Friday Movie Roundup: Odd Week Edition

Feb 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm

We've a very odd collection of movies this week. Liam Neeson is back in yet another dark-hued action thriller, while Paul Giamatti headlines a period drama in which he gets to woo and/or interact with a trio of attractive ladies (Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike). —-

Elsewhere, Martin Lawrence collects another paycheck by dressing up as a big momma; Lionsgate drops a completely un-marketed (as in they didn't even alert me to the possibility that it might here open this week, let alone screen it in advance) modern-day version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility set in East L.A.; and reasonably competent genre director D.J. Caruso offers up a sci-fi thriller featuring a largely unknown set of young actors.

Finally, The Genesis Code is the latest independently produced and distributed Christian film to hit theaters, this one endorsed by everyone from failed Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle to former Ohio Secretary of State/current Cincinnati resident Ken Blackwell to former UFC Middleweight champion Rich Franklin, the latter two of which will be on hand for the film's 7:30 red carpet premiere tonight at AMC Newport on the Levee.

Opening films:

BARNEY'S VERSION — Just because a producer thinks Mordecai Richler's faux autobiography is worthy of cinematic interpretation doesn't make it so. Debut director Richard J. Lewis gets saddled with deceptively less fertile source material than must have appeared to Paul Giamatti. Committed performances from a strong cast still don't make Barney's Version a rendition worth visiting. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Kenwood Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: C

BIG MOMMA'S: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON — Martin Lawrence again dons an over-sized dress as undercover FBI agent Big Momma. This time Malcom/Momma hands down his/her cross-dressing ways to his/her stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson), who goes undercover at an all-girls arts school. John Whitesell directs what is likely to be lowbrow at its lowest. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

FROM PRADA TO NADA — Angel Gracia makes his big-screen directorial debut debut with this modern-day version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility in which our heroines are forced to move from upscale Los Angles to the far less post section of East L.A. The cast includes Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Adriana Barraza, Kuno Becker and Wilmer Valderrama. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

THE GENESIS CODE — The film's narrative, which has been heartily endorsed by conservatives like Cincinnati's own Ken Blackwell, centers on a university student and dedicated Christian (Kelsey Sanders) who has been assigned to do a story on the school's star hockey player (Logan Bartholomew), a guy who doesn't share her passion for the Christian faith and who is convinced that modern science makes the Bible look dumb, “especially the opening verses of Genesis.” Yet she apparently alters the hockey player's perspective to the point where he begins to conjure this question: “Could it be that what science teaches us about creation and the Story as told in Genesis are both true and in perfect accord?” The cast also includes Fred Thompson, Lance Henrickson and Louise Fletcher. Curiously, actor C. Thomas Howell co-directs with Patrick Read Johnson. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

I AM NUMBER FOUR — D.J. Caruso directs this sci-fi thriller about a high school student (Alex Pettyfer) with supernatural skills and an enemy who'll do anything to exterminate him. Caruso has been adept at crafting decent big-budget thrillers out of B-level material (Salton Sea, Taking Lives, Disturbia), so hope exists. The cast also includes the oft-compelling Timothy Oliphant and attractive young ladies Dianna Agron and Teresa Palmer. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

UNKNOWN — Liam Neeson's latest is a fish-out-of-water mystery thriller. It's not an especially memorable film, which is ironic considering the analogous subject matter of its over-leveraged premise. But what makes it entertaining from start to finish is Neeson's performance. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — CS (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-