Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) is a Los Angeles-based concert violinist who has been blind since she was 5 years old. She gets by the best she can and sees “using my other senses ” as she explains to a passer-by whom she saves from getting run over by a bus. But Sydney still desperately misses her vision and is one day away from a once-in-a-lifetime medical miracle that will bring her the gift of restored sight: a double corneal transplant. Almost immediately following the operation Sydney through extremely blurred vision begins seeing strange silhouettes but thinks nothing of them. As her sight improves with each passing day however the figures become clearer and much more troubling. Before long Sydney identifies them as “escorts” that take people away when they’re dead and she can’t escape the horrifying visions even while sleeping. But she’s forced to investigate and solve the situation mostly on her own as both her sister (Parker Posey) and ophthalmologist (Alessandro Nivola) swear it’s all in her mind’s eye. What Sydney discovers is both hair-raising and of course eye-opening. The opening shot features Alba looking glamorously hot in the way we’re used to seeing her as though just finishing a photo shoot for the cover of another glossy magazine. Then the camera pans down to her walking stick and you admit to yourself not three minutes in that Alba as a blind woman (and later a violinist!) will necessitate complete suspension of disbelief. Same can be said for The Eye’s few dramatic scenes namely one in which an extreme close-up draws attention to the actress' complete inability to fake-cry. Alba can pull off much of the rest of the movie since it’s relatively low on dialogue and emotion but The Eye is just another example of her trying in vain--much like Good Luck Chuck--to un-pigeonhole herself. In supporting roles veterans Nivola (Junebug) and Posey (Dazed and Confused) show that they’re much too esteemed for a B-grade horror movie and much better than the actress to whom they are playing second- and third-fiddle respectively. Although that’s usually the case in movies like this. Ah the much-too-frequent adaptation of the exotic-import horror movie--always reliable for a few cheap thrills and nothing more. The Eye based on the Pang brothers’ 2002 Chinese film is no exception to that rule and is undoubtedly a dumbed-down less-scary version of the original. The director duo of David Moreau and Xavier Palud who collaborated on 2006’s creepy French film Them manage to somewhat dilute all that is bad about The Eye by using music and style but there’s ultimately no way around the anemic adapted script by Sebastian Gutierrez (Snakes on a Plane) and acting by Alba. While the concept of someone having her vision restored after 20-plus years without it is fascinating and tantalizing for all the directions in which a filmmaker could take it there’s nothing post-setup--or post-op in this case--that eclipses the mildest of scares and this meant to be a horror film. To the directors’ credit The Eye looks gorgeously foreboding and the movie’s elevation to mere watchability shows that they have some promise in this genre.
Alpha Dog has been in the headlines quite a bit ever since last year’s Sundance Film Festival and not coincidentally the headlines actually spawned Alpha Dog. The true story concerns a drug dealer named Jesse James Hollywood who would become one of the youngest people ever on the FBI’s most-wanted list; Alpha Dog for the most part and rather glossily tells the rest of the story. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch)—the Jesse James Hollywood character—is a hothead drug dealer well respected in his suburbanite posse which includes sycophant Elvis (Shawn Hatosy) and burnout Frankie (Justin Timberlake). After speed freak Jake Marzursky (Ben Foster) shorts him in a pot deal and vandalizes his house Johnny exacts revenge by kidnapping Jake’s young brother Zack (Anton Yelchin). To Zack the kidnapping is a blessing an intro to the party lifestyle he’s always wondered about and Johnny and co. aren’t sweating what they think is a scare tactic. But when they learn they’re looking at (long) hard time for the kidnapping the guys realize that simply returning Zack to his house might not be an option. Even though the only real difference between Timberlake and his Frankie may lie in the number of tattoos his (for all intents and purposes) debut performance is a genuine eye-opener and further proof that when you’ve got “it ” the medium just doesn’t matter. Throughout much of the movie Timberlake’s best work is simply making you forget he’s the world’s biggest pop star but he shines most during the movie’s dramatic climax. Yelchin (TV’s Huff) also excels. He’s blessed—or perhaps in Hollywood cursed—with a face that will probably always look younger than it is and that along with his accompanying expressions makes you feel a number of things for his character. Rising star Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown) plays Truelove—in real life the central figure—with equal parts cool and A.J. Soprano hissy fits while Foster (Hostage) is his archenemy and antithesis simmering or exploding in every scene. Audiences will laugh at Foster’s over-the-top turn but it suits the absurdity of his character. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone as parents thrown into the ordeal don’t add much beyond their names but Stone’s botched fat suit in one scene kills an otherwise raw moment. Writer/director Nick Cassavetes turned The Notebook into a surprise box office hit (with a little help from Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling of course) and unfortunately that’s what he tries for with Alpha Dog. It’s a movie that should be more along the lines of Larry Clark’s uncompromising Bully instead of a cross between that film and say Malibu's Most Wanted. Furthermore it seems the Timberlake Effect swayed the director into MTV territory as he apparently tries to reel in some of the pop star’s contingency when this is certainly no kids’ tale even though it’s about kids. But despite the movie’s often ambiguous tone and frequent testosterone injections Cassavetes manages to engage us and take us along for the roller coaster ride. He captures with great accuracy the reckless abandon and invincibility complex with which these specific people operate (and party)—it’s pure hedonism for them and the audience. Until he sets reality into place at which point it inches closer to the aforementioned Bully.
Based on the best-selling novel by Ann Brashares the story centers on four best friends--Lena (Alexis Bledel) Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) Bridget (Blake Lively) and Carmen (America Ferrera)--who realize that they are about to spend their first summer away from each other. On one last shopping spree they find a pair of jeans that fits all of them odd considering their different body shapes. It must mean the pants are magical and will bring them good luck. So the girls make a pack that each of them will spend one week with the pants and then send them off to the next girl. Lena the shy self-conscious artist who is spending the summer in Greece with her grandparents takes the pants first--and meets the hunky Kostas (Michael Rady). Tibby a rebel "suckumentary" filmmaker who marches to the beat of her own drum gets them next. But as tough as Tibby thinks she is she learns some invaluable life lessons through her chance encounter with an extraordinary girl Bailey (Jenna Boyd). Then it's Bridget's turn a vivacious blonde who spends her summer playing soccer in Mexico and displays some reckless behavior with a hands-off camp coach (Mike Vogel). Finally there's Carmen a spit-fire writer who decides to spend some quality time with her wayward dad. Yet upon arrival she is greeted with a not-so-pleasant surprise when her father (Bradley Whitford) introduces her to his very white-bred fiancé (Nancy Travis) and her two teenage children. These four realize in the end whatever magic there is comes from their enduring friendship.
The ensemble cast of fresh faces makes Sisterhood entirely watchable. Tamblyn of TV's Joan of Arcadia's gives the strongest performance as Tibby. The talented actress really digs in executing perfectly Tibby's tough-on-the-outside-but-a-real-softie-underneath persona. Ferrera best known for her stellar performance in the indie hit Real Women Have Curves is another standout as Carmen a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve especially when she finally confronts her dad about never being there for her. Boyd (The Missing) too is quite affecting as Tibby's new rather outspoken friend harboring a tragic secret of her own.. Newcomer Lively does an adequate job playing Bridget who we think is pretty blonde and carefree but who has really been left with a void after the death of her mother. Had she put in a little more effort though she could have been the star of the show. Only Bledel fails to inspire. Watching her is just like an extended episode of her TV show Gilmore Girls both boring and lackluster. She doesn't seem to stretch herself in any way.
This is every teenage girls story being with the best of friends but also being "afraid of time and not having enough of it." At least this is what author Ann Brashares wanted to convey when she wrote the critically acclaimed hugely popular book. TV director Ken Kwapis understands this; Sisterhood bleeds heart and soul. While the pacing seems to drag a bit and the maudlin factor heighten in parts the movie nonetheless mixes the right amount of comedy tragedy and the difficulties of being 16 on the cusp of adulthood. Sisterhood is also beautifully shot especially the scenes in Greece. Kwapis shows the beauty and history of this magnificent country in a way that makes you want to grab your passport and take a trip there. But being that the movie is already a tad slow even the many picturesque Greek moments seem unnecessary. Sisterhood could have shaved a good half hour to make it a more concise movie.