WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
All About Steve centers on the antics of nutty Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bullock) a thirtysomething spinster who isn’t like most women her age. A cruciverbalist (crossword puzzle writer) by trade she possesses a brain crammed to the hilt with obscure facts arcane trivia and SAT words all of which she happily dispenses — at breakneck speed — on any unfortunate soul who happens to stumble into a conversation with her. And while such a quality may prove useful in her professional life it’s terrible for her romantic one. Which is why she lives alone with her parents and her closest confidante is a hamster.
Mary’s fortunes abruptly change — in her mind at least — when she’s set up on a blind date with Steve (Bradley Cooper) a charming surprisingly handsome cable-news cameraman to whom she feels an immediate intense attraction. So intense in fact that she dedicates an entire crossword puzzle to him confusing readers and angering her boss who immediately fires her. (Apparently there are no copy editors — or editors of any kind for that matter — at the newspaper where Mary works.)
Mary deliberately misinterprets her dismissal as a sign that she is meant to be with Steve who just recently left town on assignment. Determined to follow her “destiny ” she packs her bags and embarks on a road trip pursuing her would-be soulmate as he travels to various towns to cover breaking news stories. Understandably freaked-out by the antics of his oddball stalker Steve does his best to give Mary the heave-ho to little avail.
Bullock has amped up the wackiness factor in the latter half of her career riding the “clumsy hot chick” routine to box office success in the blockbuster comedies Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous. In All About Steve Bullock effectively carries the film for what it’s worth as the neurotic hyperactive Mary.
Thomas Haden Church (Sideways Spider-Man 3) issues a fine performance in a supporting role as a comically self-absorbed chronically insecure TV newsman.
Methinks there’s supposed to be a point in All About Steve when Mary’s neurotic mannerisms and creepy stalker antics transition from irritating and strange to charming and quirky — making her a sort of cougar Napoleon Dynamite — but that transition never really occurs. Like Steve we just want Mary to go away. Forever.
Normally the film’s core message about being true to yourself is a virtuous one but when “yourself” is quite literally THE MOST ANNOYING PERSON IN THE WORLD the exact opposite is true. My greatest fear regarding All About Steve is that dozens of pushy delusional people will see it and feel validated in their behavior.
Sandra Bullock's face is virtually unrecognizable from her Speed days.
Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.
Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has a really bad rep and with good reason: Five years ago convicted killer Riddick escaped the galaxy's law enforcement during a botched interplanetary prison transfer and has been on the lam ever since. As The Chronicles of Riddick picks up our antagonist finds his relative freedom has been compromised when mercenaries out for the $1 million bounty on his head discover his location and hunt him down. Riddick escapes their clutches steals their ship and sets off for Planet Helion to find Imam (Keith David) the Muslim cleric he rescued in Pitch Black and the only person who could have squealed his location to authorities. But while Riddick's hunch about Imam are correct the cleric has a reason for luring the mammoth murderer out of hiding: Helion is falling to unholy armies of Necromongers--warriors who conquer by force in the vein of Star Trek's Borg. Of course Riddick doesn't give a damn about the Helions or their plight--until he gets wind that the Necromogers want to kill him because of an old prophecy that foresees their end at Riddick's hands. Like it or not Riddick is left with no other choice but to battle the Necromongers.
The character of Riddick is unquestionably what made Pitch Black one of the most sequel-worthy sci-fi films in years. And Riddick would not have been one of sci-fi's most intoxicating characters if it weren't for Diesel. Like his Dominic Toretto in the 2001 actioner The Fast and the Furious Riddick is a villain of few words but when he speaks his carefully chosen words have impact--even if the dialogue is at times overly theatrical. Riddick is the perfect antihero; a cold-blooded and indifferent being who somehow evokes more compassion than the film's so-called good guys. Joining Riddick are some recurring characters including David as Imam but Riddick benefits the most from the addition of some new characters particularly Colm Feore as Lord Marshal the Necromonger leader whose goal is to rid the universe of all human life. Feore channeling nuggets of Julius Caesar into his role makes for one of Riddick's most thrilling foes. Another prominent addition to the cast is Judi Dench who has a surprisingly small role as Aereon an Elemental captured by the Necromongers and used for her special powers including ESP.
Writer/director David Twohy took his horror pic Pitch Black which gained a cult following since it was released four years ago and managed to successfully turn it into an sci-fi actioner of epic proportions. Everything is grander here which is almost a given considering Twohy shot Pitch Black on a dime in Australia using colored filters. In Riddick the director distinguishes the film's different environments--the Necros' mothership Crematoria's cavernous prison and Helion--using warm to cool tones that are dazzling yet more subtle than its predecessor. The CGI effects get a little gamey at times but production designer Holger Gross' gargantuan sets are impressive and help craft Twohy's otherworldly vision into a plausible one. And although Twohy jumps genres from Pitch Black to its sequel his storyline evolves logically from the original premise. But while moviegoers unfamiliar with Pitch Black will be able to follow the story easily enough they may have a difficult time grasping what makes Riddick such a big deal; the film explains the legend but never fully captures its quintessence. This could hurt Riddick's chances to broaden its Pitch Black fan base.