Past the Popcorn film roundup—Short Days, Short Films

Movie ticketsEach week, Past the Popcorn offers a thorough look at the latest round of films opening on big screens.

It sure seems this time of year that films pushing past 90 minutes are rare. Cloverfield has been the shortest of the bunch, but this week’s releases won’t bring David Lean to mind any time soon.

Perhaps the best of the bunch, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a rush-rush headspin of a family fantasy. “I’m having significant trouble coming up with a good precedent for what director Mark Waters delivers here,” says Greg Wright. “I honestly can’t think of another film that has captured both the ‘danger’ of goblins (and Faerie in general) and their whimsicality.” But it all goes by too fast, he asserts — and he’s none too happy about the father subplot, either.

Another of this week’s big releases, Jumper, is just as thin, being awfully short on sense as well as minutes. But it’s a good look at the ways in which “‘special’ people will always be (justifiably) targeted by the morally indignant,” advises Greg Wright. Still, he concludes, audiences “far too accustomed to superficial and multiple false endings will find that the film’s climax just offers too little payoff. It all ends up feeling like a cheap paste-on toupee looking for a hat.”

Mike Smith had better luck with Definitely, Maybe, a romance of sorts in which a young girl challenges her father to find where his marriage went wrong. It’s a film, he says, that “takes the age-old question ‘Why do marriages fail?’ and tosses it into the larger question: ‘Why does any relationship fail?’ Director Adam Brooks comes up with a pretty direct answer.” And it’s one that Smith likes: personal responsibility.

Jeff Walls was not so impressed with the formulaic Step Up 2 the Streets, though he “can appreciate all the physicality and athleticism that goes into these vigorous dance moves.” He’d rather rewatch something with Fred Astaire than wait around for the sporadic comedy and dance wedged in with the cliches. But if you like the dance formula, this one does it pretty well.

If you like really short films, Kathy Bledose says adults are a good fit for the collections of Oscar-nominated shorts going into limited release this weekend. And on other fronts, Jennie Sphor doesn’t find much to celebrate in the French sex-drama The Witnesses, while Greg Wright finds George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead about as good as your going to get out of zombie film.

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