Short Reviews

The Crazies (R) ★★★☆☆

George A. Romero produced this update of his own 1973 social satire horror flick, and his guiding influence as a master of the genre shows. Timothy Olyphant is convincing as small-town Sheriff David Dutton, whose pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), works as a doctor in their once-happy community. What seems like a spree of murder-suicides among its zombie-turning citizens is revealed to be caused by an accident with a biological weapon designed by the government. Carefully placed satellite-view imagery hints at unseen military officials orchestrating a genocidal attack on the area that traps David and Judy, along with deputy Russell (Joe Anderson) and medical assistant Becca (Danielle Panabaker), between military violence and the bloodthirsty zombies. Director Breck Eisner (Sahara) compresses the suspense into tightly edited set pieces that balance thematic import with shocks of gory confrontation. While not on a par with Night of the Living Dead, The Crazies hits the zombie on the head with good reason.

Percy Jackson (PG) ★★★☆☆

Aside from underwhelming CGI, this is a well-paced kids’ action flick that uses Greek mythology. Logan Lerman plays a regular kid who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon and must rescue his mother from Hades and return Zeus’ stolen lightning rod. Director Chris Columbus takes a literal approach to spectacle that denies the use of weirdness and scale of old-school stop-action classics.

From Paris With Love (R) ★☆☆☆☆

As with Spaghetti Westerns and sit-coms, you know they’ve jumped the shark when the tone turns to self-mockery. So it’s in one fell swoop John Travolta and suicide bombers have bid audiences adieu. From Paris is a shameless shoot ’em up body-count movie with barely enough humor to distract from the pejoratively exploitative nature of its relentlessly bloody action.

Valentine’s Day (PG-13) ★★☆☆☆

Yet another date movie that’s less than the sum of its parts. Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, and Anne Hathaway provide cast padding for B-listers. Intertwining romantic threads weave a haphazard pattern in the City of Angels where Ashton Kutcher proposes to Jessica Alba. With half as many sub-plots the film might’ve worked.

The Wolfman (R) ★★☆☆☆

In this why-did-they-bother update of the original 1941 Wolfman, director Joe Johnston proves incapable of handling horror. The filmmakers struggle for any sense of rhythm, timing, romance, humor or symbolic meaning. Benicio Del Toro returns to his father’s (Anthony Hopkins) English mansion after his brother is killed by a werewolf.

Shutter Island (R) ★★★★☆

For his 45th film, Martin Scorsese crafts a gorgeously stylized psychological thriller. As U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, Leonardo DiCaprio and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) arrive on a foggy isle to investigate a patient’s disappearance from a private prison hospital for the criminally insane. This Cold War-era mystery exponentially folds back on itself during its shocking third act. A truly engrossing picture.

The Ghost Writer (PG-13) ★★★☆☆

Co-written by Roman Polanski with political journalist Robert Harris, upon whose novel the film is based, Writer is full of plot holes yet still entices. Ewan McGregor plays an unnamed English writer who becomes a ghostwriter for a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) accused of war crimes. Despite Harris’ personal experience as a journalist once close to Tony Blair, the screenwriter fails to excite.

Dear John (PG-13) ★★☆☆☆

Think of Dear John as post-9/11 America lite; very lite. Blame Nicholas Sparks for the novel, but it’s Lasse Halström’s direction that pulls the audience out of the puffy romantic wartime equation. His beautiful sun-kissed compositions reek with the odorless endorphins of his love-struck characters (Amanda Seyfried as rich girl Savannah and Channing Tatum as special forces soldier John).