Hitchhiker, House of D, XxX
| Read the book first: Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Dir. Garth Jennings; writ. Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick; feat. Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren (PG)
Don't panic, Douglas Adams fans, but the long-awaited adaptation of Adams' cult classic novel isn't the complete blast it might have been.
Sure, it gets off to a fantastic start: Mos Def, redirecting the energies of humanoid alien Ford Prefect, is a complete charmer in the opening scenes, and The Office's Martin Freeman is every bit the whining Everyman that Arthur Dent was designed to be.
And speaking of design, the film looks fantastic: miserably grotesque Vogons, a delightful ride through a planet-making factory, and the very clever animated rendition of the book that gives this story its title all look really splendid.
But the movie never can shake the trying-too-hard wacky vibes it acquires when Sam Rockwell's Zaphod Beeblebrox enters the picture. Rockwell was a natural choice, and lends unexpected Dubya overtones to his portrayal of the galaxy's president-slash-playboy, but the filmmakers and screenplay never allow him to let up; that, combined with an already goofy plot, make it hard to stay interested. (The way the movie envisions the two-headed Zaphod - with silly CGI that's put to shame by the other special effects - doesn't help.)
Yes, the film squeezes quite a few laughs out of the novel's text (no matter how many it has to leave behind), but this Hitchhiker is only half worth picking up. — John DeFore
House of D
Dir. and writ. David Duchovny; feat. Duchovny, Robin Williams, Erykah Badu, Téa Leoni, Anton Yelchin (PG-13)
| D is for dull: David Duchovny is an artist and Robin Williams a mentally retarded janitor in House of D, a dreadful coming-of-age flick.
An American artist living in Paris with his family, Tom Warshaw (Duchovny) is moved to tell his wife and son the entire story of his childhood and the events that led him to France. Hence, we flash back to 1973, when a 12-year-old Tommy (Yelchin) lives with his widowed and withdrawn mother (Leoni) and spends free time horsing around with his best friend, a mentally retarded janitor name Pappass (add this to Williams' list of annoying characters he has portrayed). Tommy finds comfort in talking to a woman, known only as Lady (Badu), who is incarcerated on the top floor of an all-female detention center. From his spot on the sidewalk, Tommy yells up to her about everything from life to love to his unstable mother. Lady, in return, gives him advice and even dance lessons.
As far apart as Tommy and Lady are, the distance does not compare to the disconnectedness between House's characters. With underdeveloped personalities and storylines and some very ineffectual humor, Duchovny can file this one under X for x-cruciating. — Kiko Martinez
XxX: State of the Union
Dir. Lee Tamahori; writ. Simon Kinberg; feat. Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Willem Dafoe, Xzibit, Sunny Mabrey (PG-13)
| The fate of the country is in Ice Cube's hands in XXX: State of the Union.
Looking for the next secret agent to call XxX, since the last one has died, Agent Gibbons (Jackson) recruits Darius Stone (Cube), an ex-Navy Seal turned military convict, to bring a little more attitude to the operation. His task: Stop the U.S. Secretary of Defense (Dafoe) and his politically motivated minions from assassinating the President.
Screenwriter Simon Kinberg, who has two more large-budget films coming this year with Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Fantastic Four, seems to have had no problems filling in erratic writing in any scene in which the main character isn't a sweltering fireball.
"God bless America," XxX says as he places his trigger-happy finger on a semi-automatic. Ah, patriotism at its finest. — Kiko Martinez