27 Dresses is a girly fairy tale to do with the proverbial always-a-bridesmaid, twenty-seven times by actual count, with a closetful of once-worn gowns to prove it, who stands mutely by as her slutty younger sister returns home and steals her dreamy boss right out from under her nose. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna and director Anne Fletcher unprotestingly accept all the romantic-comic conventions, the contrivances, the clichés, and tidy them into shape as if with a nail file and vial of varnish. (New cliché? The film shares with P.S. I Love You a scene in which the heroine and a romantic prospect experiment with a kiss and instantaneously agree there’s no spark, and no hard feelings.) Katherine Heigl, blandly beautiful whenever her face-crumpling fierceness isn’t spoiling the effect, gets an opportunity to play a more coherent character than in Knocked Up, and demonstrates a fine control of the light and shade of legible emotion. She keeps the blahs at bay.
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The festival year begins, as ever, with the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, the 18th Annual edition (coinciding, the printed program prompts us, with the 60th Anniversary of Israel), February 7 through 17, mostly at the AMC La Jolla, with annexes at the UltraStar Mission Valley, the UltraStar Poway, and the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre in the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. It comprises a couple of dozen features, pretty evenly split between documentary and fiction, most notably Israel’s nominee for the foreign-film Oscar, Beaufort. Full schedule and ticket information can be found online at www.lfjcc.org/sdjff, or, if you are cyberspatially challenged, at 858-362-1348.
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It’s a story that has been written and re-written for some while now. A belt-tightening newspaper, usually a smaller-town newspaper, opts to pare away its film critic, with his eye on the local scene, his sense of community, and his continuity in point of view, and to make do instead with an assortment of wire-service reviewers from afar. The story can now be set within our own city limits, after the Union-Tribune last week pushed David Elliott unceremoniously out the door. Differ with him where you may, he has been a critic who, straight out of the starting gate almost a quarter of a century ago, could write about movies from a base of knowledge and commitment. And from a purely selfish standpoint, differ with him though I did, an “alternative” voice such as mine (if I don’t flatter myself) wants and needs another, a bigger voice, to which to be an alternative. To say that I was completely shocked by the move would be to say untruthfully that I had never noticed in the pages of the U-T the increasing reliance already on supplementary wire-service reviews, the box scores filled with the star ratings of other critics across the map (as if one man’s stars counted the same as another man’s stars), the weekly Street insert to give vent to the voice of youth and inexperience, the forum of grade-schoolers, the second-opinion column of a self-christened “Movies Maniac,” not to mention the You-Be-the-Critic welcome mat on the website. In their heart of hearts, the editors appear to have clung to the belief (or else to have reverted to the belief) that anybody can be a film critic — a vestige, this, of the benighted days when the Home-and-Gardens beat writer might get moved over to the vacated film critic’s seat. No doubt the Internet, where literally anybody can build himself a platform, has given new life to the belief. Cyberspace may be limitless. Our town just got smaller.