all the high-tech tricks he's acquired with the blockbuster "Spider-Man" trilogy. He and brother Ivan Raimi have written a rather old-fashioned terror tale, full of curses and creaks, bumps and shrieks, but they've added a heavy splattering of their trademark dark humor. (Some of the absurdly funny visual gags include creative uses for office supplies, a talking goat and an unsuspecting kitty.) All these contradictions add up to one hell of a ride: You'll squirm, you'll scream, you'll laugh your butt off and beg for more. Alison Lohman's character, the innocent Christine Brown, gets more than she ever could have imagined. A bank loan officer competing for a promotion, she denies a creepy old woman an extension on her mortgage loan, thinking that's the right decision to impress her boss (David Paymer). Turns out she turned down the wrong customer: Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) is a vengeful gypsy who feels so shamed, she places a powerful curse on Christine that torments her day and night. PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images and language. 99 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

___

"Up" - The title is deceptively simple, which is fitting, because the latest achievement from Pixar Animation is deeper and more complex on every level than it would initially appear. It's a classic B-movie exotic adventure, the kind that inspired Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to make "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but it's told through the most high-tech, gorgeous 3-D animation. It's a mismatched buddy comedy, the kind we've seen countless times before, but the buddies are a curmudgeonly 78-year-old man and a tubby 8-year-old boy - who wind up together in a flying house, traveling to South America. And, as with many family films that get pumped out each summer, it has talking dogs. But it's how the dogs talk and what they say that are truly inspired, and oddly realistic. Pete Docter (Pixar's "Monsters, Inc.") and co-director and writer Bob Peterson turn their imagination this time to human beings, rare creatures in the animated kingdom. But between the richness of the characters, the meatiness of their interaction and the authenticity of the details, it won't take you long to forget that "Up" is a cartoon and become immersed. Ed Asner is the perfect choice to voice the cranky widower Carl Fredricksen, who ties thousands of helium balloons to his house and takes to the skies, with endearing newcomer Jordan Nagai playing the overeager scout who's trapped on his front porch. PG for some peril and action. 90 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.