October 30, 2009 in Features

‘Ice Age’ shows it’s time for extinction

Washington Post
 
20th Century Fox photo

Mammoths Manny, left, and Ellie, along with possums Crash and Eddie are shown in a scene from “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.” 20th Century Fox
(Full-size photo)

Coming up

Among upcoming DVD releases (schedule subject to change):

Tuesday: “Aliens in the Attic,” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Not Forgotten,” “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” “White Christmas: Anniversary Edition”

Nov. 10: “Monsters, Inc.,’ “Spread,” “The Ugly Truth”

Nov. 17: “Bruno,” “My Sister’s Keeper,” “The Open Road”

Nov. 24: “Angels & Demons,” “Four Christmases,” “Funny People,” “Shorts”

“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”

This is the third and barely-more-than-middling-funny installment in the series of animated features about the prehistoric adventures of Manny (voice of Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo), a woolly mammoth, saber-toothed tiger and ground sloth stuck in a snowbound world.

Simon Pegg makes a nice acerbic addition to the cast as Buck, a one-eyed weasel who carries a sharpened dino tooth for a dagger and acts as a guide when our heroes discover a tropical world of dinosaurs under all that ice.

But the movie feels manufactured, a product not of evolution – or even intelligent design – but of cynical, soulless opportunism. (1:27; PG for cartoon violence and toilet humor.)

“Nothing Like the Holidays”

Lifting several pages from the Tyler Perry playbook, this film tells a familiar story of a Puerto Rican American family in Chicago that sorts out domestic problems over Christmas.

Anna (Elizabeth Pena) and Edy Rodriguez (Alfred Molina) are ready to welcome their three grown children home. Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) is coming back from a tour of duty in Iraq. Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his wife, Sarah (Debra Messing), are in from their high-powered New York jobs. Rox (Vanessa Ferlito) is a struggling actress in Los Angeles.

The script by Rick Najera and Alison Swan is unfocused and flabby with several relatively pointless scenes that are ended by convenient cell phone calls.

The ensemble cast boasts some of the finest actors in the business. They do their best to breathe life into the stereotypes, but they don’t have enough to work with. (1:39; PG-13 for language and adult subject matter)

“Whatever Works”

This toxic, contemptuous, unforgivably unfunny bagatelle finds Woody Allen at his most misanthropically one-note.

Larry David plays Allen’s alter ego as grumpy, growling Boris Yellnikoff, a self-described genius who has been living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side since trying to escape his first wife by jumping out a window.

One night he finds a runaway named Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), who has fled her life in Mississippi and takes up residence in Boris’ loft. Eventually, Melodie’s painfully stereotyped evangelical parents (played by Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr.) arrive on the scene with as much dignity as they can muster.

With its preposterous, self-serving climax, the film plays like a warped summation of Allen’s tortured relationship with women. (1:32; PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity)

“Il Divo”

This “Godfather”-ish drama about Italy’s big Mafia trials of the 1990s – court cases that implicated the very top of the Italian government, the Vatican and the Masons in mob activity – won a jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

This must have been a jury that enjoys reading its movies. It’s not just the subtitles, it’s the endless cascade of names and events printed on screen, the blur of people and events that swirl around the inscrutable “villain” at the heart of the drama: Giulio Andreotti, capo di capi of the Italian Christian Democratic Party, played as an inscrutable, gnome-shaped sphinx by Toni Servillo.

“Il Divo” is like watching a cricket match. You don’t know the players, the rules or the history of the nation that invented it. But it’s all here for you in one confusing parade. (1:50; unrated, contains violence)

“Orphan”

It’s hard to know where to begin when assessing the depraved, worthless piece of filth that is this high-gloss horror show about a well-meaning couple who bring home a 9-year-old girl to join their family, only to discover that she’s a homicidal psychopath.

Surely writers David Leslie Johnson and Alex Mace deserve their own circle of hell for thinking up the story, which moves with breathtaking cynicism from disturbing to grotesque to perverse to ludicrous.

Both Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga are apparently in desperate need of a paycheck – otherwise how to explain lending their considerable talents to such rank exploitation? (2:03; rated R for disturbing content, sexuality and profanity)

Also available: “Adult Swim in a Box,” “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan,” “The Guardian: The First Season,” “Night of the Creeps,” “On the Road With Charles Kuralt: Set 1,” “The Samuel Fuller Collection,” “Stan Helsing,” “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure,” “Z”


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