Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace | PG-13 | [2.5 stars]
After avoiding a sophomore slump with the splendid Spider-Man 2, cowriter-director Sam Raimi runs smack into a junior jinx. While not awful, Spider-Man 3 is nowhere near as compelling as its glorious predecessors. Then again, neither were The Godfather: Part III, Die Hard: With a Vengeance and Batman Forever—third acts are hard to pull off, even for a superhero.
The basic problem with S-M 3 is that to cover up the fact that there’s not much vital story left to tell involving nerdy Peter Parker (Maguire), a.k.a. Spider-Man, and lady love Mary Jane Watson (Dunst), the movie piles on way too much. There are four villains (counting some black slimy goo), all intent on attacking Spider-Man, and an attractive blonde (Bryce Dallas Howard) making eyes at him.
There is an amusing sequence where Peter, under the sway of that black goo, becomes hipper and more aggressive (trading in his red-and-blue Spidey costume for a chic black-and-gray one). But much of the movie is merely marking time in between hyperkinetic special effects sequences. Unlike the first two films, this latest one don’t mean a thing and it ain’t got that swing.
Away from Her
Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent | PG-13 | [3.5 stars]
Playing a woman fading into Alzheimer’s, Christie gives a transcendent performance in a poignant drama about the disease and its toll on a long-wed couple. Away from Her, the promising debut film by actress-turned-writer-director Sarah Polley, is based on a short story by Alice Munro. There’s nothing showy about Christie’s work here—no anguished monologues, no screaming tirades—just the day-to-day heartbreaking reality of a likable woman losing touch with herself, her spouse (Pinsent, also impressive) and the world around her. Her astonishing beauty still intact if a mite timeworn, Christie’s moving portrayal is a high point in a 40-plus-year career that already includes an Academy Award for 1965’s Darling and two other nominations. It deserves to propel her to early front-runner in next year’s Best Actress Oscar race.
*ANOTHER OSCAR FOR JULIE CHRISTIE?
Drew Barrymore, Eric Bana | PG-13 | [1 star]
The title lies. If you’re a moviegoer who makes the mistake of taking a gamble on this inert drama, it’s unlucky you. Don’t be fooled by TV ads that make the film look like yet another lighthearted romantic comedy starring the ever-spunky Barrymore. Lucky You is really a plodding portrait of Huck Cheever (Bana), a brooding professional cardsharp in Las Vegas who has issues with his estranged father (Robert Duvall), a celebrated poker champ. Huck’s rocky romance with Billie Offer (Barrymore), a chipper singer newly arrived to town, is a subplot occasionally sandwiched in between endless rounds of poker. Despite the passable ratings poker earns on TV these days, watching folks play their hands and jabber on using its impenetrable argot for a whole movie is about as involving as watching dust motes land.
Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly | PG-13 | [3 stars]
Like many of the unorthodox pies whipped up by this film’s plucky heroine, a good way to describe this film and its backstory is bittersweet. Waitress is the first—and sadly the last—movie by its writer-director and costar Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered last fall (see page 34). She made a lovely movie, one filled with humor, pathos and some downhome truths. Jenna (Russell), a waitress with a genius for baking homemade, distinctively named pies, toils in a small-town cafe and is dismayed to learn she’s pregnant by her abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto). To further confuse matters, she begins an affair with her handsome new doctor (Nathan Fillion). Russell is adorable, finding just the right mix of grit and grace. Shelly herself appears winningly as a daffy fellow waitress, as does Hines. Best of all is Andy Griffith, always underrated as an actor, as the cafe’s curmudgeonly but kindly owner who sees Jenna for who she is and, more important, can be.
For more information go to http://adrienneshellyfoundation.org