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This Week in Movies by Pete Hammond: ‘The Green Hornet’

By Pete Hammond

Hollywoodnews.com: Sony Pictures was trying to replicate June in January with the release of a summery-type masked superhero flick, The Green Hornet. They even spent extra bucks converting it from 2D to 3D (pointlessly) to further convince moviegoers this is really a warm weather blockbuster wearing a winter coat. With an estimate of $40 million over the four day Martin Luther King holiday weekend, the film did respectable numbers and, with a B+ got fairly high grades from Cinemascore audience surveys, predictably from those patrons under 25. This one decided to go for the jokes and features Seth Rogen in a loud, over-the-top turn as a slacker son who suddenly inherits his tycoon dad’s powerful newspaper when the old man dies after being stung by a bee. Teaming up with sidekick Kato, played by Taiwanese pop superstar Jay Chou they decide to create a bad boy persona taking on the air of vigilantes out to get the L.A. street gangs until a higher calling turns the dynamic duo into genuine heroes of course. With bright colors, a souped up Chrysler , lots of chases and some hoary gags and jokes there’s enough here to pass the time until the next thing comes along. Unfortunately this is all a bit too retro to really register as more than a blip and certainly doesn’t seem worth the reported $120 to $150 price tag. Converting it to 3D just to make extra bucks wasn’t really necessary. There’s nothing remotely interesting about any of the 3D effects and, in fact, it’s only during the sprightly and attractive closing credits do we get any genuine 3D images at all and that’s when most people are heading down the aisles to exit. ‘Hornet’ was always a second class citizen to Batman and now it seems ever more so in the light of the artistic leaps the caped crusader has taken under the guidance of Christopher Nolan in movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. In fact last spring’s Kick Ass has it all over this bloated, albeit entertaining, enterprise. Clearly the hope for Sony is to clean up internationally, particularly with the Asian presence of Chou to draw people in.

Ron Howard is a major Academy Award winning director for A Beautiful Mind whose other films include big critical and commercial hits like Splash, Apollo 13 and Cocoon among many others. It seems the urge to return to comedy led him to The Dilemma, a story about soon-to-be engaged Vince Vaughn who spots the wife (Winona Ryder) of his best friend (Kevin James) cheating with the tattooed and studly Channing Tatum. The “dilemma” of the title is should he tell him – or not. A pairing of Vaughn and James under the direction of Howard would seem to be a no brainer for box office success but this comic soufflé falls flat in many places despite a couple of hysterically funny killer scenes in which Vaughn gets to do his thing as only he can. Still Howard doesn’t seem to know exactly what tone to set here and the basic premise of infidelity is treated either with overly broad comedy or confused dramatics that don’t blend well. Where is Billy Wilder when you need him. That director could effortlessly pull off the delicate mix of comedy and drama that this hit and miss affair, well, misses. It’s disappointing $20 million gross over the four day indicates audiences may not get the joke either despite two proven comedy stars. James is basically a straight man for Vaughn who is allowed to take things to the extreme a little too often, but when he’s on his game, he’s really on it and those few scenes are worth the price of admission.

The only other “wide” this week was the independently released The Heart Specialist, a well-made drama focusing on the lives of some African American doctors. It actually premiered nearly five years ago at the Boston Film Festival but has taken this long to get any kind of distribution. As a sad comment on the state of non-exploitative movies aimed at African American audiences and NOT directed by Tyler Perry, it took an enterprising company willing to spring for a do-it-yourself release through Freestyle in order to get this into theatres on the only weekend, the King holiday, where the backers thought it might have a fighting chance.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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