A Mighty Heart
Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman | R | [3 stars]
In the desperate days following the kidnapping of her American reporter husband in Pakistan, French journalist Mariane Pearl (Jolie) aids the search by writing the names of his contacts on a giant wallboard. She links the names with arrows, hoping that by charting their connections she’ll uncover a path leading to Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Futterman) and a happy ending.
It was not to be. Daniel Pearl was beheaded by terrorists in early 2002. By scrupulously avoiding sentimentality and sensationalism, Jolie and A Mighty Heart make the telling of Mariane’s story—she was pregnant with son Adam at the time—all the more powerful. For Jolie this is no big star turn, no Lifetime look-at-me-suffer movie. Rather, Heart has a near-documentary style, conveying with you-are-there immediacy how it must have felt to be plunged into the vortex of a nightmare, surrounded by friends and strangers and yet alone in a foreign land, clinging bravely to hope and love.
Emma Roberts, Tate Donovan, Josh Flitter | PG | [2 stars]
Journalistic ethics require this disclosure: I read exactly one Nancy Drew mystery in fourth grade and didn’t get the appeal of the beloved series. All that talk of Ned, roadsters and hunting for clues in abandoned mansions paled next to the thrill-filled young adult novels I was sneaking off my adolescent sister’s bookshelf, like Johnny Tremain and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Nancy in her kneesocks, kilts and loafers seemed boringly bland. Sorry to say, but this updated incarnation of the teenage-girl detective doesn’t change my original opinion. Though the film transplants Nancy (Roberts) to L.A.’s Hollywood High, she’s still a little too smugly chipper about her own deductive abilities. That said, the film will tickle avid fans and entertain the tweeners at whom it’s aimed. Roberts seems appropriately spunky but as yet lacks her famous aunt Julia’s radiant smile and infectious giggle.
Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly | R | [2.5 stars]
Zombies are so darn flexible. Not the Madonna, four-hours-of-yoga-a-day kind of flexible, but rather in that they can represent whatever a filmmaker wants them to. There are scary, chomp-happy zombies (think 28 Days Later), goofy zombies (Shaun of the Dead) and now, in Fido, caring, helpful, servile zombies.
A spoof of 1950s sci-fi and horror films, Fido is set in an idyllic, Leave It to Beaverish suburb, where the living dead serve as domestic servants. Housewife Helen Robinson (Moss), desperate to keep up with the neighbors, hires zombie Fido (Connolly) as the family’s butler. Soon Fido is giving Helen the attention and affection she craves but isn’t receiving from her uptight husband (Dylan Baker). The film has about an hour’s worth of plot and good jokes—too bad it runs 91 minutes. Still, the performances are tart, and the faux ’50s look—so shiny you could eat off the linoleum—is a visual treat.
And Then Came Love
Vanessa Williams, Kevin Daniels Not Rated | [2 stars]
Let us now praise Williams for the malicious panache with which she weekly wreaks mischief on TV’s Ugly Betty. Love her there. Though it’s not her fault, I’m less thrilled by her in this slapdash comedy, which can’t transcend its inherently icky premise. Williams is a successful journalist and single mom in Manhattan who tracks down the anonymous sperm donor (Daniels) who’s the dad of her 6-year-old son. Although Mr. Donor is younger and a struggling actor, sparks fly. This is wish-fulfillment fantasy turned up to 11. Yes, it’s fab to see an actress past 40 playing a sexy leading role in a film, even more so an actress of color, but why couldn’t it be in a better movie?