Capsule film reviews

Filmmakers, start your engines

This week, the Ohio Film Office kicks off a contest to check out the work of the state's filmmakers and musicians, but anyone interested in participating had better act fast.

The Ohio Film Music Video Challenge, launched Feb. 18, gives local filmmakers three weeks to find a band, come up with a concept, see it through to completion and post it on YouTube for a week of judging by the public.

The top 10 vote-getters will then be reviewed by a panel of professionals including actor Chad Lowe, U2 3D producer Michael Peyser and Bob Hoch, a marketing bigwig for Sony Music, with the winner taking home a prize package full of free recording time, photo sessions and some nice meals and accommodations.

Videos must be posted by March 11. The winner will be announced on March 31 at the House of Blues in Cleveland, and the team leaders must be present to win. For info, click to contest.discoverohiofilm.com.

-Melissa Starker

"Confessions of a Shopaholic"

Effervescent comedic actress Isla Fisher doesn't let a contrived character that's alternately savvy and stupid - depending on the script's comedic needs - take her down in P.J. Hogan's adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's bestselling books. She makes the contortions seem effortless. But the rest of the film, from a romantic subplot with brooding Hugh Dancy to the excess of Patricia Fields' costume design, feels like a chore. Grade: C-

"Coraline"

For his latest feature, based on a book by Neil Gaiman, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) melds traditional puppet animation with CGI and 3D (not in all theaters, but worth looking for), and he makes it an extraordinary union. Yet this lovely style subsumes the dramatic weight in Gaiman's tale of a little girl who finds behind a tiny door a more enticing but more menacing version of her parents. Selick doesn't create momentum, just more beautiful effects, a wonder that doesn't penetrates past the eyes. Grade: B-

"Friday the 13th"

This isn't a remake of the 1980 original but a revamping, and that's not a compliment. At least a faithful redo would have an excuse for compositing every slasher movie cliche imaginable. The modern return to Camp Crystal Lake almost plays as a Scream-like satire, but it's far too stupid to be that clever. Grade: F

"The International"

The first wide release from Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer envisions a massive conspiracy in which a global bank deals in high-tech arsenals and Third World dissent, and everyone is in on it - except Clive Owen's dogged Interpol agent and a prosecutor played by a badly utilized Naomi Watts. A lot of patience and a raging paranoia level are demanded from viewers as they seek an informant who can be kept alive long enough to bring everything down. Grade: C

"I've Loved You So Long"

If you considered Rachel Getting Married too boisterous, there's Phillipe Claudel's quieter French version of a woman being released into the care of her sister after a family tragedy. Kristin Scott Thomas is excellent as an ex-con who has to earn her family's trust, and the audience's. Claudel is in no rush to grant forgiveness, but by the second half he loosens up, and the leading actresses make this something truly unique and inspiring. Grade: B

"Mock up on Mu" NEW!

Introduced with a cackle as "scientific fiction," Craig Baldwin's dizzying cinematic mash-up mixes original 16-mm footage and irreverent narration with clips from industrial shorts, women's prison films, The Brain That Wouldn't Die and countless other sources, plus sound bites from everything from Goldfinger to Battlestar Galactica.

It all forms a story involving L. Ron Hubbard's involvement with Lockheed Martin, new-age icon Marjorie Cameron and a couple other real-life figures to create advertising opportunities and a theme park on the moon ("a real swank joint with modern art and animatronic figures").

That limited description really doesn't do justice to Baldwin's unique, obsessively intricate method of cinematic collage, or his ability to spin elements of truth into something that's definitely stranger than your average fiction.

Although it's genuinely impressive, the film's nearly two-hour running time can produce a weariness in the brain that's a close cousin to the eye strain that sometimes comes with watching 3D. Grade: B -Melissa Starker

"New in Town"

We really hope the world of Renee Zellweger's latest isn't paralleled off screen, because its inhabitants are far too stupid to exist. Playing a high-powered but amazingly ignorant career woman sent from Miami to a Minnesota dairy farm, she's soon up to her neck in snow, the Fargo accents and socially backward ways of the locals and love interest Harry Connick Jr. The humor is based mostly on a void of common sense or common courtesy, and everything comes off flat and condescending. Grade: D

"The Pink Panther 2"

There's actually talent involved in this unnecessary remake, between star Steve Martin and supporting players like John Cleese, Andy Garcia and Lily Tomlin. But the story of Inspector Jacques Clouseau being tapped to head an international detective dream-team still only manages sporadic laughs. Aiming to please both adults and kids, director Harald Zwart probably won't quite please either. Grade: B-

"Taken"

Its story is totally preposterous and its action scenes beg for Dramamine, yet Taken has an unlikely advantage in the casting of Liam Neeson as a retired government agent who hunts down the Albanian sex traffickers that kidnapped his daughter (Columbus' own Maggie Grace). Neeson becomes a one-man rampage of hand-to-hand combat and shots fired with other men's guns. While it isn't recommended behavior for Americans traveling overseas, it's good fun on screen. Grade: B