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.
Brooklyn’s Finest (R) ★★★☆☆
Director Antoine Fuqua returns to the gritty cop drama genre that made him a household name in 2001 with Training Day. This time around, East Brooklyn’s is home to three cops (Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle) whose ethical compasses are way off—in ways we’ve seen before. Fuqua massages the script’s obvious clichés with a sense of personal attachment to his characters that makes you believe in them.
The Crazies (R) ★★★☆☆
George A. Romero produced this update of his 1973 satirical horror flick. A spree of murder-suicides disrupts small-town bliss. Satellite-view imagery hints at unseen military officials orchestrating an attack. Director Breck Eisner compresses the suspense into tightly edited pieces that balance thematic import with shocks of gory confrontation. While not Night of the Living Dead, The Crazies hits the zombie on the head.
Cop Out (R) ★☆☆☆☆
Perhaps after the miserable action/comedy flop that is Cop Out, Hollywood will send director Kevin Smith back to his marginal indie fare. With a bare-bones plot that’s hardly worth repeating, police partners (Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan) run around Brooklyn shooting, killing and car-chasing like a couple of clowns. You’ll yawn, you’ll squirm and you’ll wait impatiently for this interminable piece of trash to finally end.
Our Family Wedding (PG-13) ★★☆☆☆
Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa’s version of interracial marriage is about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. America Ferrera plays Latin hottie Lucia Ramirez to Lance Gross’ immaculate picture of moneyed African-American perfection. The wedding-bound couple head home to L.A. to break the news to their unprepared, and only somewhat racist patriarchs, played by Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia. Apparently unfamiliar with the thin-ice romantic comedy genre upon which he skates, the filmmaker relies on unmotivated slapstick set pieces that perpetually fizzle out.
Famuyiwa has put together a competent cast whose nearly developed characters speak lines like, “Once you go black, your credit goes bad.” Such stereotypical attitudes are flaunted with a graceless pedestrian sensibility that conflicts with the upperclass trappings that both households wear with throwaway assurance. Whitaker’s Brad Boyd is a super suave radio announcer who has a special place in his heart for his attorney and longtime pal Angela (Regina King), who helped raise his son Lance. But neither Whitaker nor King have the comic chops to incite more than a momentary chuckle here and there.
The elephant in the room is Carlos Mencia, whose popular television show Mind of Mencia proved his brilliant sense of race-inspired physical comedy. As the patriarch of Lucia’s family, Mencia is a family man with a strong sense of tradition and just enough humility to make you like him. While the rest of the cast seem under-directed, Mencia anchors his scenes with droll timing that sporadically brings the film’s would-be humorous tone up to pitch. Still, Mencia never gets to let rip the way he consistently did on his television show. You can’t help but wonder if the film would have been better had Mencia taken a shot at doctoring the script.
The talented Anjelah Johnson is also squandered. As Lucia’s tomboy sister Izzy, Johnson emits an undercurrent of lesbian languor that the director fails to explore. She works at her dad’s tow-truck shop and has a habit of stealing scenes from their periphery. Izzy is the one character who seems fully formed, and as such commands an exclusive brand of audience curiosity that keeps you wanting to see her interact more. When Izzy gets shoehorned into the promise of a straight relationship, it feels like the filmmaker is squeezing a square peg into a round hole.
Our Family Wedding wants to show how two racially divergent families can open up to one another’s culture via the union of their romantically committed offspring. The closest the film comes to achieving its elusive goal is during a softball game where athletic enjoyment supersedes prejudice. It’s also the one time in the film where intellectual and physical humor work together in a balance of right and left brain equality. The film’s mantra, “Our marriage, their wedding,” establishes the agreed-upon parameters of the proceedings. What it misses thematically is how that support system will function after the last wedding party balloon has popped. Ideally, Our Family Wedding would be the kind of romantic comedy that a Korean guy could take his Arab fiancée to see so they could laugh and imagine how their untraditional union could last. Unfortunately, this isn’t that movie.