MOVIE REVIEWS: NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS

Jerry Bruckheimer's National Treasure: Book of Secrets is certainly not regarded as any treasure by most critics, but then the name Jerry Bruckheimer in the credits probably makes the film critic-proof. That's something that several critics themselves acknowledge. Writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times: "The person who attends National Treasure: Book of Secrets expecting logic and plausibility is on a fool's mission. This is a Mouth Agape Movie, during which your mouth hangs open in astonishment at one preposterous event after another." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer simply dismisses it as "a thumping, gabby slog." Kyle Smith in the New York Post, writes that it's another epic thriller in which all the stars SHOUT a lot. "You may think you've already seen RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but you haven't seen anything until you've seen it remade in GLORIOUS MORONORAMA," he remarks. Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post notes, "This is, after all, a film that shows the sign outside the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, then self-importantly types out the same words at the bottom of the screen." However, she adds, "if viewers can overlook some of the more blatant dumb-isms, Book of Secrets provides its own good-natured brand of pulp pleasure" Claudia Puig in USA Today thinks it's all calculated by Bruckheimer, who, she says, has "cleverly hit on a hit formula: old-fashioned entertainment with modern production values and underlying themes of patriotism and family loyalty." Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle makes a similar point when he notes, "everyone involved with the movie seems completely aware of the ridiculousness and embraces it with little jokes and other nods."

MOVIE REVIEWS: WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY

Like the title itself, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, is a spoof of music-star biopics, principally Walk the Line and Ray. And, for the most part, it's getting more applause from the critics than the movies that it imitates. Still, the applause is polite. Writing in the New York Daily News, Jack Mathews comments, "This kind of parody is hard to sustain for an hour and a half, and Walk Hard does get wearying at times. But the humor is so outrageous, the original music so much fun and Reilly so good -- both while hamming it up in the role and in singing the songs -- that it's irresistible." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times writes, "The film is more funny ha-ha than LOL; it's a smarty-pants satire that mocks and embraces almost every cliché in the biography playbook." "Still," says Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, "in a season filled with so many feel-bad movies, don't underestimate the appeal of something as silly as Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." Although the movie is co-written by Judd Apatow, this year's most celebrated filmmaker (Knocked Up), it is star John C. Reilly who receives most of the critical praise. "Reilly's acting is superb as always, but his singing and showmanship are revelatory. The man can channel Cash and The King, Orbison and Dylan, all with a lived-in ease that is far more difficult than it looks," says Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News. And Michael Sragow concludes in the Baltimore Sun: "John C. Reilly should walk easy to stardom with this movie."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SWEENEY TODD

The publicity and merchandising folks responsible for drawing audiences to the movie theaters to see the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street have had a tough time selling this film, despite the fact that it is directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp. It is, after all, a movie that is sung from beginning to end, in which the colors are nearly non-existent, and which is set in 19th century London. And, oh, yes. as Roger Ebert observes in his four-star review in the Chicago Sun-Times: "The bloodiest musical in stage history, it now becomes the bloodiest in film history, and it isn't a jolly romp, either." How bloody is it? Well, consider A.O.Scott's description in the New York Times. "[It] is as dark and terrifying as any motion picture in recent memory, not excluding the bloody installments in the Saw franchise. Indeed, Sweeney is as much a horror film as a musical: It is cruel in its effects and radical in its misanthropy, expressing a breathtakingly, rigorously pessimistic view of human nature. It is also something close to a masterpiece, a work of extreme -- I am tempted to say evil -- genius." Nevertheless, writes Claudia Puig in USA Today, "Unlike more realistic violent fare, the gore in this gloomy Gothic marvel feels exaggeratedly theatrical and a vital part of the melodramatic mayhem. Sweeney Todd is the perfect marriage of filmmaker and material. Director Tim Burton has adapted Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical in a darkly clever and comical fashion." Kyle Smith in the New York Post begins his review of the movie this way: "Tell me, is it good? Sir, it's too good, at least. Director Tim Burton's fierce and fast adaptation of the greatest stage musical of the last 30 years ... is mighty entertainment that makes you feel sorry for the saps next door in the multiplex." And Peter Marks in the Washington Post can barely contain his enthusiasm and praise. "With oceans of gore, streams of luscious musicality and a performance by Johnny Depp redolent of malevolence and magnetism, Burton brings Sondheim's 1979 musical to the screen with a bravura visual style thrillingly in touch with the timelessly depraved delights of Grand Guignol," he writes.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.