MOVIES: Westporter's 'All In -- The Poker Movie,' 'The Vow' & 'Journey 2: Mysterious Island'
Published 2:53 pm, Friday, March 2, 2012
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"ALL IN -- THE POKER MOVIE"
Celebrating the worldwide poker renaissance, transitioning as a subculture from suburban living rooms to lavish Las Vegas casinos, the comprehensive narrative explains how the risk-taking game has become a favorite target for politicians who have tried to cut off the ability for millions to play and for many to make a living.
Playing poker has become an integral part of our mainstream culture, satisfying our desire to play and to win, even if we don't understand the high-stakes intricacies of No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. Poker crosses every social barrier -- economics, gender, age, race and religion. Its megamillion popularity has grown to include people who may never have picked up a deck of cards before but enjoy watching on TV and participating on the many Internet sites.
Tirola artfully interweaves archival footage and movie/TV references with commentaries from celebrities like Matt Damon ("Rounders"), screenwriter Brian Koppelman, singer Kenny Rogers, NPR's Ira Glass, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, World Poker Tour creator Steve Lipscomb and sportswriters Frank Deford and Bert Sugar, among others, with poker's most notable card slingers like Thomas "Amarillo Slim" Preston, David Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker, whom Tirola heralds a "The Horatio Alger of Poker," since he parlayed a small investment of $40 into $2.5 million with his partner, ironically named David Gamble. Where else in life can you get odds like that?
According to Tirola, what propelled the expansion of poker in the past decade is the use of hold-card cameras on the Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour." Singularly, this device, invented by Henry Orenstein, has turned poker into the most popular spectator sport. Think of it: football, baseball, soccer and basketball have their seasons but poker is on every night, 24/7, numerically outdrawing everything else.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "All In -- The Poker Movie" is an intriguing 7, documenting another way to chase the American Dream.
This romantic melodrama is a female wish-fulfillment fantasy, even though it's loosely based on an incident in which a woman lost her short-term memory as the result of a brain trauma.
As the story begins, Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are a young married couple enjoying an evening out in Chicago. It's snowing and the roads are slippery when a dump truck plows into their car, sending Paige through the windshield and into the emergency room, where she's placed in an induced coma. When she awakens in the hospital, Paige doesn't recognize Leo and has no memory of their four years together, including her studies at the Art Institute. Their North Side loft is unfamiliar, her sculpture studio is bewildering and their bohemian friends seem like strangers.
Curiously, Paige is able to relate more to her uptight, controlling parents (Jessica Lange, Sam Neill) from whom she was previously estranged, so she decides to move back into their posh suburban home. She's more comfortable drinking blueberry mojitos with her old, high-school classmates, even flirting with her torch-carrying ex-fiance, Jeremy (Scott Speedman), whom she'd dumped five years ago when she dropped out of law school.
Determined to woo and win her all over again, devoted Leo goes into courtship mode, neglecting the rock `n' roll music recording business he once launched with Paige's encouragement. In doing so, he re-creates their "moments of impact," reminding her how they'd met at the DMV, scribbled wedding vows on the back of a restaurant menu, etc.
The predictably contrived, formulaic screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Jason Katims is based on a story by Stuart Sender and directed at a slogging pace by Michael Sucsy, best known for helming HBO's "Grey Gardens" (2009). Always endearing, Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook") dimples delightfully and chiseled Channing Tatum ("Haywire") oozes earnestness but, regretfully, sparks never ignite.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Vow" is a sweet, syrupy 4, filled with slick, heart-tugging, tear-jerking sentiment ... and a glimpse of the real-life couple, Kim and Krickett Carpenter.
"JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND"
Following in the footsteps of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (2008), this fantastic 3-D family adventure begins when rebellious 17-year-old Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) receives a coded radio message sent by someone whom he believes to be his long-lost grandfather. Reluctantly working with his new stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), who has had Navy cryptogram experience, Sean realizes that the distress signal is emanating from somewhere in the South Pacific. Leaving mom (Kristin Davis) back home in Dayton, Ohio, Sean and Hank venture west, eventually hooking up with Gabato (Luiz Guzman), a goofy, fast-talking helicopter pilot, and his willfully determined daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), only to be swept up in the eye of a hurricane. Crash-landing on an uncharted tropical island, they not only find Sean's delightfully droll grandfather, Alexander Anderson (Michael Caine), but also discover a bizarre, rainbow-filled, new world, courtesy of Jules Verne, whose plot elements are co-mingled with Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "Robinson Crusoe.".
In this exotic, mysteriously Vernian place, tiny insects, birds and reptiles grow humungous, while elephants are miniaturized. While the intrepid explorers are stumbling over boulders that turn out to be giant lizard eggs, a far greater danger is imminent as the eruptions from a gold-spewing volcano threaten to sink everything and plunge everyone into the sea -- unless they can escape in the Nautilus, Captain Nemo's long-hidden submarine, which Hank inventively jump-starts by harpooning a gigantic electric eel.
Based on Jules Verne's 1874 novel, episodically scripted by Richard Outten, Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn and light-heartedly helmed by Canadian director Brad Peryton ("Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore"), it revolves around the occasionally awesome CGI.
Dwayne Johnson delivers a memorable musical turn, warbling "What a Wonderful World," accompanying himself on the ukulele -- when he's not bouncing berries off his impressive pecs.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" is an imaginative, adventurous 6. Aimed at tween boys, it's destined to thrive when it comes out on DVD.