Friday movie roundup: 'G.I. Joe' vs. 'The Host'
Easter weekend serves up idiotic action and a sci-fi romance.
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" brings back the Hasbro-inspired action franchise, this time taken over by Dwayne Johnson as the aptly named Roadblock, who has to lead the remaining Joes when an ambush decimates their ranks (and kills of Channing Tatum, the star of the last "G.I. Joe"). Betrayed and framed, the Joes figure out that the President (Jonathan Pryce) is actually an imposter working for the evil Cobra Commander, who has devised an evil plot to conquer the world. The action is frequent and chaotic, but presented without the over-the-top silliness that would make all the shooting and fighting any fun.
"The Host" is a sleek sci-fi romance, in which director-writer Andrew Niccol ("Gattaca," "In Time") puts a smart, glossy spin on "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer's alien-invasion tale. Meyer's story is set in a near future when aliens have taken over the Earth and cleaned up all of our problems by inhabiting the bodies of humans. Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) is one of the few remaining humans, until she's caught and infected by an alien "soul." But Melanie stays tough, fighting her alien usurper from within. There's a silly teen romance (this is Stephenie Meyer, after all) but the sci-fi elements and the strong cast make for a better movie than you'd expect. (Read this interview with Meyer, which discusses how "Twilight" fans might react to Meyer's other work.)
The other studio movie this week is "Tyler Perry's Temptation," a drama about a relationship expert (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who is lured away from her husband (Lance Gross) by a suave billionaire (Robbie Jones). It was not screened for Utah critics.
The best movie of the week is "The Gatekeepers," director Dror Moreh's Oscar-nominated documentary that examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through interviews with six former leaders of Shin Bet, Israel's secret service. The six men talk about their work fighting terrorism, and how seeking security often brought more problems. It's an eye-opening look at recent history, as well as a look at spycraft and political maneuvering.
"Like Someone in Love" is a thoughtful character study from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, set in modern Tokyo and centering on a call girl (Rin Takanashi) who is befriended by an elderly scholar (Tadashi Okuno). Kiarostami's ear for quiet moments, and his eye for Tokyo's colorful urban chaos, make for an absorbing story.
Lastly, there's "On the Road," a dull adaptation of Jack Kerouac's acclaimed novel. Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund play Kerouac's semi-autobiographical narrator Sal Paradise and his charismatic buddy Dean Moriarty but their performances are pale compared to the supporting players, including Kristen Stewart as Dean's sultry teen wife Marylou. (Yes, Kristen Stewart can do sultry. Who knew?)